Friday, May 31, 2013


5-31-13 VERMONT: Another hottie, we got up to ninety today. I was out this morning for fertilizer and ended up with a couple new plants that went into the beds behind the new house. Two black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia, ‘Cherry Brandy’, as the name implies, have red flowers. It’s marginally hardy for Vermont, we’ll see. I also added another Phlox paniculata, ‘Pink Flame’. I watered and fertilized the tomatoes.

Yesterday I saw five turtles on the edge of the pond, all sunning at the same time.

New blooms: Siebold viburnum, celandine, buttercup.

Bunchberry, another two incher, does it look familiar? Its cousin is the dogwood tree, and its leaves and flower looks quite similar.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hot Time.

5-30-13 VERMONT: Today was hot, upper eighties, what a contrast with yesterday. I went to Brown’s Nursery this morning for new stock to fill the holes left by winterkill. As usual you pick what looks healthy and works in the spot you need to fill, but not always what you had anticipated for that particular spot. I moved the salvia that I had planted last week to a better spot by the new mudroom. The herbs, by the way, all seem fine except for the basil which has some brown leaves, but seems to be alive and growing.

I planted two new hybrid daylilies, Hemerocallis ‘Prairie Wildfire’ and ‘Purple Wink’ in the daylily bed, two Goat’s Beard, Aruncus dioicus in the shade garden, two hollyhocks, Alcea rugosa ‘Halo Blush’ and ‘Halo Cerise’, one Delphinium ‘Guardian Blue’ and one foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, ‘Polkadot Polly’ to the bed below the deck. I also pulled more of that unknown invasive out and transplanted some cranesbill that came out with the invader. I put another Digitalis ‘Candy Mountain’ in the rock garden and added two Phlox paniculata, ‘Robert Poore’ and ‘Blue Paradise’ to the bed by the new French doors. Lastly, I put two Saponaria officinalis, soapwort, out front near the road in hopes that they will spread.

I also did a bit of weeding and pruning of course, and, Judy, I was careful in the heat.

New blooms: star flower, speedwell, red primrose.

Star flower, a shy, delicate denizen of the forest floor.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rainy Day.

5-29-13 VERMONT: Yesterday was sunny and warm. Today is rainy and cold. Yesterday I put up more bed fences and planted the tomatoes and corn. Today I have done a bunch of inside chores. The tomato plants are all very small. I started the seeds in mid-April because last year they were started earlier and were too tall and leggy when put out, but did develop OK after planting. This year’s seedlings are probably too small to work out. If they don’t look better in a few days, I’ll buy plants.

New blooms: bunch berry, more azalea.

Baneberry produces a bunch of large white berries with black dots on the end and red stems.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Back to Work.

5-27-13 VERMONT: Judy and the dogs left this morning for NJ. Ria was here and started priming the trim on the deck side of the house. Today was sunny, finally, in the sixties with almost no clouds, but plenty of northerly wind that keeps the flies away. I did more weeding and pruned perennials damaged by the snow, put up supports for peonies, meadow rue, baptisia and delphinium, gathered the bed fences for the beds not around the house [because of the painting]. After dinner, I took out the storm doors and put in the screens.

Today was clear so Mt. Moosilauke and Mt. Lafayette were visible and had snow cover on top. The snow may have damaged the basil, some leaves are turning brown.

The four turtles, non-ninja, were sunning again as a group.

New blooms: baneberry, clatonia [didn’t notice before, but was probably out].

Gray Catbird pair checking out the apple tree.

Mt. Moosilauke with snow on the peak. There's also a cloud behind the peak.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Snow? On Memorial Day?

5-26-13 VERMONT: Would you believe snow? We got an inch last night, probably enough to kill the tender herbs that were just planted. The snow was after a day of rain, another inch. It was too wet, windy and cold to work. We did go to the auction preview at William Smith’s in Plainfield, NH, and saw old friend Beth working there as a floor manager.

The snow was gone by noon today, but it stayed cold and windy with only brief showers. I put barley straw pellets, forty pounds worth, in the pond to fight algae. The pellets slowly disintegrate, releasing small amounts of peroxide that kills algae but not anything else. After that I put up the electric fence around the veggie bed.

The herbs looked OK after the snow melted, but they may all turn brown in a few days.

The perennial beds were all slammed by the snow, of course, and everything was bent over and some stalks broken, but we won’t know how much damage was done until it warms up and stuff, that can, stands up.

Now I understand why Irving Berlin never wrote, “I’m Dreaming of a White Memorial Day.”

The newly planted herb bed in the snow.

We have often commented that the apple blossoms on the ground look like fallen snow or that wind-blown blossoms look like a snow flurry, but last night and this morning we had and have falling snow and snow on the ground.

Gus running away from Maizie's harassment. She shows no mercy.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Merganser and Daylily.

5-24-13 VERMONT: it’s been cold, rainy and windy for two days. I put the rain gauge out last night, and it had an inch this morning. The rain has been intermittent so I got a lot done between showers.

Yesterday I finished the veggie bed except for the electric fence which I’ll do when I plant, but it’s got to be warmer to put the tomatoes out. I also planted the herbs after tidied up the herb bed and did a lot of weeding of the surrounding beds also. In the herb bed some of the oregano survived and a lot of the tarragon, but none of the thyme, usually hardy. I planted four rosemary, three parsley, a chive, four basil, two new oregano and three thyme.

I planted six fancy columbine nearby, four ‘Songbird Nightingale’ and two ‘Songbird Mix’ Columbine aquilegia, two sage, ‘New Dimension Rose’ Salvia nemorosa, and three butterfly weed, ‘Soul Mate’ Asclepias incarnata on the edge of the pond. I also planted some Solomon seal shoots, a gift from Melissa. I also weeded the blueberry bushes, pulled up a small stand of wild garlic mustard.

We worked in lunch with Anna and Lily yesterday at the new bakery on South St.

Today I weeded in front of the new house and raked up all the piles from today and yesterday and dumped them in the area of the pasture that is becoming a composting spot. Then I did all the fertilizing for the acidophiles, basophiles and those indifferent to pH. Part of fertilizing is acidifying or alkalinizing with aluminum sulfate or calcium carbonate respectively when appropriate. The blueberries got mulched with peat moss. There was also a bit of pruning somewhere in the day.

A robin is nesting under the woodshed roof, but flies away whenever we go in the garage. There was a merganser lady on the pond for a few minutes yesterday, I think she is a hooded merganser.

New blooms: quince [forgot to mention last post], daylily.

Hooded merganser?? Anyone?

Seems early for a daylily, but they're always welcome.

Another peek at the apple tree and bleeding hearts.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May in VT.

5-22-13 VERMONT: We arrived yesterday after an easy trip. My Achilles tendon has been pronounced healed, and I can do everything but weight training, until another month has past. My leg is still weak, but I expect it to be at full strength by the end of the summer.

Nick and Gus, as usual, ran around like crazy when we arrived, and Judy and Maizie showed up a few minutes later. Maizie is not Invisible Fence trained, so she needs close watching. After a trip around the pasture, Maizie taught herself how to swim in the pond.

Things are a bit chaotic because the house outside trim is being painted, so there are ladders every where and a garage full of Ria the Painter’s supplies.

I did my walk-around. There doesn’t seem to be any hollyhock or hesperis this year, the clematis on the north end of the deck is gone. The magnolias, daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops, primroses, pachysandra, bloodroot, serviceberry, hepatica and butterbur are all finished blooming. We were not here for over a month while my leg was healing and missed them.

The pond actually looks better than last year. I threw in six clarifying ‘pucks’ from Aqua Dynamic Solutions and will add a bag of barley-straw pellets to fight algae. The frogs are in good voice, fish seen happy, newts and crayfish present and we have four painted turtles, perhaps five.

Yesterday I did some pruning, some cleanup, and some odds and ends after we got the cars unloaded. Today I started on the veggie bed. I removed the black plastic mulch and then the soaker hose, weeded and pulled the corn stumps, added the nice pile of llama poop, seasoned with a soupçon of horse poop, a gift from Janet and Bill. Then I raked and graded, tested the soaker hose for leaks and, finding none, replaced it, and started replacing the plastic mulch, so as to reverse the positions of corn and tomatoes. Changing the positions of the ‘crops’ is supposed to fool the pests and parasites. Mercifully, it started to rain, giving me an excuse to stop. There was a T-storm yesterday night also.

Janet, Melissa, Scott and Steve all stopped to meet Maizie.

In bloom: Virginia blue bells, forget-me-not, violet, bleeding heart, lamium, trillium, azalea, ajuga, dandelion, wild strawberry, apple, cranesbill geranium, Mohican viburnum, spurge, lily-of-the-valley, jack-in-the-pulpit, ginger, hellebore, lilac, vinca minor, blueberry, honey suckle, pulmonaria, alkanet, columbine, sweet woodruff.

This apple tree usually puts on a show for Memorial Day. That's bleeding heart under the tree.

That's a really big water bowl.

Count 'em-four turtles catchin' some rays.

Monday, May 20, 2013

First Rose.

5-20-13 SHORT HILLS: This afternoon is sunny after several dismal days and another 0.6 inches of rain. Everything in the yard seems happy with the rain. I did get out between showers and sprayed several patches of poison ivy with Roundup.

The poison ivy always appears in clumps under a tree of shrub. I think what happens is that birds eat the ivy seeds, and the next day or so, poop out the seeds while perched on a branch. Wait a year and there are ivy vines spreading under that perch. The spray works fairly well, but use it on a calm day so that it doesn’t blow onto something desirable.

New blooms: roses, weigela.

Painted Lady Butterfly, the common names are so whimsical.

Rose bud will open white, losing the yellow.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

More May.

5-16-13 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday was cool and overcast with a few brief showers. I finished the bamboo work, hauled the stalks up to the driveway, with help from Judy, filled the back of the Subaru and piled the rest on top for the trip to the dump today. I didn't leave the bamboo debris here because it's not a wild area.

Today we’ve got eighties. The tomatoes are outside on holiday in the sun this afternoon.

New blooms: jack-in-the-pulpit, Solomon’s seal, star-of-Bethlehem, mulberry, red twig dogwood.

Columbine, extra-fancy, showing off.

Red twig dogwood has red twigs only in the winter.

Double file viburnum with the center flowers open, and a pollinator at work proves it.

Solomon's Seal, hiding its flowers.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


5-14-13 SHORT HILLS: The last two days, after the rain storms left, have been cold and breezy requiring warmer clothes.

Today I started working on the bamboo that we have in several spots as screening along the fences. The winter snowstorms break many of the bamboo stalks because they’re evergreen and brittle, and the weight of the snow lays them flat. Branches from deciduous trees fall on them and break the stalks or flatten them. Some of the stalks, I can just push back upright, but most of the downed stalks need to be cut off and either taken away or just left on site after being cut up. Because those areas of the property are semi-wild, I don’t mind leaving the debris to be naturally recycled. I hope to do the last section tomorrow.

New blooms: rhododendron [our first, a red one], chestnut, leucothoe.

The incredible whiteness of being azalea.

Leucothoe flowers could pass for blueberries or lily of the valley. but the plants are so different.

First rhododendron.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

More Viburnums.

5-12-13 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday we had another 0.6 inches of rain while we did Mothers Day. Alison, Dan, Lucy and Val were here for a great party. The grass wasn’t mowed because of the rain and is up to 6 or 8 inches tall, and soon might swallow up small dogs. We had almost a month’s worth of rain in one weekend.

New blooms: siebold viburnum, double file viburnum, hawthorn, deutzia, honeysuckle, Carolina allspice.

Siebold Viburnum, a crushed leaf has an odd, unpleasant smell suggestive of burning rubber.

Double File Viburnum, these have outer rows of showier petals and inner flowers, not yet fully open, where seeds are made.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Seventeen Year Nap.

5-10-13 SHORT HILLS: We ended up with about two inches of rain. Today is sunny and warm, and things are drying out.

I took down the dead yew tree yesterday and had one car load for the dump and enough wood to top off the woodpile. When it’s a little dryer, I’ll put in some viburnum volunteers in that spot.

Two of the shrubs, a pair of Asian lilacs, that had shown no sign of flowers before the bone meal fertilizer, now each have several flower buds. Coincidence?

New blooms: mayapple, lily-of-the-valley, gill-over-the-ground.

May Apple hides its flower under those two umbrella-like leaves. After pollination, a large green 'apple' forms as the fruit.

Lamium, or Dead Nettle, this, the yellow flowering type, is the most hardy and aggressive and quite shade tolerant.

Who made this hole? The mound of dirt to the left was pushed up out of the hole by....

This guy, one of the seventeen-year cicadas. They hatch from their shells, eat sap, make noise, mate, and lay eggs in trees. The hatchlings drop off the trees and burrow into the ground for the next seventeen years. They have a very primitive look and are quite clumsy and awkward, possibly because there are only six generations per century and little chance to evolve. Contrast that with, say, mosquitos which have ten or more generations per season or a thousand generations per century and many more opportunities to evolve into faster and more elusive predators.

The first thing the cicada asked was, "What happened with Clinton's impeachment?"

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Fertilizer for the Dogs.

5-8-13 SHORT HILLS: Thanks to the commenters here and on Facebook for pointing out the dogs like bones—talk about your clichĂ©—that I didn’t recognize. Bone meal fertilizer is a modern convenience for the pooch, no need to do all that chewing and grinding. No wonder they were busy around the plants I treated. After I caught on, I watered it in.

We got the rain last night and today, 1.25 inches so far and all of it appreciated.

I also forgot to list new blooms on the last post so here they are: columbine, ajuga, nannyberry viburnum, Korean spice viburnum, tea viburnum, burning bush.

Nannyberry Viburnum. Smooth leaf with reddish central vein.

Tea Viburnum. Pointy-tipped leaf with reddish pigment.

Korean Spice Viburnum. Quite aromatic.

Burning Bush. You can see the red pigment in the leaf/stem junction.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Planting Day.

5-6-13 SHORT HILLS: We have had more cookie-cutter days, but there may be some rain mid-week. I went to the garden center yesterday and got some bone meal fertilizer and a bunch of perennials for the beds here. With Maizie running all over, digging everywhere and chewing on everything, new plantings are probably going to be an exercise in futility.

Bone meal fertilizer is made of, should I say this, ground up slaughterhouse bones. Grisly. But it’s high in phosphorus which means, according to the bag, it promotes plant rooting and flowering. I spread it on all the bulbs now finishing up and several plants that should, but don’t bloom. We’ll see. This fertilizer is also high in calcium and has a bit of nitrogen. The content of the fertilizer should be lots of calcium and phosphorus because that is what bones are made of.

Today I trimmed some of the overgrown ivy and pachysandra that was encroaching on the patios and paths, and hauled two tarp loads to compost. I also cleaned a bunch of debris off the pool cover and did some of the new planting—all after my PT.

I planted three cranesbill, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’, two columbine, Aquilegia ‘Biedermeier’, two Delphinium, ‘Pacific Giant Astolat’ and ‘Blue Bird’, two bee balm, Monarda ‘Marshall’s Delight’, two lilyturf, Liriope muscari ‘Big Blue’, and one Sedum x ‘Autumn Fire’.

Azalea, those markings on the center petal must be a guide for pollinators.

Azalea in red.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

First Azaleas.

5-4-13 SHORT HILLS: The days remain warm and sunny and, unfortunately, too dry. The lawn guys were here today to mow the jungle.

I have pulled all the wild garlic mustard I could find. There was, so far, much less than last year when I had also weeded a lot. Perhaps I'm getting it under control? It's probably too soon to say. Incidentally, it is in bloom. I also did more tree pruning on the dead yew and did a couple downed bamboos and cut it all up for a dump run.

Gus and Nick are more tolerant of Maizie, and Gus actually did some puppy play with her.

I am mostly out of the boot, doing PT and driving.

New blooms: French lilac, wood hyacinth, garlic mustard, red azalea.

Maizie and Nick getting along better.

Apple blossoms.

French lilac.

Lilac, the perfume doesn't show in the picture.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

May Moves In.

5-2-13 SHORT HILLS: I am spending less time in the boot and seem fine without it. Today was another pretty day, but we need rain again.

I found a dying yew tree, very old and very big, the trunk is about six inches in diameter. It’s one of several growing by the pool fence. Two of the others died last year, and I took them down as I will do with this one. I’ll plug the gap with volunteers from around the yard—burning bush or viburnum.

New blooms: redbud, two barberries, sweet woodruff.

Eastern Redbud tree, pretty in pink.

Eastern Redbud tree, the flowers outline the branches with color.