Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Break in the Rain.

5-29-14 VERMONT: Yesterday and this morning were cold and rainy, but it cleared nicely about noon today, and everything dried out. In the afternoon I string-trimmered all the paths and patios, raked up the trimmings, and did a bunch of weeding. Before that, I moved a few bleeding heart volunteers into the original bleeding heart bed which was partly empty.

Before the rain, two days ago, I bought and planted in the herb bed new oregano and thyme, perennial varieties, and rosemary and chives. I added three Sun Gold tomatoes to the veggie bed.

New blooms: celandine, bunchberry, blueberry.

Common spring perennial.

Apple tree with a non-blooming stripe.

Forget-me-not and bleeding heart sheltering under the apple.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Back to VT.

5-26-14 VERMONT: There was no traffic this morning, and I made good time. It’s warm here but with a few sprinkles this afternoon.

I planted the basil and parsley that I brought up. The thyme and oregano didn’t survive the winter, but the tarragon and chives did. In the veggie bed, I also planted the corn and the tomatoes that I had, some grown from seed and some bought.

In bloom: apple, quince, lilac, Mohican viburnum, lamium, dandelion, forget-me-not, violet, bleeding heart, epimedium, ajuga, wild strawberry, spurge, hellebore, jack-in-the-pulpit, Virginia blue bells, pulmonaria, trillium, vinca, geranium.

Trillium has three petals, bracts and leaves. It also does red and pink.

The bleeding hearts are everywhere, except the original bed.

They also come in white.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A New House on Our Block.

5-25-14 SHORT HILLS: Today was beautiful, a perfect summer day. We had over two inches of rain during the previous three days, enough to wet the basement floor and get the sump pump running.

Yesterday afternoon we went to Brooklyn Heights to see Maggie, just back from her first year of college. We all did a walk along the new waterfront. NYC has re-purposed the abandoned piers for recreation and parks. There are facilities for every sport, for BBQ, a pool, a sandy beach, kiddie playgrounds, ferry stations, nature and garden areas and bird habitat. It was filled with users. A hotel and condo units are under construction. It’s all comes with views of Liberty Island, Ellis Island, lower Manhattan and loads of river traffic.

A new house has gone up on our lot. Judy thought the new shrub bed that I made where the oak tree died needed a focus of interest. She bought a birdhouse that arrived while we were in Brooklyn. We went to Home Depot and got a post, some extra plants, and I painted the post, added a crown molding and today we mounted the house on the post and planted it amid the shrubs. I added two clematis vines at the base and put in a few more of the ‘White Nancy’ lamium.

New blooms: black chokeberry.

Brooklyn Heights beach, but no one's in the water.

A new eight unit condo on our block. The fence is to keep the dogs from digging it up.

Black Chokeberry with friend.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

More New Plantings [Second Post of the Day.]

5-22-14 SHORT HILLS: We’ve had a couple rainstorms, with a T-storm looming to the west on the radar. I have done more maintenance work—weeding and pruning and pulling vines off several shrubs. Part of the flagstone path had disappeared in the grass, so I lifted them up and reset them on top of the grass—an easy and quick solution. A few are a little wobbly, but they will settle back down.

I did more planting in the shrub bed that used to be the oak tree. It’s still a struggle with the dead oak roots. I made the bed a bit bigger and added a dwarf lilac, Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’, and a spirea x vanhouttei, as well as twenty lamium, ten each of Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’, and Lamium galeobdolon ‘Jade Frost’. I added a bayberry, Myrica pensylvanica to the boggy bed.

Judy ordered a birdhouse to go in the center of the new bed.

New blooms: wild strawberry, star-of-Bethlehem, jack-in-the-pulpit, another rhododendron, weigela.

Star-of-Bethlehem, a six-pointed star with grass like leaves.

Another rhododendron.

Mama robin at work. I already put up a short video of this domesticity.

Robin's Nest at Dinner Time

Robin feeding chicks.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Newark and New York.

5-18-14 SHORT HILLS: We had a big rain in the middle of the week and lots of sun since. I’ve been doing some pruning and weeding and have a big load of cuttings for the dump.

Friday night we went to NJPAC in Newark for the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra who are on a world tour. They are mostly all strings, but brought out two horn and two clarinets for a Boccherini symphony [No. 4 in D minor]. They also did pieces by Vivaldi, Rossini and Tchaikovsky. The audience, it being New Jersey, was filled with Russian immigrants who applauded enough to get four encores. Vladimir Spivakov is the conductor and violin soloist.

Saturday we went to NYC for Lady Day at Emerson’s, a tribute to Billie Holiday starring Audra McDonald, and I mean STARRING. She did an amazing job singing and acting. She sounded exactly like Billie Holiday does on the recordings that I have. I would say a sure bet for the Tony.

We found ourselves in a big street fair on Ninth Ave. walking from the parking lot to the restaurant, Chez Napoleon, a fav of ours. The fair had the usual gamut of cuisines from the four corners, clothes, linens, china, hair stuff, henna tats, crafts and you name it.

New blooms: jack-in-the-pulpit, lily-of-the-valley, Asian lilac, wild cherry.

Cardinal on her nest. She is next to the house and flies off when we go in or out.

Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra at NJPAC, Vladimir Spivakov conducting.

Ninth Ave street fair Saturday afternoon.

Choice of cuisines-Irish, Scottish, Italian, Polish on this block.

Theatre Marquee at Circle-in-the Square Theatre.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lushness of May.

5-16-14 SHORT HILLS: I’ve been back in NJ for a couple days, a couple cloudy, rainy days, but the yard has the lush look of full spring. While not everything is fully open, when I look out the window, my sight lines are filled with green. Our neighbors’ houses mostly disappear behind foliage, and we only see patches of the streets.

The yard is full of flowers. I guess that the month of May has the most blooming plant species, even the grass looks pretty good.

New blooms: chestnut, mulberry, hawthorn, rhododendron, blueberry, deutzia, burning bush, lilac, honey suckle, Carolina allspice, kerria, leucothoe, several viburnums, columbine, wood hyacinth, ajuga, purple lamium, may apple.

Lurid azalea.

Rhododendron, the first of several.

Leucothoe flowers look similar to blueberry, andromeda and lily-of-the-valley.

Columbine, fancy variety.

Carolina allspice has an interesting flower and aroma.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ready for Veggies.

5-13-14 VERMONT: Yesterday was hot, in the eighties and sunny while today was in the fifties and overcast. Today was actually a better day to work. The plumbers were here yesterday morning to replace the hydrant, the water fixture for the barn. It was a big job, taking half a day, and requiring a four-foot hole to find the broken line.

I worked on the veggie bed, prepping it for new crops. I took off the black plastic mulch cover after pulling up all the ground staples that hold it down. I removed the soaker hose to retest it, I leveled the soil, filled a few holes and fertilized and raked the fertilizer in. Then I replaced the hose and then the cover, reversing the locations of the corn and tomatoes. That was a day’s work. Today I set up the electric fence to keep the critters out of the veggies.

I did some clean up around the house gardens and applied bone meal fertilizer, which is high in phosphates, to flowers that have been reluctant to bloom.

New blooms: viola, vinca, trout lily.

Star Magnolia. The only magnolia hardy to Zone 4, as far as I know.

Lady Wood Duck back for another visit.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Plants, Happy Pond.

5-11-14 VERMONT: Happy Mother’s Day, Dear Reader, and congrats to Dee for IDing the Wood Ducks.

The last two days have been just gorgeous, sunny and warm with enough of a breeze to keep the black flies away. Yesterday I continued working on the beds, fertilizing everything and alkalizing and acidifying those picky plants. I also did a bit of weeding and pruning as I went by. Actually it rained in the morning, which gave me a chance to shop for that fertilizer and other stuff.

In the late afternoon we went down to the Connecticut River to see cousin Caroline row for her school against Hanover High in a crew regatta. It was very exciting to watch them win their race.

Today I finished the bed fertilizing and did the blueberry bushes. They needed weeding, acidifying and fertilizing and then re-mulching with peat moss.

In the late afternoon I treated the pond for problems of clarity and algae, using ClearPAC Plus. It contains PondClear™, Muckaway™ and EcoBoost™. They are all packets of beneficial bacteria, like Probiotics, for the pond that are supposed to improve clarity, remove bottom muck and remove excess nutrients. They’re all safe for animals and plants. I also added barley-straw pellets as an algae preventer. As the straw breaks down, it releases small amounts of peroxide. I also added blue dye that comes in the ClearPAC kit. The blue dye darkens the water and prevents sunlight from reaching the bottom of the pond as another algae preventer.

New blooms: star magnolia, pulmonaria.

Bloodroot. The roots have red sap, perhaps that explains the name. The flowers are short-lived, the leaves have a unique shape and the whole season is over in a couple weeks.

Wild Ginger. You can see the reddish-brown flowers on the ground at the base of the plant. Who do you suppose pollinates these flowers?

Turtles catching rays, two on the far left and one on the point at the right. Compare the greenish-brown color of the water above to the image below.

I put blue dye in the pond to prevent some sunlight reaching the bottom and to reduce algae growth. It'll be gone in two weeks if we decide we don't like the look. For now, the blue tide is in. It's harmless to people, other animals and plants, except, we hope, the algae.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Duck Watching.

4-9-14 VERMONT: We both came up yesterday, leaving rain behind in NJ and finding sunshine and 70° in VT. The house was closer to 50° inside, so I put the heat on for a while. I changed all the storms for screens and put away all the snow clearing tools—something I may yet regret, even in June. Then I filled the bird feeders, turned on the outside water, and when Judy showed up, we did a walk around the pasture. There was a fair amount of floating debris on the pond, leaves, grass, dead stalks from last year, so I got the long-handled net and the wheelbarrow and scooped it all up.

The pond is full and full of frog, newt and salamander eggs masses. The frog opera is being performed nightly. The yard was cleared and mowed by Josh and his crew and looks fine. The beds are a bit messy, but that’s my job.

After I came in the house yesterday evening, a pair of ducks landed by the pond, and I got to try out the new camera again. They were not the usual, everday kind of ducks.

Today was another busy one. It was supposed to rain, but we only got a few light showers so I got to work. In the morning Judy and I put out all the benches and rockers and moved the picnic table back on the deck and put the rowboat in the pond.

I put up all the flowerbed fences. They’re supposed to keep the dogs out of the beds. It’s a chore to put them up and then take them down in the fall. I also did some weeding and pruning in those beds. More ducks today, the usual Mallards. They were here for a long time and busy eating frog eggs. Maizie ultimately chased them away. They left reluctantly.

The water outlet at the barn has a big leak. The plumber is coming Monday.

In bloom: snowdrops, crocus, daffodil, pachysandra, bloodroot, primrose, trillium, wild ginger, forsythia.

These are the odd ducks-everyone welcome to diagnose.

After the chickadees, this Rose-Breasted Grossbeak was right in line at the feeder.

Today's ducks, the usual Mallards.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

More New Plants.

5-7-14 SHORT HILLS: Five new shrubs have joined the assembly at the oak stump site. One flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum ‘King Edward VII’, has red flowers in the spring, and four Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Dark Knight’, are blue, late summer/fall blooming short shrubs. All the shrubs in this spot are planted above grade because the residual stump prevents a deeper hole. I need one more plant here for spring flowers, maybe a dwarf lilac.

New blooms: grape hyacinth, red azalea, wild garlic onion.

Yellow Lamium ground cover.

Redbud tree.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

More Flowers.

5-6-14 SHORT HILLS: The Med School is a totally different place than it was, with only a few recognizable buildings from fifty years ago—as it should be.

Spring is once again underway and picking up steam. It has been dry since the big rain, but that soaking is what the yard seemed to need. All the trees show some activity and, all the shrubs except crepe myrtle and rose-of-Sharon. The flowers are on schedule.

Maizie the dog ate one control valve for the sprinkler system! It was repaired, but now it operates two zones instead of one so it will need further repair. It never ends.

New blooms: Kwanzan cherry, apple, lamium, barberry, mertensia, redbud, Chinese snowball viburnum.

Another white fruit tree flower, this one is apple.

Kwanzan cherry says Pink.

Virginia blue bell [Mertensia] like on the woodsy floor.

Chinese snowball viburnum. The first viburnum and the most fragrant. The aroma fills that corner of the yard.

Friday, May 02, 2014


5-2-14 BOSTON: We’re here for my 50th medical school reunion [gasp!] and got here in the afternoon after an odyssey through NY, CT and MA because I 84 was blocked by traffic. We ended up on the Mass Pike and finally got to Arlington St. and the Taj Boston. We strolled around the neighborhood and had a nap before the Class dinner.

We saw bunch of folks we hadn’t seen for fifty years, for the most part, and ID’d each other without too much trouble. Everyone gave a brief bio at dinner, which took up most of the meal. All very interesting—tour of the school tomorrow.

Arlington St. from Public Gardens.

Swan, Public Gardens.

Swan Boats seem to be on their own.

Commonwealth Ave.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Big Rain.

5-1-14 SHORT HILLS: We have had probably four or five inches of rain in the last couple of days and a wet spot in the basement. Two days ago, before it deluge started, I started some new plantings in the spot where the oak tree died by the side patio. We had the stump ground down, as I mentioned here, about two years ago. Grass didn’t grow well there last year, and then Maizie the dog decided that the spot was perfect for digging practice. She dug holes, I filled them over and over.

Tired of the repeat drill, I fenced the area prior to shrubbing it. I hope to put in a bunch of Caryopteris, Blue Mist, for late season flowers. The local garden center has it on order, but it’s not here yet. The circle is about eight feet in diameter, so it will take several plants. It offers full sun and is well-drained. I started with two butterfly bushes—Purple Emperor™, Buddleia davidii ‘Pyrkeep’ and Adonis Blue™, Buddleia davidii ‘Adokeep’. I used potting soil to improve the planting media.

I also put two Deutzia, Deutzia x ‘Nikko Blush’ (NA74356), in the boggy area near the south gate. I planted them high, half the root ball in the hole and half above the grade level so they don’t get soggy.

I also got a carload of free top soil from the town yard and filled more of Maizie’s digs—perhaps she was an archeologist in a former life.

New blooms: dogwood.

The archeologist.