Thursday, June 30, 2016

July Begins.

6-30-16 VERMONT: The yellow lady slippers look fine, but four of the five showy lady slippers are wilted, but I’m watering and hoping for survival. I’ve continued weeding and watering the new plants. We did get some rain, 0.15 inches, the night before last, and might get some more tomorrow.

I bought three more coneflowers today from Browns, Echinacea purpurea ‘Purple Emperor’, and planted them in a hole in the upper north terrace bed. Otherwise more of the usual chores.

 New blooms: astilbe.

The sun just rising above the cloud bank.

Peonies make June flowery. They are beautiful in bloom and an attractive shrub before and after the blooms.

The showy Lady slipper after transplanting, fenced and staked.

Pink astilbe on the pond bank in a mist of bedstraw.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lady Slippers Move In.

6-28-16 VERMONT: Melissa brought us two clusters of lady’s slippers, three stalks of yellow ones, Cypripedium pariflorum, and five stalks of showy lady slippers, Cypripedium reginae. These are the two varieties that we commonly see here in Zone 4. Melissa’s are all purchased from nurseries and not taken from the wild, which is a no-no. She has been very successful at getting them to thrive and spread in her garden.

I dug two ‘bathtubs’ on the edge of the pond and filled them with a mix of compost, chopped, decomposed leaves, some wood ashes and some peat moss and planted them in what are sunny spots. They prefer shade except in the northern parts of their range where we are. These two like a neutral pH, while others prefer an alkaline media. The yellow ones came with more roots and look better already. The showy variety will need more frequent watering.

New blooms: daylily, summersweet shrub.

First native daylily, some hybrid dallies have been open earlier. These native dayllies start at he beginning of July and last all month.

Valerian is a biennial herb with a pungent sweet aroma. If you're working around them for a while it's a little intoxicating. It's happy in the shade.

Goat's beard is another shade lover. I don't get the name.

Peony. This one is our only 'single'.

Campanula is a reliable perennial and slowly spreads in it's neighborhood.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Butterfly Has a Shoe Fetish.

6-26-16 VERMONT: We’re back in summer with near 90° today. Yesterday we went to friends Melissa and Dick’s house to get perennials to transplant. They are moving to the Durham, NH area and leaving her beautiful gardens behind. Melissa has a striking collections of unusual perennials in her shade garden, including lady’s slippers of both local varieties. We took and transplanted some lupin, anemones, toad lily and primrose. Some of it was essentially bare rooted so will need lots of water when it’s this hot.

Add to that a little more snipping and pulling, and your have a day in the garden. Today I was going to relax, but after watering all the new plantings and transplants, and finding a few misplaced volunteers that I moved, it ended up as a busy day.

We walked around the pasture this morning, and a butterfly fixated on my feet. It spent 10 minutes tasting the top of my shoe, both shoes actually. These are old shoes reserved for gardening only, but the butterfly’s fixation made me wonder if it was getting sugar from my sweat-soaked shoes. Am I diabetic? The fabric it was suckling on is a synthetic that would have no natural attraction for an insect I suppose.

New blooms: valerian, foxglove, campanula, red spirea, yarrow.

Great Spangled Fritillary sucking something out of my shoe.

Now he's trying the other foot.

We call these roses 'fence roses.'

Barns, pond and fence roses.

These yellow flag iris hanging out by the barn are volunteers. They are 4-5 feet tall and not to be trifled with. Last summer they were mowed to the ground, but here they are.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New Plants.

6-23-16 VERMONT: Yesterday was so cold, after so hot earlier in the week, that we had a fire in the evening. It did finally rain, a quarter inch, yesterday morning, and in the afternoon, I did more planting. At the top of the new wall bed, I planted two Echinacea purpurea ‘Ruby Star’ and two ‘Kim’s Knee High’ in the rock garden, two hollyhocks, Alcea rugosa ‘Blacknight’ and ‘Spotlight Radiant Rose’ in the new wall bed top, and a Liatris spicata ‘Kolold’ in the rock garden.

Today was a lot warmer. I planted five lupin, three L. polyphyllus ‘Tutti Frutti Hybrids’ and two without name tags. I put them next to the rock formation behind the pond where I had put other lupins in the past. I dug out the nice soil that was there and replaced it with road sand/gravel. If that sounds odd, it’s because lupins are legumes, they take nitrogen out of the air so they don’t need fertilizer. The poor quality soil gives them an edge because it reduces competition from weeds and other plants.

I also did a lot of weeding and some pruning, but there’s lots of both still to do.

New blooms: fever few, Russian sage, ninebark diablo, lychnis, Bradbury monarda.

Lucy's favorite.

I saw four painted turtles at the same time today. I had thought there were only two in the pond.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Shovels Are Out.

6-21-16 VERMONT: Tonight is actually cool, in the sixties, after a pleasant day. Yesterday was too hot and too humid, but a front went through during the night, cooled things off and gave us a drop of much needed rain.

The grass is burnt, and I cancelled the mowing for this week. The pond is down two inches.

Yesterday I did some weeding in the late afternoon when it had cooled. Today I planted the catalpa tree, Catalpa speciosa, that we bought from Browns on the last trip. I put it in the southeast corner of the yard. I also got a bunch of perennials and, so far, planted a toad lily, Tricyrtis macropoda, and a centaurea, Centaurea montana, in the bed by the new French doors. I have some lupin, coneflower and hollyhock to plant tomorrow.

New blooms: rhubarb, trascantia, water lily.


Common Ringlet. These butterflies are hard to catch because they don't sit still for long.

Water lily.

Painted turtle catchin' some rays.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summer Begins.

6-19-16 VERMONT: It was beautiful yesterday when we arrived and today is even better—the summer day we all imagine, sunny, hot, dry, with a little breeze. We both took pix, and I’m posting some of Judy’s as well as mine. Things do look dry, and I ran the veggie soaker overnight. The established perennials all look fine. The pond is down an inch.

The pasture has vetch, red clover, buttercups, white clover, bedstraw, Indian paintbrush, wild iris, daisy, flea bane and more.

New blooms: peony, bearded iris, stone crop sedum, lady’s mantle, sweet william, baptisia.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Rodgersia.

Bearded Iris with columbine.


Phoebe? Swallow? Anyone?

Bright sun and no wind.

Rocking chair day.

There are eight flowers here, four are hard to see.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Catbird Seat.

6-17-16 SHORT HILLS: The summer solstice is sneaking up on us. It marks the beginning of summer, but, paradoxically, also marks the start of the sun’s retreat from the northern hemisphere.

We leave for Vermont tomorrow for most of the summer this trip. I feel slightly ambivalent about leaving NJ now because the southern magnolia are about to bloom as are daylilies, hydrangeas, Hypericum and others, but there are flowers in VT too.

Catbirds were scolding Maizie and me as we walked past one spot in the yard.

That usually means a chick out of the nest but still being looked after by the parents until it matures enough to fly.

Beech nuts ripening.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


6-16-16 SHORT HILLS: It has looked like rain all day, but there was only a shower in the early morning. I have done more weeding and pruning and yesterday used Roundup on some poison ivy and a bunch of first year wild garlic-mustard, Alliaria petiolata.

Tonight we have a dinner date with Alan and Barbara. Last night we were supposed to meet Elaine and Richard in the city, but the traffic was so bad that we bailed out in Jersey City after an hour trying to get to the Holland Tunnel.

New blooms: linden tree.

Once we get into June and the ash trees are out, the yard is mostly in deep shade, except where we have lost trees. On the hottest days up on the street, it's 10° cooler in the shady yard.

More shade with splashes of dappled sun.

Linden tree flower draws a lot of pollinators.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Graduation II.

6-14-16 SHORT HILLS: We’re back in NJ after Lily’s graduation from Dartmouth. Graduation day, Sunday, was cool and breezy but comfortable enough for almost everybody dressed appropriately.

The party for her friends was held the evening before in Thetford. It rained most of that afternoon with strong, gusty winds. In the evening the rain let up and cold fog settled down on us. The weather kept us inside, so we moved the bar and food into the house instead of setting up outside in the garden.

All the graduating friends arrived with one or more parents, one or more sibs, some grandparents, some aunts and uncles. There was something north of 60 people. Everyone seemed to have a good time. The left-overs went to the Haven in White River Junction. There were a lot of hands for the set up and cleanup. Thanks and snaps to all the organizers and helpers, specifically, Alison, Dan, Gardner, Anna, Zoe, Lisa, Judy, me, Sam, Lily, Janet, Bill, Andy.

Graduation on the green in Hanover, NH.

Lily's posse at Dartmouth, all seem pleased with the new diplomas.

Back in Short Hills we had 5/8 of an inch of rain while we were away. Along with that rain here there was a lot of wind because the yard is littered with leaves and branches. The afternoon before we left for graduation, the wind had just started to gust and it broke a big branch on an ash by the garage.

The branch stayed hanging on the tree, but it was leaning on an apple, dogwood and magnolia. Frank’s Tree again came to the rescue and removed the broken limb while we went to Vermont. The threatened small trees escaped with minimal damage, and they removed most of the debris. I did find an additional bunch of branches to clean up after the cleanup.

Yesterday I planted a catalpa tree here, Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’, a very small one that we brought to NJ in the car, along with the dogs and bags of recyclables. Judy called Browns Nursery when we were in VT to ask if they had any, and the answer was, ‘yes’. None of several nurseries in NJ that we had called had one, dismissing catalpas as weed trees.

I think it’s an interesting tree with white flowers, big heart shaped leaves and long, brown bean pods in the fall. The one I planted has a trunk diameter of a half an inch and is almost four feet tall, we also got a larger one for the VT yard.

New blooms: hummingbird summersweet.

Back in NJ with Hummingbird Summersweet in bloom.

Summersweet smiling for the close-up.

Friday, June 10, 2016


6-10-16 VERMONT: We’ve been here a couple of days. It’s Lily’s graduation, and we’re prepping for her grad party on Saturday. Alison, Anna, Dan, Gardner and other family members expected tonight and tomorrow.

Our old lawn mower has gone out of the landscaping business and, we had to contact the new guys to do the lawn before the party. The grass was up to eight inches high, but now is perfect. Andy will mow the front of the pasture for parking for the 60 or so expected guests.

I have treated the pond, weeded, pruned, and weed whacked. The pond bank by the new primrose bed was caving in, so I buttressed it with big rocks from the rock pile.

The hardy hibiscus that I planted last year is actually alive and putting out new shoots. I bought two catalpa trees at Browns Nursery, a small one to take to NJ and larger one for here to plant next week when we’re back for the summer.

New blooms: Wentworth viburnum, linden viburnum, columbine, meadow rue, knapweed, centaurea, chives, rogersia, yellow flag iris, Siberian iris, Solomon seal, false Solomon seal, three leaf Solomon seal, roses, Asian lilac, lupin, clover, thyme, bishops weed, weigela, bunchberry.

Azaleas still look good.

Eastern Phoebe likes that fence post.

Brady in the buttercups.

Bally almost lost.

Gus in the grass.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Rainy Sunday.

6-6-16 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday we had several showers with over an inch of rain in total. Val, Steve and Lucy were here for an early dinner, between rainstorms, and we were able to get outside in the soggy yard. The last storm, in the evening, dropped a few branches. Today is sunny and dry.

The previous days were progressively more muggy and humid. I replaced the two dogwoods that I had planted on 4-27-16 because they never leafed out. The nursery said they had had problems with that lot and sent over two new dogwood trees. I didn’t put the new trees in the same holes for fear of some transmittable dogwood disease. The dead trees went to the dump. Much weeding was also done.

New blooms: elderberry, Asian hollies, pink spirea.

Elderberry [Sambucus] flower looks a lot like the viburnum flowers. Both are in the same plant family, Adoxaceae, along with some other plants. They all have similar flowers and opposite leaves.

Early morning sun on the soaked and drenched landscape lights up all the hanging drops of water.

Cabbage White butterfly. Check out all the buds on that blade of grass. I think they are flower buds not seeds.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Sex Quiz.

6-2-16 SHORT HILLS: I sat outside on a bench for a while to watch the birdhouse and catch the occupants at work. As they were last year, house wrens are in residence. Twice I saw a bird come out of the nest carrying something that might be a slug. I would be surprised if slugs crawled up that high, but maybe they were carried in with the nest building materials. Considering that they eat snails [escargot], why wouldn’t they eat a slug?

The English hollies are in bloom and smell very sugary. The trees are of different sexes. The pollinators visiting the male trees have to also hit the females to fertilize the flower that ends up as the red berry. It seems to work out for them because we have ten or twenty volunteers in the yard.

The last few days have been beautiful. I have been out there weeding and pruning.

New blooms: red spirea, Stewartia, English holly.

Holly - male or female?

Holly - the opposite sex. Can you tell which is which? Answer later.

House wren carrying a goody for the chicks.

Another treat for the kiddies.

Coming out with something? A slug or tick?

One of the new trees - Stewartia pseudocamellia. Below also.