Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Phacelia campanularia blooms!

Woke up yesterday morning to plant stuff we bought at the local nursery and wow the Phacelia already bloomed. This is the only plant that has flowered amongst the hundreds of seed I managed to scatter - well I bought a whole quarter pound of seed thinking that a packet or two wasn't enough - but this was very quick to bloom, less than a month if memory serves and closer to three weeks I believe. And if the plants are covered with all these blue flowers, then it was good that I bought so much.

One photo is enhanced. The blue taken by the camera turned out more purpley than it actually is. The enhanced photo is closer to the actual color. It is a bluer blue with white spots on the base of the petals and white stamens? pistils? As a bonus the green-purple scalloped leaves, quite attractive on it's own, is edged with a reddish purple tint.

I read somewhere that Phacelia is added to a lot of the wildflower mixes. We've planted a lot of wildflower mixes in the past and have never seen this plant before. If they don't add it to the mixes, they should. I would make a wonderful addition, quick growing, quick to flower and beautiful. The only problem would be that it is so short and would be dwarfed by other wildflowers. Maybe it will grow much taller but for now it is all of 3" high.

Phacelia is supposed to bloom until Fall. It would be wonderful if it did. I'll let you know.

Friday, May 26, 2006

In praise of Angelique

I can't say enough about the division 11, double late, tulip "Angelique". It is a large double with a pink blush and very long lasting blooms. Ours have bloomed for more than a month and rebloomed reliably when left in the ground and not lifted. Some say that the trouble with Angelique is that the flower is too heavy for the stem and it has a tendency to fall over especially after a rain. We have not had this problem, the flower bending after a rain but righting itself when the rain evaporates. I can see why this was an award winning tulip. The only problem we've seen is that the color is not uniform. Some flowers are almost white with only a faint tinge of pink and others have a dark pink blush. Actually I don't see it as a problem because I like a little variation but if you want a bed of uniform color you may be disappointed.

I would like to try some Division 2, double early tulips which are supposed to be as long lasting as Angelique but have a shorter stem and less likely to fall over. Combined with Angelique we could have several months of tulips. Maybe "Snowstorm" a white with yellow centers would be a good compliment.

Our experiment with Division 12-15 tulips were a disappointment. The only one that performed well was the T. Tarda. T. turkestanica and T. saxatallis grew too leggy in a slightly shaded area and sprawled on the ground, barely keeping the flower head up. T. kaufmanniana the waterlily tulip and T. lilac wonder were bigger than I thought they would be on short stems and seemed misshapened. All were early bloomers and if you want color early in the season they would be fine but they are also short lived so they come and go as quickly as some ephemerals.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


The sweet bay magnolia (M. virginiana) is blooming again. The tree looked pretty ratty after a fairly mild winter so I thought it wouldn't bloom but it has about 15 or more buds which is great. I love the smell which reminds me of freesias and the very best perfume you can buy imho. Someone said that if you could plant only one magnolia it should be the sweet bay which is a native and I heartly agree because of it's perfume and the shape of the tree. I'm partial to magnolias but this is by far my favorite.

Our only remaining fruit tree the Oplalescent apple has bloomed for the first time after three years in the ground and there are a few tiny fruit so we may be able to sample some this fall. Actually we do have another fruit tree a peach but we only keep it for it's flowers. And I guess you can say that the service berry (Amelanchier) is a fruit tree but more of a large shrub to my mind.

The wild flower phacelia that I scattered about willy nilly has sprouted in great numbers. Luckily the leaves are tinged purple with scalloped edges and are quite distinctive so they can't be mistaken for weeds.

The half of the ramps (wild leeks) we didn't eat and instead planted have sent up flower stalks which is a good sign that they've survived the transplant. Hopefully they'll form seed and I'll be able to plant those later. The ramp seeds I purchased still haven't sprouted despite being in the garden for several weeks now.

The 5 spice bush (Lindera benzoin) that I purchased bare root seem reluctant to sprout and remain in a suspended state. 4 are not dead because the branches still have a green brown color but one appears to have died as it is completely brown. Two seem to have tiny green buds but this is the slowest growing plant I've ever seen - they've been in ground for more than a month. The sparkleberry hollies purchased bareroot several weeks later have already sprouted and are covered with leaves.

All the dozens of 1 year old grafted japanese maples have survived and are thriving. Some which were only 6"- 1 feet tall are now 2-3 feet tall and growing and they are looking pretty spectacular even if they are tiny. Even my wife who was extremely sceptical about my buying all those jms is now won over because of their grace.

More later.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Li'l Bandit

I finally caught the bandit who's been eating the catfood left outdoors for the outside cat. This was a fairly small possum that seemed drunk and unsteady on it's feet. By the look and size of it, it must be a juvenile. I was a little leery of going outside to take the photos because of its wobbily manner and lack of fear. I thought it may be rabid. It started to flee after I opened the door a little and photographed it. It fell off the entry stoop, sumersaulted down two steps and scrambled off into the bushes.

Later I realized that the flash had blinded it and that's why it displayed the disoriented behavior. It wasn't rabies. Being a mostly nocturnal animal its eyes must be much more sensitve than ours to light and popping a flash right in front of it must have been blinding! It seemed to recover fairly quickly as it scooted off around the house post haste.

The dumb look is sort of cute but I can't get past the prehensile rat-like tail. You can see it's fur standing up from fear.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A selection of Irises

We have gone through our share of irises and for some reason or another most were discarded. Yellow flag in the pond and the siberian irises proved to be too vigorous and invasive. Other than the miniature irises that flowered early in the Spring and now having disappeared we are partial to two - the fulsome yellow and white and the pale faded violet. We've kept only a few of the whole bed of iris inherited when we moved here, now relegated to an inconspicous place on the bank of a swale to help hold the dirt from washing in during a heavy rain. Remnants keep popping up next to the deck where the photo was taken.

Irises have been extremely easy to grow, none we planted failed to grow. In fact they are almost too vigorous and difficult to control. We've divided the inherited iris and the yellow/white which now has a colony that's overgrowing its alotted space. This is a plant for the beginner or black thumb.

The complementary color of the purple viola really enhances the intensity of yellow in the iris. A lucky accident. In the future I'll have to try to remember the old art class lessons on complementary colors and plant accordingly.

And a New York Times article about an iris garden.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rainbows and buttercup

We were treated to a spectacular display of double rainbows late yesterday afternoon. Rainbows are not common in central NJ so this was a delight. I have never seen colors so vivid in a rainbow before - probably because of the backdrop of dark clouds. Some say rainbows are a portent of good fortune or luck. We need a turn of fortune.

I've added a photo of the buttercup in full bloom.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Beetles destroying huge tracks of northwestern forests

More evidence of global warming. From the Washington Post.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bloodroot Photo

Oops, forgot to add the photo of the bloodroot. In one of the photos you can see the characteristic new leaf wrapped around the flower stalk. The leaves unfurl as they grow bigger. Apparently the roots were used by the native americans as a dye. Here's a good website which has a lot of interesting information.

And this also information rich website claims that it's an endangered species and should only be cultivated if you want to use it medicinally or extract the juice for dye! I don't know where we got the plant but I think it may have come from Lowes. I hope we're not doing something detrimental to endanger it's survival by having purchased the rootstock!

Another excellent website.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Spring Ephemerals

They come and go with little fanfare. Sometimes tiny and dainty or hidden by larger neighbors only making themselves known by being early, highly colored or unusual in form. By early summer they are just a memory.

The buttercup is possibly Ranunculus sceleratus. The flower has a shiny plastic like look and has dark green interestingly serrated leaves. I dug it up next to a lamp post adjacent to the wild area behind our property.

The pink lavender flower is a Dodecatheon meadia or commonly known as a shooting star and is very dear to me. I bought it at a Master Gardener's sale, the only one left and have wanted to get more but have not seen any.

The white flowers are some kind of forest wildflower possibly Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). We bought little packets of wildflower bulbs and roots at Lowe's last year, trilliums, trout lilies and some other interesting looking things - at least the photos were - but they didn't come up until this year. We had all but given up hope so this was a nice surprise. The trout lilies however have not appeared. Rats!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Awash in seeds!

I was in a virtual rainstorm of samaras (winged seed) from our neighbor's huge and ugly sliver maple which means next Spring we'll no doubt be pulling up hundreds of maple seedlings.

I noticed that not only the sliver maples were putting out a lot of seed, even a small sapling in the adjoining empty lot, no doubt a voluteer from the neighbors big tree is so covered with the samaras that it gives it a tannish pink cast. Our street curb planted ornamental maples have put out a prodigious amount of seed literally covering our street and driveway with a reddish cast and our tiny japanese maple grafted year old plants also have seed!

Last year we had a bumper crop of acorns and the previous year the locusts were covered with blooms like I never remembered before. The oaks are blooming like crazy again this year so they'll be a lot of acorns to clean up again this Fall. This is getting weird. Could this be a reaction to global warming? Or is this a portent of dire weather conditions - plants trying to massively reproduce in hopes that some of the progeny survives?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Purple leafed birch

Ever on the look out for unusual plants, I noticed a copse of birches on the Princeton campus which seemed to be late in leafing out. On closer inspection there were leaves on the branches but the leaves were a dark purple in color and not the usual bright green. I tried to Google it to find more information but there's only a palty amount of information about this mutation. Apparently there's something called Betula "Crimson Frost" on a website and a photo of Betula "Royal Frost" that seems to match the photos I took. Not much more information than that.

It seems like it would be a very nice addition to a landscape. Unfortunately we have no more room to plant a nice copse let alone one. A truly sad state of affairs.

Monday, May 01, 2006


We did a bad thing this weekend. We went to a ARS chapter sale. What's ARS? American Rhododendron Society. Sadly but not uncharacteristically we went crazy and bought a few... well, many different cultivars - they were all so beautiful.

We also learned why some of our previously planted rhodies would just turn brown and die, despite frequent watering. We have clay under approx. 4-6 inches of trucked in topsoil. Apparently I've been digging a non permeable bowl that would fill with water and drown the poor rhodies. Other plants are more resistant to being waterlogged I guess as they seem to thrive. The recommendation for planting in clay soil was to put the rhodies on top of the clay and just mound a mixture of 1/2 good garden soil and 1/2 fine pine mulch. The pine mulch is also great for the rhodies acid requirement. We were also cautioned to water regularly . Apparently rhodies require very little fertilizer if any so we were told not to use any.

So I've been hauling several loads of bagged topsoil, garden soil and pine mulch this weekend. Dug many large shallow holes and planted all but two plants and today I feel like a punching bag...sore joints and muscles. But I keep telling myself it's all worth it.
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Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

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