Category Archives: a fledgling garden

Rhubarb and radishes

I have three or four posts worth of content this long holiday weekend.

Saturday: A Cautionary Tale
Saturday at the community garden is marked by an epic fail that confirms experienced gardeners do stupid things.  This is one I’ll be paying for all season, and possibly well beyond.  Let’s just say I generally use landscape fabric there for weed control, but for some reason I decided I’d use salt hay this year. Which was, of course, sold out from every garden center by the time I got around to looking for it  (I do in fact, have a day job!).  A trusted local garden center insisted straw would be fine. So I looked it up on the interweb, and read that by definition, straw should have no seed heads.  Imagine my surprise when I get to the garden, unpack the straw, pull some out from the bale, and there it is:  Seed heads everywhere. I should have thrown it out on the spot. But I didn’t.  I put it down, and at some point in the future, the weed suppressant will be the weed source.  And of course, all this happened after the hay blew all over my car, which is another mess –and another story!

Sunday: Lazy Day Enjoying the Garden and Nature
At the home garden, everything’s coming into bloom at once. We can thank the sun and heat for that.  A few weeks later than usual, peonies are in full swing.  Cut several vases full, and will be giving some to friends.

Dad_s Peony 2 2016

My dad gave me these two peony plants. Each year, they remind me of him when they come into bloom. The white is a favorite, with its subtle fragrance.


Early in my gardening adventures, I was obsessed with antique garden roses. The two that have remained have earned their place — they’re beautiful, tough survivors and ]fragrant:  The Quatre Saisons and Felicia.  Felicia is one of Pemberton’s hybrid musks.  I love the delicate blossoms and the way it can be trained as a small climber.  It has survived being dug up and replanting when we built our addition.  It can also be seen inside our back room, backlit by the sun.  The Quatre Saisons similarly has survived multiple moves around the garden.

Rosa Felicia 2016

Sunday Supper
From community garden, I brought home a respectable haul of rhubarb, French breakfast radishes (so pretty, and tasty), and gorgeous greens:  pak choi, lacinto kale, so many lettuces, tiny chard. The rhubarb made a delightful dessert in this delicious recipe by David Lebowitz.

BachelorButton 2016

Daylily Dilemma

I spent a good part of the weekend battling a formidble enemy.  They look so innocent, even attractive.  Neighbors share them freely. They appear on roadsides across the northeast, a happy sign of summer.  The orange daylily.

A friend gave me some from her garden who knows how many years ago.  And somehow they have multiplied in a crazy-quilt way, in places totally unexpected!  And seemingly exponentially this year.

Ruthlessness is important.  I think I got the roots of many, but I’m sure they’ll rear their pretty heads again.  They’re tenacious. And the garden does look better without them — their random appearances were squeezing out  neighbors throughout the bed.

Have I banished them for good? Hardly. I still have some at the community garden and a small patch at the back of the garden.

A good part of the rest of the weekend was spent doing the many tasks that have been building up. Planting annuals and mulching the front beds.  Pruning. Planting some climbing annuals strategically — hyacinth vine and antique sweet peas.  Separating and transplanting coneflowers, lady’s mantle and astilbe to a bed at the entrance of our property, under the pear tree.

Despite all that got done, there is so much more. But I’m not complaining, It’s a pleasure that there’s just not enough time for most weekends.

This weekend’s highlights in photos below.

Jacobs Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder adds a delicate touch to the front of a border.

Peony wiegela

Peonies are late to bloom this year. This one’s just about ready and is tucked next to a Wiegela.


Centaurea, sometimes called Bachelor’s Button, adds a vivid blue for a few weeks in Spring.

The Hunt is Up

Happy May Day!

Here’s a glimpse of the baskets I created for my pals with the purchases at the plant sale, plus the addition of some strawberry plants.  It wouldn’t be May Day without strawberries!

Everyone seemed to have a good time and kudos to my friends who brought crafts and creative projects along for us to try.

Fear I now need to get out to the garden to work off all that food!

The Plant Sale

We’re members of the Frelinghuysen Arboretum, which hosts an annual plant sale that offers an impressive array of annuals, perennials, shrubs and small trees.  Usually held in early May, one of the benefits of being a member is the opportunity to attend the member’s-only preview, and get the first crack at the good stuff!

The sale has changed over the years. At one time, boxed dinners and wine were served as you socialized, perused plants or picnicked on the lawn. While that’s no longer the case, we’re really there for the plants. We arrived just a half hour into the event and eager gardeners were streaming to the checkouts with their haul of plants.

This year, the theme is the collector’s garden. We noticed many unusual varieties. We picked up some ginger, which should be interesting!


Shelves display a variety of annuals and perennials

APlantsale2 small

Nurseries and greenhouses near and far donate a wide variety of plants each year

While it took many years for our garden to develop, today our modest yard can barely hold another plant  (though M. would be happy to sacrifice lawn mowing to more garden beds!).  So, my focus today was mainly finding plants and herbs to make May Day baskets.

I’m hosting May Day brunch this Sunday. May Day is a wonderful and unique tradition at Bryn Mawr College.  Sophomores rise at dawn to pick flowers for the seniors. Everyone dresses in white and eats strawberries and cream while sipping champagne for breakfast.  There’s May Pole dancing, hoop races through the blooming lane of cherry trees on the green, viewing of the The Philadelphia Story at midnight, and more. But overall, it’s a day of just hanging out in the sun on the green, which is welcome ahead of the finals coming up in just a couple of weeks.  The day ends in a step-sing, one of my favorite college traditions.

My alma mater has so many great traditions, some going back to the beginning of the college,  and I’m sure many new ones by now.  It will be nice to enjoy a little May Day festivity with these local Bryn Mawr friends, with our own way of celebrating, now so many years away from campus.

The Payoff

With a minimum amount of work and maintenance, Fall bulb planting can have a big payoff come Spring.  Aside from the time choosing the varieties to plant, the actual prep and planting is very quick (see my November 7, 2015 post).

There is nearly  no maintenance involved come Spring, aside from removing the yellowed stems and leaves, once it has fully run its course.  You may also want to add a touch of bulb fertilizer at the right time, but that’s about it.

One concern folks generally express is that bulbs can look messy once the flowers are gone and you’re waiting for the leaves to die back so you can remove them.  Your planting scheme can help here — for example, I tuck the bulbs in between shrubs or other plants that will emerge, as part of an overall scheme.  In one area, it’s tucked among an azalea and evergreen shrubs on one side, while on the other, a spirea and evergreen. Ahead of it are a variety of green perennials, including hosta, lamb’s ears and Lady’s Mantle, which will soon be in the the focal point in the foreground.

Tulip Spring Green small

As for those little tulip orphanaeda flava in the backyard, here’s what it ultimately looks like in bloom. It’s tucked among some boxwoods, a peony, climbing hydrangea and variegated hostas.  It gives the smallest pop of color with the grape hyacinths among the cool green palette.

Tulip orphaeda flava small

Try out a small area of bulbs this Fall, and be rewarded with a little joy next Spring.

Here’s Why

Today I was thinking about why I like to garden so much. It’s not something I’ve really given much thought about.

I love to surround myself with beauty.
I love creating art. I love design.
Then there’s the physicality of it.  The hard work of digging with shovel or spade, of moving things.
It engages all of the senses.
And, of course, I enjoy sharing  the results of my efforts. It’s nice to brighten someone’s day with something I had a hand in creating.

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I opened the community garden plots for the season today.  Wish I could capture the sun, the air and the warmth (despite a chill in the air).

Some challenging, yet quick work of weeding. Cut back dead flower heads (it’s nice to leave them on for the birds over winter). Put down two wheelbarrows of compost.

Planted the raised beds with a few cool-weather items:  A variety of beets and a rainbow carrot mix, lacinto kale, swiss chard, pak choi, and French breakfast radishes.  I’ll put in the lettuces and the peas next time around.

It was a nice surprise to have thyme ready to pick. It overwintered well. The fragrance is amazing.

The rhubarb, another cool-weather standby, is already underway.  M. will be happy once it’s ready to harvest.

A good day.

What’s blooming now

The pulmonaria are emerging.  Hard working, they’re great for the shade. And, after they bloom, their spotted leaves add interest in a shady border.  If they get a little ragged in the heat of mid-summer, I simply cut back any dead leaves or shear it back a bit, and new growth appears.

Pulmonaria 04-16

The Shishigarshira maple (acer palmatum) is starting to bud.  This tree is interesting in just about any season. Here, the light green buds contrast with the texture of the bark and the reddish stems. Interestingly, ours doesn’t drop any whirlygig seeds, so no babies.

Japanese Maple 04-16

The flowering pear street-side is always the first to flower for us.

Flowering plum 04-16

On Saturday, we did a lot of work on our front bed. We replaced the yews with something new… stay tuned for more!