Sunday, November 27, 2016

Mini Fall Color

As most of the alpines in the troughs go to sleep for the winter, there are still little bits of color and interest.  Above is dryas octopetala.  Fingers crossed that it blooms next year.

Androsace sarmentosa.  Imagine wallpaper in this pattern.

A baby sedum sieboldii (red, lower left) and sprawling dracocephalum argunense Fuji Blue (the thin orange foliage)

Saracennia, of course.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Stone Wall Workshop Part II

(I meath to post this earlier in the week, but something..uhmmm...'came up' on Tuesday that...uhmm...overshadowed this)

Last weekend I took part in the second Stone Trust dry-stone walling workshop at the NY NJ Trail Conference headquarters in Mahwah, NJ.  I did the first workshop in April and was looking forward to having another go at it, even though it's tough work.  Above is the 30' of wall that most of the workshop students worked on Saturday and Sunday.

I was assigned the front face of this small curved section on the other side of the driveway.  The boulders were already in place.  They'll help protect the wall from snowplows, etc.  The rebar/lumber forms and string lines were placed on Friday.  The wall sits on a deep gravel footing.

The string lines are just a suggestion on a curved wall.  As always, the faces of the wall are of paramount importance.  Smaller stones are packed as hearting between the two faces of the wall.

The tools in the photo above are resting on one of a couple 'through-stones' in the wall, stones that run the full width of the wall and tie the two sides together.  Behind the wall you can see how neatly my partner, a full-time mason, has laid out the raw materials on his side.  This photo is from mid-Sunday morning so it's taken us a full-day's work to get this far up with the wall.

As we neared the top of the wall, the stones got smaller and the wall went up quicker.
I was happy to use the Stone Trust's carbide hammers and chisels, and to receive excellent directions from my partner and the workshop instructor on how to split, shape and trim stone.  About 40% of the rocks in the face of the wall are trimmed to some degree.

That's Rob, who built the other side of the wall and provided excellent conversation for two days.
Larger coping stones have been added in a more rustic pattern to the top of the wall.  The extra weight on top will keep downward pressure on the wall and help hold it together over the next century.

The finished wall from the side.

The trail conference headquarters is a restored schoolhouse from the 1890's.  It's a gorgeous spot, even more so now that the wall is complete.  I can't wait to take my family for a visit and point out which parts I worked on.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

That Fall Sedum

Sedum sieboldii is doing its thing, turning red as it blooms pink.  It lives happily in this rather shallow trough in full sun on the deck, with semps, soapwort, pasqueflower and another small sedum.  

The bees were all over it today, except in the photos.

It's so well behaved that it has fall color.  I love it.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

It's Not All Alpines

Not everything I grow in hypertufa is a precious miniature.  Above is an electric purple aster from Home Depot, stuck in a quatrefoil trough that's looking for a home.  I'm a sucker for purples in the fall.

I found a katsura sapling at a plant sale this spring and couldn't resist bringing it home, even though I have no room for it in the yard.  I'll grow it for a couple years in the planter and then find a home for it.  The fall color is charitably called 'apricot', but I like it.

These sarracenias were still babies last year but have steadily bulked up this year.  I have high hopes for them next year.  The hypertufa bowl is formed around a plastic liner in order to have a barrier between the alkaline planter and the acidic planting medium these guys need.

Back to alpine programming next week.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me


I'm constantly backtracking in the garden, trying to find the trowel or knife or pruners that I just set down...somewhere.  When I saw Wheeler Munroe's handmade leather tool belts profiled on Gardenista in early August, I knew what I wanted for my late September birthday.  

I sent the link to Wheeler's Etsy site to my wife, then nagged her until she ordered for me.  Thank goodness she did, as Wheeler had decided to take the fall off from tool belt orders to work on other projects, but she took one last order...mine.  Wheeler and my wife had a very pleasant phone conversation to work out the details of what I needed, as I wasn't sure.  Wheeler makes every belt custom so we sent in my measurement and waited. The belt came weeks earlier than expected.

No more will my phone and my trowel be illicitly co-habitating in my back pocket.  My knife, pruners, trowels, and twine are now always at hand.

The belt is beautiful and will last a lifetime.  I smile when I put it on.

Wheeler sent a nice note with the belt.  

Unending gratitude to you, Wheeler, for making such a gorgeous and functional tool belt.



Sunday, September 25, 2016

Random Good Things


Behind the house right now we have  such a nice mix going on: (back to front) cotoneaster franchetii, Queen Elizabeth rose, calamagrostis brachytricha, tall pass-along purple asters, yellow rudbeckia, and Lemon Queen sunflower (front left).

Seed pods of southern magnolia

Erodiums, double and single.  They are in pots because they are tender and have to join the inside crowd for the winter.

Lablab beans on the trellis in front of the house.  At least they were happy with the heat.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

My Other 'Other' Garden


I'm almost always blogging about our home garden, with all of the troughs, the cramped front yard, the over-stuffed garden between the house and garage, and the backyard behind that.  A few times I've blogged about my 'other' garden at work, where I colonized a section outside of our Newark warehouse and made my own little version of the High Line, the famous public garden just outside of our Manhattan office.  I must confess that I have a third garden that I'm responsible for at my son's elementary school a couple blocks away.  Above is one side of the front border that we've been working on for a couple years.  Below is the other side.  The garden continues on the side of the building as well.

I have a real love/hate relationship with this garden as it's hot and dry, like all three of my gardens.  The expectation is that the PTA parents, with me as the chair of the gardening committee, will provide funds and volunteer hours to beautify the school grounds.  It works...mostly.  I love having an annual budget for plants and equipment, but I'm not great at gardening by committee.  I'm a dictator I guess, or to put it more kindly, I'd say that I have strong opinions.  I've always had help on the committee with the social parts of the garden like Facebook announcements about volunteering, organizing watering schedules, and such.  

The last couple years I've been trying to direct our plant purchasing to material that thrives in dry, hot conditions, because watering is a chore that few want to do while school is closed for the summer.  I've also tried to focus on plants that bloom in spring or fall, when the school is actually open.  This front border is planted with a mix of pre-existing Knock-Out roses, iris, lilies, barberry and juniper,  to which we've added miscanthus, pennisetum, various sedums, asters, mums, catmint, phlox, rudbeckia, coneflowers, Russian sage, bulbs, etc.  The list reads like a rogue's gallery of tough customers.

Right before school opened I redid the plantings in the pair of urns near the entrance.  The purple scaveola was left over from our spring scheme of pansies, ranunculus, and daffodils.  It loved the neglect of the dry summer.

The toughest part of this garden for me is still the fact that it's a public garden: plants often appear in it with no notice (but more often plants disappear), kids run through the beds in the elation of dismissal from the building, a lot of trash gets thrown into it, and the recently-retired school custodian would sometimes hack things back without conferring with anyone on the garden committee.  

It's definitely a labor of love.  When I get discouraged I remind myself that volunteering for the school garden is much more preferable to me than almost any other type of PTA activity available!