Sunday, July 20, 2014

Available Troughs

People often ask me if I sell troughs (yes!) and if so, what I have available.  The six planters pictured above are all in need of good homes.  Round ones are $65; the rectangular one is $85.  

I'm in north NJ, outside NYC.   If you're interested, shoot me an email and we'll figure out logistics.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


We spent the last week of June in Maine, partly in Acadia National Park.  I'd never been to Maine before, and between the lobster, the craft beers and the scenery, my face hurt from smiling the whole week.  I shot the above photo in the parking lot (!) in Acadia, near Otter Cliff.  I love the mix of texture and colors.  That sheep laurel is tough to grow at home, but was all over the park.

Our discussion while hiking with the kids focused on wood elves, trolls and faeries.  No wonder why.  The whole place feels magical.

Moss grout?

A little campanula growing quite close to the ocean.

The three-toothed cinquefoil, potentilla tridentata, was everywhere.  I probably photographed it 25 times.  What a beauty.  It was humbling as a trough gardener to see how Mother Nature combines alpines and rocks.  I'm just a piker.

I love the combo of rock, lichen, moss and evergreen.

Painters talk about maintaing the 'wet edge' as they work.  Here's a drippy moss version.

The micro view on Mount Cadillac.  A stunted evergreen takes shelter in the lee of a rock.

The macro view from Mount Cadillac, with islands and the Atlantic in the background.

Can't wait to get back there sometime.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Planting Tufa in a Hypertufa trough

 As the "hyper" in "hypertufa" signifies, hypertufa is an approximation of real tufa rock.  My whole infatuation with hypertufa is based on fakery!  Real tufa rock, a type of limestone formed by the accumulation of carbonate materials leached out by water, is found in very few places.  Tufa is beloved by gardeners because it is very lightweight and incredibly porous, allowing tiny roots to grow deep into it.  Because it is so porous, it holds water like a sponge.

I was lucky enough to be given half a dozen pieces of tufa by a fellow member of the Watnong Chapter of the National Rock Garden Society last year.  I'm still not certain why she gifted me with such valuable chunks, but I won't question it.

All winter long I'd looked forward to planting a saxifrage trough with the tufa, so this spring I cast my favorite rectangular trough for myself, and included a crevice for growing a plant sideways.  

My neighbor Ray and I started by filling the trough with a lean mix of gravel, sand, grit and a bit of topsoil.  I threw a piece of iberis from the back yard into the crevice as we filled the trough.  Being rudely dug up and planted sideways is a lot to ask of plant, but I've got lots of iberis so it's worth a try.

We used my cordless hammer drill and 3/8", 1/2" and 3/4" masonry bits.

Ray drilling holes.
We kept the holes blind, and about 1 1/2" deep.  We enlarged them a little at the top to allow for the larger crowns off some plants.

I've got 4 or 5 different saxifrages growing in various troughs, so we grabbed small rooted pieces from all of them.  I also had a couple small saxes that I'd purchased at various plant sales this spring.

Tiny saxifrage chunks packed into the holes with the same mix that filled the trough.  We found a chopstick the perfect tool to pack the mix in around the tiny roots.  Ray brought moss to the party, using it as topdressing to wedge the tiny plants into their new homes.

A tiny primula allionii in the shady side of the tufa.

More saxes on the top of the tufa.

The finished left-hand side of the trough.  We planted choice larger plants like horned rampion, another primula, a big chunk of a saxifrage, and an epimedium in the growing medium around the tufa.  

I feel like a real "rock" gardener now.
Fingers crossed that our tiny masterpiece flourishes.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Great, Unassuming Plant

Saponaria pulmilo.  It doesn't really ask for anything.  It's content to ramble around the feet of the dwarf iris in a very shallow trough in full sun.  I'd forgotten about it until it bloomed. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014


At the tail end of a week of spring thunderstorms and showers, the hail hit us Friday evening.  Rachel and I were both home, and watched in amazement at the windows.  The hail was furious, as if someone was throwing rocks at the house.  Some hailstones were as big as a quarter.  As it was happening, I knew that it was bad in many ways, but I was excited and amazed at the ferocity of it. 

 I could see leaves coming down from the trees around us.  I grew up on a farm; I know what hail does.  I feared for the worst.

It was tough on the fleshy echeverias...

...and the orchid.  Throughout the garden things were pruned by the hail.  Broken stems and buds were everywhere.  The hostas looked like they'd been hit with shotguns.  The garden is a mess, but will recover.

The hail took out almost exactly half of our string lightbulbs.

I won't even post pictures of our cars.  I'll save those for the insurance adjuster.