Friday, December 27, 2013

Landscaping Gone Bad

I often ride my bike past this building in Montlcair.  I wonder what the story is?

At first glance, I thought it was a sculpture.  It would be great cast in bronze and attached to a modernist  tower in midtown.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

This little tabletop trough came about when I was casting a few large troughs earlier this fall.  As often happens, I had a bit of the mix left over when I'd finished the larger ones.  Sometimes I'll cast small pots, just to use up the mixture, but this time I cast a tiny trough over a piece of scrap foam.

The ornaments are thrift store finds from years ago. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hypertufa Bench

Crosshatching of winter shadows across the hypertufa bench.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Accidental Still Life

One of my hypertufa planters on the deck has become a landing spot for items collected by the kids on their adventures.

They have good taste.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Late November Color

Kind of a memento mori for the miscanthus...staring at the compost heap, knowing it will join it in the spring?

 This combo of calamagrostis brachytricha and cotoneaster franchetii keeps on giving.

Oak leaf hydrangeas carry on with business despite being planted under a huge maple with greedy roots.

More of that cotoneaster, mmmm....

Angelina sedum

Lonicera foliage and one of the last blooms

The hellebore nursery under a hydrangea contains seedlings from my favorite purple hellebore.  They need 2-3 more years to bloom.

Arum italicum 

 The last rose?

I have troughs in the basement, sealed in plastic, fully cured and ready to come outside, but I couldn't bring myself to put them out tonight for the predicted 17 degrees.  They can wait.  After all, it's winter.  I need to learn to wait again.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Autumn Troughs

This is one of a grouping of troughs at our house.  The angle of the light and the changing foliage make it easy to tell the season without a calendar.

The dracocephalum turned such a great yellow/orange this year, though I need to divide it next year (it's a flopper).

In the back rank of troughs lives a quince with sedum sieboldii at its feet.  I LOVE this sedum in autumn.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fall Combo

I love this classy pairing of calamagrostis brachytrica and cotoneaster franchetii.  Even the fence looks good with these two.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise', reminding us that it's later than it feels.

Maybe frost this week...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pitcher Plant Planter (Say That Three Times Fast)

Last fall at one of our Watnong NARGS meetings we had Randy Heffner of Aquascapes Unlimited present his talk called ‘Carnivores in Captivity".  Of course, there were plants for sale too (yum).  I know that a lot of the sarracenias are tender in our area and need special care over the winter, but I thought that I could at least try the super-hardy sarracenia purpurea susp. purpurea, whose range extends to Newfoundland.  Randy said it would "survive sitting out on a picnic table in the winter".  That sounded about my speed, though Neighbor Ray adopted it for the winter and held it with his herd of pitcher plants in a sheltered area on the edge of his greenhouse.

The photo above is from the first week of June, when we planted it.

I hate the look of plastic pots but my normal hypertufa mix is too freely draining to hold much water over the hot summer.  Plus, I was worried that the hypertufa might crack if it holds water over the wet winter.  To get the best of both worlds, I started with a plastic pot made for a small water garden (no drainage hole), wrapped it in a couple layers of bubblewrap, and cast an oversized hypertufa planter around it.  Kind of ridiculous, I know, but it worked.  With the air gap of the bubblewrap, I'm pretty sure that the planter won't crack this winter,

The photo above is from the first week of August.

We planted the pitcher plant in a mix of sand, peat moss and Turface.  To guarantee that the plant is in a wet environment, but not drowning, I drilled a hole through the plastic pot about 2/3 of the way up the side.  Excess water trickles down through the bubblewrap air space and drains out the hole in the bottom of the hypertufa bowl.  The pitcher plant seems happy.

This is a good shot of the venation on the wings of the pitchers.  The inside of the pitchers are lined with stiff, downward facing hairs to trap insects unlucky enough to venture in. 

New pitchers being born.

Fingers crossed that I can get it to bloom next year.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Work Garden

Everyone's heard of the 'work wife'.  I have a work garden...a garden that I putter in during my spare moments at work.  I've bought a couple things for the garden, but mostly the plantings are overflow from my house or seed-grown.  I've designed it to be low maintenance and low cost.  Panicums, zinnias, and sunflowers above.

The main part of the garden is a basically a giant raised bed above a driveway.  It's hot.  It's dry.  Any supplemental water has to be carried from the kitchen.  I've picked only tough customers for this bad neighborhood.  No time for coddling.  Lavenders, coreopsis and chasmanthium above.

A shipping container as a background.

Lablab beans on the security fence.

Zinnias, irises, coreposis, and hypericum provide a sense of seclusion for the picnic tables.

It's pretty nice for a part-time garden.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

On Deck

Sitting on our deck outside of our kitchen, drinking coffee or a beer, I'm almost surrounded by pots and troughs.  The small hypertufa pot above, a throwaway that I cast to use up the leftover mix after a casting session, has turned into a beauty over the years.  With its erodium blooming, it makes a great centerpiece.

I cast this smallish hypertufa bowl over a yard-sale tupperware bowl about 5 years ago.  I learned the hard way that it's too small for anything but drought-indifferent plants like sedums and semps.  

The fig has fruit for the first time this year.  It is a cutting from a friend (who was given it by an elderly neighbor) that I've grown for three years or so.  It lives in the ugly plastic pot in the middle picture.  I haven't planted the fig tree in a hypertufa planter because I put it in the basement each winter.  

I had assumed that it was a regular brown fig.  Imagine my surprise as the first fig ripened to a lovely yellowish-green last week.  Maybe it's worth lugging that plastic pot indoors each winter after all...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Heleniums. Why Doesn't Everyone Grow Them?

The heleniums are amazing this time of year.  They pick up when the cone flowers finish, and just keep going.  That's 'Red Jewel' above.

This was labeled 'Helenium Autumnale' at the plant-club sale where I bought it.  I think that it was member-grown, which could explain its generic name.  It's still great.

'Kanaria' (Canary, duh.  It's yellow,)

A random, unmarked Home Depot helenium planted in my garden at work (yes, I have multiple gardens...I'm an addict).  This plant has tripled in a year.  I think it's been blooming for about 6 weeks.  Such a good value for $13 that I'll forgive the lack of cultivar tag.