Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Good Part of Summer


We've gotten plenty of rain the last couple weeks and the garden is pretty lush right now, in mid-July, when it's usually on the ropes as we head in to the driest, hottest part of the year.  Above, the reddish pink flower in the foreground is knautia macedonica.  The tall pink on the right is a thalictrum.  The Japanese painted ferns have colonized the Gothic planter on the patio, an example of nature sweeping aside (gently) my idea of a planting scheme, and proposing a better one.

It's coneflower week in the garden, apparently.  Yes, they are common, but they always remind me of the Midwest.  I'm happy to step outside and see them each morning.

In the front garden the coneflowers are mingling with the blue blooms of hydrangea macrophylla 'Dooley'.   I used to take this hydrangea for granted, but after no flowers the last two years I'm happy that the inevitable late spring cold spell didn't doom the flower buds this year.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Big Yellow

I've wanted to grow rudbeckia maxima for a couple years, for the height as much as the cool name.  That's it in the middle of the photo above.  I saw a couple member-grown pots of it at my garden club's plant sale last year so I bought them all.  They stayed small last year and were overgrown by the asters and other tall perennials in this bed.  I kind of forgot about them and figured they were goners after the green wave engulfed them.  I was happy to see them come back strong this year.  There are a few in this bed but one has ambition to live up to its name.

Close-up of the maxima at eye-level.

It looks great with the 'Raspberry Delight' monarda.  Maybe the other rudbeckia maximas will poke their heads up high next year and make a show of it.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Something Different

We pause the normal relentless blogging about plants for something different.  My wife, kids and I took our first European trip together at the end of June.  We rented a gorgeous place north of Verona, Italy, in a valley of vineyards.  Above is a view north from downtown Verona.

Exterior frescos and sculpture in Verona.

San Marco in Venice (not shown- the thousands of tourists and pigeons filling the piazza).

Entry to the Doge's Palace in Venice.

Villa Rotonda north of Vicenza, Palladio's most famous villa and a personal inspiration.  The villa is symmetrical inside and out; all four facades are pretty much the same.  It's more of an idea of a building, or a sculpture of an ideal building.  I made a sculpture based on this years ago and spent a long time researching this building.  Too see it in person made me giddy.  Bucket list!

Within a couple hours I made another check on my bucket list: Giotto's fresco cycle from 1305 at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.  We spent hours and hours studying these in one of my art history classes.  Giotto is often seen as the beginning of the Renaissance, the first modern painter.  Visitors are only allowed 20 minutes per visit due to the fragility of the frescos.  We drank our fill.

Interior of Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua.  We had to visit to say thanks for all of the help finding lost things over the years!

Castelvecchio in Verona, a medieval castle remodeled in the 20th century by Italian modernist architect Italo Scarpa, and now an art museum.  I drove my family crazy photographing Scarpa's benches, mounts, flooring, pedestals and doors.

Andrea Mantegna's altarpiece at the Basilica of San Zeno in Verona.  We spent hours studying this one in art history class as well.  

Lake Garda near Sirmione.  I'd like to get back to explore the Dolomites when the kids are a little older and can handle some trekking.

Gelato-powered!  

These guys suffered through a week without TV or iPads; forced to eat strange things like octopus, cuttlefish and wild boar; and made to walk long miles through stone streets .  They are troopers.

Back to plants soon.








Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pine Barrens Hike

I had the chance to go on a guided plant hike in the NJ Pine Barrens yesterday, led by the incredible Janet Novak of the Delaware Valley NARGS chapter.  I've wanted to dive into the Pine Barrens since I read John McPhee's book 25 years ago, but had never gotten around to it in 11 years of living in NJ.  Neighbor Ray and my 9-year old botanist (above, with beaver stump) made a long, humid day out of it.

We started at Pakim Pond in the Brendan Byrne State Forest in south Jersey.  We shuffled around the mucky edge of the small pond on boardwalks and pine needle-covered paths.  The acid sandy soil is host to carnivorous plants, ferns, a few orchids, pitch pine, blackjack oak, and a wide range of ericaceous shrubs, including the high bush blueberries that we snacked on as we walked.

I've come to think of pitcher plants as rare, fussy, expensive and hip (lately), but here they were in the wild, growing at the wet edges of the pond.

Here's the super-famous curly grass fern, a really tiny thing.  Note my errant finger in the photo. 

Each hummock in the pond was a little garden.

We moved on next to Webb's Mill, a bog that looked like an impressionist painting yesterday.

Pitcher plants, sundews, bladderwort...Monet, right?  I felt like a kid.

Pitcher plant and compatriots.

More bog beauty

Incredible things were everywhere.  I took too many photos and inevitably failed to capture the excitement of this site.

Dwarf pines growing in sand just outside the Warren Grove Bombing Range

Dwarf pine

The last stop of the day was at Bill Smith's garden in Warren Grove.  We walked around the corner and found this 10' x 30' raised bog garden in full bloom.  Bill is growing many of the same plants that we'd seen growing wild in the local bogs, but what floored us were the pitcher plants.  I had that feeling that I have in front of a masterpiece in a museum: overwhelmed by the combination of beauty and skill.

Gorgeous containers lined the raised bog bed.

Another of the many, many saracennias

A mini masterpiece.   The yellow is bog asphodel.


Red + Blue= Wow

These guys looked hungry.

This dude survived 5 hours of plants, plants, plants with Ray and me.  He had a well-deserved burger followed by a nap on the ride home.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Tiny Jewels Part 3


The trough above has been gorgeous for a couple weeks now.


On the front is saxifraga 'Whitehill' (r) and dianthus 'Inshriach Dazzler' (l)

On the side is erigeron scopuliunus. It's been more mat than flower this year.

On the front corner is saponaria x oliviana.

Next to that is silene uniflora.


Another trough has edraianthus graminifolius.  

dianthus ssp.

antennaria dioica rubra 

helianthemum 'Raspberry Ripple'

silene caroliniana

genista ssp. 'Boz Dag'

androsace sarmentosa

saponaria pumilo

helianthemum 'Wisley Primrose'

sisyrinchium angustifolium (blue-eyed grass)

dianthus myrtinevius

dianthus 'Tatra Fragrance'

erigeron leoimerus

With the cool, rainy weather, it's been a great spring to be a rock gardener.

More to come...