Monday, December 27, 2010

Yay, the first blizzard arrived by the Sound in Connecticut!

I always look forward to the first blizzard arriving so my gardens can be blanketed for the rest of winter in nature's best mulch, precious snow.  This one brought us over two feet of heavy wet snow that will hopefully stay for weeks in my beds, especially since I never got a fresh layer of mulch on all of my gardens before our first hard freeze.  I did get some of them done with some fresh organic compost and the Sweet Peet I had left over, so I did better than usual.  I always have the best intentions, but just as the ground is freezing, just like everybody else, I am rushing to get Christmas shopping done, cards sent and and all the other millions of details for the holidays taken care of.  I know most of my gardener friends feel the same...most of us are ready to put the garden to bed as October wanes into November and we welcome the holiday season and all its attending fun and festivities.  I also love to cook, and when the weather turns cold, I just want to be in my kitchen making soups, stews, pizzas, and baked goodies.  And I love when all the seed and plant catalogs start coming so I can dream about all the new plants I am adding to my gardens in the spring.  I've gotta start making that list and starting my plans for my gardens.... 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Creating our own daylily cultivars - I never knew how easy it is!

I was just reading the most wonderfully informative article on daylilies in my new issue of Fine Gardening -- February 2011.  My sister in law gave me a subscription for Christmas which I thankfully (I love you, Michele!) got before Christmas!  I am enjoying my magazine so much already as it gives very down to earth and practical advice and instruction.  I just finished an article on the amazing daylily and learned there are literally thousands of cultivars.  Don't give up on the daylily if all you thought existed was the ubiquitous (and in my opinion, a little tired and dowdy) orange cultivar we all see in the heat of the summer here in New England at least.  The other cultivar that is fast gaining on the orange stalwart is the yellow Stella D'Oro that all the landscapers seem to love installing in their jobs because it is a repeat bloomer and survives our heat and humidity with ongoing color.  I love the yellow Stella D'Oro for its cheerfulness, but I am learning there are so many others just waiting to wake up our gardens.  There are luscious names like 'Blueberry Breakfast', 'Rainbow Spangles', 'Dances with Giraffes', 'Grape Twizzler' and a tangerine ruffly beauty 'Condilla', just to name a very few.  They go from short to tall, smooth edged to ruffly edged, fat petaled to skinny petaled in almost every hue imaginable.  And even though each bloom only lasts a day, the plant can have hundreds of blooms for many weeks of color in our summer gardens.  I am definitely in love and can't wait to get some new varieties in my gardens this summer.

And if all of that wasn't enough, we can all create our own cultivar so easily!  You can hybridize a daylily if you have two different cultivars.  You just remove the tip of one stamen that is pollen-laden and dab it on the sticky tip of the pistil of the second daylily flower.  Then you label the cross you made on the pistil of the flower that was pollinated with a tag that identifies it as the pollen parent.  In a few days a seadpod will form and it will take 45-60 days to ripen.  When the pod starts to change its color to a lighter green, squeeze the sides gently and harvest the seeds.  Throw away any soft seeds because they aren't viable and store the harder ones in the refrigerator for several months and up to a year before planting. 

This incredibly useful information comes from February's issue of Fine Gardening in an article written by Richard Howard, the owner of Ctdaylily in Wallingford, Connecticut.

You can also register your new cultivar for $15 with the American Hemorocallis Society online. 

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to try this with my son, my little gardener, and name our new daylily after him! 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fall's last gasp...

My favorite tree in our neighborhood - this thing is huge and amazing.

My neighbor's callicarpa, 'beautyberry', holds these brilliant purple berries all winter long.  Every time I see it I smile.

Now these red berries remind me Christmas is just around the corner....

Monday, November 22, 2010

More fall scenes from the NYBG and also my garden...

Whoops! I forgot to attach these two photos - see below for my post with descriptions!

Our fall colors have been so intense and bright

Some final fall foliage photos from the New York Botanical Garden and my was 60 today but that first freeze is nipping at our heels...wanted to share these brilliant colors and textures of NY and Connecticut.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The not so welcome hum of all those leaf blowers

One sound I could do without at this time of year is the ever present hum (or roar is more like it) of the leaf blower.  Why do my neighbors (and most folks I know) feel the need to have a spotless, leaf-free lawn in the winter?  I guess they just don't realize that simply running over those mineral rich leaves and leaving them on their grass all winter is the best fertilizer they can give their beloved lawn's roots.  And then maybe they could forgo Home Depot and the annual spring fertilizer run and spend that time just enjoying their green lawn!  I was just reading a twitter post from a fellow Connecticut garden blogger, Garden Junkie at -- check her out for great ideas and advice, and saw a tweet about just this very problem, and it got me disgruntled and thinking.  We still have lots of educating to do before all of our green lawn lovers will be converted to organic principles.  In the meantime, I'll keep snatching those bags of leaves under the cover of darkness for my gardens...I love free fertilizer since my small Long Island Sound side garden is tree free!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An early designer of the garden "room"

I'm trying to write my last paper for my History of Landscape Design class that I am taking at the New York Botanical Garden, and I just came across an intriguing story about an 11th century landscape design featuring the currently fashionable "garden room".

The 11th century Japanese Tale of Genji tells how Prince Genji constructed gardens for his ladies -- one for each season.  Lady Murasaki had a spring garden, the summer garden was for the "Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers," the autumn garden for Lady Akikonomu, and the winter garden of pines and chrysanthemums for Lady Akashi.  (Source:  The Poetics of Gardens by the esteemed architects Charles W. Moore, William J. Mitchell and William Turnbull, Jr.)

Almost every "new" idea we have today had its origin in another time in our garden history past.  I love the idea of having a garden for each season.

Of course, I completely veered from what I should be reading about right now...Gertrude Jekyll's garden design theory and how I can apply it to a house of my choosing that has a design that is out of sync with its architecture.  Ok, I have to get focused!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Graphics project re-do

I got started on my final design project yesterday and was so proud of myself that I had a good start on it by the end of the day...and I had already finished my homework.  Major accomplishment.  But something was bugging me about the scale of my design, and I actually dreamt about it last night and came up with the answer.  Obsessed you say?  Definitely.  I figured out -- as I woke up -- that the reason my design was too big at 1/4" scale was I should have done it at 3/16ths...I only tried it at 1/8ths and 1/4ths, thinking those were my only options.  But in between those two is 3/16ths.  Duh.  So now I have to start over.  Ughhhh. I have to go back to Kinko's to enlarge my survey -- again -- and come home and re-trace the whole thing.  Another two or three hours of my life down the drain.  I know we all learn by making mistakes, but I could have lived just fine without this one.  I was looking forward to a Sunday off and a much needed break from that drafting table.  Maybe even watching my youngest play hockey and getting the last of my allium and daffodil bulbs in the ground before it freezes.  But I sent my son off to hockey with the neighbors and I'm stuck indoors all day again on yet another lovely Connecticut fall day....I know it will all be worth it in the end, but I'm really craving some good time digging in the dirt today.  Ok, I've gotta stop whining and head back to my friendly local Kinko's!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Saugatuck River leading out to the Long Island Sound in Westport, Connecticut on Sunday

This past Sunday on the Saugatuck River in Westport just as the sun was going down.  This river leads out to the Long Island Sound.   Westport is a beautiful New England town just next door to Fairfield. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Too much homework and no time for my blog

I have to admit Twitter is so addicting.  I seem to go to Twitter more and more often to see what my gardening buddies around the country, and sometimes the world, are tweeting about.  It's just so freakin' fast and easy to tweet.  I'm neglecting my blog because of the Twitter attraction and because of all my homework!  With my two classes at NYBG right now, I have so much homework.  I'm taking Landscape Design history and also Graphics 1, and I love them both so much.  I am learning more than I ever imagined, but boy, is there a learning curve!  Especially in Graphics.  We are learning to draft landscape plans, along with drawing symbols and lettering and learning how to measure with architect's and engineer's rulers and compasses (when was the last time you used one of those?  for me, it was 10th grade, a few years ago...), none of which have I ever even attempted.  I feel like, with the slightest effort, I will just sink like a rock in that class, never to surface.  It is a gargantuan effort to just survive and get all the work done, and I feel like my work is sub-par at best.  But my teacher says effort is what counts, and boy, can I give him effort.  Thank God for effort.  Every project we take home, and every one in class, takes me probably 3x the time they should take, I'm sure.  Every line has to be measured absolutely correctly, or the whole plan is off, and unlike in my everyday gardening, fudging it a little is not going to fly.  My middle child, the ten year old, wants to go rock climbing and to the pottery place today, and I had to tell him I can't go til I get a huge chunk (probably 3-4 hours at least) of my h/w done.  He said, "mom, why don't you do that stuff during the week when we're in school?"...good point, however, I told him that mommy did 3 hours yesterday and 4 hours on Thursday and h/w still isn't done.  He looked at me like I was nuts.  And then there's history...I love my Landscape Design history class, let's start there.  It is just incredibly fascinating to learn about landscape design theory all the way back to BCE (Before Common Era, something else new I learned, it's no longer PC to say BC -- who knew?).  We've learned about Medieval gardens, Italian, French and English gardens, and Thomas Jefferson (he's my favorite, what a multi-faceted guy),  just to highlight some of what we've covered.  But we have to write four papers -- we've done three so far.  And I love to write, but it's been a long, long time since I have actually researched in the library (and then there's the web of course -- it used to be so much simpler to just hit the library) or written a bibliography.  Another huge learning (or remembering) curve.  Now we have one more paper and then our final.

I sound like a whiner I know.  I'm just venting because I am actually loving my classes.  My teachers are so interesting, knowledgeable and passionate, and I'm meeting people from all kinds of backgrounds and who are all ages, from all over the NY/NJ/CT tri-state area.  I love it!

I just have to get off this blog and go hit the drafting table.  My husband just walked by and saw me on the computer and gave me one of his famous "looks".  I know that "look"...he's wondering what the heck I am doing writing when I should be drafting.  He knows me so so annoying.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I wish I could figure out how to make my blog wider so I don't have the green margins.  I'd love to see my posts and photos go all the way to the edges of my blog so they'd be bigger.  I would also love to know how to make the photos on the right hand side bigger -- the widget photos.  If anyone reading this has any ideas, please send me an email or a post.  Thanks!  And if it's anything about editing html, it'll be lost on me.  I've tried that, and I can't figure it out.  Uggghhhh...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fairfield beach area scenes on a warm fall walk this morning

And more from my walk this morning.  See below two posts for the rest of my photos from today.  Amazing, perfect day.  This is the kind of day when I love New England best.  Talk to me in January...

More Fairfield beach area scenes today

Scenes from the neighborhood on my walk this morning.  I love the moss on that wall, and no matter how many Falls I experience, the intensity of the colors always surprises me. I can't get enough, and my daughter (to my total amazement after almost 17 years of hearing me say "honey, look at that tree!) even said to me this morning that she was looking out the window at school noticing the beautiful colors yesterday.  She  said, "I felt like you, Mom!".  It only took almost 17 years of pointing the Fall leaves out to her!!

Fall trees this morning...glorious

Fall trees on my walk this morning - I know my blog is about gardening by the Long Island Sound, but these trees are only a couple of blocks from the beach.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rosa Rugosa is loving our Autumn

Still going strong with our cool, almost cold, nights.  Roses up here love the chillier night air and 60+ degree days of October. Maybe that first frost will hold off a little while longer so we can soak in the scent and pretty pinks of these lovely, hardy anchors of our Fall gardens.

Irises in the Fall?

Ok, this is a new one for me.  I took this photo of these Fall blooming irises - actually re-bloomers I figured out after a little googling - at a neighbors' house a few streets over.  I've never seen them around here, and frankly, I'm not sure how I feel about them. Seeing this periwinkle hued iris in the Fall is kind of like seeing Christmas stuff in the stores in July...unsettling, unwelcome, and well, just plain wrong.  I admit though, when I first saw them they did give my blue flower starved heart a happy jolt, but then I got that feeling of "what are you doing here?". I'm just going to let my beloved irises continue their long nap so when they pop their new green tips up next March in our first warm spell, I'll know Spring is really on the way back to New England.

Hydrangeas' Fall colors

Here are some views of my various hydrangeas' Fall hues.  I just love their flowers and their foliage in every color they grace me with from Spring til Fall and even Winter when their brown, crispy flowers hang on through fierce winds, sleet and snow.  They are the most appreciated symbol of hope for yet another Spring in my garden.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My visit to the sculpture garden at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC on October 10, 2010

I visited the sculpture garden at the Museum of Modern Art yesterday, and since I didn't expect too much, I was actually fairly blown away.  I've visited this museum before, but not in a long time, and I probably scooted right by the sculpture garden on my last visit with not much thought on my way to some more traditional art exhibit, I'm sure.  But since I've been studying at the NYBG, I've learned there are so many kinds of gardens, and they don't have to have flowers or many plants at all to be considered a "garden".   This sculpture garden was the perfect example.  There wasn't hardly a plant in sight, except for clumps of trees here and there and a few annuals thrown in for a little waning color.

In my Landscape Design History class we have to write our first paper on a visit we make to a public, historic or well known garden.  We aren't supposed to talk about how we feel about the garden or use qualitative descriptions, but instead we are challenged to describe the garden directly and let our reader make the judgment about whether the garden design is a success.

This garden was full of all kinds of sculpture from very modern to classical.  There was also a "wishing tree" designed by Yoko Ono where visitors could take a white tag and write their wish on it and hang it from the tree.  But what I think I loved best is how the garden came together as a restful spot for visitors to sit and relax or reflect, along with a playful area for children.  I saw several kids running and playing and enjoying the garden's design's fountains, paths and even taking in the sculptures.

I also loved how when you looked up you could see above the trees in the garden, into the blue sky and admire all the different architecture around the garden and the museum, from stark office buildings, to apartments and even to a church.  The design allowed the visitor to feel as if they were in an oasis in the middle of the crowded chaos of the museum and of course, the busy streets on a Fall Sunday in the city.
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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fall's Holdouts

More holdouts in my gardens. After an early spring everything is at least three weeks earlier fading, dying back and going to seed.  The black eyed susans have re-seeded all over from previous summers, and they keep the garden looking alive in the middle of the usual fall mess and detritus. The Russian sage  and catmint always revive themselves, too, in the cooler weather. An even though I hate how the goldenrod falls over on my pink phlox every summer, and I have to tie it up and trim it back, its bright yellow spires are so pretty right now - and they just glow in the late afternoon sunshine.

These tropical succulents are liking our cool Fall weather

Mark's tropical rock gardens are even loving the change to cool weather.  

Delightful Dahlias

These dahlias survived our extended summer heat and now they're loving the cool nights and warm, low humidity days. I just love them.  This color always makes me smile.

These greens and pinks are almost as pretty as their summer colors

My hydrangeas in their glorious fall shades.

Oh how I love thee coleus

Last coleus holdouts.  We'll get a frost soon and these annual beauties will be gone til next spring. I'll miss their varied colors and textures.  But I can't wait to get to the nurseries and pick out new and different ones - so many to choose from each year!

Fall scenes by Ash Creek

Scenes by Ash Creek yesterday.

Ash Creek as it leads out to the Long Island Sound

Ash Creek right by my house...this water is a calm oasis for kayakers, white egrets, blue herons and scores of fiddler crabs .  The tide is in when I took this photo yesterday but when it heads out, it empties into the Long Island Sound a couple of hundred yards away.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Landscape Design vs. Garden Design

I've been taking courses at the New York Botanical Gardens for a year or so now with a focus in the Gardening track, hoping it will enhance my knowledge for my fledgling garden design business.  But I've made a big decision, after much debating (with myself) and worrying and anxiety, to switch to the Landscape Design track.  My first two courses started two weeks ago -- Graphics 1 and Landscape Design History.  After only two weeks I can tell already that I can't coast through these classes like I did in my Gardening classes.  Don't get me wrong, I still studied and read a lot in my Gardening courses, but now I am way deep (some might say over my head) in serious drawing and reading and writing.  Who was I kidding that I could handle two classes a week?  I have to drive all the way down to the Bronx and back -- a minimum hour and a half commute each way and more if accidents -- and take my three hour class on Monday and Wednesday, and by the time I get back it's almost time to pick up my kids at school.  So that's two days of my menial, but oh so necessary, housework, grocery shopping, laundry and kids' school stuff that doesn't get done.  And then there's the studying and drawing, which I am quickly realizing is going to take the other three days.  Oh my God!  But it's so much fun!  I absolutely love the graphics class -- today I learned how to use an adjustable triangle and a flexible ruler and also square off my angles on a slide ruler.  Last week we learned the intricacies of an architect's and engineer's ruler.  It's fast and furious, and we pack so much into our three hours, but I can actually use this stuff in my designs.  And the history class is incredibly interesting.  We are studying landscape design all the way back to Greek and Roman times and even further.  We will be visiting gardens on our own and writing papers about what we see, how we feel about the design and the designer and develop our own points of view based on it all.  My final project for graphics will be a full landscape plan and design that I will draw to scale and present to the class.  I think I made the right decision...if I can only keep up. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My visit to High Line Park in New York City yesterday

The High Line Park was created on an elevated railroad track that was used for freight delivery of all kinds of goods and mail from 1934 til 1980. Instead of letting it get demolished by developers, neighbors in this Meat Packing District area banded together and raised enough funds to have it converted to a beautiful park where you can walk, run or just sit and enjoy the scenery of downtown New York. In these photos you can see how late summer looks in these naturally themed gardens. The toad lilies in the first photo were especially beautiful and with their orchid-like look they give a rich and textured flower to the grasses and other perennials that are mostly gone to seed, but still so pretty. And you can't see in these photos, but I could even see the Statue of Liberty off in the distance from the end of the park. The Hudson River runs along the western side of the park past the buildings there. There are also many art installations throughout the park.
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