Search This Blog

Monday, October 01, 2007

And the band played on...

So, are you wondering where I've been? Me too!

Honestly, this summer seems to have run away from me. With one daughter leaving for college and a second one entering the local High school, I just never caught up. For the first time in my adult life my garden was totally ignored.

One of the most rewarding jobs I've been obsessed with has been my new co-presidency for the Walt Whitman Marching Band Parents Association (whew, that's a mouthful!)

Emily, my 13 year old is a brand new member of the color guard at Walt Whitman. As you can see from some of the pictures, I'm pretty damn proud of her.

This is the whole color guard at the beginning of the show. Emily's always been the pip-squeek of our family but I guess she's taller than I realized (she's the 5th girl).

(That's Emily on the right)

Instead of sowing gardens all summer, I sewed flags, hemmed uniforms, made hair accessories and more. Hopefully now that the sewing part is done life here can get back to it's normal chaos.

Just look at all those flags on the ground! I'm working on a few more for promotional events and I'm going to take photos of the sewing process. It took me a long time to figure out how to make these flags and it was only with the help of one website that I finally got the technique down pat.

Happy Fall!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

What's in Bloom today

(Daylily 'Good Vibrations')

Life has been a bit crazy this past week. Storms, power outages, kids underfoot, so I thought I'd stick in a quick photo op to show some of the summer perennials that are beginning to bloom.

In the herb garden, the clumps of Rue are covered with their simple yellow flowers. I love the blue foliage on this plant.

Daylily 'Navajo Princess' has a chevron pattern that is extremely distinctive. The great news is that this is an older cultivar and if you find it for sale it will usually run only $7 or $8.

Stachys monieri was a plant I bought many years ago at the local Franks Nursery. I rarely have seen it in any other gardens and I just adore it's cottage flower charm.

Sedum 'Matrona' is starting to show off her colors. Who needs flowers with foliage that looks like this? But wait, there's stunning blooms too that will come at the end of summer when we desperately need them.

Tiny little Daylily 'Mary Ethyl Anderson' is a delight in the front of the perennial garden.

Years ago I bought a yellow Asclepias for my garden. It was beautiful for 4 years or so and then disappeared. Last year I noticed a foliage that seemed familiar but it was a good 20 feet away from the original plant. Hooray, today there are two clumps of Asclepias blooming in the garden and I've found the foliage for more of them coming along.

Stachys monieri 'Hummelo' is a named variety of this delightful flower. It's blooms are more in the purple family than the pink one I highlighted earlier.

Holy cow, this Iris Ensata (Japanese Iris) is a late blooming wonder! I'd give you all the name if I could only find it. It's there somewhere at the base but the companion plants are so thick that I haven't found it yet.

Double daylilies are doubly delicious! 'Double Perfection' was hybridized right here on Long Island by George Rasmussen (one of my most favorite hybridizers). It's name is right on the money because it doubles every time (unlike some other double daylilies that are actually quite sporadic).

And that's it for today folks. I'll try to sneak in a few more photos this week but I can tell you in advance that it's going to be one more crazy week around here.


Monday, June 25, 2007

The Necessary Room

The first time we saw our house, we had been looking for a new home for two years. We had a list of "must haves" and this house had almost nothing on that list (including no master bathroom which was "non-negotiable").

(All that bordered this driveway back then was lawn, lawn and more lawn.)

What this house did have was charm and before we even walked through the front door we had fallen in love. My first recollection was the property was amazing, the fireplace inside the house was humongous, the house was smaller than what I wanted and the pool house was the perfect thing for a gardener.

(At six and two years old, my daughters first noticed the old school play ground equipment attached to the pool house.)

(It's got a toilet and a sink with cold running water. What more could you ask for?)

Our pool house has several names, sometimes I call it a cabana but that is really too uppity a name. Sometimes I call it a pool house which is most likely the correct title but often I call it a fancy outhouse. You see, it's pretty basic, the bathroom is one step above camping, the pool filter fills it with a constant rumbling and the smell of pool chemicals and the mini-fridge is just big enough to hold lots of water and drinks for when you are hot and thirsty from working in the garden all day.

Last year we had 600 people come tour the garden when we were part of the national tour for the American Hemerocallis Society (Daylilies). In the past I had ignored the outside of the pool house, it just had the attached playground equiptment and that was good enough for me.

I dressed it up with some pots and garden junque for the tours and found that I now have the most beautiful view right outside my den window (where I sit to type this blog). So even though no major tours are planned this year, I had to replant all the pots around the pool house. One thing I did though was add lots of Hosta to the pots in hopes that they give me something that returns year after year.

(These hanging baskets were $1 at the dollar store and I've had them five years now! I guess I got my money's worth out of them.)

The end :-)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

To Bee or not to Bee

(The garden as it looked last night. Lots of pollen and nectar to be had.)

Bumble bees have always been like jewels in my garden.

Luckily, I'm not allergic to any stings. In fact, two years ago I stepped on a wasps nest and was stung 12 to 15 times on my legs. Although I was in severe pain, I only experienced some shakiness for the first few hours and that was most likely due to shock.

When my daughters were little my dad would come over and show them how to pet a bumble bee. He'd look for the tall stalks of Liatris. Sure enough by late afternoon they'd be studded with drunken bees and you could gently take your finger and stroke their back.

(Bees aren't all that like Liatris. Every garden should have waves and waves of this plant.)

The only time anybody has been stung by a bumble bee here is when they were walking barefoot over the clover.

(Besides on clover, I always find bees on the bloom stalks of lambs ears (Stachys byzantine)

Our local paper has carried a number of articles this year about the sudden collapse of bee hives. This is a huge problem for the entire world and I hope they figure out what is causing this disaster. That being said, yesterday I found a nest of bumble bees!

(Can you say "Cheese" little bee?)

Our sprinkler system is all on one zone but there's a strip of pop up heads along the driveway that needs to be turned on with this little valve. The valve is in a nice neat hole in the ground with a good hard cover. Many times I keep that cover off because that hole seems to be the perfect hole for every creature in the garden. Two years I found chipmunks in there, this past winter there was a family of mice or voles in there and now, there's a ground nest of bees.

I wasn't sure if they were bees until I read about them at These guys fit the profile perfectly. Since the nest is an annual event, I'm going to leave it bee (ha!). There are no tours coming through the garden this year and if people come over I'll just cover the hole so nobody disturbs the bees. I tried like crazy to get their picture yesterday as they buzzed across the tops of my Spirea but they just wouldn't hold still and pose for the camera.

Off to water,

Monday, June 18, 2007

Plant Profile - Baptisia (false Lupine)

Happy Monday all,

Although my first inclination was to write a post about garden furniture, I thought it's been a while since I actually focused on plant material.

The first Baptisia plant I bought was the standard blue variety. We were living in a different house, on a 1/4 acre piece of property and I was truly a novice gardener. That Baptisia grew quickly and made a wonderful statement in one of my perfectly square beds. But, when it came time for us to move, I dug half-way to China and still didn't get to the bottom of it's roots. I left it behind, only to find out a year later that the new owners removed that garden to extend the driveway.

Since Baptisias aren't all that expensive, I just picked up another blue one and put it in my garden here. It wasn't a named variety, at least it didn't come with a name. As before, it quickly grew to the size of a shrub. Unfortunately this time I hadn't placed it correctly and I ended up having to remove it two years ago.

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' is a variety that's been on the market for a number of years now. It too was planted in a temporary location. Oops! If you haven't guessed yet, Baptisia's do not transplant well. I tried pretty hard to get as much of 'Purple Smoke' as possible. Since it had only been in that spot a few years it was still pretty small but two years later it still looks awful in it's new home.(Hopefully you can see the size of the whole Baptisia plant in this photo. Remember, they don't like to be moved so think carefully before you plant one of these lovely creatures.)
About 5 years ago I was lecturing in Mississippi when I saw a white Baptisia. It was love at first sight! It took a while but I finally found one and planted it in the garden here. I'm guessing that we're at it's northern most growing zone, this crazy winter gave it a run for the money but it's blooming right now (a bit smaller than last year) and I just adore it. Reading about it on line here I found out that I can collect the seeds and grow them on. It does have wonderful seed pods and I usually let seeds sow on their own but I've never noticed a seedling growing around this beauty.
Another Baptisia I have in my back yard is the wonderful yellow variety 'Screaming Yellow'. As you can see by the photo, the name is quite apropos. My one mistake here was planting it next to a Physocarpus 'Diablo'. The color combination is quite smashing but the nine-bark out grows it so quickly that it blocks all the sun. This time though I've learned my lesson. As soon as the Physocarpus finished blooming I cut it back hard and I plan on moving it as soon as I can figure out where the heck I can fit it in.

Last year I cut the Physocarpus back very hard before it leafed out. Although I lost all the bloom that year, it still gave me a wonderful dark purple backdrop. In this photo you can see the beautiful white Alliums that I have planted in that same spot. This year not one single allium bloomed although there is some sickly looking foliage there. It's a mystery to me what happened, could it be our lousy winter or was it just too much shade? I always thought those nibbling creatures stay away from alliums.

I wish I had a photo of a blue or purple Baptisia to share but the ones I have are slides and I still haven't figured out how to get them here.

By the way, if you are looking for more information on Baptisias, I found the most wonderful write up at Now I don't know why that's not highlighted the way a link usually is but hopefully when I post this it will come through correctly. If not, google 'plantdelights baptisia' and I'm sure you'll find it.

Off to hunt for more garden furniture. I'll take some pictures late this afternoon so you can see what I'm looking for.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Hardscape finished

(Another view of our horrendous old stoop)

Well, our wonderful magic makers at Libardi Island Landscape really outdid themselves. They finished up on the masonry job here at our house and Don and I can honestly say that they exceeded our wildest dreams!

Here you can see a close up of the pavers we chose. Pete and Tony really recommended these imported pavers made by Rinox and we're so glad we listened to them. The color we chose is Milton Grey and the style is Trevia.

The biggest design problem we had encounted was tying in the different areas. For some reason, each spot was paved with a different type of material and none of them seemed to match with the other ones.

Today you constantly hear nightmare stories about contractors so it's such a wonderful feeling to know that you made one of the best choices ever. Pete (Piero) and Tony (Antonio) along with their crew never gave us one moment of worry. When we had a question, Pete would stop by in person and explain things and work them out with us. He kept us updated as to their schedule (the weather plays such an important role for them) and made sure that they would get this job done in plenty of time for us to get ready for our daughters graduation party.

This silly patio in front of our breezeway was such an eyesore. It was constructed with completely different materials than the walk-way just feet in front of it, different from the breezeway floor itself and different again from the patio just behind the breezeway. There was just no sense of cohesion here, instead we had a mish-mash of hardscape.

Just last week when Pete came by to check on a question we had with the sprinkler heads, he told us that he had a brain storm and urged us to consider connecting the various areas so that we really had one single hardscape. Such a simple thought but one we had never considered, what a Genius!

Here you can see Tony working on the intricate herringbone pattern which he recommended and we are madly in love with. Can you see our other floating platform in the back ground?

Finally, here's the finished walkway leading into the patio in front of the breezeway. This afternoon I took out most of that plant material and began landscaping my new beds. Stay tuned for one final installation showing the shrubs I've chosen to highlight our new stonework.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hardscape Time

(Ick, our front walk and stoop were an insurance agents nightmare. We no longer felt safe standing on that front stoop. Forget about any welcoming feeling.)

Hardscape is such an important part of any landscape package but easily the most expensive. When we bought our house (almost 11 years ago), we knew we'd need quite a bit of stone work down the road.

The front stoop was so small that you had to step back and down one step just to get the door open. That was pretty ridiculous considering our front lawn is almost 3/4's of an acre. The walkway from the driveway to the stoop was only set in sand and had been undermined by chipmunks more times that I can count.

A few years ago we began to look into estimates on having masonry work done here. The first time I asked for everything at once, the front walk and stoop, the driveway, the back patio and the pool patio. OUCH! That first estimate was the size of a down payment on a house.

(First view of the new stoop and floating platform)

Since then we've had one or two estimates a year, just for the work in front of the house. Not one of the people who came here excited us. Basically they offered a plan very similar to what was here. I'm the first to admit that I know nothing about this kind of design work but I knew that we needed some kind of inspiration. Along came Libardi Island Landscaping Corp. and suddenly we knew we were in the right hands.

(Preparing the foundation for the new walkway)

Pete and Tony Libardi were doing work on the house across the street from us and we did our usual "come give us an estimate" dance. Right from the start we knew things were different. They had done such a classy job on the house across the street. Pete came up with some ideas that I would have never conceived on my own. Not only would the stoop be larger but there would be a "floating platform" at the base of the stoop and then the walkway would be another level.

(Work on the walk way and patio in front of the breezeway begin today)

Today we are only half way through the job and Don and I are just ecstatic. These guys are awesome! Not only is their work amazing and their prices highly competitive, they continue to come up with new ideas.

Just in case you live on Long Island and are looking for a recommendation for some great masons, I took the above photo. We highly recommend Libardi Island Landscaping Corp. Although the job they did here was strictly masonry, they also did a totally awesome landscape package on the house across the street from us.

I've got to go back out and watch the magic they are creating,

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dogs Versus Cats as the Ultimate garden pet

(Man's best friend)

If you are a gardener and are thinking of getting a pet, here's some timely advice.

Get a cat. Dog's are cute and might be mans best friend but when it comes to gardening, they will make your blood pressure POP!

Cat's slink around the plants in your garden.
Good cat.

Dog's thunder through the plants in your garden.
Bad dog.

Cats will hunt down any vole, mouse, chipmunk or bunny eating up your garden.
Good cat.

Dogs will chase any vole, mouse, chipmunk or bunny through your garden, decimate a 15 foot swath and come up empty handed with a big goofy grin on their face.
Bad dog.

(What makes you think I was sniffing down that chipmunk hole again?)

Cats will wait patiently at the opening of a chipmunk hole for hours until the wee creature emerges and then pounce.
Good cat.

Dogs will dig out that chipmunk hole so far that you will be looking at China (most likely a Chinese gardener with a dog will be peering back at you).
Bad dog.

Cats are nice and quiet so you can hear yourself think. When a visitor comes by you can actually have a conversation.
Good cat.

Dogs are loud, rude and disruptive. Even if you put them in the house, shut all the windows and doors, you will have to ask your visitor to walk 50 feet down the driveway before you can carry on any kind of conversation with them.
Bad dog.

(If you think I can't still hear you, you're wrong!)

When cats dig holes in your garden, it's to bury their business.
Good cat.

When dogs dig holes in your garden, it's just for fun, and never where you need a new hole.
Bad dog.

(Yes, I know the compost heap was on the other side of this wall, I just wanted to dig on this side.)

You can carry home the biggest bag of cat food and not hurt your back.
Good cat.

If you try to carry a bag of dog food without wearing a hernia belt you will find yourself making best friends with the chiropractor.
Bad dog.

Cats do not steal your every garden tool and barbeque utensil every time you turn your head.
Good cat.

Dogs will steal anything not nailed down and chew the living daylights out of it. They will stoop so far as to stick their head under the barbeque vinyl cover just to get a hold of that scrubby grill brush that smells like burnt meat.
Bad dog.

When a cat is inside the house it will not enter a room if the door is shut.
Good cat.

When you have lever door knobs, your dog will figure out how to open any door they desire.
Bad dog.

(Of course I didn't make that mess. You should be more careful with your trash.)

Cats give themselves baths.
Good cat.

(I don't know what you're talking about. I like that smell.)

Dogs never give themselves baths. They will run through every mud puddle in the garden, prance around in a rain storm, attack the sprinkler and then balk at standing in the bathtub unless you join them. Then when they are soaking wet and you turn your back they will make a run for it, open doors and lay down on your bed, on YOUR pillow, not your husbands pillow.
Bad dog.

(Hey! How are you supposed to get a drink around here?)

(What do you mean by "this couch is for people"?)

At the worst a cat will use a plant marker as a back scratcher.
Good cat.

At its best a dog will chew your plant marker only enough so that you can still make out the name (but you will have no hope for finding out where it came from).
Bad dog.

(No words necessary)

Every cat I've had has come when I've called its name.
Good cat.

When I call my one dog by her name she looks at me with that teen-age look. (I see your lips moving but all I hear is Blah, Blah, Blah.)
Bad dog.

(Table? What table? How was I supposed to know not to sleep on the table?)

Cats sleep all day while you are working and then do what ever they do at night while you are sleeping.
Good cat.

Dogs drive you crazy all day long and then try to sleep on your bed while you are laying exhausted in it at night.
Bad dog.

Thus goes one week with Calie the wonder-dog. After a harrowing week of chasing my labradoodle Calie around the yard as she devasted multiple plantings, decimated a family of bunnies and traumatized a colony of chipmunks I've decided to post the pro's and con's to having a dog or cat. Before we had Calie, we were always a cat family so I know well what that was like.

My yard is totally trampled!