Wednesday, June 23, 2010

3rd Day of Summer

My substitute for a palm tree, a Crinum (not yet in bloom) I brought back from a trip to Georgia years ago.

The third day of Summer has arrived and my garden looks like an Oasis in the Sahara. Today, the temperature is floating around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In spite of the lack of rains it manages to hold well and in bloom even though some of the plants would rather get a little water. Controlling myself like never before, I did not plant one new anything this year. So this makes the garden fully established which should be very revealing.

I am doing all kinds of testing this year. I am trying to see how far it can all go without my interference. I added 3 more hours of labor pruning out a corner that was way overgrown. I caught one of the last days for pruning flowering shrubs. No more pruning until fall or winter and certainly not flowering shrubs if you want them to bloom again next year. Total so far for the season around 13 hours of labor more or less. Watering 0 except for the pots.

I have taken a new approach in managing the garden based on some factors that may involve my eventual relocation. For now, I continue with the hope of remaining here, but with taxes in New Jersey higher than anywhere in the country and continuing to go up, the future here looks slim without a real job to offset what amounts to over $7,000 in taxes for a small three bedroom house with one bathroom. I am awaiting the arrival of our new tax bills in August for a final take on what strategy to follow. For now, I remain optimistic about all that can happen to stay here. Our elected officials have lost reason and don't seem to have any concern to remedy matters for fear or rocking the boat and loosing their jobs to address tax payer concerns. I will be 59 in August and it will be a crime that the years I have spent and my efforts to make my community a better place will go to some outsider who just has a pocketful of cash. I suspect this is not news, but more how we live in our modern era.

But as I was saying, the garden has produced a wealth of colors. Purple and orange are both in abundance. There are varying degrees of blues that lead to all matter of shades or purple. Similarly, orange is in strong effect with all matter of lilies and day lilies. There are of course a few stragglers hot pink roses and even one of my favorites, a white Flowering Chestnut (Aesculus parviflora) in all its majesty. The birds in the garden seem overwhelmed in the heat, only the Kois, however, seem content in their balmy bathwater pond.

Enjoy views of the garden. Make sure that you avoid watering during the middle of the day. If you do you will be stewing your plants. Best time to water is early in the morning while still cool.

Oh by the way, I hope you have managed a World Cup match or two. The players are the most incredible specimens of our human race in all the prowess of their youth and agility. Rather a contrast with the often obese padded American football players. I have been seriously following it this year. My neighbor from Tunisia and his wife from Serbia and I are all rooting for different teams. The US just beat Algeria to remain a contender for the following rounds in a great match. Happy Gardening!

One of those silly 4 inch potted hydrangeas now produces many of these 18 inch blooms

The massing of plain orange daylilies with my flowering chestnut behind

A triple petaled daylily gift from a neighbor years ago

One of the many orange Asiatic Lilies

Two of my favorite hydrangeas straddling the hose bib even though they don't get watered

Hydrangea paniculata or Peege Hydrangea whose large flowering racemes last dry into fall

Blue Lace cap Hydrangea
Lavender Hidcote

Vitex agnus-castus or Chaste Tree or Monk's Pepper for its pepper like berry

Old faithful Buddleia, one of the many shades in the garden

Filipendula rubra. Queen of the Prairie long pink stalks with raspberry barbed type leaves

Lysimachia clethroides or Gooseneck when massed it looks like a swan lake ballet

Aesculus parviflora Flowering Chestnut with its chandelier look

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moorestown Garden Club's "Backyard Oasis"

Beautifully crafted Sedum wreath

Moorestown is an affluent and historic community in South Jersey. A few years ago it was ranked number one place to live by Money Magazine in the USA because of its history, employment opportunity, sense of community and proximity to Philadelphia. Originally a Quaker Town dating from the 1680’s the community was incorporated as recently as the 1920’s.

Entry porch of old farmhouse

The Moorestown Garden Club is one of the first in the New Jersey. Founded in the mid 1950’s is has been a social and functional organization aiding projects in the community and elsewhere that their efforts and contributions are needed in the State. The Spring Garden Walking Tour (a misnomer because of the vast distances between gardens) displays a variety of gardens throughout the 15 square mile township. This biennial event serves as a fund raiser for the Club and showcases gardens and their creators in the community.

Nice spot to cool of in shade of Hydrangea petiolaris

I have known many members of the Garden Club while volunteering as a Judge for the Philadelphia Flower Show and the City Garden Contest. These enthusiastic ladies volunteer and enter in the judged competitions at the Philadelphia Flower show and other events of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Although acquainted with many, I had never visited the Spring Garden Walking Tour. My friend Carmen called with an offer to get to her house in an hour for a surprise. I did and we spent a few hours talking and seeing gardens.

Manicured herb and vegetable garden

The theme for the event was “Backyard Oasis”. There were five gardens open to the public. I will show you two gardens that stood out for very different reasons. The above images have shown a 100-year-old farm house in this very historic town where most houses are a tad older. This house has been updated and everything is beautifully crafted. There is not a blade of grass out of place and in as much as it is set to show the comforts that one can enjoy in this backyard oasis, it does not seem that the owners ever lay back and just relax.

Finally, a wonderful old shed that has been repaired and used to create another wonderful setting in this property.

Formal and elegant side yard entrance hosta garden viewed from family picnic table
In another side of town where houses are in large lots but still a traditional grid this garden jumps at you with craft and a sense of being. The term for this is "Genius Loci" it comes from the ancient Romans (for one) whose religion allowed for places with spirits.

Two potters and their three children live in this house and as artists they take their art throughout what they do. Things are more artistic than perfect, but the results are truly enchanting. They are organic and farmers and have added to their garden places for art, food, and fun.

A tiered metal basket filled with all varieties of eggs shows quite a range of poultry. Their lot is some 80 by 300 feet and even though the neighbors are in ear shot of the noises from their poultry and odd duck, the neighbors get along and all feel this sense of place. No doubt sentiments are probably eased with wonderful natural eggs as a bonus to those bounding the property. The owners have taken consideration to the extreme by creating a soundproof environment box where the rooster sleeps. It appears that he sings at all hours and not just at dawn.

There is something wonderful when kids grow up with animals. Here the youngest boy was playing with his pet furry chicken!

There are multiple pavilions or playhouses you decide, where all can enjoy some time at play or creation. The one below even has a roof terrace overlooking the garden. It reminds me a little of hobbit land. Two very talented gardeners with two very different agendas.

It is hard to differentiate what makes up one oasis from another. In the truest sense, an oasis is a place that is remarkably different from barren and desert lands around it. My way of gardening is certainly not what I would recommend for anyone. I use my garden as a private place of escape and to re-energize my creativity or for sheer relaxation. This year I have been trying to figure out how little I can do. As the count goes, I don't think I have put in 10 hours of labor so far. I am not going to do much this year. I want to see what happens on its own. My garden is an oasis in what may not appear but is, sometimes, a desert.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Importance of Being Yourself

The New Jersey Pine Barrens on a recent Canoe trip with a few friends

Losing a job is a complex issue. If you are not married or in a relationship like me, you depend on your friends and colleagues as a creative force and a source of support. At the same time not having these bonds allows you a freedom to live your life differently than those around you. As a soon to be 59 year old, I have seen economic crises come and go. I have also been a part of layoffs in the past and although it was not pleasant, I managed to survive them like everyone else, in spite of the bruises that you unfortunately get along the way.

Trees budding in this natural wonderland 40 minutes from my front door

When this happened to me at a younger age I was despondent and angry, even furious at everyone around me. I went as far as to resent friends who were employed, calculating why me and not them? Well, it was me who left a career at the prime to venture into a field that I really loved – landscape gardening. At that early point I was nearing forty and had all kinds of friends give me advice on what to do where to go and how to do just about everything but wiping my butt. They all meant well, but were forgetting the life I have led and the people that had formed me were people who made their own minds.

Tea Colored water from iron deposits

Somewhere in all this advice, was something that struck me funny. I was rocking the boat. Yes, I was changing the status quo on so many friends. Many felt threatened by someone doing something unplanned and out of the norm that many wished they could do but were hemmed in with mortgages, affairs, children, and other proper responsibilities. The idea that someone could live a life of their own choosing and on their own terms seemed preposterous.

A few members of the UUCH Community getting ready for the three hour canoe ride

This economic crisis has showed again that life lessons are everywhere. The people you find closest are the ones, of course, that are most concerned for you. They wish to help you by advising you in all manner of deeds, failing to see that your life is not as wrecked as they envision, but rather taking some turns. When all of this is over it may not be what it was before, but it will be something. Hopefully, you make something to your liking and create a new adventure out of your life.

Typical of the flock some went in canoes and others in kayaks

Over a year ago I was somewhat anxious about being alone. I was employed then, but certainly felt this tug-of-war about being free to live my life and wanting someone to help steer it. Somewhere the economic crisis hit bottom and I acted to preserve friendships a business and my sanity and lost a job. I have had a year to consider those decisions and I suspect that they were the only ones I could have made then. My dear friend Julia recently said that I lack that mate who I can bounce my ideas off. This way if I come up with a lousy one they will say so and I can react. Having no one of that intimacy she got stuck with the job and unfortunately we are undergoing a tough patch because of it. For this I am very sorry.

All enjoyed the outing and feast we had for lunch

Last year I befriended a Minister of the Unitarian Universalist faith and some of his close friends. I visited with him and saw him preach at his ministry in Georgia. When I returned I visited our local congregation and discovered a most unusual group of souls. Unitarian Universalists have no dogmas or liturgy other than to be a community of enlightenment, tolerance and to help one another. I have been an Atheist for most of my adult life, but have always believed in the power of man and a desire of a community of like minded people. This past Sunday I was officially welcomed as an Atheist, into the Unitarian Universalist Cherry Hill congregation. I believe this to be a sound decision and have already met and shared wonderful adventures with other not so radical thinkers like me. I haven’t solved all my issues, but one at a time…please. Enjoy being yourself!