Sunday, September 27, 2015

Berries for Birds and Seed Giveaway!

UPDATED on 10/5/15:
I believe I made the contest too difficult the first time I posted so I removed the bird identification portion! The contest will now run through Saturday, Oct. 10! Good luck!

I was out in the garden on this very cool morning and I noticed my berry-producing shrubs are in their glory right now! I've been adding bird-friendly shrubs to the garden in the last few years and this is the best year for berry production so far! So to celebrate, I'm hosting a giveaway!


To enter, sign up to receive Frau Zinnie via email (to the right of this post). Then submit a comment below that (1) identifies the four berries in the photo, (2) the birds who eat them, (3) that you have signed up for emails and (4) a way to contact you if you win. I will take all the correct answers, put them in a hat, and pick out two winners.

Here's your clue:

Can you correctly identify all four berry shrubs in this photo?

The prize? Calendula seeds harvested from my garden for planting next spring! Here's what they will look like when they bloom:

The contest runs through 5 p.m. EST Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Updated: Now through Saturday, Oct. 10! Good luck!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Floral Friday: Last Weekend in Summer

I'm a little late posting this past Floral Friday post (for Sept. 18)! But I wanted to make sure I chronicled what was blooming and producing in the garden this week: lots of fall flowers and berries for the birds!

The butterflies love the asters.

The pears are ready for picking!
To learn how to know if pears are ready for picking, click here.

Finally! Zinnia blooms!

This hibiscus is one I nursed back to health after it had a rough winter indoors.

Winterberry for the birds.

It's time for mums!


The beginning of the pears being harvested.
Follow me daily online via Twitter and Facebook! To view last week's Floral Friday, click here!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Patio Party Hibiscus Offers Outstanding Color, Variety

Want to make your neighbors envious of your entryway?

First to Arrive in direct sunlight.
(From my Instagram account.)
Then it's time to add the Patio Party Hibiscus line to your gardening repertoire.

But be prepared for that long, lingering gaze from across the fence. I know, because it happened to me. When my neighbor's flowers were succumbing to the heat, my two Patio Party Hibiscus just kept blooming.

Needless to say, I've been delighted with the two hibiscuses I was able to trial for J. Berry Nursery this growing season. I've grown tropical hibiscus in the past with average results. Usually I bring them home from the nursery and they look great, but then as the season goes on, they tend to peter out.

This photo was taken in the same day. On the left was the
flower in the morning. The right shows how the color
intensified during the day, and held up to a rain storm.
(From my Instagram account.)
The Patio Party line has been blooming consistently for me, even in the hottest temperatures with very humid conditions. I've shared photos of the blossoms through my Instagram account throughout the growing season (13 weeks, beginning in June). I noticed the plants also kept their flowers longer than my other hibiscus I regularly grow. (In fact, when my yellow hibiscus was already curling in its petals for the night, Patio Party Hibiscus First to Arrive was still wide open.)

The plants did not attract any pests in my garden: the leaves and flower petals remained unblemished. One of the best features was how the flower color intensified throughout the day (as seen in the photo of Party Crasher at right).

Of the several varieties in the Patio Party line, I was able to trial First to Arrive and Party Crasher.

I'm not usually a fan of orange flowers, but Party Crasher totally won me over. The plant tag that arrived with the plant even warned me of this: "Party Crasher is fun and vivacious: she may not have been invited but you couldn't imagine the party without her."

Patio Party Hibiscus Party Crasher loved the sun.

Multiple blooms in the setting sun.
(From my Instagram account.)
The bright clementine-hued flower - with a center that varies from white to pink - ranges in color intensity. The flowers shrugged off rain - even heavy rain. During the very dry late-summer weather we experienced in Central Connecticut, I did have to water the plant almost every day. It also bounced back more quickly than my other container plants. I included Party Crasher in my late-season fertilizing routine to increase blooms (I used Espoma's organic Flower Tone). The plant responded quickly to this nutrient boost and sent out even more flowers: sometimes there were three or four flowers blooming at once. My plant stayed fairly compact growing in a blue glazed ceramic pot in direct sun. I combined the plant with lantana, which turned into a pretty, colorful combination.

Patio Party Hibiscus First to Arrive. (From my Instagram account.)
First to Arrive has slightly larger
flowers than standard tropical hibiscus.
(From my Instagram account.)
The second variety I tried was First to Arrive, and honestly, photos do not do the plant justice. The red is so deep, so dark, that I have trouble replicating it in digital photography. It is a knockout flower when it blooms. Again, one of the features I was most impressed with was its ability to withstand heavy, torrential rain. When my plants (think dahlias) were pelted, First to Arrive merely shrugged at the rain: Is that all you've got? It also benefited from the late season addition of Flower Tone.

The flowers are slightly larger than my other standard tropical hibiscus I grow (as seen at left). The plant tag that arrived with First to Arrive stated that it "loves to see and be seen: she is confident, classic and prefers to lead, not follow." It even made my worn-out blue garage door look like the perfect backdrop for its brilliant petals.

First to Arrive glams up the garden.
The Patio Party plants are the result of five years of breeding by Jim Berry, co-owner and developer of the Patio Party line for J. Berry Nursery. With names like Hot Head, Queen Bee and Social Butterfly, a gardener would expect the flowers to be flashy and exciting. First to Arrive and Party Crasher provided color in my container garden area when my other plants began to fizzle and die back (for me, it was mainly petunias and salvias that fared the worst). I do plan on bringing the plants indoors for the winter, since the Patio Party line is only hardy to Zone 9 and I live in Zone 6b. After I overwinter them, I plan on transplanting them to larger containers to see if they will increase in size.

*J. Berry Nursery supplied me with two plants to trial this growing season: First to Arrive and Party Crasher.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Floral Friday: Bring on the Rain and Cooler Temperatures!

It seemed like forever since the last major rainfall in our area. We were even experiencing a moderate drought in Central Connecticut. And then - the rain came this week and you could hear the plants sigh with relief.

Pear tree catastrophe!
The pear tree unexpectedly snapped a heavy fruit-bearing branch this week, which sent me into triage mode. The tree was previously supported with one stake and bungee cords, but apparently it needed more. I was able to balance the heavy branch on an empty, unused garbage can (it's suppose to turn into a rain barrel eventually) and then I duct taped the branch back together. I realize that I may lose the entire branch, but I am hoping to at least harvest the fruit before I have to make that decision. So far, so good: the leaves on the broken branch have not wilted or turned brown yet.

Other pears look OK!

Throughout the front garden is a sprinkling of color:

Asters are beginning to bloom in the garden.

More asters brought home for containers.

Ornamental cabbage for containers (from my Instagram account).

The Patio Party Hibiscus - First to Arrive - is still blooming like crazy. (To read a review on this line of plants, click here.)

This bush clover (lespedeza)  is really brightening up the border between my
property and my neighbor's driveway. It grew so much since last year! 

Matching the color is the massive border of anemones, which attract bees
and butterflies to the garden. 
And in the back garden:

The morning glories are blooming along the shed.

The last of the tomatoes are starting to filter in.

This Rose of Sharon was a stowaway from another plant I had purchased two years ago.
I transplanted it from the original site and it seems pretty happy along the fence in the back.
What is growing in your garden this week? To view the last Floral Friday, click here.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Gardener's September Calendar

To kick off September, we are experiencing a moderate drought with daily temperatures in the low 90s in Central Connecticut. The garden is continually dry, and everything is beginning to look crispy. Usually this month brings cooler temperatures and rain making the fall a great time to plant. This is the time of year where I feel additionally pressured to get everything completed, a recurring sentiment from previous years.

Here are some tasks to keep in mind this month:

It's time to place your orders. Break out the photos you took in the spring and figure out what parts of the garden are missing spring color. The trick is trying to get a continual cycle of bloom. This year I'm going to be focusing on more minor bulbs (think crocus, snowdrops and grape hyacinths) to create larger swatches of color.

Fall Cleanup
It seems as if it is never too early to start cleaning up the garden, and this year I think it's especially important in our area since everything bloomed earlier and has been suffering in the heat. In this previous blog entry, Sarah Bailey of UCONN master gardeners offers tips to make fall cleanup faster. Anything that is diseased should be chucked into the garbage can (think tomatoes showing blight, irises showing borer damage, etc.). Any spent flowers should be cut back.

Now is a good time to divide them and plant new ones in the garden. I've been watching daylily growers on Facebook sharing their wares daily and I'm super tempted to buy a new frilly one or two. Bonus: Plant daffodils underneath your dayliles and the emerging daylilies will hide the daffodil leaves as they yellow in the spring.

Divide Perennials
This is a great time for dividing vigorous growers in the garden. But it's OK to put plants in the compost pile if they no longer have a home in the garden, as author Kristin Green explained at a lecture I previously covered for the blog.

Now is a great time to reseed the lawn. Cooler temperatures in autumn help grass seed sprout faster than in the spring. In this previous blog entry, Diane St. John of Natureworks explains how certain weeds can act as clues for problems in the lawn. It's also a good time to take a soil test to see what nutrients your lawn needs.

Usually Columbus Day is a good estimate for planting garlic in our area. For a quick refresher, click here.

Collecting Seeds, Prepping for Fall
Start collecting spent flower seeds for use next year. Think cosmos, zinnias, calendulas, daylilies and snapdragons. This is also the time to get the cold frame ready to receive a fall crop that will last you into the winter.

This is an especially important time to write notes about what worked and didn't work in the garden this year. These will be great to examine when you experience spring fever in late February! Things that are on my list: finding drought-tolerant perennials for my back garden (the sedum really shined this year while many others petered out) and possibly downgrading the square footage dedicated to vegetables and investing more time and energy into flowers and berry/fruit crops. What's on your list?

To keep track of random garden musings, be sure to follow Frau Zinnie on Facebook!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Floral Friday: Pollinator Edition


This week the garden was full of pollinators, specifically bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The hummingbird in the above video is one of three that have been visiting my feeder and my flowers in the front garden. They seem to especially like the cigar plant and blue salvia this year. (To read more about what plants hummingbirds are attracted to, click here.)

This week the second monarch butterfly of the season arrived, dining mainly on the giant Joe pye weed along the driveway.

I was especially excited to see it, because last year I didn't have one monarch butterfly visit the garden at all! This is the second to arrive in the garden so far this year. I spotted the first one about two weeks ago.

From my Instagram account.
The last of my black swallowtail butterflies emerged from his chrysalis on Wednesday. It is likely that even if I find more caterpillars, they will not turn into butterflies until the spring. That's because autumn is quickly approaching. (If that's the case, the aquarium tank that I used to hold chrysalis will be moved to the garage for overwintering so they don't emerge too soon.)

A tiger swallowtail butterfly was also visiting the garden the same day as the monarch. Despite some worn wings, it still fluttered beautifully around the garden.

From my Instagram account.
And as usual, the bees were busy as more flowers on the Joe pye weed opened this week.

What is blooming in your garden this week? To view last week's Floral Friday, click here. To follow Frau Zinnie on Facebook, click here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

'Queen's Garden' Offers Visual Retreat


Video Review

The Queen's Garden
Produced by Oxford Scientific Films and PBS

The hour-long tour of the Queen of England's garden at Buckingham Palace offers footage not available to the general public. The film covers all four seasons in the 39-acre garden located in the middle of London. Time lapse photography shows the progression of blooms while thermal imaging and motion-sensitive cameras capture moments from the various wildlife that call the garden home.

Sharing some fun anecdotes along the way - such as how the teenage Princess Elizabeth fell into the lake after trying to spy on wildlife - the film also highlights numerous ways of how the garden is cared for without pesticides. For example, the gardening crew uses drums of water infused with garlic to get rid of aphids on roses. The gardens are cared for with "green methods" when possible, with limited chemical fertilizers. Compost heaps are utilized to create healthy soil for the garden. Bee hives are set up on the island in the middle of the lake to pollinate the flowers and produce honey for the queen. There's even footage of royal garden parties sprinkled throughout the film.

Not surprisingly, the imagery throughout the film is beautiful. I borrowed this DVD from the library and I'm happy I did. In the heat of late summer, my garden is looking a bit worse for the wear, so it was nice to view a pampered, well-tended garden for a change.

The Queen's Garden is available on DVD from PBS for $19.99.