April 18th, 2012

Fuji Matsuri or the Wisteria Festival

photo by "stomaster"

Just in time for this beautiful spring comes the Japanese Wisteria Festival, Fuji Matsuri.  After all of the cherry blossoms have fallen from the Cherry Blossom Festival, Sakura Matsuri, this years spring is an exception, comes the blooming of the wisteria vine.  If you haven't seen them yet just look around for the purple, pink, or white covered shrub/vine.  They are a vine that you can slowly train to be a shrub.  I saw the first one blooming two weeks ago on my twice a week journey to Longwood Gardens on Rt 322 just north of I 95 on the right hand side covering a tree.  It was a few weeks early this year as with most other spring blooming plants.

The general word at the Garden is that we are about three to four weeks early this year - nice weather, but are having a very dry season which if it keeps up could lead to a few problems later on in the growing season.  Keep an eye on your gardens for dryness - put a thich layer of compost down - two inches a year is ideal, then add a layer of mulch to retain the moisture.  I use both ground hardwood mulch and finely ground leaf mulch in different garden areas and at different times of the year.  This is a very good sustainable practice to follow in your gardens.  The idea is to keep all of your soil covered.  A soil exposed to the sun quickly looses its very important biological contents - beneficial fungi, molds, nematodes, arthropods, etc., dries out, sterilizes, and allows "weeds" to take hold.  I call this worn out soil - dirt.  It won't allow much to grow in its depleted form and would require ammendments to bring it back to a healthy growing condition.

I came across a site today by "stomaster" of the Kawachi Fuji Garden in Japan with some spectacular photographs of wisteria tunnels.  It's a bit slow loading due to the size of the photos but WELL worth the wait. Just imagine walking down the long tunnels with the smell of wisteria on a nice sunny day - mmmmmm.  One of my suppliers has it growing all over his outside open office acting as a wall on one side and hanging down on two other sides - very nice.

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April 11th, 2012

Dwarf and Miniature Conifer Garden

This is my latest creation - a miniature and dwarf conifer rock garden with a water feature for water plants.  Conifers - mostly evergreens, pines, spruce, etc, but include decidious trees also such as the Taxodium aka Bald Cyprus and the Ginko - a very ancient tree. There are both a miniature Taxodium and a miniature Ginko in the mix.  They will both get to be about 3' tall in ten years.

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April 1st, 2012

Your Friendly Butterfly and Honey Bee Garden, or Creating a Pollinator-Attracting Garden

Monarch Butterfly drinking the nectar of Verbena.

Bumble Bee feeding on Echinacea.

Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa.

Hello South Jersey, I don't know about your way of thinking but I like to design gardens that attract pollinators–butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, etc.  In doing so we help the plant, insect and animal worlds and create a sustainable environment for them to live and grow and for us to enjoy.  Most flowers and plants need to be pollinated by bees and butterflies, in order to reproduce, survive, or produce their fruit, vegetables, and future flowers.  Over the years we, man, have reduced the amount of natural areas through development leaving less and less diversity and habitat for the birds and the bees to live in.  I like to provide a diversity of native and pollinating plants that look great and are good for nature. 

Two recent studies of the dangerous worldwide decline of bee population were published Thursday in the journal Science. They link the use of a common type of pesticide class known as neonicotinoids, used on our food supply crops, to the decline in bee population. "Virtually all corn grown in the United States is treated with them," according to the studies. The studies found that crops requiring the use of bees to pollinate them, i.e. bees feeding on their nectar, are harmful to the bees due to the chemicals being present in the nectar and then causing harm to the bee.  This worldwide decline in bee population could have some significant repercussions for us if left unchecked. For more information click here.  

I'm planning on putting in a few bee hives myself just to help the area flower and plant communities. I myself have noticed a large decline in the bee population on my own property over the last 10 years. I do not use pesticides, instead choosing to use natural means of control. Most bees will not harm you if left alone, meaning don't swat at them. They'll just fly around you briefly but are much more interested in the next nectar-bearing flower.  Think of it. How would you react if someone swatted at you?

My thinking is, why not help the environment and make our gardens and landscapes beautiful with the installation of sustainable native and pollinator attracting plants. My property is a designated wildlife habitat that contains the four basic tenents–food, water, shelter, and places to bear their young. I achieved this by the diversity of native and ornamental plants, shrubs, trees and the inclusion of a pond plus a number of other things.  (More on this in a later blog post.)

One of my favorite native perennial plants to use is Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa, zone 3 - 9, full sun, low maintenance, medium to dry conditions, 30" T x 18" W, does well in the tri-state area.  It comes in a few different flower colors, orange, my favorite, yellow, and a bi-colored variety or two. The flowers attract butterflies, especially Monarchs and Queens, bees, hummingbirds and various other beneficial insects. If you are lucky you might find a Monarch Caterpillar feeding on it or my favorite yellow or orange aphids on it that eat the nectar which are then fed upon by larval ladybugs. 

To me this shows a well balanced garden habitat.  Remember, most insects are good and not harmful to us like the bane of many people: the dreaded mosquito.  Just make sure you don't have any standing water around your home for the mosquito to grow in, and a copious amount of bats that eat an astonishing number of them. 

For other info or inspiration take a look at my blog and website - Ferret Hollow Gardens.

From my Patch Website Blog Posting.

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