Marty's garden, Late August 2019


Our development is in its final stages as there are virtually no houses left to be built. There are large mounds of soil, created when this development started. Weedy trees have grown up on it but now it all must come down.


 A few weeks ago, trees were uprooted. Branches and trunks were cut off and ground up. But they left neat piles of stumps piled high; waiting to be picked up later. Aha! It was time for me to spring into action and start working on something I have always wanted in my garden, i.e. a stumpery. No sooner had the crew left and I went exploring. I walked the length of the grassy path pulling out all stumps that looked promising. Soon the path was littered with them and it was time to get them home. First, I carried (dragged) two of them home. Then I got my trusty green cart out and went back, feeling like an adventurous 10-year old, going out exploring. The Spouse was informed “I was going for a little walk” and he knew better to ask what I was up to. All in all, over two days I made five trips getting all the stumps that looked promising and relocated them all over my garden. The following week I went back for more. Some stumps are locked into tight embraces, leaving planting pockets for ferns and hostas. Others are left in the rain gardens, looking as if they were uprooted by storms and swept down into gullies. They will help redirect water and with luck a seed will be caught behind a root or two and grow into plants. 

a cart full of stumps
a cart full of stumps


 A few stumps were put next to my path where a group of Turk’s cap lilies were blooming. The small bulbils growing on these plants will fall among the stumps and within three years I will have a thicket of Turk’s cap growing in between the roots and stumps.  Of course, eventually the wood will rot, disintegrating and enriching the soil with nutrients and feeding my plants in turn. What’s not to like, a way to recycle wood and roots, making the garden look better and ultimately enriching the soil.


 On one of my walks through the garden, I make a pleasant surprise; the tree frog is back. Last year a small tree frog took up house in my watering can on the porch. This year, much to my delight, I see a little face peaking out of the bird house hanging off the arbor under the little Linden tree. In late afternoon it surveys the garden and I can only imagine that later in the day, early evening, it will leave its home and starts looking for food in the tree above.


 (Just aside, the little Linden tree is NOT a little tree. This tree in our neighbors’ yard is about 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide and eventually it will grow up to 80 feet tall and 50 feet wide. The word “little” refers to the size of the leaf, which is about 2 to 3 inches long. Contrast that to the size of the leaf of the large leafed Linden tree, which is heart-shaped, about 5½ inches long and 3 inches wide. The large leafed Linden tree will outgrow the little Linden tree and can be as tall as 125 feet with a rounded canopy.)


 I discover a pair of praying mantises mating in the Vitex tree, which were still there a day later. I don’t know if the male eventually lost his head when the pairing was done; female praying mantises have a way of killing their partner after the deed is done. Caterpillars are all over the butterfly weed and parsley; munching away to grow big and transform into butterflies. In this hot and dry month all is still well in the garden; stumps have been strewn around and the wildlife flourishes. As for the gardener, I find shady spots and read my books.


Marty's Garden, July 17th, 2019


Every garden should have seat, or two, or more.  A place to sit and relax, to contemplate, to enjoy a cup of coffee, tea, or something stronger. My garden is no different. There is my favorite seat; an expensive one at the time, but oh so comfortable and shaded by the curly willows around 4 pm. It overlooks the pond and most of the upper garden and it is my favorite place to be. The patio is shaded by an awning and the chairs are comfy any time of the day, but there is one more comfortable spot in the garden. When you cross the bridge over the pond, there is a seating area just big enough for two chairs and a small table before you go down three steps to the bottom of the back garden. It’s a great place to sit in the early morning in spring before the days get too hot, but in summer it has an added attraction; the fragrance of the Stargazer Lilies growing behind them. Now the lilies are in full bloom and I plop myself down in early afternoon, as soon as the seats are in shade. Bees lazily buzz around, as attracted to the scent as I am. It is a typical gardening moment; it won’t last long; gardening moments never do. But while it lasts, it epitomizes why we garden, a feast for both eyes and nose.

Marty's Garden, July 11th, 2019


Torrential rain, again. So far, I have captured 2.7 inches of rain in the rain gauge as of this morning and the day is far from over.  This spring and summer is starting to shape up like last spring and summer; WET!


The Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus Atlantica Glauca) tree which I bought more than two years ago has not been very happy in my garden. Reason: too much water. Our water table runs high and being almost directly across the downspout of my neighbor’s gutter and about another 20 feet or so away from our downspout, this tree was sitting in too much water. I thought about moving it to the other side of the front yard, near the driveway, which is a drier location. Although this tree had grown about two feet since it was planted, I wasn’t quite sure how well the roots had penetrated the soil. By rocking the tree back and forth it became clear it wasn’t very well rooted. I dug around the root ball, called The Spouse for tree-moving duty and off we went to the other side of the front garden, a mere 60 feet or so. I had already prepared the new planting bed, a six-foot-wide strip of grass, covered by cardboard and then a 6-inch layer of mulch. I dug a hole where I wanted the tree to go, removed some of the heavy red clay and added a bag of soil suitable for tree and shrub planting. Mixing both soils allows the tree roots easier penetration. Once the tree was in place, I had a major decision to make. This magnificent tree grows to spectacular proportions; 60 feet tall and 40 feet wide and the bed along the driveway would not allow it to grow to its full potential. However, the Blue Atlas Cedar can be espaliered, or pruned judiciously into a two-dimensional tree. The public library in Bridgewater, NJ, is home to a pair of espaliered Blue Atlas Cedars and Longwood Gardens in Kenneth Square, PA, has several growing against the entrance wall of this fantastic public garden.


In our previous home in NJ, we also had a Blue Atlas Cedar in our front garden. Planted by the landscapers for the builder about 6 feet away from the front window and 4 feet away from the garage, at first, it looked quite nice. However, 10 years later it obscured most of the front window and it had reached the second story. On windy evenings the upper branches knocked on the windows and kept me up. First, we removed some of the lower branches so I could look out the window again. Then I got tired of all the knocking upstairs and a tree trimming service turned my noisy tree into a two-dimensional tree. All branches pointing towards and away from the house were cut off and those growing in line with the house remained. I liked the look of the tree and for as long as we lived there it grew and thrived. Then the new owner cut it down.


My tree in the front yard got the same treatment. Only those branches that ran along the driveway remained; all others were cut off. Starting about 4 feet from the ground I took a branch on either side of the trunk and secured it to a horizontal stake. A foot higher two more branches were secured to a stake and I continued this for a total of five horizontal stakes. Then I cut off the top, so it won’t grow any higher.  While it was a gamble moving the tree, now a few months later, the gamble paid off. I can see beautiful blue new growth on the branches and over time this tree will grow into a five-tiered two-dimensional tree anchoring the planting bed to the driveway. I will have to keep up with some pruning on a yearly basis, but I won’t have to worry about this gentle giant outgrowing its spot in my garden. If it ever gets hot and dry, this tree will continue to be happy in its location as it is drought tolerant. Right now, though, the willows around my garden are very happy. The rain gauge reads 4.5” inches and we will continue to have (heavy) rain on and off for the rest of the day and into the night. I think this will be the wettest day since we moved here…

PS: We lucked out. The overall rain amount within 24 hours was 4.8 inches. Definitely the wettest day since we moved here, but it could have been worse.