I try to spend a lot of time in my backyard* to make up for the neglect it experienced in the last few years. I've put in a lot of hours this year, and many more over the last 6 seasons, and while I — probably like all gardeners — see room for improvements, I'm really starting to get comfortable in my space.
Glen and I moved here from a rental in south Jersey, and several small Japanese maples volunteered to come along for the adventure. Two are still in pots; we planted the largest one during the fall of 2008, and is thriving this season. It's still a small tree, only as tall as I am (about 5'4"), but it's been a pleasure to watch it grow — about a foot each year.
Matty and Steve enjoy the yard as well. Matty likes to stalk the ever-present flies. He calls them "burds" right now; soon enough he will know the difference.
A green bottle fly with my potted sedum.
A lot of my smaller, flowering plants are doing well, too. A bleeding heart has grown up quite a bit in the last few years, offering several pink arches of hearts; the tulips are pretty. Steve likes to sit in this area of the garden, with whatever he can carry out of the house. We've been trying to get Matty excited about brushing his teeth, so we've let him carry a toothbrush around. He likes to carry it around, and say "Brussssssh. Brussssssh!" while trying to brush his hair with it. Then, he drops it on the floor, and Steve, ever helpful, swoops in and grabs it. If Steve is very lucky, this happens as we're headed out the back door. He enjoys nothing more than a leisurely plop in my garden, with a toothbrush.
Dental hygiene is one of Stevie's interests.
Last year, I picked up a couple of new plants, one of which was a snowball viburnum, which looks a lot like a miniature hydrangea. It blooms earlier than hydrangea, and I was looking for that. I couldn't decide where to put it, so I stuck it in a big old pot that came with the house, and set it near the garage. It's rewarded me this year with a nice pile of snowbally blooms, but I hope to put it in the ground this year, so I don't push my luck.
The other plants I picked up last year were two money plants, at the Trenton Farmers Market. The seller told me they were biennials, meaning they live for two seasons. The first, they grow, and in the second, they bloom. The foliage last year was okay; it stayed green all year, which I didn't expect; and don't know if that's normal. This year, it shot up tall, like a weed, and produced a bunch of rather boring white blooms that look like weeds. It bummed me out a bit, because I have fond memories associated with this plant: my mom used to get bunches of it dried, and I loved the shimmering round seed pods that kind of look like money. Coins, anyway. When I saw the disorganized white flowers, I thought the lady at the Farmer's Market pulled a fast one on me, but when I looked at it closely today, I saw the beginnings of the tell-tale seed pods. Yay! I'm glad about that. I'm also glad that it's slated to die this year, because I have something else in mind for that spot. Something not so ugly. I'll report back next year.
Money Plant. Notice the little green pods? They should turn papery and silvery soon. Exciting stuff!
My parents left New Jersey in 2003, and when they did, my mom gave me a large pile of her irises that she (or probably my dad) dug up from their gardens in Little Egg Harbor. I didn't know why they didn't take the irises with them to Maryland, but after visiting their new house, I saw why: the property in Maryland was covered in irises. And, that property was much larger than the property in Little Egg, so there were A LOT of irises. My parents loved their new digs, except for the snakes. I don't have a problem with snakes, but it's because I'm from New Jersey, where we, as a general rule, don't encounter too many of them. It seemed crazy to me for a couple of proper Jersey folks — true snake haters, at that — to leave their relatively snake-free existence for one filled with the slithery reptiles in Maryland. The established fields of irises were a favored hiding place for the snakes, so my snake-hating parents decided to give up the beauty of those elegant blooms for the hope of fewer snakes. So, in 2005, I took receipt of about a zillion iris rhizomes and planted them all over my yard here in Trenton.
Nothing happened with any of the irises — the ones I acquired from Little Egg, or the ones from Maryland. 2006: Nothing. 2007: Nothing. Then, in 2008, all of them opened, and were absolutely stunning. There were pure white ones, tea colored ones, blues and purples, and burgundy ones, as well. A few of them that I planted along the side of the house were stolen, which was so offensive to me; it felt like such a violation, since I waited so long for them to bloom. My mother died, unexpectedly, two days later, and I never got to tell her how much I enjoyed the flowers she gave to me, and I still feel badly about that.
Since then, I've been puttering around my iris islands once, anticipating their big, fibrous buds. There are lots of them this year. But they're all covered with aphids. I don't remember that happening in the past, but maybe I just wasn't aware of it. Irises are tough plants, and while it seems unlikely that aphids can do too much damage, I don't trust those soft-bodied demons one bit. They always come in huge numbers, and even soft, wet little yuckies can do a lot of harm. So, I've been hosing off the plants in that area of my yard with a hard blast of water. It's a good control for aphids, but unfortunately, I probably have to do it every day or so.
Damn you, aphids!
Yesterday, my first iris bloomed: a big white one my mom gave to me in 2005. She bought that one specifically for me, from a master gardener in her area, because I was enrolled in the Mercer County/Rutgers program here that year. She was proud of me. She didn't always say so with words, but she tried to let me know in her own way. So, it's comforting to be surrounded by her flowers; flowers I hope will spread and grow over the years.
* Unlike many of my neighbors, I see the point of spending time outside, even if no one can see me.