Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trick or Treat?!?

Well, it was a treat for those like me who enjoy seeing the landscape covered with newly fallen snow, but it was the trick part with which I take exception! The goblins played a Pre-Halloween trick on us here at Pittsgrove Farms and throughout many parts of the New Jersey with high winds and early snow. We received about 2" of heavy, slushy stuff, but it was reported that as much as a foot of snow fell in Lebanon, NJ where we once had a garden center. I think that is carrying "frost on the pumpkin" to the extreme! The heaviness of the snow combined with strong, gusting winds caused havoc by bringing down branches and trees and knocking out power lines with resulting power outages. We must have a guardian angel since we only lost power for an hour and large branches missed our parked car by inches, saving us from huge repair bills.

We intend to cover our potted peonies with insulating blanket, but Mother Nature tried to cover them with branches. I appreciate the thought, but branches don't really serve the same purpose and only add to all the other other branches that John and I have had to cut up throughout the property.
As long as our iris, peony, and daylily beds weren't damaged we can't complain. The hard work and fresh air will keep us in good physical shape and when we're through we'll have no need to buy firewood this winter!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Iris Curtain Call


As summer finally made its exit and autumn has established itself with some glorious color here in western central Jersey, I have delighted in the return of some of our reblooming irises.

Pink Attraction

Immortality, that most reliable and prolific of our reblooming bearded iris, proved itself to be the head honcho, perking up our landscape wherever it was planted, whether in our stock beds or in the display gardens. In a previous post I had mentioned our new iris, Pagan Dance, (my Australian uncle got such a kick out of that one that he now signs his letters Uncle Graham, The Pagan Dancer!) also continued blooming on the tiny stems of these newly planted gems. It was joined by Pink Attraction which looks like it will also prove to be a strong iris with wonderful attributes.


Intermediate Davy Jones teamed up with Halston adding to the rich, deep color that so many iris lovers look forward to in their gardens. But the blossoms that warmed my heart the most appeared on tiny Baby Blessed the dwarf that nestled in a bed of autumn leaves next to our driveway. I've always had a fondness for yellow and being of short stature, relate to anything little with spunk, so have great respect for this little plant that stood up to the frosty temperatures of late while everything else was succumbing to the cold that had set into our area.Baby Blessed

These lovely blooms will soon fade as we prepare for the onset of winter, but they have served to whet my anticipation of things to come once spring awakens the earth once more.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Oh No--Powdery Mildew!!!

Some of you, like us, may be alarmed at the sight of our beautiful peony plants suddenly looking like someone went berserk in the garden with a jumbo size container of baby powder. The culprit here is Powdery Mildew, a white, dusty talcum-like substance on the leaves. Powdery Mildew is a fungus that sends tubes from spores on the leaves into the plant which then take nutrients out of the plant, often causing the leaves to yellow, die and fall off. It is a condition that is less prevalent in semi-arid regions and makes its appearance more likely in mid to late summer when warm, humid days are followed by cool evenings.

Peonies should be provided with good air circulation with proper spacing, planting in full sun, and avoidance of overhead watering especially late in the day. Remove and destroy infected leaves and flowers--do not compost! Sanitation in the garden should be practiced, such as always raking up and disposing of fallen leaves and garden debris every autumn, and being careful to wash your hands after handling infected plants before touching those that have not been affected. However, despite all these preventative measures being taken, some peony varieties are simply less resistant. Here at Pittsgrove Farms, we have peonies that are planted with all the above recommendations taken into consideration. They are strong, healthy plants that have bloomed marvelously for years, but that darn Powdery Mildew rears its ugly head without fail.

We approach the problem by cutting the plants back and disposing of all stems and leaves.
John and I rarely use chemicals, but certain fungicides, chemical or organic, can be used to manage Powdery Mildew when first detected. We recommend checking with your local Extension Service for their recommendations and then closely following directions on the label.

Take a deep breath since the end of the world isn't here. Your peonies should be back in the spring greeting you with their breathtaking beauty. You just have a little extra work to keep you busy in the garden. So what else is new?!?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Time for Fall Planting

Daylily beds with some divisions
What glorious weather we have been having and it is a good thing, as the now "unretired" Gulish couple are busy from dawn 'til dusk (I do have a tendency to exaggerate!) working on the perennials.

Earlier in the week we were weeding the beds and dividing daylilies and have been dividing many varieties of iris on and off the last few weeks. Then on Tuesday our friendly UPS man arrived with boxes of bare root peonies promising to return the next day with an equivalent load. After my initial excitement of getting the shipment with the anticipation of blooms next spring, I realized I was missing an important step--planting the peonies.

Peonies potted for Spring of 2009

Now is a perfect time to plant peonies for next spring along with the other perennials that you and we may be dividing and planting for next year's garden treasures.

We are now offering bare root peony roots for sale at Pittsgrove Farms at prices reduced from what they will be potted in the spring. Pittsgrove Farms will be open the next two weekends, Friday-Sunday, 9:00-5:00, September 19-21 and 26-28, or by appointment on weekdays. And naturally our iris and daylily varieties will also be available. For directions and contact information please click here to go to our website.

As the days grow shorter and we have less time to work in the garden, now is ideal to cram in that last minute gardening for the big payoff in the spring of beautiful blooms. You can sleep in the winter, at least that is our plan.

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Honor of "The Land Down Under"

My apologies for my long absence. You must remember we are "retired"! At least we were for a few weeks with a much too short visit with our dear west coast family and then some fun in the sun down the Jersey shore (no one in Jersey goes to the beach--it's always "the shore").

Now it is back to business, and with the weeds that awaited us as always, computer work piling up, and an email saying our first batch of peony roots have been shipped, we are certainly out of retirement mode.

John sometimes teases me that I like to order plants the same way his beloved mom used to pick race horses on the rare occasions she went to Monmouth Park-by their nifty names. Just like Grandma Gulish, my picks often turn out to be winners.

Two of those, one a daylily, the other a tall bearded iris fall into that category. Each was chosen because of my very special Australian aunt and uncle who are also avid gardeners.
The award winning daylily, Anzac, struck a very special chord with me as the acronym, ANZAC stands for the Australian New Zealand Army Corps of which my Uncle Graham was a proud member dating back to WWII when he served alongside my American GI Dad in New Guinea. Of course that daylily had to be grown in his honor and turned out to be a tall, stately addition to our stock beds.It is fortunate for me that my Uncle Graham and Auntie Rae have keen senses of humor as evidenced by the nicknames I gave them, Duke and Ramona. Although now in their 80's, they display the pluck and "can do" spirit of people decades younger, which is why they will laugh when I say I chose Pagan Dance as a tribute to them! I by no means consider them pagans, but after reading the description of this iris, I knew we had to grow it.

What caught my attention first naturally, was that it was from Australia, but the fact it was a rebloomer and so rich in color added to its desirability. We planted the rhizomes a month ago and much to my surprise, like my aunt and uncle, this plant shows great spunk! Who would expect it to bloom so soon after planting and just not a single bloom, but a cluster. Pagan Dance has brightened our otherwise colorless field, just as my aunt and uncle have brightened my life with their lighthearted ways.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Daylilies as Cut Flowers--Who Knew?

Rose Emily

How many of you think of a daylily as a cut flower? Strangely enough, even though John and I have always grown daylilies at Pittsgrove Farms and are used to cutting all kinds of flowers from our gardens to fill our vases, it wasn't until recently that we discovered how well they survive indoors.

It came about by accident when John was transplanting some large clumps to put in one of our new display gardens. He cut back the divisions and I rescued the stems that he had discarded and put them in a vase. Much to my surprise, not only did the blooms look lovely in the vase, but as the blossoms faded and I plucked them off, they were replaced by continually opening buds. We had a great display throughout the week.

I guess we had never really given much thought to them as a cut flower since in all the years that we ran a florist shop at the garden center, daylilies were never available as a cut flower. Debbie, our friend at The Rose and Radish Fine Florals in Whitehouse Station, NJ said although the daylilies we gave her and her partners to observe bloomed magnificently, they would not work in the cut flower market since people are too lazy to remove the faded blossoms. Her experience has been that many people, especially in the corporate world, want fresh flowers to act like silk flowers and remain beautiful without doing anything to them, such as changing the water in the vase so it doesn't smell like a septic system (that last line is mine, not Debbie's!).

Frosty Beauty & Rose Emily with Cleome and Zinnea
If you are reading this blog, you are, in all probability, a gardener who is not at all afraid of hard work. Providing fresh water and plucking off dead blooms will be a piece of cake for someone who likes digging in the dirt like me. So do yourself a favor and bring some of those daylilies indoors, impress your friends at your next dinner party, or just give your family a treat of a mixed flower bouquet at the breakfast table.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Day Lilies for Decades

Summer greetings to you all! We recently returned well-rested from vacation only to be greeted by some of the most tenacious weeds on record. I swear some of them were rooted in cement! However, along with those darn weeds, my first (and we all know Jersey are the best!) tomatoes were ripe and ready to pop in my mouth. Yum! The grape and cherry varieties sometimes don't make it out of our garden as I gobble them by the handful as I weed. They provide the perfect reward for all that labor.

Besides the tomatoes and weeds, our day lily beds were just about in full bloom which I met with anticipation since we grew many varieties this year that I hadn't seen outside a catalog.
Little Heavenly Angel

Sassy with Mini Stella
Most of you are familiar with the orange day lilies that grace country roads far and wide at this time of year but may not be aware that like iris and peony plants the number of varieties of daylilies is mind boggling. With sizes ranging from the petite such as 10" Mini Stella and Little Heavenly Angel at 16" to the stately 40" Hyperion, a rainbow of colors well beyond orange, and flowers that resemble party ribbons or fancy lingerie, day lilies are a beautiful addition to any garden.
Red Ribbons

Spiritual Corridor

Most varieties fare well in full sun to partial shade with minimal care once they are planted and in most cases do well with benign neglect. John and I planted some divisions of the orange species from a friend over 30 years ago along our property line, they are still going like gangbusters and we haven't touched the majority of them since planting. Their individual blossoms may last only days, but the plant's life in your garden will probably outlast the time most of you own your homes!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hurray for the Red,White and Blue! Iris, Peony and Daylily Edition

Today, June 14, in honor of Flag Day I'm featuring red, white, and blue flowers that can found here at Pittsgrove Farms.

Red at Night

Gull's Wings

Speeding Again

Earlier in the season red could be viewed in the bearded iris beds in the form of Red at Night and Classic Bordeaux, followed by Siberian Iris Eric the Red, and peonies, Big Ben, Karl Rosenfield, and the most red peony, Many Happy Returns. As their blooms have faded, Red Rum and Pardon Me are making themselves known in the day lily beds.

Red Rum

Shirley Temple

White Immortality not only bloomed in the spring, but as a tall-bearded re-bloomer will greet us again in late summer or early fall. Gull's Wings, Bridal Jig and Snow Queen Siberians stand tall in the garden showing off their snowy brilliance. Not to be outdone, Shirley Temple, Bowl of Cream, My Love, and the old standby Festiva Maxima peonies showed off their various shades of white.

Lastly, dark blue Davey Jones and light blue Fathom prove to be prolific, reliable Intermediate Bearded, while Last Hurrah and Speeding Again stand tall in spring to return again in the fall. Siberians are well represented by Steve (who thinks of these names?) and later bloomers are Louisiana Gulf Shores and Center of Interest Japanese irises.

While honoring our flag today, I would like to call attention to a site, I was made aware of my dear friend Liz who blogs at This Full House, and all the details can be found on her site.

Thousands of servicemen and women serve our country proudly displaying the flag on their uniforms. is an attempt by a military wife to connect Americans with them, especially folks who may not be receiving much support from family back home. No matter what your political views, please go to this site and show our men and women that we appreciate the sacrifices they make daily throughout the world. While your at it, pass the site along to others in your address books or fellow bloggers. And, by the way remember to display Old Glory!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Schreiner's 2008 Iris Introductions

As I discussed yesterday, this past weekend I had the enjoyable experience of visiting Schreiner's Iris Gardens in Salem Oregon. Being a large grower, one would not be surprised that Schreiner's is also very active in hybridizing iris.

In their cut flower display they had a table dedicated to the twelve iris introductions for 2008 that have come from their hybridizing efforts. The term introduction indicates the iris has been registered with the American Iris Society and that it is being offered for commercial sale, you can read more about the registration and introduction process at the AIS.

Schreiner's 2008 Introductions

Along with the 2008 introductions the display gardens were home to iris that were not yet named other than by seedling number. Perhaps we will be graced with their presence in future introductions.

Schreiner's Seedlings

Schreiner's Seedlings

Alright you have been tormented by my mediocre prose long enough, without further ado here is a sampling of Schreiner's 2008 Iris Introductions, enjoy.

Schreiner's 2008 Introduction: Orang King

Schreiner's 2008 Introduction: Cheyenne Sky

Schreiner's 2008 Introduction: Raven Girl

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Visiting Schreiner's Iris Gardens

Schreiner's Display Gardens

To borrow from the Rose Bowl, Schreiner's Iris Gardens is the "Grandaddy of them all" when it comes to iris gardens. Alright they might not be the oldest but they sure are big, with a couple of hundred acres of production and ten acres of display gardens a trip to Schreiner's located outside of Salem, Oregon is a real treat to any iris lover.
Schreiner's Display Gardens

Being the black sheep of the Gulish family and living in Washington allowed me the distinct advantage of being within driving distance to visit Schreiner's during the last weekend they are open to the public. Like much of the rest of the country the Northwest had a cooler than normal spring which worked to my advantage as Schreiner's gardens were at there peak bloom this late in the season.

Schreiner's Display Gardens

There was a dizzying rainbow collage as the iris blooms were intermixed with peonies, delphinium, lupine and too many other flowers to list. This stunning visual spectacular combined with the intermingling fragrances of the garden delighted the senses. Seeing Schreiner's display gardens is certainly inspirational and makes us want to improve our display gardens at Pittsgrove Farms. We hope that on a smaller scale our display gardens inspire you.

Schreiner's Display Gardens

One area that was very interesting was a set of beds dedicated to winner's of the Dykes Memorial Medal , the highest award of the American Iris Society. They had displays of each Dykes medal winner since it's inception in 1927, some of which were for sale. Schreiner's has been the recipient of the Dykes Medal ten times, most recently in 2003.

Schreiner's Cut Flower Display

There was a wonderful cut flower display with at least a couple hundred varieties of iris. It provided the opportunity to view an array of different iris and see the similarities and nuanced differences in coloring, style and fragrance. It was also much less walking than in the display gardens. Tomorrow I will expand on the trip to Schreiner's and show some of their 2008 introductions.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Water Iris - Iris Versicolor Blue Flag

Irises seem to pop up a lot more when you look for them. I guess I have had irises on the mind a lot lately.

Yesterday Christina and I took a long walk around Burnham Park - behind our house in Morristown. Along the way, gingerly walking to avoid goose droppings, we saw some very cute baby ducks (they were camera shy) and also saw these very pretty iris growing wild at the bank of the pond.

The bearless iris was a prolific bloomer despite having only the attention of the occasional wayward fisherman's footstep. The light purple blooms had darker purple veins with white and yellow closer to the center. They appear to be Iris Versicolor, Blue Flag Iris. As I am not the resident iris expert, I will check with my father, John, for confirmation - he after all is the one with roughly 40 years of gardening experience.

After a rough day, it was nice to come across something pleasantly unexpected. Speaking of which, another happy surprise was finding a very nice write up about our site on the Backyard Fancy blog. The blog focuses on backyard ideas and garden decor - thanks for thinking of us.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How to grow Siberian iris? - plant them near a drain

To continue on yesterday's Pittsgrove Farms - Home Edition theme as well as the theme of plants growing in tough places, I thought it appropriate to talk about a winner in my garden that grows in a typically challenging spot. With the rather cool spring we have experienced, New Jersey Siberian iris are just starting to come into full bloom. Of all the iris that are planted at our house, none has done better than the Snow Queen Siberian iris.

The flower is a vibrant pure white. White standards with wide flaring falls are highlighted at the center with bright sunflower yellow. When planting Siberian iris it is vitally important that the roots do not dry out when they are first getting established in the garden. Though they don't like to be planted in standing water, they will flourish around the edge of ponds or at the edge of a stream. Once iris establish themselves they can grow well in a dry area. Greg at The Midnight Garden shows some beautiful examples of Snow Queen Siberian iris (we think) flourishing in a dryer area.

Considering their thirst for water, it is no wonder why, the Siberian iris planted near my gutter drain have done so well. The gutter and iris have a symbiotic relationship - the white gutter drain pipe waters the iris, the iris grows beautifully and hides the unsightly drain pipe. Who said it isn't good to have your mind in the gutter?

Unlike bearded varieties where the rhizome should be exposed, the crown of the Siberian iris should be planted about an inch deep. They should be mulched especially when first planted to maintain moisture; in winter they should recieve a slightly heavier layer in an effort to protect newer plants. More tips on planting Siberian iris and other types are available here.

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Blooming iris, ground covers and crack fillers

As we are always sharing pictures from the farm, I thought it was about time to show how the plants from the farm grow elsewhere - specifically at my house.

I have had the privilege to steal at no cost the plants from my parents' garden. A lot of the perennials at our house in Morristown such as the Iris Pallida Variegata, Snow Queen siberian iris, lily of the valley and others were first rooted at the Hunterdon County nursery. This is especially true of our groundcovers.

Two years ago my father and a friend helped put in a natural, blue stone patio. My wife, who is an engineer is more partial to order and symmetry - bricks, pavers or any type of concrete tessellation are much more to her liking. For me, the PR "creative" guy, I liked the piece-it-together look (plus it was the cheap option).

This led to a patio that inevitably would be slightly uneven and with its share of cracks between the slabs of rock. The fact that the stone fit together, is a lot less amazing than the fact that some plants despite being tromped by footsteps, planted in a terrible combination of stonedust and dirt can actually survive and flourish.

Walkway onto the patio.

The Wholly Thyme has spread, well, like a weed. Though it has no more than 4 inches wide of soil, it has spread a couple feet across. As they were planted in the fall following the construction, it has only been rooted for a year and a half. Hopefully, the new quart-sized Wholly Thyme and Irish Moss will flourish as well as the veterans.

Just takes a little "thyme" for it to take off.

A more upright variety of creeping thyme has done extremely well despite my wife's aversion to it. It grows roughly 6 inches or higher in the summer, which is too high in her opinion. I am starting to come around to agreeing after watching friends walk on the patio like it was a mind field. It has filled in the cracks of the patio and has started spreading seedlings through out many other areas - just our luck...

Only a matter of Thyme before it takes over.

More to both of our tastes, Creeping Jenny has done well in the patio and offers great color. Hopefully it will take off like a yellow carpet that will be able to handle the footsteps to and from the park and pond behind our house. We don't have much of a yard but at least we have one heck of a view.

Creeping into the park it doesn't take long for Creeping Jenny to take off.

Walkways leads to view of Burnham Park