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?!?