Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Wreaths

When John and I had the garden center, we hand made and decorated dozens of mixed greens wreaths for the holidays. Now we just make some for ourselves and our family. I love keeping one up through the winter to perk things up when things start looking a little too dreary.

A few months ago, my Australian Uncle Graham, AKA "The Pagan Dancer", sent me a photo of a natural wreath that beats any John and I could ever make. A friend of my uncle had his camera ready at just the right moment to capture the lovely assembly below. "The Pagan Dancer" suggested the photo for one of my blogs and I told him I would save it for the appropriate time. Now the time is right to use it to wish all of you the hap
piest of holidays, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Rahmadan. Remember---the greatest beauty is often found in the simplicity of nature. May 2010 hold only the best for all of you.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Let's Keep Things Interesting

Hunterdon County Library

It's that time of year again with autumn's arrival and winter lurking in the background, all of us must take advantage of any nice days still remaining to clean up the garden beds and prepare them for their long nap until their spring awakening.

Besides cleaning up at Pittsgrove, we've been cutting back perennials, cleaning beds and putting down some mulch at The Hunterdon County Library. We got involved there after being contacted by a member of The Friends of the Library who is also belongs to the Community Garden Club that visited Pittsgrove in May.

As you can see in the photo above, although we pruned many of the perennials (some all the way to the ground) we left the ornamental grasses alone until spring and have done the same at home. They add a dramatic focal point to an otherwise drab winter landscape.

Variegated Boxwood
Next spring when you contemplate what plants to incorporate in your existing gardens, consider what your yard looks like in winter. Some grasses could liven things up. Other plants to think about are helleborus, holly, winterberry, and variegated boxwood. With a little homework on your part and a few additions in the spring, next year's landscape can have much more appeal over the long winter months.

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank a Vet Today

On a personal note today, I would like to give thanks to my husband, John, an army veteran of the Viet Nam War and our son, Garrett who served our country in the air force and flew missions to both Afganistan and Iraq. My heartfelt appreciation also goes out to all who served our great nation in the past and all those currently serving, both at home and abroad. I ask that all who read this do the same.
With sincere thanks,

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Don't Pass Me By

Cardinal Flower Lobelia

Something we have heard time and again here at the farm and years ago at the garden center are people being amazed at plants in display beds that are so beautiful. Most recently a number of folks commented on the Cardinal Flowers growing in various locations throughout the property.
"That's gorgeous! What is it? Do you have any for sale?"
"No, we had it in the spring."
"You did-I don't remember seeing any. I definitely would have bought it if I knew how beautiful it would be." Cardinal Flower Lobelia

Cardinal Flower, or Lobelia, is a late season perennial that comes in red, lavender, and blue stays in bloom for weeks at a time when there isn't much color in the garden. It is vigorous and the brilliant red variety knocks your socks off.

Annual Cleome, or Spider Flower is another late season bloomer standing up to 6' with pink, white, rose, or mixed shade blossoms. In early spring it looks like barely anything coming out of the ground, but sure makes its presence known at its prime.

So let that be a lesson to you. Many plants, be they perennials, annuals, or shrubs may not look very impressive in their young stages, but quite stunning at maturity. If you aren't sure what something will look like, or come across a plant you never heard of, ask. Any knowledgeable nursery person will be happy to give you a detailed description. Don't pass up the opportunity to add a great specimen to your landscape through lack of knowledge. Then you too can hear people say-"That's gorgeous! What is it?"

Happy Gardening!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I'm Not As Reliable As Immortality


Yikes---how could so much time go by since my last post!!! Some of you must have thought we left the country or something. Won't make excuses, that never goes over well with the husband. Let's just say when we worked outside the last couple of months we worked hard and when we played outdoors, we played hard! Then I was either too fried or too lazy to try to put words together in any meaningful fashion. I wish I was as reliable a blogger as Immortality is a rebloomer, seen flowering in various parts of the farm as it does every year. I'll try to hit the keyboard in a more timely fashion.

I hope the summer brought as many great times with family and friends as it did for us and that you were as ready as I to boldly move forward and tackle all the garden chores left by the wayside over the summer months.

It's always a disappointment to return from vacation to the realization that weeds always grow much better than anything you deliberately plant. We also wonder why deer love our perennials but never touch a weed! How do they recognize the difference and how can we get them to see how tasty crab grass is compared to hosta! If anyone comes up with a great solution, let me know.

Much of our fall work is complete with iris divided, peonies potted, and beds cleaned up and fertilized. As one of our visitors said today, having as much of your garden cleanup done in the fall leaves springtime for planting. She then headed home to do her own yard cleanup before the great weather we've been having disappears. I'll be back on my knees finishing up the weeding and hopefully back at the keyboard in a much more timely fashion.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dig It-Malaysian Monarch

Today's "Dig It" is a tip of the hat to Autumn Belle, who was kind enough to leave a comment on last week's post. Check out her blog which comes to us from Malaysia-thus Malaysian Monarch (Munson 1986) is my choice for today.

This early to mid-season daylily reaches a height of 18-24" and has semi-evergreen foliage. A 1993 Award of Merit winner, Malaysian Monarch has stunning 6" blossoms of purple with cream-white throats. It may lack fragrance, but certainly provides a visual impact in the garden bed.

Happy gardening!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dig It-Slovak Prince

Usually we post our "Dig It" on a Monday and also try to feature a plant that is currently or soon to be in bloom. Today's feature is neither.

Slovak Prince (Mego 2003) is a tall bearded iris Slovakian import and so were my grandparents on my dad's side of the family. This 33" stately iris has a one of a kind appearance with its white standards finely edged with a gold rim, along with rich grape-purple falls containing white veining. Add to this an appealing light scent and you know why it has become one of my favorites.

Today would have been my dad's 97th birthday which is why I'm posting on Tuesday. Like this iris, my dad was a prince of a man, taking over parenting duties for three children at a time when it was almost unheard of for a father to do so. He had a ready smile, crazy sense of humor, and warm heart felt by all who knew him. I feel his presence daily. He was and always will be my Slovak Prince.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jeremy!!!

Jeremy-as hard working in the field as he is on the computer

On a personal note today, I would like to wish my son, Jeremy, a most wonderful birthday. Without him there would be no Pittsgrove web site and no blog. It was with his encouragement that the blog was started. "Go ahead, Mom. Once you start blogging, you'll really enjoy it!" Well he was right---I do. He has also tried to get me to twitter, but for now I'll leave that up to the birds.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pittsgrove Takes a Break

Garrett and John making a display bed for dwarf bearded iris

Wow, I can't believe spring has gone and we are officially into summer! It was great reacquainting with visitors from the last couple of years and meeting new folks here at Pittsgrove. I swear we have the most interesting and warm-hearted people stop in to wander the gardens and talk plants, birds, the weather, what have you. Makes me smile just at the thought.
Vehicle Boy and The Fairy Princess hard at work
We put in a lot of work throughout the spring, adding new display beds and freshening the growing beds. We even put Vehicle Boy and his sister The Fairy Princess to work---you can never start them too young. Ask Jeremy and Garrett who grew up in the garden center business and knew how to correctly make change on a cash register by the time they were 8 years old (and no, the register was not set up to tell them what change to give!).

John and Sassy relaxing at the pond after a hard day's work
We're packing away our tools and garden gloves for a couple of weeks to do a little relaxing. Starting in mid July anyone who would like to come out for a visit can contact us and arrangements can be made. We'll be around on a more regular basis again in September when we do some of our major planting and divisions. Blog posts will continue and we'll be giving pointers on doing divisions and getting your plants and gardens ready for winter. You can also continue to email us with any gardening questions you think we may be able to answer. Until then, have a great summer and have fun "playing in the dirt".

Happy gardening!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dig It-Sinfionetta Louisiana Iris

I commented to a visitor to Pittsgrove that the frogs seemed to be the only ones appreciating all the rain we have continued to have here at the farm. She then pointed out that our Louisiana iris sure seemed to be loving the wet, wet weather we are experiencing. I must agree as they are flourishing everywhere we have them planted.

Sinfionetta (Raabe, 1986) certainly has been happy and its true blue blossoms are easily identified from the ponds and planting beds. Like other Louisiana iris, Sinfionetta is a swamp or water plant, but if kept well watered it will happily grow in a garden bed. Averaging a height of 36", it does well in full sun to part shade and blooms in early to late summer, with good flowering habit.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dig It-Hatsu Kagami-Japanese Iris

This lavender pink Japanese iris is one of the first to appear of the Japanese varieties, and like them, makes a great addition to that wet spot in the yard where nothing else seems to grow. That's a good thing here at Pittsgrove since we've had our own version of the "begets"----April showers beget May showers, beget June showers! I'm getting a little worried about what awaits us when I turn the calender page after June 30. In July we may be building an ark!

Anyway, Hatsu Kagami (Hirao '92) reaches a height of approximately 3'. Since our bearded and Siberian iris are pretty well finished blooming for the season (except for rebloomers) it is a pleasure to see this attractive splash of color appear amidst the sea of green in the yard.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Iris That Like Wet Feet

It has been raining so much here at Pittsgrove, that even our frogs are confused and don't know where the pond ends and the driveway begins! Getting any work done has been quite a challenge. No true gardener will let a little rain stop one from weeding (heck, that's when weeds are easiest to pull), or doing a bit of pruning, but after the third try at weeding our daylily beds yesterday, I gave up since a drizzle kept turning into a down pour.

Sinfionetta with Black Gamecock
The Louisiana, Japanese, and pond iris that we grow are in heaven, delighted to have their feet wet, and have started blooming all over the place. Our bearded iris on the other hand, must feel as though they are going through their unique form of iris waterboarding! The poor things must wonder when they can come up for air. (I know---there she goes again referring to plants as if they were human.)

Easter Tide-Louisiana

Took a soggy walk out to our spring fed pond to see if anything new was in bloom since I had been out there a few days ago. Wow--Sinfionetta, a blue Louisiana iris, sure shot up since last season and is towering over the Black Gamecock. One of these days I'm going to end up falling into the pond I'm sure since I like to get up close and personal when taking pictures and believe me the footing out there is a little precarious.
Acadian Miss-Louisiana Iris
As our bearded iris go out of bloom, it is always exciting for us to see the next wave of color come in with the Louisiana, Japanese, and Spuria. June will be filled with new hues in the gardens; I just hope I don't need hip boots to go from bed to bed! Inner Beauty-Louisiana

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dig It-Garden Treasure-Intersectional Peony

Everyone who comes to Pittsgrove wants to know what that big yellow bushy thing is in the garden. What they are referring to is Garden Treasure which is an Intersectional (Itoh) peony, a cross between an herbaceous and tree peony. Intersectionals have the flower of a tree peony, but bloom later and much longer, with buds that continue to open up to four weeks. If given the room, Garden Treasure will grow up to 5' across and 2 1/2-3' high with dozens of yellow, lemon scented flowers and make a nice cut flower if you dare to cut them.

Don Hollingsworth of Hollingsworth Nurseries introduced it and it has earned many medals and awards, including the Certificate of Merit from the American Peony Society in 1984 and three time Grand Champion at the American Peony Society Annual Exhibit.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dig It-Sarah M. Napier

Sarah M. Napier (Vories, 1930) is one of multi-faceted gal. (Forgive me. I'm one of those people who attribute human qualities to non-humans-be it plant or animal!) This voluptuous looking peony as a fragrance which one visitor to Pittsgrove described as reminiscent of the multiflora roses which once grew in her grandmother's garden. I sniffed it and was taken back to my Nana's porch in Taylor Center, Michigan where I spent entire childhood summers. Multiflora roses covered the trellis next to Nana's front porch, providing shade from the hot sun.

My very English grandmother would have loved Sarah M. Napier as Nana was an avid gardener who introduced me to the love of "playing in the dirt". As prim and proper as she was, she was in her glory down on her knees (as arthritic as they were) working the soil. She was composting long before it was the accepted practice of today and her gardens were nurtured with care.

The double bloom Sarah M. Napier would have made a fine addition to one of Nana's garden beds which emerges With its burgundy color leaves which turn a rich green as spring advances, to its silvery bright pink blossoms which have a distinctive marbled appearance, the double Sarah M. Napier would have made a fine addition to one of Nana's garden beds.

Happy Gardening!!! Cheryl

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

While we are all enjoying a gorgeous three day weekend, time with family and friends, and playing in the dirt with our iris, peonies and daylilys, Pittsgrove Farms would like to stop and thank all of the veterans that have served, those that still serve and especially the families of those veterans that have given the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this great nation of ours.

Happy Memorial Day and God Bless America

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dig It-Starwoman

Starwoman (Smith '97) not only sounds like a super hero (heroine?), she performs like one with her reliability and profusion of blooms. This stunning Intermediate Bearded with its contrasting deep purple/blue and white coloration is certainly eye-catching. The 2008 Dykes Medal Winner has a slight fragrance adding to its super qualities.

Happy Gardening!!! Cheryl

Friday, May 15, 2009

Garden Club Visit

On Thursday, May 14 we were visited by a delightful group of ladies from The Community Garden Club of Hunterdon County, who came for a tour of our grounds followed by their bag lunch meeting.

It was a pleasure speaking with the group and reacquainting ourselves with a couple of gals who had been customers back when we ran the garden center. We have a love of plants and nature in general and greatly enjoy sharing that enthusiasm with people who feel the same. These ladies certainly are among those and we learned from them as much as they from us.

It was unfortunate that the previous sunny day didn't stick around for the visit, but at least it was just spritzing, not pouring. Gardeners are all hardy souls so no one was bothered by a few raindrops.

Before the ladies left, John and I were presented with a copy of Coleus-Rainbow Foliage for Containers and Gardens, by Ray Rogers with photographs by Richard Hartlage. It was a very gracious gesture and the colorfully illustrated book will be a special addition to our garden library.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dig It-Pseudocorus-Yellow Flag Iris

Pseudocorus, commonly known as Yellow Flag iris, is the only water iris with yellow flowers. Varieties range in color from ivory yellow to deep golden yellow and bloom time is mid-season. The most commonly seen in our area average 36" in height, but there are varieties that can reach heights of 6 feet or more.

Although Pseudocorus are fantastic water iris, they tolerate a number of conditions from shallow water to a moist garden bed planted along with Siberian iris. They are ideal for that wet, sunny spot in the yard where you may have difficulty getting anything to survive. This vigorous perennial will remain a steadfast grower for years on end.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

To all you mothers, grandmothers, step-mothers, godmothers, mothers-to-be, and all of you guys who, like my dearest, departed Dad serve as both fathers and mothers to your families, a huge bouquet of warmest Mother's Day Wishes from all of us at Pittsgrove Farms!!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dig It-Davy Jones

Davy Jones. No, I'm not talking about "The Monkees", but this week's "Dig It" pick.

This Intermediate Bearded is a sure-fire winner in an iris garden; not only does it bloom profusely with rich, deep purple blossoms, but is also a rebloomer. Davy is also one of the first Intermediate to bloom in the spring, soon after, or even along with the Dwarf Bearded varieties. Another plus is the rapid way this favorite of ours multiplies, so give him plenty of room to stretch.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Pagan Dancer!!!

Cheryl and "The Pagan Dancer"

I'm dedicating today's post to my Uncle Graham/ AKA The Pagan Dancer who was first mentioned here on September 15, 2008. He is celebrating his birthday today---well actually tomorrow here in Jersey, but it will already be May 1 in Victoria, Australia when this posts (I think??? Not sure how the whole internet works with specific dates and time zones!) It gets very confusing at times when we speak on the phone and it is night here and the morning of the next day in Brighton!

The magpie is a daily visitor

Anyway, I am wishing my uncle the rainiest birthday ever!!! Some of you must be shocked. "Doesn't she like him? What an awful greeting---why not sunshine and cloudless skies?" Aha, because Uncle Graham would be thrilled with a good soaking rain to help relieve the ongoing drought that he and his fellow Victorians have suffered through for years. Yes, I said years with no exaggeration. The lack of rain added to the horrific fires I reported in the "Heartache in Oz" post. We complain in the summer if a drought of a few weeks comes along and God forbid we have to water our lawns on alternate days, or can't pull out the hose to wash the car in the driveway. The folks in Victoria are way ahead of us when it comes to water conservation and have been for a very long time. Crested pigeons in Uncle Graham's backyard

When John and I visited with my uncle and aunt a few years ago, we were amazed at the beauty of the plants that are able to bloom in such arid conditions, especially the Banksia also called bottle brush. And somehow the grass they have for their lawn manages to green up with just the least bit of moisture. Banksia-Bottle Brush

So, my Pagan Dancer, may the skies open up and drench you with giant raindrops and may you continue dancing for many years to come.

Love & hugs to all in OZ!!! Cheryl

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Presby Memorial Iris Gardens and Pittsgrove Farms Announce Partnership

We have some really exciting news to share that has been in the works for a few weeks. We are thrilled to announced that we will be working with the dedicated staff and volunteers at The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Pittsgrove Farms and Presby will be working together with the common goal of benefiting the historic gardens through ongoing fundraising efforts. Pittsgrove Farms will be providing growing support at the farm and providing plants that will be sold at the historic gardens. Please check out all the details below:

Partnership provides yearlong growing support and fundraising resources

MONTCLAIR, NJ – April 29, 2009 – The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, the renowned historical iris garden in Montclair, NJ, has planted the seeds for what it hopes will be a growing relationship with Pittsgrove Farms. As a grower of iris, peonies and daylilies, Pittsgrove Farms, will help provide growing support for the gardens and raising funds to maintain and add to the gardens.

The relationship sprouted from an initial contact made in January by Pittsgrove Farm owners John and Cheryl Gulish. Following discussions and a meeting at Pittsgrove Farms located in Pittstown, NJ, the parties outlined projects that could support the garden’s fundraising efforts and benefit the garden’s growing process.

“The board was very excited to find New Jersey iris lovers, who understood the goals and challenges that our gardens are facing in these tough economic times,” said Fran Liscio, President of the Presby board of trustees. “We are excited by the prospect of cultivating a relationship that will benefit both the gardens and its dedicated patrons.”

Beginning May 9th, The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens will welcome visitors to take their first look at the season’s iris blooms. This year, Presby through a partnership with Pittsgrove Farms, will offer many types of iris and perennials for sale. While many of the potted rhizomes that will be for sale will come directly from the Presby gardens, Pittsgrove Farms will also supply various varieties of iris such as tall-, intermediate-, and dwarf-bearded as well as Japanese, Siberian, Louisiana, and spuria. For the first time, the gardens will also be selling a selection of peonies and daylilies. Proceeds will go toward maintaining the gardens, expansion of public programs, utilities and various other costs.

In addition to supplying plants for sale, Pittsgrove Farms will provide growing support for the gardens. Pittsgrove Farms will offer additional land where iris varietals can be propagated over time in an effort to provide the public the opportunity to buy historic named varieties. Additionally, when irises need to be divided in the fall, Pittsgrove Farms will provide potting support in an effort to make the plants available for sale to visitors the following spring.

“We have always been passionate about gardening and history,” said John Gulish, owner of Pittsgrove Farms. “Presby is like a treasured garden heirloom and we take great pride in working with the staff and volunteers to make it shine for thousands of eager visitors each spring.”

Visitors are welcome to visit The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens the gardens from, May 9th through June 7th. A small donation is requested; however visitors are never turned away. The bloom season officially kicks off on Mother’s Day weekend; the garden and Bloom Room are open on Saturday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens

The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Essex County, New Jersey is a living botanic museum dedicated to cultivating and displaying a rich variety of irises, recording the history of the genus, providing horticultural expertise and activities for the public. The Citizens Committee maintains one of finest collections of iris in the world on 7 ½ acres located in Mountainside Park in Montclair. At the peak of bloom season over 75,000 blooms create the “Rainbow on the Hill.

The gardens were established in 1927 to honor Mr. Frank Presby, local Montclarian and founding member of the American Iris Society. The Walther house and grounds, listed on the state and federal registers of historic sites, now houses the garden’s operational headquarters, an exhibit showcasing 80 years of history and the Bloom Room gift shop.

For more information, visit:

Pittsgrove Farms

Pittsgrove Farms is a premier grower of irises, peonies, daylilies and select varieties of perennials with a goal to provide the highest quality perennials and inspire a love of gardening.

Founders John and Cheryl Gulish are garden veterans who ran a very successful garden center for more than 30 years before selling the business in 2005 to return to what they loved – gardening, or as Cheryl likes to say, “playing in the dirt.” They own and operate a more than five-acre plant farm located in Hunterdon County. Their gardens are home to hundreds of varieties of iris, as well as fields of peonies, daylilies and specialty perennials.

Pittsgrove Farms on Oak Grove Rd. in Pittstown is open weekends throughout the spring and early summer. For more information, visit



Fran Liscio

The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens

(973) 783-5974

Jeremy Gulish

Pittsgrove Farms

(908) 782-0751