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

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dig It - Baby Sister Siberian Iris

Tell me, who doesn't like babies? I've made enough references in the past that by now you know I have an affinity for the petite plant varieties. Baby Sister, a dwarf Siberian iris, is my pick for this week. She certainly holds her own against her taller sister and brothers in a garden, has a lovely blue color, and blooms profusely. This sturdy little plant looks good at the garden edge or as part of a rock garden.

Baby Sister with Hubbard in the background at sunset at Pittsgrove Farms

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Presby Memorial Iris Gardens

Yesterday to commemorate Earth Day, "The Boss" and I were among the 125 or so in attendance at the dedication of the partnership between the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens and Essex County.
Presby had fallen upon rough financial times and was in danger of losing what had been created in 1927 in honor of Montclair resident, Frank Presby, who had been known as a steward of the American Iris Society. Since the gardens contain over 8,000 iris in 3,200 varieties, you can imagine what a devastating loss this would have been not only for Montclair, but for the thousands who visit this historic centerpiece. With the purchase by the county, the citizens committee which was desperately trying to preserve Presby, can concentrate on the keeping the gardens a worldclass historic site.

Frances Liscio addressing the gathering

County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, (at left) fondly called "Joey D" by Fran Liscio, president of the citizens committee, was instrumental in getting the ball rolling and getting everyone on board to obtain the necessary funding and did so in a very timely manner. The complete story can be found in today's edition of The Star Ledger.

After returning from Presby, it was time for "The Boss" and I to get back to our own contributions for Earth Day as we headed back to the fields to continue cleaning up our own iris beds, putting picture tags on our already potted peony, iris, and daylily plants, and potting more for the season. As we plunked our weary bones down at the end of the day, we did so with the knowledge that we continue to help Mother Nature keep our world a beautiful place.

Happy Gardening! Cheryl

Pleased to Meet You!

Something John and I missed most after "retiring" was the daily contact with customers, some of whom had been loyal to our business for over 20 years. Since we've been back growing perennials, that wonderful interaction with plant-loving folks has rebounded.

Display gardens at Schreiner's

The other day a gal who has joined the ranks of our new "loyal" customers brought in pictures of her visit to Schreiner's in Oregon. We had told her about this fabulous iris grower when she mentioned she would be vacationing in the Portland area. She was fortunate to attend around Memorial Day of last year when their display gardens were in full luxurious bloom. The three of us raved about what a fantastic experience a trip to Shreiner's can be as it was near Memorial Day that John and I had visited a few years ago.

Fields of Iris at Schreiner's

Last fall another of our customers popped over and asked if I had ever grown garlic and when I said I hadn't, handed me a clove from her garden with instructions on how to grow it. The plants seem to be thriving and I look forward to using them in my kitchen.

As a new season gets underway, we look forward to the opportunity to talk plants and share our gardening experiences. Plant people are some of the warmest and most generous people I have ever known. I think one has a different perspective on life and a greater appreciation for what Mother Nature has provided when you work a garden.

So feel free to bring your pictures to share, questions to ask, or just stop to wander our gardens. It's that glorious time of year again when the earth is coming to life, the birds are busily feathering their nests, and "the boss" and I are doing what we love best---"playing in the dirt"!

Happy gardening! Cheryl

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tweeting at the Farm

We wanted to let everyone know that we are pushing forward with Gardening 2.0 - having a laptop on the go and in the dirt doesn't work(trust us). But Twitter allows us to provide updates to our friends and gardening buddies when we are on the go, which is quite a bit during the busy season.

Knowing that many of you are like my parents and haven't a clue what Twitter is, let me explain:

Twitter is a free service that allows users to send and read other users' updates known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length which are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have subscribed to them (known as followers).

We will still be posting to the blog but this provides just another avenue to find out what we got going on in the dirt.

If you don't have an account, check it out. If you are a veteran tweeter, please add us, we are excited to see what you have going on too!

Tweet with you later,

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dig It - Early Scout Peony

No guesswork here- Early Scout peony (Auten 1952) is so named because it is one of the earliest peony plants to pop out of the ground after a long winter's nap and also one of the first to come into bloom. This dwarf peony variety with its fern like foliage is compact by nature and the peony grows to a height of 18-24" making it ideal next to a walkway or as an addition to a rock garden.

Some of our New Jersey Peony lovers are surprised when told this hardy little plant with the small red flowers and brilliant yellow centers is even in the peony family. When these cheerful little blossoms have faded, snipping them off will leave a plant that resembles a Japanese maple. Folks often ask us what variety maples we are growing when they see these peonies out of bloom. Having perennials that look good even without their flowers is always a plus for any gardener.
Happy Gardening!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dig It - Rose Queen Japanese Iris

Even though John and I had grown Bearded, Siberian, and Pseudocorus irises in our gardens throughout our married life, (and believe me, that's a looooooooooong time!!!) it wasn't until just a few years ago that we began growing Japanese irises. We soon discovered just what we were missing all that time.

Since they bloom after the Tall Bearded and since some Japanese irises bloom well into August, they are an iris lover's dream for extending the season.

Those of you who are fortunate enough to be growing Japanese iris already most likely have those with the beautiful, larger flowers. Rose Queen is quite unlike them with its stately, compact, pink blossom held regally above its grass like foliage. I have delighted in having Japanese irises as permanent additions to our landscape, but have developed a special fondness for this beauty.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dig It-Shaker's Prayer

When someone mentions Siberian Iris, usually what comes to mind is Caesar's Brother, the most commonly found in garden centers and big box stores. Although quite hardy and attractive in its own right, there is much more to the Siberian world than this deep blue variety.

One that we are highlighting today is award winning Shaker's Prayer. This 36" iris is one of the first Siberians to make its appearance in spring. The heavily veined violet-blue blossoms have an almost wildflower look as they tower above their foliage, making one think of a meadow in bloom. The plant itself is quite hardy with the slender, attractive stems and foliage that Siberians are known for as opposed to the heavier stems and leaves of their bearded cousins. You won't have to get down on your knees and pray for flowers since Shaker's Prayer is one of the most prolifically blooming Siberian irises.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Heavenly Helleborus

Those of you who have already discovered the Helleborus, known also as Christmas or Lenten Rose, will attest to the joy of having it in your garden. This is a mostly evergreen, winter-spring flowering perennial that is easily grown, tolerates drought after it's established, and is available in a variety of colors--yellow, pink, lavender, white, etc. Not only are the blooms of the Hellebores very lovely, the leaves are attractive and diverse in appearance.

John and I were cleaning up more of our flower beds and came across our Hellebores which are ready to bloom (hence, Lenten Rose). Here are some tips for those of you who have them in your garden. Make sure you don't head out to your garden with a leaf rake ready to tackle leftover winter debris. Get down on those hands and knees and gently remove that debris by hand around your Hellebores and trim back any old foliage. Nestled inside you will likely find buds which certainly would be disturbed by rake action. You'll be glad you showed them some gentle care once you are rewarded with some of the first blossoms of spring!