Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mania for Gazania

Well, after I got the results of our favorite annual poll I was extremely surprised. (well more like astonished) that the Gazania did not receive a single vote.

I'm thinking that part of the reason is that even though gazanias were very popular in the sixties, they've been on hiatus for almost four decades. If you haven't considered gazanias for the garden. It's time to give them a new look.

Most of the annual gazanias are known collectively as Gazania splendens. The original species is from South Africa, which is why in certain parts of the country they are know as African daises. But in our part of the country, they seem to just be called Gazanias.

The flowers are huge. I convinced Paul, who works in our annual department, to hold up one flat of gazanias for a picture. Wow! Each flower must be close to five inches across. That's only one flat, and a lot of impact for only $18. One reason that many people are not familiar with this plant is that they really don't start blooming until they get some warmer days. They just love the heat. The flowers will also close up during overcast days. (there is an exception to this mentioned farther into this posting.)
Once they become established they tend to be very drought tolerant. They want full hot sun. They are very short growing reaching only 6 to eight inches. If you let them dry out, they won't be angry and leave the garden. They'll just keep flowering. The colors are absolutely stunning. They can range from the brightest orange to yellow to shades of pink. Many of the varieties have distinctive dark color bands.

New on the market this year is a new series of double blooming gazanias they are part of the Sunbather's Series. (show at left) The blooms stay open all the time instead of closing for the day in late afternoon!
Sunbather gazania is the ideal choice for flowerpots and window boxes on the deck or patio, so even late-night guests can enjoy its beauty. It does not have a dark eye like traditional Gazanias and the blooms do not fade!

If you really would rather have a flower that was a perennial. We have a new variety of gazania that is considered a perennial. The variety is called Colorado Gold. It's flowers are smaller than the annual variety, but makes a great addition to a hot summer garden.

I forgot about one other huge advantage of gazania. They tend to be very deer resistant.

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Favorite Annuals. Poll Results in Decending Order

Here's the list of the poll results:

  • Impatiens 34% 15 votes
  • Geranium 18% 8 votes
  • Petunia 11% 5 votes
  • Snap Dragons 11% 5 votes
  • Verbena 9% 4 votes
  • Morning Glory 9% 4 votes
  • Vinca 6% 3 votes
  • Other 6% 3 votes
  • Coleus 4% 2 votes
  • Dianthus 2% 1 vote
  • Salvia 2% 1 vote
  • Marigold 2% 1 vote
  • Begonia 2% 1 vote
  • Gaznia 0% 0 vote :-(

Why do you grow herbs and vegetable? Poll Results

Here is the results to our recent poll on herbs and vegetables:

It's Fun
20 (48%)
It relaxes me
14 (34%)
I want the freshest food
32 (78%)
I don't trust what pesticides are used on store produce.
8 (19%)
It's an activity I share with my family
6 (14%)
It saves me money on groceries
9 (21%)
5 (12%)
There was a total of 41 people responding to the poll. (People were allowed more than one answer)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Flower Spooning

This osteospermun, Sunscape daisy has an amazing flower. Each petal
ends with a tiny little spoon. Its dark purple flower will be a great
contrast to some bright yellow flowers. Every year more heat
tollerance is bred into the osteos, so they do flower for most of the
summer. If we do get an extreme warm spell they may stop producing
flower buds, but once the weather cools off they should start
producing buds again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rare but Super cool, Japanese Cobra Lily

As a child, I would be in awe of discovering a Jack in the pulpit
plant. When I first bought my house I found on growing between my
neighbor's and my garage. I thought it was one if the best plants in
my garden. Unfortunately it took off several years ago. I think the
drought did it in. I was looking through perennial availability lists
this weekend, one of our suppliers had one tray of the Japanese Cobra
lily, Arisaema sikokianum. The plant is related to the Jack in the Pulpit, but it's far more striking in appearance. The pitcher is purple with white stripes, and the center looks like a giant marshmallow. After flowering the foliage remains attractive, until the end of Summer where it disappears until next Spring. Plant in a dry spot, in part-sun to partial shade. The Arisaema sikokianum is from a tuber, and it takes quite a long time to produce additional plants. Which is the reason they are expensive. We only have six of these to sell, they are in bloom now. Once they're gone, we're out until next year.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Make a Glow in the Dark Tomato

Ok, so this has nothing to do with growing the tomato. But I found this video online in doing some tomato research, that I just had to share.

It definitely ranks on the higher cool scale. I'm going to have to try it myself. Please note...parental supervision is absolutely required.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Beware the Lamium Man

I have a friend that used to work as a landscape contractor who now
teaches . He loved this plant so much, he would come out to our store
and buy it by the tray. He would use it on all his landscape jobs. It became such a regular occurrence that we started calling him the Lamium Man. He still stops in occasionally, and even though over a decade has passed, we still call him by his old title.
I like this plant as much as LM does. I took the picture on the way back from dropping Dakota off at school. It is Lamium Beacon Silver.
The common name is Dead Nettle, but I think the botanic name sounds way better.
It will grow in shade to sun, but tends to fill in quicker when it has some sunshine. It doesn't like to dry out. It will flower from May thru July. It makes a great ground cover as it will only grow up to 6 inches tall.
I've also used this plant in containers. The bright silver foliage is a great contrast to annual flowers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Eggplant, Tomato and Pepper Varieties

I had all intentions of putting this list in yesterdays post, but I got sidetracked with my story.

Here is a list of some of the eggplant, pepper, and tomato varieties that we now have in stock (some are limited, so it's possible that all varities won't be available at all times):
• EGGPLANT Black Beauty- bushy, spreading plant, bearing dark purple almost black fruit
weighing 1-3 lbs each. Good flavor and retains color well. ‘Standard eggplant”
• EGGPLANT Classic – Oval, elongated 8-9 in fruit
•EGGPLANT Fairy Tale – AASAward Winner! DWARF plants produce miniature fruit that is bicolor
lavender and white.
• EGGPLANT Ghostbuster – white fruit that are sweeter than purple types.
• EGGPLANT Ichiban- a prolific variety bearing cylindrical fruit with shiny, blackish, purple skin.
• EGGPLANT Little Fingers- an abundance of slim, long, dark purple, 6-8in. Fruit grows three
to six per cluster. Spineless plants make picking easy. BEST variety in our Grower’s opinion.
• EGGPLANT Turkish Orange -Miniature orange-red fruits, look like tomatoes. The tall (4')
plants are spineless and are very attractive when laden with fruit
• EGGPLANT Snowy F1- ivory white, 6-8” fruits. Sweet yet mild flavor.
• PEPPER Bell Boy - Large four-lobed fruit with thick walls. Matures green to red.
• PEPPER Better Belle – Very blocky, four-lobed fruit. Matures green to red
• PEPPER Blushing Beauty - matures from ivory to blush to red, then orange-red and finally
darker red. Thick walled and sweet tasting.
• PEPPER California Wonder- Blocky, 4 in., good for stuffing, Green to red.
• PEPPER Carmen-(Award Winner!) Horn shaped fruit with wide shoulders and tapered
shape. Super sweet flavor, compact grower, red to green color, and prolific producer.
• PEPPER Chocolate Beauty - matures to rich mahogany
• PEPPER Giant Marconi – tapered green pepper will mature to red, has a sweet smoky
• PEPPER Golden Summer – Ripens to a bright golden yellow
• PEPPER Gypsy – sweet pepper matures from yellow to red, wedge shaped fruit
• PEPPER Holy Mole-(Award Winner!) Long tapering shape, 7-9 inches long and a beautiful
purple to black color. A Pasillia pepper perfect for traditional Mexican cuisine, mildly hot with a
nutty tangy flavor. Compact plants that are profuse fruiters.
• PEPPER Hungarian Wax- early & productive, medium thick walls, bright yellow to red
• PEPPER Italian Fryer Cubanelle - Ripens from yellow-green to orange-red.
• PEPPER Jalapeno- Compact plant, high yield. Matures from green to red.
• PEPPER Key Largo F1 - Early, mild / sweet flavor, >Cubanelle= type. Matures from yellow
/green to orange/ red.
• PEPPER Lilac – beautiful lilac-lavender color. 3-4 lobed fruits mature ivory to lavender to
• PEPPER Mandarin - deep pumpkin-orange color on elongated, European-style fruits. 5-6"
long, smooth and firm. Sweet flavor.
• PEPPER Mariachi – Spicy, but only mildly hot. Creamy yellow to bright red.
• PEPPER Pepperoncini- perfect for pickled Italian green peppers. Imported directly from
Milan, yields abundant yellow-green, 2-4" sweet-spicy fruits.
• PEPPER Purple Beauty - deep purple bells with thick walls, compact
• PEPPER Red Beauty – Ripens more red peppers earlier
• PEPPER Red Large Cherry – ripens from medium green to red
• PEPPER Serrano- 1.5 in.-2 in. peppers are among the top 10 hottest now on the market.
Bright green to red.
• PEPPER Spanish Spice- Thin walled, gourmet fruit is slightly tapered. Tobacco Mosaic
resistant. Green to red.
• PEPPER Super Cayenne F1 - Highly productive and very hot.
• PEPPER Sweet Banana- have medium to thick walls. Yellow to red.
• PEPPER Sweet Rainbow Mix - Colors include red, orange, yellow, chocolate, lilac, ivory,
green and purple.
• PEPPER Thai Hot Dragon - five times hotter than a standard jalapeno. Prolific, high-yielding
plants. Thin walls that dry easily.
• TOMATO Better Boy - extra large >Beefmaster= type, (16 oz). Indeterminate. Alternaria and
Stenophylium resistant. VFN. Nice Full pots.
• TOMATO ‘BIG BOY’- Vigorous plants produce 16 oz. fruit. Indeterminate. Full pots.
• TOMATO Black Krim – dark brown, red tomatoes, very richly flavored with a hint of saltiness.
• TOMATO Brandywine – Heirloom variety beefsteak type, deep pink skin with red flesh
• TOMATO Bush Champion – compact plants great for small spaces, with 8-12 oz fruit
• TOMATO Cherokee Purple – extremely productive and has a very rich tomato flavor
• TOMATO Early Girl - extremely early, 4-6 oz tomatoes. Indeterminate. VF1+2
• TOMATO Golden Girl - large 7-8 oz smooth golden yellow fruit
• TOMATO Health Kick - Small fruit contains extra lycopene which is known to fight some
types of cancer. Determinate. Full Pots. VF also resists Alternaria, Stem Canker, Leaf Spot,
Tomato Spotted Wilt. WOW!
• TOMATO Jet Star – 6-8 oz fruit have great color.
• TOMATO Juliet – grows in grape-like clusters on a long vigorous vine. Elongated cherry type.
• TOMATO Keepsake – medium size fruits
• TOMATO Lemon Boy – 7 oz tomatoes feature lemon yellow skin
• TOMATO Mini Charm - tall, indeterminate plants produce oval, 9 oz grape-like fruit.
• TOMATO Mortgage Lifter – heirloom variety. Meaty full of flavor
• TOMATO Mr. Stripey – a yellow beefsteak type of fruit with red streaked flesh
• TOMATO Roma Plum – bright red, 2 oz plum-shaped fruit
• TOMATO Rutgers - produce 5-6 oz. fruit. Excellent all purpose variety. Very productive and
disease resistant. “The basic red tomato” Full pots. VF Determinate.
• TOMATO San Marzano – for canning, paste and spaghetti sauce, low in sugar and acid
• TOMATO Sugary – ½ oz cherry tomato fruit is very sweet. Pinkish red color
• TOMATO Sun Sugar – golden cherry tomato with a very sweet taste
• TOMATO Sweet Olive – sweet, bite-sized, bright red grape tomatoes. Strong tolerance to
• TOMATO Tomande – ribbed 6-7 oz fruit, sweet grows compact old world appearance
• TOMATO Tomatillo Toma Verde – tennis ball-sized with a papery husk. Full-bodied flavor is
sweet, yet spicy
• TOMATO Viva Italia – earlier and more productive, with higher quality blocky fruits
• TOMATO Whopper – Heavy producer, medium sized fruits, early. Great tasting.
Nice and full pots. Indeterminate.
• TOMATO Yellow Pear – heirloom variety small pear-shaped yellow fruit .

Monday, May 12, 2008

Best Tomatoes for Throwing

When I was growing up, my father, Ed had taught me how to grow tomatoes in our back field. I remember the excitement when he taught me how to start and then ride our 1939 Ferguson tractor. We actually still have the tractor here at the nursery. After I tilled the field with the tractor, I would plant several hundred tomato plants in the field. My father had his secret mix of fertilizer that he made from dried blood meal, some dehydrated cow-manure, some cotton seed meal, and probably a few other things that I still don't know what he used. We planted quite a few different varieties of tomatoes. He told me how it was better planting more than one variety because it spread out the yield. Who wanted one hundred bushel of tomatoes at the same time? He would say, "If you look at the tag each variety says days to mature. When you plant tomatoes with different days, you spread out your yield."

The varieties that we planted were Jetstar (I loved that name...even built a go-cart and called it Jetstar), Supersonic, and Ramapo. Since we generally planted what was left over after the season for selling the plants was over we would sometimes substitute Beefsteak or Better Boy, and once in a we planted some without the tags. I wasn't overly happy when a cherry tomato was planted. The reason being that I sold the tomatoes in front of our store, and for some reason at the time, no-one wanted cherry tomatoes.

Planting a tomato is extremely easy. I think my success ratio had to be close to 100% since I never remember losing any plants. I would use the tractor to may a trough in the ground. In the trough I would drop the started plants and then go back and pull soil around the plant. Tomatoes are very forgiving. They will send roots anywhere along the stem that is covered by soil. Since then I've read where your supposed to cover the first few leaves, or remove any flowers that are on the plant, but I really don't think it matters. I didn't think about that when I planted them as a kid, and they all took root. We were lucky in that the field was blessed with ample sunshine. Tomatoes and most vegetables need an ample amount of light to get them to produce lots of fruit.

When the weather warmed up, the tomatoes started to grow, but unfortunately the weeds seemed to be even happier than the tomatoes. (maybe it was that secret ingredient in dad's fertilizer). Dad then taught me all about hoes. Hey I was only seven so get your mind out of the gutter. The hoe is a tool that you use to remove the weeds that are growing around the tomato. It has a flat blade that you use to chop into the soil. You also break up the soil around the plant, and just by loosening the soil, you remove the existing weeds, and keep new weeds from starting. When you have hundreds of plants in the ground hoeing can be strenuous work. I remember getting my first blisters by hoeing the field.

We used to let the tomato plants grow horizontally along the ground. Some of the fruit would touch the ground and would rot. I remember the first time we got tomato cages. You would place one cage over the top of the plant and the plant would grow up into the cage. The metal rings of the cage would keep the tomato sturdy. No staking was needed. This was a wonder, and my yield increased approximately 30% from reducing the loss from rot. We used our cages for many years. They may not have looked nice after five years, but they still worked.

The tomatoes started to ripen around the fourth of July. When I first started I would bring the tomatoes up to the front of the store on my wagon. Later we had got these electric carts that I would load the buckets onto, and then dad would drive the tomatoes up for me. When I turned eleven I got to drive the cart myself. I remember picking lots of tomatoes. The foliage of tomatoes will actually turn your hands yellow if you pick the fruit off of hundreds of plants. It does wash off, but I thought that was really cool at the time. The plants have a distinctive smell, and its strange, but the other day I was sorting tomatoes on one of our benches and the smell brought these memories back so clearly that I just had to share some of this with you.

I grew these tomatoes for almost ten years. The amazing thing is that I paid for half of my college education with those tomatoes. I learned quite a bit in those years. Thanks Dad!

Oh yeah, I forgot...tomatoes for throwing...when summer hit, the tomatoes would need to be picked everyday. Once in a while a friend would help. It was almost like a mini-treasure hunt. We would walk up and down each row, looking for that tell tale sign of pink to orange color. When we found one, we would grasp the tomato firmly and twist it just right to get the fruit. Sometimes there would be several next to each other. Almost like a Jack Pot. Sometimes I would find a dark brilliant red tomato. Mmmmm, I would think and knowing the ripe tomatoes are a bit softer I would gently grasp it, and put it on the top of the bucket. Sometimes I would get to that tomato a day too late, and I would grasp it and squish, my fingers would push into an overly ripe fruit...Yuck...I'd put the tomato to the side and save it for that right moment a bit later. I'd hear a whoosh and realize that my friend just tried to hit me with an over-ripe tomato. Little did he know that I had been saving a pile of them just for the right moment. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, splat...My aim wasn't extremely good, but when I have a pile of ammo, my odds have increased dramatically. We had quite a few laughs in that tomato field. When I first had my tomato stand, it was pretty close to Springfield Avenue. Every morning the tomatoes had to be checked to make sure there were no bad ones. We used to take the bad ones and put them in a bucket. Traffic on our street was quite a bit lighter than it is now. Sometimes we would take the bad ones and throw them at the occasional truck passing by. What a great target they made. We did stop that behavior after one of the truck drivers stopped and chased us, but we still laughed about it later.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Dressing up the front of the gift shop

Sister...and Gift shop manager Denise Jackson putting the final
touches to the front of our giftshop.

The real mac koi

There's a new pond at Williams. Designed and installed by my friend Jaull Loram (pronounced like Paul with a J sound)of Earth Dreamer Designs.
We are very excited with the addition of the new pond at Williams. Shown here is a picture of my brother-in-law Greg Jackson, releasing the new Koi into the pond.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Wow... Check out the size of my peony!!!

I thought the peony that I saw on the way from school this morning was huge, but the flower on this one that we were selling popped open today. Wow!

Walking my son to school today

Today was the second of a series of beautiful days for a walk. On the way back from walking my son Dakota to school today, I spied these stunning tree peony, Paeonia suffruticosa. The flower of a tree peony can be very large, and they grow on a woody stem and can reach a height of close to four feet tall.

Monday, May 05, 2008

My absolute favorite new plant for this year!!!!

When I was at Fashion in Bloom last September I noticed this cool plant in full bloom. Upon closer examination I noticed that it was a Mock Orange. I've always loved mock oranges, (philadelphus), but they are generally short bloomed.

This new variety has excellent foliage, and will flower several times during the season. The flowers are an absolute pure white, and the fragrance is perfect. Not too overpowering, but it wafts gently through the air to your nose. The bloom time is also longer than the old fashioned form by several weeks. Once you experience the stimulating fragrance of Philadelphus, you're spring days will forever be filled with the sweet memory. An old-fashioned favorite, Philadelphus is a deciduous shrub with a graceful, fountain-like habit and snow white blooms of the sweetest fragrance. Leave it to Novalis to offer a Mock Orange that gives an encore performance! A repeat flowering new hybrid, Snow White Sensation™ boasts 2" double flowers born in clusters that bloom abundantly in spring and then again in summer. A versatile shrub with a wide growing range, the pure white, deliciously fragrant flowers are but one great attribute of this under utilized spring-flowering shrub. Attractive foliage on gracefully arching branches guarantees Snow White Sensation™ easy placement in the garden with other flowering shrubs. What charming impact: a wonderful new addition to the landscape border, with two seasons of flower and dark-green foliage that stands up to summer heat!

Philadelphus 'Snow White Sensation'™

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Avg. Height x Width: 5' - 6'
Hardiness Zone: 5 - 8
Soil Drainage: Moist/Well Drained

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Master Gardeners 19th Annual Spring Garden Fair & Plant Sale

Next Sunday May 18th from noon - 5pm is the Master Gardener's of Union County annual plant sale. It will be held at Trailside Nature & Science Center in Mountainside.

Did you know that everyone that goes into the master gardener program pledges 60 hours of community service! I don't know of any volunteer group that pledges so much time, and some of the Master Gardeners that I know have put in ten times this amount. The Master Gardners is a program of the Rutgers NJ agricultural Experiment Station. If your interested in more information on the Master Gardener program call 908-654-9854 or click here for their new website.

These are a few of the features:

  • Free Admission
  • Large Variety of Plants
  • Handmade Arts and Crafts
  • Cafe & Bake Sale
  • Children's Activities
  • Demonstration Garden Tours
  • Plant & Insect Problems Clinic
  • Hort Therapy Displays
  • Soil Test Kits for Sale
  • FREE Rutgers Fact Sheets
Feel Free, if your a Master Gardener to add to this post, or sign your name and say hello.

-Dave Williams

Speedy birds

We know its spring when the birds start singing and building their
nests. Snapped this shot in a pot if speedwell. (Veronica spicata 'Red