If Duke Farms can live with dandelions, should I?

183B6D70-D1D0-40C1-98C6-54610F440B89I finally visited Duke Farms in Hillsborough. This is the former estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, which until not that many years ago was only open for tours. The foundation that runs the place has made some changes — her house has been torn down, and the focus is even more on sustainability and native plantings. Clearly that includes no (or perhaps minimal) pesticides, and their gardeners have not been charged with digging up dandelions or my other nemesis, hairy bitter cress.

Given that I filled the better part of a five-gallon bucket with dug-up dandelions yesterday and have another two giant recycling buckets full of hairy bitter cress just waiting for the monthly yard waste and brush collection, should I just learn to chill?

I hope to be back in a few months to see the meadow in bloom. But do not come here looking for a traditional garden with lots of flower beds.

Here are some other images from the day:

A ruin? The foundation of the mansion James Duke stopped building after his tobacco business was broken up.

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Another ruin? The remains of the burned-out hay barn and what I think sums up Doris’ taste in sculptures:

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The coach barn (first for horses, then for cars) … because every garage needs a clock tower.

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No, this wasn’t the house.

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The Durham bull, to pair with the one I saw on a bike trip through Durham

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Can I have a piece of this hosta? I like variegated ones.

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And some brilliantly colored orchids in the Orchid Range (Doris was big on orchids).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Thanksgiving weekend dilemma

Planting these was a daunting task
Planting this big bag of bulbs was a daunting task

I bought more daffodil bulbs.

Yes, I know we have hundreds (likely 1,000+, since they keep naturalizing) already in the yard. Yes, I know I didn’t need more.

I tried to resist. I resisted the offer of two bags of 50 mixed bulbs for $12 at an area garden center. I resisted an email fall clearance offer, though after some internal debate. I resisted when a friend emailed about it, suggesting we go in on an order. Everything 35% off! But when he repeated the offer and said he was ordering the next day, I took another look. Not just at those listed in the email but all the daffodils on the website. And when I saw the mixed assortment of “double” daffodils — fragrant, frilly, showy — well, I caved.

Irrresistable, right?
Irresistable, right?

The smallest pack was 50 bulbs. But I’d already fallen off the wagon, so why show restraint now? I figured I’d get 100 and worry about where to plant them later.

Fortunately, my friend missed that part of my request and only ordered 50 for me.

I picked up the bulbs on Thanksgiving morning and just stared at the size of that bag. What had I done? Where would they all go? I didn’t know where the other bulbs were, just that they were all over the flower beds. And I’d moved some in the spring from a back bed that hasn’t worked out. At least then I could see where I could squeeze them in. But after all that, did I have any space left?

Just some of the daffodil bulbs I dug up and found new homes for in the spring.
Just some of the daffodil bulbs I dug up and found new homes for in the spring.

No time like the present to do a bit more “editing” of the beds .. thin out some, move some others. And yes, try to find room for daffodil bulbs.

I had some early success, but then it got hard. I’d dig — and slice through some bulbs. (I hope they can heal.) Time to be more careful. I would find a spot — and tuck in one, maybe two bulbs. This was slow-going. I eventually got about 30 in the ground and had no idea where to put the last 20. I really didn’t want to create a fresh bed, and I didn’t want to put them in a section of the front beds where I’d rarely see them. Could I put them in one of the raised vegetable beds for the winter and transplant them in May or June, when I could see the gaps? That might mess up the spring peas, or the tomatoes or …

But maybe somewhere else where they could later be moved? I settled on a spot in front of our garden bench, visible from the kitchen window. It nicely connected a flower bed and a lemongrass plant that just expanded and expanded over the summer (and now is indoors) on one end and that weigela we’d planted in the spring on the other. (Yes, the bench will likely get squeezed out as the shrub grows.). Plus it was an excuse to clear out some mock strawberry (a pointless effort, I know, but it made me feel good). The bulbs will stretch along the length of the bench and beyond, look pretty in the spring and yet be easy to transplant.

Done!

When I’m tempted again next year, I should read this again and just keep saying no. Unless, of course, I’ve created a new bed in anticipation.

Just how early are the daffodils this year?

I’ll leave it to others to debate fluke mild winter vs. global warming. I’ll just point out that I spotted five daffodils blooming in our yard on Thursday, and two days later the number has quadrupled. I shouldn’t be surprised — we had them peeking up through the ground at Christmas, and temperatures hit 70 again this week.

Here’s what the blog tells me about when we first saw daffodils in other years:

2010 — March 19

2012 — March 2

2013 — March 21

2014 — April 1

Obviously my record-keeping is a bit(!) inconsistent.

Here are three of the blooms spotted this March 10:

Daffodils bloom early in New Jersey

Our Seventh Raised Bed Wasn’t My Idea!

The Brit has decided we need a new bed for salad greens and herbs with an easy-off top that will make the plants more easily accessible than in Fort Knox.

So off we went to Lowe’s today to buy wood for a (small!) four-by-four bed, plus the plastic pipes that will support the chicken-wire cover (including a top). The frame is done, as you can see, and the rest will be done sometime in the next week or so, around work and travel. He’s got some elaborate plan for soil mixture, courtesy of Square-Foot Gardening, though he says he is looking for a more sustainable alternative to peat moss. Feel free to weigh in. I think it’s all yet another attempt to find a way to win against the squirrels with strawberry plants.

On Saturday, we harvested some leeks that had fattened up over the winter. Yum! They were skinny seedlings, about the thickness of a blade of grass, packed in a four-pack that he found in Michigan last May. Not bad…

 

Finally, the garden is looking very green, and I feel like we have filled in the flower beds even more than last year. A few bearded iris have bloomed, and I think the big pop is just a few days away. I’ve spotted a few tiny, bright yellow petticoat-like daffodils, but otherwise they are gone. The creeping phlox also is starting to fade. The big color right now is from the columbines:

purple and white winky-wink columbines