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September 2020

More Flowers Now!

The entrance to Janet Gentles Larkin’s garden is a mailbox that says “A gardener lives here.” With four-foot zinnias, iris, sedum and Spanish flag scrambling over the mailbox, who could doubt it? Even a nearby telephone pole sports blue/white salvia, daylilies, mums, and coreopsis.

On a berm along the front yard property line, white pines rise, their soft foliage in pleasant harmony with hosta, hellebore, peony and other perennial greenery, from a base of myrtle. Surprisingly, a standard wisteria gently weeps with remarkable control. In front of the house, large pink and white hydrangea blossoms call me to cuddle, cheek to puffy flowers. I must have a pillow like them.

Around back, a terrace looks painterly, art from Nature with pink and white garden phlox, caryopteris and other perennials among vibrant annuals and tropicals. Two tables, under the high shade of a grand silver maple, display a montage of annuals planted in Janet’s yard sale finds.

The property is in New Jersey’s Great Valley Region of the Appalachian Mountains on a shale ridge. Here, you can sit on a perfectly placed bench looking out over rolling green hills with a view of the distant, eroded Appalachians.

On the outside of the berm that faces the view, hellebore, iris, caryopteris, grasses and other shrubs and perennials spill down the slope. Even succulents have jumped into the lawn like footprints in the sand.

There are trees galore on this land: white pine, spruce, cherry, maples… each grounded in a small garden. All are connected by a few constants including sedum, dahlias, myrtle, hosta and daylilies.

In their midst, a terraced flower garden appears like a dream. A weathered picket fence, grey with age and encrusted with lichens, encloses dahlias, sunflowers, garden phlox and a multitude of colorful annuals and perennials. Like the glass balls on a Christmas tree, I want to gently squeeze puffy white zinnias.

Says Janet: “There are more flowers today. Did you see the new ones?”

A Few Tips from Janet
How to overwinter dahlia tubers: Dig up the tubers and put in a plastic nursery pot. Some of her biggest tubers get put in a 3 or 5 gallon pot. Then stack them in the garage against the wall. They get just the right moisture from the tender perennials (subtropicals) that she also overwinters in the garage, and that get watered every two weeks.

How to force spring bulbs for gifts: Hunt now for baskets at yard sales. After washing them, pretreat the baskets with clear Flex Seal. While still damp, cover the bottoms with coffee filters to keep the soil in. Plant the bulbs. Put the baskets of bulbs outside in a protected area. They must be cold and it’s ok if they freeze.

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