Changing your hydrangea color

Changing the color of your hydrangea can seem daunting, but it can actually be pretty easy if you have patience!

Hydrangea color can be changed by adjusting the pH of your soil, but it isn’t an instant change, and not all hydrangeas can be altered. If you have a big-leaf or mountain hydrangea you can change their color with time but only if they are already a shade of blue, purple or pink. If they are white they can not be changed. It may also be difficult to switch colors if the flowers had an extreme hue when you planted them. (For example, if the hydrangea was an ultra deep blue or purple, it may be near impossible to switch it to pink). It is also much easier to switch from pink to blue, but blue to pink is not impossible!

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In order to begin the color-change process you will need to test your soil. You may not have to change the soil… if you bought a pink hydrangea last year and decided that your judgment was off, your soil may automatically change your hydrangea over on its own after a few years without you having to lift a finger. But you’ll never know until you test!

Blue hydrangeas love acidic soil with a pH between 5.2 and 5.5.
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Pink hydrangeas  thrive in alkaline soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0

hydrangea flowers in bright pink color

Like I mentioned before, the first step is to test your soil. You may want to change your pink hydrangea to blue, but your soil might already be doing that for you. You need to find your pH level.

If you want to acidify your soil for a deep blue hydrangea you will need to apply Color Me Blue in 60 day intervals over the course of the growing season.

Same goes for pink! Apply Color Me Pink or Garden Lime in 60 day intervals over the course of the growing season. Also take note if your hydrangea is planted near a sidewalk or walkway. Lime that leaches from concrete will make it more likely that your hydrangea will be or will turn pink.

Your color change will be gradual and may take a few years! Don’t get discouraged, you will start to see your blooms change eventually. Your hydrangea may possibly bloom with three different colors on it at one time! How awesome would that be?

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Have fun and good luck and feel free to contact us if you have any questions! We are also able to test your soil for you for free! Make sure to bring in a bucket or ziplock bag of soil (at least 1-2 cups) and we can tell you your pH level.

 

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Boxwood Blight

On this March day, I’m already thinking about what the spring will bring– new plants, new gardens, and new diseases.  That last one is sometimes my least favorite thing about gardening.  And this year’s new disease is boxwood blight, which is caused by a fungus called Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum.

Boxwood blight hasn’t been around for all that long.  It was first identified in the United States in 2011, and in New Jersey late in 2013.  And since boxwoods are such a landscape staple, anything that attacks them is of immediate concern.  The hosts of boxwood blight include all types of boxwood, pachysandra, and Sarcococca.  Dwarf English and American boxwood are particularly susceptible to this disease.

Boxwood blight is a disease with particularly distinctive symptoms.  The leaves develop brown lesions with dark borders, and the infected leaves will turn brown or straw colored.  The stems will develop angular brown or black lesions.  Leaf drop occurs shortly after the lesions appear.  The defoliation will begin near the tips and proceed into the plant, giving it a strange, twiggy appearance.  The disease can spread very rapidly from plant to plant.

Unfortunately, there is no available cure for boxwood blight.  However, there are some preventative measures which can be taken.  When purchasing new boxwood plants, make sure to inspect for any of the symptoms.  In boxwood plantings, be sure plants have enough space for good air flow and rake leaf debris away from the plants, as the fungus can live in the leaves for up to five years.  If your plants begin to exhibit the symptoms of boxwood blight, the whole plant should be removed immediately and placed in a plastic bag.  Infected plants should never be composted.

Some alternatives to boxwood include:

  • Japanese holly
  • Rhododendrons
  • Cherry laurels
  • Japanese andromeda
  • Japanese plum yew

All of these plants are evergreens which can be used in similar ways to boxwood.

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Are Millennials Setting the New Gardening Trends?

Originally posted on Dishing the Dirt:

I’m perusing through all the catalogs I gathered when I visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden recently for their annual Plant-O-Rama.http://www.bbg.org/visit/event/plant_o_rama_2014

One of the main reasons I attended the symposium was to listen to David L. Culp, VP, Marketing & Sales, at Sunny Border Nurseries, in  Kensington, CT talk about NEW DIRECTIONS IN HORTICULTURE:
A layered look at plant and garden trends. He discussed what makes a trend. Such as political influence, socioeconomic influence, historical influence and current design trends.  The one that really stood out for me was socio-economic influence.  Why is that you ask. Well, there happens to be a whole new generation of buying power hitting the market. They age from 18-24 and they are called the millennial generation.  This generation cares about the environment and social issues; they’re tech-savvy and the are going to be the key demographic for retail in the coming years.

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According to…

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Calling all Birders – I need Help

Stuck home in the snow again.  The birds are out in force and I have been out several times to shovel the ground and spread more food.  I was contemplating running down town this morning before the snow got too deep to get another bag of mixed food for my ground feeders, but my other half had some choice words to say about my sanity so… I am making do with what I have.   Maybe the Fam has a point when they make cracks about the Crazy Bird Lady…????

sparrow in one of last weeks ice storms

sparrow in one of last weeks ice storms

Dove in this mornings snow

Dove in this mornings snow

finch waiting for a free spot on the feeder

finch waiting for a free spot on the feeder

Female Cardinal after last weeks ice

Female Cardinal after last weeks ice

Todd and Jim  - remember the tree you strapped on my car for the birds on my deck??

Todd and Jim – remember the tree you strapped on my car for the birds on my deck??

     After Christmas every year our Christmas tree gets strapped to the deck railing until Spring.  It’s a landing spot for everyone who comes to eat at the feeders on my deck.  It enhances the potted shrubs and trees I keep clustered on the deck for the same purpose.  Overnight it’s a serious Junco Roost.  In the morning over coffee I am continually amazed at how many of the little snow birds come hopping out of it.  This year I added a large evergreen that was headed for the chipper at work.  It uprooted in a storm and although we uprighted it and tried to wire it in place it kept falling over.  So….here comes the crazy bird lady thing again. I saw it in the heap waiting for the Chipper to arrive and had to have it.   The week  after Christmas Jim and Todd strapped this huge tree to the roof of my Highlander.  The trunk extended out over my hood and the top was overhanging the back of my car – it was quite a sight.  I did notice some strange looks out on Route 80, it was after all, not tree carting time.  Since it’s fairly close to the house and I am taking pictures from the window inside I can’t capture the whole tree.  The picture above shows just a small section of it and a sampling of the birds who are sitting in it at any given moment.  Well worth the funny looks on the highway – and from my co-workers too!!

junco warming in the sun after stuffing himself

junco warming in the sun after stuffing himself

So the main point of this post is that I  need help ID-ing this bird.  I know he’s a bit mixed up, he has one yellow leg and one brown.  He looks like a Junco – except for the wing bars that are very pronounced on his back.  He looks like a Junco but he is a serious double scratcher with his feet, when he is foraging for seed,  very Towhee-like.    The Junco’s aggressively chase other birds that get in the way of their eating – but not this guy.    He’s been coming around for a few weeks and I finally got a few pictures where you can hopefully get a good look.  Ami, Mom, Maura, Mary……..?????   Does anybody know what I have here?

mystery bird and a finch

mystery bird and a finch

Check out the white bands on his wings

Check out the white bands on his wings

a little closer

a little closer

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Filed under nature, Personal, Photography, Spring, Storms, Winter

Talking Dirt

Originally posted on Dishing the Dirt:

Just sitting here by the fire thinking about doing just that. Talking dirt. Do we really talk dirt? I know we can sit around dishing the dirt with our friends and gossip about the dirt they dug up about the new neighbor or, after that gets boring, we can compare notes on how we purchased something recently and it was dirt cheap!

We also can also dig in the dirt during which we can get really dirty doing it which for me, is clean fun. If you’re lucky, you might just hit pay dirt but you will then have dirty money which is such a dirty trick.

Back in the day, you could say someone was as common as dirt or dirt poor because they had to eat dirt and maybe have to drink dirty water. Yuck. I would rather smell dirt.

If the dirt happens to be wet for…

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Seed Droppers

Self sowing plants – do you welcome them or not?  I have some faves that I let go wild.   Actually, probably more go wild than are controlled in my garden , if the truth is going to be told here.  Plants that throw themselves around willy-nilly often end up in a spot that they look great in.   Okay – not always,  but those that are an eyesore can easily be removed.    Well,  maybe not all so easily either – some are a damn nuisance and a real challenge to remove.  Moving on…..

One of the top on my list to let go wild is Verbena Bonariensis.  It’s wispy stems can come up anywhere in the midst of other plants and rise above everything that surrounds them.  Very rarely does it clash and need to be removed.    It blooms all summer, is a butterfly and bee magnet, and in the fall the gold finches spend their days picking the seeds out of the flower heads.   What’s not to love about this plant?  My niece, who is a gardener and a garden designer generally abhors it.   On this note we differ.  It plants itself where it doesn’t belong which I love and she doesn’t.

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verbena b. and allium grow in gravel

verbena b. and allium grow
in gravel

verbena bonariensis

verbena bonariensis

Verbena coming up in Amsonia - another re-seeder

Verbena coming up in Amsonia – another re-seeder

The Verbena and the Allium will grow along the gravel that’s in my driveway.  The Allium is a re-seeder that’s not quite as easy to control as the Verbena but you take the good with the bad.  If it comes up where you don’t want it a shovel is necessary to get rid of it – you can’t just pluck it out.  It has those nasty deep onion roots.  Pretty when it blooms and when it goes to seed I am willing to put up with it’s nasty habits.  If I didn’t want it to spread all over my yard I could cut it back once the flowers were finished but then I would miss this show.

seed heads of allium

seed heads of allium

Salvia azurea is another seed dropper that I would never get rid of .  It blooms late in the summer alongside the Allium and Crape Myrtle and the bees go wild for it.  The sky blue color always causes people to stop and ask what’s blooming.  It’s tall and showy and easily moved.   And did I mention that it’s sky blue?

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Rose campion and Echinacea and Agastache oh my.  They are all  left to do as they please as well.  Sometimes the Rose Campion can come up in a spot that is truly not wonderful – the color is a loud magenta and does not match everything it plants itself near.  The young plants are easily spotted and moved though.  Since it’s a biennial there is time to notice  it when it’s young and move it long before it sends those garish flowers up.   The cone flowers and Agastache don’t really clash with anything and are both very attractive to all my flying friends.  Bees, birds, and butterflies love both of these plants.

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white carpet roses and rose campion mingle nicely

white carpet roses and rose campion mingle nicely

agastache coming up in between rocks in a wall

agastache coming up in between rocks in a wall

goldfinch enjoying seeds of spent cone flower

goldfinch enjoying seeds of spent cone flower

finch picking the seeds out of agastache

finch picking the seeds out of agastache

Forget Me Nots are easily established and will go wild if you let them.  They mix in a bed with Celandine poppy which was a really pricey  pot when I bought it years ago at Rare Find Nursery.   It has paid for itself many times over.  I have gifted many of them away since they established themselves in my beds.   They come up in all kinds of inhospitable spots where nothing else will grow.  The poppy has even filled in that dead space between the air-conditioning unit and the house, where there is barely any soil.  They also come up right against the foundation where nothing lives. If the poppy gets out of control I just shear it back so that whatever is being shaded out can get some light.  Early in the season when I am most ambitious I move forget-me-nots when there are too many – later when they have gone to seed and hundreds more start coming up I get a little disgusted and throw some in the compost heap.

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forget me nots popping up in lysimachia

forget me nots popping up in lysimachia

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Primula Japonica . Sigh.  If you have ever seen someones garden where this primrose is established you will want some yourself.  I have been trying to establish some for years and finally I seem to have hit the right spot.  The area isn’t  huge but it will satisfy the craving.  Willowwood Arboretum has a carpet of them that is incredible.  I had a pretty lengthy season of bloom here and saw quite a number of seedlings coming up this fall.  I am hoping to have a returning colony this spring!

Primula japonica mixed varieties

Primula japonica mixed varieties

Helleborus Foetidus seeds itself allover the limestone rock hills that surround my mother’s garden.  So annoying!  It’s like a damn weed in her garden and try as I might,  I have yet to have it reseed for me.  Maybe this will be the year.   They all bloomed beautifully and then croaked.  I made sure to spread the seeds around so they didn’t just drop where they fell .   We’ll see…

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Columbine is welcome anywhere as well.  It comes up early and blooms long before many plants make an appearance.  Since it doesn’t choke out other plants I let it go where it wants.  Every year is a surprise,  since you never really know which plant dropped seeds where and what color the seedlings will be.

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I could list many more but I am going to end with a few annuals that come up every year that are always a happy surprise.  Nicotiana – all kinds,  Salvia , Portulaca, Four O’Clocks ( even the Lime colored ones!) and sunflowers that the birds drop everywhere and I usually can’t bear to rip out.  Two years ago I put a pot of portulaca on the teak table you see below.  The following summer portulaca came up between the rocks all around the table.  This year there were more.  They come up in bare spots where the creepers we planted have not filled in.  How do they know?

My portulaca pot that started the explosion on my patio.

My portulaca pot that started the explosion on my patio.

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salvia and nicotiana that volunteered from previous years plantings

salvia and nicotiana that volunteered from previous years plantings

And these fabulous Four O’Clock’s that have been returning for three or four years now.

all volunteers around the birdbath

all volunteers around the birdbath

     My garden is a Garden Designer’s nightmare.  I don’t follow the rules – if it doesn’t work out – then I move it.  It’s my garden so I can do what I want.  Bring on the Self Sowers !

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The Farm Under Ice

Last night’s winter weather left the farm under a coating of ice, so this morning I took some time to walk around and take some pictures of our plants.

IMG_1962The ice really highlights intricate structure of this Japanese maple.

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IMG_1936The ice is also really making the winterberries  stand out.  Their bright berries look even more intense.

IMG_1966The samaras of the paperbark maple limned in ice.

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And of course, the real stars of the show are the evergreens, glittering under their coating of ice.

I hope everyone’s finding the show made by the ice storm as lovely as we are.

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Gardener Gift Guide 2013

In case you weren’t sure….Christmas is in full swing here at the farm. We have cut Christmas trees in the yard, bales of greens, ornaments and decorations galore. Wreaths are arriving tomorrow and along with that comes the madness.

We know that many of you have been or will be here soon for your decorating needs… but why not get your gift shopping done while your at it?

Today we are going to share some gift ideas for the gardener in your life! Here are a few lovely choices…

We have linen sacks of soap that have a Garden Fresh scent. Perfect to keep next to the sink in your kitchen or powder room. (We catch people sniffing them every day!) Recycle the bag by stowing seeds, jewelry or re-gifting!

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The gardeners best friend, a stool that can easily be picked up by the handles and carried with you. It also works as a utility belt/apron with pockets for all of your gadgets.

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We have a new line of classic wood handled tools this year at affordable prices. Much prettier than those plastic handled ones, and they fit great in a stocking.

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For the go-green recyclers in your family that love house plants, Plant Nannies are a great gift! We have them for wine bottles and plastic bottles. For those looking for a prettier option, we also sell glass clear glass watering globes. Also a great stocking stuffer or gift swap item!

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Here is an awesome gift for a veggie gardener. Whether they are a beginner or an old pro this book is chock full of tips and tricks for veggie lovers. A fun winter treat because you can spend some time planning for the spring. Paired with a set of herb scissors this will make any health-food connoisseur happy!

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We also have a variety of fancy rain gauges, bird houses, feeders and bulbs for your outdoorsman or woman! Another gift guide to come this week.. stay tuned. Happy shopping!

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Hello!

Hi old friends. It’s been a veryyy long time since we’ve popped in here. A lot has been happening here at the Farm and we hope you can forgive our absence. (Even though there really is no excuse for us not posting anything since AUGUST!)

Since then we have been making strides and racing around. Mum season has come and gone and we are in a mad dash to get the Christmas House up and running. We are almost there, the bones are in and the shelves are organized (for the most part). What’s left are just a few decorated trees, some bow tying, and a finishing touch here and there. But don’t fret! We are always open for business, and we welcome you to come dig through boxes with us. We know how you like to be the first to grab something before its gone. ;) Yup, I’m talking to you.

On the other side of things, we have been doing some planning for the Spring. We are working on a new program that will help enable us to do free soil testing for customers. How many times have you heard, “you really should test your soil first”, or “maybe there’s something wrong with your soil”, but where do you go from there? It could be anything. Too acidic, not acidic enough, etc. Maybe you want to plant a Rhododendron but you have no clue if your soil is appropriate for it. Well we are trying to make life easy with free soil testing here on the premises so that we can attempt to solve your problems on the spot. Sounds nice right?  More details to follow, but it is definitely in the works!

Another area we would like to dip into is pond planning and pond plants. Every spring we get questions about ponds and if we carry pond plants. Usually the answer is no, or we may suggest a few plants that like to get their feet wet…but never a set in stone list of plants that say, “hey, stick me in your pond, I’ll love it.” So this winter we plan on gaining some knowledge and opening a small pond department in along side with the annuals. Let us know if you’re interested in this new endeavor!

For right now, that’s it. Come in and see us if you miss our witty, sarcastic banter! We love to see your familiar faces. And don’t forget that Christmas time is here…. even though it isn’t quite Halloween yet (we still have decorations and some pumpkins by the way!).

We will be back soon with some photos, stories, articles, etc! Please keep checking back. :)

Love,

The farm family.

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Passing Fancy

This phlox was there one day the next it was MIA

This phlox was there one day the next it was MIA

Meet the Kudzu of my northern garden.    Gardeners cannot believe it is hardy here in Northwest Jersey.    Once it starts blooming most people who see  are awed and envious.  Others smirk knowingly and shake their heads.  It is dug and shared.  Not reluctantly, for I am not selfish, but with serious warnings about it’s nasty habits.  Explanations of it’s undisciplined behavior go unheeded to gardeners who cannot see past the beauty and uniqueness of the flower long enough to see the havoc it wreaks in my garden.  They become irrational and have to have it.  I have been there, I know the look, recognize the need.  It’s a disease and I have it too.  They just want it and have to have it.  End of story.

Years ago a “friend” gave me an ampelopsis vine as a gift.  I believe it was from Hine’s Nursery.  What fabulous variegated leaves.  Oh the shape.  Cobalt blue berries you say.  Oh my , yes please and thank you.    One of many scourge’s I have introduced to my garden out of curiosity.  The need to plant something I don’t yet have ……nah let’s face it – pure Garden Greed.  This one ate our deck,  as well as the kids sliding board.  It was a Japanese beetle magnet.   They loved the taste of it.  So much for the beautiful foliage. Birds dropped the seeds all over our yard and it came up everywhere.   As I type this my hackles are coming up and I might have to rethink a thirty-some year friendship.  What kind of a friend gifts a kudzu-like vine?  I notice there isn’t one growing in your yard Tom Feury!  Welcome recipient would like to give her gift back now.  Twenty some years later we believe we have finally eradicated the predator.

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Drunken bumblebees stagger around on the blooms all day

Mistakes are made and paid for for years to come.    I am thinking  Lysimachia clethroides and Aegopodium .  Blame it on horticultural greed.  Other mistakes could be blamed on my youth.   This Passiflora problem was just outright greed and stupidity.  Not hardy in this zone my arse.  It’s got a mind of it’s own.    I put in a post for the vine to cling to.  It comes up absolutely everywhere but near the post that was installed for it.  There is a lovely variegated caryopteris in my garden but where I don’t know because it is covered with this damn vine.  Phlox and heather have gone missing this year.  It never comes up in the same spot.  No matter how much I dig and give away or throw out there is always more next year.    When my friend Leslie realizes what she has done by taking many pieces of this home and unleashing it in her own formerly neat and organized garden she may want to rethink our friendship.  I will have to remind her of all the warnings.  I tried to talk her out of it.  Then I suggested she plant it within something that it could not escape , as if it were bamboo.  Finally I smirked, shook my head and dug her a handful of vines.    Just remember that I said you should go home and forget about it.  You go and plant that vine now and Enjoy!

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The Caryopteris (White Surprise Possibly?) poking a few leaves out for sunlight

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