“Summer Garden Experince” – Trial Gardens

Trail Gardens - Summer Garden Experience 2015

Trial Gardens -” Summer Garden Experience” 2015

Summer Experience - Trial Garden 2015

Summer Experience – Trial Garden 2015

Saturday began with myself and a bus load of Penn State Master Gardeners off to “Summer Garden Experience”. An event that takes place at the PSU Southeast Research Farm, Landisville Variety Trials in Manheim, PA.

Trial Gardens -2015

Trial Gardens -2015

The anticipation of what lay ahead for the day was enhanced by the opportunity to socialize with fellow Master Gardeners. The bus was filled with chatter about what we may find and what we hoped to see.

Upon arrival you are greeted by the rows and rows of wonderful plants and information some of the newest and improved plants that are being introduced to commercial growers and gardeners. There are flowers, vegetables, and garden ideas. Tours are provided to see fields of produce trials as well. There are working Gardens to satisfy just about every gardeners fancy. From butterfly attraction to rain gardens and how to create your own. Green Roof construction was offered along with Green Roof plant Selection & Care.

There were speakers on hand to talk about everything regarding gardening for flowers, vegetables, bees and there were cute fairy gardens tucked throughout the vegetable garden…very nice.

Speaker Lee Reich, PhD, spoke about how to “Grow Good Fruit Naturally & Easily” along with “Fruits for Small Gardens”.  George Weigel, PA Certified Horticulturist provide “Beneficial’s & Biologicals in the Garden” and “Eat Your Yard”. Both were very easy to understand and both shared great tips.

Trial Gardens -2015 Wheel Bug

Trial Gardens -2015
Wheel Bug

All in all this was a great day – so full of information, ideas and wonderful people. In the “Pollinator Garden” I was able to get a picture of a wheel bug actually consuming a Japanese beetle. He would be considered a “beneficial” bug. Mountain mint was another plant I found to be a butterfly magnet. I could go on and on. Gardening is something everyone can do in so many different ways. Until later, El

"Summer Garden Experience" - Trail Gardens 2015

“Summer Garden Experience” – Trial Gardens 2015

Afternoon Delight……


Butterfly bush: Buddleia - davidii "Dubonnet"

Butterfly bush: Buddleia – davidii “Dubonnet”

As with all things “waiting is the hardest part”. My “Little Shangri-La” aka “She shed”, “Backyard Getaway” is progressing nicely. My wonderful husband David along with our two terrific sons worked on this surprise for me while I was out of town visiting our beautiful daughter and family. This will be my new writing space and a place others can go and enjoy the beauty of being tucked in with nature. So it is with great anticipation I look forward to moving my books and writing materials in.  I took another peek this afternoon and it is amazing.

Early afternoon in the garden is perhaps one of my favorite times of the day. Today especially, there is no humidity it’s a warm 82 degrees and its Friday. The air is a buzz with the sound of pollinators and the gentle tingle of the glass wind chimes. Songs of the neighborhood birds in the surrounding trees hidden from view fill the air. My constant companion Espen our cat is busy dreaming her own sweet dreams.



Cumru 2015 Buddleia: davidii - "Dubonnet"

Cumru 2015 Buddleia: davidii – “Dubonnet”

A yellow swallow tail has just flittered by on its way up to the butterfly bush.   My Butterfly bush – Buddleia: davidii “Dubonnet”, is a great pollinator. This particular variety is one that blooms early in June on old & new wood.  The beautiful soft fragrant flower is purple/violet with a small deep orange throat. This plant is an easy one to please, likes loamy soil, full sun and drought tolerant. The leaves are light green/gray. The branches can grow long and require a lot of space in ones’ garden or you can trim and keep it as a shrub. The branches are light enough so that as the blooms bloom and cascade they are able to gentle sway with the lightest breeze. Which adds to the beauty of this plant. Yes, it has been labeled invasive in some states, PA is one.  With regular garden maintenance it does just fine in the garden. There are varieties – hybrids that will perform as designed. Buddleia: davidii “Dubonnet” is one of my favorites for the garden. It can even be a container planting. No matter where you plant one it is sure to be a butterfly / pollinator magnet.

Buddleia - davidii: "Dubonnet"

Buddleia – davidii: “Dubonnet”

Hummingbirds enjoy visiting as well as butterflies, bees and flies who look like a bee. Bees will have two sets of wings while the bee fly will have only one set. Then of course there is the moth who forages for food before dusk and aren’t quite sure if they are butterflies or moths. Today there were black swallow tail, yellow swallow tail and monarch butterflies visiting and it was such an afternoon delight! Until later, El

Garden Delights from the Garden……..

Berks County is really lucky to have a nice variety of Farmers Markets with wonderful heirloom vegetables, flowers, cheese and so much more.  I chose Antietam’s Farmers Market on Saturday and it was so pleasant.   This venue was smaller, but don’t be fooled as it has a very nice selection for those mornings you don’t have a lot of time to spend on wandering.  As you can see, I found a few different heirloom tomatoes.  The grower knew her products and was so eager to share the information. The selection of flowers was nice too. The flavor of vegetables fresh from the farm have a true taste all their own.  Treat your self and your family.

Sunflowers, heirloom tomatoes, acorn squash and rosemary bread.

Sunflowers, heirloom tomatoes, acorn squash and rosemary bread

Here are a few of the local Farmers Markets in Berks County

  • PA Dutch Market : 845 Woodland Rd., Wyomissing (https://farmersmarketofwyomissing.com )
  • Fairgrounds Farmers Market 2934 N. 5th St. Hwy, Reading.(https://fairgroundsfarmersmarket.com)allow your self time to discover all the different vendors.
  • Shillington Farmers Market, 10 S. Summit Ave. Shillington, Pa.  What better way to get to know what your community has to offer.
vegetable beds




Vegetables growing in earth boxes & soil.

Vegetables growing in earth boxes & pots..

raised veggie bed

raised veggie bed



I hope you take the time to explore your neighborhood Farmers Markets and discover how good fresh can taste.  Until later, El


A Sunny Disposition…..until the next storm.




Cumru 2015: Cone Flower, Bee Balm, Hydrangeas &  day- lilies

Cumru 2015: Cone Flower, Bee Balm, Hydrangeas & day- lilies

Rain, rain and more rain has been happening here in Berks County gardens.

Tomatoes are currently being hit the hardest along with a few other garden plants. As I survey the situation I found myself engulfed by the early morning air which is filled with the sweet song sung by unseen birds – accented by the buzz of the pollinators already working.  The Black Eyed Susan sway as nature’s guest land upon it.   As if by magic a small light-green praying mantis suddenly appears before my half open eyes, as if to greet me.  It is so easy to stroll along the rain soaked grass, usually in July we here in Berks County don’t often experience this.  Oh, the occasional thunder storm was a nice welcome from July’s hot summer sun. Recently here in Berks county we have experienced our fair share of odd summer weather. Rain has been our constant companion. the small moments within our gardens and the promise of what they will bring can bring one’s disposition back to joy.  There is still time to plant beans, corn, eggplant, peppers along with other grown above ground vegetables according to the, “Farmers Almanac ” which uses an “old-age formula” aka “Moon Calendar”.  The best dates to plant these yummy vegetables are July 21/22, 23rd thru 25 and July 30/31.  (website:  https.://farmersalmanac.com/calender/gardening/)  Thought can even be given to early fall planting crops.

By now most gardeners are silently wishing for a few more days of those long ago remembered hot July sun filled days.   My tomatoes are not where they should be. They appear to be withering on the vine.  What can be done? First thing is to inspect your tomato stems – you are looking for any pitting, caving or sunken spots.  If you found any your plant is doomed for the compost pile.  Those pitted, caved or indents are fungal disease.  If  none were found –  that’s a good thing, there is still hope. Can your water drenched tomato & pepper plants be saved – I would say only if the stems are firm and leaves are present.    The first thing you will want to do is get them off the ground, don’t allow the fruit to set on the ground this can encourage another problem.  What I did was get a stake 1/2″ x 1/2″ by 4 ft. place it beside your plant and use twist ties or hemp to secure the plant to the stake.  Then remove the lower leaves. This will aid in the plant focusing on producing fruit while allowing air circulation to keep the soil moist not soggy.

Cumru - 2015 Red Chile Peppers

Cumru – 2015 Red Chile Peppers


These chile peppers are doing well – their stems are strong and the peppers are without damage, so far.

Herbs can pinched back to keep them from flowering and allowing for a longer growing season, as shown I pinched the flower bud that was beginning.

Cumru 2015: Basil

Cumru 2015: Basil





Cumru 2015: Cone Flower, Bee Balm, Hydrangeas &  day- lilies

Cumru 2015: Cone Flower, Bee Balm, Hydrangeas & day- lilies

I can say my hydrangeas (hydrangea macrophage) are doing extremely well.  As my wondering eye moves through the garden I must admit I simply love those large round mop head hydrangea.  as you can see they are beauties that will bloom until the end of the summer season, early fall.  You can prune to the next new bud and you can clip off any dead/unsightly wood stems.  You should also clip a few flowers to vase, they can also be dried and used in making wreaths.  Any questions, email mail me here and together we will get the right answers.  Until later, El


For your FYI: From Caterpillar to Butterfly -Wed. July 29th @ 10am

at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary – Kempton, Pennsylvania.

Cumru 2015 : Hydrangea Macrophylla

Cumru 2015 : Hydrangea Macrophylla

What to plant under an oak tree…

Our oak tree - Cumru 2014

Our oak tree – Cumru 2014

       Here in Berks County we are blessed with many varieties of oak tree’s, but along with the blessing of a great oak is the challenge of what can be planted with it.  Some  simply leave the oak to itself and it does fine.  But for those who feel the mighty oak needs added dressing here are few ideas.  Oak tree’s like dry, light alkaline soil so companion plantings also must enjoy dry conditions along with filtered sun to part shade.  Just a quick reminder, annuals look pretty except the water needed to keep them going can invite unwanted problems to the oak tree’s roots, called oak root fungus.  To avoid the open invitation plant companion plantings at least 3 feet to 5 feet from the trees trunk.  And please don’t add mulch up and around the trunk in the “volcano” fashion which can also invite problems.

     A few wonderful companion plantings are hosta, iris, astillbe, bleeding heart, lady’s mantle and one of my favorites heuchera.  Heuchera has become a garden must have, there are so many color varieties.  This herbaceous perennial can begin flowering late spring thru late summer while still providing winter interest.  Birds enjoy it, can be use as a cut flower and its low maintenance factor is a real benefit.  Along with being a native in North America, fertilizing can be as easy as an osmocote type slow release fertilizer every 3-4 months.  Dividing is advised every few years – or as needed.

Astillbe - 2014 Cumru

Astillbe – 2014 Cumru


     In the photo, vinca darts blue, hosta, ornamental grass and Sedum ” golden teardrop”  have been used to add interest to a spot near the driveway.  The different colors and textures add to the whole look.  The sedum spreads quickly, I found it easy to manage.  The planting appear closer than they actually are.  This area is slightly sloped and gets snow in winter, while in spring and summer dappled sun.

Hosta, vinca darts blue and sedum " golden teadrop" with an oak tree. 2014 Cumru

Hosta, Vinca darts blue and Sedum ” golden teardrop” & ornatmental grass with an oak tree. 2014 Cumru

 Then again there are times when less is more and looks just the way it should.  Let your creativity go when adding to your garden – just remmber : “Right plant – Right place”.    Until later, El

oak tree - Cumru 2014

oak tree – Cumru 2014

Summer has arrivied…




  Here we are the day after the Summer Solstice, the sun is shinning, there is a slight breeze here in Cumru, and in the background are the wonderful songs of our native birds mixed among the buzzing of the day’s early risers.  Mornings are so pleasant here in the garden, already  mother natures creatures are fluttering about.

   As the month of June comes to a close, there is still time to plant a flowering garden to please.  A favorite of mine is the “herbaceous perennial” Becky Shasta Daisy” – this a beautiful white petal flower with a sun yellow center that blooms from June well into September.  Becky Shasta Daisy can grow between 3 to 4 feet and spreading 2′ to 3′  and will need dividing every 2 to 3 years to encourage continue vigor.  This gem of a perennial has other positive usefulness beginning with 1) deer don’t like it.  2) drought tolerant – labeled as a xeriscape planting.  3) a great cut flower. 4)  Attracts pollinators – bees, butterflies and birds.



Another garden perennial that goes well in the garden now through September is Echinacea coneflower – Merlot (purple) and White Secret (white) are two favorite Echinacea varieties do to the fact they are drought tolerant and only require good air circulation ( just don’t crowd – less is more).  These grow 1-3ft and spread about 3 feet.  Attract pollinators.  Both are deer and rabbit resistant along with both are fragrant.  During winter these beauties do another task beside winter interest, they provide food for native song birds.


Xeriscaping landscaping is basically grouping plants with the same water and sun requirements together that tolerate drought like conditions.  Enjoy!  until later,  El