Archive for the ‘Gardening in Ocean Grove’ Category

Eileens 2022 December version of her hibiscus. Blogfinger photo.

This 6 year old hibiscus is currently making believe that it is in the tropics while sitting at a sunny window in our living room.  12/26/22. Blogfinger photo.


Eileen Goldfinger tends her OG garden in September. She ran the 1st annual Blogfinger People’s Garden tour in 2014. The rainbow was a surprise.



By Eileen Goldfinger, Food and home editor @Blogfinger  and Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger. 2013 re-post:

Eileen usually has flowering hibiscus plants in our Ocean Grove garden, and they always have beautiful blooms.  But this year we decided to bring one of those plants into the house to see if we can enjoy the flowers during the winter.

Last week Eileen brought one in and she placed it in a sunny window facing west.  After about one week, two flowers appeared.  We had read about how to do this, but we decided to consult with a person who lives in Ocean Grove and is a real expert regarding gardening, and, in particular ,  gardening at the Jersey Shore.

Pegi Ballister-Howells of Ocean Grove---gardening expert, author and talk show host. Photo supplied by Pegi.

Pegi Ballister-Howells of Ocean Grove—gardening expert, author and talk show host. Photo supplied by Pegi.

Pegi Ballister-Howells has just celebrated over thirty years of her Sunday morning (8:00-10:00)  call-in radio show “The Garden Show ” which is on WCTC -AM  out of New Brunswick. It also can be heard online at WCTCam.com.

She is the author of several books on the subject including “The New Jersey Gardener’s Guide” which has a chapter on gardening at the shore.  Pegi says that there are some unique differences when considering shore gardens, so we hope to learn more about that from her in the future. Her books are available online at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.


Pegi and her husband Tom have a home on Mt. Carmel Way  (it is the former location of the Ocean Grove Women’s Club) and they have a  farm in Neptune Township.   She was very kind to help us with our topic today regarding the hibiscus.

The hibiscus is a tropical plant which can be brought in for the winter, provided it doesn’t freeze to death before you do so.  Last week we had, according to Pegi, a “hard frost” in the Grove, but many of her plants did survive including begonias and zinnias.  Many homeowners who have hibiscus in their gardens simply buy new plants each spring, but that can be expensive.  If you bring them into the house, you can pinch off the buds and place the plant in a cold environment such as a garage just to let it go dormant and keep it alive till spring and save money.  But the plant has to live in a pot

Or, you can bring it in to enjoy the blooms, even though that might weaken the plant for the spring. The hibiscus must be placed in a sunny window.  Don’t water it too much—“keep it on the dry side.” If it is near a source of heat such as a radiator, you might have to water it more often. Pegi says, “Do not fertilize it during the winter.”

If the plant gets some yellow leaves, “pluck them off.”  In the spring you can then buy new plants or cut back the winter plant, put back into the garden and fertilize.

We hope to interview Pegi subsequently about her background and her remarkable run as a talk show host for over 25 years.


2022 addendum:   Eileen brought in her 6 year old  hibiscus this fall before it got cold.  She has brought it in each autumn.    This plant is always living in a large pot in our garden or in a sunny west side window sill in our living room.  In the spring she prunes the roots and some of the foliage.

In the house she waters gently, and currently, at Christmas, it  produces 3-4 blossoms at a time.  The plant is like a member of the family This time of year she feeds it latkes.


BLOSSOM DEARIE: (A great name for a gardening vocalist.)


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Ocean Grove. October 16, 2019. Hydrangea (l) and Center-Piece chrysanthemum (r.).   Paul Goldfinger.    Click to enlarge  ©.



PINK MARTINI:    “Tea for Two” was written by Vincent Youmans in 1924 and first appeared in a Broadway show called No No Nanette.  Pink Martini recently appeared at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank. If you are not familiar with the Count Basie, they are now undergoing construction to become a major arts center. Check their programs at their web site.

We saw the Pink Martini show, and that versatile group has been around for 25 years. They have performed in over 90 languages.  At this performance, two members of the group sang a duet in Chinese, and it was great.


Pink Martini

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Eileen’s front half yard. Mt. Hermon Way. Paul Goldfinger photo ©   Click to enlarge.  7/13/19


VIVALDI:  The Four Seasons.

“Antonio: please don’t be upset, but we put ‘Winter’ with this summer scene.”

“From your old high school buddy Paul G.  Remember the fun we had in the marching band when you shlepped your harpsichord to the 50 yard line?”

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Cup and Saucer Vine. Ocean Grove. Photo by Pegi Costantino. ©

Cup-and-Saucer vine. Ocean Grove. Photo by Pegi Costantino. ©

You are my vine, my joy, my garden, my springtime, my slumber, my repose. Without you, I can’t cope.”
The Love Poems of Rumi (slightly modified for my purposes)


By Pegi Costantino of Ocean Grove (Gardening columnist @Blogfinger.net)

Vines are a perfect medium for Ocean Grove. They use vertical space which expands the allotted postage stamp garden and helps create outdoor rooms with green walls. Trellises go a long way to help with vines. They can be freestanding, attached to the house or integrated into the fence. I like to shake things up and try different vines each year. We did enjoy the red cardinal vine two years in a row because we loved it. The purple hyacinth bean is another favorite. Last year we had the Mexican Flame vine as something new and different.

There are three different growing patterns for vines. The kinds with tiny tendrils, like clematis, require something thin and delicate to hang onto. Trellises work well, but they also are perfect for camouflaging an old chain link fence. The second type has some sort of “sticky” things to help them hold onto flat surfaces. They can be like air roots (as in the ever loved poison ivy plant) or more like suction cups. Either way they stick quite well. The last is the spiraling kind. The lovely Wisteria is a perfect example. Just be aware that a Wisteria can take the porch right off the house as it spirals up the columns.

In the search for something new and different this year I came across the “Cup and Saucer” vine. I had never heard of it before. So I paid a ridiculous amount of money for a ridiculously small plant and stuck it in the ground. It was slow going at first, but eventually it made some progress. I think it would do better with more sun that I could give it, but it did creep its way up the trellis.

Finally, the somewhat scrawny vine produced a bulbous bud. It looked more like a pod than an incipient bloom. After a day or so, white petals emerged. The following day the petals were fully open, a lovely shade of purple, with a mass of protruding anthers. It was spectacular.

In full sun Cup-and-Saucer vine (also sometimes called Cathedral Bells) can reach 20 feet and be quite aggressive. Mine is about 8 feet. Container culture is an option if the container is big enough but it definitely needs something to grown up as it is the tendril type.

It still amazes me that a new flower can make the world stand still for a second or two. So much beauty crammed into something so small and delicate. You just have to look.

Cardinal vine by Pegi Costantino. © August 2015. Ocean Grove.

Cardinal vine by Pegi Costantino. © August 2015. Ocean Grove.

PHILLIP SMITH  (of Ocean Grove) with JOSEPH TURRIN on piano.  “To a Wild Rose.”

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Internet photo

Internet photo

Ocean Grove.  Using the Rapitest in Eileen's garden. ©  Blogfinger.net photo.  July 21, 2015

Ocean Grove. Using the Rapitest in Eileen’s garden. Needs water. © Blogfinger.net photo. July 21, 2015

By Eileen and Paul Goldfinger, Editors @Blogfinger.net

We saw a man watering everything in sight on his property yesterday. Of course it is a heat wave and it is reasonable to assume that everything in the garden needs a lot of water. But that is not necessarily true.  How about adding a little science to your efforts?

  1. You can save money on your water bill if you engage in selective watering. You can use a moisture tester to decide if each component of your garden requires water.   Sometimes you can be surprised because a variety of factors will determine the moisture status of a given plant.
  1. There are several kinds of moisture detectors, and some are now digital; but all are made in China. We recommend the simplest and cheapest one which is the “Rapitest” designed by a company in Illinois. It requires no batteries, and it measures moisture from 0 through 4 on the meter. Zero is the driest, and 4 is the wettest. It costs about $10.00 at Brock’s in Colt’s Neck, but other gardening stores have them. The meter comes with detailed advice.
  1. Plants require more or less moisture for their optimum care.   The goal is to not allow dryness to kill the plant and to avoid over-hydration for those that suffer from too much moisture.
  1. The manufacturer provides a list of over 100 plants and rates their watering requirements from 1-4.

—Among the plants that like to be on the dry side: Jade plant, verbena, African violet, hibiscus and euonymus.

—-Among the plants that like to be on the wet side: ferns, hydrangeas, tomatoes, begonia, and coleus.

Or maybe it will rain soon…..

RITA GARDNER from The Fantasticks:

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Two neighboring gardens have twinkling lights year round.  Blogfinger photo July, 2014. ©

This garden has twinkling lights year round. Blogfinger photo July, 2014. ©


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