Archive for the ‘Gardening in the Grove with Miss Pegi’ Category


Hydrangea. From Southernliving.com

Hydrangea. From Southernliving.com


By Miss Pegi.   (This piece was written in 2014, but Pegi’s  wise words are still true:)

I don’t think anyone really enjoyed this past winter. If possible we should leave it in the past and focus on the warm sun and the bursting forth of spring. However, it may not be possible when we have to look at the Hydrangeas. Winter slammed them hard. They are pitiful.

The snowball type and the lacecap type both come in many sizes and assorted colors. Some of the newer varieties are so dark pink they are almost red. Most Hydrangeas work well down the shore since they bloom in early summer to late summer and hold their flowers for a long time. This year??? Not so much.

The most common Hydrangeas bloom on last year’s growth. The way it works is this year’s green shoots make next year’s flowers. That is why you should never cut a hydrangea all the way down in the spring. It may look like dead sticks, but only the ones that made flowers last year are actually dead. The rest will sprout happy green buds and later make fabulous flowers. Once you see the green buds, prune the sticks that don’t have any.

Hydrangea in trouble. By Miss Pegi. May 2014. ©

Hydrangea in trouble. By Miss Pegi. May 2014. ©  Click left to enlarge.

The cold, cold weather along with ice and snow pruned everything. All over Ocean Grove (and the rest of the State) are brown crunchy sputnik-like plants with a crown of thick green leaves at the base. Luckily, the roots are tougher than the rest of the plant and just about every one will turn into a lovely green bush. Only newer varieties, such as the Endless Summer series, that have the ability to bloom later in the season on new growth will grace us with flowers this year. Also the PeeGee types, that are less common but only bloom on new growth should do fine. Strawberry Vanilla is a new PeeGee type. The blooms open white and turn pink as the season progresses. It also continues to make new flowers so you can have white, white and pink, and all pink clusters at the same time.

Damaged hydrangea properly pruned.

Damaged hydrangea properly pruned. By Miss Pegi. May, 2014. ©

So if you haven’t pruned your hydrangeas yet, you should get to it. Those ugly sticks will hang around forever and may stick out above the branches even as the green shoots take over. The plants will benefit from a shot of fertilizer and your forgiveness. They would bloom if they could. As a comfort to the disappointed, all those green shoots should make an amazing display next year!


Editor’s Note: Pegi Costantino is a gardening expert.  She has written books on the subject  and has had a radio show on Sunday mornings (8:00 am) for over 25 years. It is called “The Garden Show” on 1450 am WCTC.  She goes under the name of Pegi Ballister-Howells.

Pegi is also the founder of the new Woman’s Club of Ocean Grove. Check their Facebook page.

She has graciously agreed to write a series of short pieces addressing some of the challenges of gardening in Ocean Grove.

Paul Goldfinger, Editor@Blogfinger


MARTY ROBBINS.   From the soundtrack of Scorcese’s The Irishman


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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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Oriental lily in Ocean Grove.   By Miss Pegi.

Oriental lily in Ocean Grove. By Miss Pegi.


By Miss Pegi, Blogfinger gardening columnist.

The late spring and early summer weather has been fantastic. The lack of intense heat combined with adequate rainfall has slowed the senescence of all the flowers allowing for longer living individual blooms and longer blooms times. This is a gift. You have to look to appreciate it.

Right now two major summer flowers are blooming. They are similar yet so different. I, myself, can not choose which I prefer, but they are often confused and need to be handled differently. The true lily is a bulb plant. Generally they are planted in the fall. The bulbs look a lot like artichokes and individual “bulblets” can be peeled off the main bulb and used to start new plants. They grow with a main stem with short leaves all along the length.


There are many species of true lily but the most common are the Asiatic lilies, which bloom in June; the Aurelian hybrids arrive in early-July; and the Oriental lilies   (above) which bloom in mid to late July and sometimes into August. They are all poisonous. Each bloom will last for days, but the flowering cluster should be removed before the seeds begin to develop. The flowers appear at the top of the stalk. New stalks are not produced once it finishes. A really fun part of these is occasionally different varieties will produce “bulbils” which are tiny bulb-like structures where the leaves attach to the stems. If you are lucky to find them, they can be removed and planted to start new plants. You can propagate them without having to dig up the bulbs. That is pretty neat.

OG daylily.  By Miss Pegi.  July, 2014.

OG daylily. By Miss Pegi. July, 2014.


The other lily is the Daylily.  This is another trumpet-like flower. Each one only lasts a day. The long leaves all emerge from the base. Not that I recommend it, but the entire plant is edible. The young leaves can be eaten like a green. The roots are like potatoes and even the flowers are said to be scrumptious. There are re-blooming varieties. The most common is Stella D’ora, a yellow, but you can also look for Happy Returns which is red. There are others as well. The one-time blooming varieties tend to be showier and come in a wider range of colors. Daylilies can be divided or transplanted anytime the ground is workable. If you do it while they are in bloom, you will waste the flowers, but they are tough and reliable plants. To maximize the flowers produced, keep them well watered and removed the flowering stalks once they start to develop the pudgy seed pods. The varieties differ, but the more sun and water they get, the more flowers they will produce.

In my opinion it is really unnecessary to gild either one. They are near perfection entirely on their own.

Editor’s Note:   Miss Pegi, our gardening columnist, is also President of the newly resuscitated  Ocean Grove Woman’s Club where she is known as Pegi Costantino. Pegi is also a radio talk show host with her own long-running show each Sunday morning, 8:00 am.  on 1450 am (WCTC) where she is known as Pegi Ballister-Howells.    —–PG

From JERSEY BOYS, a song commemorating beauty in the world:  women, flowers, chocolate.—“There’s nothing else to compare, can’t take my eyes off of you.”  Bob Gaudio.


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Lavender Twist Redbud. Photos by Miss Pegi. May, 2014.

Lavender Twist Redbud.  Photos by Miss Pegi. (Pegi Costantino.)  May, 2014.

By Miss Pegi

The Eastern Redbud is in bud and about to open to full bloom. This native species is a gorgeous small tree that gets about 30 feet tall and just as wide. Compared to the mighty oak, that is small. They strut their stuff alongside the native Dogwood and the lovely white flowering Fothergilla. The redbud’s flowers are followed by heart shaped leaves that flutter in the breeze and dangling pea-like pods that have their own appeal. These are harbingers of spring with brilliant blasts of color that are both bold and delicate. It is all loveliness.

Redbud blooms, but it's not a little woody.

Redbud blooms, but it’s not a Little Woody.

But here in cozy OG, a 30 ft. tree in your yard would take up every square inch of space you may have and more than likely you don’t have. So here are a few ideas that just may allow you to have the joy of these spring beauties under tight quarters. Beyond the wild and magnificent Redbud that grows in the woods, and at many nurseries, is a world of dwarfs, weepers and contorted versions that stay small and tend to grow much more slowly. These are well suited to the small garden but often more difficult to find.

‘Traveller’ is a weeping form from Texas and it only gets about 6 feet. ‘Little Woody’ (I didn’t name it!) is more of a shrub than a tree. It can easily fit into a tiny yard. Another weeping variety, ‘Lavender Twist’ is one of my favorites. The spread is narrow and pendulous so it doesn’t take up much space. If you can’t find these less common varieties locally they can be acquired through Forest Farm. Their catalog is available on-line. It is worth a peek as they have an extensive selection of plant material. ‘Ruby Falls’ has a deep burgundy leaf, is weeping and is one of the smallest varieties. It is available through Sooner Plant Farm, also on-line.

All the redbuds, from the full sized ones in the woods to the pendulous weepers will grow in full sun to part or dappled shade. Once established they are fairly drought tolerant which is great for the sandy soil we face along the shore. I do have to add that the flowers are really not red. They are a deep pink. And they are blooming right in time to help paint the town.


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Lettuce bowl by Miss Pegi.

Lettuce bowl by Miss Pegi.


By Pegi Cosantino

It is a perfect day to plant lettuce. The soil is moist but not soggy. The air is, well, perfect. At first glance lettuce may not be the most inspiring of garden crops but one must look closer. Beyond iceberg, even beyond romaine and Boston, is a world of fabulous and fun lettuces to tickle your palate. Johnny’s Selected Seeds, located in Maine and on-line has 126 varieties of lettuce. Green, red, assorted speckles in heading, semi-heading and loose leaf varieties. They also have five different assorted mixes. One of my personal favorites is Flashy Trout Back, a green variety with delicate leaves covered in red speckles. It does actually look a bit like the fish. Plenty of interesting varieties are available at your local garden centers.


You can grow lettuce in the garden, in nice neat rows or use one of the lettuce mixes in a patch. Here in the Grove I prefer to grow lettuce in containers on the front steps. You can certainly grow it from seed. You can even reseed every two or three weeks to have a steady supply of baby lettuce. Or you can buy young plants and pot them up. Many garden centers will have six-packs of mixed lettuce or you can create your own mix. Don’t be afraid to branch out into the not-quite-lettuces that add a bit of zing. Arugula, mustard greens and escarole will be happy next to Butter Crunch and Red Romaine in the container and in your salad.


Locate your lettuce bowl in a sunny spot but be sure to keep it well watered. If using transplants be sure not to plant too deep or they will rot at the base. Harvest the leaves from the outside to keep them growing from the center. Or cut them with scissors, but not too low. Using scissors will still require you to eventually remove the outer leaves as they yellow. To extend the season when the weather gets hot, move the container to partial shade.   Never let the container get overly dry as that will encourage the plants to go to seed. Eventually hot weather will bring an end to your lettuce garden, but start again in mid-August and you can have fresh lettuce until frost.

ANN-MARGRET  (no frost here)  “Let Me Entertain You”  from the movie Gypsy.


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From Mother Earth News

From Mother Earth News

By Pegi Costantino, who will be commenting on Blogfinger about the challenges of gardening at the shore.

The sun is shining. It is glorious. Today I intend to plant peas. Official pea planting day is actually March 17. Perhaps it is the connection between St. Patrick and pea soup.  I have known of farmers that have actually taken a drill to frozen ground to get a few peas planted on the official day.  I, myself, am not quite that dedicated, but do recognize the importance of getting peas planted as early as possible. There are few self-respecting seeds that are willing to shed their shells and emerge under the cold wet soil conditions of early spring. In general, seeds prefer temps in the 70’s or even 80’s to maximize germination.  Not peas. They need an early start because they have an early demise.  Cold they do not mind.  It is early summer heat that does them in.

The world of peas is more complex than initially meets the eye. They really break down into 3 major types.  English peas, or shelling peas, are the kind you buy frozen in bags that substitute for an ice pack when needed. Snow peas have been made famous in Asian food and are harvested flat. Edible podded peas, or snap peas, you eat the pod after it had a bit of fullness but the pod is still smooth. It is this type that would seem the most appropriate for our Ocean Grove gardeners. The most crunch per pod.

Gardening space is limited here on our 30X60 plots.  So it makes sense to maximize vertical space. Peas require support to grow.  It has to be a kind of support that is “thin”.  Peas have tendrils that will wrap around the support so a chain link fence or wrought iron or even chicken wire will work well. The variety “Sugar Snap” is delicious, productive and can reach 6 feet tall. Plant them along an existing fence, or on a trellis right up against the house.  They will take up very little bed space and be lovely in bright green with their white blooms. The vines will even grow in a large container as long as you can hold them up. The peas can be eaten raw as a snack, in a salad, or in a “peas and cheese” sandwich on an English muffin. Stir fried or steamed they are equally yummy. When the heat does the vines in, follow with a summer annual  vine that uses the same support and will bloom till frost.

Editor’s Note:   Thank you Miss Pegi. Your timing of April one is just perfect as a lovely spring day has unfolded in the Grove.  And I’m really tired of weather reports, so we will avoid them.  But, Miss Pegi, you didn’t mention the rain in Spain or the April showers in New Jersey. So here is Lena Horne to tell us how to be happy in the rain.   Oh, also, I love the title “Peas Post.”    But another might have been like a line from Oliver  “More Peas Please.”     Paul  @Blogfinger




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