Garden Photo of the Day

Gardening in Upper Saddle River, NJ

By Alexandra Dittrich

Formal beds on upper level patio in mid-July planted with wax begonias for lots of color. The dwarf boxwood hedge we planted around the edge 2 years ago is filling in nicely.

Clare and her husband have worked long and hard, and all their efforts have been worth it.

"My husband and I garden in northeastern New Jersey and we have a one acre property. We are lucky that the house sits towards the front of the property, so the back garden is pretty big. When we moved here in 2003, the back garden was just a downward sloping square of grass. We worked with a local nursery to develop a plan. The plan included creating three level terraces on the slope using local stone, creating perennial flower beds with a long slate path leading down from the patio, carving out beds around the large established trees around the perimeter of the garden and creating a shade garden in the corner that faces northeast, and adding a raised vegetable and cutting flower bed in the sunny southwest-facing part of the garden. In 2005, we hired a contractor to implement the plan and then my husband and I did all of the planting. We both work full-time in NYC, so this project took a number of years spending almost every weekend and every vacation day and day off. It is still a work "in progress", as most gardens are!"

The pictures included are from June and early July in Upper Saddle River, NJ.

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Rhodendrons bordered by Biokovo Karmina cranesbill geranium in early June. I love this geranium. It spreads nicely, but not aggressively (and any seedlings you don't want are very easily pulled or removed with a shovel edge). For us (in Zone 6b-7a), it blooms prolifically in early June and then sporadically for the rest of the summer. In fall, its foliage turns nice shades of orange and red.

Rose arbor with Zephirine Drouhin climbing roses in full bloom (can tolerate a bit of shade — heavenly fragrance) and rose trellis in bloom with Cornelia climbing rose and Arctic Queen clematis.

My favorite daylily, 'Indian Giver'. The bright purple blooms are edged in white and have a beautiful yellow eye. The bud count is unbelievable — they bloom for more than a month!

Color Guard yucca in full bloom in early July.

Parasol Lady in mid-June with Missouri Evening primrose in full bloom under dogwood. Snapdragons to the right of her and rose hedge (not yet in full bloom) to the left.

Rose arbor after rain with fallen petals. So romantic!

Border of Annabelle hydrangeas in early July.  These blooms are HUGE!

Carefree Delight rose hedge in late June. This rose is disease free. The only maintenance is to shear it down in early spring and then give it a "haircut" after the big bloom in June. Then it reblooms nicely (although not as enthusiastically) until fall.

The Oakleaf Hydrangea got huge this year and has never had so many blooms. It borders the shade garden, which is also the "white garden"…

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  1. frankgreenhalgh 08/04/2016

    Congratulations Clare & husband (nameless) on the design of your spectacular terraced garden, the selection of such colourful and interesting plants, and the meticulous maintenance of your wonderful creation. I know through experience the issues associated with landscaping a sloping 1 acre block. A mighty effort! I particularly like your pathway, and would love to see a pic. of the granite rock work on your retaining walls. Clare, you are such a romantic! Thanks very much for sharing.

    1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      Thank you, Frank! I really appreciate your feedback. A few years ago I sent some pictures to GPOD where you can see the stone terraces built into the slope:

      1. frankgreenhalgh 08/04/2016

        Thanks Clare - the extra pics. simply reinforce my view on the beauty of your garden.

        1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

          Thank you, Frank, for taking the time to look at the additional pictures and comment. I really appreciate it!

  2. frankgreenhalgh 08/04/2016

    Greetings Kev., 'old son' - FYI there is movement at the GPOD station, for the word has passed around that you are only commenting on posts on alternate days (i.e. a take on 'The man from Snowy River' poem by Aussie, Banjo Paterson). The GPOD troops are getting restless, and hence this heads-up. Hooroo from your partner in early comments.

    1. user-7007498 08/04/2016

      Frank-hopefully the restlessness on the GPOD site can be settled down. Yesterday, I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for some well needed vacation time.Didn't have much access to the Internet. Attached is a photo from the balcony at my hotel. Very peaceful.

      I read the poem you referenced, but didn't get the connection. I am still sleepy from the plane ride, and time zone shift.

      1. frankgreenhalgh 08/04/2016

        Enjoy your well earned vacation Kev. I'll settle the troops down.

      2. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 08/04/2016

        Enjoy your vacation, Kevin! I was in Jackson hole way back in 1978! I remember the whole area being quite beautiful, so I'm sure you'll wear yourself out on your vacation by enjoying the area. Cheers

  3. user-7007498 08/04/2016

    Clare: Enjoyed your garden photos. You have a nice mix of formal and informal elements. I love oakleaf hydrangeas, and yours is beautiful. Agree with 'Biokova', also a favorite of mine. It is the constancy of change that makes gardening so rewarding.

    1. user-4691082 08/04/2016

      Kevin, enjoy Jackson Hole. We spent a week there at my nieces wedding. It's a magical place. Make sure to hike around Jenny Lake.

      1. user-7007498 08/04/2016

        Thanks Rhonda. We actually are going there today, after our hot air balloon ride.

        1. user-4691082 08/04/2016

          Get plenty of pictures! I'll demand a slide show( lol- younger people won't know what that is) when we see you !

    2. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      Thanks Kevin. I couldn't agree with you more regarding the constancy of change! It sure does make gardening exciting and rewarding.

  4. bsavage 08/04/2016

    Wow, so beautiful! I know a LOT of work goes into that... thanks for sharing!

    1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      Much appreciated, Brenda!

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 08/04/2016

    Why do I not have a rose covered trellis? Sigh, whenever I see one that is as beautiful as yours, Clare, my heart goes ping and zing. Yours looks exceptionally floriferous and must be a special delight to walk through when the air is filled with its fragrance. Am I correct in noting that there is a rose planted on each side and and they interweave at the top? Your daylily 'Indian Giver' is quite striking...the delicate edging in white really makes its purply pink color pop and any daylily that puts on a month long show is a star in my book!

    1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      Thank you, meander1, for your comments. Yes, you are correct that the rose arbor has one rose planted on each side and they cross each other at the top. In addition to their fragrance and shade tolerance, the other thing that makes these roses so great for an arbor is that they are practically thornless. Boy, does that make pruning easier!

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 08/04/2016

        I suffer from a mild case of pruner's paralysis...I'm never confident about how aggressive to be. (Have bemoaned this truth about myself here on gpod before). Anyway, I really feel like I would love to give this rose a try so could you walk me through your pruning technique and timing. Do you allow the tall canes to stay intertwined once they grow that long or do you get brutal with it each spring. Any guidance would be muchly appreciated.

        1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

          I am not really an expert on growing climbing roses but kind of figure things out by trial and error. One important thing I learned is that when these rose vines first start growing, tie the new long canes to go horizontally on the arbor (in a zig-zag pattern where possible). This can be done when those canes are somewhat young and flexible. Making them go horizontal results in more flowers along each cane. (If you don't do this, nature makes the canes grow straight up and you'll only get blooms at the top. When they are horizontal, they grow new stems along the cane, each of which flowers.) As for pruning, I am not too heavy handed. In very early spring, before the roses fully leaf out, I cut out all of the dead canes and tie any that are growing straight up horizontally. After the major spring bloom and during the summer, the roses start to put out canes at the top that grow straight up. This looks kind of weird, so when I have time, I get out a stepladder and tie those canes down horizontally. If I don't get to do this on time, the canes are too hard to bend, so I just cut them off. That's really the extent of my pruning!

          I don't think you will regret it if you try to grow these roses. Good luck!!!

          1. User avater
            meander_michaele 08/04/2016

            Thanks so much, Clare, for the well explained techniques that you employ. I can imagine how important the forcing the branches to go horizontal is...if one wants that flower packed result...and, ha, who doesn't want that!

          2. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

            Well said! Who wouldn't want more flowers on a rose arbor!!!

  6. user-4691082 08/04/2016

    Clare, your garden is wonderful! I can almost smell the roses! We want to see more pictures!

    1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      Thank you, Rhonda! I wish you could smell the roses on the arbor -- they have such a beautiful fragrance. Here is a link to some additional pictures that I sent to GPOD a few years ago:

  7. user-4691082 08/04/2016

    Clare, the links to your previous posts don't work. ?

    1. frankgreenhalgh 08/04/2016

      OK for me Rhonda.

    2. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      The link seems to work when I click it. Perhaps you could try copying and pasting it into your web browser: Hopefully, that will work.

    3. Chris_N 08/04/2016

      Search for Clare Oliva in the search at the top of this page. There are four pages of Clare's previous photos. You're right that the additional links on the page that Clare linked to don't work.

  8. NWAgardener 08/04/2016

    Congratulations Clare - yours is a perfect example of a well planned garden! It's just beautiful! I love your plant selections and 'Indian Giver' is one of my favorite daylilies, too. The Lutyens bench at the end of the rose arbor path is such an inviting focal point and I'm sure a favorite spot to sit and enjoy your garden (the few times I expect you have time to rest).

    1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      Thank you NWAgardener! You're so right about the bench at the end of the path being a great spot to sit and enjoy the garden -- and you're also right about us not sitting there very often because there are always weeds to pull and other things to do...

  9. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 08/04/2016

    Good to see your garden again, Clare. I recognized it from the feline sculpture in the first photo. So well-manicured and such great sweeps of plants. Did you get a good show from your peonies this year?
    Loving that Annabelle hydrangea border in front of the Japanese maple. That yucca is so nice and I never realized how beautiful the individual flowers were until an online blogger posted some close-ups. The variegated shrub next to the yucca looks so familiar, but I can't come up with the name. It's so dense and healthy. Name?

    1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      Thanks Tim! Very observant of you to recognize and remember the cat statue. We have cat statues all around the garden... The peonies were beautiful this year but not as good as some previous years. Unfortunately, we had a cold, rainy spell in mid-spring just before the peonies were going to bloom and some of the plants got a fungus of some type (blackening of the foliage). I'm hoping cutting it out will prevent it from returning next year. But despite that, we did have a pretty decent bloom.

      The variegated shrub next to the yucca is a Weigela. It has gotten so huge that we gave it a pretty severe pruning (after this picture was taken). It is really pretty when in bloom (and even when not in bloom because of that variegated foliage).

  10. Chris_N 08/04/2016

    I always enjoy seeing your garden, Clare. The flower colors of the rhodies and biokova karmina compliment each other so well. The Annabelles really stand out against the darker background. What kind of Japanese maple is that behind them?

    1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      Thank you, Chris. We have a big old Japanese maple in the front garden (not in any of these pictures) and the one behind the Annabelles in the picture you are asking about is a seedling from that tree that we moved to this spot maybe 7 years ago. We don't know what variety it is (since the tree it came from was there when we bought the house), but it turns a brilliant fire-hot red in the fall...

  11. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 08/04/2016

    Hi Clare, those roses are putting on quite a show. While my husband is the rose grower,
    I'm the appreciater and sniffer and would love to be standing under that trellis right now. I had to check back at your previous post to see your peony display. Very impressive. Do you stick to herbaceous varieties? Hopefully, they'll all come back.
    Thanks for the tour.

    1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      Thank you, Linda! All of the peonies in the pictures you were looking at are herbaceous. About 3 years ago, we bought and planted our first two tree peonies. They are still very small, but had a lot of blooms this past spring. We can't wait to see them reach maturity and have even more blooms!

      1. User avater
        LindaonWhidbey 08/04/2016

        We just recently branched out to tree and Itoh peonies, too. What I like about those two types is that they stay green all summer and have good fall color whereas the herbaceous often die back after they flower. If you can find it, 'Bartzella' is our favorite Itoh, so far.

        1. ClareRocky 08/05/2016

          Linda, we've never tried growing itoh peonies. I've seen pictures of Bartzella and I love it. Maybe we'll have to try to find some room for one of those. (We're running out of sunny spots for plants in the garden!) How long does it take for tree peonies to reach their full glory?

          1. User avater
            LindaonWhidbey 08/05/2016

            We have one tree peony that has taken three years but two others that we planted last fall put on a great show this spring. There are a couple of gardeners here on Whidbey that are peony experts and they've gotten us excited about the more unusual types and, of course, now it's a contest to see who can grow the best ones:)

          2. ClareRocky 08/05/2016

            That sounds like a fun contest, Linda! I can't wait for our tree peonies to get bigger and really show us their stuff.

  12. bonnielemoine 08/04/2016

    Beautiful garden!

    1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      Thanks for the feedback, Bonnie!

  13. Meelianthus 08/04/2016

    Clare, I clicked onto your photos of yester-year as I remembered the lady with a parasol and the beauty of your gardens. Really enjoyed refreshing my memory and seeing the new work you have done on your 1 acre property. Simply beautiful, your plantings everywhere are so fresh and robust looking. Beautiful job!!

    1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      Thank you, Meelianthus! You must have a very good memory to remember Parasol Lady since it has been quite a while since my previous pictures were posted. I appreciate your comments.

  14. Cenepk10 08/04/2016

    Wow.... This will mature splendidly. Love your long swaths of plants. Very sophisticated design is very evident in all the photos Love the oak leaf hydrangeas with the statue photo. Gorgeous design Love it all !!!!!

    1. ClareRocky 08/04/2016

      Much appreciated, Ceneok10! I learned the hard way, a while ago, that planting large swaths of one type of plant has a much bigger impact than only planting three or a few.

  15. ZuzuPrints 08/05/2016

    This is a big garden. IT must take a long time weeding and preparing. Congratulations.

    1. ClareRocky 08/05/2016

      Thanks Zusu. We do spend a lot of time weeding, but it's kind of therapeutic after working in NYC all week!

  16. user-4691082 08/06/2016

    The peonies are beautiful..I wish they bloomed longer! I can't get to any of the other posts☹️

  17. user-7008214 08/12/2016

    This was the best photo submission I have seen in a long time. The description of what is in the garden is awesome. Thank you.

  18. user-7007496 09/14/2016

    Breath-taking, especially the daylilies!!!!!

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