In The Garden

Lovely through the seasons, Deep Cut Gardens is ever changing.  Its acres of gardens and greenhouses are a living catalog of cultivated and native plant materials.  From the first buds of spring to the unexpected bursts of color in winter, Deep Cut Gardens never fails to delight visitors.  Here's a look at what's happening in the garden: 

What is Blooming Now? 

I bet you didn’t expect to see this topic in January!  There are some plants that will start blooming now, or will start soon.  I always feel that winter flowers are a gift. 

The witch-hazels are small trees or shrubs.  They lose their leaves in the winter but they bloom instead.  When it comes to flowers, there are big showy flowers and less showy flowers.  Then there are witch-hazel flowers.  The yellow petals are long, narrow and yellow and grow out of a dark red center.  They hang down from the branches creating a very wispy, delicate look.  The name witch-hazel is misleading as it has nothing to do with witches.  It derives from the word “wiche”, an old English word for bendable and/or plant.  As for uses, these are the branches that were used for diving rods in England.  The leaves and bark of the North American variety are the source of the astringent we commonly call witch nazel.

witch hazel

Now if showy flowers are more your style, heleboris are your winter go to plant.  These fantastic plants are evergreen, deer resistant and have wonderful speckled leaves for year-round interest.  Then, in the winter, they produce many flowers in low clusters among the leaves.  Varieties range from pale pink to burgundy.  These are a staple for shade gardens in this area. 


(posted 1/19/2018)

See What's Blooming in the Greenhouse

While the outside gardens at Deep Cut are covered with snow, the greenhouse is warm and blooming. Stop by for a little reminder of warm weather and beautiful flowers! Here are a few things to see that are blooming now:

Bromeliads – These plants, which normally grow attached to trees in the tropics, have colorful leaves and unusual flowers.  

Bromeliad Flower    Blue Bromeliad Flower

Orchids – These lovely plants have flowers with such strange coloring and shapes! The variety is amazing.

 Orchid  Purple Orchid 

Hibiscus – The big blooms of hibiscus range in colors from deep red to sunset-like oranges and yellows.

Orange Hibiscus Red Hibiscus

Begonias – While most plants have flowers that have both male and female parts, begonia flowers are either male OR female. These delicate flowers are held high on branched stalks and, while small, are very pretty.

begonia flower

Kalanchoe – These hardy plants are very sturdy and yet get the most delicate, beautiful, tiny blooms!


If photography is a passion of yours, check out Flower Marco Photography coming up on January 27. It is a full-day class in the greenhouse where you will learn to capture the images of these beautiful flowers and more. Register online or call 732-842-4000 ext. 1 or register online. Space is limited.

Aerial Roots

While in Deep Cut Gardens this past weekend, a visitor asked about the roots that grow out of the pots on some of the plants in the greenhouse.  The roots in the below photos are a type of aerial root that develops when a climbing plant needs stabilization.  There are other types of aerial roots that develop for other purposes.  Vines and epiphytes (plants that grow on trees such as orchids) can become top heavy and fall over if they don’t grow aerial roots for anchorage.  There are even trees such as banyan trees, which grow in soggy soil, that grow aerial roots for stabilization.  Aerial roots are not actually root tissue but are rather a stem adaptation.  Because of this, they can sprout true roots and stems which can be separated into a new plant. 

Many people whose houseplants begin producing aerial roots wonder if these roots should be removed.  Even thought they might become quite long and/or dense, the answer to “trim or not to trim?” is usually not to trim.  If you prune aerial roots, they may branch.  Therefore, if you must cut these roots, do so in the fall when the plant’s growth is slowing.  If you prune aerial roots in the spring or summer you may find yourself with many more roots than you started with!  If your plant is growing aerial roots onto the wall, bookcase or other unwanted place, consider putting in something for the plant to climb on like a stake or other structure designed for this purpose.  I like the look of aerial roots as, to me, they mean that the plant is growing normally and is happy. 

These roots on the below philodendron may look like they are strangling the plant but they are not.  The plant is actually anchoring to itself.  This may work for a while but as the plant becomes taller, it will need something else to provide support.

 philodendron anchoring upon itself

Aerial roots are common on orchids such as the one below.  Healthy roots should be left alone as pruning them can have a negative impact on the plant.  Dead, dry roots may be trimmed.  The roots in the below photo are healthy, firm and green.  Dead roots from the left side of the pot have been removed. 

Aerial roots on orchid
aerial roots on orchid

(posted 9/28/2017)

Fast Little Flyers – Skippers!

 Zabulon Skipper
zabulon skipper

Hobomok Skipper
hobomok skipper

Silver-spotted Skipper
silver-spotted skipper

This time of year brings a plethora of tiny, fast-flying butterflies called skippers. For budding photographers, they are one of the easiest of the butterflies to photograph as they are not easily spooked and they sit still while eating. Skippers make up an entire family of butterfly called the Hesperiidae and can be identified by a few key characteristics. Skippers get their name due to their rapid flight as they go from flower to flower. They are able to fly this way because they have powerful wing muscles, making their bodies look bulky and large compared to their wings. Their wings are short and blunt, while typical butterflies have large wings compared to their bodies. Skippers usually rest with their wings folded back or closed tightly above their backs while other butterflies usually rest with their wings laying out to the sides. Skippers have large eyes and are thought to have good vision and their antennae have a bulb at the tip that ends in a point (visible in top photo). Lastly, skippers are usually drab colors, mostly brown or golden. The three skippers here are common in this area: zabulon skipper (top photo), hobomok skipper (middle photo) and the silver-spotted skipper (bottom photo). Grab your camera or cell phone and take a photo of one of these fellows – you’ll probably get a great shot! (posted 9/13/2017)


Good Guys That Look Bad!

Goldenrod Crab Spider Jagged Assassin Bug 
(l to r) goldenrod crab spider & jagged assassin bug

Chinese mantis 
Chinese mantis

Most gardeners know that there are good bugs and bad bugs for the garden.  When we think of "good bugs" we usually think  of pollinators like bees and butterflies.  There are, however, also predators that help keep the plant-eating insect population under control.  Three of these are featured here.  All are sit-and-wait predators that use their front legs to grab passing insects.  They each have a special appearance that allows them to go unseen until it is too late!  The jagged assassin bug (Phymata sp.) is very tiny and looks a piece of a leaf stuck on a flower – until it reaches out with its raptor-like arms and catches its dinner.  The goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia)  is one of a very few insects that can actually change color to match the flower it is sitting on, remaining almost invisible to other insects.  Lastly, even though the Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis), accidently introduced to the US in 1896, is the largest mantis in North America, it can be easily missed as is sits very still and looks like a piece of a plant.  If you think of plant-munching insects as "stealing" your garden treasure, these three insects champions are the law enforcers that will catch the theives in the act! (posted 9/7/2017)

Every garden needs a garden spider.

Yellow Garden Spider

Seeing a yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) might give you quite a start but it is good thing to have one of these garden dwellers in residence as they eat a considerable number of insects each day.  Aside from their striking coloration, yellow garden spiders can be identified by their unusual web, which is built in open areas and has a large zig zag of concentrated webbing in the center.  This webwork prompted their other common names - zipper spiders and scribblers.  It's thought the creating this easily noticed structure in center of the web helps birds and larger animals see the web and avoid it.  Yellow garden spiders are fairly docile and rarely bite – even if you walk into the web!  If bitten, the reaction is similar to a bee sting.  It's vital to all web-making spiders that the web be as intact as possible.  The spider judges the location of prey based on the vibrations of the web.  Females also identify a possible mate if he “sounds” right by plucking the web in a particular rhythm as he approaches.  If the web becomes damaged, the spider eats it and then spins a new one.  If you don’t consider these large spiders a welcome addition to your garden, remember that the most famous spider of all, Charlotte, was a scribbler spider.  Maybe your spider will leave you messages if you let them stay!  (posted 8/31/2017)

Goldflame Honeysuckle

Goldflame Honeysuckle

While we watch the sky for fireworks this month, it’s the goldflame honeysuckle that brings a profusion of bright color and summer sweetness to the garden. A tall centerpiece in our herb garden, the goldflame is a deciduous twining vine with hot pink tubular flowers that open to reveal a yellow center. This cross between native (or trumpet) honeysuckle and American honeysuckle is a non-invasive variety (although growth can be rampant). Fragrant, easy to grow, adaptable to most soils, and tolerant of difficult growing sites, goldflame blooms spring through fall. It prefers full sun to part shade in Zones 5 though 9. It also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds! (posted 7/11/2017)

Double Delight

Double Delight roses  

In June, the roses in our parterre are at their most glorious! And while it’s difficult to choose a favorite among them, we’re highlighting a rose that instantly grabs our attention. Growing along the border of our All-America selection garden, the double delight is a hybrid tea rose that features a profusion of vivid red and white. In bloom from late spring to early summer, the double delight grows to about four feet high and three feet wide. Hybridized by H.C. Swim for the wholesale rose grower Weeks Roses, double delight received All-America Rose Selections (AARS) honors in 1977 and remains popular today for its disease resistance and six inch wide blooms. It prefers medium moisture in slightly acidic soil with full sun. Appropriate for Zones 5 through 9. (posted 6/20/2017)

Sweet Box

Sweet Box

Native region: Western Himalayas and China

This is the time of year when visitors come into the Horticultural Center inquiring about the source of the delightful fragrance along one of our paths. It isn’t the drifts of snowdrops, nor the nodding hellebore blossoms nor witch hazel flowers above. It is the tiny flowers of Sweet Box growing in the woodland garden below. Though the flowers may be concealed by the lustrous, evergreen foliage, the scent can travel for several feet.

This member of the boxwood family is best grown in woodland conditions: organically rich, acidic, moist, well-drained soil in part to full shade. Winter hardy in zones 6-8, it reaches only 1-2’ in height, spreads very slowly by stolons to 2-4”, and has no serious pest or disease problems.

Less commonly seen in garden centers, but worth looking for, its handsome foliage and low-growing habit makes for an excellent evergreen ground cover, low hedge or border, and is especially welcome near walkways and home entrances.  (posted 3/7/2016) 

Orchid Season in the Greenhouse


Mid-February to mid-March is peak bloom season for the tropical orchids in our Display Greenhouse, which is open to the public whenever the park is open. Did you know that the orchid family is one of the largest, oldest and most diverse, with species adapted to almost every habitat on all but one continent?

In addition to the orchids, you will find both common and unusual tropicals, bromeliads, cacti and succulents, and the portion of our bonsai collection that is not winter hardy. Don’t overlook the large staghorn ferns hanging overhead!



Helleborus niger   
Native region: Southern & Central Europe and Southwestern Asia

The so-called “Christmas Rose” began blooming early this year, normally coming into bloom February into March. Now covered by a blanket of snow, the nodding flowers held just slightly above the basal growth of glossy evergreen leaves were a welcome sight, and will be again when the snow melts. H. niger is a little more difficult to grow than its cousin, H. orientalis, or Lenten rose, which is native to parts of Greece, Turkey and Russia. Blooming just a little later, the deep rose colored flower buds of the latter are just beginning to appear in our garden.

Both grow well in organically rich, well-drained soils in part to full shade, with some protection from cold winter winds. Flowers range from creamy white through pink to deep mauve, some with interior spots. When winter’s ravages render the leaves tattered and brown, they can be removed to the ground to show the flowers to their best advantage.

Best in naturalized areas or situated where they can be enjoyed even on winter’s coldest days, Deep Cut’s planting of hellebores is in the Winter Garden, along the path on the south side of the Horticultural Center.

Hellebores are deer resistant and very tolerant of dry shade, lean soil and air pollution, and have no serious insect or disease problems, but one word of caution: The leaves, roots and stems are poisonous to humans.



Native region: Tropical & Subtropical Regions
Just one of many colorful and interesting flowering and foliage plants to be enjoyed in the display greenhouse through the winter months, amaryllis have become very popular around the holiday season due to their ease of care and the wide selection of colors and forms now available.
With a little care, you can replenish the bulb to bloom again next year. After the blooms have faded, trim the flower stalk to 1-2" above the bulb, leaving the strappy foliage intact. Maintain as a houseplant in a sunny window, watering sparingly and fertilizing about once a month. It can be placed outdoors in summer in partial to full sun. For flowers next winter, induce dormancy in September by withholding water and placing in a cool location (50-55°F). Remove dead leaves. After 8-10 weeks, "wake up" your plant by moving it to a well-lit location about 70°F and keep the soil moist, but not wet. In a few years you may find your bulb has multiplied, producing "baby" bulbs you can pot separately or give away.

Hardy Cyclamen

Cyclamen sp. 
Native region: Mediterranean

When other plants are going to sleep for the winter, our fall-blooming hardy cyclamen are just waking up. The small but elegant – and sometimes fragrant – flowers are a delight in the fall garden, with their recurved, twisting petals rising above intricately-patterned foliage that will last through winter until spring. This specimen is in the Japanese-inspired garden.

These plants flower during the cool, wet seasons, with the corms lying dormant during the hot, dry summers of their native range. There are over 20 species of cyclamen, the most familiar of which, c. persicum, or “florist’s cyclamen”, is not winter hardy in our region. Many of the rest, blooming either in spring or fall depending on species, are winter hardy in our region. They cross readily, resulting in an amazing variety of rounded to heart-shaped leaves, often with a patterned silver overlay on top and purple on the underside.

Perfect for shady areas of a rockery, border or woodland, they combine well with other shade plants and thrive in dry shade. Place them where you will observe and enjoy their diminutive beauty up close – near walkways, entry, or outdoor seating area. (posted 11/20/2015)

The Monarchs Have Arrived!

monarch caterpillar

Goodness knows where they’ve been hiding, but we’ve just found six caterpillars in Deep Cut’s Waystation and Rockery. All are now being raised in the protected environment of the vivarium inside the Horticultural Center. One has attached to the top screen, preparing to form its chrysalis, where it will spend the next 10-14 days before finally emerging as a butterfly. Several others look close to the same stage.

It is a perilous life. From egg to adulthood, monarch caterpillars face a number of natural enemies. Hornets, wasps, spiders, ants, and mites may eat the eggs and caterpillars, while tiny tachinid flies and braconid wasps parasitize the caterpillars by laying their eggs on them. A few species of birds, not affected by the glycoside toxins the monarch caterpillars ingest from the milkweed, feed on caterpillars and adults. (posted 8/12/2015)

 Bonsai Donation

Deep Cut Gardens has received a generous donation of 40 bonsai plants, doubling the collection and adding some very fine examples of the art. Stop by to see the winter hardy specimens on their display/cold-frame and the tropical specimens inside the Display Greenhouse. Mark your calendars for Bonsai Day on Sunday, September 13, 2016, 12 noon until 4:00 p.m., when the Deep Cut Bonsai Club will present demonstrations and displays, sharing their expertise and answering your questions. (posted 7/20/2015)

Monarch Waystation

Monarch Waystation

The buffet is open! Deep Cut’s Monarch Waystation and the surrounding gardens provide milkweeds, nectar sources and shelter throughout the season to sustain the monarch butterflies in their breeding and migration. Many other insects are enjoying the spread, but no monarchs, monarch eggs, or monarch caterpillars have been seen yet. This spring, as suggested by professor of entomology Doug Tallamy, we cut back the stems of about half the milkweed plants to approximately 12” to ensure a crop of tender young leaves for the caterpillars.  (Posted 6/29/2015)


Eastern Redbud ‘Ruby Falls’

Eastern Redbud ‘Ruby Falls’
Cercis Canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’
Native region: Eastern United States

Planted just last autumn at Deep Cut Gardens, this is just one of many outstanding cultivars of our native redbud tree. With its weeping habit, early spring flowers, and velvety red-purple leaves, it makes an excellent specimen plant for the home landscape. This highly adaptable small tree will tolerate heat and cold, a range of soil acidity, black walnut, clay soil, and full sun to light shade. About the only condition it cannot abide is a consistently wet soil. Although deer resistant, it provides food for other wildlife. All things considered, an excellent alternative to exotic species. (Posted 6/29/2015)


Ornamental Onion/Allium

Native region: Dry, mountainous areas of northern hemisphere

Allium is a genus of about 700 species, which includes chives, garlic, onion and shallots. Many of the ornamental varieties originated in Central Asia and have been cultivated for their ornamental, rather than culinary, qualities. Depending on variety, they range in height from 8 inches to 4 feet, and are available in a wide range of colors. Cold-hardy to USDA Zone 4, these undemanding plants will thrive in any well-drained soil in full sun and are relatively resistant to deer, voles, chipmunks and rabbits. Some have flower heads that dry well for crafts and arrangements.

Plant bulbs in the fall for blooms the following season, and many years thereafter. Plant in groups in groups in a bed or border for best display. (Posted 5/18/2015)

Fairy Ring

Fairy Ring

This fairy ring, planted in October 2013, is beginning to bloom in the field by the picnic benches behind the production greenhouse.

(posted 4/6/15)

Witch Hazel

witch hazel
Hamamelis x intermdeia ‘Arnold Promise’

Native region: Central & Eastern U.S., Mexico, Asia

The witch hazels at Deep Cut are finally in bloom! Depending on species and cultivar, these are among the first and last to lend color to our landscape with their crinkly, strap-like petals in shades from pale to golden yellow, orange, russet and red. The flowers, often fragrant, can last up to a month, even through temperatures in the low 20s. ‘Arnold Promise’ is beside the Horticultural Center, and there are several varieties blooming in the “cut” or ravine south of the display greenhouse. Melting snow has revealed snowdrops and heath already in bloom, as well as flower buds of hellebore (Lenten rose) and daffodils, promising more spring color soon.

Ranging from shrubs to small multi-stemmed trees up to 30’ in height, hamamelis is adaptable to many uses in the home landscape. The Asian varieties bloom January-March, while our native Hamamelis virginiana blooms October-December. All provide nice fall foliage color.

(posted 3/20/15)

Coral Bark Maple

Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’  
Native region: Japan

Winter reveals elements overlooked or absent in warmer months. The scarlet limbs of a coral bark maple, the convoluted bole of the dawn redwoods, and the exfoliating bark of the river birches. With deciduous trees bare, the forms, textures and hues of evergreens take on new significance…until spring foliage and flowers return and they once again play a supporting role in the gardens.

(posted 1/21/15)

Koi in Winter

As the gardens’ plants go into dormancy for the winter, so, too, do the beautiful koi in the lily pond. Being cold-blooded, they cannot produce their own heat and their body functions slow drastically, so they are not fed during this time. Except for mild spells during the winter, they will remain at the bottom of the pond where the water temperature is warmest. As spring returns and the water temperature rises to about 50 degrees, they will once again become active near the surface. In the meantime, to ensure that fresh oxygen can enter the water and carbon dioxide can exit, we will be sure that ice does not completely cover the surface. With good living conditions, these hardy and adaptable members of carp family may live 50-70 years.

Posted 11/26/2014

Camellia ‘Winter’s Star’

Camellia Oleifera ‘Winter’s Star’
Native region: China

Our camellia is blooming exceptionally early this year. Usually blooming late November into December, this large shrub delights visitors on the front walk with fragrant lavender-pink blossoms for up to six weeks. The glossy dark evergreen foliage is handsome year round.

There are over 200 species in the genus camellia, which is native to eastern and southeastern Asia. All are evergreen, and, being somewhat tender, they are generally winter hardy in USDA Zones 6b-10. Depending on species, bloom time ranges from late summer to spring.

A related plant, C. sinensis is the source of tea leaves. The seeds of C. oliefera and C. sinensis are pressed to produce tea oil, a sweet oil used for cooking and seasoning. This must not be confused with tea tree oil, a camphoraceous oil with antiseptic and antifungal properties, which is taken from melaleuca alternifolia, native to eastern Australia.

Camellias prefer a moist but well-drained, slightly acidic soil (pH of 5.5-6.5) rich in organic matter. They tolerate sun, but will do best situated in dappled shade, sheltered from winds, and given a mulch of 2-3” of leaf mould. As long as their cultural needs are met, they are fairly trouble-free and equally well-suited for the mixed shrub border, woodland garden or as a specimen.

Posted 10/17/2014