May and June 2012 Cuttings

"Cuttings" is your source for garden updates and horticultural tips from the Reeves-Reed Arboretum's horticulture staff. Check back monthly to find out what's blooming at the Arboretum, get the inside scoop on upcoming events, and learn some timely tips you can put to use in your own garden.

In the Gardens – Wildlife

This spring, we've had the good fortune to spot – and even interact with – some of the amazing animals that make their home at the Arboretum. Our resident groundhogs, Beacon Hill Bob and his lady friend Roberta, are raising a bouncing baby 'hog, which we've christened Bobby Jr. The other day, as Roberta was carrying her cub across the lawn, she became startled and dropped him! Jackie Kondel, the Arboretum's Director of Education, came to the rescue. After donning gloves, she gently picked up the tiny baby and placed him in the entrance to his family's burrow. His mother appeared at the burrow entrance to retrieve him, and the family was reunited!

Director of Education Jackie Kondel and her daughter Erin with groundhog cub, just before returning him to his family's burrow. (Photo: Julieanne Frascinella)

We've also seen some incredible insect life in the gardens recently. While taking photos of our lilac collection, horticulturist Julieanne Frascinella spotted a hummingbird clearwing moth as it hovered above the flowers sipping nectar with its straw-like tongue, or proboscis. Hummingbird clearwing moths are incredible hummingbird mimics – in their size, coloration, and flight patterns, they look remarkably similar to our native ruby-throated hummingbird!

Finally, a pair of wild turkeys has apparently decided to visit the Arboretum for an extended stay – they can frequently be seen in the morning hours, strutting about the lawns as they forage for food. If you see them, feel free to say hello – but don't approach them too closely, as turkeys have a reputation for being a bit ornery at times!

A hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) hovers in the air as it sips nectar from a lilac blossom. (Photo: Julieanne Frascinella)


May-June Garden Tips – Caring for Lilacs

With their beautiful flowers and perfumed scent, lilacs have been a favorite of gardeners for generations. Lilacs are long-lived, easy to grow shrubs which require little maintenance once established. However, like all plants, they can benefit from some occasional TLC. Here are some tips to help you keep your lilacs looking great and blooming strong for many years to come.

  • Soil Conditions: Lilacs prefer well-drained soil with a slightly acid to slightly alkaline pH. They do not appreciate "wet feet," and should not be planted in areas where the soil remains soggy for long periods.
  • Sun Exposure: In order to bloom reliably, lilacs need at least 6 hours of bright, direct sunlight. Planting lilacs in the shade often results in poor – or no – flowering, as well as poor overall plant health.
  • Deadheading: To "deadhead" is to prune the old, spent blossoms off a plant. Lilacs benefit from such treatment just after they finish blooming, usually in mid-May here in New Jersey. Cutting off the old flower heads prevents seed formation, enabling the plant to put more energy into the development of flower buds for the following year's bloom. When deadheading, remove only the old blossoms, being careful not to snip off the newly-forming flower buds. If these new buds are removed, you'll have no flowers the following spring!
  • Maintenance and Rejuvenation Pruning: In mid to late winter when the plant is dormant, remove dead, damaged, or diseased branches to promote plant health. Overgrown or leggy plants can also be given a rejuvenation pruning if desired. In this type of pruning, the oldest stems are removed just above ground level, encouraging the growth of new, healthy stems.

Good luck with your lilacs, and enjoy!


Volunteer Spotlight – Oak Knoll School Senior Capstone Interns

This spring, we're delighted to welcome four students from the Oak Knoll School, who are joining us for a month-long internship as part of their academic program. Masuma Salam, Katie Cobuzzi, and Alexis Rodriguez are joining the Horticulture staff for a hands-on gardening internship, while Comfort Nnana-Kalu is working with our Development and Communications department to assist with special events planning and public relations. Our thanks to Masuma, Katie, Alexis, and Comfort for their contributions to the Arboretum, as well as to the Oak Knoll School for making this internship possible.

Masuma Salam, Katie Cobuzzi, Alexis Rodriguez, and Comfort Nnana-Kalu (not pictured) are this year's Oak Knoll School Senior Capstone Interns. (Photo: Shari Edelson)


Are you looking to lend a hand at Reeves-Reed Arboretum this spring? We're hosting volunteer work sessions the second Saturday of every month! Join us on Saturday, June 9 from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm for a morning of outdoor garden work. To sign up, or to learn about other volunteer opportunities at the Arboretum, please contact Lisa Martin at