The Peripatetic Gardener Visits the Jersey Shore

by Lois Rose

Jersey Shore?  You gotta be kiddin me.

I am going to refute that impression I hope with a description of a recent trip over Labor Day to Long Beach Island, about two hours south of New York City.  Naturally there was traffic—gimme a break, it was Labor Day weekend. Surprisingly, cars never stopped moving and we arrived in the afternoon at our rental house at the very end of the road on the sand bar island. 

(picture of the lighthouse, then the balcony with chairs overlooking the state park)We were at the edge of the 32 acre Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. Barnegat is from a Dutch word for breakers of which there were apparently many when the light house was constructed to prevent grounding of ships in the area. The light has been restored after many years in darkness, and the original fabulous prisimed light is on display down the block at the museum.

 

Houses here are raised with many sets of stairs on the outside of buildings between wrap around porches on two floors or more—even on the roof for a great view.

 Older houses do not have the storm surge protection which is now probably required, or at least desired. In our place, bedrooms were on the first floor and kitchen, dining area and living area were on the second.

We were very close to the excellent tram line which ran from several nearby streets to the beach through interesting trees and shrubs and sand happy perennials.

 

 We could walk fifty feet and jump aboard and be near the crashing—or somewhat modulated breakers—in ten minutes. Some of the family saw dolphins. Sand castles, shore birds, not crowded.

Poison ivy unfortunately flourishes along the tram line.

 

  There are areas with a wooden board walk but mostly if we didn’t use the tram we walked on shifting sand.  A well-illustrated trail guide near the lighthouse (217 steps up a yellow spiral stair case with not enough room for two large people to pass each other in either direction) was instructive about the usual suspects. 

There was a lot of pitch pine, 

and Russian or Autumn Olive, a seriously invasive plant which curiously is featured in many yards on the island.  I saw few well-tended or diverse plants in the area where we stayed.  I did see a strange juxtaposition of pokeweed and the often planted and flourishing Crape (or Crepe Myrtle) trees. 

 The island forest is dominated by Black Cherry, Sassafras, Eastern Red Cedar, Cedar, and American Holly. 

I found a few beach plums to munch on—as soon as I started eating them a ton of nearby tourists jumped in and finished off the crop. 

I had better luck with the Russian Olive.  I found it on a walk with my granddaughter—stopped and picked enough to make a small recipe. I packed it into a carry on but TSA decided it was suspect and examined it for explosives.  I got it home eventually.

People were very friendly, especially a woman I ran into while walking the baby—again. She was walking with a huge bouquet of fresh cut flowers, and I stopped and started a conversation. I started naming the flowers—some in Latin—and she said, you must be a Master Gardener. Who else would name flowers in Latin, right?  Turned out she was an MG too. She invited us to visit her back yard, meet her husband (reading in their hot tub) and see her fig trees. 

So, I would say that the trip was very pleasant and also informative with some surprises. The Jersey Shore is newly appreciated in our view.

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