Foliage is slowly changing on the seacoast of New Hampshire. There are rich yellows and reds scattered around Exeter. If we drove an hour or so inland to the higher elevations we would be greeted by a kaleidoscope of color.
We decided not to join the train of leaf peepers heading for magic in the hills this year. All we wanted this Columbus Day weekend was a simple day adventure and that quest took us to Mt. Agamenticus in Southern Maine for a first visit. Most locals call it Mt. A. Just try to say Mt. Agamenticus three times fast.
Maine has 17 million acres of fall foliage to discover however there was little to be found on Mt. A, a conservation region of more than 10,000 acres located inside 30,000 acres of conservation land. We soon discovered it was mostly about hiking. Cars galore parked below the mountain, along the approach, and atop with few people to be seen. They were all hiking or biking on the abundant trails.
At the summit (that we drove up 😏) views were spectacular. The ocean to the east and the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the west where leaves in the distance showed telltale signs of color to come.
On the ocean side, we could see all the way to Kennebunkport… hazy but made a little closer with my telephoto lens. We thought about lunching there but it’s about a 45 minute drive from Mt. A by auto, so we chose a closer destination for a walk and dinner.
On our way out, mister gardener pointed out numerous birds in a section roped off as Regrowth Area. Happy song sparrows dining on seeds entertained us with antics in the hips of rugosa roses.
And how about those native New England asters (Symphyothichum novae-angliae) that dotted the summit? Those bold colors certainly got our attention… beautiful and filled with bumblebees.
There were plenty of monarch butterflies fluttering and feeding in the Regrowth Area.
We followed up with a trip to seaside town of Ogunquit where we found an abundance of fall color. Mums, pumpkins, scarecrows and a village packed with colorful tourists took center stage.
After a walk along Marginal Way and strolling Ogunquit village and enjoying a cup of homemade cider, we finished up the day with a taste of Maine seafood before heading home to New Hampshire. These little neck clams stuffed with chorizo and buttered bread crumbs and a cup of soup were a satisfying ending to our day adventure. It was a Wicked Awsome Day!
The weather has turned wet and cold in New Hampshire and the tomatoes on the vine won’t be ripening. Yesterday I pulled all the tomato plants and gathered about a dozen green tomatoes to make preserves. Yes, green tomato preserves. A little bit tart. A little bit sweet. A little bit bitter. And a whole lot delicious.
I cut the tomatoes up into chunky pieces, seeds and skin included,
and added enough sugar and lemon juice to suit my taste.
It all cooks for an hour and a half or so until thickened. I never remove the seeds as most recipes call for. The smaller seeds are tasteless and the larger ones add a bit of bitterness that I like.
My green tomatoes made 7 half-pints of preserves. Six are pictured here and one jar is in the refrigerator, half eaten on toast at breakfast this morning.
Fall has arrived and we’ve started feeding the birds again. Migrating visitors like this female rose-breasted grosbeak are passing through. We must not have the right habitat for summer habitation but we see males and females regularly on their northern and southern migration treks. This female has been with us for several days eating sunflower seeds and peanuts.
The last two of our hummingbirds left just before the remanents of Hurricane Florence blew through. We’ve had one straggler at a single nectar feeder we keep out. We may get more!
We see cardinals in the neighborhood all summer. They visit us in the spring when the serviceberry trees are producing sweet berries but dine elsewhere all summer. Adults and several juveniles are happy visitors again eating their favorites….. sunflower seeds and suet.
We had an abundant robin population this summer with one pair successfully nesting in our doublefile viburnum. (The cat that ate the last nesting of babies three years ago in this shrub has moved away with its owners. Yippee!) Most of our robins have migrated but others are stopping for viburnum berries. This shrub will soon be berry bare.
Other berries in the yard that attract birds are the blue berries of our tall juniper that aren’t really berries at all. They’re the spherical fleshy cones that are eaten by cedar waxwings, robins and even turkeys last winter. Our many chipping sparrows used the tree to roost all summer. They have migrated but we expect the white-throated sparrows to arrive this fall and use the evergreen as shelter from the cold.
And the favorite of the phoebe are the dark berries of the viburnum dentatum below. These shrubs had a growth spurt this summer with the July rains and the three shrubs are loaded with juicy black berries. It’s also a favorite food for the catbirds that disappear deep into the growth. All we can see is a quivering shrub until they fly out with a mouthful.
I think I’ll miss the catbirds the most when they go south. We had plenty of them to keep us entertained this summer. It’s amazing that we can tell several of them apart either from behavior, friendliness, or their ‘meow’ when they see us. There is one we call ‘Screamer’ who wails continuously and follows me around the yard. He (she?) raises the pitch when I appear with fresh mealworms. Spoiled….
And so it’s goodbye to our summer feathered friends and welcome to all migrators and winter visitors at the feeders.
They’ve been a powerhouse of white blooms and a bee magnet for weeks but their time has drawn to a close. They began to bloom for me in mid-summer just as the allium Millenium in the background had reached its peak of color.
Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) aren’t as common in gardens as regular chives (Allium schoenoprasum) but are just as easy to grow. Known in Asian cooking as Chinese chives with a flavor in cooking more like garlic than onions. We don’t use them as much as we should in the kitchen but the leaves are great for garlic butter spread, in soups, and salads. For us they mostly serve as an ornamental accent in a short walkway border and as nectar for insects.
These plants were a pass-along from a neighbor who grew tired of pulling up a multitude of garlic chive babies in her borders. The plant is a prolific self-seeder just like regular chives and a gardener must be on top of deadheading before the seeds are dispersed. For me, planting them in pots helps keep them contained.
All those beautiful blooms have since developed late summer seedheads. But before the seeds dropped, I removed all of the dried seedheads. I first cut the few with seeds ready to drop and didn’t lose a one.
It’s easy to deadhead the bunch. Just pull them together and cut… almost like a ponytail.
The neighbor who passed along the garlic chives to me can see the pots from her window. Last summer she came over and took photos. She’d never thought of putting them in pots at her house and thought they were beautiful on our pathway.
PS: I didn’t offer to give them back.
Seeing these dew-covered spider webs draped like sheets over boxwood lets us know we are in transition from summer to fall. On wet mornings, dozens of webs can be seen covering a multitude of box, other shrubs, grasses, and groundcovers like pachysandra. The sight could very well freak out arachnophobes.
Sadly, some folks run for a can of insecticide or a broom or the garden hose to make them just go away. But they should let these spiders be! The webs and spiders aren’t harming a thing and the spider will help out in the garden by eliminating insect pests.
We have to look hard to see the webs on a regular day but on a foggy morning or after an overnight dew, the webs stand out hortizontally over plants. It’s not a time to panic. It’s a time to marvel. Just look at the intricate architecture of each web. Amazing! And just wonder how long it took one female spider to spin such a web. I consider it a miracle of nature… really!
Some of the webs are large enough to connect several different plants and a flowerpot.
Others are thin and sparse. Is this spider just beginning her construction or is she finished? Or perhaps she was caught up in the foodchain and no longer exists.
Some of the spiders find a good location and build webs side by side… neighbors, you might say… with a wall of colorful hydrangea blooms separating them.
Now we have to wonder who lives in these webs. The funnel on each web is a clue to her identity. Would you like to know who she is?
She’s the shy spider from a group of funnel weavers called grass spiders (Agelenidae). When she feels a vibration, she dashes out of her funnel at lightning speed to capture her prey. Her web is not sticky so she must depend on speed.
Winter is coming and the webs won’t be there forever. She’ll soon deposit her eggs in a sac and die. Her young will hatch in the spring and repeat the cycle, maturing to adulthood over the summer, mate, reproduce and die.
Maine. What’s the appeal? Maine’s rocky shorelines dotted with sandy beaches draw thousands of vacationers to Maine. And then there are folks like us who are drawn to the dozens of fresh water lakes where rustic camps dot the shoreline. Bliss for me is watching a thick fog roll in over a lake waterfront while sipping a morning cuppa joe.
Coffee could be followed by a morning paddle through the fog, the only sounds being the paddle dipping in the water and the not-so-distant call of the loons. In this tranquil setting, this could be the most exciting thing you do all day!
Our summer stay was on Thompson Lake, a seven-square mile lake surrounded by beautiful mountains. The lake is in the top 5% of the cleanest lakes in Maine. On our boating expeditions around the lake, we could see the bottom at about 30-feet deep before we headed out into areas where the depths were close to 120-feet deep.
Both in deep waters and around the parameter of islands were prime spots for the grands to try their hand at first-time real (or reel 😄) fishing. A lake fished for bass, salmon and trout, all our small fishermen caught were little sunfish that were all released to see another day.
It was not uncommon to spot a bald eagle on one of the many islands or hear the echo of loons any time of the day. With a reported 20 pairs of loons breeding on the lake, we felt fortunate to have a pair with their tiny offspring foraging in a cove near our camp daily. What a sight to see!
Days were spent doing whatever we pleased. That could mean doing nothing at all or it could mean a venture inland. Unlike the summers of my youth on the salty shores of our grandparents’ rural cabin in Virginia where siblings and cousins played cards or Monopoly to pass an afternoon, this generation has modern options for afternoon lounging. All good….
Evenings were spent enjoying all the traditional summer activities….sitting on the dock, listening to the loons, watching sunsets, and toasting marshmallows over an open fire.
I think I’m sold on these rural lake camps of New England where nature abounds. It seems each summer we are on a different lake but it’s all so similar…. quiet, tranquil where nature rules and we are allowed to enter and absorb it all for a short time.
Cleome. Some people hate it. I always loved the old-fashioned cleome in my Virginia garden. A prolific self-seeder, it was fun every spring to see where it chose to pop up in my large gardens. And to see the different colors of blooms was exciting, too, since the babies could vary from white to purple, quite different from the parent.
Complaints according to those who avoid cleome in the garden:
Spines and thorns
Sticky excretion that could irritate
Tall and leggy later in the season
and a self-seeder
All those criticisms have become passé with new varieties on the market. The hybrid cleome I grow is compact…. only a foot tall and an annual. No thorns; no odor; no seeds (sadly); smaller blooms than my Virginia plants but just as floriferous all growing season; bushier than my original; planted in my soil/compost border and seem to be happy there; still loved by insects; still visited by hummingbird moths and hummingbirds. No good reason I can think of not to consider it for your garden…. unless you just don’t like the color!
There are certain plants I thought I’d never grow in my borders. Nepeta is one of those plants. Who in their right mind would want something in the mint family spreading in their garden? Then, of course, I became better educated about varieties while working at Rolling Green Nursery. I was still wary of nepeta but as I tended the plants, I was learning why so many gardeners asked for it.
It wasn’t until a Garden Conservancy Day Open Day in Maine a few years ago and I really met borders of nepeta that I actually fell in love.
Jonathan King and Jim Stott, founders and then-owners of Stonewall Kitchen, invited in the public to wander their home gardens. To make a long story short, nepeta and I have been together since.
I decided on ‘Walker’s Low’ that we sold at the nursery. It’s a very well-behaved plant and blooms for many months from late spring into fall. My worries about spreading like mint was unfounded. You will see a few babies during the summer near the mother plant. You can pull them out or let them go. I usually allow them choose where they want to go.
The plant starts out as a tidy rounded mound in the spring and eventually reaches about 15 – 18 inches tall in my garden. It is lacy and dainty and, yes, it can flop. No problem. Leave it or trim it. It will encourage re-blooming.
I planted drifts of nepeta along a garden path to soften the look of boxwood, to add some color, and to enjoy the aroma when brushed. It does prefer full sun but does quite well in my partly shaded location.
Nepeta is very easy-to-grow and the bunnies in the neighborhood steer clear. Not even a taste. Another good note is nepeta is an excellent source of nectar for honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Right now, with fading blooms in the late summer garden, our nepeta is doing the trick.
It’s still August but I’m learning just how short the growing season is in New Hampshire. Summer is fast shutting down. I don’t mean seeing preseason football on the telly or all those fall decorations I’m seeing in stores. It’s the plants and nature that are showing signs of ending their cycle of growth.
Our tomato plants look ratty but there are a few pink ones still hanging on. I’ve been picking the green tomatoes that are certain not to ripen. I’ve sliced, breaded, and fried them up in bacon fat as my southern roots dictate. If you’ve never tried this treat, you’d be surprised at how tasty it is. mister gardener, born and raised in Ohio, once turned his nose up at this delicacy but now can’t say not to this treat. I think we’ll be eating more as the month comes to a close.
On a drive through Vermont last week, we noticed a few species of trees are beginning to show color. In our garden, our Little Lime hydrangea shrubs are entering the color phase of late summer and fall. The booms emerge green in the spring, turn white through the summer, and finally present a lovely blush of pink in the fall. It’s happening now and it’s beautiful.
The crickets, grasshoppers, katydids, and cicadas are sounding the calls of fall. It can get noisy out there this time of year. Spider webs are festooned across much of what grows in the garden… and with egg sacs full of little “Charlottes” ready to greet the world in the spring.
We’re seeing the birds begin to gather for their annual migration. Several of our male hummingbirds have already left. It seems early for migration but the number of males around the feeders are fewer. We are keeping the nectar fresh for the females, the young, and those few that may wander through during migration. The nuisance around the nectar these days are the yellow jackets….. not a bee, but a pesky wasp that is drawn to sweets as the summer wanes.
The sun is rising a little later and setting earlier these days bringing some refreshing cool nights. We’ve dragged out the down cover for those nights that drop into the 50’s. I wish this time of the year lasted longer. It’s amazing to think the first frost in this part of the state can occur in less than an month!
I love all the seasons but maybe not equally. I must admit I’ll be sad to put away my garden gloves for another long New England winter
Daily headlines on my weather apps are “Stormy Weekend Continues,” “More Coastal Flash Flooding Possible,” “Expect Pop-Up Showers,” “Downpours in the Forecast.” The month of August has greeted us with more than ample rain. It seems we are locked in this wet, humid and warm pattern with a good chance of showers, thunderstorms, or heavy fog daily. I read in a news release that, should the rain pattern persist, Concord New Hampshire is due to pass the last wettest August on record. They are only ¼” behind their last record set in 1892. New Hampshire is a small state. We can’t be too far behind.
We had a slight drought in July but that’s long gone. Thirsty plants been replaced with abundant greenery and a Jurassic-like growth in our landscape. Even wildlife has proliferated. Chipmunks are masters of all that we survey. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dinosaur crash through our tropical growth.
Waterhogs like clethra and hydrangea have flourished, doubled in size, and bloomed better than ever. Greenery in the shade garden is looking a little like Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors.
The soggy soil has not helped our grass at all. We developed small pockets of blight on the lawn with the cool nights and hot humid rainy days. I’m trying to be on top of this and have treated it… but once started, fungal diseases are difficult to stop. So far, it’s been two weeks and no sign of it returning.
I do worry about waterlogged roots in the garden. Much of the garden is raised but to help the wet, compacted soil, I’m taking my garden fork and driving the tines into the soil for several inches. I hope this will provide more air to roots and perhaps dry the soil a little quicker.
All in all, if I had to choose between a drought and abundant wet weather, I’d choose the wet any day. I’d rather fight the fungus, the mosquitoes, the slugs, the chipmunks than a sun baked and hot earth that much of the world has experienced recently. Counting blessings….
Hydrangeas are a quintessential part of a New England summer. Picture a cedar shake coastal style home located over the vast waters of the Atlantic. Can you picture the woody plants gracing the foundation of the home? I imagine all along the foundation are gorgeous hydrangeas with massive white blooms nodding in the ocean breezes.
After we purchased our home, we were asked by our association to remove huge invasive burning bushes alone the front foundation and plant something else. We were new to the area so we consulted a well-known landscape designer who suggested go with aborescens hydrangeas. Why not, I thought. We’re in New England now. Yeah!
It’s been 3 years and the Hydrangea arborescens ‘Abetwo’ Incrediball are absolutely gorgeous at this time of the year. Two are shaded part of the day but the third has a lot of hot afternoon sun…. and that one performs even better than the more shaded hydrangeas. The Incrediball is a carefree hydrangea with real staying power and very few diseases or pests. Since it blooms on new wood, we prune the shrubs close to the ground in late winter to encourage vigorous and strong stem growth and better form. It has paid off. The shrubs are over 5′ tall and fill the foundation well. Blooms are incredible (Incrediball?) and are held aloft on strong steps. All amazing but especially amazing is that they held up blooms in 3″ of rain in a fast moving gullywasher that we had a few days ago.
The problem is…. I don’t like them there. Perhaps if I owned that cedar shingle style home on the seacoast, they’d be perfect. But we live in a nice New Hampshire neighborhood and they just don’t look right to me. I don’t like bare branches as a front-of-the-house foundation all winter and I’ve NEVER been crazy about blooming shrubs dominating a front foundation. I guess I’m an old-school gardener.
So I’m making plans for an evergreen border that I should have done in the first place. I’ll let flowering shrubs overflow in other parts of the garden…. the viburnums, clethra, and several other hydrangea that add drama to my back borders, but evergreens will be out front. Period. Final.
The good news: These are excellent pass-along shrubs. Aborescens can be shared. When the time is right, I will divide the root balls into quarters and each one will be a lovely new Incrediball hydrangea planted en masse in someone else’s New England garden. They would make a lovely hedge…
Summer 2018 in New England has been as glorious as I can remember since moving here. With so many areas suffering the most catastrophic conditions imaginable around the globe… from heat and drought, floods and tornadoes, volcanoes and fire…. we are swaddled in comfort with enough moisture, sunshine, and pleasant temperatures that I feel almost apologetic writing about it. We had a stretch of dry weather earlier in the summer and have suffered in the past with an abundance of weather extremes but, so far… summer 2018 has made the living enjoyable for gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts. With a warming climate, all summers won’t be like this so we will savor it while it lasts.
Plants that we trickled water on for survival during a 3-year drought are now bursting with growth. Every shrub and tree and flower and vegetable in this yard is fuller, taller, and more floriferous. With these favorable conditions, we’re seeing more insects and birds and in our yard… especially the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that have proliferated wildly around here. We now have the adults and their offspring jetting through and around the garden performing acrobatic maneuvers to guard their territory.
With such movement, it’s impossible to count how many hummers are out there but there’s a way to guesstimate, according to bird banders. Count how many you see at one time and multiply that number by 6. That would mean there are about 20-25 hummingbirds coming and going and perhaps almost parting our hair when we get too close to the action. Other residents in the neighborhood feed hummingbirds so they are moving between our homes. It’s fun to see such activity and much better numbers than the total 8-10 we counted during drought years.
We have the feisty males with their bright red gorgets displaying territorial rule and their mating prowess but the feeders look to be dominated by females with the white throats. That can be deceiving. There are more females than males but the young males we are seeing have not developed their telltale ‘ruby’ throat. They look much like females until we are close enough to see faint lines or striations on their throats. Next year, they’ll display their bright gorgets.
We’re keeping the feeders spotless, making fresh nectar (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) often and just watching as the hummers are bulking up preparing for their long migration at the end of the summer. Males will leave first, followed by females and young. We will keep the feeders clean and half-full with fresh nectar after they leave because you never know when a migration straggler will venture by and need a couple of days of nourishment before continuing on.
Haven’t we gardeners learned that worms are beneficial to the earth? And they’re good for the ecosystem, right? They provide aeration and drainage in the garden. They break down plant matter and leave behind healthy castings are rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. I‘ve always reburied these good little soldiers that I’ve disturbed in the garden because they’re beneficial. However, that’s not the case in the natural New England forests that surround us.
Years ago, I learned from my sister who is a curator at Historic Jamestown in Virginia that most of our earthworms in the US are non-native, the offspring of European earthworms brought by British colonists in the 1600’s. And there were no worms at all north of Pennsylvania then. Glaciers wiped them out. Our natural North American forests that have existed ‘wormless’ are now dealing with a harmful soil ecosystem due to European worms that slowly moved north over hundreds of years.
Worms have been altering the physical properties of the forest soil by devouring leaf litter causing water runoff, drier soil and poor soil chemistry. Biologists are studying the long-term effects on native undergrowth, too. Natives are disappearing and invasive plants and grasses that can survive the loss of leaf litter and dry soil are moving in.
Just as we’re digesting that European worm information, we learn about another worm invader in New England forests…. the Asian jumping worm that other garden bloggers and cooperative extensions are writing about. A voracious eater that lives in the top layer of soil, this worm devours the organic layer faster than other worms and it displaces those European worms in place. When exposed, these worms are more snake-like and wiggligy in movements. I’m watching for them in my garden in New Hampshire. We’re instructed to report any sightings to our local cooperative extension. Oh dear….
See Jumping Worm
We don’t grow many vegetables due to space constraints but in the coolness of a New England spring, leaf-lettuce is one we can depend on even in the heat of summer if we are careful. We have enjoyed the bounty of our lettuce crop for lunch and dinner for several weeks.
Lettuce is so easy to grow! We plant trays of lettuce as early as we can in as many places as we can. Some grow in full sun for cool weather picking and others grow in containers with annuals, both sunny and shady. They look pretty and we can harvest a few leaves at a time but never more than half the plant.
We planted as much as we could around the tomatoes. With dappled afternoon shade beneath the tomato plants, they’ve thrived during our current heat spell with temps in the 90’s. That’s NOT the weather lettuce likes.
Despite watering, some lettuce in full sun has begun to show signs of growing tall in the heat. So we harvested much of this lettuce before it bolted, ate a lot and shared a lot. A good amount of our organic lettuce was welcomed for tasty salads at two dinner parties we recently attended.
Some of the roots, we washed and replanted in good potting soil. They’re sending up new leaves and we hope to harvest a second crop, a first try for us. Wish us luck!
The Fourth of July, Independence Day, means different things to different people. In addition to the significance of the day and diverse interpretations, it is a holiday and a time for family and friends to gather together with a big emphasis on food.
Yesterday Google Doodle featured an interactive map with recipes for popular regional and state dishes. It stated, “The 4th of July is the USA’s most scrumptious summer celebration: a time when friends and family get together to celebrate the nation’s independence by cooking, boiling, frying, baking, grilling, or blackening their favorite regional dishes.”
The most searched recipe in New Hampshire was Apple Crisp, “a classic New England dessert.” We love apple crisp but for us that dish is one we enjoy during apple season when the juicy fruit is picked fresh from local trees. For our gathering, we chose the fruit ripening on trees now: Cherries!
I can remember a few years ago that everyone seemed to have a red, white and blue border of annuals to show their patriotism on the Fourth. Our master gardener group in Virginia planned and planted for it in our community. Even though I don’t plant one now, it was fun yesterday to spot shades of red, white and blue scattered here and there around the home.
Beyond the red, white and blue, the backyard barbecues, and fireworks, the Fourth is an opportunity to pause and reflect on what it means to be an American, an American of any color or creed in these turbulent times and what the future of our country may be. My wish is for all to have a meaningful way to celebrate the day.
We’re closing the month of June on a HOT note in New Hampshire. It’s really uncomfortable and really steamy with temperatures hovering around 92-93° today. But no matter the temperature, I had a chore to tackle in the garden that couldn’t wait for cooler temperatures. Several rolls of sod were waiting to be installed in an area we’re revamping due to construction here. Today we needed to get those rolls positioned and watered well…. heat wave or not.
Just as the some sections were in place and about to be tightened up, our first visitor arrived. Ferdinand, the last surviving bunny in the neighborhood and a welcome little friend, arrived for his twice daily visit. He hopped along the seam between sod sections.
He’s still a wild bunny. We have never approached him and he would hop away if we did. But he visits daily and he sits nearby and watches our activity in the yard. We’d like to think he comes to visit us but it’s probably our crop of juicy clover that’s the biggest draw.
While bunny nibbled the clover and watched me cut sod, I spied a second visitor, a tiny newly hatched eastern painted turtle, no bigger than a quarter, shell still quite soft. The top shell or carapace was olive-green on this little guy. He had a pale yellow stripe down the middle of the shell and reddish-orange markings around the edge.
The bottom shell or plastron was a solid yellow.
Our yard was not the best location for this little fellow. Our small community is surrounded by wetland and ponds but a turtle this size would probably find himself beneath a lawn mower or auto tire before he could find any water. They’ve built this neighborhood right where the turtles have probably always laid their eggs. I’ve marked off and added signage to protect one turtle’s egg site and today I helped an adult turtle in the middle of the road reach the road berm (in the same direction it was heading). Sadly, turtles often don’t make the road crossing successfully.
I put the tiny turtle in a container in the shade, added water, rocks, floating leaves, and a conch shell to hide in while I finished cutting and laying the sod. He actually swam, nibbled on algae and seemed to have a jolly time. All the while, I had to fight the urge to keep him as a pet… I’d kept my share as a kid… but after an hour or so, decided to release him in a slow-moving stream close by.
As June ends on a hot note, July will start off on a hot note tomorrow. We have an excessive heat advisory for the next several days stretching well into the week. Hot yes but it won’t keep us indoors… and who knows, we may have more critters visit our little stretch of land.
We are big time bird lovers. We provide food during the cold months for them but now, as summer begins, they are foraging for food naturally. However, if you still want to attract birds at different times of the year, one of the best ways is by planting native trees and shrubs that produce berries at different times.
Ripening right now are the juicy berries of our two ornamental serviceberry trees (Amelanchier spp.) ‘Autumn Brilliance’ that are providing most of the backyard entertainment for us. In my opinion, this 25′ understory tree is one of the most beautiful trees you can plant. The tree is literally covered in early white flowers in the spring making it an early source of pollen and nectar for insects as well as eye candy for us, and now… berries are beginning to ripen in hanging clusters and the trees are alive with wildlife.
We thought maybe there’d be a few ripe berries for us but it’s not to be. Just take a look at a few of the feathered visitors:
I’m amazed at how the cedar waxwings find us each year but they do… accomplishing acrobatics in their formal dress. They travel in a flock so we know the berries won’t last much longer. All stages of fruit are on the tree but the waxwings don’t mind green berries.
Difficult for me to capture on a smart phone but I was curious whether this robin below with a beak full of 3 worms could actually have the ability to snag a berry, too. As you can see in the second fuzzy photo, operation accomplished! Off to feed its young…
Birds aren’t the only animals that enjoy these tasty treats. We’ve seen our neighborhood four-footed animals reaching for the ripest berries.
And so… I am willing to give up my dream of serviceberry jam, serviceberry pie or maybe a little serviceberry wine, just to attract varied wildlife to the yard. Our serviceberry trees will provide summer shade for my perennials and in the fall, the trees’ foliage will glow in deep reds, yellows, and oranges. As our trees age, the bark will become rough but, with our young trees we have the smooth gray bark for winter interest.
Spring is a beautiful time of year and we were fortunate that our 2018 spring was enjoyable with enough rain to turn everything lush and green. Today summer has officially arrived bringing heat and humidity and the first flush of WEEDS. All kinds of tiny weeds have sprouted in lawns and in borders around this neighborhood.
I’m not crazy about the idea of dousing the property with chemicals so I’m laboring a little each day to pull them out before they form seed heads. I find the single best way to rid oneself of weeds is the good old-fashioned pull-them-out-by-hand when the ground is moist and the plants are young. That’s when it’s easy to pull the entire weed up because if you don’t get the root out, it’s probably going to grow back. I simply grab a weed close to the ground and slowly pull straight up. If the ground is dry, I find the second best way to remove weeds is with a triangular blade hoe. You’ll find no Roundup used around my yard!
Our association lays down mulch in our neighborhood and those are the weeds I tackle first. A few inches of compost/mulch mix makes it easier to pull them out, roots and all…. even the young pokeweed below that will develop a huge taproot that will go deep and spread horizontally later in the summer.
Chickweed, Hairy Bittercrest, Dandelion, Wood Sorrel, Plantains, Purslane, Pokeberry, Prostrate Spurge, Crabgrass and my worst gardening enemy… Creeping Charlie (in the neighbor’s yard), are all waiting to grow and develop a good root system and simply take over… but, sorry, not on my watch!
No matter how dreaded a job, we must accept that weeds are part of gardening and be prepared to do battle but never win the war. No matter how many you pull out, nature is constantly reseeding them for you.
…. here’s another Flower Power perennial I learned to love at Rolling Green Nursery. It got a lot of interest when blooming and when the blooms were gone, we simply sheared it back and watched it perform again. It’s a low growing variety of campanula, a genus with more than 300 very different varieties. I loved the campanula carpathica “white clips,” and the blue-purple, “blue clips,” still growing strong for me, both massed as a groundcover and as container plants.
One morning I assisted a shopper who selected several “white clips” for a border along his driveway. Two weeks later he returned with a smile and loaded his big wagon with every last one we had (except one), saying it was the only plant that’s ever done so well in that location. That was the day I bought my first bellflower that I had set aside! Whew… now I have lots!
This low-growing bellflower is one of the most popular ones. It seems to love our New England climate with cool nights during the summer. It’s easy to grow, disease and pest free, good in full sun or part shade. The plants form a neat, low mound of tiny green leaves with a mass of upfacing, open bell-shaped blooms appearing in late spring and early summer. If they are deadheaded when spent, they will bloom for many weeks. It’s a great little plant for front of the border, for rock gardens, and in containers (no thriller, filler, spiller needed).
Campanula bellflower (Campanula carpatica)
8 – 10″ tall
Nothing screams summer like New England’s June strawberries. It’s the beginning of our pick-your-own season but we don’t really pick them unless we take the grandchildren. Applecrest Farm is just a stone’s throw away where we can buy the juiciest berries already picked and waiting for us. With four acres of berries and a dozen varieties, we can’t go wrong!
It’s a short season and we’re taking full advantage. We’ve enjoyed eating them fresh but also with rhubarb in deserts, as a sauce over ice cream, with simple milk and sugar, and and in salads or a main dish such as the one below, grilled chicken salad with spring lettuce, roasted pecans, blueberries and juicy strawberries, that mister gardener made for us tonight. Deee-lish!
His dressing: 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup veg. oil, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 onion, diced, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper…blended in a mini food processor for about 30 seconds. Oh so good!
The strawberries came from Applecrest Farm, but the lettuce keeps on coming right out of my small garden. I have several varieties growing in all of my containers whether it’s an ornamental container or tomato trough or some small herb containers. With our cool, wet spring, the lettuce doesn’t show any sign of bolting. We’re taking full advantage!
We are almost finished our current stash of strawberries but not to worry. Tomorrow is our town’s Farmers’ Market. I know we’ll see more of the juicy fruit at several of the farm stands. We’ll come home with strawberries and perhaps a few asparagus. Can’t wait.
When I was employed at Rolling Green Nursery, this plant was often requested by shoppers. From one week to the next, when I reported for work, I noticed the plant was practically sold out in my absence. That much requested perennial is Alchemilla… lady’s mantle. I wasn’t too familiar with it as I didn’t grow it in my zone 8 Virginia garden but, now I have fallen under its spell in my seacoast New Hampshire garden. I started with two plants as accents in a border and they quickly charmed me so much that I now use them as a groundcover in another border. Lots of lady’s mantle there and I am rewarded with plant pizzazz!
The blooms of the lady’s mantle are frothy clusters of yellow/chartreuse that cover the plants this time of year. Each individual bloom is about 1/8-inch wide and shaped like a little star. The clouds of blossoms stand erect above the mound of attractive leaves. However, as the blooms become heavy, they can become a bit floppy. That’s when I cut those heavier stems for flower arrangements. They look fabulous alone in a container or stunning as a filler in mixed arrangements. And… a bonus… they seem to hold color for me when they are air-dried.
Lady’s mantle does self-seed and some folks will deadhead all the flowers before the seeds ripen. The tiny seeds, one per flower, ripen when the blooms become dry and brown later in the summer. I do allow some self-seeding but cut most blooms. During the heat of the summer, I keep the plants well-watered and after deadheading I am rewarded with a flush of fresh growth in the fall.
The leaves of lady’s mantle are like shallow rippled cups and have tiny soft hairs that cause water droplets that form either from rain, fog, or evaporation to roll around on the surface and hang on along the edge of the leaf.
My variety: Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) ‘thriller’ – zones 3-8