My cherry tomato vine seems turbo charged this fall and tomatoes are ripening faster than they can be consumed. Yesterday when I reached my hand into the vine for ripe tomatoes, a swarm of fruit flies exited the plant and circled around me until I finished collecting the fruit. This is the time of year that pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, apples and more are maturing and rotting in fields and gardens. Fruit flies are prolific eaters and breeders and they often follow the food source to our homes to breed on food or even a wet paper towel.

Here’s a little tip that our family has used for many years to combat fruit flies that invade indoors each fall.  Many people know this little trick but I’m surprised at how many do not. There is no need to spray unhealthy poisons inside the home or purchase expensive traps. First, make sure you don’t leave fruits or vegetables or open drinks on the counter; make sure recycling cans are washed of foods and drink; empty trash or seal wet garbage well; clean and dry sinks; remove wet washrag; keep dishwasher closed tight when loaded with dirty dishes.

Add several tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a small jar with a miniature hole poked through the lid. With no other food source, fruit flies will be drawn to the fruity vinegar.  Once inside, they are trapped and will expire. Every couple of days, pour out the vinegar and refresh with new.  During the peak of the season, we can attract a dozen or more to the vinegar a day.  It really works!

Fruit fly numbers will diminish with the first frost.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

It’s All In The Timing

For the past week, days have been sunny and the evenings have been cool, creating ideal conditions to produce the vivid pigmentation found in sugar maples (Acer saccharum). The tree known for producing maple syrup, thrives in the cool, moist summers of the northeastern United States but sugar maples also grow in Virginia. We planted two sugar maple trees a dozen years ago and they both have done exceedingly well right here in the hot, humid summers of Tidewater.

One was planted near the river and although said to be sodium intolerant, has endured salt spray from annual storms.  Thankfully, neither of the trees has shown signs of trauma from the past summer’s drought and prolonged heat wave.

It’s in the fall of the year that our sugar maples become the focal point of our landscape. When the morning sun rises over the river and collides with the florescent reds, oranges and lemon yellows, all on a single tree, you hold your breath for a minute, then run for your camera. We have to hurry if we want to capture the tree and its leaves in a photograph for the peak of color seems to last only about 3 days before beginning to wane.  For me, the sugar maple, like the ginkgo, is a tree that holds a cherished place in my heart.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Still Searching for Signs of Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year. The air is brisk, the humidity is low and sweaters come out of storage. There is no better time for hikes, bird watching, biking and football. In the garden, my heart jumps with joy to discover a bit of space for new purchases, mostly trees and woody shrubs, to fill in gaps between plantings.

No matter how anxious I am, I can’t hurry the color. We are still waiting for fall in our Zone 7. Foliage remains green on the road to our home. I’m trying to be patient for the glorious shades of yellows and reds that will soon adorn these very trees on the same road. Last year the colors were glorious on November 3.

Anticipation is building. Today I made a quick exploration near the house to reassure myself that fall is indeed around the corner. I found mature nuts, ripening berries and plants gone to seed.

The American holly berries are turning red as are the Foster’s holly berries.

American Holly

Foster’s Holly

Seed pods of the Japanese maple have turned a deep red and look ready to fly; seed pods on the redbud trees appear poised to drop.

Japanese Maple


Purple beautyberry and American beautyberry growing side by side offer spectacular fall color in the shade of a tulip poplar. Juicy berries ripen on cascading poet’s laurel beneath tall pines.


Poet’s Laurel

Finally, proof of fall was found in the empty husks of the beech tree. Beechnuts have fallen to the ground and most have been removed by hungry squirrels. The last nut I photographed is the young red buckeye nut, seed or fruit. I’m not sure what it is called but I was tickled to have the 5-foot tree produce one.


Red Buckeye

Yes, proof is in the pudding. Fall can’t be too far away in Zone 7 in Virginia.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Paths In The Garden…

Whether it’s a walkway welcoming guests to the front door or a pathway to the azaleas in bloom, paths in the garden can be both function and inviting. Landscape plans incorporate plans for garden paths before a plant goes in the ground but in our gardens they simply evolved around natural settings.

I do love paths in a garden.  Who can resist an invitation to venture into the unknown?  It can lead to a discovery of a pond or a secret garden or to the glorious hellibores in bloom beneath the Chinese Chestnut tree on a cool day in late winter. Because we live in a rural area, we chose a less formal fieldstone to provide a path around the side and back of our home with plantings of miniature sedums and an assortment of thymes intermixed between the stones. This pathway curves around foundation shrubs, herbs, and ornamental gardens built up at the corners of the home. At journey’s end of this walkway, we are rewarded with the frog pond and gardens, a haven for birds, fish, frogs, skinks, and butterflies. There we are invited to linger in provided seating.

Other pathways in our garden are of brick or a bit of slate as stepping stones leading to faucet and hose, but the majority of our paths are simply grass, my very favorite material. It is beautiful and it’s soft and forgiving to my bare feet. Trees in our gardens dictated where  paths should be. One grassy alleé walkway is bordered on each side by hedges of poet’s laurel and it leads me straight to the garden house. Another curved grassy path leads me down a euonymus lined walkway, through the garden gate and into the neighbors’ domain. Narrow grass paths in the gardens all widen into open areas of lawn and the eye can scan the horizon for the next destination, whether it’s a pathway to the bench under the beech or the small mulched footpath to the new secret garden or across open lawn to the river.

I like to think of a garden landscape as a novel with each garden revealing itself as a chapter in the plot. Whether its a mystery or a ‘who done it’ or a love story, pathways in the garden help the story unfold by linking the chapters and keeping the story exciting. Paths can be functional and aesthetic and enticing, an welcome invitation for new discoveries. Is there a path in your garden?

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Fine Arts and Flowers at VMFA

Fine Arts and Flowers at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond is just around the corner on October 13 – October 17.

·         FLORAL INTERPRETATIONS – 70 floral interpretations of VMFA art
·         Gems of the East GALA – Look for the elephant.
·         JEWELRY, uniquely designed and hand-crafted
·         GUEST SPEAKERS – Hitomi Gilliam and Rene van Rems, international floral designers, will demonstrate their talents; Allan Armitage, the world’s foremost horticulturist will discuss crazy plants; and Bryan Rafanelli, Chelsea Clinton’s wedding planner, will tell you how to plan your next event.
·         LUNCHEONS include a main course, dessert, wine, coffee/tea and models wearing jewelry from the Jewelry Fair.  (Note: Lunch in the Best Café and Amuse may be difficult due to the anticipated number of visitors.)
·         FLOWERS AFTER HOURS – Join the after work crowd for wine, music by Susan Greenbaum, flowers and small plates.
·         FLOWERS AND FASHIONS – 3-course luncheon features a judged fashion show with lots door prizes!
General admissions are free. Tickets are required for programs and events. For more information about the schedule, directions to the museum, or to purchase tickets online, please click here or call 804-340-1405.

Visit The Council of VMFA on Facebook.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Finding Fall Yellows

Gathering together with children and grandchildren from 3 states, we hiked trails for two days in a quest for fall yellows in the mountains. Early October is too early for full fall colors but our expedition took us upward through shades of green.

click all photos to enlarge


We could perceive lighter shades of green in the trees in lower altitudes. The higher we climbed the more green we found in the form of moss and ferns and many shades of brown from fallen leaves that blanketed the forest floor.

We also encountered other browns on our mission to the top of the mountain such as this brown and white horse with his cowboy who, like us, was on an adventure to find fall color.

As we climbed, the terrain became a bit more precipitous and the rocks turned to moss covered bolders, perfect climbs for a troop of grandchildren with more energy than parents.

As we crested the top of our hike, we were rewarded by seas of goldenrod with vivid asters intermixed in lakeside meadows

These late blooming native purple asters with orange centers attracted a wide variety of late summer bumblebees, moths, flies, and butterflies. They were a perfect contrast to the yellows that blanketed the meadow in the form of goldenrod.

Easily recognized with its large clusters of yellow blooms, the perennial goldenrod, Solidago, was putting on a big show and was a magnet for butterflies and numerous insects, including spiders and other predators. We were happy to observe the great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele) feeding on the nectar of the goldenrod.

After a brief rest, the hike downhill was a welcome reprieve for me.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester