Did you run a turkey trot today?

Instead of putting our feet up and watching parades and football today, family members were up at 6 a.m., downing a cup of coffee and heading out for an early morning Turkey Trot 5K race in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Temperatures hovered at 32 degrees with morning sun brightly reflecting off last night’s rain puddles, now ice.

The Turkey Trot, repeated in many communities across America, is a  a family event. Grandparents, children, grandchildren, and the family dogs approached the starting line of the race on this brisk Thursday morning. Participants arrived sporting festive turkey attire, Indian and pilgrim outfits, and colorful spandex.Two thousand runners and walkers, up 500 from last year, were poised and ready for the starting gun.After watching Santa and his Mrs. cross the finish line, it was time to head home for lots of turkey, dressing, football and fun.

Hope your Thanksgiving was delightful and delicious!

Preparations for Moving…

It’s interesting how a few words revolving around moving are the same ones used in gardening: uprooting, transplanting, pull up stakes, putting down roots. Very soon we will be doing all that as we find new homes for potted plants, dividing and sharing poets laurel from the garden.  But then, we’re also busy interviewing moving companies, talking to real estate agents in Portsmouth, finding new homes for household items, and tying off  loose ends in the community.

Ware Neck

The tying off loose ends is the most difficult task. Although I’ve resided in Florida and Ohio where work took the family, then finally coming back to Virginia, where I was born and raised, the home of my ancestors and where much family lives, felt like fitting the last piece in the puzzle. It is Home. The importance of a physical place and relationships cannot be understated because it makes us who we are. But we will be taking it all with us, not leaving anything behind.  Family, friendship and experiences.

North River

All will be making the move to New Hampshire with us. They will be there on frosty winter mornings as I sip my coffee from the mug imprinted with the Virginia Creed, ” To be a Virginian either by Birth, Marriage, Adoption, or even on one’s Mother’s side, is an Introduction to any State in the Union, a Passport to any Foreign Country, and a Benediction from Above.”—Anonymous

We never thought it would happen this soon…

… but after some short weeks on the market, we sold our home on the North River in Ware Neck, Virginia and we’re heading out on a new adventure.  We might be crazy but we’re heading north for the winter months to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Having a newlywed daughter and a college-aged son in New Hampshire, it seemed the perfect place to try something new. We’ll be packing up and shipping out next month. I’m excited to blog as a private citizen and not for the garden club about the flora and fauna of zone 5.  Who knows what we’ll find in New Hampshire (besides snow)? Stay tuned….

Coastal Color

Fall colors in our coastal Virginia landscape are fairly muted. We have splashes of oranges and yellows highlighting the woods and gardens and umpteen dogwood trees providing deep red accents under the pines. Soon the leaves will fall from these dogwood leaving a single bud standing erect at the tip of each twig containing the flower and two sets of leaves waiting to emerge in the spring.

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Yellows are our prevailing fall color around these parts. The soft shades of yellow against the dark trunks repeat every year and we never tire of walking or driving beneath them.

Yellows on our road...

There are several trees around the yard that dazzle us with color and seem to glow in the sunlight like bright fluorescent bulbs. Two of our maple varieties are fall standouts:

Japanese cutleaf maple

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

…and my all time favorite trees, the ginkgoes that never fail to put on a spectacular display just for us.

Ginkgo biloba

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

There’s a Spring in my Step!

I’m always a bit melancholy when a season ends. Summer blooms in the garden have faded and died back. Borders look a little disheveled and untidy. Perennials seem to turn brown overnight.

By mid-November in Virginia, it’s a different story. It’s autumn now, my favorite season, and that always puts a spring in my step. Morning chills in the air, blustery winds swirling leaves, and low humidity give me a boost of energy and entice me out for lots of autumn walkabouts. I have engaged in walks with different groups of friends on village streets, on long country lanes, through browning meadows, and on dirt trails. When invited, I have accepted invitations with some walkers who may stop to smell the roses, others who never pause, some who are seeking the arrival of migrating birds, and those who are training for walking half marathons (whew!).  But it’s all good.

Walking by Brent & Becky's Bulbs in the fall

I think the most entertaining fall strolls I have are with my 4-legged friends simply kicking through the maple leaves together and beating the bounds on this property. The canines are invigorated by the end of heat and humidity of the Dog Days of Summer. Daylight Savings Time has ended and we have returned to a more normal time that I like so much better. All is well.

We will enjoy this glorious season of autumn, relishing the sunny days, the blue sky, colorful leaves, the feeling of harmony with nature, before we drift our way on to winter with its gray skies and freezing rain. Again I will be sad to see a season leave. Autumn has been a delight!

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Bowls and Doileys in the Garden

Yesterday I awoke to a cool and foggy morning in Gloucester. Until the sun rose to burn it off, the river was shrouded in a thick cloud of moisture, a haze that left the landscape laden in a covering of morning dew. This heavy dew is a frequent occurrence in the fall in Tidewater and it’s a perfect time to check out the almost invisible world of miniature spiders.

Morning fog

There are hundreds of sheet web spiders (Linyphiidae) but one tiny sheet web spider interests me most. The Bowl and Doily Spider (Frontinella communis), found everywhere in the Eastern US, goes unnoticed on a dry day.  Just take a look at what we can see on a dew laden morning.

Bowl and Doily Spider Webs

These tiny webs are named for the unique shapes that the spider weaves. There are two levels to the web, an non-sticky upper area known as the bowl and a lower area called the doily. The spider that lives in the web is found underneath the bowl upside down. Entomologists believe the doily is to protect the spider from enemies below and the bowl may protect it from above. There are ‘trap lines’ that connect all parts of the web to the plants. Although I’ve never seen an insect trapped in the bowl, it’s been said that the Bowl and Doily Spider will bite an insect through this web, then it wraps the prey (mosquitoes, gnats, small flies, aphids) in silk.

Bowl and Doily Spider Web in Dew

I often lean close trying to spot the spider between the sheets of web. But I think I must disturb a trap line and the spider disappears before I can focus my eyes or a camera. We’re talking about a web of three or four inches and a spider about 4 mm in length.

However, I did get lucky this time and captured a fuzzy photo before the little one scampered away.

Bowl and Doily Spider (click for closer look)

In areas of Maine, the native Bowl and Doily Spider is under threat from an extremely aggressive European spider, the Palearctic spider (L. triangularis) that was accidentally introduced into the US. It is overtaking the webs of several varieties of sheet web spiders. The dominant L. triangularis is leading to a decline in spider biodiversity in areas of Arcadia National Park. No one can predict what will happen, but lets hope those aggressive invaders don’t like the climate in Virginia.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Virginia

They fibbed….

My grandfather loved roses. He grew beautiful prize-winning roses. My mother, a knowledgeable gardener, followed suit and grew roses for pleasure. But NEVER, EVER did I want a rose garden. I witnessed the time it took my mother to tend to her roses, examining leaves for fungus or insects, pruning, deadheading, picking off the Japanese beetles and plunking them into soapy water. (She never knew that when she walked away I dumped them out and rinsed them with the hose. Playing with Japanese beetles was great entertainment for a youngster with no TV, video games or smart phones in the late 50’s)

Years ago, a landscape designer friend opened the back of her car and unloaded 3 healthy red single Knock Out roses (Rosa x ‘Knock Out’) for me. “You must have these,” she said. “Disease resistant, insect resistant, no deadheading, no pruning, blooms all summer….  Carefree!”  I was grateful and appreciative but I was a little reluctant and wary. Carefree, indeed….

Carefree and continuous blooming were the two thoughts that stayed with me as I planted the three rose bushes center stage in my sunniest garden. The instructions read, “….compact plant, 3-4 feet tall and wide.”  I played it safe and planted a little further apart, two side by side and one slightly angled behind.

That was that. For two years, they were true to form. They did bloom heavily from June to Thanksgiving or until a killing frost. The shape of the shrub was naturally round. I never deadheaded. I never pruned. Japanese beetles visited occasionally but did not swarm. No black spot. No mildew. No aphids. I got compliments. I beamed. Eventually this became my new ‘Red Garden.’

Just as the directions read, they reached 3 feet tall after a year, then 4 feet tall the next summer, but they continued to grow…. 5 feet, 6 feet, 7, 8, 9, 10 feet tall. Eventually two grew together appearing as one massive bush. They have withstood hurricanes, salt water spray, Nor’easters, and an earthquake, and they’re still growing. I do not prune. I do not spray. I do not deadhead and I don’t fertilize.

They ‘fibbed’ about the 4 foot height but it’s all good: It is a favorite hangout for birds in the garden; I have lovely cut flowers from June to Thanksgiving; they provide great curb appeal as people point and ask about them before getting out of their cars; and this summer they provided a profusion of blooms as a backdrop for a wedding reception and photographs.

K.I.S.S. in the garden. What more could a gardener want?

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester