Daffodil Mania!

Today, it was 70° back home in Gloucester Virginia and that means daffodils of all shades and shapes must be blooming profusely across the countryside there. Once called “The Daffodil Capital of America,” it all began when Gloucester’s early settlers brought the bulbs to across the sea in the 1600s. The climate and soil agreed with daffodils and the flowers eventually spread like melted butter across the fields of Gloucester. The flower is celebrated to this day.

Since 1938, my garden club, The Garden Club of Gloucester, has held an annual daffodil show where growers are encouraged to enter a competition for the best bloom in 13 different divisions. The American Daffodil Society sanctioned event, the oldest event in Gloucester, not only fills a gymnasium with a dazzle of daffodils for the Horticulture Division, it offers an Artistic Division where entrants compete interpreting themes in flower arranging, and two popular Artistic Divisions for children.  Click pictures to enlarge.

Parallel Arrangement: Line Dancing by Sarah HyltonInterpretive Design: The Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh by Shannah CooperFor the last couple of days, I’ve read emails flying between club members in Virginia as they rush into a frenzy of action for the show this weekend. Today, husbands of garden club members gathered at a storage barn to transport several truckloads of staging supplies to the show site. A long day was in store for folks as supplies are assembled. I’m not there in person, but in spirit, as they transform an empty space into a daffodil wonderland by the time the show opens on Saturday, March 29. Following the two day show, it closes and tear-down by members and husbands begins efficiently and swiftly.  Risers, covers, test tubes, blocks and truckloads of equipment are packed and transported by trucks and packed away.

HorticultureGood luck this weekend, friends!

March Sprouts

I don’t usually keep plants inside in winter. It’s too hot and dry indoors and I end up watching plants wither and drop leaves all winter. Plants are so much healthier and happier with outdoor sunshine and fresh air and moisture.

That said, I did venture outside late last fall to rescue one tender succulent from winter’s icy grip. All winter, I’ve moved it from sunny window to sunny window.  In a few weeks, it will be returned to the outdoors to be better cared for by Mother Nature. The succulent was a low maintenance venture for me.

succulentAlas, three weeks ago, a high maintenance and potentially huge indoor plant took control of me. The need to touch soil or plant a seed overcame logic because, by this time in Virginia my outdoor gardening has already begun…here, we can barely see the ground for snow. I now I have a new plant that may not make it to the great outdoors. Odds are against it.

After finishing off a cantaloupe one cold morning, I found one lone seed that escaped cleanup. Without much thought, I picked it up and pressed it into the soil next to the healthy succulent and thought no more about it… until three days later when I noticed a tiny green tip of a sprout on the surface of the soil. I watched for the next few days as the embryonic leaf, the cotyledon, emerged from the soil and opened as the first photosynthesis for the plant.

cotyledonOne by one, the vine began to send out hairy shoots and tiny buds. I was totally mesmerized by the miniature plant. We’ve grown melons in the garden before but this time it seems more like a scientific lab experiment on the windowsill. I have a magnifying glass and I am noticing details I’ve never noticed before.

leavesThose who grow cantaloupe know the leaves are fuzzy but I never noticed just how hairy the entire plant is. If by some miracle I keep the plant alive until the end of May after the last danger of frost, I hope to take my cantaloupe outdoors, replant it using a trellis with support for the trailing vines as it matures. We saw how the University of New Hampshire vertically grows sprawling melons several feet high on trellises in their greenhouses. The fruit is supported in small hammocks. Can I do that? My instincts tell me it’s too early to start indoor seedling in New Hampshire but I can hope.

At junctures, small leaves and vines are unfurling in a fuzzy mass. Click on photos to see more details.

leavesAs the leaves on my tiny plant mature, they are becoming more oval or heart shaped with edges that are wavy or uneven. They are very tender and fragile so I’m trying to be careful when I turn the plant in the sun.

cantaloupe leaves

hairy leaves

I have no idea of the variety of my little plant. I am hoping I’m lucky enough to have a quick growing, early maturing variety for our short New England summers. If it lives for the next several weeks, I’ll post on the progress.


Buried in Snow

During our first summer in Exeter last year, we saw several unusual mailboxes as we took walks along a rural road. We chuckled as we saw one after another of these swinging mailboxes along the route. We believed that folks were expressing their individuality and creativity. But oh no. We totally understand now. The massive snowbanks are receding along these roadways and today, the first day of spring, we were able to venture out for a walk. Seeing these swinging mailboxes in the receding snow made us realize what these homeowners have created: an indestructible mailbox system.

Swinging Mailboxswinging mailboxswinging mailboxMost mailboxes are damaged by the force of flying snow and ice from the snowplow rather than being flattened by the dreaded plow. These swinging mailboxes move with the snow, then fall back into place. Brilliant!

Their neighbor below had a different solution. He placed the mailbox pole in a large container… probably filled with heavy rocks. Once the snow melted enough, he planned to simply right the container.  But wait… I see he’ll need a new mailbox. The door must be under the snow somewhere.

calusity of snow warsA sad but common sight around these parts…

Greenhouse Yard Sale

When a local nursery publicized a yard sale this weekend in our 38° weather, my curiosity was piqued. So, yes, I attended a yard sale in a greenhouse yesterday. The sale was not mobbed but the customers who arrived early, like the lady below, were staking out their claims and having fun doing it.

Happy ShopperWhat did they offer for sale? Not plants like I hoped. Phooey. But there were some interesting leftovers from holidays, surplus stock, and slightly damaged garden items from last season that made it fun to poke around.

Click to enlarge

I didn’t go away with much. But I did purchase some new slip-on garden clogs, a precious little porcelain bird bud vase from Two’s Company, some garden soap, and two attractive cache pots. The pots look like they came right out of an Italian countryside and they were reduced to $2 apiece! They had about 6 or 8 left. I bought two and we went home for lunch. As we ate our noon meal, my thoughts drifted back to the attractive cache pots. Why’d I only get two? I need an odd number. Matter of fact, I want several more. I could keep my three and use the rest planted with small flowering plants as fabulous gifts.

mister gardener offered to dash back and buy at least 5 for me.  Ten minutes later he reappeared in the doorway… empty-handed. “They were gone. All of them. Sold out.”  Sad faced, I could only hear the words of my dear departed mother, the official World’s Greatest Consumer, whose shopping philosophy she oft quoted and lived by, “He who hesitates is lost.” This time she was right.

cache pots

Winter Walk-Off 2014

I enjoy following Les over at A Tidewater Gardener. His garden and adventures are much appreciated links to my home state, Virginia. For the last few years, he’s challenged readers to a winter walk-off and it’s been fun to participate…. although winter is tougher in New Hampshire for a walk-off. I fully understand why the Eskimos have 50 different words for snow.

A very common scene around here as folks shovel out their mailboxes.

A very common scene around here as folks shovel out their mailboxes following the snowplows.

I’ve been a little hesitant to walk in the snow after a series of falls that my sisters have suffered. Misfortune began on cobblestones in Paris when a sister slipped to her knees right in front of me. Result: a hairline fracture just below the knee. A second sister fell in England, breaking her arm. She was just recovering from surgery when my sister-in-law fell in her home, breaking her arm. The last victim was my youngest sister who fell while hiking in Maui a week ago, breaking both arms! Yes, she is sporting two casts. Now they say it’s my turn for a tumble. It ain’t gonna happen, girls!  When temperatures hit a mild 49° yesterday, it was a good day for a very basic winter walk-off.

We first passed a marsh of Phragmites australis that is rampant in New Hampshire’s seacoast area as it is in low-lying areas almost everywhere. It’s an invasive monoculture replacing cattails, but not entirely all bad according to Dr. Carl Hershner of Virginia Institute of Marine Science. I heard him state in a lecture that it can prevent shoreline erosion and create stability with a mass of roots that can go 6′ deep. It is attractive and full of birds on this day, but I’d rather see a marsh of cattails.

phragmitesTraveling on, we decided to drop in on our friend, John, a master carpenter who was hard at work in his workshop.

JohnJohn and his father built his two workshops beginning in 1955, working on them when time and funds were available, finishing it all in 1957. We could sit forever with John in his toasty workshop soaking in information and history of the area and just watching the master at his work. The atmosphere in the workshop takes you back in time, a better time, and I hope he never changes one thing inside.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

dogsWe continued along our slushy pathway passing only two people and 3 dogs along the way. As we trod along, we noticed a few interesting winter flora and we stayed on the lookout for signs of spring. The following is a sampling of what we saw:

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Did you know that the U.S. Forest service recognizes this tree as the most common variety of tree in America? This lovely tree with red twigs, buds, flowers and fall foliage is one of the first plants to flower in the spring.


Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

sumacBuds are quite small on hairy twigs that will soon grow into a small tree or upright shrub and expand into a colony along this trail. In the fall we are awed by the rich reds and scarlets of the leaves of this woody perennial.


Red-twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

red-twig dogwoodRed Osier Dogwood spreads by suckering, forming dense thickets and gives us amazing bright red stems in winter.


Milkweed Pods

milkweekSeeds are spent from the pods of the common milkweed (Asclepius syriaca). Some folks collect these pods for craft projects.


New England Aster

asterThese New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) have already offered their seeds up to birds. We hope to see new growth soon.


Queen Anne’s Lace

queen anne's laceDried seed heads of Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) decorated the edge of the paths.

After about a 3-mile walk-off, we returned home… soaking wet socks but invigorated by the outing. And, guess what… no one fell down!

Spring Tease at the Winter Farmers’ Market

Spring officially arrives in a matter of days but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. With snow still piled high outside our door, we sought refuge at the Wentworth Greenhouses Farmers’ Market where local farmers have been toiling straight through the harshness of winter to bring their wares to market. We were thankful for a rare sunny day that warmed the greenhouses and brought us all out of hibernation.

Wentworth NurseryThere is something special about meeting the farmers and bakers and venders (and often their families) to say thank-you for bringing us the freshest of local wares. We usually visit vegetable stands first and stock up.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Baked goods were too delicious to pass up and on the way to being sold out. The breads from Sunnyfield Bakery were a hit and, yes, we took home our share.

From soap to wool to rugs, beer and preserves, to cheeses and meats, the variety and quality of merchandise is always marvelous!

And, as usual, we shopped to toe tapping entertainment. Sandra Koski