Bye Bye Violas

violasSummer temperatures have been slowing creeping upward and every now and then, it’s been absolutely hot. Yesterday, with 90° and high humidity, our poor spring violas fizzled in the afternoon heat. Those planted in the shade were fine but those leggy plants that melted in the blazing sun needed to be removed from the garden.

Cutting off the roots, I plunged the wilted blooms in a little cool water. Result: Totally revived and days of new life on the breakfast table. How divine!

Garden Conservancy’s Open Days 2014

Earlier this spring, I was working in the perennial gardens at Rolling Green Nursery, greeting customers and tending to the plants when I met the owners of one of the gardens on the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days.  I was already holding 2 tickets for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour of private gardens in Cape Neddick, Maine and was looking forward to unforgettable experiences.

This local tour and many others across the country take place on different days to raise awareness of the Garden Conservancy’s work to preserve extraordinary gardens and to educate and inspire the public by opening private gardens on Open Days. Four remarkable private gardens were open this year. Three homes and fabulous gardens offered panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean with mighty waves beating on craggy shorelines. We saw rock gardens, rose gardens, shade gardens, pool gardens, perennial gardens, pond gardens, vegetable gardens, pergolas, container gardens, and even experienced a young eagle swooping low over our heads and landing in a near tree at one home.

Click on all photos to enlarge:

Awestruck is a good word to describe how we felt about these gardens. And I was very excited to visit the fourth garden, the home of Jonathan King and Jim Stott, founders and owners of Stonewall Kitchen, the two shoppers I encountered strolling through the perennials at Rolling Green Nursery.

We stopped for an early lunch at their business, Stonewall Kitchen, a favorite destination of ours for good food and lovely gardens.

Approaching by foot along a graceful curved drive, we could see that the property was a wonderful blending of home and garden. Hornbeam trees and a cedar pergola acted as a screen in front of the house.

Every inch of the entry garden was filled with delight. A mix of cottage-style gardening in one area and clean lines of formal boxwood with connecting pathways added variety and invited visitors to linger here and enjoy the colors, textures, shapes and function of the different garden beds.

We peeked inside the ‘glass house’ and thought… yes, this would be a lovely addition to our home. Magnificent!

We enjoyed the raised-beds in the vegetable garden supported not with wood, but with granite slabs… then on to the inviting pool area with built-in fire pit, containers overflowing with blooms, and handsome pool house.

But the most fun of all was the poolside Meet & Greet by the owners. Down to earth, personable and friendly, we both enjoyed the hospitality of the hosts… and their sweet pups!

I am always amazed at the generosity of folks who throw open their garden gates for a good cause.  We had a fabulous day exploring the wonders of gardening in Maine.

Nuts for this Squirrel

We are a stone’s throw from beautiful coniferous woods with plenty of oak trees. But during the most brutal of snowstorms, ice storms, and frigid temperatures this winter, a small American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) risked life and limb dashing out of the woods, crossing a road, running atop snow several feet deep to eat fallen seed beneath our bird feeder. Looking like a tiny snowball as the snow fell and covered it, we watched month after month as the little fella dined with the hungry birds… until late winter when it stopped appearing. I soon knew why. In early spring, it returned and I could see evidence SHE had become a nursing mother.

It wasn’t too much longer that she introduced her three tiny offspring to sunflower seed. These miniature creatures, unsteady as they navigated trees and limbs, tugged at our heartstrings. The wary Mama and two babies have since moved on. But one brave youngster seems to prefer scraps beneath the feeder more than foraging for coniferous seeds this summer.

SpunkyThis one loves to perch on the stump of an old lilac and eat the seeds one at a time. There are those who say these are the most destructive squirrels but we have not seen evidence of anything like that….yet.  He co-exists with birds, respectfully waiting his turn to feed after the birds. Red squirrels are known for their loud bark and foot stomping in the presence of danger or intrusion. He does none of that. I can drag the hose around the yard and water the garden while he feeds quietly just a few feet from me.

We’re not trying to tame him or have him eat from our hands but we are charmed by his antics. Every now and then, he amuses us by diving for seed that has fallen into the stumps of the old lilac. All we see is a wagging tail as he forages.

Red squirrels usually only have one litter a year in this area so we’re pretty sure we won’t be swamped by these natives. Should he decide he’s had enough of us and head back to the woods, our mixed coniferous-deciduous forest should sustain him well.

Going Native

The summer of 2013 was a very bad year for the monarch butterfly. All summer long, I thought it was odd that I never saw a monarch. Reasons are not 100% clear but impacts include weather factors, loss of habitat in the US and Mexico, increased traffic on roads, and the extensive use of Roundup on genetically engineered crops. Farmers spray Roundup on these crops, killing all the weeds but not the crop.  The herbicide destroys milkweed upon which the monarch depends as a host plant.

This summer I am doing my part to go a little more native. In addition to nectar flowers, I’ve planted native milkweed. If the monarch finds my plants, I should have a monarch butterfly nursery. The plants will provide sustenance for the larvae.The blooms will provide nectar along with other nectar plants in the garden.

There are different varieties of milkweed but I planted butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) with its bright orange bloom. It should do well in hot, dry, sunny spot in the border. The hint of first blooms are appearing and I am checking my plants daily for signs of eggs.

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)What can we all do to help? While we hope for more favorable weather conditions, we can all plant several milkweed plants in our yards along with the nectar plants to sustain both the larvae and the adult monarch.

Dogs at Work

At Rolling Green Nursery, dogs are a familiar sight. The owners have a beautiful Hungarian vizsla that serves as the official office manager. She comes out for romps and runs, meet and greets, then waits patiently at the door to go back to work.

Not every garden center is this open to visits from dogs but folks seem to know that Rolling Green is like a walk in the park for well-behaved dogs on leashes.  I pulled out my smart phone to capture a tiny slice of what I see on a daily basis.

These two labs arrived at the perennial garden area about an hour apart. She was off in the distance when Humphrey, the yellow lab rescue arrived.

Both were friendly and obedient, sitting for portraits. At first Humphrey was all cool when he arrived…. that is, until He spotted Her in the distance. Humphrey was besotted beyond obedience and his people were forced to leave perennial garden and take Humphrey to walk among the annuals. Both owners thought this could be the beginning of a new friendship…. elsewhere…. later.

"Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb"Shortly afterwards, Kookie, the West Highland terrier rescue, arrived with her owner… and at lunch, I spotted a dog or two watching from windows of cars while owners dashed in for quick purchases.

This one was leash-less but seemed to know the place. Must be a VIP.  I was too busy to investigate.

Maybe the Cute Award should go to this 6-month old Hungarian puli water dog  named Buda for the city of Budapest. It’s the breed of dog that will mature with beautiful long dreadlocks. If you look closely you can see one of Buda’s eyes.

Buda