A Garden with Bling!

I love ornaments in a garden. Art enhances and enlivens, adds whimsy and visual interest. I developed garden islands and paths in Virginia where one might turn a corner and discover a surprise… water bubbling in a container, or statuary, or a small frog hiding in the leaves. It’s a fun way to personalize a garden.  On our last move, we sadly surrendered most of our garden art, saving just a few favorite pieces for the limited space we have now.

So it was with delight that with a Rolling Green Nursery outing for all employees last August, I was able to visit Bedrock Gardens in Lee NH where nature and art are spread over a 20-acre themed landscape. We meandered on paths through a variety of gardens with wonderful names like Dark Woods, Spiral Garden, Shrubaria, Conetown, Wiggle Waggle, The Fruit Loop, all enticing  you along the pathway to the next garden space.

One-of-a-kind art and sculpture claim a larger than life presence in each garden, well-placed, whimsical, abstract and sure to bring a smile. Horticulture is breathtaking with unusual trees, shrubs, grasses, all placed perfectly in well-designed gardens. Amazingly, this garden is the magnum opus of two talented owners, Jill Nooney, the artist (and much more) who creates and designs, and her husband, Bob Munger, the retired doctor who makes it all happen for her. They have enhanced the natural beauty of their gardens reflecting the passion and personality of each of them.

Visiting the horticulture and garden design is an absolute destination by itself but add in the art and it’s like stepping into another world for those interested in everything: landscape, sculpture, and art. Read more at their website, Bedrock Gardens.

Jill Nooney’s barn full of farm implements and more just waiting for the next project.

We were fortunate to be guided through the gardens by our co-worker, Hobson, who pointed out unique horticulture and the various art sculptures. Hobson is a faithful volunteer at Bedrock Gardens.

Hobson Jandebeur, co-worker and Bedrock volunteer

The gardens have a playful quality about them and it set the tone for our merry band of garden and horticulture experts. Sounds of laughter were heard everywhere and smiles were seen on every face during the day as we strolled. If the intent of the owners was to educate, entertain, and amuse in an atmosphere of tranquility, they succeeded. The garden certainly worked its magic on us.

Click photos to enlarge:

The gardens have recently been taken over by the Friends of Bedrock Gardens, a group that is transforming private gardens into public gardens and a cultural center.

Pure and Simple…

Parenting is a tough job. From the the daily grind of those difficult early years to the nana-and-finnchallenging and often stressful teen years, it is perhaps the hardest but also the most rewarding job there is. However, time passes and before you know it, children are grown and out the door…all four in my case! Eventually the circle of life begins again as babies are born to a new generation…. as it happened again for me two days ago when I became ‘Nana’ for the 9th time to a healthy baby boy.

I’m not sure how a 9 lb. bundle of joy can make the sun shine brighter and the worries of a caustic presidential election and the cruel hardships of the world melt into the background, but he has done just that. Becoming a grandparent brings us closer to our own offspring as they go through the same challenges and concerns we once faced, all enveloped by a shared pure love for their children.

Little number 9. Parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents are ready and waiting to be a part of his life and rearing very soon. We will be his role models, his teachers, his confidants, instilling kindness, respect for the environment, love of learning, and so much more. It does take a village….

The Midas Touch

The peak of color has passed in our neck of the woods and life is inching closer to the dreaded leaf raking season.  For the first time since moving to New Hampshire, we did not follow the thousands of foliage watchers in the jammed motorcade to the mountains. Instead we traveled the seacoast area of New Hampshire and found the colors were magic right here. The only drawback locally is dealing with telephone poles, wires, billboards, fences, and especially a plethora of POLITICAL SIGNS that obstructed or took away from the full views.

Although our first hard rain has done a job on the leaves, it’s still common to spot a tree like this one that we passed by on our walk this week.

fall colors

The fading maples are giving way to later and less dramatic oak tree leaves that have already shed their acorns en masse like marbles across the landscape… causing one to be very cautious while treading on sidewalks, parking lots, etc. over which they spread their canopy.

The view from our living room faces a woodland where one of my favorite native small trees grows along the edge. It’s the native Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) that turns an attractive apricot-yellow before dropping its leaves to reveal blossoms of pale yellow that hang like tassles from stems. I cut a few branches of tassels for a flower arranging workshop that I chaired last week and the effect in one arrangement was outstanding… adding height and texture and the right color for a pale yellow container.

img_7197

witch hazel

 

 

 

 

View of the Waterfront

Yesterday, our walk in light rain took us on the opposite side of the Squamscott River with the town of Exeter NH in the distance. This is the first time we’ve viewed the town from this vantage point and it looked beautiful to us on this fall day.

The tidal Squamscott River begins here, fed from the freshwater Exeter River and it runs 6.3 miles through rural areas and small towns to Great Bay, which connects to the Piscataqua River and, finally, the Atlantic Ocean.

Not prepared with umbrellas or raincoats, we were fully drenched by the time our walk ended but we kept our smiles. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to feel a raindrop and it was a very good thing….

Exeter NH

Rain, Glorious Rain!

The Exeter River, almost dry as a bone in August when work to remove a landmark dam and restore the riverbed to its natural state was proceeding ahead of schedule. The dry riverbed, due to a devastating Extreme Drought, couldn’t have come at a better time for completing this enormous dam removal and restoration project.

That was then….

Left Riverbed finished

This is now….

img_7085

It is October 22 and we are still in an extended Extreme Drought with mandatory water restrictions but a welcome storm dropped close to 3″ of rain overnight. We rushed to the river this morning to see the results where we discovered we weren’t alone in our need to see the river flowing. Among the spectators was Board of Selectmen member, Nancy Belanger, who could hardly contain her excitement at seeing the results of the restoration after a decade of planning and hard work.

She told us things we didn’t know about the planning process, the animals saved during the restoration, and terms I’ve never heard… such as ‘riffle.’ “See the riffles they created,” she said as she pointed to rocks with water flowing fast around and over. When I got home, I looked the term up online. Riffle: “A riffle is a shallow section of a stream or river with rapid current and a surface broken by gravel, rubble or boulders.”- Wikipedia. Nancy said riffles are a place of shelter for fish migrating upstream during breeding. All good….

We need more rain but this is a start….

“Fee-Bee!”

All spring and summer we were serenaded by an Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), a common flycatcher in these parts. “Fee-bee, Fee-bee…,” it called from backyard shrubbery as it defined its territory. Often described as dull or plain in coloration, this much loved bird’s personality is anything but. Flying insects make up most of the summer diet.  We were entertained all summer as it bobbed its tail on a nearby branch and made short flights to catch dragonflies, beetles, wasps, flies, moths, and more in mid-air.

The suburbs have helped this little bird. They often choose a man-made structure to build their mud, grass, moss nest. In our neighborhood, it’s always a ledge over a neighbor’s front door. If the nest isn’t removed, they come right back to the same nest the following year.  And it’s so easy to become attached to the little ones.

A true harbinger of spring, we know warmer weather can’t be far behind when we hear their sweet call in late winter. It’s October now, and we’ve enjoyed them for several months but, alas, migration can’t be far off. The weather is cooler, insects are scarce, and the birds have switched their diet to berries…. especially on our arrowood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum).

Fee-bee!

Nary a berry is left on the shrub after two weeks of its repeated diving for berries. It’s good to consider the ecological benefit of what’s added to a garden and our native viburnums are excellent for this very reason.  The berries are eaten by several species of birds… cardinals, robins and more but the phoebe ate a fair share. The shrub is also a larval plant food for the spring azure butterfly and hummingbird moth.

arrowood viburnum

This native species isn’t as fragrant as Asian viburnums but it makes up for it in spring flowers, fall leaf color, and abundant berries. It’s adaptable to a variety of growing conditions, growing quite well in full sun in our clay and rocky soil although not its preferred habitat.

Interesting tidbits: the common name arrowood, as you might have guessed, was because the long straight stems were once used to make arrows by indigenous peoples.
The Eastern Phoebe is said to be the first bird banded in North America by John James Audubon in the early 1800s. He attached a light silver thread to several fledgling phoebe legs and discovered they returned to the same nesting area the following year.

Hayride to the Pumpkin Patch

Climb aboard the wagon, find a good spot on a bale of hay, squeeze between your grandchildren, and let the tractor take you away…. over hills, through the cornfield, past the pond, beneath the murder of crows that were startled in the corn, to the tangled vines of a pumpkin patch…. acres of pumpkins and gourds.

img_6617

Two tractors and four wagon loads from our grandchildren’s preschool were ready for the bumpy expedition that twisted and turned through the fields.

hayride

Parents and grandparents, siblings and more, all armed with cameras and smart phones fanned out across fields to help youngster find the perfect pumpkin, all shapes, sizes and colors, and to capture that moment with a photo.

pumpkins!

Me included…

 perfect pumpkin

pumpkin

A perfect pumpkin for us and small enough for a little tyke to carry….

Room for all

Then the bumpy journey back up to Farmer Zach’s Farm to visit the cornfields in search of the best and most colorful ears of corn.

pumpkins

Ahhhh…. what an adventure!  Making fall memories with little people…

“Just passing through….

….and thank you for the meal worms,” chirped a friendly pine warbler on his way through town.

pine warbler“And where are you heading, you handsome fellow?”

“I’m heading to the southeast to find others of my kind.”

“Farewell then. We’ll see you in April…”

pine warbler

Save

Save

There’s nothing like a parade!

Small towns have the most amazing parades. The population of the small town of Stratham NH is less than 8,000, yet the community capped off their 300th anniversary year with a phenomenal and well-organized parade. Several marching bag pipe bands, a fife & drum band, Shriner clowns, ‘Extreme Air’ jump rope group, local selectmen, a pig, horses, cattle, a number of fire trucks from neighboring towns, old tractors, new tractors, Miss Stratham Fair, antique cars, politicians, and floats by a number of organizations, a church, library, Historic Society, local schools, and one garden club…. mine!

My awesome co-chair and I made about 50 large crepe paper flowers and with our straw hats and best smiles, we headed out on the 2-mile trek. Four members rode in a cart while about 10 of us made the walk, all waving our flowers… with one member telling the crowds lining the streets that these flowers are “perfect for our drought!” We pushed a wheelbarrow full of the flowers and all carried a garden rake.

DSC04203.jpg

Waiting our turn to join the parade…

Naturally, it’s always the children who are the most excited at parades. Every other group or float tossed or handed out candy to the almost frenzied youth all along our route. (Yes, we were able to snag a little bit of sugar and chocolate for ourselves…)

Before we knew it, we had reached the end. It was a good feeling to support the Stratham community and we were happy to hear the crowds call out thanks and clap in appreciation for all we do in this community.  All good…

this photo courtesy www.seacoastonline.com

Dark-eyed Junco

It’s bird migration time and things are happening in our little spit of land. According to Chris Bosak, Birds of New England, Labor Day weekend was a good time to fill the feeders again for the fall and winter birds. So I filled the feeder with hulled black oil sunflower seeds and the welcome mat was officially rolled out for the migratory songbirds.

Due to an invasion of breeding house sparrows this summer, I fed only the insect eaters, the robins, bluebirds, phoebes, and chipping sparrows nibbling on what fell beneath the feeder… no seeds at all, just meal worms.  Those pesky house sparrows turned their noses up at the meal worms and have exited the neighborhood, probably living inside Home Depot or around McDonalds for the winter. We are ready for the next wave!

Our first winter visitors arrived two mornings ago. The white-throated sparrow and their snowbird companions, the dark-eyed junco, are perhaps the best harbinger of winter. They arrived overnight and I spotted the newcomers at dawn cleaning up fallen seeds beneath the feeder.

junco (Junco hyemalis) female with sunflower kernel

Female junco with sunflower kernel

The junco is a fairly nondescript bird, gray above and a white belly. The female is generally paler with a mixture of brown in the plumage. Our flock should number 20 or more by the end of October.

Juncos are among my favorite little birds because they entertain me with their antics all winter. Their scientific name is hyemalis, Latin for ‘winter,’ an appropriate name for no snowstorm, blizzard, or arctic day can keep them away.  Their feisty interactions competing for seed under the feeder (and on the feeder) make me smile. They run, they hop, they flit, and they scratch as they battle each other for seed on the frozen ground or snow. Look for them to appear beneath your feeder around here very soon.