March Gardening

March is not always kind to gardeners. Overcast skies, some rain, some drizzle, some sleet, some snow seems to be the norm for March. We’ve had a day or two of bright sun and cool breezes this month that tempted me outdoors for a walk but the ground was snow-covered. Not today! Today was one of those rare days. We had a break with temperatures reaching 49° under deep blue skies. I was lured outdoors this afternoon armed with garden gloves, clippers and a wheelbarrow.

No coat, no hat, no boots because the sun had melted the snow entirely off the lawn. I hummed a happy tune while cleaning borders and preparing for the growing season. I brought my tiny sprouts of lettuce outdoors to bask in the sun. My flat of pansies rested in filtered shade all day.

But tonight those tiny plants will retreat to the garage window once again as we prepare for weekend weather. Snow.  Maybe 10 inches.

Texts from The National Weather Service and all my weather apps warn that another Winter Storm Watch with the potential for significant snow, sleet, or ice accumulations is in effect for the next two days. Cancellations are flashing across my phone today and those events that cannot be canceled will certainly be impacted…. like the Seacoast Home & Garden Show in nearby Durham NH. We are hoping to get there if the roads are passable. One event that cannot be postponed is a granddaughter’s 3rd birthday.  If we have to go by dog sled, we will not miss the party.

The snow will be a setback but at least I had today. I was able to divide some daylilies and daisies, trim grasses and clematis, and even edged a couple of borders. Herbs are showing signs of spring growth and buds are swelling on trees and shrubs. All good.

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Lots of Superheroes in Boston

Yesterday mister gardener and I decided to hop a chartered bus to the 2017 Boston Flower Show at the Seaport World Trade Center, a show that’s a harbinger of spring in these parts. Taking a comfortable chartered bus the hour and a half to door of the show was the wise thing to do. Boston traffic, Boston tunnels, parking…. yikes!

Tunnels and traffic, Boston Flower Show

 

The theme “Superheroes in the Garden,” those plants that we can depend on to bring color and staying power in the garden, met us at the entrance and carried up through all the exhibits. We tiptoed through tulips of various shapes and colors, a pale blue muscari, and tete-a-tete daffodils that seemed to dominate landscapes giving us that blast of color we love in the spring.

Tete-a-Tete, Boston Flower Show 2017

Oh how I love water in the garden and we saw plenty of exhibits featuring waterfalls, ponds, and goldfish… and stone paths galore!

Boston Flower Show 2017

The most whimiscal water feature was a fountain of cascading water from a garden table into a pool that would be perfect for soaking your feet after a long day working in the garden. I didn’t ask if the flip-flops came with the setting.

Boston Flower Show 2017

I’ve been looking at pergola designs for our property so it was fun to see the different exhibits featuring them. Attracting lots of attention under a pergola was this feature that simulated flames. Everyone, young and old, felt the ‘flames’ and I saw a few check to see if there was wine in the bottle.

Boston Flower Show 2017

The crème de la crème was a dry stone house by Maine Stonework, patterned after a miniature version of superhero Tinkerbell’s fairy neighborhood in Neverland. Nestled in a moss forest full of conifers, it was a creative work of art and deservedly won Best of Show plus several other awards. Want to see it being assembled in a time-lapse?

Maine Stoneworks, Boston Flower Show 2017

Maine Stoneworks, Boston Flower Show 2017

We saw a chicken coop with clucking chickens, a ‘she-shed,’ an actual tiny house that one could tour, lots of wonderful stonework, lots of lectures and demos, and plenty of plants, woody shrubs, and trees that would do well in our zone 5+ gardens. All good.

We meandered up and down the maze of commercial vendors, many not garden themed yet it was entertaining and business was brisk. We saw booths featuring jewelry, scarves, jams and preserves, soaps, moisturizing lotions, tea towels, sweaters, shoes. We sampled a variety of foods from nuts to honey and if we had worn boots, we could have them conditioned and sealed as we saw other do.

Boston Flower Show 2017

Garden themed vendors were numerous: flowers, fountains, garden seeds, bulbs, patio furniture, containers, pots, statuary, baskets, garden tools, and antiques for the garden. We especially enjoyed visiting Gardens Alive, Walpole Woodworkers, Fine Gardens magazine (a sponsor), and a variety of other garden related booths. We chatted with folks at the master gardener booth and those at the Mass Hort booth and were even serenaded by the Sweet Adelines… and they were sweet!

A tiny tree in the Bonsai Display caught my attention. I had young Cornus mas trees in my Virginia landscape and a son had a large and beautiful 25′ Cornus mas in his Ohio yard. So unique and beautiful a tree, I did not know what to think about this thick trunked mini-version. I certainly admire the skill and creativity involved in keeping this amazing Bonsai version healthy and in full bloom for the show!

Boston Flower Show 2017, Cornus mas

The judged floral arrangements featuring superheroes were impressive…. and had to smile at the “Brace Yourself” competition featuring bracelets of dried plant material designed for superhero and champion Wonder Woman.

Click photos to enlarge

Our day ended in late afternoon and we were ready to make the journey home. This wonderful Boston outing helped us flirt with spring… at least for a day until we returned home and were greeted by another day of snow and sleet.

 

 

 

 

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The pansies are here!

The pansies are here! The pansies are here! I love a blue pansy and a large bloom on a pansy and I was lucky enough to snatch up a flat at Churchill’s Garden yesterday. This is a popular shade of blue that always seems to be in short supply as the season marches on. Some years I miss out so I buy them when I see them no matter the weather. Later I’ll buy a solid large yellow bloom (a little easier to find) and plant a bed of blue and yellow pansies along a brick entry at the front door. I think the combination is a showstopper. The variety is Karma True Blue, a short, sturdy, and bushy plant that stays compact.

I’m thrilled to have them but it’s waaaaaay too early to plant them in New Hampshire.

This is the bed where they will eventually live, a border that won’t see the sun for a few weeks yet. For now they are living in a window in our garage. Pansies like cold weather but these just came from a greenhouse. It’s brisk in the garage, downright cold, but they will be well protected from the 12° temperatures we will experience tonight.

Hurry up spring!

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Spring at last!

Unless you have flowers growing in a greenhouse or visit a florist shop, this is as close you’ll get to seeing spring flowers in snow covered New Hampshire. Our local grocery tempted shoppers on this first day of spring. I watched customers for a few moments. No one passed by without stopping to admire or touch or smell. Yes, we are ready…

Shaws Grocery Store

Winter Walk-Off 2017

Les, over at A Tidewater Gardener, sponsors a Winter Walk-Off each year on his Blogger site. He’s a great horticulturist and I enjoy following his blog. You should check it out. I try to enter his walk-off each year but it’s hard when you look out the window and only see white. It’s still the dead of winter in New Hampshire!

There are rules… such as ‘On your own two feet, leave the house, and share what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home.’ He’s relaxed those rules a lot but I’m sure my walk is beyond acceptable since it was an hour and thirty seven minutes from home today. However, I am supporting Les in a small way by walking down the main street in Keene NH before visiting a son in town.

It’s a funky, low-key college town (Keene State College and Antioch University) that has a nice hippy vive to it. There is a healthy vitality to the downtown and a community interest in preserving historic architecture.  And, of course, it was where Jumanji staring Robin Williams was filmed. Here’s the evidence painted on this brick wall.

Jumanji movie sign, Keene NH

I captured a little of the fun of Keene as I walked around the city on this cold, blustery day today, the last day of Les’ walk-off. Main Street is a beautiful tree-lined wide boulevard into downtown Keene. We always enjoyed this approach to the business section of the city.

We parked, zipped up our down jackets and hit the street. The popular coffee shop pictured below also has a barber’s pole…up the stairs for coffee and down steps for a haircut.

The Barbery is located beneath the coffee shop, beneath ground but not quite a full basement, almost an English basement. This is not the only business like that. Quite close is another that I think is a music store.  I love the sign.

Fixed objects take a licking in our New Hampshire snows. I saw evidence here and there of fixtures that were buried beneath a mountain of snow and not seen before it was too late.

Snow is mostly gone on this walkway but surely this must be snow removal damage, I would guess.

Restaurants and pubs are numerous, good, and supported by locals and visitors. I’m always happy to see lots of vegetarian options on the menus. We have enjoyed several ethnic restaurants in the area as well.

We have an old theater in Exeter that stands unused and almost abandoned, but Keene has a community theater on Main Street that is to be envied. First opened in 1924, declared a nonprofit in 1991, created a support group and mission statement, raised funds, restored it, and now it is the vibrant site of movies and live performances. Jealous….

 

Colonial Theatre

As mister gardener and I walked, I had to take a photo of our favorite coffee shop, Prime Roast…. the one we always frequent and take a bag or two of coffee home with us.

Prime Roast in Keene NH

And finally, we reached the Central Square of Keene, an area full of restaurants and unique shops. The focal point is the church, the white church and tall steeple of the United Church of Christ, a landmark that anchors one end of Main Street and gives the city a classic New England feel.
United Church of Christ, Keene NH
United Church of Christ, Keene NH
Across from the church on a grassy island inside the roundabout is a charming park that is used for a variety of events. We’ve attended the popular Pumpkin Festival (until it was moved out of town recently), Ice and Snow Festival, musical events in the bandstand, and even seen protests take place here. This is certainly the place for people watching in warmer months.
Gazebo, Keene NH
Keene is a relaxed city with a New England old town feel. We had a chilly but great stroll through town and good day with family in Keene NH. Thanks to Les for hosting this Winter Walk-Off again this year.

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Mystery plant amid the geraniums

I’ve been a compulsive caretaker, one who rescued or adopted kittens, taken in stray dogs, fed the neighborhood kids at lunchtime along with mine. Kids are grown and gone, but I still rescue animals…. and now I think I’ve rescued a weed.

Three weeks ago a small sprout became visible in the soil of my summer geraniums (Pelargonium) that are wintering indoors. I was curious so I let it grow. It lost its plump cotyledons and began to shoot upright through the geraniums looking for sunlight. What a funny looking little plant, I thought. Is it a weed or a maybe a sprout from last summer’s autumn clematis?

I thought the tiny fuzzy head might be a bloom but no, it just produces more leaves as it grows.

mystery plant

It’s healthy so I figure it’s a weed since weeds are the healthiest plants in my garden. Sigh…

The stem is woody and and hairy. The pubescent leaves have been opposite but the last three were whorled. I wonder what the next ones will be.

mystery plant

The tip is as tiny as a pencil eraser and full of miniature leaves. No bloom in sight.  I’m at a loss to identify what I’ve adopted but I think it’s cute.  As long as I don’t develop a rash from it or it doesn’t turn into Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, I’ll nurture “Harry” till there is an possible ID.  If there’s a guess out there, let me know….

fuzzy plant

April update:  the tiny stowaway in the geranium bed finally bloomed. I’m certain my friend who suggested it may be a sprout from last year’s birdseed is correct. Beautiful tiny yellow bloom. 


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Winter Walking in Exeter

I would define our community as a pedestrian friendly town. Many people who live here forgo their dependence on vehicles in favor of the healthy alternative…. walking and biking.

This is my 3rd winter in Exeter and it still amazes me that the streets are cleared of snow in the morning in the worst of snowstorms. Not just the streets….the sidewalks are cleared, too. Where some communities threaten to fine citizens for not shoveling their sidewalks, folks here can step out of their homes and walk to town almost immediately following a storm. It’s nifty mini-tractors that do the trick in today, but clearing local sidewalks is nothing new.

Here’s an old film showing our walks being cleared by horse and plow:

Today it’s done by modern horsepower:

sidewalk tractors

Here and there in the downtown, there are small alleyways dug through snow mounds  providing parkers access to sidewalks and shops. I don’t know if the town shovels these paths or the shop owners, but it’s critical for business. Otherwise you’d take a hike to the end of the block… in the street!

Stella brought us perhaps our last real dump of snow two days ago. This morning under sunny skies, I bundled up, stepped outside and was greeted by piles of snow on the sides of dry roads and cleared sidewalks. I love this little community that keeps the streets and sidewalks clear and makes winter walking fun.  All of it is quite indicative of the value Exeter places on pedestrians and a healthier lifestyle.

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Blizzard on Election Day

What do folks in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state do when a blizzard warning interrupts local elections? It seems they do whatever they darn well please.

More than a dozen towns rescheduled today’s elections despite warnings from Governor Sununu that they do so at “their own risk.” Yesterday, the list of towns that postponed elections began to grow as the governor was strongly recommending that they stay open.

Our town of Exeter rescheduled elections after our Town Moderator Paul Scafidi consulted legal counsel. In our local newpaper, Exeter News-Letter, he stated, “We believe we’re correct that we can postpone it and that’s what I’m doing. For the safety of the voters, for the safety of the people that have to work, it’s the best thing for us to do.”

Snowstorm

The confusion lies in ambiguous statutes and laws whether postponing elections was a violation. NH Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlon told NH1 Newsy that, “The position from this office is that, RSA669:1, which is in the section of the statute that talks about town elections, says very clearly that town elections shall be held on the second Tuesday in March. From our perspective there is no provision that allows for the actual statutory date of the election officers to be moved and we cannot recall it ever happening for weather or any other reason.” It’s history in the making in New Hampshire.

Emergency legislation will be introduced this week to eliminate any confusion and make sure towns can postpone in the future. In the meantime, I’m having a second cup of coffee, watching the birds feed, and wondering about the possibility of ice dams.

icicles

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Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Philly

I was quite happy to see the announcement on Instagram and Facebook that the Philadelphia Flower Show named a hybrid daffodil created by Brent and Becky’s Bulbs as the “Best Hybrid” in the show. And there was a lovely photo of the winning blooms “Starlight Sensation” next to the ribbons. I was thrilled to see this but not surprised. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs is top notch.

The company wrote that it takes 5-7 years form pollination to 1st bloom and another 5 – 7 years until the bulb hit the market. When they added that this hybrid is ‘one of, if not THE best hybrid we’ve created to date,’ I was interested. I have tulips but have not really added daffodils to the garden and these would be perfect for my white garden, especially since the blooms are as tall or taller than the leaves.

I knew these bulbs would soon be in short supply so I ordered right away. And, no, they said, I wasn’t the first to call.  The bulbs will be shipped in September and I’ll see the blooms in the spring of 2018…. well worth waiting for, I think.

Photo: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs

Congratulations to Brent and Becky’s Bulbs of Gloucester VA, a Good company owned by Good folks from a Good town…. and, guess what. It was my own little neck of the woods in Virginia and Brent and Becky were my neighbors. Check out the online catalog and check out “Starlight Sensation.”

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There’s a New Garden Designer in Town

I consider myself somewhat of a gardener or maybe I’m just a kid at heart who likes to play in the dirt. The plants, the soil, and the animals that dine, live, or pass through these small gardens… animals with feathers, fur, scales, and those that hop, creep and crawl are all on my soft spot list. Mix that with a love of garden design and you’ve tapped into what makes me content in a small wildlife preserve.

It’s always stimulating to meet a garden designer and learn more about their style of landscaping. Last summer, I dropped a ticket in a box and won the opportunity to have a nice session with a newly established landscape designer at Wentworth Greenhouses in Rollinsford, NH. James Brewer is new to New Hampshire but not new to garden design. He and his wife, a native of this area, moved from England where his garden design business was booming.

James Brewer, Wentworth Greenhouse

I found him in his office surrounded by a greenhouse filled with summer annuals and accompanied by his ever friendly black lab, Billster, who slept at our feet (after a refreshing dunk in his wading pool) while James and I chatted about design, plants, and, of course….what led him to his life’s occupation.

James Brewer

James credits his folks for sparking his interest in gardening and design when he was a boy. He learned gardening, plants, and design through experience, slowly developing his skills, then began a small gardening business in the mid-90’s. From there it was all uphill, even twice interviewed on BBC live radio programs while he walked through finished projects and listeners phoned in with questions.

He took a look at my garden design sketch and said….. “You have a John Brooks feel to your design.”  Oh boy.  My garden is new, tiny, and FAR from being mellowed in….. quite removed from the large world of John Brooks, but I welcomed his suggestions and ideas for future growth.

James Brewer

Just glancing around the office and looking over some of the designs he was working on, I could tell that James has great talent. He certainly knows and loves landscape design. Being located in a large garden center benefits customers as trees, shrubs, perennials that he recommends can be seen onsite. We finished our chat about the time his ‘best friend’ was out the door to welcome new customers, both 2-footed and 4-footed…..

Since establishing himself with Wentworth, business is strong, he said. I do wish this young garden designer continued success. New England is such a nice place to put down “roots.”

For more information, visit James Brewer Garden Design

James Brewer

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Tiny Indoor Garden…

I’m itching to get outside. Our temperatures are falling into the single digits at night and, alas, the soil in the garden is frozen solid on this 6th day of March in New Hampshire.  But I found a way to bring a little rainforest indoors.

I have this wonderful handblown bell jar from Yorktown VA that usually stays in the garden. I pried it from the frozen ground, cleaned it well, and in 5 minutes I put together a simple woodland terrarium using plants, dried moss that I already had, and a wee turtle. The plate is a favorite…handmade by my talented potter daughter.

Churchill’s Gardens is just a hop-skip down the road and there I found 4 tiny ferns for this woodland setting beneath glass. It does the heart good to see a little green when the landscape is a frozen tundra.

ferns 2017

woodland terranium 2017

Turtle