Just south of the Mason-Dixon Line

Oh boy, was it fun to connect with my “roots” in Virginia for several days. My adorable niece was married last Saturday in Richmond.  mister gardener and I flew down for the lovely event and extended our stay to catch up with family (and plant life) just below the Mason-Dixon Line in the Piedmont area of Virginia.

The horizon was totally green under hazy skies as we descended for landing, trees fully leafed out, green, green, green, way ahead of the landscape in New Hampshire. That always amazes me. It’s just an hour and 20 minutes by plane.

Richmond VirginiaWe generally drop our luggage at the home of one of my brothers and wife in Richmond…. a couple who always make us feel right at home in their beautiful 19th century home that they have lovingly restored… all by themselves for the most part!

Richmond VA

Richmond

Edwards Virginia Ham

And first things first…. the most gracious Virginia hospitality includes what we have been craving…. Edwards Virginia Ham on warm buttered biscuits!

Edwards Ham is the salty type, a country ham that perhaps will seem too salty if one hasn’t grown up with it as a staple in the home. As for me, this wonderful ham has spoiled me for any ham I’ve tasted since.

Sadly, this unique Surry, Virginia ham company burned to the ground a year ago. While the insurance is being settled, the ham is being prepared and aged at other ham facilities across the country. Lucky for us!

Another priority in the south before you are unpacked and settled is a garden tour. This is a brother and wife who love and live just to be in the garden. I blogged about their gardens a few years ago. This is also the brother who saved the crow and that was quite an exciting story! Those blogs are two of my most read blogs and most ‘lifted’ photos from my blog… (that I willingly share if given credit for them).

The garden house my brother built from his own design (and where he hid from the attacking crow) always receives a lot of interest. For sure, he missed his calling as an architect. He is amazing and that’s no exaggeration from this sister!

The garden house looks great from any angle, even our bedroom window.

It’s fun on each visit to see what’s new in this fabulous garden. I told a blogging friend who photographed a door in another garden, that I knew a person with a garden door and this is the place! The fence and an old door were added to stop the deer from nibbling the azaleas. What a great garden accent! I love the RED.

Garden Door, Richmond VA

Everywhere you look there is nature looking back. I loved this sweet scene beneath the pergola he built last summer. It is covered with a lovely purple wisteria where wrens live in the house and robins are raising young practically on top of the wren house…. sort of condo style.

Wrens and Robins!

What will we look forward to on the next garden tour? They are planning another outhouse in the garden. This small one will be for the mower, weed eater, and blower. He’s already begun the foundation using discarded lumber from a neighbors deck. “What will it look like?” I asked. It will be a chip off the other garden house and he sketched it for me in a flash. The roof will be tin and atop the weathervane will be a copper bird dog, our family’s favorite pooch.

I can hardly wait for my next visit….

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More tulips…

Finger vase, five-finger vase, fan vase, trumpet vase are all names for this ‘tulipiere,’ a style of vase with multiple openings and a shared water vessel.  Finger vases were commonly seen filled with dried flowers in colonial arrangements in my hometown of Williamsburg VA. There I learned the container originated in the 17th-century with the Dutch who displayed one tulip per opening.

Well, that’s what I thought until last month. The Wall Street Journal ran an article that changed my mind. The vessels with multiple spouts like the one below and other styles of flower pots, as well as different ‘tulipieres’ were designed by the Delft manufacturers for Britain’s Queen Mary II to be used for any cut flowers. The queen’s flowers were refreshed three times a week… and not just with tulips.

So I learned something new…. and although the container isn’t just for tulips, it is still called a ‘tulipiere.’ I have used it with whatever flowers are in bloom, but, today, for a garden club event, I placed one tulip per opening surrounded by a variety of other blooms and a few dried finds from the garden.

five finger container

It’s way too early to pick anything but a few tulips and daffodils from this New Hampshire garden, but one tiny bloom, barely noticeable in the arrangement, was from this yard. I was excited to spot our muscari or grape hyacinth this morning. The tiny plants are just beginning to bloom now in shades of blue and white. It really is spring!

Muscari armeniacum

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Tulips: A 400 year love affair

Our monthly garden club speaker this week will be teaching us the fine art of watercolor painting using tulips as our subject and I was asked to construct a centerpiece of tulips for the meeting.  Tulips are in every grocery store and marketplace this time of year and just shopping for the few I need transports me back to the Netherlands and especially to a rare garden, Hortus Bulborum, devoted entirely to the conservation of historic bulb varieties.

Traveling with local friends and led by bulb growers/writers/photographers/educators (as well as friends), Brent and Becky Heath, meant that we mostly skipped the touristy side of the bulb industry and were introduced to the trade through their long connections to growers of Holland.

Hortus Bulborum in Lummen, North Holland

Hortus Bulborum is located in the small village of Limmen in the province of North Holland, where my first impression was that bicycles and horses might outnumber the few residents I saw on this chilly, misty morning.

The village of Limmen in North Holland

We began our tour with an introduction to the history of the bulb and this museum. From the original tulips growing in Central Asia and brought to Leiden by Carolus Clusius in the 1593, to the bulb thefts that probably led to the tulip rage, to the height of the tulip bubble, to the market collapse in 1637, and finally…. we learned about the collection of historical cultivars by Pieter Boschman, a local headmaster in Limmen, that led to the development of this bulb garden in the 1920s.

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The garden is fairly small, just measuring about a 4-acre square but there are thousands of cultivars of historic interest, labeled and arranged alphabetically. You will find tulips, but also narcissi, fritillaries, crocus, hyacinths blooming in the spring. A visit at different times will see different bulbs in bloom.

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The vast majority of the tulips that are planted each year are no longer available in the marketplace…. so it’s possible that they could vanish altogether without this living museum that preserves the gene pool for modern hybridizers.

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Hortus Bulborum is managed by volunteers who deadhead the flowers before the petals drop, dig the bulbs when the foliage dies, and replant them each fall. The bulbs are rotated like vegetables and planted in a different part of this sandy, flat garden to lessen the risk of disease.

Hortus Bulborum volunteer

Hortus Bulborum

Bulb enthusiasts already love to visit this archival classroom but visitors were few on the day we were there. If you are a gardener, I would recommend adding Hortus Bulborum to your bucket list for at least one visit for the history alone…as these bulbs are not where you would look for new varieties for your garden. Bulbs that are commercially available for your garden you will find at Keukenhof Gardens, an hour away from Limmen.

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The Greening of New Hampshire

Finally…. we’re seeing progress. Two odd days with temperatures in the 80’s (one of them possibly 90°) took care of the inch of permafrost and snow in a border that never sees the sun. I could finally plant the pansies and my mesclun mix lettuce.

April 9, Snow in Border

2017

Mesclun Mix, 2017

I’ve raked, edged, added organic compost, top dressed with a bit of mulch, pruned shrubs, planted more grass seed, and mister gardener has disposed of  wheelbarrow loads of debris. Garden gloves have been worn, wash, worn, and washed and ready to be worn again.

garden gloves 2017

Jacob’s Ladder is going gangbusters, growing tiny leaflets that are rising like ladders and should bloom with tiny blue flowers in early spring.

Polemonium caeruleum, 2017

Tulips and daffodils aren’t up all the way but are all showing green… along with tiny leaves of nepeta ‘Walkers Low’ just breaking the surface in the background below, plants with purple-blue flowers that take a ‘licking but keep on ticking’ all summer long.

bulbs, 2017

Herb garden with thyme, savory, chives, oregano, parsley, sorrel, rosemary and lots of lettuce are basking in the sun and seem to grow an inch a day.

The indoor geraniums went into pots in the garden….maybe a tad early as we dipped to 32° last night. This morning they are a little limp but will make it. I’ll just have to be better about watching those overnight temperatures.

So far, besides the pansies, the only color other than green in the garden is yellow. The sweet crocus is in bloom telling us spring has officially arrived.

crocus

 

Nesting Material for Birds

Yes, it’s time. The birds we see around the yard are beginning courtship behavior, mating, and defending territories, so you might want to provide a little nesting material. Birds naturally use a wide variety of nesting material, from grasses and twigs to animal fur, mosses, mud, spider webs and a lot more from the great outdoors.

We add a few nontoxic materials over the summer but one on hand today is natural jute twine that we cut into small pieces. Today mister gardener and I unraveled the twine, then filled a container with the bits and pieces. Easy to do. Just twist strands the opposite way that they are twisted, then pull apart.

Nesting Material

We stuffed this little wire basket given to me as a gift but a suet basket works well, too.

Nesting Material

We hung it in a visible location on a tree branch and now wait for the discovery.

Nesting Material

Things to use:
dry untreated grasses
soft plant material like catkins from cottonwood, willows, poplars, and milkweed fluff.
twigs
horse hair
short yarn and short hair (longer pieces can entangle birds’ feet and be deadly)
small fabric scraps
cotton batting

Things NOT TO USE:
cellophane and plastic that can harm birds and the environment
nylon twine and fishing line that can be deadly if a bird becomes tangled.
dryer lint absorbs water and contains chemical residues
dog fur from an animal that has been treated with flea treatment

Finally, just for fun…. check out this amusing video of a tufted titmouse stealing nesting material from a sleeping dog.

The Hummingbird Journey

We’re eager for the arrival of our ruby-throated hummingbirds in New Hampshire and we are keeping a close eye on the hummingbird spring migration map online.  Each week citizen scientists log in to the site and record their sightings that are reflected with dates on the map each week in a different color. The little birds have a long way to go before they reach our home in New Hampshire. But we are ready. Our feeders are clean and ready to be hung outdoors. Nectar rich flowers will fill the gardens… plus a variety of insects (NO  pesticides in our gardens). Have you seen a hummingbird chase down and eat a mosquito? I have.

Hummingbird Journey North 2017

In New Hampshire we attract just 4-6 hummingbirds over the summer. I like that number. In Virginia, that number was much more impressive, so much so that it was more economical for me to buy sugar from Costco in 25-lb. bags. Was it a full-time job keeping feeders clean, making nectar and keeping them well-fed with 8 feeders?  Almost!  Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat! They are the most entertaining little visitors in the garden.

Here is a feeding frenzy of females and young males (yes…with white throats!) on our nectar the morning after a hurricane passed through our Virginia property. It took a hurricane to bring them all to the feeders at one time. It was the end of August and most of the adult males with their red throats had migrated.

We do not add red dye to the nectar. It is not needed. The base of feeders are red enough and, besides, why mix in a chemical additive that may affect the tiny birds?

We wash our feeders regularly and make sure nectar is fresh… especially when temperatures are very hot or a feeder may be in the sun. It’s a bit work but the perks of enjoying these birds in the garden outweigh the small amount of energy it takes to maintain the almost perfect hummingbird habitat.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m a Faux Yankee

Most around here know I’m not a Genuine Yankee. I was born just south of the Mason-Dixon line and moved here just a few short years ago… but I’m trying hard to adapt. I’ve been learning the ways of the great Northeast and those who were born of this land. Yoga For Yankees is the latest class in which I’m participating. I’m staying in shape AND learning more about local activities, pastimes, and toils.

I’m especially adept at Roof Reiki for the Advanced. Matter of fact, with several inches of overnight snow on the roof, I’m grabbing my ladder and going out to practice it now. No more ice dams for me.

Yoga For Yankees: Folks back home won’t understand much but check it out


Have a nice April Fool’s Day wherever you live…