My All-White Garden

What ever happened to my all-white garden plan? It looked so great on paper but it never materialized. We will soon lose our white focal point in the yard as we say farewell to the striking blooms of the doublefile viburnum. Petals are falling with every gentle breeze and beginning to cover the ground like giant snowflakes. Soon the shrub will be full of red drupes that will turn black in autumn against deep red and burgundy leaves. Great 4-season woody shrub!

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’ 2018

We anticipate a fair share of summer whites with Little Lime and Incrediball hydrangea and arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), but somehow in the few years we’ve lived here, I’ve added a little purple, then blue, and eventually pink, and a few yellows. I simply cannot refuse a pass-along plant no matter the color and, of course, I must add host plants for butterfly larvae, like the orange asclepias tuberosa for the monarch butterfly. So, in the end I like to think the colors in the garden are compatible and just what nature intended…. a bit of the rainbow here on earth.

tall yellow bearded iris 2018

Tall bearded reblooming iris

Purple is emerging in the perennial bed with Baptisia australis, commonly called blue false indigo. This tough plant comes in white, blue, yellow, and bi-colors, but this is the only shade that calls to me. I have three of them in the garden… pest free, great pollinator plants and the tall foliage keeps on ticking once the blooms fade.

Baptisia australis 2018

Baptisia

Allium continues to give color to a border where little lime hydrangea and varieties of lavender have yet to bloom. Bees still visit, but now that the rhododendron have opened, I can hear the loud buzzing there.

allium 2018That’s a chunk of what we have in bloom at the moment. Lovely so far but the real excitement is in the anticipation of what’s to come. I like to think of the garden as a Broadway production… Act I, Act II, etc.  It just wouldn’t do to have a grand finale of all the blooms on stage at the same time.

Happy Gardening!

Printemps in New Hampshire

Spring in New England is glorious this year and I’m finding myself spending every free moment fussing around the garden. I don’t have a big garden as I had in years past but time spent in this one matches the time spent in my larger gardens. I pinch, I plant, I weed, I transplant, and I visit with nature. The frogs are singing, the toads are hopping, bees are buzzing, and the birds are visiting. It seems easy to dismiss or put off all other jobs and tasks on my ‘to do’ list…. like blogging.

Bleeding hearts are still vivid spots of pink here and there in shady areas. The blooms below hover over a tiny moss and lichen covered pagoda that once graced my mother’s garden. I can’t think of a more natural way to honor and remember her than having some of her garden passed down to my garden… both plants and art.

spring 2018.

This is the first year for my Purple Sensation allium, a bunch of ornamental onion plants, and it seems to be a great sensation indeed for the bees. My bees seem to prefer anything in the blooming onion family more than other flowers in the garden. That also goes for chives that are beginning to open and soon to open garlic chives.

Purple Sensation 2018

The most stunning blooming plant in the yard right now is our doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’).  The layered horizontal branches are clustered with blooms in great profusion. Great white blooms like little soldiers are standing at attention in rows along the branches and it is breathtaking. Each flower is flat with large sterile flowers surrounding the center of smaller fertile flowers. This shrub was pruned to a horrible round ball before we bought the property and I’ve been working with it for a few years to help it regain its layered branch look. It has responded well and has grown to about 10′ in height.

Lots more going on around here in the garden and elsewhere… the noisiest of which is a small addition being added to the home, an office/gathering room that I’ve longed for since our move from Virginia. It’s happening and I can’t wait!

The Alewives of Exeter

Eagles, osprey, gulls, fishermen, minks, cormorants, great blue herons, and human spectators are gathering daily on or in the area of the String Bridge in ExeterNHExeter. Some are there for a meal and others are there to celebrate a wonderful spectacle… the journey of the alewives to their spawning grounds. We were happy to be a part of the spectator crowd on the bridge today.  The alewife (Pomolobus pseudoharengus) is a small river herring that is anadromous, meaning it lives in the ocean but spawns in fresh water.  This small fish is so regarded in the history of Exeter that it is featured on the town’s official seal.

Each spring the fish leaves the Atlantic and ascends the salty Squamscott River to spawn in the freshwater of the Exeter River that empties into the Squanscott. Dams have impeded their journey since the 1640s, but in the summer of 2016, the last dam, The Great Dam of 1831, was removed from the Exeter River. The river has been freed to run as nature intended and the alwife is finally able to make the trip upriver.

The fish is described as heavily built with a gray back and silvery on their sides and on their deep belly. No one is 100% certain of the name’s origin. Was it an alteration of Allowes, from the French word for shad, or the American Indian’s Aloofe, meaning ‘bony fish,’ or Alwife, the unflattering Old English term for women who kept alehouses in the 17th century?

This is the sight when we arrived this cool morning under overcast skies. Where were the fish? I thought they’d be jumping out of the water like salmon.

ExeterRiver

A knowledgeable man who has spent his life fishing these waters told me that my eyes must adjust. “Just watch the pools and eddies.” I thought I saw some movement below so I zoomed my camera closer. Can you see them? The man said there are thousands of alewives going upstream. Thousands?

Exeter.River

I zoomed in closer and could actually see hundreds in this small pool. Yes, I believe there must be thousands of determined fish that are able to migrate upstream.

Alwives2018

Zooming in even closer showed me this amazing sight below just in one eddy.

Alwives

Keeping my eye on the rapids, I witnessed fish after fish slightly broaching the turbulent water. I didn’t see any leaping out of the water like salmon so they were hard to spot. The water was very high and rough.

2018 alewives

And, of course, there were those who were there not as spectators, but to take advantage of the alewife run. The man beside me thought the fishermen were probably fishing for striped bass that follow the alewives upstream.

Squamscott

But there were those who were there to dine.  We saw a lot of fish that failed to span the rapids, landed on boulders, and died. They won’t go to waste….

seagull

Here’s a good video for an up close and personal look at the alewives in the Exeter River:

Early morning bliss…

Daybreak comes early these days and who can sleep when… well, when it’s spring and nature awaits!  The morning is aglow before the sun is fully up. That’s when I step out for my first walk in the garden. The dew is usually heavy and the air cool enough to see steam wafting from my coffee.

I’m certain my neighbors are asleep, however I’m hardly alone outdoors. The birds are awake. Hummingbirds zoom like jets here and there around me fighting for the sweetest nectar spot in the garden. The larger birds are flying from the birdbath to suet and back, foraging in the borders for insects, fussing for territory, mating, or busy gathering nesting material. It must feel like the day’s half over to them.

Chickadee gathering

Early mornings are the best time to me for to appreciate the little things in the garden before I pull on garden gloves and begin chores. It’s the time to witness what will be lost when the sun rises.

Today I walked through the small shade garden to check the newly emerged plants. Bleeding hearts are in full display and are being enjoyed by bumblebees that usually wait for the sun’s warmth to fly.

bleeding hearts2018

bumblebee 2018

Not everything has broken ground but I loved seeing the fuzzy leaves of Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla Mollis) holding onto dew droplets that look like tiny pearls.

Ladies Mantle

The groundcover I prefer in this shady area is Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum), that grows about 8″ tall and has green leaves in whorls of 8.  The lacy white flowers are just beginning to appear. Some gardeners have problems with invasiveness but I find it easy to manage. This striking green carpet spreading beneath taller plants like ferns, hosta, epimedium, wild ginger, Solomon’s seal, and astilbe, is worth the maintenance.

sweet woodruff 2018

I notice it won’t be long before the doublefile viburnum (Viburnumplicatum tomentosumMariesii) will burst forth with white blooms… looking just like little soldiers standing doublefile at attention all along the branches. This is my favorite blooming shrub and when in bloom it will be the highlight of spring for me.

doublefile 2018

I don’t have much red in the garden. mister gardener, the only one who regularly observes and critiques my work, stated I needed more red for contrast out there so two containers are now growing lovely ranunculus (Ranunculus asiatucus) that are opening to more of a tangerine shade. That works for me. It’s the first time I’ve tried them and hoping for a long bloom period with some flowers to cut for arrangements.

renacula.2018

That’s about all I had time for today before having a second cup of coffee and catching up on the news…. 😳 Yikes!

Yes, Spring did arrive…

I was wrong about summer coming early. The sizzling hot temps lasted about two days. It did fry our early red tulips in the birdbath garden but our mid-season white tulips emerged and were greeted by seasonal New England temperatures…. warm days and cool nights.

spring blooms 2018

 

After a day of glorious rain yesterday, we woke today to our customary cool spring today.  White tulips against a groundcover of “Tide Hill” box brightens up this border before any sunlight appears over the woodland surrounding us. “Tide Hill” is a wonderfully compact littleleaf boxwood that is tolerant of our icy, cold winters and does fine during hot, humid spells during the summers. It only grows about a foot in height but will spread about 4 feet in diameter. It’s a perfect groundcover for our garden entry highlighted by a few florals…. and eventually “Karley Rose” fountain grass in a container. Both the box and fountain grass were purchased at Rolling Green Nursery in New Hampshire.

IMG_1380

New to the border this spring is “Starlight Sensation,” a new hybrid daffodil (below) from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester VA.  It won the “Best Daffodil” at the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show so I was on the phone to order that day. This is its first season but eventually we should have multiple nodding blooms per stems.  The buds are a shade of yellow and open to a creamy white.

IMG_1345

IMG_1344

Three shades of muscari will eventually spread and fill certain borders… this one with a backdrop of “Becky” daisies. I worried because the muscari green leaves were perfect fodder for our bunny. They were eaten to the ground several times but we have regrowth and blooms. Bunny has moved on to clover.

IMG_1353

That’s it for the bulbs but herbs are looking good, serviceberry trees are glorious and crabapple tree is ready to burst on the scene with pink blossoms. More to come…..

Unwelcome Temperatures!

Spring is my favorite time of year and we’ve been waiting for it for a long time in New Hampshire. Last month felt more like winter at times but today we’re jumping right over spring and landing smack dab in the middle of July.  As May rolled around, it brought us a hot 87° today beneath a blazing sun with a few similar days in the immediate forecast.

Tulips that were glorious and happy in our cool April, opening each morning and closing at dusk, are prostrate and sad-looking in the almost 90° heat. They like it cool.

tulip 2018

The last several days were chilly enough for me to wear a fleece while working in the garden, edging the borders, and even covering the young tomato plants against the nighttime frost. Today it’s shorts, short sleeves and lots of sunscreen. I should be at the beach but instead I’m tending to the garden and all the newly planted plants with undeveloped root systems.

I’m caring for newly planted lettuce in the garden that is flagging and keeping the soil from drying out too fast in newly planted flower containers. Some containers I’ve moved to the shade. Baby grass that was beginning to grow has faded. The hose is ready, waiting and being used today!

In spite of the weather, nature seems to prevail. Good news is that our hummingbirds returned two days ago. I had the nectar waiting and our two males are already fighting and fussing with each other over two feeders. We happily welcomed the return of the catbirds, the chipping sparrows, the phoebes, and the pine warblers. Most of the winter birds have migrated to their breeding grounds and now we watch as our neighborhood avians claim territory and build their nests. It’s a happy but busy time in nature!