Leaves work for me

 

We’ve already had a few hard frosts and freezes, lots of leaves 2018rain, a snow flurry, too, so the leaves are withering here in the Seacoast of New Hampshire. The wind has been howling and leaves that were the color of caramel and bright yellow just a few days ago are now all brown. They are being blown from trees in great clouds, twirling through the air and become snagged in shrubbery and across lawns. I don’t see many oak trees around the neighborhood but when I look out the window, it looks all oak on the lawn. We have a small-ish yard now so the leaf work is small-ish. I do feel bad for those who must remove truckloads of leaves from their property.

This year, our association has decided to forego leaf blowing. That’s good and bad. The company hired to do leaves 2018the annual job comes with powerful blowers and blow away every last leaf along with an inch of the topsoil and mulch from the gardens. After witnessing this the first year I lived here, I’ve instructed them to skip my borders! Just the front lawn, please!

As the second most forested state in the country, New Hampshire has a whole lot of leaves. Already we have great piles in our neighborhood with more to come. Piles of leaves left on lawns over the winter isn’t a good idea for grass. Some leaves are fine but the piles that I see from my window can create grass killing conditions. We’ll see what the association plans to do. It may be lawn mower mulching or it may be nothing, then tackle the problems it causes in the spring.

My mother didn’t remove all leaves but had the niftiest leaf Electric Leaf Shredder 2018shredder for fall lawn cleanup. The tiny mulched leaves were then returned to the earth. I wish I had one for excess leaves on the back lawn but I don’t. I rake them from the lawn. But I leave all that fills my borders unless I see signs of leaf disease. Where I have mulch is where the leaves remain… under shrubs and around perennials. Leaves serve as an insulator and return organic nutrients to the soil.

Maybe our gardens don’t look as pristine and clean as neatly blown borders but our leaves also provide a valuable habitat for insect species. There are butterfly caterpillars and eggs in there, and queen bumblebees, spiders, beetles and more.  In late spring, I remove some leaves after the bumblebees are active but sometimes I mulch right over the leaves.

It’s a very good thing!

A Wicked Awesome Day

Foliage is slowly changing on the seacoast of New Hampshire. There are rich yellows and reds scattered around Exeter. If we drove an hour or so inland to the higher elevations we would be greeted by a kaleidoscope of color.

We decided not to join the train of leaf peepers heading for magic in the hills this year. All we wanted this Columbus Day weekend was a simple day adventure and that quest took us to Mt. Agamenticus in Southern Maine for a first visit. Most locals call it Mt. A. Just try to say Mt. Agamenticus three times fast.

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Maine has 17 million acres of fall foliage to discover however there was little to be found on Mt. A, a conservation region of more than 10,000 acres located inside 30,000 acres of conservation land. We soon discovered it was mostly about hiking. Cars galore parked below the mountain, along the approach, and atop with few people to be seen. They were all hiking or biking on the abundant trails.

decked out for a day on the trails

 

Hiking

Couple with twins on their back!

At the summit (that we drove up 😏)  views were spectacular. The ocean to the east and the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the west where leaves in the distance showed telltale signs of color to come.

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On the ocean side, we could see all the way to Kennebunkport… hazy but made a little closer with my telephoto lens. We thought about lunching there but it’s about a 45 minute drive from Mt. A by auto, so we chose a closer destination for a walk and dinner.

kennebunkport

On our way out, mister gardener pointed out numerous birds in a section roped off as Regrowth Area. Happy song sparrows dining on seeds entertained us with antics in the hips of rugosa roses.

Mt. Agamenthus song sparrows 2018

And how about those native New England asters (Symphyothichum novae-angliae) that dotted the summit? Those bold colors certainly got our attention… beautiful and filled with bumblebees.

New England Aster 2018

There were plenty of monarch butterflies fluttering and feeding in the Regrowth Area.

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We followed up with a trip to seaside town of Ogunquit where we found an abundance of fall color. Mums, pumpkins, scarecrows and a village packed with colorful tourists took center stage.

Ogunquit 2018

After a walk along Marginal Way and strolling Ogunquit village and enjoying a cup of homemade cider, we finished up the day with a taste of Maine seafood before heading home to New Hampshire. These little neck clams stuffed with chorizo and buttered bread crumbs and a cup of soup were a satisfying ending to our day adventure. It was a Wicked Awsome Day!

Five littlenecks stuffed with chorizo and buttered breadcrumbs

 

Goodbye Summer

It’s still August but I’m learning just how short the growing season is in New Hampshire. Summer is fast shutting down. I don’t mean seeing preseason football on the telly or all those fall decorations I’m seeing in stores. It’s the plants and nature that are showing signs of ending their cycle of growth.

Our tomato plants look ratty but there are a few pink ones still hanging on. I’ve been picking the green tomatoes that are certain not to ripen. I’ve sliced, breaded, and fried them up in bacon fat as my southern roots dictate. If you’ve never tried this treat, you’d be surprised at how tasty it is. mister gardener, born and raised in Ohio, once turned his nose up at this delicacy but now can’t say not to this treat. I think we’ll be eating more as the month comes to a close.

fried green tomatoes

On a drive through Vermont last week, we noticed a few species of trees are beginning to show color. In our garden, our Little Lime hydrangea shrubs are entering the color phase of late summer and fall. The booms emerge green in the spring, turn white through the summer, and finally present a lovely blush of pink in the fall. It’s happening now and it’s beautiful.

Little Lime Hydrangea

The crickets, grasshoppers, katydids, and cicadas are sounding the calls of fall. It can get noisy out there this time of year. Spider webs are festooned across much of what grows in the garden… and with egg sacs full of little “Charlottes” ready to greet the world in the spring.

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We’re seeing the birds begin to gather for their annual migration. Several of our male hummingbirds have already left. It seems early for migration but the number of males around the feeders are fewer.  We are keeping the nectar fresh for the females, the young, and those few that may wander through during migration. The nuisance around the nectar these days are the yellow jackets….. not a bee, but a pesky wasp that is drawn to sweets as the summer wanes.

yellow jacket

The sun is rising a little later and setting earlier these days bringing some refreshing cool nights. We’ve dragged out the down cover for those nights that drop into the  50’s.  I wish this time of the year lasted longer. It’s amazing to think the first frost in this part of the state can occur in less than an month!

garden gloves 2018

I love all the seasons but maybe not equally. I must admit I’ll be sad to put away my garden gloves for another long New England winter

 

 

Drive-By Photography

For the last several days, fall colors at their peak have truly wowed us in Exeter. Whenever we are in the car, I grab my smartphone in an attempt to capture the brilliance of yellows and reds. I should just stop doing that because 90% of my photos are either a blur OR the sad trees have been directionally pruned around power lines by NHDOT.

This weekend, a quick errand to the P.O. gave me a view of the most stunning sugar maple I’ve seen thus far… growing in front of the old Congregational Church. We were creeping along with others pointing and gawking at the tree so I was fortunate not to end up with another iPhone photo smudge.

I was not alone in my drive-by photography. I saw two photographers with big cameras capturing images of the tree from the sidewalks. Maybe I’ll see those images later on a postcard or blog post.

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Post Ida

Back in its bed...

maple treescreenThe river is high but it’s back within its banks where it belongs. Ida left us with plenty of clean up jobs around the yard and the gardens which will take some time to finish.

As payment for our toils and perhaps to make up for the terrible Nor’easter, Mother Nature rewarded us with an explosion of reds and yellows in the few trees left with leaves around the yard.  The color season has really come to a close in Tidewater but whether this was Mother Nature’s apology or not, it sure made us whistle while we worked on Nor’Ida’s clean up.

Japanese Maple

shedAnn Hohenberger, The garden Club of Gloucester

The Yellows Have It!

After days of warm, dry weather, a cold front moved into Virginia over the weekend, dropping temperatures to the 50’s and bringing us a trace of rain.  We woke this morning to a landscape filled with attention grabbing golds and yellows. Here’s what I saw on my walk today:

It won't be long before the ginkgos leaves drop

It won’t be long before the ginkgo leaves turn lemon yellow, then all fall in a day’s time to cover the ground like melted butter.

Crepe Myrtles frame mr. gardener's fence in yellows and golds

Crape myrtles frame mr. gardener’s winter vegetable garden in yellows and golds.

Yellows from maples, poplars, and hickories greet you on the lane.

Yellows from maples, poplars, and hickories greet us on the lane.

Old maples carpet the lawn.

Old maples carpet the lawn.

Young maples vie for space

Young maples vie for space

A young sassafras gets in on the act.

A young sassafras gets in on the act.

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Netted chain fern (woodwardia areolata) yellows beneath evergreen holly.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester