A Garden Outbuilding in Virginia

If you wanted a colonial period dependency to store your motorized lawn equipment, would you hire a contractor, a builder, or maybe an architect to make sure everything was perfect or would you sketch it out on scrap paper and then go ahead and build it all by yourself?

Me?  I’d have to go with the experts. My brother? He is the expert. He’s the talented Richmond VA artist/architect/builder/designer/gardener/expert who can do it all.  Sigh.

When I visited my brother and his wife in Richmond VA last spring, he was just thinking about the building and wasn’t sure he’d do it. I asked a little about what he had in mind. He picked a piece of scrap paper and said, “Oh… if I do it, it’ll be something like this.”

Garden shed sketch

Several years ago, he designed and built the perfect colonial garden house, below, that I bragged blogged about years ago. His new garden outbuilding, if he decided to built it, would match the style of the existing garden house, he said.

If you’d like to check out my earlier post about his gardens and the existing garden house, just click HERE.

Billy's Garden House

Once his mind went from ‘thinking about it’ to ‘doing it,’ it didn’t take long for his plan to take shape. In the shadow of the existing garden building, he began the framework of the smaller building. It was nestled on a shaded spit of land overlooking a clear stream that runs through a thicket separating homes.

New outbuilding

Up it began and almost overnight the framing was done. Thankfully he supplied me with the updated photos that I pestered and implored him to send on a regular basis. I didn’t want to miss one step.

Garden Outbuilding in Richmond VA

And it quickly took shape with the roof and siding in place.

Garden Outbuilding

Garden Outbuilding

Garden Outbuilding, Richmond VA

The only thing left was the door….

Garden outbuilding, Richmond VA

And the door is finished…

Garden Outbuilding, Richmond VA

And voila! The finished product… a beautiful colonial garden dependency to store the lawnmower and small garden tools. I’m sure that gives him more room in the larger garden building for other projects.

The finished Garden Outbuilding

The photo below is taken from the same vantage point as the photo at the top of the post, now with the brand new outbuilding in the foreground and the existing garden house in the distance.

Do they look like they’ve been there since the eighteenth-century? I’d say so. Is my brother gifted? I’d say so! Way to go, bro! Once again, it is another perfect project.

Two Garden Outbuildings, Richmond VA

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….

Save

Save

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Clouds of colorful tall phlox greeted me in the garden after returning from a family vacation. Although not the exact shade of pink I would have chosen, these billowy blooms still supply a mid-summer punch to the border and nectar for garden friends.

At first glance, some might mistaken this guest (below) for a tiny hummingbird as it hovers above the blooms sipping nectar. But it’s a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) that is seen through central and eastern North America and Alaska. The ‘fur’ on the body of the insect looks more like a hummingbird’s feathers.

These attractive moths may confuse some because they are active during the daytime along with hummingbirds, not at night with many other moth species. Below see the curled proboscis or mouth part used to suck nectar from the flower.

As the moth prepares to feed, it uncurls the proboscis and inserts it into the center of a bloom.

I suspect the host plant for the hummingbird moth is my coral honeysuckle growing against a post beneath the deck. Tomorrow I will inspect the plant to see if I can discover any hummingbird moth caterpillars… which is fine with me. This insect is a delight to see in the garden… not a pest at all.

Balboa Park

Just a stone’s throw from downtown San Diego is Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre public complex of over 15 museums, numerous theaters, performing art groups and the amazing 100-acre San Diego Zoo. Set aside by San Diego founders for development in 1868, “City Park” struggled through early lean years of development. But by 1910, “City Park” was renamed Balboa Park in honor of Spanish-born explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, and it was on a fast track preparing for the Panama-California Exposition of 1915-16. With the ornate buildings, boulevards, sidewalks, and roads, it was reminiscent of an old Hollywood movie set as we passed museum after museum on our way to gardens.

This remarkable urban treasure compares favorably with parks like New York’s Central Park where trees and ponds and lakes dominate the landscape. Locals and tourists flock in great numbers daily to stroll the sidewalks and pathways that curve around and over these gentle California hills. I was a little disappointed not to find labels on the trees in the park as many trees were unfamiliar to me. I suspect there was a plant guide or a self-guided tour that we somehow missed. However, I did enjoy seeing lovely agave, date palms, citrus, pomegranates, and large camphor trees (Cinnamomum camphora). We saw Torrey pines (Pinus torreyana) and interesting cork oaks (Quercus suber), Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), the parent of our Tidewater VA hybrid leyland cypress, and I enjoyed seeing the beloved ginkgo and mulberry trees.

One breathtaking tree and the tallest specimen in North America, a Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla), well over a hundred years old dominated an area. Once known to youngsters as “The Climbing Tree,” it is now roped off to protect the soil beneath. Several other specimens of this species are planted in the park, along with 32 other kinds of fig trees.

Moreton Bay Fig, Balboa Park

The Botanical Building, one of the largest lath structures in the world, built for the 1915-16 Exposition along with the beautiful “La Laguna” lily pond, is one of the most photographed scenes in the park. Yes, I did follow suit. Inside, palms, cycads, ferns, orchids and vines cool and moisturize folks against the dry desert air outside.

The Botanical Building, Balboa Park

Laths on the Botanical Building

Angel's Trumpet (brugmansia alba) caught much attention from shutterbugs

Botanical Building

Orchids inside the Botanical Building

With its huge leaves, the Chilean rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria), both an ornamental and edible plant, is classified as an invasive pest in many parts of the world. It was contained in a pot inside the Botanical Building.

Pots of plants throughout the park reminded us that we were in a desert.

We wouldn’t be in a park if there wasn’t a spot or two for children to play with abandon.

Other gardens we stopped by for a visit was the Parker Memorial Rose Garden and the Japanese Friendship Garden.

The Japanese Friendship Garden

San Diego Dreams

Traveling from winter in New Hampshire where daffodils are just beginning to bloom to the city of San Diego, where colorful flowers blanket the community makes me feel like I’m visiting Never Never Land. Six brothers and sisters, husbands, nieces are converging on my one sister, a potter and artist who has the greenest thumb of all of us. Morning coffee is always spent discovering the beauty of her garden combined with her newest artistic creations. This year the bougainvillea was the first plant that caught my eye. Grown like a vine over a fence, the prolific blooms shade a garden bench like a pink umbrella.

On closer inspection in the dense branches, I discovered adorable new whimsical art hidden deep beneath the canopy. These magic wands were all alive with little faces and personalities. Perhaps we were in Never Never Land and these little wands once belonged to Tinkerbell. Siblings were invited to select a wand that spoke to us and take it home. We didn’t waste any time. Maybe they are magic and all our dreams will come true.

Women Are Better….

… at choosing, arranging and tending to flower gardens, that is according to a 2011 poll by Roundup (ugh!) of 2,000 Brit gardeners.  Men agreed they were better suited for cutting the grass, looking after the vegetable garden, minding the patio and decking. They also admitted they were better at fixing and painting fences, digging and preparing the ornamental gardens beds, building a garden house or a greenhouse.

mister gardener’s fence and vegetable garden

Women gardeners, on the other hand, acknowledged they were more skilled in the area of choosing plants, laying out the landscape plan and taking care of the flowers. They are more skilled at planting hanging baskets and choosing garden ornaments. Do you think the study would have the same results in the good old USA? According to ME, strengths in our gardens seem to be divided along these same lines.

Ann’s playground

Whether men are better or not at gardening is irrelevant. I don’t think we are any better. I think they are just darn smart. Although the planning, buying and planting is great fun, it’s the weeding, trimming, deadheading that takes the most time. The Roundup survey found that tending the garden is the most consuming job with the average gal Brit spending about 9 hours a month making sure the garden is weed free, watered and trimmed. By the time I’ve filled three wheelbarrows with weeds and debris, mister gardener has finished his veggie garden maintenance, showered and sitting with a glass of wine watching me work.  Smart fella.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Nightmare On My Street

At first they looked insignificant and harmless but these plants were really the devil in disguise. Like those really bad reptilian creatures with sharp teeth and claws who rampaged a town in the 1984 horror movie, Gremlins, I am currently under attack by a weed…. a devil weed, a dangerous villain, a Gremlin. It’s Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), a biennial plant in the Mustard family. Native to Europe, it is thought to have been brought to America in the 1860s as a culinary herb and indeed, it is edible.

Garlic_Mustard_close_800

The small rosettes of leaves appeared among my roses and lavender several years ago. I pulled up tons without recognizing the weed until successive years when the plant had matured into tall shoots, competing with the lavender, then moving on to other borders . Each year, I weed and weed and I think I’ve gotten it under control but when I turn my back, it multiplies as fast as those little Gremlins that terrorized an entire community.

It is a destructive invasive plant that is controlled best by hand-pulling before the plant goes to seed. Each mature plant can produce over a thousand seeds and once it produces seeds, it can become so prolific that it is difficult to eradicate. When it’s introduced into a new environment, it can aggressively spread into woodlands where it out-competes native plants and flowers that insects depend upon for life. The West Virginia White Butterfly (Pieris virginiensis) and the Mustard White Butterfly (Pieris oleracea) that lay eggs on Toothwort plants are choosing to lay eggs on Garlic Mustard which has proved toxic to both the eggs and larvae. The plant also produces toxins that suppress the mycorrhizal fungi that plants require for growth.

The plant has no natural enemies. For very heavy infestations where risks to desirable plants is at a minimum, applications of systemic herbicide glyphosate can be effective.  Since the seeds remain viable for five years in the soil, diligent monitoring is important. After weeding, do not compost this weed as the plant can germinate in the compost bed.

Wish me luck.

PS: I uploaded the wrong photo. I moved and now I live in New Hampshire. Wikipedia supplied the photo of Garlic Mustard for this post.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Garden Tools

One of my required master gardener classes was a lecture on garden tools. Instructors were scheduled to instruct the class on the tools available for gardeners and the purpose of each. They were bringing examples of spades, shovels, trowels, rakes, saws, shears, weeders, pruners, loppers, hoes, garden forks and pitchforks. Whew! In the world of gardening there are as many tools as there are jobs and we were going to learn all about working in the soil with some and working with plants with others. I felt a little smug going in to this class. I was already a gardener and I had my basic arsenal of garden tools. I knew I’d be yawning, drawing doodles in my book, and looking at my watch a lot during class time.

No rust on these tools!

Boy, was I wrong! I began the class elbows on the desk and head in my hands. Several hours later, I was sitting up straight and had taken copious notes with small sketches in the margins. I found I did not know all the names of the tools I already owned. And I learned a few new names of other handy garden tools. A Winged Weeder? A Garden Bandit?  A Swoe?  A dibber? I learned when to use bypass pruners and when to use anvil pruners. I discovered I knew nothing about choosing a tool to fit my grip, did not understand the benefits of short-handled tools and long-handled tools, styles, weights, and materials. I learned, like proper shoes, garden tools need to be fitted to the gardener.

That was then....

This is now.....

And I learned valuable knowledge on sharpening my own tools (I tossed the dull and bought new ones) and the proper care of tools (I tossed the old and bought new ones).  I took my tools for granted and left them where I last worked in the garden. I’m much better now about wiping tools clean of any dirt or grass before storing them in the garden shed. I sharpen tools regularly and coat the metals with a mixture of petroleum jelly and light oil or a rust blocker spray like Bull Frog Rust Blocker (environmentally safe) to prevent rust. Another master gardener tip for treating metals is to fill a pail with sand and mix in used oil. Any oil will do… cooking, motor… but I do wonder about the environmental impact of eventual disposal.

I still have my favorite tools in the garden shed and it’s nice to know their names, to know how to use them, to know they are better cared for and that they might last a lifetime.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

A Winter Vertical Garden

Vertical walls, living walls, green walls – no matter what you call it, growing a garden on inside or outside walls seems to be a hot trend in gardening and much in the news these days. Whether it is good for the atmosphere or whether a vertical garden causes more harm for the environment than good, I am uncertain. Vertical gardens originated in France, migrated to the West Coast and moved east from there. While some believe these gardens may save the planet, others say the electricity needed to supply water outweighs the benefits.

Portsmouth NH, one of the oldest cities in the country, is where I came upon a vertical garden yesterday that seemed to be struggling to survive one of the toughest New England winters of late. The garden was installed in September, 2010, on the aged brick wall of Cava Restaurant in a narrow old street named Commercial Alley.

John Akar

Needless to say, I was intrigued and while studying the plants that looked like they’d had seen better days, the owner, John Akar, appeared in the Alley, proud as a papa about his vertical garden. He said the installers had just visited the garden and declared the roots on all the plants healthy and vital.  Cava Restaurant is proud to own the first outdoor vertical garden in New England with hearty native New England perennials chosen for low maintenance and their semi-evergreen nature.

Although the wall looks a little like woolly mammoths that have been skinned and hung to dry, I can visualize flowing tussock grass, the purple leaves of coral bells, the red berries of bunchberry, lacy Christmas ferns and wintergreen soon providing a lovely atmosphere for diners on the patio of this popular restaurant.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Historic Garden Week: Behind the Scenes in Gloucester VA

Monticello

APRIL 2011. It’s that time of year when Garden Club of Virginia members across our great Commonwealth are connected to one another with a common purpose: Historic Garden Week in Virginia. Forty-seven garden clubs and more than 3,000 members under the umbrella of the Garden Club of Virginia issue invitations to “America’s Largest Open House,” April 16-23, 2011. More than 250 gardens, homes and historic landmarks in Virginia will be open for tours, programs, and events.

Event chairs have been working around the clock for a year or two organizing their individual tours including floral arrangements for the homes, hostesses to greet visitors in each room, parking, transportation, photography, publicity, programs, lunches and much more. The work of advance planning and logistics of each tour is staggering. It takes the cooperation of all members of the clubs and their communities at a very high level. Most of all, it takes the generosity and philanthropy of the remarkable homeowners to make all the tours possible. For a year or two, homeowners have been preparing their homes and gardens to be able to invite visitors inside some of the most lovely homes and the most beautiful gardens at the pinnacle of springtime color.

The mission of the Garden Club of Virginia is to inspire a love of gardening, conserve our natural resources and to educate our own members and the general public. These missions are accomplished through the tour and other programs throughout the year. Another important mission of the GCV is to restore historic gardens and landscapes in Virginia. The proceeds from Historic Garden Week are used to fund these restoration projects. To date over $14.5 million has been raised to restore more than 50 historic garden properties across the state.  Over the years, funds from Garden Week have restored notable historic gardens at the Pavilion Gardens of the University of Virginia, Woodlawn, Bacon’s Castle, Monticello, the Executive Mansion Capitol Square, and other historic Virginia sites. Click here for complete information on GCV historic garden restorations.

View of Millford Haven on Gywnn’s Island

The following tour took place in 2011: In the Tidewater counties of Gloucester and Mathews, the Garden Club of Gloucester is planning a most interesting tour on Saturday, April 16, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Four unique and lovely waterfront homes on four different and distinct bodies of water will roll out the red carpet for a multitude of visitors to explore two historic counties with over 350 combined miles of shoreline and where most roads lead to water. The view from each home site is unmatched. From vistas over the tranquil Severn Creek with historic Warner Hall Plantation as a backdrop, majestic cliff-side panoramic views of the Piankatank River, historic and bucolic Pepper Creek where eagles and osprey soar and nest, and white sandy beaches along Milford Haven, named by early Welsh settlers, that opens directly into the majestic Chesapeake Bay. Visitors will take note of lovely salt-tolerant gardens filled with ornamental grasses and blooming woody shrubs and colorful bulbs.

Windowsill Garden at “Sweetgrass”

You will see original garden art, a butterfly garden, a woodland walk with native plants, raised bed gardens, a rose garden and more.  With Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester to mentor our club and communities, we’re fortunate that this part of the state is known for its daffodils.

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in April

Fields of yellow punctuated with vibrant tulips growing amongst vivid azaleas and beneath flowering dogwood will greet visitors in both counties.  A box lunch will be in Gloucester at Short Lane Ice Cream with a grand finale desert of the best homemade ice cream I’ve ever tasted. A sit-down lunch will take place at the White Dog Inn in Mathews County, an experience to remember. Come to visit us at the beach on April 16!  You can find all the details about our Gloucester-Mathews tour and advance discount tickets here.

Have I got your attention?  I hope so and I hope you will be persuaded be our guest in Virginia the third full week in April, 2011 and travel from community to community to visit in some of Virginia’s best homes and gardens.  Supporting the tour will give you the satisfaction that you have helped preserve historic Virginia gardens, all open to the public. For detailed schedule information on Historic Garden Week 2011, click here.

Stay tuned in the weeks to come for highlights on other HGW gardens across the state.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Paths In The Garden…

Whether it’s a walkway welcoming guests to the front door or a pathway to the azaleas in bloom, paths in the garden can be both function and inviting. Landscape plans incorporate plans for garden paths before a plant goes in the ground but in our gardens they simply evolved around natural settings.

I do love paths in a garden.  Who can resist an invitation to venture into the unknown?  It can lead to a discovery of a pond or a secret garden or to the glorious hellibores in bloom beneath the Chinese Chestnut tree on a cool day in late winter. Because we live in a rural area, we chose a less formal fieldstone to provide a path around the side and back of our home with plantings of miniature sedums and an assortment of thymes intermixed between the stones. This pathway curves around foundation shrubs, herbs, and ornamental gardens built up at the corners of the home. At journey’s end of this walkway, we are rewarded with the frog pond and gardens, a haven for birds, fish, frogs, skinks, and butterflies. There we are invited to linger in provided seating.

Other pathways in our garden are of brick or a bit of slate as stepping stones leading to faucet and hose, but the majority of our paths are simply grass, my very favorite material. It is beautiful and it’s soft and forgiving to my bare feet. Trees in our gardens dictated where  paths should be. One grassy alleé walkway is bordered on each side by hedges of poet’s laurel and it leads me straight to the garden house. Another curved grassy path leads me down a euonymus lined walkway, through the garden gate and into the neighbors’ domain. Narrow grass paths in the gardens all widen into open areas of lawn and the eye can scan the horizon for the next destination, whether it’s a pathway to the bench under the beech or the small mulched footpath to the new secret garden or across open lawn to the river.

I like to think of a garden landscape as a novel with each garden revealing itself as a chapter in the plot. Whether its a mystery or a ‘who done it’ or a love story, pathways in the garden help the story unfold by linking the chapters and keeping the story exciting. Paths can be functional and aesthetic and enticing, an welcome invitation for new discoveries. Is there a path in your garden?

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Everything’s Coming Up Roses!

The Garden Club of Virginia and the Harborfront Garden Club

cordially invite everyone to

“Gateway To The Garden”

the 72nd Annual Rose Show

Norfolk Botanical Garden

Rose Garden Hall

*

*

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2:00 pm to 6 pm

Thursday, October 7, 2010

9 am to 1 pm

Free with admission to the garden

Sanctioned by the American Rose Society

The GCV Rose Show is presented annually in different locations around the state. This year the chosen venue is the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, an incredible 155-acre garden with more than thirty themed gardens.  With admission to the botanical garden, you will be able to visit Rose Garden Hall and the GCV Rose Show at no additional cost.

In addition, the rose garden at Norfolk Botanical Gardens has been accredited as one of 130 All-American Rose Selections Display Gardens where you can admire over 3,000 rose plants representing more than 300 varieties grown here. From mid-May through October, more than 250,000 rose blooms may be seen. This is a not-to-miss event.

For more information on the show, including schedule, registration and directions to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, please click here.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

The cat’s away…

… and the mouse has played all week.  For several days, I’ve had the house and kitchen and garden all to myself while mister gardener becomes mister golfer in New England with our son.  Not having the mister here takes the hands off the clock for me. He is so scheduled that I always know what time of day it is by the particular activity he is performing.  Coffee: 6:45 a.m. Mail: 10:30 a.m. Lunch: 11:30 a.m. and so forth.

This week I awoke when the sun hit my eyes. Breakfast could be a piece of cake or a bowl of Reese’s Puffs (both leftovers from grandchildren a week ago). I puttered around the yard every morning weeding, edging, and simply sitting for long periods enjoying the Zen of the pond, connecting with the gardens, the birds, the blooms, the stars, being a part of something much larger than me. I did not feel idle and unproductive. Quite the contrary. I was recharging my inner being, my essence, my thoughts and ideas, all that is easy to lose in the distractions of daily life.

When it was too dark to see, it was time for the dogs and me to come inside for the night but then again I could find myself back outside before bedtime, sitting or walking on across the dew laden grass, enjoying life in the nighttime garden.  Very late suppers could be sauteed squash and tomatoes from mister gardener’s abundant crops or cheese and crackers or it could be another bowl of Reese’s Puffs.

I cherish these few days I had with the dogs, the cats, the flora and fauna of the gardens, and the cosmos. But I do look forward to mister gardener’s return and the hands returning to the clock. We both should feel refreshed and revitalized with our batteries fully charged.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Box Turtles in Our Garden

It is on wet, misty mornings like the ones we’ve had this week that Eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) are encountered lumbering across roads in search of worms and other insects. If I’m on foot, I’ll simply help the turtle across the road. If I’m driving and it’s safe, I’ll pull over, activate my flashers and move the turtle to the berm, if possible in the direction it was heading.

The Eastern box turtle is most likely the best known turtle in Virginia, named for its ability to tuck in its head and legs and close up like a box, a defense action that causes thousands to be crushed beneath the wheels of automobiles each year. Deforestation for development is rapidly consuming the habitat of these gentle creatures that have survived for 250 million years. They have not been declared an endangered species although they are protected in some states. Once so numerous in my childhood, it’s apparent to me that the box turtles are disappearing from our landscape.

We do encounter these beautiful reptiles in our gardens and lawns in our rural area. Their diet consists of insects, fruits, mushrooms, berries and vegetables. Our dogs ignore them in the grass, the cats take a wide berth but I tell mister gardener that the greatest threat in crossing lawns is the tractor or lawn mower. It’s a good habit to always mow when the grass is dry and turtles have found cool shelter under mulch or leaf litter in the borders.

This male box turtle does not have the usual red eyes but does have bright orange legs.

Recently, while a passenger in my neighbor’s car, I said, “Stop the car! There’s a turtle.”  We were the only car on the road so I jumped out and helped a big male box turtle to the edge of the road. Upon returning, she said, “I’d never do that. How’d you know it wasn’t a snapping turtle?”  Had I known she didn’t know the difference, I would have brought it back to the car to show her.

Concave plastron is best indicator of male box turtle

A box turtle’s carapace, or top shell, is domed and each turtle is colored in a varied pattern of yellow or orange on brown.  The hinged lower shell, the plastron, is an indicator of the sex of the animal. Males have a concave shell and the female’s lower shell is flat. Males will often have bright red eyes, but not always! Females have brown or yellowish eyes.  The male carapace is brighter and their legs can have

This box turtle is approximately 20 years old

bright orange or red scales. The tail is longer on the male and their claws on the rear legs are thicker and more curved. The turtles you encounter could be 50 years old or more as their life span is over a hundred years. The approximate age of a turtle can be gauged by counting the growth rings on the bony plates of the carapace.

Although we have other species of turtles in the Commonwealth, the box turtle is our only terrestrial turtle. Others, such as snapping, musk, painted, spotted, so forth, are aquatic. Welcome these good-natured and ancient animals if you see them in your garden but avoid the temptation to pick one up elsewhere and bring it home. It’s now thought that they are territorial and will try to return to the original site.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Virginia

They Did it Their Way

Through the garden gate

From the street in this west side Richmond neighborhood, you would never know that behind the dense growth of winter jasmine, tall bayberries, plump boxwood and red-tip photinia is a garden gate that opens to a compact, well-designed landscape. Soothing greens with varied textures and shapes entice you to enter through the gate and explore.  I always enjoy an invitation to this charming garden. There’s something magic and restorative about the cool spaces in the dappled light of tall trees.

The couple who lives on this lovely property designed the garden layout themselves and every bed was developed and planted by them. The space has been embellished through the years to become a lush tapestry of foliage punctuated by colorful treasures of flowering trees and perennials. It’s obvious that this garden is their retreat, a place to enjoy the outdoors and fulfill their passion for gardening. It’s great fun to stroll through the grounds with them for he showers her with credit for aspects of the garden and she returns the praise.

The rear of the home opens onto a terrace that flows into a small grassy lawn. Steps away are several garden paths that beckon. Birdbaths, benches, sculpture, bridges and lighted pagodas are focal points along the woodland journey. A clear stream winds through the shade providing interest and a home for many small visitors. Native plants and new cultivar discoveries pepper the landscape.

Following the brick walk along a natural rise, a border of  boxwood, variegated hostas and liriope edging become the nucleus of this garden. A hand crafted martin house beneath a golden rain tree is a reminder of the birding paradise the couple has created.

Exiting through the garden gate, we are not disappointed by what we encounter. A colonial garden house, designed and built by the owner, greets us in this space.  I’ll say no more. A photograph of this structure is worth a thousand words.

The newest feature in the landscape, the Charleston Garden, bids a welcome to enter and rest on one of the benches. High stucco walls, beautifully designed brick walks, statuary, a pool with splashing water and colorful fish, and cool green groundcover, invite you to linger. With a daughter living in Charleston, the couple made numerous visits, falling in love with the courtyard garden designs.

I’m sure readers will agree that the owners have created an Eden…. but I might be a bit biased. On an earlier blog entry, I whisked you away to California to visit my sister’s whimsical garden in San Diego. This time you left your stresses at the gate and toured the garden retreat of my brother and his wife who live in Richmond.

For another view of his garden house, click HERE.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

I NEED A New Garden Shed

click to enlarge photos

After a Garden Club of Virginia trip to the Eastern Shore for a two-day visit through spectacular private gardens, I returned home with ideas and brainstorms and plans and visions for what my gardens could be. My mind was swirling with mental images of new designs, new plants I must have, and dreams of doing it all by myself.

First of all, I want to redesign my garden shed. Mine is a working shed. It smells a little too much like Holly Tone, tools line an entire wall, mud must be swept out regularly, and spooky spiders like to hang out in corners. The interior of the garden house I saw on the Eastern Shore is what I must have. It was a bit eclectic with an array of natural collections and yet it was peaceful and serene with the soft painted interior… walls, ceiling and floors… that provided the perfect background to showcase the garden collections. On the wall were penned thoughtful garden or natural world sayings by well-known people in history.

I looked around for a chair. There was no chair but if there had been a chair, a bit of soft music and a glass of wine, I might still be in that garden house. I think the owners left the chair out on purpose!  They knew visitors would fight over it.

Did I mention there was a chandelier?  Sigh.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Gardens, Gardens, Gardens in the Cotswolds!

The Cotswolds has some of the most beautiful gardens and landscapes anywhere and we were lucky enough to see four of them in a very short time. Our first stop was the nineteenth century landscape at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Over two thousand acres of park-like landscape with sweeping lawns surround the eighteenth century palace with lakes and bridges, a secret garden, a lovely rose garden and even a maze. ‘Capability’ Brown is credited with redesigning earlier formal landscaping into the more natural setting with clumps of trees, the 150-acre lake and meandering walkways.

Click photos to enlarge.

Nearby, the great Arts and Crafts style gardens of Hidcote Manor are the first to be fashioned as garden rooms. Designed by an American, Maj. Lawrence Johnston who eventually became a naturalized British citizen, the property was developed on high ground with planned vistas overlooking the Vale of Evesham. Johnston used strong separations with box hedges, yew, hornbeam, holly, beech, and stone walls to divide the garden rooms. The 10.5 acres of gardens include topiaries, a wonderful garden gazebo, numerous archways through a variety of materials both living and man-made, water gardens, herbaceous gardens and endless paths through formal and informal gardens.

Located very close to Hidcote Manor Gardens, the delightful gardens of Kiftsgate Court are built close to the edge of a deep embankment with commanding panoramic views of the half moon swimming pool below and beyond to the village of Mickleton.  An assortment of gentle paths lead down the Lower Gardens then back up through a woodland walk with fields of bluebells that are lovely beyond description. Other gardens fan out on high ground east of the manor house, separated by yew and copper beech hedges in colorful borders, a rose garden featuring the large Kiftsgate Rose (July blooming) and ending with the Water Garden.  Once containing the tennis courts, this pool is ornamented with a row of two dozen tall gilded metal stems and leaves that move in the wind and drip water every few minutes, a wonderful surprise garden for visitors and a perfect ending for our tour.

Our final garden visit was to the unique Arts and Crafts Rodmarton Manor Gardens. We were greeted by the owner who traveled with us through the Courtyard Garden, the Alpine Trough Garden, the Rockery Garden, beautiful herbaceous gardens and vegetable gardens, and the Topiary Garden, as well as beneath lime, birch, hornbeam, and numerous trees that were pollarded and pleached nearly a hundred years ago.

It’s been a dream trip through some of the loveliest gardens anywhere but now it’s time to get back to my own small garden and the Japanese Snowbell (Styrax japonica) trees that were loaded with flower buds at the time I left.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Keukenhof Gardens

It was cold, blustery and rainy when we visited the Keukenhof Gardens near Amsterdam but we were quite warmed by the breathtaking colors in the bulbs, the shrubs and perennials in the over 80-acre garden.  Open only from March to May, the garden receives approximately 800,000 visitors from all over the world during these few short weeks. Approximately 7,000,000 bulbs have been planted by hand each year since 1949 by growers all over the Netherlands to exhibit their hybrids.

We spent the entire day here with Brent and Becky exploring the ten miles of paths and seven inspirational gardens, indoor exhibits, art exhibits, gift shops, flower arrangements, lakes, fountains and so much more. Despite inclement weather, the garden was quite crowded.  We saw people of all ages braving cold temperatures and drenching rain from babes in strollers to the elderly.  We shared their enthusiasm.

Click to enlarge photos.

The Netherlands

Today I am tiptoeing through the tulips in and around the historic village of Alkmaar, the Netherlands with Brent and Becky Heath of daffodil fame and with members of the Garden Club of Gloucester and friends. The brilliant fields of bulbs were visible from the air when landing in Amsterdam, then through the windows of our bus as we traversed villages to Alkmaar about 50 miles north.

muscari fields

The Heaths are well-known in this area and have used the grounds around here for raising and developing varieties of bulbs.  We are learning first hand knowledge of the manic tulip culture of 17th century Europe, the bloom that dominated culture for generations.

As we travel over the next few days, I will attempt to share photographs of beautiful gardens… although internet access is not readily available.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

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Just Passing Through…

Cedar Waxwings dining on fosters holly

I heard their high pitched whistles before I saw them on Sunday morning. The sound was piercing enough to serve as my early morning wake up call.  I hopped out of bed and dashed to the window to search for these traveling gifts from nature.  In the pre-dawn light, I could only see the dark silhouettes dotting the limbs at the very top of the sycamore tree but there was no mistaking the unique calls of this bird. The whistling bzeeee bzeeee, a little like a high pitched dog whistle, was coming from cedar waxwings, about 80 of them, dark against the sky.  They’ve finally arrived. They never made a stop on their fall migration but this small ‘aristocracy’ or flock of waxwings was making its way to their northern breeding grounds.

Acrobatic waxwings often eat upended!

I was so honored to welcome these well-dressed birds to dine at the foster hollies again. The three trees were full of red juicy berries waiting for their arrival. Cedar waxwings are frugivores, meaning they eat small fruit during the fall, winter and spring, but they are also invertivores, or insect eaters, during the summer months.  They are acrobatic in flight and are excellent insect catchers in mid air. I must alert my daughter in Maine that the birds are on their pilgrimage back to their nesting grounds near her. They breed around the lake near her home and entertain her as much as they do me. She once ‘saved’ a moth inside her home by tossing it from the back door… only to have a cedar waxwing snatch it in midair.

Click to enlarge photos

The fosters hollies are practically cleaned of berries today. They are nibbling on the seed balls of the sycamore and may linger for another day before they are off on their arduous northward journey. If you’d like to invite these well-dressed birds to dine with you, consider planting native fruit trees or maybe their favorite, fosters holly.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

My New BFF in the Garden… Maybe.

On Sunday, I knew the forecast for today must be favorable when mister gardener announced his plans for golfing.  As he backed from the driveway this morning, I waved a quick goodbye from the front door and exited the back door before he was out of sight. The sun was shinning, the sky was blue, and the air was warm. All I needed was a light sweatshirt in this 63 degree weather. I looked forward to a full day in the garden without interruptions or breaks. I rolled up my sleeves and checked the list I jotted the night before.

Gloves? Check. Shovels? Check. Pitchfork? Check. Hose? Check. Clippers? Camera? Check. The first project on my list was the transplanting of a dogwood. This was not any common dogwood, but a Cornus officinalis, a Japanese cornel dogwood.  Three years ago, my Ohio son gave me a sapling that sprouted beneath his glorious 35-foot Japanese cornel dogwood.  I planted the foot tall baby in my plant nursery and protected it through several seasons until today. It’s time for this tree to become a specimen.

The Cornus officinalis is lesser know than its close relative, Cornus mas, the cornelian cherry dogwood.  They both sport delicious large yellow early blooms before the leaves appear, around the time the forsythia blooms. I’ve been told that it is very difficult to tell the two species apart unless species nearby one another can be compared. The Japanese variety has larger flowers and blooms earlier than the cornelian.

Japanese cornel dogwood exfoliating bark

The bark of the tree is showy and exfoliates in small curls, even on my tiny four-foot Japanese variety.  It produces bright red oblong drupes in the summer, edible but tart.  With the wonderful bark, blooms, berries and easy care, what more could you want?

Late in the day, mister gardener dragged in the front door, very sunburned and tired, as I dragged in the back door, very dirty and exhausted.  We each professed to having optimal adventures as we collapsed in pure contentment at the end of our extremely long day.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

A Celebration of Moss

Click photos to enlarge

There is one area of our property that is thriving. With the moisture and cool temperatures we’ve been experiencing, plants in this habitat are at their peak of health under the canopy of large tulip poplar trees on the banks of our frog pond.  Here we find our healthy carpet of mosses that spread over the ground, clinging to exposed tree roots, fallen limbs, rocks and stones in a mass of textures. It is a soft and soothing garden to visit, one that entices you to stretch out on a warm summer day to watch the frogs in the pond or simply take a cool break out of the summer sun. Just studying the mosses, it’s easy to envision a tiny fairy village in a parallel universe around mounds of moss and lichen, beneath small ferns, where salamanders provide public transportation.

Norie Burnet’s Richmond moss gardens

With Garden Club of Virginia members last fall, I visited the Richmond home of Norie Burnet, the ‘Moss Lady,’ whose lovely 4-acre moss lawn is a moss masterpiece and quite well-known to gardeners. Norie struggled to eradicate the moss in her yard for years but the yard absolutely defied any grass. She gave up and the end result is a totally awesome clean sweep of velvet. Norie keeps it free of leaves and she makes sure it is watered during dry periods or it languishes, she says. Unlike Norie, we don’t do a thing to maintain our moss. We don’t mow there. We don’t rake there. We don’t fertilize there and we don’t weed there. Mother Nature is in charge. But I do protect it from digging dogs, from a son using pin cushion moss as tees for chipping golf balls, from mister gardener whose brush pile creeps closer and closer each year.

Mosses have no true roots to conduct water and their ‘leaves’ are one cell thick. Water and nutrients are absorbed externally so our moss garden is basking in the cool, wet weather of early spring. We have several varieties sharing this space beneath the tulip poplars. Some of them, I am familiar with as they are common in this area but others I have never bothered to identify. I believe we have feather moss (Thuidium delicatulum), pin cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) and juniper hair cap moss (Polytrichum commune). Someday, perhaps, I’ll buy a book to put names to the rest of them but right now it doesn’t seem that important.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Water in the Garden

Who doesn’t love a water feature in the garden?  Whether your garden is large or small, water can provide a finishing touch and a focal point in the landscape.  With our small pond, hearing water trickling from a fountain, watching the fish, frogs, insects, the fun of learning aqua-gardening, all combine to provide a touch of magic in the garden.

Bossy bluebird monopolizes birdbath. Click photos to enlarge.

But another very simple water feature can make a garden magic and more inviting to friends and to a variety of wildlife, especially birds. It’s the birdbath and every garden needs at least one.  They are a lovely water feature and guaranteed to bring entertainment from the wide variety of birds that visit.

Birdbaths are made from an assortment of materials from stone, metal, concrete, to copper and ceramic.  They can be small, large, have bubbly fountains or be quiet reflecting pools of water.  Our fine-feathered friends will be most attracted to stone with its textured surface for traction, but because of that texture, they are a little more difficult to clean.

Female summer tanager shares a cool bath with goldfinches

Four birdbaths are in our gardens. Mister gardener has a modern copper one in the center of his vegetable garden, and I have a glazed terracotta and a bronze birdbath, but by far the birds prefer my hypertufa birdbath, an artificial stone basin made by a friend and neighbor.  It is surrounded by low evergreen dwarf pittosporum and sits in filtered light beneath the bough of our sycamore tree.

Here are some tips to keep in mind for adding a birdbath:

  • Place your birdbath close enough to your vantage point to be able to enjoy it.
  • Make sure the water level is 3” or less or birds may drown.
  • Add rocks if the surface is slippery.
  • Hummingbirds will bathe if there is a fountain.
  • Elevate the birdbath out of the reach of predators, such as cats.
  • Keep the birdbath and water clean to prevent avian diseases.
  • Place in semi-shade, if possible.

A simple birdbath will add great interest and delight to the garden and will provide birds an oasis for drinking and bathing.  If you are making plans for adding to your garden this spring, consider a birdbath.  Below you’ll find an appealing YouTube of Red Crossbills enjoying the cool water on a summer day.  Notice the hummingbird defending his territory when the video begins. The yellow crossbills are the females; the small brown striped bird at the end is a juvenile crossbill.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Edward Scissorhands Lives Here

I’ve been told by several folks that I missed a spectacular snowstorm in Virginia over the weekend, the sort of snowstorm where ice and snow clung to every horizontal and vertical object and mounded on birdbaths and swings, stopped traffic and brought everyone outside to marvel at a wonderland of white.

I was sorry not to experience the beauty of a Virginia snow but I am in San Diego where bird of paradise is considered a weed and euphorbia and jade are considered trees.  On one garden excursion, a small private hillside of cape honeysuckle jumped out to me as making the best of an invasive plant.  Over 15 years ago, the Mission Hill owners wondered how to deal with the thick, wiry honeysuckle that traveled onto their property from a neighbor’s yard.  They resolved the problem by designing a whimsical landscape of their travels to far off lands, Egypt, Asia, South America, Mexico and Europe.

It takes time to see all the countries represented but if you sit on the curb long enough, elephants, Buddha, an armadillo, monkeys and snakes begin to take shape.  If you move to another position, the view changes along with your interpretation of what you see. There is a turtle, a surfer, a sombrero, a camel, mythical creatures and more.  I felt a little like a kid stretched out on the cool grass on a hot summer day watching clouds change shape.

There are no forms supporting the creatures.  Each individual topiary is all honeysuckle, obviously carefully hand trimmed to a specific model the owners created.  The time it takes to maintain this garden can only be imagined. I am always awed by the generosity of a garden owner when I see a private landscape like this that is clearly meant to be shared with the public.  Many thanks!

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester