Photos of 2012

Fellow blogger Les over at A Tidewater Gardener posted 10 of his favorite photos from the year to close out 2012. Les is a talented photographer/blogger who can capture the beauty of water and sunsets like no other. I decided to follow suit and throw some 2012 photos on this blog. They may not be my fav photos but my fav memories of the year.

A week spent photographing on Star Island, one of the Isles of Shoals off the coast of NH gave me a unique opportunity to play with my camera from sunrise to sunset.

Star IslandStar IslandStar IslandStar IslandEveryone on the island gravitated to the West at sunset and we were usually richly rewarded.

gazebo on Star IslandThe seagulls of Star Island seemed to ham it up for anyone with a camera. They were always ready for an encore, too.

Star IslandYoung gull on Star IslandBack home in Durham, our neighborhood swan entertained us with his antics. He seemed to be aware of his good looks. Was he looking for food or checking out his reflection?

Swan-Mill Pond Rd.We just loved the hazy, lazy days of summer in New Hampshire. Grandchildren put away their tech toys and joined us for old fashioned entertainment and the joys of nature. No TV… it was water and hikes during the day and puzzles that kept their focus in the evenings.

MimiMister gardener and I discovered the benefits of walking again on the multitude of NH trails, something that he and our dog have continued to do throughout fall and winter, despite rain, snow, sleet. Not I. It’s cold outside!

mister gardner and MattieWe were regularly offered the loveliest of Nature’s gifts if we just took the time to look.

monarch butterfly

Fall in New HampshireWe’ve been renting in New Hampshire for one year, exploring, sampling, tasting, touching and photographing. We now know the state well and where we’d like to put down some new roots. More to come…..

A Monocromatic World

I’m hearing from friends in Virginia who are waxing poetic about the glories of springtime in the Commonwealth. I don’t blame them. It’s easy to gush over Virginia’s blooming bulbs, flowers, flowering trees, and woody shrubs that come alive with color, but hearing about all this makes me a little homesick. Having a lifetime of Virginia springtime memories, I believe there’s no lovelier place for the season of rebirth. This weekend in Gloucester, citizens will celebrate the daffodil at The 26th Annual Daffodil Festival and visit with Brent and Becky Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, and discover why Gloucester is thought of as the daffodil hub in America.

Brent and Becky's Bulbs

Alas, while they are basking in color, I’m still living in a monochromatic world in New England. The grass is shades of brown, the trees are bare, the horizon often blends with the overcast sky. For a quick color fix, my daughter and I visited a well-known local nursery to see what we could see and see what there was to buy.

Ahhhh…. yellow! Plenty of yellow and green.

There were plenty of yellow daffodils, some tulips, a bit of crocus, some dahlia and pansies, and indoor plants, but the greenhouse was totally empty and the outdoor shrubs area was vacant. “It’s too early for planting,” they told us. Shoppers were moseying about, buying seeds, pansies, compost so clearly gardeners are gearing up for the season.

Our little outing was the perfect remedy for me, a color starved gardener just waiting for spring. It was just the ticket for this other gardener I met.  She was enthralled with the potted Iron Cross Shamrock (Oxalis deppei) and she bought it and thought maybe I should have a shamrock, too. Looking closer at her bonnet, I spied a few more shamrocks as adornment. Definitely Irish…. and still celebrating a bit of St. Paddy’s. How fabulous!

Bulbs are FINALLY in the ground…

After returning from a trip to Keukenhof Gardens in Holland with Brent and Becky last May, I dreamed about seeing colorful tulips in my own gardens in 2011. Breathtaking would be an understatement to describe the Keukenhof rivers of tulips planted en masse of single colors that paralleled, twisted and merged like brilliant rainbows that had fallen to the earth.  Endless paths throughout the 80-acres of woodland park with endless variety and patterns of 7,000,000 hand planted bulbs was more than eye candy. It bedazzled.  A profusion of muscari in shades of blue coiled around and about the tulips completed the colors of the rainbow.

So I also wanted muscari… lots of muscari in shades of blues and whites and lavender planted for accent color. I wanted it around birdbaths, against the tulips, and accenting the stones around the frog pond. From Brent & Becky’s Bulbs last fall, I purchased cobalt blue muscari armeniacum and several other varieties that I had admired in Holland. And last week in a lull between snow days and icy days, I finally got the bulbs planted. It’s late in the season so I’ll let you know if they appear above ground this spring.

After muscari I planted a mass of tulip bulbs in several borders.  I massed single colors and twisted them into other colors, similar to Keukenhof’s style of planting but on a MUCH smaller scale. I have great hopes that springtime views will be gorgeous on the river in Ware Neck.  Here are some of my selections:

Come-Back

Hakuun

Most of the tulips I bought were Darwin hybrid tulips from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.  This deep red “Come-Back,” thus named because it is a reliable perennial, is a mid-spring bloomer that grows to 16″-18.” It’s great for cut flowers.

I could not pass up this Darwin hybrid “Hakuun,” pure white with a hint of green on the sepals. It hails from Japan and grows to 16″-18″ tall.

Elegant Lady

I took a chance with a few of the selections because I just could not resist them. Take a look at “Elegant Lady,” the ‘color of butter cream frosting with a pale pink overlay,’ says the wording under the picture. How could I resist such a delicious bloom even if it only blooms one season?

Daydream

Then I planted a river of “Daydream” Darwin hybrids that open yellow and mature to a soft apricot orange. I’m thinking sherbet when I see these 18″-20″ blooms in the catalog. And this tulip possesses a mildly fragrant aroma.

Marit

“Marit,” a Darwin hybrid described as ‘a glowing blend of cherry red and primrose yellow with a bit of chartreuse’ was another irresistible tulip. A mid-spring bloomer, it grows 14″-18″ tall.

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  • The Darwin hybrid tulip bulbs should be planted about 8″-10″ deep. This prevents the bulb from splitting up into new bulbs that are non-flowering and helps the flower to have thicker stems.
  • Remove the flower as soon as it is spent to allow energy to go into the bulb rather than seed production.
  • A low-nitrogen organic fertilizer in the spring is advised.
  • Allow the foliage to completely wither away before you remove it.
  • Avoid irrigating tulips. They like it dry.

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

Fog…

Weather conditions have been unusually wet this winter. We’ve had rain, snow, sleet, freezing temperatures and now we are having unusually warm days. Fog often greets us on these mild mornings. It’s a bit of an eerie feeling to stand on the pier that virtually disappears into a blue abyss.  Sounds on the river are sharper. Geese and ducks are out there somewhere communicating with one another.  Although they can’t discern shapes or movement, the labs know very well that someone or some dog stands on a neighboring pier.

On land, wooded scenes that we hardly notice as we pass on a regular basis take on a ghostly and unnatural appearance in the blue haze. However, the story changes as we view each tree separately.

In the seas of fog that we have been experiencing, the most interesting features are always the individual trees. Details that we miss on any given day are embellished in the most humble of trees. We notice the form, the shape, the separate trees in a copse, the angles, and the splendor that we may have overlooked yesterday.

I keep a library of photographs I have taken of trees in the fog.  Although photos are an imperfect reproduction of what the eye experiences, they are reminders of the grandeur of a tree and of the benefits to the natural world.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Cedar Waxwings in the Garden

cedar waxwing in foster hollyThere is a quiet lull in the garden right now.  Fall maintenance chores are complete, tools have been cleaned and put away, hoses have been drained, and the first frost has arrived in Tidewater.  For me, this time of year signals a new excitement as I view the landscape from my windows, binoculars in hand, camera ready, and Sibley’s bird guide at my side for it’s all about birds and migration now.  Much of what I have chosen for garden flora has been for the birds, their nesting, their food, and their winter protection.

One bird that I am eagerly awaiting is the cedar waxwing. My daughter in Maine delights in the arrival of cedar waxwings each spring that remain and breed in Maine, dining voraciously on her blueberries and honeysuckle berries and insects all summer.  Before migration, she watches as they begin to flock in August over a fast running stream near her community, diving and swooping over the rapids chasing insects.  It is such a spectacle that she makes the pilgrimage back to the rapids to watch the incredible show each August.

Now she has alerted me that she no longer sees her resident waxwings. Have they left Maine? For me that can mean only one thing; they’re migrating my way.  And I am ready, checking the trees, listening for their high pitched calls, looking for movement around the cleaned and filled birdbaths.  They could be here any day from now till March but I know they will come for the waxwings and I both favor one variety of our trees: the foster holly.  I love it for its beauty and the food it brings my feathered friends. The waxwings love a variety of berries but this holly is their ‘caviar’ of berries on our property.

The slender, 20 – 30′ tall foster holly is a hybrid, the The arrival of cedar waxwingsoffpring of the female Dahoon Holly and the male American Holly.  I planted 3 of them massed together off the corner of the house as a vertical accent.  They produce tons of berries that are bright red against the glossy, dark leaves that are less spiny and softer than other holly leaves. These hollies are beautiful during the summer but they seem to save themselves for their brilliant berry display in the fall and winter.  I check the trees each day, looking for movement or the high pitched call of the cedar waxwings.  They could come today or they could come in January for they wander widely as they move south.

When the flock of birds do arrive, the scene is reminiscent of a piranha feed on the Amazon River.  The hollies are under attack for 24 hours until nary a berry is left. The gluttonous feeding habits of the bird are a far One waxwing with a red tail from consuming honeysuckle berries.cry from the image of the proper looking bird with its elegant silky feathers in shades of browns and yellow. The adults sport a distinctive black mask outlined in white that extends broadly over the face.  The adult wings end in secondary feathers with red waxy tips and the tails of most end in yellow tips.  However, since the 1960’s, there have been sightings of orange tipped tails due to eating the pigments of berry from a newly introduced variety of honeysuckle while the feathers are still growing.

After two days of feasting on foster hollies, cedars, cotoneasters, and wild cherries, my fascinating friends are off for a feeding frenzy at another location.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Argiope, The Beautiful Garden Spider

Like many youngsters, I had a huge fear of spiders as a child, but through the years I’ve gotten braver and learned to appreciate spiders and the benefits of having them in the garden.  I still scream if I run into a web but the neighbors no longer dash to my aid. They all know I simply had another close encounter with a spider.

September and October are the perfect months to discover more about the intriguing world of spiders and webs in our gardens.  Step outside in the early morning while dew still covers the Argiope waiting for her mealgrass and be introduced to a silken wonderland of glistening webs festooning the grass, bushes, and trees in a variety of designs from tunnels to chaotic masses, to long threads connecting shrubs and trees, and to the ones that amaze me the most–the giant orb webs.

The spider that spins these magnificent orbs, Argiope aurantia, is said to spin the strongest web in the spider world.  The highly visible female is the largest and most colorful spider in our Tidewater gardens. Her web spirals out from the center and can be 2 feet across with a telltale zigzag line in the center called a stabilimenta, the purpose of which is not completely understood.

The large yellow and black Argiope, aka Writing Spider, hangs head down in the center of her web.  Although fierce looking, she is benign.  If disturbed, she will either drop from her web to escape or she may vibrate her nest vigorously to intimidate, but she poses no threat.   A bite is rare, but should it happen, the reaction will be mild. The best thing for us to do is to leave her alone since she is fast approaching the end of her life cycle.

We fed one argiope moths a few summers ago and she was able to produce 3 egg sacs.

Egg Sacs

At this time of year she will  produce her eggs.  Her abdomen will swell before producing usually one, but up to three, egg sacs containing from 300 to over a thousand young in each, and her life  will end with the first frost. Her babies hatch inside the sac, where they also overwinter  before emerging in the spring looking like miniatures of their parents.

I have witnessed the emergence of the miniature spiders in the spring and it is reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web.  Off they scurry in every direction to begin their own summer journey of life.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Calder Loth

Calder LothIn our increasingly busy lives, our gardens should provide an oasis for us, a place of tranquility and joy. The city gardens of Calder Loth, Senior Architectural Historian with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and honorary member of the Richmond Fan DistrictGarden Club of Virginia, do just that.  Located in Richmond’s Fan District, Calder’s resplendent home gardens reflect his taste in gardening and reveal his ample knowledge of plants.

He has designed borders overflowing with vibrant color using high performing plants accustomed to the heat of summer.  Art objects, flower filled terra-cotta pots and mismatched pavings and stones provide a major impact.

Garden folly

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A visual bonus is a wooden structure topped with terra-cotta pots.  What do you think you will see if you attempt to enter the gate and pass under the arch?  You will see yourself.  Calder designed the back of this structure with a mirror to provide folly in the garden and to visually increase the garden space.

Not only has he made use of the all perimeters of his property, his gardening passion has inspired him to extend his gardens from his yard to a public alley where he created a sun-filled flower border for passersby to enjoy.

IThe alley gardent is said that every garden is a reflection of the owner and has a unique story to tell.  From his gardens, we know that Calder Loth is a talented horticulturist with a love for beautiful gardens and a desire to share his passion.

The Garden Club of Virginia cherishes its association with Calder.  Whether advocating for historic garden restoration, researching, writing for Historic Garden Week in Virginia, or serving on the Fellowship Site Selection Committee, Calder Loth is a valued friend of the Garden Club of Virginia.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Having Fun With The Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed nuthatchSunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet bring the gregarious brown-headed nuthatch to our garden feeders in the winter.  Like other nuthatches, they eat seeds at the feeder during the winter months, but during warm weather, the bird will forage for bark-dwelling insects.

In the summer, we are alerted to their arrival by their familiar rubber-ducky squeaks.  We watch them climb up and down the pine trunks in characteristic nuthatch fashion inspecting the bark, the cones and pine bracts in their search for spiders, cockroaches, egg cases, etc., as well as pine nuts.  To have a little fun with them, we hide peanuts under the bark that they love to discover, sometimes with the male feeding his mate.

Sadly, due to the loss of their mature pine forest habitat, it is reported that these 4.5″ birds are declining at a rate of 2% a year, down close to 45% in the last 30 years.  One possible way to help the brown-headed nuthatch is to build a birdhouse.  Make sure the entrance hole is 1 1/4″ in diameter with a 4″ x 4″ floor and 9″ ceiling.  Hinge one side for cleaning, make ventilation holes and attach about 7′ or 8′ above the ground. Next, invite them to your feeder.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

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