Goodbye Spring, Hello Summer!

Spring is a beautiful time of year and we were fortunate that our 2018 spring was enjoyable with enough rain to turn everything lush and green. Today summer has officially arrived bringing heat and humidity and the first flush of WEEDS. All kinds of tiny weeds have sprouted in lawns and in borders around this neighborhood.

I’m not crazy about the idea of dousing the property with chemicals so I’m laboring a little each day to pull them out before they form seed heads. I find the single best way to rid oneself of weeds is the good old-fashioned pull-them-out-by-hand when the ground is moist and the plants are young. That’s when it’s easy to pull the entire weed up because if you don’t get the root out, it’s probably going to grow back. I simply grab a weed close to the ground and slowly pull straight up. If the ground is dry, I find the second best way to remove weeds is with a triangular blade hoe. You’ll find no Roundup used around my yard!

Our association lays down mulch in our neighborhood and those are the weeds I tackle first.  A few inches of compost/mulch mix makes it easier to pull them out, roots and all…. even the young pokeweed below that will develop a huge taproot that will go deep and spread horizontally later in the summer.

Pokeweed 2018

 Root System on Young Pokeweed

Chickweed, Hairy Bittercrest, Dandelion, Wood Sorrel, Plantains, Purslane, Pokeberry, Prostrate Spurge, Crabgrass and my worst gardening enemy… Creeping Charlie (in the neighbor’s yard), are all waiting to grow and develop a good root system and simply take over… but, sorry, not on my watch!

wood sorrel 2018

Young Wood Sorrel

Plantain 2018

Young Plantain

Prostrate Spurge

Young Prostrate Spurge

New Shoots of Creeping Charlie

New shoots of Creeping Charlie creeping ever closer to my gardens!

No matter how dreaded a job, we must accept that weeds are part of gardening and be prepared to do battle but never win the war. No matter how many you pull out, nature is constantly reseeding them for you.

 

 

Alchemilla Love

When I was employed at Rolling Green Nursery, this plant was often requested by shoppers. From one week to the next, when I reported for work, I noticed the plant was practically sold out in my absence. That much requested perennial is Alchemilla… lady’s mantle. I wasn’t too familiar with it as I didn’t grow it in my zone 8 Virginia garden but, now I have fallen under its spell in my seacoast New Hampshire garden. I started with two plants as accents in a border and they quickly charmed me so much that I now use them as a groundcover in another border. Lots of lady’s mantle there and I am rewarded with plant pizzazz!

The blooms of the lady’s mantle are frothy clusters of yellow/chartreuse that cover the plants this time of year. Each individual bloom is about 1/8-inch wide and shaped like a little star. The clouds of blossoms stand erect above the mound of attractive leaves. However, as the blooms become heavy, they can become a bit floppy. That’s when I cut those heavier stems for flower arrangements. They look fabulous alone in a container or stunning as a filler in mixed arrangements. And… a bonus… they seem to hold color for me when they are air-dried.

Alchemilla 'Lady's Mantle'

Lady’s mantle does self-seed and some folks will deadhead all the flowers before the seeds ripen. The tiny seeds, one per flower, ripen when the blooms become dry and brown later in the summer. I do allow some self-seeding but cut most blooms. During the heat of the summer, I keep the plants well-watered and after deadheading I am rewarded with a flush of fresh growth in the fall.

lady's mantle 2018

The leaves of lady’s mantle are like shallow rippled cups and have tiny soft hairs that cause water droplets that form either from rain, fog, or evaporation to roll around on the surface and hang on along the edge of the leaf.

My variety: Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) ‘thriller’ – zones 3-8

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!

I was warned….

…but didn’t heed advice. “You’ll be sorry,” they said. Yes, I think we are a little sorry.

The tiny bunny we encouraged to dine on our clover a year ago has become rogue. We helped to keep him alive all winter by feeding him peanuts. He loved them and would appear in the harshest of blizzards to wait for a meal at dawn and dusk. And now, the weather has warmed and the snow has melted but each morning as I feed the birds, there he waits. “Give me peanuts!” he says with a stern stare. And when I pile some in front of his nose, even the squirrels are wary of stealing from his stash. Don’t mess with his peanuts!

Where his den was during those winter days, we did not know. But now, the snow has melted and we finally learned where’s he’s been hiding.

bunnykins

Our bunny actually resides beneath our deck.

And how’d he get under there?

Here’s how:

Bunny damage

He tunneled through the snow and right through the lattice to make a cozy bungalow. Horrified, I blocked the opening. He made another…. and another…. and another.

2nd rabbit opening

And the clover isn’t tall enough for a tasty meal….so in addition to the peanuts, he eats my pansies. He nibbles on my chives. He really enjoys the tulip leaves. He snacks on my ornamental grasses. And he’s not budging from our yard.

We see several rabbits in the distance chasing each other at full speed and we know what that’s all about… but our rabbit isn’t interested. He will sit in the sun. He will stretch out on the grass. He will sniff and sample different plants. We once watched as the other rabbits dashed through our yard one evening just a foot from where bunny was resting. He hardly glanced at them. He had no interest in bunny play. He simply yawned and waited for his peanuts.

We finally named him Ferdinand, just like the bull in the children’s book… the bull that was bred for the Spanish bullfighting, but instead simply loved to sit under a big tree and smell the flowers. Our Ferdinand lays on the grass, yawns, stretches, eats peanuts, samples some garden plants, and then retires to his beneath-the-deck bungalow.

The Story of Ferdinand

Amazon.com

Our greatest fear is that Ferdinand is really Ferdinanda and we will eventually discover little Ferdinands beneath the deck. What to do…. what to do!

Finally some blooms!

According to the New York Times, we should have foliage emerging in the Northeast on or about April 16.  But due to the 2018 jet stream bringing us Arctic air with low temperatures in January and February, spring is delayed this year.

We are seeing the colorful crocus blooms here and there (if the bunny hasn’t found them first) but the daffodils and tulips I planted last fall are still showing just green. Buds on woody plants are swelling but no leaves and no flowers yet.

However, we do have one small broadleaf evergreen shrub that is shining with profuse blooms in our shady border nestled beneath the boughs of a crabapple tree.

Pieris japonica

It’s the Pieris japonica or Japanese adromeda. Each morning I walk out to this border, coffee in hand, to admire the sole evergreen shrub in bloom in our landscape. These cascading clusters of white flowers hanging about 6″ long are the first to bloom each spring and will charm us for two to three weeks. The plant is often called ‘lily-of-the-valley shrub’ for the small bell-shaped blooms appear so similar to the small lily of the valley plant.

Japanese

New leaves on the plant will emerge in a lovely bronze shade before maturing green. I often clip a few of these new leaves to add a bit more contrast to flower arrangements… as well as using the attractive older leaves that are dark green and very shiny.

There are a number of variants of the Pieris japonica in with blooms of pink and red but I prefer the white blooms that serve as a light in a shady border. The shrub performs best as an understory plant in shade or in filtered light. Lace bugs can be a problem…. especially if planted in full sun… but I’m thankful they haven’t found my Pieris!

We love it here!

Exeter NH

Moving to New Hampshire from south of the Mason-Dixon Line has been an adventure. The landscape here is gorgeous in all the seasons but seeing our small town completely covered in a white blanket is so…. well, it’s so New England. The beautiful architecture, the rich history, the rolling landscape, and that great Boston dialect is all simply WOW.

So much was new to us but we’ve learned a lot in the few years we’ve lived here, including a few new terms, good and bad… a bad one being ‘ice icedam.’  In our first year, it took a dark dawn morning of towels, buckets and jugs catching water dripping coming through our walls to learn we had an ‘ice dam.’

A what? As soon as we reported the anomaly to our association, teams from a roofing company pulled up, unloaded ladders and sledge hammers and quickly worked their magic over our heads. That icy event was what we now call our ‘New England Baptism by Ice Water.’

Another unusual term I learned my first year in New Hampshire was ‘munchkin.’ When I was asked to bring ‘munchkins’ to a garden club meeting, they didn’t mean for me gather up the crew from the Wizard of Oz. A munchkin is the tiny hole from Dunkin’ Donuts doughnut, a bite size pastry. That was easy. There was a line at the first Dunkin’ Donuts, so I drove to the next one because there’s a Dunkin’ every two blocks in New England. I do not kid….

And don’t go through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru and ask for a regular coffee if you drink it black. I learned the hard way. The regular coffee comes loaded with cream and sugar. Explain that one to me….  Also, just yesterday I was in a Verizon store where the employee helping me abruptly interrupted our conversation to tell another employee, “It’s almost 3 o’clock. The iced coffee is 99 cents at Dunkin’!”  Hey, it must be their version of ‘Happy Hour.’

Snow 2018

At first driving in the snow was frightening and difficult for me. For two winters, I hibernated during the snow season, afraid even to back my Prius from the garage. If I was forced to go somewhere, mister gardener either drove or I chugged along slowly in my Prius, white knuckled, holding up traffic. My children pressured me to get a car with all-wheel-drive. So I now drive my Suburu everywhere with a smile. “Love”… right?

Even though it doesn’t feel like spring, the vernal equinox arrives tomorrow at 12:15 pm EST.  The earth in the Northern Hemisphere will tilt toward the sun and days will become longer, warmer and sunnier. When I feed our hungry birds during the day, I call out to our sole winter robin to ‘Hang it there! Spring is on the way!’ I don’t think he believes it and some days not sure I do. He patiently waits for me to to throw food over the snow a few times daily and he’s the first of all the birds to attack the sunflower seeds and mealworms. I hope he’ll pack his suitcase and head south next fall.

Robin (March 2018)

Well, I wouldn’t characterize myself as a New Englander yet. We both still have lots to learn and understand…. the system of government for one.  Exeter operates as a town government with a traditional Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting form of government.  And it can and it does get a bit feisty to watch!

We’re learning more and more each year why this is a “Live Free or Die” state. Yippee!

 

 

 

 

How much snow?

Our garden bench seems to provide us with a pretty accurate snow depth from each winter storm. We haven’t heard the official amount for Exeter but unofficially we received 17″ – 18″ additional snow on top of the last nor’easter. Very beautiful to see at first light but enough….. Where is spring?

bench 2:13:18

Yesterday….

bench 2/14/18

Today….

Frigerific!

Our first glance out of the morning window during this last snowstorm gave us a Dr. Zhivago-like feeling. A foot of heavy, wet, thick snow covered our world. Trees and shrubs bent against the ground, trees down, limbs everywhere…. and no internet.

snow

It was a rude awakening on how much we depend on the internet. I’m not a TV watcher but mistergardener missed his morning news and sports updates. If you can’t use your smartphone at all, can’t venture out on bad roads, can’t communicate with folks, the day seems much longer. How amazing it is to remember that not that many years ago, no one had internet and smart phones.

So how did we spend our day? I took some snow photos, I caught up on reading my book club book, I worked on needlepoint, and I knitted hats for charity….

knitting

mister gardener made vegetable soup…

vegetable soup

I don’t think I mentioned that the storm interrupted the paint and repair job we were in the middle of. Yes, all floors and furniture were covered with tarps, tables were piled high with books, wall hangings, and everything else from shelves, while the entire downstairs was being painted, wallpaper removed, and ice damage finally repaired. Finding a place to sit was a challenge.

paint brushes 2018

The day gave us pause to appreciate. Small inconveniences in the midst of troubles and trauma in the world caused us to temporarily slow down, lighten up, and just ‘be.’

 

 

CHOCOLATE!

This area of New Hampshire seems to attract chocolate. Nearby we have the international chocolate company, Lindt & Sprungli, located not more than a mile from me, their retail shop just a mile in the other direction, and we have two other chocolate companies on main street in this town of Exeter.

I’ve been lucky enough to participate in sensory panels for new flavors Lindt is developing and that has been a real treat. Plus I am rewarded with more sweet treats when we finish! It doesn’t get much better….

Then we have The Chocolatier located on the main street in Exeter, also about a mile from me in another direction. Stepping inside and inhaling the aroma and seeing the huge assortment of candy is mind blowing. I stop in occasionally for a truffle or two (or more) or a small box of snowcap nonpareils.

nonpareils

The latest sweet tenant in dowtown Exeter is La Cascade du Chocolate, a handcrafted chocolate company that opened last summer. It is located about a block from The Chocolatier. This new business, co-owned by chocolatier Tom Nash and Master Chocolatier Samantha Brown, made local headlines by being awarded gold medals in four categories and silver and bronze in two other categories by the International Chocolate Salon. I recently made my first visit and I was beyond excited.

Every item is handcrafted right there and they are proud that they source ingredients from local suppliers when possible and explained that their chocolate is responsibly sourced from all over the world, each a very unique flavor.

cocoa map

Bon-bons, chocolate bars, truffles, petit torte au chocolat, chocolate covered cacao beans,  and lots of exotic and creative flavors made my decision a hard one, but….

cacao beans

candy

Signature Bars

….I ended up choosing 8 truffles and a petit torte au chocolat, a tiny cake with dark chocolate, all to be served when I host my book club tonight….. like in 20 minutes!

my choices

I know my little book group will have as much fun sampling the chocolates as I had picking them out. How lucky we are to have all three chocolate companies nearby!

From NICE to ICE

“Welcome home,” said Old Man Winter. After a much warmer and dryer stay south of the Mason-Dixon line, we were greeted in New Hampshire by a snowstorm followed by freezing rain, sleet, and a thick coating of ice. It was not much of a warm welcome home.

dragonfly icicle

Multi-car accidents yesterday and pedestrian falls on the ice caused our local emergency room to fill with the injured last night. We can handle the snow. It’s the ice. Always the ice.

ice

bird feeder ice

We’ve decided we will stay home today, fire in the fireplace, music on, and I will start on my needlepoint. I have had the canvas of a Japanese Imari design for a year and finally picked out the wool in a wonderful needlepoint shop on Hilton Head Island. It arrived by post yesterday. How divine….

 

Crazy for Swasey

There are plenty of local trails to hike in Exeter and we take advantage of them. But there is one place in our fair town that is more of a promenade than a hike. It’s such a pleasure to stroll the sidewalks of Swasey Parkway along the Squamscott River… with a nod, a smile, a tip of the hat, or a good morning to passersby.

Swasey Parkway 2017

The parkway was a 1931 gift to the community from Ambrose Swasey, a summer resident known for his generosity. At that time, the area beside the river was the site of the town dump, quite unsightly and odorous, and Ambrose Swasey grew tired of passing it on his way to town.

Swasey Parkway 2017

Swasey Leaves 2017

Today it is a popular gathering place for people and events in Exeter. Not only is the park the perfect place to stretch one’s legs and enjoy the fresh air, it is a magnet for family picnics, sunbathing, bird watching, photography, people watching, or those folks like us who are there to enjoy the fall colors.

Swasey Parkway Picnic

Swasey Parkway 2017

Swasey Parkway

We are fortunate to have this area for hosting the farmers’ market, an antique marketplace, summer concerts, a Revolutionary War encampment, Independence Day fireworks, food events and more.

There are also pleasurable sights on the river. It’s a delight to watch Phillips Exeter Academy crew teams launch from their ramp and practice their sport up and down the river… but at this season of the year, we are more apt to see leisurely kayakers paddling along the waterway.

Swasey Parkway view to PEA crew

kayakers Swasey Parkway 2017

I sometimes think of Ambrose Swasey as I walk along the river, a man who at 84 years of age, made this priceless contribution to his community. I don’t think he’d be surprised at how much it is used and loved today. He was truly a man with a vision…

To read even more about Ambrose Swasey, his life and philanthropy, click HERE.

Dill in the garden

Dear Dill,

You may be aware that I do not have many plants in ornamental gardens that spread with abandon or are prodigious self-sowers because I simply do not have room for rampant spreaders.  Having said that, there are exceptions…. namely you, dill. I don’t mind a bit that you have escaped from the herb garden.

Dill

Not only do I like how you look popping up tall and proud against the daylilies, the asclepias, the hydrangea, and Russian sage, you require nothing of us. You seem to adjust to any weather, soil condition, mulch or not. And, oh, your umbrella blooms are a little like 4th of July fireworks in late summer when not much looks so fresh. I must thank you also for sharing a few blooms for flower arrangements.

But, most of all, we appreciate your generosity in sharing your feathery green leaves to enhance our food. Fish, potato salad, dips, soups, egg salad, cucumbers, shrimp salad, and pickles would not taste at all flavorful without you. And it’s so nice that we can freeze your delicate leaves to use all winter!

dill

Finally, I truly appreciate how you feed numerous insects, especially the butterflies and the hungry larva of the black swallowtail. It’s good that there is an abundance for sharing.

Recent freezing temperatures have terminated what we see above ground but you have done your job and spread your seeds. We expected you to freely self-seed anywhere you liked in the garden but if your young decide to sprout in the middle of the lawn, I’ll probably mow around them.

We look forward to greeting your youngsters in the spring…

From the gardeners who maintain these gardens

.

Plant Lust…

I find myself a little bit out of control in this department. Downsizing from 12-acres to 12-feet causes problems with my compulsion to add to our garden. It’s not really 12-feet but sometimes it feels like it when I come across something I really desire for the garden. This time it was bulbs I lusted after. I ordered narcissus bulbs “Starlight Sensation,” for the following reasons: It’s a creamy white flower that I prefer, it has 3-5 flowers per stem with 3-5 bloomstalks per bulb. That’s a lot of flowers, folks!

And the good news is that it won the Best Daffodil award at the Philadelphia Flower Show this year… and the best news of all is that it’s the very own seedling of friends Brent and Becky Heath in Gloucester VA.  I will forgive myself for this purchase!

Brent & Becky

But maybe not forgive myself for the purchase of two different shades of allium bulbs, red tulips, white tulips, snowdrops, and two more shades of muscari to add to my deep blue muscari that edges the boxwood garden.

Oh well… everything is in the ground and I look forward to seeing what the spring brings.

Grape Hyacinth/Muscari

Autumn frost

Temperatures on the Seacoast of New Hampshire are dropping at night, but warming to the 60’s or 70’s during the day. It’s a favorite time of the year for me. Most of the garden is still green. Grasses are at peak, berries are ripe, lawns are happy, annuals and some perennials are blooming, and a variety of migrating birds are passing through. Each morning, the sluggish fall bumblebees and dragonflies wait for the sun’s warmth before they take wing. It’s all about the beautiful changes in the garden… not the colorful blooms of summer.

Early Fall, Exeter NH 2017

Early Fall, Exeter NH, 2017

No hard freeze yet, but we are having mornings of ‘frost on the pumpkin.’ With nighttime temperatures dropping to the upper 30’s for short periods, the garden wakes to a thin coat of ice on the birdbath and a silvery coating of crystals on the lawn and leaves. Plants don’t seems to be damaged and this hoar frost is a pretty sight to behold in the first light of day…. almost like a sprinkling of sugar or jewels.

Yes, days are shrinking and the leaves are beginning to drop but for a few weeks until the winter blasts arrive, it’s a delightful time of year. I hope you are embracing autumn wherever you live.

Sedum, Hoar Frost, 2017

Hoar Frost, Oct. 2017

Hoar Frost

Hoar Frost, 2017

Ice on the birdbath, October 2017

Rhody, Hoar Frost

Hoar Frost

 

 

 

Rub-a-dub-dub

What fun it is for us to enjoy morning coffee while being entertained by this communal bathing scene. It’s a great time of year for birding! Breeding season is over and the once territorial birds call a truce as they drink and bathe together. Bluebirds, sparrows, warblers, finches, chickadees, cardinals, and more… all are splashing together in the bird bath this fall. Birds like clean water and they find our birdbath to their liking. Each morning the water is emptied and the birdbath refilled for our feathered friends.

Why do birds bathe? No one knows the exact answer. I was taught it helped to rid themselves of parasites, but experts say it could be that AND it could be that clean feathers help them fly better. Following the bath, birds will land nearby to perform a ritualistic preen spreading protective oils over the feathers.

Many of the birds we see will soon be joining others for the trip to warmer climes. We’re happy to send them off with full stomachs and clean feathers!

 

 

Nature at its best

“I live in the garden; I just sleep in the house.” – Jim Long

Last year we had practically NO RAIN for months on end. Watering our ornamental garden and lawn was prohibited by ordinance. It was a sad situation watching plants suffer with stingy trickles of water saved from rain barrels, from showers, and from our basement de-humidifier. Nothing died but nothing thrived.

We’ve had a delightful change this season. Rain was plentiful in the spring. Plants have rebounded and have skyrocketed. It makes my heart sing to seen healthy plants bursting with blooms all summer. I could hardly tear myself from the garden except to come indoors for the night!

Daisy 'Becky'

Good news: the bees and butterflies are back!  We’ve had weeks of monarchs and a variety of other butterflies flitting around the garden under the summer sun. We plan ahead for wave after wave of blooms on shrubs mainly, followed by summer flowers to sustain the bees and butterflies. Right now the allium and garlic chives are the strongest insect magnets.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Allium.jpg

Male Monarch on allium

White Admiral on Allium

honeybee on garlic chives

We feed the butterflies and bees and we provide hosts for them as much as our small property is able.  Here’s a tiny first Instar black swallowtail caterpillar on parsley.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

And after days of feasting, it looks like this in its third instar:

Black..Swallowtail caterpillar

 

With all the turmoil, chaos, and disasters affecting our world, I find gardening and nature to be calming and healing. This small garden of ours gives so much in exchange for so little. It plays an important role giving me great appreciation for the good and beautiful things that still inhabit my life.

 


Clover isn’t really a weed

Can you remember (way back for me) when you were a kid and white clover (Trifolium repens) grew in everyone’s lawns?  Can you remember those warm summer days sitting over a patch of clover looking for the illusive 4-leaf clover?  Finding a 4-leaf clover was a big deal because there is only one in 10,000 regular 3-leaf clovers.

Maybe you have to be of a ‘certain age’ today to remember those long gone days when clover/grass mix lawns were the norm. The mixture was prevalent because white clover was once a larger part of grass seed mixtures.  All that changed in the 1960’s when broadleaf herbicides hit the market. Now clover is considered a WEED.

clover/grass mix

The reason it was a part of our grass seed is it’s good for the soil. Clover is a legume and like all legumes, it deposits nonstop nitrogen into the ground thus enriching and fertilizing the soil.  That should make the lawn healthier and greener… especially right here with clay soil around our house.

I happen to have a fondness for the look of white clover mixed in our grass. Our association does not.  As in so many “maintained” properteries, professionals try to eradicate it but, insert sly smile here, clover seems to have the last laugh. It wilts after treatment but it soon begins to recover.

Here are a few of the reasons I encourage a clover/grass backyard (where lawncare professionals dare not tred):

It can be mowed.
It grows in poor soil.
It is drought resistant.
It crowds out broadleaf weeds.
It grows harmoniously with grass.
It is a favorite bloom of honeybees.
It does not turn a deeper color from dog urine
It will stay green when dormant grass turns brown.
It keeps the bunnies occupied and out of my flower borders.
It is also pollinated by native bees, like bumblebees.
And although not a native plant, it hosts the native Eastern Tailed Blue and Sulfur caterpillars.
Lastly, the flowers are lovely.

bunny

Drawbacks:

It stains clothes.
If you are alergic to bees, clover might not be such a good idea for you…. or you could mow it more often and short.
It will send creeping stems into your garden beds.

Yes, it does spread but I find it manageable. Once a month, I edge my borders and that takes care of the wayward shoots. I do like the look of my clover/grass lawn and who knows?  Maybe I’ll find an illusive lucky 4-leaf clover one day! I’m looking….

 

‘Breaking Away’ in Exeter NH

We are determined to be more involved in everything our community offers, so when our quiet, little town hosted the 34th Annual Exeter Classic criterium bike race recently, we were there for all the fun.

What’s a criterium you say? If you are new to a criterium (or crit) like we were, it is a one-day multi-lap race on a closed circuit… usually through a downtown to showcase speed, agility, and cycling technique. This was our second year attending and it was even more exciting this time around because we understand a bit more about what was going on.  It’s an awesome race that attracts many of the best cyclists in New England.

Exeter Classic

We watched the women’s race first. Twenty amazingly fit young females charging around the circuit in a tight pack was a sight to behold.

Women-Exeter Criterium

We were in a prime spot to watch the participants for the men’s race arrive, register, attach their numbers, and check in bikes for their hour long race coming up shortly.

men - Exeter Criterium

Men - Exeter Classic

And when those 93 participants in the men’s race lined up at the starting gate, the atmosphere was charged. Fans and family members were clapping, hollering, and encouraging their favorites before the race even began. And they were off….

Exeter Classic

If 93 cyclists pass you in a tight pack, hold onto your hat! I discovered there’s a blustery wind tunnel following these teams.

Exeter Classic - NH

The cyclists stayed in a fast-paced pack for the most part. The race was powerful and intense with teams jockeying for position, maneuvering tight corners, and reaching high speeds for an hour. Although we didn’t witness accidents, crashes often happen. Of the 93 starters, just 59 finished. Were there crashes? I haven’t heard.

All the funds from the criterium go toward an annual scholarship to a worthy University of New Hampshire cyclist.  All good…..  See you next year!

 

A Day of Firsts

First day of summer and First garden tomato….
Nothing better than a garden grown tomato to celebrate Summer Solstice!

 

tomato

As news from around the world seems to be spinning out of control, I recently told the mainstream media to buzz off for a bit! My garden (as well as family, friends and neighbors, and volunteering) provided an offline pause that was needed to rest the mind.

This year every inch of the garden is extra healthy and bursting with greenery and blooms due to an abundance of cool weather and rain we had this spring. What a difference a year makes!  I find myself beating the bounds of our tiny garden often, doing a little weeding, deadheading, adding or transplanting a few plants, composting, or just watching the birds rather than being online. What a tonic!

We all know that in spite of news headlines, there really are wonderful things going on everywhere. You just have to look for it, then stay engaged in what matters to you. As the Brits say, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  It’s a very good thing…

Adventures with Youngsters

On June 21, summer will officially begin, but you’d never know it by today’s temperature.  It’s 1:00 pm and the temperature on this 6th day of June is hovering somewhere between 46° and 48°, depending on which weather app you check. The weatherman predicts we’ll break the record low for this day.

It’s been a welcome rainy spring to put an end to our drought so we aren’t complaining. We’ve had days of beautiful New England spring weather in-between storms, enough to be satisfied, especially since our goal for this summer is to become better acquainted with everything our area offers…. often through the eyes of children.

Wentworth Marina by the Sea

We no longer own boats, but a stop at the Wentworth Marina by the Sea in New Castle with the grandchildren was one our first spring adventures. What a blast to let the little ones wander up and down the docks, watching boats come and go, including the excitement of the marine police arriving to check the place over. A stop here would hardly be worth it without a relaxing lunch at The Green Bean, outdoor dining while answering 100 little questions, between bites of tasty pulled pork sliders, about boats, birds, water, and rigging.  “What is that spinning thing on top of the masts?” “That’s the wind speed indicator…” “Why do they have them up there?”  Fun, fun, fun!

The Green Bean - Pull Pork Sliders with cheddar cheese and red onions

We’re thrilled to support the wonderful outdoor Exeter Farmers’ Market once again this spring, especially on the warmest days when we can follow-up with homemade strawberry popsicles or the best local ice cream, but that’s only when the grandchildren accompany us. Yes, we all had a popsicle on this day!

Strawberry popcicles - Exeter Farmers' Market

Watching the Phillips Exeter crew teams practice on the Squamscott River is something we stopped to watch for the first time. That was another new adventure for us thanks to keen interest by these little folks.

Grands on the Squamscott River

Our local school crew teams in Virginia were nationally ranked and these crew teams are tops in the nation, according to their website. So much fun to watch… especially through the eyes of children and also after reading The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. Highly recommended!

I’ve been in working hard in the garden in-between rain showers but I’ll soon be back in earnest. A warming (or hot) trend is approaching for the weekend and I’m ready. Stay tuned.

The Red, White, and Blue

On this Memorial Day weekend, we reflect on the meaning of the holiday…. honoring those who lost lives while serving in the armed forces. First known as Decoration Day, the remembrance began with the Civil War when graves of fallen Union soldiers were decorated with flags, flowers or wreaths. It has now evolved into a 3-day holiday with patriotic parades, concerts, and speeches honoring servicemembers who have sacrificed so much, but it also signifies the beginning of summer with cookouts, pool openings, and festive celebrations. It remains one of the busiest driving days of the year.

Members of our garden club gathered to clean, weed, trim shrubbery, and plant flowers around our Exeter NH bandstand in time for Memorial Day. The patriotic parade will pass by on Monday on the way to Gale Park where there will be guest speakers, gun salute, wreath and flag ceremonies. Hundreds of locals will be there to watch and walk with the parade to its destination.

To see photos from an earlier Memorial Day parade and ceremony in Exeter, please click HERE.

Exeter Bandstand-Memorial Day 2017

As I walked through my garden this morning, I paused to take a look at our blooms of red, white, and blue for this weekend, helping me remember the heartache of those families who share in tragic loses. How wonderful it would be if all humanity evolved to the point that wars were not needed, violence against one another ceased, and peace prevailed around the world. Sigh….

 

Helping a Painted Friend

It’s that time of the year. Temperatures are warming and ponds and vernal pools have been full of activity around our neck of the woods.  Sadly, our neighborhood street cuts right through a wetland so we see water turtles following the pathway from one section to another for egg laying, which takes them right across our road. A common turtle seen crossing our road is the eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta), often a pregnant female on her way to lay eggs.

To prevent road kills, drivers are encouraged to avoid turtles on the roads and, if conditions are safe, carefully pull over to help them onto the side of the road in the same direction the turtles are heading.

painted turtle 2017

I put this one down on the side of the road and in seconds, it was on its way….

Painted Turtle- 2017

Trees Live in Exeter

When an invitation was received by our garden club from RiverWoods Retirement Community in Exeter to join residents for a Arbor Day ribbon cutting ceremony for their new arboretum, several of our members jumped at the occasion. There’s no better way to share our love of trees than attending an Arbor Day event, especially the newest and largest arboretum in New Hampshire.

Despite cool temperatures and overcast skies, the event put us in a sunny and festive mood. We were greeted with champagne, a smorgasbord of treats, enthusiastic sharing at the microphone from employees and residents …. including poems for the occasion.

RiverWoods 2017

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Several residents of RiverWoods have been active for years in selecting, planting, nurturing, and labeling trees and woody shrubs on the property so becoming accredited through ArbNet, an Arboretum Accrediation Program developed by The Morton Arboretum, was a natural step. RiverWoods is a Level One arboretum, meaning they must have at least 25 species of documented trees. Already at 49 species, the volunteers and staff have hopes to achieve Level Two with at least 100 species of woody plants, along with other criteria.

From the ribbon cutting, we progressed to the walking tour in The Ridge campus where we were led by knowledgeable docent volunteers. Fran Peters introduced us to a number of trees, including the Franklin Tree (Franklinia alatamaha), named for Benjamin Franklin. It has a reputation for being difficult to grow but this specimen tree is very healthy. I must return to see the magnificent blooms it’s known for.

Fran Parker, RiverWoods 2017

Our group continued along led by docent Liz Bacon (l.), who came to RiverWoods from the Chicago area bringing knowledge from the Morton Arboretum. It is she who recognized the potential for a RiverWoods arboretum. Dr. Tom Adams (r.), who has worked with the trees and woody shrubs of RiverWoods for a dozen years, shared his enthusiasm and wisdom with fun tidbits about the trees and gardens including successes and loses over time. His knowledge stems from his volunteer association with the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.

Liz Bacon, Tom Adams

The one tree I fell for was the showy Golden Maple (Acer shirasawanum ‘aureum’), a small Japanese maple with lime colored leaves. In the fall, it turns an orange and red like a sugar maple. Yummy!

Golden Maple

Our garden club members thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon at RiverWoods and we are proud and happy to have the largest arboretum in the state right here in Exeter NH. Way to go, RiverWoods!

“Advice From A Tree” by Ilan Shamir

Stand tall and proud.
Go out on a limb.
Remember your roots.
Drink plenty of water.
Be content with your natural beauty.
Enjoy the view.

Read by Dan Burbank, RiverWoods Landscape Manager