Triplets

The signs were there. I knew I had a hornworm on one of my tomato plants.  Bare branches, nibbled tomatoes, and caterpillar frass (waste) were the giveaways. The hornworm starts at the top of the plant stripping leaves and scaring small tomatoes. It can be a dreaded pest in the vegetable garden defoliating tomato plants and other plants like potatoes and peppers.

They are fairly inactive during the daylight hours so I just followed branches until I came upon it resting in the shadows of the plant.

But oh…. I saw other movement. This tobacco hornworm has company. There are siblings. Gosh, I’ve never had triplets before.

three tobacco hornworms 2019

The tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) is identified by the red curved ‘horn,’ the soft red protrusion you can see at the tail end of the body. It also has 7 white stripes along the body. There’s a tomato hornworm with a dark ‘horn’ and white v-markings along the body.

tobacco hornworm 2019

So what am I going to do? Nothing. It’s fall.  I have no tomatoes turning red. This plant is my smaller one with smaller green tomatoes. I’ll do nothing to harm the caterpillars because I admire the very last stage of development.

If you have seen the magnificent adult stage of the Manduca sexta, a large moth, darting in and out of garden blooms, you can’t help but be impressed. Its wingspan is almost 5″ and it is quite agile. It hovers over flowers and can easily be mistaken for a hummingbird. I call it a hawk moth but it’s known elsewhere as a Carolina sphinx moth and other terms.

1920px-Manduca_sexta_MHNT_CUT_2010_0_104_Dos_Amates_Catemaco_VeraCruz_Mexico_female_dorsal

Yep, the tomato season is over for me so I willingly offer this one plant to the caterpillars. They can be destructive but as pollinators and a food source for other organisms, they have an ecological role in nature.

Sombrero ‘Lemon Yellow’

The Sombrero series of coneflowers come in a wide range of colors from red and pink to orange and white. I grow more than one variety but the showy ‘Lemon Yellow,’ a large flower that provides a vivid floral display in the cutting garden is a winner. Oh my, what a wonderful compact Echinacea hybrid for a compact garden like mine!

Sombrero 'Lemon Yellow'

The flowers stand about 2-feet high above sturdy stems with nice green foliage that extends to the base of the plant.  And like all coneflowers, the Sombrero series is adaptable to a wide range of garden conditions… drought, heat, humidity and poor soil.

The ‘Lemon Yellow’ is not only a showstopper in the garden, the bees, the butterflies and all our hummingbirds spend 3 months feasting on the nectar rich blooms. I deadhead some the flowers to encourage more blooms, but the dried seedheads provide food for our dwindling population of birds during the winter. I leave a good number of blooms on the plants for them.

And the best news of all…. the bunnies have not put these flowers on their dinner menu. How sweet is that??

 

Spring in the North

I think gardeners in the North might appreciate the spring season more than gardeners in the South where I gardened before moving. I love the dazzling Virginia springs more but so appreciate the northern springs when they finally decide to arrive. In the South, I think I took our springs for granted because they were so early. As soon as winter ends, the landscape bursts into a frenzy of color. In the North, spring seems to take an eternity to arrive. When it finally does arrive, I’m so happy that I wallow, I bask, I take delight in every little leaf much more than I did in Virginia.

Here in New Hampshire it can be a painful, cold, sometimes snowy wait for spring. Thank goodness, at last this week we are greeted by snips of spring green. I wore a heavy fleece this chilly morning as I walked through the garden looking for some spring clues and I found enough.  The emerging leaves of my Little Lime hydrangea is solid proof.

Little Lime hydrangea 2019

Clethra is pushing out tiny leaves and hostas are breaking ground.

Clethra alnifolia 2019

hosta 2019

We see the tiny tips of Baptisia, iris, daisies, some herbs, wild ginger and Epimedium pushing through the soil. We’re thrilled to see early plants like bleeding hearts below begin to unfurl blooms….

Bleeding Hearts 2019

 

….and my favorite woody shrub in the garden, the doublefile viburnum, is well on its way to splendor as it forms rows of blooms that will open to a procession of delicate white blossoms along the stems.

Doublefile Viburnum 2019

This year, I removed the 4 Incrediball hydrangea shrubs from the foundation of the home. They take soooo long to fill out in New Hampshire and I tire of looking at ‘sticks’ at the front of the home. They will soon be relocated just down the street and will be replaced by evergreens as a foundation plant… which one not yet decided.

Incrediball hydrangea 2019

Our 2 cubic yards of Nutri-Mulch, a 50/50 organic leaf/compost mix, arrived last week and has been spread over the gardens. Whew! It’s a great time to perform the task before fully formed leaves are on plants or perennials have yet to appear above ground. Now that the heavy projects are done, we can sit back and enjoy spring and wait for our mass of tulips and daffodils to bloom. It can’t be too much longer, can it?

Nutri-Mulch 2019

 

Rainy day outing

It’s too wet and rainy to spend much time out in the garden this week. What is there to do in our area on a very soggy day? Eat lunch out and visit a salvage shop. For the limited population we have around here, I’m amazed that we have not one, but two salvage shops. One warehouse and yard is large and a couple of miles out of town and the other is downtown in Exeter where I stopped in yesterday.

architectural salvage inc 2019

These places are great to not only reminisce with a smile, but also a fantastic site for finding treasures with character for the garden…. gates, fences, statues, old bricks, crocks, birdbaths, and classic treasures for the home.

Today I was limited to certain areas of the shop due to a young couple who arrived in a flurry accompanied by their building contractor and their architect with loosely rolled and slightly rain-wet home plans tucked under her arms.

Kitchen and bath supplies always seem to take up a lot of space in salvage shops and this place is no different. There are two little sinks on a shelf below that I can envision in a garden potting bench at my home!

Old wood doors of all shapes and sizes seem to take up much of the space too. I was impressed when my creative daughter purchased a tall vintage door at a salvage warehouse near her home and repurposed it into a handsome king-sized headboard. Unique possibilities are endless for the inspired.

Not only do we have salvage shops, this area is teeming with antique and vintage shops and barns in and around Exeter, always desired destinations in rain or shine. What fun it is to bring home high quality and timeless treasures from these vintage stores. And it’s yet one more good way to recycle!

vintage shop -Exeter- moved to home

When the calendar says late winter…

…. I pay attention. Spring officially arrives in less than a week but this week, it’s still late winter, the time when I like to trim our Little Lime hydrangea…. even wearing muck boots in the snow. The garden is still dormant but the spring thaw has begun.

late winter snow on ground Mar. 2019

We like to keep these hydrangeas about 4 1/2-ft. tall and fairly well-shaped. For winter interest, we allow the spent blooms to overwinter on the shrubs. Little Limes bloom on new wood so a quick trim of 5-6″ will allow all 5 of our Little Limes in a mass planting to produce an abundance of new flowers sometime in July.

Little Lime in March 2019

We trim out weaker limbs that produce smaller blooms but don’t over trim as some gardeners prefer. We like to have them more natural and sprawling, even touching the ground here and there. It won’t be long now…

Little Lime Hydrangea

Ice Fishing in Exeter

We’ve had some bitterly cold days in New Hampshire this winter and hundreds of New Hampshire ice fishermen have been taking full advantage across the state. Ice on the Squamscott River in Exeter is nice and thick so we don’t have to drive very far to find bobhouses or a small shanty village on the ice. It’s all right here in the center of our town. We can stay in our warm cars and watch from several different shorelines and capture the scene using a zoom camera.

Shanty Town, Exeter, Feb. 2019

This afternoon we joined other spectators waiting patiently for some human activity, while joining a number of seagulls on the ice waiting patiently for scraps of bait or pieces of fish.

seagulls, Exeter, Feb, 2019

We didn’t wait long before we saw a young couple gathering gear from their vehicle and venturing across the ice toward their shanty. They were happily greeted by a fellow ice fisherman emerging from a neighboring shanty.

 

This time of year it’s smelt that the fishermen are seeking as the fish migrate to estuaries or tributaries from December through March. It looked like their fishing hole may have iced over so a little neighborly help with chopping, they reopened the hole and cleared a bit of overnight snow.

Exeter, ice fishing, Feb. 2019

Hole cleared, these ice anglers prepare their jigging rod with bait… perhaps baiting with flies or sea worms, bloodworms, or perhaps a bit of corn.

IMG_9616 2

Ice fishing is so new to us and much of it still a mystery. It seems simple… cut a hole, drop a line with bait, and pull up your catch. But there are a lot of intricacies that we will never know. Clothing, equipment… rods, tackle, ice gear, bait, propane heaters, cookstove, battery radios, plus changing tides, weather, and knowing where the fish are running. These ice fishermen have the know-how and the yankee spirit we are lacking. It’s a spectator sport for us. We much prefer watching from the sidelines in a warm car… with camera!

ice fishing, Exeter, Feb. 2019

At last….

Snow has finally made an appearance in New England. The locals are excited. The ski resorts are excited. Cross country skiers are excited. Sledders are excited. Kids who play outdoors, build snowmen or have snowball fights are excited. The snow plow drivers are excited.

I don’t do any of those things but I am excited, too. Something about snow is peaceful and calming. The landscape is blanketed in white, sounds are muted, automobile traffic slows and some folks, especially me, simply want to open a book and read while relaxing in a favorite chair, looking up every page or so to watch the snow flakes fall…. and occasionally opening the door to toss seeds, fruit and nuts to the waiting birds and squirrels.

I did finish a book and read half of a new book today but when the shadows grew long, I decided to pull on boots and make the first tracks in our landscape. From where the snow depth reached near the top of my boots, I’d guess we were served up about 10-inches of the white stuff…. give or take an inch or so. Winds caused peaks and valleys so it’s hard to be exact.

img_9172

Rabbit serving snow a la mode

rabbit ears 2019

Rabbit hibernating

I was thankful to have a thick blanket of snow over most of my smaller plants like my boxwood below. The insulation will help them tonight, tomorrow night, and later this week when temperatures plunge close to zero degrees.

Birdbath 2019

Insulated boxwood

When the weather turns this cold and snowy, our birds seem to lose a little of their apprehension of approaching humans…. meaning me.  It’s all about survival now. They come often to feed and the heated birdbath proves to be a popular meeting place for all birds and squirrels.

bluejay 2019

With melting snow turning my socks cold and wet inside my boots, I quickly decided all was well in our little world.  I made my way back to my reading chair with a hot mug of tea, a nice warm blanket, and dry socks.  I will finish another book today.

path 2019

 

Ice on the pumpkin

These days it’s dark when we wake up in the morning and dark when we sit down for dinner. Alas….winter weather has arrived and we’ve had a few nights of very cold temperatures. It seems too early for freezing weather but, yes, it’s here. Overnight last week I lost my annuals.  I don’t plant many but ‘Hawaii Blue’ ageratum is a must. It’s a dependable plant that flowers all summer and carries the color of my lavender through other areas of the garden. I always buy two flats of seedlings at a local nursery.

This was a couple of weeks ago:

ageratum Blue Hawaii

This is after the first hard freeze:

ageratum Blue Hawaii

Oh well.  It’s all in the life of an annual. The cleome or spider flower that was glorious and fed the monarchs and bees not long ago melted into a heap of green and brown slime overnight.

cleome 2018

Not all is lost. In with the cold weather arrived our delightful winter birds! Juncos and white-throated sparrows blew down from the northern climes with one of the coastal storms. Flocks of bluebirds have stopped for a visit for the last two weeks. Some might venture south. Some might stay with us for the winter.

Grasses in the garden are giving us a show… especially my favorite native switchgrass, ‘Northwind,’ upright and 5′ tall in full bloom right now. Soon the blades will turn a golden shade and be glorious in the winter garden.

'Northwind' switchgrass 2018

I added some ‘Shenandoah’ switchgrass to another area of the garden this fall and anticipate the winter foliage will turn a lovely burgundy as promised. It’s not as tall and not as upright as ‘Northwind’ but just as hardy. Let’s hope it does not disappoint.

And so we seem to have more overcast days, more wet weather, snow in parts of the state but we are ready. The furnace is working. The fireplace is clean. Wood is stacked…. and our new addition is finished and furnished.  Life is good.

Garlic Chives

They’ve been a powerhouse of white blooms and a bee magnet for weeks but their time has drawn to a close. They began to bloom for me in mid-summer just as the allium Millenium in the background had reached its peak of color.

Garlic Chives 2018

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) aren’t as common in gardens as regular chives (Allium schoenoprasum) but are just as easy to grow. Known in Asian cooking as Chinese chives with a flavor in cooking more like garlic than onions. We don’t use them as much as we should in the kitchen but the leaves are great for garlic butter spread, in soups, and salads. For us they mostly serve as an ornamental accent in a short walkway border and as nectar for insects.

garlic chives

These plants were a pass-along from a neighbor who grew tired of pulling up a multitude of garlic chive babies in her borders. The plant is a prolific self-seeder just like regular chives and a gardener must be on top of deadheading before the seeds are dispersed. For me, planting them in pots helps keep them contained.

Garlic Chives 2018

All those beautiful blooms have since developed late summer seedheads. But before the seeds dropped, I removed all of the dried seedheads. I first cut the few with seeds ready to drop and didn’t lose a one.

Garlic Chives 2018

It’s easy to deadhead the bunch. Just pull them together and cut… almost like a ponytail.

Garlic Chives 2018

The neighbor who passed along the garlic chives to me can see the pots from her window. Last summer she came over and took photos. She’d never thought of putting them in pots at her house and thought they were beautiful on our pathway.

PS: I didn’t offer to give them back.

Goodbye Summer

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

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

fried green tomatoes

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

Little Lime Hydrangea

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

katydid

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

yellow jacket

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

garden gloves 2018

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

 

 

Hydrangea in New England

Hydrangeas are a quintessential part of a New England summer. Picture a cedar shake coastal style home located over the vast waters of the Atlantic. Can you picture the woody plants gracing the foundation of the home? I imagine all along the foundation are gorgeous hydrangeas with massive white blooms nodding in the ocean breezes.

Incrediball

After we purchased our home, we were asked by our association to remove huge invasive burning bushes alone the front foundation and plant something else. We were new to the area so we consulted a well-known landscape designer who suggested go with aborescens hydrangeas. Why not, I thought. We’re in New England now. Yeah!

Incrediball

It’s been 3 years and the Hydrangea arborescens ‘Abetwo’ Incrediball are absolutely gorgeous at this time of the year. Two are shaded part of the day but the third has a lot of hot afternoon sun…. and that one performs even better than the more shaded hydrangeas. The Incrediball is a carefree hydrangea with real staying power and very few diseases or pests. Since it blooms on new wood, we prune the shrubs close to the ground in late winter to encourage vigorous and strong stem growth and better form. It has paid off. The shrubs are over 5′ tall and fill the foundation well. Blooms are incredible (Incrediball?) and are held aloft on strong steps. All amazing but especially amazing is that they held up blooms in 3″ of rain in a fast moving gullywasher that we had a few days ago.

Incrediball.

The problem is…. I don’t like them there. Perhaps if I owned that cedar shingle style home on the seacoast, they’d be perfect. But we live in a nice New Hampshire neighborhood and they just don’t look right to me.  I don’t like bare branches as a front-of-the-house foundation all winter and  I’ve NEVER been crazy about blooming shrubs dominating a front foundation. I guess I’m an old-school gardener.

So I’m making plans for an evergreen border that I should have done in the first place. I’ll let flowering shrubs overflow in other parts of the garden…. the viburnums, clethra, and several other hydrangea that add drama to my back borders, but evergreens will be out front. Period. Final.

The good news: These are excellent pass-along shrubs. Aborescens can be shared. When the time is right, I will divide the root balls into quarters and each one will be a lovely new Incrediball hydrangea planted en masse in someone else’s New England garden. They would make a lovely hedge…

 

 

Not too hot today for visitors

We’re closing the month of June on a HOT note in New Hampshire. It’s really uncomfortable and really steamy with temperatures hovering around 92-93° today. But no matter the temperature, I had a chore to tackle in the garden that couldn’t wait for cooler temperatures. Several rolls of sod were waiting to be installed in an area we’re revamping due to construction here. Today we needed to get those rolls positioned and watered well…. heat wave or not.

Just as the some sections were in place and about to be tightened up, our first visitor arrived. Ferdinand, the last surviving bunny in the neighborhood and a welcome little friend, arrived for his twice daily visit. He hopped along the seam between sod sections.

bunny

He’s still a wild bunny. We have never approached him and he would hop away if we did.  But he visits daily and he sits nearby and watches our activity in the yard. We’d like to think he comes to visit us but it’s probably our crop of juicy clover that’s the biggest draw.

ferdinand 2018

While bunny nibbled the clover and watched me cut sod, I spied a second visitor, a tiny newly hatched eastern painted turtle, no bigger than a quarter, shell still quite soft. The top shell or carapace was olive-green on this little guy. He had a pale yellow stripe down the middle of the shell and reddish-orange markings around the edge.

Easterm Painted Turtle 2018

The bottom shell or plastron was a solid yellow.

Eastern Painted Turtle 2018

Our yard was not the best location for this little fellow. Our small community is surrounded by wetland and ponds but a turtle this size would probably find himself beneath a lawn mower or auto tire before he could find any water. They’ve built this neighborhood right where the turtles have probably always laid their eggs. I’ve marked off and added signage to protect one turtle’s egg site and today I helped an adult turtle in the middle of the road reach the road berm (in the same direction it was heading). Sadly, turtles often don’t make the road crossing successfully.

I put the tiny turtle in a container in the shade, added water, rocks, floating leaves, and a conch shell to hide in while I finished cutting and laying the sod. He actually swam, nibbled on algae and seemed to have a jolly time. All the while, I had to fight the urge to keep him as a pet… I’d kept my share as a kid… but after an hour or so, decided to release him in a slow-moving stream close by.

eastern painted turtle 2018

As June ends on a hot note, July will start off on a hot note tomorrow. We have an excessive heat advisory for the next several days stretching well into the week. Hot yes but it won’t keep us indoors… and who knows, we may have more critters visit our little stretch of land.

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.