The Greening of New Hampshire

Finally…. we’re seeing progress. Two odd days with temperatures in the 80’s (one of them possibly 90°) took care of the inch of permafrost and snow in a border that never sees the sun. I could finally plant the pansies and my mesclun mix lettuce.

April 9, Snow in Border

2017

Mesclun Mix, 2017

I’ve raked, edged, added organic compost, top dressed with a bit of mulch, pruned shrubs, planted more grass seed, and mister gardener has disposed of  wheelbarrow loads of debris. Garden gloves have been worn, wash, worn, and washed and ready to be worn again.

garden gloves 2017

Jacob’s Ladder is going gangbusters, growing tiny leaflets that are rising like ladders and should bloom with tiny blue flowers in early spring.

Polemonium caeruleum, 2017

Tulips and daffodils aren’t up all the way but are all showing green… along with tiny leaves of nepeta ‘Walkers Low’ just breaking the surface in the background below, plants with purple-blue flowers that take a ‘licking but keep on ticking’ all summer long.

bulbs, 2017

Herb garden with thyme, savory, chives, oregano, parsley, sorrel, rosemary and lots of lettuce are basking in the sun and seem to grow an inch a day.

The indoor geraniums went into pots in the garden….maybe a tad early as we dipped to 32° last night. This morning they are a little limp but will make it. I’ll just have to be better about watching those overnight temperatures.

So far, besides the pansies, the only color other than green in the garden is yellow. The sweet crocus is in bloom telling us spring has officially arrived.

crocus

 

Nesting Material for Birds

Yes, it’s time. The birds we see around the yard are beginning courtship behavior, mating, and defending territories, so you might want to provide a little nesting material. Birds naturally use a wide variety of nesting material, from grasses and twigs to animal fur, mosses, mud, spider webs and a lot more from the great outdoors.

We add a few nontoxic materials over the summer but one on hand today is natural jute twine that we cut into small pieces. Today mister gardener and I unraveled the twine, then filled a container with the bits and pieces. Easy to do. Just twist strands the opposite way that they are twisted, then pull apart.

Nesting Material

We stuffed this little wire basket given to me as a gift but a suet basket works well, too.

Nesting Material

We hung it in a visible location on a tree branch and now wait for the discovery.

Nesting Material

Things to use:
dry untreated grasses
soft plant material like catkins from cottonwood, willows, poplars, and milkweed fluff.
twigs
horse hair
short yarn and short hair (longer pieces can entangle birds’ feet and be deadly)
small fabric scraps
cotton batting

Things NOT TO USE:
cellophane and plastic that can harm birds and the environment
nylon twine and fishing line that can be deadly if a bird becomes tangled.
dryer lint absorbs water and contains chemical residues
dog fur from an animal that has been treated with flea treatment

Finally, just for fun…. check out this amusing video of a tufted titmouse stealing nesting material from a sleeping dog.

The Hummingbird Journey

We’re eager for the arrival of our ruby-throated hummingbirds in New Hampshire and we are keeping a close eye on the hummingbird spring migration map online.  Each week citizen scientists log in to the site and record their sightings that are reflected with dates on the map each week in a different color. The little birds have a long way to go before they reach our home in New Hampshire. But we are ready. Our feeders are clean and ready to be hung outdoors. Nectar rich flowers will fill the gardens… plus a variety of insects (NO  pesticides in our gardens). Have you seen a hummingbird chase down and eat a mosquito? I have.

Hummingbird Journey North 2017

In New Hampshire we attract just 4-6 hummingbirds over the summer. I like that number. In Virginia, that number was much more impressive, so much so that it was more economical for me to buy sugar from Costco in 25-lb. bags. Was it a full-time job keeping feeders clean, making nectar and keeping them well-fed with 8 feeders?  Almost!  Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat! They are the most entertaining little visitors in the garden.

Here is a feeding frenzy of females and young males (yes…with white throats!) on our nectar the morning after a hurricane passed through our Virginia property. It took a hurricane to bring them all to the feeders at one time. It was the end of August and most of the adult males with their red throats had migrated.

We do not add red dye to the nectar. It is not needed. The base of feeders are red enough and, besides, why mix in a chemical additive that may affect the tiny birds?

We wash our feeders regularly and make sure nectar is fresh… especially when temperatures are very hot or a feeder may be in the sun. It’s a bit work but the perks of enjoying these birds in the garden outweigh the small amount of energy it takes to maintain the almost perfect hummingbird habitat.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m a Faux Yankee

Most around here know I’m not a Genuine Yankee. I was born just south of the Mason-Dixon line and moved here just a few short years ago… but I’m trying hard to adapt. I’ve been learning the ways of the great Northeast and those who were born of this land. Yoga For Yankees is the latest class in which I’m participating. I’m staying in shape AND learning more about local activities, pastimes, and toils.

I’m especially adept at Roof Reiki for the Advanced. Matter of fact, with several inches of overnight snow on the roof, I’m grabbing my ladder and going out to practice it now. No more ice dams for me.

Yoga For Yankees: Folks back home won’t understand much but check it out


Have a nice April Fool’s Day wherever you live…

Spring at last!

Unless you have flowers growing in a greenhouse or visit a florist shop, this is as close you’ll get to seeing spring flowers in snow covered New Hampshire. Our local grocery tempted shoppers on this first day of spring. I watched customers for a few moments. No one passed by without stopping to admire or touch or smell. Yes, we are ready…

Shaws Grocery Store

Winter Walk-Off 2017

Les, over at A Tidewater Gardener, sponsors a Winter Walk-Off each year on his Blogger site. He’s a great horticulturist and I enjoy following his blog. You should check it out. I try to enter his walk-off each year but it’s hard when you look out the window and only see white. It’s still the dead of winter in New Hampshire!

There are rules… such as ‘On your own two feet, leave the house, and share what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home.’ He’s relaxed those rules a lot but I’m sure my walk is beyond acceptable since it was an hour and thirty seven minutes from home today. However, I am supporting Les in a small way by walking down the main street in Keene NH before visiting a son in town.

It’s a funky, low-key college town (Keene State College and Antioch University) that has a nice hippy vive to it. There is a healthy vitality to the downtown and a community interest in preserving historic architecture.  And, of course, it was where Jumanji staring Robin Williams was filmed. Here’s the evidence painted on this brick wall.

Jumanji movie sign, Keene NH

I captured a little of the fun of Keene as I walked around the city on this cold, blustery day today, the last day of Les’ walk-off. Main Street is a beautiful tree-lined wide boulevard into downtown Keene. We always enjoyed this approach to the business section of the city.

We parked, zipped up our down jackets and hit the street. The popular coffee shop pictured below also has a barber’s pole…up the stairs for coffee and down steps for a haircut.

The Barbery is located beneath the coffee shop, beneath ground but not quite a full basement, almost an English basement. This is not the only business like that. Quite close is another that I think is a music store.  I love the sign.

Fixed objects take a licking in our New Hampshire snows. I saw evidence here and there of fixtures that were buried beneath a mountain of snow and not seen before it was too late.

Snow is mostly gone on this walkway but surely this must be snow removal damage, I would guess.

Restaurants and pubs are numerous, good, and supported by locals and visitors. I’m always happy to see lots of vegetarian options on the menus. We have enjoyed several ethnic restaurants in the area as well.

We have an old theater in Exeter that stands unused and almost abandoned, but Keene has a community theater on Main Street that is to be envied. First opened in 1924, declared a nonprofit in 1991, created a support group and mission statement, raised funds, restored it, and now it is the vibrant site of movies and live performances. Jealous….

 

Colonial Theatre

As mister gardener and I walked, I had to take a photo of our favorite coffee shop, Prime Roast…. the one we always frequent and take a bag or two of coffee home with us.

Prime Roast in Keene NH

And finally, we reached the Central Square of Keene, an area full of restaurants and unique shops. The focal point is the church, the white church and tall steeple of the United Church of Christ, a landmark that anchors one end of Main Street and gives the city a classic New England feel.
United Church of Christ, Keene NH
United Church of Christ, Keene NH
Across from the church on a grassy island inside the roundabout is a charming park that is used for a variety of events. We’ve attended the popular Pumpkin Festival (until it was moved out of town recently), Ice and Snow Festival, musical events in the bandstand, and even seen protests take place here. This is certainly the place for people watching in warmer months.
Gazebo, Keene NH
Keene is a relaxed city with a New England old town feel. We had a chilly but great stroll through town and good day with family in Keene NH. Thanks to Les for hosting this Winter Walk-Off again this year.

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Mystery plant amid the geraniums

I’ve been a compulsive caretaker, one who rescued or adopted kittens, taken in stray dogs, fed the neighborhood kids at lunchtime along with mine. Kids are grown and gone, but I still rescue animals…. and now I think I’ve rescued a weed.

Three weeks ago a small sprout became visible in the soil of my summer geraniums (Pelargonium) that are wintering indoors. I was curious so I let it grow. It lost its plump cotyledons and began to shoot upright through the geraniums looking for sunlight. What a funny looking little plant, I thought. Is it a weed or a maybe a sprout from last summer’s autumn clematis?

I thought the tiny fuzzy head might be a bloom but no, it just produces more leaves as it grows.

mystery plant

It’s healthy so I figure it’s a weed since weeds are the healthiest plants in my garden. Sigh…

The stem is woody and and hairy. The pubescent leaves have been opposite but the last three were whorled. I wonder what the next ones will be.

mystery plant

The tip is as tiny as a pencil eraser and full of miniature leaves. No bloom in sight.  I’m at a loss to identify what I’ve adopted but I think it’s cute.  As long as I don’t develop a rash from it or it doesn’t turn into Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, I’ll nurture “Harry” till there is an possible ID.  If there’s a guess out there, let me know….

fuzzy plant

April update:  the tiny stowaway in the geranium bed finally bloomed. I’m certain my friend who suggested it may be a sprout from last year’s birdseed is correct. Beautiful tiny yellow bloom. 


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Blizzard on Election Day

What do folks in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state do when a blizzard warning interrupts local elections? It seems they do whatever they darn well please.

More than a dozen towns rescheduled today’s elections despite warnings from Governor Sununu that they do so at “their own risk.” Yesterday, the list of towns that postponed elections began to grow as the governor was strongly recommending that they stay open.

Our town of Exeter rescheduled elections after our Town Moderator Paul Scafidi consulted legal counsel. In our local newpaper, Exeter News-Letter, he stated, “We believe we’re correct that we can postpone it and that’s what I’m doing. For the safety of the voters, for the safety of the people that have to work, it’s the best thing for us to do.”

Snowstorm

The confusion lies in ambiguous statutes and laws whether postponing elections was a violation. NH Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlon told NH1 Newsy that, “The position from this office is that, RSA669:1, which is in the section of the statute that talks about town elections, says very clearly that town elections shall be held on the second Tuesday in March. From our perspective there is no provision that allows for the actual statutory date of the election officers to be moved and we cannot recall it ever happening for weather or any other reason.” It’s history in the making in New Hampshire.

Emergency legislation will be introduced this week to eliminate any confusion and make sure towns can postpone in the future. In the meantime, I’m having a second cup of coffee, watching the birds feed, and wondering about the possibility of ice dams.

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There’s a New Garden Designer in Town

I consider myself somewhat of a gardener or maybe I’m just a kid at heart who likes to play in the dirt. The plants, the soil, and the animals that dine, live, or pass through these small gardens… animals with feathers, fur, scales, and those that hop, creep and crawl are all on my soft spot list. Mix that with a love of garden design and you’ve tapped into what makes me content in a small wildlife preserve.

It’s always stimulating to meet a garden designer and learn more about their style of landscaping. Last summer, I dropped a ticket in a box and won the opportunity to have a nice session with a newly established landscape designer at Wentworth Greenhouses in Rollinsford, NH. James Brewer is new to New Hampshire but not new to garden design. He and his wife, a native of this area, moved from England where his garden design business was booming.

James Brewer, Wentworth Greenhouse

I found him in his office surrounded by a greenhouse filled with summer annuals and accompanied by his ever friendly black lab, Billster, who slept at our feet (after a refreshing dunk in his wading pool) while James and I chatted about design, plants, and, of course….what led him to his life’s occupation.

James Brewer

James credits his folks for sparking his interest in gardening and design when he was a boy. He learned gardening, plants, and design through experience, slowly developing his skills, then began a small gardening business in the mid-90’s. From there it was all uphill, even twice interviewed on BBC live radio programs while he walked through finished projects and listeners phoned in with questions.

He took a look at my garden design sketch and said….. “You have a John Brooks feel to your design.”  Oh boy.  My garden is new, tiny, and FAR from being mellowed in….. quite removed from the large world of John Brooks, but I welcomed his suggestions and ideas for future growth.

James Brewer

Just glancing around the office and looking over some of the designs he was working on, I could tell that James has great talent. He certainly knows and loves landscape design. Being located in a large garden center benefits customers as trees, shrubs, perennials that he recommends can be seen onsite. We finished our chat about the time his ‘best friend’ was out the door to welcome new customers, both 2-footed and 4-footed…..

Since establishing himself with Wentworth, business is strong, he said. I do wish this young garden designer continued success. New England is such a nice place to put down “roots.”

For more information, visit James Brewer Garden Design

James Brewer

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For the People, By the People…

Exeter is currently soliciting community feedback for the town that will lead to an update of the Master Plan, an important process that reflects our vision for the future of the town. The Master Plan Steering Committee offered the first public workshop last week and several from our neighborhood carpooled to the event. I was encouraged to see the turnout of about 200 for this first public event, step one of a process to involve as many citizens as possible.

Exeter Master Plan Workshop 1/25/2017

The number of younger families attending was reassuring as they are the real future of this town. We broke up into small discussion groups, voicing concerns, dreams, naming what we liked about our community, where we thought improvement was needed, critical areas to be addressed, and our wish list. Each group had a large town map on the table and could circle areas using different colored markers for different functions. When we were finished, a moderator wrote each of our answers on an easel board and one by one we approached the list and marked 1, 2, 3 depending on our wish for priority.

How stimulating and educational it was to be at a table with some of Exeter’s Gen X citizens. We shared common views and some different opinions… a healthy sharing with different generations to make sure all voices are heard. Feedback will be used to guide revisions to the current Master Plan and eventually land on the desks of the Board of Selectmen in the fall.

Having previously lived in other parts of the country, this was the first time I have experienced a community coming together to discuss a master plan in this way. Not a lecture, not a survey, not a forum, but an informal and neighborly sharing of ideas…. a very good thing. 

 

 

Aucuba japonica in New Hampshire

In warmer states, folks might stifle a ‘ho-hum’ yawn if they see the Aucuba japonica leaf pictured here… but for me, seeing the plant in New Hampshire is a thrilling sight. First of all, it thrives in hardiness zone 7 or warmer. We are officially zone 5b. Secondly, it’s a sentimental reminder from my 7b home and no matter how common, it’s a favorite for me. Thirdly, there’s nothing more striking than this variegated ‘Aucuba Gold Dust’ variety in a floral arrangement.

In the proper zone, it is an evergreen shrub but a friend in New Hampshire who grows it in zone 6 says it dies to the ground each winter and rises like a phoenix each spring. She shared cuttings with me a year ago and once they were well-rooted, they were planted in our landscape last spring, now protected beneath sandwich boards for the winter. My fingers are crossed for these small shrubs’ survival.  Stay tuned…

In zone 7b, the plant is fairly slow-growing but tough and adaptable, able to thrive in a wide range of, but preferably moist, soils.  It does well in deep shade where this variegated variety flecked with gold shines like a beacon from the shadows.

Aucuba

Propagation by cuttings is almost foolproof. This winter, my friend again shared leftover cuttings from a floral design workshop I organize for our garden club. Success in rooting was almost guaranteed with short roots sprouting on the old wood along the stem nodes.

Aucuba Roots

Not only do I have success with stems, it’s easy to propagate plants from just the leaves. Once my little plants have developed enough roots, into a soil mix in clay pots they will go… and when they are ready, I’m sure there’ll be a home waiting for all of them. How can folks resist?

Aucuba Leaves

Scientific name: Aucuba japonica
Variety: Gold Dust,  v. variegata
Common names: Aucuba, Japanese Acuba, Japanese Laurel
Family: Garryaceae, cousins to the better known dogwood family (Cornaceae)
Plant type: shrub. Female plants will have red berries in the fall if a male is nearby.

Architecture, History & Trees

Every time I pass one particular home on our road, I have to be careful. The site is so spectacular that my eyes cannot help but stray from the road toward the site on the hill. It is eye candy for an architecture, history, and tree devotee like me. The farmhouse itself is old, dating from 1733 with the large addition below added in the 1780’s. The sign on the porch reads 1780.

The house is amazing but two things that actually cause me to drive off the road are the massive trees from the 1780’s that flank the porch. They honestly take your breath away. Every time we pass when mister gardener is at the wheel, I snap photographs to look at later.

Here are a few I’ve taken in warmer seasons of the year. Photos can’t accurately portray the size of these two maples but in researching, I found that the tree on the right is the largest sugar maple in the state of New Hampshire. The limb that juts out at a 90 degree angle is larger than most sugar maples attain in a lifetime. Click the photos to enlarge.

This Federal period farmhouse from the 1780’s has 2 1/2 stories, a typical I-house with a gable and chimney at each end and one room deep. The entryway above has the half sidelights and the transom, both visible in the photos. The siding is original. An ell, so common in New England, connects the home to the c. 1733 home on the property. On our drive yesterday (before the big snowfall), I photographed the home from a side road where the view of the original farmhouse is visible.

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I have photographs of the trees in fall as well and it’s an amazing sight. I’ll let you just use your imagination.

In looking at historic maps from the area, I see the home noted and the name of the early inhabitants. But since the 1950’s, a family of 12 children spent their childhood there and several still live there and close by. But this is the “small world” fact I recently discovered when researching. The realtor who sold us our home in Exeter was one of those 12 children. I love it when I can connect the dots like that….

 

 

Helena is visiting Virginia

My sister is winding up a work related speaking engagement in Ft. Worth Tx and is due to fly home to Virginia today. I haven’t heard but I’m sure her flight was cancelled. You see, Helena is in town in Tidewater VA. Across the state, she closed airports, closed major highways, caused over 100 auto crashes and 58 stalled vehicles on state roads overnight. Visibility was zero and the U.S. Coast Guard closed the Port of Virginia. No commercial boats could enter or exit the Chesapeake Bay. Farther south, there were 18000 power outages in NC with a state of emergency called and a cancellation of some inauguration ceremonies for the new governor. South Carolina experienced their share of snow and ice…. and brrrr… it’s cold!

My three brothers who live in Richmond were very excited to awake to snow. Most people batten down the hatches, start a fire, and make hot cocoa, but these fellas run toward the great out of doors. We all love snow in my family. Not sure why… but I’m sure glad they shared a few photos from Richmond.

jims-mahonia

Snow covered Mahonia in bloom

jims-pond

Carter

University of Richmond

University of Richmond campus

Garden

Steps and boxwood cleared of snow

Helena has been quite a storm, having impacted two dozen states from coast to coast when it’s all said and done. She’s on her way out to sea late today in Virginia but she’s not finished with us. Helena is now visiting New Hampshire. Snow is falling hard and I hope we awake tomorrow to scenes like those above.

 

 

 

iPhone’s new Portrait Mode…

The iPhone has introduced a fun new setting for photos called Portrait that gives the photo background a blur. It’s not the first phone to add depth of field but for iPhone owners, it’s a brand new feature that can be lots of fun. I have not experimented with humans yet but judging from these quick shots around the house, it is effective.

It uses two cameras on the back of iPhone 7 Plus to give a similar effect delivered by your DSLR camera. The phone snaps two photos: one regular photo in focus and one digitally blurred for the background and it does a pretty darn good job. Behind the spotted laurel (Aucuba japonica) in the blue container sits a yellow 15 lb. bag of birdseed that’s unrecognizable in the photo. In a regular photo, I could read the printing on the bag.

Not too grand when you enlarge these, but it works fine. I can see blurred branches on the crabapple tree that should not be, and the edges of the main subject in photos isn’t always sharp. But it’s just fine for my needs.

I found by experimentation that the camera needs lots of light to take an effective photo and the blur is more dramatic the farther the subject is from the background. Once you are at the correct distance from the subject, a yellow ‘depth effect’ memo pops up and you’re ready to go.

This neat new setting makes it less likely I’d have to pack an additional camera when traveling!

One holiday to the next…

Last week, I felt blessed to be in the midst of family for Thanksgiving, thinking about those family members who couldn’t be with us and reflecting on those who are no longer with us. Somehow those family traditions and tried and true recipes make everyone’s presence felt. What a week it was!

It was all good with some minor setbacks: three little children with colds, one mother fighting a cold, and at my house, a computer that bit the dust, a dishwasher that kicked the bucket, and signs of an impending cold. So, with houseguests, dishes piling up in the kitchen, and no computer, I’ve technically been offline (except for emails on my iPhone) and not checking the blog world. Thankfully, my recovered computer was plugged in two days ago and the dishwasher was repaired yesterday. Life is better.

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We did all the usual fun things over the week…eating too much, watching the Macy’s parade, walks, shopping Black Friday sales in Portsmouth and encountering a very New England Santa passing out local coupons…img_0221

Exciting for two sons and a son-in-law was a weekend trip to the Ohio State-Michigan game in Columbus. With two of them OSU fans and one a Michigan grad, someone had to come away disappointed in this double overtime matchup.

With the turkey off the table, the glitter and lights of Christmas are in full swing everywhere. I’ve barely rolled my pumpkins to the curb at my house. I think it’s time for a little holiday music and a trip to the tree farm….

 

The American Beech

Last but not least in stunning fall yellows is the beech tree, perhaps my favorite tree of all. The maples have shed their leaves. Oaks are hanging on to drab leaves. Soon the forest will be owned by hemlock and white pine trees but now it’s all about the beech tree. This forest was aglow with shades of yellow as we trekked about 3 miles on beautiful trails.

White pines in the picture below grow through and tower above the slow-growing beech tree’s lemony fall canopy.

white-pine-and-beech

The leaves of beech trees are alternate with toothed margins and straight parallel veins on short stalks. The trunk in the background below is a white pine.

Beech leaves against white pine bark

The beech trunk is said to resemble an elephant’s leg with the smooth, thin, wrinkled light gray bark. What do you think?

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The leaves that fall and cover the ground are springy and odorless, thus the perfect filler for mattresses for early Americans and those in other countries.

“The leaves of the chestnut tree make very wholesome mattresses to lie on… [Beech leaves]… being gathered about their fall, and somewhat before they are much frost-bitten, afford the best and easiest mattresses in the world to lay under our quilts instead of straw; because, besides their tenderness and loose lying together, they continue sweet for seven or eight years long; before which time straw becomes musty and hard; they are thus used by divers persons of quality in Dauphine; and in Switzerland I have sometimes lain on them to my great refreshment…”
John Evelyn, Sylva: A discourse of forest-trees, 1670.

Beech Leaves

To see the massive old beech tree we left behind in Virginia, click HERE. Beneath the tree we recovered a wine bottle from the late 1700’s or early 1800’s and very large oyster shells discarded in a pit. It was fun to think the tree sheltered those folks at an early American oyster roast.

“I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow
to keep an appointment with a beech-tree…..”
– Henry David Thoreau, 1817 – 1862

A Garden with Bling!

I love ornaments in a garden. Art enhances and enlivens, adds whimsy and visual interest. I developed garden islands and paths in Virginia where one might turn a corner and discover a surprise… water bubbling in a container, or statuary, or a small frog hiding in the leaves. It’s a fun way to personalize a garden.  On our last move, we sadly surrendered most of our garden art, saving just a few favorite pieces for the limited space we have now.

So it was with delight that with a Rolling Green Nursery outing for all employees last August, I was able to visit Bedrock Gardens in Lee NH where nature and art are spread over a 20-acre themed landscape. We meandered on paths through a variety of gardens with wonderful names like Dark Woods, Spiral Garden, Shrubaria, Conetown, Wiggle Waggle, The Fruit Loop, all enticing  you along the pathway to the next garden space.

One-of-a-kind art and sculpture claim a larger than life presence in each garden, well-placed, whimsical, abstract and sure to bring a smile. Horticulture is breathtaking with unusual trees, shrubs, grasses, all placed perfectly in well-designed gardens. Amazingly, this garden is the magnum opus of two talented owners, Jill Nooney, the artist (and much more) who creates and designs, and her husband, Bob Munger, the retired doctor who makes it all happen for her. They have enhanced the natural beauty of their gardens reflecting the passion and personality of each of them.

Visiting the horticulture and garden design is an absolute destination by itself but add in the art and it’s like stepping into another world for those interested in everything: landscape, sculpture, and art. Read more at their website, Bedrock Gardens.

Jill Nooney’s barn full of farm implements and more just waiting for the next project.

We were fortunate to be guided through the gardens by our co-worker, Hobson, who pointed out unique horticulture and the various art sculptures. Hobson is a faithful volunteer at Bedrock Gardens.

Hobson Jandebeur, co-worker and Bedrock volunteer

The gardens have a playful quality about them and it set the tone for our merry band of garden and horticulture experts. Sounds of laughter were heard everywhere and smiles were seen on every face during the day as we strolled. If the intent of the owners was to educate, entertain, and amuse in an atmosphere of tranquility, they succeeded. The garden certainly worked its magic on us.

Click photos to enlarge:

The gardens have recently been taken over by the Friends of Bedrock Gardens, a group that is transforming private gardens into public gardens and a cultural center.

“Fee-Bee!”

All spring and summer we were serenaded by an Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), a common flycatcher in these parts. “Fee-bee, Fee-bee…,” it called from backyard shrubbery as it defined its territory. Often described as dull or plain in coloration, this much loved bird’s personality is anything but. Flying insects make up most of the summer diet.  We were entertained all summer as it bobbed its tail on a nearby branch and made short flights to catch dragonflies, beetles, wasps, flies, moths, and more in mid-air.

The suburbs have helped this little bird. They often choose a man-made structure to build their mud, grass, moss nest. In our neighborhood, it’s always a ledge over a neighbor’s front door. If the nest isn’t removed, they come right back to the same nest the following year.  And it’s so easy to become attached to the little ones.

A true harbinger of spring, we know warmer weather can’t be far behind when we hear their sweet call in late winter. It’s October now, and we’ve enjoyed them for several months but, alas, migration can’t be far off. The weather is cooler, insects are scarce, and the birds have switched their diet to berries…. especially on our arrowood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum).

Fee-bee!

Nary a berry is left on the shrub after two weeks of its repeated diving for berries. It’s good to consider the ecological benefit of what’s added to a garden and our native viburnums are excellent for this very reason.  The berries are eaten by several species of birds… cardinals, robins and more but the phoebe ate a fair share. The shrub is also a larval plant food for the spring azure butterfly and hummingbird moth.

arrowood viburnum

This native species isn’t as fragrant as Asian viburnums but it makes up for it in spring flowers, fall leaf color, and abundant berries. It’s adaptable to a variety of growing conditions, growing quite well in full sun in our clay and rocky soil although not its preferred habitat.

Interesting tidbits: the common name arrowood, as you might have guessed, was because the long straight stems were once used to make arrows by indigenous peoples.
The Eastern Phoebe is said to be the first bird banded in North America by John James Audubon in the early 1800s. He attached a light silver thread to several fledgling phoebe legs and discovered they returned to the same nesting area the following year.

Dark-eyed Junco

It’s bird migration time and things are happening in our little spit of land. According to Chris Bosak, Birds of New England, Labor Day weekend was a good time to fill the feeders again for the fall and winter birds. So I filled the feeder with hulled black oil sunflower seeds and the welcome mat was officially rolled out for the migratory songbirds.

Due to an invasion of breeding house sparrows this summer, I fed only the insect eaters, the robins, bluebirds, phoebes, and chipping sparrows nibbling on what fell beneath the feeder… no seeds at all, just meal worms.  Those pesky house sparrows turned their noses up at the meal worms and have exited the neighborhood, probably living inside Home Depot or around McDonalds for the winter. We are ready for the next wave!

Our first winter visitors arrived two mornings ago. The white-throated sparrow and their snowbird companions, the dark-eyed junco, are perhaps the best harbinger of winter. They arrived overnight and I spotted the newcomers at dawn cleaning up fallen seeds beneath the feeder.

junco (Junco hyemalis) female with sunflower kernel

Female junco with sunflower kernel

The junco is a fairly nondescript bird, gray above and a white belly. The female is generally paler with a mixture of brown in the plumage. Our flock should number 20 or more by the end of October.

Juncos are among my favorite little birds because they entertain me with their antics all winter. Their scientific name is hyemalis, Latin for ‘winter,’ an appropriate name for no snowstorm, blizzard, or arctic day can keep them away.  Their feisty interactions competing for seed under the feeder (and on the feeder) make me smile. They run, they hop, they flit, and they scratch as they battle each other for seed on the frozen ground or snow. Look for them to appear beneath your feeder around here very soon.

Cool Weather

I like Winter, Spring is Nice, Let’s Skip Summer, And do Fall Twice(Rusty Fischer)

Fall is my very favorite season. We have officially transitioned in New Hampshire. There is an invigorating crispness to the air so we’re wearing sweaters now, we sleep under down at night, it’s darker in the morning and in the evening, football is on the tube, leaves are changing, and it’s apple picking time!

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at our outdoor farmers’ market in Exeter, the 2nd largest in the state, where an abundance of fall crops, meats, sweets, meals, crafts and friendly faces greeted us. We didn’t have a shopping list but browsed from booth to booth stocking up on mostly vegetable goods but, oh, how to resist the flowers!

Exeter Farmers' Market 9/29/16

Browsing the booths with fall crops was a little like walking through a rainbow!

Click to see anything up close

That was yesterday. This morning I made the 4-mile drive to Applecrest Farms, New Hampshire’s oldest and largest apple orchard. They grow a variety of goods from peaches, berries, pumpkins and all the summer vegetables. A popular pastime is Pick-Your-Own. We’ve participated and ridden the wagon to the far fields for a variety of fruits.

Here is the ancient sign at Applecrest to help customers make good buying decisions. This week I’m making an apple crisp with cinnamon whipped cream topping so today I was seeking Macs, Courtland, Ida Red for cooking and Honey Crisp for eating.

Applecrest Farm

The Applecrest weekends are filled with autumn activities: music, Pick-Your-Own, hayrides, petting zoo, pie eating contests, fresh pressed cider, and fire roasted corn, sausage, dogs & burgers….. and a bit of clam chowder for me, please. On this Friday morning, they were abuzz setting up and getting ready. Mums..pumpkins…apples galore.

Oh yes, let’s do fall twice!

 

NH Drought 2016 Update

Everyone’s favorite app in these parts seems to be weather related. When will we have rain?  Last night, all of my weather apps said, ‘maybe overnight.’  It didn’t happen.  ‘Early this morning.’  The clouds dripped for a few seconds. It’s mid-morning and a light rain is falling and may be giving us moisture for 110 minutes according to my AccuWeather app. It seems to be the most accurate so I’m putting my faith in it. I have a dozen containers under the drip line of our roof to catch enough rainwater to sustain 3 newly planted trees. They are stressed. I’m following a friend’s advice of two gallons of water twice a week per tree. Gray water from the showers and the basement dehumidifier give us barely that.

accuweather

There are stages of drought:

  • Level 0: “Abnormally Dry:” This is the lightest level, which means the area is either “going into drought: short-term dryness slowing planting, growth of crops or pastures” or getting out of drought, which means some lingering water deficits; and pastures or crops not fully recovered,” according to the National Drought Monitor.
  • Level 1: “Moderate Drought:” This level of drought involves “some damage to crops, pastures; streams, reservoirs, or wells low, some water shortages developing or imminent; and voluntary water-use restrictions requested,” according to the monitor.
  • Level 2: “Severe Drought:” This level means that “crop or pasture losses likely; water shortages common; and water restrictions imposed,” the monitor states.
  • Level 3: “Extreme Drought:” This is the second-highest level of drought, with “major crop/pasture losses” and “widespread water shortages or restrictions.”
  • Level 4 “Exceptional Drought:” This is the most intense level of drought. This level involves “exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses; shortages of water in reservoirs, rivers, and wells creating water emergencies.”

My home state of Virginia is in a drought and I hear from friends and family about it. They are Level 0: “Abnormally Dry.” My adopted state of New Hampshire is worse where we live in the Seacoast area. We have progressed through the stages to Level 3: “Extreme Drought.” There are mandatory water restrictions, no watering outdoors at all from municipal water or private wells. If residents don’t comply, they run the risk of a penalty.

drought-map

The drought does not seem to be letting up anytime soon.  California’s problems are frightening with 100% of the state in drought trouble creating wildfires and water wars. Severe to exceptional drought extends over 43% of that state. Sorry to think this way, but a good soaking tropical storm may be our solution. Alas….

Royalty in my border…

The most striking plant that occupies space in my landscape is Aralia cordata ‘Sun King,’ the uncontested ruler of this small kingdom we call a garden. It called out to me for two summers at Rolling Green Nursery until I weakened and purchased a specimen last year. Right away, it declared itself king and after a winter die-down and reemergence in the spring, it became the uncontested emperor of all.

sun-king

It is a golden Japanese spikenard with wonderful red stems and vivid golden-chartreuse leaves that dazzle with their color all summer long. I have it in a mostly shady location with a bit of sun to bring out the gold in the leaves.

sun-king-bloom

The late summer racemes of white flowers are just beginning to burst upon the scene and insects are there for each that opens. Later in the fall, these blooms will be followed by lovely purple berries.

There are many members of this genus Aralia, including Aralia spinosa, that spiky devils walking stick (that I’ve unfortunately encounted on occasion… ouch!). Right now, I’m not attracted to any of the others because I only have eyes for this one garden amour. Zone 4-8

Planting for Nostalgia

It’s warming up in New Hampshire. We’ve been informed that this area is decidely USDA Hardiness Zone 6, not 5 as my blog title states.  But when asked by customers at the nursery, some employees say to plant for Zone 5b because we can have those atypical winters. That sounded like good advice to me and I followed it.

That was before I spotted two shrubs for sale locally that flourished in my Virginia, Zone 7b garden. I’d never seen them for sale around here. Surprisingly, one was tagged Zone 5 and the other Zone 6. Huh?? I was intrigued but hesitated for a moment because I knew they are semi-invasive or invasive in warmer climes.  Probably because of the drought and low sales, the manager approached me…the only customer… and said “For you, everything is half price today.” Hesitation over. I packed my cart.

Forever and ever these shrubs have screamed Virginia as they’re seen in practically every garden, old and new. Nandina domestica and Leatherleaf mahonia. A slice of Old Virginia in my cart. Nostalgia!

#1. Nandina domestica, imported to England from China and Japan in 1804, is a care-free showy shrub, disease-resistant, pest-resistant, that is widely used for flower arranging both for the attractive lacy leaves that vary from red to green to copper and the clumps of bright red berries that follow clusters of tiny white blooms. The berries are fabulous for holiday arrangements! A common name for nandina is Heavenly Bamboo as the multi-stem plant bears a striking resemblance to the canes of bamboo plants. We will discover whether this Zone 6 plant survives as an evergreen as it does in Virginia. I fear it will die back to the ground each winter and never grow as a 5′ tall ornamental as it was in Zone 7b. Fingers crossed…

Nandina from my Zone 6 garden: flower buds not open; new copper growth:

nandina-bloom nandina-new-red-growth#2. Leatherleaf Mahonia, labeled Zone 5, has been grown for generations in the US since brought from China in 1800’s. Members of leatherleaf are labeled noxious and planting is prohibited in Alabama, Georgia, SC, and Tennessee. A stiff leaved multi-stemmed spiny evergreen shrub resembling a holly but in Zone 7b, it redeems itself with fragrant lemony clusters of flowers appearing in late winter giving a multitude of bees some very early nectar. Those attractive flowers then develop into interesting bunches of blue-ish berries that hang like fat grapes…thus giving its other name, grape holly.

Mahonia photos from my Zone 7b garden: winter blooms; blue berry clusters:

honeybee on mahoniamahoniaI love both of these plants and will probably tent them for winter protection until I discover how they get through our winters.  Ahhhh…. How divine!

Hermine fizzled out in New Hampshire

We certainly didn’t want the unfortunate and tragic flooding that Hermine dumped on other states but a little moisture would be welcome in our official Extreme Drought seacoast area of New Hampshire. We are 5 miles from the coast and Hermine brought us a drizzle and drip yesterday and today. Beneath the damp mulch in the garden, the soil is bone dry. Buckets are lined up catching all roof drips outside today with a mist so fine you can feel it but not see it.

 TomatoesBeing declared an Extreme Drought area means no watering of anything in the landscape from the city’s water supply or from private wells. In New Hampshire, there are more than 100 communities with mandatory water restrictions. 19% or more of New Hampshire is in a Severe Drought and we are part of the 4% in an Extreme Drought. Thankfully, growers in ten counties are eligible for natural disaster assistance. Yes, we are in a bad way. We’re using gray water from showers and water made by the basement dehumidifier to help keep our 3 new trees alive. And sad to say, there’s no relief in the immediate future…

That said, there are those who took advantage of Hermine’s big blow. New Hampshire was spared the extreme high winds of this tropical storm but we drove over to the coast to check out what effect the storm had on this part of the ocean. Hampton Beach was closed on Tuesday as winds were brisk enough to cause rip tides. The next day, on this Wednesday, mist from the sea hung in the air like a gray fog. We could taste the salt. All along the coast people were standing, sitting, walking and enjoying the view of the choppy Atlantic surf.

spectatorsIt was low tide but waves rolled in, crashing onto the rocky shores.

Atlantic wavesAnd, naturally, there were those who were thrilled to see high surf. We watched as a dozen or more brave surfers waited with their boards on the surface of the water, then standing to catch wave after wave after wave. Can they see all those rocks?  Yikes!

Atlantic Waves from HermineClick photos to enlarge