The Oliver Hazard Perry

Like so many others last weekend, we decided to check out the tall ship Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island docked at the Fish Pier on Pierce Island in Portsmouth. It is the first full-rigged ocean ready ship built in America in over 110 years. Measuring 207 feet, it’s a three-masted square-rigged vessel and the largest privately owned tall ship sailing school and an official Good Will Ambassador for the state of Rhode Island.

Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry young navigator

The ratlines or footings that make a ladder take the crew aloft to stow the sail. Not for the faint-hearted. The tallest part of the rig reaches more than 13 stories. There are 14,000 square feet of sails and 7 miles of rigging.

Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry


I learned from young trainees onboard there’s a name for every sail and every rope. Makes sense. Even though this is their first voyage, I touched a random rope and the young man told me the name and its purpose. Impressive!

Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry

Below deck, we found climate controlled modern accommodations for 49 people, everything immaculate and tidy, the galley and dining hall, a meeting room, a science lab, and much electronic equipment. Sleeping quarters or staterooms were not on tour but we got a full description from a young trainee.

Oliver Hazard Perry below deck

Oliver Hazard Perry Log Book

Oliver Hazard Perry sailing student

Oliver Hazard Perry Galley

Oliver Hazard Perry dining hall

Oliver Hazard Perry charts

Oliver Hazard Perry below deck view

Back above deck we completed the tour and left enlightened and much better educated about tall ships in general and the Oliver Hazard Perry in particular.

Oliver Hazard Perry

To view a video of the Parade of Sail 2016 welcoming the Oliver Hazard Perry and the light-hulled tall ship, the Harvey Gamage, to Portsmouth, click HERE.

Proceeds from Sail Portsmouth tour will go toward Portsmouth Maritime Commission’s partnership with Seacoast Youth Services and the Sea Challenge. Later this summer, the Sea Challenge will sponsor at-risk youth and take them out for a week at sea. To learn more about the organization, click HERE.



Christmas for the Birds

As a special treat to her feathered friends, my daughter added a handful of shelled pecans to the sunflower seeds on her window feeder. She wondered whether the birds would even like the nuts, but lesson learned. It took 15 minutes before all the pecans were gone. Click to enlarge photos.

First the chickadee eyed them.

chickadeeIt was the titmouse’s turn next….

IMG_7500…followed by the white breasted nuthatch.

IMG_7497All the regulars, the nut lovers, arrived to share a gourmet Christmas treat. Joy.

The Fairies Are Coming…

It’s Portsmouth Fairy House Tour time again. As new residents last year, we stumbled upon the event when we just happened to visit Strawbery Banke that day. (Click HERE to see our adventure a year ago.) Not only did we have a lovely time touring the restored village, we delighted in seeing the whimsical fairy houses tucked into every nook and cranny.  And we were enthralled by the excited, giggling children, most dressed like adorable fairies with wings and tutus, hurrying their parents and grandparents along on their journey of discovery.

This, the 10th year of the tour, organizers have gone all out. On September 21 & 22, there will be over 200 fairy houses designed by artists, garden clubs, gardeners, children, community members at three locations in Portsmouth, NH. So definitely the World’s Largest Fairy House Tour will remain so for another year.

This is the first year that Rolling Green Nursery has not entered a fairy house (see update in COMMENTS below), however, they are contributing in another big way. For weeks, my co-workers have been gathering and drying flowers and seed heads to contribute to the fairy houses being built on Peirce Island in Portsmouth. Our perennial garden ‘clubhouse’ has been transformed. Small bundles of flowers tied with string are hanging from the beams and all four walls, filling the room with aromas of mint and lavender.

Perennial Garden Clubhouse

That’s not all. Inside Rolling Green Nursery, a vast array of miniature furnishings, bridges, animals, bee hives, flags, and tiny fairies are available to make every fairy house builder’s dream come true. Ahhhh…. I wish I was seven again!

St. Nicholas’ Greek Festival

We’ve been to a Greek festival only once several years ago and had a great time. Our Ware Neck VA friend, Helen, invited us to a festival at her childhood church, Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Newport News VA. We just went for an evening meal but were swept off our feet as soon as we entered the big tent. This place was a ‘Happening’! The aromas. The excitement. The crowds. Families. Great food. Music. Dancing. Laughter. While mister gardener sampled his share of Greek delicacies, Helen led me to the crowded dance floor to teach me a few traditional Greek dance steps. Sigh. Someday I may actually make a trip to Greece but for this one night, I was already there.

Greek Orthodox churches across America have similar versions of annual festivals to share their rich heritage, culture, and traditions of the Greek community. When we recently saw one advertised at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Portsmouth NH, we were psyched at the chance to go for lunch. We used our GPS to help us find our way, but we knew we’d found the right church when we spotted the neat Byzantine architecture.
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox ChurchIt was lunchtime but the parking lots were full and the crowds were already thick.
Greek Festival, Portsmouth NHWe stopped in the desert area first where we found delicious sweets and a great marketplace with jewelry, clothes, religious artifacts and food imports from Greece.

On the menu were Greek favorites like Baked Lamb Shanks, Souvlaki , Pastichio, Moussaka, Spanakopita, Gyros, Dolmathakia, Loukouades, salads, vegetables, and more. I’m still understanding what all the foods are but we learned an interesting Greek lesson from our first server. The Greek pronunciation of Gyro is Yih-Ro. I’ll definitely need to know that when I visit Greece… and I hope I can… since I discovered from our family’s DNA genetic testing that I have a ‘spot’ of Greek in my ancestry. Yippee!

St. Nicholas Greek FestivalMister gardener ordered the lamb shanks in tomato sauce and declared it DE-licious! I ordered my standard favorite, moussaka, which was quite tasty. We dined to traditional Greek music but no dancing at lunchtime. We knew we missed the excitement of the evening before when an announcement was made that a lone shoe was found from the night before. Oh boy… it must have been another ‘Happening’!


Flower Containers 2014

It’s getting to be the custom each summer for me to take a snapshot of flower containers that catch my eye at shop entrances and downtown homes. This summer I walked through Portsmouth NH and Exeter NH with my trusty smart phone. As usual, colorful petunias and sweet potato vines were predominant in most arrangements. I’d call the cities about even in attractiveness, however, my favorite container of all was one in Portsmouth at Stonewall Kitchens.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Portsmouth NH:

Exeter NH:

I love a rainy night…

6 a.m. Dear gentle, rejuvenating, cleansing overnight rain. You sure freshened things up and washed away a lot of yellow pollen. Many thanks….

Click to enlarge photos:

Abundant Sunshine

“Abundant sunshine” is the Yahoo Weather forecast for today. It is 39° this morning but temperatures will rise to an enjoyable 51° by noon before dropping back to 30° tonight. Forecast calls a welcome warming trend with temperatures pushing into the high 60s on one day early next week. There should not be a flake of snow left on the ground then.

Although we see wonderful signs of spring around the neighborhood like my friend’s crocus below, our home lingers in the shade of tall pines.


Crocus blooming in the neighborhood

Where there is deep shade, there is snow. Yesterday I took matters into my own hands and helped some of my newly planted treasures see daylight for the first time in many months. I had no idea what I’d find under the crush of snow and ice but I knew there had to be damage. Plants will live but, darn that snow!

This southern gardener is learning about New England winters. Next fall, the holly below will be tied or wrapped in burlap to protect the shape of the upright growth.

Beneath the snowbank (below), I was most worried about three tiny boxwood I found nearby at Rolling Green Nursery. I fell hard for these dwarf Korean boxwood (Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Tide Hill’) that were described as ‘rugged.’ The weight of snow from the roof and from driveway and sidewalk clearing was severe in this border. I tried shoveling it off early in the season, but eventually I had to give up trying to minimize or prevent damage to stems. The snow came too fast and too often.


Tide Mill BoxwoodOnce I located all three shrubs, of course I found crushing damage to the top of shrubs…which is sad as these plants only grow about a foot in height.

Thankfully, when handed lemons, my philosophy is to make the sweetest lemonade on the block. Box can be propagated! I carefully removed the stems that were broken, removed the bottom leaves, dipped the stems in a hormone solution, and I’m growing them in a potting mix. Instead of three dwarf boxwood, I should end up with 8 or 9 babies in about 8 weeks. Who knows? My new landscape plan is to have a full border of these most attractive dwarf boxwood.

Tide Hill


15 Days till Christmas!

The Christmas Season was well on its way before Thanksgiving however I didn’t venture into the shopping arena until Thanksgiving weekend. Our Portsmouth NH excursion two days following the big meal plunged us into the spirit of the season. The small city was packed with holiday shoppers or window shoppers or some just walking off overindulgence of Thanksgiving. The sounds of Christmas music resonated from corners, we found coffee shops and every store we entered packed with revelers, there were horse drawn carriage rides, tempting foods, and to top it off, snow flurries late in the day added much to holiday ambience.  I love the atmosphere of shopping in a city. Are enclosed shopping malls on the way out?

With the shortened shopping season, shoppers seem to be frenzied to make sure gifts are purchased and mailed in time. Today, December 9, gives us 5 days for USPS standard mail.

Click on photos to see larger images.

Our Magical Mystery Tour

Mister gardener really wanted to tour Strawbery Banke, see the buildings, learn the history, and enjoy the gardens since he’d missed out on my earlier visits with house guests. We arrived just before opening time to find traffic guides and congested traffic, we thought due to an annual bike tour along the coast. Nothing seemed amiss at Strawbery Banke once we parked, watched the introductory video, got our map and headed for the first buildings.

“Ummm, did you know today was our annual Fairy House Tour?,” the building’s guide asked.

“Noooo,” we answered. “What is happening?”

“You’ll see….”

And we did.

As we walked back onto the street, a flood of fairies, parents, grandparents, strollers, and wagons were heading toward us. We were soon engulfed by a sea of little people in glittering pink and purple tutus and wings, many wearing sparkling crowns and holding wands. Bubbles rained down on crowds around every corner from attic windows. Children were caught up in the spell in this fairy land…. and soon, so were we!

Fairy House Tour 2013We decided to join the fairy tour rather than see all the buildings on this beautiful day. Adorable, adorable children were so thrilled to discover the tiny fairy houses… some simple abodes and some quite elaborate. They sat on the ground and studied every fairy detail.

We could have visited two other Portsmouth locations to see more fairy houses or perhaps build one of our own but our adventure at Strawbery Banke this day filled our magic fairy cups to the brim. Next year we’ll bring grandchildren!

Out and About for Art’s Sake

One sister arrived a few days earlier than the other so the two of us ventured out to discover the seacoast together. Since she’s a passionate potter, we spent a half day in Portsmouth visiting galleries and shops where she inspected and poured over local pottery. She’s an excellent potter and really knows her stuff. I found just how good when we were in a little shop with local pottery. She pointed to a container and said, “Now that looks like it was made in North Carolina.” The shopkeeper said, “Yes, that one did come from North Carolina.”  It all looked the same to me. One bowl immediately grabbed our attention. A whimsical bowl decorated with fish… a bit of playfulness that we both love. Sis said, “She’s a talented and creative artist, not a potter.” She could tell by just looking that it was a mold that the artist painted and glazed. We both loved this artist’s free design on the bowl…. and I bought it! That night we Googled the artist, Pat DeGrandpre, and discovered that she lives just across the river in Maine and exhibits in a small artist co-operative called Just Us Chickens Gallery. She makes other pieces of art and she knits. “Let’s go visit Kittery,” I said. We recognized her work as soon as we entered the gallery. We were enjoying her pieces and a multitude of other artists’ creations when the lady behind the desk said, “Speak of the devil…”  We turned and there she was. Pat DeGrandpre. We asked her to hold the little hat she made that we were about to purchase. With a smile, she posed while I photographed her with iPhone. We also learned about the studio of a seasoned local potter, Elaine Fuller, and my sister couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit her studio. We met Elaine at The Red Door Pottery where she and sis talked shop and sis bought too much and shipped everything home to California. Sis was over the moon about the talent she saw and encouraged me to enroll in Elaine’s classes. Hmmmm… While in Kittery, we transported our lunch to historic Ft. McClary for a delightful picnic at the site of an original 1690 defensive fortification, now the site of an impressive 1844 blockhouse that provides a commanding view of the harbor. Not sure if the fort ever saw battle but it was manned during 5 wars to protect the Piscataqua River and US Navy Shipyard. On the National Register of Historic Places, it is owned by the state of Maine.

Not one sister, but two!

For close to two weeks we’ve enjoyed the company of my California sister, a potter, and my Virginia sister and husband, both archaeologists and great history buffs. Yesterday was the last day for them and today the house seems eerily quiet today. We’ve spent our time on the go exploring the sights of New Hampshire, Maine and a side trip to Lexington and Concord for the two archaeologists and lots of of art for the potter sister.

We visited the Portsmouth Historical Society’s Discover Portsmouth Center and the Seacoast African-American Cultural Center and learned much about local history before we ventured into Portsmouth to enjoy the rich architectural styles and plethora of shops and restaurants.

Shopping and sightseeing in Portsmouth electrified everyone’s sense of taste, touch, smell, sound and sight. We drifted in and out of buildings and up and down the old streets of this historic town for much of a day.

The Salt Cellar, The Chocolatier, Clothing Shops, and Florists

Later in the week, Strawbery Banke delighted my family.  An outdoor history museum, it’s a neighborhood first settled in 1630, then spans the next four centuries of habitation. We thought we might be only interested in the oldest house, the 1695 John Sherburne House.

Sherburne House, ca 1695

But we were surprised to discover a potter at Strawbery Banke and spent time getting to know Steven Zoldak who is skilled at intricate carving and design. Yes, he and my sisters knew several potters in common and, yes, we all bought his wares….

An adorable Mrs. Shapiro, complete with Russian accent, greeted us in the 20th-century home of Russian-Jewish immigrants. She showed us how to drink tea by first placing a sugar cube on the front teeth and sipping tea through it. The home was completely furnished, soup on the stove, dining table set for Shabbes or Sabbath dinner, and family photographs proudly displayed throughout.

We spent the next couple of hours meeting folks in character in different homes. In the Pitt Tavern, we met the owner’s daughter who greeted us and said word is arriving about the sad deaths in the Revolutionary War. Although the Marquis de Lafayette (a favorite of my brother-in-law) lodged at the tavern, the mistress knew nothing of this since she was in character for the beginning of the war, before his visit.

Among other buildings, we toured a twentieth-century grocery store, a weaving shop, and the Victorian gardens at the mansion of Sarah Goodwin, the wife of the former New Hampshire governor, Ichabod Goodwin. There we met Sarah dead-heading her flowers in her colorful garden.

Children’s Garden

Garden paths

Having been raised in Williamsburg, Virginia, I think it’s difficult not to have have a critical eye when touring other restored areas BUT we delighted in Strawbery Banke and the colorful 400 years of history. It’s a not-to-miss adventure.

We never thought it would happen this soon…

… but after some short weeks on the market, we sold our home on the North River in Ware Neck, Virginia and we’re heading out on a new adventure.  We might be crazy but we’re heading north for the winter months to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Having a newlywed daughter and a college-aged son in New Hampshire, it seemed the perfect place to try something new. We’ll be packing up and shipping out next month. I’m excited to blog as a private citizen and not for the garden club about the flora and fauna of zone 5.  Who knows what we’ll find in New Hampshire (besides snow)? Stay tuned….

A Winter Vertical Garden

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

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

John Akar

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

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

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester