Six on Saturday – Spring Has Arrived – March 16, 2017

Thunderstorms were predicted for Friday afternoon. It’s now 5:00 and I suppose we could still get some rain, but I’m hoping not. I walked around the garden in my Sloggers because the standing water is gone. Things are still very muddy, but the garden is coming alive. A neighbor’s tree was full of noisy grackles, but I didn’t mind. It was over 70 degrees and I was outside without a coat, hat and gloves.

On the Eastern Shore March 17th is the day the ospreys return to their nests. We’re all watching.

  1. Daffodils are blooming — the tiny Tete a Tetes and another somewhat larger daffodil. In another part of the yard a different variety has some opening blooms.

IMG_8405

2. The hellebores are stunning, even if you have to get on your knees to really see them. Lots of babies coming up. Does anyone know… do they cross pollinate? If it stays dry, I can get into that bed and clear out the winter damaged leaves. The epimedium next to the hellebores needs to be sheared. This bed was shady before we took out the river birch. I’ll be interested to see how everything does with more sun. The crepe myrtles should give them some shade.

3.  In another section of the garden the stump of the river birch clump is waiting for me to make the metal hoop sculpture to sit on top. One of the SoSers suggested I include one one of the big leaf castings in the sculpture. I’ll post a photo when I get it finished. I thought it interesting that the river birch stump is weeping. I know it will sprout up again.

IMG_8420

4. Nearby a bird house is waiting for occupants. I found it at a garage sale for a quarter. I need to measure the hole to see what kind of birds might use it.

IMG_8421

5. In a window box of herbs the tarragon looked dead but when I poked around I found green shoots.

IMG_8411

6. My azaleas are full of buds but I won’t know if the buds were cold blasted for another two months.

IMG_8426

That’s my Six on Saturday, photos this week of my waterlogged garden coming alive. The SoS meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener.  This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Six on Saturday – Lean In – January 5, 2019

A statistic last week indicated we have had over 70″ of rain this year, double the usual amount. No wonder we feel inundated. Many local farmers have lost their winter wheat crop as seeds rotted in the ground. Last spring some planted corn three times.

For us home gardeners the rain is a big inconvenience. Lots of leaves still on ground that’s too wet to work on, and piles of tree trash that gets deposited on the lawn with every big blow. But although I have been a gardener for more years than I like to admit, it continues to amaze me that life in the garden goes on. You just have to put on your wading boots and lean in.

  1. Other SoS gardeners have been showing blooming hellebores. I thought I checked last week and didn’t see anything. Obviously I didn’t lean in far enough. I only saw buds on one plant this morning and I haven’t kept records in the past, but buds the size of Christmas tree lights (not the little ones) are impressive for January 5.

img_8095

2. Raindrops in the early morning decorated a small leafed maple.

img_8100

3. In one of my raised beds at home I had transplanted some beet seedlings from my Community garden bed last summer. They never did a thing but I didn’t pull them when fall clean-up was delayed by wet weather. They are showing growth among the fallen leaves. I wonder if I will actually get beet roots in the spring. img_8104

4. Fennel doesn’t surrender to the weather and tends to self seed which can be a problem. This is in a raised bed. I’ll keep it because the Black Swallowtail butterflies pupated on the stalks last year and the foliage is a tasty addition to winter salads. I can see some rabbit damage.

img_8103

5. Even the dried heads of hydrangea Limelight are beautiful in the early morning mist.

img_8087

6. In an effort to organize seeds this winter I purchased some half priced Christmas storage. The seeds won’t care that the boxes are red and green. With lidded containers I’ll be able to get the seed box off my work surface.

img_8083

That’s my Six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. There’s always something interesting in the garden if you just stop to look and lean in. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Six on Saturday – Color at Last – November 10, 2018

We’ve had rain off and on for the last couple of days which is bringing the leaves down. Dark, dreary days but no frost yet. Many leaves are brown and crisp but there are spots of color among the fallen. I think the show will be brief, but I am enjoying every saturated hue.

Here are my Six on Saturday.

  1. The crepe myrtles are beginning to turn.

IMG_7700

IMG_7718

2. The red twig dogwood “Arctic Fire” has finally combusted. Once the leaves fall the red stems will provide winter color until they are cut back in the spring.

IMG_7723

3. Amsonia hubrecti (fernleaf) “Arkansas Bluestar”  has turned yellow.  I had another variety  which stayed green and kept its leaves through the winter. It was quite invasive so I dug them out. This clump has grown from a single plant given to me five years ago. I am saving seeds this year and will try to propogate more. I’ve seen it in other gardens where there are large swaths and it’s spectacular.

The small waterfall maple (Acer palmatum, commonly called Japanese Maple), to the right of the amsonia was bought as a rooted twig at the Philadelphia Flower Show at least twenty years ago. I brought it with us when we moved to this house twelve years ago. This photo reminds me I’ve got to get out and put the hose away before we get a hard freeze.

IMG_7724

5. In the spring I planted cornflower (Centaurea scabiosa) seeds – “Perennial Butterfly.” The plants came up but the foliage didn’t stand upright, it just flopped in the raised bed. I almost pulled them out. No flowers until now — and just one! I’ll be interested to see what happens next summer. There are lots of plants with healthy looking leaves. I’ll divide them and put them in different areas to see how they do. If they flop again and don’t flower they’ll go into the compost bin.

IMG_7729

6. I’ve brought my tender plants inside to a corner of the living room for winter color. The red geranium in the big pot was given to me ten years ago by a friend as a hostess gift. That friend has since moved away, but Betsy’s geranium is a long living reminder of our friendship. It goes out to the deck in the summer but really is happier inside. The big pots are on dollys and the other plants are on a repurposed kitchen island also on wheels.

There is an orchid on the top shelf that is alive and sending up a blooming stalk. It’s a miracle! I have killed every other orchid I’ve ever brought into the house. The clivia didn’t bloom last winter but I had repotted it so am hopeful for blooms this year.

IMG_7721

That’s my six for this week, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. I learn something every week from the participating gardeners. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

 

 

 

Six on Saturday – No Flo – September 22, 2018

Tuesday, the day the remnants of Hurricane Florence hit our part of the mid-Atlantic region I spent the morning on Poplar Island. Clouds in the photos below were all we got. Some rain was predicted but we didn’t get any until the afternoon and it was minimal. We are all so grateful we were not in Florence’s direct path.

My Six on Saturday starts with Poplar Island. Here’s the backstory.

Poplar Island was a 1140 acre, crescent shaped island in the Chesapeake Bay in 1847. It had a town called Valliant which included a school, a post office, a church, a sawmill, a general store and about 100 residents.  Erosion ate away at the island and by 1920 the last permanent resident had gone. By 1990 the island had been reduced to 5 acres.  In a joint project of the U.S. Army Corps and Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the island has been recreatedt using dredged materials from the Chesapeake Bay’s approach channels to Baltimore where there is a thriving port. Dredged materials from Baltimore harbor are not used because they are contaminated.  Poplar Island is now back to 1140 acres with an additional 575 acres planned. This is the Wikipedia link if you want more information.

  1. Our group from the St. Michaels Woman’s Club boarded a boat on Tilghman Island for the twenty minute ride to Poplar Island. We started the tour with a guide who gave us an introduction and then boarded the bus for an informational trip around the island. The garden pictured is maintained by Maryland Master Gardeners. The mosquitos were ferocious.

IMG_7324

2. Tours are free and this was my fifth trip over the last ten years. The island has changed dramatically since my original visit when the island was comprised of “cells” waiting to receive dredged materials. Now the island is lush with native plant material. One hundred and seventy-five species of birds use the island, but the biggest wildlife success is the terrapin hatchlings which have a 99% survival rate because there are no foxes or racoons on the island – yet. Typical terrapin hatchling survival rate is 10%. Some baby terrapins are fostered by selected school classes and the kids return to Poplar island for an emotional release of the turtle they named and raised. Eventually the island will be a wildlife refuge of half wetlands and half uplands and will be closed to the public.

IMG_7346

3. This view shows work on the projected additional 575 acres. Most of the island looked like this when I first visited.

IMG_7351

 

My final three photos are from my garden.

4. Hyacinth bean vines are still blooming but are also creating beautiful, glossy purple pods.

5. The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) plant’s airborne seeds are flying.

IMG_7366

6. Six feet tall (even after a fourth of July cutting back to half), this aster is just coming into bloom. Another plant that someone gave me. I don’t know the name and when I googled tall asters none of those listed grew this tall. Another shorter aster hasn’t started blooming yet. It needs to hurry up.

IMG_7363

That’s my six for this week, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Six on Saturday – August 4, 2018 – Successes and a Flop

It’s been raining…a lot. The lake is back in the back yard, but I’m not complaining except about the mosquitos. The second 6 cubic yards of mulch was put down before the rain started and there is no longer a blue tarp covered pile in the drive. Our neighbors must be happy. That will change in a few days, however, when I get a load of free chips from our local tree people. Most of that will go in the back of the property once it dries out back there.

Here are my six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

  1. Helenium (Sneezeweed). I didn’t really appreciate this flower until I downloaded the photos from my phone. The actual flower is small and on a very tall stem. Someone gave me one and it’s not yet a large clump. It would be easy to overlook.  It reminds me of a fantasy chapeau designed by a French milliner in the 1920’s. Or possibly an inspiration for a Kentucky Derby fantasy. It might be too overstated for the Queen. I need to save seeds and see if I can get a clump going. I can’t stop looking at this photo. IMG_6947

2.  The garden beds are producing. Tomatoes Amish Paste and Sungold cherry), green beans, carrots (purple and orange), beets, and spring onions. I found a recipe for a puff pastry tomato and cheese tart on-line. I added some ham because I had some in the fridge that needed to be used. It was a little complicated to make despite the fact that I bought frozen puff pastry, but it was delicious. I had a leftover piece for breakfast the next morning.

 

3.  Kinshi Uri or Somen Kabocha squash. Kinshi means golden threads. This is the original Japanese version of spaghetti squash. Burpee picked up this seed and began selling it as Vegetable Spaghetti in 1936. My seeds for Kinshi Uri came from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. I planted some seeds at the end of one of my community garden beds about six weeks ago where I had pulled up lettuces. The squash began sprawling so I put in some upright cages trying to keep them contained until I can pull out the rest of the beets. The plants have been setting fruit but I’ve had problems with borers in the past, so I’m not holding my breath that I will get mature squash. For the moment I’m enjoying the healthy plants with lots of female flowers. That great looking mulch between the raised beds is wood chips from our local tree company, Bartlett Tree Services. The fine mesh around the bed keeps the rabbits out and is tall enough to keep the deer from browsing.

IMG_6974

4. The verbena in two big pots had stopped blooming. I gave them a serious haircut and within a week had new blooms. I need to pay more attention to deadheading. The variagated liriope was dug from another spot in the garden. Soon there will be purple flower stalks which will look lovely with the lavendar and pink cleome and play off the bright cherry red verbena flowers.

IMG_6955

5. This mum is a favorite. It makes a compact plant that doesn’t need to be cut back and has come back every spring for probably eight years. It will soon be covered with bright yellow flowers but I don’t know why it is starting to bloom at the beginning of August. Isn’t this too early? I wish I knew where I had gotten this variety so I could buy more. I’ve taken pieces from the edge of this plant and put them in the ground, but they have not survived. I’ll try again by putting the starts in small pots so I have better control over watering.

IMG_6971

6. I am giving up on hollyhocks. I don’t buy alot of things for the garden but I bought these from a catalog last fall.  I think they were called something like Farmhouse Medley. How could I resist.

They looked fine this spring until the rust took them. I guess it’s just too humid in the Mid-Atlantic. Then the rabbits did in the rest, chomping off remaining green leaves. I remember Hollyhocks as a child in Indiana and thought they would look great against the lattice which would also provide support. Too bad.

IMG_6942

This was not my first attempt at hollyhocks, but it will probably be my last. (Notice the equivocation from my beginning sentence.) Of course  I say that about squash every year and I keep buying new varieties to try. Which brings to mind the saying about the triumph of hope over experience…  Either I am a slow learner, or a fast forgetter… or perhaps an eternally optimistic person. I think I’ll stick with the latter.

I hope you have enjoyed the photos of some successes and one total (but not totally unexpected) failure in my garden.  Until next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Write on Wednesday – July 4, 2018 – Finding a Voice

If you write fiction, finding your voice can be an ongoing search. My talented writing friend, Brent Lewis, has a unique voice that comes from growing up and hanging out with Eastern Shore folk. He eloquently writes about the Eastern Shore on his blog EasternShoreBrent.com and graciously gave me permission to repost Summer Marsh. It seemed appropriate for these hot summer days and the Fourth of July. Thank you, Brent.

Brent eastern shore landscape

 

SUMMER MARSH

by easternshorebrent

Muggy drops of humidity hang suspended midair and almost visible.

The pungency of the marsh is pervasive, strong. It sticks to the skin. Rich with the cycles of life and death, the marsh is a sensory reminder of the changes wrought by time’s tides.

A blue heron flies low and with grace across a dish-calm creek.

Something else drifts by on the slow, saturated breeze. Something wistful. Something that smells like bulkhead creosote, tastes like warm beer from 10 oz. cans, and looks like cutoff denim shorts and bright cotton tank tops that provide free advertising to bars, beverages, and billionaire rock bands.

Feels like a dock splinter, like nostalgia.

Sounds like a summer squall. Electricity cracks the sky. The downriver horizon darkens with much more threat than warning. Regret storms in through unbattened hatches. A few minutes of intense natural fury and the tempest blows north, up the Chesapeake Bay.

Local tomatoes: heirloom red and sweetheart firm. Pale yellow sweet corn, cooked in the husk, swathed in butter. Blue crabs caught on trotlines, steamed and spiced to perfection, giving the best of themselves only to those who know their secrets.

Soft crabs fried. Served on white bread or Saltines as God intended.

Watermelon.

Carnivals, county fairs, and the ghost-march of long extinguished firemen’s parades.

Lightning bugs announce the dusk.

Grand explosions of red, and white, and blue, and gold, and silver thunder in the night sky while the marsh lies silent below the blasts of rockets, solid looking in the dark distance and surrounded by shallow, murky waterways and paved-over wetlands.

From the intended solemnity of Memorial Day, through the patriotic celebration of the Fourth of July, to Labor Day, when we honor those who work to make this country work, there’s nothing like summer to remind an Eastern Shoreman how the marsh permeates his soul.

Follow Brent at https://easternshorebrent.com/author/easternshorebrent/

Brent’s first novel, Bloody Point, is a page turner with a quirky cast of characters involved in  a mystery set on the the Eastern Shore in 1976. Available on Amazon.

This is Brent and me at his book launch signing party. Where else but at a crab house on Kent Island.

Brent Lewis book signing

The fantastic cover of Brent’s book was designed by my multi-talented writing partner, Laura Ambler. Brent is also a long-time member of our Working Writers Forum which meets monthy.