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:

What’s all the frass about?

I have always planted an abundance of parsley and dill in the spring… one clump for us and 3 or 4 for the butterflies. Not many butterflies have been fluttering through this neighborhood so I was overjoyed three weeks ago when I saw some frass or caterpillar poo beneath a big pot of parsley, the parsley we used for the kitchen! Immediately, I took the pot off the deck and placed it in a secure place in the garden.

I knew exactly what caterpillar made this frass… the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) that uses plants in the carrot family as hosts. I spotted several tiny caterpillars on the parsley and watched them develop through several instars for about two weeks.caterpillar poo

Dainty but constant eaters, they almost cleaned out the potted flat parsley and moved on to curly parsley and dill in the garden.

They were plump and beautiful and ready to pupate when we left for a week’s vacation.

We returned home yesterday and I checked the parsley. All the caterpillars were gone, hopefully tucked securely in their chrysalis quite a distance from the host plant. How exciting to play a part in raising these beautiful butterflies!

I keep checking for an egg, but unfortunately no monarch butterfly has visited their host plant in our garden, butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). At Rolling Green Nursery where I work, I have seen a few monarchs feeding on butterfly weed we have for sale. Let’s hope the female below left an egg on the plant. Just seeing the insect is encouraging for our diminishing population of monarchs.

monarch butterfly at Rolling Green Nursery, NH

 

Road Trip to Peterborough

I couldn’t refuse a recent invitation to lunch with my son who lives in Keene NH. He had a special restaurant in mind in the picturesque town of Peterborough NH, The Waterhouse. He’d eaten there once and knew I’d enjoy it as we could dine outdoors overlooking the bubbling Nubanusit Brook. We arrived before they opened and found they were completely booked for the terrace for lunch but we were lucky. Seeing our sad faces, the wait staff was able to rearrange a party at another table and squeeze us in. Atmosphere, rushing brook, great food, and superior service. We shall return!

After lunch we decided to stroll the sidewalks and shops and a few gardens of this upscale yet quaint little village. We crossed a bridge, admiring overflowing colorful containers and planters and stopped to observe a line of photographers opposite us. We’ll have to check out their view on our walk back.

Click to enlarge any photo:

The first public garden we visited was located across the brook from our restaurant. The Putnam II Park and Boccelli Garden is a quiet oasis, a place to sit for awhile, read a book, or relax and watch the action on The Waterhouse terrace. The Boccelli Garden has an interesting and diverse mix of perennials, annuals, shrubs… a great variety of colors, textures, and shapes to study. And it was fun to walk beneath the apple tree with fallen apples dotting the grass.

Crossing the street, we enjoyed the Nubanusit River waterfall, the view that the photographers were capturing, then strolled around the first Putnam Park, following a trail through the woods to a second waterfall…. and a third. Lovely!

On the other side of the bridge is a small garden called Nubanusit Terrace. I delighted in the trimmed box and yew with the healthiest and most vibrant Russian sage that I’ve seen this summer.

Nubanusit TerraceThe last garden we had time to visit was Depot Park, carved out of a parking lot close to where the original train depot once stood. Lining the walkway to the pavilion is the Pavilion Garden, probably best liked of all the gardens. I love the clipped hedges, variety of shapes, and shades of green punctuated with bright flowers along the way.

Depot GardenWe did not get around to all gardens on this day. We still had our shopping and sightseeing to do but promised to meet again to finish our tour. Peterborough is an appealing small town with residents who are extremely proud of their community. I think our next visit will be springtime when I know gardens will be bursting with blossoms and spring bulbs.

antiques, etc.

 

Cider Hill Farm

Just a short 7-mile drive from our home will find us in the state of Massachusetts. One more mile takes us to Cider Hill Farm, a fruit and vegetable farm along with some great eggs from Red Star laying hens. We learned about their method of growing delicious ripened tomatoes before field tomatoes were ripe anywhere nearby. We had to check this out…

IMG_2129The first things we noticed were solar panels in fields and wind turbines high above the buildings. As we drove in, we could see though a colorful border to another solar panel on the hen and goat house where families were visiting and children were feeding the chickens and swinging on tire swings. Renewable energy! So far we were feeling good about this farm operation.

IMG_2044The country store was an ancient cow barn now housing a plethora of home goods and foods, Stonewall Kitchen goodies, cider doughnuts, flowers, fresh foods.

IMG_2067IMG_2055In the rear of the store, we found what we came for… tomatoes and more tomatoes! But the corn and beans were also too lovely to pass up.

IMG_2058cornAfter making our purchases, the gals at the register urged us to follow the path to see more of the farm. It’s blueberries and raspberry picking season but we could see apple orchards and strawberry fields… but we really wanted to check out their method of growing tomatoes in hoop houses.

The blueberries were completely enclosed in a wall and ceiling of nets to keep out the critters.  The berries were plentiful and plump! Raspberry fields were occupied by pickers and strawberries in interesting troughs looked healthy.

Ahhh… the hoop tomato houses. Tomato plants begin here in April, heated with sides rolled down like a typical greenhouse. Plants have a good start when the sides are rolled up and exposed to sun and breezes… but not rain. The foliage is kept dry by watering plants at the roots. No diseases! They have 10 greenhouses for tomatoes, planting them every two weeks so they can harvest past frost.

While we were poking around, a team of workers pulling a trailer of vegetables drove by. These weren’t just any workers. Cider Hill Farm provides opportunities for international exchange students in agricultural universities to become interns for one year here. They are housed on the farm. I don’t know where they are from this year but they stopped to chat and were happy and delightful young men.

1-year internshipsThat night we enjoyed the bounty of Cider Hill Farm and declared it delicious. Tomatoes had the perfect amount of acidity. You would never know they weren’t grown under the summer sun… not like awful hothouse tomatoes we tolerate all winter. The corn was beyond perfection and we’ve returned 3 times for more! How divine!

First tomato, first corn, first beans

 

Staying Cool…

On hot, dry days at Rolling Green Nursery, overhead sprinklers can buy us a little time in the morning until we can get the hose on plants that flag first in the July heat.

Rolling Green SprinklersThat means a lot of time on sultry days is spent deep watering.  We move slowly through the rudbeckia….

Rudbeckiathe liatris….

Liatristhe sage….

sageIt’s a bit of a relief to slip beneath the covered area to water the shade plants,

Fernsand then it’s back out in the hot sun for a second watering of the Leucanthemum…..

Shastas….until the end of the day when we sometimes need a cool shower ourselves before calling it a day. We love our work!

Heidi

Heidi cools down before heading home for the day

Another Uninvited Visitor

I’ve discovered another insect in New Hampshire that I never met in Virginia. At first I thought it was an unusual Japanese beetle but, no, it’s a relative… same size but different markings. According to UNH Cooperative Extension, this is the invasive Asiatic garden beetle or Oriental beetle (Exomala orientalis) that was first discovered in the US in the early 1920’s. It is found in most of New England although it has moved as far as South Carolina and west to Indiana and probably still spreading. It feeds off the roots of grasses as a grub and the adult can attack garden plants.

Click to enlarge photos.

oriental beetleI think it’s actually kind of a cute looking little beetle… and “about the size and shape of a coffee bean,” says cooperative extension. Cute looking, but does damage as a grub to the lawn, then in June and July, it emerges from the soil to mate and eat. Adults generally eat little but stick around all summer nibbling in the garden.

oriental beetleAfter mating, the females burrow into the soil to lay eggs that hatch in about 2 weeks. UNH states that rarely are chemical controls needed for these grubs in New Hampshire. Japanese beetle grubs in this state are more destructive than the Asian beetle grubs, however the USGA says it’s the most important white grub species in turfgrass in New Jersey, southeastern New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island and causes major damage in ornamental nursery stock.

oriental beetleI do not see damage on many leaves or blooms in our little gardens. I’ve read that favorite foods are leaves and the petals of daisies, hollyhock, roses, phlox, petunias, sugarcane, and blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, peaches and sweet potatoes. Whew! I don’t have any of those!

Often overlooked in the yard because they are not good flyers like Japanese beetles and are nocturnal, doing all flying and mating at night. An Integrated Pest Management system that traps and disrupts mating with an in-ground pheromone lure for the adult male beetle may be my solution if it gets worse. The lures are good for 6 weeks but must be emptied weekly.

I wonder what new insect I’ll meet next….

 

Grackle Problem Solved

In Virginia, the migrating flocks of mixed blackbirds (grackles, red-wing blackbirds, starlings and cowbirds) would descend on our bird feeders during spring and fall migration. One moment we could have finches and cardinals eating at the feeder and the next minute, the yard would be filled with hundreds of blackbirds clamoring for bird seed. Migration lasted for about 2 – 3 weeks and the birds were gone.

We think we know where they were all going in the spring… to New Hampshire where we now live. Experts say that as food becomes more plentiful in the warmer months, feeders account for less than 25% of most songbird’s diet. But it must be 90% of the grackles’ diet. We took the seed feeders down early but continue to feed our hummingbirds and the woodpeckers with suet feeders pictured below….that is, until the flocks of grackles found the suet.  In numbers, they could tear apart a suet cake in two hours.

woodpecker on suetMy daughter showed us her grackle-proof suet feeder that worked for them so mister gardener got to work to build one for us. He crafted the new feeder to fit the suet cage, which he fixed horizontally beneath the structure, pictured below:

suet feederThe suet is caged just inside the structure to allow clinging birds to hang on to the bars of the cage. The grackles (and squirrels!) try their hardest but so far have been unsuccessful in hanging upside down. The birds we enjoy have no problem hanging on to the horizontal cage. The noisy chickadee families, the nuthatches, several kinds of woodpeckers and the titmice visit our new feeder and entertain us…. all dining upside down.

suet cage

What the garden center didn’t tell me….

Being responsible caretakers of our environment, we removed a 12-ft. tall invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus) from our foundation after buying our home a year ago. It is illegal to sell them in New Hampshire. The seeds are scattered by birds and the plant is out competing native plants in the wild.

The burning bush was replaced with a native arrowwood viburnum, one of which grew in my Virginia gardens. It produces lacy white flowers in the spring and berries for the birds in the fall. I thought I tackled the right questions about this beautiful shrub at the nursery but we already knew a bit about their versatility. The shrub is tolerant of sun or shade, all soil types, wet or dry areas, and is pest resistant. It sounded like a perfect addition to our shrub border…. that is, until this week.

Japanese BeetlesIt seems the shrub isn’t so resistant to insects. Japanese beetles love this species of viburnum!  Never in Virginia, but here each morning, it’s a mating and dining Japanese beetle playground. And there’s evidence of a more sinister insect at work, the Viburnum Leaf Beetle. This is a beetle that I have not encountered before. Now I’ve spotted a couple of the insects and witnessed their telltale pattern of holes in the leaves.

via Wikipedia

via Wikipedia

I’m watching and speculating what our next step should be. Sadly, this beautiful shrub may need to be removed in the fall and replaced with a more insect resistant variety of viburnum.  Sigh….

 

Bye Bye Violas

violasSummer temperatures have been slowing creeping upward and every now and then, it’s been absolutely hot. Yesterday, with 90° and high humidity, our poor spring violas fizzled in the afternoon heat. Those planted in the shade were fine but those leggy plants that melted in the blazing sun needed to be removed from the garden.

Cutting off the roots, I plunged the wilted blooms in a little cool water. Result: Totally revived and days of new life on the breakfast table. How divine!

Garden Conservancy’s Open Days 2014

Earlier this spring, I was working in the perennial gardens at Rolling Green Nursery, greeting customers and tending to the plants when I met the owners of one of the gardens on the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days.  I was already holding 2 tickets for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour of private gardens in Cape Neddick, Maine and was looking forward to unforgettable experiences.

This local tour and many others across the country take place on different days to raise awareness of the Garden Conservancy’s work to preserve extraordinary gardens and to educate and inspire the public by opening private gardens on Open Days. Four remarkable private gardens were open this year. Three homes and fabulous gardens offered panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean with mighty waves beating on craggy shorelines. We saw rock gardens, rose gardens, shade gardens, pool gardens, perennial gardens, pond gardens, vegetable gardens, pergolas, container gardens, and even experienced a young eagle swooping low over our heads and landing in a near tree at one home.

Click on all photos to enlarge:

Awestruck is a good word to describe how we felt about these gardens. And I was very excited to visit the fourth garden, the home of Jonathan King and Jim Stott, founders and owners of Stonewall Kitchen, the two shoppers I encountered strolling through the perennials at Rolling Green Nursery.

We stopped for an early lunch at their business, Stonewall Kitchen, a favorite destination of ours for good food and lovely gardens.

Approaching by foot along a graceful curved drive, we could see that the property was a wonderful blending of home and garden. Hornbeam trees and a cedar pergola acted as a screen in front of the house.

Every inch of the entry garden was filled with delight. A mix of cottage-style gardening in one area and clean lines of formal boxwood with connecting pathways added variety and invited visitors to linger here and enjoy the colors, textures, shapes and function of the different garden beds.

We peeked inside the ‘glass house’ and thought… yes, this would be a lovely addition to our home. Magnificent!

We enjoyed the raised-beds in the vegetable garden supported not with wood, but with granite slabs… then on to the inviting pool area with built-in fire pit, containers overflowing with blooms, and handsome pool house.

But the most fun of all was the poolside Meet & Greet by the owners. Down to earth, personable and friendly, we both enjoyed the hospitality of the hosts… and their sweet pups!

I am always amazed at the generosity of folks who throw open their garden gates for a good cause.  We had a fabulous day exploring the wonders of gardening in Maine.

Nuts for this Squirrel

We are a stone’s throw from beautiful coniferous woods with plenty of oak trees. But during the most brutal of snowstorms, ice storms, and frigid temperatures this winter, a small American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) risked life and limb dashing out of the woods, crossing a road, running atop snow several feet deep to eat fallen seed beneath our bird feeder. Looking like a tiny snowball as the snow fell and covered it, we watched month after month as the little fella dined with the hungry birds… until late winter when it stopped appearing. I soon knew why. In early spring, it returned and I could see evidence SHE had become a nursing mother.

It wasn’t too much longer that she introduced her three tiny offspring to sunflower seed. These miniature creatures, unsteady as they navigated trees and limbs, tugged at our heartstrings. The wary Mama and two babies have since moved on. But one brave youngster seems to prefer scraps beneath the feeder more than foraging for coniferous seeds this summer.

SpunkyThis one loves to perch on the stump of an old lilac and eat the seeds one at a time. There are those who say these are the most destructive squirrels but we have not seen evidence of anything like that….yet.  He co-exists with birds, respectfully waiting his turn to feed after the birds. Red squirrels are known for their loud bark and foot stomping in the presence of danger or intrusion. He does none of that. I can drag the hose around the yard and water the garden while he feeds quietly just a few feet from me.

We’re not trying to tame him or have him eat from our hands but we are charmed by his antics. Every now and then, he amuses us by diving for seed that has fallen into the stumps of the old lilac. All we see is a wagging tail as he forages.

Red squirrels usually only have one litter a year in this area so we’re pretty sure we won’t be swamped by these natives. Should he decide he’s had enough of us and head back to the woods, our mixed coniferous-deciduous forest should sustain him well.

Going Native

The summer of 2013 was a very bad year for the monarch butterfly. All summer long, I thought it was odd that I never saw a monarch. Reasons are not 100% clear but impacts include weather factors, loss of habitat in the US and Mexico, increased traffic on roads, and the extensive use of Roundup on genetically engineered crops. Farmers spray Roundup on these crops, killing all the weeds but not the crop.  The herbicide destroys milkweed upon which the monarch depends as a host plant.

This summer I am doing my part to go a little more native. In addition to nectar flowers, I’ve planted native milkweed. If the monarch finds my plants, I should have a monarch butterfly nursery. The plants will provide sustenance for the larvae.The blooms will provide nectar along with other nectar plants in the garden.

There are different varieties of milkweed but I planted butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) with its bright orange bloom. It should do well in hot, dry, sunny spot in the border. The hint of first blooms are appearing and I am checking my plants daily for signs of eggs.

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)What can we all do to help? While we hope for more favorable weather conditions, we can all plant several milkweed plants in our yards along with the nectar plants to sustain both the larvae and the adult monarch.

Dogs at Work

At Rolling Green Nursery, dogs are a familiar sight. The owners have a beautiful Hungarian vizsla that serves as the official office manager. She comes out for romps and runs, meet and greets, then waits patiently at the door to go back to work.

Not every garden center is this open to visits from dogs but folks seem to know that Rolling Green is like a walk in the park for well-behaved dogs on leashes.  I pulled out my smart phone to capture a tiny slice of what I see on a daily basis.

These two labs arrived at the perennial garden area about an hour apart. She was off in the distance when Humphrey, the yellow lab rescue arrived.

Both were friendly and obedient, sitting for portraits. At first Humphrey was all cool when he arrived…. that is, until He spotted Her in the distance. Humphrey was besotted beyond obedience and his people were forced to leave perennial garden and take Humphrey to walk among the annuals. Both owners thought this could be the beginning of a new friendship…. elsewhere…. later.

"Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb"Shortly afterwards, Kookie, the West Highland terrier rescue, arrived with her owner… and at lunch, I spotted a dog or two watching from windows of cars while owners dashed in for quick purchases.

This one was leash-less but seemed to know the place. Must be a VIP.  I was too busy to investigate.

Maybe the Cute Award should go to this 6-month old Hungarian puli water dog  named Buda for the city of Budapest. It’s the breed of dog that will mature with beautiful long dreadlocks. If you look closely you can see one of Buda’s eyes.

Buda

Rhododendron Fireworks

It was 39° in the garden this morning and I could see my breath in the air as I walked around the yard. Yet, cold,wet spring or not, we are on the verge of a HOT explosion of color. Rhododendrons are finally ready to burst into spectacular blooms. We are eager for the pizzazz and punch of color that the rhody brings. It will be glorious!

Here is a timeline of the last 10 days of bloom development in our yard.

12345

Pause to Remember

Today Exeter paused to remember and honor those who lost their lives while serving in the United States Military in all wars. Hundreds lined the parade route and followed along for several wreath ceremonies.

Click photos to enlarge.

Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week

The United States Department of Agriculture and the governor of New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan, have declared May 18-24 Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week in New Hampshire. Citizens are encouraged to learn the signs of infected trees, learn more about the insect, and ways to slow the spread of the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), a destructive insect introduced from Southeast Asia.

One telltale sign on the ash tree is bark ‘blonding’ where woodpeckers remove the top layer of bark exposing a lighter color of the cambium. Now is a good time to spot affected trees before the leaves fully emerge.

Tens of millions of ash trees have already been lost in the midwest, eleven of them at my son’s home in Ohio. He sent the photos below of tunnels left by larvae beneath the bark, tunnels that disrupt the transport of nutrients and water and eventually cause the demise of the tree.

Emerald Ash Borer on Ashemerald ash borer signsThe camping season will be getting underway on Memorial Day weekend. We all need to be aware that the larvae can be spread by transporting infested firewood. Campers can do their part by using firewood that is close to your campsite.

To learn more about the emerald ash borer, click HERE.

Love is in the air

Spring is upon us and suddenly the woods are alive with avian romance. White-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos that have kept us company throughout the winter have have migrated north and we welcome back songbirds that spend half their lives elsewhere. Seeds and suet, rich in protein, were ready for their arrival to provide the energy they need.

Two mated pairs of rose-breasted grosbeaks recently arrived from their winter in Panama and northern South America and are being well-fed at separate feeders.

Two male ruby-throated hummingbirds arrived a week ago and each claimed a different feeder as his own. They fuss across the branches but no fights yet… and, sigh, no lady loves either. It may take a week or two before the females arrive. Instead of hovering and guarding their food, they spend time staking out the best territory for breeding and sit high in the treetops as if scouting for the arrival of the first female. Then the fights may begin.

One male is very approachable and will hover inches from me each time I drag out the hose to water the baby grass or fill the birdbath. All he wants is a nice mist shower. I follow him to a branch where he flaps his wings and washes every feather for at least 5 minutes.

Male Ruby Throated HummingbirdOne of my favorite bird species, the gray catbird, is now frequenting the feeding area, flitting here and there, in a shrub, on a limb, running across the ground, on the suet, and then the feeder. The pair is vocal, mewing and repeating the calls of a number of other birds, as they forage for insects and enjoy sunflower seeds. I added a ground water bath that they especially love.

gray catbird in the ground bathFour varieties of woodpeckers, all paired off, visit the suet along with pairs of nuthatches, titmouse, bluejays, and chickadees.

Whether watching plump mourning doves, two by two, pad quietly beneath the feeders looking for spilled seeds or the sweet affection of a male cardinal feeding his mate, we both agree that birdwatching is an amazing experience in the spring.

 

I’m buggy about bugs

I’ve always been a little nuts about insects. The earliest memories of lying across our front walkway under a hot Virginia sun, sharing my lunch with a multitude of ants that lived between the bricks may have launched the budding citizen scientist in me. Observing ants of all colors, shapes, sizes and behaviors intrigued me and led me to a multitude of other insects.

That inquisitive little girl has aged into an inquisitive old girl who is still intrigued by insects. Here’s an early spring insect resting on my dwarf spiraea japonica. I’ve seen them a few times on cold spring days in New England as they are the first of this family to emerge from hibernation, often in freezing temperatures.

If this fella reminds you of a lightning bug (locals say ‘firefly’), you are right. It’s in the same family, yet it doesn’t look exactly like those we see on summer nights dancing and flickering their lights over lawns and the edges of woods. Although the middle sections are outlined with bright orange bands, the difference is in these wings, which are a dull black.

The Winter Firefly (Ellychnia corrusca) is related to our familiar lightning bugs. It glows as a larva, but lacks the light organs as an adult. And it is active during the daytime instead of night.

Maple syrup producers are familiar with this gentle pest. It dines on the fluid of maples and what better meal than a bucket of sap on the side of a maple tree…. where they often perish in the liquid.

Click HERE to visit a virtual habitat to learn about three groups of flashing lightning bugs in New England.

Spring: Act I

It’s been a long time coming but the vernal season is finally upon us. Leaves are unfurling, catkins are hanging, birds have returned, pink crab apple buds, closed tight, are ready to take center stage along the side of the house.

We’ve had a handful of temperatures close to 80° but also our fair share of rain, cool days and brisk nights. Daytime temperatures in the 50°s seems the norm. What do we have in the garden that loves this weather? Violas, a gift from a new friend in my garden club gives us our only bloom in the front gardens today.

The rest of the yard is showing clear signs of new life. Blooms are lined up like soldiers in two rows along the branches of our doublefile viburnum. When this shrub fills out with showy lacy white blooms and large leaves, it will probably be the site of a robin’s nest.

doublefile viburnumOur other viburnum, arrowood (Viburnum dentatum), may need a little more time to bloom but when it does, it should be covered in lovely white flat flowers at the ends of the branches.

Chicago LustreCandles on our white pines have a long way to go before they begin to spew pollen and cover the deck and furniture yellow. I wonder if the pine pollen is blowing around my Tidewater Virginia hometown yet.

white pine candlesOne of my favorite shrubs is starting to leaf out. Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), a native, will bloom in sweet fragrant white blooms that attract the bees and butterflies and me!

clethraThe first blooms of bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) hang like jewels on a necklace. Not sure that I wanted this plant, I removed it from the border and covered it haphazardly with pine needles last fall. It survived and I’m glad. It’s lovely beneath the white pines.

bleeding heartThe bleeding heart plants will go beautifully with several varieties of hosta that I also covered with pine needles beneath the white pines. I am shocked that they survived but I am glad.

hosta

 

 

 

Things are happening…

… and it seems they are happening all at once around here.

IMG_1969First, say hello to the newest member of our New Hampshire family clan. While our brand new granddaughter and her parents adjust, I have been spending more time with her big brother who is 19-months old and doesn’t quite understand how this tiny new sister can rock his world so.

Slowly, daily routines at their household are falling into place. Big bro now gives sis sweet kisses and he volunteers to assist at her bath time. Life is good.

And since my help is not as critically needed as it was 2 weeks ago, I am back to the world of babysitter-on-call, back to a little blogging and back to the world of gardening… which leads me to my next happening.

My world of gardening has stepped up a notch from almost nonexistent in a condo to grab a shovel, rake, clippers and get-to-work-all-day. I have returned to part-time work at a garden center close by, Rolling Green Nursery, a gardening business with an earth friendly philosophy.

Rolling Green NurseryMy two bosses out in the perennial area are 20-somethings who are hard-working but fabulous and fun to be around. Here is Emily:

IMG_0229And here is Heidi:

IMG_0232New Hampshire can still be very cold one day and warm the next and wet the next. The garden center is slowly coming out of the deep freeze. Days at Rolling Green are spent cleaning and preparing beds and transferring tender plants from the greenhouses throughout the grounds. Life is good.

weeds!