Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Instead of Raising Goats...

...I will amuse myself by posting screaming goats. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Little More July in the Garden

Even though the Very Long Terrible Horrible winter is long past the effects are still being felt in my garden. Some ordinarily very hardy plants succumbed to too long periods of intense cold and some expired from too much dampness due to prolonged snow cover in the already moister parts of the garden. Others liked the conditions and flourished.

The Nepenta I took from my mother in law's garden attempted to take over the earth this year because the limiting Gaura and four o' clocks left the area. The Gaura expired and the four o' clocks died out where they were last year but came up from seed somewhere else (to be carefully watched for dominating behavior).  A little more moisture over the winter was welcomed by my dwarf Monarda, which is twice as tall as last year, although still withing dwarf range. The hosta blooms I ordinarily care little for are luxuriant and beautiful this year. My Japanese Painted Fern has decided to shoot up to knee high. Many of my hydrangeas may not bloom this year, although none have died outright.

 My tall veronica is not only still over six feet tall but also has very full  and beautiful blooms. The plant has not only attracted masses of bees this year but unaccountable numbers of gigantic wasps. Kind of horrible. One thing I am thinking about this plant is that it is not veronica, although it was sold with that identification. I think it is Culvers Root (Veronicastum virginicum) and the other plant I have in my garden also sold as Veronica is truly Veronica (Veronica) also known as Speedwell. Close examination of images on Google would argue that one was incorrectly identified. No complaints, as I like both plants, but just as a point or correct identification, and a reminder of why Latin names are so important. That would explain why it is so gigantic compared to every other Veronica I own.

One thing that I found this year if that it seems that my plants are blooming slightly out of sequence. Part of that could be conditions in my particular garden where my blooms are arriving before or after those in other gardens I have seen. Part of it is just plain puzzling. My Phlox is just now coming into bloom although the Liatris has been in bloom for some time. Nothing shocking, exactly, but just a tiny bit out of whack. I suspect it is a combination of things. For plants that depend on temperature as a trigger Climate Change may be the culprit, whereas plants that depend on hours of daylight would not be as effected by warmer temperatures than expected. Plants that found the winter exceptionally stressful may have bloomed early as a result. In the case of my hydrangeas I may be getting late or no blooms because the flower buds on the old growth may have been killed leaving only new growth blooms which would be expected to be later.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Yesterday I had the day off, and Shana was able to arrange her schedule to take the day off with me so we could take a day trip. We chose Newport RI, which I had wanted to visit during the summer when the gardens and beaches would be at their best. It's not too far from here for a nice day trip. We left home at 7:30 am and were back before 8 pm after an action packed day. Shana's mother was a travel agent, and Shana has picked up that baton. Any time we go on a trip however small she does her research so we can pack as much into our day as possible, down to which restaurants to visit.
First thing we had reserved a bicycle tour from Newport Bicycle, and were happy to have Janet as our tour guide. She was knowledgeable about the history of the area and asked many questions about what we wanted to see and how much time we had before we set out. She warned us about any traffic we might encounter in case we might not be willing to ride in traffic. She was safety conscious and  very informative during the tour. Since It was just Shana and I touring we were able to have a really custom tour with plenty of time to explore various areas along the way. We visited an old cemetery, Newport Harbor, Newport Shipyard (full of gorgeous yachts), the grounds at The Elms, Ochre Point, The Redwood Library (oldest continuously operating library in the USA), and many other landmarks. Well worth the price, and the best way I can think of the tour a smallish city, especially one where you are interested in the historic districts which are typically rather compact. You can see everything from street level much faster than on foot, you enjoy the sounds and smells of the town (Shana was transfixed by the smell of someone's home BBQ!) and it's easy to stop for a closer look at anything you fancy. Plus exercise!

First we went to the Common Burying Ground and Island Cemetery. It's worth a visit all by itself. There are many prominent and/or famous people buried here, including a corner for slaves known as God's Little Acre. Worth a click on the Wikipedia link for more information. I love to visit old cemeteries and I plan to spend a lot more time here when we return for another visit.

We went to a park with a lovely view of the harbor where Janet gave us a perspective on Rhode Island's colonial history, then we headed over to the Newport Shipyard to gawk at the beautiful yachts. We saw Chevy Toy (view the interior here), available for charter at $165,000 per week (plus all expenses) , and the lovely sailing yacht Artemis (currently not available for charter) and many other gorgeous ships. Apparently these giant and luxuriously appointed creatures are now called Superyachts!

On we went to view (from the road) many of the lovely old mansions of Newport, including the wonderfully restful garden at The Elms. The garden at The Elms is a combination of formal beds and a restful walk through what amounts to a private arboretum. The trees have largely been in place for over 200 years and are just stunning. Shana fell in love with the lovely weeping beech, and the intoxicating and elusive scent of the linden trees. I wished I had room in my garden for a copper beech. It's a beauty, but even the mature size of the two beeches I have are a lot for my yard and I would not live to see anything like maturity of a new one. I will not live long enough to see the maturity of the two beeches I do have. There were some lovely fountains, too, all of which would completely fill the area of my veggie patch. I think a tiny bubbly water feature for my deck will be added very soon. 
Gate at The Breakers
We had  a nice lunch at the Fastnet Pub, named for the Fastnet Lighthouse off the coast of Cork, Ireland. The draft beer selection is excellent, the atmosphere is exceptional and the food is good. Shana was surprised at the size of the beers until I told her that is a pint. We sat near the window the enjoy people watching on the street. And had the pleasure of seeing a truly unique car drive by.

We went on from there to a tour of The Breakers, the erstwhile summer home of the Vanderbilts. It enjoys an exceptionally beautiful site with a stunning view. The Preservation Society of Newport County owns the property, along with several other of the old iconic summer houses. The houses are registered as historic landmarks and open for tours by the public. It's worthwhile to take a tour (self guided by headphones) to see at least one of the houses and how they functioned when they were family homes. At The Breakers the rooms are mostly furnished as they were when the house was occupied, which gives one a good idea of what it may have been like to live in them. Although the general style of the decor has fallen far out of fashion, appearing garish and ludicrous to the modern taste, the appreciation of the craftsmanship that went into it has not. The Breakers was built in only two years, with fabulous custom work of mosaic, plaster and wood, murals and stained glass windows, platinum leaf, excesses of all kinds. I'm embarrassed to think it took more than three months to replace floors and remodel the bathroom in our little house with the dishwasher and kitchen faucet still not properly secured at the end of it! There is no interior photography allowed at The Breakers; the twin fireplaces I photographed (that I can nearly stand up inside) are in the dining room at Ochre Point.

My feeling about the house tours is that maybe a little goes a long way. Admission is expensive. You can get a better deal by adding a second house tour on the same day, but personally I would find it too much to digest. Too much gold leaf, too much marble, too much of too much. Having paid the steep admission for The Breakers - $26.00, which is perspective is about the same as for Elvis' house at Graceland, I did want to see all of it but probably would have enjoyed looking through three or four rooms just as much. I am unlikely to pay for admission to the same house twice. That said, in dollars per hour it does compare favorably with a a first run movie with popcorn! 

There are other mansions whose tours are operated by the Newport Restoration Foundation. Doris Duke's Rough Point is one of those. If your thing is gilded age mansion tours you may never run out of choices. 

Camel Topiary at Doris Duke's Rough Point
A little dash down the beautiful Cliff Walk to see the houses from the sea side and the booming surf below, a quick visit to a local beach to relax and we were off for a Mexican dinner in Providence on our way back to our Cape Cod home. We are determined to add more day trips to our life. Though short, it was a refreshing getaway and a wonderful day together.

I have included a crazy number of links on this post, partly so I can easily find the information again but also because there is a lot of interest there that you might enjoy. Click away! And as always, to enlarge my photos just click on them. Close the new window or esc to return.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's a Dogs Life

Dogs add so much to our lives. I've got two at the moment - one young and spry and the other an elderly lady. Old dogs and disabled dogs don't seem to spend a lot of time sulking about their condition; they just continue with life as it is.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It's Harder to Grow Up Than You Think

In high school my Pam and I were big into parody, creating what we titled "A Child's Garden of Weeds" typed up in several carbons. It consisted of parody poems done in various styles of poetry - iambic pentameter, sonnets, limericks etc. I still like to parody songs with custom lyrics for jokes or ones that are guaranteed to appeal to my dogs. I can still rhyme and scan extemporaneously. This said, can it be any surprise that I still love Weird Al Yankovics? I want to show it to you, or you can follow the link: Weird

Thursday, July 03, 2014

July 2014 Garden Notes

July is here, and planting season is over. I'll be evaluating what is happening in the garden now, and enjoying what is working well.

This year we have added a privacy hedge in the front, defined mulching on the shrub border between us and our neighbors, additional fencing, and the first phase of a flower border along the sidewalk to our front door. We've painted the house and added flower boxes. Most of the big action is taking place in the front yard.

In the back yard I have enlarged TomatoLand by maye one square foot (changing our some edging). I've removed some plants from the sunny corner which will work better in a sunnier part of the yard. I thought I had moved my Fairy rose, but there are still some rooted pieces there which will probably grow another giant spiny monster back there. Next year I need to do some work in that corner to fill it out with some better suited plants for the conditions and my level of care back there. I think Daylilies will be the ultimate answer, so I'll order some during the winter.

In the veggie patch right now things are doing well, if looking a little rough. My flat leaf parsley is trying to bloom, and the cilantro has unaccountably gone mad. It's all over the place and too pretty to pull up. I have Cosmos blooming all over; the lavender looks great, and the Nepenta stopped sulking and had put the four o' clocks in their place. They have migrated out of the area where I planted them and chosen a few other places where I will let them live (within reason). I tucked a migrant from my neighbor's garden which I think is penstemon, possible Husker Red. I'll know better when it blooms. It's the only thing I added outside of veggies. My peppers did not germinate, but the snap pea variety I planted turns out to be the one Shana likes, so all is well.

In the shady bed I moved a bit of Obedience to the front yard where the light will be better for it. Other than that the only thing I have done is transplant a few hosta divisions to a bare spot and add two bergenia cordifolia of unknown variety.

The reading corner is looking more like a garden and less like miscellaneous twigs. The largest oakleaf hydrangea is about my height now, although still very slender. There are enough hostas to fill it within a year or two, so now it's just a case of feed & water.

Next year's projects: Along the new fence near the veggie garden I have moved a Rose of Sharon, The Fairy, and two dwarf Alberta Spruce (which may or may not survive). They will be the backbone of next year's new bed. Along one side of the fence I will plant sun loving perennials. The fence around the corner goes behind the reading corner, so that area will be a transition between sun loving and shade loving plants. I want to beef up the new flower border in the front yard a little, but that will depend on how well it settles in by next spring. Between the house and the sidewalk I need a very few hosta divisions to fill in the space where I took out one of the spruces. The other side had enough the divide in place. There will be an enlargement of the BBQ patio, although what form it will take remains to be seen. I put a few hosta divisions in that area to dress it up for this summer, but will do no more until we decide on that area. Other than that the projects will be small: rounding out some fence corners with shrubs to make moving simpler, things like that. I am determined to have some poppies - I'll try seeding some during the winter.

Looking closely at the pictures I can see that the grass will need some attention next year. I am not overfond of grass, and object to the kind of runoff heavy fertilization produces, but it is looking pitiful. In the long run I would like more hard surfaces in the yard - maybe gravel and flagstone in the reading corner and along the shrub border. This will have to be a gradual process and in the meantime my grass is not keeping up appearances.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Please Don't Feed the Birds

The Thief
Yesterday Shana had to be in Chatham early in the evening, and I was not working. We decided it would be nice if I rode along so we could enjoy the drive and after her meeting was over have a picnic supper on beautiful Chatham Lighthouse Beach. The beaches are pretty busy during the day now, but in the evening they are pretty empty. We planned a simple picnic - just egg salad sandwiches and chips, picking up a drink on the way. The evening was perfect and we were glad to be near the sea.

Chatham Lighthouse
We walked down the beach and picked our spot. As soon as I was settled into my beach chair I got out my sandwich and opened the bag of chips. As soon as I lifted my sandwich to my mouth the trouble began! A herring gull swooped in, hovered for a minute in front of me and snatched half of my sandwich out of my hand (I felt her beak on my hand but she did not break the skin) This is the big gull that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes as "beefy".  I would be willing to bet the creature weighs as much as the average chicken. When she came right back for more in spite of my arm waving and shouting I threw the rest of my sandwich at her to keep her from coming at me again with her big sharp beak.  A group of Japanese tourists were pointing and laughing during the excitement. I have to admit it must have looked crazy. I might have laughed to if it was not happening to me! Even Shana, who was alarmed at the time was laughing about my reactions. I can only imagine what my brother, who is not so crazy about birds, might have made of the attack.

After the bandit finally left Shana was good enough to share part of her sandwich, and we enjoyed a walk down to the edge to watch the seals and the sunset. A pleasant ride home and a stop at Jimmy's Ice Cream (with take home scoops for the dogs) and another beautiful day on Cape Cod came to a close.

The first hurricane of the season is heading up the East Coast just in time for the Fourth of July. Cape Cod is on the "Cone of Uncertainty" and although we are unlikely to take a direct hit from this one we will surely have massive rain and rough seas. Thanks to an incoming cold front Arthur will probably stay far enough out to sea that we should not have intense wind. Truthfully we can use a tropical downpour. The weather has been pretty dry here. Still, BBQ's and fireworks displays will have to be cancelled. I keep thinking about a cute saying I have seen on T-shirts and such with a dog theme: "It's all fun and games til somebody ends up in a cone!".