|Sinocalycanthis 'Hartlage Wine' has flowers that look like big, burgundy magnolias, and it blooms in early summer.|
June 30, 2011
If you are a long time follower of this blog, then you would be familiar with many of the tall stately trees that we have on our property. I am very attached to every tree for various reasons, but most revolve around the fact that I could tell you the story behind every tree ( and plant, for that matter). A benefit , or burden, of now living with a garden where I was raised, and for that matter, where my nearly 98 year old father was raised. This past weekend, we cut down three of the tall Colorado Blue Spruces that his father had planted in 1938, ( look at them in some of these photos - talk about old!), two 90 foot tall specimens that were starting to reach the end of their life, as they have begun to loose more branches and sap which weakened these giants. It's sad, but it also opens a new door. Now we have more sunlight, and we all were surprised about how much larger the yard looked again.
It's really all about scale, since these spruces towered far above our heads,and were twice as large as any other tree on the property, they helped demonstrate a trick which many of the greatest landscapers of the late 19th Century employed - tiers and scale play - tall trees, medium trees and small, short trees, all help create an outdoor experience which feels natural, as if nature planted it, but in a perfect way, which we often don't notice at first. You can see this in old estate landscapes that are still maintained, or in some of the great Olmsted parks like Central Park in NYC. At home, you can try to not plant all of the specimen trees and plants while they are at the same age, or you will end up looking more like a nursery rather than a garden in the woods.
This Golden needled Japanese Spruce, 'Skylands' is a more manageable scale for our garden, and it provides a balance to the super-tall giants behind it. I know that I need more trees at this mid tier level, but there is much more to consider. The garden has become over-grown and out of scale over the past 50 years, so we continue to remove large masses of vegetation, uncovering some of the more formal aspects to the garden, before I decide how I am going to re-design it. With 3 acres to work with, this is not small task. But it is starting to look a little less weedy already.
I am continually embarrassed with the garden,and often never invite guests to see it ( many crazy outbuildings and trashy areas, tall weed areas, etc), but I also know that many other gardeners who are plant lovers have gardens like this, a fact that doesn't really make me feel better about it.So my strategy is to try and open-up some of the weedy areas to see lawn or low, planted herbaceous areas again ( yay - more gardens to plant!). When I was a child in the 60's and 70's the lawns were massive, or so they seemed, because it took an entire day to cut them. Hey, I am not a lawn-dude, but, it might look a little better to have some very low vegetative areas too. I think that I need that 'carpet look' in areas.
So long old spruce. I was trying to remember why I was so emotional about these two stately blue spruces, but they provided the anchor-tree look as we viewed the garden from the picture window, a formal design earlier, these two tall spruces looked like two church steeples, and I can remember many many winters when I would turn the spotlights on in the back, and watch the snow gather on their branches during blizzards. Then, they must have been 40 feet tall, this year, they were 80 - 90 feet tall, and I still loved how they looked in the winter. Now, it's time to move forward.
June 26, 2011
|SEASONAL LOCAL VARIETIES OF STRAWBERRIES ARE READY TO PICK. EVEN WITH DAMAGE FROM THE RAIN, HAIL AND MICE, THESE TENDER, FRAGRANT AND SWEET VARIETIES ARE FAR BETTER THAN ANY COMMERICIAL BRAND FOUND IN A PLASTIC CLAMSHELL.|
|NATIVE STRAWBERRIES ARE DIFFERENT THAN STORE BOUGHT VARIETIES, WHICH ARE BRED TO BE RESISTANT TO BRUISES, AND CAN HANDLE LONG SHIPPING WELL. LOCAL BERRIES ARE EXTREMELY FRAGILE, BUT OH SO MUCH MORE FLAVORFUL.|
|AT THIS TIME OF YEAR, BERRIES HAVE SO MUCH WATER IN THEM, THAT JUST SUGAR IS ADDED. BOIL UNTIL FOAM BEGINS TO FORM. THE ENTIRE KITCHEN WILL SMELL LIKE A CANDY FACTORY!|
|PREPARE IN SMALL BATCHES USING NO MORE THAN 4 LBS OF FRUIT AT A TIME. NEVER LET THE TEMPERATURE OF THE PRESERVES RISE HIGHER THAN 220 DEG. F, OR IT WILL SET TOO TIGHTLY. (I LEARNED THE HARD WAY!).|
|STERILIZED WECK JARS FROM GERMANY ARE READY FOR FILLING. I STERILIZE THEM IN THE OVEN. WECK JARS ARE BEAUTIFULY DESIGNED, BUT PROBLEMATIC FOR MORE MORE SERIOUS CANNING, SUCH AS FOR BEANS, MUSHROOMS, MEATS, BUT FOR ANYTHING REQUIRING A HOT WATER BATH OR FOR PICKES, JAMS AND JELLIES, THEY MAKE THE RESULTING PRODUCT LOOK SO MUCH NICER. THERE IS NO JAR MORE ATTRACTIVE THAN A WECK, I THINK.|
Why not take your family and pick some strawberries or blueberries at a local farm this year. Enjoy your Saturday or Sunday making some fresh Jam ( I highly reccomend the Blue Chair Cookbook). Get the proper equipment, since there is really no room for experimenting or taking corners when it comes to home processing or jam making, but the results are incredible, and with a good jar of White Cherry Peach Jam going for around $14. at your local Whole Foods, why not make some yourself at less than half the price!
|IT TAKES ABOUT AN HOUR FOR THIS PECTIN-FREE RECIPE TO REDUCE. ONLY 3 INGREDIENTS, BERRIES, LEMON JUICE AND CANE SUGAR. THE TRICK, IS TO USE THE RIGHT POT, SUCH AS THE WIDE COPPER CONFITURE PAN FROM MAUVIEL. THE WIDE SURFACE ALLOWS FOR A FAST REDUCTION. IT'S A BIT OF AN INVESTMENT, BUT A NICE ADDITION FOR ANY KITCHEN.|
|FRESH STRAWBERRY JAM IS SUMMER IN A JAR, WHEN EATEN IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER|
Why not take your family and pick some strawberries or blueberries at a local farm this year. Enjoy your Saturday or Sunday making some fresh Jam ( I suggest that you get the the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders, it's just about the best jam cookbook I have ever read, besides being a beautiful addition to any library). Get the proper equipment, since there is really no room for experimenting or taking corners when it comes to home processing or jam making, but the results are incredible, and with a good jar of White Cherry Peach Jam going for around $14. at your local Whole Foods, why not make some yourself at less than half the price!
|NEXT WEEK, IT'S CHERRY SEASON!!!|
June 23, 2011
|Petit Gris de Rennes Melons planted in a mesh bag in the greenhouse. These will have to be thinned to three or four vines per bag. I plan on allowing the vines to wander over the mesh shelving (once the succulent collection is moved outdoors!).|
I don't know why I have waited so long to try this.
My greenhouse is full many collections of plants, but most are either summer dormant, or they are ornamental potted plants, or trees and shrubs grown in large tubs, that are dragged outdoors for the summer. What I am left with is a greenhouse that is about 80% empty space, every square foot unused. It is hot, dry, and basically, unused until late summer when I start the bulb cycle growing again. So I began thinking....what if I grew something that was a little more practical ( and sustainable) than tender rare orchids or summer-blooming gesneriads that have fuzzy leaves that hate the rain? After all, ten years ago, this entire side of the property was a high-producing vegetable garden, all of which has been reduced down to 6 raised beds. I miss the volumes of fresh vegetables, and the 60 foot rows of beans, ( I don't miss weeding them, however!).
The answer, I think, is to use space wisely, and the greenhouse is a place where I can plant crops that might enjoy the extra summer heat ( it can reach 100 - 110 degrees F. on a typical day without the fans on. So I am going to try melons, bottle gourds and some Japanese cucumbers. A few years ago a squirrel chewed a hole in an old birdhouse gourds that I had storred under a bench for the summer, and the vine grew into a giant with at least 6 large gourds on it, so I think they can handle the heat. I will need to pollinate the flowers since I feel that most of our bees will not make it in through the roof vents, but it's worth trying.
This is not a new idea, for in a rare book that I purchased a month ago about month-by-month gardening which was written in 1806, the author speaks about the many greenhouse melons that he was growing in his glasshouse, which was in Philadelphia. In the 1800's. most greenhouses in America were used for what they called 'Pine Apples', and for table grapes, cucumbers and melons. I was so surprised to have read this, for the greenhouse was still a new invention. Surely, I, in the year 2011 more than 200 years later, should be able to manage this!
I ordered 10 extra large fiber mesh gro bags, a few bales of soiless professional potting mix, and ten packets of heirloom melons. The heirloom varieties include the fancy market melons one sees in the south of France in the summer markets, the striped orange-fleshed Noir de Carmes, and Petit Gris de Rennes, another French variety from the 1800's. A few modern varieties sounded interesting, a mini watermelon with yellow and pinkish flesh named Sorbet Swirl, and some bottle gourds. A few varieties of Galia melons that are popular in Europe and the Middle East, and a classic Chanterais.
June 22, 2011
|THIS CRAMBE CORDIFOLIA WILL STOP CARS, SIMPLE BECAUSE OF IT'S SIZE, A MASSIVE POOF OF THOUSANDS OF WHITE FLOWERS THAT CREATE A CLOUD AS BIG AS A CAR.|
Garden writers will tell you that it smells like honey, I will add that it smells more like Honey and wet diapers, if you get my drift. I could say Horehound, (or a wet, pissy Horhound?) might be exactly what it smells like. It's OK in small doses, but this plant doesn't do 'small' very well. I have always found room for Crambe cordifolia in my garden borders, but I would suggest that you site it carefully. for both it's scent, and it's ultimate volume.
|A SIX FOOT TALL CRAMBE CORDIFOLIA, A RELATIVE IN THE CABBAGE FAMILY, IS A RARELY SEEN BUY IMPRESSIVE GARDEN PERENNIAL WHICH PRODUCES A MASSIVE CLOUD OF FRAGRANT BABIES-BREATH LIKE WAXY WHITE FLOWERS ON STIFF BRANCHES.|
June 20, 2011
|Scarlet Queen turnips are harvested from one of my raised beds on the last day of spring.|
Johnny's Selected Seeds. Sown in late March and early April, the plants grew fast, and much of the crop was harvested as a greens crop, since we adore fresh, tender turnip greens almost just as much as the roots. I love how this variety looks like a beet, but the inside flesh is crispy and white, like a radish. Picked any later, and these would become woody since turnips dislike any stress while growing, even a day of wilting can cause woodyness in the root. A constant supply of water is necessary, and a short, fast, cool growing season is best.
June 19, 2011
|It's a little weird, but cool, to think that I spent yesterday painting the trim on this very porch, since this is now my house. Here it is in 1935 with neighborhood boys posing for a Jr Audubon Society photo showing off their bird house project.|
As my father closes in on his 98th birthday, ( I know!), I thought that I might share some images from one of his many scrap books that I've found in the attic. Before Facebook, MySpace and even scrapbooking, my father was a meticulous documenter and sharer of information with his 'friends', which he did through his sketches and photos. Who needs to 'post'!. An early adopter of hobby photography, and a talented artist with a passion for ornithology and plants, his teens and twenties was spent sketching birds, hiking with a nature club that he founded, and photographing the clubs many outdoor adventures.
Since I now live in the same house that he was born in, ( and the house where I still live and garden today), I thought that it might be interesting for you, if I share some of these images. All of the images in this post come from my fathers scrapbook for his Wildwood Nature Club, which he maintained from 1933 until 1938, or roughly when he was 18 until age 25.
I found this scrap book last week, which is timely since it is Father's Day. As long as I can remember, my dad was old. I mean, I was just joking with his last week that I am about half his age, so I only knew him with grey hair, and he was retired by the time I graduated high school. As a confirmed 'accident', I am not even included in the big mural of my family that he painted on the wall of our kitchen in 1952, since all of my brothers and sisters are at least ten years older than me, and then, ten years later, I came along.
|My father ( upper left) and his friends hiking on the rocky slope of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire 1936.|
The boys of the Wildwood Nature Club have the last names of many who still live in our neighborhood today. Their offspring continue to be our neighbors, which is nice in a world where most people are transient. With nicknames like Pudge, Nipples, Spibby, Rudgy, reading this book is like watching a period film like Cider House Rules or October Sky. The boys spent most of their time hiking and camping in the New England area during the depression of the 1930's.
Dad took remarkable candids of his friends skiing, playing hockey or just fooling around, which is rare for that time. Most people posed for camera images. Dad had an early interest in photography, and he was able to build a darkroom in one of the spare rooms upstairs complete with glass plates and equipment. I never knew what camera he had, but we have album after album of photos from this era, many focusing on the boys' adventures exploring.
|Dad at age 19|
I hope you enjoy these, I only posted about 15 images ranging from their membership in the Burgess Radio Nature League, to their affiliation in the National Audubon Society as Junior members, and more. Later, I might show some of my dad's sketches and photos from his trip with Roger Tory Peterson to Muskungus Bay in Maine as they looked for Puffins ( a bit of history, perhaps!).
Dad is alive and well today, although his hearing is going as is his eyesight, he still visited with his girlfriend today and fed the birds and squirrels before returning to her house for a few nights. He lives with us most of the week, and spends long weekends with his 'lady friend' Clair, who is a spry youngster at 85. Little devil.
Dads sketches are throughout this scrapbook.
The Wildwood Nature Club became a member of the Junior Audubon League in 1935, which the boys surely celebrated for many pages in the book.
Dads little doodles of birds, are fascinating. Here are some Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, just like the ones I saw today outside in the garden. Their ancestors perhaps?
|My dad on the left, with his friend as the wore skis in 1936. Looks like getting married was worth noting in the book, since many had this tag line added at a later date.|
I love these old ski's and knickers. We still have all of these ski's in the cellar, they were hand carved, since skiing was still rather new as a sport. They used skis for transportation in the winter, along with catgut snowshoes and spruce toboggans.
Oh Dad! Why didn't you save me just one of these!!!
Many of the sketches are about bird sightings, and hikes, but there are some that document many of the shenanigans that the boys seemed to stir up where ever they went. Skunks, bears, whiskey, moonshine and of course...girls, seemed to be the most noteworthy as sketchable subjects.
I particularly liked this birdhouse projects, that showed many neighborhood children posing with their birdhouses on the front steps of our home in 1937.
The boys of the Wildwood Nature Club, in their clubhouse circa 1936. This clubhouse is somewhat historical, since it was in the same field that rocket scientist Robert Goddard fired his fuel-fired rockets from during the same decade. (think -October Sky). The boys reportedly had lots of fun teasing Dr. Goddard as he shared their land along with some cows. My dad likes telling the story about how one of his rockets ignited a neighbors barn on fire. Today, he is known as the father of modern rocketry ( i.e. Goddard Space Center).
Happy Father's Day to All!
June 15, 2011
|'BARTZELLA', A NOW FAMOUS, YELLOW INTERSECTIONAL PEONY, WHICH IS BEGINNING TO BECOME MORE AVAILABLE, AS WELL AS MORE AFFORDABLE.|
Early plant breeders took the old-fashioned herbaceous peony, P. lactiflora (the sort which die to the ground every year) and then crossed it with a tree peony ( P. lemoinei) and the result was the Intersectional peony. A vigorous, large plant that can be covered in hundreds of flowers, often in colors only found in tree peonies like yellow and orange. Best of all, these peonies die back to the ground again every year thus greatly extending the hardiness range of tree peonies for those of us who struggle wintering them over beyond Zone 6.
To be more accurate, Intersectionals are not truly new, the first crosses between herbaceous and tree peonies occurred in the late 1940's by Toichi Itoh himself, but these plants took years to reach blooming size, and until a few years ago, the only way to propagate plants was through division, making retail sales impractical since factoring the time it took for a plant to reach blooming size, the best crosses sold for nearly $1000.00. Today, many Intersectionals are available, and they are often labeled as Itoh Hybrids, but in fact, there are a number of breeders today making even better crosses, yet the proper way to call these plants remains Itoh Peonies or Intersectionals. Through modern micro-propagation techniques, new hybrids are starting to reach the market for less money. Invest in a couple and watch what happens.
Monrovia Nurseries is marketing a few new introductions in a partnership with breeder Don Smith another leading grower. Look for them at only the finest peony nurseries and websites, but be prepared, they are still pricey, selling between $75 -$150 per plant, but the prices are dropping each season. I paid $200 for my golden yellow 'Bartzella' above, but recently, I've seen it for less than $80.
American Peony Society website. Believe me, these new peonies are all the rage. If you want to impress your neighbors and garden visitors, I suggest you invest in one.
June 12, 2011
|OUR NEW RED FACTOR CANARIES, TOBIKO AND CREAMSICLE, TOO FAST TO STAY IN FOCUS.|
|ORANGE BERRIES IN A PINE? NOT EXACTLY. TRY, INDIAN KUMQUAT'S FROM OUR FORTUNELLA HINDSII WHICH ARE DROPPING OFF THE MOTHER PLANT FOR THE SEASON. THIS BONSAI PINE JUST HAPPENS TO BE BELOW THE KUMQUAT. I STILL LIKED HOW THIS LOOKED.|
Not everything works out, and here is a good example. I had this idea, and thought that I might lay out a design with pots and some old windows, which I would photograph, and then use as a new masthead for this blog. In the end, it was a disaster. Too contrived, too 'designed' and just not right for me.
Even this image looked too 'art directed', but in a dated way. I think with the right props, and more thought, I can get a more thoughtful yet more honest design, but for now, I will keep using a graphic approach.
What's this you ask? It's our local 'big box' glacier, all dirty and sandy but still taking down some casualty trees as it moves slowly down the hill.
Underneath it's covering of dirt and debris, icy snow still exists here in central Massachusetts, condensed into the ten foot deep glacier which is still sliding down a hill. This exists right now, on June 11, in Millbury, Massachusetts, and it sits just below our local Target store's parking lot. If you can remember the record breaking snow we had in January, this is all that remains - which is pretty amazing, considering that it is the middle of June, and that last week we almost reached 100 degree's F. for three days.
Margaret is still recovering, if you can call it that. She has her up days, and her down days. Probably more down days than good ones. ,One day at a time, but we can tell that she cannot carry on for much longer. I doubt that we will lose her feeding tube, and now we are adding additional water via an IV 3 times a day. It's all just very sad. Still, she is amazingly strong, and sometimes jumps up to see what the other dogs are barking at ( like the drunk driver that hit the telephone pole yesterday right in front of our house),on those moments when she surprises us energy and bright moments. Sometimes she takes a little run after the ducks, or a squirrel, we are thrilled. Each day is precious, for we know that she won't be with us long. Sweet, sweet, Margaret. My eyes well up just typing this. Crazy, right? Oh well. We do love our dogs, and Margaret is simply my favorite - I can have a favorite, right?
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