The flowers of Neustift

I couldn’t resist taking some photos of the flowers I saw in Neustift, Austria. The plantings,  most of which were annuals, were typical of what you see in the Alps.

Unlike my containers, which tend to get straggly by the end of the summer, these were thriving. Is it the air? The water? A secret alpine fertilizer? Or good old TLC?

DSCN1038One of several nurseries in the village.

IMG_2270A flower box on the wall of an alpine hut.

IMG_2271Geraniums are very popular here.

IMG_2312Skis sit in a rental shop, waiting for winter. I liked how the mountains were reflected in the window.

IMG_2306There were so many window boxes, I didn’t bother photographing most of them. This hotel, however, really stood out. I loved the way they mixed plants and colors.

IMG_2307This village cat was also colorful.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Home again

I have just spent a few days in the Stubai region of Austria. My friend and I had signed up for two weeks of hiking in the Alps, but sadly, we had to cut our trip short and return to the US.

Here are a few images from our time there.

DSCN1048

This is the Maria Waldrast abbey, which we were told, is the highest in the Tirol region at 1,640 meters.

These were the views as we hiked up the mountain. Nothing like the Alps. So imposing.

DSCN1046

Everywhere we climbed, we heard cow bells and saw the cows they were attached to. These two seemed so chill.

DSCN1056

This is Neustift, the village where we stayed. It was small and pretty, with a fabulous bakery.

DSCN1065

Here’s one of the alpine huts where we stopped for lunch. One of their specialties is buttermilk with wild blueberries floating in it. I found it surprisingly delicious and refreshing.

DSCN1059

And that, my friends, is my vacation in a nutshell. Back to work in a couple of days.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Random photos

This blog will be taking a  break for the next couple of weeks. I will leave you with a few photos I  have not yet had the opportunity to post.

First, some iconic summer treats, which we get to enjoy year-round here in RI: the lobster roll and fried clam bellies. Rhode Islanders are persnickety about their seafood. The lobster roll must be overflowing, with not too much mayo.

IMG_1954

People here prefer clam bellies to strips, although I like the flavor of strips better.

IMG_1956IMG_2050I saw a creative bird-feeding set-up on a garden tour. Using a big, dead branch to hold your feeders is attractive and functional, don’t you think?

IMG_2042

I also saw this row boat planter in the same garden. Do you love it or do you find it kitschy?

IMG_2081

The last stop on the tour featured several clematis, including this one, which looks more like a dahlia to me. The owners are dahlia growers, which might explain it.

IMG_1724

I saw a man walking down a street in Hyannis, Cape Cod, with what looked like five dogs. They were all perfectly behaved and seemed to walk in sync, almost like doggie Rockettes.

IMG_1725

Then I looked again and there were seven! Imagine walking that many big dogs at the same time. He knew what he was doing, though.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Summer orchids

IMG_2205

This orchid is Encyclia “Green Hornet.” My husband and a few friends have described it as “creepy,” “weird” and “cartoonish.” I think it’s cool, interesting and beautiful.

It is consistently hot and humid in our area these days, and the orchids are loving it, as long as we leave the ceiling fan on to keep the air moving. Good air circulation is one of the keys to orchid happiness. This hybrid  is about eight inches tall, and likes bright light and a bit more water when it’s in flower. Easy to grow, though.

IMG_2204

Blc “Hawaiian Sunset,” a cattleya hybrid, grows well on a table in a south-facing window. I took this photo, appropriately, at sunset. I won this orchid in a drawing at an orchid club meeting, and it has been a reliable bloomer. I don’t usually have much success with cattleyas, and I am not really fond of many of them, so this is the only one in my collection.

IMG_2217

Finally, a miniature, Podangis Dactyloceras, one of my kitchen windowsill companions. This is a species from Western Africa. Its sharp, fan-shaped leaves make it look almost like a cactus.

Each inflorescence carries a cluster of small, translucent white blooms with green centers. There’s a second spike on the other side of the crown. It has been a reliable bloomer for me since I bought it at an orchid show several years ago.

When non-orchid growing friends see one of my more unusual plants, they often say ” it doesn’t look like an orchid.” One of the reasons I grow orchids is because they are so incredibly diverse. It kind of boggles my mind.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Higher ground

IMG_2188

This is the view from the trail to the summit of Mt. Roberts, in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. That huge lake is Winnipesaukee – at its bluest. My friend and I climbed this peak recently on a hot day, which, for  a cold weather girl like me, made the experience a lot more difficult. It’s 2 1/2 miles each way, and we were on the trail for 4 1/2 hours with a couple of short breaks.

IMG_2193

The trail was varied, with some shady stretches, but a lot of it was like this: typical rocky NH. Some people run these, but I have no idea how they do it. The footing can be very tricky.

The trail is owned and maintained by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, which has done an excellent job. The red-orange  blazes are well-placed and easy to follow, and we didn’t see a speck of trash.

When we had reached a decent elevation, probably about 1,500 feet or so, we suddenly started seeing vivid spots of orange among the low-growing blueberries: wild lilies.

IMG_2169

Like  other plants that grow high on mountains, they were much shorter than their flatland cousins, only a few inches high. Below is a close-up so you can see how pretty they are.

IMG_2191

We also saw some lovely harebells, members of the campanula family. They prefer more sheltered, partly-shaded conditions.

IMG_2198

But we humans are never alone in the wilderness. At the summit, we heard several warblers and white throated sparrows. I saw a large pile of moose droppings, and then, smack in the middle of the trail, we came upon this: indisputable proof that bears do s**t in the woods.

IMG_2196

This scat was at about a day old. We did not encounter any black bears, but this was a graphic reminder that they’re out there.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Gross but effective

As anyone who spends time in the outdoors knows, this is deer fly season. They’re impossible to ignore because they are so persistent and their bites hurt – a lot.

My friend and I were hiking recently and they were so bad, we were considering heading back to the car. Then I remembered the deer fly strips in my pack, unused since last summer.

You peel off the paper from each side, leaving a sticky death trap facing out. Stick the back of the strip to your hat and wait for the flies to meet their makers.

We noticed after a few minutes there weren’t as many of them buzzing around, and when I looked at my friend’s strip, it was absolutely covered with dead and dying deer flies!

IMG_2132

These strips are non-toxic, portable, and easy to use, and the adhesive doesn’t leave a residue on your hat. I ordered mine online. Great score.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

I’m in clover

IMG_2104

I was struck this morning by the difference between my lawn and my neighbor’s. Mine is the green one with all the clover in it, and hers is the brown, chemically-treated wasteland. I believe that I owe the health and resilience of my turf grass to the abundance of clover that I allow to grow in it.

The lawn chemical companies have convinced people that clover is very, very bad indeed and that they should do everything they can to eradicate it. And people believe the lies, dumping all kinds of chemicals – and money – into the effort to keep their lawns clover-free.

The secret that those companies don’t want people to know is that clover is what is known as a “nitrogen fixer”, attracting nitrogen from the air and releasing it into the soil, fertilizing it naturally. So instead of spending money on clover-killers, I let the plants grow and do their fertilizing thing – for free!

IMG_2108

“Clover lawns” are enjoying a renaissance these days as part of the movement away from herbicides and pesticides that kill every microorganism in the soil. The plants only bloom for a few weeks, so the rest of the time, they blend right in with the grass.

Another benefit to encouraging clover is the food you provide to bees and other pollinators, who could use all the help they can get. And clover smells good too. So defy convention and allow clover into your lawn. Your grass will thank you.

Happy Independence Day to all my American readers!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

A dilemma resolves itself

My dog was particularly interested in one spot in my flower border, sniffing with great interest every time we walked by. Then one day, my husband noticed some movement in the bed, right at the base of my Lonicera vine.

IMG_1922

Five little voles were sitting there, quite unafraid. Once in a while, one of them would venture out of the bed, scuttling onto the lawn. I don’t believe that you should kill something just because you don’t want in your garden, but I also know that voles are destructive pests.

Here’s one of them, giving me the stink-eye.

IMG_1925

They weren’t being particularly destructive – yet – but I had to do something. I decided to trap them and release them far away from my garden, but in a place where they would stand a chance – like a field.

Then, they disappeared. Suddenly. All of them. And I did not find any holes where they would have gone underground. So it looks like my problem solved itself, and I didn’t have to be mean about it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Garden by the sea

IMG_1981

This post is long on photos and short on chit chat.  I went on a garden tour in southern RI this weekend and spent about an hour in one of the most gorgeous gardens I have EVER seen.

What makes it so special? A combination of thoughtful plantings, spectacular views of the ocean, intriguing glacial moraine and the good taste of the homeowners, who, by the way, have done the work themselves over 25 years. OK I’ll stop yakking now.

IMG_1970

We entered by the “shade garden.” That’s one of the two houses, way up at the top.

IMG_1971

This is one of the huge millstones that was on the property when the owner bought it. He turned it into a fountain.

IMG_1974

There are several ponds in the garden. The gardener has strung monofilament over the water to prevent the predations of blue herons, who will eat every single fish, given the opportunity. Can’t blame them for trying….

IMG_1988

A 100-step staircase takes you to the top of the garden and the main house. There’s also a more gentle path up.

IMG_1995

This is your reward for the climb.

IMG_1992

You can see the lawn of the shade garden in the lower right corner. Gives you an idea of the change in elevation.

More views: Here’s the rocky moraine section of the property, proof that like Earth, RI is not  flat.

IMG_2001

We paused to drool (discreetly) over the deck.

IMG_1999

And the pool.

IMG_1994

We proceeded to the guest house, which also has a lovely pool.

IMG_2012

You can get a great view of Block Island through a thoughtfully-placed scope.

IMG_2011

Looking at the main house from the trail leading back down to the shade garden.

IMG_2014

Mountain laurel, at peak bloom, covered the hillside.

IMG_2008

Bird nesting boxes and hummingbird feeders, all well-maintained, were placed throughout the property.

IMG_1987

There were so many places to sit and relax, I don’t know how I would choose a favorite. I’ll close with a shot of another enticing spot: a fireplace with a view.

IMG_1997

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

A small solution

IMG_1912

A few years ago, someone gave me the white planter in the above photo. I tried growing all kinds of things in it, but it is just too shallow for most plants. I noticed that the one thing that seemed to thrive was moss, which I find attractive. Then a friend gave me a few alyssum and I put those in with the moss.

One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had added a small pig, some beach pebbles, a shell or two, and several pieces of driftwood. It was beginning to look rather charming.

IMG_1911

Now, marigold seedlings from last year’s failed planting are popping up and I’m letting them grow, just to see what happens. It all began with that moss.

Spot the sheep!

IMG_1910

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments