You never know…

 

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…who’s reading your stuff. Imagine my surprise when I received an email a few weeks ago from a writer at Rhode Island Monthly magazine. She had discovered Digging RI (!!!) and wanted to include it in a feature on Rhode Island blogs. Being of sound mind, of course I said yes. The feature is in this month’s issue.

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Here’s the page. She also mentions HerbDoc, which is cool. It looks as if she read quite a few posts. I am not sure how far back she went, but she liked the one I wrote about the manure festival.

I have been blogging since 2009, and there have been many times when I considered giving it up, especially now that I write full-time for a living. I still feel that way sometimes, but it’s good to know that your writing and photography reach more people than you ever thought they would.

Happy Independence Day to all my readers.

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Hummingbird Explosion!

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Here at Digging RI, we’re big hummingbird fans. HerbDoc shares some thoughts on her resident hummer population:

The peep has gone out far and wide that my hummingbird feeder is always filled with sweet, fresh nectar.  At least that’s what I think happened!

As of this writing, I have six fearless and feisty hummers constantly visiting.  Here’s a photo of three of them sharing the feeder for a change.  It seems the females are especially territorial this year and chase anyone who dares to close in on the food source.  One squeaks loudly while another looks furtively over her shoulder between sips.  It is very unusual for them to sit together like this.

The males come on a totally different time schedule and are not quite so disagreeable.  Both sexes are very friendly to me and visit me in the gardens to assess what I’m doing in the herb garden or the perennial bed.  Hummers have been constant nesters for years in the bushes behind the herb garden.

I’m amazed that we have six in the same location.  In the past I counted myself lucky if I had a pair so I wondered if some of these were juveniles.  If that’s the case they are the same size as their parents.

The only change I’ve made in the last year is to trade in my plastic feeder for a beautiful glass one that my son gave me for Mother’s Day last year.  My feeder always goes out in mid-April, and the nectar is changed every three days.  The time period is shortened to very other day when it becomes hot.  Because there are so many of them this year, we’re already filling the feeder every other day and even purchased a larger bottle.  I’m considering the option of hanging the smaller bottle in the front yard, but then I’d miss some of the action.

Editor’s note: If you want to learn more about hummingbirds and how to attract them, click here.

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Bam!

IMG_5019Looking like tiny fire crackers, the intensely-colored blooms of Lonicera Sempervirens Major Wheeler are right up in your face, demanding to be noticed. This climbing honeysuckle has been variously described  as “the best,” a “stand-out” and a “non-stop bloomer,” and guess what? It’s all true.

This vine is not to be confused with the invasive honeysuckle shrub. Major Wheeler is a relatively new cultivar that promises and delivers an explosion of intense red blooms that cover the plant all summer. It is hardy to Zone 4, and unlike clematis, (which I also love), it requires no care other than planting and initial training up whatever it is you want it to climb. This plant grows to about eight feet.

I planted mine last summer to attract hummingbirds, and they do go crazy for all those tubular red blooms. I love watching them probing every single flower. The plant did ok the first year but this summer, what an explosion! As you can see in the photo below, it all but covers my ugly light.

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Drought-tolerant, hardy, floriferous, and a hummingbird, butterfly and bee magnet, this is a wonderful plant with tidy, mildew-free foliage. I have also read that later in the season, it produces berries that other birds like robins love. Try it this summer – if you can get your hands on one.

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Clematis

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Here’s HerbDoc again, writing about one of my favorite plants: clematis.

The bowers of the tiny white flowers of Autumn Clematis trailing over rock walls and trellises are gorgeous, but as a dear friend of DN’s and mine found it, after the enticing bloom comes disaster.

Every one of those irresistible white flowers produces seeds, and come next spring you’ll be wondering where all of that new clematis came from that’s all over your yard and the neighbor’s! Next you’ll be cursing what has become an invasive thug.

After researching an alternative, I settled on Clematis “Paul Farges.” Not many nurseries seem to carry this variety so I ended up buying mine via mail from Massachusetts. I had never purchased plants from this source before, but two sturdy, knee high vines arrived in short order and were very well packed. “Paul Farges” is also called “Summer Snow” and is a cross between C. fargessi and C. vitalba.

This cross is said to be strong, hardy and floriferous without the tendency to be invasive. It grows from 18 to 22 feet tall but is not dense. The flowers are creamy white, fragrant stars. This clematis blooms on new wood (a group III) so top growth can be cut back anytime between late autumn and early spring. I’m excited about adding “Paul Farges” to my perennial bed and will let you know how he performs!

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Spring Planting

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Here’s a post from my good friend, HerbDoc, who is always up to interesting things in her garden. Welcome back, HD!

It seems that every year, a container calls me to be planted. In very cold April, it was this cute little vine and moss teapot that beckoned. I envisioned it perched in the middle of my glass table on the deck where it now stands surrounded by other plants waiting patiently to be put in the ground. Eventually it will stand alone!

It is as much fun to decide what should be planted in a container as it is finding the right one.  I love the organic, non-GMO “Freckles” green romaine, which is a bright green splashed with crimson markings. It has upright growth, is crisp in texture, and is very heat tolerant. Set it off with a sprinkle of yellow pansies and variegated thyme, and it’s an ode to spring. When the romaine goes by, I’ll replace it with various tea herbs for snipping all summer.

If you find a container like this one and wish to plant it, I’d add a soft plastic bag to the interior to hold the soil, so it will last more than one season. Maybe I tend to be pennywise, but these containers can be pricey, and will easily be destroyed if they get too wet!

 

 

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Dispatch from a little town

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This is the kind of scene I encounter on my way to work. Sure beats sitting in freeway traffic. This is Meadowbrook Pond in Richmond, RI, one of many peaceful and lovely spots in the largely unknown southwestern part of the state. There is much more to Rhode Island than beaches and the mansions in Newport.

I always enjoy the constantly changing, creative displays when I stop in at the Back in Thyme restaurant in Hopkinton. This isn’t really a sit- down place, but I usually grab a bite at the one table, and gaze at the quirky and fun decorations, all created by the owner, who is also a professional gardener.

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IMG_4769She integrates the organic with the whimsical in such interesting ways, using lots of plants, both living and dried.

IMG_4770See what I mean? She is just as creative with her food, and I am completely addicted to the  tea she makes from herbs she grows and picks herself. There’s lots of fresh ginger in it. Below is another strangely attractive creation. The leaf is a nice touch. This woman is an artist who notices and appreciates the beauty in little things.

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If you ever visit RI, consider venturing into the interior, where many pleasant surprises await. The state is so small, it’s an easy and pretty drive from the coast.

 

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Memorial Day musings

IMG_4737Happy Memorial Day America. To those who serve our country, and those who have served, Thank You.

IMG_4750These are the flowers on my comfrey plant, which is opening now. I bought it last year, and it shrugged off the nasty winter without any problems. I recommend this plant for several reasons. Pollinators love it, it is a medium-sized plant that adds a nice blue color to my perennial border, and although I will never explore its medicinal properties, it also has a ton of those. According to my cursory research, comfrey tea can be used to treat everything from digestive upsets to cancer. It can also help treat skin problems and even fractures.

IMG_4744Here it is, growing next to my very red azalea. You can see it is not at all diminutive or retiring. This plant can hold its own.

IMG_4749Here’s another view of it. It’s more impressive when the flowers are completely open.

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On a less positive note, this photo, taken through a window with my phone, depicts the quick and tragic end of my snap pea crop. We thought that maybe this year the rabbits would somehow overlook them, but no. They simply waited until they were about six inches tall, hopped over the fence, and devoured them. Then this big, plump lagomorph, (looks like a doe to me) stuffed with tender shoots, had a nice rest IN the bed. Where are those foxes that kept the rabbits in check? This is what happens when the predators go away.

I cannot conclude this post without saying, once again, for the record, that the new Mac photo application is without a doubt one of the most annoying I have ever had to use. I am still trying to figure out how to label my photos, and even the editing has been made more confusing and inefficient.

Why, why, why did they do this? To see how far they could push their customers before they went running back to the welcoming arms of Microsoft? Did they have some down time on a rainy afternoon, and someone suggested they screw around with iPhoto just to see what would happen? Did someone slip something into the Red Bull that day? And did they decide NOT to warn their users before springing this travesty on us because they wanted to watch us suffer? I guess we will never know.

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Into the woods – again

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It was a rough winter here in Rhode Island on many levels. I had an injury that kept me from skiing and hiking for a couple of months. I tried to be mature about it, but I really missed my time outdoors and I did get grumpy for a while.

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I’ve been getting back out recently, just in time for spring to spring, if you know what I mean. On this trail, it looks like it’s going to be another awesome year for Lady Slipper orchids. These cypripediums grow in the most unlikely places; in tiny soil pockets on rocks, and sometimes right in the middle of trails. But try growing them in your garden if they aren’t there already and you’ll see how demanding these orchids can be. Perhaps it’s better to leave them in the woods and just enjoy them there. (Of course, no plants should ever be collected in the wild…)

IMG_4605The woods are greening up in that special tender shade that only happens in the spring.

IMG_4616Every time we go out, something else is budding, blooming or leafing…like this pine putting out some impressive candles.

For those hikers with thick fur coats, spring is also a time to slip quietly into a secret pool.

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Rhode Island is an underrated hiking paradise. In every season.

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Quirky and fun

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This is the extensive collection of solar motion figures that resides in a post office somewhere in the boonies of RI. I think it is stunning, in a cute and whimsical way.

Here’s a tighter shot of some of them. I am partial to the elephant. His ears flap.

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If this post looks a little strange, it’s because I used my iPhone to write it. My Mac is down and I will now have to grit my teeth and bring it to the skinny jean- wearing hipsters at the Genius Bar to see whether it can be saved.

Please bear with me.

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Here’s the poop

Photo: Hestemoj

Photo: Hestemoj

We gardeners are well aware of the value of manure in enriching the soil. But did you know that there is a festival entirely dedicated to poop? Yes siree, it’s the North American Manure Expo, which takes place in Chambersberg, PA on July 15.

Despite my immature smirking, manure is very serious business, because in addition to boosting soil nutrients, it can also be a major threat to waterways by overloading them with nutrients and producing what are known as “dead zones.”

The show brings together government, scientists, intensive livestock producers, manure applicators and the companies that manufacture the equipment used to store it, stir it, and spread it all around.

OK let’s get back to the smirking. This festival does not take itself too seriously, thank goodness. In fact, organizers are holding a contest, open to the public, to choose a slogan for this year’s expo. Among the entries submitted so far:

  • Manure Expo: where nobody stands behind their product
  • You provide the creek, we provide the paddle
  • We do doo. Do you?

The contest closes on May 15.

There’s a lot going on in the world of manure. With so much of it to deal with, the agriculture industry is always looking for new ways to use it productively and dispose of it safely. The show will feature demonstrations of new pumps, recycling methods, and technology to remove nutrients such as phosphorus that causes algae blooms in fresh water.

The first Manure Expo was held in Wisconsin in 2001, and it seems to have gotten bigger every year. If I were in the Chambersberg area, I would go.

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