Protect yourself



Hunting season in RI opened in September. The regulations are complex and arcane, but I don’t hunt, so all I have to know is that when I go into the woods, I am obliged by law to wear blaze orange. My dog often accompanies me, so she now wears her own safety vest.

Even thus attired, there are trails we avoid altogether at this time of year. There are so many hunters, it’s just too risky. We often meet people on the trail who don’t know the regulations or simply don’t care. But they’re breaking the law and they could be shot by mistake. It happens.

It seems to me that there’s almost always some season for hunting something. There are a couple of months during the summer when we don’t have to wear blaze, but those aren’t our favorite hiking months, anyway, and we often skip a week because it’s too darned hot and buggy.

It’s the one down side of fall, which is an otherwise perfect hiking season.


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Autumn is for rambling

IMG_2680As the bracken dies back, the effect of the brown fronds is lovely, don’t you think? This is the time of year when I spend more time in the woods, and on the road. Fewer bugs and no crowds.

IMG_2674Here’s the funny “smoking frog” rock that we always admire when we’re in Audubon’s Maxwell Mays refuge. The “cigar” is sticking out of the left side of his mouth.

IMG_2687In a swampy section of the refuge, dead trees stand out against an intense autumn blue sky.

IMG_2501We drove up to Maine for a weekend. The asters were amazing.

IMG_2516The weather was perfect, so we stopped at this beach for a while.

IMG_2509Our dog wasted no time in going for a nice, long swim.


She also enjoyed the rocks at one of our favorite spots: Kettle Cove.

IMG_2540It was a beautiful weekend. Perfect for a little ramble.

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Love this plant!

IMG_2692 For those Anemone lovers out there, my friend and occasional guest blogger HerbDoc has discovered an interesting alternative to Anemone blanda:   

About a year ago in August I was visiting a local theatre which has beautiful and bountiful perennial gardens. One of the plants that immediately grabbed my attention was Anemone tomentosa “Robustissima.” The only anemone I had previously grown was Anemone blanda, known to most as Grecian windflower. The small tubers grow into low mats, and I was far from pleased with its hardiness.

Anemone tomentosa led me to my books to identify it and its hardiness. At the time I spotted it, it was covered with honeybees which I’m always trying to attract to my garden. The entire plant also seemed pest free. Sure enough, my research indicated that not only is it free of unwanted pests, including rabbits and deer, but pollinators of all kinds adore it.


Named after Anemone, the daughter of the winds in Grecian mythology, it is easy to grow in sun or partial shade in neutral soil and is hardy to Zone 3a. It grows in a low mound of grape like green leaves with taller branching stems of soft pink, cupped flowers. (24-36”)

If you decide to grow it, give it room to thrive and mass it for a gorgeous display during August until frost. It is very robust, hence its name, and will spread, but not in an annoying manner. It can be propagated by division of the root ball in the spring.

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A small solution update

You may remember a post I wrote way back in June about a shallow planter where nothing grew and how I had turned it into a miniature garden of sorts. I was very pleased with the results, but I decided rather than fuss over it, I would wait to see if anything seeded itself in there.


Here’s the same planter now. The verbena that I tried to grow in it two seasons ago? That’s it growing happily, all purple and healthy.


The sweet little marigold I planted last summer? The one that just disappeared? Here it is, still putting on a glorious show.

DSCN1148The driftwood, pebbles and the omnipresent piglet are still there, but now they are nestled among thriving plants.

DSCN1150Over the summer, I added a few finds, like this small horseshoe crab shell, carapace, whatever you call it.

This interesting and rewarding experiment confirms what most gardeners already know: plants that seed themselves can thrive in places where the same cultivars had failed. And I am also blown away by the tenacity of those seeds that stayed in the crummy soil for two years or more, invisible to me or even the birds, only to surprise me with awesome flowers when I least expected it.

The garden is full of miracles.


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At last



Summer is everyone’s favorite season – almost everyone’s. I prefer Fall. Here on the southern RI coast, the summer crowds are gone, the air is clean, you can hike without mosquitoes and deer flies harassing you, and you’re not in a sweat all the time.

On the salt marsh, the egrets are “staging” or flocking together before they leave for the winter. There were a few great blue herons in this group, too.



We saw this massive hen of the woods mushroom on a recent hike. It was at least a foot across. Fungi love Fall, too.

IMG_2405The poke weed is ripening and birds everywhere are cheering. They can’t get enough of those juicy purple fruits.


This pond, called “Yawgoog” pond, shows how dry it is around here these days. The water level is way down, as you can see. Founded in 1916, the Yawgoog Boy Scout reservation, in Rockville, RI, is the fourth oldest continuously operating camp in the United States. The 1,800-acre property is stunning. It was the location of the movie “Moonrise Kingdom.”


And those wild asters… more thing to love about the season.



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Helianthus by night

In my last post, I rambled on about my helianthus giganteus, or giant sunflower, and how large and flamboyant it is.

I wanted to show you what this perennial looks like at night. It transforms the front of the house into a mysterious, tropical jungle.

IMG_2333The foliage looks awesome when I turn on the outside light. But it gets better! Hanging out in the leaves is a tiny  frog.


I am usually pretty good at identifying wildlife, or at least looking stuff up, but this one has me stumped. It doesn’t look like a grey tree frog, but I think that must be what it is.

IMG_2342Here’s a closer look. It’s obviously an arboreal frog, and RI only has two of those: grey tree frogs and spring peepers.

Please let me know what you think.

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It’s huge!


This is helianthus giganteus, commonly known as giant sunflower. I bought four plants at a community plant sale last May and stuck them at the back of the border, so they would be against the deck railing. These are perennials, unlike the big-headed annuals.

Well, they kind of took over the entire bed. They’re supposed to grow to about 10 feet tall, but mine seem to be 12 feet or taller. They were late to flower, but now they look great, and the pollinators are loving them, too. Here’s a clump next to my lonicera “Major Wheeler,” another favorite plant.


Maybe this will give you a better idea of how big these plants are.


The one fault I have found is that despite their thick stems, they are not that sturdy and will blow over in strong winds. I have done by best to resolve that by tying them up to the deck railing, but I have still lost a few plants.

Here’s a shot of one of the flowers, which are respectable but not overwhelming. The leaves are huge, though.



Here’s what the plants look like when I’m standing on the deck.

DSCN1120I am all about color in the garden, and this is a most colorful display at a time of year when a lot of plants are winding down. If I remember, I paid $4 for all the plants, which, if you consider their impact, is most respectable bang for my buck.

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Bye bye hummingbirds

DSCN1070Hummingbird season got off to a rather slow start here this year, but once the babies fledged, it was crazy for a while. The birds particularly loved this fuchsia, probing each blossom with their long bills. This hatch year male made a lot of squeaking noises while feeding. Like people, some hummingbirds are more vocal than others.


I had three feeders this summer, two in the front of the house and one at the back. I like the “HummZinger” type, because it has perches, which hummingbirds love, and it’s so darned easy to clean. That entire red lid lifts off. These feeders were designed in RI and used to be made here until the inevitable happened and they began making them in China.

DSCN1076This adult male spent hours surveying his territory from a nearby wire and swooped down on all interlopers who dared come to “his” feeders. He’s gone now, and so are almost all the others. Last weekend they were in a feeding frenzy and on Monday, just a couple of juvenile birds remained. I saw one this morning, probing the fuschia.

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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.

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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.


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.


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


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


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.


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

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