De-stressing with color

IMG_5471I colored this. Not only is the end result quite pretty, the hours it took to complete it were pleasurable and very relaxing.

IMG_5463Before I left on vacation, I ordered this adult coloring book. I also ordered a slightly different one for my sister, who was coming with me. I bought colored gel pens, which would not leak through the paper to the design on the next page. Now, we are both totally hooked.

IMG_5477Each image is different, and I never have a plan for how my colors are going to work. I just start with one and keep going. The thing about this activity is that you can do it while you are having a conversation or watching TV. My sister and I spent every evening on the cabin’s screened porch, listening to the night sounds, talking and coloring.

IMG_5478I started telling my friends about my new hobby, and many of them told me they had just been reading about the pleasures and stress-relieving benefits of coloring. Unknown to me, coloring has become quite popular – trendy even. It seems adult coloring books are so hot these days that many of the best ones have sold out.

IMG_5481I find that once I get into a design, my brain free associates and I go into a sort of meditative state. Carl Jung, the early 20th-century psychologist, used coloring as a relaxation technique for his patients. Jung employed mandala-type designs similar to the ones in my coloring book.

IMG_5483I am often surprised at how different each design turns out. That’s part of the fun.

I am now dating each one when I complete it, so I can look back and remember where I was when I did it.

IMG_5475I do end up liking some better than others. This is one of my favorites.

IMG_5487Here’s a design waiting for color. It will be getting some later this afternoon. Drop me a line and let me know if you color, or if you’re thinking about taking it up. There are so many different coloring books available online – many with garden themes.

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A celebration of salvia

IMG_5397Behold the majesty that is the salvia border at my favorite local nursery. They plant this every year, and it runs the entire length of the parking lot. I always pause to watch the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds browsing in it, and believe me, there’s plenty of action. Salvia is a member of the mint family, and includes about 1,000 species of annuals, shrubs and herbaceous perennials.


Here’s a closer look. That azure plant is salvia uliginosa, or bog sage. The intense, pure color always stops me dead in my tracks. As the same implies, this plant likes a lot of moisture. It did not fare well in my border, where things can get a bit dry during the hottest part of the summer.

I believe the sage in the foreground is “Indigo Spires,” a terrific cultivar that I have grown successfully here in RI as an annual. It grows to about four feet high and puts on a spectacular, non-stop show all summer. It is questionably hardy to Zone 7 –  with winter protection –  which to me means it’s not hardy where I live.


Here’s the border looking the other way. Notice the verbena bonariensis they have planted in there, too. Another huge pollinator attractant.

The only sage I am growing these days is the ubiquitous “May Night,” which is okay but does not bloom through the summer. This border has inspired me to get reacquainted with Indigo Spires, which I’ll try to find and grow as an annual.

By the way, if you Google “Salvia” you get a bunch of websites about its use as a recreational drug. A sad commentary on our times.

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Better late than never

IMG_5360Most southern New Englanders will recognize this native shrub. It is Clethra alnifolia, aka Summersweet, aka Sweet Pepperbush, aka Coastal Sweet Pepper.

The flowers on the Clethra around here only began opening about two weeks ago, a couple of weeks later than usual. But it is always worth the wait. The scent is floral without being cloying, and the blooms attract pollinators of all kinds from miles around. (Have you ever noticed how butterflies seem to prefer clusters of flowers? Is it because they can get nectar from many blooms without having to fly to another plant?)


This deciduous shrub forms large clumps, and likes moist soil (think bogs and riverbanks) when it is getting established. Mature shrubs seem to do just fine in dry conditions, though. It is hardy in Zones 3 to 9, and can be aggressive as it spreads.

I encounter it sometimes when I am hiking, and at this time of year, I notice the scent first – very welcome when many flowering shrubs have ended their bloom time.

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IMG_5319I am just ending a two-week vacation with my sister from Canada. We spent a week of it at the lake pictured above. There are a few other cabins on this lake, but they are hidden by trees. Motorboats are not permitted here, so it is QUIET – a precious commodity these days. We had a canoe, which we paddled around in.

The cabin had no television. We spent our evenings sitting on the screened porch, chatting and listening to the whippoorwills.

IMG_5221I brought my dog, who relished her time OFF LEASH (!!!) on 8  acres. She also loved going in for a swim whenever she felt like it. The entry was sandy and gradual – perfect for corgis.

She even accompanied us to a seafood restaurant for lunch and diligently helped us clean up any errant bits of lobster roll that happened to fall on the floor.

IMG_5290I believe that like people, dogs appreciate a break from their daily routines, as long as it’s with their families.

IMG_5347It was hot, and she had the sense to spend most afternoons hanging out in the shade.

IMG_5325Or sometimes, she would  sit in the water with a look of bliss on her face.

Speaking of bliss, my sister just had to have her favorite fried clams at one of our local diners. I managed to get this shot before she pounced and devoured them.

IMG_5211Many people, including my husband, have asked me why I would rent a cabin on a lake in RI when we live so close to the beach. Well, the beach is busy and crowded and noisy this time of year.

IMG_5355I needed peace and quiet – and trees. Lots and lots of trees.

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A month of monarda

IMG_5198I have written about Monarda, or Bee Balm before, but I am doing it again because I have to gush about how fantastic these plants are in my garden this year. I purchased the plant in the above photo at a garden club sale, and it was labelled “Jacob Cline.” The flower does look red in the photo, but it’s really more of a wine-red, probably the cultivar “Raspberry Wine.”

IMG_5185THIS is Jacob Cline. Much redder in person. Below is a wider view of it growing against the house.


I bought a new cultivar last year, and it has turned out to be the earliest bloomer in my Monarda collection. It’s called “Purple Rooster” and it is rather short, so I have it at the front of the border. It’s slightly gone by, but the photo below will give you an idea of how purple it is.


Actually, now that I look at it, the photo does not give you an idea of how purple it is. (That’s the one downside to digital cameras, They don’t capture nuances of color very well.)

Below is a shot of the two plants growing together. Hopefully this gives you a better idea of the difference in their colors.


My Monarda Fistulosa, aka Wild Bergamot, just began flowering this week. It fills in the back of the perennial border very nicely, and is a pleasing light pink color. This plant is a native that has been known to get unruly, but I have never had that problem. Maybe we’re far enough North.


The front of the house is more or less a wall of Monarda these days, and I have the hummingbirds to prove it. Swarms. Flocks. Hordes. Other pollinators, too.


I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off from the blog. Time for a break from writing! Enjoy your gardens.

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Oldie But Goodie


HerbDoc sings the praises of Kolkwitzia.

Here’s an old fashioned shrub that was extremely popular in the fine gardens of the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Kolkwitzia, or Beauty Bush, is a dense, twiggy, fountain-shaped shrub with pink tubular flowers that appear in late May to mid-June.

The positives of this shrub are many.  It has no diseases; pests don’t like it; and it is easy to grow in average soil (pH 6.6 – 7.5).  Flowers, although short lived, have a sweet fragrance similar to vanilla and are very attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Visitors to my yard often remark about it when it’s in bloom but tell me it’s hard to find.  Mine came many, many years ago from an older garden club member’s offshoot.  If I had been lucky enough to have offshoots, I would have planted them all over my property line!  When not in bloom, the plant is rather nondescript.  It has yellow leaves in the fall and is deciduous.


If you plant Kolkwitzia, give it plenty of room!  The one in this photo is about 12 feet high although it is said to grow to 15 feet.  The plant grows on old wood so avoid the mistake I made a few years ago and resist the urge to prune it.  Not only will you do away with next season’s bloom, you will also end up with a “witches’ broom”.  It will eventually grow out, but in the meantime it will be quite ugly!  To renew the plant simply cut thick old branches down to the ground after the spring bloom.


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Cha-Cha Chive


HerbDoc is growing an interesting chive:

Here’s a newly developed chive, developed by Cook’s Garden and only available by plants two years ago.  Allium tuberosum ‘Cha-Cha’ is grown exactly like the purple headed variety.  It’s extremely cold hardy and loves the sun.  Because I was unsure if it would cross pollinate with the chive and garlic chive stands in my herb garden, I chose to plant them in a pot on the deck.

They have survived two cold winters in that pot, and this year a bunch of seedlings sprouted with them.  It will be interesting to see if they mimic their parents at maturity since I noticed Burpee was offering the seeds for sale in the 2015 spring catalog.


‘Cha-Cha’ has an outstanding false inflorescence filled with mini green chive leaves.  The entire plant is edible with a mild onion flavor.  Try the “mini chives” in salads or as a garnish on other summer dishes.  They can also add a touch of whimsy to flower arrangements when left on their stems.

Editor’s note: This is a very cool-looking plant.

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You never know…



…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.


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!


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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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.


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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