Before and after

Before the gale: Helianthus Giganteus at the front of our house. Colorful. Impressive. Majestic.

IMG_5517After the gale: a pathetic mess of sticks.

IMG_5881That is all.



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Back to Maine

IMG_5762No rants in this post. I am feeling unusually mellow after a short trip to Maine. The above photo captured another perfect sunset on Bailey Island. Fall is a great time to visit this part of New England for many reasons.

One of them is a traditional seafood restaurant with great views of the harbor. I took this from our table at Cook’s Lobster House. We come here every year, as much for the views as for the food.

IMG_5765Then there’s a perfect gin martini. Another pleasure. Note ice on glass.

IMG_5777The wild asters are abundant in Maine this time of year. Much more so than in our part of RI.


I also appreciate the paler flowers.


IMG_5843Back to the ocean again. A gorgeous September day at Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth. We always find it difficult to tear ourselves away and drive home.

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Fall arrives – sort of

IMG_5572Fall is trying to begin here in RI. It’s still rather hot and humid, but the wonderful autumn light is throwing everything into sharp relief.

We avoid Cape Cod, MA in the summer because of the insane traffic, but we returned this weekend. We arrived in Chatham at the end of the afternoon – magic hour.

IMG_5640There were quite a few people on the beach, many of them with spotting scopes and binoculars, looking out over the ocean for Great White Sharks. The sharks have taken up residence here because the grey seal population has grown and the seals are an important part of the sharks’ diet. Click on the link to see footage of a shark leaping out of the water in pursuit of a seal last August.

IMG_5636If you look closely, you can see one of the grey seals swimming quite close to shore. It seemed to be curious about our dog. They are big animals, and interesting to watch.

IMG_5613We also stopped at West Dennis. This is the estuary, known as Bass River. There’s a long beach on the other side. That distant, squiggly thing in the sky is an immense kite.


Here’s another view. The clouds were awesome, as was the light.

IMG_5616It was warm, too. Perfect for a nice long swim. (Don’t ask about the salt water and sand on the back seat of my car.)

IMG_5628Back to Chatham. Monomoy Point is dramatic and rarely crowded. Not the ideal spot for a swim because of the sharks, but a great place to walk or chill. Early autumn is a popular time to visit the Cape, and this is why.

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A new plant discovery

IMG_5563This plant is cuphea micropetala, aka big cigar plant, aka candy corn plant. I bought it in the spring, and it has been gracing my deck all summer. Not only does this plant, which is actually a shrub, produce quantities of hummingbird-friendly blooms non-stop, it has attractive dark green foliage.

I loved watching the hummingbirds browsing in it, probing every single bloom. The hummers have departed for warmer climes, but the cuphea soldiers on, and still looks awesome. No drama, no mess, just flowers.


Here are the flowers again, closer this time. Just lovely. I realize that I am gushing, but it is one of the great pleasures of gardening to discover a new cultivar that performs so well.


There it is, next to a chair so you can get an idea of its size. This plant is hardy only to about Zone 8. It is grown as a shrub in more southern states, and I envy those lucky gardeners who get to enjoy it all year long.

I am going to attempt to overwinter mine indoors. I have read about people doing this successfully, and it seems that as long as you have a very sunny window and your house is not too warm – yes, and yes – the plant has a good chance of making it. I am expecting leaf drop when it first comes inside, but most plants do that.

So wish me luck. I figure if the worst happens and the plant dies, I can always get another one next spring. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Colorful climber

IMG_5543This Thunbergia alata, commonly known as Black-eyed Susan vine, was a gift, way back in May, from a gardening friend. There are two colors planted in the container, which occupies a sunny corner of my deck. I tied string from the plant stakes in the pot to the downspout so it would have something to climb.

IMG_5538And climb it did. Right up to the wires. This vine does not need to be fertilized, but when it gets this big, it requires copious daily watering because the soil in the container can no longer hold sufficient moisture to support all that foliage. Apparently it also likes to be grown in moist soil when planted in the ground.


I like the darker blooms on the second vine. The hummingbirds enjoyed this column of flowers all summer, too.


This plant is native to Madagascar, Africa and Asia, so it’s perennial in Zone 10 or warmer, which Rhode Island is most definitely not. It will be tossed when its season ends, after adding considerable color and interest to the deck for several months.

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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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