The Bridge of Flowers revisited

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We returned recently to the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, MA. We had an out of town guest who wanted to see it and I never need much persuading. This is the first time I have seen it in August, and it was stunning.

Built in 1908, the Bridge of Flowers is a former trolley bridge. When automobiles and trucks came along, the company that owned the bridge went bankrupt and for two years, the bridge was unused. In 1928, a resident suggested turning the bridge into a giant garden, and in 1929, loam and fertilizer were spread over the span. By 1975, it was determined that the bridge was deteriorating, so in 1979, it was re-built. The perennial beds are still maintained by volunteer gardeners.

IMG_9087The bridge is open from early April until the end of October. There’s no set admission price, but there is a donation box at the entrance.

IMG_9089The bridge spans the Deerfield River, making the setting even more lovely. This gnarled Wisteria was in bloom when I visited last spring.

IMG_9102The Bridge of Flowers is a major tourist attraction that creates all kinds of beneficial spin-off business in the little town.

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And there’s is more to see here. The glacial potholes are just a short stroll away.

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Old buildings provide plenty of interesting opportunities for a photo geek like me.

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Many of the quirky structures, like this gift shop, hang out over the river.

IMG_9120Shelburne Falls is a very dog-friendly town, with water bowls in front of many of the stores. However, understandably, the bridge itself is off-limits to dogs, even if they are carried.

Here’s a last look at one of the bridge plantings – a low-maintenance combination I love.

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Making the most of summer

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This image is courtesy of a friend who has a fabulous garden. She’s been seeing a decent number of swallowtails this summer, and so have I.

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Here’s another one she took of a black swallowtail. I’ve been seeing quite a few of those, too. It’s browsing a clethra alnifolia, also known as summersweet. It is one of my favorite late summer shrubs because of its delightful scent.

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It’s been hot, hot, hot here in Rhode Island. I had a guest last week, and when people visit the Ocean State, not surprisingly, they want to go to the ocean. So we went to the beach and did beach things – like boogie boarding. I always forget how much fun that is.

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One morning, we were too late and the beach parking lot was full. But all was not lost. I drove us to one of the state’s many lovely freshwater ponds. We set up our chairs in the shade, had a swim, and watched some people and their dog on SUPs.

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Fried clams were also high on my guest’s agenda, so I obliged.

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I also saw my first katydid. A strange-looking insect. I wonder if it’s thirsty in this drought.

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What happens now?

IMG_9063Those tan patches on the tree bark are gypsy moth egg masses. I saw a lot of them when I hiked last week in an area that was particularly hard hit. The eggs will hatch next spring and the caterpillars will devour what leaves the trees have managed to put out.

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The normally cool, shady trail was harshly sunlit, because there was so little canopy. Grass was growing in places where the sun now penetrates. Many of the pines were completely denuded.

IMG_9060This is a profoundly changed ecosystem. The question is, will it recover?

IMG_9054Here’s another look at those eggs. If you see any on trees or outdoor furniture on your property, scrape them off. And keep your fingers crossed that next year, the infestation won’t be as terrible as this year’s.

 

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Another great garden

IMG_8725Here’s another interesting garden from the Gardens by the Sea tour I took recently in Charlestown, RI. One of the great things about this tour is the diversity of the gardens. Each one feels so different from the others. This garden is very large, and rambles around the house and outbuildings, which, I understand, the owners built themselves.

IMG_8728The large greenhouse was being used by small scale farmers’ market growers.

IMG_8744The garden decor was whimsical.

IMG_8753Very whimsical.

IMG_8742This garden spreads and sprawls. Edibles and ornamentals grow side by side. It is by no means messy, though. Just not as controlled as other gardens we visited.

IMG_8745The path eventually brought us here, to this charming scene. It was nice to sit in a shady place for a moment and enjoy a glass of lemonade.

IMG_8747It was even nicer to be offered a piece of pizza, made by the owner, in his wood-burning pizza oven.

IMG_8749And here’s a close-up of that oven. Gorgeous. Like the rest of the garden.

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A parade by and for the people

IMG_8796I’m taking a break from garden talk this week to write about the annual Snug Harbor 4th of July parade. I am immigrant who has lived in the United States for nearly 20 years, and this quirky, come-as-you-are parade is one of my favorite annual traditions.

IMG_8807It’s a casual, inclusive parade, but with a lot of pizazz.

IMG_8816Inclusive – as in dogs welcome, too.

IMG_8834The floats are always creative and funny.

IMG_8842The neighborhood kids LOVE it.

IMG_8854Snug Harbor is home to several charter fishing marinas, so there were a few fishing-themed floats.

IMG_8855This one made me look twice.

IMG_8858A float with an environmental message!

IMG_8877Members of the “Rod n Reel Precision Drill Team.”

IMG_8882Another regular is the Snug Harbor synchronized swimming team.

IMG_8893Another funny election-themed float. I love the “we’re doomed” sign!

I will end this post with a couple more shots of happy children. We need more happy.

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Style and a sense of humor

IMG_8684This is the second garden we visited during the recent Gardens by the Sea garden tour in Charlestown, RI. This garden was skillfully designed, beautifully planted and full of funny surprises – both colorful and sculptural. I love alliums just as much after they have bloomed. They look great in this setting.

IMG_8690I admired the pond with its overhanging Japanese maples. I wonder if those fish know how lucky they are to live in it.

IMG_8693Many of the planters were graced with dolls of various types.

IMG_8697A “New Dawn” rose planted with clematis, covered one wall.

IMG_8698Even the chicken coop was  interesting.

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The entrance to the greenhouse was marked by striking containers.

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Here’s a look inside the greenhouse. I wonder if it’s always this neat. Probably is.

More gardens next week. Happy Fourth everybody!

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Garden tour containers

IMG_8645This post is in response to a request from a reader who wanted to see more containers from the garden I wrote about last week. You ask, Micky, I deliver. The above container, in a hot, sunny spot, was appropriately planted with succulents and portulaca.

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A more formal arrangement, with white mandevilla and alyssum.

IMG_8651More containers, holding succulents.

IMG_8664Finally, in a shady spot, an attractive window box brings some color to the otherwise gray and black palette.

I’ll post photos of other containers when I write about the rest of the gardens on the tour.

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A garden tour de force

IMG_8653My friend and I recently had the pleasure of taking in this magnificent garden and several others at the Gardens by the Sea tour. The event, which takes place in South Kingstown and Charlestown Rhode Island,  raises money for the Cross’ Mills public library. It is only one day, but we lucked out and the weather was perfect for visiting beautiful gardens.

The top photo was taken at Long Pond farm, a former sheep farm that occupies 50 acres next to a lovely pond. This post will focus on the Long Pond farm garden. I will  write about the other gardens in later posts.

IMG_8643You reach the house after slowly making your way down a very long driveway. One of the first things you notice is this Japanese maple. There is one on either side of the entrance.

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The many large and venerable trees on the property, like this copper beech, made sections of the garden cool and pleasant during the heat of the day.

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Looking back at the house, you can see the topography of the property, which is rather hilly.

IMG_8660When they renovated the house a couple of years ago, the owners added a roof garden, which, as you can see, is just getting established.

IMG_8649The hardscape is elegant, and provides interest throughout the garden, almost always with a focus on the pond.

IMG_8679Maybe this is where the sheep used to graze. The family also keeps bees, but we did not see any hives.

IMG_8671A parting view of Long Pond, on a sparkling early summer day.

I’ll be writing about the other amazing gardens in upcoming posts.

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Summer pleasures

IMG_8319A perfect lobster roll. A stuffed-full-to-brimming, not-too-much-mayo lobster roll. You can buy these throughout the year in RI, but many of the best seafood shacks are open only in the summer.

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The beaches. I am not one of those people who spends an entire day at the beach, but I do enjoy gazing at them and walking on them. This is Napatree Point at Watch Hill, RI, as far west as you can get before you cross into Connecticut. It’s a lovely beach with impossible parking in the summer. Easier on many levels in the off-season.

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Summer sunsets. Bailey Island, Maine.

IMG_5607Wading. On Cape Cod.

IMG_5318A clear lake on a hot afternoon.

IMG_5398Annuals.

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June: the good and the bad

IMG_8565The mountain laurel is in bloom now in Rhode Island, and that’s always a good thing. I took this photo during a recent hike.

The flowers are pretty, but mountain laurel’s impact is best enjoyed from a slight distance, so you can appreciate the masses of blooms.

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Here’s one doing its thing in a local park. Wow.

As this beautiful cycle unfolds, another ugly one is also occurring: the gypsy moth infestation.

IMG_8601Here’s a gypsy moth caterpillar eating leaf right down to the rib. The caterpillars are particularly bad in RI this year, and while their destructive eating phase will be over in a couple of weeks, they have denuded large swaths of forest. Can’t wait for them to be gone.

IMG_8594I spoke with a forester and another expert who advised homeowners with defoliated trees to give them a little extra TLC this summer by watering them when it’s hot and dry. Water, but don’t fertilize.  The trees will grow new leaves, but it’s stressful for them and they could use the extra help this year.

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