More late bloomers

I was on my way to my local egg purveyor last week and came upon this gorgeous wildflower meadow in someone’s yard. I pulled over and snapped a few shots. Can you see all the sweet alyssum?  The scent was surprisingly strong.

Then on Thursday night, the temperature plummeted to 19F, so I’m pretty sure all those plants are reduced to a dry, brown crisp now.

Likewise this salvia border at my favorite nursery, which was still going strong before the killing frost.

This border, which is planted next to the parking area, always blows my mind. It’s all annuals, but the variety of salvia cultivars, with verbena bonariensis mixed in, is not only stunning, but buzzing with pollinators. I am going to try and replicate it in one of my beds next year.

Winter came to Rhode Island very decisively this year. I’m heading out now to toss the annuals onto the compost pile.

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Late bloomer

I always forget how late pineapple sage, or salvia elegans, blooms. It doesn’t get going until October here in Rhode Island. Of course, the foliage of this plant, a perennial in Zones 8 to 10, is worthy of admiration with or without the flowers. As the name implies, pineapple sage smells like pineapple, and its leaves are sometimes used in herbal teas or as cocktail garnishes.

For those of you who have never grown it, this is what pineapple sage looks like in the flower bed. It needs full sun and good drainage, and it has a relaxed but not sprawling habit, growing up to 4 feet tall. I’ve read that gardeners in Zones 7 and even 6 have kept theirs alive over the winter by mulching the crowns and crossing their fingers. I’m in Zone 7 so I’m going to try to overwinter mine.

Of course the Ruby Throated hummingbirds have left by the time this plant begins to flower (irony!)) but I figured passing stragglers would be drawn to the strong red flowers. I haven’t seen any hummers in the plants, though.

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Some fall things

This is the Pawcatuck River, which flows out to Little Narragansett Bay. The removal of the Kenyon Mill dam at this site in Richmond, RI in 2013 was part of a larger effort to remove several colonial era dams to allow fish like river herring to once again make their way up the river to spawn. I was out here for work last week, and when I saw this lovely scene, I had to stop to appreciate it and then take a couple of pictures.

Rhode Islanders like to complain about the weather, but we have had a really fabulous fall in our state. The scene in the above photo is pretty much what it’s been like this October – deep blue sky, plenty of intense red leaves, and pleasantly warm so you can pause to enjoy it all.

To top it  off, we  have a flock of stately wild turkeys strolling through the neighborhood. I see them almost every day and I often have to stop the car to allow them to cross the road. I hope they are gorging on ticks as well as acorns.

When I Googled wild turkeys, at first, all I could see were websites about how to hunt them and how to deal with “problem” turkeys. (Someone should draw a cartoon of a turkey reading a book on how to deal with “problem” humans.) But eventually, I came upon a fascinating book about wild turkeys that is chock full of details about their history and their habits.

I hope everyone is enjoying this lovely season.

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The Wizard of Nuts

This tool is called a “nut wizard.” I have been eying these for a while, because we have oaks and we all know what they produce. I just want to get the acorns off the lawn and out of the gardens so they don’t germinate there. Once they are gathered, I leave them for wildlife in a wooded spot in the lower section of the yard.

The small nut wizard (pictured) costs about $65. I had read the reviews, not all of them good, but the negative ones were often written by people who have pecan trees and thousands of nuts to gather. When my sister bought one and told me how much she liked it, I took the plunge and  bought one, too.

This works like those old fashioned carpet sweepers. You push and pull it back and forth and the metal basket scoops up the acorns. To empty the basket, you just separate the metal wires, which are quite flexible, and dump out the acorns. It comes almost fully assembled. All I had to do was screw on the wooden handle.

The nut wizard is made by Holt’s Nut Wizard Inc., of Douglas, GA. I went on the Holt’s website and was pleased to see that all their products are made in the USA. And they make several different wizards, to pick up everything from ammunition to tennis balls and even trash.

This is not a mast year for us, but we still have plenty of acorns to gather. I’ll write an update on how the nut wizard holds up.


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Pretty, simple

I love the wild asters at this time of year, so much, in fact, that I brought a few inside.

I have a teeny tiny vase that I bought on Cape Cod last year, and I enjoy filling it with a sprig of this or a stem of that. This time, the sprig is wild aster with a couple of small mums.

This makes me smile every time I look at it.

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Putting down roots

We’ve been in our new house for more than a year, and I have added several trees to our already wooded landscape. The Japanese maple in the photo was a housewarming gift from friends, right after we moved in the summer. It is Acer palmatum Tamukeyama laceleaf. With protection from voles and rabbits and watering during hot dry spells, this tree has grown and thrived. It also adds interest to the predominantly green landscape in our front yard.

Then last fall, another friend gave us several trees from the Arbor Foundation. The problem was, they didn’t deliver them until December, (really????) when the ground was too hard to plant them. My friend found some soft earth next to her house and planted them there for the winter.

I went to get them in early spring – March if I recall – and they were a sorry sight, a collection of small sticks. I dug them up and planted them at home and then I waited for them to begin to grow leaves. The only one that showed any life was the supposed red maple, Rhode Island’s state tree.

Here it is, a very pretty tree, although I am not sure it is a red maple. The leaves look different, almost like silver maple leaves. I would appreciate your comments on what you think this is, because I can’t accommodate a silver maple in that spot.

The other trees were three dogwoods, species as yet unknown, (labels missing) and a Washington Hawthorn. All were  twigs, just a couple of feet high. The dogwoods put out a couple of leaves after a month or so, but the hawthorn did nothing. A friend who knows about trees stopped by, snipped off a tiny branch and pronounced it dead. I didn’t have time to remove it, but I continued to water it when I watered the dogwoods, and one day in July (yes, July, four months after planting) I noticed that it was sprouting leaves.

This small tree will have pretty white flowers in the spring, red foliage in the fall and even berries for the birds. I’m surprised and delighted that it survived, and I have already protected its trunk for winter.

Here’s one of the dogwoods. I believe this is a gray dogwood, a native species. Corrections are always appreciated. After a successful growing season, all the new trees should be fine going into fall and winter.

Gardening is always an opportunity to learn, and I came away with two valuable lessons from this experience: keep watering and be very, very patient.

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At last

This photo, taken very early on a recent morning, looks like it could be any number of places, but it was taken in southern Rhode Island. Fall arrived last week, bringing with it my favorite hiking opportunities.

I enjoy looking at ensembles of plants in the fall, but I always take time to appreciate the wild asters, which I think are stunning right now.

Speaking of ensembles, this meadow scene looked like it had been painted against the sky.

Although we are experiencing a strange (and for me unpleasant) little heatwave at the moment, fall is usually a great time to get out on the trails because you can actually hike without wanting to pass out from the heat and humidity.

If you get out before the dew evaporates, you can enjoy things like this spider web on a pine.

Or on the grass.

The goldenrod, so important to monarch butterflies, is resplendent this year.

Happy fall everybody.

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Lion’s ear: impressive!

This plant is Lion’s Ear, or Leonotis Leonorus. Originally from South Africa, it’s a fast-growing, tropical shrub that will reach 3 to 6 feet and attract pollinators like crazy. I bought mine on a whim a couple of weeks ago and I hope I can get my hands on some next summer, because this is a very interesting-looking and generally cool plant that hummingbirds cannot resist.

I love the orange color, which will also work well with fall decor. Lion’s Ear is hardy only to Zone 9, though, so I will grow it as an annual.

This is a fairly drought tolerant plant that likes full sun and the occasional dead heading. It is also salt tolerant, so coastal gardeners take note.  I read that it is sometimes grown as a hedge, which would look awesome.

The flowers remind me of a cross between monarda blooms and tiny pineapples and they look great in a vase. Lion’s Ear has been added to my “must buy more of these” list for next summer.

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Not peachy

Late summer brings back memories of peaches. We used to buy them in baskets back in Canada, and my sister still does. The ones she buys in Quebec are grown in Niagara, Ontario, which has a warmer climate than most of Canada.

Those peaches are a bit smaller than the ones we get here, but they are delicious; dripping with juice, sweet and fragrant. Everything you expect when you bite into a peach.

Now cast your eyes on the peach in the above photo. It is typical of several I have bought in recent weeks. It smelled fine and seemed ripe after a few days (slightly soft to the touch, with a peachy smell), but it was all a cruel hoax. The fruit was dry and mealy inside. Fit only for the compost. That slightly wet part at the bottom in the photo below? That’s rot, not juice.

I even bought a few peaches at a fancy speciality market that usually has great produce, but  those peaches rotted before they ever ripened.

Don’t tell me that this peach was bred for long distance transport, because New Jersey is about the same distance from Rhode Island as Niagara is from my sister’s supermarket in Quebec.

I have traveled to a few “third world” countries and one thing they had in common was tasty fruit, usually sold right on the side of the road. I feel so ripped off, buying peaches that may or may not be edible, and 90 percent of the time, finding out I’ve wasted my money.

I guess the only decent peaches will remain in my childhood memories – and at my sister’s.

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Best friends on vacation

With summer winding down, I thought I would share some photos from the vacation I took with my dog, Fidgit. It wasn’t anything earth-shattering, but we spent time outside, the thing she and I both enjoy most of all.

Fidgit is a Pembroke Welsh corgi, and she is seven. We adopted her when she was 2 1/2. I must note here that people who do not know about corgis assume that because they are short, they are somehow un-athletic. Corgis were bred to herd cattle and they can walk all day – and swim – and climb – regardless of the length of their legs. Fidgit is annoyed by the “short little legs” stereotype.

We went hiking in New Hampshire for a few days. The first day, we hiked to Sawyer Pond.

The trail was very wet from a recent rain, just the way Fidgit likes it. In case you’re wondering, I always have a leash with me and I leash her whenever the situation calls for it. I have a carabiner on the belt of my backpack and I attach her leash to it so I can still use my poles. It works great and she knows not to pull when she’s leashed.

When she’s off leash, I constantly refresh her recalls and commands like “wait” with treats, and she has become an excellent hiking companion.

After the hike, a well-deserved rest on the deck at my friend’s cabin, where we were staying.

The next morning, we climbed up to Zealand Falls, and the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Zealand hut.

The trail is steep and rocky when you near the top, perfect for a rock-scrambling corgi with a low center of gravity and a badass attitude. She always waits for me to catch up.

At the hut, she endured more questions from hikers about how she had managed the climb with those  “little legs” but she took it all with good humor and her usual corgi smile.

We took a quick look at Zealand Falls before heading back down. By this time, she was so muddy that her belly and legs had become a different color. But that’s all part of the fun.

Here’s a dog-less shot to give you an idea of how beautiful it is on this trail and in these mountains in general.

Fidgit sticks to the trail and follows nicely. She particularly enjoys bridges and obstacles.

And boardwalks.

Back at the cabin, relaxing around the fire pit. A great time with my favorite hiking companion.

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