New York’s Christmas markets

New Yorkers love their Christmas markets. (We should have more of those here in Rhode Island, I think.) I was visiting recently and they weren’t too crowded yet. This is the Union Square Christmas market, a mix of crafts and food, most of it high quality. I bought some really cute handmade earrings here – for myself.

These inflatable dog-models caught my eye. They were wearing raincoats, which might be great for some dogs, but my corgi don’t need no stinkin’ raincoat.

On the sidewalk next to the market, a man was selling these beautiful, hand-made painted eggs. They were all lovely, and I managed to choose one, for only $10.

Next, we went to the market inside the magnificent Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.

The architecture,  Gothic and Romanesque revival, is jaw-dropping.

This was a very high-end market. Both the crafts and the displays were stunning.

Shoppers browsed, glancing up occasionally at the soaring vaulted ceiling and the stained glass windows, which are numerous and awesome.

My final market was at Grand Central Station. A little more crowded, a little noisier,  but still fun.

The aisles weren’t too cramped and there was room to browse comfortably. Last year I went to the Bryant Park holiday market, so I wanted to check out some different ones this time. If you go, very early December seems like the perfect time. Festive –  but not yet frantic.

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Back again

See what happened to my MacBook? The lithium battery failed and pushed the mouse pad right out. If this ever happens to you, do NOT try to charge it, because it can explode, or at the very least, release noxious gases. The catastrophe was spontaneous. I looked over and saw the lid was open and when I opened it all the way, this is what I saw. The price of fixing it is more than the computer is worth, so I bought a new-ish MacBook at a sale at one of our local schools.

Here’s a closer shot of the carnage:

The old computer is in our garden shed until I can get it to the computer repair place where they can safely remove the battery and dispose of the computer. It is not a good idea to keep it in the house.

Here’s a link to more information about this scary and dangerous phenomenon:


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My terrarium

I have had this small terrarium sitting on my desk at work for about five years. I am not near any windows, so the only light it receives is artificial, from above. (yuck)

The maidenhair fern growing inside is the sole inhabitant. There isn’t room for anything else, except for a couple of pebbles and a miniature sheep – the small white thing perched on a stone. The entire terrarium is only about eight inches wide.

When I go in to the office, I take off the lid for a few hours to let it breathe. If it needs a bit of a drink, I give it a little water and pop the glass back on. Over the years, moss has grown on the soil, making the little scene even more attractive.

If I can’t get in for a few weeks to water it, as long as the lid is on, everything is fine. I do have a base of gravel at the bottom for drainage, and a layer of charcoal under the soil.

Here’s another shot, which gives you a better idea of what the fern looks like. (Pardon the sheep, which had toppled over.)

Terrariums have been trendy in recent years, but I’ve always been into them. When I was a little girl, I would create them in large jars. Please don’t succulents in terrariums – exactly the wrong habitats for plants that like things dry. Stick with small plants like ferns that will enjoy all that humidity.

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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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