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February 2008

Spaths and speakers!

High 25 F
Low  14 F

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Flower shows can help with the winter blues.  I am always on the lookout for forced plants which are a bit unusual and at smaller shows they can be in short supply!   The Arisaemas  or Jack in the Pulpits qualify, for me, as an interesting group. Dsc_0010 The native Jack in the Pulpit favors boggy situations but these exotic, Asian species actually require excellent drainage.   Dsc_0011 They are varied in appearance and always interesting.  This particular display was an upland woodland with lots of moss, ferns and rocks.Dsc_0013   It was a beautiful display, subtle, serene and soothing.  The crabapples and the azaleas are always a welcome sight but there is little unusual about those plants. Dsc_0042 Delphiniums are wonderful.  These were interplanted with foxgloves.  Curious.   I did find one really intriguing planting.  What would possess a designer to plant stocks like this?  Does anyone else find this curious? Dsc_0020 I guess we will have to chalk it up to 'Artistic license.  On another note, the speakers at flower shows are often well worth the ticket price.  There were many wonderful speakers at the Rhode Island show but one that I have long wanted to hear was Barbara Damrosch of Four Season Farm fame.  Barbara gave an excellent talk on her ornamental vegetable garden accompanied by a wonderful group of slides. Dsc_0002 She has written The Garden Primer and her husband is the author of my favorite vegetable gardening book, Four Season Harvest.  The Garden Primer has been updated but  I have not yet acquired the new version.  I would highly recommend both of these books for the garden book lover's library.


Fairy Tales!

High 37 F
Low  15 F

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The Flower Shows have started and serve to give us all a bit of relief from the monotonous landscape outside the windows.  The Rhode Island Flower Show is held at the convention center in Providence, RI and it is a relatively small show. It is nowhere near the size of Philadelphia or Boston but it is still a welcome respite from the cold!  This year's theme was 'Fairy Tales' and the show was held the week of school vacation so that kids could fully participate.  Problems arise in the Lawn and Garden Industry when weather turns bad and since the show is run as a business I can commiserate with the show owner as Friday was a blustery, snowy day with slick road conditions and low attendance.   If one did brave the bad driving conditions they were rewarded with a very good view of the garden displays unimpeded by the usual excited crowd. Dsc_0030Click to enlarge!
Sleeping Beauty kept a silent and not so watchful vigil over the show which featured some well known characters.  Dsc_0029 Can you see who is sitting in the distance on the wall, ready to fall?  Dsc_0018 Even I was intrigued by these huge lollipops which were eye level for the kids! One of my favorite displays included this dramatic woodland with the figure walking through the birches.Dsc_0027 The red of the cloak and the white of the birches were stunning. There were also swansDsc_0024 and sand creations Dsc_0032 which were works in progress throughout the show.Dsc_0036   This guy actually has smoke coming out of his pipe and here Dsc_0037 is a rabbit late for work.  It is amazing how these creatures appear out of a pile of sand!  The next post will have some of the flora and a bit on the speakers.  Is there a flower show in your future and if so, what do you hope to gain from going?


Forgotten fragrance!

High 30 F
Low 18 F

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Viola odorata 'Rosea'
This weekend I picked up Henry Mitchell's book,  On Gardening. Many of you are familiar with this book which is a compilation of Mitchell's gardening essays which he wrote for 'The Washington Post' as a weekly feature writer.  They are delightful to read and full of reflection, fact and humor.  I turned to his first February post titled' Roses are Red, but Violets are Bloomin' Lovely'.  'Parma violets' are the first two words of this essay and while he says he thinks that they are somewhat sinister, I, an intrepid gardener, had never heard of Parma violets.  What ensued was a frenzied internet search which revealed a couple of sources for this heretofore unheard of violet and also turned up another promise of fragrance, Viola odorata, a hardy violet.  Fragrance!  I remember violet perfume from my childhood and, even then, wondered about the scent.  It was sweet, a bit cloying as perfume can be, not fresh like a flower.  No violets I picked were scented! I had no frame of reference for the perfume and thought it was named because of the color. Not like the Lily of the Valley perfume which comes to mind as there is a perfume which steals the breath from a room compared to the wonderfully sweet scent of the flowers in bloom!  I digress, back to violets.  There were many violets around.  I used to pick bunches of solid purple and the blue and white ones for my Mom on Mother's Day but they had absolutely no fragrance.  What they did have was a stem which fit, oh so delicately and perfectly, in a child's hand.  I have many violets in my garden now.  I weed them out constantly with the knowledge that there will always be some to seed and reseed and I can never completely eradicate them.  I've searched my picture files for one picture of a violet in the garden but since it is so common I guess I just didn't snap that photo. After the internet search I was incapable of sitting on the knowledge that fragrant violets were available at the local, for me, mail order and retail nursery, Logee's.  They also had Parma violet listed for sale but the cultivar 'Marie Louise'  was out of stock.  I took the drive, about twelve miles.  I searched and asked and finally, I did find Dsc_0049 Viola odorata rosea and Viola odorataDsc_0003 nestled on a bench in the cool and oh so humid greenhouse.  As I picked them off the bench I anticipated fragrance but was knocked over by the instant travel back in time experience of standing, eye level with the perfume counter at the local drugstore sniffing the bottle of violet perfume. The scent  is heavenly akin to that sweet pea fragrance which eludes description.   I have visions of a field of scented violets.  Do you think the scent will offset the apparent flaw of invasiveness?  Only time will tell.


Gardening inspiration!

High  38 F
Low   12 F

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Fred Bailey in his garden
Where do we get our gardening inspiration?  Is it genetic?  Is it cultural?  Is it osmosis?  Some of us seem particularly attuned to the rhythm of the seasons and the intrinsic necessity of having plants in our lives.  I haven't seemed to teach my children this nor have I genetically imparted the 'plant love' in them.  Neither seems interested in the art and beauty of plants and gardening although my son, who is now a homeowner, is having a bit of fun with rocks in the landscape.  There is hope!  I suspect that my passion for plants was a bit overwhelming for them as any time consuming passion can be.   Each one of us probably has a different explanation for their plant addiction.  Mine lies, at least partially, in the memory of a garden wonderland created by my grandfather. Some of my first memories are those of playing in my grandfather's garden.  I was seven when he passed away so we are talking very young memories.  My mother's father was an English immigrant arriving in America in the early 1900's. The picture above is a picture of my grandfather standing among his bearded iris. Also visible in the picture are some of the trellises he built.  He also built many 'bird apartments'.  Fred loved birdhouses, trellises and wildlife.   The garden had a fish pond and a stream. Water and children are quite a combination.  The journey into his garden began on the patio overlooking the sunken garden reached by a set of stairs leading down into the garden.  If memory serves me correctly, they were wooden, white and a bit steep and they probably descended about six feet.  To a child, that is a big drop!  There was a wooden arbor in the center of the garden covered by roses and flanked by cannas.  It contained two benches which were great fun on which to climb, sit, dream and play.   I remember rose petals strewn on the ground. Dsc_0019 This next picture shows the arbor in the middle of the garden.  These pictures were taken in black and white and then colorized.  They are the originals and I have no idea what year they were taken.  They are priceless to me.  I would like to think that my gardens are somewhat reminiscent of his gardens.Dsc_0048   The curves seem familiar to me and the dappled light in my garden has a faint, familar echo of that long ago wonderland.  I do have one plant which has survived from my grandfather's garden and which was passed to me by my Mom of brown thumb fame. Dsc_0003 This rose winds its' way up the post to cover the bird house.  It blooms profusely and is subject to defoliation from black spot which doesn't decrease its' vigor from year to year.  Is someone watching over it?   It has no scent except the sometimes elusive fragrance of fond memories!   Each of us has our own story and history concerning our love of plants so, where do you get your love of gardening?   


Valentine's Day Pink

High 53 F
Low  22  F
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Rhododendron mucronulatum 'Cornell Pink'
I guess that today is 'Pretty in Pink' in preparation for Valentine's Day!   What is pinker than a 'Cornell Pink'?  Love this shrub.  It is the one of the first flowering shrubs to bloom in the spring.  This one bloomed on April 24th.Dsc_0010   The next pink to show color is this corydalis.  Well, maybe it is a bit purple too but I like it and it does have a pink effect!  Moving right along the pink vein,Dsc_0019 is this flowering cherry, Prunus 'Crimson Cascade', which is bright, magenta pink!  Gotta love it!  Dsc_0019_2 How about the emerging pink foliage of Dicentra spectabilis?  This certainly qualifies as pink andD_spectabilis it promises even more which it delivers with aplomb!  Dsc_0002 Flowering almond is a beautiful baby pink although the shape of this shrub, I find a bit gawky.  Then there is the Bergenia cordifolia which is generally planted for the foliage rather than the flowers.  Bergenia_cordifolia They are pink though.  The emerging foliage of theRhus_tiger_eyes Rhus typina 'Tiger Eyes' also has some pink tones in it and it is beautiful in all the seasons. Epimedium_rubrum Epimedium rubrum has dainty pink floating flowers hanging among the wiry stems. Dsc_0016 This crabapple has many different shades of pink.  My son gave me this crabapple for Mother's Day.  I love it! Dsc_0010_2 This pulmonaria has pink buds which turn to blue.  What could be better than that!   Many thanks to  Angela at Cottage Magpie for her pink inspiration! I find that most of my pink is spring blooming.  I'll have to address that this season with more summer and fall pinks!  What is pink in your garden?


Trade Shows!

High 26 F
Low  8 F

Industry trade shows are only interesting if you are interested in the industry.  Since most of you are garden lovers, I  thought I would show you the excitement and glamor of the New England Grows Lawn and Garden trade show.  I don't have millions of pictures but I do have a few.  Most of you may know that I sell product to the independent garden centers in my area, Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Or, I try to!  These are some of the products I sell. Dsc_0041 The above picture is of the pottery booth.  Lots of beautiful containers and yes, I have quite a few in my yard most of which are chipped or broken or otherwise had to be credited and replaced.  I don't usually take crooked pictures but this one seems to be!  Another line I sell is stone.  Dsc_0037 If you can buy a truckload, 16 pallets, you can buy from this company.  It is mostly natural stone.  I like natural stone.  In between the stone and the pottery, there were four other booths containing grower mixes, mulches, hanging baskets and statuary.  Dsc_0028 The statuary is from Athens, Georgia and is priced to sell.   Dsc_0030 Here are some of the southwestern pieces for my Texas friends! I don't have a picture of the other booths but I did take some of some interesting items which I saw at the show.  Dsc_0040 This is a picture of two cranes carved out of granite.  They will not blow over! I also loved these large rocks carved for a water feature.  Dsc_0042 They are gorgeous! Pricey but gorgeous!Dsc_0043   This is another view.  In addition, I did see these Dsc_0056 interesting mailboxes.  This one is a 'quoth the raven, nevermore'!  Each one of a kind. Dsc_0060 This one I call Dsc_0058 'Mailbox dreadlocks' and this one is tall reeds which were about eight feet tall. Dsc_0057 The next one is a humorous poke at all those mailbox disasters.  Dsc_0061 This last one is how the Red Sox fans feel when their team loses!  Fortunately they were winners this past season!  Red Sox fans are ...intensely loyal.

Begonias are big this year. Dsc_0046 How about this one for a shady container?  It is a River Nile begonia and both leaves and flowers are interesting. Dsc_0064 Here is one last shot of a container prepared for the show.  I rather like it's simplicity.  What do you think?  I hope I haven't bored you all with this glimpse of the glamorous trade show circuit.  Work is work after all.


Dog's best friends!

High 38 F
Low  22 F

Post by Tucker

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One of my best friends was away all week and finally came home Friday evening!  I have many good friends but Layanee and I spend a great deal of time together since she often works at home.  Since she is a bit tired from work and travel, I thought I would do a bit of a post on life in my world.  I have a good lifeDsc_0004 (except for the cat)!  In the top picture I am reclining on my favorite kitchen rug, the chicken rug, where I always wait patiently to pounce on any cooking disasters, crumbs, or  dropped  food.  I like to help out in the kitchen and this is a good spot!  I know my friend, Lytton, from Canada likes music but I like it quiet and have no favorite songs.  I do have some favorite places in addition to my kitchen rug.  Dsc_0003 I like the coziness of my kennel and will often climb in for a quick snooze. Dsc_0005 I also like the rug by the front door.  I can 'stand guard', so to speak, while grabbing a nap in the sun.    Dsc_0022 There is nothing better than a walk in the woods Dsc_0008 or the field except, perhaps, playing catch or frisbee. Dsc_0022 I am pretty good at catching a frisbee on the fly if my friends throw it right.  I do like to pose for pictures in the garden.  This helps show the scale of the garden and I am always willing to help my friend.  My favorite thing in the world is swimming.  I wish I could swim every day but in the winter all is frozen and I have to wait until spring.  When the water thaws in the fishpond and the days are warm I sometimes sneak a little plunge into the water. Dsc_0018 Layanee usually never has the camera in hand as I am extremely subtle about this.  I am in and out before she knows what happened! This is the one time she caught me!  It really doesn't hurt anything although I do come out with a bit of a fragrance!  The best swimming is in the pool which is supposed to be for humans...right! Dsc_0015 I swim much more than they do and consider it my duty.  I can do laps for hours and if there is an object in the pool I am right on it. Sometimes I dress up for special occasions such as the Fourth of July or Dsc_0009 ChristmasDsc_0043 but, the best part of my life is spending time with my friends,Tucker_and_layanee Layanee and The Equipment ManagerThe_equipment_manager and I really loveDsc_0164 Emily, Ben, and Jessica although they just visit now.  I did spend a week with Ben and Jessica this winter and really liked their wood stove.  It was warm and cozy at their house but, there is no place like home!Tucker_relaxing It is quiet and serene, especially in the summer.


The view from Space!

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I am not that comforted to know that my property is visible from space.  It brings new meaning to the term 'Big Brother is watching'.  Up until recently, our property was in the blur but imaging continues and there really are very few places to hide.  This is the view from space which shows our ten acres of paradise here in Rhode Island.  The house is to the right of the pool, the most prominent feature, and the barn has the large green roof.  We are surrounded by white pine and oak primarily and the fields are visible.  The very left of the picture shows a darker area in the back field and this area is a bit wetter with vernal pools in the spring.  The road is on the very far right and not very visible.  It is about three hundred feet from the house  just to give you a bit of scale!   It is interesting to see the bird's eye view.  Have any of you Google Earthed your house.  Some views actually show cars in the driveway!

I am off and running this week so I hope you will leave comments and understand the lack of posts.  I have a  work related trade show this week.   I am going to leave one picture on wordless Wednesday for your viewing pleasure!  Have a great week all!