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November 2008
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January 2009

December 2008

Let it snow....NOT!

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A quick post on some before and after snow pictures.  DSC_0050 The forecast for last weekend was snow on Friday, snow showers on Saturday and snow on Sunday.  I didn't know that snow showers meant snow all day long! It does change the landscape in a rather dramatic way doesn't it? DSC_0008 I think the total must have been fourteen inches or so.  DSC_0039
I do think that snow adds serenity at this frantic time of year. DSC_0045 I am going to try to post tomorrow but with the tasks at hand, this may be the Christmas Card for this year.  I wish you all a peaceful and love filled holiday!


Luther Burbank Gardens


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I feel a special connection to Luther Burbank, renowned botanist, horticulturist and plant breeder.   There are a couple of reasons. One, Luther was born in New England not far from where I live.  Most of his notoriety came to him  once he moved to Santa Rosa, CA but he did develop a hybrid potato on his farm in Lunenburg, MA and he used the extensive proceeds ($150.00) to travel to California where he continued with his work and passion.  The second reason I feel connected is that my maiden name was Luther.  I know that is tenuous at best but still, we did share a name and a love of plants.  Don't you feel a kinship to anyone who gardens even if their achievements are on a grand scale?  I recently visited this small garden in the heart of the town of Santa Rosa which is just north of San Francisco.  There were some interesting plants such as this prickly pear cactus100_0302 (2) and this 100_0307 (2) Mahonia and this 100_0304 (2) tree dahlia, Dahlia imperialis, towering fifteen feet high.  Luther was a plant breeder and not one who kept great records.  He is credited with developing over 800 new strains  of plants and the list would be longer if his records were more meticulous.  I found his garden to be a haven in the middle of the residential area of this small city. 100_0312 (2) The enclosed courtyard was particularly inviting....as most are when entrance is denied!  I also loved his greenhouse.  100_0314 (2) This is an interesting design which seems unlikely to be able to stand the rigors of the snow now falling in New England.  It is beautiful and functional for the Mediterranean climate Luther embraced. I doubt that he sat here100_0316 (2) looking over his garden.  Most of us who have a garden seat can attest to its' lack of use.   You can read more about his life and garden here100_0296 Thankfully, his small corner of paradise has been preserved for all to see.  I did score a rather great treasure.  I have been planning on planting Nicotiana mutabilis for next season and the seed search has revealed just a few sources.  That is until I came across a huge stand of these plants at Luther's garden.  This is not a great picture.  I can only claim to have been so overcome with seed lust that I neglected to take more than this one picture. You can almost sense that  lust given there are more seed pods visible than flowers which change color from pale pink through the darker pink tones as they mature.  This mass planting was about four and a half to five feet in height.  Frothy pink!100_0300 The seeds were everywhere and a  garden employee granted me permission to shake a few into my  hastily made envelope.  I hope to have my own plants next season to remind me of this garden, the famous gardener and the wonderful trip.


Sonoma's serenity!

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One advantage of traveling in December is leaving the inclement weather of New England behind.   We left amidst a spattering of snow which did not amount to anything but we did miss the deluge of rain which arrived later in the week.  The weather in Sonoma was cool and clear and just right for traveling along the wine trails.  The  Sonoma landscape is really farmland. There may be fancy gates such as the one above at the winery, Gary Farrell, but the rolling hills are just made more beautiful by the symmetry of the planted vines.DSC_0067 I have only ever seen these vineyards in December which is the off season.  I love the gnarly look of the old vines.  They are specters in the landscape.DSC_0084   They have heft and presence don't they?  This area is so very different from New England that there is something new to learn every day.DSC_0036   Not that I remember everything but some things stick.  This is a persimmon tree looking glorious in the sunshine even though no leaves remain. Blue and orange!  Poppies in the garden give me this color combination.  The view from the porch100_0290 remains one of my favorite in the world.  The mist in the Russian River Valley is purported to be one of the key ingredients to obtaining a good Pinot Noir wine.  Not the easiest grape to grow I am told.100_0286 The EM enjoys the cool view with a hot cup of coffee in the morning. If you ever travel to Sonoma, The Raford Inn is the spot with this view. DSC_0117 It is a wonderful, warm, inviting Bed & Breakfast with comfortable and well appointed rooms.  100_0284 Beautiful antiques make this Bed & Breakfast unique.  There are many such B & B's in Sonoma but the key to a great vacation is hospitality and none is better than that provided by the innkeepers at The Raford House.   Dane and Rita are more than most and they greet you with a smile,Dsc_0120 (2) cook you a great breakfast,  share their home and, sometimes, their hearts with you!  We now count them as friends.  Thanks Dane and Rita for a great experience. 


Across the country!

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The EM and I are due home today from a week in wine country.  Here are a few shots from our last trip.  The Golden Gate Bridge is all it is purported to be.  This trip we will probably not stop at Muir Woods but if you have the opportunity to visit, I can recommend it highly.  The road in is winding and steep and the parking lot at Muir is an enclosed world with towering redwoods surrounding the cars.  The paths are wideDSC_0020 and the experience is a bit other worldly.  DSC_0019 It is humbling to be surrounded by such venerable and stately trees.  We have been staying, once again, at the Bed and Breakfast Raford House in Healdsburg. DSC_0112 Our last visit was quite enjoyable.  Our hosts were great and breakfast DSC_0120 was always a treat but the most memorable part of our previous trip was the coffee we shared with other guests on the porchDSC_0119 overlooking the Russian River.  This trip I hope to be taking pictures of some gardens and vineyards although the gardens are in a dormant state there also.  Stay tuned?


Hoar frost


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Hoar frost is quite a cool term in more ways than one.  I'm not sure when I first heard this term but it was when I was much younger with a very base sense of humor and these words made me chuckle.  The decadence associated with the synonym is apparent in  the heavy hand of Jack when he coats shrubs, perennials and lawns with ice crystals.  It sounds so old fashioned doesn't it  Check out more on frost here.  The hoar frost is really a very thick coating of ice crystals and in the past week we had a rain event followed by a deep chill.  The resulting world is magical and the individual beauty of seed heads Dsc_0004 (2) really shows to best advantage with the sugar frosting of the hoar frost.  The coneflowersDSC_0015 are well defined DSC_0012as are different DSC_0031 sedums, discarded oak leavesDSC_0022 and grass seed heads.DSC_0024  Rocks and moss sparkle in the early morning light creating a magical world DSC_0027 which disappears as the sun rises.  I know that the hoar frost is very common in England.  We experience it a couple times during the fall and early winter.  Is this a regular occurrence in your garden?


December in the garden

High 55 F
Low  40 F
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Long shadows are the rule of the day in the early December garden.  After very cold temperatures last week and freezing rain yesterday morning, we are now in a warm spell.  New England weather changes quickly and that can probably be said of many parts of the country.  This is not unusual and next week it could snow. I will have to add a snow shot to this series when it happens.  Let's look at this shot in DSC_0039
May, May 12th of this year to be exact.   The Viburnum carlesii is blooming white in the distance and the spot of pink is a crabapple.  The three spirea planted in the same bed do not provide the best color combination but I am leaving them right where they are planted.  Shocking color combos are good now and then.    One of the best  things about gardening in a temperate zone is the ever changing appearance of the garden.  It is good to look back through the months and see the dramatic differences in the garden. DSC_0070 In July the garden is lush and green and much more enclosed than in December.  All of the seasons have advantages.  Right now, there is little to do but enjoy the bones of the garden and dream of next season.  It is the change of seasons which makes me appreciate the first shoots of spring, the flowers of summer, the brilliance of fall and the silence of December.  I enjoy each season for its' inherently unique qualities.   Are you enjoying the respite from garden chores right now or are you longing for the long days of summer and the joy of weeding?