With No Regrets - Rue - Ruta graveolens

Drought-garden viewIt is mid September and the garden is looking more tattered and aged than usual. The above picture shows the dried and burned grass in the sunny portion of the garden. The foreground freedom grass still looks quite green but it is really best seen from a distance. September is the month of natural decline as plants complete their life cycles. Days are getting noticeably shorter but this September has been very hot. Not hot if you live in Austin, TX but hot for New England where air conditioning is still not in every home. Until today, we have had no significant rainfall since mid-August. This garden and the gardener are dependent on well water. A well ties one a bit more closely to nature. Choices must be made regarding water usage. Shower the body or the garden? Drink a cool glass of water or quench the thirst of a garden full of plants? With hundreds of feet of borders, a vegetable garden and a week of vacation, Mother Nature has chosen to remind me of the necessity of water. Those thin, large leaved plants with shallow roots are the first to show the signs of water stress. Drought-hydrangeaHydrangeas and astilbe are limp and crispy.  I cringe when I look at the withered foliage in the garden but here and there in the garden there are a few pristine perennials.  One small and rather insignificant perennial herb shows no sign of stress. You might think it is the wooly leaved lamb's ear or the gray foliaged yarrows but even those plants have turned limp or browned. The Queen of the Garden this September is the herb rue, Ruta graveolens.   Drought-rueI have only one plant and it has gotten no attention during the dry spell. Its foliage is blue and smooth and just looking at this plant brings down the heat. It is cool to the eye. It is an interesting herb which is native to the Balkans where the climate is hot and dry. Rue has been used medicinally for centuries and was said to have been ingested by Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo to improve their eyesight. It can also cause violent vomiting and gastric distress and the oils from this plant can blister the skin. It is also quite bitter. I will stick to using it in the garden. I have read that soft tip cuttings taken in the fall and stuck in moist sand will root during the winter. I may just have to increase my stock of this plant and give this a try. It would make a lovely border plant as it grows in an upright, rounded form. Rue has long been a symbol of bitterness and regret but I have no regrets in planting this cool beauty in the garden. In fact, I know I need a few more of them.

First Snow- November 14, 2014-A Very Short Post

Black & White Parrotia
All I can say is that it is way too early for snow. As you can see, there are still leaves on this Parrotia persica. The snow will melt fast and it is pretty but it is too soon. Bunny in snow
I was also gifted with this rabbit this morning. There were two actually and since there are no dogs here now (a very sad state of affairs) they are becoming quite a regular sight. As for the snow, it is the poor man's fertilizer. Witch hazel snow
I will enjoy its short stay. The rabbits may wear out their welcome though. 


Icicle cabbage leafI am seeing the first daffodils and leucojum, or spring snowflakes as they are commonly called, on blogs from other parts of the country. My friend, Leslie from Growing a Garden in Davis, has her first along with hellebore flowers, camellias and ladybugs. You can see those by clicking on the highlighted text above. Here the only things growing are the icicles hanging from the roof. They seem to get longer and thicker every day even on these days when the temperatures stay well below freezing. TrellisThe trellis supports a few while casting an interesting shadow. The west side of the house has the biggest spears. It gets the afternoon sun here and the icicles are almost touching the ground. Roof iciclesThey really are pretty although I would rather see crocus or snowdrops. Thank goodness for the blog world. Pool borderThe long border currently has only the orange globe for major winter interest. February always seems to drag by for me but there are things to do. Today I ordered raspberry plants for spring delivery along with tomato seeds for starting in late March. Someone here was bored enough to shovel a long path to the barn. I, on the other hand, strapped on the cross country skiis and headed out for some fresh air. SkiisI do hope you are surviving this long winter. It won't be long now. In a month the calendar says it will be spring and I sure hope Mother Nature is paying attention.

Where's Woodstock?


Frozen in flightNo, not the town in New York, the little cartoon bird who skates on frozen ponds. That time has arrived here as on many mornings this past week the little birdbath in the back garden has offered up a solid surface. It is somewhat sad to see but inevitable. Magnolia leafThe magnolia tree, Magnolia macrophylla, has lost its very large leaves and the hosta leaves have either turned to mush or skeletelized as the season progresses. HostaLittle remains of the summer garden and fall has packed up and left even though the calendar gives us another month. Mother Nature rarely looks at the calender though. WitchhazelThis year the witch hazel has put on quite a show. This was planted as a Hamamelis 'Arnold's Promise' but most retail witch hazels are grafted to more sturdy rootstock and this graft failed. It has reverted to that rootstock, the native Hamamelis virginiana which blooms in fall rather than spring. H. 'Arnold's Promise' would be the first tree to bloom here in the spring but the H. virginiana is the last to bloom here and it is as welcome a sight. There are other bits and pieces of color if one takes the time to really look. The hellebore is poised to bloom. Hellebore in waitingIt sits in suspended animation now and will stay at this stage during the cruelest days of winter. If the snow recedes these lime green buds are visible and a reminder and a promise of future blooms. Volunteer violaFor now, this little viola sits shivering in the cold. It would be overlooked if it were blooming when blooms abound but now, in the low light of late fall, it glows in the crack of the walkway. It seems to me to be a miracle in miniature.

Golden Days

Fall GrassIt happens quickly. The turn from summer to fall. Here in southern New England we are in 'The Golden Days' of fall. The whites pines shed their needles this past weekend creating a blanket of burnished copper under their boughs. Pine needle carpetThis blanket muffles sounds, covers the imperfections on the floor of the pine woodland and it also creates a spongy and inviting carpet for the casual hiker or hapless gardener on the way to the compost pile.The drive  There is still brilliance in the garden and the surrounding woodland. 2 SassafrassCrimson and gold mix together as the low angle of the sun illuminates the leaves. Bough autumn colorIt is a turning point-Nature's last colorful gift to the gardener before the onset of gray and dreary November which is perhaps a necessary respite from the color of 'The Golden Days' of fall. There is much still in bloom here as the first frost has been reticent to show his face. That is fine with this gardener. Moonflower 2The moonflower vine was planted late and has just started its show which will be short indeed. The Spanish Flag vine or Mina lobata self seeded next to the tutuer in the island garden. Spanish Flag VineIt has cheery tricolor flowers which match the colors of fall here perfectly. It was a gift from Mother Nature this season and it is much appreciated. Did anything crop up unexpectedly in your garden this season? 

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner....Sandy

The lawn on Saturday
Sandy is supposed to track quite a bit south of my garden in western RI but I hope she sends enough breeze to remove the leaves from the lawn that accumulated since it was mowed on Saturday.
The lawn on Monday morning.
Many of the leaves were chopped and put in the gardens. There are many more to go. Perhaps hurricane Sandy, although uninvited, will bring all the leaves down at once. That could be a positive among so many negatives. Stay safe.