An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

March 26, 2011

Early Spring on the Shore

I have made several trips to Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore this spring, where the new season comes slowly, particularly adjacent to the water.  At my home in Norfolk we are probably 2 weeks ahead of the Shore, even though we are just an hour south.  My theory is that the slow to warm waters of the Atlantic and Chesapeake on either side of the Eastern Shore keep the air temperatures more moderate and keep spring from busting out on a whim.  Perhaps the last plants that will give up their winter cloaks are the marsh grasses, and when they green up you know summer will not be far behind.

Metompkin Bay Sunrise 3-19-11

Parker's Creek

Parker's Creek (2)

Another sign of spring on the Eastern Shore is the departure of the Snow Geese.  This flock appears to be gleaning a final meal from the field before they they begin their return journey to the Arctic tundra where they will spend the summer making new Snow Geese.

Snow Geese

When I was on the Shore last weekend the Red Maples (Acer rubrum) were blooming and many other trees were growing their spring peach fuzz.  The local Saucer and Star Magnolias (Magnolia soulangiana and M. stellata) were about two warm days away from opening.  Closer to the ground Narcissus were in the early stages of opening up.  The clump below is next to the marsh near my parents house at the site of an old home.  All traces of the house are long gone but a rose-gone-wild and these Daffodils live on and have bloomed for at least 75 years.

Wild Narcissus

Earlier this month I wrote about a not always welcome sign of spring, the blooming of  Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule).  Last week it continued its flowering in the field next to my parents house, but so was a surprise plant to me.  I am pretty sure this lovely is a Euphorbia and doesn't it look good growing among the Henbit and the corn stubble?  The flowers were a brilliant acid green, it had red stems, the growth radiated out of a central point in the ground and it was only about 6" tall.  I could be wrong, but I don't think this is a native, rather it is most likely an escapee.  Does anyone know what species it may be, I would love to know?

Euphorbia (6)


Euphorbia (2)

Predictably a clump of this Euphorbia now has a home in my garden, and hopefully I got a piece without any Henbit in it.

March 25, 2011

A Week That Was

This past week was a very busy and exhausting one for me and is likely the last one to include two days off for a couple of months. I got to experience 2 hours of brutalization in the dentist's chair where not one, not two, but three applications of Novocaine were required. I also filmed a spot for the city of Suffolk's cable TV channel loosely about Historic Garden Week. On Thursday I got my second shot at live television and appeared on The Hampton Roads Show. There were also a few more pleasant and less taxing moments including being able to meet Gene and give him his prize from my Winter Walk Off. I also enjoyed delicious food and good company at Fellini's with my family and Virginia's newest and my favorite Certified Child Birth Educator along with her accomplished artist partner fresh from a well-received show at the Courthouse Galleries.

On Friday I debated between spending my day off unwinding with a long bike ride or in my neglected garden. The bike trip appealed to me more, and I choose to head to Old Towne Portsmouth where this blog has been before. In order to get to Portsmouth by bike I had to ride downtown and hop the ferry. My timing could not have been better. As the ferry left Norfolk, the Harry S. Truman was heading upriver to dry dock for several months, creating lots of photo ops for this blogger. Also on the ferry was a very chatty man who worked at the shipyard and filled me in on all the details. He was concerned about a terrorist attack and was perplexed that the armed helicopter gun ships were not in sight. He told me all the aircraft carriers and all of our subs are nuclear powered, and given how many of each are floating on or under local waters at any given moment, it made me ponder the situation, especially in light of recent news on the nuclear energy front. Whatever, I enjoyed the sight of such a massive construction being pushed and pulled between the two cities dwarfing all in sight.
The Truman Heads to Drydock (03)

The Truman Heads to Drydock (06)

The Truman Heads to Drydock (15)
Just steps from the river is Old Towne Portsmouth, and though it's leafy streets and hsitoric architecture might seem a world away from aircraft carriers and loud river traffic, this town owes its existance to what happens on and around the water.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Acer rubrum
Camellia japonica
Camellia japonica (3)
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Cornus florida
Hyacinths in the park
Hyacinth in the Park

Hyacinth in the Park (2)
Kerria japonica
Kerria japonica

Middle St. Garden

Spring Combo
This is the only time of year I really care for Golden Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus 'Aureo-marginatus').
Spring Gold

Yoshino on Middle St (2)
My weeks are not always so full, and I am good with that. Perhaps this week I can actually get some work done in the garden.

(my complete photo set is here)

March 19, 2011

Winter Walk Off Wrap Up

Last month I invited fellow bloggers to participate in my Winter Walk Off.  The rules were fairly simple (at least I thought so).  I asked participants to go out the front door and away from their own home and garden, taking their camera along to see what could be seen.  I was glad to see such a diversity of entries, and was especially pleased with the geographic reach of the project.  I was treated to views of two oceans and three continents, plus two of the entries were from the other side of the equator making them Summer Walk Offs.  Below is a list of all the participants, where they live and a quick sentence or two about their post.  I hope you take a moment and visit each of them.

David of Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA
Sometimes buried treasure comes to the surface, and you don't always need to be on a deserted island to find it.  Occasionally it can be found right next door.

Janet of South Carolina, USA
Dogs and a good friend accompany Janet on a walk through her neighborhood on a clear crisp day, and yes the skies are Carolina blue.

Janet of Wickwar, England
Janet takes us on a stroll through her charming Cotswold village, though she does not think it is Cotswold proper.  Be on the lookout for a dirty cow with blue eyeshadow.

Donna of Niagara Falls, New York, USA
Most tourist head to Niagara Falls for the falls, but there is also some wonderful architecture, both old and new.  Donna shares these with us and is not afraid to show some of the city's less glamorous areas as well.

Marguerite of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada
I am not sure why, but I did not expect to see so many grand Victorian houses on an island in the north Atlantic.

Hanni of Indiana, USA
Hanni bundles the children and takes us along on her bleak winter walk, but we know bleak is only a temporary condition, and I am sure things have already begun to change.

Water Feature

Nell Jean of Georgia, USA
Live Oaks and Pines grow on the edges of this broad land where spring has already crossed the threshold and where it reminds me of my home.

Beth of McFarland, Wisconsin, USA
Even with snow on the ground and ice on the lakes, the woods in Wisconsin are waking up.  Many of the trees are getting their "peach fuzz" in anticipation of spring.

Ronnie of West Sussex, England
Another walk in England, and this time to the sea (I'm a sucker for a good seascape) with an Olive Tree and yellow buried treasure.

Christine of Capetown, South Africa
The homes shown on this walk are hidden behind high walls.  With all the color and exotic plants (to me at least) that you can see from the street, it makes you wonder what beauty exists on the other side.

anjacouto of Sidney, British Columbia, Canada
Canada again, but this time the other coast, and with views of the sea.  Did I mention how much I love seascapes?


Lynn of New York, USA
The landscape may look dormant, but the water in the lake is alive with bird life, including swans.

Gene of Hampton, Virginia, USA
I was glad to get this entry from a fellow local blogger.  Colorful scenes of spring unfolding are juxtaposed with horrendous local pruning practices.

Jennifer of Huttonville, Ontario, Canada
The big thaw begins in a historic mill village on the edge of Toronto, with beautiful photography and dogs.

Barbara of Philadelphia, Capetown, South Africa
This entry contains scenes of a quaint, picturesque village about as far from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (or Mississippi) as you can get.

Update: The following two posts were held up by my mail hander and I did not see them until after the Wrap Up was published.  I am very sorry.

Andrea of College Station, Texas, USA
I was glad to see lots of newly planted trees in this suburban neighborhood.  You can also see a few older trees as well as a flat snake.

Georgia of New York City
Street scenes from Manhattan (my favorite playground) are shown in the only post to mention cupcakes and Barak Obama.

House of Melodies

Now on to the prizes.  I put the names of each participant in one of two hats, either for those living in the States or for out of the country.   I then had a surly, thoroughly disinterested 13 year-old and his not so surly (but equally disinterested) friend draw the names.  And the winners are:

Gene of Hampton, Virginia who won an assortment of Dahlia bulbs and

Ronnie of West Sussex, England who won an assortment of my wife's handmade cards.

Congratulations to Gene and Ronnie, and a big thank you to all the others who participated.  I think we will consder this again next year.

(The photos in this post didn't make the cut for my original Winter Walk Off post.)

March 15, 2011

Bloom Day - and a Very Welcome One at That

This month's Bloom Day finds me distracted.  Changes at work are well on the way to putting more demands on me than I am accustomed to, but fortunately, early signs indicate the store will have a good spring season.  The other thing on my mind is more recent, that being the unfolding horror in Japan.  But what can we do besides donating what we can, keeping strangers a world away in our thoughts and hoping to God that a different pair of dice never roll in our direction at such magnitude? Perhaps time in the garden, working with and seeing another face of nature, is called for as well.

Usually spring unfolds slowly here, but this winter's cold has delayed the early bloomers and pushed them back so they now compete with more timely blooms for attention.  No matter, they are all welcome sights.

Here are a few Narcissus, some of the names are known, some are not.
Narcissus (2)

Narcissus (7)

Narcissus (6)

Narcissus (8)

Forsythia x intermedia ('variegata' ?)
Forsythia x intermedia (variegated)

I think this is Narcissus 'Ice Follies' and behind it the most florific Hime Quince (Chaenomeles 'Hime'), which has had blooms on it since December.
Narcissus (4)

Chaenomeles 'Hime' (3)

Helleborus orientalis
Helleborus orientalis

Helleborus orientalis (2)

Helleborus orientalis (3)

Edgeworthia chrysantha
Edgeworthia chrysantha

The flowers on Camellia japonica 'Nuccio' Gem' briefly approach perfection.
Camellia japonica 'Nuccio's Gem'

Camellia japonica 'Nuccio's Gem' (4)

The intense pink of Camellia japonica 'Crimson Candles' is not my favorite color, but it is a good foil for the emerging foliage of Hydrangea macrophylla 'Sun Goddess' at its feet.

Camellia japonica 'Crimson Candles'

Hydrangea 'Sun Goddess' foliage

I am not the only one in the house suffering distractions.  When she is not in the coma-like sleep of older dogs, Loretta barks at whoever and whatever passes by the dining room window.  It would be more restful to the entire house if she was just quietly appreciating the beauty of Camellias.

Loretta Considering

If you would like to see how spring is unfolding in other blogger's gardens, then please visit Carol at May Dreams Garden where she faithfully hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.  Speaking of dates, there are only 4 days left for bloggers to participate in my prize-laden Winter Walk Off.  Just click on the link to learn more.

March 11, 2011

Turtles All The Way Down

Diamondback Terrapin (2)

A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever", said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"

A version of this story was relayed by Stephen Hawking in the opening of his book A Brief History of Time.  It makes me think how difficult it can be to consider the infinite connectedness of everything from the most minute to the most vast.  How does a shift deep in the earth and under the sea impact what is the most prepared and one of the most technologically advanced people on the planet.  And if an earthquake does this to a place more ready and more practiced than any other, what does this mean for those that are not paying attention to things that could happen, be it an act of nature or an act of man.

I have been thinking about turtles, and other things, since last Friday when I found the little guy in the picture while working in my parents garden.  He (or she) is a Diamond Back Terrapin, and judging from it's size must have hatched last year.  What puzzled me was why this fragile little creature was in the driveway on such a cold March day.  I would have more expected to see it crawling around in warmer weather, and according to what I have read about them, it should have itself buried in the mud somewhere waiting for spring.  At first I thought the terrapin was dead, but it stirred slightly when I lifted it, so I moved it to the pond's edge.

Perhaps the old lady was right, and somewhere deep under the earth a small turtle stirred in its slumber.  Whether one believes in myth, science or God's infinity, I would likely find little comfort in either facing such disruption, devastation and loss as occurred today.  It could be that our increasing connections make the world feel smaller, but it seems that we are having days like today more frequently.

My mind appears to be all over the place, so maybe I need to get my hands dirty and lose my self in the garden.

March 6, 2011

Lovely Weeds - Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit)

In the past few weeks, I have been noticing some spectacular local fields covered in Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule).  The color is what makes these acres so noteworthy - a ground level haze of purple pink,  fuchsia or even mauve depending on the light and at what stage the flowers are blooming.  I wanted to stop and take a few pictures of places on the way to work, but usually I am already running late, plus I would be taking my life into my hands pulling over during rush hour.  Yesterday, on the way back home from Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore, several photographic moments presented themselves in rural Northampton County, but without the threat of being run over.

Henbit is an Old World native occurring in Europe, western Asia and parts of North Africa.  Like other members of the mint family, this annual has square stems, and also like many of its relatives, it is extremely prolific.  The seeds germinate in the fall of the year with blooming occurring in late winter.  In many places Henbit has naturalized and is considered an invasive weed, particularly in agriculture where it prefers the same rich sandy loams farmers seek for their crops.  Judging from the state of the fields I saw, one would think Henbit was planted on purpose, and though it is indeed edible, I am sure it is an unwelcome crop.  A Google search yields many recipes and serving suggestions.  Unfortunately I recently had breakfast, so I did not indulge, but if you have eaten it, please let me know what you thought of it

Lamium amplexicaule (4)

Lamium amplexicaule (18)

Lamium amplexicaule

Lamium amplexicaule (16)

Lamium amplexicaule (11)

Please don't forget about my Winter Walk Off challenge.  It is open to all bloggers until 3/19, and I hope you will participate.  Right now there are only a few contestants, and I know you will not let them win the treasure chest of prizes without a decent fight.