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.

July 30, 2011

Lake Sherando

During the heat wave last week, my son and I escaped to the relative coolness of the Blue Ridge Mountains for a long weekend of camping. I say relative because even though it was hot by mountain standards, in the low to mid 90’s, over the ridges in the Piedmont and down in Tidewater thermometers were cracking the 100 degree mark. The fact we were camping by the cool waters of Lake Sherando and could take dips on an as needed basis, also helped us to tolerate the high temperatures.

Sherando Lake (8)

Sherando Lake (19)

Sherando Lake (25)

Lake Sherando is a nestled in the folds of the George Washington National Forest just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The fact that it is easy to get to, not too far from civilization and has a sandy swimming beach; make Sherando a very popular spot for daytrips as well as overnight camping. The early morning hours were quiet, but by mid-day the beach was in full use, with the surrounding mountains echoing the sounds of people having a good time. Though it is not a place for hardcore wilderness adventure, it is a great place to introduce children to the camping experience; in fact it was the first place I took my son camping.

Sherando Lake (5)

Sherando Lake (9)

Sherando Lake (13)

Sherando Lake (17)

First opening in 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corp created Lake Sherando and its facilities during The Great Depression. The bathhouse and visitor center are original and were constructed of local stone and timber and fit in with the setting perfectly. Being a federal property, this place belongs to all Americans and in my mind is money well spent. I hope the short sighted slash and burn mentality currently in vogue by many in Washington never compromises our ability to enjoy this little jewel, or any of our other national treasures.

Sherando Lake (7)

Sherando Lake (24)

Sherando Lake (21)

Sherando Lake (6)

Sherando Lake (23)

July 20, 2011

The Prodigal Church-goer

I work just about every Sunday and miss out on my favorite day of the week.  Even today in the age of 24 hour everything, it still feels like the least stressful day of the week.  Growing up, my family usually slept in later on Sundays, without a list of chores awaiting us like Saturday.  My father would take us to church around 10 for Sunday school, and mom would follow later, as she was always on the choir's schedule.  After Sunday school everyone would go to the sanctuary for singing and preachin',  which was normally over around noon (always an eternity for me). We would then head home, shed stiff clothing and eat Sunday dinner, usually the best meal of the week.  For most of those years Virginia still had Blue Laws, and the only businesses that could open on Sundays were restaurants and convenience stores.  I am not an especially religious person, but I fondly remember this quiet, family-centric day.  These days working Sundays means missing some great brunches and discounted Bloody Marys (one of my favorite beverages and a legitimate excuse to drink before noon) at local restaurants.

So on the last day of my mini-vacation earlier in the month, I found my self with the rare Sunday off, my first of the year.  I did not wake up intent on attending church, but on my morning walk, church found me as I walked along the shore of Metompkin Bay.

Between the Cedars

Metompkin Sunrise (3)


Penny Looks

Shadow Cedar 2

Glowing Spartina (3)

Webbed (5)

Loretta Under the Hackberry

Lang Farm Road

If you would like to see all of my recent Eastern Shore pictures just click here.  I have also added a new label to this blog called "Making Time for Church" which will take you to other places or times where the spirit moved me.

July 15, 2011

Fourth Annual Citywide Townwide Bloomday

It is a July tradition here at A Tidewater Gardener to showcase the city's glorious Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) trees.  It's not that we are the only place that can grow them, it's just that they grow so damn well here and are Norfolk's dominant street tree.  That being said, this month I have bent even more, some already bent Bloom Day rules. We will travel a little further up the Chesapeake and look at the Crape Myrtles in the small harbor town of Onancock.

Onancock straddles two forks of a deep creek by the same name on the bay side of Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore.  Its unusual and often mispronounced name (oh-NAN-cock) comes from its first inhabitants, the native Americans, and meant "foggy place".  Though, it was quite sunny when I took these pictures.  The town is fairly historic, is filled with notable architecture and has always been a low key, yet busy place.  The creek and bay beyond were historically its source of wealth as watermen and farmers shipped the region's bounty to larger markets.  Onancock was chartered in 1680 and quietly tended to its own business until being "discovered" only recently.  Now there are art galleries, antique stores, restaurants and other businesses that cater to the weekend trade and the sailing set.

We will start our tour at the town square, then we'll head to Cokesbury Church and then down Market Street.
Town Square

Cokesbury Church

W&W Emporium

Market Street (2)

W&W Emporium (3)


Market Street

Ker Place (2)

King Street
King Street

North Street
North Street

Liberty Street
Liberty Street

Holly Street
Holly Street

Kerr Street
Kerr Street

The most noteworthy house in town is Ker Place, which was built in 1799 and is now the home of the Eastern Shore Historical Society.  To see the Crape Myrtles there we will have to look a little...
Ker Place (6)

Ker Place (7)

Ker Place

and out the door to an allée of Crape Myrtles.
Ker Place (3)

Ker Place (5)

Ker Place (4)

I hope you have enjoyed this Bloom Day tour of Onancock, and if you would like to see what is blooming in other places, then you should visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens.  On the 15th of each month, she gathers blooms from gardens all over the globe and shares them with the rest of us.  When you see her tell her thank you.

July 12, 2011

The Virginia Shore

Like rubber necking past a multiple car pile-up, it is not out of character for me to be occasionally distracted by trashy television. One of the more remarkable accidents of recent programming is MTV's The Jersey Shore.  Watching all the drinking, stretched garments, bad grammar and bed hopping gives me a sense of complete despair for the future of the nation, but it does make for compelling TV.  Even though it is just a few hours south of Jersey's, activities on Virginia's Eastern Shore are a little more sedate.  This past week we were able to spend several days there at my parent's house. It was a relaxing time filled with low key activities that included reading, trips to the beach, fishing, some time in the kayak, a little gardening and some good eating. 

While I can't offer you any video footage, and no one is calling me for endorsements, I can share some of what I saw.

Parker's Creek at Sunset
Parker's Creek Sunset

Parker's Creek (2)

Mt. Custis
Mt. Custis

Lang Farm Rd.
Corn Canyon

Burtons Shore in Black and White
Burtons Shore (4)

Just Needs a Little TLC
Drummond's Mill Road (2)

Folly Creek
Folly Creek

Pelicans Over Metompkin Inlet
Metompkin Inlet Pelicans

Pelicans Over Metompkin Island

Gulls (2)

Gulls, Black Skimmer and Pelicans
Shore Birds

There is no shortage of shells on Metompkin
Wahed Shells (2)

This picture shows part of my mom's haul form our second trip. She got these for a friend who wants to plant them with succulents to give as gifts. Both of the hairy creatures in the photo belong to me.
The Day's Haul

There will be a couple more posts upcoming from Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore, including a bending of the rules Bloom Day, but I doubt you will see anything like Snookie or The Situation.