Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coexistence and Photos from Florida

Walking along the seawall at my parents' condo complex in St. Petersburg, Fla., is always entertaining. Large wading birds like the great egret perch along the wall, on the docks and even on boats. Below, an egret begins to fly away after my husband startles it.

Dolphins fish and frolic in the water.

This little blue heron let me get quite close. 

The great egret looks intently for fish. 

Below: The big picture. Despite all the development along Boca Ciega Bay, it is comforting to see waterbirds coexisting with us. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday

It's been a long time since I posted photos of flowers. Perhaps it's because it was too hot (mid- to upper-90s) most of the summer and the plants went into survival mode. But now a few prolific fall wildflowers have exploded with color. 

Below is Eastern aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium). It takes sun or part shade, and even though it flops in my garden because of lack of sun, it blooms profusely. 

I adore the color of New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). 

Here is oxeye or false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), blooming happily. It is flopping (like most of my sun-loving plants), but if you have full sun it will grow 3- to 6-feet tall. I think it would look beautiful planted with the two asters above. 

I believe the plant below is Rudbeckia hirta var. angustifolia (see narrow leaves at top left of photo), but please correct me if I'm wrong. It was a freebie from my time volunteering at the N.C. Botanical Garden. 

All of the wildflowers featured here attract butterflies. Notice the nice flat landing pads and easy-access pollen. 

Native trees and shrubs are fruiting. Birds have been feasting on dogwood berries.

Below is Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite.' So far, the birds don't seem interested in it, which allows me to enjoy the beauty of the berries. It's growing in part sun and average soil in my garden, though I have read it prefers full sun and wet soil. 

Beautyberry's (Callicarpa americana) purple berries are stunning.

I'm happy to participate in Wildflower Wednesday hosted by Clay and Limestone

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Rainbow is a Promise

One recent Florida night, sheets of lightning flashed in the sky over the Gulf of Mexico, punctuated by jagged bolts. The next morning, a rainbow appeared.

May peace be with you.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Change in the Garden

Over time, gardeners learn to accept change. Plants die in a severe drought, but some come back the next year and surprise us. A beloved tree is hit by lightning. But after we mourn its loss, we see new opportunities for growing plants that like sun.

Usually, as the garden matures, it becomes more beautiful as plants fill in and we slowly learn the quirks of the soil and climate and patterns of the sun. Sometimes, though, the garden seems to go backwards. Here is the garden edging the front walkway three years ago.

The previous owner had planted illiciums under the front window. The illiciums LOVED this spot and overgrew to the point where it was impossible to keep them from blocking the windows. With regret, we cut them down. 

'Sum and Substance' hostas flourished for years along the walkway, with the aid of a covering of deer netting propped up with wooden stakes. But this year the deer figured out how to eat the leaves through the deer netting. Or they pulled up some of the numerous metal stakes holding the netting down at the ground. (How un-deer-like. I thought deer were gentle and passive, incapable of this kind of aggressiveness and persistence.) A couple of months ago I found the hostas looking like this. 

The front garden stayed in this embarrassing condition for the rest of the summer, as I was unmotivated to work outside in 95-degree heat. Plus, I knew whatever I planted would die unless I watered it three times a day, which is not my style. Garden plants should not be pampered, or they become dependent and needy. 

A cool front came through yesterday, and I decided it was time for a garden makeover. I went shopping in the garden for plants that could be divided or moved. The plants had to be disliked by deer, preferably evergreen, able to take partial to mostly shade, and survive in clay soil. I decided on three autumn ferns (Dryopteris erythrosora) and a Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Prostrata') that seemed to be getting the worst of a competition with spreading green-and-gold.

Here's the final result. 

Now's the part where I practice patience.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

Eating Local on the Island

We take many things for granted. Like access to a grocery store. But how do you get fresh food when you spend two weeks on an island in Maine that is accessible only by boat?

The island market is charming in its way. Where else does the owner stand behind the counter all day, chatting pleasantly to customers? Where else can you run a tab for snacks and sodas, kept using a calculator and pencil? But the store doesn't pretend to be anything but a convenience store.

Fortunately, a few farmers have responded with creative solutions. This summer, a boat from Mitchell Ledge Farm in Freeport has been coming to the island on Saturday mornings. I smile every time I see the name of the operation - "Lettuce by Land, Carrots by Sea."

They sell an array of fresh produce, eggs, meat and bakery goods. 

Much as I was charmed by the farm boat, I hope it doesn't put the island's farm stand out of business. The farm stand runs on an honor system, with a lock box for money. 

Island friends are generous with food from their gardens and freezers. I find this particularly remarkable because we see them briefly and only once a year. A neighbor gave us fresh carrots. A childhood friend of my husband's gave us a pound of frozen haddock, caught in a deep-sea fishing trip. Another friend gave us a giant zucchini, two onions, garlic, basil and potatoes. We also collected windfall apples from around his Macintosh tree, which we quickly transformed into apple crisp.

Of course, we had to eat lobsters. The waters around the island are bright with lobster buoys marking the location of traps. Our friend down the road is retired teacher turned lobsterman. He takes orders for live lobsters two to three days ahead of time, available for pickup in a drywall bucket. 

Life is sweet eating local.