Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In a Vase on Monday (Okay, it's now Tuesday): My Blog Meme Discovery and My Cat's Sink Discovery

I recently discovered Linda's blog, Each Little World, which led me to this blog meme, "In a Vase On Monday," started by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, a British blogger.  It is pretty straight forward: compose a bouquet from things growing in your garden (or, at this time of year, things you've acquired, been given or found since some of us have little blooming at this time of year) and place them in an receptacle (a vase being the most obvious)  that will set them off for display.  It's interesting to see how bloggers pair flowers and containers -- sometimes there's a whole vignette -- and  to see what's growing in other people's gardens.  

I've only seen a few posts, but it seemed like a fun exercise, so I decided to give it a whirl. A quick one because it was already Monday evening when I started out.   

And then it became Tuesday.....  Computer misadventures is my excuse.

Part of the motivation for doing this at all was that, coincidentally, I just bought a vase as a gift (and I liked it well enough and it was cheap enough that I bought one for myself)  at the National Building Museum Shop in Washington, DC, which has a cool selection of stuff.  (A surprisingly good selection of gardening and landscape design books, by the way.) 

It's called a  ReFORMS Convertible Bud Vase made by Infusion Living and cost $17.00. I think they also carried a larger version.     

Front of the package 
Back of the package

The "6 in 1" claim on the back of the box is the convertible aspect -- it's made of malleable rubber-like material, so you can compress it, fold down the top like a collar and make it into a stubby vase or a taller, leaner shape.  6 different configurations in all.   I thought it was pretty clever.  

Here's what I came up with using Begonia leaves from one of my few house plants, dried Hakone grass leaves, a couple tassel fern fronds and a Christmas fern frond, the dried remains of Black-Eyed-Susans, and a piece of fir from free greens I got from a local nursery's Christmas tree trimmings.  No blooms.  But there was actually plenty to choose from in the garden without flowers.  

The red veins of  the Begonia are nice with the vase.  

You can see what I mean about the rubbery quality. You can easily give it a squeeze.   

My cat, Tommy, likes to eat plants, or at least try them out until they make him sick. (No, I'm not trying to poison him.)   Since he has been known to knock over an arrangement or two or three or more.... an unbreakable vase is very appealing.  Funny thing is my husband found Tommy in the utility sink late last night when he came back from his regular Monday night jam. I had left the unused cuttings from the bouquet in the sink and Tommy decided to sample them.  

Handsome Devil, don't you think?  

He has never gotten in the sink before, but he will jump up on the kitchen counter and pull down pieces of lettuce, or, better yet, spinach.  He likes dark greens especially.  He doesn't eat a lot of them, but likes to get a taste now and then.  He must have smelled the cuttings.   The nose knows.  

My little arrangement ended up on the powder room sink.  I like finding a little bouquet in the bathroom.  And, maybe Tommy will be less likely to find it there.  We'll see.  

Happy Holidays!  

Monday, November 30, 2015

Province Lands: Plants, Dunes, and Shacks in the Backshore of Provincetown

There is a popular walk through the windswept dunes of the Province Lands, beginning at Snail Road off  Route 6,  just minutes from Provincetown's main drag, Commercial Street.  What starts out as a short path into the woods was once a road leading to the Peaked Hill Coast Guard Station, which no longer exists.  Soon you confront a surprisingly steep slope with almost no vegetation  --- some of the dunes in this ridge are 80 to 100 feet high-- and the trail takes you up a mountain of shifting sand. At the top are expansive views and a sense of the topography of the tip of Cape Cod.  

I walked this trail in mid-afternoon in September.  Unlike the summer months when the sand is scorching hot, the cooler fall weather means it's possible to go barefoot ( my shoes filled with sand in short order) on most of the trail.  

Looking south at Long Point lighthouse and the very tip of the Cape across Provincetown Harbor into Cape Cod Bay.  All those pockmarks are foot prints.

Looking in the opposite direction toward the Atlantic.  The walk continues in this direction.  You can just see a dune shack at the top of the ridge of dunes that overlooks the beach. 
Looking west into more dunes.  It almost seems like a desert landscape.
From the first high ridge the trail gently falls into an open valley with patches of scrubby pitch pine and oak, and in the lowest spots, cranberries, blueberries, mushrooms, sheep laurel, and cotton grass grow.  It is surprising to find the lushness of these mini bogs amidst so much sand, wide open sky and salty air but an underground aquifer supplies moisture to the low-lying depressions, sustaining the plant communities.   At one time locals farmed the cranberry bogs in the dunes, which were considerably bigger and the water more plentiful.  

Vaccinium macrocarpon, Cranberries
Wild Blueberries, tiny but sweet

Sheep Laurel, Kalmia angustifolia, growing among the cranberries, Looks like they had abundant bloom.

Cotton or  Bog Grass, Eriophorum angustifolium (not sure of the species) 
There are a number of interesting National Park Service publications about the Province Lands area, which is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.  "Dwelling in the Dunes" is an ethnographic study, describing the cultural history of the the dune shacks, now on the National Register of Historic places.  They began as shelters for coastguard men who patrolled the beaches and attempted to save survivors of shipwrecks along the "backshore," the northern, outer coastline of the hook of Cape Cod, where shifting bars can make for treacherous navigation.  Think of a clenched hand and Provincetown Harbor is cradled within the hand on the opposite, more protected shore.

No longer privately owned, the dune shacks are still inhabited by ancestors of the originally families that used them.   

A restored dune shack and one of the more palatial ones
I think my route is more or less the small dotted line on the far right, next to "Peaked Hill Bar Historic District," which is the dune shack district.  
The same shack from a distance

Shacks in a hollow, protected from the worst winds

One of the more modest shacks, close to the beach.
A particularly poignant section of the "Dwelling in the Dunes" report is "Four Women from Provincetown" (chapter 7), the stories of  women who grew up visiting the dunes and Sunny Tasha's shack.  The dunes and Tasha were essential to the women's coming of age and the dune shack has continued to be a place of refuge, celebration and adventure for their children. At the same time, the women reveal sadness about their struggle to remain part of the Provincetown community, a community gentrified and transformed by tourism, rising real estate values and all that comes with it. 

Arrival at dune ridge above the beach, looking west 
Four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed on this road. 

After seeing few people all afternoon, with only the ocean wind in my ears, it was a bit of shock to see the road.   The dunes can still feel like a wild and solitary place even though they are heavily visited, especially in the summer.  

 Dune shack dwellers can drive all or part of the way to their shelters and the Park Service and dune tour operators use the road.  

The gray-leaved plant feels fleshy like a succulent.  Anyone know what it is?    The paths above are the way back towards Route 6 and P-town.

Cladonia rangiferina (?) , Reindeer Lichen

Ripe Beach Plums, Prunus maritima , another fruit P-towners harvested

Sickle-leaved Golden Aster, Chrysopsis falcata  growing in pure sand! 

Back to the high ridge of the parabolic dunes shaped by the winds

Back to the beginning.....

And back to the world of  Provincetown.  These guys are just starting out. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: October

Here's what's blooming in my garden.  I took the photographs on the 15th, but I haven't been able to do the post until now.  

It's endlessly entertaining to watch the bumble bees dive headfirst in these Gentian flowers.  They disappear completely as the flower petals close up around them and for several moments it's as if they aren't inside at all until the flowers begins to bulge and they come out, sometimes backwards and sometimes head first.  Here's a short video I made of the bee's pollinating routine, if you're interested.
Gentiana clausa, Closed Bottle Gentian 

Euonymous americanus, Hearts-a-Bustin'

Who could resist a plant with a name like this?  If there isn't a country song out there including the 'my hearts-a bustin' lament, then I'll eat my hat. But, I bet the songwriter doesn't know s/he was referring to a plant.     

My native Euonymous now fruits reliably, perhaps because it's matured?  I love the textured pink capsules when they bust open and dangle their red seed pods.  What vivid little ornaments--I'd put them on my Christmas tree if I had one!  It is a useful see-through plant, making a semi-transparent screening behind a stone wall adjacent to the sidewalk in my front garden.  And it's evergreen and upright.  
Callirhoe involucrata, Wine Cups
Only a few flowers are left on the Wine Cups, which I grow in my rock garden.

Magnolia virginiana, Sweet Bay Magnolia

The  nuts of Bottle Brush Buckeye, Aesculus parviflora

I collected some of the Buckeye nuts on a stepping stone to admire their shiny brown coat.  I'd love a pair of shoes this color.  My Buckeyes seemed unusually prolific this year;  I cut off some of the chains of nuts after a big rain storm because they weigh down the branches almost to the point of breaking them, and, I confess, I don't like the gaps in the foliage that results --they provide an essential screen from the street in my front garden. 

Calylophus serrulatus 'Prairie Lode', Prairie Lode Sundrops
I planted this in early summer and it's proven to be a tireless bloomer in my rock garden.  I've read it tolerates a wide range of conditions.  It was introduced by a Nebraska nursery.

Symphyotrichum oblongifolius 'October Skies', Aromatic Aster 
I'd never be without this Aster (though Raydon's Favorite is a close second) because it blooms so late and if you whack it back until about July 4th, it knits together into a nice mound that stands up on its own, no staking required.  Of course, you can cut back other asters this way too.

Cornus florida, Native Dogwood 

Edgeworthia chysantha ' Gold Finch'  Paper Bush 

Edgeworthia buds are almost more attractive than the flowers.  It may not come across in the photo, but they have an amazing soft sheen, like silvery jewels.  Something else I'd put on that phantom Christmas tree.....

Ligularia  dentata 'Desdamona,', Leopard Plant

Perrotia persica, Persian Ironwood 
Moving this Ironwood to a sunnier location seems to be producing better fall color, thankfully.

Go to May Dreams  to see what's blooming in other blogger's gardens.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Summer at Longwood

Longwood Gardens is the big shot among public gardens in the U.S.  They do everything with a big splash, sometimes literally.  It seems like it is the most expansive, showy, and probably the most expensive too.  I hadn't been in years, but when a friend and I were on the way to the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, in mid August, we stopped.  Quite a contrast of environments, I know.  

Here are some shots of a long border composed of dynamic color progressions -- blues merge to purple, then pink to reds, to oranges, yellows and on and on it went.  

Photo above is my entry for the "Summer" themed Picture This contest at Gardening Gone Wild.

There's a lot more to see.  I'm only showing you a slice.  

The meadow below is one of the newest features at Longwood Gardens.  It was just starting to come alive with bloom when we were there, but must be glorious now that it's October.  The bridge looks like a ship floating in the midst of it all. They do things big, don't they?