Category Archives: Home and Garden

HAPPY MOM’S DAY!

Think Pink!

Sharing this beautiful arrangement sent to us by our daughter Liv. The bouquet looks exquisite no matter which way you turn the vase, and is becoming more beautiful with each passing day. The fabulous combination of scents – of roses, peonies, and Oriental lilies – are wafting through our home.  Created by Audrey’s Flower Shop.

 

 

TULIPOMANIA AT TIP TOP TULIPS! THE FLOWERS ARE MAGICAL AND and lots of fairy princesses on the scene!

Tip Top Tulips promises to be a show stopper this Mother’s Day weekend with fields blooming in prime glorious beauty! My friend Paul has created yet another enchanting and magical flower experience for the community (see School Street Sunflowers). Visiting Tip Top Tulips to celebrate Mother’s Day is a wonderful way to spend time with your Mom, wife, girlfriend, and family. Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome, too. And on a recent visit, if you can imagine, I ran into half a dozen fairy princesses <3

Only a very few varieties of tulips have gone past and there are loads and loads of fresh flowers to pick (I can attest that Paul’s freshly picked tulips last a good ten days!). The array of colors is beyond exquisite, from brilliant jewel tones to softly-hued pastels, along with every imagined shape and pattern, from dippled and dappled, to striped and ruffled. Deanna Gallagher’s adorable and family friendly Shetland Sheep are visiting Tip Top Tulips as well, along with a beautiful young calf.

Paul and friend Liam

There are plenty of times available on Saturday, May 8th. Sunday, Mother’s Day, times are available between 9 and 10, and after 4:30ish. After this weekend, the fields will still be beautiful so I would check with Paul on how much longer Tip Top Tulips is planning to stay open.

Tip Top Tulips is located at 71 Town Farm Road in Ipswich.

Fo more information, visit Tip Top Tulips website here and follow on Instagram here.

 

 

HUMMINGBIRDS HAVE ARRIVED IN MASSACHUSETTS!

On the afternoon of 25th, we had just refilled our newest hummingbird feeder when while cooking dinner a little whirr appeared at the window. He made several trips around the garden, alternately sipping sweetened sugar water at the feeders and nectar from the Japanese flowering quince ‘Toyo-nishiki.’  Like clockwork, for the past several years the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have arrived to our garden in April, while the quince is in bloom.

Hummingbird feeder recipe: To one cup warm water add 1/4 cup pure cane sugar (4 parts to1 part). Dissolve thoroughly. Please don’t put up feeders if you don’t have the time to change the water frequently, and even more frequently in warmer weather.

Over the past few days there has been a burst of Hummingbird sightings coming from around the state. Hang your feeders if you haven’t already done so and remember to change the sugar water often, every few days. Hummingbird feeders are a terrible idea if you are not willing to provide fresh water frequently. Hummingbirds get a fatal fungal infection on their tongue, called hummers candidiasis when folks don’t change the water, or when honey, or any sweetener other than pure white cane sugar is used. And never add red food coloring. The bird’s tongue becomes terribly swollen, they can’t retract it, and without medical attention will starve to death.

Japanese flowering quince ‘Toyo-nishiki.’

I love this newest feeder and purchased it with Charlotte in mind. It’s positioned at her eye level and suction cupped to the window she likes to stand at to look into the garden. The small feeder was modestly priced and bought at Smiths Hardware in Rockport.

Hummingbird feeders serve the purpose of providing sustenance especially during the time of year when there is a lull in blooms however, the very best gift you can give hummers is to provide their favorite plants, and there are many, including trees, shrubs, vines, perennials and annuals.

HOW TO ATTRACT HUMMINGBIRDS (AND KEEP THEM COMING) TO YOUR GARDEN

https://vimeo.com/281869646

HAPPY EARTH DAY AND WHY I JUST DONATED TO GREENBELT!

Happy Earth Day dear friends!

I hope you are doing well on this blustery morning, with temperatures hovering around 32 degrees and wind chill at 19. I imagined these temperatures were behind us and am worried about that one little PiPl egg. Will it be viable after this cold snap??

This morning in my inbox there was yet another awesome email from Greenbelt, this time featuring Greenbelt’s commitment to conserving farmland, with a short video of the Grant Family Farm at Brown Spring.

Chris Grant was able to purchase the farm at Brown Springs because of Greenbelt’s Land Trust program and great use of West Newbury’s Community Preservation Act funds (CPA). The land can never be developed and will stay a working farm forever through Chris and Greenbelt’s diligent work to put it under an Agricultural Preservation Restriction.

I am so looking forward to visiting the farm stand when open in June! For the latest updates from the Grant Family Farm, visit their Facebook page here and website here.

I can’t mention Greenbelt without giving thanks to Gloucester’s Piping Plover advisor-in-chief Dave Rimmer, director of land stewardship at Greenbelt.  Greenbelt does not, nor has ever, requested a fee from the City for their Piping Plover assistance. As you may recall, Dave is also Greenbelt’s Osprey program director – so there you have it, a multitude of reasons for supporting Greenbelt!!

EBSCO and the Law Office of Donald M. Greenough have generously offered to match, dollar for dollar, the first $5,000 raised in celebration of Earth Day.

To learn more about ECGA’s Earth Day fundraising go here. 

To become a member of ECGA go here.

 

WHY DO THESE CEDAR WAXWINGS LOOK SO HAPPY?

A flock of what has to be one of North America’s most enchanting birds, the Cedar Waxwing, has magically, albeit temporarily, taken residence in our garden and neighbor’s gardens. Their lovely chattering arrival has become an annual event my family looks forward to, especially Charlotte and me.

What have they found to eat that makes them so delighted? Primarily, tiny black insects living on the twigs, stems, and buds of our neighbor’s maple trees. I believe they are Black Bean Aphids, or some type of scale. If you look closely at the photos, in some you can see the bugs. The Waxwings hang every which way pecking and plucking at the insects and have a technique, too, of rubbing their beaks sideways across the bark, which usually results in a tremendous mouthful.

I am overjoyed that our neighbors do not spray their trees with pesticides. By not killing insect pests, a natural balance is restored to the garden. Your gardening pest is a songbird’s dietary mainstay!

About fifteen years ago, the keeper of the historic Gardens at Versailles, Alain Baraton, was beyond dismayed that few if any birds resided in the garden. He ditched pesticides and began promoting native plants. Now nicely plump bugs infest nearly all of the trees, and the songbird’s have returned! Additionally, “Baraton also changed the practice of planting row after row of the same tree. Now Versailles varies the trees — beech, hawthorn, poplar, chestnut — to minimize losses from disease. This is important when your garden has 200,000 trees.”

If the gardener-in-chief of the world’s grandest garden does not use pesticides, I think we need never either.

Trees at Versailles, image courtesy Google image search

 

 

TIP TOP TULIPS PICK YOUR OWN CUTTING GARDEN OPENS TODAY!

Tip Top Tulips cutting field opens today! SEE MORE HERE

MAGICAL TIP TOP TULIPS NEW FARM FUN – COME ON DOWN AND PICK YOUR OWN!

You may recall that I have written a number of times about my friend Paul Wegzyn and his stunning and enchanting School Street Sunflowers. Paul has created another magically enchanted flower experience for the community! This past autumn, Paul, and his Dad Paul, planted several hundred thousand tulips at two different fields.

Early red tulips in bloom today!

The smaller field at 22 School Street, Ipswich, is opening on Sunday, April 18th. This field is planted for pick-your-own tulips. Charming wicker baskets are provided and the cost is $1.00 per stem.

The second field, named Tip Top Tulips (located at 71 Town Farm  Road, Ipswich ), is going to be the show stopper. Rows and rows of beautiful multi-colored tulips, from early flowering varieties  to late flowering cultivars will be blooming over the next two months. Tip Top Tulips is scheduled to tentatively open the following week, approximately April 24th, depending on the weather.

The theme this first year for Tip Top Tulips is Love, in honor of Paul’s Mom, and as with School Street Sunflowers, there will be beautiful photo vignettes positioned around the field.

 

Deanna Gallagher will have her adorable and friendly Shetland Sheep and cows at Tip Top field, providing even more fun and wonderful photo moments for the family. Charlotte had the best time with Deanna and her goats at School Street Sunflowers last summer and I cannot wait to take her to Tip Top Tulips this spring!

 

Fo more information, visit Tip Top Tulips website here and follow on Instagram here.

PLEASE JOIN ME TONIGHT FOR “THE POLLINATOR GARDEN” VIRTUAL PRESENTATION FUNDRAISER FOR MASS POLLINATOR NETWORK

If you are looking to be inspired by creatures and colors of the upcoming season, and what to plant to make your garden a welcoming haven for wildlife, please join me tonight at 7pm. I am super excited to be presenting “The Pollinator Garden” for the Mass Pollinator Network. Because it is a Keynote presentation, I was able to add and collage many more photos. The presentation looks great and is chock full of ideas for your pollinator paradise. I hope to see you there!

Please join me Wednesday evening, March 17th, at 7pm for “The Pollinator Garden” presentation, via Zoom, for the Massachusetts Pollinator Network.

From early spring through winter, I will take you on a journey of understanding the beautiful creatures found in your gardens and how you can create a welcoming haven by planting trees, shrubs, vines, native wildflowers, and non-invasive ornamentals. Some of the wild creatures covered include Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, moths and butterflies, bees, Baltimore Orioles, and much, much more.

This lecture is the second in a three part fundraising series. For more information and to register please go here: MA Pollinator Network: The Pollinator Garden with Kim Smith and please consider making a donation to MA Pollinator Network. Donations of any amount are welcome.

Thank you!

CEDAR ROCK GARDENS OPENING FOR THE SEASON APRIL 14TH :)

Opening for the season:
April 14th, 2021!
Starting April 14th, we will be open for you to come shop the nursery for all the early spring – cold weather seedlings.

We have posted all the Flower, Herb and Vegetable varieties we are growing this year on our website for you to check out and get excited for!
We will be opening this season for you to come shop the nursery in person. We will be adhering to Covid safe policies with social distancing requirements while shopping. Please wear a mask while shopping with us at this time.

We will not be doing online orders the same way this season. We are however offering a few “Garden Kits” of pre-selected plant varieties that you can pre-order for pick up when we open. These kits are a basic collection of easy to grow varieties that are great for the early season garden and are also great for a beginner garden. These kits are not customizable – if you would like to pick your own plants or have certain varieties in mind please come shop with us during business hours.

If you can not shop in person due to health concerns please call or email and we will happily facilitate you. We will not be accepting pre orders, all orders must be for plants that are currently available.
-Thank you for understanding

VISIT CEDAR ROCK GARDENS HERE

 

Mark your Calendars: Warm Weather seedlings will begin to be available
May 12th!

This includes Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, basil, loads of flowers and so much more!

HUNGRY ROBINS STUFFING UP FOR THE PENDING STORM

Beautiful Robins in the garden this afternoon, filling their bellies with Winterberry, holly berries, and blueberries. I often get the sense that birds know when the weather is going to take a turn for the worse.

SCHOOL STREET SUNFLOWERS FOR DEBBIE WEGZYN

Posting a bunch of photos for my friend Paul’s Mom, Debbie Wegzyn. Paul, and his Dad Paul, own and operate School Street Sunflowers. I love photographing at their fields, not only because the fields and all the wildlife attracted to the fields are beautiful but because Paul and his Dad love sharing the beauty of the fields with their community.

The photos were taken in September and October. The hay was being harvested and the winter cover crop planted. Most of the sunflowers had been cut down to plant rye, but Paul left several rows standing. The sunflower seed heads were Mecca for every songbird in the neighborhood, including a beautiful flock of Red-winged Blackbirds, Goldfinches, Song Sparrows, Bobolinks, and Blue Jays.

On December 21st, School Street Sunflowers is planning to share wonderfully exciting news that I think all of Essex County and the North Shore will be overjoyed to learn. Please stay tuned <3

PRODUCE ORDERS AT CEDAR ROCK GARDENS OPEN TODAY UNTIL 10 PM

Produce Ordering at Cedar Rock Gardens 

Today, October 19th, our website will be open for ordering farm fresh produce and some sweet treats from Mayflour Confections. Orders must be in by Tuesday, October 20th @ 10 pm.

We’ll be assembling everyone’s order during the day Wednesday, then opening pick-ups on Thursday between 2 PM and 6 PM

We will be adding more produce and variety as it becomes available each week.

We are open for produce orders to be placed online and picked up curbside (Farm side). We have some wonderful items from Iron Ox Farm listed also and a wonderful sweet treat from Mayflour Confections. Check out our produce page here https://cedarrockgardens.com/fresh-produce

Please be wearing a mask when you arrive to pick up your order. Come to the farm, park in the designated parking area and walk to the big red barn to pick up your order. We will be opening our website for produce orders throughout the season and will alert you to such in these emails. We look forward to seeing you soon!

SMILEY FACE SUNFLOWERS

Smiling Sunflowers – Paul W of School Street Sunflowers and local kids have been having fun with the sunflower seed heads.

What a special place is School Street, and special owners – more tomorrow!

BABY CEDAR WAXWINGS IN THE HOOD!

Life at the Edge of the Sea – Cedar Waxwing Baby Masked Bandits

For over a month I have been filming a flock of Cedar Waxwings. Exquisitely beautiful creatures, with their combination of soft buffy and brilliantly punctuated wing patterning, along with graceful agility, it’s been easy to fall in love with these birds and they have become a bit of an obsession. 

I filmed some wonderful scenes and will share the photos and story as soon as there is time but in the meantime I wanted to share these photos of a juvenile Cedar Waxwing so you know what to look for. Waxwings are often found high up in the treetops. They are most easily seen on limbs bare of leaves. Their repetitious soft trilling song gives them away and if you learn the sound you will begin to see Cedar Waxwings everywhere. They have an extended breeding period in our region and because it is so late in the season, this juvenile may be one of a second brood.

While I was shooting for my short short story, the Waxwing flock was mostly on the ground in a wildflower patch devouring insects. Cedar Waxwings are more typically berry-eating frugivores. During the spring and summer they add insects to their diet and I think it may have to do with keeping the hatchling’s bellies filled. It wasn’t until they moved back up into the treetops that this little guy began appearing amongst the flock. He has the same masked face, but the breast is softly streaked. You can see the yellow feathers tips beginning to grow in.

Juvenile Cedar Waxwing

Adult Cedar Waxwing

RAGWEED VS GOLDENROD – WHAT IS CAUSING MY SEASONAL ALLERGIES?

Migrating Monarchs and Seaside Goldenrod

So often I hear folks blaming goldenrod as the source of their allergy suffering, when they really mean to say ragweed. The three species of goldenrod that we most often see in our coastal north of Boston fields, meadows, woodland edges, and dunes are Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens), Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima), and Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis).  All three have beautiful yellow flowers, Seaside blooming a bit after Canada and Tall, and all are fabulous pollinator plants, providing nectar for bees, butterflies, and migrating Monarchs.

In our region, we most often encounter Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia), with Plain Jane tiny green flowers and raggedy looking foliage. Goldenrods and ragweeds both bloom at roughly the same time of year, in mid- to late-summer, but why is ragweed the culprit and goldenrods are not? The colorful showy flowers of goldenrods are attractive to pollinators and they are both insect and wind pollinated. The drops of goldenrod pollen are too large to fall far from the plant. Ragweed’s tiny flowers are not of interest to most pollinators and the plant has evolved to rely on the wind to disperse its pollen from plant to plant. Ragweed produces massive amounts of teeny, breathable pollen to travel widely on the wind.

Cedar Waxwing foraging in weed patch with Common Ragweed

Although many of us are fortunate not to be bothered by ragweed, I completely empathize with friends who are. If it is any consolation, I recently learned two good uses for Common Ragweed. Shetland sheep love to eat it and it is good for their wool. And I have been following a flock of  Cedar Waxwings for over a month. I often see in the morning the Waxwings descend on patches of mixed weeds, mostly Common Ragweed. Waxwings change their diet in summer to include insects and I think the birds are attracted to the plant for the host of insects it supports. So next time you are ragging on ragweed remember, it is a native plant and it does support a community of insects and birds.

MORE WONDERMENT AT SCHOOL STREET SUNFLOWERS -BABY COWS AND THE SWEETEST SHEEP YOU WILL EVER MEET!

School Street Sunflowers has once again added a wonderful element to their ever expanding ideas about creating a joyfully fun nature experience for visitors. Paul has added three baby Belted Galloway cows and three of the sweetest, most friendly Shetland sheep imaginable. Our bright and curious three year old granddaughter Charlotte was thoroughly engaged with both the sheep and the baby cows but it was Deanna Gallagher’s adorable and super child friendly Shetland sheep that stole our hearts.

We have met the kindest people at School Street Sunflowers and Charlotte and I were completely taken with Deanna, owner of a flock of nine Shetland sheep. Her farm is just around the corner from School Street Sunflowers. Her three sheep that are currently at Paul’s sunflower field are Detective Jimmy Perez, Abu, and Alistair. Jimmy is the leader of the herd, funny, smart, and outgoing, and he is famous in Ipswich as an “escape mastermind. ” You can read about his most recent escapade here: Smart and determined, sheep on the lam knew exactly what they were doing

Shetland sheep are smaller than what you may typically think of as a sheep, more goat like in size. Deanna’s sheep love to be stroked and hand fed the weeds growing in and amongst the sunflowers, especially Common Ragweed. This is the second time over the past week I have learned of or seen Ragweed used in a great way. The first was earlier when I watched a flock of Cedar Waxwings hungrily descend on a patch of Ragweed, looking for tiny insects to devour.

When you go – the baby cows are at the field all day; the Shetland sheep are on the premises from approximately 9am to 1pm. The sunflower trail  is one way, which is great for avoiding mashups on the pathway during the pandemic. Paul and his staff all wear masks, so please wear your mask as well. This year, the tractors are not available for playing on because they would need to be disinfected after each use. There are picnic tables and wonderful vignettes for family photos.

School Street Sunflowers is located on School Street in Ipswich, behind the high school. For more information visit –

Website: www.schoolstreetsunflowers.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/schoolstreetsunflowers

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/schoolstreetsunflowers

 

 

SUNFLOWER DREAMS

I am dreaming nightly about sunflowers. Thanks to the mystical beauty found at School Street Sunflowers, it’s no wonder why <3

Nature rarer uses yellow
Than another hue;
Saves she all of that for sunsets,—
Prodigal of blue,

Spending scarlet like a woman,
Yellow she affords
Only scantly and selectly,
Like a lover’s words.

Emily Dickinson

Don’t miss School Street Sunflowers while the field is in full, glorious bloom. There are still hundreds of buds yet to open. Pay online in advance to reserve a time – see below.

Paul Wegzyn is the genius behind School Street Sunflowers

With Paul’s Dad, Paul.

Sunflowers, freshly cut each morning, are for sale. Only $10.00 a half  dozen and they last a very good long while.

When you go -the sunflower trail is one way, which is great for avoiding mashups on the trail during the pandemic. Paul and his staff all wear masks, so please wear your mask as well. This year, the tractors are not available for playing on because they would need to be disinfected after each use. There are picnic tables and wonderful vignettes for family photos. I went with three year old Charlotte on a sunny morning and she led the way through the winding trail. Last year, Charlotte only ventured a few feet into the field; this year it was “COMEON, hurry up Mimi!”

Live in the Sunshine, Swim the Sea, Drink the Wild Air – Ralph Waldo Emerson

School Street Sunflowers is located on School Street in Ipswich, behind the high school. For more information visit –

Website: www.schoolstreetsunflowers.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/schoolstreetsunflowers

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/schoolstreetsunflowers

Live music with Paul’s friend and first year Berkeley College of Music student, Jade Hua

Sunflowers are heliotropic when they are young. By the time they mature, sunflowers generally face toward the East throughout the day. The scientific name for Common Sunflowers is Helianthus annus – helios for resembling the sun, anthos for flower, and annus for yearly.