Please come join me on Saturday, July 13th, at 1:00 and at 2:00, for guided tours of the butterfly gardens I designed for the Gloucester HarborWalk. The guided tour is included in the cost of the ticket for the Gloucester Garden Tour. Please feel free to email me with any questions about the butterfly garden tour at the HarborWalk at email@example.com.
One of my favorites, and in bloom now at the Gloucester HarborWalk Gardens, is the stunning North American native wildflower Culver’s Root or Veronicastrum virginicum. The plant typically grows to five feet and, when in flower, creates a lovely, airy candelabrum effect. Culver’s Root prefers full sun and moist well-drained soil. When I was there checking on the gardens several days ago all manner of bees and butterflies were nectaring from the diminutive florets of the spikey racemes of the Veronicastrum.
Veronicastrum virginicum and Cabbage White Butterfly, Gloucester HarborWalk Butterfly Garden
I have shared many photos and stories about the garden and events that take place at Willowdale Estate. Not only because I love working with everyone there, but also because several people who live in Gloucester work at Willowdale (Michele and Audi) and because everyone in the Willowdale offices reads GMG on a daily basis. The following glowing review was recently published in The Knot and I thought perhaps prospective brides looking for a venue would like to read about one bride’s beautiful experience at Willowdale.
When you have a spare minute, I hope you”ll take a moment to look at the new website for my forthcoming film Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly. I had lots of fun creating the website and it was great to be able to assemble and house all the information in one place, including photos, upcoming events, the trailer, and a share page. Please let me what you think. THANK YOU!
To all who have expressed interest in attending the premier of Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly, the advance tickets are selling rapidly and the event is nearly sold out. Please purchase tickets while still available. Link to Advance Ticket sales at Cape Ann Community Cinema.
Thank you to everyone participating in the Cape Ann Milkweed Project!
Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Common Milkweed ~ Good Harbor Beach
Milkweed may not be for everyone’s garden; even if you did not order plants, you are welcome to come on down to the dock Saturday morning, the 18th of May, and learn more about the Monarch-milkweed connection. The plants are being shipped on Monday the 13th and I will keep you updated on their progress.
I thought everyone would like to know that a photo of mine, Gloucester’s First Wind Turbine, has been licensed for a million-run children’s textbook on wind farming. I think its pretty exciting that our turbine and Gloucester Harbor will be featured not only in one million textbooks, but in the electronic version of the book as well. Upon publication, the publisher is sending a copy of the book and I plan to donate it to the Sawyer Free Library. This photo was shot at daybreak last October while filming the barge transporting the wind turbine through Gloucester Harbor.
Thanks to a google search, I found this very handy Stock Photo License Pricing for Editorial Use chart and it really helped to negotiate a fair price: Photographers Index
The male Eastern Bluebird shows a brilliant indigo blue on the head and back, with a rusty reddish brown breast. The female is more softly colored overall, with elegant gray wings, tinged in shades of blue, and paler breast. Joe Ciaramitaro photo
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
Several days ago my friend Joe from Good Morning Gloucester blog captured (with camera) a pair of Eastern Bluebirds. Everyone who responded in the comment section spoke so fondly of this beautiful bird that I thought we’d all enjoy knowing a bit more about its current status in Massachusetts. And too, sightings at this time of year give reason to share a favorite Emily Dickinson poem—“Before you thought of spring, except as a surmise…”
Before you thought of spring,
Except as a surmise,
You see, God bless his suddenness,
A fellow in the skies
Of independent hues,
A little weather-worn,
Of indigo and brown.
With specimens of song,
As if for you to choose,
Discretion in the interval,
With gay delays he goes
To some superior tree
Without a single leaf,
And shouts for joy to nobody
But his seraphic self!
Bluebirds do indeed appear to sing with great joy from the treetops, and reading this poem always makes me smile, thinking about “a fellow in the skies” singing to nobody but his rapt self. As is so typical of her work, Emily Dickinson’s poem is an astute and honest observation of the natural world, but I also interpret her poem to mean that joy is an emotion that doesn’t need an audience; that it can be expressed for the sake of joy itself.
Eastern Bluebirds sing several types of songs; one is a liquid birdsong—sort of a turee song—and another is a soft melodious warble. When trying to attract a mate, unpaired males typically sing from a high perch, and sometimes even in flight. Both male and female sing in all seasons to keep in touch with each other and to signal to nestlings that food is on its way. Bluebirds are in the Thrush Family, as are American Robins, and Robins too sing a lovely liquid birdsong.
From the Mass Audubon State of Birds:
“The very widespread breeding distribution seen in the Eastern Bluebird in Massachusetts today is, in large part, the result of considerable support received by concerned citizens who, for more than half a century, erected large numbers of nest boxes across the state and helped save the species from near-extirpation.”
What does “extirpation” mean? Not that a species has become extinct from our planet, but that it is no longer found in a particular area. We are very fortunate that the Eastern Bluebird did not become extirpated from our region. Bluebirds are cavity nesters and use suitable bird boxes, tree cavities, and old woodpecker holes in trees and fence posts to build their nests. During the era when settlers cleared forests and planted fields and orchards, the Eastern Bluebird became quite common. In the 20th century their population decreased by nearly 90 percent for several reasons, two of which are because vast areas of New England have reverted to forest, and because the bluebird is competing for nesting sites with the alien European House Sparrow and European Starling. The return of the Eastern Bluebird during the spring and summer breeding period is due in large measure to citizens throughout the state building and placing nest boxes along “bluebird trails.”
Eastern Bluebird and Winterberry
If you are fortunate enough to have bluebirds visiting your backyard, you may want to provide them with supplemental food. Bluebirds are primarily insectivores. They do not visit bird feeders because their bills are not designed for cracking open seed and nut shells (but they will eat hulled sunflower seeds). They eat berries at this time of year because there aren’t any insects. The winterberries won’t last long on the bush with flocks of hungry birds descending to your garden. Mealworms (which aren’t really worms at all, but are the larval form of the darling beetle) are the most nutritious supplement you can provide bluebirds. For more information on feeding mealworms to bluebirds go to this fact sheet: North American Bluebird Society’s Mealworms Fact Sheet.
For a wonderful FREE downloadable 15 page education packet designed for grades 1-5, with coloring pages and puzzles follow this link: Education Packet
For more information on how to build, and where to site, bluebird nest boxes, along with plan drawings, follow this link: Getting Started with Bluebirds
To read more about the devastating effects of European House Sparrows and European Starlings follow this link: House Sparrow Control.
Just this past week, 15 Eastern Bluebirds were spotted at Allens Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Westport, Massachusetts. See Bluebird Nestbox Walk at Allens Neck post for information about an upcoming.
Additional images courtesy Google image search.
Tuesday through Friday of this week I will be bringing you expert gardening advice excerpted from my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden. My book is currently on sale on my publisher’s website (David R. Godine) for the unheard of price of 15.00 (the list price is 35.00.) In response to Godine’s super sale, I am offering a free copy of my book.
Leave a comment or question on any of the posts by Friday at 8PM to be entered into the drawing to win. Multiple entries are allowed. One person will be chosen at random. The book will be shipped on Monday, the 17th, which should allow time for it to arrive by Christmas. Shipping is included to addresses within the United States and Canada.
Praise for Oh Garden: Smith’s writing is lithe and clean and her experiences in conjuring beauty out of her garden in Gloucester make for excellent reading.
—Hawk and Whippoorwill
Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Part One: Creating the Framework, Chapte Three ~ Planting in Harmony with Nature
Magnolia virginiana ~ Sweetbay Magnolia
Located in the heart of Ravenswood Park in Gloucester there is a stand of Magnolia virginiana growing in the Great Magnolia Swamp. It is the only population of sweetbay magnolias known to grow this far north. I took one look at the native sweetbay magnolia and breathed in the fresh lemon-honeysuckle bouquet of the blossoms, fell in love, and immediately set out to learn all I could about this graceful and captivating tree.
Returning from a trip to visit my family in northern Florida, I had tucked the bud of a the Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) into my suitcase to paint upon my return. I was dreaming of someday having a garden large enough to accommodate a Magnolia grandiflora and was elated to discover how similar our sweetbay magnolia is to the Southern magnolia. For those not familiar with the Southern magnolia, it is a grand, imposing specimen in the landscape, growing up to fifty feet in the cooler zones five and six, and one hundred feet plus in the southern states. M. grandiflora is the only native magnolia that is evergreen in its northern range, flowering initially in the late spring and sporadically throughout the summer. The creamy white flowers, enormous and bowl-shaped (ten to twelve inches across), emit a delicious, heady sweet lemon fragrance.
In contrast, the flowers of the sweetbay magnolia are smaller, ivory white, water-lily cup shaped, and sweetly scented of citrus and honeysuckle. The leaves are similar in shape to the Magnolia grandiflora, ovate and glossy viridissimus green on the topside, though they are more delicate, and lack the leathery toughness of the Southern magnolia. The lustrous rich green above and the glaucous silvery green on the underside of the foliage creates a lovely ornamental bi-color effect as the leaves are caught in the seasonal breezes.
Magnolia virginiana is an ideal tree for a small garden in its northern range growing to roughly twenty feet compared to the more commanding height of a mature Southern magnolia. M. virginiana grows from Massachusetts to Florida in coastal freshwater wetland areas as an understory tree. The tree can be single- or multi-stemmed. Sweetbay is a stunning addition to the woodland garden with an open form, allowing a variety of part-shade loving flora to grow beneath the airy canopy. The leaves are a larval food for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. Almost immediately after planting we began to notice the swallowtails gliding from the sunny borders of the front dooryard, where an abundance of nectar-rich flowers are planted specifically to attract butterflies, around to the shady border in the rear yard where our sweetbay is located.
Garden designs are continually evolving. Part of our garden has given way to a limited version of a woodland garden, for the shady canopy created by the ever-growing ceiling of foliage of our neighboring trees has increasingly defined our landscape. We sited our Magnolia virginiana in the center of our diminutive shaded woodland garden where we can observe the tree from the kitchen window while standing at the kitchen sink. Gazing upon the tree bending and swaying gracefully in the wind, displaying its shifting bi-color leaves, provides a pleasant view when tending to daily chores.
Just in time for your holiday gift giving, my book, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden, which I both wrote and illustrated, is on sale on my publisher’s website for only 15.00. The price is unbeatable as the list cost is 35.00. Oh Garden! makes an ideal gift for the garden-maker and nature lover on your holiday gift list and at this price, I recommend you buy one for yourself and one for a friend!
Praise for Oh Garden ~
Anyone who gardens along the Eastern Seaboard from Maine to South Carolina will appreciate Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! (David R. Godine, $35). This book is filled with design ideas and plants that work well in this coastal region, as author and garden designer Kim Smith relates her experiences with her garden in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The first part of the book, “Creating the Framework,” delves into trees, shrubs, and other elements for creating structure in the garden, while the second section addresses how to fill out the framework to create a harmonious living tapestry in your garden. —Viveka Neveln, The American Gardener
Oh Garden! is a 250 page hardcover book crammed full of the most excellent gardening advice you will find anywhere, guiding you through the four seasons, and woven throughout with over 85 illustrations, and fabulous plant lists. All week I will be bringing you excerpts from my book, with more praises from The Boston Globe and other literary reviewers.
Tuesday, while filming beautiful B-roll ay Captain Joe’s dock, for my Monarch butterfly project, my friend Joey suggested I ask each lobstermen what they were thankful for. It was alot of fun, as you can see, and although I made this video for Good Morning Gloucester, I thought my readers would enjoy. And as you can see, I also got lots of gorgeous B-roll of lobstermen in action and lobster boats, which will help establish a wonderful sense of place for my film. You can watch the video on Good Morning Gloucester if you’d also like to read all the great comments.
Wishing everyone a happy and joyful Thanksgiving filled with lots of yummy food.
Brought to you by Good Morning Gloucester and the crews of lobster boats The Lady J and The Degelyse, and Brian O’Connor. Thanksgiving interviews with, in order of appearance, Joey Ciaramitaro, Ryan, Skipper Dave Jewell, Brain M O’Connor, Michael, Skipper Tuffy, Sean, and Frankie Ciaramitaro.
I’ve Got Plenty to Be Thankful For, sung by Bing Crosby and How Sweet It Is by Marvin Gaye.
Once again, a million and one thank yous to Joey and Frankie for allowing me to film and photograph from the dock at Captain Joe and Sons.
Superstorm Sandy Gloucester ~ The Morning After
Filmed on October 30, 2012, the morning after Superstorm Sandy, at Brace Cove, Gloucester. We were very fortunate to miss the brunt of the storm; Gloucester survived with relatively minimal damage. A heavy, thick steely-gray bank of clouds dominated the sky and the sun broke through for only a brief period. The streaming shafts of sunlight created a beautiful ethereal glow filtering through the atmosphere. The wind was very strong and caused a good deal of camera shake.
Music composed by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Opus 46: Morning Mood.
Stills from my B-roll. Click images to view larger.
One of the most gorgeous, interesting, and enjoyable aspects of filmmaking I find is shooting B-roll. I am swamped with design work, organizing lecture programs, and hoping to finish the edits on my Black Swallowtail film very soon, but there is no better time of year to shoot B-roll for my Monarch film than autumn in Gloucester; the light is simply stunning, and what I like to refer to as “atmospheric.”
B-roll further tells the story in a beautifully subtle, and alternatively not so subtle, manner and gives the project a sense of place. While filming and waiting, for example, for birds to take flight (whether swans or homies) I have my still camera readily available.
The most extraordinarily beautiful things occur spontaneously. I feel so very fortunate to see, and in turn share, the natural world through the camera lens. Only several weeks ago while filming a spider’s web in a tree, capturing the filaments of silky webbing dancing in the light of the setting sun (with the pinky schooner Ardelle and the Dog Bar Breakwater in the background!), the web’s maker came cavorting through the scene, with a capture of her own!
Click the photo to view larger and you will see the little Monarch flakes heading into the cherry tree. The clustering Monarchs are well-camoflouged by the autumn foliage nonetheless, their silhouettes are clearly visible in the setting sun.
Another passel of Monarchs poured onto the Point Thursday at dusk, carried in by the warm southerly breeze. Overnight the wind shifted, coming in from the northeast, and by day break Friday morning, the Monarchs had flown from the trees, carried to shores further south by the blustery tailwind.
Willowdale Estate Courtyard
Monday night I was filming at Willowdale as we are in the early stages of creating a web page about the butterfly gardens for the Willowdale Estate website. I was hoping to film the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at dusk and did succeed! They were nectaring from the Rose Mallow, hosta, Snowberry Bush, and butterfly bushes.
I love the new bistro lights in the courtyard garden–so romantic!
Painted Lady–never a more aptly named butterfly! Although ubiquitous, the sheer number of Painted Ladies found in gardens this summer is simply astonishing.
This morning in our postage-stamp-of-a-lot, there were quite possibly over one hundred newly emerged Painted Ladies nectaring from the Joe-pye, Baby Joe, zinnias, butterfly bushes, phlox, and Rudbeckia.
Introducing ‘Henry Eiler’s’ Quilled Sweet Coneflower ~
New to our garden this year is the Quilled Sweet Coneflower. The finely quilled sunny yellow petals are simply lovely, as is the overall shape of the plant. The wildflower is a North American native and bears the name of the southern Illinois horticulturist and prairie restoration specialist who found it growing in a railroad prairie remnant.
When lightly rubbed, the leaves of Rudbeckia subtomentosa reveal their sweet vanilla scent. I’ll let you know if it attracts bees, butterflies, and songbirds when the center florets open.
Railroad Prairie Remnants
“…the only remnant of any virgin, unplowed prairie that remains is along railroad tracks. When the railroads were originally built in the 1800′s, if they were going over a natural prairie, all they had to do was lay down the wooden crossties, pack in bed fill, and lay the rails….the remaining right-of-way remained essentially undisturbed. In many locales, a road also was constructed parallel to new tracks, so that the few hundred feet of railroad right-of-way trapped between the tracks and the road remained unplowed to this day, and in many areas has reserved a remarkable diversity of prairie species. In most areas, accidental fires happen fairly regularly, which enhances the vigor of the prairie vegetation.” Larry Lowman, Arkansas nurseryman and native plants specialist.
In full bloom this month at the Harbor Walk is the fabulous North American native ‘Baby Joe’ (Eupatorium). While maintaining the Harbor Walk gardens, Jay Ramsey of Farm Creek Landscaping reported seeing no less than half a dozen species of butterflies nectaring simultaneously at the ‘Baby Joe’ on a warm sunny morning this past week. Given your average warm sunny summer day, butterflies are typically on the wing throughout the day; I find the very best time of day to see the very most is between 10:00 am until 12 noon.
Look what Fred Bodin from Bodin Historic Photo shared!
Julia Lane, later Julia Wheeler, posed for Alice M. Curtis on August 12th, 1915, in Gloucester.
Fred read my post about Dutchman’s Pipevine and Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies that originally appeared on Good Morning Gloucester, titled Plant, and They Will Come! I mentioned in that post that the Dutchman’s Pipevine had it’s heyday in gardens in the previous two centuries. Pipevine was planted to climb porches and arbors in pre-airconditioning days, providing shade and cooling the rooms within. The Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly is rarely seen in our region today because the Dutchman’s Pipevine is rarely planted.
Thank you Fred for taking the time to find this delightful vintage photo showing the Dutchman’s Pipevine growing on the porch in the background!
Dutchman’s Pipevine is the host plant for the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly and makes a wonderful addition to the garden. Back when it was in vogue (and practical) to plant Dutchman’s Pipevine, Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies were a regular occurrence in the northeast.
Note: the flower in the second photo of the Dutchman’s Pipevine is a Rose of Sharon, not the flower of the vine.
Nearly five years ago in late September 2007, I photographed a male Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly (Battus philenor) nectaring in my garden. I found mesmerizing its dark beauty, with black wings punctuated by brilliant orange spots and shimmering iridescence. The wings flashed electric blue in the fading late day sunlight and I became completely captivated!
Although the Pipevine Swallowtail is not rare in its southern range, this exotic looking butterfly is an unusual occurrence in the northeast, and even more rarely found on the eastern outer reaches of Cape Ann. Mine was a stray, carried in on a southerly breeze. I imagined that if a male can drift into our garden, so can a female. And if a visiting female found in my garden her caterpillar food plant, she would deposit her eggs. The following spring we planted the Dutchman’s Pipevine (Aristolochia macrophylla). Four years later, and our pipevine has grown well. With emerald green enormous heart-shaped leaves, she is quite a showstopper clambering over the back fence. The plant is named for its flower, which resembles a Dutchman’s pipe, although when ours flowers, the blooms are so small, so few, and so lost in the foliage, I barely know when it is in bloom. Our pipevine took several years to become established, but once firmly rooted, it grew vigorously, but not invasively. At the end of the growing season, or the beginning of the next, I cut the vine hard, down to the ground. Dutchman’s Pipevine grows in full sun and partial shade and is hardy in zones 4 to 8.
Aristolochia macrophylla had its glory days in gardens during the two previous centuries, prior to the invention of air conditioning. It was planted to cover porches and treillage; cooling and shading the rooms within. When looking through old photos you can easily spot the porches and arbors that are embowered with pipevine because of the distinctive heart-shaped foliage. I imagine Fred Bodin may even have a few pictures of pipevine shrouded porches in his treasure trove of vintage photographs.
While doing chores in our backyard, about a week ago Saturday, I noticed the rapid movements of a dark butterfly investigating the pipevine. I immediately paused because say, for example, if it was the more common Eastern Black Swallowtail, which deposits eggs only on members of the carrot family, it would not show the least bit of interest in the pipevine. Upon close investigation, it was a Pipevine Swallowtail and, without doubt, it was a she! After first zooming in and out of the house to grab my camera, I observed her as she fluttered from tendril to tendril. She deliberately chose the tenderest leaves, pausing briefly several times to curl her abdomen to the underside to deposit her eggs. After she departed I ran in the house to tell anyone who would listen of the Great News. In our household my butterfly news is pretty much the family joke, although my husband kindly offered to get the tallest ladder from the basement. He held tight while I climbed to the top rung in search of eggs. I struck gold! Unlike the female Monarch and Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies, which deposit eggs singularly, the Pipevine Swallowtail oviposits eggs in clusters. I counted somewhere between 25-30 eggs (very approximately) in the clutch we cut from the plant. I hope we have enough pipevine to feed this many hungry Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars!
~ Map courtesy NABA
Last summer the Ciaramitaro girls stopped by our garden to see a newly emerged Monarch butterfly. After releasing the butterfly, Eloise wanted to learn more about the Monarchs, and butterflies in general. This year she remembered from their visit the previous year that the Monarch caterpillar food plant is milkweed. Eloise, who I am convinced is a budding naturalist and artist, is an avid gardener (just ask her about her vegetable patch!), so I promised her milkweed plants. We scouted out a sunny a corner of the family’s yard and, after mom Jill helped dig up the sod, we planted a petite butterfly garden, with Common Milkweed for the Monarchs, parsley and fennel for the Black Swallowtails, and marigolds to attract the nectaring insects. We’re looking forward to their first butterfly sightings!
What more could one ask for in a fine dining experience–inviting location and ambience, beautifully prepared food, and welcoming service. A recent trip to enjoy The Seaward Inn’s Sunday brunch provided all of the preceding, and then some.
The Seaward Inn is located on Marmion Way, which runs along Rockport’s picturesque shoreline. Sunday brunch is served from 10:30 to 1:30. The cost is 18.95 per person--really quite reasonable considering coffee, juice, freshly baked breads and croissants, organic yogurt, and homemade granola are all included with the three course prixe fixe menu.
For starters my husband had the exquisite wild mushroom, caramelized onion, goat cheese, and watercress Savory Tart Tartin and I had the Roasted Beet Salad with spring greens, blue cheese, toasted walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette. We were both hard-pressed to decide which was the more fabulous. Cheese blintzes, with citrus ricotta and seasonal fruit, as well as the classic Caesar salad are also offered for the first course.
The entrees were equally as difficult to chose between. Roasted breast of chicken, pan-seared salmon, grilled flank steak, waffles, French toast, and quiche of the day were the entrees to which we had to say no. Tom had the Omelet to Order with a wonderful medley of fresh veggies and I had their gorgeous Eggs Benedict with exquisitely creamy, lemony Hollandaise and perfectly cooked spinach. I am looking forward to another visit soon to the Seaward Inn for brunch as every item on the menu sounded irresitible. Guinness Chocolate Cake Tom loved the homemade basil ice cream with fresh strawberries and I had the simply divine Guinness chocolate cake–the cake’s texture was amazingly light and perfectly sweetened. Key Lime pie is another favorite offered–I guess the next visit won’t come soon enough!
Tom loved the homemade basil ice cream with fresh strawberries and I had the simply divine Guinness chocolate cake–the cake’s texture was amazingly light and perfectly sweetened. Key Lime pie is another favorite offered–I guess the next visit won’t come soon enough!
The Seaward Inn opened for its 68th year in business in May of this year, and has been continually in operation under the same family for all these many years. Nancy Cameron Gilsey, the youngest daughter of the original proprietors Roger and Ann Cameron, has partnered with the renowned chefs of Beach Gourmet Catering for their brunch menu, special events, and continental breakfast; their weekly continental breakfast is also open to the public.
See Joe Ciaramitaro’s Good Morning Gloucester video posted earlier this year for a first look with John Lamarinde at the new Savour Wine and Cheese and Beach Gourmet Catering, opening very soon, and located at 76 Prospect Street, across from St. Ann’s School.