Category Archives: Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SCENTS ON ALL OF CAPE ANN – ‘SAILOR’S DELIGHT’ SUMMERSWEET

Clethra alnifolia is more commonly known by its many descriptive names of Summersweet, Sweet Pepperbush, and Honeysweet. In an old book on fragrance, written by Louise Beebe Wilder, she writes that in Gloucester of old it was described as ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ During the 19th and early 20th century, as told by Wilder, the sailors entering the harbor on homebound ships would reportedly delight in its fragrance wafting out to see.

Much of Niles Pond road is to this day lined with great thickets of ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ Wild Clethra growing on Cape Ann blooms during the month of August.

The following is an excerpt from a book that I wrote back in 2004-2007, which was published by David R. Godine in 2009. The book is about designing landscape habitats for wild creatures and for people, titled Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities: Notes from a Gloucester Garden, and all that I wrote then, still holds true to day.

“Summersweet bears small white florets held on racemes, and depending on the cultivar may be shaded with varying hues of pink to rose-red. The tapering spires of fragrant blossoms appear in mid to late summer. Clethra has a sweet and spicy though somewhat pungent aroma, and when the summer air is sultry and humid, the fragrance permeates the garden, Summersweet is a nectar food attractive to bees and a wide variety of butterflies, notably the Silver-spotted Skipper.” See more at Oh GardenMyriad species of bees and butterflies, along with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, are attracted to Clethra for its sweet nectar, while American Robins, Goldfinches and warblers dine on Summersweet’s ripened berries.
Clethra fruits ripening

TONIGHT! TRY BACKYARD BIRDING – FAMILY ZOOM EVENT – SOME OF THE BEAUTIFUL WINGED WONDERS SEEN IN OUR GLOUCESTER NEIGHBORHOOD DURING THE SPRING OF 2020 including Red-neck Grebe, Cedar Waxwings, Northern Flicker, Dowitchers, Eagles, Palm Warbler, Kingbird, Long-tailed Ducks, Tree Swallows, Chickadees, Mockingbird, Robin, Catbird, Cardinal, Finches, Orioles, Egrets, Grackles, and Swan, Kildeer, Eider, PiPl Chicks, and More!!

Try Backyard Birding – Please join John Nelson, Martin Ray, and myself for a virtual zoom hour of fun talk about birding in your own backyard. We’ll be discussing a range of bird related topics and the event is oriented to be family friendly and hosted by Eric Hutchins.

I am a bit under the weather but nonetheless looking forward to sharing this wonderful event sponsored by Literary Cape Ann.

Singing the praises of Cape Ann’s winged aerialists

Families are invited to join some of our favorite local naturalists and authors —  John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray — for a fun hour talking about the many birds and natural habitats found on Cape Ann. Wildlife biologist Eric Hutchins will moderate this-one hour conversation.

Zoom in Friday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. for an hour of fun as you celebrate the long-awaited summer solstice. See and hear birds, ask questions, learn some birdwatching tips and discover ways to document your bird sightings using your camera, notebook, blog or sketch pad.

This event is brought to you by Literary Cape Ann, a nonprofit group that provides information and events that support and reinforce the value and importance of the literary arts. LCA commemorates Toad Hall bookstore’s 45 years of service on Cape Ann. LCA’s generous sponsors include: SUN Engineering in Danvers, Bach Builders in Gloucester and The Institution for Savings.

Use this link: 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81423552319?pwd=VU5LU21Ga09wVE5QYWpsRnlhRCtFUT09

 

All the photos you see here were taken in my East Gloucester neighborhood this past spring, from March 17th to this morning. A few were taken at the Jodrey Fish Pier, but mostly around Eastern Point, Good Harbor Beach, and in our own backyard. The Tree Swallows photos were taken at Greenbelt’s Cox Reservation. Several of these photos I have posted previously this spring but most not.

I love sharing about the beautiful species we see in our neighborhood – just this morning I was photographing Mallard ducklings, an Eastern Cottontail that hopped right up to me and ate his breakfast of beach pea foliage only several feet away, a Killdeer family, a male Cedar Waxwing feeding a female, and a Black Crowned Night Heron perched on a rock. I was wonderfully startled when a second BCN flew in. The pair flew off and landed at a large boulder, well hidden along the marshy edge of the pond. They hung out together for a bit- maybe we’ll see some little Black Crowned Night Herons later this summer ❤

 

 

SINGING THE PRAISES OF CAPE ANN’S WINGED AERIALISTS- Please join Kim Smith, John Nelson, and Martin Ray for a fun zoom hour of conversation!

Please join John Nelson, Martin Ray, and myself for an hour of talk about the many birds and habitats found on Cape Ann. The event is hosted by Literary Cape Ann and will be moderated by Eric Hutchins, Gulf of Maine Habitat Restoration Coordinator for NOAA.

From Literary Cape Ann’s newsletter-

TRY BIRDING IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD!

Singing the praises of Cape Ann’s winged aerialists

Families are invited to join some of our favorite local naturalists and authors —  John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray — for a fun hour talking about the many birds and natural habitats found on Cape Ann. Wildlife biologist Eric Hutchins will moderate this-one hour conversation.

Zoom in this coming Friday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. for an hour of fun as you celebrate the long-awaited summer solstice. See and hear birds, ask questions, learn some birdwatching tips and discover ways to document your bird sightings using your camera, notebook, blog or sketch pad.

This event is brought to you by Literary Cape Ann, a nonprofit group that provides information and events that support and reinforce the value and importance of the literary arts. LCA commemorates Toad Hall bookstore’s 45 years of service on Cape Ann. LCA’s generous sponsors include: SUN Engineering in Danvers, Bach Builders in Gloucester and The Institution for Savings.

Use this link next Friday: 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81423552319?pwd=VU5LU21Ga09wVE5QYWpsRnlhRCtFUT09

Order books by our guest authors at The Bookstore of Gloucester. For those interested, bird books make great Father’s Day gifts. Further down in this newsletter, you’ll find lots of great information about books and birdwatching organizations.

Thank you, Kim Smith and Martin Ray, for providing us with some of your beautiful photography to help promote this event. And thank you, John Nelson, for the annotated lists of books and birding organizations.
Meet our panel!

Meet our panel!

Artist, author/blogger, and naturalist Martin Ray will talk about maintaining his fine blog, “Notes from Halibut Point,” and share stories discovered in that magical place.

Filmmaker, naturalist, and activist Kim Smith will share her own adventures chronicling Cape Ann’s vibrant bird life including the work she does advocating for the endangered piping plovers that nest at Good Harbor Beach.

Author-naturalist John Nelson will start things off with some birdwatching basics before getting into a few stories about local birds, their habits and habitats from his new book, “Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts through Birds.”

Our moderator, Eric Hutchins, is the Gulf of Maine Habitat Restoration Coordinator for the NOAA Restoration Center located in Gloucester. He  has worked as both a commercial fisherman and government biologist on domestic and foreign fishing vessels throughout the Northeast and Alaska.

Books by our speakers are available through The Bookstore of Gloucester:

Martin Ray
“Cape Ann Narratives of Art in Life” — A collection of interviews and images tracing the creative lives of 28 contemporary artists.
“Quarry Scrolls” (2018)— 24 photographs of Halibut Point natural life and scenes with accompanying Haiku poems

Kim Smith:
“Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!” — Written and illustrated by Kim Smith.

John Nelson:
“Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts through Birds”

More books, recommended by John Nelson:

  1. Sibley, David. The Sibley Guide to Birds
  2. Kroodsma, Donald. The Singing Life of Birds. 2005. On the science and art of listening to birds, by a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts and a foremost authority on bird vocalizations.
  3. Leahy, Christopher, John Hanson Mitchell, and Thomas Conuel. The Nature of Massachusetts. 1996. An excellent introduction to the natural history of Massachusetts by three prominent Mass Audubon Society naturalist-authors.
  4. Sibley, David. What It’s Like to Be a Bird. 2020. Just published, a study of what birds are doing and why, by a longtime Massachusetts resident and renowned author/illustrator of a series of bird and nature guides.
  5. Weidensaul, Scott. Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds. 2000. A Pulitzer Prize finalist study of bird migration by the naturalist and author of Return to Wild America, the subject of his memorable 2020 BBC lecture.
  6. Zickefoose, Julie. Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest. 2016. Where art meets natural history, by a talented author/artist, former student of biological anthropology at Harvard, and keynote speaker at the 2014 Massachusetts Birders Meeting.

If you’d like to learn more or get involved in the birding life, here are some recommendations from John Nelson:

An excellent overall resource is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, especially the “All About Birds” sections, which includes free access to the MaCauley Library (the country’s best collection of vocalizations of birds and other animals), the free Merlin bird identification app, live bird cams, and other resources for beginners and intermediates. Some programs, like their “Joy of Birdwatching” course, require an enrollment fee, but many of their resources are free to anyone.

For bird conservation, the most active national organizations are the American Bird Conservancy and National Audubon. For state bird conservation, Mass Audubon (not affiliated with National Audubon) is most active and the best source of information, but many other organizations are involved in preservation of habitats, often with a local focus.

For birding field trips, Mass Audubon and the Brookline Bird Club both offer frequent trips at different seasons to Cape Ann, sometimes for just a morning, sometimes for a whole day. Both organizations welcome novices, and both have trip leaders who make an effort to be particularly helpful to beginners. Mass Audubon trips, generally sponsored by MAS Ipswich River or MAS Joppa Flats, require advance registration and some payment.

Brookline Bird Club trips are free, without any registration, but regular participants are encouraged to join the club with $15 as the annual dues. The name of the BBC is misleading; the club originated in Brookline in 1913 but is now one of the largest, most active clubs in the country and offers field trips across and beyond Massachusetts.

John Nelson is on the BBC Board of Directors and leads a few Cape Ann trips in both winter and spring. John reminds us that this is a strange time for beginners, since Mass Audubon has cancelled many field trips and the BBC has cancelled all trips through June, but eventually field trips will open up again, especially in places where social distancing is most possible.

The very active Facebook page, Birding Eastern Mass, has over 2,000 subscribers, from novice birders to experts. It’s a great site for sharing bird photos.

 

About Birding in Our Backyard

This Zoom event is for friends and families who are looking for safe, fun things to do close to home. Cape Ann’s abundance of natural wonders are here for us to enjoy and protect. Try chronicling your experiences in a new blog or a photo journal.

• • •

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
— John Muir, from “Our National Parks”

How to Grow Amaryllis

Hippeastrum papilio – don’t you love the lemony lime green and ruby red combination?

The exotic beauty pictured above, commonly referred to as the “Butterfly Amaryllis” (Hippeastrum papilio), has to be one of the most stunning of all bulbs to force indoors. Not only that, but unlike other species of Hippeastrum, which need to go dormant, you can grow papilio all year round. The plants will grow larger and produce more blossoms with each passing year!

Hippeastrum papilio is a member of Amaryllidaceae and is native to the tropical forest of the Atlantic Coast of southern Brazil. It is endangered in its natural range but is increasingly propogated among gardeners.

The following is excerpted from a book that I wrote and illustrated titled Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden, which was published by David Godine.

How to Grow Amaryllis ~ Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! 

Living in New England the year round, with our tiresomely long winter stretching miles before us, followed by a typically late and fugitive spring, we can become easily wrapped in those winter-blues. Fortunately for garden-makers, our thoughts give way to winter scapes of bare limbs and berries, Gold Finches and Cardinals, and plant catalogues to peruse. If you love to paint, and photograph, and write about flowers as do I, winter is a splendid time of year for both as there is hardly any time devoted to the garden during colder months.

Coaxing winter blooms is yet another way to circumvent those late winter doldrums. Most of us are familiar with the ease in which amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs will bloom indoors. Placed in a pot with enough soil to come to the halfway point of the bulb, and set on a warm radiator, in several week’s time one will be cheered by the sight of a spring-green, pointed-tipped flower stalk poking through the inner layers of the plump brown bulbs. The emerging stalks provide a welcome promise with their warm-hued blossoms, a striking contrast against the cool light of winter.

Perhaps the popularity of the amaryllis is due both to their ease in cultivation and also for their ability to dazzle with colors of sizzling orange, clear reds and apple blossom pink. My aunt has a friend whose family has successfully cultivated the same bulb for decades. For continued success with an amaryllis, place the pot in the garden as soon as the weather is steadily warm. Allow the plant to grow through the summer, watering and fertilizing regularly. In the late summer or early fall and before the first frost, separate the bulb from the soil and store the bulb, on its side, in a cool dry spot—an unheated basement for example. The bulb should feel firm and fat again, not at all mushy. After a six-week rest, the amaryllis bulb is ready to re-pot and begin its blooming cycle again. Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Coaxing Winter Blooms

Click here to read more about Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities.

DUE TO THE PENDING STORM, KIM SMITH PROGRAM “THE FRAGRANT GARDEN” HAS BEEN POSTPHONED

I regret to say tomorrow’s program “The Fragrant Garden,” in Belmont, has been postponed until further notice. I know that a group of friends from Cape Ann were planning to attend and will let you know when the new date is scheduled. Thank you!

Mixed bouquet of different cultivars of S. vulgaris including Monge, Maiden’s Blush, Common Lilac,, Beauty of Moscow, and President Grevy.

SAVE THE DATE FOR MY POLLINATOR GARDEN LECTURE

The Pollinator Garden at the South Branch of the Peabody Library

The South Branch is excited to welcome landscape designer and professional photographer Kim Smith to talk about gardens designed to attract pollinators. She will be presenting a slideshow with stunning, original photographs and a lecture on how to work with the rhythm of the season to create a garden that will attract bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife essential to pollination for beautiful blooms. She will discuss native plants and organic and architectural features that have value to certain species that can visit (and even help!) your garden. This program is ideal for anyone who gardens, enjoys wildlife photography or likes to learn about nature.

Kim Smith is a celebrated landscape designer, documentary film maker, photographer and author. Her specialty is creating butterfly and habitat gardens that primarily utilize North American wildflowers and native trees, shrubs and vines. For more information about Kim Smith, you can visit her website: kimsmithdesigns.com

The Pollinator Garden will take place at the South Branch of the Peabody Institute Library, 78 Lynn St. on Thursday, August 10 at 7PM. The program is free, but space is limited and registration is required. For more information and to reserve your free spot, please go to www.peabodylibrary.org or call 978-531-3380. This program is generously sponsored by the Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries.

Save the Date for My Upcoming Pollinator Garden Program at the Sawyer Free Library!

Dear Friends,

Please join me April 6th at 7pm at the Sawyer Free Library where I will be giving my Pollinator Garden program and screening several short films. This event is free and open to the public. I am looking forward to presenting this program at our wonderful Sawyer Free and hope to see you there!!

Female Ruby-throated hummingbird and zinnia – ornithophily is the pollination of flowering plants by birds. They carry off the pollen on their heads and neck to the next flower they visit.

This newly eclosed Monarch is clinging to its chrysalis case. Within moments of emerging, the two-part Monarch proboscis must zip together to form a siphoning tube. If the two parts do not join, the butterfly will not be able to drink nectar. In this photo, you can see the proboscis is not yet fully zipped.

“Following the rhythm of the seasons, celebrated landscape designer Kim Smith presents a stunning slide show and lecture demonstrating how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates.”

KIM SMITH POLLINATOR GARDEN PROGRAM FOR THE NORTH SHORE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY TONIGHT

I am looking forward to presenting my “Pollinator Garden” program tonight at 7:30 for the North Shore Horticultural Society. The program begins at 7:30 at the American Legion Hall, 14 Church Street, Manchester (behind Town Hall). I hope to see you there!

male-female-monarch-butterfly-marsh-milkweed-2-c2a9kim-smith-2012-copyMale and Female Monarch Butterfly Marsh Milkweed

My Pollinator Garden Talk and Short Films Screening at the Hamilton Wenham Public Library

Male Luna Moth ©Kim Smith 2013Male Luna Moth and Phlox davidii

Please join me on Wednesday evening, April 29th, at 7pm at the Hamilton Wenham Public Library where I will be giving my Pollinator Garden program and screening several short films. This event is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

Catbird eating  dogwood fruits ©Kim Smith 2014Catbird and Dogwood Fruits

Monarch Butterfly depositing egg ©Kim Smith 2012Female Monarch Butterfly Depositing Egg on Milkweed 

I am currently booking programs for 2016-2017 and would be delighted to present to your club, library, school, and private or public event. See the Programs Page of my website and feel free to contact me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com with any questions.

©Kim Smith 2014Willowdale Estate Topsfield

Berkshire Museum Presents My Butterfly Documentary and Lecture Saturday September 20th

bst_banner_final[PITTSFIELD, MA] – The Berkshire Museum will present a workshop and documentary screening with landscape designer and filmmaker Kim Smith on Saturday, September 20, 2014. Both events are included with regular Museum admission. The slide-illustrated talk, Creating a Bee, Bird, and Butterfly Garden, begins at 10 a.m.and the screening of the film, Life Story of the Black Swallowtail, will follow the talk, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Both programs are part of the Museum’s BeMuse program series.

Creating a Bee, Bird, and Butterfly Garden

Saturday, September 20, 10 a.m.

Following the rhythm of the seasons, Kim Smith presents a stunning slide show and lecture demonstrating how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates. Pollinator plant list handout included with workshop.

Black Swallowtail osmeterium ©Kim Smith 2011 copy

Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Saturday, September 20, 11:30 a.m. (time approximate; screening follows workshop)

Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly is a 45-minute narrated film that takes place in a garden and at the sea’s edge. Every stage of the butterfly’s life cycle is experienced in vibrant close-up, from conception to pupation to metamorphosis. The film is suitable for all ages so all can gain a deeper understanding of the symbiotic relationship between wildflowers and pollinators and the vital role they play in our ecosystem. The film was shot in Gloucester, Massachusetts. A discussion and Q & A with Kim Smith, the filmmaker, will follow the screening. Life Story of the Black Swallowtail is the first film in a trilogy about butterflies and will be followed next year by Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.

Black swallowtail Butterfly finger ©Kim Smith 2011 copy

About Kim Smith

Kim Smith is a filmmaker, designer, author, illustrator, photographer, and naturalist who documents, in a variety of media, the world around her. She is the author and illustrator of Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden (David R. Godine, publisher, 2009). Kim’s landscape and interior design firm, Kim Smith Designs, works with clientele to create highly individualized homes and gardens, and she specializes in creating butterfly and songbird habitat gardens in public spaces. Smith is a daily contributor to the stellar community blog Good Morning Gloucester. 

 MAP to BERKSHIRE MUSEUM, thanks to Cat Ryan!

About the Berkshire Museum

Located in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts, at 39 South St., the Berkshire Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $13 adult, $6 child; Museum members and children age 3 and under enjoy free admission. Admission to the Butterfly Pavilion is an additional $2 per person. For more information, visit Berkshire Museum or call 413.443.7171.

In association with the Smithsonian since 2013, Berkshire Museum is part of a select group of museums, cultural, educational, and arts organizations that share the Smithsonian’s resources with the nation.

Established by Zenas Crane in 1903, Berkshire Museum integrates art, history, and natural science in a wide range of programs and exhibitions that inspire educational connections between the disciplines. Butterflies is on view throughOctober 26, 2014. Objectify: A Look into the Permanent Collection is currently on view. Little Cinema is open year-round. Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, Worlds in Miniature, Aquarium, and other exhibits are ongoing.

SEE PREVIOUS POST ABOUT BUTTERFLIES! AT THE BERKSHIRE MUSEUM

Hooray for Pathways for Children’s Brand Spanking New Butterfly Garden!

Pathways for Children we ©Kim Smith 2014HOLY CANNOLI and WOW–look how beautifully the Pathway’s Staff is taking care of their brand new one-month old butterfly garden–every plant looks well-loved!!!Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden BEFORE ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

Spring 2014 Before Photo

Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden  After ©Kim Smith 2014.

Same View After July 18, 2014

Elizabeth's Toad ©Kim Smith

Toads Welcome!

My sincerest thanks to Caroline Haines for her vision to create a butterfly garden for the children at Pathways.

Thank you to the many donors who have made the butterfly gardens at Pathways possible.

Thank you to the Manchester Garden Club for their tremendous assisitance in planting the garden.

Thank you to the volunteers from Liberty Mutual for tearing out the old plantings.

And special thanks to Bernie Romanowski, Pathways for Children facilities director, for all his hard work and his extraordinary care and attention to detail, from the project’s inception through its continued maintenance. Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden Zinnia ©Kim Smith 2014. Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden Sunflower ©Kim Smith 2014. Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2014.Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) ~ Notice the pretty moth nectaring from the milkweed in the upper right.

The gardens are alive with pollinators of every species imaginable, including butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, songbirds, moths, and sundry insects! Bernie Romanowski ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

Bernie Romanowski

Manchester Garden Club at Pathways ©Kim Smith 2014

Manchester Garden Club

*     *     *

Antennae for Design ~

The picnic table and trellis were designed to be stained a classic seaside blue. Why would we want to paint or stain the trellis and not simply allow it to gain a weathered patina? From an aesthetic point of view, the wood used for both the picnic table and trellis are two different types and will age very differently from each other. If this were a very large garden, it wouldn’t matter so much, but in a cozy garden room such as this, the difference will become quite noticeable and unappealing over time. Additionally, the blue will offset the flowers and foliage handsomely and is a cheery choice with children in mind.

From a very practical standpoint, untreated wood will quickly degrade in our salty sea air and neither piece will last more than ten years without protection. An opaque stain is the best solution because as the trellis and picnic table age, the obvious differences in wood will be disguised. An opaque stain also requires the least amount of effort to maintain over time. The architectural details were designed to be a coordinated focal point in the garden. Many, many have donated their time and provided generous funding to the garden and hopefully, the integrity of the garden’s design will continue to be honored by all. Rotting untreated trellis ©Kim Smith 2014The above is a photo of an untreated trellis, allowed to weather, and was installed approximately ten years ago. _DSF8394 Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden school bus ©Kim Smith 2014.
Related Posts:

On Behalf of Pathways for Children and Myself ~ Thank You to the Beautiful Manchester Garden Club Ladies!!!

Antennae for Design: Native Flowering Dogwood

white dogwood cornus florida © Kim Smith 2013Currently I am working like mad on design projects, both creating new gardens and organizing existing gardens. Along with butterfly and pollinator gardens, I design many different types of gardens, including fragrant gardens, night gardens, children’s gardens, and seaside gardens. One of my favorite aspects of the design process is creating the horticultural master plan, which is typically done after discussing the clients needs, hopes, and aspirations for their garden, and created when working on the plan drawings.

While working on planting plans, I thought our GMG readers would benefit from suggested plantings and illustrated design tips. I started this series awhile back and called it Antennae for Design, and still like that name.

Cornus florida rubra @ Kim Smith 2012 copyIn designing gardens the first step is always creating the framework and trees comprise a major componenet in establishing the framework, or bones, of a garden. Trees provide a welcome sense of shelter with the shifting light and shadows filtering through the ever-changing ceiling. Fragrance, flowers, the shelter they provide, form, and texture of the leaves are not the only attributes of a tree garden. During the winter months there is the elegant beauty of pure line, the beauty of the branch.

Cornus florida rubra pink dowood © Kim Smith 2012 copyFor a multitude of reasons, one of my top choices when planting a tree-garden is our stunning native American dogwood (Cornus florida), both white and pink flowering forms. The fresh beauty of its spring blossoms, horizontal level branches, myriad pollinators attracted to the tiny florets, and the elegance of its bare limbs in winter are just some of the reasons why I love this tree! For a night garden especially, the white flower bracts are especially luminous in the moonlight. And, the American dogwood is also a larval food plant for the diminutive Spring Azure butterfly’s caterpillar!

white dogwood cornus florida ©kim Smith 2013 copyOh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden is available at my publisher’s website, click here.

Planting in Harmony with Nature

The following excerpt I wrote over fifteen years ago. The article was later adapted for my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! (available at my publisher’s website-click here). Yesterday’s post about how planting for wild bees and butterflies can save farmers money reminded me of the chapter “Planting in Harmony with Nature”.

Cecropia Moth ©Kim Smith 2011Male Cecropia Moth on Magnolia virginiana foliage

“The idea of a garden planted in harmony with nature is to create a loosely mixed arrangement of beauty combining native and well-behaved ornamental flowering trees and shrubs. This informal style of a woodland border or bucolic country hedge is not new and is what the French call a haie champêtre. Perhaps the country hedge evolved because it was comprised of easily propagated, or dispersed by wildlife, native species of plants and perhaps as a revolt against the neatly manicured boxed hedges of formal European gardens.

The country hedge is used, as is any hedge, to create a physical and visual boundary, but rather than forming the backdrop for ornamental plants, it is the show. By planting with a combination of native trees and shrubs, whether developing the framework of a new garden, designing a garden room, or extending an existing garden, one can create an interplay of plants drawing from a more widely varied collection of forms, textures, and colors. The framework is the living tapestry of foliage, flowers, fruit and fauna. Working and living in our garden rooms, we are enchanted by the wild creatures drawn to the sheltering boughs, blossoms, and berries. Additionally, by choosing to grow a combination of companionable fragrant North American trees and shrubs, designing a garden planted for a well-orchestrated symphony of sequential and interwoven scents is decidedly easier. We tend to be more familiar with ornamental trees and shrubs because they are readily obtained through the nursery trade. With the accessibility to resources available through the internet we can design with an increasing selection of native species.”

For the homeowner, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!, a Boston Globe best-of, is chockablock full of design ideas for attracting pollinators to your garden, including extensive information about specific plants, plant combinations, and their cultivation. Oh Garden also makes a terrific gift book, at any time of year, but especially in the spring as we begin to see the earth reawakening and are seeking fresh design ideas and inspiration.

Read more about Oh Garden here.

Magnolia virginiana ©Kim Smith 2011 copy

Magnolia virginiana is one of the most deliciously scented flowering trees you could grow. And the foliage is a caterpillar food plant for the fabulous Cecropia Moth, North America’s largest species of Lepidoptera. The above male Cecropia Moth found in our garden had a wingspan of six inches!

Cape Ann Milkweed Project Continues ~ Plant Milkweed Seeds to Save the Monarchs!

Monarch Butterfly Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Honey Bee©Kim Smith 2013Good Harbor Beach Common Milkweed

Last year was the beginning of our first and wonderfully successful Cape Ann Milkweed Project. My friend Joe Ciaramitaro from Good Morning Gloucester generously offered to hold the plant sale at Captain Joe and Sons, which is very conveniently located on East Main Street, and we had a fantastic turnout. This year I am thinking about doing things a little differently. Rather than shipping and handling live small plants, I am planning to purchase milkweed seeds in bulk. My question is, and this is not the official order form, but just to get a sense of participation, does anyone have an interest in planting milkweed from seed in their gardens, meadows, and/or abandoned areas around our community?

I think I can get good quantities of seed of Marsh Milkweed, Common Milkweed, and Prairie Milkweed. All three are very easy to grow from seed and take about 14 days to germinate. I will provide complete information and tips on growing milkweed from seed.

Please answer in the comment section if you are interested in growing milkweed from seed.

monarch-butterfly-overwintering-graph-journey-northWhy is it so important to plant milkweed for the Monarchs? I’ve written much about that and at the end of the post, please find a list of posts previously published about the importance of milkweed. In a nutshell, milkweed is the only caterpillar food plant of the Monarch Butterfly. The Monarch Butterfly migration is in serious peril One way we can all take action to is to plant milkweed to help mitigate the loss of habitat, partly due to global climate change and primarily due to the use of Monsanto’s GMO Roundup Ready corn, soybean, and sorghum seed along with the massive use of their herbicide Roundup.

Cape Ann Milkweed Project

News Release: MONARCH WATCH ANNOUNCES ‘BRING BACK THE MONARCHS’ CAMPAIGN

How Exactly is Monsanto’s Roundup Ravaging the Monarch Butterfly Population?

Where Are All the Monarchs?

 

Monarch Butterfly Marsh Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2012

Birds of New England: Mourning Doves and Why Birds Fluff When Cold

Mourning Dove pair in snowPair of Mourning Doves in Pear Tree

While writing this post and listening to recorded songs of Mourning Doves, I was immediately transported to my grandparent’s summer cottage on Cape Cod. Their home was sited on a bluff overlooking Cape Cod Bay. Adjacent to the house was a tumbled and scrubby overgrown field and, only a sort walk down down the lane, the freshwater Hiram Pond. There was no shortage of bunnies and birds, toads and turtles, along with the occasional frog and fox. From a child’s point view, it was pure paradise. Mixed with the sound of the surf, imprinted forever is the familiar song of Mourning Doves cooing at the first light of dawn. For much of the day the nesting doves remained hidden in the tangled undergrowth. Then in the fading rosy light of day’s end, their gentle song was heard again mixed with the laughter of rambunctious family feasts on the screened porch my grandfather had built.

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Mourning Doves during the winter months are not calling to their mates but instead are struggling to survive the cold temperatures and sparse supply of food. Our bird feeders are filled often during the week, primarily with safflower seeds. As I have explained in previous posts, squirrels, which can be a real nuisance at feeders, typically are not interested in safflower seeds. Suet and such invites rats, rabbits, and raccoons, which in turn draws coyotes.

Four Mourning Doves  ©Kim Smith 2014Mourning Doves in Pear Tree ~ fluffed and unfluffed doves

Feathers are insulating and by fluffing, the bird traps pockets of air to hold in body heat and keep out the cold. During warm weather, birds press their feathers close to their bodies to eliminate the insulating air pockets to allow heat to escape.

When the bird is incubating eggs, the insulating properties of feathers can be a drawback because the feathers keep some of the bird’s body heat from reaching the eggs. The bird either sheds some its breast feathers naturally or pulls them out to expose bare skin.  The exposed area is called a brood patch.

Read More Here: Feathers

Addendum today ~ So sadly, my husband found beneath our kitchen window this morning a beautiful Mourning Dove. For the past several months we’ve had half a dozen doves, or what looked like three pairs, nestling in the pear trees and at the feeders. Our dead Mourning Dove seemed perfectly intact, except for a few drops of blood on its head. The single greatest threat to songbirds visiting our backyards are collisions with glass.  I never thought of our wind- and weather-worn original-to-the-house 1850s window glass as potentially hazardous. Time to rethink our little backyard sanctuary.

Dead Mourning Dove  ©Kim Smith 2014From Bird Watcher’s Digest, the top ten suggestions for making your windows less deadly for birds: The Top 10 Things You Can Do to Prevent Window Strikes 

Mourning Dove Coo ~

Essex Bird Shop and Pet Supply is an excellent source for bagged safflower seeds.

Mourning Dove puffed feathers ©Kim Smith 2014 copyMourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

My Grandmother’s Garden

Excerpt from my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden, (David R. Godine, Publisher), Chapter 22 ~ “My Grandmother’s Garden.”

Mimi, Kim Smith, Liv HauckMy grandmother Mimi, just before she passed away, me, and daughter Liv

In the early 1960s my grandparents purchased (for the amazing sum of seven hundred dollars!) a picturesque half-acre lot with private beach rights on Cape Cod. Their dream was to build a cottage on the tall bluff overlooking the bay. Coincidentally, my grandmother continued to build their home in successive seven hundred dollar increments. Seven hundred dollars paid for digging the cellar, the next for pouring the cement for the foundation, and seven hundred dollars paid to frame the house. My grandfather finished the remaining work, and they were still building the cottage when we began to spend our summers there. He always had a hammer in one hand and a fistful of nails in the other, and I was thrilled to follow him about holding the nails.

My grandparents worked hard and created wonderful homes they generously shared. While still a young mother and throughout her life, my grandmother taught ceramics at the pottery studio our grandfather built for her. Working together, whatever they touched became transformed into something beautiful. Their homes had an enchanting and joyful atmosphere, or perhaps it just seems that way, recalled from a childhood of fond memories. When I was making plans to attend art school in Boston, my grandmother shared with me her portfolio from Parsons School of Design. I had come to spend the weekend to help her close down the house for the winter. There, in her garage, tucked in an old cupboard, she carefully pulled out a well-worn, though neatly arranged, portfolio filled with her watercolors and sketches. Imagine, keeping her portfolio safe all those years, possibly with the hope of communicating some part of her earlier self to one of her grandchildren.

Eventually, their gray-shingled summer dream cottage was made inviting by a screened porch, blue painted shutters, and a white picket fence. A dooryard flower garden was planted in front, and around back a vegetable and flower garden were sited atop the cliff overlooking the bay. A narrow, sandy path bordered with deliciously fragrant wild beach roses led from the garden to the steep stairs descending to the beach. A weathered picket fence and rickety salvaged gate connected to a wooden archway enclosed the flower garden. By mid-summer the entryway to the garden was embowered with a cloud of sky blue morning glories. Situated in a haphazard manner outside the gated garden were wind- and weatherworn 1920s bamboo armchairs and matching comfy chaise lounge. On some days we would play imaginary children’s games there in her garden overlooking the sea, and on other days we would draw and paint, make clay things from clay foraged from the bluff, and catch fat, helpless toads. I helped my grandmother plant hollyhocks and marguerites and marigolds. The colors, so vividly clear and fresh; flowers growing by the sea appear even more beautiful, perhaps from the ambient light reflected off the water.

Weather permitting, we usually served dinner on the porch. All the porch furniture was painted my grandmother’s signature blue. We ate at a long table with a pretty white-on-white embroidered cloth and round crystal rose bowl full of whatever flowers we had collected that day. We would have family feasts in the fading rosy light, memorable dinners of freshly boiled lobsters and mountains of steamed clams, buttery and sweet corn-on-the-cob, freshly picked vegetables and fruit, and ice cream.

Blissfully lying in bed early in the morning, I recall hearing the soft cries of the Mourning Doves and the cheery calls of the Bobwhites, mingled with the inviting sound of the surf. From my bedroom window I could look out across the garden to the bay and see the ships and sailboats coming and going in the sharply sparkling sea. The transcendent harmonies of the surrounding undulating sea-rhythms and shifting light, the blend of flower fragrances, and birdsongs created the desire to in turn provide similar experiences for our children.

Some years later and newly married, my husband and I were visiting my grandmother at her Cape house. We sat with her in the living room listening to her usual captivating tales, and told her our plans for our new life together. My husband later remarked to me how beautiful she looked. Mimi was wearing a summer shift in a lovely shade of French blue, seated in a chair slipcovered in a blue floral print, with the shimmering azure sea framed by the window behind her, her china blue eyes gazing serenely back at us.

My Garden—like the Beach—

Denotes there be—a Sea—

That’s Summer—

Such as These—the Pearls

She fetches—such as Me

—Emily Dickinson

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Beautiful Video Filmed at Willowdale Estate and Produced by Long Haul Films

Mary Foss Murphy writes ~

I am a faithful GMG reader and enjoy your posts and pictures.  Thank you for sharing your talents with us. Knowing of your work at Willowdale and your work as a video producer, I thought you would enjoy this wedding trailer from Long Haul Films of a recent wedding there. The intro to the trailer mentions the beautiful setting; I wish a few more scenes of Willowdale had made it into the trailer.  I love the cranes as the backdrop for their vows. I have been following the Long Haul blog for a few years. I’m always cheered by watching two people in love get married!

Enjoy!
Sincerely,
Mary Foss Murphy

P.S. My mom bought me your book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! for Christmas a few years ago.  I garden, though have not had time to do your book justice.  I love having it anyway.

My response ~ Thank you so much for sharing Mary and thank you for your good words regarding my book. I loved seeing this film and am so glad to become acquainted with Long Haul Films!  The video must have been created very recently as I planted the sunflower window boxes just a month or so ago!

*  *  *

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! is currently selling for only $15.00 on my publisher’s website, which is a $20.00 value off the list price of $35.00.

Click here to purchase a copy of Oh Garden.

Lecture Tuesday Night at the Seaside Garden Club

Lecture Tuesday night, April 9, at 7:30 at the Manchester Community Center: Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden.

Cabbage White Butterflies mating in Cornus florida ©Kim Smith 2009

Cabbage White Butterflies Mating in the Native Flowering Dogwood Foliage 

The lecture tonight is based on the book of the same name, which I wrote and illustrated. In it I reveal how to create the framework, a living tapestry of flora, fauna, and fragrance that establishes the soul of the garden. Using a selection of plant material that eliminates the need for pesticides and herbicides, and guided by the plants forms, hues, and horticultural demands, we discuss how to create a succession of blooms from April through November. This presentation is as much about how to visualize your garden, as it is about particular trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, and annuals. Illuminated with photographs, and citing poetry and quotations from Eastern and Western cultural influences, this presentation engages us with an artist’s eye while drawing from practical experience.

For a complete lit of my 2013 – 2014 programs and workshops, visit the Programs and Lectures page of my blog.

Cecropia Moth ©Kim Smith 20009

The Cecropia Moth, or Robin Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) is the largest moth found in North America, with a wingspan of up to six inches. He is perched on the foliage of our beautiful native Magnolia virginiana (Sweetbay Magnolia), one of several of the caterpillar’s food plants. You can tell that he is a male because he has large, feathery antennae, or plumos, the better for detecting scent hormones released by the female. This photo was taken in our garden in early June.

The Manchester Community Center is located at 40 Harbor Point, Manchester.

Garden Design Lecture Thursday Night in West Newbury

Think Spring!

Lilac and Red Admiral ©Kim Smith 2012

Lilac ‘Maiden’s Blush’ (Syringa vulgaris) and the Friendly Red Admiral

Tomorrow night I am presenting one of my garden design lectures in West Newbury. For a complete list of programs that I offer, see the Programs page on my blog. For a list of upcoming lectures and programs, see the Events page on my blog.

Note: Program Rescheduled for June 6th.

Magnolia sieboldii bud ©Kim Smith 2012Oyama Magnolia Bud (Magnolia sieboldii)

The Oyama Magnolia is often planted adjacent to tea gardens in Japan because the blossom of the small tree nods downward, allowing the seated person to look up into the face of the flower. The first time I  saw (or should say smelled) Magnolia sieboldii was in a wholesale nursery close to the Rhode Island border, where a single large specimen was tucked in with other more common species of magnolia. The divine fragrance emanating from the tree had drawn me towards it. The tree was unmarked, but since I so strongly value fragrance in plants, I had read about it and knew exactly what it was. Spring had not yet sprung in Gloucester and the honeysuckle sweet and citrus fragrance was intoxicating to my winter weary brain. I tied my tag around to claim it and have adored this tree since the day our Oyama Magnolia arrived to our garden.

 

My Book “Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities” at the Rhode Island Flower Show!

My friend JoeAnn sends this pic from the Rhode Island Flower Show. Thanks JoeAnn!

20130225-164656.jpg

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden

Our Most Cherished Gifts of All ~ Daughters and Sons

For Christmas Liv gave me an early edition of Emily Dickinson’s poems. I cried. The poems of Emily Dickinson play a beautiful role in my book, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities, but the sweetest poem of all found within the books’ pages is the poem written by Liv, when she was only twelve.

Emily Dickinson early edition poem s©Kim Smith 2013

Emily Dickinson, published 1892

When Liv was twelve I hired her to transcribe the first draft of the manuscript for Oh Garden, which I had written in longhand, to our then new computer. I had not yet learned how to use the computer and she was quite proficient. The original manuscript included recipes and illustrations, but no poetry. She took her job transcribing very seriously and one day, about halfway through the project, announced that I needed a poem for the book. She dashed upstairs to her bedroom, returning only half an hour later with her contribution, “My Mother’s Garden.” Her tender poem suggested to me that I include more poetry and it was a joyous experience searching for just the right poem to illuminate each chapter. The book grew to comprise many poems by Emily Dickinson, along with works by Federico García Lorca, John Keats, Amy Lowell, Chinese painter- poets, and even a funny and sweetly sarcastic poem by Dorothy Parker titled “One Perfect Rose.” When the time came, I showed my publisher, Mr. Godine, Liv’s poem. He was delighted to include “My Mother’s Garden” and it can be found on page 206.

Now I keep this cherished gift of Emily Dickinson poems by my bedside table and each time I reach to read it or simply when the cover catches my eye, I am reminded of Liv’s gentle, thoughtful love and of the most cherished gift of all, my daughter.

My Mother’s Garden

An exotic sunset-tinted rose

Intoxicating breath of a magnolia

The small windy brick path

Leading to a hidden paradise

Butterflies flutter their own petal-wings

Over the smiling face of a daisy

A hushed lullaby to the garden sings the stream

Honeysuckle vines twist their elegant tendril,

Grasping the delicate lattice

Gorgeous, vibrant hollyhocks stretch their faces

Towards the radiant sun

Drinking in the soft light

Soon the sweet mellow silence is broken

By a joyful cry of children,

Two, three, now four

Suddenly the garden is a place of singing and frolicking and dancing,

Youthful and inviting.

This blessed garden’s soul shines forth in each and every existence

From the flitting butterflies

To the smallest thriving plant

To the noisiest child that finds peaceful comfort,

In the gentle haven.

                    -Written by our Liv when she was twelve

How to Offend Flowers

Cornus florida rubra ©Kim Smith 2012

Native Pink Flowering Dogwood ~ Cornus flordia rubra

While writing Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! I would often come across what seemed at the time random information, but would jot it down anyhow hoping that it would find its way into the pages of my book. The following excerpt was found within a display of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) porcelain at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore where I was researching Chinese flower and bird painting. I laughed out loud when reading and it makes me smile with every subsequent read but wonder if it is only funny to we flower- lovers.

Enjoying flowers with tea is the best, enjoying them with conversation the second and enjoying them with wine the least. Feasts and all sorts of vulgar language are most deeply detested and resented by the spirit of the flowers. It is better to keep the mouth shut and sit still than to offend the flowers. 

—from a Ming Dynasty  (1368-1644)  treatise on flowers Walters Art Museum

The idea that flowers can be offended by bad manners reflects the belief that the world we inhabit is an organism in which all phenomena interrelate. By the same reasoning, someone who drinks tea from a peach- shaped pot will live longer (peaches symbolize longevity), and someone who dips his writing brush in a peony-shaped bowl will have good fortune, as the peony is a metaphor for success and wealth. The love of flowers was and continues to be a passion among the Chinese and trees and plants are genuinely loved as living creatures.

To win a free copy of Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities ! Notes from a Gloucester Garden leave a comment or see yesterday’s post about the Magnolia virginiana.

The Emperor of China and How to Make Chrysanthemum Tea

Emperor of China Chrysanthemum ©Kim Smith 2012

An ancient variety of chrysanthemum originating from China, the ‘Emperor of China’ resembles and is thought to be the chrysanthemum depicted in early Chinese paintings. Chrysanthemums are also grown for their medicinal properties, and their purported magic juices were an important ingredient in the life-prolonging elixir of the Daoist. Fragrant chrysanthemum tea was considered good for the health, and tonic wine was brewed from an infusion of their petals. Although thought to be rich in healing properties and lovely in form, a more modest well-being was conferred by the vigorous blossoming of the chrysanthemum. Perhaps the late flowering chrysanthemum suggests their connection to a long life, for other plants have finished flowering just as the chrysanthemums begin.

The techniques for learning to paint the orchid, bamboo, plum blossom, and chrysanthemum comprise the basis of Chinese flower and bird painting. They are referred to as “The Four Gentlemen” and are thought to symbolize great intellectual ideas. The orchid is serene and peaceful, though sophisticated and reserved from the world. Bamboo is vigorous and survives throughout the seasons, forever growing upright. The plum blossom expresses yin-yang dualities of delicate and hardy, blooming through snow and ice to herald the arrival of spring. Chrysanthemums continue to flower after a frost, are self-sufficient, and require no assistance in propogating themselves.

China owes its astonishing wealth of plant life to a combination of geographical incidents. The mountains escaped the ravages of the great ice caps and unlike much of Europe and North America, where many plants were wiped out, plant species in China continued to evolve. Additionally, the foothills of the Himalayas are moistened by soft winds from the south, creating an ideal climate for alpine plants. In this warm and moderate environment, three different floras – that of the colder, drier north; that of the sub-tropical south; and that of the alpine species – all mingled and crossed freely for thousands of years.

CHRYSANTHEMUM TEA

Chrysanthemum tea is a tisane made from dried chrysanthemum flowers. The flowers are steeped in boiling water for several minutes, and rock sugar or honey is often added to heighten the sweet aroma. Popular throughout east Asia, chrysanthemum tea is usually served with a meal. In the tradition of Chinese medicine, the tisane is thought to be a “cooling” herb and is recommended for a variety of ailments including influenza, circulatory disorders, sore throats, and fever.

Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden.Leave a comment to be eligible to win a copy. See yesterday’s post about the Magnolia virginiana.

Read more about the ‘Emperor of China’

Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’ begins its lovely tableau in mid-fall and continues to bloom through the first hard frost. Plum rose with silvery highlights, the quills shade paler toward the outer margins. When the plant is in full bloom, the rich green foliage shifts colors to vibrant hues of bronze to scarlet red. The ‘Emperor of China’ exudes a delicious lemon-spice fragrance noticeable from some distance.

As with New York asters, it is helpful to pinch the tips of each shoot to encourage branching and more blossoms. Repeat this process at each four- to six- inch stage of new growth until the middle of July, or when the buds begin to develop. ‘Emperor of China’ is hardy through zone six and thrives in full sun to light shade in well-drained soil. This cultivar forms a 21/2′ mound in only a few years. Give the plant a top dressing of compost and mulch after the first hard frost.

Win a FREE Copy of Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail©Kim Smith 2010

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 GardenMy 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.

Magnolia virginiana ©Kim Smith 2012 copy

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.

See Tuesday’s excerpt about pear trees

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail ©Kim Smith 2010Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Win a FREE Copy of Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

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 GardenMy 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! from The Boston Globe’s Carol Stocker ~ Oh Garden! is a treasure, and perhaps the best garden gift book of the season. Both dream-like and practical, it captures the gardener’s journey by integrating personal essays, hand’s-on advice, and paintings.
—The Boston Globe

Monarch Butterflies Mating ©Kim Smith 2010.jpgA Pair of Monarchs Mating in Our Pear Trees 

Excerpt from Part One: Creating the Framework, Chapter One

He who plants pears, Plants for heirs

Pyrus communis, or common European pear, is not seen growing in the wild. The cultivated pears as we know them today are thought to be derived from Pyrus nivalis and P. caucasia. Few pears ripen well on the tree and that may be one reason they have not been grown as extensively in America as apples and peaches, although apple and peach trees are not as long lived as pear trees. A healthy pear tree can live and bear fruit for several centuries.

The trick to harvesting pears is to pick them as they are ripening, while they are still quite firm. If you wait until the flesh yields with pressure on the outside, the fruit will be rotted inside. Each individual variety of pears has an estimated ripening date from when the tree blooms. Note the date when the tree begins to flower and count the days forward to the approximate ripening time. The quality of the soil, where the tree is sited, as well as changes in the weather from year to year will influence the number of days until the pears are ready to be harvested. Bearing in mind that this is only an approximation, begin monitoring the fruit closely as the day approaches. Nearing the correct time of harvest, the color of the fruit will begin to change. For example, the ‘Beurre Bosc’ begins to turn a light golden yellow beneath its russet skin. Carefully hold the stem of the pear in one hand and the fruit-bearing spur in the other hand. Gently twist with an upward turn. Remove the pear and stem, not the bumpy, fruit-bearing spur. It takes several years for a spur to develop, and if damaged or accidentally harvested with the pear, the crop will be significantly decreased the following year.

Stack the fruit in the coldest section of a refrigerator and store for several weeks. After two to three weeks, remove a pear or two and let it ripen at room temperature for several days. At this point the pear will ideally be fully ripe and ready to eat. Depending on the cultivar, pears will keep for weeks to several months when kept well chilled.