Tag Archives: Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

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 BUTTERFLY AMARYLLIS

The blossoms of the Butterfly Amaryllis are considerably more delicate and petite when compared to the blossoms of most Amaryllis cultivars so this year I grouped three bulbs to a pot for extra beauty. I think my plan was successful 🙂

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 propagated among gardeners.

The following is excerpted from a book that I both 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.

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.

Fanciful Clown

I am so love with the blossoms of our fanciful Amaryllis ‘Clown.’ She opened the first of three bodacious blooms on Christmas Day–three blossoms on one stalk, that is–with the flowers of two more stalks yet to emerge! She’s a treasured bulb, and so easy to force indoors. The following is excerpted from a book that I wrote and illustrated between 2003-2006 titled Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden, which was published by David Godine in 2008.

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, and then a typically late and fugitive, fleeting 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 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. I believe if we cared for a garden very much larger than ours, I would accomplish little of either writing or painting, for maintaining it would require just that much more time and energy.

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 scapes 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.

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

Down the Garden Path

monarch-new-england-aster-coneflower-copyright-kim-smithThe New England Asters and Quilled Coneflowers blooming in our garden during the months of September and October were planted to provide sustenance for migrating Monarchs. Although both are native wildflowers, the bees and butterflies visiting gardens at this time of year are much more interested in nectaring at the New England Asters.

Plant the following four native beauties and I guarantee, the pollinators will come!

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens)

Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

monarch-butterfly-depositing-egg-milkweed-copyright-kim-smithFemale Monarch curling her abdomen to the underside and depositing eggs on Marsh Milkweed foliage.

PLOVERS and SANDERLINGS!

Semipalmated plover ©Kim Smith 2015Semipalmated Plover and Sanderling

Last week after presenting my Pollinator Garden program in Orleans and visiting the Nauset lighthouses, the next stopover was to my grandparent’s beach in Dennis, or I should say, the beach where my family summered as our grandparents are no longer living. It was close to sunset and I had the overwhelming wish to watch the sun go down from the same place where we perched atop the bluff and had watched the sunset thousands of times as children. It was more than a little dismaying upon arriving to see my Grandmother’s glorious seaside garden gone, replaced by grass, but even more so, to see that the great stairwell and wild rose-lined path to the beach, once enjoyed by all the neighbors, had been privatized. Despite all that and feeling very melancholy, I had a lovely walk along the shore, watched the spectacular sunset from the cliff’s edge, and came upon a gorgeous mixed flock of shore birds. They stayed awhile resting and feeding in the surf at the high tide line and none-too-shy, allowed for both filming and photographing in the fading rosy light.

Black-bellied Plover ©Kim Smith 2015JPG I believe these are Black-bellied Plovers in their winter plumage. Not only were they standing on one leg, they also run, or hop, along the beach at top speed, on one leg!

Sanderling Dennis Cape Cod ©Kim Smith 2015Sanderling

Dennis MA Cape Cod sunset -2 ©Kim Smith 2015

You can read an excerpt about my Grandmother’s Cape Cod garden in my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities in the chapter titled “My Grandmother’s Gardens.”Plover cape Cod ©kim Smith 2015,Camouflaged!

More Photos Here Continue reading

Amaryllis Lemon Lime

Lemon Lime Amaryllis  -- ©Kim Smith 2014Amaryllis ‘Lemon Lime’

I’ve never met an amaryllis I didn’t love and ‘Lemon Lime’ is no exception. The flowers are slightly smaller than many cultivars, compared to that of ‘Orange Sovereign’ for example, however, the plant often sends up two and three stalks at the same time. The exquisite pale chartreuse complements nearly every color scheme imaginable and is wonderfully fresh and spring-like to help stave away those dreary drab winter-hued blues.

Lemon Lime Amaryllis ©Kim Smith 2014 copyThree lush stalks simultaneously!

Amaryllis double exposure ©Kim ASmith 2014See ‘Orange Sovereign’ in a previous post: Orange, Brought To You By Amaryllis

Read More On How to Grow Amaryllis: Continue reading

PEACHES RIPENING IN THE WARM SUN ~ DO I HEAR BELLINIS, ANYONE?

Belle of Georgia peach ©Kim Smith 2014 copyBellinis would make a festive addition to your Labor Day/Schooner Festival weekend brunch or dinner, especially at this time of year when the farmer’s markets and grocer’s shelves are brimming with tree-ripened fresh fruit.

Our ‘Belle of Georgia’ white-flesh peach tree never disappoints. Each and every year since first planting, this semi-dwarf peach tree gives us mouth-watering sweet peaches. Not all of the peaches are perfect and the ones that are not eaten out of hand are whipped into smoothies, cooked in confections, or macerated with Prosecco.Bellinis from our peach tree ©kim Smith 2014

~ Bellini Recipe ~

Marinate peeled, pitted, and sliced (halved or quartered) peaches in Prosecco for several hours. Just before serving, puree the peach-Prosecco mixture. Spoon the puree into champagne glasses, about 1/3 to 1/2 filled, and to taste. Gently add more Prosecco to the puree. Add a drop of raspberry liquor, Chambord, or a few fresh raspberries to the puree, to give the drink that beautiful pinky-peach glow.

Bellinis are traditionally made with white-flesh peaches such as ‘Belle of Georgia,’ but any variety of sweet peach will do.

Peach tree blossom Belle of Georgia ©Kim Smith 2011‘Belle of Georgia’ Peach Blossoms

In flower and in fruit, the peach is a pretty tree for your landscape ~

Read an excerpt about the ‘Belle of Georgia’ from my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden here ~

Prunus persica ‘Belle of Georgia’

Cultivated by the Chinese for thousands of years, the peach tree is grown for its fruit as well as for its exquisite flowers and gracefully shaped branches. To better understand the significance of the peach tree in the Chinese culture it is worth noting that the development of the Chinese garden with its ying-yang symbolism was essentially Daoist in origin.

Daoist believe the peach tree is the Tree of Life at the Center of Paradise. The peach tree is also believed to be the Tree of Immortality growing in a garden guarded by Hsi-wang Mu, the Mother Empress of the West. Men and women alike must meet her standards before they are granted immortality. Hsi-wang Mu is usually portrayed in paintings and sculpture as a stately matriarch holding one of her peaches.

The peach tree is a symbol of longevity, wealth, spring, youth, and marriage. Peach stones were considered apotropaic and were beautifully carved and were kept, or worn, as amulets and talismans1. Sprays of blossoming peach branches were at one time placed above the front door to prevent even the strongest evil from entering into the home. Today’s custom is to use them decoratively inside the home.

While the Spaniards brought the peach to North America in the 16th century, Native Americans are credited with moving the peach westward, planting seeds as they traveled.

‘Belle of Georgia’ is an older cultivar of peach tree bearing heavenly tasting white-fleshed peaches. The fruit is pale creamy white blushed gold and rose. It was reportedly first propagated by Lewis Rumph in Georgia in the 1870’s from seeds of the ‘Chinese Cling’, which is also the parent of the well known ‘Elberta’ peach, a firm, yellow-fleshed fruit with a crimson blush. Both the ‘Belle of Georgia’ and ‘Elberta’ cultivars are hardy through zone five and adaptable to a variety of soil conditions, though well-drained and sandy soil is their preferred growing medium.

Read more about growing peaches in Chapter Two ~ Flowering Trees for the Romantic Garden

GMG Vine ~ Belle of Georgia

Belle of Georgia peach -2 ©Kim Smith 2014.j

 

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!

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.

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.

 

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

Congratulations Emily Forshay Crowley-Winner of Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

Dear Friends,

I truly wish I could give each and everyone of you who wrote your thoughtful and cherished comments a copy of Oh Garden. Thank you.

Warmest wishes for a joy-filled holiday season and many thanks again for your participation.

Kim

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! .jpg

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! On sale for 15.00 at David R. Godine, Publisher

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.

My Book On SALE for ONLY 15.00!!! “Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden”

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!

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! .jpg

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.

Green Leaves Ignite

“Green leaves ignite, transformed by a kaleidoscope of incinerating colors—devil-red, burnt tangerine, caramelized amber, searing saffron, and smoldering crimson-purple. The air is impregnated with the aromatic perfume of orchard fruits ripening in the fleeting flush of the sun’s warm light. Hazy, slanting rays gild the late season glory in the garden. Surrounded by flowers of dissipating beauty and juxtaposed against the dazzling brilliance of autumn foliage, we are urged to spend every possible moment savoring our gardens before the onset of winter.”

Excerpt from my book Oh Garden of fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden. Written and Illustrated by Kim Smith, David R. Godine, Publisher. To read more of this excerpt, click link: Exquisite Flora in Autumn.

Beautiful saffron yellow maple found, glowing gold in a shady knoll beneath a hardwood tree canopy, at Bradley Palmer State Park.

I believe this little tree is a Japanese maple tree, not typically found in a forest of North American native trees.

Flowering Dogwood ~ Cornus florida ‘Rubra’

Is there a tree more lovely in flower than the North American native dogwood?

Whether flowering with the classic white bracts, the stunning rubra bracts, or the less often seen pale, creamy rose-tinted bracts, our native dogwood (Cornus florida) never ceases to give pause for beauty given.

NATIVE TREES SUPPORT NATIVE POLLINATORS!

At this time of year when traveling along southern New England roadways we are graced by the beauty of the dogwood dotting sunny roadside borders where meets the woodland edge. The bracts and flowers emerge before the leaves, serving only to heighten their loveliness. The fresh beauty of the bract-clad boughs is offset by the impressionistic symphony of tree foliage unfurling, shimmering in hues of apple green, chartruese, moss, and lime peel.

*Bract – A bract is a leaf-like structure surrounding a flower or inflorescence. The colorful bracts of poinsettias, the hot pink bracts of bougainvillea, and the bracts of dogwoods are often mistaken for flower petals.

The open florets (pea-green colored) and unopened buds are surrounded by the rose red-shaded bracts.

Read about how to help prevent an attack by the lethal dogwood anthracnose.

Continue reading

Some Favorite Jonquils and Narcissus

‘Minnow’ and Greigii Tulips 

The first photo is of the petite and scented jonquil ‘Minnow,’ offset by the coral red Greigii species tulip. Both are low-growing, which makes them ideal for rock gardens, and both varieties reliably return annually. The second photo is an ever-increasing little patch of narcissus and I know not the cultivar’s name. It was a spring gift that had been purchased as a potted plant from the grocery market, then planted in the garden in early summer.

The third photo is perhaps my all time favorite and consider it the very best for several reasons. ‘Geranium’ is divinely scented—sweet with a hint of fresh lemon blossom; its color and shape meld beautifully with a wide range of spring flowering bulbs; and ‘Geranium’ not only reliably returns each spring, it also increases in number.

Narcissus tazetta ‘Geranium’

For more information about narcissus and jonquils, including a list of the most sweetly scented varieties, see my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden, page 178.


Cherry Blossom Time

Native to Japan, the Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) is cultivated extensively and is also found growing wild on plains and mountains countrywide. For more than ten centuries, and continuing with no less enthusiasm today, cherry blossom time has been cause for joyful celebration that is deeply integrated in the Japanese culture.

When cherry blossoms begin to fall heavily, the flurry of blossoms is called “cherry snowstorm.” The following is a traditional Japanese song that has been passed down for generations.

Sakura

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms

As far as you can see.

Across yayoi skies

Is it mist? Is it clouds?

Ah, the fragrance!

Let us go, Let us go and see!

To see a cherry blossom snowstorm:

In the Japanese language the cherry is called “sakura,” which is generally believed to be a corruption of the word “sukuya” (blooming). Poets and artists strive to express the loveliness of its flowers in words and artistry. Called the flower of flowers, when the Japanese use the word “hane” (flower) it has come to mean sakura, and no other flower. Since the Heian period “hanami” has referred to cherry blossom viewing; the term was used to describe cherry blossom parties in the Tale of Gengi. Aristocrats wrote poetry and sang songs under the flowering trees for celebratory flower viewing parties. The custom soon spread to the samurai society and by the Edo period, hanami was celebrated by all people.

From ancient times, during early spring planting rituals, falling blossoms symbolized a bounteous crop of rice. Beginning with the Heian period (794–1185), when the imperial courtiers of Kyoto held power, the preference for graceful beauty and the appreciation of cherry blossoms for beauty’s sake began to evolve. The way in which cherry petals fall at the height of their beauty, before they have withered and become unsightly, and the transience of their brief period of blooming, assumed symbolism in Buddhism and the samurai warrior code.

The delicacy and transience of the cherry blossom have poignant and poetic appeal, providing themes for songs and poems since the earliest times. The motif of the five petal cherry blossoms is used extensively for decorative arts designs, including kimonos, works in enamel, pottery, and lacquer ware. Cherry tree wood is valued for its tight grain and is a lustrous reddish brown when polished. The wood is used to make furniture, trays, seals, checkerboards, and woodblocks for producing color wood block prints.

In modern times the advent of the cherry blossom season not only heralds the coming of spring, but is also the beginning of the new school year and the new fiscal year for businesses. Today families and friends gather under the blooms and celebrate with picnicking, drinking, and singing. The fleeting beauty of the blossoms, scattering just a few days after flowering, is a reminder to take time to appreciate life. In the evening when the sun goes down, viewing the pale-colored cherry blossoms silhouetted against the night sky is considered an added pleasure of the season.

The tradition of celebrating cherry blossom season began in the United States when, on Valentine’s Day in 1912, Tokyo mayor Yukio Okaki gave the city of Washington, D.C., 3,000 of twelve different varieties of cherry trees as an act of friendship. First Lady Helen Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador, Viscountess Chinda, planted the initial two of these first cherry trees in Potomac Park. Today cherry blossom festivals are celebrated annually not only in Wash- ington, D.C., but in Brooklyn, San Francisco, Seattle, and Macon, Georgia.

It is said that the true lover of cherry blossoms considers the season is at its height when the buds are little more than half open—for when the blossoms are fully opened there is already the intimation of their decline.