Creepy lives in the weeping trees.
Creepy lives in the weeping trees.
No doubt about it, Blithewold’s fairies are Red Sox fans. They set up this satellite dish in time to catch the World Series and no one but this toadstool was out and about this morning after last night’s fairy celebratory revelry. We believe!
It’s somehow fitting that last night was also the first night that the heat kicked on at my house. I always keep the heat set low over the winter to save energy. The folks who work in the mansion here at Blithewold know what conservation feels like too – it’s chilly! I want to share a gardener’s little trick for how to feel warm this winter: Go outside!! Everyone who came into the potting shed this morning (including me) said “whoa – it’s toasty in here!” It was 61 degrees F inside!
Decked out in a stocking cap, scarf and polartec (I love the accessories of winter) I spent the chilly morning digging Dahlia ‘Sneezy’ up from the North Garden. It’s better to wait for a killing frost before digging dahlia tubers but we’re going to lose the volunteers soon and have to keep to a schedule and can’t wait patiently for frost. (Even with the chill this morning, the frost wasn’t a killer). Luckily the ‘Sneezy’s always have plump and healthy looking tubers no matter when we dig them or how awful the plant looks (some of them were smashed by neighbors and really scrunky looking). I cut off the stalks and will leave the tubers out to dry in the sun for a day or two before packing them in dampened sawdust and putting them in boxes down cellar. Aside from serious losses resulting from not unpacking some before hot and damp weather set in last spring, we were pretty happy with the sawdust method. Does anyone have a different tried and true method for overwintering dahlias? Enquiring gardeners want to know!
Tomorrow the we and the Deadheads will continue to winterize the North Garden. Many hands make light work and in no time at all, annuals will come out, perennials will be cut back and another giant pile of garden will be trucked off. We always try to leave some things in the garden for the lingering wildlife – I know where at least a couple of praying mantis egg cases are and last week we spotted this very-late-to-the-party monarch caterpillar on the move – probably looking for a spot to pupate. I expect that if we happen to find the chrysalis, Gail will rescue him and bring him home for her 8 year old to watch. (Don’t worry he’s not a wing-ripper-off-er!)
Sometimes, it’s the pockets of lovely that catch and hold my eye rather than the grand view. In my own garden, the whole isn’t as pleasing (yet) as some of the little things here and there. And rather than feel disappointed in the grand view, I’m magnetically drawn in to the pretty parts and could gaze for days at them without even seeing the weeds! (hmmm… could that be a weeding chore avoidance tactic?) At Blithewold, the grand view is always stunning (sometimes overwhelmingly so) but now that we’re putting gardens to bed, and there are holes in the whole, the vignettes are extra especially noticeable and eye capturing.
The trees and shrubs are catching my eyes too – I’ve been waiting for the Common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) to bloom and it’s beginning just in time for Halloween. Perfect timing because the blooms look, to me, like teeny weeny Tim Burton creations!
This week we were a little undone by rain in the forecast (notice I didn’t say “undone by rain” period – we got some but not a lot in the end) and the Rockettes and Florabundas got days off. I missed the Rockettes’ company when I raked pine needles for the Rock Garden’s winter blanket and Gail and I missed the Florabundas’ when we dropped daffodils in auger drilled holes (Thanks, Fred and Dan!) by the main gate. We’re hoping an April display of daffs by the entrance will entice people to drop in to see the real show inside… I hope the bulbs do ok. The ground along Ferry Road is so fiercely dry, root-y and rocky that we couldn’t (no matter how Hitchcock’s Psycho we went at the holes with our hori-horis) plant some of the daffs at their preferred planting depth of 6-8″ down. You can see in the picture, some are pretty close to the surface… Clever things, they will dig themselves in deeper – if they can!…
The last wedding of the season is this weekend – it will probably be chilly but gorgeous! Cathy (our pinch-hitter garden helper), Gail and I spruced the Rose Garden and North Garden for the bride and her guests – and Jake came along to give his approving head butt. We had pockets of frost this morning but luckily nothing in the gardens was touched. Next week we’ll take out the dahlias in the North Garden, cut back perennials, toss annuals and plant tulips – we’re nearly ready for winter! Are you?
An Australian priest living in New Bedford, MA sent Blithewold’s executive director a poem and she encouraged me to share it. Fr. Sharbel said he was inspired to write this
(as yet untitled) poem titled “Deight” after walking around Blithewold with a friend this summer:
Seeds planted long ago
Have now become a splendid show,
That bring delight to the heart
As each in order play their part.
In summer’s air become a breeze,
One feels a calm and peace of soul
Our stories are in whispers told.
Each path is followed with delight
For at each turn is found a sight,
Of colors in their varied shades
New in light that grows and fades.
And watch the years make better wine,
As from the beautiful, we here drink deep,
May we within thanksgiving keep.
-by Fr. Sharbel Francis Mary
Isn’t it lovely? I think he must have had a nice visit…
Yesterday, the Deadheads removed more of summer’s veneer in the Display Garden and started to *think spring* by planting tulips in the cutting beds. It seems like we gardeners spend a lot of time casting ahead to the future. We plan and scheme and envision seasons to come while being totally up to our elbows in the here and now. It’s no wonder we get exhausted. I love the digging, rearranging, tidying, and putting to bed of fall but have trouble switching gears to plan for the colors of spring! Spring is too soft and pastel for me now with fall in my face (sneeze-o-matic ragweed must be still blooming in the unseasonable warmth). Fall’s colors seem deeper, earthier, and maybe it’s the light but they seem more electric. Neon tree colors are driving me to distraction (and nearly off the road). I love the rudeness of fall too – it’s like a little kid throwing blustery tantrums and telling really juvenile jokes. Working in the North Garden last week a peculiar odor reached for my nose and I found this shocking thing (right) the size of my pointer finger in the otherwise demur and still pretty garden. Stinkhorn fungi (Mutinus elegans) can be found in bark mulch or really rich soil.
I hope summer visitors like Fr. Sharbel come back to Blithewold to see the “splendid show” (and off-color comedy revue) of fall, all the “colors in their varied shades” of winter and “the beautiful” this coming spring. Meanwhile I’m going to take “each [season] in order” and even if I have to cast ahead a bit to another, I’ll remember to delight in (laugh at) the now.
Do you remember the 1970′s? I have hazy orange and brown memories of fads like macrame, yoga, clogs, avocado colored kitchen appliances, silk-screened monochrome bull’s-eye wallhangings, and houseplant jungles. What goes around comes around. For some, bell bottoms and backyard vegetable gardens never went out of style. Others of us rediscover trends and treasures when the time is right. I don’t know who decided that enough time had passed (was it Martha Stewart?) but terrariums are all the rage again. I think they’re so cool I have to wonder why they ever went out of style in the first place. And I have to admit that I’ve gone a little nuts. Some people put up jars of tomato sauce. I put up jars of mini indoor gardens.
Ingredients: clear glass jar (water bottle, fish bowl, jam jar, brandy snifter…) or a wardian case (looks like a mini greenhouse), fish gravel for drainage, fish tank charcoal (activated carbon) for purity, moistened soil (one part compost to 2 or 3 parts potting mix), any landscape elements you like (rocks, tiny houses, plastic dinosaurs…) and plants that love warm, humid conditions. — Indoor winter heat is tough on some plants. I had a little eyelash begonia that was a gasp away from death and when I put its last nubbin in a mason jar, it immediately decided to thrive. Look around and see what needs rescue. And go shopping! Some of your local nurseries stock perfect terrarium plants (we go to Peckham’s Greenhouse in Little Compton, RI) and there are plenty of mail order places too (such as Logee’s and Kartuz)
Place a layer of gravel, lightly topped with a layer of charcoal in the bottom of a clean container. The depth of this layer depends on the size of the container and should probably be 1/2″ to and 1″ for decent drainage.
Thickness of the soil layer also depends on the size of the container. It should be deep enough to hold the roots of your plants while not taking up more than the bottom third (including drainage layer) of your container. Terrariums are all about balance. Plants take in water and transpire it out. In a perfect little world, they essentially water themselves. I’ve gone for months without having to water some of my jars! When you choose and plant your babies, make sure they don’t take up any more than half of the air space in the jar. Plants that grow by leaps and bounds should be tended regularly and clipped back so they don’t strangle themselves or their neighbors. And fertilizing is a definite no-no — it wrecks the balance and plants grow too quickly.
Water your plants in just a little to make sure the soil around their roots isn’t full of air pockets and cover the jar (poke holes or leave the lid a tiny bit open for fresh air transfer), and place it in a bright but no-full-sun spot. You should be able to see the transpiration almost immediately as fog on the glass. If your terrarium ever gets so foggy that you can’t see the plants, uncover it for a while (and think about whether the plants need a trim).