An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

August 25, 2012

Equal Time at Gargathy Inlet

Back in July on the morning we were to head home from our mini-vacation, I was able to squeeze in one more kayak adventure.  My destination for this trip was Gargathy Inlet on the Atlantic side of the Eastern Shore, which locals refer to as the Seaside.  Historically Shore folk would also refer to themselves as either Baysiders or Seasiders depending on which side of the peninsula they were from.  My mom's family were Baysiders and my dad's were Seasiders, so I am the product of a mixed marriage (issues with which I am still trying to resolve). Since my last post took place on the Bayside, and since I want to maintain family harmony, this will be my equal time post.

The Seaside of Virginia's Eastern Shore is sheltered by a string of uninhabited (but not always so) barrier islands, most of which are protected in one way or another, primarily through the Nature Conservancy, NASA and the National Park Service.  This area is one of the largest uninterrupted and undeveloped stretches of coastline on the East Coast, and in my mind a national treasure.  Behind the marshes are miles and miles of salt marsh interspersed with lagoons, creeks and small bays generally teeming with life.  Separating the barrier islands are inlets that allow the vast marshes and the Atlantic ocean to exchange water and organisms several times daily.  Gargathy Inlet seperates Metompkin and Assawoman Islands, and the tides and currents here can run strong.  Not being familiar with how all the waterways worked with each other, I was a little unsure as to how I would proceed.  Thank ye gods of the internets for Google Satellite View, it was a big help.

Gargatha (2)

Gargatha (3)

One of the main reasons that the Nature Conservancy is so active here is due to the birds. This area is an important breeding and feeding grounds for many species, including the Black Skimmer.
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Gargatha (22)

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Gargatha (3)

Despite the wonders of nature all around, I was most intrigued with some of the works of man, and woman. There were several vacation homes, more like fishing and hunting shacks, rising on stilts above the marsh. They contrasted with some of the Florida images still rolling around in my brain from a few days earlier.

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The creatures atop this house were two Bald Eagles acting as gargoyles. They flew off before I could get close enough for a good shot.

Gargatha (53)
This house's roof ridge had a row of metal spikes running the length of it to deter birds, the Boat-Tailed Grackles were not.

Gargatha (67)
Please bear with me while I end this post politically.  There is considerable interest from one side of the aisle in opening the area just off-shore from here to oil and gas exploration.  This area is a critical link in a very fragile chain, and I have said before just how damned special this part of the planet is to me.  If anything were ever to happen to it because of our seemingly unquenchable thirst for non-renewable energy, I am not sure how I would react, but it won't be pretty.  Just sayin'.

August 19, 2012

On the Bayside at Jobes Island

At the end of July we were able to spend some time on Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore.  This part of Virginia forms the lower portion of the Delmarva peninsula and is comprised of two counties separated from the rest of the state by the Chesapeake Bay.  The Virginia portion of the peninsula is about 70 miles long, but only a few miles wide with the bay on one side and the Atlantic on the other. So you are never far from the water, which makes for many kayaking opportunities, and I took full advantage.

One of my trips was to Jobes Island on the bay side, not too far south of the Maryland border.  It was a beautiful day with clear skies and low humidity, quite un-July like.  I put in at Guard Shore, a place once much more popular than it is now.  Many decades ago people would come here to swim, frolic and dance to live music played at a bandstand.  These days it is just a quiet beach with a convenient place to park next to the shore.  I pointed my kayak across the broad water at Jobes Island, began paddling and after about 20 minutes I was there.  Off in the distance there was a crabber out early in his boat pulling pots, but the island was all mine - just me, the birds in the air and the fish in the sea.

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Jobe's Island (6)

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In 2002 the Justis family, who had owned Jobes Island for generations, donated it to the Nature Conservancy, and I thank them.  

August 15, 2012

Bloom Day - It's August

It's August, and I am at a loss for words, but not because I am surprised or overwhelmed in any way.  I just don't know of anything new to say about most of what I have blooming.  My only hope to maintain my readership (you), is that their memory (yours) is as bad as mine. Of course, gardeners rarely tire of talking about the weather, and what I would say on this point, is that we have been blessed here.  While we have had rigorous humidity and some heat, we only had a brief stint where it was extreme.  Most importantly, we have not been denied regular rains.  So the gardener and the garden are happy, and speaking of which, let's take a look.

We'll start with a few annuals.  A friend of mine started some Melampodium divaricatum from seed and ended up with more than she could use and gave me some. I grew this plant years ago at my last house and it was a non-stop bloomer and a "no brainer" as some say.

Melampodium divaricatum

Zinnia angustifolia x elegans 'Profusion Fire'

Zinnia angustifolia x elegans 'Profusion Fire'

Angelonia angustifolia

Angelonia angustifolia

This is the first year I have grown pentas (Pentas lanceolata 'Butterfly Red'). I don't know why I have waited so long.

Pentas lanceolata 'Butterfly Red'

Abelmoschus manihot

Abelmoschus manihot

Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides)

Coleus Collection

I am growing several portulacas this year. I don't remember which one this is...


... but this one is Portulaca x 'Yubi Yellow'. Not only is it heat and drought tolerant, but it survived being flattened during the Mercedes incident as well.

Portulaca x 'Yubi Yellow'

This perennial, Sinningia x 'Butter and Cream', is also a survivor.

Sinningia 'Butter and Cream'

Kniphofia 'Papaya Popsicle' is my newest perennial. It is a rebloomer and a dwarf.

Kniphofia 'Papaya Popsicle'

This daylily is 'House of Orange' and it has bloomed its head off since early June. Orange makes me happy.

Hemerocallis 'House of Orange'

Cestrum aurantiaum 'Orange Zest'

Cestrum aurantiaum 'Orange Zest'

Cestrum aurantiaum 'Orange Zest' (2)

Purple makes me happy too, especially when it smells like grape soda. Evergreen wisteria (Millettia reticulata) is just about to pop open.

Millettia reticulata

Perhaps other bloggers might have more to say about their gardens this month. If you are interested in finding out, then visit Carol at May Dreams Garden where she hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month, and she does a fine job at it too.

August 9, 2012

A Plant Geek in South Florida - Leisure Time Among the 1%

On our last full day in Florida, we decided to take a gondola tour of Fort Lauderdale's canals and the New River.  Our boat was small, but quite comfortable, and it had a quiet electric motor, making it easy for us to hear what the captain had to say about what we were seeing.  Fort Lauderdale has many canal neighborhoods where you can pull up to the house in a car out front and sail away in the boat out back, or is it the other way round?  Most of this area was once mangrove swamps, and according to our captain, when the canals were dug, the dredgings were piled up and contained within seawalls made from hunks of coral reef taken from just off shore, thus making the neighborhoods possible.  The thought of living coral reefs being destroyed so that vacation and retirement homes could be built, made my heart sink.  I can only take comfort knowing that way back when this happened no one thought they were doing anything wrong.

We'll start our tour at the marina where some of the more modest boats were docked.

Boat Tour

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One of the first houses we neared had a royal poinciana (Delonix regia) blooming next to the water.

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What goes better with an orange flowered tree, than a gold trimmed boat?

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The house where this tree was growing is available for 9.9 million dollars, and our captain said it was most likely a tear-down. The ibis convey.

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This is the garage end of another home...

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... and the back door.

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This one reminded me of a movie set.

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Boat Tour (34)

This house below was once owned by the Anheuser Busch family. It is also on the market at the reduced price 14.9 million, which is about 2,487,479 six-packs of Bud.

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This house came with its own carillon surrounded by a pool.

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I found it interesting that the palms were going in before this house was finished (I guess the homeowners have their priorities straight). I was also intrigued at how they were being established. Look closely and you can see tanks at the base of each tree with a tube leading to the crowns.

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I can't believe I am going to say this, but after a week of staring at full, plant-heavy landscapes, I actually liked the seeing a broad lawn in this one.  I just wish they had been considerate enough to coil their hose so it was not in my photograph.

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Our captain told us that rocks forming the seawall of this home are fossilized coral from the west coast of Florida, which I was OK with since nothing living was destroyed. He also told us that there were no palms native to Florida, but he was nice, so I didn't correct him.

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If I lived here, I know where happy hour would be.

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The swing also offered a nice view of downtown Fort Lauderdale and the New River.

Boat Tour (20)

If you would like to see all my gondola tour photos you can click here

Although I really enjoyed my time on the water, it has left me pondering the nature of wealth, especially now that I am home and much closer to the other America.  I do not begrudge anyone who has come by their wealth honestly, whether it came through hard work, shrewd investments, or even through the dumb luck of the maternity ward.  But how can the same society have people living in a run-down trailers on Appalachian mountainsides, or in a homeless camps here in Norfolk, also have others with vacation homes and pleasure boats worth millions?  I am in no way advocating any kind of redistribution of wealth, but I want to know how we can make it easier for those at the bottom to pull themselves up, just a little. 

This is the last post of my Plant Geek in South Florida series, and I want to thank you all for tagging along and putting up with the occasional opinionated commentary.  I think I may actually have to write about something closer to home next time.