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.

December 9, 2008

A Quiet Holiday on the Shore

Like anyone else who works in retail, this time of year can be stressful for me. Added to the usual worries about the Christmas season is this year's economic pile up on a fog bound freeway. I found myself wondering if I have ordered too many Christmas trees. Owing to the fact that this year is a shorter selling season, I got the trees in the week before Thanksgiving. It is quite a laborious process we go through to get them unloaded, cut, put in water filled stands, graded, priced, tagged and treated with an anti-desiccant. So usually I can only get away for the day at Thanksgiving and have to come right home and go back to work. However, since they came in early we were able to get everything done before the holiday. So I took a long weekend at my parent's home on Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore. Knowing that the greatest effort was behind me and all we now had to do was sell them enabled me to relax, and fortunatley they are selling well.

As is typical for this time of year, my parents yard had few if any blooms, but berries and fruit were abundant.

Ubiquitous Nandina (Nandina domestica)
One of my favorite natives, Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
One of my least favorite natives, American Holly (Ilex opaca)
A long ago Christmas present, Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca')
Issai Purple Beauty Berry (Calicarpa dichotoma 'Issai') or a mockingbird buffet
Wild unknown roses by the pond

The day after Thanksgiving, this is what the sunrise looked like coming up over the Atlantic through Hackberry Trees and Eastern Red Cedars.

BTW, I hate the term "Black Friday" it reminds me of the 1929 stock market crash and then I get the Steely Dan song stuck in my head. Instead of fighting the crowds, we chose to take the Open Studio and Vineyard Tour. Sponsored by the Eastern Shore Artisan's Guild, this was a completely civilized way to spend the day visiting wineries and artist's studios. It was especially nice that my wife drove, her car sipping $1.75 gas, extended family in the car, mid-morning wine buzz, beautiful scenerey. The shots below are from one of the artist's backyard.

Weekends like this make my long to move.


  1. Sounds like a memorable weekend. Just curious, why is American holly one of your least favorite natives? I have one full of berries outside the bedroom window. Nothing notable in the day but at night, with a spotlight on it, it's fairly special.

  2. So glad you got a break and are all set for Christmas now. The berries are very pretty, even the ubiquitous nandina. Why don't you like the hollies?

  3. Hey i am a big fan of Steely Dan, but Mr Walter Becker has a new album called Circus Money, What a great album it is, just had to share that with all the Steely Dan Fans.

  4. Les, that sunrise is amazing. And the artist's backyard is both gorgeous and, um, disturbing--were you worried about tripping over the dismembered ceramic legs? We saw that Asian Callicarpa at Elizabethan gardens--Phillip & Co. were ooh-ing and ahh-ing, but the only difference I could see were that the berries seem to last longer. Ramble, ramble. I agree with you about "Black Friday"--it reminds me of this 70's movie about terrorists at a football game (which, of course, would not be on a Friday--but until I met economist Salix, I didn't associate "black" with "net profit.")

  5. James and Tina,
    I don't dislike all hollies, and I don't dislike American hollies in the wild, only when they are planted in yards where I intend on going barefoot. In fact they look great - in other people's yards.

    Thank you for the kind comments and you are welcome back anytime, with or without comments.

    Thanks for the heads up about the new album. I find myself dipping from the Steely Dan well again and again.

    Was that the same sunrise you posted, only about 100 miles further north? I was not worried about dismembered limbs, the whole house was really cool. It was a typical white framed farm house from the turn of the last century, except for the fuschia shutters. They had added a three sided sunroom/studio on the back of the house overlooking the water. Surrounding the sunroom was a large deck full of found objects and art works, including the small limbs.


  6. I love the Eastern Shore. I had a grad school friend who was from there. Some day I'll have a house out there.

  7. ATG, I got nostalic visiting your site; I was born in Chincoteague and raised in Norfolk. Nice blog!

  8. I'm glad you were able to get away for some much needed R & R over the holiday weekend Les. I like the berries at this time of the year, they add some much needed color in the garden. Holly isn't one of my favorites either, but I really would like to add a Beautyberry. Beautiful sunrise photo Les, I never manage to get a change to capture one on film.

  9. Hey, Les, of course it was the same sunrise--I'm a little, um, obtuse sometimes--so I know what time you got up that day!

    I think maybe "Susan" is spam, not sure how to stop "her."

    Racquel, I'm heading over to your blog, but four words: Beauty-berry-R-us. We have hundreds on the property (Salix was blown away when he saw them going for $7. at Elizabethan gardens. Anyway, just let me know what size you want!

  10. You are a gem Cosmo! Whatever size you think would transplant easily! They had them at the Native Plant Sale & they were pricey. You have a goldmine on your property, lol. Thank you!!!!

  11. What a wonderful post. As a fellow Virginian, I love the Eastern Red Cedars. They are home to me - and I've got then growing in my coastal garden, tiny ones that I transplanted from my grandmother's farm (before it was developed). Down here in Charleston, people daydream about long driveways lined in live oaks - I daydream about long driveways lined in red cedars!

    That Blue Atlas Cedar looks beautiful. Is it as pretty as it looks? I'm trying to learn more about evergreens for the south - I have a 200' long narrow area in front of my front fence - and am thinking about a mixed border of interesting...plant things. I noticed a Hollywood Juniper yesterday that looked fun.

    As for a mid-morning wine buzz - you did indeed have a wonderful weekend!

  12. Phillip M.,
    I love it over there too, but that is probably obvious. I hope to grow old there when my working days are done.

    We should probably talk. I might have DNA in Chincoteague and we may know people. I have lived in Norfolk off and on for 20 years, but my wife's family has lived here for a long time.

    You should definately have a Beautyberry, they are too easy. I have always been an early riser and am usually up before the sunrise, not that I get any work done, I just can't sleep late.

    I agree with you and sent Susan on her way. BTW I do charge a 15% transaction fee for all beautyberry sales resulting from reading my blog.

    To me rows of Red Cedar lining a drive are timeless and as you know there are many examples in these parts. When I was in Charleston they were my preferred Christmas tree and I would traipse through the marsh to find one. You should be able to grow the Blue Atlas, I know it would be zone hardy for you and it is tolerant of coastal conditions. I am not a big fan of Hollywoods, but only because they have been over planted here, especially in Va. Beach where they must be the unoffical city shrub. So many residential and commercial plantings include them.