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 31, 2011

The Last Sunset of 2011

This time last year my head was full of worries and trepidation. I was glad to see 2010 in the rear view mirror, but was not exactly looking forward to 2011.  Tonight you won't find me so anxious, I am not feeling philosophical and not full of introspection, because 2011 has worn down the sharp edges and left me numb.  Numb and apathetic, but not so much that I can't see some hint of brighter lights on the horizon. I just hope some lazy Mayan stone carver or an overdue solar storm doesn't ruin what little optimism I do have.

Last Sunset of 2011

December 30, 2011

My Ten Favorite Photos from 2011

I love reading end of the year wrap-ups, especially to look for books I should read, music I need to hear or movies I should see. So I thought I would add my on contribution to the genre and pick out my favorite photographs from 2011.

The first photo was taken at the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge in February.  I was on the way home from a day trip visiting my parents, and I took the more scenic way and could see an ominous fog bank off-shore. When I got to the refuge the very cold fog descended erasing the distinction between sky and water, leaving just the blurry land suspended between.

Refuge 6

The next shot is considerably more cheerful and was taken at the Norfolk Botanical Garden in May. I have been trying to include more people in my photography, without being what my son refers to as a "creeper". When these two little girls danced into my frame, I could not resist.

Little Flowers copy

This shot was also taken at the gardens on the same day as the previous photograph. Using Photoshop I over-saturated the colors to get the greens and pinks to bleed. I am also really fond of these long landscape shots, but unfortunately, due to the odd size, they do not translate well on my blog.


In July my son and I went camping at Sherando Lake during a really hot spell of weather. I got up at dawn the first morning as was able to get this shot of the still waters before the lake was full of people trying to escape the heat.

Sherando Lake (10)

I made my first trip to Atlantic City for a trade show in September. At the end of day one I took a stroll on the famous boardwalk and captured this image of one of the older hotels, just as a low cloud was flowing over the copula.

Night  House

On the way home from Atlantic City, I took this shot just as the ferry was pulling into Lewes, Delaware. I was following my mandate to take more people pictures. This looks much better on a larger scale than I can show here.

Welcome to New Jersey

We often make a quick detour by the river when we are to or from the house. One morning in early November this is what it looked like with a sky full of jet trails and the water like a mirror.

Jet Trail Morning (3)

Also in November I captured this early morning scene along the shore of Metompkin Bay on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I have many shots of this particular loblolly pine, which has grown at the mercy of the strong winds coming off the nearby Atlantic.

Channeling Mr. Parrish (2)

On Black Friday this year, I stumbled upon the community of Chesconessex, also on Virginia's Eastern Shore. It was dawn and the soon to rise sun was at my back to the east, and this is looking west where the sky and water were a nice rosy pink. Again, this would look better if I could make it bigger.

Chesconessex (2)

Finally, this was taken at the Smithfield Christmas parade in December. It really isn't such a remarkable photo, except for the look on the sheppard girl's face. I don't know what it is about her expression, but you can tell she must be an old soul and would have made a better Mary.

Smithfield Christmas Parade (17)

Do you have some favorite shots from the past year?  If so, you should share them.

Happy new year everyone!

December 28, 2011

Frostbit' in Franklin City

One of my Christmas gifts this year was the book Lost Communities of Virginia by By Terri Fisher and Elizabeth Gilboy.  You might think from the title that the places mentioned in this book are ghost towns, but that term implies places empty of people. Rather, these are communities that have lost most of what they once were, and are just a few moving vans or obituaries away from really becoming ghost towns. I have only read a few of the entries in the book, but look forward to discovering the rest of the stories.

On Virginia's Eastern Shore there are several lost communities, any of which would have made a good entry for the book, but only Capeville got in. One place that didn't make the cut is Franklin City which is just this side of the Maryland line (not to be confused with the city of Franklin near the North Carolina line in Southampton Co).  This past November I made a trek to Franklin City to see what could seen, which wasn't much as far as a town goes.

Franklin City (11)

Franklin City (10)

In the days when the railroad was the most reliable way to get commodities from here to there, Franklin City hummed.  Train tracks were elevated above the marsh to the edge of Chincoteague Bay where the watermen of Chinoteague Island beyond, brought their oysters for shipment to hungry points north. Homes were built above the marsh, on either side of the tracks. A hotel, churches and stores followed, and the trade in oysters allowed the people of Franklin City to become quite wealthy by Eastern Shore standards. The oyster shells were discarded in such numbers that they helped bridge the gap between the marsh below and the houses above.

Franklin City (4)

Franklin City (3)

Events changed Franklin City. A causeway was built to Chincoteague Island in the 1920's allowing direct access to the oysters and other seafood, removing the need for any middlemen in Franklin City.  Soon too, trucks, not trains, began carrying the salt delicacies to market. The fate of Franklin City was sealed by the hurricane of 1933, which washed away the sea level community, never to recover.  Today there are just a few buildings still standing, with fewer still occupied, but the frostbitten marsh was beautiful in November, and the sky and sea are always there.

Franklin City (8)

Franklin City (6)

Franklin City (5)

Franklin City (2)

Stories like this fascinate me, and pondering societies that have too many eggs in one basket would be a good exercise for anyone contemplating the future.

(As is the norm here, any mention of any product, book or otherwise, is done so of my own volition unless otherwise stated.)

December 23, 2011

The Second Day of Winter

Today was a gorgeous day here in Tidewater, and it was the first one where I felt somewhat normal after catching some sort of crud last week.  I took the opportunity ride my bike downtown and enjoy the sparkling sunshine and warm temperatures. While I was there I rode by Waterside, which is one of those Rouse Company "Festival Marketplaces" that were built back in the 70's and 80's in downtrodden downtowns all across the country in the hopes they would resuscitate urban life.  High expectations indeed for what were basically shopping malls with expanded food courts. These days Norfolk city life is encouragingly vibrant, with or without Waterside, and the future of this place is in debate at City Hall right now. Anyway, today I found it surrounded by a surprising number of blooms, including German bearded iris, lantana, Knock Out roses, winter jasmine and still colorful Setcreasea pallida. We have had such mild weather here this month, especially compared to how it was last year when things were flash frozen. This year things mellowed nicely.

Lantana x 'New Gold' and Setcreasea pallida

Lantana x 'New Gold' and Setcreasea pallida 2

Delosperma cooperi 2

Delosperma cooperi

Iris germanica (3)

Jasminum nudiflorum

Rose Knock Out (2)

I took these pictures at work yesterday of a remarkably large flowered, very late blooming Camellia sasanqua.  So late, that we rarely see it bloom, as really cold weather has normally already occurred before the buds are ready to open. So perhaps this variety would be better suited someplace warmer, but we do get to enjoy it when conditions are just right.  Unfortunately the name of this Camellia has been lost to poor record keeping. Even when it was labeled it was just listed as a seedling number.

Camellia sasanqua - unknown seedling (2)

Camellia sasanqua - unknown seedling

About the time I was ready to head home the wind picked up considerably and shifted to the north making my ride home much colder and very difficult, but at least the sun was still shinning.   I hope all of you have happy and safe holidays, with good weather and minimal drama.

December 20, 2011

No'ell Y'all

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah
from Loretta, and everyone else,
at A Tidewater Gardener!

December 15, 2011

Bloom Day - Does Anyone Need a Rake?

This December's weather has been much more conducive to blooms than what we had this time last year.  We have only had a couple of light frosts, and our first killing freeze is a little overdue.  However, not being a cold weather lover you won't hear me complain.

One result of the extended fall has been a few summer bloomers getting a second wind. I have Echinaceas budded, but don't think the weather will last long enough for them to open.  Though,this little Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Goblin' is not hesitating.

Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Goblin'

My only Quince (Chaenomeles x 'Hime') actually started blooming in November, which is its nature. This particular variety never seems to be completely covered in blooms, but it starts in late fall and carefully doles out its blossoms until late spring, whereas most other Quinces spend all their effort in one showy shot.

Chaenomeles x 'Hime' (2)

Last year my Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) where cut down by the early freeze before they even had a chance to open. This year they are perfect.

Narcissus papyraceus

A regular player in the December garden is my Winter Sun Mahonia (Mahonia x 'Winter Sun').

Mahonia x 'Winter Sun'

The mild-so-far weather has been really good to this area's Camellias. The Sasanquas have been blooming with a vengeance, and even some of the Japonicas are starting to show.

Camellia sasanqua 'Showa-No-Sake'
Camellia sasanqua 'Showa-No-Sakae'

Camellia sasanqua 'Mine-No-Yuki'
Camellia sasanqua 'Mine-No-Yuki'

Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro'
Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro'

Camellia japonica 'Les Marbury'
Camellia japonica 'Les Marbury'

Recently, I have had some unusual things popping up in my garden. Sometime around Thanksgiving I found a rake had been placed in my garden. At first I thought my neighbors left it out, and a passerby put it in my yard thinking it was mine, but it did not belong to my neighbors. Then about a week later I found two more rakes in the same place. I always wait until the last leaf falls to do any raking, so maybe someone was trying to drop a hint. On Monday of this week I found another rake not far from where the others were left.  I now have four new rakes, on top of the two I already own. So I am either being pranked, my yard is some sort of lost and found area, or someone is up to no good. I just wish they would quit with the rakes and leave me a pair of 30" Felco bypass loppers or a Hayauchi 16' telescoping pole pruner. These I could use.

One gardener who knows a thing or two about collecting tools is Carol of May Dreams Garden.  Each month she hosts a gathering of gardeners from around the globe where they show what is blooming in their gardens that month. Stop by for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and while you are there please thank Carol, and if you are really nice she might show you her collection of hoes.

December 10, 2011

On the March Again

Today was the annual Smithfield Christmas parade. My son, his friend, one of our dogs and I marched, or rather loosely sauntered, with the Isle of Wight County Humane Society. Our youngest dog Penny came from the Society and both of our cats did as well, though the cats stayed home with phonophobic Loretta. We participated last year as well, but today my mood was better and the parade was more fun than therapy.

Smithfield Christmas Parade

Smithfield Christmas Parade (6)

Smithfield Christmas Parade (8)

Smithfield Christmas Parade (10)

Smithfield Christmas Parade (11)

Smithfield Christmas Parade (9)

Smithfield Christmas Parade (7)

Smithfield Christmas Parade (13)

Smithfield Christmas Parade (16)

Smithfield Christmas Parade (15)

Smithfield Christmas Parade (14)

Smithfield Christmas Parade (17)

Smithfield Christmas Parade (18)

As in most Christmas parades, Santa was the grand finale, and for the Smithfield parade he was riding in a fire truck.  However, the highlight for me was not him, but Paula Dean in a 1963 Mercury Comet.
Hey Y'all