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.

February 27, 2011

Winter Walk Off - A Challenge With Prizes

We seem to be thankfully turning some sort of sort of weather corner here in Tidewater.  Winter's steady cold appears to be waning, and we are being treated to warmer, though more unsettled weather.  It has made some great opportunities for me to get out of the house and walk off the winter (and perhaps a few pounds as well).  Yesterday the dogs and I took a nice long stroll around the neighborhood, camera in hand.  Between avoiding goose poop, frequent stops to sniff and photo ops, I came up with what I hope will be a fun challenge for my fellow bloggers.  Here's how I would like it to work:
  1. On your own two feet, leave the house and share what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home.  Your post does not have to be a picture-heavy travelogue like mine, unless you want it to be.  Maybe instead you will find some unusual patterns, interesting shadows, signs of spring, a favorite restaurant or shop, questionable landscaping or local eyesores.  Whatever, just keep your eyes and mind open, be creative and have fun, but don't show anything from your own yard.
  2. Post your own Winter Walk Off on your blog, and link it back to this post.  Please also leave me a comment when your post is up.  If you have recently written a similar post, you are welcome to use it.
  3. I will keep the challenge open until March 19th, the last day of winter (or summer for those of you below the equator).
  4. Everyone who participates will have their name put in a hat for a chance to win one of two prizes, with a totally disinterested teenager randomly drawing the names.  One person will win a collection of packaged Dahlia bulbs, and another will win some of my wife's handcrafted note cards.  I will contact the two winners and mail the prizes.  If the bulb winner lives overseas, they will get note cards instead.
I hope these guidelines are simple enough and that you will participate. 

Now here is what I saw yesterday.  Right around the corner from my house, I found one of my favorite signs that winter is nearing its end.  Camellia japonica seems to have suddenly opened throughout the neighborhood.

Red Camellia on Colonial

White Camellia on a Brown Fence

Red Camellia on a Brown Fence (3)

This sign is sort of at the entrance to our neighborhood and below it, coming up through the pansies are some Narcissus.  I donated these to the neighborhood several years ago when we came into a bulb bonanza at work and could get bags of 200 assorted for only $25.  The sign says we are a historic district, which I am guessing is mainly from its age and architecture, and not from any significant events, though John McCain and Leon Uris lived here once, and F. Scott Fitzgerald frequently visited his cousin here.


The dogs couldn't care less about historic districts and were only focused on getting to the dog park.

Dog Park

The dog park is adjacent to Haven Creek and our relatively new boat ramp and canoe/kayak launch making it a busy place during boating weather, though the skateboarders use it year-round.

Haven Creek

One thing I am very excited about is the commencement of work on Haven Creek to restore the bank with a very environmentally friendly, living shoreline.  Work just started this week.

Haven Creek (2)

Haven Creek empties into the Layfayette River where on Saturday a local crew was practicing on the frigid water.

The Layfayette (2)

The Layfayette

This house faces the river and is one of my favorite landscapes.  Confronted with regular flooding, a berm was built around the house, and in order to avoid creating a moat, heavy rain and seepage is pumped out to the street side.  The whole thing is very well planted.

House With New Age Moat

Right down the street could be our neighborhood's version of Gray Gardens.  Funny they spent money on two new trees, but not any to keep the front porch from eventually falling down.  This could be me.

Gray Garden

Lady Anna is one of many mermaids that can be seen around Norfolk, but I prefer to call her Lefty.


There are some great trees in Colonial Place, including many Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana)...

Live Oak Framed House

as well as this less leafy, but more massive Oak...

Tall Oak

some substantial Magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora)...

Magnolia on New Jersey

and a few examples of zone denial.

Zone Denial

On the western side of Colonial Place is Knitting Mill Creek, and all three waterways make our neighborhood a sometimes flood-prone peninsula. 

Knitting Mill Creek (2)

These geese have a nice view of the Tidewater Yacht Club, which is a place where people with boats can drink.

Knitting Mill Creek

Near Knitting Mill Creek was our first house.  This little 2 bedroom bungalow, was perfect for two soon-to-be newlyweds.  We bought it in 1991 for 70K and lived in it four years before moving to a more child friendly house.  At some point a flipper bought it, painted over its smart red and brown color scheme, divided the largest bedroom in two, put a half bath in the laundry room and resold it for 250K at the height of the boom.  My only regret is giving up that low mortgage and planting a Red Tip (Photinia x fraseri) Golden Euonymus (Euonymus japonica 'Aureo-marginatus) combo.


The area's salty and usually breezy air was once thought to be good for tuberculosis, so a hospital was built here with lots of porches for its treatment, which is now an apartment building.  I am not sure how effective the air was for TB, but I know living in this very walkable neighborhood makes me feel better.

Tuberculosis Hospital

Again, please participate and have fun!

(you can view all of my pictures from Winter Walk Off here)


  1. Beautiful Pictures. I cannot believe how huge the camelias are in your neighborhood. We cannot grow them very well here in Florida, but I am moving to NC next week and have put in about 13 already. I had no idea they could get that big.

    Beautiful! Love the neighborhood too.

  2. Sounds like a good challenge Les. I'll try to get a post together by the end of winter. I don't have a walkable neighborhood but can do my wildlife walk I guess.

    Your neighborhood is nice. So cool to be around your very first house and be able to see how the things you planted have grown and changed.

  3. I love your neighborhood, both in photos and in life. Sounds like a fun challenge. We are doing a short trip for a wedding. Will try to remember to get a post for this done before the deadline.

  4. Great photos of your area Les. What a fun meme you are hosting. I might have to get some pics of Newport News to share if I can find the time. Thanks for the welcome back. :)

  5. What a great post! I loved seeing around your neighbourhood, and chuckled over your "new trees vs. safe porch" comment. I've been planning on taking my camera for a walk to inspect the hedgerows, this gives me a good incentive. I'll be back when I have had a sunny day and a stroll with my camera!

  6. Les, I've always thought your part of the world was lovely! As soon as this massive storm front moves through. I'll join the challenge and step out and about! gail ps 2 inches of rain forecast for this AM with hail!

  7. Wonderful pictures and a fun idea! I'm always up for a walk around the neighborhood with the camera, now I have a great excuse.

    Oh and thanks for the reminder that winters (technical) end is near!

  8. It took a bit to get out of the chair today and the walk was really just around the garden but I was looking for signs of spring as you can see from the post. Your signs of spring are so much more colorful at this point. Love seeing the neighborhood. My last post was in the same vein as this. Thanks.

  9. Great photos and a cool challenge which I happily accept. I didn't have to go far today, just next door to photograph these violet crocuses.

  10. Wow, Les, your neighborhood is super charming. My 'hood of boring 70s ranches and St. Augustine lawns would be so plain Jane by comparison. The thing about 70s ranches is that they're inward- and backyard-focused, and the public presentation is almost an afterthought. A back-yard walking tour, if it were possible, would be much more interesting here. Anyway, enough architectural musings. I really love your images, and it was a treat to see your neighborhood.

  11. I dont believe I have ever taken the camera on a walk down our street before. Hum, what fun....

  12. Hey Les, thanks for stopping by (before I got here to post a link). Here is the link to my post for this challenge.
    by the way, that shadow was Newton, Skyler was walking on ahead with Linda.

  13. Wonderful walk, Les. I enjoyed the views very much. I enjoyed our 6 months in Norfolk back in 1990. I love that huge magnolia tree.
    I'll be back before your deadline with some photos taken with my point and shoot...which is all I have right now sincy my Nikon seems to be broken. We've sent it off to be diagnosed & hopefully repaired. I take my 2 dogs on daily walks so should be able to get something to add to your project;-)

  14. This is so exciting! And that TB sanatorium is gorgeous. Nothing better than deep porches. How neat to get a look at your "starter" bungalow.

  15. Excellent idea. Gonna do it.

    Love the pictures of water. Always.

  16. What a good idea - I forwarded a link to your contest to friends who have gardening blogs (I do not).

    If I ever decided to return to life in the city, your neighborhood would be at the top of my list - it's interesting, has character, and views of the water everywhere.

  17. Anon,
    Yes the Camellias get that big. My next door neighbors had several that were easily 15' tall. She told the painters it was OK to trim them, and they heard it was OK to butcher them.

    A wildlife walk would be great!

    I hope your trip is a safe one. Thanks for participating.

    I hope you find the time.

    I hope you find the time.

    I can see on the radar that you all are suffering from extreme weather. Maybe you can bottle some of that rain for July and August.

    I hope to see some of your Portland neighborhood.

    It looked as if you all were going to get some rain. Maybe the snow will wash away some. Thanks for getting out of the chair.

    Thanks so much for participating. The corcus just glow.

    A backyard walk, or St. Augustine lawns, either one would be acceptable.

    There is a first time for everything. I hope you join in.

    I know your dogs want to participate.

    Please join in!

    A bike powered post is also acceptable.

    That is why we like it here.


  18. What a great neighborhood y'all live in. Walking is a bit of a challenge for me lately, but I wish I'd had a camera last Friday--a rare sunny day looking out at the shiny receding snow. Now it's back in force, so plenty of winter to document for the end of winter. I'll do my best to get a short post together about it.

  19. Thanks for the reminder in your Henbit post. I am in.

  20. Hi Les, I did it - rather long winded, I got a little carried away, it was the first sunny day for weeks... Great fun to do and made me fall in love with the area all over again, so thank you. My post is now up.

  21. This is a fabulous idea and I very much enjoyed your walk. It's a warm enough day I believe and me and the kiddos can get outside and take some photos. I will comment again when my post is up. :)

  22. Lynn,
    Thanks for stopping by, I look forward to your contributions, snow or no.

    I am glad you will give it a try.

    I really appreciate your entry, thanks so much for posting it. The challenge is now truly international.

    Welcome to my blog. I await your entry.


  23. Hi Les, Thanks for dropping in at Duck Island. But I did a post about walking my neighborhood February 19. I think this post fits your contest much better. Actually it was a nicer day too. Duck Island was after a big snow storm. Not as pretty of photos, but... if it is OK I will enter "What's it Like in the City."
    I will add a link to your contest in the post.

  24. Les--I enjoyed this very much. It's always so nice to read your writing style and take in the gorgeous and talented photos. I did take some photos of hellebores today--I will get that in before the time is up. We are bursting with color here---the Jane and Ann magnolias are blooming and the daffs are daffy.

    Hoping I win the cards!

    Beautiful neighborhood.

  25. Les, I did a post a couple days ago about walking through the city of Charlottetown on my lunch hours. Carolyn suggested I add it to your contest. Some of the photos are older ones but there's a few recent ones as well. I love the idea of getting out for a walk as the weather starts to become more springlike. This was a great idea.

    Marguerite @ Canoe Corner

    Link to post:

  26. Hi Les,
    Though I am at a serious disadvantage with nothing but a snow covered landscape to show (not even the slightest sign of spring here!), I am excited about this challenge. My post will be more in the line of "endless" winter, not the end of winter.I will comment again when it is up.

  27. Here is my post:

    Sweet Bean Winter Walk

    Thanks for hosting such a great meme!

  28. Interesting challenge! You did a great job shooting these wonderful photos of your neighborhood, your neighborhood is stunning and amazing. I'd love to emigrate to the USA and live in such a neighborhood. Wonderful!

  29. Wonderful challenge thank you! I discovered it on Plantilicious blog and have just managed to get it in before the 19th.


  30. I looked at my neighborhood from over fences.

    What I Saw Over the Fence

    This is a fun meme. My community is vastly different from your lovely neighborhood.

  31. I learned about your meme from Hanni at Sweet Bean Gardening. I just posted about a couple of winter walk offs this weekend. Great idea! Happy Spring (almost)!

  32. I forgot to leave a link, silly me!

  33. Hi Les - My "Neighbourhood Walk" post comes to you all the way from Cape Town, South Africa! Thanks for hosting this great meme! Here it is: Neighbourhood Walk in Cape Town

  34. Thanks for the great idea Les. I had been waiting for better weather, but realised yesterday that I was running out of time. My stormy winter walk-off can be found at
    Your neighbourhood is beautiful, and it's interesting to observe the different climate, plants, etc. Love the older house styles too - so much character.

  35. This was a fun challenge! It made me stop and look around instead of constantly rushing from one thing to another. Thanks! Here's my blog post:

  36. Donna,
    Thanks for adding your link. I remember reading that post and was hoping you would add it.

    Thank you for stopping by, it's always good to hear from you, and I look forward to your entry.

    I am so glad you have chosen to participate in my Winter Walk Off. Charlottetown looks like a lovely place, snow or no snow.

    Endless winter? I am sorry you are having to endure it, but as someone who has glimpsed the other side, all I can say is just wait, it will arrive for you as well.

    Thank you for braving the bleak weather to add your post.

    Thanks for commenting and for stopping by. I do live in a great neighborhood, but I am not sure it is worth emigrating for.

    Thank you for adding another English entry to my Winter Walk Off, especially one with an unexpected tree.

    Nell Jean,
    I am glad you had fun with your post. The land around your house has a familiar look to it.

    I enjoyed your Winter Walk Off in the North Country. I would have expected to see more snow, but was glad you were able to get out and share your pictures.

    If there was a prize for the distance from here, you would win. Thank you for adding your colorful post.

    Though I am a sucker for seascapes, the drawing will be impartial. Thank you for participating.

    Thanks for jumping in my challenge. I would recommend holding off on jumping in the lake until it warms up some.


  37. Les, I really enjoy your writing and pictures. The challenge was fun. Thanks for taking the time to do this. My entry:

  38. Gene,
    I am glad to have another local gardener participate. I would encourage all the other participants to check out your link so they can see the carnage created by local pruning practices.


  39. Hi Les, Better late than never I always say! I have posted my winter walk off today.

  40. Hi Les - another entry from South Africa - I hope we made the deadline. Its the village of Philadelphia in the Cape which you can see at:

  41. Jennifer,
    I glad you made the deadline, and that it appears things are thawing out where you live.

    Wow, two entries from South Africa. I did not think things would get so international, but am glad they did, and am glad you participated.


  42. Here's our walk off:

  43. hey les, my post is up. thanks for this, it was fun. will peruse all the entries when i get back after dinner, in another neighborhood, to watch the moon rise, signaling the start of spring... cheers!
    andrea @grwhryrpltd

  44. Georgia and Andrea,
    I am sorry I got you in late, but I am glad to have you.


  45. Les, a friend blogger wrote a Spring Walk Off post at