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, 2013

A Little Bit of Sunshine

The week got off to a rough start, and not helping matters has been the dreary wet weather, but today there was a change. The sun came out, the sky was a crisp blue, the temperatures warmed and the red maples (Acer rubrum) were flowering. At work the turtles are surfacing, and the narcissus are reaching peak. This turn will not likely last, but I will enjoy it while it is here.

Narcissus Wednesday (3)

Narcissus Wednesday (4)

Narcissus Wednesday (5)

Narcissus Wednesday (6)

Narcissus Wednesday (7)

Narcissus Wednesday (8)

Narcissus Wednesday (9)

Narcissus Wednesday (10)

Narcissus Wednesday (11)

Narcissus and Illicum 'Florida Sunshine'

Narcissus Wednesday (12)

Is there a more cheerful color than yellow?

(Just a reminder, there is still plenty of time for any other blogger to enter Winter Walk-Off 2013.)

February 25, 2013

The Unexpected Dog

The day we got Loretta, we did not wake up and say "let's get another dog today".  We were on our way home from a disappointing auction and stopped at the animal shelter on a whim. In idle chatter with the attendant we told him what kind of dogs we liked. He told us that if we waited a few minutes someone was due to drop off a litter of redbone, and black and tan coon hounds. Of course we stuck around and came home with a new dog, and it was a good thing for her that we did. She was in bad shape for a dog so young, and would likely not have lived another day or two. Rather than showing her gratitude, or rejoicing in the lucky turn of events, Loretta spent life always looking over her shoulder.

She was perhaps the most difficult dog I have ever owned, not that she was a bad dog, she just had so many issues. Loretta had numerous and costly health problems, which was doubly unfortunate because she reacted badly to anesthesia. We picked her out of the litter because she was the quiet one, but she nearly spent the rest of her waking hours barking. She was deathly afraid of storms, and could predict their arrival well before the warnings would crawl across the bottom of the TV screen. Even though she was neutered, she always attracted attentions from the opposite sex, but she would adamantly have none of it. One might think that depression is the purview of modern humans, but I can tell you dogs suffer from it also. She also stank, as many hounds do, but I came to enjoy her funk and am already missing it.

Her life did have some moments of joy though. She loved to sing and with little encouragement would throw her head back and let loose in deep soulful song. Loretta also enjoyed her time in the sun, and would follow a patch of it around the house, just like a cat. She went to great lengths to keep her self clean and had a sleek black coat that reminded me of a seal's. On hot summer days she loved to go wading in the river and swish her ears under the water, though she would not swim. She also loved nothing more than to sleep, her long limbs stretched to offer little room for anyone else. Loretta was shy, and conservative with her affections, though there were several humans, beyond her housemates, with whom she enjoyed special bonds.

Loretta entered her senior years gracefully, which was probably easier since she has always been a bit elderly. As recently as last week she was still singing her songs, and even spent time playing games with one of our cats, a most rare occurrence. When Loretta woke yesterday she was out of sorts and unsettled, not wanting to drink or eat, much. Poking around, we found a large mass on her throat that extended down to her chest. She paced most of last night searching unsuccessfully to find a comfortable sleeping position. I took her to the vet's this morning hoping the mass could be something easily drained away or reduced with medication. Dr. Marshall said that would not happen and offered a couple other options, though not sincerely realistic. The x-rays showed how the mass was constricting her trachea to only a 1/4" opening. We really had only one choice, which was to let her go. I know it is clich├ęd, but she did indeed die peacefully in my arms. I did not wake up this morning thinking it would be Loretta's last day, but just as she entered our lives unexpectedly, she left that way as well.

February 19, 2013

Winter Walk-Off 2013

According to the calendar, there is about one month left of winter, and at A Tidewater Gardener that means it is once again time for my annual Winter Walk-Off.  Part of the reason I blog is to catch glimpses from other parts of the world beyond my own, and this little challenge is a fun way for others to do so. The rules are simple, the rules are flexible.

  • On your own two feet, leave the house and share what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home (if you want to drive to your walk that's OK too).  Your post does not have to be about gardening or a travelogue, 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 garden.
  • Post your own Winter Walk-Off on your blog, and link it back to this post.  Also, please leave a  comment here when your post is up.  If you have recently written a similar post, you are welcome to recycle.
  • I will keep the challenge open until midnight on March 19th, the last day of winter (or summer for those of you below the equator).
  • Everyone who participates will have a chance to win one of two prizes, and a totally disinterested teenager will randomly draw the names.  One person will win a collection of packaged heirloom annual seeds, and the other winner will be sent some of my wife's handcrafted note cards.  I will contact the two winners and mail the prizes. 

  • I hope these guidelines are simple enough and that you will participate.

    I had my own winter walk-off this past Saturday.  A good friend and I had plans to meet for breakfast, and I thought I would walk to the restaurant.  My friend's plans were cancelled by an encounter with her neighbor's escaped pit bulls (no permanent damage), but I went anyway.  The first few photos are some of what I saw leaving my neighborhood.

    Turquoise Porch

    Porch Mermaid

    We have four traffic circles in my neighborhood that are large enough to be small parks.  In one  someone has planted a vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) in memory of a former neighbor and aquaintance of mine,  Liz Witkowski.  She had a beautiful cottage garden and was the local distributor for Rich Earth, which is how I knew her.  Last year she lost her battle with cancer. Her plaque reads "Forever one with the Rich Earth".

    Once out of the neighborhood I headed north on Colley Ave., which runs along Knitting Mill Creek.  This end of Colley is a transitional mix of odd businesses, restaurants, rental housing and storefront churches.  It has been in transition for as long as I have lived in Norfolk.


    Built in the late 1700's, this is the oldest house on the street. Now it is a hair salon.

    Trumpet Vine Pipe

    Knitting Mill Creek is still a bit of a working waterfront.  These pots are waiting for crab season to begin.
    Crab Pots

    When I first worked in the hotel business those of us who worked the late shift would sometimes end up at this after-hours club to extend our drinking time. Nothing ever good came from a visit here.

    I wonder if the billboard pays the mortgage.
    Billboard House

    The local laundromat is growing a pindo palm (Butia capitata).  I once cautioned customers about this plant's hardiness here, but I have seen several in the area seemingly thriving on neglect.  The building in the background was once the knitting mill for which the creek was named.
    Butia capitata

    I bet these shrubs wish they had been neglected.


    Self Portrait with Flag

    In the middle of this incoherent jumble is a successful, though small, wetland restoration project.

    In case you were wondering where it was...
    Center of Hope copy


    Tobacco 4 Less

    At the end of Colley Ave. is a bridge crossing the mouth of Colley Bay.  Once on the other side the road's name changes, and you are in a decidedly different and leafier neighborhood.
    Colley Ave. Bridge

    Jamestown Crescent (2)

    Camellia japonica 'Professor Sargent'

    Jamestown Crescent

    Jamestown Crescent (4)


    Jamestown Crescent (3)

    Red Plinths


    Nandina Mermaid

    On their honeymoon in his native Mississippi, Lt. Andrew Weir and his wife, gathered seedlings of Magnolia grandiflora to line the lane leading to their Norfolk home. Maybe he was homesick. Now that lane is Magnolia Ave., and I don't know how many of the original trees remain, but I always like walking under them.
    Magnolia Ave.

    At some point, someone snuck in a coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) among all the magnolias on Magnolia Ave. Maybe they were homesick as well. 
    Sequoia sempervirens

    My breakfast destination was just across the street from the Larchmont Library. I am not certain this is fact, but I think the library's architect used several early Virginia courthouses for inspiration. The library sits on waterfront property and is the site of another restored wetland. 
    Library Mermaid

    Edgewater Haven

    Inside the library's portico you can see the city of Norfolk's seal. The Latin translates to Both by land and by sea thy riches are - thou shalt grow

    After my long walk it was time to enjoy a breakfast of French toast, caramelized apples, Virginia ham sausage and black coffee. Maybe my return walk home burned a good portion of that meal's calories.

    My Walk-Off invitation is open to all bloggers, but you're on your own for breakfast.

    February 15, 2013

    Bloom Day - Decembruary 2.0

         I know I'm not the only Bloom Day blogger who ventures back in time to see where their garden stood one year ago. Going through that excersize this month, I was pleased to find nearly the exact same players were featured in February 2012. If I my garden had been significantly ahead of last year, I would be worried. There has been little change in my garden in the past month.  We have had a blast of cold weather that has tempered things a bit, but I still have one or two new offerings.

    More hellebores have opened.
    Helleborus orientalis

    Helleborus orientalis (2)

    The camellias are approaching peak here. This is C. japonica 'Les Marbury'. I know I have shown it many times before, but I love the spiraled star-over-star pattern.
    Camellia japonica 'Les Marbury'

    C. japonica 'Magnoliaeflora'
    Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaeflora'

    Again I will repeat myself, C. japonica 'Crimson Candles' is a very undemanding plant, especially considering the show it puts on.
    Camellia japonica 'Crimson Candles'

    If you have the right climate, why wouldn't you grow Edgeworthia chrysantha?
    Edgeworthia chrysantha (2)

    Spiraea thunbergia 'Ogon'
     Spiraea thunbergia 'Ogon'

    Narcissus 'Grand Soleil d'Or' 
    Narcissus 'Grand Soleil d'Or'

    Narcissus 'Ice Follies'
     Narcissus 'Ice Follies'

    Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart' 
    Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart'

    The chilled weather seems to have added some red to Eucalyptus gunnii
    Eucalyptus gunnii

    Lastly, I am so glad I added Iris unguicularis (Algerian Iris) to my garden.  It doesn't bloom all winter, all the time, but sporadically from late November into March you get blooms here and there, like an unexpected, but pleasant surprise.
    Iris unguicularis

    Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is a world-wide event that takes place on the 15th of each month, and is brought to you by the good grace of Carol over at May Dreams Gardens.  You should go say hi.

    BTW, stay tuned to my own blog, Winter Walk-Off 2013 is just around the corner.