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 30, 2013

The Wild East

     The town of Carova Beach is as far north and as far east as you can be in North Carolina, and it is not easy to get to. Although it is only 33 miles as the seagull flies from my house, it is over 100 miles and nearly three hours away as the car drives, and not just any car. If you want to visit Carova Beach, you need to have a 4X4, as there are no paved roads in, or leading to, Carova Beach, so the last 10 miles of the trip have to be taken on the beach. You need to carefully pick your travel time so that the tide is not abnormally high, and you should go while it is light out to avoid hitting any of the ancient tree stumps remaining from when this beach was a forest, and you have to pack carefully because there are no stores in Carova so whatever you need has to come with you, and you should know what you are doing so your vehicle doesn't end up in the ocean or becomes one of those that overheats and catches fire burning all those carefully packed supplies, and if you go on a busy summer Saturday or Sunday you need to be mindful of all the people (many of them drunk) that have driven in their 4X4s to enjoy the beach.


Uniola Paniculata - Sea Oats (1)

Tracks (2)

Froth (1)

Froth (3)


Shadow (1)

     Carova Beach was once an enclave of free spirits, crusty watermen and people who generally like to like to be apart. In temperament these people are probably similar to the area's more famous residents, Spanish mustangs, who have been here since the earliest Colonial times. These wild horses once had run of the entire Outer Banks, but as development and pavement crept north, there were too many horse and vehicle accidents. So two fences were put up running from the ocean to the sound. One is on the south end where the pavement ends, and the other is right on the Virginia/North Carolina border, and this gives the horses about 7000 acres to roam. This past weekend when we pulled into the cottage where we were staying, there was a mare and her colt eating from the front yard scrub, seemingly unconcerned by our arrival. These days the older, modest family cottages and house trailers on stilts are dwarfed by million dollar oceanfront vacation rentals, but the horses don't seem to mind. I just hope the pressure from development doesn't change the wildness of Carova, or lead to paved roads, Applebees, t-shirt shops and horse fatalities.

Corova's Horses (1)

Corova's Horses (2)

Corova's Horses (3)

Citations Will Be Issued


     My Shower Buddy
Frog (1)

Frog (2)

     I apologize for the graphic pictures below, but if you have not heard, bottlenose dolphins are dying on the Atlantic coast. As of this week the total was 357 with 186 in Virginia alone. This one missed being #187 by half a mile. In the past few days the cause has been narrowed to morbillivirus, which is similar to measles in humans, though there are no vaccination clinics in the ocean. This situation causes me great sadness.
Carcass (1)

     The orange paint signifies that this corpse has been examined and recorded. Kind of like the X's on the houses after Katrina.
Carcass (2)

    I think we need something pleasant to look at now.
Clouds (2)


     This is the fence that separates North Carolina from Virginia, and it also keeps out the horses and the 4X4s.
Border Fence

Border Fence (4)

     Humans, however, are always welcome. Let me hold the gate for you.
The Gate to VIrginia (2)

August 22, 2013

Rembrandt Returns

This morning Rembrandt returned to take his place with the other famous artists in the Statuary Vista Garden at work. He was knocked off his pedestal and damaged during Hurricane Irene and had been resting at the Chrysler Museum since.

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (1)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (2)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (3)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (4)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (5)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (6)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (7)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (8)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (9)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (10)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (11)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (12)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (13)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (14)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (15)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (16)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (17)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (18)

Rembrandt by Moses Ezekiel (19)

All of the statues in this garden were carved by Moses Ezekiel in the late 1800's. He was born into poverty, one of 14 children, but despite this, was able to attend the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) on a state scholarship. Ezekiel was the first Jewish cadet admitted to VMI just as the Civil War began, during which he was wounded and received high honors. After the battle of Newmarket, Ezekiel found his good friend Thomas Garland Jefferson, a great nephew of Thomas Jefferson, mortally wounded. The barefoot Ezekiel found a wagon and took his friend into town where he nursed Jefferson and read the New Testament to him until Jefferson's death two days later. After the war Ezekiel completed his education at VMI and was encouraged to pursue his artistic talents in Europe, where he became an accomplished sculpture. Ezekiel carved statues of famous artists to be housed in exterior niches of the original Corcoran Gallery of Art in D.C. (now the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery). In the early 1960's all of them moved to the Norfolk Botanical Garden where they are currently undergoing a major renovation, in situ, including the well rested Rembrandt.

August 15, 2013

Bloom Day - Summer Colors

     I was not honestly sure what I would have to show for this month's Bloom Day. I knew there were blooms in the garden, but just have not had any time to see them. I have been away somewhere for the past three weekends, and we just got back from a vacation this week. Fortunately, Mother Nature has been providing the garden with regular rain, she is just not very good at weeding or deadheading, which I will overlook. She has given us a delightful summer weather-wise.

     Evergreen wisteria (Millettia reticulata) is neither evergreen nor a wisteria, but I love its late summer, fragrant bloom.
Millettia reticulata

     Porterweed (Stachytarpheta mutabilis 'Coral')
Stachytarpheta mutabilis 'Coral'

     Cuphea x 'David Verity'
Cuphea x 'David Verity'

     This Rudbeckia fulgida blew in from my neighbor's yard and found a home between the concrete sidewalk and a concrete wall, but it seems happy.
Rudbeckia fulgida

     Last year, a seedling coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) came up in a pot on my steps. I was really taken by it and had it propagated at work. A co-worker named it 'Crime Scene'.
Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Crime Scene'

     I failed to record the name of this Lantana, but it says "party!" to me.

     'Miss Huff' likes to party too.
Lantana camara 'Miss Huff'

     I hunted all over for my favorite zinnia series and finally found some Zinnia marylandica 'Zahara Double Fire' at a big box store. They were planted later than I like, but have caught up nicely.
Zinnia marylandica 'Zahara Double Fire' and Lantana

     If you would like to see which colors other gardeners are enjoying right now, than visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens, where she hosts a garden blogging party on the fifteenth of every month.

August 6, 2013

If Serpentine Walls Could Talk

     This past weekend we left the flatland and headed west to the foot of the mountains. After a day floating on the James in the simple comfort of an inner tube, we spent the night in Charlottesville, one of my favorite places. Our hotel was just down the hill and a short walk from the University of Virginia (UVA). Sunday morning I was able to explore the grounds, camera in hand. In case you didn't know, the university was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, and he was also its first architect. Jefferson was so proud of his role in the founding of UVA (the first non-sectarian university in the country) he had it added to his tombstone, though he opted not to mention he was our third president. Jefferson designed the Rotunda, the university's centerpiece, as a half scale rendition of Rome's Pantheon. Flanking either side of the Rotunda are a series of pavilions and colonnades, where faculty still teach students and where both are still housed. The buildings enclose a large lawn, and behind them are a series of garden spaces enclosed by serpentine walls, also designed by Mr. Jefferson. Together they form an "academical village", which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and from which many an architect and city planner have drawn inspiration.  Although the grounds were quiet on a Sunday morning in August, I could not help but feel the presence of the many others who have walked here before.

The Lawn

The Rotunda is currently under renovation, hence the black cloth covering the column capitols. It nearly burned to the ground in 1895, and has suffered some bad renovations. However, its current state is as close to what Jefferson would recognize, if he had lived long enough to see its completion.
The Rotunda (2)

The Rotunda

The Rotunda (3)

The Rotunda (5)

The Rotunda (14)

The Rotunda (15)

The Rotunda (17)

On the top floor of the Rotunda is a library, and in the ceiling is an oculus shinning down like the eye of God, though Jefferson would probably disagree with me.
The Rotunda (16)

The Rotunda (4)

The Academical Village (2)

The Academical Village (9)

The Academical Village (7)

The Academical Village (5)

The Academical Village (3)

The Academical Village (13)

The Academical Village (12)

The Academical Village

The Academical Village (19)

Edgar Allan Poe resided in this chamber, No. 13.
No. 13

Other windows provide a more contemporary view. I wonder what Jefferson would think about our world-at-your-fingertips society?
The Academical Village (24)

The serpentine walls are not only attractive, I am sure they also appealed to Jefferson's practical side. The walls' shape makes them strong and consequently only require a one brick thickness.
Serpentine Walls (2)

Serpentine Walls (4)

Historians believe that the gardens were largely ornamental in nature, though things for the table were grown there as well. They also provided a quiet place to visit the privy, many of which still stand.

The Academical Village (21)

The Academical Village (22)

University Gardens (4)

Your humble blogger had a chance to hug the largest ginkgo he has ever seen, the Pratt Ginkgo, and I need to plan a return visit to see its fall glory.
The Pratt Ginkgo (2)

The Rotunda (12)

I hope this picture laden post has not crashed your computer or has used all your allotted data on your cell phone, but if you want to see more you can visit my Flickr page.