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, 2014

The Last Sunset of 2014

     Time once again for another Tidewater Gardener tradition (to contradict me always saying I am not a traditionalist), the posting of the last sunset of the year. This year's shot is a little gray and murky, and though you can't tell it, a light rain is falling, but temps are near 80, and a warm breeze is blowing. This New Year's eve finds me in south Florida where there are palm trees, many wonderful palm species swaying everywhere. And if there has every been a year in my life I needed to have end with tropical weather and palm trees, it has been this one. 2014 has tested me, and unfortunately, I'm not yet sure what grade I've earned, but allow me to enjoy my break while I'm on it.

     For all of you, I wish a wonderful new year, and if you find the going rough, I wish you some distraction, a palm of your choosing. 

December 27, 2014

My Ten Favorite Photos of 2014

     As seasonal as fallen fir needles on carpet, it is time once again to share my favorite photos from the past year. When I started this post, I thought this might be the year I could finally actually limit the number to 10, and that the exercise would somehow force my eye to see the photos in a new light, but that didn't happen, and I could only get it down to 15.

Like much of the rest of the country, our winter last year was unusually severe. Fortunately the snows afforded me some photo opportunities, and during one of our worst storms I was able to capture the moment a neighbor joyously fed ever-greedy or ever-grateful gulls.
Gulls (4)

During my 2014 Winter Walk-Off, I was able to get a picture of a cormorant just before it dove below the surface of the water. This photo speaks to me on a couple of levels. I love the juxtaposition of this humble seabird with the aircraft carriers in the background. Also, whenever I see a cormorant I think about my friend Joellen, who died way too early leaving many of us to fix our own problems.

This shot also came from the Winter Walk-Off, and yes I know the first three photos have all been birds and two of the three have been gulls, and yes I know this is not a bird blog, but look at his attitude and how close I was able to get without a zoom lens.

Nockamixon Cliffs
On the way home from a visit with my brother and the Philadelphia Flower Show I stopped at Nockamixon Cliffs along the Delaware River, where I took what I think were some very artistic shots of the icefalls flowing down the cliffs. However, this photo of two insane men climbing one of the larger icefalls would sell more newspapers.
Nockamixon Cliffs (3)

Chippokes Bovines
In April I paid a very photo-productive visit to one of my favorite getaway spots, Chippokes Plantation State Park, and the next two photos made my top ten/fifteen. Parts of Chippokes have been a working farm for nearly 400 years, and they have a herd of well-cared-for cattle grazing there. I gave up eating meat over a year ago, and seeing the eyes and lashes of this black beauty reconfirmed my choice.
Chippokes Bovines (10)

Ipheion Lawn
I know, I know, it's about time I showed a plant photo, especially since this is ostensibly a gardening blog. The lawn in front of the plantation house at Chippokes is carpeted with Ipheion, and the only way to really appreciate them, or to photograph them, is to from your belly.
Ipheion Lawn (2)

Allium ampeloprasum
On the way back from a kayaking trip I happened to take the Colonial Parkway just as the locally celebrated Yorktown onions (really a wild Eurasian leek) were in full bloom. As long as I have lived in this area, I have never seen this plant bloom, and to see fields of them was a real treat, even if they aren't native.
Allium ampeloprasum (1)

Summit Lake
The next four photos are from our trip to Colorado this past summer. The first one was taken at Summit Lake on the way to Mt. Evans. What you can't see in this photo is obviously the crystal clear lake, or the mountain goats jumping around on the snow capped mountains surrounding the lake. You also can't see my eyes welling up from the absolute and severe beauty of the place, but you can see a group of dedicated volunteers who were happily restoring the ecosystem with plants they grew themselves.
Summit Lake (10)

Roxborough Park
One of my co-workers is from Colorado, and I asked him for some recommendations for places to visit, and one he suggested was Roxborough State Park just south of Denver. You enter the park on the prairie, but most of it is in red-rock formations at the edge of the Rockies, and it is a stunning place. I have yet to complete a blog post on Roxborough, so consider this a tease.
Roxborough Park (14)

Kenosha Pass
Kenosha Pass is a high mountain pass that looks down onto the basin of South Park, Colorado. It is a beautiful, but lonely, dry, cold (even in July) place. At the top of the pass are a series of impromptu memorials along a barbed wire fence. These offered some of the only bits of color on an otherwise gray day.
Kenosha Pass

Pet Cemetery
Continuing in this morbid train of thought, a few days later we made a quick stop at a roadside pet cemetery near Salida, Colorado. The surrounding landscape was unusually green for summer in this part of the world, as rains had been above normal, but the pet cemetery was mostly brown except for the plastic flowers. I assume someone had sprayed the growth with weed killer, but you can never be sure what will and what won't grow on hallowed ground.
Pet Cemetery (5)

Yarmouth Creek Black and White
This photo is the only black and white in my favorites this year. It was taken from my kayak on Yarmouth Creek, a tributary of the Chickahominy River close to its mouth near Williamsburg, Virginia. This area has become one of my favorite places to paddle, as I feel like every bend in the river and every old cypress have several stories to tell.
Yarmouth Creek Black and White (3)

White Adirondacks
In October I was fortunate enough to attend the Perennial Plant Conference at Swarthmore College, which is situated within The Scott Arboretum. The conference was wonderful, but so was the chance to tour the arboretum, which is just beautiful. Though there were many carefully designed garden spaces and beautiful plant specimens there, my favorite photo from the trip is of these three chairs with morning light falling on them.
White Adirondacks (1)

This photo was take at a farmstand in Pennsylvania, and after some of the other photos I have posted here, it may seem a little "schmaltzy", but I like it.
Traugers (2)

Frosted Marsh
Like many of my favorite photos over the years, my last photo was taken on the shore of Metompkin Bay near my parent's house. When I visit I usually try to walk there in the mornings to catch the sun as it rises from the Atlantic. This has always been a special place to me and easy to photograph.
Frosted Marsh (2)

I have a collection of all of my favorite photos of the year on my Flickr page, and if you find yourself icebound or bedridden with nothing else to do, then click here for the full set. And if that is not enough, you can click on 2013's, 2012's and 2011's top ten collections respectively.

Do you have photos from 2014 that you are particularly proud of, or that speak to you in a special way? If so, then I welcome you to share them on your own blog or Facebook page. If you do, come back and leave a comment with a link please. I would really appreciate it. Thanks, and I hope all of you have a happy new year filled with many photo ops!

December 15, 2014

Bloom Day - Something is Better Than Nothing

      I went outside yesterday to see what was available for Bloom Day, but I saw nothing worth photographing, though I did get a lot of work done. The sasanquas are still flowering nicely, but I showed them last month. I've also got some violas blooming, but I am holding them back for a January or February post. However, the Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera) are blooming on the kitchen windowsill. They all needed repotting this summer, and have responded well to the roomier pots and better soil. This particular one I am showing was a gift last year from one of the volunteers at the garden, and was grown by special needs students. I love its non-Christmassy color.

     If you would like to see what is blooming in other people's gardens, or perhaps on their windowsills, then visit Carol at May Dreams Garden. Carol hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.

December 13, 2014

Technically It's Still Fall

     I know it feels like winter outside and the dominant colors are now red and green, but I am still sorting through my fall photos. Hell, I even have summer vacation photos yet to process. On my trip to Pennsylvania last October, primarily to attend the Perennial Plant Conference, I also got to roam around the Bucks Co. countryside and enjoy a bit of the season. My brother lives in this picturesque part of the the state, and fortunately for us, his guest policies are still fairly liberal. While we were there, the most colorful plant on his property was burning bush (Euonymus alatus). Yes yes, I know this is a very bad plant, but there is no denying how pretty it is, and it is easy to figure why people plant it in the first place.
Poet's Hill (4)

Poet's Hill - Euonymus alatus

     Our visits usually include a stop at Trauger's, a large family owned farmstand on the Delaware River. Just about everything they sell is grown or made right on the farm, and I love its diversity, but since our visit was just before Halloween, it was all about the pumpkins.
Traugers (2)

Traugers (4)

Traugers (5)

Traugers (7)

     Another stop I always like to make is to Linden Hill Gardens, a garden center and design firm built around an old stone farmhouse and barn. This blog has been to Linden Hill before, and you can click here to read more about it. On the day we were there, we had the place to ourselves, and I had to remind myself that in colder parts the country there is an earlier end to the gardening season. That's okay, I took advantage of their perennial sale and picked up a Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Golden Arrow', which was put in a larger pot on the steps until I figure out where to plant it. I know I am certainly not the only one who buys plants without a clue as to where they will go.
Linden Hill (24)

Linden Hill (15)

Linden Hill (11)

Linden Hill (19)

Linden Hill (4)

Linden Hill (5)

Linden Hill (6)

Linden Hill - Tilia

Linden Hill - Dahlia (5)

Linden Hill - Dahlia (1)

Linden Hill - Dahlia (2)

Linden Hill - Dahlia (4)

Linden Hill - Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Golden Arrow'

November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Roll (Camera Roll, not Dinner Roll)

     Here are some of the photos I took over the Thanksgiving Day holiday, which as usual, we spent on Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore.

     The first photo was taken from my parent's front porch Thanksgiving morning. Unfortunately my camera did not adequately capture the pink glow happening in the sky, but some things can only be experienced and not explained, nor photographed. Weather-wise, this was the best part of the day, but that was that was fine by me, as I always think of Thanksgiving as in inward, indoorsy sort of holiday.
  Day of Thanks

     On Black Friday, I opted to keep far from the orgy of consumerism going in some places. Instead we visited the quiet town Onancock and Ker Place, home of the Eastern Shore Historical Society. Several artisans had set up shop in the old mansion, which I quickly breezed through, preferring instead to get closer to the 200-year-old sycamores out front. In winter this species always reminds of bleached whale bones.
Ker Place

Platanus occidentalis (1)

Platanus occidentalis (2)

     My son is almost a man now. This fall has been the season that chickens have come home to roost, so to speak, and I have a whole new appreciation (and regret) for what I put my own parents through when I was his age. Like the trees, I think we will both survive.
Young Man and Old Tree

     Later in the afternoon, I had a nice walk with the dogs along the shores of Metompkin Bay, though it was quite cold and very windy. It gave me chance to tinker with my new phone.

     This morning before we left, another beautiful sunrise revealed itself
Saturday Sunrise

Sunrise with Geese

Frosted Marsh (2)

Frosted Spatina

Frosted Solidago

Frosted Marsh (1)

      I hope all of you had a chance to spend the holiday with family and friends, and that you were able to take a few moments to remember what really matters in this world. I'm thinking we need to do it more often than the one Thursday each November.

November 21, 2014

Another Visit to Federal Twist

     After attending the Perennial Plant Conference back in October, I was able to enjoy some of what fall offered in the Delaware River Valley. One of the things I did was to visit James Golden's garden as part of The Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program. On my first visit to Federal Twist the white glare of a blazingly hot summer afternoon made photography nearly impossible. On this trip the light conditions were much friendlier, however, word has spread about this remarkable garden, and I often had to wait for people to walk out of my viewfinder to get a good shot. James' garden is one of the most unique private spaces I have ever seen. The architecture, carefully chosen pieces of art, a blend of native and exotic plants - all seem to arise naturally from the surrounding landscape. I could attempt to describe it further, but the gardener is much better at that then am I.
Entrance Path (1)

The Terrace

Rhus glabra 'Lanciniata' and Hakonechloa  (2)

Rhus glabra 'Lanciniata' and Chasmanthium latifolium

     On the day of the tour, the look-at-me plant of the day was Viburnum plicatum sporting its red autumn blazer, and I heard more than one visitor inquire to its identification. The viburnum looks over the reflecting pool, which is one of the few bits of rectilinear formality in an otherwise naturalistic informal garden. The contrast elevates both.
Viburnum plicatum with Miscanthus

Viburnum plicatum Overlooking the Reflection Pool

Reflecting Pool

Cotinus with Grasses (1)

Cotinus with Grasses (2)

Sanguisorba fronts Viburnum

Sanguisorba with Miscanthus

Sedum'Autumn Joy'

Aster tartaricus ‘Jin Dai’

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' (1)

Lindera glauca 'Angustifolia', Miscanthus and Rhus

Lindera glauca 'Angustifolia' with Hosta

Fern Light (1)

Boxwood Path

Arborvitae and Sculpture

Albizia 'Summer Chocolate' with Grasses and Arborvitae

     I was surprised by how much I admired the dormant form and structure of Inula racemosa 'Sonnenspeer', which was all over James' garden, weeks past its prime.
Inula racemosa 'Sonnenspeer' (3)

Inula racemosa 'Sonnenspeer' (4)

     I also admire my mother and brother for many reasons, but on this day for putting up with my photo-snapping, garden-obsessed self. BTW, don't you love these Wave Hill chairs? I think we may have to see some of these a little further south.
Mater et Frater

     Speaking of photo-obsessed, if you would like to see all of my photos from my visit, my complete set can be found here.