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.

March 29, 2018

2018 Winter Walk-Off Wrap Up

     Although, this year's Winter Walk-Off may not have been the largest, I very pleased with the diversity of the posts. My informal survey says that winter was not terribly extreme, and that it was cold where it should be, and mild where it normally is. The only exception would be my own world, where we finally had more welcome spring-like temperatures just this week. Until this point, March has been February 2.0. Below are this year's entries. Click on the links for a bit of armchair travelling.   

#1 - Sarah in Maine
     Sarah has walked with me before, and as in previous walks, she shows us the beauty that is Maine in winter. She and her son walked along the coast in Wolfe's Neck Park in Freeport, Maine. I am no fan of cold weather, but Sarah and her family enjoy it, and know how to make the most of it. Her photos almost make me change my mind.

#2 - Peter in Tacoma, Washington
     Peter is another regular walk-off walker. He knows how much I enjoy looking at interesting architecture, and his city of Tacoma is rich in diverse styles. This year he showed a wide range of residential architecture, but there is also a bit of horticulture - some good, some not so good.

#3 - Marilyn in Columbus, Georgia
     In another post full of architecture, my friend Marilyn takes us to Columbus, Georgia, where you can tell the winter has been kinder. Tulips and dogwoods were blooming, people were eating al fresco, peddling party bikes, and a kayaker was in the river.

#4 - Beth in Madison, Wisconsin
     Beth is another regular walker, and this year she took her walk-off around Lake Waubesa in Madison. Although some of the lake was thawing enough to show open water, other areas were still frozen allowing ice fishing to continue. I have a fear of falling through ice and getting trapped underneath in frigid water, so I will leave ice fishing to others.

#5 - Janet in South Carolina
     What would my Winter Walk-Off be without Janet, the Queen of Seaford? She has walked every year I have had this meme. This year she and her walking partners, two-legged and four, once again walked around the quiet roads of her Upcountry neighborhood, where spring was knocking at the door.

#6 - David in Las Cruces, New Mexico

      Now for something completely different - plant and architecture-wise. David in New Mexico shows us around the neighborhood where he will soon be living, and the local landscaping plant palette is very different from what I see here. Though many of the plants were somewhat familiar to me, others had to be googled. 

#7 - Loree in Paris, France
     If there was a prize for most far away post, Loree would win it for her walk in Paris. She usually walks in Portland, but I am very glad she chose Paris this year; it was the only international entry. Though she threw in a few well known landmarks, most of her photos are little snippets of gardens, art, and architecture, plus a well deserved glass of wine.   

#8 - Georgia in Washington Square Park, New York
     For Georgia's walk this year, she chose Washington Square Park. She was on a mission to spot birdlife, in particular a pair of red-tailed hawks, which she did indeed spy. She also saw a to-me-surprising number of other bird species. Knowing that some of the earth's other species can put up with homo sapiens makes me hopeful.

     By assigning each entry a number based on when I received it, and by utilizing the cold unbiased proficiency of a random number generator, Peter the Outlaw Gardener was selected as this year's winner. In his honor, a $50 donation has been made to the Washington Nature Conservancy Thank you to everyone who participated this year, and thank you to those who walked vicariously.

March 11, 2018

Chilly Bike Ride to Portsmouth

     On Friday the weather man told me that if I had any outdoor plans for the weekend, that I should make them for Saturday, as a nor'easter would be rolling in on Sunday. So I got up Saturday morning, had my coffee, found my Felcos, and headed outside to tend to my neglected back garden, only to feel rain. I may do wet, and I may do cold, but I don't do wet and cold. I went back inside intending to wait out the rain, but started watching Babylon Berlin on Netflix, and didn't stop watching until it was time for bed. If you don't mind subtitles this is an excellent series set in late 20's, pre-Nazi Berlin, a time and place that intrigues me. I have since read that Babylon Berlin is the most expensive German TV series ever produced, and I can see why. They spent a lot of time recreating the look and feel of the era. However, I think they could have saved a ton of money by cutting back on the number of cigarettes the characters smoke, and they smoke constantly. With cigarettes running about 6.00 € currently, and with at least an entire pack consumed every 5 minutes, in a multi-episode series, that's a lot of Euros.

     Pardon the digression. When I woke up on Sunday, and saw that it was not raining, I decided to ride my bike to Olde Towne Portsmouth before gardening. This blog has been to Olde Towne several times before. To get there I rode to downtown Norfolk, and there got on the ferry to Portsmouth. There were so few people out and about, that both city centers looked as if they may be under evacuation orders. Given the cold dank weather, it was no surprise.
Elizabeth River Ferry

     Waiting for the ferry, I had time to ponder gulls, as well as The Hotel of Unresolved Issues, a place I was twice employed. 

Hotel of Unresolved Issues

Elizabeth River Ferry 2

Shipyard (4)

     Once in Olde Towne I found much in bloom. Crabapples planted around the old Norfolk County courthouse nicely framed the building, as well as the adjacent Confederate memorial. One of these days I may share my thoughts on such memorials, but I haven't figured out how to say what I want to say without coming across as someone I am not. Besides, my thoughts are still fluid on the matter.
Crabapple on Court St. (1)

Crabapple on Court St. (2)


Magnolias on Middle St.

Forsythia and Hyacinth on Washington

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of Callery pears in Olde Towne. I guess Portsmouth hasn't gotten the invasive species memo yet. One was blooming next to one of my favorite houses in Olde Towne, which currently happens to be for sale. According to Zillow, it has been in the same family for four generations.
Bradford Pear on Middle St.

Magnolia on Middle

     Speaking of invasive species, English ivy looks very nice here, but it is a scourge in many local woodlands.
Anderson-Wright Rooms & Gardens

Cherry on Washington

     Next to St. John's Episcopal, one of Olde Towne's many churches, I saw a quince blooming. I think it is one of the new Double Take series (Chaenomeles speciosa Double Take™ Scarlet).
St. John's Episcopal Church (3)

St. John's Episcopal Church (1)

St. John's Episcopal Church (2)

     I have always wanted to see what the inside of St. John's looks like, but have never had the chance. So I googled it, and had to borrow a photo from the church's web site to share. I hope they don't mind; it is lovely.

     Another Olde Towne church, Monumental United Methodist, recently made the news when its steeple caught fire. As a lapsed Methodist, I am glad the rest of the church was spared, and that the steeple is being restored. It was a local landmark, and one of the taller structures in downtown Portsmouth.
Monumental Methodist

Narcissus on London

     Don't you love robust columns and a strong pediment?
Robust Columns

     I lived in Olde Towne Portsmouth right out of college in the apartment building below. Built in 1851, it began life as part of the Macon Hotel, ironic for me at the time because I was working at the Hotel of Unresolved Issues across the river in Norfolk. During the Civil War it was one of the city's many hospitals, so it is no wonder I thought the place was haunted. 
Macon Hotel

     Thanks for riding with me! If you would like to walk with me, my 2018 Winter Walk-Off continues, with entries accepted through March 19th.

March 2, 2018

A Rainy Day in Hollywood Cemetery

     I love poking around old cemeteries, and perhaps my favorite is Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. After nearly 3 decades I made a return visit while I was in Richmond on Thursday. I set out on foot from the entrance with just a light rain falling, but soon found myself hightailing it back to my truck as the weather intensified. Fortunately, you are also allowed to drive. Established in 1849, Hollywood was one of the earlier incarnations of the rural cemetery movement, which sought to create beautiful park-like settings, not just for the dead, but for the living to enjoy as bucolic escapes from crowded urban centers. If you want to learn more about this movement and Hollywood, there is a good article here, from a 2012 issue of Magnolia, published by the Southern Garden History Society.

     Not too far from the entrance is Iron Dog, who guards the grave of a toddler who died in 1862.
Hollywood Cemetery (5)

Hollywood Cemetery (6)

Hollywood Cemetery (7)

     Perhaps the most famous landmark in the cemetery is a 90' tall pyramid, created by the ladies of the Hollywood Memorial Assc. to honor the 18,000 Confederate soldiers buried here. I have always found its simple design in rough-hewn stone to be a stark and apt reminder of how war wastes lives.
Hollywood Cemetery (9)

Hollywood Cemetery (11)

Hollywood Cemetery (8)

Hollywood Cemetery (13)

Hollywood Cemetery (14)

Hollywood Cemetery (2)

Hollywood Cemetery (36)

Hollywood Cemetery (22)

Hollywood Cemetery (28)

Hollywood Cemetery (33)

Hollywood Cemetery (18)

Hollywood Cemetery (20)

Hollywood Cemetery (24)

Hollywood Cemetery (31)

     The cemetery is the final resting place of a who's who of notable Virginians, including Presidents Tyler and Monroe. The later was re-interred from New York, but given the ornate Gothic revival design of his tomb, on a prime spot overlooking the fall of the James, he probably didn't object.
Hollywood Cemetery (29)

Hollywood Cemetery (27)

     Speaking of re-interment, Jefferson Davis' body was moved from New Orleans to Richmond. His wife, Varina, would have preferred their plantation in Mississippi, but she was worried about flooding. You just can't have the bodies of former Confederate presidents floating about. There was a clamor among many Southern cities for the chance to be Davis' final resting place, but Varina chose Richmond for Davis and their family. While I was there on Thursday, it was evident that Davis Circle was in the middle of a big re-work, only appropriate as many across the country are re-working their view of Southern "heroes".
Hollywood Cemetery (35)

Hollywood Cemetery (34)

     While Hollywood has a long history, it is still very much a working cemetery, and there are many contemporary graves. There is also a mausoleum built in the 1990's with a beautiful view of the James River, and the city beyond.
Hollywood Cemetery (17)

Hollywood Cemetery (19)

Hollywood Cemetery (32)

Hollywood Cemetery (38)

Hollywood Cemetery (37)

     Before all of your allotted pixels are gone, I wanted to share with you one last photo, taken by my not-yet-wife of me and a friend posing on the pyramid about 1984/85. I am on the left. Please pardon the shorts and white socks, it wasn't creepy back then. I also want to remind you that my Winter Walk-Off is taking place through 3/19, and I invite all bloggers to participate.