Garden with Grace

"I hope that while so many people are out smelling the flowers, someone is taking the time to plant some." ~H.Rappaport


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Observing ‘the Risk to Blossom’ Today

The weather in New England, specifically where I live, in southern New Hampshire (NH) has forced me to follow my calendar this year. This fall, the garden continues to offer daily surprises, even though we’re well in to November and just over a month away from the Winter Solstice.

We’ve had a spectacular foliage season in NH – lots of red, orange, and yellow to decorate the landscape. This Japanese Maple is a good example of the bright colors:

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Typically, the 7-10 days after Halloween is a big leaf raking/blowing week.  We’re fortunate in Nashua to have curb-side pickup of soft yard waste until the end of November.  In past years, the leaves were blown/raked, shredded, and either put to the curb or added to the compost bin by now.

Today, I looked out of the window.  If I didn’t know better, I’d thought it was a beautiful mid-October day.

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Not only have the leaves refused to fall, but some of the flowers in the garden are still blooming as though it were still late summer. Most unusual is when I look out to the back patio and see that the Mandevilla is still looking great! I’ve never had one of these plants last in my garden/yard past mid September because even the smallest touch of frost kills this tropical plant in an instant.

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While there has been a chill in the air the past 6 weeks,  we’ve yet to have a hard freeze.  What a treat it was to walk thru the garden and find some surprises on November 9!  Typically, the Hollyhocks bloom mid-late summer.  This one got wrapped into the Morning Glories. While the Glories are not so glorious anymore, there’s still one last bloom being pushed out by the Hollyhock. I can actually see it from across the yard while looking out of my home-office window.

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Weeks ago, I thought I had seen the ‘last rose of summer’. Maybe I did and these are ‘the last roses of autumn’? If they stick it out, they could be the first roses of winter.

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Also paying a surprise visit today were the ‘Pinks’ aka: Dianthus and the ‘Indian Blanket’ aka: Gaillardia.

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Isn’t Mother Nature incredible? She definitely has a plan.

It makes me wonder if these flowers in the garden today were late bloomers or perhaps they are the best example of Anais Nin’s quote that has always been an inspiration to me in early spring:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”


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The Summer Ritual of a Daily Hummingbird Watch

Mother Nature does an excellent job to let us know that the seasons are changing in New England.

The biggest hint that she offers is the changing color of the foliage across our region, with little flecks of red and yellow peeking out across a lush green landscape, sometimes as early as late August.

The other hint is the arrival and departure of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds to the garden.  To me, this cue is more indicative of the transition from winter to summer and summer to winter than the changing trees.

There is always so much anticipation in mid April when the hummingbird sugar water (we call it “Hummingbird Hooch”) feeders go up for the season.  The arrival of the hummingbirds to the garden is a sign that the spring flowers including the lilacs and iris are starting to bloom.

This summer, evenings on the back patio included the ritual of a daily “Hummingbird Watch” from 7:00-8:30pm each evening. It was the same, yet different every night.  Different visitors would join this ritual but conversation would always stop (or at least tone down to a whisper) when the hummingbirds arrived. The males were very active and were the most frequent “hummingbird hooch” consumers during the early part of the summer. (The spectators of these birds would enjoy their own hooch, too!  This summer’s favorite was the Garden Cucumber Cocktail or a refreshing. cold glass of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.)  Here’s one of my favorite photos from June of a Ruby Thoated male that includes a red weigela in the background.

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While being able to capture any photo of a hummingbird is exciting to me (I use a simple point and shoot Canon Powershot Elph310 HS camera), I had a goal after capturing this shot of being able to snap a photo of one of the birds in the garden, getting nectar from one of the many flowers that I’d see them visiting during the day (of course, always when the camera was not in my hand!)

Finally, in early August, as I started to think about the pending departure of the this year’s resident hummingbird residents, a new perennial Cardinal Flower bloomed and attracted female hummingbirds all day long. I finally met my goal by capturing this shot.

IMG_4718For as long as it seems to take for April to arrive each year, without fail, September always comes too quickly.

This year was no exception.  By late August the hummingbirds were ingesting 3x as much sugar water than they consumed between May and July. It was another cue that the summer season was about to change – these tiny powerhouses always need to fuel up before their long flights for their winter vacations in South America.

By Labor day, the male Ruby-Throated birds were gone, headed south (probably to Costa Rica) to claim their winter territories and wait for their mates. By mid-September, the females were gone, too. The feeders are now empty and stored away until April 2015.

It’s time to create a new daily garden ritual.