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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

My Amaryllis Mystery

boxed amaryllis bulbs

boxed amaryllis bulbs

I suppose my amaryllis mystery began on December 11, 2014 when I rather belatedly bought boxed amaryllis bulbs ready for planting and blooming. I knew they would not bloom in time for Christmas, but glamorous amaryllis flowers  are welcome in January and February as well.

I potted all three bulbs up as directed. I did notice that the Athene white amaryllis seemed to have been pruned back more severely or more  recently than the other two. I kept all three bulbs together in our living space which is the warmest part of the house.

Amaryllis on January 19

Amaryllis on January 19

As time passed the three bulbs showed various rates of growth, most especially Athene. If you look closely you can see that I marked her pot with a little W in expectation of a white flower. That bulb never produced any foliage but did send up two bud shoots, one of which began to open a couple of days ago.  We will let the mis-labelling pass. That has happened often enough in the garden, indoors and out. It is the rates of growth that amaze me.  One bulb has produced two bud shoots with  one blooming; one has produced foliage and two bud shoots, one of which is beginning to open; and the third produced foliage and two bud shoots of very different heights.

Is there a solution to my amaryllis mystery?  Is it just c’est la vie? or is there a reason? All three bulbs had exactly the same care and conditions, although we have to assume kind of difference in the striped bulb now blooming.  Any ideas?

Snowflakes and Photographer

Snowflakes

Snowflakes

Snowflakes on the car window early this frigid morning.  And the photographer’s hands.

Snowflake Bentley will tell you more about snowflakes and photographing snowflakes. Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin tells the wonderful story about a Vermont boy born in 1865 who loved snowflakes and learned how to photograph them.

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

All Kinds of Books for the Reading Season on Wordless Wednesday

Books in the Great Room

Books in the Great Room

Where do you keep your books for the reading season that follows the delightful chaos of the holidays? I will show you my bookshelves – or at least portions of the ranks of bookshelves in my house. There are about 44 feet of bookshelves in the Great Room. This section includes nature refernce books, mysteries, essays and cookbooks and books on cooking.

Cookbooks by the dining table

Cookbooks by the dining table

This array of cookbooks is next to the dining table that also serves as a worktable. This is probably the most used collection of cookbooks in the house.

more cookbooks with an emphasis on baking

More cookbooks, with an emphasis on baking

When we remodeled the kitchen a couple of years ago I gained shelf space for more cookbooks (and the dictionary which must always be at the ready for family ‘discussions’) with an emphasis on baking.

books in the downstairs sitting room

Books in the downstairs sitting room

This is just one section of bookshelves in the sitting room – and you can see it hold more than books. Culinary liquers that can’t fit in the kitchen and Christmas is not quite over at our house which accounts for gifts waiting for more chaos.

books in the bedroom

Bookshelves in the bedroom

A motley collection of books lives in the bedroom – fiction, essays, mysteries, and non-fiction.

garden books in the office

Garden books in the office

My husband and I share a tiny ‘office’ under the eaves, but the books are all ‘mine.’The garden books in this section of office bookshelves have to share with reams of paper, envelopes, toner, etc.

Ever since I learned to read, winter has been a welcomed Reading Season. Where do you keep your books for the reading season? For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

View From the Bedroom Window – January 1, 2015

view from the bedroom window

View from the bedroom window

The view from the bedroom window on January 1, 2015 is sunny and frigid. 16 degrees this morning. What view from the window will  I be enjoying on January 1, 2016?  Only time will tell

My Indoor Rosemary

Rosemary plants indoors

Rosemary plants indoors

I have two rosemary plants that grow outdoors during the summer, and then come indoors for the winter. The plant on the left is a prostrate rosemary, bought in error when I was in a hurry. I grew it outdoors that first season adn then potted it in this handsome redware container. I did not put it in the ground again for no reason other than inertia. The plant still lives and I have been known to harvest a few sprigs from time to time. It has even produced lovely blue flowers, but it is not really a happy plant.

Even though it was looking sad this past summer, I still didn’t put it in t he ground, but I did buy a small regular rosemary plant at the garden center. I planted that and it thrived in my herb bed all summer. In the fall I potted it up, using regular potting soil, and brought it in the house. First, I brought both plants into the Great Room, a bright (south and west windows) room that is not heated, to help the plants make a transition to an indoor environment.

Later I brought the plants upstairs to a guest room, with south and east windows, which is also very cool. The thermostat is set for 55 degrees at night (I require  a cold bedroom) and stays cool during the day because I do most of my living downstairs – near the woodstove.  I can tell you the worm farm in that guest room are not all that happy, but the rosemaries do fine.

I have brought rosemary plants indoors over many years. Originally, thinking of rosemary as a mediterranean  plant thriving in dry contitions, I tended to underwater. I think it is a good idea to be aware of one’s tendencies. Underwatering kept the rosemary from making it through the winter. I now water rosemary much as I would any houseplant, not allowing it to dry out completely. I’ve learned that my cool indoor climate allows for a once or twice a week watering.

I think I can promise that my prostrate  rosemary will finally go in the ground in the spring. I cannot be so cruel to keep it in a pot for yet another summer. I doubt that it would survive.

The Last Christmas in Heath?

 

Last Christmas in Heath

Last Christmas in Heath?

The decision has been made. This is our last Christmas in Heath. Of course, life being what it is, nothing is certain, but we are looking for a house in Greenfield where we will celebrate Christmas 2015.

Decisions like this are not lightly made, but for the past couple of years we have been thinking the time has come to be 45 minutes closer to our children, and where we will not have to hop in the car for every little errand. Henry and I met in Greenfield in 1971 when the children and I lived on Grinnell Street; a romantic aura still clings to the town for me.

It is the nature of days to change. Every year, season and day is different. Weathermen keep records of change and try to predict the next change, but change is the constant. Holding the thought and hope that we will be in a new nest by next Christmas, every moment now here in Heath in the Last. This is the last December 21 in Heath. This is the last view through the window where we look out over our garden and landscape. On December 22 the view will have changed. The light will have shifted, the snow will be melting. It will be different.

There is nothing like knowledge of imminent change to make one pay attention to the moment. Quotidian pleasures like the morning cup of coffee by the woodstove with my book for an hour are more intensely felt because their duration is now limited. Every day errands, to the transfer station, the library or down to Avery’s Store take me over and down the hills, through beautiful snowy woods, and past tumbling streams. I have watched the trees grow, and watched them bend and break in storms. With every change I have come to appreciate and love this landscape more and more every year.

Though I love my domestic landscape, and the landscape of Heath I look forward to the move to Greenfield with happy anticipation. I have lived long enough and in enough different places to know that each holds its pleasures, as well as its particular drawbacks. I was born and lived in New York City for part of my childhood, but part of my childhood was spent on a dairy farm on the shores of Lake Champlain. I have lived in other small towns, and in busy suburbs. With Henry I lived in Maine, then in his ancestral apartment in Manhattan. Together we found our dream home in Heath, but left for brief adventures in Beijing. I have been happy (most of the time) in every one of those apartments and houses.  I have been transplanted before.

I see change not only as inevitable, but as a good thing, especially when we are choosing this change and not waiting for circumstances to force change upon us.

One Christmas tradition we established here in Heath is cutting our Christmas tree from our own land. The wild choices were not always beautiful so when we planted our snowbreak we also planted a number of balsams. Over time we refreshed this planting with more balsams, but even these have all been harvested. This Christmas we thought we might have to buy a Christmas tree, but we could not break tradition. If this was our very last Christmas at the End of the Road we needed to find own tree.

So we booted up, gathered the loppers and saw and set out across the field. My husband was quite sure he had seen a suitable tree at the edge of the western woodland.

I doubted his memory. I thought there are only pines in that woodland, not suitable Christmas trees. I kept my thoughts to myself as we tramped across the frozen snow and we did find the tree Henry remembered. It would have been suitable, but it was broken and bowed down by the recent snow and ice storm.

What to do? Then I looked into a nearby pine thicket and thought I saw a balsam. Henry quickly affirmed that it was a balsam, perfectly suitable. In fact, it is one of the best trees we have ever harvested for our Christmas. Some were small, one was very prickery, one had branches only on one side, and some seemed to limp with a bend in the trunk. This tree is perfect for our last Heathan Christmas.

Family traditions are important, but when circumstances change a tradition might have to shift a little bit. Will we decide to visit a tree farm next year and chop down a tree there? Or will we go to the open air market and choose one of those trees? Either way, the tree will be set up where we can admire it every evening, colored lights will be strung and ornaments recounting the history of our years together will be hung.

We put down roots when we moved to Heath in 1979. Our life grew rich and we enjoyed the fruits of many friendships, which will continue. Our life here has reached maturity and we can feel the winds of change blowing seeds of that maturity down to Greenfield, to a new, smaller garden to take root where we can flourish again.

In the meantime, we will virtually join you and the celebration around your Christmas tree, tall or small, and wish you every holiday joy. Merry Christmas.

Between the Rows   December 20, 2014

Gifts for the Gardener – still time to shop

Gifts for the Gardener begin at the garden center

Gifts for the Gardener begin at the garden center

I have never thought it very hard to find gifts for the gardener. After all, what does a gift say? I love you? I understand you? I want you to enjoy your days? I want your dreams to come true? I share your passion and I know just what you need?

No matter what your message there are garden centers and other kinds of shops that have just the gifts to convey these messages to the gardener in your life. I made the rounds of some of these stores and this is what I found. The Shelburne Farm and Garden Center has colorful Dramm long armed five liter watering cans ($30), and equally colorful one gallon Gardman watering cans ($18). A rolling Saucer Caddy ($40) holds more appeal for me as I get older. My potted plants get bigger every year and moving them a bigger chore. These gifts say ‘Lets have some fun in the garden, but let’s not strain ourselves. I want you in one piece at the end of a gardening day.”

SF&G also has a nice array of gloves. I used to pride myself on not using gloves, but after years of dirty nails and dry calluses I decided gloves are a Good Thing. Of course, gloves like Cool MUD gloves ($10) with water repellent nitrile have gotten lighter, more comfortable and breathable. One style of Women’s Work gloves is flowery and has nice long gauntlets ($20). When I got to the Greenfield Farmer’s Cooperative on High Street I found they had a whole aisle of gloves. And a lot more besides. Gloves are a consumable; they wear out and need to be replaced from time. A gift of gloves says “Don’t worry. Dig in. There is always another pair. Better the gloves get ugly than your lovely hands.”

There are fewer flowers in the winter, but SF&G has bags and bags of bird seed and a whole array of bird feeders. Attract the birds and you will be able to enjoy these flowers of the air. I met a neighbor there and she expressed her pleasure at finding that birds love safflower seeds, but squirrels don’t. Good information.

Blue Pots at the Greenfield Farmers Coop

Blue Pots at the Greenfield Farmers Coop

Greenfield Farmer’s Coop has a fabulous array of Burley Clay pots in sizes from about one cup ($7) to large handsome pots that can hold a striking flower arrangement that is a work of art or even a small tree ($60) These pots come in lovely blue, and subtle shades of green or brown. They also have an array of black metal trellises, perfect for supporting ornamental vines in the garden. Prices range from $25-$40. They say “Isn’t it fun to have plants grow up and add a new dimension to the garden?”

Grow Bags are another way to have fun and continue the vegetable garden indoors during the winter. The Farmers Coop has several Grow Bags ($7-$15) that include coconut coir instead of potting soil, but you will need your own seeds (any left from the summer?), a liquid fertilizer and good light. I think these are great for growing herbs and greens like lettuces. You know your beloved just can’t stop wanting really local food.

Christmas platter at Stillwater Porcelain

Christmas platter at Stillwater Porcelain

On the other hand, sometimes you want to stop thinking about tools and chores. Sometimes you just want to surround yourself with the images of flowers and nature while carrying on in your non-gardening life. I stopped in at Stillwater Porcelain in ShelburneFalls where Pat Pyott has a unique way of creating ornamental tiles, with realistic images of Queen Anne’s Lace, autumn leaves, herbs, an evergreen branch. There are functional pieces like a variety of plates to tiles that surround a mirror. Prices range from $15 for lovely tree ornaments to $218 for a platter that will hold the roasted holiday beast. “I know you want to be surrounded by nature in every room,” these gifts say.

J.H. Sherburne embroidered cases

J.H. Sherburne embroidered cases

Just a little further down State Street is J.H. Sherburne’s shop. Jo-Anne has garden ornaments, and lovely botanical jewelry. I could not resist the gold and silver bulb complete with leaf shoots and roots that provided a space for a sprig of leaf or flower. I am not really a jewelry person, but I found this absolutely irresistible. She also has a collection of brightly embroidered Guatemalan cases, from luggage ($187) to a change purse ($7). I don’t have a cellphone (no service in Heath) but if I did I would love a flowered cellphone case ($14). I like the juxtaposition of technology and a flower garden.

Portrait by J.H. Sherburne

Portrait by J.H. Sherburne

Jo-Anne is also a fine artist and just think what a gift a portrait of the beloved would be, set among the colors of the garden. Full information about how that process works is on her website.

Gift certificates carry all sorts of messages. They can say, “I know you, and I love you and your garden, and while I have no idea what you want or need, I want you to have it.” This message is often sent to experienced gardeners who can be very particular and opinionated about tools or plants. A gift certificate is a gift of anticipation, of time for thought and the delight in picking out just the item you have been longing for. There are times when a gift certificate is the perfect gift. What about a gift certificate to OESCO where fine tools are found in Ashfield? The Greenfield Farmers Coop, the Shelburne Farm and GardenCenter, JH Sherburne and Stillwater Porcelain also have perfect gift certificates.

Between  the Rows   December 13, 2014

A Study in Silver – Iced Birch on Wordless Wednesday

A study in silver - ice encrusted birch

A study in silver – ice encrusted birch

Poetry doesn’t have much good to say about ice – but here it creates a study in silver. I am glad to sit by the cheerful fire and admire the  beauty of the ice through the window.

Icy landscape

Icy landscape

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Cultivating Garden Style

Cultivating Garden Style

You still have a chance to enter the Give Away of Rochelle Greayer’s Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired ideas and practical advice to unleash your garden personality by leaving a comment here. Rochelle combines creative design with practical advice about growing plants and some great DIY ideas. This book is a perfect gift to give yourself – or to any gardener on your gift list. Thank you Timber Press, and Rochelle, for helping me celebrate 7 years of blogging here at the commonweeder. IN ADDITION, I am Giving Away a copy of my own book, The Roses at the End of the Road, about life in very small rural town among the roses.  Don’t forget to leave a comment here. You could be a winner – twice over.

 

Cultivating Garden Style - one of my favorite gardens.

Cultivating Garden Style – one of my favorite gardens.

Stone, Water, Earth and Sky – A Woodland Walk

Moss on the Piazza

Moss on the Piazza

The moss on the piazza in front of  the house begins to turn lush and green as we begin the walk into winter. I  went on a woodland walk  to see if I could find any more moss to photograph, but I found much more.

Moss on the roadside

Moss on the roadside

I found moss on one side of the road

Moss

Moss

and on the other, wetter, side of the road.

Moss on log

Moss on log

I found moss on a rotting log,

Rivulet

Rivulet

I also saw a rivulet running cheerfully through the woods,

Old stone wall

Old stone wall

and old stone walls meander through the woods, marking forgotten fields.

Stones

Stones

Stones made a complicated pattern.

Lichens on a tree

Lichens on a tree

Lichens made patterns on the tree bark..

Sun shining through the evergreen woods

Sun shining through the evergreen woods

Sun shone through the evergreens

Woodland Sky

Woodland Sky

and turned the sky blue behind the birches. Stone, water, earth and sky.

This was my woodland walk in Heath on Wordless Wednesday. For more click here.

Cold and Ice on Wordless Wednesday

View from the Bedroom Window  November 17, 2014

View from the Bedroom Window November 17, 2014

By the time we had ice on the trees and landscape we had already had our first snowfall – one and a half inches of the white stuff. But that weather all felt like a heat wave. This morning the temperature was a record breaking 16 degrees! AND the Farmer’s Almanac predicts a  much colder winter in our part of the world!  The firewood is almost all stacked.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.