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.

September 22, 2017

Assateague in September

     Several weeks ago my wife and I attended a family wedding on the Eastern Shore, and at the last minute of packing I decided to throw my bike into the back of the truck. The wedding was not until late afternoon, so I headed up to Chincoteague and Assateague Islands to ride their bike trails. I always find it beautiful there, and I always leave feeling better than when I arrived. However, Assateague is changing. Recent storms have seriously eroded the beach, and a combination of erosion, sea level rise, increased exposure to salinity, and insects are turning the islands stands of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) into ghost forests.
Assateague with Dead Pines (3)

Assateague with Dead Pines (2)

Assateague Marsh with Great Heron (1)

Assateague Beach 2

Assateague Beach

Assateague (2)

Aralia spinosa (Devil's walking stick)

Solidago (Goldenrod) (1)

Solidago (Goldenrod) with Spicebush Swallowtail (2)

Agalinis maritima (Salt Marsh False Foxglove)

Heterotheca subaxillaris (Camphorweed) (2)

Kosteletzkya virginica (Seashore Mallow)

Snapping Turtle

     If you would like to find out more about Assateague, click here, and here is link to a post I wrote a couple of years ago on a similar trip. 

April 4, 2017

Early Spring at Eyre Hall

     This past week I crossed the bay to speak to a group of garden club ladies on the Eastern Shore. On the way back to Norfolk I decided to visit the gardens at Eyre Hall, especially since this was one of those rare trips to the Shore when I was unencumbered by either disinterested, impatient family members, or dogs suffering from a loud case of separation anxiety. I have been to the gardens about 4 times now, but never at this time of year. As I mentioned in my first post about Eyre Hall "The first members of the Eyre family settled here beside Cherrystone Creek in the 1660's, and about 100 years later, construction began on what was to become the family seat. Around 1800 a parterre garden was planted behind the house, and it is considered the oldest continually maintained ornamental garden in the state, and one of the oldest in the country. Today Eyre Hall is still occupied by descendants of the same family, and they graciously open the garden to the public without charge, and without appointment."

     Further south, the roads to old plantations were traditionally lined with live oaks, but in Tidewater it is done with eastern red cedar, and there is a about a mile of the trees lining the road to Eyre Hall.
Eyre Hall (2)

Eyre Hall (4)

     By an outbuilding, a large camellia was still in bloom. Overhead in an ancient Magnolia grandiflora a noisy flock of grackles seemed untroubled by my presence.
Eyre Hall - Camellia

Eyre Hall - Camellia (3)

     The garden is a series of large boxwood parterres separated from the surrounding fields by a fence of brick and wood. Inside the parterres, each is planted somewhat differently, but they all smell overwhelming of box. Overhead are more magnolias, and old crapemyrtles. Along one edge of the garden are the ruins of an orangery, and next to it the family cemetery.
Eyre Hall (13)

Eyre Hall (10)

Eyre Hall - Leucojum (2)

Eyre Hall - Artichoke

Eyre Hall (39)

Eyre Hall (60)

Eyre Hall (35)

Eyre Hall (28)

Eyre Hall (29)

Eyre Hall (25)

Eyre Hall - Orangery Ruins (6)

Eyre Hall - Orangery Ruins (3)

Eyre Hall - Cemetery

Eyre Hall - Orangery Ruins (1)

Eyre Hall - Orangery Ruins (2)

     The fence pictured in the previous photo and in the following is in the front of the house. Underneath the crapemyrtles are planted nothing but peonies, and the bed is full. I should come back later when they are blooming. Forsythia was finishing up beyond.
Eyre Hall (22)

Eyre Hall - Forsythia

     The axes (plural of axis - I had to google it) of the parterre garden line up with various windows and doors from the house. One axis goes all the way through the garden, uninterrupted, out the back gate, through a wide daffodil-lined woodland walk, and ends at Eyreville Creek. The woods on either side of the walk start off semi-cultivated and quickly go wild. One area under numerous hackberry trees had been completely overrun with Vinca major. At the waters edge escaped, but well behaved Muscari were blooming near a carpet of moss. Gulls, herons, and egrets created the soundtrack.
Eyre Hall (41)

Eyre Hall - Woodland Walk (2)

Eyre Hall - Vinca and Celtis (1)

Eyre Hall - Woodland Walk (3)

Eyre Hall - Eyreville Creek (1)

Eyre Hall - Moss by Eyreville Creek (2)

     Eyre Hall is just off of busy Route 13, but far enough from the main road that you may lose track of time or even what year it is.

April 1, 2017


How leisurely the cherry
blossoms bloom this year, unhurried,
by their doom

Kinu, 1817

Prunus x yedoensis Prunus x yedoensis 3 Prunus x yedoensis 2

March 26, 2017

2017 Winter Walk-Off Wrap-Up

     For this year's Winter Walk-Off I had 9 hardy souls brave raw cold winds, blinding snow, treacherous ice, and hungry wolves. In reality only one post had snow, though several were soggy and wet; there were no wolves, but several dogs walked; and there were also snakes, chickens, and several other birds.

#1 - Janet in South Carolina
Janet has walked with me each year of my Walk-Off, which I really appreciate. She is also only one of two entrants this year who I have actually met in person. Her walk took place around her Upcountry South Carolina neighborhood, where winter's grip was loose this year, and spring was making its presence known through early blooms, singing frogs, and snakes looking for frogs. In tow was her husband and dogs.

Wachapreague, Virginia (9)

#2 - Cynthia in Florida
Cynthia's walk was in her Florida Panhandle neighborhood, which looks a lot like April here in my part of Virginia. The Southern Indica azaleas were in full bloom, as were camellias, both growing under Spanish moss-draped live oaks. It was not all pretty pictures though. There was a tired American flag that needs to be disposed of properly, and some bad pruning going on.

Wachapreague, Virginia (4)

#3 - Sarah in Maine, and England
This post brought us a comparison of winter walks in Maine and England. Sarah's family has a tradition of a beach walk each New Year's. It looked quite cold, and was the only post to include any snow, but they had fun, as did the dog. Being someone who hates winter, I'd normally say that only one post with the white stuff is a good thing, but with all of the global weather weirdness I am apt to think otherwise. She follows her Maine walk by strolling through University Parks near Oxford, England; crocus and snowdrops blooming at her feet.

Wachapreague, Virginia (1)

#4 - Hoover Boo in California
Hoover Boo and her dogs have participated in my Walk-Off for several years, and landscapes responding to drought are a big part of her previous posts. However, this year there has had plenty of rain in her world, perhaps too much. Despite the extra water, it seems that gardeners and landscapers are making more sensible plant choices for dry-climate areas. Hoover Boo leads us to a new landscape where many drought tolerant plants have been used, as has a whole lot of stone.

Wachapreague, Virginia (6)

#5 - Peter in Tacoma, Washington
I always look forward to Peter's walks. I think he appreciates architecture as much as I do. This year he starts by showing us an old Elks Lodge, which if all goes well, will be restored and converted into a hotel. Peter's photos make we wonder why his city was able to hang on to so many of it old buildings, while my city thought it necessary to raze so many.

Wachapreague, Virginia (11)

#6 - Loree in Portland, Oregon
This was another architecture-heavy post, but I am fine with that. Largely through Loree's posts, as well as those of other Portland area bloggers, I really would like to visit this city. On her walk she takes us downtown where several building styles can be seen, some I like more than others. However, this is the Danger Garden, so there are many plants as well.

Oyster, Virginia (1)

#7 - Philip in Vancouver, Washington
Although Philip's post didn't show any snow or ice, the winter there was very rough, and especially wet. However, on a walk near his home, spring was showing a few colorful signs that it was near. Philip headed towards Vancouver Lake Park, which looked as if the lake was occupying new real estate. Philip is the other entrant I have met in person. Hopefully I will be able to meet more of my fellow bloggers at some point.

Oyster, Virginia (2)

#8 - Michelle in Chippenham, England
As a bit of an anglophile, I was happy to receive another entry from England. Michelle's walk took place after a severe storm named Doris had hit the country. With all the changes in global weather, I think we should stop giving storms nice names like Doris. Anyway, Michelle shows us that spring is well on its way in Chippenham, with many things in bloom.

Oyster, Virginia (9)

#9 - Beth in Wisconsin
In past years when Beth has walked near her Wisconsin home, the landscape was white with winter. This year it just looks very wet and soggy. She walked at a nearby park that appears to me to have been left beautifully natural. Among the brown trees and tan meadows are little pops of green, and lots of red coming from the red twig dogwoods.

Oyster, Virginia (8)

Thank you everyone who participated, and to all who took the time to join vicariously!

Now on to the rich swag. With help from a clinically efficient random number generator, this year's winners have been selected. Sarah will receive a $25 gift certificate to Brent and Becky's Bulbs, and Michelle will receive an assortment of botanically themed cards that my wife creates. I will soon be contacting the winners for mailing addresses.

(The photos in this post were taken last Sunday on our way home from my parent's on Virginia's Eastern Shore. In the small seaside towns of Wachapreague and Oyster, crab pots readied near the docks are a certain sign that spring is here. The ferris wheel, however, will have to wait one more season.)