Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Mothers Day Outing to Monticello

 Our Mothers Day trip to Monticello, beloved home of the third President of the USA, Thomas Jefferson, took place a week late. Nevertheless, the gardens were magnificent so if you are not into photographs of gardens you might as well quit now.

 From the west lawn, Jefferson's favorite aspect of his home, you get an early glimpse of the bountiful display currently made by the larkspur and poppies. I have to assume they self-seed as they are plentiful throughout the entire flower and vegetable garden areas just now.
 Glorious color to set off the carefully designed building.
 These are also poppies but not a type I have seen before. Check out the leaves. Do you know what they are?
 This one bloom was almost too perfect to be natural don't you think? Poppies are an enduring love of mine; I collect patterns to make wallquilts featuring them and regard them as an icon of my heritage because of my dad's service in WWII and my grandpop's service in WWI.
We went on  the tour inside the house but no photographs are allowed. Later we went on the garden tour and that was the favorite part of our outing. This view is from the vegetable garden (yes, those poppies are everywhere!) looking towards the textile shops which are currently closed for refurbishment.

Each year Jefferson had a competition with his next door neighbor to see who could have the first peas of the season. Apparently the neighbor usually won. Many different varieties of peas are grown in the huge vegetable garden of today. We had to be strong to resist the desire to pluck just one of these pods to try them. Fresh peas picked straight from the garden and immediately eaten bring back memories of visiting my grandpop's garden when I was a child and thought this was a great treat.

More poppies and larkspur in the vegetable garden area looking up towards the storehouse for iron.
In case you thought there wasn't actually a vegetable garden...here's a more distant view. Jefferson had this small pavilion built so he could go sit and enjoy the views of his estate. We learned that he like to sit in the pavilion in the early evening.
 The west lawn is bordered with a  winding walk bordered on both sides for much of the way by flower beds. The gardeners of today try to use the same methods that were employed in Jefferson's time and here we see the use of twigs to support the sweet peas. You'll note the same method was used for the edible peas in the vegetable garden. And, correct me if I am wrong, the foxgloves in the foreground are making a pretty sight.
 I was reminded of flowers I have had in previous gardens many times during the visit. The rose campions in the foreground grew well in my garden in New Jersey and seem to like the climate up here on the small mountain outside Charlottesville. I wonder how they would fare in the humidity of my Northern Virginia garden?
 Tucked away in a corner area out of sight of the buildings is Jefferson's grave and the family cemetery. This is still a family cemetery in use by Jefferson's descendants and is enclosed, for privacy, in a tall metal fence.
I had planned to end your tour at the cemetery but the beauty of these simple flowers so captivated me I had to give you just one more shot.

It was a lovely outing despite the somewhat grey sky and cooler temperature. Back home I am full of disdain for the weeds which are currently flourishing in my own garden and very eager to get out there, weed, tidy and plant flowers for the summer. But the weather has other ideas and rainy days are forecast for the next few days. Perhaps there's time to plan and go out and see if I can source some rose campion and/or poppies.

How grows your garden?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

From My Spring Garden

 The Easter bunny made an advance visit around the same time as the bluebells on April 12. My garden must be in a cold spot as I notice my blooms are several days behind others in the area.
 The blue muscari looked good this year and they are echoed in color by the backup of the bluebells.
 Continuing the blue theme I wondered why this chickadee was clinging to the front of the bird house. It never did tell me why but it hung there for several minutes.
 By April 17 the dogwoods were looking pretty and there was a smattering of blue blooms from the vinca groundcover below.
 Like the cherry trees, the dogwood blossoms seem to change color somewhat as they age.
 The early morning sun cutting through the backyard does make for pretty views. The strong wind we have had for much of the month makes it hard to get good clear photos. Oh well.
 Lilac season in my back garden began on the 27th. Last season we pruned the lilac out front but I guess we did it too late because it had no blooms at all this season.
 Following close on the heels of the lilac blooms was the purple clematis out front.
 It has a glorious display this year.
 This one is a different sort of periwinkle (vinca) than the groundcover under the dogwoods.
 The humble volunteer daisies are allowed in my garden.
Rounding out the month was another clematis.

And there you have it - a brief look at my April garden.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Day Out in Cherry Blossom Season

Here in the nation's Capitol area one of the big events is the blooming of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin. This is an event laid on for us by Mother Nature and it is always a surprise as to the timing. For 2017 we had a warm February and early March and then , just as the buds were reaching maturity, we had a March snow event. This threw all predictions of peak cherry blossom out the window.

 On Sunday we took a walk through the major cherry blossom area pausing to look at many of the major monuments of Washington DC. The cold weather in the week of March 13 had clearly had an impact on the cherry blossom buds. As you can see above it was a hit or miss result but the "hits" were as lovely as ever.
 We rode the Metro into DC and got off at Smithsonian station and headed down towards the Tidal Basin. One of our early stops afforded us this wonderful view across the Basin and up the hill on the other side with a great view of the Robert E Lee Memorial within the grounds of the Arlington National Cemetery. The area was alive with visitors intent on making the most of their visit...and wasn't it special if you could take a swan boat out onto the basin and pedal round for a time?
 The Jefferson Memorial is a major focus on any trip to the Tidal Basin area. In cherry blossom season an outing here on the weekend is as much about the people you encounter as it is about the cherry blossoms. People are everywhere enjoying the season and moments to capture the beauty of the blossoms have to be carefully sought if they are not to include people in the photographs.
 Those swan boats captured my attention because I do not recall seeing them in earlier seasons. When we walked by the are where the paddle boats for hire are lined up I was entranced by the vision of the sparkling blue boats waiting to go out on the water watched over by one lone swan.
 People watching becomes a major occupation of the day. Cameras (ranging from seriously big cameras to the more likely cellphone selfie approach) are everywhere and I always notice the people who have consciously chosen their apparel to fit the background. Much less common is those who have their hair match the cherry blossom color theme!
 Walking round the Tidal Basin affords many different views and sometimes a well known building will seemingly pop up when you least expect it. e.g. I could have walked right by this spot and not noticed the view of the Capitol if my companion, number one son, had not pointed it out to me.
On the Potomac River side of the basin the crowds seemed to be not as dense. Maybe that was because the sidewalks are much more narrow and the trees are closer to the waters edge. At one point I saw a fellow who was seemingly walking on water; as we got closer it became apparent that it must have been high tide and the water had covered over the sidewalk for a short distance.
 Almost to the end of our walk alongside the water I paused to capture this moment when the Washington Monument was reflecting in the water. But the real question is - just what is that clock tower to the left of the monument?
Turning away from the Basin we got into the serious monument zone. The FDR Memorial covers a very large area and is not much more than 15-20' high so it is hard to get a good photo when the crowds are large. But the newer Martin Luther King Jr Memorial is a massive statement and hard to miss.
 The Korean War Memorial is very poignant with the seemingly life sized portrayal of the American GI's walking through the undergrowth.
 Did you know there is an Einstein Memorial in Washington DC? It is right there on Constitution Avenue in front of the National Academy of Sciences. A major piece of bronze, Einstein measures 21' from the top of his head to the tip of his right foot. Visitors are encouraged to send their "photos with Albert" to instagram and the likes so it was difficult to catch Albert alone.
 By the time we reached this bay of Capital Bikeshare bicycles, adjacent to Albert on Constitution Ave, I was wondering if I would have been able to pedal my way round the route we had walked and felt any less tired. Clearly some people had decided to use this option. But on we walked.
We headed up hill on 23rd Street with the Foggy Bottom Station as our destination. Passing this interesting building, the Pan American Health Organization, had us pause once more to admire the architecture; a circular building with a concrete lattice facade backed up by a taller building with a mostly glazed exterior.
Finally we walked through the campus of the George Washington University on our way to the metro station to carry us back to Virginia.

A great day out!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

We Interrupted the Spring Preview Program to Bring

 Winter!. It finally arrived here on March 14 with the first measurable snow for the winter season.
I thought I might give you a before, during and after to our brush with winter.
 On March 9 the forsythia was out in bloom and branches cut to bring inside needed no forcing.
 Daffodils had begun to bloom in various locations in my garden. This bunch was gathered to bring indoors on March 10 because the weather forecast was for below freezing for several days.
 The weather forecasters were whipping us all into a frenzy with seemingly days of reporting that the storm was on its way and would bring us anywhere from 8" to 14" of snow. Here it was finally beginning to fall around sundown on Monday March 13.
 In preparing for the big storm I felt so sorry for my cherry trees that looked as though they were about to burst forth into full spring bloom. The low temperatures would not be kind to them. I decided to cut a small branch and bring it inside to see if it could be "forced" as forsythia regularly is. As you can see, Tuesday morning required  the snow shoveling crew. In reality we got only about 3" of snow but it was wet, heavy and nasty to shovel. That one little branch from the cherry tree gave us a glimpse of spring and kept our spirits up.
 Once the falling snow stopped I open windows or doors and stepped briefly out to record a few images.
 I had picked daffodils from this location only five days previous.
 As you can see spring had been well on its way and the under-story plants in the woods were already wearing their new green leaves.
 The twig picked in bud on the 13th had opened up to the white blooms by the 17th.
 And, by the 20th that same branch had taken on the mature pink hue.
 Today, the 22nd, is a bright, sunny, blustery day. Those daffodils are once more blooming.
 The cherry tree out front finally had blossoms open up this morning. But as you can see some of the buds have been impacted by the cold weather and will likely not bloom at all.
Nature does give us hope though. Today I found the first buds on the bluebells.You can see that the leaves have been somewhat burnt of the cold winds but the buds are there despite that.

Since the Spring Equinox was this past Monday, March 20 I do so hope we have only spring ahead of us. I was amused to read someone's line wondering if March came in like a lion and out like a lamb or if it was the other way round. Instead, the writer commented, March is more like a kangaroo this year!