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Lunch Break

From apples to zinnias: visitors can choose from a wide variety of tasty treats in my garden this week.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit/ Scarlet Emperor Greens
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird/Scarlet Emperor Bean Blossoms
Eastern Chipmunk/Acorns
Downy Woodpecker/Baldwin Apple
Monarch Butterfly/ California Giant Zinnia

Painted (Turtle) Portrait Redux

Out with the old, and in with the new: a turtle sheds its shell.

Last June, I photographed a turtle on this exact log at Mass Audubon Wachusett Meadow. Yesterday, the turtle I saw there was shedding its shell. As a turtle grows larger, the outer portion of the shell, called the scutes, must fall off to make way for the newer, larger scutes.

Heron Celebration With Bonuses

Statuary from a local yard sale celebrates the recent surprising visit of a Great Blue Heron to our Zen garden.

A few weeks ago, a Great Blue Heron graced our Zen garden for a few moments before flying into the nearby woods. We began hunting for a heron statue to commemorate that event.
Serendipitously, a friend spied a pair of small heron statues at a yard sale shortly after the extraordinary visit.
In pride of place, the first heron now stands patiently in the “reeds” of the white stone river .
The second heron found a home in the zinnia garden.
As another bonus, a pair of wandering ducks was also found at the sale.
They are energetic and curious.
We never know where the ducks will wander. Hurrah for yard sales!

Iridescence

Glistening Ruby-throated hummingbirds will be heading south for the winter soon.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary iridescence is:

1 : a lustrous rainbowlike play of color caused by differential refraction of light waves (as from an oil slick, soap bubble, or fish scales) that tends to change as the angle of view changes
2 : a lustrous or attractive quality or effect
The Ruby-throated hummingbird is found throughout Massachusetts during the warm months. This female paused on the branch of a nearby apple tree recently, providing me with a close-up of her luminous feathers.

Meadow Magic Hour

Late August meadows in New England foretell the bold autumn tree colors yet to come.

On a late August evening, Wachusett Meadow in Princeton is awash in gold tones and green shadows. The top of the boathouse rises up mysteriously behind tall wildflowers.
Looking across the stone wall to the North Meadow, raking light accentuates patches of green mown grass that contrast with alternating waves of white asters and goldenrod.
In storybook fashion, a shady path descends into the South Meadow.
Autumnal reds and yellows carpet the landscape.
Corridors of Joe Pye Weed capture the eye.
Wild asters surprise with their spiky yellow globes.
Unsurprisingly, I am not alone in admiring this magical habitat.

Digging for Gold

How fortunate that many of nature’s treasures are edible.

What’s in the bag?
Let’s see. . .
Looks promising. . .
Keep digging. . .
All is revealed!
Edible treasure:
Yukon Gold potatoes!

Now and Then

The transformation of a garden in just three months is delightful to consider.

Even though it’s been a summer of extreme weather here in Central Massachusetts, most parts of the garden have thrived. Below, recent pictures are paired with those from late May, when the garden was first planted.

The pole beans are luxurious. The squash is holding its own, despite not being in full sun and hosting a mole that samples ground level fruits nightly.
Squash seedlings were barely visible in late May. Beans had yet to sprout.

Hard working Scarlet Emperor beans are on double duty attracting hummingbirds with jewel-like red blossoms and providing a screen from the road beyond. Additionally, the beans are tasty if picked when they are small.
The beans were planted in high planters as protection from hungry rabbits. Fortunately, rabbits have been few and far between during the past weeks.
The “Christmas tree” look of the heirloom Boston Pickling cucumber lends visual interest to the garden with its height and large leaves. A prolific grower, it is sprawling out on the ground in back of the “tree” as well.
Growing cucumbers vertically on bamboo canes makes harvesting produce much easier.
Eggplants that are ready to harvest are surrounded by marigolds for support. The plants cover the blue bucket they are growing in.
Marigold seedlings are barely visible in this picture. They bloomed so prolifically around the eggplant, I had to remove one to give the eggplant more room.
Kale has been continually harvested throughout the summer. Nasturtium and marigolds make good companion plants, as well as surrounding it with spots of edible color.
Lettuce (that had not germinated when this photograph was taken) was planted in between the kale. The kale provided shade for the lettuce during the hot July days.

Apple Art

Apple leaves that had fallen on a white table were the inspiration for this still life.

Apple leaves that fell from my Baldwin apple tree onto a white table inspired me to add garden flowers and windfall apples to create this still life.
Keeping the leaves exactly where they had fallen, I experimented with the addition of a small garden bouquet of freshly picked flowers.
Windfall apples added contrast in keeping with the theme.
A gravel “frame” was a simple addition.
Baldwin apples trees usually bear fruit every other year, but this will be the second year in a row I am looking forward to harvesting Baldwins for applesauce, muffins, pie and other delights.
Central Massachusetts holds a special affinity for apples, as Johnny Appleseed was born in Leominster, Massachusetts.
Close-up photography highlights different aspects of the artwork.
The Baldwin apple is one of New England’s oldest, and was first discovered in Massachusetts.
Apple season is coming soon to Central Massachusetts!

Monarch of the Meadow

Increased monarch butterfly activity is a sign of fall at Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary.

This thoughtfully placed bench at Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary is a perfect place to sit and contemplate monarch butterflies.
The North and South Meadows are ablaze with goldenrod in the late summer. Goldenrod is an important food source for monarchs.
The majestic monarch has a wingspan of three to four inches.
In addition to goldenrod, adult monarchs feed on a wide variety of nectar bearing flowers in preparation for their migration to Mexico.
With their striking orange and black coloring, monarchs are one of the most easily recognized butterflies in North America.
The goldenrod this monarch is feeding on does not cause allergies in humans. Ragweed, which blooms at the same time, is the allergy culprit.

In the Pink

Pink is a-poppin’ in my garden this week.

Tall Phlox
Luminosa Zinnias, Butterfly Bush and Morning Glories
Echinacea or Purple Cone Flower
Butterfly Bush
Candy Pink Morning Glory
Grandpa Ott Morning Glories

How I Miss Them!

A mysterious bird disease is affecting the Southern and Mid-Atlantic states.

Birdbaths in my yard, usually a focal point for visiting birds, have been turned over at the urging of Massachusetts Wildlife officials. Although not yet reported in Massachusetts, a mysterious bird disease has affected many Southern and Mid-Atlantic states. Since late May there have been numerous reports of dying birds with swollen eyes and crusty discharge, as well as neurological problems. In lieu of the bright colors and uplifting energy our feathered friends provide, I offer these digitally altered photos, hoping the birds will be back flitting around my yard soon, and in good health.

Bees, Please

Doing my part to make my yard pollinator friendly.

Echinacea, calendula, zinnia and marigold blossoms are bedecked with bees this week.

Mindfulness

Photographs from a visit to the grounds of the Barre Center For Buddhist Studies in Barre, Massachusetts.

At the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Barre, MA thoughtful landscaping and architecture are designed to encourage reflection and contemplation in or out of doors.
Stone walls, sturdy trees, benches and other wooden elements recur throughout the grounds. Circular and domed shapes enhance architectural elements.
The large domed bell with striker is hung from a aged tree. In Buddhism, the bell is sometimes said to be the sound of the Buddha’s voice.
A dome-shaped stupa (a Buddhist monument housing sacred relics associated with the Buddha) is surrounded by greenery and stone walls.
The Meditation Hall features large circular windows. Circles are associated with enlightenment in Buddhist thought.
Wooden floors and exposed beams enhance the inside of the hall.
The vegetable garden is enclosed by a handmade willow fence. Garden sections are now being planted, as the Center will welcome on-site students once again this fall.
A wooden Thai Spirit House sits at the edge of the garden.

Sparky, Marietta, Petite and Crackerjack

It’s marigold time in my garden.

I usually buy six-packs of marigold plants around Memorial Day. But last winter, dreaming of spring, I bought a set of four different types of marigold seeds. It turns out that four packages contain thousands of seeds. Now I have an explosion of color and texture weaving through the yard. And what a bargain! I have seeds left over to plant next year.
Sparky Mix Marigolds have wavy petals of orange, yellow, crimson, gold and bicolor. They are mid-sized, at around fourteen inches tall. These popular companion plants attract pollinators; they are “on duty” as a border around the squash garden.
As their name suggests, Dainty Marietta Marigolds are quite small, and known for the bright yellow petals with maroon centers. They have been the most difficult marigolds for me to nurture, but their delicate flowers are delightful.
Petite Mix Marigolds are only 8 to 10 inches in height, but they bloom in all colors. They are in containers around the yard, and used as annual borders. They are so abundant, that even if the rabbits find them, there is enough to share.
At three to four feet tall, the Crackerjack Marigolds are eye-catching, with large ruffles of yellow and orange blooms. They lend a festive feeling to the yard.

Hide and Seek

An Eastern Cottontail rabbit has arrived in my garden.

Knowing rabbits appear each summer, I protect my garden plants as much as possible. Still, many plants are within reach of curious furry friends.
Little feet and ears are hiding just behind the cucumber and basil plants. Tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, eggplants, beans, peppers, marigolds, calendulas and more are nearby–a veritable feast for a half-grown bunny.
It ventures out from its undercover safety, and surveys one side of the garden….
And then the other.
What will it choose?
Sweet, green clover left in the lawn just for rabbits.
Good choice, little bunny!

Heron Hang Out

A Great Blue Heron and its habitat.

Great Blue Heron, Wildlife Pond, Wachusett Meadow Audubon, Princeton, MA
It’s common to see a heron on or around the dead tree branches during the summer, especially during the late afternoon.
The water is unusually high due to the record-breaking rain in Central Massachusetts. Plenty of fish here to attract a Great Blue.
It can be easy to miss a heron, as they often blend in so well with their environment, and remain motionless for long periods of time.
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