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Peony Present

My neighbor, a fellow plant enthusiast, appeared in my garden yesterday with this gorgeous peony bouquet. What an exquisite gift for me and my garden!

During the pandemic, neighbors have been walking by my yard more frequently than in years past. This has offered us all opportunities for friendly chats and shared interests, making the year much more pleasurable.

Nature’s Stitchwork

The Mountain Laurel is native to the eastern United States, and was first recorded in America in 1624.

Mountain Laurel is in full bloom in Massachusetts this week.
Cup-shaped buds open up to display tiny blossoms. These blossoms are sometimes said to look like miniature origami rice bowls .
Each blossom has five fused petals that surround ten stamens. Each stamen looks like a tiny half-pulled stitch.
The leaves are evergreen, providing year-round interest to the New England landscape.
The purple tones of a nearby rhododendron contrast with the pinkish laurel blossoms.
Mountain Laurels usually live for fifty to seventy-five years. Happily, this laurel in my yard is at least seventy years old, and is still going strong.

Painted (Turtle) Portraits

The Painted Turtle, common throughout Massachusetts, spends up to six hours a day basking in the sun. This turtle was doing just that at Wachusett Meadow Audubon’s Farm Pond in Princeton, MA.

This photo study includes side and straight-on views, close-up and long views, and some images that include the turtle’s vivid reflection in the water.

The turtle dipped off the log at the sound of hikers.
A close-up of some water lilies nearby.
This pond was man-made for the use of farmers when these acres were part of a large dairy farm.

A Yard For People and Rabbits

Rabbits visit my gardens each Summer. This is how we co-exist.

I expect the rabbits to appear in my yard for “Summer Vacation” any day now.
High raised beds keep the bunnies out of the Spring greens. However, they are welcome to all the lawn clover they desire.
New fencing around the pole beans and squash means the beans are off-limits to rabbits this year, as well. Sometimes they pick at the hostas nearby, and that is acceptable to me.
Tall pots encase my favorite red-blossomed Scarlet Emperor beans. The wild bleeding hearts next to the pots are plentiful, though.
Removable fencing keeps the largest vegetable bed protected, but with easy access for me.
Grow bags keep the Yukon Gold and Early Red potatoes safe. However, the clover and wild daisies left in between the bags are available for munching.
Wild strawberries are everywhere in the yard. The rabbits can eat their fill!
The cold frame provides great protection from both weather and critters in three seasons.
Kale is safe in a small enclosed garden on the edge of the woods.
Time to get some fencing around this cucumber and nasturtium tripod. If you have heard that rabbits don’t like nasturtium, don’t believe it!
The rabbits have ignored the tomatoes in previous years. Plenty of Solomon’s Seal nearby to eat instead.
Garlic has not caught the rabbit’s fancy, either. But will they go for the lettuce purposely planted among it? Stay tuned…
Hopefully, this blue bucket will protect the eggplant. Wild Strawberry is nearby as an alternate selection.
Thank goodness the blueberry bush is out of reach! Alas, the birds are drawn to it like magnets.
A restful area for both people and critters.
One final touch added after the garden is planted.
Wishing you wonderful times outdoors this season!

Ancient Irises

Iris means “rainbow” in Greek.

In Greek mythology, the goddess Iris carried messages from heaven to earth on the arc of the rainbow. Beautiful flowers appeared wherever she set foot on the ground.

Irises in a rainbow of colors are blooming in my garden this week!

The Queen of Shrubs

The easy-to-grow and fragrant lilac was brought from Europe to New England by the early colonists. Today this “Queen of Shrubs” is ubiquitous in Massachusetts.

Better Homes and Gardens notes that:

“Lilacs are known for their hardy nature and long lives—many lilac shrubs live to be more than 100 years old. Because of their life span, they often survive longer than the home of the gardener that planted them. So, if you’re on a country road and see a few seemingly-random lilac bushes, there was most likely a house or farm there in the last century.”

Beautiful Blossoms

Apple blossoms abound in Central Massachusetts this week!

Meadowbrook Orchards, Sterling, MA
Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, MA
It is a banner blossom year for the Baldwin apple tree in my backyard.

Enchanted Architecture

The Enchanta Bridge at the Moore State Park in Paxton, MA was given its name by owners who felt the property was so beautiful, it must be enchanted. Originally a mill, the park features an enormous display of rhododendrons, stone mill foundations, a restored sawmill, and networks of wooded paths.

The recently updated Enchanta features traditional New England woodwork with Adirondack chairs for relaxing. Wooden ramps on either end of the bridge allow easy access for all, providing views of the waterfall, pond and woods. The park is free of charge and open year-round.

The Enchanta Bridge, Moore State Park, Paxton, MA
One side of the bridge overlooks a large pond.
Generous ramps blend in with the traditional architecture while making the bridge universally accessible.
Adirondack chairs invite visitors to relax.
The pond provides opportunities for fishing, canoeing and skating.
The waterfall as viewed from the bridge.

Pond Party

Canada Geese goslings explore both open water and pond edge environments under the watchful eyes of their parents.

Canada Geese, Princeton, Massachusetts

Flotilla

The North American River Otter and the North American Beaver cruise the Wildlife Pond at the Wachusett Meadow Audubon Sanctuary in the early evening.

“Watercolors”

Photos taken from my window with the “watercolor” setting of my point-and-shoot camera. The forsythia is such a welcome burst of color at this time of year!

Another “Bluebird”

Tree Swallows, with their deep-blue iridescent backs, are the first swallows to return to Massachusetts in the Spring. They compete with Eastern Bluebirds for nest boxes. These swallows were perched on the bluebird boxes at Wachusett Meadow Audubon Sanctuary.

A Grand Design: Beaver Architecture

Beavers build lodges from woven sticks, grasses, and moss plastered with mud. These architectural marvels can be up to 8 feet wide and 3 feet high inside. A lodge is designed with at least two underwater “doors” to provide instant swimming access, while a “skylight” hole at the top lets in fresh air. There are two main rooms inside – one near the entrance that is used for eating and drying off and another used for sleeping and raising the young. On average, between four and eight beavers live in a lodge.

Beaver Lodge, Wildlife Pond, Wachusett Meadow Audubon, Princeton, MA

Hawk Eyes

Red-tailed hawks have excellent vision; they can spot a mouse from 100 feet in the air. Hawks can see the colors that most humans can, as well as those in the ultraviolet range that humans cannot see.

Young Red-tailed Hawks, like the one pictured, have pale yellow eyes. The eyes darken to brown as the birds get older.

Historic Yankee Barn Design

Information posted at Wachusett Meadow Audubon Sanctuary’s Crocker Barn states:

“Built in 1925 by the Crocker family, this barn formerly housed a herd of prize-winning Milking Shorthorn cattle. It was designed by farm manager Paul Beardsley and was state-of-the-art for its time, featuring a ground floor milking parlor, a trussed, gambrel roof that provided vast interior space to pile loose hay (hay balers were not yet invented), and an overhead tramway system to easily move manure to a separate barn for storage. No longer present, but visible in the historic photo notice the twin silos, the four rooftop ventilators, the additional hay wagon ramp, and the small milk house in the foreground.

Currently, the Cow Barn provides storage for the materials, tools and equipment needed for sanctuary habitat management, and to maintain our trail system, buildings and grounds. Planning is underway to fundraise for renovations that would allow us to welcome visitors and program participants into this wonderful and historic space.”

The Crocker Barn, Wachusett Meadow Audubon Sanctuary, Princeton, MA.
The barn circa 1925.
Doors to a former hay wagon ramp.
Attention to detail is shown on this simple but effective shingle design.
The cow barn is massive compared to the nearby sheep barn.
Fieldstone foundations are featured on both barns.
A section of the outsized doors, commonly found on New England barns.
The barn overlooks a meadow that leads down to wetlands.

This side of the barn will soon feature an all-persons viewing deck.

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