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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.

Books and Bee Balm

I grew up in a rural town in Western Massachusetts, where a large patch of bee balm featured prominently in our garden each summer. One day an elderly couple, complete strangers, stopped their car to ask my father what the fiery red blooms in the garden were.

“It’s bee balm, a perennial. Would you like some?”

He dug up a clump for the pair to take to their summer home at the edge of town.

A few days later, the couple reappeared with a box of children’s books. They were retired teachers, who had noticed my siblings and me playing in the yard.

“We have collected so many books over the years, and since we are retired, we don’t need them. Would your children like some?” they asked my father.

That summer, and for many summers thereafter, the couple brought boxes of books of a variety of genres. Some were almost new; some were gently worn. Each box was a thoughtful gift.

The sight of bee balm might bring thoughts of insects, bright flower petals in a salad, or perhaps herbal tea to most people.

But me? I simply think of books.

Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are especially attracted to bee balm, which is a member of the mint family. Monarda, bergamot, horsemint, and oswego tea are other names for this plant. It has many uses, being found in everything form skin salves to digestive teas to salad toppers.
Bee balm getting ready to bloom.
The blooming time for bee balm is July through late summer. Cutting back the blooms as they finish flowering will encourage regrowth and extend the blooming period.
A Silver Spotted Skipper butterfly visits.
Although bee balm likes sun, it tolerates partial shade, as shown here growing in a mix of ferns and Queen Anne’s Lace.
Vigorous bursts of bee balm contrast with the calm of the apple tree in my yard. Time to sit in the shade and enjoy a book!

A Colonial Style Summer

A walk through the small historic district of Holden, MA allows time to view many details of colonial architecture and landscaping.

This home in the historic district of Holden, MA, displays the simple beauty of early American design and decoration. Lilies, phlox and daisies, traditional New England perennials, become the “front lawn”. No mowing needed.
The rest of the “lawn” is dominated by common ferns. Look closely to the left of the door. A golden colored “guard” is on duty there.
Door guards such as this one have been popular in China for centuries. This might be a representation of a lion, dragon or dog. Although I was unable to find direct links from this style of ceramics to early America, The Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum notes that: In 1741, ships belonging to the British, Danish, French, and Swedish brought a total of 1,200,000 pieces of Chinese porcelain into the European ports. A good portion of those pieces ended up in the fine homes of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. I welcome comments if you have expertise in this area!
A recent trend in primitive decorating is the use of gourds. Here, eye-catching Italian gourds (or possibly small snake gourds) hang on the side door underneath panes of traditional bull’s eye glass. The five-pointed star atop the door was a symbol of good luck in colonial America. A side lantern in colonial style utilizes faux candles.
The smaller golden guard of the side door sits next to a pot of basil. Basil was brought to the New World in the 1620s. Along with flavoring food, it was used as a strewing herb. Additionally, the leaves were dried for use in snuff to relieve headaches and colds.
Whitewashed picket fences were popular in colonial days. These fences were expensive and harder to maintain than plain wooden fences, so they became a symbol of prosperity.
This rooster weather vane, with its tail perfectly shaped to catch the wind, stands proudly atop the house. Weather vanes were popular in colonial times, but were first used centuries before this era.

Yellow Celebration

A coat of paint on one small structure can sometimes uplift a whole yard.

A coat of paint on one small structure can often uplift a a whole yard.
A fresh coat of yellow paint on the backyard hut led me to consider the many shades of yellow vegetation to be found throughout the yard.
A coat of paint on one single structure can sometimes change a whole area.
The yellow stair rail extends the color theme. Queen Anne’s lace, orange daylilies, and red bee balm pop out against the bright backdrop with white accents.
Queen Anne’s lace seems to float on a yellow wall.
A lemon yellow daylily remains vibrant after yet another shower.
Erin Lea lilies show ruffled yellow petals tinged with brown.
Stella d’Oro daylilies, white yarrow and rose campion contrast with the cobalt blue birdbath.
Amber and gold-toned calendulas are companion plants throughout the vegetable gardens.
The blue chair lends a “primary colors” touch to this area.
Erin Lea daylily.
Purple D’Oro lily with a buttery yellow center.
Pineapple yellow non-stop begonia with blue hydrangea in the background.
One final touch: a mint green ladder hung on the back wall lightens up the shady side of the hut, and provides a year round color contrast.

Stopover

Summer friends.

Whether these birds perched on bird feeders, fence posts, tree branches, or telephone wires, I’m glad they paused long enough for me to snap a photo during the past two weeks.

Baltimore Oriole
Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Phoebe
European Starling
Gray Catbird
American Goldfinch
Cedar Waxwing
House Sparrow
American Robin
Off to the open skies once more.

Rainy Day Vegetable Blossoms

The various blooms popping up in the vegetable gardens are an appealing sight, especially during wet and gray weather.

Scarlet Emperor Beans
Green Peppers
Eggplant
Calendula (The whole flower is edible.)
Yukon Gold Potato
Green Zebra Tomato
Trailing Nasturtium (Flowers are edible.)
Summer Squash
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