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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!

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

Bees, Please

Doing my part to make my yard pollinator friendly.

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

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.

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.

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

Orange You Glad…

An extravaganza of orange.

…that there are easy to grow flowers?
I planted Pacific Beauty Calendula seeds in early April, and they survived a Spring snowstorm.
Orange Ton Asiatic Lily
The Asiatic Lilies started as one plant a few years back, and expand every year without my help.
Common or Orange Daylily
Just to to stop those orange daylilies!

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.

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.”

Ground Level

Whether they spread out like cushions around my feet, or provide unexpected bursts of color in the semi-shade, early Spring perennials liven up my yard walks.

Watch Where You Walk

Just three days after a fast-moving snowstorm, plants are popping up around my feet, thanks to the strengthening Spring sunshine. Walk lightly!

Solomon’s Seal
Grape Hyacinth
Fiddlehead Fern

April Banquet

Forsythia and red maple buds appear at the same time in Massachusetts, lending a sorely needed explosion of color to the early Spring landscape.

Squirrels like to frolic among the decorative forsythia branches, but they are particularly attracted to the maples. They “tap” them by making single bites in the bark to get the sap flowing, so they can consume the concentrated “syrup” once some of the water has evaporated. Later, the squirrels enjoy a feast of buds and flowers.

Red Maple in Bloom
American Red Squirrel

Orchid-strations

A recent orchid show at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA presented a symphony of colors typical of these exotic plants.

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