Showing posts with label garden tours. Show all posts
Showing posts with label garden tours. Show all posts

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Garden news around these parts: Tours and sales and hummingbirds in my own backyard (edited)

Overcast! Oh, yes it is, again! So cool and gray this spring has been. Very like English weather. At least in our yard, this has thrown off bloom times. Until yesterday, I had not seen any returning hummingbirds, where as in most years, they would have been here and happily darting about from blossom to blossom by now.

But last evening, I did spot a couple, zooming around in the near-dusk. They seemed frantic, even by hummingbird standards, going to places in our garden where, normally, plants would be in bloom: clematis, trumpet vine, peonies. But although there are buds on those plants, the hummingbirds were finding little to sip there.

I quickly boiled up some sugar water (see how to do that, here) cooled down the nectar, then rinsed out the feeder and filled it up. I hung it out last night, just before 8:00 PM, hoping the hummingbirds would find it in the morning. 

And they have.  Even bleary-eyed as I was making coffee, I quickly noticed their comings and goings at dawn this morning. It took them no time at all to find the feeder. I guess they were hungry. (Sorry, no actual hummer photos: They are too quick and my camera is too humble.) Later edit: Despite my lack of sophisticated camera gear, I was later able to get the somewhat blurry photo, above, of one of my hummingbird visitors this afternoon.

If you have never fed hummingbirds before, please do a little reading before you start. Usually, I only feed them in the spring, as it can be a challenge to keep the nectar from becoming rancid once the weather becomes very hot. But my theory is, now is when they really need the help. By midsummer, there is much more nectar available from natural sources and they don't need the feeder then.

Yeah, about that weather forecast.

Today was supposed to be sunny. Looks cold and gray to me. (Sigh.) Eat up, little hummers, and keep warm as best you can.
 Alas, the wet spring has been a challenge for sellers of plants this year. But you can take advantage of resulting special deals, such as at Fiddlehead Creek Native Plant Nursery, one of my favorite plant sources in this region. These next two Fridays and Saturdays, they are having a huge sale - all stock is buy one, get one free. The nursery will be open for retail sales for only four more days this spring, starting June 2 and 3, and then June 9 and 10. Their hours are 9-5 all four days. After that, the nursery is open by appointment only.  Find Fiddlehead Creek nursery in beautiful Washington County. Their address is 7381 State Route 40, Hartford, NY 12838.

It is getting to be the season for garden tours. There are two good ones coming up that you can buy tickets for right now. Check out Historic Albany's 2017 House and Garden Tour

Center Square Association, Hudson/Park Neighborhood Association and Historic Albany Foundation are proud to present the annual Hidden City House & Garden Tour on Thursday, June 22 from 5:00 - 8:00 p.m. Every year, this tour brings the neighborhood to life as homeowners open their doors and gardens to the public. Guests are able to tour, at their leisure, the beautiful and historic homes and hidden gardens that make up the Center Square & Hudson/Park neighborhoods. This year we'll also feature Pine Hills.

The link for tickets is here: 

And another favorite, the 23rd annual Secret Gardens Tour presented by Soroptimist International of Saratoga County, is coming up on Sunday, July 9, from 11 AM to 5 PM. From their promotional information:

This year, we are featuring an eclectic mix of 11 private gardens in and around Saratoga Springs. From homes on North Broadway, to a cluster of in-city yards, to a handful of suburban secrets, the gardens are a mix of styles and sizes, in both sun and shade, sure to inspire garden lovers of every level.

One cautionary note from me: Garden tours of private homes and spaces may have accessibility issues. You should be aware that there may be stairs, slippery places, narrow and uneven footpaths, lots of walking. Before you set off with your aged aunt or strollers full of wee bairns, you might want to call ahead for advice and details. (Trust me on this.) And please, do NOT bring your dogs.



Monday, June 27, 2016

More Hidden Gardens: Cool spaces and artful decorations in Ballston Spa. Plus a note about the SPAC Jazz Fest.

I am loving early summer and the many opportunities it brings to avoid working in my own garden. Sunday was kinda hot, anyway, for weeding and such, so why not go take a look at the fruits of other's labors?
And because it was hot, it was mostly the shady places that attracted my attention yesterday.

The Ballston Spa Hidden Garden Tour was a shared fundraiser for the Ballston Spa House and Garden Club and the Friends of the Ballston Spa Public Library.
 Eight homes and two public spaces were on the tour.
 I think Bee Balm Gal needs to add to her collection: this dwarf bee balm (aka, Monarda) glowed in a shady back garden.I will add it to my wish list.
 Garden decor of all types added color, sometimes function, and often whimsy to many of  the gardens on yesterday's tour.
 This array of red tulip-like teacups was a cheerful  sight in this sunny garden. I confess, however, that I would worry about them becoming breeding spots for mosquitoes.
Perhaps something like these stacked orbs, spotted in a different garden, would be less mosquito-friendly.

 Sometimes, as above, just the right colored pot becomes decor, especially when it does such a good job of setting off the color of the flowers it holds. This red and blue combo is very pretty.
 Here, a subtle metal sphere added color to a shady green corner.
 I like a gardener with a sense of humor. The shady perennial border in this backyard runs along the edge of a wooded area. This year, the homeowners have been plagued by deer munching on their plantings. The husband made the sign.
 Also near the "deer diner" was this re-purposed chandelier. A garage sale light fixture was re-fitted with solar lights and hung on a tree with a metal bracket. Perhaps the deer like dining by candlelight.

The owner of this garden is interested in native plants, and that is what populates most of their large garden. Yesterday, tall Goatsbeard plants (Aruncus dioicus) were looking particularly dramatic in several shady spots.
 I don't know the story of this large art piece, but it looked lovely propped against a good-sized tree.
 Down the road a piece, these clever gardeners made an effective frame to protect their berry bushes from various critters. All they used were PVC pipe and fittings, along with a roll of plastic deer fencing and some zip strips. No hammer and nails needed and it could be easily disassembled and stored for the winter. Great idea.

The last photo, below, was from this same garden. In a full sun space near the road, this simple bed of just two types of plants - red knockout roses and purple cat-mint - made a a big impact. My photo doesn't do it justice. It was a knockout, indeed.

Late Sunday afternoon, the Handsome Husband and I headed to nearby Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) to see the last three acts of the Jazz Festival. Loved seeing and hearing Chick Corea and his trio. But the final act, Smokey Robinson, was ... well, just a little weird, in my opinion. I'm not sure Motown = jazz, but aside from that, Robinson was over the top in his emoting. Shoulda just played his fan favorites straight, talked less, ground his loins less (I mean, the man is 76) and called it good enough. On the upside: the crowd was well-behaved and the Mazzone-catered food was pretty good and reasonably affordable for venue fare.
And that was a good chunk of my summer weekend. How was yours?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Albany's Hidden City House and Garden Tour 2016

Last evening, I hied* my way down to Albany's Center Square Hudson/Park neighborhoods for the 41st Annual Hidden City House and Garden Tour.
Sponsored by Historic Albany Foundation, twelve property owners opened their homes and city gardens for viewing by those of us who had purchased a tour ticket.

* Hommage to Carl Strock. 
I myself am a gal of the suburbs, but I am also a nosy soul and a fan of garden tours. It is fun to see what creative folks can do in what are sometimes tiny outdoor spaces. Here above, I liked the idea of growing a clematis vine up along the branches of a climbing rose.

 This photo above is from one couple's rooftop garden. Having no ground-level space for a garden, they built up. Below, two other garden viewers took the liberty of resting a moment in this charming rooftop  space.
 Having an outdoor seating area was the main goal of many of these gardens. And on this June night, one could really appreciate the appeal of spaces like these next two, below.

Fountains were popular features, as well, where the soft sounds of trickling water helped to mask the sounds of city life. They also made the spaces seem cooler and more Zen-like.

 A fairly simple planter, beautifully done in cooling greens and whites, also adds a peaceful element to the front door area on a busy street.

 I know some garden snobs might scoff at the use of pachysandra and hosta, but in many of these urban gardens, they were used to good advantage. Here above, with an attractive iron-like low fence, these easy-to-maintain plants, tolerant as they are of shade and dry conditions, looked neat and cooling. Pachysandra has the added advantage of staying green year round, so even in winter, these city gardens will have something to make them look lush and alive.

 This extra large city garden, above, used pachysandra in a great swathe along one stretch. Again, this hardy plant offers low maintenance and year round green.

Sometimes, neatness and simplicity are all that is needed.  A tidy edging helps hosta and and a few shade-loving annuals provide easy interest to a challenging space. 

Some homes had only tiny outdoor spaces but still managed to squeeze in some fun green things. This homeowner had an admirable assortment of herbs and veggies growing just outside their kitchen door. 
 Other homeowners emphasized good scents in their diminutive gardens. The smell of roses drifted up onto the deck sitting  area at this house.
 The indoor cats at this house had a way to safely enjoy the out-of-doors. This clever run meandered in two directions from a special cat door inserted into a garden-side window.
 A folk art painter was making good use of this garden.  Below, are two of her pieces:
 ~Here, vintage lawn chairs sported cheerful sunflowers; and

~ "Strawberry Cow" caught the eye of many garden visitors.

Also on the tour, visitors could view much of the interior spaces of homes open on Thursday night. However, I chose not to photograph those, as it seemed too intrusive to do so. But it was fun to see how folks have met the challenges of living in historic homes.  

More garden tours are on tap in our region. Coming soon are Ballston Spa's this Sunday (see: and Saratoga's on July 10 (see:

Bring a camera and comfortable shoes. Private gardens are not always as accessible as public spaces so think twice before you set out with strollers or 95-year-old great aunts. Trust me on this.