Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013


Memorial Day 2013, with the Blue Star Mothers at Saratoga National Cemetery.
Now back at home, weeding and planting and quietly remembering.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Malta Eco Park garden needs some lovin'

 The garden area at the Town of Malta Ecological Park needs some lovin'.
 There's a great space already laid out for a garden around the welcoming pavilion.
 At some point, there were plantings here. I can see what I think are daylilies coming on.
 Not quite sure what else worth keeping might be lurking in here.
 I'm fairly confident that the parks department would be happy to have our Friends group take over caring for this garden.
 It's so visible, right at the entrance. What about some annuals? Are there any colorful, eco-friendly annuals that would be appropriate for this spot?
 I'm looking for suggestions, design ideas, and weeding help.
 So, gardening friends and pros, what should go here?
 There is no watering source at the park so whatever gets planted needs to be drought-resistant.
 The plants should be low-ish, I think, and have a tidy habit so that visitors don't trip over them.
Our next Friends meeting is this Wednesday, May 22, at 6:30 in the Malta Community Center, corner of Route 9 and Bayberry Dr. in Malta, NY.
If you are interested in helping to create some garden areas at this park, please join us.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Wildflower Walk

Fringed Polygala

 We gathered this morning, we intrepid garden club ladies, for a wildflower walk at Moreau Lake State Park, a nearly 5,000 acre jewel just north of Saratoga Springs, NY.

 Our leader was Jackie, pictured below, whose Saratoga Woods and Waterways blog has been a favorite of mine since I discovered it a couple of years ago. I was delighted to finally meet her.

With Jackie were her friends Sue, who blogs at Waterlily,  and the amazing (ahem) 86 year-old Ruth, author of Trailside Notes: A Naturalist's Companion to Adirondack PlantsRuth is wearing an orange jacket in photo 2, above.

Ruth is my new role model. Jackie used to be my role model, for her wonderful blog, her excellent photos, and her nearly daily outdoor adventures. But Jackie, I learned today, is a mere 72. So Ruth rules!

Of course, I forgot to bring a notebook. And oh, my goodness, what knowledge of the woods these three ladies have! I think these red flowers, above, were on a black huckleberry bush.

We found tiny violets in bloom ...

... and (I think) Canada Mayflowers.

Salamanders galore darted along the the edge of the water. Look how clear the lake water was.

A fallen tree had become a "beaver buffet".

We didn't have to look far to see where the beavers were hanging out. Can you see the lodge?

We learned about the many varieties of dragonflies, just now emerging from the water.

We saw evidence of a muskrat buffet...

...where they had been dining on snails in the same cosy lakeside spot.

Tadpoles were everywhere.

There was red columbine ...

... and sweet white violets, and much, much more.  I'm sorry my photo of "bastard toadflax" was blurry. What a dramatic name for a wildflower.

These ladies were wonderful guides. Jackie's blog had already gotten me to see the woods in new ways. Today's two hour walk with three enthusiastic naturalists has me hooked. When can we go again?

Jackie recommended Lawrence Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.


I recommend bringing a notebook.



Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Seven years ago, we bought our current home in mid-winter. That first year, I was looking forward to warmer weather so that we could enjoy the backyard deck built by the previous owners. The deck has a view of the little wooded ravine behind the house and is a fairly private and quiet place to bask and sip morning coffee in the sunshine.

When summer did arrive that first year, it was a blistering one. The deck was not at all as appealing as I had hoped it would be. Shade! It needed some shade in the summer. I bought an umbrella for the deck but was also determined to plant a small deciduous tree to help in future years. A deciduous tree would provide shade in the height of summer but its bare branches in early spring and late fall   would allow the sun in when we'd want that.

My criteria included: (1) seasonal interest in the form of spring flowers and/or fall color; (2) preferably a native New York tree to provide food for birds or butterflies; and (3) a tree that would not grow too tall or ungainly for the location.

What I finally chose came from an annual spring plant sale by the Saratoga County Soil & Water Conservation District. Their brochure included this offering:

WHITE FLOWERING DOGWOOD: Cornus florida/2 yrs/18-24” Beautiful native 20 to 30 ft. tree with large white blossoms in May and red fruit in September; wildlife food for many birds; grows on well drained soils; has some drought and shade tolerance but is not cold hardy on northern or exposed sites of the county.

The price was right and the tree fit every criteria I was looking for.  I think I actually had to buy ten seedlings but at some ridiculously low price. I planted the largest seedling by the deck (although it was, in fact, a pretty small tree then) and stuck in the others near and in the woods to fend for themselves.

Time passed; the little tree grew but produced no blossoms to speak of. It did get tall enough to begin to add some much-needed shade to the deck, so I wasn't completely disenchanted.

Then, this winter I began to notice a plethora of buds starting to swell along the dogwood's branches. But on April 12, we had freezing rain and I worried that the buds would be ruined.

One good thing about using native plants in a garden is that they have adapted to the vagaries of  regional weather. The blossoms  were not ruined and by early May, the now not-so-little tree was covered with greeny white blooms.

As the weathered warmed, the flowers grew whiter and have lingered on the tree even as the leaves come on.

In this gray, cool spring we have had, the now-white blooms absolutely glow, especially in the early evenings.
Pretty little dogwood tree. I feel like a proud mama.
After all, I don't see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood.
                     - Anne Morrow Lindbergh