Friday, July 27, 2012

Look Who's Back!

The swallowtail butterflies are back at Pink Gardens this summer. This is a gorgeous example of a Tiger Swallowtail, and there is a more elusive, darker variety, too. I haven't quite been able to photograph him yet! This one is attracted to June's lavender Butterfly bush. Go figure, lol! The red hummingbird feeder can be seen in the background, and almost every 20 minutes or so a hummer comes to feed. 

SummerColours Continue

Another sort of tiger in the yard... My tiger lilies are really quite something this year. Even though I lost more than half of them to "critters," the ones that did flower are more than 6 feet tall and have several blossoms. I'll have a post just on these flowers soon. I photograph them almost every day.

A sea of black-eyed Susans, rudbeckia, in front of a local bank in town. I can't grow these in my yard. As soon as they send up shoots and a few leaves, the rabbits and deer chow 'em down. Nothing works as a deterrent. These were one of my mother's favorites and I really wish I had them in the yard!

My hydrangea continues its journey to burgundy. This variety started out pale green, then turned bright white, then a beautiful blush of blue, and now is fading to green and pink, and by fall (or August at this rate) will be mostly burgundy with a touch of pale green. I've really had a hard time not picking them, but I love to watch them change colors as they mature.
A better view of the lavender butterfly bush. I love the way it complements the salmon and cream of the house. The fact they really do attract butterflies is icing on the cake!
Two points for anyone that knows this flower! It's a lettuce bloom! Some of the garden lettuce has "bolted" and these lovely blue flowers are the result. They remind me of "Ragged Sailors" which are a native wildflower, and that makes sense since they are really chicory, a relative of lettuce.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Newest Garden Project, July

My new golden yellow Butterfly bush, (buddleia), see story below of my newest garden. According to what I've read, these yellow varieties don't attract as many butterflies as the lavender/pink ones, but they do attract honeybees. Personal experience though, shows lots of butterflies around them.

One of my wild thistles first flowers this year. This is in my new garden, read story below, and I've planted zinnias and all sorts of annuals around it. It's almost 5 feet tall right now. Hummingbirds, and birds in general, love these misunderstood wildflowers!

LOTSA HARD WORK, lol—I just had to get outside about a week ago and do some manual labor! I chose a piece of Pink Garden's property near the edge of the lawn that was completely covered with wildroses and other vines and thickets. I've written before about a small pink tearose that I found underneath those thickets a couple of years ago, so I decided it was time to "trim" all around it. Well, one thing led to another, and in a few 100° days I had cleaned off about 60 feet of the previously impenetrable wall of green. I cut down five small Sassafras trees and pulled down vines 25-30 feet up into the trees. I found a small semi-circle of fieldstones, an early garden probably from the Depression era or earlier. There were two struggling and "deformed" Azaleas in it. They had to grow about 4 feet along the ground, without leaves, before they had any sunlight from those wild thickets, but I saved them and I swear they are sending out new shoots all along those limbs now that they have sunlight and fresh air. I couldn't drag all the dying vines and limbs very far into the woods, they're just as thick with growth as what I cut down, but I bought some hay and straw and just covered some of it over until it really dies down. I think I'll be able to more easily clean up the "back" of this new garden this winter when the growth dies down behind it.

I've put in perennials like a yellow butterfly bush, day lilies, hostas, hydrangea, violets and summer phlox, and filled in with bright annuals such as marigolds, petunias, impatiens, and zinnias. As it matures, I'll keep taking photos! 

This is the "long view" from the roof of my porch. The new garden is in the center, just to the left of the driveway. Previously the brambles reached into the trees and came out to the edge of the driveway.
This is a "schematic" of what I did, lol. I hope it enlarges enough in Blogger to be read!

I neglected to take a "before" photo, but this is about 50 feet away, further down the drive, and looks exactly like the area I cleaned off. That thick greenery consists of wild scrub roses primarily, with sassafras saplings, milkweeds and all sorts of plants that have had the past 75 years to grow wherever they wanted to.

More Views of the New Flower Garden

Perennials mixed with annuals. If the "critters" don't devour these tender young plants, and they've started already, I'm hoping that the annuals will really fill out by September.
Looking a bit sparse right now, my gardening "style" is really to have crowded gardens, with lots going on. A time, and budget permits, I'll keep adding one perennial for each annual I plant.

Wildflowers, like this almost 5-foot thistle, coexist with perennials and annuals in my gardens.
Zinnias are one of my favorite annuals. I have several in my cutting garden, nestled within my vegetable garden, but I also have them in several flowerbeds. Their vibrant colors and textures make perfectly lovely late summer arrangements.

Mentioned in my post above, this is the decades-old Azalea I found after cleaning out the brambles. Notice how it had to grow sideways along the ground for a few feet in order to find sunshine and fresh air from under the thicket. Those stumps behind it are the Sassafras trees and some of the wild scrub roses I chopped down and cleared away. Even though it's only been a couple of weeks, I see teeny-tiny new growth coming from the bare limbs, which finally have the air and light they need.  The rocks at the base are part of the old fieldstone border that had been hiding under the overgrowth.

I planted an Impatiens under the azalea. Look at how green and healthy the 50-60 year old azalea looks now that it can be seen and appreciated again!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Awesome and Awesomer!

Large meets Humongous!

One of my honorary sisters and her husband, a couple I've been friends with for more than thirty years, dropped off this surprise for me recently! She shall remain nameless so as for me to remain top billing on her "gifts list," hahahahaha.

At the top, looking "tiny" is a normal-sized one-and-a-half pounder, absolutely delicious and regular restaurant fare. This is the size I've always eaten, at home or out somewhere. There is plenty of tail- and claw-meat for one person. It's sitting on a 12-inch charger, so looks deceive. The "Monster Bug" in the foreground, however, OMG, lol! That one is four-pounds, a size I've never personally seen before except in an aquarium or in photos. It was about 18 inches long when stretched out. I had an amazing time "shelling" them both, removing the tails and claws and knuckle meat. I made lobster rolls for myself and June for lunch and dinner, and then I froze the rest of it for a future special occasion. Then I flamed the shells and remains with cognac, and then boiled the carcasses, one with tomalley and one with roe, and made broth. I froze the broth, too, which will be perfect for an autumn fish chowder. I even saved the largest claw, bleaching it overnight and gluing it back together again for my "oddities" collection, so I can always remember this amazing gift.

Thank you, and huge hugs!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dr. Frankenstein-nik I Presume?

One of my more humorous vintage toys from the 1960s, this Frankenstein Wishnik Troll doll. The mid 1960s saw a rise in TV shows featuring out-of-this-world characters and premises, such as The Munsters, The Addams Family, Lost in Space, Star Trek, I Dream of Jeannie, and many more. This little green troll doll consisted of a regular Wishnik body, molded in green plastic, and a bespoke Frankenstein head, evocative of the popular TV character Herman Munster. It's hard to believe that this troll doll is almost 50 years old!

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Fun "Lobstah" Lunch at the Shore

My friend, Mary, took me out to lunch the other day at the Guilford Marina's Lobster Pound. Guilford, next door to Madison, is the town I grew up in and where Mary still lives. The marina is a great place to hang out on a summer afternoon, and as a child when my family owned boats, I spent a lot of time there. I brought my friend, Mike Urban's newest book, Lobster Shacks, along with me. The book includes entries for New England's classic roadside lobster restaurants, including the Lobster Pound, so I thought it would make a perfect little photoshoot. The lobster rolls were delicious, and as you'll see in the following photos, you can't get much closer to the water without swimming! Thank you, Mary!
  • To read more about Lobster Shacks, click over to Amazon, here. It's a great read even if you aren't going to be traveling around New England this summer.
  • To read more about the Lobster Pound, click here. Boat tours are available, too. 
  • This just in! Publisher's Weekly has favorably reviewed Lobster Shacks, here!
Looking east from our table, this is the view of the Guilford Marina. Just to the right of the little wooden clubhouse in the background is where my family's various boats were moored as I was a child. It looks much the same today despite many updates throughout the years.

Each picnic table at the "Pound" has a flowerbox filled with annuals such as marigolds and begonias. The hefty boat rope is a great touch. That's a classic saltwater marsh in the background.

Looking out into the Long Island Sound. I can't tell you how many times my father piloted our boat out this very channel for a day on the water. You can moor a boat on the right and let your guests off for lunch.

The unassuming entrance to the Lobster Pound. Featuring a minimal menu, several types of chips and non alcoholic drinks are available to go with your freshly cooked seafood.

A vintage ship's wheel awaits seaside guests as they step off their boats.

Shade or sun, it's your choice at the "Pound."

Busy day. The tables filled up as quickly as they emptied. The food arrives quickly and couldn't be any fresher. Local fishermen supply the seaside "shack" with their goods.

Seagulls keep a lookout for any crumbs that may fall their way!

Just a lovely Connecticut shoreline day in the sun, everyone is enjoying the quintessential New England seashore meal.

Friday, July 13, 2012

First Pickings, Summer 2012!

My first "bounty" from this summer's vegetable garden. I've picked my first green pepper, tomato and some basil. I'm not sure what variety this tomato is. I have close to twenty heirloom plants from a great organic nursery, and two "cheap ass" tomato plants from a discount center. This is one of the discount ones which wasn't even labeled except for "tomato," lol. And you know what? About 10 minutes after this photo was taken, the tomato was sliced and served along with some amazing fresh buffalo mozzarella. The basil was julienned, olive oil was drizzled, and a sprinkling of grated Romano tossed on top—and it was DELICIOUS!

I just can't wait for more of my plants to start producing. I have cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes and regular-sized varieties, in yellow, white, green, purple and red. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

JulyColour: Bustin' Out All Over!

This is a new annual this year, well new to me, anyway. I can't even remember the name of it. This is the first bud that the chipmunks have allowed to open. They are crazy eaters this year, munching my geraniums down to the roots. Several of the geraniums I've had for years, and winter over in the attic, have been decimated by the little striped rodents. I'm hoping that since they've let this flower bloom, perhaps the plant is turning bitter as it ages. I'm really sick of the chipmunks. I have this annual in a container along with some purple alyssum, an orange marigold and a white geranium if it ever gets beyond 3 leaves and a stem.

Moving on to the center of Madison, one of the little shops has this outrageous Hydrangea. Just look at all the variations of colors there on this one bush! Some are purple, some are cream, some are pink, some are variegated and some are solid. I love it!

Another little shop in town has several containers of Coleus out front. I love these variegated annuals. There are so many new varieties, it seems they develop new ones every year.

This blue Hydrangea is outside a store very near the purple one above (and below). I love this "subdued" blue; it almost has gray tones to it. It's coloring is more subtle than other blue ones nearby.

July is surely "Hydrangea Month" around here. This pink version is just lovely with its pale yellow centers.

Another type of Coleus from town. It's hard to see where one plant stops and another one starts. Pinks and greens really suit this little shoreline town, lol. Lilly Pulitzer anyone?

Look at how different each blossom is on this plant! I checked the stems to make sure it was the same plant. As each bloom ages, it changes its coloring. I can't really think of many flowers that do this. And then you can dry the flowers during the fall for winter bouquets!

This bright blue Hydrangea literally screams at you when you walk by, lol.

I guess you can tell I was really taken with this plant. Look at the various colors combinations on this one plant.

The green, cream and magenta Coleus in the center has larger leaves, and is a nice foil for the more brightly variegated leaves around it.

A huge lavender plant next to the boardwalk I take into town. It also borders a parking lot and receives zero care. Sometimes I think I "love" my plants too much, lol. I should ignore them and let them work for my attention!
Purple, Rubine, Magenta, Indigo—however you'd like to describe it, this bloom is magnificent.

Flitting around the lavender bush posted above, I found this gorgeous, and psychedelic "Painted Lady" butterfly. Apparently they are quite common, just about the most common butterfly there is, but I've never seen one before, lol. The top wings are mostly orange, but the bottom ones look like they're pen-and-ink outlines. 

BTW 2:

Mystery Shot! This is a photograph of a Great Egret that has been recently visiting the small brook that borders Pink Gardens' driveway and backyard. I'm not sure why this photo came out like this. He flew up into the trees several seconds after I snapped the photo, but for some reason the camera delayed the shutter. I guess I captured him as he began to spread his wings. Oddly enough, I've been watching "Ancient Aliens" on TV tonight, and  the episode tonight was titled, "Angels and Aliens." When I downloaded these photos into my computer tonight, at first I thought I'd captured an angel!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

And the Rockets' Red Glare!

Fired off from a barge anchored offshore, my town's annual Fourth of July's fireworks reflect off the Long Island Sound, above. The small silhouettes at the bottom are some of the people sitting on the granite boulders all along the shoreline. And, yes, I enjoyed these even more for all of my friends in all the parts of the country that couldn't see fireworks this year due to the heatwave and wildfires. I was sending them telepathically to you!

The red and green lights along the horizon are some of the hundreds of boats' port-and-starboard running lights. When I was a child, my father always brought our boat out at night to see these fireworks. It worked my nerves to be in a speeding powerboat at night, lol, but my dad had been in the Navy for twelve years and was always responsible and as safe as could be.

As one Chrysanthemum bursts open, a second rocket is launched. Some of these fireworks opened up and then opened up a second time as the first faded, which always elicited "oohs and ahs" from the crowds.

On the walk home, in a torrential downpour, lol, we passed one of the towns' historic mansions draped in the largest privately-owned flag I've ever seen. It stretched from the roof of the three story home to the ground. It must have been a good 36-40 feet long and 15-20 feet wide. It was spectacular.

F O U R T H   o f   J U L Y   F E S T I V I T I E S — I had a surprisingly fun, spur-of-the-moment time with my friend Nikki last night, walking down to the Sound to see the Fireworks in our little seaside town of Madison, CT.

It was hot and humid and clouding over, but I just felt like a nighttime walk after my VERY quiet 4th of July at home. I spent the day doing a bit of gardening, kept a Matlock marathon on TV in the background inside (thank you Andy Griffith, once again), and sat at my computers beginning my next work project. 

On my way to town last night around 9pm, as I was walking past Nikki's condos, she drove in after a day spent picnicking and enjoying America's birthday. I told her to put on her sneakers and didn't give her time to even think about saying no. We walked down to East Wharf and then turned right and walked along Middle Beach Road as the fireworks began. They're fired off an offshore barge and it was really delightful. You could see hundreds of boats anchored along the horizon, their green and red "port and starboard" lights glowing softly in the navy blue night. There were babies in strollers, teens on skateboards and bikes, and all sorts of folks walking along the shore road. Some grand summer homes had parties with tables set up on their lawns and porches lit with paper lanterns. In the mere seconds between the bombastic thuds and pops and crackles of the fireworks, jolly July banter and laughter and the clinking of glasses could be heard, as we all "oohed and ahed" at the crimsons, indigos, and sunshine yellows of the fireworks. Did I mention the other fireworks behind us? Nature's! Heat lightning combined with the fireworks to give us a "Sensurround" experience, with the man-made light show lasting for about half of an hour. There were "chrysanthemum" fireworks, "bow ties," some that looked like Queen Anne's Lace flowers, and rarely-seen purple and violet rockets. There were low and wide displays, close to the water, and some that seemed to reach the stars before they burst into color and light, and everything in between. 

And as if on cue, as soon as the finale was over, and the smoke-on-the-water began to dissipate, the skies opened up and rain fell from above, lol. As we made our way home, walking in the throngs of thrilled and jubilant townsfolk, and as the gaily decorated bicyclists weaved in between the slowly creeping cars, the rain began gently at first—just enough to cool us down. And then it began to pour! It was like the best setting on an upscale shower head, lol. The smell of the pavement steaming below us, the aroma of July's plentiful flowers, and the occasional whiffs of patchouli, probably mine, lol, just added up to a wonderful, unplanned evening of classic summer merriment. Nicest end to my 4th of July in years!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

236 Years Young

Happy Independence Day, 2012. Yes, this piece is still a work-in-progress, lol. I really need to find time to get back to my art. But it's a fitting image for today. Hope everyone has an enjoyable holiday!