Category Archives: flowers

Summer Bounty, Autumn Harvest

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This summer and autumn we had great luck with our vegetables!  In the older garden, we followed the advice of our friends Peter and Eric and put dried grass over the ground around our tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings.  They grew tall and strong and gave us plenty of fruit!
Then, as an experiment, Yang created a new garden in the center of our yard where there was abundant sunlight and Yang laid down lots of cow manure and rich soil.I admit the area does look shaded here, but it’s mostly sunny. I also had him sow soy beans in the big patch we used to have for pumpkins in the old garden.  I know that soy beans revitalize the soil, so I’m hoping a few seasons of them will enrich that plot so it can support pumpkins once more.
As a result, between the two gardens, we ended up with multiple servings of peppers, egg plant (still a few left), tomatoes, and soy beans!  We also got several nice gourds and pumpkins from Yang’s garden as well.  We might have had more, but we ended up planting late.  Anyway, we can’t wait for next year to  set up our new gardens, expanded and improved!

We also did much better than expected with our sunflowers, which generally had been brutally assaulted by squirrels, birds, and bugs.  I bough one seedling for Yang’s garden that shot up to over seven feet!  These seeds that I planted managed to dodge predators and provided a beautiful glow in the sunset. I’ll be experimenting with buying seedlings and planting my own seeds again next year.  The birds have since finished off the seeds from these flowers.

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed the show!

 

Adventures at Tower Hill

Last Sunday, I managed to take a day off from working on novel #4 to join my two buddies MaryLynn Saul and Judy Jeon-Chapman for a lovely nature walk.  Judy suggested that we visit Tower Hill Botanic Garden in  Boylston, Ma – one of my favorite places. We also met Judy’s friend, the bubbly Christina, along the way – who shared a lovely picture of the four of us with me.  In addition to wonderful plants and flowers, the Garden also has intriguing wind sculptures integrated into the greenery (amongst other colors). You can see one example behind MaryLynn and Judy here.
I also couldn’t help photographing some flowers that intrigued me, though there are too many to record.  But I do love the blue color of these lovely blossoms.  Are they large Forget-Me-Nots?  I’d love to have them in my garden.  I think they like shade.  I was also delighted to see these brilliantly scarlet flowers.  I had posted photos I’d seen of similar flowers when on a bike ride once, in hopes of getting an identification.  Several of my friends pronounced them Cardinal Flowers, and the card underneath these confirmed that i.d.  Problem solved!

 

The Gardens also possess a lovely wooded trail, filled with artfully placed sculpture that make you feel as if you had wandered into a Renaissance pastoral play or novel.  Here’s Cupid, ready to fire off his arrows to spark the typical green- world love tangles. The glorius rays of the sun glint through the leaves, but will not burn us
An ancient Greek warrior peers out at us from the lost past, before this return to the Golden Age when honey and acorns dropped from trees.
Enjoy the ruins in which to recline and play your pipes or sigh away the hours in languid otium.

Gracefully sculpted urns are always conducive to pastoral ease – especially if they might hold delectable libation – and I’m not talking Moxie here.
My fellow mystery readers and writers might look at this picture and question, “What’s this?!  What are they looking at?! Trouble in paradise?  A murdered corpse discovered in the woods?”  Sorry, mystery lovers.  It was just a sign about fairies in the woods.  If it makes you feel better, maybe they’re referring to traditional Medieval and Renaissance Fairies.  Like this!
We also found this lovely rotunda with the words “Peace” inscribed on it.  I thought it would be hilariously ironic for MaryLynn and I to stand under the word and pretend to strangle each other – she and Judy decided otherwise.  Not everyone shares the Healy sense of humor. So, here you have a nice picture of MaryLynn and I before the structure, me holding the dahlias that Judy had purchased from the Dahlia Show that day. They actually go with my blouse.

 

 

All images,  from author’s collection except:

1.the header from Christine Yen

2) the public domain image of the deamon fairy from:  https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/fantasies-evil-spirits-faeries-medieval-imagination-007445

Summer Flowers

Though some of these summer flowers have passed, like the roses, we still have some beautiful flowers going strong in our yard.  The sea roses bloomed gorgeously and gave us a lovely scent for about a month.  Here you can see the pink ones coming into flower.  Years ago we started with three bushes, then they propagated across the back slope of our yard so they now look lovely, as well as ensuring that Yang has far less space to mow on the slope.  My mother-in-law also gave us a beautiful yellow rose bush that flowers with one bud, once a year.  It’s a lovely, delicate yellow!

 

Nearby, we have a small statue of St. Theresa, the Little Flower.  Before her is a lush flock of Moondrops, gifts from our friend Rosemary Adams many years ago.  She also gave us the Coreopsis in our front yard perennial garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Peonies also did nicely.  They surround a birdbath and are complimented by purple ageratum; pink or light purple asters; pink or white dahlias, and blue, pink, and purple delphiniums.  Friend Ruth Haber gave us another batch of peonies for that garden that are a lovely dark pink with yellow centers.  Let’s hope they bloom next spring!  If you look closely, you can see the birdbath has a base shaped like seahorses!
Near the peony garden is our fishpond.  There’s a mound next to it filled with all kinds of flowers surrounding a fountain in the form of a lady pouring from a jar into the filtering urn of lava rocks.  You can see one side of the mound is planted with orange and yellow flowers.  The other side has pinks and purples.  We used to get a huge crop of cosmos every year for almost twenty years, then this year:  nothing!  I had to go out and buy more plants.  Yang pointed out that the Goldfinches and Chickadees ate up all the seeds last fall!  The little devils!  At least the fish still enjoy the scenery, especially at feeding time!
We have lots of neat statuary accompanying our flowers.  Here a fairy mingling with the impatiens.  I love it when you pull up the driveway around sunset and the orange beams of the sinking sun flare out the red colors of these flowers.  We also have a dragon who loves to consort with the fairy and flowers.  Right now there are even some purple Canterbury Bells that sprang up as volunteers next to the dragon. Foxes, turkeys, deer, and hawks have also come strolling in and out of those woods behind our house.

 

 

Continuing the Asian touch we have with the dragon, we have a Buddha sitting next to and enjoying what we call the square garden.  We have pansies, petunias, ageratum, snapdragons, and even a lovely yellow Columbine in there. Don’t the flowers on the columbine look like dragon heads?  The green bushy thing in the back is a bunch of Bleeding Hearts that volunteered in there.  They’re beautiful in the early spring.
On the back porch, we have two Chinese lions, male (globe under his paw) and female (cub under her paw).  We thought we’d make this one a patriotic Chinese American lion.  I love to mix the pinks, yellows, and blues in the urns to surround the lions.

 

 

 

For these window boxes, I tried to combine flowers of colors that complemented each other and they repaid me by bursting forth in lush blossoms in June and July.  Now that we’ve moved into August, the blossoms are tuckering out and being assailed by evil caterpillars – which I assiduously TRY to pick off, the little stinkers!  However,  the flower boxes are still mighty nice to look at when I get up each morning.  Here they are in full glory.

 

 

So, some of these flowery glories have passed, but now we have more beauties, with the Rose of Sharon trees in full swing and the lilies blooming later than usual, but adding necessary color to the yard.  I’ll have to post more pictures later. 

A New England Mini-Vacation: Bookstock and the Bridge of Flowers

Last weekend, we had a mini-vacation in Vermont, connected to my day at Bookstock.  What a great time!  We’re so fortunate to be living in New England.  Friday afternoon, we took a leisurely drive up to Brattleboro to have an early supper at our favorite bakery on Main Street.  In a space overlooking the river and mountain, we watched a thunderstorm roll in while we enjoyed a scrumptious olive tapenade/goat cheese/walnut salad and a cappuccino.  The storm passed; we rolled out for Springfield, Vermont and the Toonerville Rail Trail.  It’s not a long trail, only seven miles round trip, but it runs along the Black River and through some gorgeous Vermont mountain and woodsy scenery.  I even managed to spot some Phoebes and Thrushes!  The river ran fast and muddy.  I’m not sure if that was just from the recent rainfall.  Whatever the case, there were some notable rapids.  This should be a nice ride in the colorful New England fall.

The next day was my stint at the Sisters In Crime-New England Table on Woodstock Green at Bookstock.  I had a wonderful time with two of my favorite writers, and pals, Leslie Wheeler and Connie Johnson Hambley.  Leslie has a new book out in Rattlesnake Hill and Connie has completed her Jessica trilogy.  If you’re looking for some exciting and enjoyable summer reading, these are great choices – as are Letter from a Dead Man and Bait and Switch!  We have the best conversations on writing, the great stuff to do in New England, our families, etc.  We also had a lot of fun talking to and getting to know readers and writers visiting our table.  I can’t say enough about the great opportunities Sisters in Crime offers both readers and writers (published or not).  And one of the best benefits is meeting the other members of the group.  I’ve made some swell (as Anne Sheridan would have put it in a movie) friends here.  At our booth, the three of us couldn’t help telling interested readers how enjoyable we found each other’s writing!

 

Last day of our vacation, Yang and I went to Shelburne Falls and visited the Bridge of Flowers.  If you’ve never been there, this is an old foot bridge that has been planted on either side of a central path with all kinds of different, beautiful flowers and shrubs.

There are zinnias, roses, red hot poker, delphinium with bachelor buttons, Rose of Sharon, bee balm – you name it. Here are some lovely lilies.

 

 

 

Isn’t this rose a treat?

These dahlias and the sunflower are all set for the Fall !

 

 

Here I am, delighted to be with a shrub with which I share a name!

 

 

 

 

 

God knows what the heck this thing is!  I hope aliens didn’t leave it!

 

 

You can see from the pictures how gorgeous the flowers are.  Several years back, a terrible flood wiped out the bridge garden; but, as you can see, it has been restored with resounding success.  Some of the flowers will last several seasons of the year, while some are more seasonal and will be replaced with flowers and plants appropriate to the autumn, later.

So many people enjoy the garden!  However, as I will show you, humans aren’t the only ones who delight in the Bridge of Flowers.  Yang got several wonderful pictures of one of the many Tiger Swallowtails taking a sunny Sunday brunch on the Bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was also a  Hummingbird Hawk Moth, which people frequently mistake for a Hummingbird.  Gorgeous and otherworldly, isn’t it?

Then, we got some shots of the real deal:  this female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.  She adored the Bee Balm and the Red Hot Poker!  She was also fairly undaunted by most of the humans at her restaurant.  Yang got some superb shots, didn’t he?    I’m happy to say that we also saw another such bird on our stroll through town and that the hummingbird who usually visits us each year at home has made several appearances already!  All in all, a delightful weekend!

 

Wood Thrush Image:  https://www.freeclipartnow.com/animals/birds/Wood-Thrush.jpg.html
All other images, author’s collection

 

Late Summer Birds and Flora

 

Summer is almost officially past, so I’m posting some images from my gardens.  We have three kinds of morning glories flowering in our yard.  We’d have four, if the large blue ones would flower,garden1 but they won’t.  So, we have some deep purple, some magenta, and some orchid ones.  I don’t know all the names of the types, but they are lovely.  Every year, I collect the seeds from these flowers to replant them in the spring.  Sometimes, we get some interesting hybrids.  I managed to get pictures of one of my favorites.  Sometimes the orchid morning glories will sport a  broad, deep purple  stripe, as you see here. garden2 The seeds will actually reflect the  combined types.  Orchid seeds are cream colored and purple or magenta ones are black.  These hybrid seeds are usually cream with a black stripe.  Sometimes, the orchid ones will also blend with the magenta to produce a pink flower.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the one pink flower I’ve seen so far, but I did tag the flower so that I can retrieve the seeds.

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The birds have also been having a grand time in our yard.  We’ve seen lots of cardinals, garden5including the Daddy Cardinal taking the kids out for dinner.  We also have Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, scads of Gold Finches and Purple Finches, Chickadees, Titmice, and Nuthatches.  I even saw a hummingbird three times this year!  One time was in early September!  The young gentleman Coopers Hawks have since taken offhawk1 and rarely visit now.  We named them Shawn and Gus – I know you know that I AM telling the truth about that!  In this picture, you can see one hawk in the foreground and if you look carefully, the other is in silhouette in the triangle of railings on the right.
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The drought has certainly left my pumpkins gasping for life.  I’ve seen so many pumpkin and gourd embryos wither and die.  Still, some made it. garden10 Here is an odd shaped pumpkin, which some critter took a chunk out of.  Still, the pumpkin lives and now resides on my sideboard in the dining room.  The pumpkin below isn’t a rogue that needs to be caged to protect the other flora and fauna. The vine climbed over the garden fence and the pumpkin embryo became fertilized hanging over the outside of the garden.  Since we found evidence of some creature trying to dig into the garden,  we developed protective caging from milk cartons. garden7 The ploy worked, for this pumpkin matured and now resides in state on the what-not table in my parlor.  You can also see a crown of thorns embryo ready to flower and be fertilized.  The good news is that this little guy is happily growing away.  Maybe I’ll have some more pictures of it later.  garden9
Here are some of our eggplants and peppers. These guys were delicious!  Yang can cook!  So, I guess the drought didn’t totally blacken my green thumb.garden8

 

A Walk in the Sterling Woods

Sterling1Recently, Yang and I decided to take a Sunday morning walk, while it was still relatively cool, in the wooded rail trail in Sterling , MA – right behind the center of town. As you can see from the sign, DSCN2858the name of the trail is  the Mass Central Rail Trail.  It runs about a mile and three quarters one way, so round trip is about three and a half miles – too short for a bicycle ride, but nice for a walk.

 

Parts of the trail are flanked by swamp and marshes like this, Sterling3where we saw tons of Catbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Song Sparrows.  Using our new binoculars, we could watch a Song Sparrow raise his head and liberate a beautiful song.  I just wish we had a camera that could photograph what we see through the binoculars.  We also saw a ground hog pick his way through the underbrush and onto the trail, but he was too quick for us to get a photo of him.

The trail itself is Sterling6straight and flat with packed gravel, perfect for easy walking and so beautifully shady and cool during a summer day – especially in the morning.  We were lucky to see scads of chipmunks and even a few rabbits.  We weren’t so lucky in finding ourselves sometimes accompanied by mosquitoes – Sterling4but they weren’t so bad here as in other woods we’ve strolled through.

 

Toward its far end, the trail passes across a lake.  This area had once been a vacation resort, but now, as a public trail, anyone can go there to fish, boat quietly, or just enjoy the view. Dscn2868 There are some benches in the woods overlooking the lake that afford a lovely relaxing outlook.  Once, Yang and I took our tea and scones there to sit and have breakfast and enjoy the beautiful vista.  We saw scores of dragon flies and baby fish. We’ve also seen a Great Blue Heron here in the past.  I think Sterling7I might even have done some reading.  Where a bridge carries you over the lake, you come out into the sunshine, and it’s such a pleasurable view!

 

 

Yang really enjoyed using our new binoculars!Sterling5

In the parking lot,Sterling10 I saw these lovely daisies and chicory, so I had to photograph them.  One year, I found loads of Baltimore Orioles, male and female, building their nests in the trees along the lot.  Sterling12No such luck this visit.  I might have come too late in the season.  Still, a wonderful walk.

Mont Saint Michel

When I was a little girl, perusing my geography book in a grade I can’t quite remember, I came across a photograph of and sidebar on the island castle/monastery Mont Saint Michel. Its inaccessibility, magnificence, and antiquity fascinated me.  I remember reflecting that never in a million years would I get the chance to visit such a cool place. It was a place to dream on, though.  1Stmicehl1Well, a million years rolls around sooner than you would ever expect. Last month, I found myself journeying to the mysterious isle, and not being disappointed.

The tide was out when we arrived––otherwise, we never could have crossed to the towering rock island, which would have been surrounded by tide-ripped ocean. Still, no one ought to feel all that much at ease, even with the tide out, for the sands hide quicksand, 2St.Michel2waiting to suck you down. So, stay on that boardwalk!  Then, when the tide comes back in, it’s with a rush that’s earned the nick-name “galloping horses.”

 

 

 

 

The monastery/cathedral that tops the island seems like an organic outgrowth, built into the 3Village1rock, as is the village, circled by city walls, that spirals up narrow, cobbled streets and ancient stone stairs to the  magnificent edifice melded into the summit.

 

 

 

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5steps1

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Fortunately, the collapsible stool Yang got me, enabled me to climb almost ad infinitum, with moments of rest to forestall the onslaught of my plantar fasciitis pain.7steps4

 

 

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It’s a long drop below.

 

 

 

 

9gargoyles2What would a castle/cathedral be without presiding gargoyles?

 

 

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The church where mass was said had beautiful Gothic architecture

 

 

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Outside at the top were gardens, which reminded me of the Cloisters in New York, near Fort Tryon State Park.  The Cloisters is clearly inspired by this wonderful aspect of some monasteries.  But how do 15cloiser1these flowers grow so beautifully on an island smack dab in the ocean?  How do the salt air and the harsh winter cold affect them?

 

 

 

Inside, within the monastery that contains that cathedral space is the refectory that fed a 21refectorypassel of monks and their royal guests in ages long ago.  They must have seen me coming and hidden all the food.

 

 

 

 

Crypt:  here, the crypt refers to the original meaning, a hidden place as opposed to a burial 19inside1place.  This was one of the vast chambers in the monastery.  The lack of light in these rooms made taking photographs extremely difficult, so I can’t share the dark, dreamy quality of the chambers that twisted around each other. That’s why the image of the Black Madonna here (a much later installation) isn’t the best.   I could definitely understand why in “The Horla” Guy deMaupassant characterized Mont Saint Michel as a setting that left one susceptible to possibilities of the fantastic and eerie.18Blackmadonna

 

 

 

 

 

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Going down showed us the beauty and magnificence of the curving stone walls, seeming to be an organic extension of the mountain rock.  22comingdown1

 

 

 

And gorgeous flowers and other plants revealed Nature’s tenacity, growing from the slightest cracks in man-made and Nature-made walls.

 

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Back in the village, we wound down the narrow streets, toward St. Michael’s Church, with the 27downvillage5warrior angel, himself, on guard in statue form by the door.  We visited inside and felt the joy of painting, stained glass, and statuary celebrating wonder at the Divinity (Take that Protestant Reformation!).  We also visited a tiny cemetery of tall gravestones with plots of flowers or colored broken stones enclosed by stone borders.  Finally, we made it to a little cafe for lunch, where I managed to order in French without embarrassing us!  Mmm, savory galettes of jambon, champignons, and fromage, complemented by cafe au lait.  What a wonderful day.28downvillage

birdsSpring? Really?

This week has been gorgeous! ––the weather, the birds and their spring songs, the flowers (and, unfortunately, their pollen!). snowglories1I think, I hope, that spring is really here. I got my hopes up when one of my favorite flowers burst into view a few weeks ago, the Early Snow Glory. I love this purple/blue star with its snow center and lively slender yellow stamens. This year, they’ve migrated all over my yard. Beautiful.  The hyacinths, grape hyacinths, and daffodils have all blossomed, with lilac and pink hyacinths just now drooping their flowers.    But now the Bleeding Hearts are taking over.DSCN1800

The birds are wonderful to see, too. The Gold Finches have transformed from winter olive-drab to brilliant yellow.DSCN1742 The house finch couple, the male looking as if he had been “dipped in strawberry syrup” (Peterson’s), are showing up far more often. A more romantic pair are the cardinals; the scarlet male tenderly (really) feeding his olive Mrs.––or Ms. DSCN1727

The Red-Winged Blackbird whistles his presence then bares the startling orange and yellow of his epaulets. Best of all is our pair of male

Rosebreasted Grosbeaks. Their black hood, the flash and flicker of black and white patterns on their fluttering tails and wings, and the liquid pink on their chests are a visual delight.DSCN1718

Maybe last year’s Baltimore Oriole will return?  I think I’ve heard his song, sometimes, in the trees behind my house.

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Oh yes, the humans aren’t the only ones in our house who enjoy bird watching.

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