Category Archives: gardens

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

 

Birds, Beasts, and Flora

 

 We’ve been enjoying nature quite a bit this summer, between our own yard and our peregrinations about the Northeast.  Several of my friends have been posting images of their luscious vegetable gardens, so I thought I’d show how well our plants are doing this season.  We’ve planted one patch with  tomatoes, yellow beans, egg plants, and peppers.  As you can see they are growing beautifully!

 

 

 

 

We have tomatoes growing apace and even eggplants developing. The plants are so much taller than in years past, probably because we have had so much rain and sunshine this year. I’m looking forward to harvesting the tomatoes and making salads and sandwiches with them – or just slicing them up and snacking on them with either a little salt or some of my homegrown basil – which also is doing nicely!  Some evil insect has been gnawing on my dill, but I have still grown enough to season my cucumber sandwiches and a mackerel pie (It’s like salmon pie, except you accidentally grab a can of mackerel rather than salmon – tastes almost the same.).  Fortunately, we also have lots of sprouts of dill that have reseeded themselves from last year.

The soy beans are also coming along splendidly.  We actually have two patches.  Homegrown ones are  a little crunchier that what you get from the store.  Yum.  The pumpkins are also going great guns now, as well. When the embryos become visible, or even get fertilized, I’ll take some more photos of them.  The plants have actually grown thicker and are starting to travel now, since I’ve taken this photo.  I have all different sorts:  little orange pumpkins (Jack Be Little), little white ones, big orange ones, large white ones, and various types of gourds.  Some are commercial seeds and some are saved from the pumpkins that I bought last year.  So far, the older home-collected seeds aren’t doing so well, but the newer ones are growing.  The commercial ones are doing pretty well for the most part.  What’s really interesting is that seeds that didn’t germinate from last year seem to be taking off this year.  Odd, isn’t it?

It’s a good thing that we have fencing up around our vegetable garden, because we are not alone.!  This is one of the rabbits that we’ve seen in our yard.  He’s the smaller one.  One night, Natasha saw him and chased him, though Yang’s hold on her leash prevented a disaster.  I think he might have come back armed (the rabbit, not Yang), because the next evening, ‘Tasha saw him and went skulking back to the house, whimpering.  Of course, I probably shouldn’t embarrass  her this way.  She might have just seen Monty Python’s The Holy Grail.  Scary looking bunny, isn’t he?  He was also quite the little stinker.  Seconds after we took this picture, he sat up, snipped off the stem of the purple flower in the picture and then spit the whole thing out!  Here he is, giving us a Nyah-Nyah look right before he strikes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herr Hare isn’t the only visitor to our yard.  One afternoon, when I went out to feed the fish in our little pond, I was startled as I came around the house to see this enormous visitor!  We’ve had lots of turkey sightings all over the Worcester area (and Boston, Rhode Island,  the Cape, New York state), even on our street.  However, this is the first guy I found in our yard.  I was surprised he wasn’t in a flock, even a small one, as most of the turkeys I’ve sighted have been.  He returned for several days, coming out of the woods behind our house at around 8:00 in the morning or 6:00 in the evening, but I haven’t seen him in awhile. We started calling him Raymond Burrd – I’ve been watching reruns of Ironside; what can I say?

 

Another neighbor’s cat tried to stalk the turkey a couple of times and was ignored at first.  Then he made a charge and that bird just did one arched extension of the wings – Clover took off.  My cats enjoyed watching that, since Clover was on their turf.  Anyway, I haven’t seen him in some days.  I guess he found some more fruitful scratching grounds.  The birds on my feeders apparently weren’t dropping enough seed for him.  We did see three adults and several chicks the other day about a mile or so from our house.  Unfortunately, by the time we turned our car around to go back and take a picture, the birds were deep into someone’s yard, and we didn’t want to trespass – even if the turkeys weren’t so particular.

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t seen my friend the Fox, whom I call Mulder, around lately.  Maybe it’s fortunate for the rabbit.  I think the turkey might be a little much for him.  However, on a bicycle trail in Fairhaven, MA.  Yang and I got a good look at a beautiful black fox kit!  He came out of the woods next to the road, looked us over, ran to the middle of the road, gave a little hopping prance, then ran back the way he’d come and disappeared into the woods.  From his size and leanness, he looked much like pictures of black fox kits that I found on line.  Apparently, though black foxes are rare in England (see this cool article), they are not so uncommon here in North America.  Darn it all!  he was gone before I could get out my camera!  But here are some shots from the web that perfectly match the neat little guy that we saw.  Here’s a Youtube video of a Fox hunting mice, for your edification.

 

 

 

 

Black Fox photo #1 https://www.pinterest.com/pin/85779567874103887/

Balck Fox Photo #2 Source no longer available

A Visit to the Cloisters

Many moons ago, back in grad school, my friend Andrea Rossi Reder told me about this wonderful museum of Medieval and Renaissance art, the Cloisters, that was constructed like a medieval cloistered monastery.  It took me a few years to get there, but my husband and I visited one spring some time ago.  It was a beautiful place, near Fort Tryon Park, overlooking the Hudson River.  I not only enjoyed all the exquisite art and the ancient-styled construction, but loved wandering the  herbal garden in the sun and warmth of spring.  Last week, my husband proved is is indeed “goals” by taking me back there after another stretch of many years.  This winter visit had charms of its own.  I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed the museum.
After taking the A-train from the 125th St. station, we hopped the 100 Bus to St. Nicholas Street, then another subway, and we were right outside Fort Tryon Park.  Crossing the park showed us the bleak beauty of winter, the red bar berry bushes, crimson hemlock berries,  and the frosty-blue berries of another type evergreen.  acloisters2We even got to see a fluffy, black squirrel, rare in my neck of the woods.  Then the Cloisters loomed through the trees against azure shading down to soft winter-blue skies .

 

 

These sculpture, likely not Medieval, greeted us as we made our way up the drive.  acloisters3We took turns guessing what the hell they were as we approached. I hit the jackpot with the conjecture of, “Pears?” For once, modern sculpture stuck in the middle of nature didn’t appear so terribly intrusive.

 

I like this shot of  the arched entry way. Note the cobblestone drive way.  We had to dodge a few not so Medieval buses dropping off passengers here. acloisters5I’ll apologize in advance for not having pictures of Yang.  We used his Ipad and I hate trying to take pictures with the darned thing. 

 

 

 

 

After entering and moving through the great hall, we moved off to the side to the square surrounding the cloisters garden, now closed off from us by glass – allowing us to look out at the neatly mown ghost of the  summer garden, while keeping the December cold outside.  acloisters10During the warmer months, this area is all open.  When I visited Mont St. Michel and saw their cloister garden growing within the monastery, high atop the island mountain, I realized the inspiration for the Cloisters garden.  Even with winter’s hand stilling the garden, the December sunshine filled the indoor court surrounding it with brightness and beauty.  acloisters9The carvings on the capitals of the columns were fascinating – humans, beasts (mythological and fanciful), gods – I could swear I saw C’thullu.  

 

 

We went back into the building proper, then wandered from room to interconnected room, drinking in the sacred images culled from monasteries, churches, and castles – excited to find these treasures opened up to our experience, but, perhaps, a bit troubled that they had been stripped from their original homes.  Still, here, they are restored, protected, and cherished. acloisters16Towards the end of our meander, we came across this carved altar with the golden reliquaries of a saint and her attendants – I think St. Ursula.

 

 

Female and male martyrs of the early Church were honored in stained glass, wooden statuary, and paintings. There were tons of artwork  of St. Margaret.   However, in honor of acloisters20my BFF Barbara, I have to include this statue of St. Barbara.

 

 

From the other side of the arch in the same chamber, here is one of my favorite statues of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus.  She is clothed in the sun and stands on the crescentacloisters21 moon.  Just to the left, you can see a carving of St. Christopher bearing the child Jesus.  These statues are more colorful than some of the others.  I don’t remember if their paint had been restored.  Most likely the case.

 

 

acloisters14Here are some more particularly striking carvings of Virgin and Child.  What must the colors have been like when this piece was even relatively new? The thought takes my breath away.  If you can look closely at the folds of Mary’s robes and the strands of her hair, you’ll be filled with amazement at the workmanship.  Truly, this work is a loving prayer.

 

 

 

 

Similarly, look at this exquisite piece.  I am amazed  at the fluid drapery of the folds ofacloisters32 her clothing, the mobile shape of her body, and the moving tenderness of her expression.  The soft shining polish of this wood dissolves any impression of stiffness and immobility.  The statue seems a fluid prayer of gentleness, love, and faith.  What a pity the Protestant Reformation looked at these works and only saw “painted idols” instead of art’s living prayer to God.

 

 

 

There is also a room in the lowest level, at the far end of the gallery, acloisters24designed like a crypt, that displays effigies. The ceiling is shaped into beautifully vaulted Gothic arches – again, I remembered Mont St. Michel.   I noticed one family had a faithful dog under the feet of the various sculpted forms of generations of its nobility. acloisters25 The novel The Undying Monster gives an intriguing play to this custom as a hint to the UM haunting its family through innumerable generations.  I guess when I go, they will have to surround me with  effigies of my plethora of cats!

 

 

We also made it into the unicorn room, with all the famous tapestries.  I was not pleased to see so many unicorns so mistreated.  No wonder they’re so hard to find nowadays – or it could have to do with the dearth of virgins. acloisters33jpg Nevertheless, I couldn’t report on a visit to the Cloisters without a picture of the most famous unicorn tapestry.

 

 

There were also displays of jewelry,  fine utensils, and various types of game boards. acloisters27There were several chess boards with figures carved from ivory or bone (whose?!), often with the knight displaying an accurate depiction of armor on man and horse.  My favorite was this chess set made out of amber.  If you look closely at the board, you can see pictures created in the chess squares.acloisters31

 

 

Of course, we also did some touristy things in town.  arockefeller3After a wonderful dinner at Alice’s Teacup – with equally wonderful tea! – we went to Rockefeller Center and got a look at the famous tree as well as the skating rink.

 

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So, by eight o’clock or so, we were on our train, heading back to Connecticut.  Our dogs might have been barking, but we ended the day culturally and spiritually enlightened.

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