Mount Vernon – Part II

Continuing yesterday’s post about my experience at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

The garden tours continued with a short walk along the serpentine walk to the Lower Garden. This was the main kitchen garden (fruits, vegetables, herbs) and under the direction of Martha Washington during her tenure at Mount Vernon. There is considerable documentation about the plants that were grown in the garden; one bit of trivia: Martha Washington liked artichokes! The lavender that grew around one bed seemed to be doing particularly well this year.

The garden was reconstructed in 1938….in a Colonial Revival style. Prior to that time the focus has been on the mansion rather than the grounds.

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Our group exited the Lower Garden toward the East Lawn of the mansion. We got a closer view of the scaffolding for the façade renovation project….and the walked far enough away to see the whole of the mansion.

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But the theme of the conversation was about the view….pointing out the minor changes but also the success that buying and conserving the land on the Maryland side has had on preserving the view shed of Mount Vernon. This is the view down river.

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We walked to the chairs on the river-side porch of the mansion and I took a picture upriver too. During Washington’s time the river would have been deeper (a lot of silting has happened since the 1700s) and there was a lot of boat traffic; It was also full of fish….actively harvested. Washington grew hemp to make rope for nets!

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Then it was time for a late lunch (most of us ate our box lunch outside on the library grounds – at tables on the porch or park benches). Then it was time to pick up a ‘goodie bag’ – plants and seeds! This year the plants included: chocolate mint, blackberry lily, spearmint, cardinal flower, pink turtlehead, and obedient plant. The seeds were larkspur, Purple columbine and spider flower. I have the plants on some shelves in a south facing window….will have to buy some pots to keep them happy through the winter. Then I’ll be putting them outside in the spring. The seeds will be planted next spring…and I hope they survive our deer population! There was a bar of bayberry scented soap which I unwrapped and have in my office….a pleasant scent to enjoy through fall and winter.

Overall – this was a fabulous volunteer appreciation event.

Mount Vernon – Part I

George Washington’s Mount Vernon was the location of The Horticultural Consortium of the Greater Washington Area’s volunteer appreciation day last week. I was invited based on my volunteering at Brookside Gardens. After over 1.5 hours on the road to get there during the morning rush hour, it was a wonderful day. The weather was perfect for a day in the gardens….congenial conversations with other volunteers…informative lecture and tours.

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We started out at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington with a talk from the Mount Version Horticulturist. The library is for research and only open otherwise for events. It was a comfortable space for a lecture….and then lunch later.

There were tours with a ‘historical horticulture’ them for 4 areas. The first two were the Upper Garden and Bowling Green. The Upper Garen features a reconstructed greenhouse (close to what it would have looked like when George Washington died in 1799) with wide paths and some formal beds closest to it.

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The contents of other beds are less structured with flowering plants that would have been available in Washington’s day and often with vegetables like okra growing in the center. There is even an area for grapes!

We walked a short distance to the Bowling Green. The house was not on our tour but the scaffolding for the renovation of the façade was evident; the side facing the Bowling Green was in most need of repair and is being completed first…then the work on the river side will commence.

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The view of the Bowling Green and the mansion from the Bowling Green Gate is dramatic. This would be where carriages could stop to view the house before continuing to the road that lead to the paddock, stable and carriage house.  In the opposite direction is the view of the gatehouse (zoomed a little) that would have been where carriages would have entered the property.

Some of the trees that were planted by George Washington have died since we moved to the area in 1983. One that is still around is a tulip poplar that he planted in 1785.

Over time other trees were planted – like this American Holly that was planted in 1812…maybe the oldest holly I’ve seen.

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There is detailed evidence (from his journals) of the trees that Washington planned for the walks on either side of the Bowling Green and a diagram produced for a magazine article from the early 1800s. As the horticulturalists continue their work, the walk will have more and more of the trees that were there in 1799.

I’ll post about 2 more Mount Vernon garden tours tomorrow.

Gleanings of the Week Ending June 14, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Antibiotics found in some of the world's rivers exceed 'safe' levels, global study finds -- ScienceDaily and Hundreds of world's rivers contain dangerous levels of antibiotics – Same story from different news feeds. Antibiotics we take are not broken down in our bodies and are excreted. Wastewater treatment does not take them out of the water so the rivers are – over time – building up more antibiotics.

Ancient Fingerprints Show Men and Women Both Made Pottery in the American Southwest | Smart News | Smithsonian – The breadth of men’s finger print ridges are 9% wider than those of women…so pots that are made via pinching layers of coiled clay together using the thumb and forefinger (leaving fingerprints) can be analyzed to determine the gender of the person that made them. It turns out at Chaco Canyon that men and women made pottery…unlike the more modern tradition of the skill passing from grandmothers to mothers to younger women.

Route 66 Considered for National Historic Trail in The Park System – On a recent road trip, the Pacific, MO hotel we stayed in (west of St. Louis) was near Route 66. They had a map to continue the journey through Missouri on stretches of the old road. We needed to reach our destination quickly so stayed on I-44…but maybe sometime when we can take our time…we’ll take Route 66 where we can.

CITY SPROUTS: The Budding Movement to Integrate Garden-Based Learning in Public School Education | Children & Nature Network – A laudable goal…but it takes work. With teachers that already have a lot to do….organizing garden-based learning might be a tough addition to their job jar.

Most of the World’s Macadamias May Have Originated from a Single Australian Tree | Smart News | Smithsonian – The majority of macadamias are grown in Hawaii…so the lack of diversity within the trees in Hawaii leaves the crop open to species-level risk. This article talks about the research and search for wild plants in Australia to increase the diversity within the macadamia gene pool.

Seven US Species Invading Other Countries – Cool Green Science – We talk a lot about non-native species invading the US. Here are some that have gone the other way.

A Sea of Sagebrush Disappears, Making Way for Fire-Prone Cheatgrass: NPR – Nearly 75% of the acres burned by wildfires in the west are range lands rather the forest. And what burns is sage and cheatgrass. The problem is that cheatgrass, an invasive grass, grows faster than sage and is taking over land where sage once dominated…and cheatgrass is more flammable. Put that together with climate change and the look of the west is changing.

Megacities Like Paris and London Can Produce Their Own Clouds | Smart News | Smithsonian – The urban heat island phenomenon has been known for a long time. Now studies are looking at cloud cover over cities and it appears they are 10% cloudier than rural areas.

Still snarling after 40,000 years, a giant Pleistocene wolf discovered in Yakutia – Found in Siberia. The discovery was announced as the opening of a Woolly Mammoth exhibition in Tokyo organized by Yakutian and Japanese scientists. The same team also presented a well-preserved cave lion cub.

Six fingers per hand – People with 6 fingers on a hand (a form of polydactyly) can perform movements with one hand where people with 5 fingers would require 2 hands. The brain of polydactyly subjects controls the additional degrees of freedom the additional finger provides without sacrificing any other brain functions.

Gleanings of the Week Ending April 6, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

BBC - Future - What happens when we run out of food? – Even in the US, nearly 12% of households re classed as being food insecure; more than 6.5 million children go without adequate food. And the whole food system can be disrupted very easily by war and very bad government all around the world.

Refugee women have healthier pregnancies than US women -- why? An unhealthy US culture: For African refugee women, acculturation may negatively impact health -- ScienceDaily – I was surprised that the researchers did not explore the idea that maybe the value of early pre-natal care is overrated for people that are generally healthy when they get pregnant since the refugee women tended to not start pre-natal care until their 2nd trimester.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Migration – National Geographic Society  - Birds are migrating through our area…we’re seeing more robins…and the juncos will leave soon to go further north. These pictures feature birds from around the world…that are migrating.

Hospital disinfectants should be regulated like antibiotics new study suggests – It’s not just antibiotics that drive antimicrobial resistance…it’s disinfectants (particularly in hospitals) too.

BBC - Future - The unexpected magic of mushrooms – New items made from fungus...replacing some kinds of plastics. It’s good that fungi are so plentiful on the planet – exceeding the biomass of all animals.

An Island Apart – Acadia National Park’s Isle ad Haut. A very different experience from Mount Desert Island

Beautiful cherry blossoms photos – Our cherry tree is in bloom right now. I guess cherry trees are enjoyed around the world very year about this time. There is a picture of the cherry trees around the tidal basin in Washington DC included in the pictures.

Green tea cuts obesity, health risks in mice: Follow-up study in people underway -- ScienceDaily – More research needed…. but I am enjoying green tea already (my favorite is a blend with mint).

Make A Home for Wildlife – Cool Green Science – Some ideas for creating an oasis for wildlife --- it doesn’t take much to help pollinators or birds!

Why did Flamingos flock to Mumbai in record numbers this winter? – 120,000 flamingoes…that’s a lot of birds!

Gleanings of the Week Ending June 16, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Reading habits in the past | Europeana Blog – When I travel, I tend to do most of my reading on my phone (light weight, easy to carry, and ambient light does not have to be good). It’s a recent development for me. This blog post goes back further in history.

Man against machine: AI is better than dermatologists at diagnosing skin cancer -- ScienceDaily – There are still limitations to the AI but it might be close to a tipping point to begin transitioning into system. It seems like it would be most in demand for screening where there were not highly trained dermatologists available….as long as the imaging technology was not tremendously expensive or hard to use.

BBC - Future - Is it really healthier to live in the countryside? – I thought it would be…but it’s complicated because so many factors contribute to ‘health.’

Mapping Modern Threats to Ancient Chacoan Sites : Image of the Day – Posts about places I’ve visited always get my attention. A study using satellite data and projections for population growth/oil and gas exploration in the area shows that 44 of the 123 known Chaco sites included in the study are threatened by development. Of those, 19 are already protected by the National Park Service.

Paper Art Details Similarities Between Human Microbiome and Coral Reef – Nature inspired art!

Researchers Grow Veggies in Space | The Scientist Magazine® - Progress in a technology required for longer space missions…and then colonies on other planets.

Schoolyard Habitats Provide Resiliency in Houston Independent School District : The National Wildlife Federation Blog – Schools in Maryland have similar projects. I hope the monarchs have shown up in Houston…I haven’t seen any in Maryland yet this year.

US Still Subsidizing Fossil Fuels To Tune Of $27 Billion | CleanTechnica – This post included more detail on what subsidies are…how the US compares to other developed countries.

Thank A Rare Fungus For The Sustainable Solar Cell Of The Future | CleanTechnica – It’s a beautiful color…if it really works, it won’t be ‘rare’ for long. It will be come a commercially grown fungus!

Bright warning colors on poison dart frogs also act as camouflage -- ScienceDaily – Learning a bit more about these little frogs.