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.

Zooming – December 2018

It’s been somewhat cold this month – but no snow yet. I’ve enjoyed photographing our transition to winter using the zoom on my camera to set the frame of the scene and/or to enable me to stay out of the mud (we’ve had lots of rain) or indoors and warm. There is still a little green left…and the sky sometimes seems brighter when its clear and cold. Enjoy the December 2018 Zoom slideshow!

3 Free eBooks – September 2018

All three of the selections this month are multiple items. The first is a series of books from the late 1700s about insects; the second and third are magazines that are within the past few years.

Panzer, Georg Wolfgasng Franz; Sturm, Jakob. Favnae insectorvm Germanicae initia, oder, Deutschlands Insecten. Nürnberg:In den Felseckerschen Buchhandlung. 1796. A series of books available from Internet Archive here. They are in German but the plates (my Jakob Sturm) are the draw. Lots and lots of insects!

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Morfield, Angie Daly (editor). Missouri Conservationist. Missouri Department of Conservation.  Available from the department website here. The monthly magazine about conservation in the state. If you are a resident of Missouri a subscription to the printed magazine is free! I am looking at it online at this point…learning about the plants and animals of Missouri prior to my daughter moving there. Lots of great pictures of various parts of the state.

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Carey, Victoria (editor). Country Style: Australia Coast to Coast. Several issues of the magazine (2015 and 2016 vintage) are available from Internet Archive here. I liked the photographs of gardens and houses….and animals. They have a large ad for Fancy Feast cat food in every issue!

Weekend in State College - Sunday

On Sunday morning we headed to the Arboretum at Penn State.We spent the most time in the Children’s Gate Childrens Garden just like the last time we visited in October 2016 (posts about that visit are here and here). The entrance includes a water feature with a slightly stylized Great Blue Heron sculpture.

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There are areas growing food plants and models of fossils…a water feature to wade into, rocks positioned enable close examination, and a man-made cave (the included bat models hanging from the ceiling)… snake sculptures and real chipmunks that seemed to be everywhere. I kept thinking about how wonderful the garden would be for field trips!

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One of my favorite features is a bowl with kaleidoscopes positioned around it. Last time it had colorful gourds and squash. This time it had succulents.  I took pictures through the scopes!

In the rest of the garden there were many late summer blooms…and spiders too.

There was a lily pond. They had quite a variety of water lilies.

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The one lotus plant they had was spectacular. It must be a hybrid with all the extra very curly petals. I was glad I took a closer look at it.

After lunch we headed home. It was a short but spectacular jaunt into Central Pennsylvania.

Ten Little Celebrations – June 2018

The ten little celebrations for June started out like other months:

  • Celebrating the last of the spring field trips and the end of schools. I enjoy hiking with school groups….but am always ready to have a summer break!
  • The Frederick MD garden day was full of garden treasures. I celebrated formal gardens…a children’s’ garden…and most of all a woodland garden.


  • My daughter managed a weekend to drive down for a weekend visit. She is closer now that she lives in Pennsylvania rather than Arizona, but we are all so busy that we don’t see each other any more frequently.

Then something unique happened: my mother fell and broke her femur…and I went off to Texas for almost 3 weeks. The rest of the little celebrations were all stem from that event:

  • The surgery to fix the break happened within 24 hours and was success.
  • I managed to get to Texas before she left the hospital – barely.
  • She walked about 100 feet with a walker before she left the hospital….and only spent 2 days at a rehab place before going home.
  • I manage a short walk around Josey Ranch lake while one of my sister was with my parents and saw 4 types of herons in about 30 minutes…two were ‘firsts’ for me: a yellow crowned heron and juvenile green herons. It was my only photography away from my parents’ house and was short…but very satisfying.


  • Last but not least – the physical therapy milestones just before my left: my mother walked down a paved alley and across a grassy lawn with her walker….and we’d already gotten a cane to be ready for her next milestone! The she – and the whole family – celebrates every milestone!

Chipmunk Hide and Seek


Last time I was at Brookside Gardens, a butterfly was an effective blind to photograph a chipmunk. There are many chipmunks at Brookside this year (seemingly more than in previous years); they usually do not allow people to get close before scampering off under foliage and further down the path. With the bench between me and the chipmunk, this one seemed oblivious to me. I got several pictures before I made the mistake of taking a step and the chipmunk startled…scampered away…disappeared.

Frederick County MD Gardens Open Day – Part 3

The last garden we visited on The Garden Conservancy’s Open Day last Saturday was the Rausche Woodland Gardens…and it was my favorite. It was a wooded, sloped lot with a house roughly in the center….understory plantings everywhere. The most formal part of the garden was a small grassy area that had been a badminton court when the family was younger….and now held benches and beds of plants that needed a bit more sun that the heavy shade in the rest of the yard. Under the trees is lush and green broken by bits of color of things in bloom.

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The Rausches propagate many of the plants themselves…including jack-in-the-pulpits. I saw the biggest jack-in-pulpit I’ve ever seen in this garden! I didn’t take many pictures in this garden because I was simply enjoying the ambiance of the place. If I ever own a property that has lots of woods like this…I might just become a woodland gardener too.

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Stone pathways wandered through the plantings of hellebore (deer don’t like) surrounding hostas and other plants that deer eat enthusiastically. The rhododendron and azaleas were past blooms. The recent floods had done some damage (there was a new path that water flowed….where it had never flowed in the nearly 4 decades of garden development) but the garden was recovering.

When two of the big trees died, they had them cut into 6-foot-tall stumps and the carved! The results frame their woodpile! I liked the squirrels spiraling the stump. On the opposite side of the stump is a hollowed place – a secret place for something to hide.

Frederick County MD Gardens Open Day – Part 2

The next garden we visited on The Garden Conservancy’s Open Day last Saturday was Surreybrooke in Middletown, MD. Surreybrooke was a working nursery complete with hoop  houses…also the home of the owners for the past 4 decades. We walked through the succulent hoop house to get to the more private gardens around the house. I liked the lushness and color of the succulents they had.

Garden art was everywhere in the plantings – a swan gate, miniature houses surrounded by plants, birdhouses, and many kinds of plant containers.

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The owners have collected and moved old buildings such as the spring house – I love the ruggedness of the logs and the variety of chinking.

There were benches of a variety of materials, vintage, and design.

The grounds were soggy from the recent rain so stepping stones were much appreciated.

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The high point for me at this garden was the Children’s Garden. There was a tree house with stairs not quite wide enough for an adult…and garden art among lush plantings. The toad houses and child-sized benches were functional…

The rest were whimsical.

The hedgehog stepping stones led to an outhouse….that still looked functional!

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Frederick County MD Gardens Open Day – Part 1

Last Saturday was The Garden Conservancy’s Open Day in Frederick MD. I had heard about one of them (High Glen) from a Master Gardener who had enjoyed the gardens a month ago and encouraged everyone to take advantage of the Open day on June 2. I bought tickets online and then was dismayed last week when it appeared that the forecast for Saturday was a high probability of rain. The ground was soggy --- but the clouds were holding their moisture rather than dropping it. We started our walk around High Glen at 10 and managed two other open gardens before we headed home in the afternoon. I enjoyed each garden – for different reasons – and will post about each one separately. Today’s post is about High Glen.

The walk around the gardens started out well. I noticed some tiny fungus growing on the mulch in the bed just outside the welcome station in the barn. It was birds nest fungus in all stages of development. I was glad I had the clip-on macro lens for my cell phone handy.

Further into the bed were some mushrooms with caps that had split – making them look like flowers. Perhaps the splits were caused by the very soggy ground conditions? It could be what happens when mushrooms get too much water!

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But the draw of High Glen is formal gardens. There was a fish pond complete with koi, water lilies, and sculpture. Are the sculpted birds green herons? The necks are not long enough to be great blues.

The vistas of the eyebrow in the front of the house, the ellipse in the back, and a garden gate…

And then pathways of mulch or stepping stones…even the rocks and plantings around the pool…all a feast for the eyes.

I took pictures of plants as well….can’t help it when I visit a garden.

The sculpture – other than the on the at the fish pond – was all over the garden and quite diverse: wire insects, wooden balls, metal spinners, and glass flowers. One of my favorite sculpture was of to children (Victorian?) interacting in a garden border.

There was a frog on an old fashioned bicycle, a large peacock (near the house and probably positioned to be nicely framed by a window when viewed from the inside), and life sized figures tucked into flowerbed and corners of walled lawns.

There was a summer house and a bocce court….lots of walking around space. It was the kind of garden I enjoy visited but would not want for my own home.

Carrollton Texas Yard

It’s a good time of year for gardens in Texas --- the weather has not gotten too hot. I like plantings around base of trees. They’ll go into the summer too.

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The iris displays are at their peak right now. They still have a lot of buds so will be going strong for another week or two.

An amaryllis bulb keeps coming back every year is blooming as well beside a garden gate as well!

Spring is sprung!


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Years ago, we found a large shell on a beach (somewhere on the Atlantic…I’m not sure where). It was already showing its spiral interior. I put it in the front flower bed and noticed its whiteness standing out among the brown leaves/seeds from last fall and the cold-battered leaves of some new growth. I don’t remember the pores being as deep on the outer surfaces. That texture is quite a contrast with the smooth interiors. I’ve always liked spirals. Are they a representation of time – back to the past or forward to the future? Or are they a journey to the unknown?

Finding this spiral was a reminder of a pleasant vacation…and a little serendipity to enjoy on a winter day.


I was thinking about spirals so much that my next Zentangle included a lot of them!

Carrollton Garden

I was working on a blog post last week and noticed a butterfly in the garden. I didn’t get outside fast enough to get a picture of it but is did notice that there were Cosmos still blooming that might provide some food for butterflies.

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There was also some color left from summer: cockscomb (one being held by a dragon ornament in the garden)

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And hydrangea.

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The next morning I photographed another part of the yard. The red yucca seed pods are splitting. I hadn’t noticed how charred their seeds look when I’d photographed them on previous visits.

There is a mound of mums near a rock in the garden – a patch of orange on a cloudy morning.

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Nemours Mansion and Gardens – Part 2

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The gardens at Nemours are very well maintained. While we were there the big pool was being rebuilt; there was a lot of dirt! There are historical gates on the two sides of the house. The bus stops at the British one and across the front of the house is the heavier looking Russian gate.

The view from the front of the house is down hill to the mid-garden structures…female sphinxes on both sides of the porch.

Walking around the house toward the Russian gate, the turtle pond garden can be viewed from ground level.

The weather vane glowed in the afternoon sun.

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Looking back to the house walking down into the garden….

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The maple tree lined drive used by the bus that carries everyone between the visitor center and the mansion (no pedestrian entrance or exit).

Many of the sculptures must be reproductions or otherwise very well maintained. The marble ones looked too good to be 1920s vintage.

Structures divide the gardens into ‘rooms’ making the transition to less formality further from the house.

We noticed a bridge by one of the ponds and walked over. The reflections of trees in the pond viewed from the bridge was one of my favorite scenes of the garden.

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There is a temple with a Houdon sculpture of Diana at the far end of garden. We walked toward the road and found the bus to take us back through the security fence to the visitor center.

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