Archive for Coastal gardens

A Field Trip to Washington’s Gardens at Mount Vernon

Beautiful Mt. Vernon wearing her new "old" colors again.

Beautiful Mt. Vernon mansion house wearing her new “old” colors again.

Each year on George Washington’s Birthday, the Mount Vernon Estate opens its gates to the public for free. As you might imagine, it is filled with people coming to celebrate the day. Since it’s right down the street from my home, I try to go every year. There is always something that is undergoing a renovation, and it’s great to see what’s newly been uncovered with all the advancements in technology they have. The mansion house has now been painted with colors that have been discovered to be the original — very different from the colors we all thought for years to be accurate. For at least the last century, it has been painted white and it’s bright red roof shown against the blue sky. Now the colors are much softer and more muted. A golden tan is on the field of the house, and the roof is a much softer red. It’s very pretty, but for those of us who see it everyday, quite a change!

The amazing view from the veranda looks exactly as it did when George Washington lived there.

The amazing view from the veranda looks exactly as it did when George Washington lived there.

The “back yard” of the house it is still just as it was when President Washington lived there. Believe it or not, the view from the veranda has been protected in a way that you cannot see any other structures across the Potomac River — 80 square miles of protection to be exact! I think that’s an amazing accomplishment. All the lawn that you see is trimmed by a scythe, no mowers used here. It’s quite impressive to watch. The estate’s team of gardeners have a wealth of knowledge about the colonial era tools, and there are special tours where they will demonstrate many of them. If you get a chance to visit, you might want to call ahead and request a special tour!

The inside of the orangery at Mt. Vernon

The inside of the orangery at Mount Vernon.

This year I went specifically to see the orangery and it’s surrounding garden. This area was used in housing the small citrus trees that they grew in planters. The trees would be outside in the warm months and moved indoors into the orangery in the winter. It has a dark colored slate floor, and masonry walls which would soak up all the warmth from the sun during the day through the south facing, floor to ceiling windows. Then in the evening, the shutters would be closed, and the floor would radiate it’s heat back into the room, keeping it above freezing, and all it’s tender trees and plants would be kept alive. They have not quite finished this renovation and the plants are not inside yet, but soon it will be full of tender plants.

Enjoying a warm and beautiful walk in the brick walled garden. A cherry tree espallied against the wall is almost ready to spring back into growing from the extra warmth of the wall.

Enjoying a warm and beautiful walk in the brick walled garden. A cherry tree espallied against the wall is almost ready to spring back into growing from the extra warmth of the wall.

On the outside of the building there is a large garden surrounded by brick walls to protect against nibbling deer and other animals. This area was mainly used to start new plants for transplant into the other landscaped areas and was used as sort of a colonial era plant nursery. President Washington was the recipient of many gifts of plants and new varieties of seeds and, according to his journals, enjoyed experimenting with them.

The walls of the garden have many different varieties of espallied trees — mostly fruiting trees like apple, peach, fig and cherry. They were grown against the walls for extra warmth to prolong the growing season, and also pruned to just a few feet tall, to make harvesting the fruit easy. The colonial people were very clever in their farming practices!

Early Autumn is when the figs ripen to perfection!

This fig was from a past Mount Vernon plant sale, one of the Washington’s favorite!

 

Along the brick lined paths they additionally would grow herbs and medicinal plants. A very diverse variety of plants grew there. The tiny little boxwood plants that you see edging the walk, figs trees, herbs and many other plants and seeds are sold in the annual plant sale fundraiser, coming up in Garden Week, another really fun event!

 

Here is a close up on the apple trees. February and early March are when the do a major pruning on them to keep them low, and easy to harvest

Here is a close up on the apple trees in the larger vegetable garden. February and early March are when they are pruned to keep them low, and easy to harvest.

 

 

There is a huge vegetable garden on the other side of the mansion as well. With hundreds of mouths to feed, this was a most important garden, and it was in constant rotation of crops. Lettuces, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, melon and many more things grew here. This season the early spring onions and cabbages were looking great.

 

 

 

 

 

A dove with an olive branch sits atop Mt. Vernon, home of George Washington

A dove with an olive branch sits atop the cupola on the mansion house- — what a fantastic view!

I always hate to leave Mt. Vernon estate, but the afternoon was coming to an end. So until I am back there next year, Happy Birthday George Washington! And happy gardening to the rest of us-

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A Very Busy Second Half of Spring

Our resident fox enjoying a nap and a sunbath.

Our resident fox enjoying a nap and a sunbath.

Here it is — the second half of spring already! The garden here is bursting with activity, both flora and fauna. We recently spent a leisurely morning with our fox friend, our feral kitty, the crazy squirrel, duck family, chipmunks and many songbirds to name a few. It’s always an adventure around here!

With the nice weather warming the soil, the garden is growing quickly now, despite the fluke ice storm that deposited an inch of slushy ice two weekends ago. The trees are blooming all out of sync again. Strangely enough, the dogwood was the first to bloom and has held on to her flowers for almost a month.

This ice/slush storm was winter's last hurrah. Most plants had started to get their new Spring leaves, so this storm was most unwelcome.

This fluke ice/slush storm was winter’s last hurrah. Most plants had started to get their new spring leaves, so this storm was most unwelcome.

We have finally turned the corner on frost and freeze warnings, so I’ve been planting herbs and veggies. It makes me so happy to see how many heirloom varieties are now being offered in the garden centers! I’m trying out many old fashioned varieties this year, so I will have some fun things to report back on.

The flowering trees were a welcome sight, and the dogwood is still blooming!

The flowering trees were a welcome sight, and the dogwood is still blooming!

I’m so glad that the trees came through the winter alright in this region. We had such a strange autumn that many of the National Cherry Blossom trees bloomed around Christmas, about 1/4 of them! The affected trees didn’t rebloom, but thankfully they are all okay.

This patch of lily of the valley has doubled in size this last year. The scent is wonderful!

This patch of lily of the valley has doubled in size this last year. The scent is wonderful!

 

The same happened with many of the bulb flowers. The hyacinths that I have in my garden had sprouted at Christmastime, so they became freezer burned by the cold of winter and their flowers were all deformed this time around. Thankfully the daffodils had not gotten as big and were fine. On a better note, the patch of lily of the valley is looking the best that it ever has, and I’m so glad to report that it is covered in fabulously scented flowers. This is a fantastic ground cover with tons of old fashioned appeal, and will grow nearly anywhere, so keep that in mind if you are looking for something to fill a tough spot.

 

Not in bloom yet, but this area is planted with large masses of flowers. I can't wait to see the alliums in bloom!

Not in bloom yet, but this area is planted with large masses of flowers. I can’t wait to see the allium in bloom!

The allium bulbs are getting so huge as well. They were a gift at Christmas, so this is their first year. I will post some pictures when they start to bloom. I love how interesting the flowers are, and I planted them in a wave, between masses of iris, daylily, lamb’s ear and coreopsis. It’s getting so full that it should look amazing when they are all in bloom. While they are newly emerging, this is the perfect time to round up the edges on hosta, grasses, liriope, and lily to get them in shape for the new growing season. I like to do this now, rather than in autumn because they send out shoots underground over the winter months, and can start to look a bit messy otherwise.

 

On other fronts, I’m continuing to work on the storm window project, and I have a tip for you on fixing discolored brick. Years ago, way before we bought this house, someone had used some crummy paint on the trim work. It left long streaks of ugliness on the brick. I had tried all kinds of things to remove it short of sandblasting, and nothing could clean it off. My solution — more paint! I picked up half a dozen exterior craft paints in different brick colors and blended them. Just dab them into the offending areas and like magic the stained areas look fresh and clean. I have done this before on the front stairs and many other places on the house. If you didn’t know a stain was there, you never would. I won’t tell, if you won’t! Works like a charm. Give it a try!

BEFORE- ugly white streaks on the brick.

BEFORE: ugly white streaks on the brick.

AFTER- Looks like new! Blending a few different brick colors and dabbing it on the stained bricks works great, and east to do!

AFTER: Looks like new! Blending a few different brick colors and dabbing it on the stained bricks works great, and it’s easy to do!

I hope you are having a wonderful springtime and getting time in the garden. Here is one last photo, a bird’s eye view picture from the upper window looking out on the neighborhood trees. I just love how many bloomed all at once again this year!

Bird's eye view of the tapestry of colors of the blooming trees.

Bird’s eye view of the tapestry of colors of the blooming trees.

 

 

The Beautiful State of Maine

Out on Casco Bay in a 1928 Sailboat, the "Bagheera"

On Casco Bay in a 1928 schooner, the “Bagheera”

It has been so hot here in the D.C. area that we decided to escape the heat and go up to Maine to explore the Scarborough area, where eleven generations ago my husband’s ancestors first settled in the early 1600′s. The heat followed us, but it was a fabulous trip anyway.

 

We stayed on Black Point in the Prout’s Neck area, which was the home to the famous American painter Winslow Homer, and the inspiration for so many of his gorgeous nautical works.

Hiking the cliff walk.

Hiking the cliff walk. Winslow Homer’s studio in the distance.

 

 

Fabulous garden along the walk.

Fabulous garden along the walk.

There is a cliff walk all the way around the point to take in the amazing views. The rocky coastline is just gorgeous.

 

Stacks of stones in remembrance of others.

Stacks of stones in remembrance of others along the beaches.

There are lots of small islands and lighthouses — all picturesque, but what struck me most were the beautiful gardens. I never would never have guessed that the summer gardens would be so nice in Maine, having such harsh winters.

 

Many of the same things grow here as in my region of the mid-Atlantic, but the star of the show has to be the rugosa roses that are everywhere. They were all at the stage where the spent roses turn to rosehips, and it was gorgeous. Here’s an interesting fact: did you know that rosehip tea has more vitamin C than orange juice?

Another photo on the cliff walk.

Another view along the cliff walk.

The terrain is so steep that you see exposed roots like this wherever there is a large plant.

The terrain is so steep that you see exposed roots like this wherever there is a large plant.

Wild aster and goldenrod were all along the coastline

Wild aster and goldenrod were all along the coastline

Great place to sit and take it all in!

Great place to sit and take it all in!

The other side of the point- great beach club!

The other side of Prout’s Neck. Great beach club and dogs are allowed – yay!

I set about looking for heart shaped rocks and found several in no time. There are some really nice beach areas with benches made of driftwood, where people have placed stacks of stones in remembrance of others.

I will miss the slow pace up there, and sitting in the Adirondack chairs in front of the Black Point Inn watching the tide roll out in the setting sun after a long hike. I hope I get back to see it again!

Here are a few more photos of some of the highlights…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rugosa rose or rosehips plant is seen everywhere in Maine. So beautiful!

The rugosa rose or rosehips plant is seen everywhere in Maine. So beautiful and must be moose resistant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun sets on this trip, but I hope to be back again soon-

The sun sets on this trip, but I hope to be back again soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could look at these views forever-

I could look at these views forever…

Summer Field Trip to New England

Summer blooms- golden yarrow, lamb's ears and coreopsis taking there turn in the spotlight.

Summer blooms in my garden — golden yarrow, lamb’s ears and coreopsis taking their turn in the spotlight. Before leaving for vacation, don’t forget to give your garden a deep watering!

With summer here, it was time to hit the road and see some of the beautiful sights this country has to offer. We hadn’t been to New England for a while, so we packed our cameras and took off. In eight days we covered a lot of territory: we took the train to Boston, rented a car and drove the coastline through Plymouth, Cape Cod, Newport, Mystic and more. The weather was fantastic, and we walked all over the place. There is so much of our country’s history stemming from New England, and we had fun seeing the sights.

I was impressed by what beautiful flowers were spilling from containers all over the city in Boston. I love the hanging boxes that so many of the North End restaurants and shops had above their entrances. The flowers were all so healthy, and you could tell a lot of effort had been put into taking care of the wonderful pocket parks all over the city.

The flowers above the entrances of shop and restaurants were amazingly beautiful all over Boston.

The flowers above the entrances of shops and restaurants were amazingly beautiful all over Boston.

 

I have a special love of beautiful entrances and enjoyed seeing how many fabulous carved doors had been lovingly restored in the historic district of Beacon Hill. It seemed each one was different, adorned with gorgeous topiary or some other equally special planter of flowers. Here are some of the highlights from a massive amount of photos — ENJOY!

Beautiful entryway in Beacon Hill.

Beautiful entryway in Beacon Hill. Lovingly restored doors flanked by urns of ivy and hydrangea.

Everywhere you looked- more beauty!

Everywhere you looked – more beauty!

The rocky coastline in Plymouth. The rock is in the impressive shelter on the beach.

The Plymouth Rock is in this impressive shelter on the Cape Cod coast.

This is a fence in Cape Cod. I love the natural element in coastal villages.

This is a fence in Cape Cod. I love the use of natural elements, wood and stone in all the coastal villages.

Although most of the really large,old trees were in great health this tree in Boston Common shows what can happen when termites attack.

Although most of the large old trees were in great health, this tree in Boston Common shows what can happen when termites attack.

Ivy topiaries were on the front porches of many homes.

Ivy topiaries were on the front porches of many homes in the historic districts.

The iron gates of "The Breakers" in Newport.

The iron gates of “The Breakers” in Newport, R.I. along the famous 10 Mile Drive.

The beautiful harbor in Hyannis. Can't wait to go back!

The beautiful harbor in Hyannis. Can’t wait to go back!

Back home again now- I did miss my pumpkin patch. Like Dorothy says- "There's no place like home."

Back home again now – I did miss my pumpkin patch. Like Dorothy says- “There’s no place like home.”