Things Getting A Little Creepy ? Wishing You a Happy Halloween !

October 31st, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Jumping Spider (Araneae salticidae) Photograph ⓒ Tim Geiss at poltergeiss.com

We only look scary! These arachnids are a gardener’s friends. Although some spiders are venomous, most are environmentally beneficial creatures worthy of our respect and protection. Read more about the predatory jumping spider (Araneae Salticidae) —a common ‘guest’ in houses—  and the soil-dwelling red velvet mite ( Acari Trombidiidae) by clicking on the name of each spider. For help identifying North American spiders, check out the very interesting spideridentification.org or the arachnid page on whatsthatbug.com.

Predatory Red Velvet Mite (Arachnida Acari Trombidiidae sp) Photograph ⓒ Tim Geiss at poltergeiss.com

Jumping Spider (Araneae salticidae) Photograph ⓒ Tim Geiss at poltergeiss.com

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Spider Photographs ⓒ Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss.com

Article ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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All Seems Tranquil in This Garden …. But Beware: Things Change When Darkness Falls

October 30th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

A Pretty Little Pumpkin Sits in a Seasonal Display…
And a Sweet Garden Gnome Rests, Nestled Amongst Over-Wintering Plants and Garden Treasures. It All Seems so Peaceful.
But even Gnomes have secret desires, jealousies and ambitions. And sometimes, when you least expect it…

It’s Night of the Living Gnome…

He Has Another Side…
He’s Been Harboring Dark Thoughts…
And Secret Desires…
Gasp!
“Oh no… !”
“Whaaaat’s goooin’ on here…. Mr. Gnome?”
“Nice Mr. Gnome… Please stay right there!”
Thud
“Take that you little squash…”
AHHHHHHHH !!!!
“Oh, Noooooooooooo !”
Thwap!
“Oh, I can feel myself fading… Fading…”
The Gnome, Settled in to His New Seat-with-a-View…
Waits With Wildflowers (Common evening primrose, Oenothera biennis*) for His Mistress, the Gardener.
*At one time, evening primrose was used to speed the healing of bruises and wounds. Interesting choice, Wolfie.
***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Must Be The Season Of The Witch…

October 30th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

“When I look out my Window, Many sights to see. And when I look out my window, So many different people to be …That it’s strange, so strange.”

“You’ve got to pick up every stitch, You’ve got to pick up every stitch, You’ve got to pick up every stitch …Mm, must be the Season of the Witch, Must be the Season of the Witch, yea…”

“Must be the Season of the Witch…”

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) – Turns Brilliant Gold in Late Autumn

Dwarf Witch Alder (Fothergilla gardenii) – Radiates an Eerie Orange Glow in the Secret Garden

I caught her last night in the garden; blowing around in the wind and casting her spells in the drizzly shadows. She’s a changeling and she’s a wild thing. You never know how she will appear from one minute to the next. Red? Orange? Yellow? Perhaps all three hues will turn up in her autumn brew. Yes, she’s the garden witch, and this is indeed her season…

Witch Alder (Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’) is My Answer to Burning Bush in the Garden

Hamamelis (witch hazel) and Fothergilla (witch alder) are two of the most spellbinding woody plants in my garden. The magical blossoms of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ light up the gloomy days of March with color and scent, and later her cousins, the Fothergilla, take over with bewitching blossoms in April and May (read more about Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ by clicking here, and Fothergilla by clicking here). But it’s the witching hour — late October and November in my garden— when these sorceresses truly light up the gathering gloom…

The Wild, Red Witch (Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’) raging along the walkway in late October

The family of Hamamelidaceae is a large group that includes both spring and autumn blooming Witch Hazels (native Hamamelis vernalis and Hamamelis mollis) and their cousins, the Witch Alders (among other woody plants). Although the spring-blooming Witch Hazels tend to me more dramatic in the early part of the year, the autumn blooming species provides both stunning foliage and fragrant flowers in fall (it is definitely harder to spot the sweetly-scented yellow blossoms on my autumn blooming Hamamelis mollis behind the golden foliage). Some of the most gorgeous autumn color in the garden belongs to the Witch Hazel hybrids; particularly H x intermedia ‘Diane’, ‘Jelena’ and ‘Arnold’s Promise’. Although a separate species, Fothergilla is equally magical, and often more flamboyant in her end-of-season color display. A dwarf Witch Alder (Fothergilla gardenii) is planted in the corner of my Secret Garden, where she is just now turning brilliant orangey-yellow. Elsewhere in the garden, Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’ glow red, orange, yellow and every imaginable shade in between…

Witch Hazel ‘Diane’ (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’) – Autumn Color Variation

Witch Hazel ‘Diane’ (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’) – Autumn Color Variation

Witch Alder (Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’) Leaf Color Variation

Most members of the Hamamelidaceae family prefer moist, semi-acidic soil and mostly sunny to partially shady conditions (in nature, they are forest edge and understory trees and shrubs). Some Witch Hazels and Witch Alders are quite hardy in northern climates; all of those mentioned here are reliable in USDA zones 4-9. In the garden, they are enchanting in autumn when paired with late-season flowers (including anemone and aster) fall-blooming crocus, ornamental grasses, and conifers (including shade-tolerant Microbiota). Catching a rooted witch is far easier than snagging the airborne variety: no net is necessary, simply stop in your local garden center and poke around the sales aisles…

Can You Catch the Witch?

This Story’s Inspiration Comes from ‘Season of the Witch’ by Donovan

Donovan – Season of the Witch

“Season of the Witch” Lyrics are ⓒ Donovan 1967

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, artwork, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of Michaela Medina Harlow and/or The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you!

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Aerial Boundaries: Exploring the Autumn Landscape from Above…

October 28th, 2010 § 9 comments § permalink

The Connecticut River from 1,500′ AGL

Maple, Birch and Pine Along the Riverbank

Departing Turners Falls, Runway 34, Heading Over the River

Farm fields and autumn colors along the Massachusetts/Vermont State Line

Our Little Shadow in the Blue Stem Fields

Sunset Hours Above the Banks of the Connecticut River

Swampland Along the VT/MA State Line

Looking Down at the Pioneer Valley and the Surrounding Hills, Reflected in Carlos’ Tail

October in New England

Inspiration: Earth from Above, Third Edition Yann Arthus-Bertrand

The  Story-Behind-the-Story:  Aviation…

After posting an aerial photo of  a local corn maze last week, I received a couple of emails asking about how I managed to get the shot. Well, the short answer is that I took the photo from my airplane. But of course, there’s much more to the story than that. So, if you’re curious about my flying, read on…

Photo by KQ777 via Photobucket

I’ve been a licensed pilot for more than a decade now, but I fell in love with aviation when I was just a little girl. Growing up in rural New England in the 70s and 80s —with farms, orchards and forests all around— the sight of small, agricultural aircraft was commonplace. Spotting a yellow ‘crop-duster’ — the pilot buzzing our house on the way to neighboring corn and potato fields— was a regular occurrence on summer days. I can still remember the hazy, white clouds of acrid, chemical-laden dust hanging in the air after the little yellow biplane made a few low passes over the farm next door. When my mother heard the plane coming, she worried out-loud about pesticides the Ag Cat was dumping on her children —as well as her berry crops, vegetables and freshly washed laundry— and if she could catch us, she always made us come indoors. Of course, like most children, my sister and I were far more interested in the excitement of the airplane than the potential threat of toxins in the air. So, if we were out of ‘assumed ear-shot’, we would run —arms waiving wildly— to the path leading to our neighbor’s corn fields. We had no sense of the many dangers, and we loved to watch that yellow biplane dip and rise in gravity-defying arcs on the horizon. It just looked like such a blast. Years later, when I was training for my own pilot’s license, I discovered that the yellow biplane flying over my house was a Grumman Ag Cat (see photo-link above).

Taylorcraft image via Letsfly.org

By the late 80s, when I was a teenager, the neighboring corn fields had vanished. First, a house was built, and then the remaining land was subdivided into more lots. No more corn, no more biplane, and no more crop dusting. By this time I was 15 or 16, and I’d grown wise to the dangers of pesticides. Although I once loved watching its aerobatic maneuvers above my house, I was happy to see that toxic little airplane go. Cancer eventually took the lives of my neighbors, solidifying my distaste for chemical farming and my mistrust of agricultural chemical companies. Sometimes I’m surprised that this didn’t discourage my love of flying. But I suppose even then, I knew full-well that aviation made many good things possible; like spotting and fighting forest fires, search and rescue missions, agricultural and environmental research, mapping and of course travel, to name but a few. Airplanes remained a source of endless fascination and my interest continued to grow. A few miles from my home, two local pilots had a pair of pleasure planes stored in a big, old dairy barn. One airplane was a yellow J3 Cub, and the other was a beautiful, cherry-red Taylorcraft (see photo-link above). On days when the airplanes were pulled out —gleaming in sunlit fields— I was filled with the most indescribable longing. I wanted to get up there. I wanted to see everything…

Cornfields Along the Connecticut River

Years passed, and after college at UMass Amherst, I lived in the Bay Area of California for a time. While out west, I took a number of scenic flights in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, Inyo and Death Valley. Eager to continue exploring on my own, I started setting aside money for flight training, and when I moved back home to Vermont, I decided to take to the air. I joined the UMass Collegiate Flying Club (open to the alumni, faculty and staff of UMass and five college consortium), and started taking flying lessons in the club’s little red and white Cessna 152. Six months later, I had my private pilot’s license. Four years ago, I bought an old, neglected airplane (A 1946 Luscombe 8A Silvaire), which I am currently restoring and flying in my spare time. I love to get up in the air and experience the beauty of the landscape from above. It’s great inspiration…

The Pioneer Valley from Above (Airport runway is on the upper left… see it?)

Final Approach to Landing at Turners Falls municipal airport

Carlos: my 1946 Luscombe 8A Silvaire, after many hours of restoration-polishing

That’s me with ‘Carlos’ in 2006 – Photo credit: William Bonnette

If you live in, or are visiting New England, and would like to see the landscape from above, I highly recommend a photo-flight with William Bonnette at Pioneer Aviation in Western Massachusetts. A one-hour photo flight is a fun and affordable way to experience the Connecticut River Valley and surrounding landscape (a photo flight or intro lesson also makes an unforgettable gift – certificates are available on his website here). Located right in the heart of the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts, Turners Falls Municipal Airport is just a short car ride from most points in southern New Hampshire and Vermont, and less than two hours from Hartford, CT and Boston, MA. While it’s true that the views from a small airplane are a colorist’s delight in autumn, they are just as beautiful at any other time of the year. Bill Bonnette taught me to fly ten years ago. He’s been flying for more than thirty years, and he’s both an amazing pilot and flight instructor (he doesn’t need to pay for my recommendation, and he didn’t).

New England Photo Flights, Introductory Flight Lessons, Pilot Training and Gift Certificates

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Article and photographs (with noted exceptions) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Golden Autumn Beauty & Springtime Silverbells: Our Native and Ever-Graceful Halesia tetraptera…

October 25th, 2010 § 8 comments § permalink

The Golden Leaves and Rusty Drupes of North American Native Halesia tetraptera, (Carolina Silverbell or Mountain Silverbell)

Carolina silverbell. With a name like that, you’d invite her into your garden for the poetry alone, wouldn’t you? I did. Well, sort-of. Although I was familiar with the silverbell clan, I wasn’t really sure of which Halesia I was getting when I tied and bound the branches of two glorious specimens three years ago, and rolled them in back of my trailer. It was late autumn, the leaves had long-ago fallen, and summer sunlight had faded my nurseryman’s chicken-scratch Latin from the tag. Some silverbell species are hardier than others, and some grow larger than others, they are notoriously difficult to differentiate, and the nomenclature and taxonomy of this woody plant have been further confused by a recent name-change (Halesia carolina is now referred to as Halesia tetraptera). I wanted Carolina silverbell, which is a small, understory tree native to the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. Normally, I’m quite particular about confirming the identity of anything I plant in my garden. But, this was an end-of-season sale at a nursery an hour south of my home, and I only had the trailer for the day. I couldn’t resist…

The graceful form of Halesia tetraptera can be sculpted and enhanced with annual, late-spring pruning

As it turns out —in this case— my impulsive decision was a very good one! Three years on, two lovely Carolina silverbell trees are slowly filling out on either side my studio entryway; their rich, yellow-green foliage providing dappled shade for summertime lunches on the terrace. And now –in late October— the leaves are shifting from gorgeous chartreuse to brilliant gold. In addition to the beautiful autumn color, delightfully curious orange-tinted drupes (pictured above) decorate the Carolina silverbell in fall. Even after the foliage and seed pods have fallen, the striped bark (much like that of Moosewood, Acer pensylvanicum) remains an interesting feature…

Halesia tetraptera, striped bark and golden autumn foliage – both stunning against the dark siding of buildings or conifers (particularly Hemlock – Tsuga canadensis)

But as beautiful as Carolina silverbell is in autumn, I have to admit that the reason I sought this tree out had far more to do with her incredible springtime show. In mid-May (usually just before the dogwood flowers here in my VT garden) the entire tree is covered in glorious blush-tinted, white blossoms. The ‘Silver Sisters’, as I call them, are a most breathtaking sight -particularly on a rainy day (see close-up of blossoms photo below). Entering and exiting my studio when the Halesia tetraptera sisters are blooming, is like stepping through a poem…

It’s easy to see why this tree is commonly called the Silverbell. The beautiful blossoms of Halesia tetraptera emerge in mid-spring, usually just before flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Because of the variability in size and shape, some silverbell species are grown as multi-stemmed shrubs, and some are pruned and trained as single-trunk trees. In its true, native-range (West Virginia to Central Florida and west to Texas USDA zone 4/5-8/9) silverbell, particularly the ‘Mountain Silverbell’ (once known as Halesia monticola, now also grouped as H. tetraptera var. monticola) can become a medium-sized, understory tree reaching 30 to 40 feet (in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, some native, mountain silverbell trees have been recorded at up to 80′ tall). When grown in the northern-most range of its hardiness zone, (USDA 4/5) Halesia tetraptera will remain smaller. I expect the mature size of my silverbell sisters to reach no more than 25-30′ here in the Green Mountains of Vermont. All silverbells, large or small, prefer cool, moist, acidic soil and protected sites (I have my silverbells planted on the eastern side of the studio). If grown in the deep south, be sure to protect silverbell trees from the hot afternoon sun and mulch the root-zone to retain moisture.

Silver in springtime and gold in fall, Halesia tetraptera remains a rare and subtle jewel in gardens. She’s not flashy, like a common, hot-pink crabapple (Oh no, we are far too elegant for that!), and it does take a bit of  time for her to settle in. But as is often the case with native trees, patience pays dividends in the garden. To know her is to love her. Carolina silverbell… She’s a true, four-season beauty.

Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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“He Who Walks Behind the Rows”… Lost in a Labyrinth of Stalks & Tassels: Exploring the Art of the Corn Maze

October 23rd, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

“He Who Walks Behind the Rows”…

Clouds gather, dark and low on the horizon. The daylight is fading. You’ve been driving through miles of cornfields and back country roads. Suddenly, something  —a child?— darts across the cracked pavement and into the corn rows. Immediately, you pull over and step from the warmth of your car. A rush of cold air scrapes across your face; the rustle of cornstalks rising and dragging behind you in the wind.

Tentatively you call out, but there’s no answer. Were your eyes playing tricks on you after hours of travel? Why hadn’t you stopped for a break? Wait… What is that sound? You step from the grassy roadway margin, into the long, shadowy corn rows. There —there it is again— off in the distance. Is it a cry, or is it laughter? The voice of a child or an animal’s wail? Once more it rises from the stalks —pitching higher now— calling up from beyond the swaying tassels. And then… Silence. Your hair rises at the back of your neck. You pause, and —in a moment of instinct— rush breathlessly down the narrow pathway —heart pounding into your throat— racing against the twilight…

A quarter mile in, you hear a crack and you call out into the empty field – but there’s no answer. Turning toward the sound, you dash through the stalks to the left, then to the right. Racing down a wider path —breathless— you suddenly stop; eyes stinging from the rising dust. This must be a main corridor, but there’s no end in sight. There, blowing across the ground on the pathway ahead, you spot a piece of paper. As you unfold it —examining the wobbly dotted line— you wonder: is this a child’s drawing, an attempt at simplistic map? You clutch the torn paper —palms clammy-cold— and press forward. The map seems accurate, but then, there’s no indication of what lies ahead: a divide in the road…

One side seems smoother and a bit wider. Slowing down, you begin to stop and start; futile attempts to get your bearings. The sky is growing darker, and the path narrows again. All around you —above and to the sides, before you and behind— there is nothing but hollow stalks of corn. Then, straight ahead: an improbable staircase. Quickly, you scramble to the top…

As you near the highest point of the platform, your heart sinks. Taking in the monochromatic vista, you suddenly realize that your car, the road and the surrounding landscape have completely vanished. As far as the eye can see, there is nothing but an endless expanse of bleached stalks —knocking  to and fro — rattling like bones in the wind. Is there no way out? Will you ever be found? Wait. There it is again. A low and plaintive cry. Something is moving out there. Something is calling for you. Is it… Malachai ?

Inspiration: The 1984 film, Children of the Corn, based on Stephen King’s short story by the same name

All photographs in this story were shot especially for The Gardener’s Eden by Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss.com. Images were made on location at Sauchuk Farm Maze in Plympton, Massachusetts. For maze and farm hours and directions, visit the farm website by clicking here.

The  Story  Behind  The  Story:  Those  Amazing  Corn  Mazes  &  The  Farms  They  Help  Support

Gaines Farm, Haunted Corn Maze in Guilford, Vermont (Aerial Photography ⓒ Michaela at TGE)

Mazes (sometimes called corn maizes or, historically, labyrinths) are believed to have originated in Europe, where they have been a popular form of amusement for centuries. Although mazes and labyrinths may be constructed using various materials —from grass and clipped hedges to earth and stone— most modern mazes are created with corn. In mid to late May, corn —usually special varieties selected for stalk strength and height— is planted in rows and later (usually in June) cut or tilled into patterns; creating elaborate designs and pathways in fields. Many years ago, patterns for labyrinths were drawn out on paper and cut by hand with sythes. Today, most mazes are cut with tillers or other machinery when the corn is knee-high (some farms use herbicides). Some modern maze designers use computer graphs and GPS coordinates to create elaborate grid patterns. However, many mazes, such as the walking puzzles pictured here —created by the MAiZE company based in Utah— continue to be designed and cut by hand.

It all begins with corn kernels in May…

My closest maze is located at the Gaines Farm —the bicentennial dairy farm pictured in the aerial photograph above— in nearby Guilford, Vermont. The Gaines Farm corn maze combines a MAiZE Co. designed labyrinth with haunted hayrides and other Halloween attractions every fall. Corn mazes are fun for kids and families of all ages, and visiting one is a great way to help support your local farm. Autumn corn mazes have become an important and growing source of revenue for small farms and agricultural communities throughout the United States and Canada. Maize labyrinths also continue to be popular in Europe —particularly England— and are a growing trend in other parts of the world as well. To find and experience a corn maze near you, try searching the MAiZE Co. database online, or this puzzle listing on About.com. If your local maze is not listed on the About.com site, be sure to submit it so that others may enjoy the experience!

John Deere Tractor at Sauchuk Farm

Sauchuk Farm’s “Walk Around the World” Corn Maze in Plympton, Massachusetts Photo: Sauchuk Farm Website

Please help support your local farming community by attending harvest-season events!

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Photography in this story (exceptions as noted) ⓒ Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss.com

Article and other photographs (as noted) ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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October in Vermont: The Painted Forest

October 22nd, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Red maple (Acer rubrum) with golden colored striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum), paper birch (Betula papyrifera) and American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

A week of notes from the Vermont forest, where the kaleidoscope of color changes from day to day and hour to hour. Scarlet red maples leaves, now fallen and scattered about the mossy paths, swirl back to life in wild October wind. The bronze-orange beech, honey-colored birch and lingering gold maple leaves transform the woodland to a gilded cathedral; striking against cerulean skies…

A cathedral of gilded arches – Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) leaves

October Sky and Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Fagus grandifolia: Leafy Gold and Bronze at the Door to the Woodland Pathway

Beech Branch (Fagus grandifolia – American beech)

Lingering Color in the Afternoon Light

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Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Autumn Light…

October 19th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Edge of daylight…

Autumn light, like golden honey dripping from branches, sweetens the chill of mid-October days. A stroll through the garden reveals a sunlit patch of earth —still empty. My eye follows the low rays, looking for opportunities to play with light and texture; a potential spot for a luminous shrub, feathery grass or sculptural group of silhouetted seed pods. Could this be the place for a new player in my garden’s late show? Morning and evening, I ask: where is the light? Where is the magic?

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ (Shasta viburnum) lights up like stained glass in the western corner of the garden at sunset

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ (Switch Grass) is positioned to catch the light of both sunrise and sunset

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ catches early morning light in the eastern corner of the garden

Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens on the western edge of the garden, bathed in afternoon light

Halesia tetraptera Leaf in Water Bowl (Carolina silverbell)

This Cornus kousa (Korean dogwood), positioned on the east side of the terrace,  glows in the morning light

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ and Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ at the eastern, side-entrance to the Secret Garden

Another look at the glowing foliage of Cornus kousa

Miscanthus sinensis tufts in early morning light

Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey compact’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning light’ Shimmer and Sparkle at Dawn

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Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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The Electric Gardener: Guest Post by Ted Dillard of The Electric Chronicles…

October 18th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

“Get that evil, oily, smelly, loud machine out of my garden!”  This was the response I got from a dear friend and gardener, as I pointed my 1967 Gravely tractor with the “Power Plow” attachment –– a tool that can only be described as a food processor for soil–– towards the task of turning her vegetable garden one spring. Here, I thought I was being such a nice guy. She was a soil-studies major at the University of Maine, and lord help you if you called it “dirt”. My friend’s contention that the grease, oil and airborne pollutants coming out of my venerable old tractor is bad for her plants is far from unfounded. Small engines have virtually no anti-pollution and emission controls required. As a result, “A 2001 study showed that some mowers emit the same amount of pollution (emissions other than carbon dioxide) in one hour as driving a 1992 model car for 650 miles (1,050 km).[10]. Another estimate puts the amount of pollution from a lawn mower at four times the amount from a car, per hour” (from Wikipedia) – not to mention the noise.

So what are the alternatives when power tools are necessary in the garden? The mower above was found on Craigslist for free – a little electric mower that wore out its batteries.  I picked it up and tossed some of my old scooter batteries in, and voila- I’d saved the thing from the landfill, used my old scooter batteries for something worthwhile, and got myself a cordless electric lawnmower.  This got me to thinking —I know, a dangerous thing— how much of a normal compliment of yard and garden equipment could be electric, or could be converted to electric?  I’ve been using a corded electric lawnmover and weedwacker for years. From the perspective of noise-control alone, it’s a wonderful alternative. An electric lawnmower simply makes a whirring sound, and depending on how close your neighbors live, you can run it in the early hours of a weekend morning with no fear of waking the entire neighborhood. For a small lawn or garden, and with a little practice and observance of the prime rule of electric corded lawnmowing (always turn the handle towards the cord source, never away), it’s a perfect solution. You don’t get how much the smog coming out of a mower affects you —personally— until you use an electric machine, and begin to notice that you can breathe, your ears don’t ring and your clothes don’t stink.

But what else is out there? A simple search for “electric garden tools” reveals a staggering array of stuff: from lawn mowers and string trimmers right on up to electric chippers, log splitters, chain sawsrototillers, and the list goes on. Many of the tools are for a small urban or suburban lawn or garden, and some of them are pretty robust. Most of the big tools are corded, so you’re limited to using them within 100 feet or so of your outlet, and this does take some getting used to. But, hearing the birds singing while you’re mowing the grass is —well, to coin a phrase— priceless! Battery powered tools are also an option, and in terms of charging, solar kits are getting remarkably affordable – so are wind turbines.  And, the stuff can be bought at places like Northern Tool.

Interested in further exploring the possibilities of electric power tools, battery charging systems and other environmentally-friendly garden and home solutions? For more information and specifics on solar, wind and battery technology (and electric motorcycles too!), visit Ted Dillard’s awesome blog, The Electric Chronicles, for more details.

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Article excerpt and photo at top ⓒ 2010 Ted Dillard

Thank you Ted Dillard !

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Harvest Gold: Sweet, Sauteed Butternut Squash and Yam with Warm Spices…

October 17th, 2010 § 8 comments § permalink

Autumn nights are growing colder now; wood smoke curling from chimney-tops on still evenings. And although still vibrant, the forest is slowly shifting from red and orange to burnished bronze and rust. On walks along woodland paths, fallen leaves carpet the floor, and my feet kick up a familiar, October-crunch. Radiant as stained glass, the cathedral-like forest canopy glows in late afternoon light; at once beautiful and melancholy, this bittersweet season. But we’ve had a good, long run in the garden this year; light frosts barely touching the potager in mid-October. And with the cooler temperatures and early darkness, I find myself craving traditional, slow-roasted comfort foods: pumpkin, squash and root vegetables…

This afternoon I filled a pan with butternut squash and yams, and left it roasting in the oven while I wandered around the forest; Oli tearing a wild trail ahead of me. Upon our return an hour or so later, the sweet, warm scent of roasting squash welcomed us back into the house. Delicious. And now —with the temperature dropping and sky streaked with magenta and dusty plum— I am about to settle down for a cozy meal.

Autumn foliage reflected in a pool of rain water

Zucca disfatta is a roasted, hand-mashed and sauteed, sweet squash dish. Enjoyed in northern Italy and elsewhere in the cool, mountainous regions of Europe, this recipe is is traditionally served on holidays – but there is no need to reserve it for special occasions. Easy to prepare, this warm and fragrant dish makes a wonderful accompaniment to other autumn favorites (including roast chicken, turkey and pork, for meat-eaters). The squash and yams can be roasted and mashed ahead of time, and the sweet flavor also makes delicious filling for ravioli (great use for leftovers!).  I have tried many variations on this simple recipe, but the basic directions below (from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table) are a good place to start if you have never tried this dish before.

Zucca Disfatta

Ingredients (Serves 8 as a side dish):

2.5-3         Pounds butternut squash

1                 Pound yams

3                 Tablespoons shredded lemon and orange zest

1                 Large onion, minced (I use Spanish onion)

3                 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4                 Cups water

1/4             Teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Slice the squash in half vertically, remove the seeds and lay the pieces face down in the roasting pan. Prick the yams with a fork and settle in the pan beside the squash. Send them into the oven for about an hour, or until soft when pricked with a fork. Remove to cool. Peel vegetables and mash by hand in a large bowl. Set aside (may be done ahead of time).

In a small saucepan, heat the water to a boil and blanch the citrus zest for approximately 3 minutes. Drain in mesh colander and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the minced onion and cook for approximately 15 minutes, until golden. Remove from heat and add to the squash/yam mash. Mix in the cinnamon and citrus zest. Turn the mixture into the skillet and cook slowly, stirring constantly, on medium-low for approximately 15 minutes or until water is evaporated. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve hot.

This dish is excellent as a side with roast chicken or turkey, and many other meats. It can also be used as a delicious filling for homemade ravioli.

Warm, fragrant and delicious – Sweet Squash

Backlit Beech Leaves Against the October Sky

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You may also enjoy this post and recipe for Butternut Squash Soup – Click Here

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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I Spy a Beautiful, Scarlet-Red Dragonfly! Meet the Autumn Meadowhawk…

October 15th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

An Autumn Meadowhawk Dragonfly (Odonate sympetrum vicinum) Rests in the October Sun

Look, it’s a red dragonfly! Actually, to be specific, this dragonfly is commonly known as an Autumn Meadowhawk (Odonate sympetrum vicinum). I got so excited when I saw this beautiful creature lighting beside me on a lichen-covered stone the other day, that I almost dropped my camera. I can’t believe I got the shot without scaring it away! I love dragonflies —as well as their close relatives the damselflies— and I find them completely fascinating. However, in spite of my attraction to these amazing insects, until recently I knew next-to nothing about them. And then, I took the picture above.

I’ve discovered that one of the more interesting things about owning a camera —and there are many— is that when I photograph something, I want to know as much as possible about it. No longer is it enough to know that it is “a frog” or “a snake” or “a butterfly”, now I’ve developed an obsession with identifying each thing that I photograph. Fortunately, the photograph makes re-examining a fleeting subject —close up in macro— and identifying it, much easier. So, after taking the photograph above, curiosity got the better of me and I began researching the Odoante order of insects (which includes damselflies as well as dragonflies) in my guidebooks as well as on a couple of great websites listed below…

This photograph was taken by my friend Tim Geiss. For identification purposes, all I have to go on here is this dragonfly’s intense, iridescent green eyes. Based on the eye color and spacing, I think it may be an Emerald Dragonfly, but in order to properly identify it, I would need to look at the wings and body, and know something about the environment in which it was found…

The Autumn Meadowhawk (red dragonfly at top), was fairly easy to identify with a macro photo in hand. First of all, I knew it had to be a dragonfly (suborder Anisoptera) as opposed to a damselfly (Zygoptera) because while it  rested, its wings were spread out and extended horizontally, perpendicular to its body (damselflies hold their wings together and parallel to their bodies when at rest). You can see photos of damselflies and dragonflies, and learn more about their differences on this great website, called Odes for Beginners (click here). Once I determined that it was a true dragonfly, I broke down the identifying details about the insect by various physical characteristics, listed here and discovered that this is a meadowhawk (a member of the skimmer family). To find the exact species, I jumped over to Bugguide (a great site for bug identification) to compare my photo with others submitted by readers. Based on habitat, and the distinctive yellowish/tan legs, and red stigmata (dots on its wingtips), I determined that this bright red dragonfly must be an Autumn Meadowhawk. Here in New England, the Autumn Meadowhawk is a late-season dragonfly, often found in grassy meadows and wetlands from early October through November. This species is widespread in the United States and southern Canada, from the east coast (as far south as Georgia), throughout the midwest and westward to the pacific northwest and northern California.

Dragonflies and damselflies serve an important environmental role as beneficial insects, providing significant and natural mosquito control. Dragonflies spend most of their life-cycle as waterborne nymphs. During this immature stage (which can last anywhere from two months to five years, depending upon species) dragonflies inhabit swamps, ponds and slow-moving streams, feeding mainly on mosquito and other fly larvae. After metamorphosis, dragonflies continue to serve as adult mosquito predators for the remainder of their lives (some species can live up to six months). Dragonflies are so effective at mosquito control, that many municipalities, parks and private estates purchase and release dragonfly nymphs into wetlands.

I’ve always loved watching these tiny biplane-like creatures as they dart about fields and ponds, hunting for an airborne meal. And now that I have been properly introduced to the Autumn Meadowhawk, I am eager to know more about the other dragonflies and damselflies in my area. If you are curious as well, and would like to learn more about dragonflies and damselflies, I suggest checking out this Odonate page provided by UC Berkley, as well as the other, helpful entomological sites I have linked above. One of the things I love most about nature and gardening is the endless sense of new discovery I feel. What a wonderful world.

Please Pass Along the Bug ID Sites to Friends with Children. Identifying and Learning About Insects is Great Fun for Kids!

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Second Dragonfly Photo Courtesy of Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

Article and Autumn Meadowhawk photograph ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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Shelter Me: Keeping the Kitchen Garden Warm and Productive as Temps Drop…

October 11th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Basil and Calendula cozy up beneath a misty dome in my garden…

The first frost of autumn sparkled on my lawn when I awoke Saturday morning. And although it wasn’t a true ‘killing-frost’ —the morning glories slipped right through Jack’s chilly hands— a few things were nipped here and there in my potager. Most of my tender crops are now covered with hoop-house cold-frames —mainly tomatoes, peppers, basil and other herbs— and later, the cool-season crops like spinach and lettuce will be covered as well…

Tomatoes, ripening inside the hoop-house cold-frame in October, are safe from Old Jack Frost

Beneath greenhouse-grade plastic, purple and green basil, tomatoes and other herbs are protected from chilly nights, and given a ripening-boost during the day

I will be enjoying these ‘Lemon Boy’ tomatoes soon —not fried and not green (though that IS an excellent way to use them up!)

Last year I posted a tutorial on building hoop-house style cold frames, and if you have a free afternoon and some basic carpentry tools, I encourage you to give them a try (click to here to see tutorial post). I now have four hoop-houses in use, and although these miniature-greenhouses are unheated, they actually get quite toasty inside during the day, and the temperatures stay well-above freezing overnight. To keep things from getting too hot, the temperature inside each of my hoop-houses is moderated with a easy-to-install, automatic back-vent. Of course later in the autumn, unless I provide supplemental heat, these tomatoes will eventually succumb to overnight cold. But other crops —including lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, chard and broccoli— can make it straight through the Winter Solstice in an unheated hoop-house (and even beyond in some years)!

There are many other ways to extend the vegetable growing season in cold climates, and I will continue posting ideas on how to stretch that post-frost ‘Indian Summer’ for as long as possible. Also, keep in mind that even if you don’t fancy the idea of a building project yourself, you can easily purchase cold frames, kits and other garden shelters from companies like Gardener’s Supply Company online.

Have you had a killin’ frost in your area? Do you try to keep things going past the freeze?

Sungold and bright red cherry tomatoes will continue to ripen beneath the plastic, well past the hard-frost

A hoop-house protects tender vegetables in my fall vegetable garden, while cold-weather crops remain uncovered.

Still Glorious – ‘Heavenly Blue’ Morning Glories in the Potager, October 11th

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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