Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gardening Respite

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A cool morning here on the hill with the thermometers on either side of the house registering a degree and a half differently but both just slightly above freezing. Last night was supposed to be the first frost of the season over many parts of interior Vermont but it appears that we have been spared the bullet. This is positive for us because it probably means that the annuals planted at our nursery are still viable.

We typically receive a killing frost around the tenth and then have a month of fairly consistent weather. This year I have hoped for a long season as a friend's daughter has an outside wedding planned in two weeks and I hoped to be able to provide some flower arrangements of zinnias and big sprays of fall asters. We knew the timing would be cautious but hopefully it will work.

Every year the three of us ask Michelle and Winnie to house-sit and care for Karl the Wonder Dog and we shoot over to Maine for a few days R&R. We typically go right after Labor Day and the week always has had a track record of great weather and a good time. Despite rain showers in Vermont during our absence, the weather there reads like a book. Despite hurricane season and annual southern challenges, we always fare very well. This year was no different.

As we reached the end of our first season at our new nursery, a few days without the phone was special. Every day we lugged beach needs and 30 pounds of books and magazines down to the ocean and we read ourselves silly as we ate fresh seafood and met people we had never seen before. When you go to the same place at the same time every year you are not alone in your schedule and often you also meet the same people doing the same thing. Nancy the cleaning lady, the retired army colonel from New York, a former paratrooper destined for double knee replacement after vacation, Bill the boisterous one from Massachusetts who goes to bed and wakes up talking loudly.......each offers a welcome and a warm goodbye. You know you have begun to look for people when handshakes turn to embraces.

Often I leave Gail and Alex for a few hours and scoot away to tour a few garden centers at times when there's a chance a question will be answered without competition from the rush of gardeners. This year I just couldn't do that. Like never before I am exhausted from what we have accomplished so I decided my only journey would be for morning walks at the
Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, Maine. At over 9000 acres large, it isn't really entirely in Wells but the hiking trail I take in the morning is there, just a mile down the road from the Wells National Estaurine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm. These are both places that remind me of my love for the environment. Between these two websites and the accompanying pictures I took, you should get an idea of the peace that's available as you walk along the trails. Here's a map of the general area and a copy of the trail map as the right hand insert. If this doesn't enlarge for you, try the brochure.

There are 11 stops along the hiking path. The first starts a hundred yards or so from the parking lot and looks into the marsh on the south. That marsh adjoins the Laudholm Farm property which by the way is the post-Labor Day site of an excellent craft show used as a primary fund raiser. If you are in the area then, it's worth a visit. I have included the craft show announcement so you can see what fine artisans have been exhibiting at this show of 21 years.

The second stop was a sad one for me this year as the giant hemlock which has marked the first bridge and a fine site for pink lady slippers has passed on. It still stands tall but it will have to be removed soon. Hemlocks throughout the east are being attacked by a terribly invasive pest known as the Hemlock wooly adelgid. I can't say that was the problem with this tree but if you have hemlocks, do some study or this could be the result.

In the vicinity of this bridge there are many lady slippers, some Indian Cucumbers gone to seed and a variety of mushrooms of interest. I checked about 20 lady slippers for viable seed pods but not one had set seed this year. The cucumbers were obviously a different story and each had black, ripe berries. The partridge berries were also in abundance.

The trail is well designed and the points of interest are clearly marked with big numbers. I'm always bothered when I walk a trail like this and find the number of people who just have to cut across paths and interrupt the untouched beauty you want to enjoy. I guess that's part of today's world and part of what some parents fail to teach their kids any more. It's a lesson that should have no economic boundaries but I see as many kids with designer cloths destroying things as I see those of less affluence.

The walk offers as much as you have time to absorb. Birders walk the trails daily and sometimes I have seen the very same watchers, cameras and binoculars in hand, morning and night. The plants and wildlife are interesting and there's always a new lesson to learn.

Indian Pipes

Winding River and Flooded Marsh

Guiding Handrail and River Overlook

As I headed downhill past point number 5, I was on the lookout for Trillium erectum. I love trilliums and raise some here at Vermont Flower Farm. The deer had beaten me to the site as most of the plants were eaten to the ground. I found a few still standing but the ants had already grabbed the seeds and carried them away.

As you reach point number 6, there's a broad area of marsh which looks down towards Laudholm and north towards Walker Point. The river is right beside the overlook and as I looked down, I saw millions of fish fry, species unknown to me but a living example of what an estuary actually serves. This is an awesome point and the recent storms had made it even more powerful.

I walked along the boardwalk and on up the hill, through the oaks and white pines and on back to the car. For me this is an annual event which serves to quell the busy thoughts of a summer as a nurseryman. Although there is water everywhere it is quiet and thought provoking and entertaining all at once. If you get to this part of Maine, stop for an hour or so. It's worth it!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where two turkeys are pecking seeds in the lower garden as the rising sun reminds me there's a lot to accomplish today. Vacation is over!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm: A website with lots of fine daylilies, astilbes and hostas just right for fall planting.

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