The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Gardening Season Has Begun


The Parks Volunteers had their first work day this week. We had a particularly tough New England winter: prolonged arctic temperatures and lots of snow. The soil on the north sides of the hedges at the Pavilion Garden was still frozen but were we able to to our first spring clean up. There was a minor amount of vole damage this year, probably due to the cold temperatures. It was good the clean out the debris and and create a clean slate for the emerging bulbs.


Susannah is raking the central path at the Pavilion Garden


Our newest volunteer, Kiki, had her first work day. She had great energy and has even promised to return next week.


Maude and Mollie are expert experienced gardeners. Maude has cleaned this garden for 15 seasons!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Still Winter in New Hampshire


I hiked Pack Monadnock this morning after a fresh snowfall. This is the view of Mount Monadnock at the summit. Springtime still feels a long way off here in New Hampshire......

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Citadel in Northern Haiti


I recently returned from Haiti where I participated in a mission to provide eye care  near the city of Cap Haitien. Our group took an R&R day and made an excursion to the Citadel, a fortress in the mountains of northern Haiti, a symbol of Haiti becoming the first black republic when African slaves gained their independance from the French in 1804.

The leader of Haiti at the time of the revolution, Jean-Jacques Dessallines, entrusted one of his generals, Henri Christophe, to build a network of fortresses to defend Haiti from the French. The Citadel was the most impressive fortress, taking 14 years to complete, and was constructed from local stone. Our guide informed us that a mixture of molasses, goat and cow blood, and cow hooves were used as mortar.

The citadel contains a series of cisterns and storehouses designed to provide a year's supply of food and water for up to 5,000 soldiers within its colossal walls. It boasts over 365 cannons imported from England and Spain. The fortress took 20,000 workers nearly 14 years to complete. Countless workers lost their lives during the construction. Interestingly, the French never returned to reclaim Haiti and the Citadel was never put to use to protect Haiti. The Citadel has survived numerous earthquakes and remains a symbol of liberty for all Haitians.













The Citadel as seen from our hotel atop the 3000 ft Bonnet a L'Eveque Mountain (the rectangular structure on right central peak).


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Gorda Peak Hike


I recently returned from a vacation Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. In 1974,  Laurance Rockefeller donated approximately 250 acres of land which became Gorda Peak National Park. Gorda Peak is the highest point on Virgin Gorda at 1,370 ft. It is unique because it is one last remaining examples of Caribbean dry forest. There is a hiking trail to the peak, about a 30 minute walk. The vegetation varies with elevation: starting with dry scrub forest and becoming more moist as the elevation increases. At the top of the trail there is a lookout tower which has dramatic panorama views of the British Virgin Islands. There were many varieties of orchids and bromeliads along the trail. It was exciting to see tender plants that I use as annuals in their natural habitat.
















Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Aftereffects of Subtraction in The Hall With Balls


The Hall with Balls was particularly serene this past week. I always love the round boxwoods dusted with snow. The Cornus officinalis tree can be seen off center in this view and to the far left below.


Several posts ago, I made a decision to remove two upright Junipers. In the process, a granite wall, which can be seen to the left of the steps, was revealed. I am very pleased with the simplicity that resulted.


The  granite post in the Woodland Garden can be seen through the two archways looking particularly beautiful as a focal point calling the eye and the visitor forward.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cedar Waxwings at Teixeira Park


Earlier this week, I visited Teixeira Park and was pleased to find a flock of Cedar Waxwings devouring the fruit of the Malus 'Prairiefire' trees grove planted in a small grove along Union Street in West Peterborough. My intention, when we redesigned the park, was for it to have a wild flavor that would attract wildlife; especially birds and butterflies. Later, as I learned more, I concentrated on planting native herbaceous plants to attract insects to promote biodiversity.


Don and Lillian Stokes, the well-known birding experts and authors who live in nearby Hancock, NH, are gardening friends. In 2005, they came to visit Teixeira Park to give me ideas on how to attract birds and butterflies. They suggested planting a grove of crabapples along the street to attract birds. The idea was that the trees would provide food but would also serve as a stepping-stone for the birds to enter the park from the woods across the street. They suggested using native dogwoods, viburnums and shadblows. They also pointed out that the Nubanusit River provided the water that birds require. All the stars were aligned for birds: food, water, cover and nesting oppurtunities.


Six years later, I was pleased to read in Doug Talamay's book Bringing Nature Home that crabapples are fifth on the list of woody plants that support the order of Lepidoptera (the moths and butterflies), an important representative of the insect herbivores. Insect herbivores in turn are necessary for the biodiversity of other wildlife including birds. There are only four species of crabapples in the United States. Crabapples are unique in that the leaf chemistry of the alien crabapples (Malus 'Prairiefire' included) is indistinguishable from native crabapples to insects which often have a special evolutionary relationship with native species.


Birds, on the other hand, don't have a specific evolutionary relationship with their food: they will eat almost anything. So planting the grove of Malus 'Prairiefire' served two purposes. It provided food (fruit) and shelter for the birds while providing food (leaves) for 311 species of moths and butterflies which resulted in an overall increase of biodiversity. From a garden beauty/garden ecosystem perspective, it is having your fruit and eating it too.

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