Saturday, December 28, 2013

Artistic Inspiration- The Chennai Airport!

Saw this inspiring mural in the Chennai India the Indian love of pattern and stylization...I have ideas!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Royal Botanical Garden; Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

We have just come back from an incredible trip to Southern India and Sri Lanka. Though we learned so much about Tamil culture, Hindu temples, Sri Lankan history, what I didn't figure on was how much I would learn about the flora in that part of the world.

The amazingly beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens outside of Kandy, Sri Lanka are something you must visit. Started in 1371 by Kandian kings, the British revitalized this park starting in 1821 and added to it, making it the magnificent oasis it is today.

A garden that promotes it's superlatives, it boasts the "largest pruned tree" in the world, and the "largest orchid" in the world (if you are lucky enough for it to be in bloom when you visit). This tree below was curious, called a Candle Tree..with waxy bean pod-like fruits hanging from it's branches. Like many prehistoric plants, the fruits come directly off the trunks, like Papayas, Cacao nuts, and Jak fruit. Apparently this is much more common in this part of the world.

 Check out this variety of bamboo that was planted over 100 years ago...I added our initials to it as couples have for the last century..

Here is the "largest pruned tree in the world!" 

 One tree with a significant history is the Cannonball Tree, Couroupita guianensis planted by King George the V England and Queen Mary in 1901. The tree is bent with its fruits, which look like cannonballs. Again, those crazy fruits on the trunk!

Avenue of Palms

We spent only about 2 hours in this beautiful place, but felt rejuvenated after our day of travel from India. Sri Lanka is the second most biologically diverse place in the world, and these gardens certainly show that well. Things grow fast and for a long time, achieving sizes that don't happen here in Maine. Though a person feels dwarfed by the foliage, you understand our smallness while looking into the face of our primordial botanical past.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

To Dahlia or not to Dahlia

Just when I am ready to say that I am not going to save my dahlia tubers anymore because they never bloom until it's too late, they reward me with this. Not exactly as prolific as Paris or Giverny, they do produce a few blooms of beauty. I will say that when looking back at the season as a whole, these late bloomers do produce for at least a month in October, which is as good as any other perennial, and they are spectacular. This orange variety (name long forgotten), certainly looks good with fall colors as a backdrop. They just  take up so much garden real estate!

I start these tubers in February in large plastic tubs indoors. Looking like muddy dirt in black plastic, I tell myself how glorious late summer will be.  Then out they go as early as I think they can go (this year getting quite a bit of die-back from a late frost) and tons of fertilizer and compost heaped on. Then they grow and grow producing tons of foliage that needs to be staked and twined. Then finally, when everything is said and done and flopped over, they show their magnificence. Then comes an early frost and then we are really done. I dig up the tubers that are now weighing 20 lbs with dirt, huge and awkward, and I have to find a box large enough and some appropriate material to cover them, peat moss (garden centers don't have peat moss this time of year) or sawdust. Where do you get sawdust- and really-who is driving around to get a bucketful anyway? Fortunately this year with the barn construction, I have a bucketful! Then in the basement they go until next February. Is it all worth it? I am not sure. But there is something about getting rid of these massive tubers that I have nurtured for 5 years now, that I can't do. So on I go, shepherding these hard won blooms despite my reluctance this time of year.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Begonias, In all Shapes and Sizes!

As sometimes happens, you can be part of a trend that you aren't aware of. Last winter I started becoming interested in the many different leaves of Begonias. A plant associated with my mother's generation, I started to see unusual ones here and there that were stunning. In June LaCombes flower boxes, in friends houses climbing to the ceiling, these were not my mother's varieties. They over flowed with abundance, they didn't need a lot of sun and each flowered in a different and sometimes crazy way.

When I would go to Skillins Greenhouse in the winter, they had cute little 2" plugs of a huge variety of  rex begonias with different leaves and textures. I would buy one a week on my way home. A friend gave me a cutting of a huge gorgeous plant in her studio, a begonia! I started to pay attention and before I knew it I had a collection. They rooted in water, they divided easily and those leaves! Dark green, red, speckled, ridged, lime..every color of the foliage rainbow!

River Nile
When I admitted my obsession to myself, I went further afield. As always, Snug Harbor Farm in Kennebunk had the most unusual and rare of the type. When there I would  buy another beauty (Tony actually got written up for his Begonia collection recently in Garden Magazine.) Now I have a little collection, all in hand made pots from Fiacre in Portland, or local potters that sell at Wealdon Farm here in Freeport.
Varieties that I have thus far:
River Nile: gorgeous lime leaves with dark fringe
Rex: this variety has red speckled leaves
Escargot: Grey green and dark swirls on the leaves
Iron Cross: Lime crinkle leaves with burgandy tracing
Strawberry: An old fashioned begonia that has babies like a spider plant
Deco Checks: Red and speckled
Ginni: Dark green leaves with white spots, will get very tall, bright pink flowers
Erythrophylla: or sometimes called Beefsteak, with glossy dark leaves that are round.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Moses Kent Farm

Last weekend I had the spectacular pleasure to tour Tim and Lynn Cook's house in Lyme/Orford New Hampshire with a few people from my art group. Staying down the road at Lindsay Hancock's family retreat of 60 years, it was a truly inspirational 11 hours of food, friends, and farms. 

On Saturday morning, Lindsay had called the neighbor, Lynn Cook, to see if we could come tour her house. Recently they had gotten a conservation easement put on the house to save the murals inside done by the 1820's itinerant painter, Rufus Porter.  The house also has been lovingly restored by the Cooks for the last 30+years.

The tour turned out to be so much more. We first had a look at the newly restored gardens that Lynn has been lovingly adding to for years. Weeping crabapples, a sunken garden, flower gardens with 19th century varieties of Nicotianas and Dahlias, and vegetable garden with rare varieties of eggplant, peppers, and a great purple brussel sprout I will hunt for next year. The stable was a sight to behold, as all the fittings were of the highest quality and it was immaculatly ordered and clean. Tim recently had gone into the Tack business, running a tack shop from a side barn.

Then we went inside. Passing by neatly stacked cord wood and yard kindling, we entered this 1811 house. Through a few small and dark, cozy rooms and into the grand entryway, the murals leap out at you when you enter the formal entrance. Recently restored, these murals are the best examples of Rufus Porter's work in the area, most of the others having been painted or wallpapered over. We are stunned by the murals. In a subdued palette, these folksy paintings are strange and wonderful. Feathery looking and bizarre, you wonder the eye that made these tall, lanky trees and sailing ships.

Plaster has bowed but has been cleaned to allow these beauties to stand as they were. Through the hallway and up the stairs they continue into a large formal bedroom that has been brought back to something like the original elegance. Fronds and houses, ships and huntsmen all frolic on the walls to the delight of the onlooker. A rare treat it was to be able to see these paintings that give us a glimpse of what beauty looked like to the 1800's homeowner.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Lauren Fensterstock: Artist, Garden Historian

This week is the opening of the Portland Museum of Art's Biennial.  Lauren Fensterstock, an incredible artist, friend, and fellow garden history lover, has a stunning piece that will be the first thing you see upon entering the exhibit. Lauren’s work has always stunned visitors, such as her recent exhibition at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin, that involved 3 rooms of garden history embodied by immaculately conceived and crafted installations. An 18th century English garden with pond, an American lawn,  and a Japanese “kiku” garden with Chrysanthemums. Labor intensive and dramatic, her pieces satisfy the viewer with a “more IS more” viewpoint. Her piece, Ha-Ha, is tongue in cheek nod to modernism while actually manifesting a European landscape feature from the 17th century. This gorgeous and powerful piece made me dive into the history of the Ha-Ha.
The concept of the ha-ha is of French origin, and is a ditch made in the land, usually with a retaining wall structure on one side and a sloping side on the other. The advantage of this feature is that it kept animals (cows, sheep, horses) out of the gardens close to the house. The ditch is too trepidacious for them to jump, yet, from the house, one can’t see the ditch at all; one sees only a seamless expanse of estate ahead. This was so clever, that when locals would approach to see how the animals were contained, they would exclaim Ha-Ha! or Ah-Ah! An early example of this feature was in France at 
Château de Meudon, circa 1700. By 1786 when Thomas Jefferson went to Stowe House in England, he was astonished that “it was all enclosed by ha-ha”, obviously being familiar with the term and feature. They are still found on grand country estates and still act as a way to keep animals out while not having a fence.

In Britain, the ha-ha is a feature of the landscape gardens laid out by Charles Bridgeman and William Kent and was an essential component of the "swept" views of protégée Capability Brown. Capability Brown was a 17th century landscape architect who was "England's greatest gardener." He designed over 170 parks, many of which still endure. The new rage he introduced was a much more naturalist approach with expansive lawn up to the house, and vistas with lakes or clumps of trees, that was a new "gardenless" approach to landscaping. The ha-ha was an essential feature as this left an unobstructed view of the land.  Thank you to Lauren who brought this ingenious concept from1700's landscaping to our attention while using it as the perfect venue to highlight her exquisite work.  Her curled and formed black paper beauties cover the inside of this ditch, and, as ditches do, it has a bit of standing water in the bottom to reflect the sides. She also said the piece refers to the idea that modernism is dead and so her big black modernist box has grass growing on it! Ha-Ha! Come to the Portland Museum of Art and see it for your self!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Barn renovation starts this week!

This week starts the long awaited redo of the back of our barn. We spent the whole weekend, burning piles of wood, cleaning up the debris and demolishing the room underneath that used to be an animal stall-all in preparation for the new 20 foot 8x8 beams coming in today. First the beams will be put in place, then corners shored and steadied, posts installed (used from the hemlock floor beams), the roof beam fixed (eek!), windows framed out (that will a post in itself-very excting) and then we plan on putting up shiplap (pine or cedar still TBD), cutting out a doorway for two carriage doors we will make ourselves, and then the gravel pads for the whole length delivered and pushed around. The project has already taken the advice of many people all with tons of experience, and will be a process with many judgements along the way. Can't already has been an incredibly fun puzzle that is endlessly interesting to figure out. Keep posted!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nothing better than picking apples

If my daughter is home, and it is apple season, I know she will pull me out of whatever project I have going and make us go apple picking. This is something that she has loved her whole life and goes back to her earliest childhood. Eating right from the garden or off a tree is something I taught her at a young age. Before she could even talk, she could run to those things edible in the garden. At the time my focus was creating an edible eden in the backyard of herbs and fruits. She could show you the scented geraniums, pineapple mint or gooseberries- even if she couldn't say their name.
Today she is still interested in food (she was a cook all summer), and so off to Rocky Ridge Orchard we went last Sunday for some apples, cider and pumpkins. A gorgeous day, the parking lot stretched the whole field, and families towed excited kids in carts.  We chose a few each from many varieties; Macoun, Macintosh, and Honey Crisp. Walking through the rows, the crowds disappear and it was just she and I, trying to find the biggest and ripest, tasting as we went. The air smelled sweet and slightly fermented. From there we went back to the main house, where the pumpkins were laid out.
Orange, pink, white, green... tall, flat, warted, and ribbed...we took a long time picking three for the front door that went together. Another memory made- to add to all the places we've gone apple picking.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Phoebe Porteous: Artist, Gardener, and Arts Patron

Continuing the series of profiles about women in my art group, here I wanted to share the gorgeous late summer garden of Phoebe Porteous. Phoebe is a wonderful painter whose work sells often before it is even off the easel. Last year one of her works was the cover piece for the L.L. Bean Summer 2013 catalog and she was a featured artist in the November 2010 issue of Coastal Living.

But this is where I rave about her garden. I asked if I could take pictures this year of her garden as I remembered from a meeting in August last year how miraculous it is. When everyone elses (mine) looks tired and dry, her backyard oasis blooms in abundant fervor. Small but expertly thought out, Phlox davidii and Rudebeckia hirta bloom tall. Gallardia and an unusual Penstemon ("Ruby") catch your eye. Her mix of foliage is what I suspect keeps it all smart all season though, such as her two Daphne's that creeping along the edge of the patio and her Chocolate Joe Pye Weed. That Joe Pye Weed was the secret to every arrangement we made early in the summer for a friend's sons engagement party.

She and her husband Bob have lived in the house for nine years. They made some beautiful changes to the 1850's cape in downtown South Freeport. Adding an extension off the garage/barn for bedrooms and studio and opening up the downstairs of this antique cape, you get a contemporary spacious feeling within the classic structure. Phoebe's exquisite eye for detail, color and visual
impact complete the experience.

Looking down on the patio from the walkway above, you see the great way the patio incorporates the granite block she found on a rock hunting trip with her friend Mary Ruth Hedstrom. Though from this angle the rock looks cut in half, in fact it is not and was offered a ridiculously low price because it wasn't perfect! From this perspective I see the genius of the small and well defined spaces, the careful placement of plant matter, stone and furniture. Always uplifting and also, the iced tea is fantastic!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Reliance Peach is right!

After many years of trying to find a fruit that grows best in my climate and yard situation, in every house I have lived in (and never succeeding)  - I have finally found it! Peaches!

This Reliance peach finally came into it's own this third year. Hundreds of perfect peaches for eating and freezing. We made a fantastic peach and blueberry pie last week and I hope for many more this winter.

The first two years it immediately got peach leaf curl as soon as the leaves came out and I finally resorted to some copper sulfate last fall. Put on after the leaves are off, it smothers the fungus while it is dormant.

Usually I wouldn't resort to such treatment, but having tried cherries, apples, plums and pears...I realized that fruits take some extra care and you have to be willingly to put the effort in. The reward has been worth the effort!

PS: the Cherry  tree that gets completely and totally decimated by Japanese Beetles every year so that not one leaf is left will be transplanted next year far down in the garden in hopes that the beetles will all fly down to that end of the yard. (Apparently this is an actual pest management technique as told to me bya gardening mentor Carl Sargent.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Best Pictures of the Season

Here are a few of the best pictures from the season that haven't been shown yet here at Woodside Farm. Though we aren't through yet, there is so much I haven't posted. Before all the photos include fall color and harvest, I thought I would put these up. Click on the link below to view them.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tomato Horn Worm!

Tomato Horn Worm
When checking the tomatoes the other day, I touched a plant and realized that I wasn't feeling stalk and leaf, but a very large, completely camouflaged tomato horn worm! This was my first experience with one in hand since I was a kid and I forgot how big and fleshy they are. More than 4 inches long, this Manduca quinquemaculata will some day become what is called a Sphinx or Hawk moth. The moth is quite a bit smaller than this voracious eater though. From now on I will look for these huge caterpillars on my solonaceous plants when I see large upper leaves disappearing!

Weeds and Volunteers

Papaver rhoeas- Corn Poppy
One person's weed is another persons ornamental delight. Every year the choices we make when weeding in the spring and early summer help define the structure of July. Adding to the structure of what you have planned through years of editing, moving, and planting, is supplemented by volunteers (seedlings from self seeded past annuals and perennials or weeds you like) that add to the surprise of the current season and unexpected combinations. Here are three self sowers that I choose not to weed out early in the

Papaver somnifierum

The two poppies I have are totally different. The Papaver rhoeas is light and airy, with dark green, fringed leaves with small heads. One plant will continue to bloom for more than a month though and that bright red can be seen from across a field. The other poppy is a classic Papaver somniferum with a light purple flower with yellow insides. This poppy has a grey leaf that is rigid and sturdy and is a very upright plant. It looks great sprinkled in among peonies and catmint. Yes, this poppy is a type of opium poppy, but the heads are small in comparison to those grown for that market.

The other volunteer is dramatic and almost 7 feet tall, the mullien. This verbascum is often considered an annoying weed, but if left in the right places it can be a show stopper. A biennial, you can sometimes move it to where you would like it if you see some of it's felty seedlings in their first year. (It has a long taproot, so can't be moved after it gets a bit bigger.) It fits well into our farm like setting and always gets comments. Once it is done flowering it must get taken out though, as the grey felt leaves get ratty and brown.

Next spring think about what seedlings you are weeding and how they will look amongst things you planned. Careful editing can bring the most exciting results!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Robin Egg Blue

There is nothing so lovely as a robin egg - seen here in our kolkwitzia (beauty bush) by the front of the house. It may not have been the best place to make this nest though, as it is right near the hose spicket, and every time I turn the water on, the robin screeches and flies off in a panic. Luckily it has been wet enough, I haven't had to water much.

In learning a bit more about why the eggs are blue I read in Science Daily that "The blue colour in robin eggs is due to biliverdin, a pigment deposited on the eggshell when the female lays the eggs. There is some evidence that higher biliverdin levels indicate a healthier female and brighter blue eggs. Eggs laid by a healthier female seemed to encourage males to take more interest in their young."

Hopefully everyone will realize that I mean no harm and that my presence doesn't distract the males from noticing the gorgeous color of these eggs!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lindsay Hancock: Artist, Gardener, Athlete, and Arts Advocate

I have known Lindsay Hancock for many years, starting with our kid’s school and the Maine College of Art auction committee, but most importantly through our monthly art group, which is composed of eight women painters and print makers. Lindsay is a very talented artist, (we have several of her works) but she is also an experienced gardener and birder, an avid cyclist, and Grantwriter. She has been writing grants for the Bates College Museum of Art for 4 years and the Bates Dance Festival for over 20 years! She also provides grant writing and fundraising services to the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, the Wilderness Guides Outdoor Education Fund and the Maine Academy of Modern Music. It is incredible that she also has time to keep a large flower and vegetable garden! 

Her yard is a sanctuary far from any highway and road noise. The 1840’s Greek Revival farmhouse set off the road, is an idyllic spot for sitting and listening to the American Goldfinch on her feeders, or the wood thrush at night. Crabapples planted years ago now supply shade and texture to the flagstone sitting areas, while the long view includes field and vegetable garden.

Her garden is the result of over 33 years of adding and editing. Immaculately kept, the roses were in bloom on the arbors and her shade gardens were abundant with flower and foliage. Some rarer things were a Polygonum bistorta  and the Cimicifuga racemosea “Hillside Black Beauty”. Epimedium grandiflora  gracefully spreads with Campanula pericifolia as an airy backdrop. Peonies gotten years ago, from a refurbishing of Maine Audubon beds, bloom in an abundance of heirloom varieties. 

Spring by Lindsay Hancock
In the vegetable garden, she had a low electrical fence that protected many varieties that can’t be gotten at the store; a delicious pea that is eaten as a shoot called Grey Dwarf, and a broccoli  (considered a variety of cauliflower) that has florets in the most amazing green fractal patterning. This Brassica oleracea var. botrytis seed is called "Veronica" and both this and the pea  she gets from Johnny’s Seeds.

Always inspirational, I came away from our group meeting last Friday with the idea to write about this haven for artists, birds and friends.