About Me

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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

One of the best things about Parkersburg

I love public amenities. Admittedly, public gardens and other green spaces are not (and probably cannot be) as individual as the private spaces featured on last week's garden tour, but--they are public. Open to everyone and, in many cases, free.

Such is the case with the Blomberg Arboretum adjacent to the main Parkersburg library. This is a small public greenspace, one that can be walked in just a few minutes if one is not ogling the plants and animals, but the variety and liveliness packed into this small area make it deserving of attention, particularly because most of the plantings are West Virginia native species. In spring the arboretum overwhelms with flowering trees and in late summer with prairie flowers and grasses in full bloom, but something interesting is happening all the time.

Right now, the water lilies in the entrance pond are putting on quite a show

while a past-peak oakleaf hydrangea still commands attention.

Some of the beds have a formal layout, demonstrating that native plant gardens need not be messy,

although some plants, like this silphium, do want to get a tad out of control.

Nearly everything in the arboretum is labeled, making this a teaching space. There is even a (more or less) formal space for lectures, shaded by several large native wisteria (not to be confused with the Asian wisteria currently devouring the South).

This wisteria attracts bees and other beneficial insects, though I wasn't able to get a decent picture of any of the little pollinators happily working this plant this morning.

All of this beauty and information are freely available to anyone who wanders over from the library parking lot, and it is nestled in what for us is a busy area. The upper-floor balconies of a senior citizens' apartment building overlook some of the arboretum's trees, the space backs onto back yards, and the gap in the fence leads to an unused alley that allows quick pedestrian access to the businesses on Emerson Avenue. The city arboretum demonstrates the relative ease of making room for nature in even small spaces in our human communities.

It has also made me change my opinion that most monarda is boring. The developing blossom of monarda fistulosa is a new favorite thing.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another new favorite

I have never been wild about monarda. The washed-out purple of the wild form is a perfectly good color mixed in with other things, and all monardas are good for pollinators. (There's a reason the plant is called "bee balm.") But the penchant for powdery mildew, need for water, and tendency to wander if happy has made the plant one on my "meh" list.

Until now. The summer before last, a gardening buddy gave me a start of "Jacob Cline," and this year it is perhaps the most glorious thing in the yard. Its bud is exquisite,

and while the flowers are in the process of opening, the plant hardly looks real.

Now that the blossoms are fully open, Jacob is attracting even more hummingbirds than lonicera sempervirens, the previous best hummingbird magnet. Even better, it pairs well with other flowers, like this echinacea "White Swan."

And its color may be the reddest red I've ever seen.

It's always good to make new friends.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The red and the gray

Taking one of my frequent looking-out-the-window breaks this afternoon, I was delighted to see that our resident fairydiddle had returned for more sunflower seed.

I was in my forties before ever seeing one of these mysterious creatures, and now one has taken up residence in the neighborhood.

By the time my husband arrived for a look at the return visitor, it had been joined by a standard gray squirrel. (For anyone unfamiliar with the fairydiddle, it is the rodent on the right.)

Had there been a third feeder hanging nearby, these two might have been joined by a Black Squirrel of North Parkersburg, as quite a few of them have been visiting lately. If fox squirrels would just migrate into the Mid-Ohio Valley, my squirrel-watching delight would be complete.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A happy day

Today started out well and got even better. When a friend dropped by this morning, the pileated woodpecker decided to visit the sweet gum across the street and then wing its noisy way into another neighbor's yard. I will probably never get tired of that particular bird.

Then, today was the day of the Marietta Garden Tour, and it was a big hit. Workers at the four gardens reported that they were packed, those of us working the plant sale sold lots of plants, including lots of native plants good for birds and butterflies, and the musicians in the courtyard kept us all entertained. The final tally isn't in yet, but I suspect that the tour made quite a bit of money for the building maintenance fund.

2014 is proving to be a good year for fireflies. Being too tired to grade papers this evening, I took a glass of wine into the front yard and spent some quality time in the Adirondack chair, watching the fireflies that were putting on quite a show. It had been a long time since I had sat among the little bugs that blink off and on, speaking a signal language that I can't read.

I need to get out more.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fundraising ideas

The yard is full of gift plants these days. Since I will be staffing the plant sale table at this weekend's garden tour fundraiser, I felt obliged to contribute some plants for sale (even though I could probably find homes for nearly every volunteer that shows up--with the exception of the dreaded Bradford pear.) 160-year-old Gothic Revival buildings require a lot of upkeep.

Among the babies being donated are red honeysuckle, little bluestem, aromatic aster, blue mist flower, obedient plant, "Fireworks" goldenrod, New England aster, and ruellia. There are also lots of brown-eyed Susans that can be donated. All of these native plants attract butterflies, hummingbirds, or both.

ruellia along the front walk

New England aster

"Fireworks" goldenrod and New England aster

blue mist flower

one of the naturally hybridized brown-eyed Susans seeding themselves about the yard.

Hmm... maybe we should sell pre-planned pollinator habitat gardens?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sometimes life just is

"Sometimes life just is, ain't it?" is wisdom from the delightful man who has worked on house projects for me for the last decade, and this week has been that kind of week. This afternoon was the memorial service for the daughter of some longtime acquaintances. The church was packed, and we ran out of hymnals, programs, and seats because so many people came out to celebrate the life and grieve the passing of a beautiful woman in her thirties who had touched a lot of lives. It feels unfair when rare and thus-far-incurable illnesses strike down young mothers, and little boys play the dulcimer at the funeral of a parent who can no longer hear the music.

 And this has been a gloriously beautiful June week, not too hot, with intermittent rain, sun, and a the full "honey moon" last night. The tiny bells of clematis viorna are dangling from the chain-link fence surrounding the compost area.

Salvia guarantica survived the winter. (One of them did, anyway.)

The monarda is about to open,

and my favorite physocarpus "Coppertina" is showing off her luscious leaves.

Then tonight, there are fireflies.

Sometimes, life just is, ain't it?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

An unexpected visitor

Yesterday, my not-usually-easily-excited-over-wildlife spouse called me to the window to check out the feeder activity. "Look at that," I was urged.

Catching a glimpse of a fast-moving blur of reddish fur, I assumed that yet another chipmunk had climbed the pole. But this was no chipmunk.
Hanging onto the tube feeder and eating as fast as it could was a red squirrel. Yes, North Parkersburg has been invaded by that near-mythic creature, the West Virginia Fairydiddle. This one, of course, was engaged in the most prosaic activity of raiding the bird feeder--and since red squirrels sometimes eat birds, the rodent had the feeder all to itself.

Cranky as they are, fairydiddles amuse me. Here's hoping our little visitor returns.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Good-bye to some friends

Now that my beloved spouse is officially retired from the University of Toledo, we are packing up his apartment and moving him back to the Mid-Ohio Valley. Today brought the Old West End Festival, a chance to wander around a funky neighborhood of huge old homes in varying stages of repair/restoration/perfection/genteel decay, tour some restored beauties, hear some good music and poetry, and say good-bye to some Toledo friends (of the human variety).

I of course had to visit my favorite parks for one last look at these very special places, home to two of my favorite trees. One is this bur oak  on the Meadow Loop Trail in Wildwood Metropark.

 The first time I encounted this tree, a man was sitting about halfway up in it, writing something in a notebook. The tree is no doubt a great observation spot, since it is the tallest thing in this part of Wildwood.

I love the way it blends into the treeline here but maintains its own  individuality.

The bur oak is a native tree, one of the major plants of the Midwestern savanna, and not as common in the Mid-Ohio Valley as it is further west. It tends to be more wide than tall, and I do love the spread of its branches.

My other favorite Toledo tree is the European copper beech in the botanical gardens--not one of our native plants, but, oh my.

That is a tree.
Stepping under the outer branches (yes, I do that sort of thing), you enter a different world.

I wouldn't be surprised if fairies lived here, assuming there are fairies in Ohio.