Wednesday, June 27, 2012

First Days of Summer Walkabout

Summer greets Western Massachusetts with a hot soup of humid heat. The rising sun casts a net of sweltering, swelling, sanguine rays piercing skin and leaf alike. 

Spreading landscape's spring green evaporates into a darker coating . . .  void of its former verdant glow. It is a great time for butterflies, except for all the many round eyes and beaks hunting and tearing at their lovely gowns. Catbirds and Phoebes especially are relentless in their pursuit of the many Tiger Swallowtails nectaring on the Tree Lilac and numerous other plants and shrubs in the North and Middle Meadow Gardens. 

Bluebirds are looking forward to a second brood and the female seems somewhat less concerned with my presence in the Middle Meadow Garden. Her gaze is a bit curious of my cutting, pulling and photographing. During the heat wave, she is busy building her new nest. 

Her fledglings are never far away. The first days of summer finally settle into more temperate tones and we enjoy cooler days and nights. The female bluebird is in the nest box sitting with her new eggs, while her fledglings perch patiently on the nestbox. They are a sweet family. It is quite impressive how quickly the fledgelings grow up and become self sufficient.

The parent bluebirds become even busier when the new brood hatch and are constantly bringing the nestlings bits of food harvested in the gardens. 

A new addition to the gardens. A simple metal arbor . . . something to grow on. I love how it nearly disappears into the garden green. Our 'New Dawn' rose took right to it, as did all the birds. They enjoy another perch to eye the gardens for flying, crawling or tunneling food. 

Those first summer hot days pushed flowers to their limits quickly. Japanese iris folds are simply elegant. Walking down into the Lower Garden seeing the apple trees and grasses rebounding there are many birds coming and going from the blueberry fields. Just today I saw a near head-on collision . . . there is so much excitement over the bumper crop of berries. Looking up towards the Rock Maples . . .  a hydrangea holds the light within the lace-like form of blossoms.

Entering the South Field I enjoy the sight and flights of the Tree Swallows. They are a favored and revered bird here for their constant sweeping the sky of biting bugs and their gurgling calls. I shall miss them, as they will be flying off with their fledgelings any day. 

This year the Tree Swallows in both the south and north fields were so tolerant of me and allowed me very close to their nest box . . . yet I did not get any photos of the young ones being fed. This fledgeling is trying to follow her parent back into the nest box. A sibling or two are still inside. Stepping back up towards the Upper Garden . . . wild roses stand just outside the downstairs apartment entrance. 

Phoebe nestlings are about to flee the nest too. It seems a bit crowded. Standing in the downstairs doorway I get a pretty good view. 

It is a privilege to see the gardens grow and these precious birds rear their young, even with all their antics that cause a bit of angst. I so wish they did not dine on butterflies! The birds are all so busy with their fledgelings and I cannot keep up with all that is growing in the gardens and in my other work. I finally found my first Monarch butterfly eggs on the milkweed within the paths. Life is full and it is good to feel strong. I wish as a citizenry we were stronger in our opposition to the outrageous injustices unfolding everyday. We are but stewards for the future and what will we be leaving them. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Orange Unfurling Oriental Poppies and Baltimore Oriole

An ongoing cycle of life . . . contracting and expanding . . . continues to unfold in the gardens, fields and forest here at Flower Hill Farm. 
Flower buds swell . . . casting off their protective outer calyxes, just as nestlings grow . . . filling fledgling forms and seeing an exciting and dangerous world beyond the carefully woven nests of their parents.

Precious and fleeting life . . . not so unlike these tiny droplets . . . clinging to what they are attached to.

Outer casings give . . .  along finely, engraved cracks . . . yielding to a swollen force of will. A poppy plants burgeoning blossom no longer can exist within the confines of contraction . . . expanding from within . . . out towards light and fulfillment of life.

Paper-like petals neatly folded opening to first shafts of sunlight. 
Warm sunrays will iron wrinkled flower leaves smooth. 

Luscious reddish-yellows glow . . .  a corolla afire opens to reveal contractions deeper within. 
Spider-like landing pads lure needed pollinators. 

Spreading wings . . .  free to fly into compliments of green. 

The only other orange in the gardens right now are the beloved Baltimore Orioles. A protective father perches just over his nestlings.

Partnership in parenting is helpful to the female and nestlings alike. The male stands guard while the female forages for food. 

One little caterpillar, who will never expand into mosaic wings, is about to become part Baltimore Oriole. 

I believe the former nestlings have become fledglings . . . here the mother is searching for her young. 

Papa looks on as his progeny expand into their own. 

Now the remarkably woven nest is empty . . . the male Baltimore Oriole has more time for preening.  
I can see the nest, from where I sit writing, and do miss the comings and goings of the parents, as well as the chirping sounds of the young. I still see the father . . . somehow, he seems lost as he flies about the branches and calls out for his mate, when he is not preening that is. Yesterday I watched and photographed him fluffing his feathers for over fifteen minutes. I do hope he is not bothered by lice.  

The lovely tonal trills the male sings out are not as numerous now. I have not seen or heard the calls of the female this morning and do hope all is well with her and the little fledglings. 

Flowers bloom and fade and I do regret the absence of their fragrance and ephemeral beauty. I find I feel a larger loss with the flight of fledglings, while, of course, I am elated that new life comes into being and flourishes within the gardens and land I steward. 

This year I am given the rare joy of seeing a bluebird fledgling grow day by day. While her mother sits on new eggs within the nest box I cleaned, the fledgling waits patiently nearby. I can see her foraging on her own too. It is amazing how quickly birds become self-sufficient. The father bluebird spends time with his immature offspring and is attentive to his mate . . . bringing her bits of food to sustain her during the gestation of their new brood. They are a devoted family.

I think I just saw a flash of female Baltimore Oriole. I shall go out and explore and give you an update soon. The father's presence near the nest gives me reason to think the female and fledglings are nearby. 

Wishing a Happy Father's Day to all Papas . . . especially to L & J. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Early June Garden Fragrances Merge ~ A Potpourri of Pinks With Touches of White ~ Roses and Pink Lilacs

Quietly strolling through the early June gardens . . .  while a gentle breeze whispers and restores, numerous birds sing and dart here and there, Tree Swallows silently sweep the sky, dozens of butterflies flit about the shrubberies and layers of fragrances merge . . .  feels quite close to heavenly.  
Rosa Rugosa and Miss Canada Lilac are very compatible in color and scent and are truly the flora stars of this late spring rambling garden.

Rosa Rubrifloia 'Glauca', Rosa Rugosa 'Purple Pavement' in North Garden

Delicate Rosa Rubrifloia 

Rosa Rugosa 'Purple Pavement'


Rosa Rugosa 'Purple Pavement' in North Garden

Unknown old fashion rose in South Rock Garden 

Unknown white Rosa Rugosa in North Garden

Looking between Apple tree trunks up toward Middle Garden

'Miss Canada' Lilac, Beauty bush and Rosa Rugosa  ~ Lovely shades of pink as seen from the barn studio door.

Tiger Swallowtails were all over the florets of 'Miss Canada' Lilac just outside the barn studio windows.

Looking north and down from the upstairs apartment window Miss Canada Lilac and Beauty bush spread out nicely. 

Spirea 'Bridal Wreath' spills over between 'Miss Canada' Lilac and Beauty bush just outside barn studio at sunset.

A waterfall of white Spirea  'Bridal Wreath' 

I do get lost when walking out into our jungle-like gardens . . . camera around my neck, garden gloves and pruners in my pocket . . . hours go by without my noticing. I feel like a member of a wild community and there are many small eyes warily watching my movements. 

Ms. Bluebird is busy building her second nest, in the same nestbox (after I cleaned it out), in the middle garden! Yeah! The Baltimore Orioles, Phoebes and Tree Swallows are steadfastly caring for their young and countless other birds are too . . . in hidden places I have yet to discover. 

I am always discovering something new within this lush landscape and love how it merges with my softer sanguine self, to create an inner peace. For . . . have I mentioned . . .  our gardens are like a jungle? Yes, I have a few times at least. After long years of anxious angst, I have accepted . . .  that the gardens have a life of their own . . .  and I have yielded to it . . . mostly.

Weeding to any major extent is impossible without a full-time staff of three or four . . . with two part-time helpers we are able to keep things we care about alive and at least give them a head start on the invasives. I have come to enjoy the rather overflowing garden floor and luckily most of my plants and shrubs reach high above the carpet of bishop's weed, bedstraw and (right now) comfrey. The comfrey will be cut down once the flowers have passed (pollinators adore the generous nectar) and I will continue to add more natives that are robust enough to survive here. 

One thing that survives here with no trouble at all . . . is the pure magical quality of surprise and suspense.  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Herbaceous Peonies Throughout the Gardens

Herbaceous peonies are lusciously and clumsily spilling over in various parts of the gardens. 

First . . .  a long row of peonies . . . the remnants of an old bed . . . running down towards the 'Middle Meadow Garden' . . .  seem to hold a buttery glow within their plentiful and wholesome whorls. 

Below along the 'Terrace Path' leading up to the 'Upper Garden' . . . 

a lovely single peony survives beneath French lilacs . . . smiling . . . in hopes that as I pass by . . .  I might pull the bedstraw and bishop's weed threatening her show. Of course, I always do.

Stepping into the 'Upper Garden' . . . mostly growing wildly . . . 

two toned . . .  red speckles and soft pink folds of petals reach out above the green sea of bishop's weed. 

Nearby within the 'Upper Garden' . . . wet and full . . . the same cultivar peony as those in the long row above . . .  looking a bit disheveled, after the rain . . . within the dappled light. 

Venturing back down the stairs into the 'Lower Garden' . . . 

a mauve, white and blue palette of singles and salvias awaits.  

Bright sunlight creates such a different mood from that of the earlier early morning photos above.

Blossoms fully alive and alert to all earthly sensations 

Walking over towards the 'North Garden' . . . 

Full bodied blooms barely stand beneath a Rosa Rugosa. These were planted only about ten years ago . . . the name of the cultivar is on the tip of my tongue. The beautybush in the distance adds to the drama.

Then . . .  just over to the left . . . behind the 'Writer's Studio' near a late blooming lilac . . . 

A single vibrant mauve peony reflects the light. 

Lastly . . . similar in color to the delicate blooms above . . .  around the corner at the edge of the 'North Garden' . . . 

mouthwatering moments mingle . . . 

with unfurling . . . nearly falling over . . . 

textures and fragrances merge . . . another Rosa Rugosa looks down upon . . . 

joyous light filled peonies. 

Ah, but now the rain is doing its thing and I will have to go out tomorrow and cut off the larger peony heads and await the buds again. 
No matter . . . herbaceous peonies are so grand and I have so much room . . . even if I can only enjoy the full blown blooms for a day or two, before buckets of rainfall makes them heady and heavy . . . resembling a type of mop. 
They truly are rather conspicuous beauties and give very little to the pollinators . . . I rarely see any bees in these, as I have often seen filling their pollen baskets inside the Tree Peonies. 
I confess to loving more delicate flowers first, but there is room enough within me too . . .  to enjoy them all . . . especially in a more rambling and wildly cultivated setting. 

Dear Readers, I apologize for not knowing the names of any of these bounteous blooms. Ten and even  twenty-five years have passed and I cannot find my records right now. 

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