Category Archives: Gardening

Welcome, July!

July is here, and what a beauty of a day with sun, low humidity, and a temperature that is just right, warm but not too hot. The window by my desk is open, and as I work I can smell the sweet air coming from the trees and the woods. The birds are singing, and when I look outside, I see green, green, green. Nature is calling “come outside.” Unfortunately, I must work at my desk.

June was a cool, rainy month, and while it didn’t bother me personally—I am comfortable in a broad range of temperatures, from 65°F to 82°F—it has not been good for vegetables and hay. Everything is late, late, late, and farmers are worried about how they are going to feed their animals. The fields are too saturated, and the hay can’t be cut. This sounds like an old-fashioned concern from bygone days, but Maine is a rural state blessed with farmers young and old. We have plenty of goats, sheep, cows, chickens, and horses as well as tourists. While drought is never welcomed, I do hope that July, August, and even September will bring abundant sunshine so that the hay can be cut, and the farmers can feed their animals this winter.

The perennials in my gardens are doing well, and here is the view of our front yard.  Still mostly green, with a touch of yellow. I have made my peace with having a garden with subtle colors and have even learned to love it. (But, oh, how I still drool over the gardens of some of my blogging friends. You know who you are.)

Here is a closer look at some of the yellow against, of course, a hosta.

July is the time for fledglings, young birds that are mostly grown up but still follow their parents around and depend on them, at least to some extent, for food. I have an extremely soft spot for these fledglings who are on the cusp of independence. Such a harsh, dangerous world for them, and it touches me to see how the parents tend to clamoring offspring that are no longer small.

Because we live in the woods, we have the opportunity to see the fledglings of many birds—crows, nuthatches, gold finches, to name a few. The other day, it was a woodpecker, eating from the bird feeder and then feeding the fledgling who waited patiently underneath.

Best of luck, fledgling woodpecker! May you thrive and mature to raise families of your own.

The Joys of Spring

Readers, it has finally happened—the event I have been looking forward to since the spring equinox, and it ranks right up there with forsythia and the song of the peepers. Drum roll, please: yesterday marked the first time this year that I was able to hang laundry outside on the line. Happy, happy day! From now until October, laundry will be hung on the line rather than inside on racks.

As if that weren’t enough joy for one week…the maple tree is in bloom. These tiny bursts of red are one of my favorite flowers. They complement every bird, no matter the color, that comes into the backyard—the   goldfinches, the cardinals, the chickadees, the nuthatches.

And what a joy to have birds around me as I worked in the garden. I heard the sharp rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker, the twitter of the goldfinches, the caw of a crow, and the haunting call of a loon.

With such music, it seemed as though the big bed in the backyard was cleaned in no time.

Even more joy: The ferns are starting to come up.

And last but not least, Clif sifted compost for me, and this will soon go in the back garden.

Such a lot of joy for one week. Who could ask for anything more?



Farewell to Hostas

For the past week, it has been unusually warm—in the 70s. It hardly feels like autumn in Maine at all.

But the the hostas know that summer is over.

I’ve begun emptying and cleaning pots. This weekend, I’ll start bringing in the garden ornaments.

Somehow, it is always more fun to bring them out in the spring than it is to put them away in the fall.

On other matters…I have done major editing on my book Library Lost, and I will soon be receiving the first proof copy. Always exciting, but the work is not done. I’ll be going over the proof copy line by line. Onward, ho!

A couple of days ago, a terrible hurricane slammed the coast of Florida. What devastation! I wonder what will become of coastal communities, especially in the South, as the oceans continue to heat up and the storms get worse and worse.

In North Carolina, where our daughter and son-in-law live, the hurricane notched itself down to a tropical storm. Nevertheless, the winds were strong, trees were toppled, and there were widespread power outages. In fact, my daughter and son-in-law don’t have electricty. At least they have water. But as a veteran of power outages, I can attest to the fact that they are no fun at all. For us, what a happy day it is when the refrigerator whirs back to life as the power comes back on.

But how horrible to lose everything in a storm. Somehow, when compared with such destruction, a power outage doesn’t seem that bad.


Welcome to the Jungle

Hot and humid. Humid and hot. This was the theme of July,  and so far,  August is following suit. Clif and I can only look back wistfully to the days when Maine summers were delightful—not too hot, not too humid.

The plants, on the other hand, thrive in the humidity, and my little herb garden, with the cucumbers and tomatoes tucked in, has exploded into a jungle.

Mint has a bad reputation for hogging a garden, and while it often does grow where it doesn’t belong, mint has nothing on oregano, which is so out of control that I hardly know how to contain it.

Here is the mint, more or less confined to one corner of the bed.

Now behold the oregano. At night, I am certain that I can hear it call, “Feed me, Laurie!”

Fortunately, there is room for wee, delicious cucumbers,

as well as wee tomatoes that I hope will be delicious.

As a bonus picture, here is Clif by the tomatoes, so that readers can appreciate just how out of control this garden is. (I know. I know. I should prune. Somehow, I just can’t bring myself to do it.)

Finally, to borrow from one of my blogging friends and her blog CIMPLE, here’s a little something to start the weekend.


To the Red Barn, Fernwood Nursery, and John’s Ice Cream

Yesterday was a finest kind of day, even though it was hotter than heck—in the 90s. For Mother’s Day, Shannon gave me a gift certificate to the fabulous Red Barn–thank you, Shannon!—and our first stop was lunch. I had one of my favorite things—a delectable lobster roll—and Clif had fish and chips and a side order of onion rings.

After that, it was on to Fernwood Nursery in Montville, where I met my blogging friend Denise Sawyer and her husband Rick. A note about blogging friends in general and Denise in specific: Blogging has enhanced my life  in unexpected and utterly delightful ways. In this country and in many others, through blogging, I have met a wonderful, creative group of people who inspire me. You might even call this a far-flung community of kindred spirits.

I met Denise in a roundabout way, through an Irish blog called The Aran Artisan.  As it turned out, Melissa, of the Aran Artisan, is originally from Maine, and Denise, one of her followers, lives in Maine now. Hence the connection. Denise found out I was Franco-American and very kindly sent me a book about Franco-Americans. I discovered Denise and her husband own a nursery that specializes in shady plants.

I have a shady yard and gardens with, ahem,  a few holes. As Fernwood Nursery is within driving distance of where we live, Clif and I decided to make the trek to Montville after our Red Barn lunch.

What a treat to visit Denise, Rick,  and their delightful nursery tucked in the woods. Truly, it felt like Clif and I were connecting with old friends, even though we had never met. Despite this being a very busy time for Fernwood, Denise graciously took time to talk with us and to give us advice about planting in dry shade. I came home with a Solomon’s seal, just perfect for that aforementioned hole in the garden.

Denise also told us a little about herself, about how she came from an old Connecticut family that dates back to the 1600s. Rick is from the Lewiston/Auburn area, and they own about twenty acres of land in Montville, which not only supports the nursery but also provides about 85 percent of what they eat.

Most of the land remains wooded, and Denise is quite rightly proud that they get so much out of a small footprint, their livelihood as well as a lot of their food.

As we sat outside in wicker chairs, I heard the clucking of chickens in a nearby pen, big with plenty of room to peck and scratch. In the background came the melodious song of large wood chimes, and it almost seemed as though the woods were singing.

Denise and Rick have what can only be called a flair for making their nursery a lovely place. Green, green, and green, so bright yet soothing. Lots of little containers tucked with different varieties of hens and chicks. Double-blossom white trilliums. Arresting sculpture.

Here are some pictures of Fernwood Nursery.

As Denise noted, “It’s a good place to be.”

It most certainly is, and we look forward to visiting again.

Now, you might be wondering how in the world we ended the day that would be in keeping with seafood and a delightful nursery.

Following Denise’s suggestion, we went to John’s ice cream.

As the sign indicates, the ice cream is handmade and oh so delicious.

What a good life we have!

Jurassic Park at the Little House in the Big Woods

At the little house in the big woods, it’s that time of year again. The full-grown hostas, only slightly chewed by slugs and snails, have gotten so large that it seems as though I’ve stepped back in time to the Jurassic era. Really, the hostas are so huge and so muscular that they are almost unmanageable. I know I should cut them back, and from time to time I do, but mostly I just allow them to have their own way. My yard is not exactly a gardener’s dream, and hostas are one of the few plants that actually thrive here in the dry shade. So, let ’em grow!



Despite my grumblings, I must that admit there are other flowers ablooming, and in fact my gardens are at their peak right now. (Note, however, the fringe of the ever-present hostas.)


I have lived at the little house in the big woods for over thirty years, and I thought I had seen every insect that makes its way into my yard. But, no. Yesterday I came across this little fringed creature. Anyone have any idea what it is? It just goes to show that even after thirty years, a small plot of land can teach you something new.


There can be no doubt what the little winged creature below is. The wonder is that my wee camera managed to capture him at all. Score one for the persistent photographer who constantly takes pictures of birds but seldom gets a good shot.


A moment of triumph, indeed.

After the Rain on This Last Day of June

Yesterday and the night before, we got some much-needed rain. Uncharacteristically for Maine, the month of June has been dry, and in some regions there has actually been a mini-drought. Last year was the same, and I wonder if we are entering a new phase with Maine weather.

As a bicycle rider and a patio hound, I love the good weather. As a gardener, I start to fret if it goes too long without rain. Then, when it does rain, I fret for my flowers if the rain falls too hard.  Like most people who grow flowers and vegetables, I want the rain to be just right—a nice, steady, gentle, soaking rain that has enough sense to stop after a day or so. Seldom do we get this, which means when it comes to my gardens, I am in a constant state of fretfulness.

Yesterday’s rain wasn’t too bad, and as the irises have gone by, I didn’t have to worry about them. It did beat down my pansies, but the pansies are getting leggy, and soon I will be replacing them with some other flowers. I haven’t decided which ones yet.

I do love how the flowers look after the rain. Somehow, drops of water make the blossoms even more lovely than they already are.


Today has the kind of dry, sunny weather that makes Maine famous for its summers. Clif and I will be going on a bike ride tonight, and we’ll be grilling chicken for our supper.

What a fine way for the last day of June to go out. Many of our summer visitors are here. Lightening bugs flash on the window screens at night; the hummingbirds whir to our feeders and then zoom away into the woods; the thrushes sing every night; and the swallowtail butterflies are as beautiful as the flowers they visit.


All seasons have their beauty, but summer’s is the deepest, the most nurturing. Plants, flowers, insects, birds, and other creatures get their fill of green life during this abundant time of year. When I sit in the backyard and just look and listen and smell, I feel as though I am a part of all that is around me.


The Consolation of October

As it turns out, I had a nasty little flu rather than a miserable cold. By Friday night, my temperature was nearly 102, but the next day, Saturday, I felt significantly better. By Sunday, I was more or less back to my normal schedule. I even did some cutting back in the garden.

Unfortunately but not unexpectedly, Clif caught what I had—couples sure do like to share. But he should be fine by next weekend, when Dee is coming home from New York to help celebrate yet another retirement fête for Clif. (This should be the last one. Clif has certainly retired in style.)

Being sick, of course, is no fun, but I much prefer short and brutal over long and miserable. I have had colds stretch out for a week or two, with coughing at night to make sleep next to impossible. At least what I had was over in a few days, and a good thing, too, as there is much to do outside to get the yard ready for winter.

We still haven’t had a hard frost, but for the most part, the gardens and potted plants have had it. The coleuses have taken on a leggy, spiky look, and I hope to have them removed by the end of the week.


The hostas have become yellow and curled, and yesterday I began cutting them back.


The leaves of the evening primroses have turned a lovely red, and I’ll cut those last.


The ferns, too, have had it and are curling back into themselves. I don’t clip the ferns. I let them take care of themselves, and this seems to work just fine. Each spring, they return in a vigorous burst of green.


For a gardener, fall can be a melancholy time. The clipped plants give the gardens a shaved look.


Soon all the garden ornaments will be stored down cellar, as we Mainers like to say. The patio furniture will come in, and the grill will be moved onto the lawn. How sad, bare, and lonely it all looks when this happens.

Good thing, then, that October is such a beautiful, golden month. It’s almost as if she were saying, “Yes, I know brown, austere November is coming, and after that the long cold of winter, but before it does, I’ll give you some deep blue skies and some blazing leaves as consolation.”

And indeed, what a consolation!