Sunday, November 15, 2009


It’s going to be a hard winter. I’ve got proof.

(There is a photo that is supposed to go here, but it seems to be lost amongst the thousands on my hard drive.  I'll post it when I find it.)

Folklore has it that oak trees produce an over-abundance of acorns ahead of a bad winter and fewer acorns when the following winter will be mild. This past fall, deceptively warm, was marked by a veritable monsoon of acorns courtesy of my neighbor’s oak tree.

Walking on my driveway and lawn was like walking on marbles. The sound of acorns crashing onto my car had me constantly checking for dents. I even checked my head for dents after being hit more than once.

Good did come of all of this mayhem. Normally, I have to harvest the seed pods from the Blackberry Lilies long before they ripen because the squirrels consider them a delicacy. This year, I must have missed one. And so did the squirrels. They had apparently gorged themselves on acorns and weren’t looking for anything else to eat so a lone pod was able to ripen and then open, showing the shiny black seeds that make the characteristic autumnal display.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day Flowers

Thanks to the mild weather we’ve been having, there is still color in my gardens. Just not what you would expect. Not asters or mums or goldenrod. Of course not! This is my garden where anything can, and often does, happen.

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, while nuclear war still seemed a possibility, I read somewhere that the only things that would survive a nuclear attack were cockroaches. I’d like to amend that statement to include Rudbeckia.

Over the years, I have learned to take advantage of their propensity to grow anywhere. I dig up small clumps and distribute them to friends, confident that even the most neophyte gardener with the blackest of thumbs, can’t kill them. They are a great “starter plant” for timid beginners. It doesn’t matter where they are planted, like cockroaches, they will grow and multiply.

Which is how they have spread all over my yard. Any place where I need a little color or nothing seems to grow, I plant some knowing that within a few years, I will have a big bright bunch of yellow flowers.

I seem to see the world differently from most people. Take, for instance, my introduction to old-fashioned single hollyhocks. As a child, I first saw them growing along a rustic split rail fence, their huge stalks towering over not just me but also the adults. Who were all admiring the thatched roof on the house. A house with a thatched roof is unusual but a house with a thatched roof in the middle of a city is downright bizarre. While the adults were wondering how much the homeowner’s insurance was costing the inhabitants of the thatched roof house, I was wondering what the big flowers were called.

I grew them in the garden I had when I was in high school. My first house had too much shade in the yard to grow most flowers. My current yard is shady except for the strip along the Ugly Green Fence. I tried growing hollyhocks there but they succumbed to rust.

Occasionally, one still pops up either from dormant seed or seed brought in by the birds. Sometimes they manage to hang on long enough to flower.

I have one garden where virtually nothing grows. I don’t know if there is something wrong with the soil or if the quantity or quality of the sunlight is a problem. The garden was originally dug by my daughter and planted with mainly purple flowers. The daffodils, iris and asters that she planted still grow. I planted sage which has done well and Echinacea which hasn’t done so well.

And then there is the bare spot. Not even weeds grow well there. Years ago, I tried planting all green flowers in that space, but they didn’t even make it through one season. Except for the miniature rose. It’s still going strong. Every year it gets bigger. I’m wondering how much larger it can get before it is no longer consider “miniature”. It seems immune to the Black Spot that attacks my heirloom roses. And it blooms exuberantly. The flowers are only very vaguely green but they definitely make up in quantity what they lack in color.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Swarthmore Arboretum

After our tour of Chanticleer, we took advantage of the picnic area to have lunch. Then it was off to Swarthmore Arboretum. The arboretum is located on the campus which has many beautiful buildings.

There are hidden gardens.

And inviting places to sit.

My favorite place?

The rose garden, of course!

Or maybe it’s the shady amphitheatre.

I wonder . . .

…is this real or a clever garden ornament?
We were exhausted after walking all day.

We wondered if this kitty was willing to share his bench.

And that’s the end of my tail tale.

You can see all of my photos of Swarthmore arboretum on Flickr.