Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Our Sylvan Idyll

 I'm delighted to report that we have our own crop of dame's rocket in our own little sylvan idyll at the back. Years ago hubby and I tried to dig some up from the roadside - where they abound at this time of year in all their pink, white and purple glory - but they flatly refused to take root, turning their noses up at their new quarters.

But in their own time, when they were good and ready, they appeared, like jewels in the dappled shadows. 

The deer haven't eaten them yet.

Meanwhile the garden is gradually, very gradually, getting into shape. At least the grass has been mowed and I'm working on the flowerbeds - as much as I can as I'm still semi-incapacitated. My kind Florida neighbour lent me me both a zimmer frame (walker here) and a  very swanky stick, which they call a cane - though that's something older Brits associate with sadistic schoolteachers.  I'm pleased to say that only the stick came back up north with us - though it's now got a bit muddy.

I'm also delighted that some foxgloves have appeared. They always seem staunch and cheerful, making the best of things.

Plus it's peony time here (yes, much later than back in Britain). We don't have many but they are gorgeous and smell wonderful. This year I managed to remember to prop them up in time before their heads kissed the mud. . Though, like the rockets, they have minds of their own. They will insist on drooping in several different directions so I have to negotiate the flowerbed and prop them up with several different bits of portable fence, which is difficult when you've got a bad leg.

Sadly, though, no sign of the delphiniums. One of the biggest tasks is thinning out the incorrigible black-eyed Susans that are already rampaging everywhere and trying their best to smother their neighbours.  I'm determined this summer is not going to be another ocean of unrelenting yellow.

  There was a garden festival in the village last weekend and as always with such events there were more stalls selling handicrafts and knick-knacks and things to eat than actual plants. We met a friend coming out of the community centre weighed down with jars of jam - "Get there before they sell out!" she gasped. We loaded up on several different kinds of pickle - corn pickle, country garden pickle, jalapeno pepper jelly and the like. "Do you sell at the farmers' market?" I asked the lady. "No, they won't let you sell there until they inspect your kitchen". They also don't let people sell pumpkin pie because it's got cream in it. There are far too many rules and regulations in this world. Why don't they just put up a sign, "WARNING! Kitchens Have Not Been Inspected! Consume at Your Own Risk!" If I know the locals here, they'd flock to it. Anything to thumb their noses at authority.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Chipster Central - or Toad Hall?

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York state.

 Long-time readers will know that our rural western New York idyll is rich in wildlife, not all of it welcome and much of it duplicitous. What could be sweeter than a deer sticking its hungry little face over the woodpile in winter, hoovering up the seeds from the bird feeder? (A fond memory of the days we were actually here in the winter.)

And how do they reward us? By making off with all the new buds and shoots in the garden - that's how. This year's tally already includes 1 rhododendron and two mountain laurels (stripped) and a whole clump of my favourite garden phlox (decapitated).

And as for our  Chip dynasty (of which there seems to be only one member at the moment) - they have a whole dramatic repertoire of innocence, charm and conviviality.  

Which makes slipping them the odd peanut very hard to resist.

And how do they reward us? By scoffing our tomatoes and blueberries, not to mention the wild strawberries and digging tunnels in the flower beds so the back garden is starting to resemble a Swiss cheese.  Well what do we expect? They are not stupid.

Meanwhile a few days ago an interesting new visitor appeared. I saw something on the dead leaves and at first couldn't work out what it was. 

Until I managed to hobble closer. Ah yes, not a coiled-up rattlesnake but an American toad, Bufo Americanus no less. About the size of one of those giant French coffee cups.

I tried to get him/her from another angle and I could just imagine the sentiments, "OK you got my good side, now buzz off!"

Now I've just looked them up -  and you know what these chaps like to eat?  Slugs! They eat SLUGS! Whoopee! Come along, bring your friends! Stay as long as you like! Perhaps we're finally onto a winner.

Thursday, June 2, 2022



    I have been feeling nostalgic all day, not being in London to enjoy all the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations. By the time it got to the balcony scene, only Fox News appeared to be hanging in there and showing it live, (the BBC website tersely stating that their content was "not available in your region"). The Fox news coverage was interspersed with Piers Morgan, egged on by the excited presenters,  giving his full and frank views on Harry and Meghan, which wasn't really the theme of the day.

  I don't have any direct Queen anecdotes - the nearest I got to her was when I went to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace for the BBC but I remember how she walked down the line of people deemed worthy to be introduced, shaking hands with an enchanting smile, making each person feel as though they were the most important in the world and spending exactly three minutes on each before moving on. If I can think of only one description for her,  it's "supremely professional".  She has been Queen all my life; I can't imagine life without her.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Welcome Back to the Jungle

 Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York state

Well what did we expect? Back just in time for the weed growth spurt. And thanks to my game leg I'm limited in what I can do about it. But I'm determined to do a small amount of weeding each day - which is just possible, perched on my gardening stool.

(Hubby insisted on taking the photo, against my better judgement. Claiming the scene  looked French and romantic. Or something.))

  But I'm heartened by the new trend back in Blighty called rewilding. You want rewilding? We've got it. (Although it might be better named still wilding.) And as we haven't been able to get the grass cut yet, 

we can enjoy our very own wildflower meadow

It's sad that the manic mowers with their pristine lawns are already at it.  They don't know what they're missing. 
I'm also heartened by the garden that won Best in Show at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. A nice mixture of flowers and weeds, a little stream and a beaver dam (they must be nuts - don't they know what beavers do to trees? There's only one thing they do to beavers around here and it aint pretty...) But the main point is that it's a wild garden - rough, shaggy and unmanicured, just like mine. Once I've licked it into shape that is.

Some things are bravely getting underway. Like the irises, which are always too early at the party and look lonely.

Too late for a photo of the big lilacs but here's the little one. 

And hubby's favourite wildflower - dame's rocket - has a few outliers in the back. They make a glorious display on the wooded roadsides around here. 

And wonder of wonders, the rhododendrons in the back actually bloomed. Well there's one bloom so far. But it's progress. The cage around them kept the deer out for once. 

Sadly the mountain laurels weren't so lucky. We found the netting halfway across the garden and one bush well and truly scalped. The other likewise - the deer had managed to kick a hole in the netting. As for the rhododendron by the house. A tragic shadow of its former self is all I can say.

To be continued - watch this space for an interesting new visitor.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Our Last Sight of Golden Beach...


..for a while...

 We postponed our journey north until I could negotiate stairs on my pins but now we're off, supposedly saying goodbye to temperatures in the 90s, high humidity and hurricanes. (Actually the temperature in western New York next week is projected to be - yes -  in the 90s. The difference being that it won't be in the 90s for too long and we might still get a frost.)  But staying on in Florida a bit longer gave us a chance to see the Royal Poinciana at the end of the road in all its summer glory.

Nothing quite like that up north and we won't be seeing palm trees for a while either. The other day I managed to hobble around the arboretum to see their selection. Prettiest is the Ponytail Palm.

And here's a European  Fan Palm - European?

And a Cuban Royal Palm

A Florida Thatch Palm

And a Bottle Palm - I wonder if its named after the shape of its trunk

And that's just some of them. They are exotic and romantic but palm trees are a pain in the neck to have in your garden - you have to keep picking up the dead fronds and trimming them is a complicated science. They can look sweet at Christmas though.

But exotic though they may be, with their palms and palmettos and creepers and live oaks and Spanish moss, Florida forests can't match the forests of the north in beauty. That's something I'm looking forward to.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Peace and Quiet At Last

 Dateline: Golden Beach, Florida

  It's frustrating, in my current largely incapacitated state, not to be able to make the most of that blissful Florida coastal time when a lot of the northern visitors have started to leave. Traffic is lighter, the beaches and restaurants are emptying a bit and it is lovely here, with the rainy season not quite started, hurricanes not yet on the way and the sea turtles starting to nest. Well I can enjoy it a bit. There's less gardening noise and even less building noise - although the new house on our street still hasn't been finished. The workers turn up sporadically, half-heartedly saw a few things and then hop off home. The house has a gleaming metal roof which looks terrifyingly hot - and when it rains it must be like living inside a steel drum. But metal roofs seem to be all the rage at the moment. It seems it's a very long time since the old house was knocked down and the new one started. Everyone hopes we'll soon lose the portaloo, the beeping reversing trucks and vans and cars parked all over the place and get our street back - until the next demolition that is. But it will never be the same again, with the new white edifice with its grand entrance and tiny window slits like some fortified castle, lording it over the smaller houses. Personally I saw nothing wrong with the old house - not to mention the beautiful tree which was sacrificed in the name of progress. But sadly it's happening everywhere on the Island.

And speaking of hopping, the other day, with my new-found freedom of using a walker instead of crutches, I managed to hop and shuffle from the car to the boardwalk at Caspersen beach. (Golden Beach doesn't have a boardwalk - you have to negotiate the sand dunes and I'm not quite ready for that.)

See what I mean by emptier?  Maybe I'll be able to get a swim in soon.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

I Come Hopping Back.....

 Dateline, Golden Beach Florida

Thank you for your patience! If anyone is still out there, that is. Alas I have been out of action with a bad skiing accident (so much for our trip to Europe!) but I hope I'm now on the mend (graduating from hopping on crutches to shuffling behind a Zimmer frame - or walker to my American friends) and getting all too used to bring waited on hand and foot and ordering poor hubby about. He in turn has come up with magnificent gourmet meals and a show of patience that is  more than stoical. I am immobilised for a few weeks but at least not quivering in a basement in Mariupol, for which I fervently thank God.  While we were away the frangipani burst into bloom

though unfortunately the rest of the garden is a sad shadow of what it should be. There's been a drought for a few weeks and there's a vista of shrivelled annuals, depleted honeysuckle and a passion flower vine stripped by the fabled caterpillars I was mistakenly nurturing. And where exactly are all those butterflies? The electricity people came and chopped down a palm tree we didn't even know we had, so that's left a big gap. Frustratingly I won't be able to do anything about anything, probably till we're back in the autumn.
Anyway that's a quick progress report. More to come soon.