Walking Into October

My father walks every morning around the property. He generally walks in the early morning, shortly after sunup. He says he wants to walk Beau, the new puppy, around the field. I figure that he shouldn’t. The puppy is very strong and he still pulls a lot. He says he wants to leave right them. So, I bargain for 10 more minutes to quickly down my tea and toast. We make our way out the door into the crisp October air.

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My son wants to go but changes his mind when he realizes that his ‘Paw Patrol’ sneakers would get wet. The sun breaks out over the wooded horizon. It fills the fields with golden light, sending each dewdrop into a dazzling display. On morning walks in October you can see the world awaken before your eyes.

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Sun is creeping up…

As we walk, we talk about the old dog. The one we miss so much. The predictable one. We try to remind ourselves that he too was once a puppy. That he too used to be trouble. That he used to scratch at the door and get us up at night. We say what a good dog he was. We wish he was still walking here with us on this October morning.

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Beau!

We mention the good qualities of this dog. He pulls on his leash. He stops in the middle of the path to sniff were the resident skunk dug holes the night before. My father again wants to walk the dog. I say ‘not yet’. There is much more training to be done.

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Stunning leaves!

We are quiet for a while. As we walk under an old rogue apple tree, my father inspects to see how many the deer have taken. Not many of them are missing. The apples are small and yellow. Their scent is sweet under our feet. The pup nibbles on one.

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Apples everywhere.

We walk to the old well to see how much water we have. The water table is so low. Not like when we were inspecting it last spring. Then the water poured out even through the ice. We chat about the drilled well. Thankful that it’s there. Maybe next year the garden will do better. Maybe next year the beans will climb higher. There’s only so much you can really do for a garden. We will keep trying. The puppy urges us onward.

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Asparagus berries.

The brown Queen Anne’s Lace blossoms stand at attention waiting for the next frost. The asparagus berries shimmer in the sunlight. The fallen crimson leaves are bright against the evergreen boughs. The red dogwood branches reach out, they would take over the whole field if allowed. The lilacs are heavy with seeds. As we pass through the orchard the smell of apples is strong. Many of them have scabs, not much for eating. The deer have been at these ones. I check each tree to see how they are doing.

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October sun!

I secretly think about when I was a kid, rambling these side roads on bikes with my friends. Off in the woods playing ‘Robin Hood’ or something. Swinging in my aunt and uncles big barn. Running in the cool afternoon air. Not a care in the world. How I used to think those days would go on forever.

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Here it comes…

I pass the leash to my father. Someday, when Beau has better manners, he can take him out alone. Right now the fall air and the scents of critters are keeping his nose busy. Autumn seems to me such a reflective time of year. A time to close the door on so many warm weather activities and ponder the months ahead. A time to make plans for the things to come.

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Spectacular morning light!

With the warm weather we’ve been having, it’s been an excellent time to get outside. The seasons come and go so fast. I tend to wish October and November would just keep going. I love this time of year! There’s almost too much to do. In the garden, the greens are steadily growing and the larger greens are having a second wind due to cooler weather. Some of the veggies have been pulled out and added to the compost pile. We will gradually be putting the gardens to bed. Just a few Fall ramblings and reflections this week. I hope that all of you will be able to get out to see some of the turning leaves!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

A Gallery of Spring Wildflowers

Spring has been slow this year. I usually refrain from complaining too much about the weather but I have to say that it’s hard to ease into late spring when the heat is on in the house. When every other night your husband says he needs to build a fire to take the edge off! A few weeks ago, it barely got out of the forties on some days. Our Maine landscape is finally a lush green color everywhere you look! On a recent walk with my son I found that my neighborhood is full of spring wildflowers. Would you like to see a few?

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Although I love designing flower gardens and growing a yearly vegetable garden, there’s something about the flowers that appear every spring. As if spring is not really here until we’ve seen our favorites. Like these flowers above, called Bluets or Quaker Ladies. Probably the first to appear in May. Within a ten minute walk from my house I found such diversity that I couldn’t stop trying to capture what I saw. Many of these spring wildflowers go by several different names. I will be using common and scientific names throughout this post. A few of our wildflowers have been introduced from abroad years ago and have naturalized here.

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Euphorbia growing along the road.

Introduced from Europe in the 1800’s, Cypress Spurge or euphorbia cyparissias, is not in a traditional flower form. Each yellow umbrel is made up of many clusters of petal-like bracts. This vibrant, low growing plant has been cultivated into countless varieties over the decades. As a cultivated perennial, it can make a huge show in a home garden.

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My little protected area of Lady’s Slippers.

Since our land was cleared years ago, the Lady’s Slipper orchid was only spotted on occasion. Now, with parts of the forest going untouched, our small patch has grown to be a tiny grove of flowers. Each plant grows two leaves and only one stem with a flower.

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A rare patch of white flowers.

Last year, we had a rare appearance of two white Lady’s Slippers. I don’t think we will have any this spring. These stunning jewels of the forest get their name from the flower resembling a woman’s shoe.

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Lady’s Slippers on the side of the driveway.

I can’t recount how many times I’ve tried to photograph these unique blooms. If you ever get a chance to walk the trails at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens this time of year, you will find several breathtaking displays of Lady’s Slippers. I’ve never seen so many in one place. If picked or over-collected, these frequently spotted orchids could easily slip into the rare category over time. For more specific information on our Maine orchids, go to Lady’s-Slippers in Maine. You never know what you might see on a hike in the Maine woods!

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Dainty wild blueberry blossoms.

Once I passed the blueberry field, I noticed that our low-bush blueberries were in bloom. A flower with a sweet promise of blueberry pies, muffins and jams. Our local blueberry fields put on a continual color show. Right now, the fields are green and white. Soon the blooms will turn into tiny green berries that will ripen in August.

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Purple violets.

At my neighbors farm, the ditch was full of purple violets. One cluster after another, untouched by the weed trimmer. Violets come in several colors including, white, yellow and blue. There are many different kinds of violets making it hard for the untrained eye to identify them. In times past, a small bouquet of purple violets could mean love or faithfulness and white might signify innocence, purity and chastity. I’m not sure what a fistful of dandelions means but I receive this all the time a small person I know!

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The fragrance is overwhelming!

Lily of the Valley holds many memories for me. The scent is strong and can transport you mentally to another place and time. This spring bloomer can make an excellent ground cover but will take over any flower bed. They are often found at the base of old steps or a stone foundation. Pull individual stems from the plant to create a tiny, aromatic bouquet!

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Happy forget-me-nots on the roadside.

I’m so drawn to blue flowers! Forget-me-nots love to lace their way through moss covered areas with dappled light. Often, they can be spotted along the edge of a brook. They can be found in shades of pink and white also. I can’t tell you how many bunches I’ve picked. Forget-me-nots work wonderfully with bleeding hearts. Each flower has 5 petals and a bright yellow eye. Multiple flowers rest atop each stem. These small blue blossoms make excellent flowers for pressing.

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Blue bead lily.

This blue bead lily or Clintonia borealis, can be found hiding in among forest trees. A perennial forest plant named for the blue berry that appears after blooming. Each flower stem will have 3-6 lily like flowers bloom from it. Once established, the blue bead lily will grow in clumps to make a nice show of yellow long into June.

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Star flower is from the primrose family.

This fragile woodland plant is such a dainty spring wildflower. Almost insignificant until you get closer and find it has a delicate beauty about it. This North American perennial blooms in May and June and travels by rhizomes.

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A native rhododendron.

I have rarely seen the native deciduous rhododendron. I happened to capture this recently. Rhodora, rhododendron canadense is a member of the heath family. It prefers bogs and rocky slopes. For some great information on this wild shrub, go to Rock Gardening Maine Style. I would love to see this naturalize near my gardens but it probably won’t happen. If you see one of these, be sure to take a few pictures.  I won’t say that it’s rare to spot the rhodora, but I don’t see it often.

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Buttercups are now emerging from the lawn.

Buttercups are often considered a troublesome weed in a lawn or garden, but along a country road they are lovely. We will never forget the old childhood question about liking butter! But who doesn’t like butter? Our common buttercup, Ranunculus repens, is in the Ranunculus family. If you’ve ever battled it’s tenacious root, you know how tough these guys are. The flowers petals are very shiny and bright. They make excellent flowers for pressing.

These are just a handful of flowers that we see in our area. There were plenty more that I haven’t spotted yet. If we are able to look beyond the cultivated garden beds, we can see a whole world filled with some of the tiniest flowers. Many of our wildflowers are protected so find out before you pick! Plant names change over the years so if you know that one of these names has been changed, just give me a shout. I’ve been playing around with a new site called Go Botany. This is a wonderful new website for plant identification especially for New England. The site is easy to use and helps you quickly find individual plant types by category. It has the capability to identify over 1,200 native and naturalized plants. I also utilize an older book called Spring Wildflowers of New England by Marilyn Dwelley. I hope you have enjoyed taking a walk with me this week. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to share these treasured blooms with you. Thank you for coming along!

Hilary|Everlongardener