Savoring Sweet Summer

Yesterday, after a long hot and muggy day in the gardens, I had to make a quick trip into town. Going to town doesn’t excite me. I prefer my home ground, the bounty of flora that surrounds us, the constant music of our resident feathered flyers. It seems the older I get, the less I want to leave home. Most of what I need is here. Family. Friends. Gardens. Space. Serenity. And of course, plenty of fresh food. Despite my normal inclination to hunker down, there are times I have to muster the courage to venture outside of my self-proclaimed range and head to the ‘big (very little) city’. Sometimes we just need things, (even though we practice stocking up to avoid frequent trips) things like toilet paper and avocados. Things like coffee and extra sharp cheddar cheese and chocolate. Oh, and sometimes we have to make a bank deposit as well. That, too.
I go with a list. I don’t dawdle. I don’t stray from my course. I am on a mission. Grocery. Bank. Hardware store. My intent is to ‘get in and get out’ as quickly as possible. Yesterday, however, I did add an excursion just before heading home. I ran the errands that needed to be done and could have easily pointed the trusty Subaru west toward home, but I thought about summer and the heat and the glorious bodies of water that grace our state. So, I drove a little further east ( a mere mile or so) to my friend’s little parcel of land that sits along ‘Head Of Tide’ and went for a swim. This is where the salt water flows in and meets the Passagassawakeag River. During high tide, one can slip easily into the salty water, float with the current and enjoy the cooler temperatures of the oceans influence, and then paddle up the to the freshwater flowing in from the Passy. Divine. So, there I was, submerged in that cool and refreshing body of water, happy for my trip to town, savoring the sweetness of summer.
Sundays are good days for a little poetry, yes? A poem about swimming, enjoy and go for a swim!

When the day becomes hot and hazy
And I become tired and lazy,
All I can do is keep on reneging,
For the vast lawn needs mowing,
And the vegetable garden needs hoeing,
And work must come before swimming.

It seems that the grass has grown taller
And I get an immediate urge to holler.
Why can’t I forget this awful dreaming,
That I was always on the brink of sneezing,
And constantly plagued with episodes of wheezing,
Until soothing in the water with ease in breathing?

The sun seems to quiver and know
As I think of the old swimming hole,
I rest my aching body and keep reneging,
Of course my work I am not shirking,
But it’s just too hot and humid for working,
It’s about time to sneak out and go swimming.

I notice the sun in the azure sky beaming
And again I catch myself dreaming,
As the perspiration continues dripping,
But my tasks have me outsmarted,
And I plod along slowly and half – hearted,
Thinking of the old gang going dipping.

I face reality and refrain from dreaming
And seek relief from the humidity with meaning,
And go to the swimming hole that is brimming.
Life is too short to constantly worry,
So why should I continue to be in a hurry?
It’s summer and a time for swimming.
A Time For Swimming
Joseph T. Renaldi

Are We There Yet? High Summer, I mean.

And how did we arrive so soon? It is high summer, isn’t it? The first cut of hay is in. The squash and tomatoes and green beans are asserting their jungle personalities. We may still get one more decent harvest of peas before the heat does them in. Swimming holes are still but beckoning. The pray for rain is profound.
No longer do I come in casually from the garden with a basketful of spring greens, the earliest of radishes, a tub of energy-rich spinach, and think “oh, how nice to have a few tidbits, the earth’s first offerings”. Now it’s full-on, two canning kettles bubbling, the threat of squash taking over our lives. And yet. And yet, we have the creeping thoughts of winter, of firewood needing to be split and stacked ( oh, Denise, don’t mention it aloud!), of propagation for next year’s nursery season, of putting food up for the winter larder.
A brief account of summer from Gary Paulsen’s book Clabbered Dirt And Sweet Grass…it sums it up…this life, these seasons, this rhythm.

“With haying done there is not a separation of work. It continues. Always. But there is another line to cross and a new time comes then, comes then to the seasons- high summer. meterorological data means nothing, technical names mean nothing, the divisions are like music, like stops in a symphony. First thaw, early spring, breakup, middle spring, late spring, early summer, midsummer, high summer, late summer, early fall, Indian summer, first killing freeze, high fall, late fall, first snow, early winter, midwinter, high winter, late winter, first thaw, early spring, breakup…more names than months, more names than days, more names because more names are needed. For the luck”.

Fairy House Building class!!

Our fairy house building class was such a success last season we are offering it again this summer! Join us here at Fernwood Nursery for a two-part pottery class building miniature homes for your resident garden gnomes or fairies. During the first session, participants will design and construct their fairy homes using clay. Add a window box, tile your roof, or attach shutters, be creative! Once your houses are dry, we will fire them and bring them back to be glazed during the second session. After the glaze firing your pieces will be ready for installation! We will be using slab building and pinching techniques to make miniature shelters, perfect for any ‘little folks’ who may be wandering your woodland or gardens. Along with guidance on how to build and design out of clay, Denise will discuss how to best design around your new piece of mini real estate. Materials and supplies are included…plus, as with most all classes here at Fernwood, tea and scones will be served!
Saturday, July 29th, and Saturday, August 12th, 1:00 to 3:00.

If you’d like to join us, email at fernwoodnursery@fairpoint.net or call (207) 589-4726
You can check out our ‘classes and more’ page for details

Class On ‘Ephemerals And Early Risers’, Still Two Openings!

trillium erectum

We’re offering a great class this spring on some of the earliest plants to bloom in the woodland gardens. We do love these garden beauties that arrive early, but often they come and go before the nursery opens and before visitors get to enjoy them as well. Rick will be here to lead us through the gardens, identifying some of the ‘ephemerals and early risers’ and discussing site selection and soil needs. He is always happy to ‘talk plants’, so come and join us.This class was offered last spring and was a great hit, lots of information about your early woodland garden! A light lunch and tea will be provided. You can check out our Classes and More page for information and cost.

Erythronium ‘Rose Queen’

Class On ‘Ephemerals And Early Risers’ Here At Fernwood!

trillium erectum

We’re offering a great class this spring on some of the earliest plants to bloom in the woodland gardens. We do love these garden beauties that arrive early, but often they come and go before the nursery opens and before visitors get to enjoy them as well. Rick will be here to lead us through the gardens, identifying some of the ‘ephemerals and early risers’ and discussing site selection and soil needs. He is always happy to ‘talk plants’, so come and join us.This class was offered last spring and was a great hit, lots of information about your early woodland garden! A light lunch and tea will be provided. You can check out our Classes and More page for information and cost.

Erythronium ‘Rose Queen’

Sweetfern

66a075fd0cea6ed74b2391c3d121012eFirst of all, Sweetfern, Comptonia peregrina is not a fern at all, but actually, a shrub that is in the bayberry family. The leaves, which are very aromatic, are fernlike in their appearance. An extremely useful and adaptable native, it can grow in a variety of soils in full sun to part shade. Often, due to its spreading and colonizing habit, it used to stabilize slopes or other disturbed sites. Since it fixes its own nitrogen, is drought tolerant, withstands the wind, and can thrive in poor gravelly soils, it is often used in commercial and municipal projects. But it is also very useful in the home landscape. The deep green foliage is an attractive addition to any design that keeps in mind its ability to spread. Once it attains its mature height of 3′-5′, the plants tend to not get any higher, making a hedge that requires very little pruning. In spring the yellowish green flowers are not striking, but very interesting. These are followed later in the year by small edible nutlets held inside a fuzzy casing. The leaves can be used for a tea and many medicinal applications including, but not limited to, astringents, tonics, and the relief of the effects of poison ivy. This is one very tough native that should be considered more often in the residential landscape. We’ll have plenty of Comptonia here at the nursery this spring. If you are looking for an aromatic native with multiple uses, put this plant on the list! It’s a gem!

Mucking Out

picture-3916Out went our Christmas tree today. Amazing how much more light comes through the big windows without a shade tree blocking the way. Now it can stand out beside the trellis for the remainder of the winter and the birds can enjoy it.
The sun was bright this afternoon and it was warm enough to muck out the chicken coop and sheep pens. No frozen poop to chisel! That’s nice. All the bedding gets tossed into a big sled and then dragged over to be emptied into the compost piles. Soil food!! See, even though we enjoy our winter hibernation we still have gardening in our thoughts.
After a fine day of working mostly outdoors, it was time to come in, stoke the fires, and make some dinner. Dinner? Remember that salmon we caught ice fishing? Filleted, dredged in flour, salt, and pepper, then sauteed in butter…..the best!picture-3921

Is it Too Late to Plant?

From Rick…..

We are asked this question frequently this time of year. It usually starts after the 4th of July and increases as the season goes on. Our answer is always “No it is not!”. In fact, now through September and into October it is not only a good time to plant perennials, trees, and shrubs but an ideal time for both the plants and you. By late summer and fall, you will have had the time to see what changes and additions are needed in your garden. You can do it now while it is fresh in your mind, most of the plants are still up rather than having to guess where they are in the spring. Also, the soil is more workable than it might be in a soggy or wet spring. Rains are more numerous and the temperatures are cooler. This is the only time of year when the soil is warm and the air is cool. Perfect for plants to go about the business of producing a good root system without the stress of heat and low moisture. They also are not producing a lot of new top growth and flowers as they do in the spring. In the spring they are asked to do it all. This time of year the energy goes into rooting, roots for the winter, and more roots to survive dry periods next year. Plantings now will be much more vigorous next year than those planted next spring. For me, I much prefer working outside in the late summer and fall without the blackflies, mosquitoes, and heat of summer. The most important part of planting now and into the fall is keeping the plants watered. Usually, in our area, we have more than enough rain. We understand that this year has been a challenge for some gardeners with the lack of moisture during our summer months. If the rains return as they do in a normal year, it will be an opportunity to plant what you may have been reluctant to during the heat and drought. Remember that water needs for the plant diminish as fall approaches. With the spring as busy as it is for us with the nursery and vegetable gardens, late summer and fall are when we have the time to divide our plants and create new gardens. Now is a great time to plant.

When should I divide my hosta?

hosta talk pictures 2012 012A seasonal post from Rick….
While hostas don’t require dividing like some perennials, quite regularly we are asked: “when is the best time to divide hostas”? The answer will depend on who you ask, what they have been told, or what is easiest for them and their gardening schedule. Some say early spring when the new growth points emerge and you can easily see where to cut between each to make another division. Others say in the fall. While hostas are extremely tough and will survive just about any kind of harsh treatment, I would disagree with these time frames. With over 35 years of experience in propagating hostas, my answer is July and August, and here is my reasoning and observations. Hostas do not put on much in the way of root growth until sometime in June. So a plant division made in early spring is expected to support all of its new growth with last year’s roots and only those that are still attached after it was removed from the main clump. A hosta divided in the late fall may not have enough time to establish enough new roots and store the amount of energy needed to get it through the winter and then support new growth in the spring. While both will probably survive, they won’t be as robust as those divided in July and August. During these months the plant will have time to put on new roots, add new leaves to store more energy, and set new eyes on the crown for a larger plant in the spring. Some people are afraid to cut a clump apart and break off some of the existing leaves. When we divide them, we purposely remove leaves from the divisions, especially those that may not have that many roots. We also remove all flowers. Some we replant with only one leaf. It is important that leaves and roots be balanced. Best to have fewer leaves so that the roots can support the divided crown. If done this way, and kept watered for the rest of the season, a much stronger plant will emerge in the spring. So if you have the time, and have hostas that you would like to divide, now through August is the time to do it.

Comings And Goings

Saruma henryi

Saruma henryi

Our very dear WWOOF volunteer (Zoe) has gone to her next farm assignment over in the Maine western foothills and Dottie, our little bottle lamb, will be leaving this week to graze on grassy pastures over at our friend Sally’s. We’ll miss Zoe’s enthusiasm and positive energy (and her very good sense of humor!). We’ll also miss the pitter patter of our pampered lamb making herself comfortable inside the house. But she’s bigger now and ready to rejoin a flock of fleecy friends. Picture 2953
There are also some comings and goings in the gardens. Those wonderful azaleas are coming into bloom. Gorgeous… and some with a light sweet fragrance. One of our favorite plants, Saruma henryi, an upright and shade loving wild ginger, is also in bloom and quite lovely. Its soft yellow 3 petaled flowers and slightly fuzzy leaves are a beautiful addition to the woodland garden.
Azalea 'Roger Luce hybrid'

Azalea ‘Roger Luce hybrid’

Picture 2901
Picture 2897The month of June brings a new look to the gardens. Fuller now with the larger plants…hosta, rodgersia, ferns, polygonatums, and woodland peonies (to name a few) making an impressive statement.This being said, gems like Saruma henryi, anemonellas, and dodecatheons ( again, to name a few) are no less striking and appreciated. We, as usual, remain busy in the nursery continuing to pot up new additions and also to replenish the plants that have gone home with our customers. These comings and goings at Fernwood Nursery include people, plants, and….lambs.
'Dottie'

‘Dottie’