Recently I’ve travelled in Savannah, GA, Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, at the northern end of Florida, and Jekyll Island, GA. As I walked trails, Savannah’s city squares and botanical garden, and looked at plantings in yards and public spaces in these locales, I couldn’t help but notice again how different not only the vegetation along trails is from what I see in northern New England, but also how different are the plants in the created gardens.
This small succulent garden, on the corner of Jasmine and Fletcher streets in Fernandina Beach, across the road from the beach, was a favourite; the sign said it was installed by Rockstar Gardens (get it?).
Although the garden has an exotic, tropical appeal to me, some of the plants look not unlike the sedums and ice plants in my own garden, 1,200 miles away:
In Savannah, in some of the downtown squares as well as in the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, I saw Giant Leopard Plant (Ligularia tussilaginea ‘Gigantea’), which is very similar to the Ligularia stenocephala ‘Little Rocket’ we plant in our gardens (some do; I haven’t) in New England.
This planter, on a street in Savannah, is more familiar than not:
The sage, rosemary, lavender, and (I think) thyme or oregano in these pots is similar to what’s in my herb container in NH — with rosemary, tarragon, and parsley — except that mine is now covered in snow:
As is the sage in my sunroom border:
On Bull Street in Savannah (and probably elsewhere in town) there are small plantings along the sidewalk that include edible plants and others — I think I see rosemary in the top photo here, and perhaps Brussels sprouts, though it’s probably ornamental cabbage; plus the lush foxtail fern, and penta, lantana, and ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia (in the bottom photo), all annuals here, the latter of which never seems to survive even a few weeks for me.
In the Jekyll Island historic district, there’s this planter with dead nettle (Lamium sp.), which is also perennial here in NH, and it looks like perhaps a heuchera or a tiarella, also perennials in NH (and tiarella grows wild):
My dead nettle and tiarella:
In the market/shops area of Jekyll Island, there are containers of neon, tropical plants, quite different from what’s normally seen here in northern New England even in summer as hothouse annuals, much less in December:
(IDs for two planters above are by someone else, not me!)
By contrast, here’s one of the containers at The Fells, in Newbury, NH, this past June, with coleus (an annual here) and dahlias, which have to be dug up, stored in a basement or other cool dark spot, and replanted each year; and by no means will they bloom outside in December:
Finally, in downtown Fernandina Beach, just before Christmas there were containers of tropical canna lilies, hardy in zones 8-12 but not in my zone 4 or 5:
Since I can’t have canna lilies in my climate, I’ve planted crocosmia bulbs, which are hardy here and provide a showy tropical display that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies for several months:
Just looking at these photos almost convinces me that spring is just around the corner. Almost.
(Featured image: ginger plants in Wright Square in Savannah, December 2016)
Go to the winter woods: listen there; look, watch, and ‘the dead months’ will give you a subtler secret than any you have yet found in the forest. ~ Fiona Macleod
True, not much blooms in December in northern New England (witch hazel is an exception), but there is still a lot to notice in the winter woods — and in the winter fields, streams, lakes, marshes, hillsides, town landscapes.
Some photos taken in the garden, on a walk in Concord NH, and at the nearby lake, from 1-10 December:
In the garden …
Pieris japonica by day and night (5 December) —
Animals on the motion camera —
Fox (2nd, 4th, and 6th Dec)
Deer (1st, 3rd, and 7th Dec)
Birds (mourning doves, blue jays, cardinals) and Squirrels (2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th Dec)
Other garden photos —
On the Winant Trails, Concord NH … 3rd December
At the lake …
Stump cairn (1st and 10th Dec) —
Water inflow (1st and 10th Dec) —
Other lake photos —
It was beginning winter.
An in-between time.
The landscape still partly brown:
The bones of weeds kept swinging in the wind,
Above the blue snow.
It was beginning winter.
The light moved slowly over the frozen field,
Over the dry seed-crowns,
The beautiful surviving bones
Swinging in the wind.
Light traveled over the wide field;
The weeds stopped swinging.
The wind moved, not alone,
Through the clear air, in the silence.
— “It Was Beginning Winter” by Theodore Roethke
I’m in Middlebury, Vermont, walking/hiking the Trail Around Middlebury, an 18-mile or longer) trail that makes a sort of circuit around the little college town of Middlebury.
Today, Thanksgiving in the U.S.A., it snowed for a few hours, adding about an inch to the inch already on the ground most places. The grey sky and falling white lent just the right atmosphere to the air and earth for tromping around for several hours before eating the feast. Between the Battell and Means Wood trails, the Means Memorial Woods loop, and the Johnson Trail — all of which I’ve trekked in past years — I covered a little more than 6 miles of fairly easy trail. I ran into only a handful of fellow trekkers, all of us wearing our orange and red vests or coats because it’s hunting season here.
I’m very grateful for land trusts and other land conservation groups, and for the ability and time to luxuriate in natural places.
Battell Woods Trail
A tree that had lost most of its bark had some lovely textures underneath:
Means Memorial Woods Loop (not part of TAM) and Means Woods Trail
Shagbark hickory tree:
Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving or just a simple Thursday, some of it outdoors perhaps.
I love these thoughts about winter trees:
“Few things are more directly beautiful than winter trees: stripped of all ornament, clearly etched against the changing sky, moving in the stiff manner of wood into and then back against the wind. If leaves can be compared to clothing, then the deciduous tree in winter is naked. If clothing can be deceptive, then the tree in winter is true. If leaves represent an extreme profusion of form that is more finally articulated than the eye can register, much less language describe, then the form of the tree in winter is stark, particularly against the steel gray monochrome of the sky as snow comes.
“But the form of a winter tree, though it may be stark and withered, is liable also to be extraordinarily complex. The bare bark is channeled and cracked, and the directions of growth frozen into the form of each branch include saggings, twistings, splinterings, angles at which the branch has reached out or up. The form of the tree is a register of its history. The coloring, too, becomes as subtle as our approach is proximate: all the grays, blacks, and browns of wabi, with perhaps the weathered white of dead lichen or the blasted green of last year’s moss.” — Crispin Sartwell, Six Names of Beauty
“We haven’t a clue as to what counts
in the secret landscape behind the landscape we look at here.”
— Charles Wright
Weeds without love. Torn and dying flowers. Dead insects and other animals. A tangle of brambles. Galls and burls. Broken trees, struggling trees. So much that’s not perfect is beautiful, magical, and soulful beyond words, beyond a photo, beyond belief. A secret landscape.
For today, photos of weeds, wayside plants, invasive exotics, plants we want to eradicate, plants we don’t always love.
Purple and pink:
Blue and green:
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
— Leonard Cohen (RIP: 1934-2106)
Moss grows where nothing else can grow. It grows on bricks. It grows on tree bark and roofing slate. It grows in the Arctic Circle and in the balmiest tropics; it also grows on the fur of sloths, on the backs of snails, on decaying human bones. It is a resurrection engine. A single clump of mosses can lie dormant and dry for forty years at a stretch, and then vault back again into life with a mere soaking of water. ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things
“There is no mystery in this association of woods and otherworlds, for as anyone who has walked the woods knows, they are places of correspondence, of call and answer. Visual affinities of color, relief and texture abound. A fallen branch echoes the deltoid form of a streambed into which it has come to rest. Chrome yellow autumn elm leaves find their color rhyme in the eye-ring of the blackbird. Different aspects of the forest link unexpectedly with each other, and so it is that within the stories, different times and worlds can be joined.” ― Robert Macfarlane,
Odiorne Point State Park (official state park website) has an interesting history. Originally — as far as human history goes — it was called Pannaway and was the summer home of the native American tribes Abenaki and Penacook. It’s the spot of the first European settlement in New Hampshire in spring 1623, and by the 1660s, John Odiorne and his family had bought it and were living on the land, generation after generation, through the Civil War period, when Odiorne Point became a colony of hotels, including the grand Sagamore House, and summer homes and estates; by the late 1930s, almost twenty families lived here, including an eighth-generation descendant of John Odiorne.
Then, in 1942, the U.S. government condemned these properties (265 acres total), gave the residents 30 days to get out, and took over the land from private ownership for construction of Fort Dearborn (named after Henry Dearborn, Revolutionary War solider, physician, and Secretary of War who was born in NH) as part of the Harbor Defenses of Portsmouth, installing bunkers and batteries of large (16″ and 6″) Mk2 and Mk1 ex-Navy guns in heavily protected concrete and earth casements, which you can still see on the land. The guns were test fired in June 1944 but only four years later, Fort Dearborn was deactivated and the guns were scrapped. The next year, it began to be used as a radar station by the U.S. Air Force, and from 1955-1959 it was the Rye Air Force Station, part of the Strategic Air Command, supporting nearby Pease Air Force Base. In 1961 the site was declared military surplus and was sold to the state of New Hampshire for $91,000.
Now the property hosts the Seacoast Science Center (nice blog), a small network of trails along the ocean and through lightly wooded areas (much of it overgrown with exotic plants like Oriental bittersweet. multiflora rose, and Japanese and European barberry — there is a 118-pp invasive plants management plan in place for Odiorne, dated May 2010), and EDALHAB (Engineering Design and Analysis Laboratory HABItat), an underwater habitat used for saturation diving experiments in Lake Winnipesaukee in the late 1960s. A few of the WWII bunkers and gun casements still stand, covered with colourful graffiti (great photos of the bunkers, casements, and graffiti here).
It’s an evocative place to visit, with echoes across the decades and centuries of human habitation, along with a variety of bird life spending time here now: I’ve seen eiders, brants, red-necked grebes, buffleheads, red-breasted mergansers, gulls, cormorants, several kinds of hawks, and many songbirds, including bluebirds and cedar waxwings.
These are some photos from visits in Nov. 2014, March 2016, and Nov. 2016.
Some sea birds … two photos of mergansers; buffleheads; red-necked grebe and common eider; and brants:
A red-tailed hawk and some songbirds … two photos of cedar waxwings, a nuthatch, mockingbird, bluebird, goldfinch:
Shells and stones and other things on the beach:
Some more beach bits:
Brambles, tangles, invasive plants:
Maybe not technically an invasive, but tansy spreads everywhere, and it’s all over the ground at Odiorne now:
A couple of photos of the former military bunkers as they are now:
These two photos were taken from almost the same vantage point, one in March and one in November:
I’ll leave you with a striated ledge on the beach – aren’t rocks pretty?: