Learning From History in the Garden

Following is my November Gardening column from What’s Up? Magazine. Just click on the link to see the article on the magazine’s website.

Back to the Future in the Wm. Paca Gardens

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Home Garden Look: Transform Your Garden’s Relationship with Water | What’s Up Magazine

A water feature can be your garden’s superstar. Installing a fountain, waterfall, or pond as a focal point transforms a garden area into a bit of Eden.

Source: Home Garden Look: Transform Your Garden’s Relationship with Water | What’s Up Magazine

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In praise of the sturdy “gladiola”

Yes, I know the correct spelling is “gladiolus,” but I’m going for the pronunciation I heard as a child.

Let me retrace my train of thought, if that’s possible, and you have the patience… Recently, a friend was arranging some butter-yellow glads in a vase.  Those flowers reminded me of a cousin’s recent note, in which she recalled fondly my dad bringing bunches of gladioli home to Mom.

I hadn’t thought about those armloads of sturdy, vivid flowers for years.  Daddy loved them, and Mom had a tall, green vase specifically designed to hold the top-heavy blooms.  You see, in the summer, Daddy brought glads home to Mom whenever he saw them being sold along the roadside. That special vase was filled much of the summer.

Gladioli are not shy, retiring, delicate flowers.  They are sturdy, bold, and a bit awkward.  I think Daddy loved them as much for the purchasing of them as for the pleasure of presenting them to Mom.  When Daddy stopped at a roadside stand on the way home from getting a haircut, or a trip to the library or the dairy, he usually knew the farmers or gardeners who were selling the flowers.  He could “chew the fat” (as Daddy called it)for a few minutes, ask after the kids and the grandparents, hear about the crops, and share a joke or sorrow.

Almost every farm stand sold glads – right there along with the fresh-picked tomatoes, sweet corn, squash, beets, and broccoli.  All serviceable, take-care-of-yourself produce.  Image result for gladiolus for sale at a farm stand And those glads held their own!

A bucket or old potato chip can was kept filled with water for the stems.   And glads were usually in bloom from late June ’til mid-August, when the roadside stand took away the wooden sign, “GLADS FOR SALE,” and replaced it with “DAHLIAS” or “MUMS FOR SALE.”

But Daddy grew his own mums and dahlias, petunias and roses.  It was the glads he left to others. Those handsome, durable blooms must have, I believe, reminded him of my mother, the woman who shared his life and kept his home harmonious and secure. Presenting a bouquet of long stemmed, red roses would have meant no more to Daddy or Mom than those gangly bunches of coral, yellow, pink, white, and even purple blooms.  Like Mom, gladioli blossomed without much fuss, and cheered the spirit of all who took time to admire them.

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Four Fine, Feathered, Fledglings!

Couldn’t wait ’til summer’s end to update you on our friends at the Naval Academy, Oscar and Opal Osprey.  They’re in the midst of fledging this year’s batch of chicks, (their 16th year) and it appears there are four healthy, noisy young ones preparing to take to the skies.

Oscar in flight over nestAs you may recall, I was in a bit of a tizzy last March when Oscar and Opal arrived almost two weeks late.  They sorted out their nest and seemed to enjoy a quiet few weeks before I noticed their “guarding of the nest” behavior, which I interpret as they’re protecting their eggs.

Well, apparently starting late didn’t interfere with their family plan.  Yesterday, as I walked toward the football field, I saw in the distance three osprey circling low over the Severn River near the Academy’s seawall.

As I approached, it was clear that two of the birds were small and one larger – Oscar, I soon recognized. He had the two under his command flying in spirals, gaining confidence as they did so. And, on a nearby light post, overlooking the “practice field,” one small osprey sat, calling plaintively. (I’m assuming, “Hey, Dad, I want to try too!”)

And if that weren’t enough excitement, Opal perched calmly on her nest’s edge, with yet another, a fourth fledgling at her side.  Opal on lightpost

I was amazed.  I’ve seen two and three offspring over the years, but never before have I seen Opal and Oscar produce four fledglings!

Now, let’s hope they can all master the fine points of survival and take to the skies when it’s time to head south.



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