October to November

IMG_2871Fall lingers. We had expected a more abrupt transition to wintry weather. Instead, our weather has been entertainingly variable–frosty and winter-like for a day or two, followed by stretches of balmy weather, then slow drizzle, with two wild days of high winds that stripped most leaves from the trees.IMG_3240

Except for the oaks. IMG_3208Their leaves turned well after the maples and, even though it’s November, continue to glow with yellow, rust, and reddish brown. IMG_2878Likewise, the blueberry fields remain brilliant, startling flashes of red on the hillsides.

Blueberry fields and stonewalls.  Iconic Maine.

Blueberry fields and stonewalls. Iconic Maine.

October gave us spectacular sunrises, with cold night air creating dense fog over the lakes and river below us. IMG_3078The fog beautifully dissipated into rising mist as the morning air warmed. IMG_3081Moonrises and sunsets were equally dramatic. IMG_2924IMG_3098As the leaves have fallen, we have even more sky to watch.IMG_3431Our normal quiet has been broken by the seasonal sounds of chainsaws, gunshots, and coyotes. Hunting season is underway and this past week we have woken to middle-of-the-night frenzied coyote howls. We have not seen our fox family in several months and suspect that the coyotes have moved in on their territory. I hope not. We miss the foxes.

Our local wild turkey flock seems to be dodging the hunters and coyotes. We have watched the young birds grow up this summer. Here they are in late August, when they first started coming by. IMG_1384By September 18, the young ones were about three-quarters grown.  IMG_1620Now, they are adult-sized (and still shy and hard to photograph).  IMG_3269Over time the flock gradually decreased in numbers but they have survived pretty well and make quite an impressive crew now that they are all full grown.

Our other bird visitors have increased as fall berries have ripened.IMG_3131 IMG_3235Berries, wild and domestic, abound here–currants, cranberries, honeysuckle, winterberries … the list goes on.

This cotoneaster isn't wild, but planted in our yard.

This cotoneaster isn’t wild, but adds color to the rocks along our yard.

To the dismay of our regular bird visitors, the berries attract flocks of robins, starlings, and grackles that noisily descend, feed, and leave.IMG_3115IMG_3142IMG_3156_edited-1I love the berry colors, especially bittersweet, which is an invasive, strangling vine, hated by many. IMG_3170I also am transfixed by milkweed seeds emerging from the pods and drifting on the wind. IMG_3351I even picked a pod I especially liked that was at an angle I couldn’t photograph and propped it up on a stump to get a shot.

Milkweed posing on stump.

Milkweed posing on stump.

I’m sure the local driving by thought I was raving mad.

Here's the same stump, lower down, with an old electric fence insulator embedded like an eye.

Here’s the same stump, lower down, with an old electric fence insulator embedded like an eye.

Aside from appreciating our first Maine October, we’ve been busy putting the garden to bed and clearing land for our spring orchard and garden plantings. Fortunately, we have our new tractor!IMG_2764

More on the fall work in a later post.

Happy November.IMG_3168

A Blooming Windfall

June garden bouquet of peonies and poppies

June garden bouquet of peonies and a poppy

When we decided to buy a house in Maine, we drew up a wish list. About the only thing on that list that we didn’t get was a garage. But we more than made up for it with two things that were so far above our expectations that they weren’t even on the list–a view that continues to astound and a perennial garden.

The perennial garden was an unexpected windfall.IMG_1296We’ve never stayed in one place long enough to invest in a perennial garden. Imagine how I felt to suddenly have a ready-made garden ready to unfold.IMG_1739

When we moved here at the end of May, there were a few flowering tulips and lots of emerging plants and shoots.

The garden in May.

The garden in May.

I recognized some of the shoots, our realtor recognized others, but some were a complete mystery. An early visitor advised that we take it slowly the first year and–for the most part–leave the garden alone to see what evolved. Who knows, what might appear to be a weed in June could turn out to be a spectacular September bloomer.


Early June

Late June. The peonies were spectacular.

Late June.



It was wise advice. The big artichoke-looking plants, for example, didn’t produce anything like artichokes but instead sent up stalks with prickly orbs, that then became covered with tiny blue flowerets covered with bees. These exquisite, whimsical blue-globe thistles were our favorites. IMG_1060We also were puzzled by vigorous stalks with graceful, but vaguely marijuana-like leaves. Could our predecessors have peppered a few marijuana plants in the garden? The plants didn’t look quite like marijuana, but they didn’t resemble any flowering plants that I knew. I little internet research suggested they were cleomes. And a few weeks later that was confirmed by the delicate but stately-spidery blooms that climbed up the stalks for weeks and weeks.IMG_2052

I realize that we will never have this experience again. We were the fortunate recipients of someone else’s garden, a blooming, living testament of their vision, taste, and labor. I felt a bit like Mary Lennox in one of my favorite childhood books, “The Secret Garden,” navigating the wonder of an unknown garden.IMG_0868

Every week brought us something new. Irises, yes, but what kind? Oh, sweet, vivid deep-blue Siberians. IMG_0695A perennial garden is personal. It reflects the gardeners who planted it. We only briefly met the previous owners of this house, but learned something about them through watching this garden unfold.IMG_2076

They thoughtfully designed the garden for continuous blooming throughout the growing season.







They took account of color contrasts

Daisies almost smothering lavender

Daisies almost smothering lavender


and texture contrasts.IMG_2600IMG_2668IMG_2646

They designed for low-maintenance–no finicky, fussy plants–all well-suited for the site and (except for a few lilies) pest and disease resistant. I appreciated that the garden was clearly designed to attract pollinators and to provide food for birds. We were inundated with butterflies, moths, all kinds of bees and wasps, and an excited group of hummingbirds all summer long.IMG_0599IMG_1120IMG_2631

Finally, they didn’t forget fragrance and included lilies and moon-flowers to intoxicate the night air. Actually the moon-flowers, Datura (a potent hallucinogen), are a bit finicky this far north, strumpets in this Maine garden. Their large, tropical-looking buds slowly unfurled to fragrant white trumpet blossoms, that then became spiky seed pouches. All new to me and I loved this plant at every phase.

Datura buds and furled blossom

Datura buds and furled blossom.  Check out the Cleome marijuana-like leaves on the left.

Sweet-smelling blossom unfurled

Sweet-smelling blossom unfurled

Blossoms turn to seed

Blossoms to seed

Aside from a few tweaks, we will keep this garden as it is. We will add more perennial beds later, but will keep this windfall garden much as we received it.

Our October garden bouquet

Our October garden bouquet