Category Archives: Home and Garden

Provocative Pokeweed

The charming note posted below was in my inbox today. 

Allen writes:

Dear Madame Butterfly,

(You may recognize my name as an infrequent commenter on

GMG. More importantly, I am an FOF, Friend of Fred Bodin, although he NEVER invited me to his gallery soires !!!!!)

I always read your GMG posts and enjoy and learn from them.

I have a plant that comes up in my back yard and grows to a height of 5 or 6 feet. This week it fell down. Do you know what it is? Can I cut it up safely and dispose of it? Should I throw it over the fence in the back and let wildlife eat the berries?

Any help, thanks,

Allen

Phytolacca_americana_Sugarcreek_Ohio

Hi Allen,

Allen, as an FOF and FOB, of course you are invited to ALL GMG soirées. I hope you’ll come to the mug-up this Saturday morning at E.J.’s new summer gallery on Rocky Neck. I am planning to go, but will not get there until closer to 11:00. I look forward to meeting you!

American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is what you have growing in your backyard. Pokeweed possesses nearly as many common names as the birds that find nourishment from its fruit, including pokeberry, Virginia poke, inkberry, ink weed, bear’s grape, American spinach, and American nightshade. The American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Gray Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, European Starling, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, and Pileated Woodpeckers are some of the birds that dine on the fruits of pokeberry. Many mammals such as Red Fox, Virginia Opossum, Raccoon, White-footed Mouse, and Black Bear eat the berries, too.

Phytolacca_americana_Clinton_MI_2

Pokeweed can grow to ten feet, with an equally as long taproot as is it is tall in height. It typically grows in disturbed areas, pastures, roadsides, fencerows, open woods, and woodland borders. All parts of the plant are toxic to people and livestock, and especially to children. The root is the most toxic and the berries the least. It is not recommended to add to you compost. If you have children visiting your garden, I would suggest that you talk to them about the plant’s toxicity, and only throw it over you fence if beyond your fence is part of your property. To control a plant, cut below the root crown. An older plant may have a ten foot taproot, which would be very difficult to dig up.

Images courtesy wiki commons.

Aerial Yellowjacket Nest and Why Yellowjackets are Considered Beneficial Insects

Aerial Yellowjacket nest ©Kim Smith 2014Aerial Yellow Jacket Nest

Recently at one of my landscape design project sites, which is located within a public space, a very distraught woman approached exclaiming that there was a wasp nest in a tree down the road aways. She was sure it needed to be destroyed, despite that it was at least 30 feet high up in the tree and not any where near where guests might wander. I calmly explained to her that the tree was not in my jurisdiction and even if it was, my first impulse would not be to destroy the nest. I thought it best to learn more about wasps in case there were more calls for its annihilation and after she left, I photographed the nest. I was glad she had pointed it out because it was so interesting to observe the rhythms of the comings and goings of the wasps, which after looking at the images through my camera’s lens, determined that it was the nest of the Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria).

Aerial Yellowjackets are often confused with honey bees (Apis mellifera) becasue of their similar color. In contrast, the body of the yellow and black striped wasp is less hairy and thinner than that of a honey bee’s, and yellowjackets do not transport pollen.

Side-by-side comparison of an Aerial Yellowjacket and honeybee:

600px-Gilles_Gonthier_-_Dolichovespula_arenaria_(by)Aerial Yellowjacket

http://www.besplatne-slike.net Potpuno besplatne slike visokog kvaliteta.Honeybee with Pollen Sacs on Hind Legs

The native Aerial Yellowjacket is considered beneficial because it preys on many insect crop pests. It is also serves as food for a variety of animals including frogs, skunks, birds, and other insects (I can’t imagine eating a wasp!). Yellowjackets typically sting in defense of their colony and can also be a pest at picnics, especially in late summer and fall when they switch their diet from that of a protein-based diet rich of the meat of chewed up caterpillars and insects, to a sugar-based diet.

Aerial Yellowjackets ©Kim Smith 2014The nest is is a papery-like material structured from the worker yellowjacket’s chewed wood and saliva pulp and is typically only used for one year in our region. The Aerial Yellowjacket is so named because it builds its nest high up, as opposed to underground.

We left the nest alone, and so far, no more calls have gone out for its destruction.

Aerial Yellowjacket nest -2 ©Kim Smith 2014

Honeybee and Aerial Yellowjacket photos courtesy wiki commons media.

Apple Street Farm

Apple Street Farm ©Kim Smith 2014Located in Essex, conveniently only a few scenic miles off Route 128, every Saturday from 10am to 2pm the farmstand at Apple Street Farm is open for business. Stopping for fabulous and fresh organically fed free-range eggs, heirloom veggies, fruits, and herbs has become a favorite Saturday morning ritual.

Apple Street Farm tomatoes ©Kim Smith 2014Frank McClelland is the owner of Apple Street Farm. Not only that, he is also the proprietor and chef of one of Boston’s most beloved and famous restaurants, L’Espalier. Apple Street Farm is the primary source of produce, poultry, pork and eggs for L’Espalier.

Apple Street Farm -2 ©Kim Smith 2014Each month throughout the summer and fall Apple Street Farm celebrates seasonal harvests with special dinners held on the farm’s spacious lawn. The five-course dinner is prepared by the L’Espalier chefs and includes cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and wine pairings. September 5th and 6th is the Fire Pit Fiesta and October 3rd and 4th is the Essex Harvest Feast. Call L’Espalier to make a reservation at 617-262-3023.

Apple Street Farm Pick Your Own ©Kim Smith 2014Pick You Own Flowers

Apple Street Farm hummingbird ©Kim Smith 2014Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the Zinnia Patch

Apple Street Farm Goldfinch and Cosmos ©Kim Smith 2014American Goldfinch Eating Cosmos Seeds-A Great Reason NOT to Deadhead!

Farm and poultry shares are available from June through September. For more information about Apple Street Farm’s CSA program, visit their website here.

*    *    *

Photographing the Nubian goats was a delight. The little ones are very playful and affectionate and, when first let out of their pen in the morning, are super rambunctious. Apple Street Farm’s manger Phoebe explains that Nubian goats are great milking goats and wiki informs that Nubians are known for the high butterfat content of their milk.

Apple Street Farm  Nubian Goat Eating apple©Kim Smith 2014Apples for Breakfast

Apple Street Farm  Nubian Goats ©Kim Smith 2014The Nubians climbed upon each other to reach the fruit and seeds.

Apple Street Farm Eating Catalpa Seeds ©Kim Smith 2014Nubian Goat Eating Catalpa Seedpods

Apple Street Farm Nubian Gots airborn ©Kim Smith 2014JPGSEE MOE PHOTOS HERE Continue reading

Hooray for Pathways for Children’s Brand Spanking New Butterfly Garden!

Pathways for Children we ©Kim Smith 2014HOLY CANNOLI and WOW–look how beautifully the Pathway’s Staff is taking care of their brand new one-month old butterfly garden–every plant looks well-loved!!!Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden BEFORE ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

Spring 2014 Before Photo

Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden  After ©Kim Smith 2014.

Same View After July 18, 2014

Elizabeth's Toad ©Kim Smith

Toads Welcome!

My sincerest thanks to Caroline Haines for her vision to create a butterfly garden for the children at Pathways.

Thank you to the many donors who have made the butterfly gardens at Pathways possible.

Thank you to the Manchester Garden Club for their tremendous assisitance in planting the garden.

Thank you to the volunteers from Liberty Mutual for tearing out the old plantings.

And special thanks to Bernie Romanowski, Pathways for Children facilities director, for all his hard work and his extraordinary care and attention to detail, from the project’s inception through its continued maintenance. Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden Zinnia ©Kim Smith 2014. Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden Sunflower ©Kim Smith 2014. Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2014.Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) ~ Notice the pretty moth nectaring from the milkweed in the upper right.

The gardens are alive with pollinators of every species imaginable, including butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, songbirds, moths, and sundry insects! Bernie Romanowski ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

Bernie Romanowski

Manchester Garden Club at Pathways ©Kim Smith 2014

Manchester Garden Club

*     *     *

Antennae for Design ~

The picnic table and trellis were designed to be stained a classic seaside blue. Why would we want to paint or stain the trellis and not simply allow it to gain a weathered patina? From an aesthetic point of view, the wood used for both the picnic table and trellis are two different types and will age very differently from each other. If this were a very large garden, it wouldn’t matter so much, but in a cozy garden room such as this, the difference will become quite noticeable and unappealing over time. Additionally, the blue will offset the flowers and foliage handsomely and is a cheery choice with children in mind.

From a very practical standpoint, untreated wood will quickly degrade in our salty sea air and neither piece will last more than ten years without protection. An opaque stain is the best solution because as the trellis and picnic table age, the obvious differences in wood will be disguised. An opaque stain also requires the least amount of effort to maintain over time. The architectural details were designed to be a coordinated focal point in the garden. Many, many have donated their time and provided generous funding to the garden and hopefully, the integrity of the garden’s design will continue to be honored by all. Rotting untreated trellis ©Kim Smith 2014The above is a photo of an untreated trellis, allowed to weather, and was installed approximately ten years ago. _DSF8394 Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden school bus ©Kim Smith 2014.
Related Posts:

On Behalf of Pathways for Children and Myself ~ Thank You to the Beautiful Manchester Garden Club Ladies!!!

Groundhog or Woodchuck (or Whistle-pig)?

Groundhog woodchuck whistle-pig ©Kim Smith2014Marmota monax

That’s precisely what I wondered when I encountered this large member of the order Rodentia at a job site recently. Our eyes locked for several moments as we both stood perfectly still, it trying to disguise itself as an inanimate object and me trying to take a snapshot. I took a step forward and off it burrowed back into its tunnel.

Google search reveals that groundhogs and woodchucks are one and the same species (Marmota monax) and the critters also go by the names of whistle-pig (I like this one best) and land-beaver. The name whistle-pig is derived from their behavior of emitting a high-pitched whistle to alert members of their colony of impending danger. Woodchuck stems from either an Algonquin or Narragansett name for the animal, wuchak.

Whistle-pigs are the largest members of the Squirrel Family, although you can’t see that in the above photo as this is a juvenile. They dwell in areas where woodland meets open space. All summer long whistle-pigs stuff their little furry faces with wild grasses, other wild plants, tree bark, berries, and agricultural crops to build their fat reserves for the long winter hibernation. They are notoriously destructive in gardens. We have yet to see any damage in the gardens at Willowdale due to the resident woodchuck family. I imagine they are finding enough food in the surrounding forest.

Wild and Wonderful Wisteria ~ When to Prune?

Wild and wonderful wisteria can quickly become wildly wicked wisteria. Reader Alicia writes, “when is the best time of year to prune wisteria?”

willowdale-estate-spring-©kim-smith

Taming the wisteria (before photo). The first photo shows what the ancient wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) looked like when first I took over the gardens at Willowdale Estate. I removed much of the plant and bent one long trunk over and down, attaching it to a thick bamboo stake, to create the wisteria “arch.” The next photo shows what the wisteria arch looked like by mid-summer that same year.

willowdale-estate-zinnia-patch-©Kim Smith

Alicia asks: “Much to my surprise the wisteria is blooming and has never been this late. I really gave up on it and am wondering why? When is the best time to prune it?”

Hi Alicia,

Wisteria throughout our region bloomed later than usual I think becasue spring got off to such a slow start this year.

Wisteria grows beautifully and is easiest to control when pruned biannually, or twice a year; a summer pruning and a winter pruning.

Summer Pruning: Cut the long shoots after the flowers fade to about six inches.

Winter Pruning: In late winter, before the buds begin to swell, prune all the shoots that have since grown after the summer pruning. The shape of the leafless wisteria is more clearly visible and you can easily see the unruly, long shoots at this time of year. Cut the branches to about 3 to 5 buds and over time, these shortened flowering branches will resemble a wisteria “hand.”

photo-2Photo submitted by Alicia Mills

Huge Hugs and Ninety-Nine Thank Yous to the Amazing and Super Hard-Working Friends of the HarborWalk Crew

Thank you to our most awesome crew today. We had friends from as far away as Spain (the Ryan’s cousins), Rosemary Banks from Boca Raton, and Kim from Medford, all lending a hand with the gardens today and it was a joy to meet you all. And special thanks to our Gloucesterites Maggie Rosa, Ed, Catherine, George, Charles, Lisa Smtih, April, and Sam.

Friends of the HarborWalk Gloucester ma © Kim Smith 2014