Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gone Fishing!

Well, not literally, but Mitchell and I will be taking off in the morning for a nice, long vacation. Tomorrow we will drive to the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Cape Charles for a weekend conference of the United States Power Squadrons. We will be staying with friends in a house on the Chesapeake Bay - eating too much, drinking too much, and sleeping too little - in a house named "Grape Escape". As you can see, it is purple.

I am signed up for a wine tour and luncheon on Friday. Then, optimist that I am, I am taking walking shoes and exercise clothes and hope to begin a vacation walking program. I have also downloaded 15 minutes of Jazzercise music in the hope that I can do a little bit of dance, too. [Having seen the photos, I think I need to take my mp3 player and dance on the widow's walk - what do you think?] I have recently started a rehab program for my shoulder [the right, tennis serving one] so am also taking light weights and stretch bands and hope to work on that, while I am taking a four-week break from actually playing tennis.

Mitchell in the meantime will be attending meetings and being treasurer.

In case you are not familiar with the Eastern Shore... it is the jewel of Virginia. Because the access is not great and you have to want to go there to get there, it is still somewhat under-developed and wild. The first ten miles of "land", after we cross a 17-mile bridge-tunnel, are little more than islets, swamp, and marshland filled with birds and critters. Most of that land is only accessible by boat, and we will drive a causeway/bridge over it. Even Cape Charles - the county seat - where we will be staying is just a wide spot in the road... well, with a gorgous, way upscale marina complex right on the water.

We will drive southeast thru Newport News and the edge of Norfolk to cross the bridge and then Cape Charles is the first "big" town on the bay side of the peninsula. As you can see, the entire ocean side is just islands and tidal basin - for many miles farther north than this map shows.

On Sunday we will start part two of our trip - a two week cruise down the Intra-Coastal Waterway from Portsmouth to Manteo, North Carolina and then around the Albemarle Sound stopping at lots of little towns and marinas along the way. Mitchell has made this journey before - from south to north with my aunt and uncle about 20 years ago - but I have not done it at all. We will cruise thru part of Norfolk harbor (altho our hosts will have done most of that before we meet them in Portsmouth) and see naval ships of all shapes and sizes as well as the huge water docks for the Norfolk and Portsmouth shipyards where they build those bohemoths. We will traverse several locks - some only a few feet of lift, but I think there's one that's about a 20 foot rise, and then the Albemarle Sound is marshland as far as one can see.

I will have limited Internet access, but am taking the laptop in the hope of sharing some of the highlights with you. If you are not interested, then check back after August 10th, but if you are interested, stay tuned and I'll show you what I can of some gorgeous countryside.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What's New in Bloom?

This has been a wonderful summer in Central Virginia - it's a few degrees cooler than usual, we have consistently gotten 3/4 inch of rain weekly, and the humidity has not yet rolled in. It's made mornings working in the garden just lovely and more fun than usual, and - way more importantly - it's perfect for sitting on the porch in the late afternoon just enjoying the view.... and the delightful smell!

And that's the news. The new bloom is the Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'. It's the shrub at the corner of the shed beyond the pond. It is covered with little coral "candles" that smell heavenly. The nickname of this shrub is "summersweet" and for good reason. If the breeze is coming from that direction, we can smell it on the deck! The hummers and butterflies are doing battle with the bees for the nectar.

Clethra is an easy shrub to grow. This one is about five years old and probably 90% full grown. It likes our acid soil, but will do fine in a sweeter site. It does like water, so I have redirected the splash pan at the bottom of the corner downspout to redirect the water comes toward the clethra, instead of into the yard. This area also gets watered when I do the whole back garden, but this summer I have only done it three times - and one of those was an accident! In other words, I am not giving it extra water.

And, clethra comes in three colors: white ('Hummingbird'), a pale pink ('Rosea'), and this darker pink ('Ruby Spice'). The "candles" are actually called "racemes" and are made up of hundreds of time flowers which open making the candle fuzzy as it matures. I think the fragrance comes as each little bud "pops".

Most of my time this week has been spent with weeding and deadheading in preparation for going on vacation next week. I have set up the sprinklers in front and back so that they will automatically come on - weekly in the front and every four days in the back (hence the accidental watering this morning!). Thursday morning I will cut the lawn - shorter than normal - and then we have hired someone to cut it while we are gone. If the rain keeps up, we will need it!

My hope for vacation is that I will have the opportunity to visit some small gardens, or perhaps community gardens, and bring them to you over the next two weeks [you will have to read the other blog to find out what we are doing], but I am not sure what I will find.... so have a good two weeks and check in occasionally!