The Garden Worm blog Digging up the best dirt on gardening!

February 22, 2011

The Dutch Connection 2011

Filed under: Flowers,Shows and Tours,Spring,Winter — Judy @ 12:13 pm

On Sunday, my sister, sister-in-law and I took a little excursion to the George Eastman House to catch a breath of spring.

George Eastman House
(*this photo from

This National Historic Landmark built between 1902 and 1905 was featuring a winter/spring flower display called The Dutch Connection 2011 in the Conservatory with more than 2,000 colorful tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, freesias, amaryllis, and alliums. These bulbs are of the same species as Mr. Eastman had ordered to fill his conservatory back in the day.


The Dutch Connection Flowers in the Conservatory

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February 18, 2011

GBBC 2011

Filed under: Creatures,Miscellaneous,Our gardens,Winter — Judy @ 4:37 pm

PEOPLE! It’s time for the Great Backyard Bird Count! This is the 14th year for this fun and fabulous example of great citizen science. Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society, it brings together bird-watchers of all ages and skill levels across North America to gather information for a real-time look at where the birds are for one weekend in February – and this is it! Count for as little as 15 minutes on one day or for as long as you like. Take pictures of the birds, or of you and your family watching them, and submit them. Go to for more information!

Carolina wren

Carolina wren

This little guy, the Carolina wren, is one that I have been attempting to get a picture of ever since he arrived at our feeders last year. Very elusive, very “bibbity-bobbity,” he made it difficult to get anything more than a blur! As you might remember, I did get his footprints last year though.

Carolina wren tracks

Tracks of Carolina wren

This year, he has been very photogenic, posing on the deck railing in-between food forays in the viburnum and the potentilla, and then zooming at breakneck speed over to the birdfeeder and back. Don’t you just love the way his tail points straight up? Click on this one for the big picture.

Carolina wren

Carolina wren

As of 2 PM today (Fri, Feb 18th), there were 989,746 birds counted. Whew! and the counting goes on until Monday, Feb 21st! The deadline to enter your tally checklists is March 1st. Go to and see what birds are being counted in your neighborhood, see where birds are found all over the continent, and check out the spectacular photos in the gallery. And if you aren’t quite certain just what birds are in your backyard, go to their excellent learning pages starting here or the ever-excellent online bird guide from Cornell here.

Happy birding!

February 7, 2011

Genius loci pars duo

Filed under: Contests,Fall,Flowers,Grasses,Our gardens,Spring,Summer,Veggies,Winter — Judy @ 10:25 pm

I’ve been thinking more about the concept of ‘Genius loci’ and how it relates to my own personal gardens. Currently buried under a sea of white here in upstate New York, I thought that perhaps I could find some older pictures of my gardens to use to convey ‘the spirit of the place’ to others for the Picture This contest for February over at Gardening Gone Wild. I found nothing that I felt was suitable. Why was that? Had I ignored the ‘Genius loci’ when I was creating my own gardens or had the ‘Genius loci’ really left the area!

First of all, location, location, location. Andrea Jones’ photos showed us enticing and gorgeous vistas. I live in suburbia. Granted, we have almost an acre of land, but everywhere you look there is another house impinging on the “vista.” Losing seven mature trees in ice storms over the years does not help! I can’t grow trees tall enough in my lifetime to block out all those houses looming over us.

So what if I thought about the ‘borrowed’ vistas, a time-proven fundamental of landscape design? Hmm! I found this, this, and this.


Fall sunset

Winter moon

Yes, but those are not of my gardens specifically and doesn’t everyone have lovely pictures of snowstorms and sunsets and moons? Well, what else could I find that would entice you in and make you want to visit, or at least to convey what makes my gardens special to me?

Summer Pool

Nice range of colors, nice sunshine, open gate, feels good to me, but that picture brings up the second major problem – I am not a very good photographer! There’s that pool skimmer and brush in the corner. If I crop that out, the picture just doesn’t have the same feeling. It becomes blasé – all because of a pool skimmer? Ok, so my photographic skills need to be improved on, but surely among all those hundreds, nay, thousands of photos I have taken over the years, there might be a few really good ones of my own gardens. Hah!

At this point in my thinking, I still don’t know whether I had ignored the ‘Genius loci’ or whether it had left when I wasn’t looking (if a ‘Genius loci’ can even do that!). It occurred to me that our little plot of land used to be a cornfield before it became suburbia. But what do they do when they build and build and build? Why, they scrape off all the good dirt and sell it down the river! Yikes! What if there never was a ‘Genius loci’ here?

No, no no! I mean, really, look at that pool picture again – there are some good things going on there! There are some pretty perennials, some great grasses, some shrubs growing into nice specimens, and lots of varied evergreens (both mine and borrowed).

All right, so maybe I need to think more about what I love or want in my gardens. In no particular order then –

Attracting birds, even predators like this juvenile Cooper’s hawk:

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

A place for children and adults to play – in the pool, in the yard:

Kelsey playing Ultimate Frisbee

A place to grow lots of vegetables and fruit and flowers:

Pool and veggie garden

A place for herbs for my cooking adventures:

Herb garden

So, what about the ‘Genius loci’ in my own gardens? Perhaps we created a new one while bringing in new soil and composting and amending and planning and planting all these years, and maybe it is just waiting under the snow to emerge once again in the spring.

Pool in winter

Too bad I don’t have the photographic skills to convey the ‘Genius loci’ to you . . . yet!

February 6, 2011

Genius loci

Filed under: Contests,Fall,Miscellaneous,Parks,Summer,Travel,Winter — Judy @ 3:17 pm

They are running another photo contest over at Gardening Gone Wild, this time having to do with pictures demonstrating ‘Genius loci.’ So, what does that mean?

Essentially, ‘Genius loci’ means “special spirit or atmosphere of a place.” It’s a fundamental principle in landscape architecture and one that I feel strongly about when designing gardens or landscapes. Consider Alexander Pope’s seminal verse:

  • Consult the genius of the place in all;
    That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
    Or helps th’ ambitious hill the heav’ns to scale,
    Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
    Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
    Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,
    Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending lines;
    Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.

I spend a considerable amount of time acquainting myself with the ‘spirit of a place,’ listening with my heart and my head to what the land tells me, before I begin designing or even dig one iota of soil. I ‘consult the genius of the place’ first.

The judge for the contest, Andrea Jones, has posted several gorgeous, gorgeous photos to illustrate this concept and has asked readers to share the special spirit or atmosphere in their own gardens or special places. This, of course, has made me think about my own personal gardens and I’ve concluded that the ‘Genius loci’ has gotten up and left the area while I’ve been busy creating for others, at least for the moment. Hmmm, can all this snow be the “white-wash” I need to visualize how to invite the ‘Genius loci’ back to my own spaces?

In any case, while examining Andrea Jones’ photos, one gets the feeling that what makes a certain place, or a landscape, or a garden, magical is the innate beauty of the location. Capturing that magical spirit with a camera is inherently difficult. She says, “It’s just a question of feel and intuition.” Yes, lots of experience and maybe luck too? She also says, “Then I wait for the light” before she captures the scene.

The pictures I am sharing with you today, while not of my own garden, are of locations that demonstrate a special spirit or atmosphere of nature to me. The light or situation at the time was magical, and I was certainly lucky to capture the picture when I did. Here’s the background on them:

Fall colors: We were driving down a back road during the fall and this vista magically appeared. Stop the car! Fortunately, I had my camera with me!

Fall colors

Fall colors in Upstate New York

Foggy Fort Niagara: This shot was taken on a September evening as the fog was rolling in off of Lake Ontario onto the Niagara River. Spooky, yet calming at the same time.

Foggy Fort Niagara

Fog rolling in near Old Fort Niagara, Youngstown NY

Mendon Ponds: The little beech tree glows like a beacon in the cold winter light, guiding the cross-country skier around the Quaker Pond loop.

Mendon Ponds in winter

Beech tree in wintery Mendon Ponds Park

Canandaigua Lake: Another wild and wooly rainstorm is beginning its march down the hills and across the lake – watch out! Here it comes!

Canandaigua Lake rainstorm

Rainstorm approaching across Canandaigua Lake

And finally, the picture I have chosen to submit to the contest was taken early in the morning as the fog was beginning to burn off over Mirror Lake. This is a location in the Adirondacks that speaks to my heart, and one that I think of often; that calms me when restless, and that cheers me when sad. We have many fond memories of visiting there. The picture was a film shot from many years ago and I had no idea that it would turn out like this until it was developed. There is one teeny tiny bright spot of color – my daughter wearing her orange life jacket! Serendipitous!

Mirror Lake morning

Morning Fog on Mirror Lake

GGW Honorable Mention Award

Tell me about the ‘Genius loci’ in your life.

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