Nature Drama in a Japanese Garden

Screen Shot 2019-01-19 at 7.45.49 AMHere’s the scenario.

This green heron sat very still, half hidden by a stone.  Inch-long fish wiggled very near in the pond but just out of reach of the bird.  The enterprising heron took wee bits of whatever it found on the stone, dropped them into the water and waited.

The found “lure” dropped into the pond rippled the surface. The heron watched. An unsuspecting fish swam to investigate and became lunch.

Did you know green herons use bait to catch fish?

This certainly wasn’t the highlight of Morakami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray, Florida, but it was a fascinating snippet of nature.

The botanical garden grounds are exquisitely manicured and there is a variety of different types of Japanese gardens including six historical gardens.

Much of the lake shoreline reminded me of the Adirondacks with its boulders and rocky ledges. I’m always considering, “What can I take home from this experience?”

In the Adirondacks, the landscape is wild. Here the wilderness was partially tamed through pruning and placement of pathways, wooden bridges, archways and bamboo fencing.

Mostly pruning considering the boulders are enormous and spans of rock ledge extend into the waters where turtles and koi eagerly put on a show.

Screen Shot 2019-01-19 at 7.45.26 AM

One of the many pleasures of the gardens is the carefully positioned benches set into the scene to give visitors a resting place with long views of expanded spaces and unfolding natural dramas.

There’s a lot to see including art exhibits. And, lunch here is a culinary delight. Check out the website:

Screen Shot 2019-01-19 at 7.44.49 AM



Swimming Hole Photo Shoot

This was a fun day.

A friend and I went to a swimming hole in Bristol, Vermont to shoot photos.

We weren’t there long before we met the guys who make the Gooner Longboards videos like this one.


Lots of jumping, splashing and hooting. The director Chris Magoon was shooting images of his buddies jumping off the cliffs using a series of devices he created to extend the camera’s reach and slide along with the action.

He is a young engineer, very creative and serious about capturing the action in a cinema-graphic way. Nice work.

Want to go and take a leap? All you have to do is grab that rope you see in the image below, swing out over the water and let go…._DSC0704_1433

I was told that once you hit the water, you need to get to the sides quickly as the underwater current pulls you towards the waterfall. Not what you might expect. Beware.

Oil Painting

I took plenty of photographs that will be studies for a future oil painting. I took images of leapers, kids standing there waiting to jump, splashers, screamers, swimmers and everyone having fun on the boulders. And one day soon, I will draw these images on a canvas and compose a painting. I will keep you posted.

Today was a very good day.

Amazing Cooperstown Day Trip

Our first stop was lunch at Origins Cafe, a restaurant inside a greenhouse at a nursery.

Our first stop was lunch at Origins Cafe, a restaurant inside a greenhouse at a nursery.

When I can share a day with a gardening friend shopping for plants and antiques, stopping to eat at a restaurant inside a greenhouse and then enjoying an exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum of one of my favorite painters, that’s a very good day.

When I can add taking in great country views of rolling hills, lakes and streams from the passenger seat of a shiny convertible with the top down that’s an over-the-top, life-is-good, curls dancing in the wind, fun-filled day.

Cooperstown, New York is always a great destination. There’s so much to do there. If you don’t know the area, visit the Cooperstown website: You’ll likely have more on your wish list than you can do on a day trip.

So plan on going back. I will be. There’s a giant pumpkin festival in the fall and a pumpkin regatta! And yesterday an antique dealer told us about two antique shops which “carry just what you are looking for” that were just too far away given the time we had. Thus, another trip.

Once we rolled into the town known for the Baseball Hall of Fame we headed straight to Carefree Gardens, 558 Beaver Meadow Road, for lunch at a Origins Cafe, a restaurant inside a greenhouse. What gardener wouldn’t love that.
The nursery and greenhouse are run by mother, Mary, and her daughters Kristin and Dana, respectively. The daughters created a restaurant in what was once a hoop house and the tables and chairs are nestled in and around pots of colorful and fragrant plants, babbling fountains and flowering trees.

While we were waiting to be served, a light, fresh floral scent got our attention. We tried to determine what it could be. Mary finally helped us out by leading us to the thigh-high lemon tree in bloom. Such a clean, delicate fragrance . . . something I will remember if I ever have a house with a bright sunroom.

The daughters have created an inspired lunch menu using fresh local and organic ingredients. Some produce like the Swiss chard, lettuces and herbs are right from a neighboring greenhouse. Cheeses, breads and fruits and vegetable are sourced from local farmers.

C-lemonadeWe had lavender lemonade made by steeping lavender with lemon slices and adding lemon juice and evaporated cane sugar. It was more refreshing and less sweet than regular lemonade. The drink was served over ice with a few lavender blossoms sprinkled on top of the sliced lemons and ice. They do other botanical drinks such as lavender and elderberry spritzers and strawberry mint lemonade.

C-lunchThe menu is vegetarian. We ordered black bean burgers but some patrons at other tables ordered salads and paninis. Everything was prettily presented with an edible flower as garnish. The restaurant has a relaxed feel, the family is friendly and welcoming and though you just arrived, you feel comfortable . . . as though you are returning for the umpteenth time.

The daughters don’t have culinary training but certainly do have a knack for flavors and are adventurous in their use of herbs.

I had a lemon verbena pound cake for dessert, there were mint rosemary cookies on the menu and my friend had a rhubarb cake with a creamy texture that was pudding-like and very, very good.

C-5This is a great restaurant to come to with friends and sit among the flowers. After your meal, you can shop the greenhouses which were well-stock with herbs, vegetables and flowering plants. There is also a small shop with a selection of Peruvian hand-made goods from the sisters’ travels. Kristin told us that she and her sister travel to farms around the world working and also gathering sources for the restaurant. Last winter they worked on a Mediterranean olive farm and now use that farm’s olive oil in their recipes. Talk about knowing who you are buying from!

One guest confided in me that Origins’ smoothies are delicious, fresh and low in sugar. And that they sometimes have homemade ice cream on the menu which she said was reason alone to come again. Lucky local!

After lunch we took in the Wyeth exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum and then made our way home through back roads enjoying long views of rolling hills, farmers working in their fields, picturesque barns and cows grazing leisurely.

On the drive we talked about future adventures and agreed that Carefree Garden’s little gem of a restaurant will be included. After all, there were so many enticing offerings. Here’s a link to the menu so you can see for yourself.!menu-&-farms

And there are those two antique stores we didn’t get to.
Happy Gardening and Happy Garden Road Trips.

The King’s Garden

1KGI think I may have found the perfect day trip for gardeners and their history-buff, or scenic beauty loving or camera happy spouses.

It’s a trip to Fort Ticonderoga, where in addition to the fort, the Pell family gardens, a garrison garden and a medicinal herb garden are open to the public. (Admission to the entire property is $17.50 for adults)

7kg2KGA brick wall encloses the family garden adjacent to the Pell home. It was designed by trailblazing landscape architect Marian Coffin in 1921 and still holds up today as a beautiful space with architecturally charming alcoves and hide-away rooms to retreat from the sun. Earl, one of the gardeners, told me that the ladies of the time would have afternoon tea in one of the alcoves-like structures and later in the evening, the men would go there to smoke their cigars. You can imagine it and probably wouldn’t mind having a space like this for yourself.

9kg8kg Earl was planting the vegetable garden while we were there and took a moment to answer questions, point out the resident osprey and explain the construction of a wattle fence which is made by weaving the trunks of saplings around posts hammered into the ground. It has a rustic appeal that would be appropriate in an English cottage garden or at an Adirondack retreat.

I’m sure you will come away from this outing with ideas for your own beds and borders. I saw lovely plant combinations, attractive stonework, a reflecting pool and nice use of Goat’s Beard, a native plant, that was in full plume yesterday. It is great as a back of the border planting as it stands tall – up to six feet – and dramatic with creamy white flowers that are big and bold (see bottom photo). Goat’s beard is a perennial and many people think it resembles an oversized astilbe. If you decide you would like to grow goatsbeard, choose a moist location for best results. 5kg4kggoat'sbeard

Oh…and when you’ve spent enough time wandering the gardens, there’s a terrific fort with massive cannons, informative exhibits, an art gallery including an oil painting by Thomas Cole, and breathtaking vistas to take in.

There is also a cafe and gift shop. In the cafe, produce grown in the garden is served.

There is so much to say about this wonderful attraction. I suggest you visit the website for more information: Note that garden workshops and classes are held occasionally.

It is a fabulous day trip. When you go, bring your camera. Wear a hat and comfortable shoes and slather on the sunscreen.

Garden Conservancy Open Days


Fun for a gardener is visiting the gardens of others. It is an irresistible opportunity full of anticipation and the ideas gathered linger for years to come.

When you walk through another gardener’s garden, you observe what they have done, draw inspiration for your own garden, and enjoy the beauty, fragrances and genius of their accomplishments.

One of the best garden tours in the country is the one organized by The Garden Conservancy, who mission is to preserve America’s exceptional gardens.

I have been going on their Open Day garden tours for many years and can tell you these gardens always offer something to the viewer. I’ve seen wonderful vegetable gardens inside tall brick walls and discussed maintenance with the head gardener. I’ve enjoyed walking through the garden gates of exquisite gardens that I might not otherwise have the opportunity to see. I’ve seen shade gardens, water features, hillside terracing, orchards and more, much more.  And, I’ve drawn inspiration from these gardens for my own garden spaces.

Sometimes, the gardeners are graciously available for questions on the spaces they’ve created. It is a wonderful day.

Open Day Tours are held all over the country on different days in different cities. I was recently on their website: The Garden Conservancy to see the gardens that are open to the public this year and read a brief description of  each garden.

You can purchase tickets online (6 tickets for $25.) or on site the day of the tour for $5 cash each Open Day garden. Children 12 and under are admitted free. You may also purchase discounted admission tickets by calling toll-free, 1-888-842-2442.

Bring a camera, wear comfortable shoes, carry some water and enjoy yourselves. I know I will.