Sweet Perry

We lost our sweet cat Perry last week.

I was hoping to post a few words — perhaps a story or two — that would share his funny, joyful personality.  But I’m not sure I can muster the energy to do that quite yet.

We adopted him from a local shelter as a nine-year-old.  Largely hairless due to severe allergies, the shelter had done a lot to heal his irritated skin when he had arrived at their doorstep. There were other issues that seemed to be autoimmune related, which we learned after we fostered and eventually adopted him.

Can a cat be appreciative?  He seemed to be.  When we first got him, it became clear he had been neglected, possibly abused. Amazingly, that didn’t seem to impact his personality. Initially shy, he grew more confident seemed happy to be alive each day.

With the right care and diet, not only did he grow back his hair, he grew into an incredibly energetic older cat. He’d bring his favorite toy to us, wherever we were in the house, and sit there, like, “are you going to play with me or what?”  And when he played, he leaped amazingly high.

We’ll miss so many things.  The way he’d wedge himself between us each night. They way he’d rub his face against ours to show affection. The way he always knew his name. His playfulness. And his keen “hunting” abilities — he could hone in on the smallest gnat and would always catch it.  And, of course, his quiet way of just being.

It was a tough week, trying to sort out how to turn around a quickly declining situation.  I wish we could have done more, but are grateful to our vet, and to the emergency care clinic where he finally lost the fight.

Thanks, Perry, for being a part of our lives. You’ll always be in our hearts.



It’s Christmas Eve. And it’s 70 degrees outside.  It’s wacky weather for for New Jersey.

It’s been so warm that early flowering plants —  daffodils, hyacinths, forsythia and blooming trees, are starting to emerge. More on that another day.  Right now, I’m just hoping the rain clears up so that we can put out our luminarias.  An annual tradition, the Rotary sells lumanaria kits and throughout our small town the display is stunning, as a continuous trail of light mark paths through the night, block after block, Main street and back street.  When everyone awakens on Christmas morning, many are still burning bright.

We’re hosting my husband’s family this evening.  More traditions, as we sing carols for our gifts and enjoy Scandanavian treats, such as Glogg (mulled wine), Finnish Pulla and Joulutorttu, and sing and dance to 70’s Christmas recordings in Swedish (Tomtegubbar) and German.  And I’ve baked my more traditional “American” cookies.  Now it’s time to prep the vegetables. A little later, salmon.

With the holiday rush, remember to take a moment to pause and reflect. Count your blessings. Spend time with those you love. And consider the reason for the season.


Parc de Buttes Chaumont

Paris has many beautiful parks and gardens.

A couple of years ago, we took a week in May to visit Paris and London.  No trip would be complete without outdoor time — which often includes a park, arboretum or garden.  On this trip, we took a Metro ride to the 19th arondissement, to the Parc de Buttes Chaumont.

It was lovely — a mix of things to see and spaces to explore. Some manicured, some wild. Despite its large scale, each spot still felt small and intimate enough to enjoy.

Worth a visit!

Under the wire

It’s been a beautiful Fall — the weather has been slow to turn cooler, the leaves slow to turn color, gradually revealing their vibrant hues.

The milder weather has allowed me to extend some seasonal tasks a bit, such as transplanting perennials and planting bulbs. Most were planted a couple of weeks ago, and I finished up the job today.

There’s not much room for anything new in our garden at this point. But the disruption of the front beds for our home improvement work allowed me to replant some favorite bulbs – chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow) and a white tulip, “Spring Green.” It looks pretty with hostas and other emerging greens around it, and adds subtle coolness among so many bright spring shrubs and flowers.

I also transplanted some grape hyacinths that were tucked way back in a side bed.  The Winterberry Holly had grown high and wide in front of them. Because of their detail and size they’re best displayed up close, so a move up to the front was in order. Their thin, strappy leaves emerge at this time of year, making them easy to identify for transplanting.  What  will follow is a display of small, beautiful blue flowers in the Spring.

As I dug into the soft earth next to the house, I suddenly noticed two queen honeybees.  Odd!  They looked stunned — drunken and slow.  Not what I expected in November. A quick online search revealed that the queens hibernate in soft earth like this. I felt awful disturbing them. I left them, and when I checked back later, they were gone.

Next, the remaining bulbs went in.  They’re super easy to plant. I think people tend to stress out about amendments and fertilizer. It’s true, if you’ve never gardened or have a new plot post-construction, your soil may need some enrichment. After the construction of the walk was done a few weeks ago, I added a layer of compost-rich soil — but that’s pretty much it, for me.

First, I put in some narcissus — an early variety from the 1940s that may even have been around when our house was built.  I’ve planted them in other areas and enjoy that they’re the first daffodils to appear. They’re at the bottom of the steps, where seeing them poke through the soil or snow in February or March will provide some cheer during a dreary time. They’ll be a welcome sight in bloom from the street or from the steps.


Then, in the back next to our patio, tulipa orphnaida flava.  I’m not usually into warm colors in the garden, but these are petite, wispy tulips. Late blooming.  One year, I combined them with Queen of the Night.

Black Emperor Tulip

  Tulip “Queen of the  Night”

It was a surprisingly pretty combination — more muted than you might expect.

The tiny bulbs looked interesting on our bluestone patio, before they were tucked into the ground.


It’s the “refresh” the garden needed.  Most importantly, it will provide a pleasant surprise in spring, when we’re longing for color and a pretty view from our windows. Until then, we’ll enjoy the slow turning of the seasons, keep raking the leaves, and await the restful sleep of the garden under an eventual snow.


Today’s website recommendation: Turning Earth.  It’s been around a while and provided early inspiration when we first started our garden here in this house.  It still inspires!

Absolutely no relationship to the season

Fall is bulb planting time — and spring planning time.  So I’ll offer a few photos of different spring and summer plants as thought starters.


Hostas under a Japanese maple — classic combo for that shady spot.


This lovely double wild daylily is from a dear friend and neighbor.  Adds a nice accent of hot color in the mid-summer slump.


An azalea that I picked up at the arboreteum annual plant sale. Haven’t seen this variety since.

Let photos and memories of your favorite season inpsire your planting plans.  Happy gardening!

Fall Feasts

It finally feels like fall!

This is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.  No, M. didn’t mention it (for once!), but anybody who is Canadian living in the U.S. has mentioned it this weekend. They celebrate at the right time for harvest.  Our U.S. Thanksgiving is great, but a little late to be a harvest celebration.

The garden is still producing up a storm.  It makes me happy to see how well the first season in this new plot went.  Each weekend we’ve had such a nice array of fresh veggies, herbs and flowers to grace our table.  Today’s visit: more beautiful golden tomatoes, the last of the basil, baby dill, gorgeous-smelling thyme, a few peppers, the new little kale shoots, chard. Plus these lovely Montauk Daisies.  Such a great way to remember and honor my dad, who rustled some cuttings on his daily run and rooted them for me. They’re huge now.  They seem to like the sunny community garden vs. the shadier home environment.  Makes sense — Dad lived at the beach in his retirement and they thrived there.

bee montauk daisy get planting

Speaking of feasts, check out this photo of the bee on one of the daisies.  You can see the little pollen sacs on each side — the little guy’s getting ready for his own feast.

If you’ve never tried growing a vegetable or herb, why not give it a whirl? It’s fun and easy, and you always put your garden in pots on your patio if you don’t have space.

That was then, this is now

Some thoughts for for a new gardener:

Keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I received a wonderful garden journal as a gift, and it has provided insights, occasional entertainment, and perspective. I go through spells when I use it, and long stretches where I don’t.  But it can be helpful to read about past gardening challenges, weather patterns and their effect, or which plants flourished and which failed. It also helps keep an inventory of what you planted, when, and where.

Journaling can be done with photos. Compare the photos below from two summers: 2005 and 2015. This was a bed I would re-design over and over in the early years, when I was a new gardener.  Straight lines evolved to curves.  Time can help, or it can get away from you — then you realize how much things have grown and certain plants are “taking over” and getting a run of the place. Photos can show you the plain truth.

Side bed 2005 summer   


Another great piece of advice I received:  Start with good foundation plants — these are  plants that add “bones” to your garden, winter, spring, summer and fall.  It’s harder to retrofit them later.  These sometimes tend to  be larger items within your planting scheme — shrubs, or small trees — so plan enough space for them to grow.

And don’t forget fences and hardscaping as a key part of your design.

Last, but not least:  take time to smell the flowers!