Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Blueberry pancakes but no lobster!

Part three of our East Coast trip was spent staying in the home of Michael Maler, in Ogunquit. Locals may know that Michael ran Espresso Cielo in Palm Springs until quite recently and his smiling face and good coffee is much missed. Ogunquit, meaning 'beautiful place by the sea'  is a pretty little seaside town, full of character and very gay friendly. No Starbucks or other big names! The sandy beaches, small harbors filled with boats and rocky seashores reminded me of my childhood back in Suffolk. Well - Suffolk was stony beaches but all the rest! It is very much a friendly tourist town, filled with ice cream shops, restaurants, ice cream shops, guest houses,  ice cream shops, numerous art galleries and did I say ice cream shops? Ah yes - just a few!

Ogunquit beach

Perkins Cove

Sangria with Michael

Cherry pie for desert with Mark, Jim, Michael and Gary. (I pitted the cherries!)
 Now this is a horticultural blog, so I had better think plants and gardens rather than food and drink, although we did wine and dine well over the holiday. (Michael -  apologies I didn't appreciate the lobster!) Ogunquit is zone 5 and experiences severely cold winters with much snow but we were lucky in June with warm sunny weather and only one wet day. (And yes Jim I did wear my cagoule!) Trees were in their first flush of young green and woodlands carpeted with lush green ferns. Gardens were bursting with traditional herbaceous perennials; iris, peony,  and amazingly hostas with no slug damage. Are there no slugs in Maine? 

Shrubs were present but not in a huge variety. Very few rhododendrons, presumably due to hardiness but a lavender pink cultivar and white one seemed to thrive. Pink and white dogwoods as tall as houses were everywhere. I loved the pink leaved beech and also the pretty little white rose that appeared everywhere.

Fagus sylvatica 'Roseo marginata'

Kalmia latifolia in bud

Unknown rhody?

Robinia hispida (I think) growing wild

Little semi-wild rose

 Homes and businesses had exploded out of hibernation with summer colour in amazingly adventurous and color co-coordinated schemes. Were they all completed by the same contractor from the same nursery I wonder? Inevitably fashions for plants change and I was interested to see Mandevilla widely used as a container plant. I guess the season is quite short here and so many plants such as canna and dahlia seem to be planted as almost mature flowering plants - instant colour!

Michael's house is surrounded by a small colorful garden that fades into his woodland complete with poison ivy!  (This naive Brit had to be educated!) To one side was a rather dreary bank of junipers. Michael expressed a half-hearted dislike of them which promoted Jim to instantly find saws and a spade and dig them out! 'S'cuse me I'm wearing smart clothes!' But I did help - a bit! The next day we made a nursery trip and bought some plants as replacements. (Can you imagine three gay guys trying to decide what to plant?) But it's an ongoing project hopefully to be completed over the summer. Anyone visiting Michael - remember he wants plants not nicknacks, as thank-you gifts - and NO ceramic rabbits!
Michael's house

Our token gardening! Should have taken a 'before' picture!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

No time for tea in Boston

Its amazing how many  USA cities have counterparts in the USA, although given its heritage and the designation New England, maybe that's not surprising. Boston in the UK is a small town in Lincolnshire with a population of 64,000 whereas the USA version is the largest city in Massachusetts with a population of 655,000. Ten times bigger! Yes I know, most things in the USA are bigger! Anyway, whilst on my vacation with Jim, we spent two days in this beautiful city. Surprisingly, when I messaged Philip to say that we were staying in the Oasis Guesthouse, we found that coincidentally Philip had stayed at the very same place many years ago. 

Jim and I particularly wanted to do the art galleries and we were not disappointed. Whilst the Boston Museum of Fine Arts was lovely, it was the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum that really captivated us. This is housed in what was the family home of Isabella and John Gardner. Together they traveled widely, collecting Italian Renaissance art, furniture and architectural items. The house she built, that now houses the museum is somewhat whimsical, incorporating a vast collection of architectural salvage. The museum surrounds a beautiful courtyard, covered by a glass roof, the first of its kind in the USA. The museum was first opened to the public in 1903. As well as the central courtyard there is a beautiful modern garden, completed in 2013 called the Monk's Garden, styled in many shades of green with white flowers.

The Monk's Garden

Apologies poor quality pic taken through the glass

I last visited Boston probably 30 years ago and have a rosy memory of the public gardens. Sadly what we found this time, was a rather tired civic park with a lake, worn grass and many trees. The flower beds were mostly disappointing and the iconic swan boats had finished for the day.

Nice alliums - pity about the weeds!

The most prominent graft line I have ever seen - assuming that's what it is!
We did pass the Massachusetts Horticultural Society building, looking very formal and not unlike the Royal Horticultural Society premises in Vincent Square. Behind this stretched a vast pool with some extensive herbaceous planting. In another area I was amused by an ugly building that had been entirely clad in a vinyl skin, printed to look like leafy vines. Altogether a great two days in a lovely city. Sadly we didn't have time to visit the site of the 'Boston Tea Party' but I do recommend the Boston Cream Pie from Mike's Pastries!

Is it a plant or a painting?