A spring walk around the house

... and a close-up look at Lorry's 300 million year old rock garden

Photos and words from Don Norris

Author's note: Back in early May of last year I had purchased this brand new Nikon D70 single-lens reflex digital camera, and I was dying to see how it worked. It is a fantastic piece of photographic equipment -- not totally without fault, but still a marvelous machine. And so, as you enjoy my wife's spring garden, judge for yourself if the new D70 was worth the thousand dollars I paid for my new toy.

--- SilverStringer Don Norris.

A delicate blossom appeared on our pignut hickory, which leads me to believe that this is that "delicate time of the year" when creatures (including trees) procreate.

It was fall, and Lorry and I went to the local garden center to buy mums, and this is what we ended up with. We're not sure, but they look like (according to Burpee Gardens' manual) hybrid daisies -- in Halloween colors. The pumpkins we got during a run to a Harvard, Massachusetts, apple orchard. If you have a differing opinion about our daisies, please write.

Still in the fall, Lorry says she might have grown these purple mums from hearty stock of years before. The planter came from our daughter Nancy who at that time was working with a grower, Pleasant View Gardens in New Hampshire. We did get some choice goodies at employee prices that year, and our place in Melrose never looked so good.

These are (we feel) grape hyacinths, which are about the first thing to come up in early spring -- along with crocus. These purple beauties were planted randomly throughout our rock-ledge lawn, from tiny bulbs, by my wife. And all these years I thought they were spontaneous; a gift from above. What a beautiful way to end winter.

Ah, more purple, my favorite color. This is spreading ground phlox, which we've nurtured for several years. The site is in our quite-natural rock garden, which we believe to be roughly 300 million years old. But it came with the house, back in 1958.

Here is the same phlox just a few spring days earlier. The bed of deep green is so welcome after the mottled grays of late winter snowbanks.

Still on May 5th, the small forsythia bushes we planted nearly half a century ago have gone crazy, engulfing our vegetable garden and thriving on all the chopped up seaweed we put down. We also had, 50 years ago, lilac bushes that produce magnificent white and pale purple blossoms -- unfortunately after the brilliant forsythia has gone by.

A lone dandelion popped up in the rock garden -- quite a handsome flower at this stage. Last year the lawn was full of them, but we did the Scott's four-bag fertilizer system this past spring, and it seems to have worked very well. At least no weeds, no dandelions.

Another mystery plant. A common garden plant that we just can't name. She thinks it's plain ol' American (possibly Japanese) iris. Nevertheless, the pattern of light, the variation of dark to light green provides a stunning pattern.  

Uh oh. Betty Bliss, a former Melrosian, gave us these plants so many years ago, but we never paid attention to a name. They are small variegated leaves with a splash of deep green edged with delicate yellow. A fine addition to our rock garden.

When we moved back to Melrose from Ohio in 1958, we bought this Cape Cod style house on Spear Street. There was a pair of trees in the front yard that we couldn't name until we bought an Audubon Society field guide. It took us a long while to find our tree among the hundreds listed -- but it turned out to be a pignut hickory. Note the seedlings. I am told that they used hickory for baseball bats. Not mine, however, for it draws lots and lots of birds.

One of the more popular plants in just about any Melrose garden is the hosta, which is indispensible for shady gardens. We notice that there are endless versions of hosta about town, including our two varieties.

Another spring flower, this one appearing as if it were all puckered for a sweet kiss. A week later it morphed into a a gorgeous red tulip.

We have no idea what this is, but it is a happy piece of the front rock garden. Things like this happen, happily. We think it was a gift, an ostrich fern. Burpee's said it is "ornamental and vigorous, perfect fern for bold accents".

Closeup of the composite rock, once melted and oozing from the earth's crust. This sample is, of course, the basis for our rock garden.

Looks like pot of gold, Lorry says, which is in the alyssum family. A typical spring flower, it graces our presence for only a month.


This could be arabis, a ground cover that leans toward pale blue-green. It does a marvelous job of providing a backdrop for Lorry's more colorful spring flowers.

Sedum, a strange name for this innocuous ground cover. It is prolific and has moved into our lawn in several shaded areas. I mow it, and it recovers quickly.

We guess at candytuft, but perhaps someone else can provide a positive identification. It could be snowdrops, too. But it does have lovely, delicate small blossoms.

No question, this is a peony -- yet to bloom. The book says "glorious in May", but ours come out in full color in June.

May 5, 2006

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