Saturday, April 30, 2016

Barcelona, Spain.

4-30-16 BARCELONA, SPAIN: We arrived here this AM after the usual over-night bus ride on United. The flight was delayed for an hour because of computer problems, they re-booted the whole plane, but we got here on time somehow. I think they include extra time in the ETA’s anticipating delays and so as not to spoil their stats.

Barcelona is a clean, modern city with a spacious airport and a multi-lane highway into the city. The streets are clean, the traffic very orderly and I saw no signs of any financial distress. We are at the Hotel Majestic, but didn’t get a room until early afternoon. Tomorrow we board Nat Geo’s new ship, Orion, for a cruise of the western Mediterranean Islands.

This morning after brunch at a local caffé, we walked down to Plaça Catalunya and picked up La Rambla, a wide, tree-lined avenue with lots of shops and big crowds, and walked to Mercat de la Boqueria, a huge food market with dozens of stalls selling anything edible. You can eat in or take out, as it was mid-day, it was packed with shoppers and diners.


We passed the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the opera house, looked at Sta. Maria del Pi, and then walked Ferran, a pedestrian mall in the old city. We visited the Cathedral Barcelona. Then we walked back to the hotel for a room and a nap.

At five PM we walked east to see Sagrada Família, a Gaudí-designed basilica, a huge space, the stained glass windows are beautiful and the light from the windows colors the tree-like columns of the nave. It’s very bright inside from all the windows. The east face is traditional in its sculpture, but the west side is modern. There are huge cranes working on the exterior. I have said that, anytime we go to see a famous old building, it’s covered in scaffolding. I thought it was just our bad luck, but I have decided these buildings are always getting work done.

Antoni Gaudí was a Catalan architect, died in 1926, is famous for many buildings and sculptures in Barcelona. Classic case of ‘local boy makes good’.


Breakfast bistro, Il Caffé di Francesco.

Casa Battló Gaudí across the street.

Mercat de la Boqueria. Dozens of food stalls.

Residential street, every unit has a balcony.

Sagrada Família, east face portal.

Sagrada Família, three wise men....

Stained glass....

The stained glass lights up the tree-like columns.

Hotel Majestic as we returned from dinner.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Orange Delight.

4-29-16 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday one of the hibiscuses in the sunroom surprised us with a bit of orange. Outside, I did some more pruning and more clean up. The grass is finally starting to grow, and the mowers will start next week.

The hydrangeas are recovering from the late frost, but slowly and with extensive losses. The three butterfly bushes all died from it. Weather irregularities are not a new thing, but they seem to be happening all the time lately.

New blooms: tea viburnum, jack-in-the-pulpit, mertensia.


Hibiscus in the sun room surprised us yesterday.
Tea viburnum, viburnum number four.

Burning bush, there is a little hint of the red fall color in the stems.

Azalea.

Azalea.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Back to the Garden with More Trees.

4-27-16 SHORT HILLS: We’ve finally had some rain, several showers during the day yesterday, some with thunder. I was in and out of the yard depending on the dryness or wetness of the air.

I did manage to get two dogwood trees planted, also in the area where we lost the big ash tree. Their full names are Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Brave’ and ‘Cherokee Princess’. I mulched all the new trees, did some re-fertilizing, found some more unused flagstones and added them to the new walk, but didn’t set them in the ground yet.

New blooms: nannyberry viburnum, Korean spice viburnum, wild strawberry, French lilac, Carolina allspice, wood hyacinth, honeysuckle bush [red and white], burning bush.


Dogwood backlit by the sun.

Korean spice viburnum has a sweet aroma.

White dogwood.

French lilac.

Nannyberry viburnum.

Wood hyacinth in two flavors.

Azalea says, 'Spring is here.'

Violet is a tiny but complex little flower.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Broadway, Birds, Bones and Butterflies.

4-24-16 SHORT HILLS: The garden is jumping, but I thought I’d do an update on our cultural activities.

The night before we went to Vermont last trip, we saw Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at the Walter Kerr Theatre. It is a powerful production and as timely now as it was in 1953, the McCarthy Era, and as it would have been in the 1600’s had it been then performed. John Procter, who didn’t name names, was played by Arthur Kennedy in 1953, by Liam Neeson in 2002 and by Ben Whishaw now. The rest of the principle roles are played by well-known stars—Sophie Okonedo, Ciarán Hinds and Saoirse Ronan.

Yesterday we went to the American Museum of Natural History to see the ‘Dinosaurs Among Us’ exhibition that guides us through the concept that the Theropod Dinosaurs evolved into the birds we know and watch. It’s a good show. We learned about feathers, eggs, nests, bones, lungs, wings, teeth and other parts now present or absent in chickens.

After a peak at the big bones, we did the butterflies again and then headed home to our furry mammals.


Roosevelt Hall at the American Museum of Natural History, pretty busy on a Saturday.

'Birdosaur' has feathers, but teeth and claws.

More wing-like arms and more feathers.

Early primitive flyer, still has teeth.

Hoatzin, an Amazonian bird, has a primitive look. There is also an image of the photographer.

The butterflies are spectacular.

And a couple more...

Friday, April 22, 2016

New Trees.

4-22-16 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday was a new tree day. I went to the Farm in Green Village early and picked five trees to go in the space opened up by the removal of the huge, dying ash tree. I posted the dis-assembly of that tree last fall. In season the canopy cover of this yard was extensive, making it hard to add a new tree that wasn’t happy with an understory existence. But now there is a lot of sun in this corner.

They are all good sized trees with big root balls, so I had them delivered. When Judy saw the trees, she said, correctly, that planting them was too big a job for me. We had the delivery guys do the work, which was especially hard because of the huge roots the ash tree left behind had to be cut out of each hole.

That corner of the yard was where we lost two big spruce trees a few years ago. I had started an allée of cherry trees at that time with six trees, three Kwanzan and three Yoshino trees.

I extended the allée pathway, and added the five new trees.

I know you’re on the edge of your seat—the five are—two flowering pear, Pyrus calleryana 'Chanticleer', one each of Japanese snowbell, Styrax japonicus, Stewartia pseudocamellia, royal burgundy cherry, Prunus serrulata 'Royal Burgundy'.

Today I cleaned up the work site and began to worry about their survival as a new parent.

New blooms: azalea, redbud, boxwood.


Redbud tree. There are thousands of these tiny orchid-like flowers all growing next to the bark on tiny stems.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Flower Pix and Chores.

4-20-16 SHORT HILLS: The days are perfect for working outside, warm, but not hot or muggy. Yesterday I did more trimming of the paths around the house. The pachysandra had threatened a complete take-over of the walkways, a virtual insurrection, but now are back in their beds. They were abetted by English ivy and Virginia creeper. All three have been severely disciplined.

The previous day I replaced a gatepost. I hadn’t used the post-hole digger for a few years, but remembered that it is for removing dirt from the hole that has been chopped up with the bar, not actually for digging.

Today I started rebuilding the path through the allée of cherry trees. The path was torn up by the removal of the huge, dying ash tree last fall. I found some additional flagstones in the yard and am extending the path. The loss of the ash was horrible, but does give us a chance to add new trees to the allée. Cutting holes in the lawn for the new flags provides turf to fill the holes dug in the lawn by the pieces of falling ash tree crashing to the ground.

New blooms: apple, blueberry, deutzia, gill-over-the-ground, yellow lamium, Chinese snowball viburnum, Kwanzan cherry.


Trout lily, standing tall at 2inches, is probably named for the spotted, fish shaped leaves.

Bleeding hearts were out early, then nipped by the frost and are now back.

Apple blossoms awaiting pollinators.

Blueberry - one of several little, white bell-shaped flowers.

Yellow lamium is a complex little flower. The brown markings guide the pollinator to the flower's throat while the hairs on the umbrella deposit the pollen. This plant grows to 6 or 8 inches and is a nice ground cover.

Chinese snowball viburnum is the first viburnum to bloom, has a very sweet aroma and a lot of red accents.

For red, try currant. Notice the white centers.

Kwanzan cherry just opening.

Gill-over-the-ground. mostly a nuisance, was imported by European colonists who saw it as medicinal for something or other. It has another little curious flower.

Barberry has no hint of the red berry color in the cream-colored flowers.

Another pic of the trout lily, the whole plant will be dormant in a few days.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Springing Ahead.

4-18-16 SHORT HILLS: We had an easy trip back to NJ on Sunday. The trips back and forth seem like time travel to me. I left brown lawns and almost no flowers and plants just starting to come up, but I returned to green grass and trees and flowers in bloom and temps in the seventies. Here the early trees are leafing out, apple, pear, cherry maple, chestnut.

Those two spells of sub-freezing temps did serious injury to the hydrangeas. They had leaves open that were frozen and now show no sign of life. I hope they will re-open after they think it over. The bleeding hearts and roses seem to be recovering.

New blooms: dogwood, violet, trout lily, currant, barberry.


Marsh marigold is one of a number of flowers that have re-bloomed. It had opened before our mini-winter, but the flowers disappeared, but now have reappeared.

Purple lamium is the first of our four to open, pink, yellow, white are others.

The quince flowers are white when they open, see post of 4-1-16, but turn pink as they age. the native color is red.

One of my favorite daffodils.