Flower/Rock Gardens




Cally and Jake’s Wedding Celebration in Maryland

A delightful (and definitely unconventional) forest fantasy wedding celebration in John and Calista’s back yard, which combined beautiful landscaping with multiple tents and canopies and many surprises.  Fairly heavy rain, while inconvenient, contributed to the deep forest feeling and failed to dampen spirits or costumes.  Holly and I stayed for two nights in nearby Rockville.  Note: the somewhat blurry pictures are from my camera, which unfortunately had a bad setting.  More pictures may follow.

Note: Cally and Jake are adding more pictures as they receive them at http://deppen-neely.tumblr.com/





Feasting and Sunbathing on Delaware’s Eastern Shore

A lovely visit to Holly’s long-time friends, Robert and Barb.  We feasted on seafood for three days and enjoyed good company and perfect weather at the beach.  Stopped at a street side restaurant in Mananas on the way home.


A Visit from my Sister

Eleanor came down by train for a short but fun visit, with a jaunt along the Blue Ridge Parkway and a meals out together at Hamilton’s and Devils Backbone Brewery.  And good wine and conversation.



The spring and early summer rains seemed to have produced an unusually healthy diversity of flowering plants and trees, along with plantings of annuals along our front path.  For the first time, significant flower beds were added to the vegetable garden, producing a nice array of new colors and forms.  We also added some statuary to the shade garden, along with some new plants.  A Hisbiscus (Rose of Sharon) finally produced multiple blooms eight years after being brought down from Cherry Hill, NJ.   Holly found lots to work with in putting together the lovely bouquets throughout our home.

click here for pictures of the flower and shade gardens

It’s been an unusually wet spring, but with enough sun to make flowering plants very happy, it seems.  And several different hikes this month have offered varying vistas and plant varieties.  Early in the month, Holly’s sister-in-law Lonni (and her two dogs) and I hiked along the Appalachian Trail a ways up The Priest, and found, as we had hoped, Mountain Laurel in bloom.  (As always on this blog, click on individual pictures for a larger image.)

Shortly afterwards, I hiked the Fortune Cove trail on the other side of the county with a new friend, Jim, where beautiful stands of mountain laurel were likewise in bloom.

With almost perfect timing in the third week of May, our friend Sue and I hiked up Spy Rock, with  great views and with a quite extraordinary abundance of wildflowers along the trailside on the way up.

Click here for pictures of some of the wildflowers along the trail

At the foot of the rock dome, the Flaming Azalea were spectacular, with Rhododendron just beginning to bloom:

As always, the challenge of climbing Spy Rock was rewarded with fabulous vistas.








A largely snowless winter and a surprisingly warm February merged into an abundantly colorful March and April. As usual, sugar snap peas were the first crop to be planted, beginning on March 9th.  By the end of the first week of April, the annual spectacular display of the weeping cherry and crabapple trees was past its prime.  But then came our Rosebuds, planted way back in 2010 and finally blossoming fully for the first time this April!  And shortly afterwards, Virginia Bluebells and our Dogwood.

DSCN8146 DSCN8156 DSCN8152

Winter this year was relatively mild overall, although the temperature did get down to 4 degrees on one occasion.  I had to dig out our driveway on three occasions, but no snowstorms of particular note.  As the middle picture above suggests, our wood stove helped keep things warm and cozy inside.

DSCN8172  DSCN8173  DSCN8181

  DSCN8176  DSCN8182

Mid-March brought a visit from Lonni and Lyara and a hike up Crabtree Falls.

And April brought the most spectacular display of spring color I’ve ever seen:

DSCN8202  DSCN8236

DSCN8248  DSCN8227

DSCN8241 DSCN8194 DSCN8265 DSCN8281

DSCN8283 DSCN8260 DSCN8262 DSCN8261

DSCN8308 DSCN8301 DSCN8303 DSCN8290

DSCN6310  DSCN6771
Holly added a flower garden below the veggie one

It was a good year for flowers–plenty of rain, enough sun, not too hot.  But things were more complicated in the vegetable garden, with alternating long periods of dryness and continuous rains that upended its usual flow.  Tomato hornworms decimated our tomato plants, and Japanese and Mexican bean beetles did in a good part of the later-developing string bean crop and all of the lima beans.  An early dry spell made our snap peas tougher and less plump than usual and a later one put an end to originally-promising cucumber and squash production.  Extreme wetness in June appears to have wrought extensive rotting in what looked otherwise like a very promising garlic crop.  As a former teacher used to grading, I would say it was a C+ year.  We were able to enjoy some fresh vegetables and to give and can and freeze some away, but at a level well below the norm of previous years.  But the flower gardens bloomed nicely through spring and summer.

DSCN6329 DSCN6747 DSCN6698

Wildlife remained plentiful

DSCN6512 DSCN6511 DSCN6555
Beauties of Spring

DSCN6728 DSCN6653 DSCN6570

DSCN6400 DSCN6718 DSCN6707

Summer’s Bounty

DSCN6839 DSCN6841

This year’s best new crop award: “Cute Stuff Bell Peppers”
(amazingly early and prolific)

summer-produce table-produce

The weather this summer was unusually cooperative, and pest problems were far less than last summer, when it rained almost every day.  Beans were our number one crop: so many bushels that we gave many away after filling much of the freezer with parboiled beans.  Squash and tomatoes were plentiful; onions, garlic, peppers, cucumbers, and potatoes did reasonably well, although I had to toss out the late-season potatoes because of extensive pest damage.  Mexican bean beetles did in the lima beans late in the season.  Parsley and basil grew in abundance, and there are many bags of spring snap peas in the freezer (and still getting some turnips and chard planted in the spring).   Overall, a good harvest with lots of good eating!

pickles2 pickles3

Holly canned mixed pickles with veggies from both the garden and from the local farmer’s market.  She planted a variety of vegetables in her garden at her Lake Monticello home; brussel sprouts and others are coming along.


Flowers and a new friendship bloomed nicely as well!


flowering-trees empty-chairs weeping-cherry dogwood

It was a winter that seemed like it would never end.  And of course it was the winter of Monika’s gradual and then dramatic decline and death, and subsequent months of deep mourning and loneliness.  So the belated arrival of spring, with its promise of renewal and rebirth, its virtual explosion of color and sense of new possibilities, has been most welcome.  And it has given a new direction to my life through my serendipitous meeting of Holly at a Sierra Club meeting in Charlottesville, where a brief conversation alerted us to a quite extraordinary congruence of interests and passions, which has only increased as we’ve gotten to know each other more.

holly1  holly2

heidi-plunge1 holly-plunge2

 holly-plunge3  holly-bob-plunge

bob-mintspring holly-mintspring


My wonderfully perceptive and supportive sister Eleanor has captured these developments beautifully:  “I’m delighted that you found someone like Holly who shares your love of nature, hiking — and that the two of you enjoy each other’s company.  That pix of the two of you is adorable.  It never hurts to remind ourselves that we have only one life to live; I’m impressed (as I’ve been many times) with how much you accomplish and how fully you enjoy life.  That you’re sharing your life now with a sympathetic, attractive person is good news indeed.  (And, as you say, it does not in any way diminish your wonderful years with Monika nor your fond memories.)”

When I got up yesterday morning, I was greeted with this almost mystical vision of sun rays over our shade garden.  A very special moment which I’m happy (and surprised) to have been able to capture on camera.

Unseen just to the right in the picture is a small clump of spigelia, also known as Indian Pink, which bloomed in the past several days after a two year effort.  The original seedlings were eaten back to the ground by some critter, but they came back this year and hopefully will continue to expand.  I grew a clump in New Jersey, but most people down here seem not to know it, even though it is considered a native plant from the Mid-Atlantic states down to the Smokies.  It’s definitely one of my garden favorites, and I think the pictures below will explain why.


When we bought our Blue Rock property in 2009, we were fortunate that it came beautifully landscaped with flowering trees and bushes.  Some areas were in general disarray, however, and we’ve gradually transformed the pond area, added a shade garden, helped vegetation get a foothold on the steep slope above the kennel, and introduced a variety of bulbs and perennials along three sides of the house.  This year it’s all come together very beautifully, and we spend many hours soaking in the sublime peacefulness of the riot of color.

Monika’s sweet williams and roses provide a colorful backdrop
to the pond area with its water iris, to which we’ve added several
dwarf  junipers as well as a bridalveil spirea and tiger lilies

Click here for more flower pictures

Next Page »