Saturday, March 28, 2015
I recently returned from Haiti where I participated in a mission to provide eye care near the city of Cap Haitien. Our group took an R&R day and made an excursion to the Citadel, a fortress in the mountains of northern Haiti, a symbol of Haiti becoming the first black republic when African slaves gained their independance from the French in 1804.
The leader of Haiti at the time of the revolution, Jean-Jacques Dessallines, entrusted one of his generals, Henri Christophe, to build a network of fortresses to defend Haiti from the French. The Citadel was the most impressive fortress, taking 14 years to complete, and was constructed from local stone. Our guide informed us that a mixture of molasses, goat and cow blood, and cow hooves were used as mortar.
The citadel contains a series of cisterns and storehouses designed to provide a year's supply of food and water for up to 5,000 soldiers within its colossal walls. It boasts over 365 cannons imported from England and Spain. The fortress took 20,000 workers nearly 14 years to complete. Countless workers lost their lives during the construction. Interestingly, the French never returned to reclaim Haiti and the Citadel was never put to use to protect Haiti. The Citadel has survived numerous earthquakes and remains a symbol of liberty for all Haitians.
The Citadel as seen from our hotel atop the 3000 ft Bonnet a L'Eveque Mountain (the rectangular structure on right central peak).
Monday, March 23, 2015
Sunday, March 8, 2015
I recently returned from a vacation Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. In 1974, Laurance Rockefeller donated approximately 250 acres of land which became Gorda Peak National Park. Gorda Peak is the highest point on Virgin Gorda at 1,370 ft. It is unique because it is one last remaining examples of Caribbean dry forest. There is a hiking trail to the peak, about a 30 minute walk. The vegetation varies with elevation: starting with dry scrub forest and becoming more moist as the elevation increases. At the top of the trail there is a lookout tower which has dramatic panorama views of the British Virgin Islands. There were many varieties of orchids and bromeliads along the trail. It was exciting to see tender plants that I use as annuals in their natural habitat.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
The Hall with Balls was particularly serene this past week. I always love the round boxwoods dusted with snow. The Cornus officinalis tree can be seen off center in this view and to the far left below.
Several posts ago, I made a decision to remove two upright Junipers. In the process, a granite wall, which can be seen to the left of the steps, was revealed. I am very pleased with the simplicity that resulted.
The granite post in the Woodland Garden can be seen through the two archways looking particularly beautiful as a focal point calling the eye and the visitor forward.
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Earlier this week, I visited Teixeira Park and was pleased to find a flock of Cedar Waxwings devouring the fruit of the Malus 'Prairiefire' trees grove planted in a small grove along Union Street in West Peterborough. My intention, when we redesigned the park, was for it to have a wild flavor that would attract wildlife; especially birds and butterflies. Later, as I learned more, I concentrated on planting native herbaceous plants to attract insects to promote biodiversity.
Don and Lillian Stokes, the well-known birding experts and authors who live in nearby Hancock, NH, are gardening friends. In 2005, they came to visit Teixeira Park to give me ideas on how to attract birds and butterflies. They suggested planting a grove of crabapples along the street to attract birds. The idea was that the trees would provide food but would also serve as a stepping-stone for the birds to enter the park from the woods across the street. They suggested using native dogwoods, viburnums and shadblows. They also pointed out that the Nubanusit River provided the water that birds require. All the stars were aligned for birds: food, water, cover and nesting oppurtunities.
Six years later, I was pleased to read in Doug Talamay's book Bringing Nature Home that crabapples are fifth on the list of woody plants that support the order of Lepidoptera (the moths and butterflies), an important representative of the insect herbivores. Insect herbivores in turn are necessary for the biodiversity of other wildlife including birds. There are only four species of crabapples in the United States. Crabapples are unique in that the leaf chemistry of the alien crabapples (Malus 'Prairiefire' included) is indistinguishable from native crabapples to insects which often have a special evolutionary relationship with native species.
Birds, on the other hand, don't have a specific evolutionary relationship with their food: they will eat almost anything. So planting the grove of Malus 'Prairiefire' served two purposes. It provided food (fruit) and shelter for the birds while providing food (leaves) for 311 species of moths and butterflies which resulted in an overall increase of biodiversity. From a garden beauty/garden ecosystem perspective, it is having your fruit and eating it too.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Two roads diverged in a White Wood called Pack Monadnock
The more traveled road
I took the less traveled road
It made all the difference
Actually, it made no difference; they both went to the same place, the top
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
New Hampshire, 1915