Skye-dog’s challenge

I have always been a firm believer in sending out good stuff so you can get good stuff back.    Although this is not a blog about my personal life so much as gardens and the natural world, other dog owners will understand how you cannot separate things so easily.

When we got back from our holiday, I found large lumps on Skye’s neck and throat.  After a visit to the vet, the diagnosis of lymphoma was given. 

Skye is going to be 9 years old this June and is very healthy otherwise.  We decided to start her immediately on chemotherapy treatment, which she will undergo for the next six months.  The expectation is that she will go into remission and live for at least another twelve to eighteen months. 

Fingers crossed.

Flying home

If you want to go to an exotic location, you really have to fly.  Although taking a plane is statistically the safest way to travel, I am becoming increasingly anxious when boarding.  It just doesn’t seem natural.

How can this thing actually leave the ground, with all these bodies and luggage and fuel and metal?  And then glide along, through the clouds, so effortlessly?

But looking out the window at the heavens and seeing the impossible softness of clouds, I begin to forget my fears. 

The sky is just so vast.

As we climb to around 34,000 feet, there seems to be an infinite layer of clouds.  And with the setting of the sun, the horizon turns to flame.

While the cabin becomes chilled, it seems entirely appropriate that while we’re leaving this behind…

… I’m watching this on my seat-back screen …

Geez.  There should be a law against showing films like that on flights back from the tropics! 

The good news is that it was actually a clip from a documentary called Twice Upon a Garden describing the creation of  Les Jardins des Metis, also known as the Reford Gardens in Quebec.  This production travels back in time exploring Elsie Reford’s original vision for the garden and then presents Alexander Reford’s interpretation of it today, which has made it the home to an internationally renown modern garden design festival. 

Watching this really made me look forward to the coming spring …

Where ya goin’?

Hey!  Where ya goin’?  You’re leaving me here?  Are you coming back?

Sorry Skye-dog; they don’t allow dogs on this beach. 

But, yes we’ll definately be back.  Anyway, you’d be way too hot here.

You’d also be bored stiff.  Nothing to do but swim, eat, sleep and then eat again.  Plus, did I say you’d be too hot?

We’ll come back with lots of pics and stories; and if you’re good, maybe we’ll take you with us next year.  ‘kay?

Okay.  But come back soon.  I’ll be ready with the ball.


Watch out birds!

There have been no birds at our bird feeder again this winter. 

This is why:

This beast has been lurking around the area for a long time now; he first came the year before last, snatching a sparrow out of the sky and devouring him on the ground in our backyard.  We had heard a pair flying about, with their distinctive call that sends shivers up my spine — imagine how the smaller birds feel when they hear it!  I originally thought he was a kestrel, but a comparison of the calls makes me sure its his relative, the merlin.

 I believe the North American falcon known as the merlin (Falco columbarius), a smallish hawk (only growing to about 12″ in length, but with an almost 27″ wingspan) that feeds on small birds is our newest visitor.  They supposedly over-winter in warmer climes and only spend the summers here.  I recall that I have seen its kin in Mexico — its also known as the pigeon hawk.

This is the shot of him that I took last winter.  This magnificent raptor has a distinctive brown chest and the sharp, downward pointing beak.  The talons on this bird are amazing.  They are meant for catching its prey in mid-air while it does incredible flying acrobatics in pursuit of its next meal.  I believe they eat two meals a day.

Photo by Lyn Winans


Downtown dogs!

When we go away by car, we like to take Skye-dog.  Wouldn’t you?

But I’ve never taken her to New York City.  Perhaps I should…

I love New York City for many reasons:  its dog-friendliness is one of them.  Here is the sign outside one of Biscuits & Bath’s locations, a doggie day care and well-ness spa.


And there’s this great play area with water and doggie bowls so they can frolic and play.  Of course, its not the same as playing around on grass or muddy ground.  But the park people in NYC are making a concerted effort to keep dogs from ruining plantings.

There are other more natural dog parks in the city; I saw many that were in the middle of Manhattan with areas segregated between small dogs and larger ones.

There is a website that gives information about where they are called City Doggy.  It might be surprising to many how accommodating New York is to dogs!

The first dog run in Manhattan was created at Tompkins Square and there is a volunteer group managing it called Friends of First Run.

Happy city dogs!

Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate

 Our drive from Hudson, New York, south to Kykuit (pronounced ky-cut and meaning ‘lookout’ in Dutch) was supposed to take about one hour and forty five minutes.  We thought we’d have plenty of time to go and see the estate and then visit another garden in the afternoon.  But as we drove along the Taconic State Parkway and got closer to New York City, we got swept up with the speeding masses and missed the exit (okay, I missed the exit).  It was a white-knuckle drive (with the rest of the big city commuters) along a highway with lanes made twisty and bob-sled-like by construction until I could finally get off and turn around.   

It seemed like forever — but we finally got to the visitor centre in Sleepy Hollow, New York.  We thought that this was where we went to buy our tickets and then we’d drive on to the estate.   I thought we could drive directly up to Kykuit, and park our car around the back.  Wrong!

There is no public parking lot behind this house… surprise!

When you buy your admission ticket you also sign up for a scheduled tour and shuttle bus.  You can choose from various themes:  architecture, gardens, antique car & carriage collection (!), works of art, etc.  We opted for the house and garden tour.

This six-storey house sits on 3400 private acres and was built in 1914 for John D. Rockefeller Sr. and his family.  It has been home to four generations of the Rockefeller family until it was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1979.  Several members of the famous family still live in a number of other homes on the surrounding grounds.  So this estate, Kykuit, is centrally located within the 250 acres that is now open to the public (known as ‘the Park’), but entrance to it is strictly regulated through the organization known as the Historic Hudson Valley.


This is one of the monumental iron gates that protects the entry to the mansion. 

This is what you see when you are looking from the front of the ‘house’; in the distance is New York City.  The fountain that depicts Poseidon, God of the Sea, wasn’t working when we were there; I can only imagine how spectacular it must be when it’s actively flowing!

This is the rear of the house, with the lush ivy precisely clipped around the arched windows.  And look at those rhododendrons!

This is the view you would see everyday from the rear of the house.  The clipped hedge at the right is purple beech and the loose planting in the foreground is a long row of roses, a bit too early for bloom.  You can also see several of the monumental sculptures that are situated throughout the grounds.  These were collected by Nelson Rockefeller and given to the estate.  And yes, that is a (nine hole) golf course!


The contract to design the grounds was originally awarded to Frederick Law Olmstead, the landscape architect who created Central Park in Manhattan.  But in 1906 he was amazingly dismissed in favour of the virtually unknown William Bosworth.  Bosworth had worked for Olmstead and then met one of the architects that worked on Kykuit while studying at the Ecoles des Beaux-Art in France.  After he completed work at Kykuit, Bosworth went on to supervise restoration work at the palaces of Versailles and Fontainebleau, among other projects in France.  These gardens are considered the best of Bosworth’s work in America.

Sections of the highly structured garden are Italianate in style; our guide informed us that this sunken area used to have a pool until it was later filled in and covered with lawn.

There are garden areas that, although they are incredibly well manicured, seem natural and to a very human scale.

And then there are views that are nothing less than spectacular…

…and this!

There are sculptures throughout the grounds that seem entirely appropriate, like this toadstool table and chairs…

And this bronze nude on a stone wall with a swath of astilbe creating a swaying wave below her …


And look at the sculptural quality of this ancient euonymus looking as though its being propped up by this beautiful stone wall.

And then there is just pure beauty — having nothing to do with what money can buy.