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Some plants want one, some the other

Anybody can shear plants, but not everybody can prune plants properly. Black and Decker, Stihl, Echo and other manufacturers of hedge clippers have caused many landscapes to look alike. Foundation plantings are shaped into cones, balls, cylinders or squares. Sheared plants lose their identity and begin to look alike regardless of species.

Pruning, on the other hand, helps plants exhibit their most desirable attributes. Spring-flowering plants like forsythia, weigela, spirea, viburnums and strawberry bush and summer-flowering plants such as roses, crape myrtle and hibiscus benefit from proper pruning.

Properly pruned forsythia, spirea and weigela should resemble fountains when in bloom. This characteristic can only be achieved by selectively removing the older stems near the ground and allowing only strong, healthy brownish-green stems to grow and arch. When pruned immediately after petals have fallen, the new stems will be covered with large flower buds that will burst open next spring. Properly pruned, these plants will develop stems four to six feet long in one growing season. They will need tending only once during the year. If you are shearing, you must do so almost monthly, if not more often.

With regards to viburnums and strawberry bush, you need only to prune out crossing branches and branches that are detracting from the appearance of the plant. Shearing these species removes most of the flowers.

Woody species that are adapted to shearing include azaleas, camellias, fir, hollies, junipers, pine, privet and yews. When shearing, shape the plant so it is narrower at the top and broader at the bottom. When the top of the plant is broader than the bottom, the bottom leaves are shaded out, leaving the lower part of the plant bare.

Allow an inch or more of current seasonal growth to remain on the plant. Shearing away all new growth, especially on older plants, results in individual small branches turning brown and dying.

Do not shear azaleas or camellias after mid-July. Flower bud initiation for these species begins in mid-August, so shearing in late July and August will result in fewer flowers the following spring. Flower bud initiation occurs only on young, vigorous-growing new shoots.

Heavily shearing junipers often results in plants becoming infested with spider mites. To avoid this problem, shear only once a year. Most species of junipers will generate two flushes of growth each year. The first flush generally ends in late June, and the second generally does not begin until mid-July. Delay shearing until the beginning of the second flush of growth.

Soon after you notice new light-colored growth at the ends of the branches, begin shearing. This will allow the plant to develop a feathery appearance and will minimize conditions favorable for spider mites.

Do not shear pine or spruce until the needles of the new growth are at least half the length of mature needles. Shearing these species too early will result in breaking many of the new branches.

When pruning and cutting roses, pay attention to leaf patterns. The leaves on roses have either three or five leaflets. If you examine the stem, you will notice that the leaves just below the flower buds have only three leaflets followed by several leaves with five leaflets. To promote the development of strong stems, always cut the stem above the bottom five-leaflet leaf.  The vegetative bud in the axis of the five-leaflet leaf is always larger than the vegetative bud in the axis of the three-leaflet leaf, resulting in stronger and longer stems.

Never prune or shear boxwood plants. The disease that causes boxwood decline is easily spread from plant to plant on the blade of pruning shears and hedge clippers. Boxwoods are best pruned by breaking stems on a cold winter day.

 

Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at [email protected] Include your name and address.

The true music of nature is silence

One evening several years ago, when the Chesapeake had experienced a generous influx of gray trout (weakfish), I found a school outside the mouth of a small tributary south of the Magothy. It was just after dark, the tide was falling and the fish were positioned a long cast from the inlet to intercept the baitfish, shrimp and small crabs being carried out by the tidal current.

Throwing a black Clouser minnow on an eight-weight rod with floating line, I was letting the weighted fly sink and swing across the current along the channel cut. On every third or fourth cast, just as the line straightened below me, a fish would gently take the fly and I would set the hook. 

They were nice fish up to 23 inches. The fish fights were often extended, uncertain affairs as seatrout are known for their delicate mouth structure. Avoiding putting too much strain on them was a perfect application for the long and supple fly rod.

Anchored close and off one side of the inlet, I was fishing out of a small 14-foot aluminum skiff that I had modified with flush fore and aft deck areas suitable for fly casting. It was a handy little boat with one drawback: Its thin metal hull could be noisy.

I was very careful moving about, and if I did make a noise, I would wait long minutes before resuming any activity. It was a lovely, calm night, and the waters were extremely flat.

During that particular evening, it was so quiet I could make out the distant croaking that the seatrout — members of the drum family — often make underwater when feeding in schools.

Bringing a particularly heavy specimen on board, I rapped it between the eyes with the weighty end of an aluminum flashlight. It quivered and stiffened. Assured it was sufficiently stunned, I slid it into the ice in my cooler.

Giving the night a few minutes to settle, I once again took my place on the stern casting deck. I had just missed a strike on my last cast when a violent thumping and rattling broke out from amidships. Apparently my seatrout had regained consciousness.

The sound in the still of that evening was loud and raucous, and despite the fact that I waited a number of minutes before resuming my casting, the bite was over and done. The school of fish had fled the area and did not return that night.

The lesson of that evening often comes into mind as I’m fishing. Fish have acute hearing and depend on it to keep them safe. Sound beneath the waves travels five times faster than it does above. Being a thousand times denser than air, water is also an ideal medium for propagation. Sound travels farther, much farther, underwater than above. And fish hear it all clearly.

The Chesapeake’s excellent angling makes it easy to forget that noise discipline is an important factor in fishing success. Sure, some anglers catch fish with their engines running, rock and roll blasting and themselves exuberant. But the smarter, bigger fish have most likely already vacated the area. That’s a fact to keep in mind.

Pixar’s hero-family series is still super

Bob and Helen Parr (voiced by Craig T. Nelson: Book Club; Holly Hunter: The Big Sick) embrace their super abilities as heroes. With superheroes banned by the government as menaces, Helen worries that their children will suffer. Bob rails at the injustice of being denied his abilities.

So Bob accepts the offer of billionaire telecommun­ications developer Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk: Better Call Saul) to help the Parrs turn public opinion in favor of the Super community. He’s dismayed, however, at Winston’s insistence that Helen, whose alter-ego Elastigirl is less damaged, be the face of the campaign. Helen, Winston argues, is the practical super solution. She’s approachable and able to keep collateral damages low.

Helen doesn’t like the idea of leaving the kids. Bob doesn’t like the idea of leaving the spotlight. Still, he accedes to staying home with the kids. 

Both Parrs face challenges. Helen enjoys being the center of attention, earning adulation as she does what she’s good at. She also feels guilt at leaving her children. Bob has a hard time coping with single parenthood, especially as baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile: The Incredibles) has started displaying a startling range of powers. 

Can Helen help make superheroes legal again? Can Bob keep Jack-Jack from incinerating himself and the household? What will happen when a new supervillain emerges to challenge them?

Hilarious, action-packed and full of heart, The Incredibles 2 is a worthy sequel to one of Pixar’s best films. Writer and director Brad Bird’s (Tomorrowland) comic timing and action staging have matured in the 14 years between the first and second installment of this super story. Action sequences are thrilling, and emotional moments are touching. It’s a fine return to form for Bird, who had stepped away from Pixar to direct live-action films.

The first Incredibles took a harder look at its themes, midlife crises and lack of communication in marriage. Themes here — gender roles, raising kids and obsession with commercialism and screens — get shallower treatment. Discovering the identity of the villain won’t be much of a challenge if you’re over the age of six, as the film follows typical Pixar storytelling formula.

Still, this movie has a lot to recommend with slick 1960s’ styling and Bond-movie sensibilities. There are lots of visual jokes for fans of kitschy spy movies. The voice cast returns as well, with Hunter the emotional standout and Nelson offering some great comic moments.

The real star of The Incredibles 2 is Jack-Jack. Precocious babies can become tiresome in films, but Jack-Jack is the perfect blend of delightful chaos and zany comedy. The baby is, at once, the best argument for and against having children. His fight with a raccoon is one of the funniest animated sequences ever created. He even plays well with Incredibles standout Edna Mode (voiced by Bird). 

With breezy action sequences, gorgeous visuals and a ton of heart, The Incredibles 2 is a great summer movie for the whole family. Come early to enjoy Bao, a wonderful short about the devotion, and obsession, in a mother’s love.

Great Animation • PG • 118 mins.

As the reasons for marrying change, we just keep doing it

“You had to back then.”

That’s how Bill Burton — the esteemed outdoor writer who retired from Bay Weekly 16 years after retiring from a 30-plus-year career at the Baltimore Evening Sun — answered my inquiry about his many marriages. He allowed the legend of five — culminated by his long and happy marriage to Lois Burton — to stand. In fact it was only three, a truth outed by longtime friend Alan Doelph, appreciating Burton’s life after his death at 82 on August 10, 2009.

Our culture of marriage has changed since Burton’s time. The old reasons that upheld the institution over the ages — intimacy, sex and procreation — no longer apply with the same force. Yet marriage not only survives. It thrives. Nowadays people typically marry because they want to.

Just why is that?

That’s a tantalizing question in this favorite month of brides and grooms, one I married in once myself. All these years later, it’s the month I’ve sought ordination from the Universal Life Church so that I can officiate at my first wedding, the September union of Bay Weekly’s once-upon-a-time junior reporter Ariel Brumbaugh and Patrick Beall. It seems that newspaper editors share that authority with ships’ captains, at least for people who’ve been under their command. 

Bay Weekly’s annual Wedding Guide further sharpens my curiosity. In these pages, you’ll join me in sharing the wedding memories — and charming photos — of a couple of dozen Chesapeake Country couples who accepted our invitation to join us in this week’s paper. Their wedding dates range over 64 years, from 1954 to 2018, and while each memory is different, they all revolve around the theme of love.

Even in the 21st century, when love and marriage are no longer harnessed together like the horse and carriage of the 1955 song, love still runs the show.

That wasn’t always the case. Love of the romantic sort is a relatively recent condition for marriage. Over the millennia, lust has partnered with survival, standing, security, wealth, power and progeny in motivating marriage. But here in America, the general prosperity following World War II empowered love to make many a marriage. 

“I knew the moment I saw Sheila I wanted to marry her,” John Dorr writes of the conclusion of the couple’s long engagement, their marriage in 1959. She, granddaughter Audrey Broomfield tells us, felt the same way. 

Security, too, remains a factor that leads many a couple (even cohabiting couples) to marriage. That was an intangible factor in my eventual marriage (in May, not June) to husband Bill Lambrecht — as it was in Glenda Flores’ August 2017 marriage to Wilmer.

“I remember taking my father’s arm and taking the first steps into the church feeling so secure that at the end of the path I was going to be truly happy,” she wrote. 

We also marry for the fun of it. Twenty-first century weddings give the marrying couple what’s likely to be the biggest party of their lives.

Sixty-four years ago, Phyllis and William Conrad were content with tuna fish sandwiches at a hotel bar on the one night they had together before he returned to his assignment at the Army Security Agency School in Massachusetts and she to her job in the Pentagon.

Nowadays the wedding gives girls their chance to be princesses and guys princes — or at least cool and powerful dudes. And not only for a day, as engagement, bachelor, bachelorette and after parties, plus showers, stretch the celebration into many days. As you’ll see in our wedding directory, modern brides and grooms can get just about anything they want. Marriage is, as the convention goes, the time to make dreams come true.

As we cheer on each couple old or new, we’re hoping in our heart of hearts that another dream comes true for them. We hope that by marrying, each couple forms a more perfect union.

In their place of origin, the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, here’s how those words continue: to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

Not a bad plan for a nation — or for a marriage, is it?

 

Sandra Olivetti Martin

Editor and publisher

email [email protected], www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Don’t crowd this little bird off the beach

“The birds are taking over the beach.”     

            I heard that complaint as parts of a beach were being roped off because of nesting birds.

            The bird under protection is likely the tiny piping plover. 

            In the 1850s, piping plovers were very common along the East Coast and the shores of the Great Lakes. The population collapsed as they were hunted so their feathers could decorate women’s hats. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 stopped the hunting, and the population stabilized.

            With human development along the coast, the population was again threatened. By 1986, just 790 breeding pairs survived on the Atlantic Coast. That is when they gained protection under the Endangered Species Act. Even with protection, the most recent surveys still place the Atlantic population at fewer than 2,000 pairs. 

            Piping plovers nest in small depressions in beach sand. They lay their speckled, sand-colored eggs in depressions about the size of a footprint. The eggs are very hard to see.

            The eggs take 25 days to hatch, emerging at about the size and shape of a miniature marshmallow. The tiny chicks hide by freezing in place, as they cannot fly for another 30 days. Eggs and young are very vulnerable to predatory animals and to being stepped on or run over by motor vehicles and bikes.

            Adults also have difficulty feeding the chicks when people are too close. After the chicks have learned to fly, they are no longer as vulnerable. By September, the plovers start their migration south along the Florida coastline to the Bahamas.

            These little birds need space to survive as a species. Four thousand birds along the hundreds of miles of Atlantic coastline is not very many. Help them out by avoiding nesting areas, and keeping your pets out, too.  

African Americans take center stage

Many diverse cultures melded to make the people of Chesapeake Country. Celebrate African American heritage, history and culture at two summer events this week as we also recognize Juneteenth, commemorating the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas.

            Before you make any plans for the weekend, rsvp for limited seats at the Rise Above Exhibit. This mobile theater has been touring the country and makes a stop in Annapolis June 13 to 16. Inside the immersive panoramic movie theater, you’ll learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, see memorabilia and soar with the Red Tail Squadron in an IMAX video about these war heroes who broke down color barriers. 9am-4:15pm, Rockwell Collins parking lot, Annapolis, free, rsvp: https://bit.ly/2M09Ejt.

            Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum in St. Leonard joins with the Calvert chapter of the NAACP to celebrate our patchwork of cultures at the 23rd annual African-American Family Community Day. Watch living history presentations, see a talent show with performers of all ages, check your well-being at a mini health fair, tour Sukeeks Cabin and see exhibits on display in the museum and at the lab. Live music plays all day around the picnic area. Sat., June 16, 11am-5pm, Jefferson Patterson Park, St. Leonard, free: www.jefpat.org.

2018 Sneaker Index: 36 inches and rising

As they have for 31 years, a chain of people walked into the Patuxent River on June’s second Sunday, hand in hand, and fully clothed. A tall man clad in overalls, cowboy hat and white sneakers waded at the center of that procession.

            Bernie Fowler could, at one time, walk shoulder high in the Patuxent and still see his feet on the sandy bottom. In 1988, then-state Sen. Fowler held the first-ever Patuxent River Wade In, encouraging local, like-minded environmentalists to focus on the river’s well-being.

            That inaugural year, the convoy only made it to 10 inches deep before Fowler lost sight of his bright, white shoes.

            This year’s contingent made it to 36 inches — 41⁄2 inches less than last year, but with the recent torrential rainfall, murky water was predictable.

            The Sneaker Index measurement, now made at Jefferson Patterson Park, isn’t an entirely foolproof experiment. Too many factors can disrupt the Patuxent at any given time. What Fowler’s Sneaker Index does do is educate, raise awareness and create community.

            Old friend Steny Hoyer, the second most powerful representative in the U.S. House, was on hand as usual measuring the damp on Fowler’s overalls.

            “For 31 years, Bernie has focused our attention on the health and cleanliness of our waterways,” Hoyer said, “and we are truly grateful for his efforts.”

            Fowler never relents in those efforts. At 94, he is unyielding in his resolve to protect the river he loves. “This year we saw some healthy signs that lifted our morale,” Fowler said. Some seaweed that hadn’t been there in previous years was uprooted. “It was heartwarming and enlightening to see that grass again, the red ducks love it,” he said.

            “We will truly never, ever, ever give up.”

 

Way Downstream …

From Australia’s Goat Island, the luck of a crocodile-tormenting terrier named Pippa ran out last week.

            For years, the yapping dog, a 10-year-old West Highland-Australian terrier mix, had tourists yelping with delight as it chased a seemingly frightened crocodile named Casey back into the drink.

            It was quite the sight, an attraction so hysterical that Goat Island Lodge posted videos (goatisland.com.au) beneath the headline Dumb Blonde Strikes Back.

            Remember the refrain about the danger of tugging on Superman’s cape? Crocodiles are fearsome creatures with huge, serrated teeth and the strongest jaws on earth, eight times more powerful than killer whales.

            So learned the Ethiopian minister pulled under by one of these flesh-eaters while performing a muddy waters baptism.

            The lodge didn’t post Pippa’s last video, and we won’t either. In a split second, with one mighty chomp, Casey got even, and croc and dog disappeared into the Adelaide River.

A group of women prove they can steal as well as the boys

Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock: Our Brand is Crisis) has had five years to work on her speech to the parole board. She’s also had five years to plan the ultimate

heist. For Debbie, pulling heists is not only a family tradi- tion but a matter of redemption — she needs to prove to her- self that the mistake that put her in jail will never happen again.

The job is
to steal a legendary necklace worth $150 million in the middle of the Met Gala. The job requires that Debbie get past not only the tight security of the Metropolitan Museum of Art but all of the private security firms hired to specifically protect the jewels on loan to the attending gliteratti.

Debbie needs a team. She hooks up with her old partner Lou (Cate Blanchett: Thor: Ragnarok) and starts to look for a few good criminals. She insists on an all-female team, because women are so frequently ignored. Together, Lou and Debbie recruit jewel- er Amita (Mindy Kaling: Champions); fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson: The Post); pickpocket Constance (Awkwafi- na: Dude); hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets); and designer Rose Weil (Hele- na Bonham Carter: Sgt. Stubby).

Can Debbie’s team pull off the ulti- mate score? Or is robbery man’s work? Breezy, stylish and a whole lot of fun, Ocean’s 8 is a great summer diversion.

The chemistry between the women is wonderful, and when the ladies come together, the movie is fantastic. There is plenty of lickety-split dialogue and jokes to keep the tone enjoyable. Like all caper movies, if you spend more than 20 seconds thinking about the plot, everything falls apart. But the movie is able to effectively distract from the inherent ridiculousness well enough to mitigate any logic problems.

Though all the ladies work well together, they don’t work together enough. The Ocean’s franchise is built upon the fun of watching big-name celebrities riff off each other. In service of developing one too many plots, the characters are short-changed. Interest- ing teammates such as Rihanna and Paulson are given far too little to do in the name of allowing yet another wacky plot thread to form. There’s also entirely too much time spent on an underdevel- oped and uninteresting revenge subplot.

Blanchett and Bullock are effortlessly cool as the fast-talking center of the criminal whirlwind. But the standout in this cast is Anne Hathaway (Colossal). As the mark, a spoiled Hollywood star- let, Hathaway is a scenery-chewing delight. Her Daphne bounces between pouty brat, sex kitten and lonely neurot- ic. It’s a parody of every actress stereo- type, and it is masterfully executed.

Certainly full of flaws, Ocean’s 8 is still a pretty great way to spend a few hours. Arguably, it’s as entertaining as the George Clooney series and eons better than the Frank Sinatra origi- nal. It has enough laughs and winks at the audience to excuse the plot. This is a good popcorn flick for those who appreciate great fashion, fun heist sequences and loads of girl power.

Fun Caper Comedy • PG-13 • 110 mins.

Fishing’s unpredictable, so you need to be able to adapt

We were drifting inside of the green channel marker off of Pod- ickery Point when my son got a quizzi- cal look on his face. Staring at the rapidly turn- ing spool of his reel Harrison said, “I think I’m hung up.”

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied. “Give it a minute.” The spool stopped for a beat, then started up again even faster.

I had promised my middle son suc- cess on some nice rockfish, forgetting that if you wish to amuse the fish gods, simply announce your plans. We intend- ed to drift soft crab, based on a hot tip from a charter boat skipper who had scored exceedingly well the day before.

Perfect, I thought, on waking. I knew just where the fish would likely be that morning and just what bait to use. But when I began my early-hour quest for crab, source after source said, ‘sorry, sold out.’ I feared that if the rockfish were keying on crab, anything else would be a very distant second choice.

At 10am, armed only with a bag of scraggly bloodworms purchased in desperation, we finally motored out to try live-lining.

It took a half-hour to find some likely marks off the edge of a nearby river channel before we could drop down pieces of worm on our No. 6 hooks. Feeling the tic-tic-tic of our rigs’ sinkers bouncing over shell bottom was reassuring, and soon we were swinging a couple of four- to five-inch perch.

I filled our live well, hooked up the aerator and deposited the baitfish with a sense of relief. Perhaps we could tempt some rockfish to eat after all.

Once we had a dozen small perch in our well, we headed for the Bay Bridge. It was almost noon, and the sun was bright and high.

About half way to our destination, we approached a cluster of boats sitting on chum slicks. Their anchor lines looked slack, and the postures of the anglers slumped in their craft suggest- ed things had not been going well.

As we skirted the fleet, I happened to glance down at my finder screen where some good marks strongly sug- gested rockfish. They were suspended from 10 feet to 15 feet. Our frisky perch just might prove tempting to them.

We had our live-lining outfits rigged and ready to go, so in no time, two lively baitfish were swimming down. Periodically boosting the perch into the rockfish danger zone, we slowly drifted along, pushed by a mild breeze.

Within just a few minutes, Harrison had his first run. When he slowly tight- ened the line — circle hooks, remember — his rod arched over. The drag began its hiss as the mono poured out. It was a good fish and a solid hookup. After sever- al minutes of lively struggle, we had a 29-incher in the net, then buried in ice.

Shortly after, I had a fat and healthy 25-inch striper.

Those two fish, as it turned out, were indeed blessings as our finder screen went empty. The school had fled for parts unknown.

We cruised likely looking areas for an hour or more with no results, then decided to head back to the ramp and to enjoy a late lunch. We had tempted the fish gods enough for one day. p