the place was surprisingly busy for a monday morning, populated with mostly retired seniors and rich housewives. gardening is big business especially in the spring season and customers were willing to spend big money, as they pushed flatbed carts stacked with all sorts of live plants. i'd forgotten just how huge the winchester mahoney's is, at least several football fields' worth of space. on the drive over we saw many pretty trees, and my mother was obsessed with getting another japanese maple, after noticing many houses we passed all had them growing conspicuously in their yard. but when we arrived she got sticker shock: $40-50 might've been okay, but any decent size tree easily costs a few hundred dollars. after i told her about the cheaper bare root option, my mother decided that would be the better choice.
we started in the evergreens, then worked our way through their japanese maple selection, followed by the azaleas and rhododendrons. if i had the money and the space, i'd create a garden filled with only different varieties of japanese maples, of which there seems to be an endless variety. likewise, you could have a garden of evergreen pines, with even more choices of different shapes and colors and sizes. nothing like being in a really big garden store to realize all the creative landscaping possibilities.
even if we did want to buy a tree, we noticed many already had "sold" tags hanging from their branches. we walked to another large area that held all their flowering trees and bushes: lilacs, hydrangeas, redbuds, wisterias, viburnums, flowering plums, flowering cherries, and many others too numerous to name.
it's already late in the season for flowering cherries, and many specimens had already leafed out, with only a bit of flowers remaining. crabapples however peak later, and there were a few that still flowering. one particular variety - the adams crabapple - caught my father's attention. he made sure i got a few photos so we could look for it online. he doesn't like the flowering trees with dense double flowers (like the kwanzan cherry) but prefer simple singular flowers, of which the adams is a good example. the adams crabapple also bears tiny tart fruits that can attract birds.
next we checked out all the perennials. i discovered there are actually multiple varieties of deadly monkshood, cheap enough that i may consider coming back and getting a few for the greater garden. they also had a large selection of roses. i've never been a big fan of roses, thought their thorny stems were too much hassle for the fragrant flowers produced. but seeing some of the selection changed my mind, especially the double/triple flowers with a scent reminiscent of peonies (like dave austen's 'queen of sweden'). they also had peonies (some with small flower buds, still a bit early for actual flowers), but grown in pots it's hard to gauge their full splendor, but at least a few dozen varieties to choose from. i was surprised by some of the prices on perennials, definitely "one man's trash is another man's treasure": plants that we have in abundance and that i consider to be invasive - ivy, ornamental grass, lily-of-the-valley - easily sell for $10 a container. they also sold medium-sized containers of bamboo, but our days of playing with bamboos are over. we spotted a bird drinking from a puddle that my mother had never seen before: a barn swallow, dark metallic blue on the top, white on the bottom, with a chestnut brown chest.
finally we walked through the green house, filled with tender vegetable seedlings and tropical plants. it's still a little early to be planting vegetable outdoors, and they even had signs warning gardeners to take precautions on cold nights. i of course no interests in the seedlings since i grow my own, but was jealous of how healthy and thick-stemmed all the plants were.
eventually we left empty-handed, but with somewhat of an idea of what we wanted to get in terms of flowering trees.
returning home, we needed to fill our propane tank for the barbecue. i checked google maps for nearby fill stations, and saw one in arlington, the BBQ barn. it was well-hidden, and even with google map directions, we went down the wrong cul-de-sac twice before finally finding the place, a picturesque oasis next to mill brook. my father usually gets the tank filled at a little place in waltham, in the american legion parking lot off of beaver street. but it was a little out-of-the-way from where we were, and we also didn't know if it was even opened on mondays, as usually it's just attended an old guy sitting in his car. but the one advantage of the waltham place was they were willing to overlook an old tank. BBQ barn was more by-the-book, and they wouldn't refill it because our tank was manufactured in 2000. so we ended up buying a new tank from them plus the refill, which cost $60.
we got back to belmont around 1pm, where we had lunch. my mother made an attempt at italian subs along with some ramen noodles. we also grilled on the barbecue some leftover steaks from last night.
the overcast from this morning cleared up by the afternoon to where it became warm and sunny. my father and i did some yardwork, finally planting the 3 patches of ornamental grass around one of the tree stumps (by this point we're pretty much going to let the stumps rot on their own since we're not planning on planting any trees at these spots). we also dug out the large sage plant (actually 2 we discovered) and moved them to a new plot beneath the grapes, which we'll turn into a perennial garden, perhaps relocating the lavenders and peonies at some future date. we also dug out yet another bamboo rhizome, this time in the direction of our backyard neighbor; it went undetected because that's the only area of the bamboo grove where we didn't make a trench, but when i began digging, i discovered it.
we decided to order 3 trees from nature hills. we're sort of outside the growing window for bare roots, as many flowering trees have already blossomed and even leafed out, but if nature hills is still willing to deliver, we're willing to plant this spring instead of waiting for the fall or next spring.
originally i thought the best trees came in root balls, but actually bare root trees develop better roots. bare roots are also cheaper (partly because they're lighter to ship, but partly because they're also younger trees). we ended up going with: 5-6 ft kwanzan flowering cherry ($47.95), 4-5 ft eastern redbud ($29.97), and a 4-5 feet sourwood ($39.95). we picked 3 trees so we could get free shipping (on orders $120+). my father also wanted an adams crabapple but nobody sold it online, so we put our name on a waitlist with stark brothers (they had it for $20 before they went out of stock), who will contact us either this fall or next spring when they receive their new shipment. the kwanzan cherry will be the centerpiece and act as a screen between us and our backyard neighbors. the sourwood will be next to the bamboos, chosen because it's a slow grower and growth straight. the redbud will be between the dying pussy willow and the hawthorn, they're not particularly leafy, so hopefully sunlight can still shine through.
my father started grilling the ribs around 4pm while simultaneously fixing his outdoor bamboo-stalk-mounted antenna. after seemingly taking a hiatus from amateur radio, he's back at it, making a bunch of new ground plane antennas. my mother was inside knitting and watching chinese-subtitled korean dramedy oh my fever on dramafever.
the barbecue was grilled to near perfection this time, just the right amount of crispiness (though a small amount of charring), sweet, salty, savory. i ate 4 ribs before i reached my limit. my father carved the fyffes pineapple i got from haymarket. since the first time we tried a fyffes gold pineapple, never have any i bought after that even came close to that original sweetness. this particular pineapple was okay, sweet yet tart, instead of all sweet. after dinner i motorcycled back to cambridge.
some lost production in the morning but strong numbers in the afternoon left us with 40.48 kWh today. today's trendline followed the record that was set for may 8th, but with a slight increase, which means production still has the potential to set additional records, provided we get another perfectly clear day.