Greetings from Cape May where I am enjoying a fall respite. Cape May is at the very end of New Jersey and has attracted vacationers since the mid-18th century designating it as the country’s oldest seaside resort. In 1878 a fire destroyed much of the town center and the reconstruction that followed was largely Victorian in style. In 1976, the entire city of Cape May was officially designated a National Historic Landmark to ensure the preservation of the buildings.
Fall is a wonderful time to be here; when the crowds of peak season have gone home. In addition to marveling over the Victorian architecture, many buildings painted in vibrant colors reminding me of Candy Land, I can’t help but drool over the gardens adorned with plants we can’t grow here. Cape May is in USDA zone 7b/8a which is 2 zones warmer than ours. Chinese Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) and Needle Palms (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) adorn the landscape. While there are a few Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) hardy in our zone, they often die back in winter but in zone 7b they grow gloriously into a small tree.
There are many plants admired in Cape May that are hardy in our zone 5b as well. Original oil lamps illuminate rows of stately Sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) with their camouflage trunks lining the streets. And Montauk Daisy, Nipponanthemum nipponicum, are in full bud ready to burst into happy white daisies with sunny yellow centers. There’s Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana) with clusters of hot pink berries in their glory this time of year.
Yes there are garden “nots” such as clashing colors or shrubs pruned into meatballs and other unnatural shapes, but Cape May has many more garden “dos”. A charming pale yellow church is adorned with bright pink knock-out roses staged in front of hydrangea starting their reddish fall shift. Vase-shaped Crape myrtles with mottled bark set the stage and purple salvias border the garden with fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’) turning to their golden hues of fall.
The beauty of the landscape continued into the night with the Blood Moon casting a hauntingly Holloween-ish mood above the Victorian horizon with the crashing sounds of the ocean sensationalizing the scene. This trick was a surly a treat!
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