Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Honoring an old house

I signed the listing papers today for our house in the Piedmont of SC.


The house looks good.

It’s a great house, with good presence. Built in 1929, it’s not old, compared to living places in many parts of the world, but it’s an old house (even historic) house here.

Our university (why our small college town even exists) was founded in 1898, through a gift of an enlightened 19th century owner, who inherited the land from his wife, and left it to for the establishment of a "high seminary of learning." It’s a public university, and the land grant university for our state. So it’s an old house for our town.

I planted hanging baskets and window boxes today – full of herbs (not much else available right now, because of extreme February cold).

It’s waiting for new owners who will love it, just as we have. I'm feeling like I'm honoring the house and garden today.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Downsizing your garden

I spent the day at the Davidson Horticultural Symposium.  It was great, full of thought-provoking presentations and interactions with fellow gardeners.

But a couple of the presentations, by very accomplished landscape architects, had me thankful for the opportunity and encouragement to downsize my garden.

Their clients were totally high-end, with unlimited budgets, so with the ability to create not only gigantic (if tasteful) houses, with equally expansive (lovely and high-maintenance) gardens to match.

These two successful landscape designers, and they looked like quite nice women, too (I didn't talk with either) certainly were helping their VERY affluent clients create the landscape/setting that was suitable for the extraordinary places that their homes were set in (Baja California, Martha's Vineyard, upstate NY, etc.)

It just reinforced my thoughts about simplicity and downsizing at this time of life.  I don't want bigger.  Smaller is good.  We're going from 2300 sq. ft. to 1500 sq. ft.

This has meant a lot of shedding, as well as identifying which pieces of furniture will come with us (not many), what will replace what we've acquired already (the couches), what artwork needs to be swapped out (for the time-worn framed posters), etc.

And although I'll totally miss the lovely, large expansive natural landscape we've created here, it's a good thing to simplify, too.

my study view
We'll downsize to the raised bed vegetable garden, the native woodland garden (in the ravine behind our house), the pocket meadow and the natural habitat plantings, on a small scale, that my gardening companion has created.

We'll continue to enhance our smaller landscape (I've had lot of new ideas after today's talks).

So, thankfully, we're downsizing (not upsizing!)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Creating a natural garden

As my gardening companion and I prepare to leave a garden (really a low-maintenance native plant-dominated landscape) that we've created over the last 22 years, it's interesting to reflect on the changes that we've made -- all to the good, certainly, from the perspective of being good stewards of our space in the world.

We've converted 1.44 acres of what was largely lawn, punctuated by a few large hardwood trees (oaks and hickories), to a native-plant rich diverse landscape,

devoted to woodland in front


with the side yard screened by a diversity of shrubs and trees, not all native, so including Deodar cedar, gingko, and Asian viburnums.



The theme was adding plants that work for a living - native plants that Tim could use for Plant Ecology and Field Botany labs, and adding plants that supported pollinators, herbivores, and providing habitats for birds, and other wildlife.

The front meadow and informal perennial borders have been about supporting pollinators.


And the vegetable garden spaces have been about nourishing us, and our table.


It's been a privilege to be a steward of our historic house (built in 1929), but even more importantly, I'm glad to be leaving a more nature-vibrant landscape, too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hmm, snow....

 Waking up to a lovely snowy scene is not what I usually expect to see in late February, but that's what I saw out the windows this morning. 

Cool-season greens and window boxes will still have to wait for warmer weather.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A warmer day (and vegetable musings)

Finally, the last bit of accumulated ice has melted and it was a "normal" temperature day, with highs ~ 58°F.

I'm itching to plant cool-season greens - I've missed having homegrown greens (kale, collards, mustard, etc.) over the last two winters, even though I've felt we've eaten nothing but homegrown greens in years past.

So, we're enjoying broccoli, collards, red cabbage, and kale from the grocery store -- cooked with garlic, red onions, and a bit of balsamic vinegar -- they're quite nice.

But a restaurant meal out at a local Mexican place yesterday evening was telling -- the "vegetables" were shredded carrots, broccoli bits, and some onions, clearly from a regional veggie warehouse somewhere, and delivered through the commercial food system.  They all tasted the same.

Geez, I sound like a total food snob, but homegrown veggies are really good. Vegetables from local markets, ditto.

Freshly-harvested vegetables, even if industrial, quickly frozen, are good, too, as are their organic equivalents.

I don't like to buy fruits and vegetables with a super long distance pedigree, so certainly "fresh" fruits and vegetables from the Southern Hemisphere this time of year are not normally in my cart  (berries, peaches and nectarines, grapes, asparagus, and the like).

The exception --bananas -- my hubbie's breakfast staple fruit. And coffee. And broccoli and lettuce from California, well, I suppose so, too...So I'm hardly a purist.

Hmm, soon it will be warm enough to sow at least a quick crop of cool-season greens, I hope.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Brown thrashers and cardinals

Even if the weather doesn't seem like spring, and is unusual for late February, plants and animals mark and take notice of lengthening days.

The male cardinals are singing now, the robins are flocking, and a brown thrasher is pronouncing loudly (very early in the morning) that his territory consists of the hollies outside the kitchen door.  (We've had thrashers nesting there for years).

We've had snowdrops in flower, and daffodils trying to open.  And there are native trout lily and iris leaves emerging, too.

It's been too cold to poke around out in the front woodland border, but I imagine there are fiddleheads of Christmas fern ready to unfurl, too.  Their normally evergreen above-ground leaves are looking pretty battered right now.
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