Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Common milkweed

I'm by no means an expert on milkweed chemistry or anything close to it, but I am interested in supporting monarchs, especially now that the migration is threatened.

I've been heartened by the improvement in the central flyway reports by Journey North compared to last year.  We'll see.

I've been a fan of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) for years, as it seems to be the favorite larval host here in the Piedmont for the late spring/early summer migration north.  But it's not for every garden.  It's assertive, spreading from underground runners.

We've had to edit it heavily in the Butterfly Garden at the SC Botanical Garden, even as it was "banned" from one of our front borders maintained by a local garden club.

I've edited ours from the "meadow" in front of the garage in the past, but here's what it's like after a summer away without editing.

A common milkweed meadow!

They definitely need space!  But as common milkweed has a reputation of being "bad" for dairy cattle, etc. in some areas, unwarranted as far as I know, as it's totally distasteful for herbivores, those of us that don't have that issue and have space, why not?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Overgrown, challenging landscapes and other condundrums

I've struggled dealing with our overgrown acre and a half landscape, around our 1929 stone house, absent my gardening companion's efforts.

So I was really amazed, visiting a wonderful historic house and landscape today, with a gardener who'd never owned a house or garden before 5 years ago (she and her husband lived in high-rises before).  She took on not only a historic house, but a HUGE landscape.

She's done an remarkable job as a single gardener (her husband still works abroad).  And she's been faced with more than her share of the challenges of old trees, micro-bursts, contractors who want to take advantage of her situation, etc.

But she's determined to be a good steward of both her house and landscape.

From my perspective as a gardening coach, she's doing a tremendously good job.  My advice was -- it's OK.  Landscapes change. Trees come down.  Add mulch.

And her real contribution was to continue to bring life to a wonderful house, which has been a refuge for its owners for a LONG time.

The landscape will continue to evolve -- there's nice woodland and charming plantings around the house and smokehouse, including a lovely fenced vegetable garden.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A beautiful morning glory

We've been growing morning glories for awhile, training them to creep up telephone poles, guy wires, and trellises.

They add a wonderful diversion to otherwise uninteresting landscape items, although when the vines reach the transformers, or important boxes, that's the end of that season!

a vivid morning glory
Of course, morning glories self-sow everywhere and need to be carefully edited as they're emerging in the late spring and early summer.

(robust) beans, peppers, and tomatoes with morning glories behind
The one on the telephone pole near the street, past the front vegetable beds, is a particularly lovely color. I haven't ever planted anything but a clear blue variety, so this is clearly a result of genetic recombination and reseeding.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Late summer heat

I can't really complain.  It's been a quite decent summer.

But the current spell of ~ 94° highs in the humidity of the Piedmont of SC is a bit trying. In a normal summer, we would have been subjected to weeks and weeks of this, so really I'm not complaining.

Oddly, the temperature spread for the highs from the mountains of western NC to the Piedmont has widened to 10° for the next few days, several degrees beyond the "normal" 6 or so.

We never turned on the AC (a mini-split upstairs) in the mountains this summer, and were OK even on the hottest days (hmm, 80°F on the main floor was a bit much in the afternoon, not to mention upstairs in our loft bedroom, but we managed -- and it cooled off at night just fine. We keep the AC set on 77°F in the Piedmont, so it's not so different, I suppose.

My major concern is the humidity -- and the mildew considerations that come along with that, without "conditioned" air!  But that's part of living in a warm and humid climate, too.

It's also lovely to hear the nocturnal symphony and early morning bird songs, too, when the windows are open at night.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pocket meadow and views

view through the front door
 I'm grateful today for the wonderful view out the doors in our small mountain house.
pocket meadow- late August 2014
We've certainly created the view out the front door, and the back -- well, the forest overstory was there, but it was my gardening companion's hard work that freed the understory from invasives, and created a semblance of a natural forest.
view from back deck

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sunflowers and morning light

I've just started walking along the path near the French Broad River in Biltmore Estate on a regular basis.  It's a magical place, and we've certainly enjoyed visiting the gardens and lagoon paths over the years, with Woody and our previous dogs, too.

But the path that extends from Antler Hill Village to the lagoons is a long, relatively new one, and I'd always thought a bit too far to drive simply for a walk, when there are so many wonderful walkable places nearer to our house.

It's well worth the extra effort.  And I have time now, too. Time to spend on touching base with myself, discovering more fully who I am creatively, and simply being with where I want to go.

This is a perfect walk, too, about an hour, and the historically agricultural fields are ringed by large trees and mountain views, edged by the river.

The current row of sunflowers was perfect in the morning light.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A cleaned up vegetable bed

I may just be preparing food for woodchucks, but I was so happy this weekend to get my main vegetable garden bed cleaned up. I'd be too embarrassed to show what it looked like at its worst. But this image is evocative.

A last block to be weeded
Now, I've sown beet, spinach, cress, arugula, turnip, and other greens.  And, I put in transplants of lettuces and radicchio, too.

This is a garden that's shady in winter, so it's really just a matter of what might produce in the next couple of months.

Transplants have been planted, seeds have been sown
I also sowed six large flats with mesclun mix, lettuces, various other greens, etc.

The chives and perennial leeks and onions are doing fine, too.

And I'm anxious to see if my squash, beans, and tomatoes have kept to reasonable sizes and ripeness up in the mountains, too.  Ridiculous to juggle two vegetable gardens, but they are productive!  And, it's fun.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Gardening renovation and clean-up

Happily, a couple of days of spending quite a bit of time in our weedy and overgrown landscape (left alone all summer) is starting to feel like progress is being made.

The main vegetable garden is almost free of its cloak of crabgrass and some sort of amaranth-like weed, my potting bench (which had been almost engulfed by the giant Florida Anise behind it) has been moved forward, with a nicely reordered set of concrete pavers in front.  And the glazed containers have been moved around for sowing some fall greens.

Amazing what progressive improvements can do, encouraging the gardener.  My gardening companion is back, too (hooray!)  Together, we can chug along getting our acre-and-a half looking like a natural landscape again.

Thank goodness that I'm not a plant collector, nor is my gardening companion.

We've created a perfectly wonderful landscape here (from lawn to mixed plantings) from what it was originally, but it's not fussy.  Yes, the shrubs have become giant, but there's largely space for them (and they're better than lawn).  I enjoyed watching tiger swallowtails visiting the Buddleia this afternoon!

Hmm, the front "meadow" is still to come, etc. along with the front woodland and native wildflower plantings, but I'm encouraged.

I actually lamented this summer that I missed the digging and exercise in our mountain landscape.  I'm getting plenty of that now!
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