Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gardening as you get older

I had the privilege of visiting a truly lovely landscape created by a devoted gardener today.  She's worked with some excellent designers and landscapers over the years, and brings her gift of loving plants and gardening to her landscape.

Now, after 15+ years in her post-work landscape, and tussles with serious illnesses, it's hard to keep up everything, even with monthly landscape help.

My advice (as we were walking through a diversity of interesting and great plants) was basically to simplify and declutter. 

This is not the time to keep adding herbaceous perennials that need tending, or propping up;  it's time to edit out things as they die back (or disappear) or aren't thriving, and simply mulch, instead -- it creates soothing space, just as a lawn does.

I suggested that she read Sydney Eddison's book Gardening for a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older.  I haven't read it, but have seen very complementary reviews. 

Eddison is now in her early 80's, so I know her book has wisdom in it, as she's a lifetime gardener, designer, etc.

I was inspired to come home and tackle a few of the messy focal points of my own garden (taking my own advice about what's currently bothering me in our landscape), and mindful that my gardening companion has been writing books for over a decade (and not spending much time gardening in the piedmont, aside from planting in our mountain landscape.)

So I was thankful for the inspiration!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sedums and sedum mats

I've so enjoyed our sedum bed in the mountains as it's provided all-season interest for almost 4 years. And it continues to do so.

But the combination of a cool, and very wet summer, with an extremely cold winter left me with some gaps to fill.  A non-sedum, Irish moss (Sagina subulata), was the most visible hit from the cold winter, so I've replanted the surviving bits and tidied it up (actually, it had gotten to be a bit too expansive, so this wasn't a bad thing).

Some of the sedums on the lower side, however, seem like they've totally vanished. 

So, I was delighted (and couldn't resist buying) these cool mixed sedum mats (produced by Drop and Grow, according to the label).  I don't know anything about their company or the process, but I was entranced by them at the local big box store.

Sedum mat
Now, of course the S. angelina is a bit assertive, but the mix is quite nice.

I'm planning to plug in bits in the sedum bed, but also do some new plantings at the edge of the retaining wall in the piedmont, too.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

greens in flats

I've found that growing greens in flats is definitely rewarding.  They're often above the reach of woodchucks (like this flat on my potting bench) and they're easy to harvest, too, as baby greens, with a cut-and-cut-again approach, for several cycles.
mixed greens in a flat
It's been an unusual year for spring greens -- they're bolting now everywhere, if they were planted early, or overwintered. It's a bit early, perhaps, for bolting, but the cold-warm-cold weather patterns have encouraged flowering, I'm thinking.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Coral honeysuckle

Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is probably my favorite native vine.  It wants to go up, without popping up everywhere else (or being too rampant in its growth).  When it's happy, it's totally delightful.

We have a number of really nice looking plants now (put in at various times).  Some look better in wetter years; others flourish in hotter and drier years.

This one, next to the porch, is looking great, after a year with MORE than abundant rain (and I just noticed that it's jumped up to the porch railing, too!)  That's not necessarily where I want it, but it's striking none the less. 

Lonicera sempervirens
I'm sure "our" hummingbird was visiting it this afternoon in the rain. I saw him out my study window visiting Carolina Jessamine (Gelsimium sempervirens) flowers in a medium-heavy rain about 2 pm.  I'm thinking that nectar from coral honeysuckle would be much "tastier" than the alkaloid-rich nectar of Gelsimium!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A last flirt with cold weather?

The temperatures up in the mountains are predicted to get down to 27°F, as the Tuesday night low.  Brrr.  Happily, my mountain beds only have cool-season greens, lettuce, beets, and sugar snap peas! 

I'm hoping for a cool April and May so maybe I'll actually have something to harvest.

Here in the Piedmont, my fingerling potatoes are sprouting nicely (especially evident in the grow bag) and my flats of spinach, lettuce, and mixed greens look pretty decent, too. 

The garlic, leeks, and chives are all doing well, too, undeterred by a cool March, apparently. 

I've snagged tomatoes and peppers to plant, from our spring plant sale last weekend, so I'm set (I'd better bring them inside for Tuesday evening here, too;  the temperature is forecast for 36°F, not a warm-season friendly temperature.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Finally, the first hummingbird(s) of the season

Yesterday evening, eating dinner on the porch, my gardening companion said "there's a hummingbird"  -- woo-hoo!  I didn't see it, but heard the whirring wings.

This morning, out my study window, was perhaps the same hummingbird, visiting Carolina Jessamine flowers.

And we saw another one this evening.

There are certainly good nectar-producing plants (for hummingbirds) in flower now in our garden -- coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and crossvine (Bignonia capreolata).

The early arrivals don't always cross paths with these, but this year they have!

This image is from a lovely small pocket guide to Eastern birds: Early Birds, by Minnie Miller and Cyndi Nelson, Johnstone Books
And, of course, the feeder is out and ready, too.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Greening begins

Coming down the Blue Ridge Escarpment this evening, the trees looked different. Leaves are emerging. Greening has begun.

It still looked like winter, when I drove "up the hill" to the mountains on Thursday, but not anymore.  The soft greens, pinkish-greens, and pale greens of new foliage were evident across the landscape today.

I wished that I'd had an opportunity to stop and take a photo -- I had my camera, but coming down the escarpment is steep, and there's not really a pull-off opportunity.

But spring green is welcome, for sure, after an unusually long winter.

Interesting to search my previous blog posts for "spring green" (lots of similar musings, along with some outliers).

This was the most pertinent to what I saw today.

From a couple of years ago:

Dogwoods, sassafras and expanded leaves (farther along than today)
An addedum:  I just visited Pearson's Falls today again with my garden group.  Magic.  It's a totally great botanical wonderland of rich cove forest woodland wildflowers.  Visit if you're anywhere nearby!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Carolina jessamine

Carolina jessamine is the state flower of South Carolina and it's in flower now.

Carpenter bees are the main visitors to its flowers that I normally see, though I have seen a couple of hummingbirds brave the alkaloid-tasting nectar, too.
view from my study window, 2009 (it could have been taken this afternoon)
I've had two sightings of hummingbird visits to the Carolina jessamine over the years outside my study window, apparently, as these posts (on a Carolina jessamine search within my blog) document.

What fun to have those records!

This will be post 1401, since I started blogging in the summer of 2007 -- I can hardly imagine that, really.

A fellow naturalist (Bill Hilton) over in York, SC, and a hummingbird expert, posted this interesting piece back in 2008. about Carolina Jessamine.  There are definitely some potent alkaloids involved!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I'm waiting for hummingbirds

My feeder has just been refreshed with new "nectar" - aka sugar water.  I refilled it several weeks ago, being hopeful (my first ever sighting here was on March 18).

My blogging friend Janet, just an hour away in Greenwood, SC has had hummers visiting her feeder today -- I hope the link to her FB post works!

Here's the current map on Journey North with hummingbird sightings:  the early male scouts are flying north, for sure and the females won't be far behind.
April 2, 2014: Journey North hummingbird sightings
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