Monday, September 29, 2014

Echoes of the past (Lycoris radiata)

I've been totally diverted away from chronicling my gardening and nature observations over the last couple of weeks, with my attention pulled towards managing details around an upcoming event, classes, and programs.

But the practice of observing doesn't stop, and I was delighted to see, in a scruffy edge next to a fence by an older rental house, a patch of "Naked Ladies" -- Lycoris radiata.

Also called spider lilies, hurricane lilies, magic lilies, resurrection flowers, or other names of that ilk, seeing them reminded me of when I first saw them, long ago, in front of our first house, in Georgia, whose landscape had been carefully planted by devoted gardeners.
Higanbana (Lycoris radiata) in a woods (from Wikipedia)
The bare flower stalks emerge in September looking exotic without foliage.  Here's a photo of Lycoris (from Wikipedia) in possibly its natural habitat (Japanese woodland communities).  The photo is labelled "Higanbana in a woods."

It grows well throughout the Southeast, and can naturalize.  And clearly old patches persist for a LONG time, echoing past gardeners and gardens.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beans, tomatoes, and greens

This is a shoulder season in my vegetable gardens, maybe a bit earlier than normal, as mild weather has slowed tomato and pepper ripening, and fostered early sowings of fall greens and root crops.

I've pulled up most of the tomatoes, which were fading, aside from the cherries, which just keep going, in order to sow fall veggies (spinach, lettuce, mustards, beets, turnips, kale, and collards, etc.)

I've had great poblano peppers for the first time -- curious -- they were in a lower light bed below the house, and maybe with the milder summer?

The pole beans (romano, lazy wife, and Kentucky wonder) are still producing, and there were finally some yard-long beans developing last week in the mountains.

A final spurt of beans
But they won't make much more progress, and will turned over to fall and winter greens, as well, sometime soon.

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?
What it looked like a few years ago in fall

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.



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