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!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Taking my own advice (re gardening)

I've found doing landscape consultations both fun and rewarding (interesting, too).

What I love to do is help encourage people to consider all of their "needs" in their landscape (they're all SO different), but most importantly, I find, is to encourage them to focus on what kind of gardening they enjoy and what kind of garden welcomes them home.

We don't want to come home to containers or perennials that need watering ASAP, that's for sure, or have the same niggling weedy mess in the corner to look at, or the outdated pot collection.  Decluttering and editing in the garden is a process that rewards dividends.

So, in our Piedmont garden (1.5 acres) converted from lawn to natural landscape, it's now careened into something that I feel is totally overgrown after 20 years, but beautiful still.

I've realized that absent my gardening companion (while writing two books) over the last decade, I simply haven't thought about dealing with all of the shrubs!  Some of them have gotten really big. So, what do I do now?  Especially after a summer away, with another garden to tend, and just another academic year here.

Well, I follow my own advice. 

I don't think about what it "used" to look like, and envision cleaned up spaces.

view from my study
I work through the garden in phases, from the areas near the many large shrubs (which are perfectly attractive, to be sure), tidy up the borders, the main vegetable garden area (aargh), and do the equivalent of bush-hogging the front meadow.

Hmrhph.  I'll take a photo of the "meadow" and post it -- it's common milkweed and river oats now.  Yikes.

I clean up all of the weedy bits, celebrate the nice stuff, and enjoy the views from my study, porch, and front windows.

the front meadow (looking like a meadow)

Monday, August 18, 2014

An overgrown garden

Hmm, coming home to the Piedmont, I just want to run directly into the house.  The garden, front and back, is overgrown.

The front meadow is overridden with common milkweed and river oats (and needs a good bushwacking), there are weedy edges everywhere, and my "main" vegetable garden is full of weedy summer annuals, happy for a respite from the gardener, I guess.

I hardly want to venture forth.  My gardening companion has mowed.  A good first start.  He removed the champion-sized pokeweed (the biggest I've ever seen) from border I see from from my study window (the oakleaf hydrangea and butterfly bush look fine).  And the giant garden phlox next to my garden shed (viewed from my gardening companion's window) looks beautiful.

So, I'll venture forth and start weeding, I guess.  I've ordered garlic for fall planting and yet another sort of arugula (MyWay) to try!
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