Thursday, August 16, 2018

Ironweed (Vernonia spp.)

I don’t remember off-hand which Vernonia this is, probably the common native one ~ angustifolia, perhaps, but it’s robust, and self-sows quite readily.

It’s lovely in the garden from mid-August through September; butterflies and bees love it. It’s all over the pocket meadow in front - original plants and self-sowed ones.

They’ll definitely be edited a bit more when we return from our last foreign Home Exchange this year.

In the meantime, I hope our simultaneous Home Exchange partner for the month enjoys the Tiger Swallowtails that are visiting currently. Not to mention the hummingbirds on the Salvia guaranitica along the side of our parking space/driveway.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Sustainability, climate change, and gardening

I had a lovely visit with a wise and well-read friend today.  We talked about a lot of things.

But, most telling, she asked me about how we approached the impact of our travel on climate change.  Her daughter, equally an environmentalist, I think, is concerned about whether our choices as travelers contribute one way or another to any systemic change.

This is a challenge, as every time we get on a plane, we contribute to vast amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere.  Yes, we can do carbon offsets, but is that really enough?

I went into a long explanation about how I've been a lifelong enviromentalist, conscious of trying to live lightly on the earth, not having children, taught so many children and adults about the natural world, yada yada.   But the conversation still has me thinking.

the pocket meadow yesterday
How do we bring this forward in our national and international conversation in a time when our U.S. government has on blinders?  I don't know.

I'm thinking that all I can do is help restore the habitat and land in property that we own and teach people about how to restore theirs, I think, in classes and programs. That's what I've done my entire career.

Gardening can be excellent stewardship;  we've done it now in three places, now starting on a fourth in the GaspĂ© Peninsula in Quebec. And I can continue to encourage stewardship in other special places, too, whether they're special properties up for consideration as land trusts, or encouraging folks to plant more natives in their gardens.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Coming home again

After two days in a wonderful gardening symposium (Speaking of Gardening, a benefit for Asheville GreenWorks, but sponsored generously by a number of local enterprises), I was glad to come home to what welcomes us now.

The pocket meadow is exuberant, somewhat edited now, with more editing to come before we leave for our last Home Exchange for awhile.

We'll literally be swapping space this time, with our Home Exchange partner here while we're in his space in Southern Germany.

Pocket meadow/pollinator garden up front
There's really nothing I don't like about this, pulling into the driveway, even though it does require editing (UH, isn't that was gardening is about?)

Some of the horticulturely-inclined speakers were beginning to talk in "editing" terms.  Bryce Lane, a horticulture professor, thankfully, was promoting "management, not maintenance."

Well, of course.  Gardens aren't static, whether they're naturalistic or not. Of course, we edit, not maintain gardens.  I'm glad he's now teaching that to young horticulture students!

For us, naturalistic gardening is all about editing, at least in the front borders that are my "gardens."

The "natural" woodland garden below the house, created by my gardening companion by eradicating invasives, hauling out trash, then planting appropriate woodland understory trees, shrubs and ground story species: well, it's fabulous; we've been partners in its transformation.

Friday, August 10, 2018


We've had family visiting for the last few days.  Delightful!

But, it keeps raining.  Yikes.  This time of the year in the Southeastern U.S., we're normally worrying about watering.  Not this year.  It poured for about a hour this evening. Geez, what was that about?  I was soaked on a grocery store excursion.

As gardeners, we're always worried about having enough rain in August and September in this part of the world.


Up in Bas St. Laurent, there was finally a bit of rain, after a VERY long dry spell.

There's a lavender underneath those Solidagos!
So things are looking lush here, and I'm planning to rescue a lavender that's been overtopped by Solidago "Fireworks," planted last year after the telephone pole replacement.  The lavender will go into my raised beds up front -- they're devoted to herbs until I return in late September.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Being at home

Familiar places and good walks are part of being at home.

The path along the French Broad River in the Biltmore Estate is a favorite. 

Access to the trail near the lagoon was closed because of an evening concert, but the alternative walk starting at Antler Hill Village provided expansive views of the corn and sunflowers.

A photo from my gardening companion's iPhone, as mine was at home.

Biltmore Estate near Antler Hill Village

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Returning home to Western North Carolina

A partially edited version of the front "pocket meadow"
Arriving home yesterday afternoon was a relief.  First, getting back from any kind of travel without problems is always a good thing. Second, it's been raining so much in the two months away, we figured our naturalistic garden would be fine, although we hoped it wasn't too overgrown.

But since we've had HomeExchange folks in the house, and neighbors keeping an eye on the garden, we were hopeful that things would be OK.

The good news was that everything was fine in the house and the garden was EXUBERANT.   Yikes.
There was barely room for my gardening companion's car in the driveway, much less my larger one.
And the native woodland garden behind the house -- well, it's lush and the trees are remarkably leafy and green.

The trees all over the city of Asheville seem like they've reveled in the rainy weather, looking much more robust and leafy than I remember from previous summers.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Traveling home to Asheville

We now have two homes. Our place in Quebec feels like home, too.

A couple of nights before we left, we saw a red fox along a back road in St. Fabien-sur-Mer. Delightful.
Red fox at Saint-Fabian- sur-mer
Driving back to Asheville over the last two days, we’ve traveled by grain fields, along the St. Lawrence, down through the Adirondacks of NY State, skirted the flanks of NY City, through Pennsylvania, then through the rolling hills and mountains of the edge of Maryland, West Virginia, and now Virginia, staying overnight in Winchester.

But it still feels like we’re going home. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s flowering in the pocket meadow. It’s been rainy, so things are lush. I know the Silphiums are already in flower, based on our most recent Home Exchange visitor.

They’ll be deadheaded before we leave again, that’s for sure. They’re beautiful, but I don’t need to contend with seedlings everywhere in a small front garden....

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

An improbable couple of months in Quebec

I certainly never imagined having a second house in Quebec.

Nor did I imagine that my gardening companion would find a magical house and landscape on the web, next to a national park that we've loved visiting in the past, just before we were leaving for a month away in late January with other trips abroad planned in spring and late summer/fall.

But, I fell in love with the house, too.  And we had a purchase agreement based on our late May site visit within a week.  We rather quickly decided (since we couldn't see the house much earlier because of our traveling schedule and the snow), that we'd just drive up with Woody thinking that we probably would buy it, but we thought and pondered about the place then for months, not even really knowing what we'd bought in terms of the French-Canadian pine furniture, and whatever else might be included.  This was a for-sale, by-owner purchase, almost all conducted via Google Translate, with the former owner an antique dealer.  Hmm. 

Improbable.  And we're not truly spontaneous people.   But we knew the national park across the street was delightful; we love historic houses and old pine furniture, and we know how to garden with a sense of place.  And what could be more special than being in the farthest northern tip of the Appalachians during the summer, as well as living in the Southern Appalachians.

We're leaving the garden looking much more cared for, while already moving it more towards a naturalistic landscape, adding more native plants and eliminating the less desirable "ornamentals."  Bishop's weed is out, fireweed is in, etc.

Today's views in the national park tell part of the story.  It's been just as wonderful as we could have imagined.  I've loved walking, biking, and kayaking in the park, even though biking and kayaking were not in my imagination, either, back in January. 

This morning's walk at Cap Caribou to Anse aux Bouleux-Est
Havre du Bic late this afternoon
Havre du Bic

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Heading home for a couple of weeks

As we get ready to head back to Asheville for a couple of weeks (before a month in Freiburg, Germany on HomeExchange), it's hard not to feel wistful.

We wish we could stay in Quebec through September, or even October, but with tickets purchased back in January, prior to seeing this place on the web, with a wonderful opportunity to be in Freiburg again (I was in language school there for 2 months back decades ago), and with a great place to go to -- well, we're not going to pass that up.  And visiting with our German HomeExchange partner here reminded me of all of the great places to visit around Freiburg.

We'll be back here in Le Bic, we think, in winter for a month.  Hmm.  But people seem to love it (at least the ones who love snowshoeing, skiing, and winter sports.

Looking through the French doors out the back of the house brings a view of a historic old farmhouse and barn, recently inherited by a neighbor down the road.

View out the "back" door

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Sunset views

It's hard to overestimate the landscape views here in Bas St. Laurent.  Up above the river, or along the river, the expansive sky is the story.

Tonight was no different. 

Up on the ridge above our house, the pastoral landscapes of farm, field edges, and the view beyond were part of our end-of-the summer good-bye before we leave in the middle of next week.

Fields looking west on the ridge above our house

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