Monday, January 6, 2020

Greens and spinach

I cooked a last harvest of mustard greens, Swiss chard, and a bit of Tuscan kale this evening -- the rest of my hardy greens will be on their own this winter.  Perhaps our nice neighbors and HomeExchange folks here while we're gone, will be able to harvest more as the days lengthen, and they start growing again in earnest.

The mild winter so far hasn't presented much of a stress, aside from an unusual mid-October plummet into the teens.  There are signs of "early spring" all over here in our mountain town -- quite unusual, although my hubbie claims that we regularly have temperatures in the 50° F range as highs this time of year.  Maybe so, but there are plants that are starting to flower now that shouldn't:  camellias, yellow jasmine, Ozark witch hazel, etc.

I won't be covering up my delightful spinach seedlings (we'll be gone too long for that), but perhaps the mild winter will continue and they'll welcome us back.  Whatever.  They're delightful now, as we head north to a MUCH colder place.

young spinach in early January

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Seed ordering time

I'm juggling two vegetable garden seasons now, not all that compatible, although I'll be leaving lovely winter greens and developing spinach for our neighbors (and perhaps for us, when we return from our snowy adventure).

Catching up on old magazines, to recycle, preparing for the folks who will be staying in our house while we're gone, I came across a mention to a seed company that I didn't know -- a new one, founded by a collaboration between Dan Barber, a Cornell University vegetable breeder, and a seedsman.

Well, I was familiar with the wonderful baby honeynut squash that was the genesis of this;   it IS wonderful, eaten young or mature.

So I was delighted to visit Row 7 Seed Company and check out their offerings.  I love their focus on tastier version of some favorite vegetables (and they're just starting out!)

I ordered their beet, mixed pea shoot, and experimental squash offering, but am particularly keen on their tromboncino squash, which I also ordered. 

It's been a favorite of mine for many years, as it's resistant to squash vine borers, but the flavor (eaten as a green squash) has been quite bland.  So an improved version -tastier- will be welcome.

A robust tromboncino squash
I don't know if I'll have enough growing days in Quebec to fully try it out, but people successfully grow zucchini and yellow squash in our part of Quebec (all based on what the temperatures are in that particular summer) so why not give it a try.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Snowy times

I’m thinking about snow.  I just wrote a post on my sister blog to this one about it.   I’m really looking forward to our time there now, after revisiting photos from last January and February.

Not much gardening to do, aside from pruning elderberries, which want to take after the solarium/porch side of the house.

Snow is a special thing. Neither of us had experienced snowy winters before, but embracing the cold, x-c skiing, and the winter light — that was magic.

We’re heading back up to Quebec late next week.  It will be fun.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Remembering Christmases past

We spent a wonderful time in Lecce, Italy some years ago over Christmas.

These stars, hung above pedestrian streets, were magical.

Here is my favorite compendium post about Christmases past.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Presentations in spring

Being a part-time resident again, now splitting time between the Southern Appalachians in Western North Carolina and the Northern Appalachians in Bas St. Laurent, Quebec, I'm clustering my volunteer presentations and classes for spring and fall, when we're here in Asheville.

It's a bit hectic, but always fun, even if sometimes a few too many commitments (this last year has included many, many more landscape consultations than I normally do, thanks to a garden writer friend connecting me to the editor of a regional magazine, leading to a feature pointing to me as one of three garden coaches (I was the naturalistic garden one, of course).

I do these as benefits for the NC Arboretum, Botanical Gardens at Asheville, local landtrusts, conservation groups, and other charities;  they're always interesting consultations, so I'm glad to do them. They're two-hour visits, with a preview questionnaire with photos, followed by brief summary from me.

This spring, I have three classes scheduled for the NC Arboretum, a presentation for the Southern Appalachian Plant Society in Johnson City, TN, and a couple of Saturday programs for Reems Creek Nursery, a local nursery in Weaverville, just outside of Asheville.

That's enough, I think!

pocket meadow in spring

A couple of images I sent for my pocket meadow talk and four-season vegetable gardening complete the picture.

early May vegetable beds

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Small contributions: reducing plastic use

I've been trying to reduce our plastic use:  using beeswax wrappers instead of plastic wrap.

It's a bit challenging for some foods, but I've found for bread and muffins, it's not too bad, and I can use the wraps - short-term - in the freezer, where I normally have used freezer bags.  They work great for countertop/shelf storage, too, along with my linen "bread bag."

In the freezer
This rather dimly-lighted image from our freezer includes yeast bread and muffins - all waiting to be thawed out and eaten in the future.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Coffee from Laos

My hubbie brought home a bag of coffee grown in southern Laos this morning (bought at Trader Joe's).  It was the sample coffee this morning and he'd liked it. 
We had a remarkable trip to central and northern Lao back around 2004, not long after it had been opened up to foreign tourists.
Coffee from Lao, I asked?  
Amazing, but apparently coffee is now a successful agricultural crop in Southern Lao (where we didn't visit).

coffee from Laos
And googling "Bolaven Plateau coffee" brought up quite a few interesting sites with more information, including this piece from CNN:

We haven't been back to Asia for awhile, but it's a great part of the world, with a wonderful vegetable gardening culture (as well as a long and diverse history, too).

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The storm has passed

As the arctic blast moved through, many of the remaining leaves blew off, although some yellows (mostly hickories) are falling slowly now. They're beautiful.

Remarkable to have such cold weather last night, and in the 20's again tonight.  Now, in mid-November.  The kale and collards look OK; I didn't expect that.  I'll see how they look in the coming weeks.

What I covered with heavy Remay -- well, I'm vaguely hopeful there, too, as when I rearranged the hoops and cloth covering the spinach seedlings this afternoon, they still looked largely OK.

I've posted this photo before,  but it's worth including again.  Talking about four-season vegetable gardening yesterday reminds me of the vagaries of the weather.

The far right Remay covers my seedling spinach. 
Perhaps I'll have some spinach to harvest in mid to late winter, when we return in early March from Quebec.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Year-round kitchen gardening

It's a bit ironic to be talking tomorrow morning about year-round kitchen gardening down in Brevard, for a Master Gardeners outreach program, as our temperatures here in Asheville will dip into record low temperatures tomorrow night.

I've already covered some of my cool-season veggies, planted late from transplants in October and young spinach seedlings, too, with heavy horticultural fabric.

But the temperatures expected tomorrow night are so extreme for this time of the year, I'm expecting to lose even kale and collards, in spite of protection.  I'm planning to cover all of the beds tomorrow with Remay and greenhouse plastic film,  thinking well, why not?

Maybe some plants will survive the deep freeze -- it's been so warm recently, I'm thinking the stones will buffer some of the cold, as will the apartment next door.

Before the freeze a couple of days ago

Friday, November 8, 2019

Sudden low temperatures

The low tonight is predicted to be 23°F.  That's cold compared to recent temperatures, which haven't be lower than about 30°F and it's following a spell of quite warm temperatures, so plants are not accommodating very well, whether native or non-native.

The leaves of the Frazer magnolia near the porch were frosted before they dropped off.  Our ginkgo in front has just turned yellow --hmm.

And the purple mustard, Swiss chard, and young spinach seedlings -- well, I harvested most of the leaves of the mustard and chard (along with the chives), and covered up the rest with Remay.  Not pretty, of course, but.

Not my idea of attractive, but useful
This deep amplitude of cold is what I'm worried about.  Perhaps in the past, I never would have had purple mustard or Swiss chard.  I'm not that worried about kale and chard, of course.  All interesting.

I'm doing a presentation next week about four-season gardening in Western North Carolina.  It's interesting, that's for sure.

Monday, November 4, 2019

A talk about pollinator-friendly gardening

I've given lots of talks about pollinator-friendly gardening over the decades that I've been doing classes and presentations.  It's a much more pertinent (and immediate) topic today than it was when I began sharing thoughts about it.

Driving down the Blue Ridge Escarpment tomorrow to speak to the Greenville Council of Garden Clubs --- I'll be doing my regular encouraging talk about including more native perennials, shrubs, and trees that support pollinators in your garden, I'm pondering the topic again.

I think in some ways that this is largely a message for folks who are already gardeners, who are more easily encouraged around pollinator-friendly plantings than novice gardeners, although the message is the same.

At a meeting this afternoon related to pollinator-friendly gardening (one of the many initiatives of a local non-profit), a visitor who participates in the Blue Ridge Naturalist Program at the NC Arboretum related a recent experience in a class where a participant in the program didn't know what a bumblebee was.  Discouraging, to say the least. But, this person wanted to learn after all, so that's great.

Hey, I didn't know much about native bees until a couple of decades ago, as I participated in a symposium organized by my best friend from graduate school -- a pollination biologist like my hubbie.

Steve Buchmann, one of the authors of Forgotten Pollinators (published in 1996) was a speaker.  He talked about the 4000+ native bees here in North America.  It was a revelation to me.

And I always remember my mom, in her years of disability, when she watched a lot of documentaries on PBS, asking me once on our daily phone calls:  Lisa, did you know bats were mammals?  Well, I did, but I was glad she had learned that.

Monday, October 28, 2019


A friend reminded me of how wonderful sassafras trees are in a FB post -- her sassafras tree is now perfectly framed in her view out the kitchen door, a gift via a native plant collection won some years ago.

It prompted revisiting my Natural Gardening posts over the years about sassafras (there are many), and reminded me of how the progeny of our sassafras trees in Clemson have enriched our landscape here in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Our sassafras trees came from an across the street Upstate South Carolina neighbor.  Sassafras seedlings and offshoots transplant easily when small; our neighbor across the street had many.
We transplanted a number to our landscape in Clemson, and after they became large enough, their seedling progeny were abundant; many were transplanted up to our landscape here in Asheville. 
I'm still enjoying one out the upstairs window currently (there were two, but one succumbed last year to some sort of root pathogen, encouraged by double the amount of rainfall than normal).

This photo is from November 8, 2017.  Sadly, the one on the right was the one that died.  The one on the left is still fine.

From the upstairs window
Sassafras was the inspiration for my Inktober, Day 28 drawing, too.


Friday, October 18, 2019

A bumblebee visiting an aster

An ordinary photo turned into this imaginative depiction in a drawing, for Inktober Day 18.

Bumblebee and aster

Here is the original image.  My sister used to say I was a good copyist of what I saw;  but I'm having a lot more fun trying to be imaginative now.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Inktober, Day 17

The daily practice of doing some sort of drawing has me scrambling at times.  Here's a quick sketch of an apple from the bowl on our kitchen table.

An October apple

drawing and subject with pencils and pens

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Beaver Lake, Inktober 16

I love walking around Beaver Lake in North Asheville.  The lake is lovely and the mountain landscapes that surround it are wonderful.

I've made many blog posts over the years about walks at Beaver Lake.  I'm realizing at the moment, I'm on Natural Gardening, not Places of the Spirit, but both are perfectly apt.

My inspiration for today's sketch

The sketch that I did

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