Saturday, May 23, 2020

Piedmont rhododendron

We have a problem area in our landscape;  it's an area that gets overflow gutter water in heavy rains from the 100+ yr old apartment next door.  (The gutters seem to be old, too.)

We've lost a sassafras tree there (maybe more than one), and various other small trees that we've tried there too.

Currently, the Fraser magnolia, mountain laurel, and Piedmont azalea (rhododendron) are doing well.

It's a delicate balance between managing the water flow and keeping soil fertility (and soil organic matter high).  My gardening companion is good at managing this -- he keeps tweaking the conditions in this spot.

I'm so glad to see this Piedmont azalea looking good; it was not looking good last fall!

Rhododendron punctatum and Fraser magnolia

Friday, May 22, 2020

Old stone walls

I live in an historic neighborhood, the oldest in our mountain city.  Victorian and Queen Anne-style houses from those early times line several of our main neighborhood streets.

But there are many smaller houses, too, Arts and Crafts bungalows, worker's houses, and "four-squares," -- simple block houses with four rooms on the main floor, four rooms on the upper floor.

So we're an eclectic neighborhood that was founded in boom times in the late 19th century, flourished until the Depression, and then descended in more difficult times in the 1950's and 1960's and 1970'.

As Asheville started to recover, slowly, in the late 1980's and early 1990's downtown (about the time we started visiting downtown), that when our neighborhood gradually started recovering, too (although we totally didn't know about it then.)

It wasn't until our serendipitous (and unexpected) house purchase here in 2008 that we discovered Montford and other neighborhoods in Asheville.

So I was sad to see a venerable piece of a beautiful stone wall collapse in the rains that we've had recently.  The walls surround a beautiful old Victorian house at the intersection of Chestnut and Cumberland avenues.  I hope the long-time owner has the resources to repair the wall -- the original stones are beautiful.

They're covered with mosses and lichens --not replaceable.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Thinking about gardens and gardening

This is a re-post from March 5, 2017,  reflecting thoughts about gardening and creativity, a topic for this afternoon's presentation.

Early on in my garden blogging days, I remember a fellow blogger asking a question.

Do we create gardens that we aspire to?  Or, do we create gardens that reflect ourselves?

I'm firmly in the second camp, having created gardens now in two places (with my gardening companion) that thoroughly reflect our preferences and sensibilities as gardeners (and being native plant folks by background).

As I realized the connection between my own creativity and gardening, I started to encourage folks to think about their gardening styles and expressing their creativity through gardening in some of my presentations and workshops.  Fran Sorin's book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening was a catalyst, over a decade ago, in my thinking.

Hmm, I thought, that's what's been my end round back to being creative again, it's gardening.  And almost 1,850 blog posts later, I'm realizing that writing is my first creative love, although I continue to love gardening and art.

I truly enjoy reflecting on nature and gardening on a regular basis, and getting ready to do a talk tomorrow on creativity and gardening, I was rather surprised to look over the titles of blog posts over the years (looking to see if I'd written about this before).

Both the diversity and similarity of posts struck me, as did the seasonal rhythm of the topics.  It's almost spring now, so the emergence of spring empherals and early flowering native shrubs and trees are part of the vocabulary, as are the vagaries of spring temperature.

This year is remarkably early. That's part of the equation of a changing climate. But I'm also continuing to enjoy the swelling sassafras buds outside the upstairs window, harvesting the overwintering kale as it's starting to bolt, and planting sugar snap peas, with a hopeful thought that maybe I'll be able to harvest a bowlful, before summer heat sets in.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Pocket meadows

I did a free presentation yesterday for an excellent local nursery: Reem's Creek Nursery in Weaverville, just outside of Asheville about creating a native pocket meadow.

At the last minute, we decided to record it, as a friend from Bee City USA asked us about whether we'd planned to record it.

So why not, we thought?  Yikes, I thought.

But, if you have any interest in my thoughts about "pocket meadows" -- well, just click through.  It's one of my regular presentations and has lots in common with my pollinator-friendly gardening talks.

The first 3 minutes don't have my presentation going (a bit of a glitch), but it's fine after that, I think.

You'll need the password below to access the video.

Password: 9y#%f&*+

bee on  Aster

Saturday, May 16, 2020

A garden's promise

A duplicate post from Places of the Spirit.

Last year's early plantings in Bic in June

Friday, May 15, 2020

Using native plants in your landscape

I really loved this piece from the New York Times by Margaret Roach, the former garden editor at Martha Stewart Living, and now very active at A Way To Garden.

She lays out lots of good points about why to use more native plants!

Here's a view of native columbine and Robin's plaintain from a few weeks ago in our garden.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A pileated woodpecker

We've had a pair in our back woodland forest for awhile, now.

This morning, the male hung out on the oak below the house;  with a decent camera and lens, I'd have a better photograph.

But this one from my phone will have to do.

A pileated woodpecker in our back woodland
 So nice to see this morning.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

A lovely diversion: warm season vegetables

It's been great to be able to focus on new Zoom presentations about plant-related topics.  Not only did I need to get much more familiar with Zoom (a good thing), but also diverting to think about warm season vegetables, too.

mid-May vegetable beds (oh, and look at the white rose behind!)

I extracted warm season vegetable content from my normal year-round vegetable gardening program, added a bit more about growing favorite "summer" vegetables, and generally redid a program for what I did this morning.

It was my first Zoom presentation.  I've been on a number of Zoom programs, led informal garden chats, talked with my family, but -- doing a regular presentation via Zoom -- totally unfamiliar.

Fortunately, having a few of the participant's "live" video faces on my sidebar helped me ground with the audience, rather than just feeling like I was talking to myself.  Curious.

But the Q&A afterwards went fine, as folks raised their real hands with questions and un-muted themselves, and we really had minimal technical glitches. 

I was a co-host along with the lovely staff person from the nursery who sponsored the program.  When she disappeared as she was introducing me, I could just launch right in.

On the sidebar of the blog, there are links to the pdf version of my program along with the handouts. 

Feel free to share them, as you like!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

A dual post

I just posted about crossvine on Places of the Spirit.  It’s made me happy to look at it, so I went to that site first, but it equally belongs here.

Here’s the wonderful inspiration.

Crossvine (Bignoia capreolata)

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Warm season vegetables

I’m anxious to put in tomato and pepper transplants, as well as seed beans and squash, but it’s been a cool April, so I’m sitting on my hands. My cool season vegetables are enjoying the mild temperatures and current rainy spell, so they’re not showing any signs of bolting yet, either.

I’ll be doing a virtual program about warm season veggies for a favorite local nursery, Reem’s Creek Nursery, in Weaverville, on May 2 from 10 - 11 am.

Early May is the perfect time to start swapping out cool-season vegetables (or start a vegetable garden, whether as an experienced vegetable gardener or novice.). We’ll talk about vegetable selection, succession planting, and more.

Join us by pre-registration via this link: — Reem’s Creek has lots of great veggie and herb transplants available, too.

Theirs were what I added this spring to my overwintered greens.

My raised bed vegetable garden, in dappled light.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A black bear visits again

I did this post on Places of the Spirit, as  my two blog sites meld together in these times.  Just click through to read the post.

This post is about a young black bear coming back, and enjoying bird seeds and nectar water.

Enjoying the sugar water in the hummingbird feeder.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Flame azalea in flower

My past dates for posting about flame azalea in flower were May 22 and May 24.  Hmm. Certainly a testament to the early and warm spring.  Perhaps there was a second one nearby that I posted about.  I don't think so, but...

It's been spectacular for a number of years, seemingly happy in this spot.  The flowers have just expanded.  What's also interesting is that the flowers, at least at this stage in their development, are a much deeper color than my previous posts reflect.  Maybe it's the camera/phone, or the light, but the flowers are a darker orange than I'd remembered.

Flame azalea

My gardening companion is happy moving around divisions of native plants in our garden.

Mt. Pisgah view, with cordoned off playground)
Near our house is a community center with a recently renovated playground (the entire facility and landscape was updated quite nicely, thanks to a bond initiative).  We enjoyed this wonderful view taking Woody out after dinner this evening.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

A bear wanders by

Here in Asheville, we have a small population of urban bears, but wild ones come through too, especially in low food years at higher elevations.

This fellow was probably a young male, looking for new territory.

He checked out the bird feeder (fortunately, it was empty).

 Then he wandered towards my raised vegetable garden beds.

Happily, he rejected the purple mustard that he was sniffing.

And went on down the street.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Thankful for my vegetable garden

Even as I try to keep present in the natural world, my access isn't as expansive as it is, as it was in different times.

There are neighborhood walks, thankfully, both in our own and nearby neighborhoods.

But what really has made me happy is how well my vegetables are doing.

I harvested another salad-spinner worth of spinach this evening -- delicious (they're in the far lowest bed, not that visible in this photo).

But I also have a lower bed sown with spinach and beet seedlings that are doing well.  And the other greens (from transplants) are coming along nicely: kale, collards, lettuce, etc.  Maybe if it's a cooler spring, I'll be able to harvest greens from that bed, too (if the local woodchuck doesn't beat me to them).

Where I'm going to get warm-season starts, well,  I'm not sure. Our summer renter (June-September) wants to have a salsa garden: tomatoes and peppers, I suppose.   But our rental agreement was flexible, and maybe we'll be here longer than we think, before we can head north to Quebec (to our cottage there).

I'm grateful for spinach, collards, kale, chard and herbs.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020


On my walk yesterday, thankfully still permitted in our "stay at home" city, I admired violets in a median strip.  I'm quite sure they were voluntary, but the homeowner happily hadn't "weeded" them out.  There are lots of violets in lawns throughout our neighborhood, too.  Lovely.

It's much nicer to see violets than the emerald green weed and feed lawns in one of our nearby (upscale) neighborhoods, where I also walk. 

Although one of them had trillium, mayapple, bloodroot, and trout lilies in a front bed, nestled together with variegated hostas.  Remarkable.

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