Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A flurry of talks, programs, and garden visits

It's so interesting to be here in Western North Carolina as spring arrives.  The patterns of a Southeastern spring are familiar:  first, the early-flowering Asian species, then the first of our natives, Hepatica and bloodroot.  The rare Oconee Bells, transplanted to the Botanical Gardens at Asheville years ago, is now in flower.  It's time.

I've posted recently about my clustering of talks and other gardening activities during the two months that we knew we'd be in Asheville this spring;  perhaps it seems like a lot, but I enjoy sharing thoughts with fellow gardening enthusiasts and gardeners new to the area.  Several upcoming garden visits (as 2-hr consultations will be fun)  -- usually, they're folks new to the area who want to incorporate more natives into their landscapes.  Love that.

Hmm, with all of that, trying to reconnect with friends here, studying French, keeping up my fitness, and attending to my own garden -- well, that's all good, too.

A beautiful clear day foretells spring and summer ahead (regardless of where we'll be in the Northern Hemisphere!

A couple of pocket meadow talks are next on the agenda, this Saturday and next Wednesday.  They're always fun as I emphasize natives that are pollinator-friendly, in various small-scale guises.

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, Aromatic Aster, with bumblebee




Monday, March 18, 2019

Spring vegetable gardening

Having two blog sites is a bit perplexing at times.  I wrote this post on Places of the Spirit.  It really should have been here!

Gardening and spring

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Using native plants in containers

An upcoming program on using native plants in small gardens and containers reminded me of some remarkable planters in Stockholm.

I need to add a photo of one to my presentation, I thought.  I'd posted about it before.

We were in Stockholm for three weeks in July 2017, staying in a HomeExhange flat with a wonderful view of downtown Stockholm.  It was a great walk to the historic center (about an hour) along wonderful greenways, or just a 10  minute metro ride.

This planter was in front of a historic government building of some sort  -- I don't remember which one it was.

Serviceberry in fruit, in Stockholm
But what I noticed was that there were multiple Amelanchiers in fruit in very large shallow pots on the plaza in front.  As I was taking photos with my phone, I startled a couple of passerbys by waxing enthusiastically about how delicious Amelanchier berries are, and how I urban foraged our street trees in Asheville.

We have a nice serviceberry up in Quebec, but it's too shaded now to fruit very well.

Perhaps I'll get a small urban harvest here in Asheville, if it's an early spring.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Late winter musings: spring is coming

After doing a class on spring gardening activities this morning, it was interesting to walk around our historic neighborhood, with the lens of ecological gardening and pollinator conservation that I was promoting.

Don't mulch yet! I said, describing ground-nesting bee habitat.  Keep those hollow-stemmed perennial stalks in place, or as I've done, bundle them up and leave them in a less visible part of the landscape.

My pollinator-friendly pocket meadow in our front garden was hammered by an unusually large snowfall in early December: we were able to try out our short hybrid skis. Fun.  The stalks of most of the perennials (largely of prairie heritage or affinity) were flattened.  It was not attractive even for a naturalistic gardening sort of person, so I did cut most of the stems, putting them in the back woodland garden, just in case there were larvae overwintering.  So my front landscape looks perfectly ready for the judicious removal of leaves from the perennial crowns in the next week or so.

There are a few of my neighbors that are thinking about this;  my visionary pollinator-promoting neighbor's husband hasn't cut back the very small stems of the pollinator-friendly perennials he's planted in the only sunny spot in their front garden, probably overly considerate, but perhaps there are some really small cavity nesting bees that live in Rudbeckia stems.

Around our neighborhood, we run the gamut from the uber-green lawn aficionados to the let it go folks, and everything in between.

But I guess what's heartening in a 120-yr neighborhood is that just as the old houses are renovated and kept up, for the 3 or fourth iteration, so are the landscapes, large and small.

a lawn alternative that works
This isn't a wildlife-friendly front landscape around the corner from our house. But I've admired it: it's a creative mix of sedum, thrift, and vinca (!)   There's clearly management going on, as some of the species are more assertive than others, and I see bare soil currently in one patch.  It's a lawn alternative that works.


Maybe vinca wasn't a good choice in this mix, but he's done a great job keeping it in check
A star magnolia just coming into flower
And another neighbor down the street, who spent literally years renovating an very old and decrepit rental from the studs up, to be his personal flat, plus two additional spaces.  He added this lovely deciduous star magnolia to his front landscape.  I know how tender the flowers are from the one next to the Nature Center at the South Carolina Botanical Garden (where I used to work).

Hopefully, he'll (and all of us that walk by) will enjoy it until the coming frosts will darken the flowers.  We had roughly one out of five years that we had flowers to enjoy down in the Piedmont.  I'll be enjoying these for the next few days.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Garden Bloggers Fling

I've attended the Fling every year since the third one in Buffalo.

It's a wonderful gathering of garden bloggers who spend three days looking at gardens carefully selected by the host committee, whereever the Fling is.  I love going  -- it's so much fun to be visiting gardens in the company of other gardening enthusiasts, whatever their particular interests are, or the style of the gardens that we visit.  They run the gamut!  I've been a regular garden blogger since 2007, so I'm naturally inclined to participate.

I was part of the host committee in Asheville, at one of the earlier Flings, I realize now.  Ours was a simple fling, but enjoyable.

In big cities, they're a bit more complicated, often with far-flung bus travels to nearby communities.  But the pattern is now standard: three days of touring gardens, with a day-before kick-off reception/event of some sort.

It works for me.  I used to go to Botanical Garden meetings and Garden Writers, too, in my paid-work life, but the Fling is a LOT more fun than either!

Hey, there are no promoting membership sessions, raising money sessions, or expanding your education program sessions.  Nor any talk about boosting your social media presence, developing your brand, etc.  These are all good things, but I'm glad to shed them for the simple joy of visiting gardens with other garden bloggers.

This piece on Cultivating Place, a favorite podcast about gardening, features Pam Penick as one of the founders of the Fling, and Judy Seaborn, as a lead organizer of the next Fling in Denver.  I enjoyed listening to it.

Here's a link to the podcast.

Perhaps you would, too.  It exudes the joy of gardening and visiting gardens, as well as the fun of writing about gardens, too, on our blogs.

Nearby our house, someone had planted this lovely cluster of tulips in a sidewalk median.  Perhaps I'd missed it in recent years;  it was preceded by giant blue crocuses (you can see the fading flowers behind the tulips.)

tulips in a sidewalk median

Sunday, March 10, 2019

A mild spring-like day

It was lovely today, relatively clear skies with a high close to 70°F.  Spring-like weather.

It's too early to carefully clean up leaves in my perennial (pocket meadow/pollinator border) beds, as I don't want to trample on the sodden soil quite yet.

red-veined sorrel coming back, with a newly planted kale plant behind
But my raised beds -- where I grow vegetables and herbs, well, hey they're available for some quick planting.  Filled with compost-rich soil, they're well-drained and ready to turn.

I'm pushing the envelope just a bit, but one of our local nurseries, Jesse Israel, has beautiful cool season transplants now:  kale, collards, spinach, chard, cabbage, broccoli, etc.

greens and a new platform bird feeder, to replace the one that finally broke.
I snagged five 4-packs of spinach, chard, kale and collards.  They'll produce some greens for us over the 6 weeks or so that we're here, and then hopefully our HomeExchange folks from Ireland will enjoy them, too.  Then, I'll switch the beds to herbs before we leave for the summer.

This wasn't mindful, designed planting!
I basically just added some organic sustained release fertilizer to spots cleaned of overwintered leaves, turned the basically rich compost/soil mix in the beds over, and put the young transplants in.

We'll see.

Most of my perennial herbs were hammered by winter.  I've cut back dead stems on marjoram and oregano, removed all of the dead thyme, and am waiting to see if I can make the rosemary look half-way decent.  It's looking winter-burned, but perhaps my two plants will "respond to pruning" when it's time in a couple of weeks.  They were "replacements" last spring.  Again.  That's OK.


I have perennial leeks to lift and divide sooner rather than later.  I should have done it last fall.

When they're crowded, they don't do much except produce offshoots.  I harvested two large ones that weren't crowded today.  They were delicious with dinner.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Gardening transitions

In recent years, I've focused my classes and presentations in the spring and fall, times that I knew we'd be in the mountains of Western North Carolina between traveling.

In the same fashion, I've rearranged my habitual gardening patterns, too, with previous timings for vegetables unsuitable for an absent harvester.

It was a bit unsettling;  I was mopey last year thinking about not being able to plant cool-season greens in late winter, but that all worked out.  A few transplants gave me harvests before we left for Quebec at the end of May. My quick garden up there was fun,  and the collards and kale planted last fall here in Asheville -- they carried through winter this year, as they normally do, so we just enjoyed some for dinner yesterday.  (The previous two winters had had extreme dips, which took out everything.)

So, I've already planned for some of the veggies I'll sow in late May this comimg summer in Quebec, with the seductive call of being there longer this year, along with the encouragement of hearing Brie Arthur talk about Foodscaping on Tuesday at Davidson. 

There are LONG growing days in Le Bic, even if it's a bit cool for what we'd call warm-season vegetables in NC.  Our mailbox unit there was right in front of a couple's vegetable garden that seemed to grow perceptibly daily.  By the time we left in early August last year, her squash plants were in flower and huge. Of course the first frost comes in early September, but they may have had more than enough squash by then (I'm guessing they don't have squash vine borers there, given the extreme winter temperatures.)  But I'll have to check. 

the vegetable garden near our mailbox pickup spot in late July
I'm planning to grow vining baby butternuts on one of our fences - excellent eaten green as well as cured.  Maybe I'll try some zucchini, too!  In any case, my seeds are all largely gathered up and I'm ready for a summer vegetable garden in Quebec, not to mention the native perennials to add and the fruits to collect....we'll see what survived from last year's plantings (perennial-wise) in a few months. 
It was hard to imagine them under the winter snow in our recent visit.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Thanks to Garden Blogging Fling sponsors!

I've had fun attending Garden Bloggers Flings now for 8 years, with my 9th to come.  Flings are special --what's not to like about visiting gardens in the company of other gardeners who write about their gardens?

I was fortunate enough to win a wonderful sponsor-donated piece at last year's Fling:  this beautiful lantern from Fern Valley Art.  Thanks, Fern Valley Art,  and all the other local sponsors over the years.

After a busy traveling year, my hubbie finally has it firmly secured in place.  We live in an urban, albeit historic neighborhood, so just putting it out there -- hmm, that wasn't going to happen.  It would disappear in a moment.


It's so beautiful to see it lit up.

Coming home this evening after a workshop, it illuminated the front walk with light and its delightful fern pattern.  There's nothing not to like about it -- it's beautiful during the day and lovely at night.

During the day, last spring.
It's totally worth the purchase price!





Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A remarkable symposium

The Davidson Horticultural Symposium celebrated their 35th anniversary today, a significant accomplishment for a club of some 40 members -- which is a largish garden club, to be sure, but not huge!

Kudos to them for putting on, yet again, a wonderfully run program,  with a delicious catered lunch (on plates! with silverware!)  and with the most incredible homemade treats for breaks.  That's truly over the top.

I've attended the last two years (as well as a couple of times a few years ago) and have been so encouraged by the ecological-gardening tone that these last two years celebrated.  Today's "knocked it out of the park" for sustainable-gardening/ecologically-gardening folks like me, and even more encouraging, the audience seemed to love it (the speakers were all outstanding).

The messages were clear;  we need to consider our landscapes as part of a larger functional ecosystem. Natural and wild places no longer can sustain us -- we've already altered most of the arable land on the planet, so the "wilderness" that remains is the northern Artic, Siberia, and desert areas in Africa, with patches of land in Brazil, according to one of the images that was shared today.

To hear these programs in such a mainstream horticultural symposium is totally heartening.  Maybe we CAN turn the tide towards encouraging gardeners in their home landscapes to think about being good stewards, adding more biodiversity of natives and wildlife-sustaining cultivars.

In a similar vein, a recently received catalog from White Flower Farm, a venerable horticultural source of plants, had me amazed that they'd recently added a native meadow garden to their pre-planned collections of plug-ready gardens.  Wow!

image of a native meadow garden from their catalog - excellent!
Click through for details about the plants they include.

Just to be clear, I haven't ordered anything from White Flower Farm for decades, but receive a catalog still, I guess as a member of GWA. 

They'd apparently already had a pollinator garden for sun, a butterfly perennial and shrub garden, and a long-season hummingbird garden, all as plugs ready to plant, presumably also with a planting design.

It's so heartening to see a VERY mainstream nursery embrace using perennials with a focus on pollinators, meadows, etc.  I'm excited about this trend.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Spring thoughts

I spent much more time today thinking about gardening, specifically spring garden activities for an upcoming program at the NC Arboretum, which I mentioned in this post, than I did thinking about "places of the spirit."  I sat in front of my iMac most of the day, creating the visuals for a new presentation.

Of course, the activities are familiar, but I wanted to provide a bit of a refreshed perspective for these Blue Ridge Eco-Gardener certificate folks.    The title of the program has "tasks" instead of "activities" -- I've fussed before about how I think we should write and talk as gardening as fun -- that's how I've tried to set up my gardening!

So, again, it's more about balancing what's necessary, what's fun, and what's ecological, too.  We're blessed with an abundance of leaves here, so why would we actually buy mulch?  Of course, we have and do, especially for the paths and "decorative" spots, adding pine bark nuggets and locally harvested Eastern white pine needles from nearby parks and streetsides where otherwise they'd just be swept up in street-cleaning or clogging up the storm sewer.

Over 80" of rain at the Asheville airport in 2018 -- twice the "normal" amount
Our naturalistic garden here in the mountains of Western North Carolina is full of things to do, but they're all basically fun, now that we've moved beyond the heavy-duty mulching/soil improvement phase -- all fueled by free wood chip deliveries (and I actually didn't do any of that work -- my gardening companion did all the wood chip-moving).

But the steady rain had me thinking about how MUCH rain we've received.  It was a historic record year in 2018, and we've already had 12 inches in the first two months of 2019.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Spring in Asheville

It's definitely an early spring here in Asheville. There are benefits to having written so many blog posts over the years in terms of weather and spring.

It seems early to me to have daffodils, thrift, and cherries in flower now — with Bradford pears about ready to pop.  Here was a post from mid-March, 2016 about flowering cherries and Bradford pears.

Last year, we had bloodroot in flower as of March 4, here in Asheville, as this post attests

And there was travel musing around that post, too.

And in 2016, the sassafras next to the blue house next door that we planted, well, they were in full flower in mid-March

They seem right on schedule, although, sadly, as I suspected in fall, the one on the right has succumbed to some sort of root rot, probably, given all the rain last year.

I cleaned up the raised beds in front this afternoon on a lovely warm day.  Nice to have the perennial herbs cut back (lots of die-back over the winter),  a few stray winter annuals removed, and a few of the leaves removed, too.

There's gardening to do  -- I'm doing a program in the middle of March about "Spring Gardening Tasks"  --  a title I hate, but that's what it's called for the Blue Ridge Eco-Gardening certificate program at the NC Arboretum. 

My message is more about what not to do, in terms of protecting pollinators and insects and other critters still overwintering....

But taking out winter annuals is always a good thing, no matter how pretty.

A Lamium in flower.  I don't want it to go to seed!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Signs of spring

Hepatica is always a sign of spring.

My post on Places of the Spirit reflected that.

https://placesofthespirit.blogspot.com/2019/02/signs-of-spring.html
February 23, 2015 (in our Asheville garden)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Heading back to the US

Gardening has been on my mind, as I assessed what quick-growing veggie seeds that I have in Canada currently.  I've been working on my programs for spring, too, so that's reminded me of timing, "tasks," etc.

I'm in good shape with my supply of seeds here.  I'm hopeful for excellent transplants from the local nurseries, too.

from the trail to the Pointe des Epinettes

We'll be back in late May, so timing will be important.

This summer, unlike last, we'll be able to stay through September, so there's a lot more possibility for decent-sized greens. And harvest beyond just the cherries I managed to harvest before we left in early August last year -- we have apple and pear trees, too, as well as gooseberries.

As a regular writer, posting now every day, I appreciated this sentiment, seen a year and a half ago in Vancouver, in one of Emily Carr University's building.

Perfect


Thursday, February 7, 2019

The magic of longer daylength

Remarkably, the daylight here in Quebec is not that different that what it’s like in North Carolina currently.  Better actually, because it becomes lighter earlier -- we're farther east, so the sun is up a half-hour earlier; tomorrow's sunrise is 6:54 am, with sunset at 4:42, with dusk stretching close to 5:30 pm.

In Asheville, sunrise tomorrow is 7:25 am, with sunset at 6:03 pm.

All in all, I rather like the Le Bic version, actually.  Morning light is a good thing, even as I spend a bit more time sleeping here than in NC.  My body needs recovery from all of our XC-skiing, I think, and it does seem a bit dark in the evenings, although it's getting brighter every day.

At tea-time today, at Heritage St. Laurent's English language library, I mentioned this.  The young Ph.D. student from Norway totally understood -- she said it didn't get light until 10 am on her recent visit home, getting dark at 3 pm.

from the Point des Epinettes trail in Parc national du Bic

That seems about what it's like here in the winter solstice, according to the two local women who were there, practicing their English (good for them!)

I'm thankful that I wasn't here then.

The young woman from the Philippines, well, hooray for her bravery to come to Quebec, start learning French, while embracing her Quebecois wife's family.  Ditto for the young Ontario woman, who came here with her Quebecois boyfriend.  There's a lot more support for immigrants learning French -- interesting.  The young Canadian won't be eligible for free French classes until she's here for a year.

Even though I'm still uber-tired from skiing for a couple of hours every day, it's a great place to be.

We thought briefly yesterday about returning to NC ahead of a snowy period early next week.  And then thought, well, there’s actually nothing that really is driving our return, until first program commitments on March 7, and then throughout the month.

Why not just stay for awhile longer, we thought this morning?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Quebec-grown baby bok choy

I wrote about what I think was Quebec-greenhouse-grown baby bok choy today on my sister blog, Places of the Spirit.  It was distributed by a Quebec company (but who also has growing spaces in the Dominican Republic and Mexico).

Here’s the post, for anyone interested in it.

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