Monday, August 3, 2020

A neighbor’s passion vine


With warmer temperatures this summer, Passiflora incarnata seems to be thriving here in the Asheville basin.  Two of our neighbors have robust vines, with lots of flowers, as do others in the neighborhood.

It’s a host plant for gulf frittilaries, a semi-migratory butterfly that often didn’t make it to the Piedmont in colder years, in the two plus decades we lived there.

But the plant itself seems to be fine in the last couple of mild winters here in the mountains of Western North Carolina — it won’t survive a return of the polar vortex, but who knows what our weather may bring in the coming years.


Monday, July 27, 2020

Working on a narrative about Quebec

I have two years of posts about our house in Quebec, many about our gardening adventures. 

Editing the first segment this evening which was an independent non-blog narrative (this is after I've finished laborious cutting and pasting from blog posts, along with other saved narrative pieces into new Word documents) reminds me of how our gardens ground us in the world.

I'm not sure how I'll form all of the posts into a coherent story, but it's a story that's worth sharing, I hope.

I. know I'll enjoy revisiting our story of somehow acquiring a cottage in Quebec. 

I find it serendipitous and remarkable, reflecting back to our two summers and two winters in our magical place that we steward and the landscape that my gardening companion has transformed.

Nor our cottage, but inspired by it:  painted in an acrylic class last winter

A small painting that I did last winter, thanks to a painting class sponsored by the Heritage St. Lawrence folks.   Our cottage is this color.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A wildflower Wednesday pick: Silphium perfoliatum

I planted Silphium perfoliatum (cup plant) a few years back in the pollinator-friendly planting that I call the pocket meadow.

Here's a photo from three years ago, showing a still "young" plant to the left of the ginkgo.


At the Garden Blogger's Fling in DC, I'd been amazed at the size that these plants get (my fellow Flingers also warned me of their self-sowing tendencies....)  Yikes, I thought, so I've been dead-heading them, too, and asking our summer folks to do so in the past couple of years.

Regardless, it's an impressive plant and one that I've enjoyed having, so an excellent candidate for Wildflower Wednesday.

This year, still in Asheville in mid-June, I cut it back by a half, reducing its size.  Happily, that seems to have worked nicely, so it won't loom over the front meadow quite so impressively (nor seed as profusely, either).

It's just now starting to flower.

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Thursday, July 9, 2020

The skies opened

We've been in thunderstorm times the last few weeks, especially in the late afternoon.  Today's was a doozie, but the moisture (for gardeners) is always welcome.

The video of the downpour hasn't appeared.  Just think hard rain.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Favorite recommendations for pollinator-friendly gardens

I like to promote these as they're adaptable, easy to grow native perennials,  often with multiple good species to choose from within a particular genus.  (This is a list to accompany a presentation for a Pollination Celebration in Asheville GreenWorks Bee City program).

Herbaceous perennials (average to dry sites):

Asclepias tuberosa    Butterfly Weed
Baptisia sppFalse Wild Indigo
Coreopsis spp.  Coreopsis
Echinacea spp.  Coneflowers
Eupatorium perfoliatum   Common boneset
Helianthus spp.  Sunflower
Liatris spp.  Blazing Star
Penstemon spp.  Beardtongue
Pycnanthemum spp.  Mountain mints
Rudbeckia fulgida   Black-eyed Susan
Rudbeckia spp.  Black-eyed Susan
Silphium spp.  Prairie dock; compass plant
Solidago spp.  Goldenrod
Symphyotrichum spp.  Asters
Thermopsis villosa  Carolina false lupine
Zizia aurea  Golden Alexanders

Herbaceous perennials (moist sites):

Eutrochium spp.  Joe-Pye Weed
Lobelia spp.  Lobelia, Cardinal flower
Phlox spp.       Phlox
Monarda spp.   Bee-balm
Vernonia spp.  Ironweed

Friday, June 26, 2020

Delighted to see growing vegetables

I planted tomatoes and peppers, along with squash and bean seeds, thinking they'd be a nice bonus for our veggie-gardening prone summer renters.

Well, it looks like I'll be harvesting the tomatoes, beans, and squash myself.  I've already harvested LOTS of basil that I planted for the second set of renters, now looking for another place as we're still here.
Beans, squash, and tomatoes are looking good

I'm basically OK with this. It's a familiar summer warm-season gardening dance, even as the darn collards and kale persist (not to mention the beet greens).

There's nothing to complain about -- when you have fresh young succulent basil growing.  I like to grow it in containers or flats as a cut and come again herb -- keeping the leaves and stems succulent and tasty. 



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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Hmm, an "upgraded" theme layout for Blogger

Well, my favorite sidebar gadgets have disappeared in my former layout, but I guess I can figure out how to link the presentations and plant lists (from Google Drive) to my website, I suppose. But hey, I'm doing this now as a volunteer. Really, I'm not happy to try to create new links to my website, etc.

I'd just updated a link to a pollinator presentation that I'm doing on Saturday for our Pollination Celebration, part of National Pollinator Week, here in Asheville.   So many thanks to my garden blogging friend, Janet Davis, for permission to use her wonderful pollinator photo montage in my presentation:

I also need to explore alternative themes and layouts in new Blogger themes;  undoubtedly there are nice ones out there.

An old schoolhouse above our road
As I come to terms with probably not being able to make it to our cottage this summer (maybe fall?), I'm remembering all the special places that are part of our experience there.  Our cottage is a renovated 1920 schoolhouse.  This image is of another one, never renovated, on the 2nd rang about our house in Quebec.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Why aren't the collards bolting?

Please, can't the collards bolt?  I am enjoying them, but.... I'm truly tired of greens.  We've been eating them since March, enjoying the parade from spinach to mustard to kale and collards.

The kale and collards are still holding up.  (Thankfully, the purple mustard bolted -- harvested yesterday).  Uh, surely it will be soon that the collards and kale will bolt?

I have lovely basil, parsley, thyme and chives growing vigorously, as are the climbing squash, pole and yard-long beans. The tomatoes and peppers are doing well, too.

I still have a full bed of beets with greens in the lower bed, below the house, not to mention Swiss chard in my upper beds, but both of them are easier to use than kale or collards, easily cooked and tender, like spinach.

So, please, in late June, isn't it time for the collards and kale to flower?

today's view of my raised bed vegetables
this evening's collard harvest (where are the cabbage white caterpillars?)  the butterflies are flying

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Thinking about gardening

I was touched to be included in this roundup:   58 of the very best Landscaping and Gardening Blogs, Influencers, and Instagrams

A bumblebee hawkmoth on Vernonia in a past summer

I don't normally pay attention to these sorts of things, but clicking through, the writer has done a really nice job of collecting various sites. I'm surprised that she found my Natural Gardening blog out there, as I'm hardly a media-seeking-followers kind of blogger.

I'm doing a program tomorrow about "Creating a Naturalistic Landscape" for the NC Arboretum (via Zoom, of course). There are 22 folks signed up -- remarkable, it seems to me for paid education programming, but thinking about it, I'm paying similar amounts for writing classes and other programming, so why not, I suppose, for those of us fortunate enough to be able to do these things. We're privileged, indeed.

It's been interesting to contemplate, as I've totally "rebuilt" this presentation, with largely new images and message "slides." The NC Arboretum has an excellent Blue Ridge Eco-Gardener program of whom many have heard me talk about other topics -- I wanted something new to share with them.

It's been diverting to rebuild a familiar message into a new version.

And as I've be doing free programs for a local nursery and as a profile about me and promoting pocket meadow appeared in a newsletter for Conserving Carolina, a local land trust, I've been doing a lot more benefit landscape consultations.

I'll be doing another free (by registration program) for a local non-profit at the end of the month, for Asheville GreenWorks Bee City's Pollination Celebration. Just click on the link to register and see the other offerings, including my gardening companion's program about Interactions between Plants and Pollinators: Highlights from the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

He's developed his program from "scratch," too -- it looks wonderful, based on what I've seen on his iMac!


How nice is that?


Sunday, June 7, 2020

A profusion of greens

One of our neighbors gave us a nice bag of sugar snap peas yesterday.  Yay, I thought.  A break from greens.   My pea seedlings had been foraged by squirrels (and birds), perhaps, so I don't have any of my own.

We've eaten greens for months.  Kale, collards, mustards, and chard.  I'm thankful to have them, but I'm thinking this harvest will go into the chest freezer, to be eaten next fall, perhaps.

my current raised beds, after harvesting greens

Maybe my neighbor would like some collards and kale in return?  The cool season greens, in spite of our current heat keep growing.  And the cabbage white butterflies don't seem to laying enough eggs to do much damage yet.

I harvested a big bag of collards and kale this afternoon, thinking I'll freeze them   We've been eating kale and collards for months now (the purple looks like it's going to bolt.  Well, please do, I think, as I harvest leaves.)

A lot of greens!

Chard and beet greens will be quite fine until we hopefully leave for our northern garden.

The tomatoes, peppers, squash, and beans are coming along nicely.  The basil is sulking, but I have seedling in containers that seem to be flourishing.

I'm grateful for the fresh vegetables and herbs that I'm able to grow in my raised beds, so it's ungrateful to complain about the surplus of greens in these troubled times.




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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Pale Indian Plaintain and creating naturalistic landscapes

I managed to distract myself this afternoon by working on an update of a long-presented theme: Creating a Naturalistic Garden.   I've called this "Gardening for Nature" or "Creating a Natural Garden" -- etc. in the past. I've talked about this now for decades, promoting native plants in naturalistic landscapes.

A recent physically-distanced walk with a gardening friend had us happen upon an unfamiliar native (to me).

Working on my program this afternoon, looking at Larry Mellichamp's great book about Native Plants of the Southeast, I realized what it was: Pale Indian Plaintain (Cacalia atriplicifolia), now it's
Arnoglossum atriplicifolium. A lovely plant -- I wish I had room for it in the pocket meadow.

From Larry Weaner's wonderful book: Garden Revolution




And here's a link to one of many places to acquire it:
https://www.prairiemoon.com/cacalia-atriplicifolia-pale-indian-plantain-prairie-moon-nursery.html

Finally, a link to piece about a recent pocket meadow program that I did.  The young Americorp volunteer did a nice job.

https://conservingcarolina.org/how-to-create-a-pocket-meadow/

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Penstemon smallii

We acquired this native a few years back, from a vendor at one of Botanical Gardens at Asheville's plant sales.  It's flourishing now.


A wonderful native penstemon

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Chamaelirium luteum (Fairywand) and Piedmont rhododendron

Here are a couple of Wildflower Wednesday candidates.  Fairy Wand (Chamaelirium luteum) is a standout in our wildlflower border right now. We only have one plant, but it’s lovely.


Equally nice is the Piedmont Rhododendron (Rhododendron minus), which has been in full flower for several days.




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Monday, May 25, 2020

Spiderworts along a fence

Our historic neighborhood, and the gardens around its various eclectic houses, is now awash in mid-spring flowers.  The gardeners were out this morning as I walked through the neighborhood, both experienced and newbies.  Welcome, all, I thought.

This row of spiderworts, Tradescantia spp. -- it could be some robust Asian species that I'm not familiar with, of course (our native species is much more dainty in appearance, normally, (but maybe the gardener fertilizes!)  has been delighting me for a couple of weeks now, as I walk by.





Small bumblebees were collecting pollen as I walked by.  Lovely.

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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

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