Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fall is coming...

On the calendar, fall is here, but in the southeastern U.S., we definitely have an long prolonged warm period into fall. After intense summer heat, the highs moderate, and the lows gradually drop, and finally, cooler air comes.

Tomorrow, the high is predicted to be only 72° F. That's warm, for northern folks, but cool for us for late September.

The Virginia creeper has already turned a lovely scarlet color -- maybe hastened by droughty conditions. This one is climbing up into the large Southern red oak near our house.

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus virginiana)

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Good to be home

After a quick dash to the mountains this weekend, I'm finally feeling at home again. The light was extraordinary at sunset.

It illuminated the perennial border and the front meadow.

And Mocha, after a long weekend, just waited for my gardening companion to come home.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

A delightful urban nursery

I walked through a series of interesting neighborhoods to reach a small nursery in a developing district along N. Mississippi.

Some remarkable initiatives for community development (the 'trees' are the entrance to the Rebuilding Center), an excellent parking and all sorts of interesting landscapes were part of the experience.

But the nursery, Pistils, turned out to be wonderful -- full of great plants, a charming shop selling all sorts of things, and knowledgeable staff. It was well worth seeking out.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Greening your city

I don't live in a large city, but I'd like us to do more to green the streetscapes and business landscapes.

Portland isn't perfect, but their street plantings, "hell strip" plantings (that's the strip between the street and sidewalk), and containers are a big improvement from what I normally see.

Of course Portland has the perfect benign climate for container plantings, and tough site plantings.

But, this is what I saw in the downtown Pearl District of Portland today, and think about what you could encourage in your community. I know I'll be going home with good ideas about what to try.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A fat and happy herbivore

I'd noticed the tromboncino squash leaves disappearing, but because the vines were so robust and sprawling (and we could hardly eat all the squash, anyway), I assumed that deer had jumped the fence beneath the powerline corridor.

But, my gardening companion reports that it's actually a rather large woodchuck (aargh!) that scuttled back into a burrow beneath the brush pile.

Hmm, it's back to Chuckster bait, woodchuck lure, and a large Havahart trap after I get home.

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A peaceful garden and a ground squirrel mooch

The peacefulness of the Japanese Garden in Portland soothed an overstimulated conference attendee (that's me). I love interacting with like-minded folks, but I'm also used to having a LOT more quiet time than occurs in back to back sessions (no matter how interesting). I know I have company here -- many garden writers and photographers are reflective and observant, and not necessarily 24/7 types. I spoke to several like-minded folks today. So visiting the Japanese Garden was an antidote to the conference experience in closed-in rooms and no windows.

These rose buds in the Portland Rose Garden near the Japanese Garden were my favorite image from a striking garden.

This fellow has his territory near the snack stand staked out. It involves coaxes tourists into feeding him/her.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Rubeckia, Agastache, and Gaillardia

Gaillardia with flower fly

Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eiler' is an unusual and robust selection of a midwestern black-eyed Susan -- the ray petals have a lovely rolled edge.

I've had fun learning more about western Agastache species -- there are some great candidates. I don't know what the species of this cultivar is, but it certainly is striking.

It's Agastache 'Summer Love' from Terra Nova Nursery.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

More small-scale gardens

This endearing garden owner was looking for advice (the rest of her garden was spectacular).

There were so many interesting vignettes in the jam-packed (I should say plant-packed) gardens we visited yesterday that I can only provide a sampling. Foliage plants are used extensively here, and apparently these gardens were quite representative of NW gardens.

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Urban gardens

An early morning speaker (at the Garden Writers Association conference that I'm attending) pointed out a growing interest in small-scale gardens.

I'm not sure that is anything new, but I'm definitely impressed by the intensive gardening practiced in the private gardens on our tours yesterday afternoon.

Honeybee on dahlia

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Friday, September 19, 2008

An early morning city walk

As soon as it became light, I was off to walk. I like to get my bearings in a new place, and see how the neighborhoods and cityscapes feel. I MUCH prefer to walk outside (in whatever weather) in preference to indoor gyms.

Looping through downtown Portland (very quiet so early) and walking back along the Waterfront Park path was urban, with pockets of streetscape plants. Returning through more of a neighborhood area gave me a different perspective, with restaurants, and coffee houses, and folks stopping on the way to work.

I was impressed with a couple of curbside and parking lot plantings near a huge mall -- definitely an encouraging start for the week!

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Off to visit other gardens

Heading to a conference on the other side of the North American continent takes me from Eastern oak-hickory forest and old fields to the damp western slopes of the Cascades. I may not see much in the way of natural areas in downtown Portland, but it is certainly a city of gardens, parks, and focused (and contained) urban growth.
Rosehill Cottage chair
My part of North America (the Southeast) exemplifies sprawl and a larger ecological travel footprint, according to an expert interviewed on our CU-produced program (Your Day) for SC-ETV Public Radio, aired as I was driving to the airport. There’s certainly irony in that, but I guess I believe in the benefits of travel, and hope the carbon offset programs do some good!

But he also spoke about how Portland had made a choice between expanding highways and mass transit, opting for transit. I’ll take a light rail system from the airport to the conference hotel for about $2.30. If I have time to go to the other side of the Willamette River, transit is free in the main downtown area. Remarkable. And unfortunately singular in this country.

I’ll be visiting gardens and nurseries as part of the conference, and interacting with fellow gardening and plant enthusiasts who write, speak, and blog about gardens (with a media mix of TV, web, and podcasting added in).

Florist display in England
Since I enjoy encouraging people to think about learning more about plants, nature, gardens, gardening, and ecology, aside from being a total enthusiast myself – I think I’ll fit right in.

And, I love seeing how other people choose plants for their gardens and create special places. Rosehill Cottage was a private garden that I visited in May under the National Gardens scheme in England -- a weathered cafe chair made a perfect garden vignette. This small local florist clearly arranged her wares in an imaginative and welcoming way.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Salvia and clematis

This gate surrounded by a delightful planting scheme caught my eye on a walk last weekend. The autumn clematis, blue anise sage (Salvia guaranitica), and a purple-leaved annual made a perfect late summer scene.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Rain gardens and mushrooms

After the downpours associated with Tropical Storm Fay, interesting mushrooms (in all shapes and sizes) appeared here locally.

Up in the mountains this weekend, I saw even more. It's so remarkable to consider that most of a fungus is below ground; what we see is the reproductive structure, whether it's a 'mushroom' or one of the others.

I also saw some great rain garden plantings -- this Joe Pye relative is glorious next to a parking lot.

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After a weekend away, the squash and beans were ready to harvest. I had five large tromboncino squash (the 9 inch + sort), lots of the smaller bicolor gourd-like squash, and a final green bean harvest. Inexplicably, the bean vines wilted late last week, and all the leaves were brown by Sunday. I haven't had a chance to follow up on what it might have been.

But the garden peas are growing well, and I need to get the supports up (I guess the bean trellises are now available!) I'm planning on sowing some more fall greens before I leave for a conference late in the week.

Just before going to bed, I happened to catch a glimpse of the moon rising above the hedge out the mud room window. Tonight, the moon is full.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Interesting insects

A great afternoon workshop about insects and plants provided an insight in how entomologists view a garden, and was a delightful excursion.

Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, and Jim Costa, Director of the Highlands Biological Station, led our workshop (part of the annual Landscaping with Native Plants symposium).

Highlands, NC is just over an hour from where we live, so a relatively easy trip 'up' into the mountains.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Missing my garden

I've been too busy this week. Dashing off to work in the morning without time to check on the garden leaves me unsettled and not at ease. There's been lots of activity, but not ones rich in the grounding experiences of nature and the garden.

The moon last night gave a hint of the full moon to come -- it's the Harvest Moon, coming on Sept. 15. Fall moons are often wonderful and luminous, because of the intersection of being low on the horizon combined with humid air.

We'll see what this Harvest Moon brings. This was my post about last year's. I'll be out in the Garden with whomever shows up.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A blooming rose

I wanted to get a good picture before it got dark, and didn't manage to do it. But the rose cuttings from the old hardy rose that I've nurtured for awhile are looking wonderful. After a slow start, and a bit of neglect, transplanting them into a larger pot filled with nutrient-enriched potting mix has them putting on excellent growth and flowering up a storm. I'll add a photo tomorrow.

A morning rose...

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Close to nature

The mountains (0f the Southern Appalachians) are nearby, and that's a good thing. They're covered with lovely forests (post early-20th century logging), rich in species, and wonderful to visit. I needed to drive up to Asheville today, in the center of Western North Carolina, and even though I didn't have time to hike anywhere, appreciated the beauty of our weathered mountains.

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

A late summer afternoon

It's still hot in the afternoons, but the mornings are cooling off. It's starting to feel like a hint of fall is on the way.

In late summer, carpenter bees and a variety of bumble bees are active visiting flowers.

Carpenter bees enjoy late flowering Rudbeckia fulgida and passionvine, Passiflora incarnata.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

A simple gift: local conservation

Not surprisingly, most of my (and my gardening companion's) giving is to conservation and environmental organizations.

But a recent opportunity to directly support the efforts of a young local birder in Kenya, organized by the birding blog 10,000 birds, touched me directly. We've met a number of local guides in reserves and natural areas in different parts of the world who have enriched our understanding of those places, and who usually worked extremely hard to learn more about their natural heritage and to support their families. Severin Constantin (behind the teacher carrying bananas), in the Amani nature preserve, a biodiversity 'hotspot' in Tanzania, had learned about the natural history of the reserve from scientists working there, and was saving money to establish a small egg-producing flock of hens with his fiance, in addition to his guiding work.

So I was glad to support Dominic Kamani's research survey work through the efforts of Charlie, Mike, and Corey (and the Nature Blog Network), summarized in a recent post about local conservation efforts.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Local foods

More than fifty varieties of bananas grown in Mto Wa Mbu, Tanzania

I went to a meeting today of a newly formed local foods group. What fun and how refreshing for folks in a conservative state (and formerly largely agricultural) in the Southern U.S. to think about how to encourage locally-grown foods. As our (previously farm and pasture land) is being gobbled up for subdivisions and development sprawl, it's a welcome trend to try to encourage promoting local producers and growers, providing an incentive to grow vegetables and fruits for local markets.
Schoolteacher carrying bananas in Amani, Tanzania
I love to 'grow my own,' of course, but I'm reluctant (so far) to get on the freezing and canning track, and my gardening companion LOVES his daily banana with cereal. I don't have the heart to explain to him about the global cost of banana production, the exposure of some farmworkers to pesticides, the risks of a single major banana variety, etc. Oh, dear, I probably at least need to always buy organic bananas or seek out the small varieties that support diversity of bananas.

Bananas, Hoi An, Vietnam
My own personal fruit passion is apples. I love apples -- and the idea of not having an apple each day after lunch is not a welcome one. I'm not keen on buying an apple from Chile or New Zealand, and we've got fabulous local apples now until early November, but that leaves a lot of open time in which I'm interested in eating apples.

But, I think I'll get a small energy-efficient freezer to start storing the growing season's bounty -- why not have roasted tomatoes for sauce, fresh-cut green beans, or onions and peppers?

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fall garlic

My garlic order came yesterday. I probably don't really need to order garlic to plant, since I had such an excellent harvest this year, and could use cloves from my harvested heads.

But it's such fun to order new varieties - Chesnok Red, Early Italian Red, Red Toch, Shantang Purple, and Susanville. These were grown organically and certified disease-free, from a small, family-run farm, Hood River Garlic, in Oregon. My previous source (Gourmet Garlic Gardens, run by Bob, the Garlicmeister) in Bangs, TX, provided great garlic, too.

I won't plant the cloves until mid-October, or thereabouts. I could even wait until early November, too. I usually harvest in May and June, but this last year is the first I've had LOTS of garlic that we can enjoy through fall, at least.

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