Saturday, July 31, 2010

A lovely Phlox cultivar

An interesting side benefit of going to Garden Writers Association conferences are the free plants;  they're fabulous, to be sure.  We're still enjoying the Iseli Nursery dwarf conifers from Portland a couple of years ago.  They're wonderful, and were the only plants that I brought home to the Carolinas.

Last year's conference in Raleigh was within driving distance, but I remember what I bought at Plant Delights and Niche Gardens more than what we were given.

Penstemon 'Pensham Elanor Young'
But Blooms of Bressingham sent me (as well as many others) lots of small plants ready to trial.

This Penstemon 'Pesham Elanor Young' is a standout in our raised beds, which are nutrient-rich.  The flowers are lovely, the foliage is attractive, and they're going to transplanted to the front meadow.

Hopefully they'll be tough, too!

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hummingbirds and butterflies

We've finally started to see hummingbirds in the mountains.  They were visiting the native Impatiens capensis  (Jewelweed) below the house and the cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) planted outside the ground floor 'green room.'

I put out the hummingbird feeder again with fresh sugar solution about a week ago, and now they've included the feeder on their rounds.

front meadow bed  in late July

Similarly, butterflies, particularly swallowtails, have started to be abundant, visiting butterfly bushes in our neighborhood, as well as our purple coneflowers, Liatris, Joe Pye, and Helianthus in the front meadow bed.  It's nice to see them.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Exuberant vegetables

It's totally amazing how productive the tomatoes and other vegetables are in beds filled with fresh compost.  I'm continually reminded however, that, if I added more nutrients and watered more, I'd have a REALLY productive garden.

But I can barely keep up with roasting and freezing the tomatoes that I have (the ones that we can't eat fresh); in fact, I have marinara sauce simmering right now to freeze for winter.  They're not the 'tastiest' tomatoes, necessarily, some being harvested early to avoid squirrel herbivory, but I hate to waste them.

Here's an image of the front raised beds.  You can't see any ripening tomatoes, but they're there, in any case, and the leeks are getting quite large enough to harvest.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vegetable gardening and nutrients

I had a lovely visit this afternoon with good friends from the Lowcountry of South Carolina to a biodynamic vegetable garden here in Asheville, grown by experienced vegetable gardeners and committed water recyclers (their gray water system was amazing).

This tumbler works well enough to be the second one they've bought.  They compost animal manure, vegetable debris, and leaves in this tumbler in fast batches quite rapidly, so they can produce finished compost in several weeks.
Their vegetable beds were perfectly maintained and extremely productive, reminding me (yet again) that vegetables are nutrient AND water hogs.

Brussel sprouts side-dressed with compost, ready for fall production
Their biodynamic treatments are nutrient-rich; although, as a scientist, I'm not inclined to think that energy is transferred to the mixtures through stirring,  I'm more than happy to see the results.

Their garden was producing LOTS of vegetables, and their plants looked great.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

An expanded sedum bed

Potted carnivorous plants
The small bog near our mountain house (with various pitcher plants and venus fly traps) didn't get enough sun to do well, so we converted it to sedums today.

The carnivorous plants were transplanted to a tall glazed ceramic pot and the peat was excavated and stockpiled for other projects.

My gardening companion reworked the bed, fishing out the plastic underlying the bog, and improved the drainage.

Expanded sedum bed

I transplanted lots of offshoots from the existing sedum bed (on the left) and with an addition of a large purple Madrona sedum in the center,  I'm hopeful that it will thrive.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

A rainbow of vegetables

recently harvested tomatoes (with sunflowers)
The tomatoes are producing in abundance now -  the Cherokee Purples, Sweet Million, Sungold, Costoluto Genovese, Grandma Mary's Paste tomatoes,  Summer Feast selections, and Big Beef.

I'm also harvesting yard-long beans, Emerite filet beans, zucchini,  ruby chard, 'pizza' and 'red cherry' peppers as they ripen,  and Ichiban eggplant.

Periodically, I harvest some baby leeks, too, and probably will harvest most of them at 1/2 inch in diameter; that's not the granddaddy size of supermarket leeks, but they'll be deliciously flavorful, and more importantly, will make space for fall crops of beets, lettuce, spinach, and greens.

I'm thinking I'm going to greatly enrich my vegetable beds at home in the Piedmont, adding much more nutrient-rich composted manure than I have in the past.  I thought I'd been adding plenty, but obviously it decomposes more rapidly in our summer heat than I thought.

I love the gray foliage of the leeks in the vegetable beds;  they make a nice contrast to the darker green  of the peppers and tomatoes.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Robust garden phlox

Garden phlox
A quick trip back down the Blue Ridge escarpment to the Piedmont found us thinking, hmm, it's certainly hotter and more humid at home in Clemson (in spite of the heat wave that we've experienced on and off in the mountains).

My vegetable garden spaces looked wan (uh, the main vegetable garden IS being fallow to starve out the root-knot nematodes, but looks drought-stressed, for the few plants that remain, and the satellite garden is full of crabgrass, although the asparagus beds and honey fig (thanks, CEN!) look fine.

All of the flower and vegetable beds are ready for clean-up and fall planting; that'll happen in a couple of weeks when we return home for fall semester.  It won't take long to get the vegetable garden beds ready, but will take a bit more time to get the rest of the garden 'in shape'  -  thank goodness we're 'natural gardeners.'

I was impressed by an amazingly robust phlox, in the bed next to the garden shed.  A offshoot (I think) from the nutrient and water restricted plants in one of the perennial borders has become a standout in the rich, deep soil of this raised bed.  Hmm, yet another example of how rich garden soil transforms perennials.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Front-yard flowers and colorful houses

 Our street in the mountains looked especially colorful in the subdued light this morning. 

Colorful flowers and houses
The cottage garden in front of the brown house has been blooming all spring and summer;  the gardeners, part-time residents, too, just started planting in spring a year ago, about the time that we did. (Prior to that they'd spent time rehabbing the house).  It doesn't take long to create something magical with the right plants (and judicious editing and replacement).  Their visits are spent tending the garden.  The green house has been recently painted and renovated (having sat empty for a couple of years); the new young owners plan to add a picket fence and create a herb garden in containers (the fence in the photo belongs to the next house).  And the purple and adobe house simply rounds out the Asheville ambience.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

A chewed tomato: squirrel or woodchuck?

Hmm, I harvested a half-eaten red tomato this morning that had been chewed, but noticed evidence on this one (a green tomato) this afternoon.

There are distinct chew marks visible (diagnostic of a squirrel?);  I've never had squirrels eat my tomatoes, but I know through fellow garden bloggers that they do eat them.  I've never had woodchucks bother my tomatoes or anything else in the tomato (Solanaceae) family, but you never know.

My gardening companion spotted a very young woodchuck nibbling on Impatiens flowers (near my lower raised beds) this afternoon.  Hmmm.  I do hope s/he doesn't develop a taste for squash (or tomatoes)!

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Slow-roasted tomatoes

My favorite way to preserve tomatoes is to slow-roast them (at 200°F for ~ 8-10 hours), and then freeze them.  It's not original with me at all;  not being inclined to canning, a way to have tomatoes for delicious sauce for pasta or whatever without messing with hot water and jars is appealing.

I bumbled on to Kalyn's method in a Google search a couple of years ago, and have been delighted with the results.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Heirloom tomatoes and white peaches

I was listening to the songs of crickets tonight; summer is here in the mountains of North Carolina.  They were delayed compared to the Piedmont, not surprisingly, but are singing loudly now.

I've been harvesting lots of tomatoes since I returned home (to the mountains) and have been trying to shore up the vines (the lightweight tomato cages available at the big box stores simply can't support the weight of Cherokee Purple and Summer Feast tomatoes without extra support).  I thought I'd taken a picture of the raised bed vegetable garden since returning, but apparently not!

I slow-roasted a batch of sliced Cherokee Purples overnight, and stuck them in the freezer.  They'll be summer magic in the winter, for sure.  And there are lots of green Summer Feast tomatoes that were casualties of the tipped-over cages.  I'll need to see if they ripen well, or not -- they're quite big, in any case.

I succumbed to buying a basket of white peaches at the Western North Carolina Farmer's market yesterday.  White peaches are wonderful, but, hmm, this is a lot of them.

But, the cost was remarkably low, and I'm planning to slow roast some of them for the freezer, make a peach salad for a potluck party on Saturday, and we'll eat lots of them fresh, and maybe I'll dry some of them as halves?

I was going to make a peach tart, too, but then realized that I don't have a pie or tart pan here;  it could be rectangular, however, or a 'rustic' tart on a baking pan.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New River Gorge, WV

Coming home to fresh tomatoes, squash, beans, and leeks was wonderful, but that's another post.

A impressive stop on the way home (to Asheville) from Buffalo was the New River Gorge National Park.

One of the oldest, if not the oldest, rivers in North America, the New River runs from Boone, NC west through West Virginia for some hundreds of miles before merging with another river and watershed.
A 'new' bridge over the Gorge (finished in 1977) is impressive.

A wonderful native species planting in front of the Canyon Rim Visitor Center
The gorge is spectacular, and belies its coal-mining past (there were rich veins of clean-burning coal that supported the region through the 1960's.)  The slopes are now cloaked with green forest, reflecting the speed at which the forest recovers in the Southern Appalachians, when seed sources are available.

Now the river attracts rafters drawn to the whitewater rapids and is a region that interests both adventure tourists and folks like me who were just dropping by.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fallingwater: combining nature and living

Coming through the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania on my way home from Buffalo, I made a special point of visiting Fallingwater (Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous house).  My mom had been a fan of his architecture, and certainly I'd heard of Fallingwater, and his contributions, too.

It was amazing.  The integration of the waterfall, the native vegetation surrounding the house, and the feeling of being nestled in the forest --  remarkable.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has done an excellent job of creating an experience for visitors that evokes the essence of what Wright and his clients, the Kaufmanns, created.

The visitor center gently brings you into the forest and the surroundings.  Wonderful.

I wish I'd had time to explore the surrounding hiking trails, and some of the other places in the Laurel Highlands, but our mountains in the Carolinas are great, too.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Buffalo food: a postscript

The lovely gardens that we saw and the inspirational participation in Buffalo's Garden Walk (I keep thinking about the 350+ gardeners that have volunteered their gardens to be visited -- wow) weren't the only outstanding aspects of Buffalo.

We weren't able eat at that many restaurants (we were a big group), but our catered dinners at the 20th Century Club were delicious, and the lunch at Rue Franklin was  outstanding. 

Normally only open for dinner, Rue Franklin served up an amazing lunch.  The shrimp salad that many of us had was not only a work of art (I need Bonnie's photo to document that), but each bite was deliciously different.

Rue Franklin window view with orchid

There were grilled shrimp, red-roasted potato wedges, onions, and haricots verte (woo-hoo, I was going to write green beans, but they were WAY better than 'regular' green beans) on a delicious bed of salad greens dressed with someting delightful.

It was a long way from my college town in Upstate SC.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

A wonderful farewell to Buffalo

It was a delightful time experiencing Buffalo gardens for the last few days, but just as nice was interacting with fellow garden bloggers and gardeners.  Fabulous.  And our hosts, Jim Charlier and Elizabeth Licata were amazing -- a great weekend. Lancaster Avenue (Jim's street) was different from the others that we saw, and totally interesting.  The sunlight blew out many of my images, but I'll be using some of them in programs, regardless.

And now, heading home, I'm traveling through Western Pennsylvania, exploring an area I haven't been before, and it's lovely.  Falllingwater (Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous house) is on the agenda tomorrow.

The farmland and vistas in Western Pennsylvania make for a nice drive.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Buffalo gardens and Lockwoods Garden Center

Respite garden for AIDS Community Services
Succulent house at Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
It's been a great time in Buffalo visiting gardens, with fellow gardeners and garden bloggers, during Garden Bloggers Buffa10.

It's delightful to get to know many fellow garden bloggers in person, whether I 'knew' them before from their blogs, or not.

I love the sense of exuberance and celebration in the Buffalo gardens that we've seen and enjoyed the diversity of architectural styles in the neighborhoods and districts that we've visited (and am inspired by Garden Walk and the sense of community that it encourages).

Visiting the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens was delightful, both for the plants and the historic nature of the conservatory.

I could barely restrain myself from buying LOTS of plants at Lockwoods, an excellent garden center with an impressive diversity of plants.
Lockwoods display

And do click on the photos for larger images
A beautiful morning glory in the AIDS Community Services garden

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Friday, July 9, 2010

More Buffalo gardens

Summer Street cottages
The Cottage District (Summer Street and 16th Street) was our morning destination for the Garden Bloggers Buffa10 meet-up.

These areas are totally packed during Garden Walk, for good reason.

Apparently, there are lines to visit every garden, and the streets are mobbed with visitors.

We made an enthusiastic group despite the showers.

Aren't the color combinations remarkable? (But the garden designer is color-blind!)
Uh, my photo doesn't do justice to the artistry of this garden vignette.

A vibrant seating area

A remarkable use of shelf fungi as planters for sedums -  they're attached by screws to the fence.
Charming houses and cottages, mostly rehabbed, with delightful gardens made for a great time.  Even the bit of rain just cooled things off.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Buffalo gardens and a doggy spa

I had a great time poking around gardens in the Allentown neighborhood, prior to the reception and dinner for the Garden Bloggers meetup. 

It's a lovely thing to see folks with small pocket gardens pack them with plants and revel in the warm summer weather (even if it seems exceptionally warm this year).  Thank goodness that I'm used to a warm humid summer climate...not that it's my favorite, to be sure.

My favorite sighting was this small planting, with a nice water bowl included.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

An amazing Agave

I've been traveling the last couple of days, on my way to Buffalo for the Garden Bloggers 2010 meetup  -- about 70 participants, I think, out of the very many of us who enjoy writing about our gardens, gardening experiences, and sharing with others.

It should be a blast;  I can't imagine how visiting gardens in Buffalo (many residents are apparently totally devoted gardeners during their growing season; look at this event (GardenWalk Buffalo) focusing on their gardens)- how couldn't visiting some of these gardens with fellow garden bloggers not be fun?

A high point of today's traveling (in Pittsburgh) was a visit to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

An exemplary green conservatory, it was fascinating to both visit their new conservatory area, interpreting the Headwaters of the Amazon and its habitats and ecology, and experience the wide range of warmth-loving plants that were on display in the historic conservatory galleries.

But, the current, eye-popping, and remarkable natural exhibit was their 50+ year old Agave americana, which started sending up a flowering shoot in spring, breeching the roof of their desert house, being whipped around by wind, taped up (literally with duck tape), and now which is flowering!  Wow.

This is remarkable;  my guess is that agave fibers helped protect the vascular system of the flowering shoot! 
Notice the duct tape and support.
Through the desert house roof!

Settling down this evening, I found a wonderfully retro, and well-maintained motel in Erie, Pennsylvania.  I certainly wouldn't have found such lovely perennials at one of the chain places!

Glass House Motel plantings

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Elementary school gardens

I've visited a lot of elementary schools over the years, and I've been involved in improving schoolyard habitats, too, but I haven't run across a more interesting (and charming) school landscape than the gardens at this neighborhood experiential magnet school in Asheville, NC.

Isaac Dickson Elementary School probably was a low-income school, as it's near a housing project, but I don't know that for sure.

What I see now is a fabulous vegetable garden, complete with chickens and a cob wood-fired oven, great gardens outside classrooms, and a wonderful meadow entrance garden that's a NC Wild site.

Totally great, and I'd love to help out in their gardens...

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Window plants

We have an unusual window nook in our small house in the mountains.  The designer (and previous owner) of the house didn't have anything in it, as far as I remember, and there was an code-required (but easily removed) stair railing that was visible beyond the window nook, creating a odd horizontal focal point.

Dwarf conifers and succulent
We've had succulents, dwarf conifers, and a Madagascar palm in the pots; the latter succumbed to cold winter temperatures, so the pots were down to three.

My gardening companion just added back a dwarf grey-foliaged pine that had been part of the original four brought back from the Garden Writers conference in Portland a couple of years ago (from Iseli Nursery).

It had been in the ground near the big scarlet oak, but looks much more appropriate in the window nook.

The Heucheras, Celadine poppy, and sunflower are doing well along the house's edge, too.

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