Monday, May 30, 2011

Wildflowers along the Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the benefits (totally) of being in the Southern Appalachians for the summer is proximity to great trails.  I joke to friends and colleagues during the academic year that "they don't let me out much" meaning that I'm at the Garden all the time, not out hiking.  But nothing to complain about that really.

Squaw root (Conopholis spp.)
But it was a joy to spend time on the Mountains to the Sea trail this morning, on a segment just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Silene virginica on a rock outcrop

a checker spot (?) basking on a Crateagus branch
There were lots of plants in flower, even though we're past the 'main' spring wildflower time.

Bowman's Root (Poteranthus), Fire Pink (Silene virginica), and Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) as well as Flame Azalea were in flower.

Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel) in flower
Sedums, Tradenscantia, and Opuntia were on the rock outcrops, segregating themselves to wet and dry areas.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

More community gardens

I love how they've expanded the community garden plots at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, NC.
Potato, herb, and onion beds to the left!
These are devoted folks to growing (but more importantly harvesting - that's the hard work) fresh vegetables for our local regional food bank (Manna) here in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

They've added these nice hay bale-surrounded herb and potato growing plots, in addition to their regular row crops. What fun!

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gregory Bald rhododendron

Gregory Bald rhododendron hybrid
We've planted quite a few deciduous azaleas below our small mountain house, but this unusual Rhododendron hybrid was propagated from plants found on Gregory Bald in the Southern Appalachians.

It's lovely in flower now.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

A flourishing garden for the community

I've admired this church garden before. Last summer, this congregation tilled up large strips of their front lawn to grow vegetables for a local food bank (probably Manna Food Bank, a significant regional provider to food banks in the mountains and the piedmont of North and South Carolina).  This season, they're doing it again, with the addition of herb beds and potatoes.

Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church vegetable garden (Asheville, NC)
It's also encouraging to see even more vegetable beds popping up in sunny spots this season (in front yards, especially).

Hmm, I'm seeing in my linking to a former post that I may not have got the congregation right in my post last year.  Regardless, thanks for their efforts to provide fresh food to folks in need.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beginning of summer

This spring was more demanding than in the past at work;  we have many fewer staff members overall at the botanical garden (where I work) than we did in past years.  We offered more educational programs than ever, rewarding but time-consuming, and had a number of large field trip programs (thank goodness for our devoted volunteers).

I ended the spring semester doing the 12 page newsletter (on summer hours).  I used to contribute quite a bit of copy, but didn't do the layout or garden news, or a cover piece.  Now (without a PR staff member), I'm writing just about everything except for our director's note, the geology museum page, and the donor page, with a few contributions here and there (AND doing the layout, too). Yikes. Needless to say that there wasn't any time to reflect on our garden....

Oh, well, apologies about fussing;  I have SO MUCH to be thankful for.

Plants on wheels
Escaping to the mountains meant bringing plants with me, of course.  I filled the back of the car with young plants of all sorts, leaving behind the stalwarts to manage without frequent summer care.

I'll be back 'down the hill' to the Piedmont to harvest garlic, onions, and potatoes, in a couple of weeks (and tomatoes and peppers, too, as the summer progresses).
Front herb bed
But I was glad to see how robust the herb bed looks in the mountains.

The young peppers and tomatoes, planted two weeks ago are looking good, too.

Time to plant more squash and beans, too!

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Greens in late spring

It's a great time of the year to enjoy late spring greens, while anticipating summer vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, and squash to come.

I love the combination of textures and colors in these greens in the Snell Vegetable Garden (at the South Carolina Botanical Garden).
a mix of greens

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Carolina wren nest

Carolina wrens build nests in all sorts of places, and quickly, too.

Carolina wren nest in the shed window box
There was a rudimentary sort of nest in one of the garden shed window boxes that I had noticed, but thought had been abandoned.

a blurry image because of the dim light!
Hmm, it proved to be in use this evening when I started to remove some senescing Violas and the mama wren whizzed past me and started loud singing nearby.

Peering in, the nest has five eggs in it.

I received a link to a wonderful video of a robin pair raising their young yesterday via a group e-mail.

Check this out.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Swallowtail Gardens

I visited Swallowtail Gardens last weekend, a wonderful garden and small nursery in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  I've only had time to post a couple of photos previously, and was foiled in posting later last week when Blogger was down.

But here's a better sampling. 

It's a delightful garden, reflecting the gardeners who live there. It's full of treasures.

If you have a chance to visit (by appointment), it's SO worth the drive up to a cove in the North Carolina mountains past Mars Hill.  And seek out their plants at regional venues in the spring (see their website for details).

A grassy entrance path

A typical eclectic mix of plants

Dwarf conifers are woven throughout the garden.

Looking back towards the old tobacco barn

Woodland garden plantings towards the house

Rock work through the garden is full of plants tucked in crevices.

Or spilling over edges.

Much of the rock came from the site, with some judicious additions.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

View through the front door

I like to encourage folks to think about the views from their windows and front doors, as they're planning their gardens and landscapes (in programs that I do in my work).

In spite of it being 'low-maintenance,' we weren't happy with just mulch and stone outside our front door in our mountain house. (No green welcome and nothing to check, enjoy, and tend....Hrrmph, is what we thought.)

front before raised beds (after planting of sedums)

So we started planting in earnest a year and a half ago.

I'm so enjoying the view this evening out the front door.  The sunny meadow border in front has taken its spring form, with early-flowering Penstemon digitalis (Husker's Red) is surrounded by Liatris, Eurybia (Aster), Penstemon, Helianthus, and Vernonia (Ironweed) vegetative shoots.

front door view in the mountains
It's so lovely to see the transformation.  It wasn't difficult to do, at all, and reflects a couple of years of growth.  And my gardening companion is wanting to show me his 'before dinner' efforts shortly (while I've been posting!)

This post from last spring provides a marker for the development of the sedum bed, as it's been developing (here it's in the lower part of our view through the door).  We enjoy this bed year-round; some of the species are flowering now, adding another aspect to the diversity of green foliage.

sedum bed from front path
And the developing garden in the mountains gives us happy weekend visits and summertime puttering.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An exceptional garden

old tobacco barn at Swallowtail Gardens

Gardens always reflect the gardeners who create and tend them, in my experience.

Creating a garden (distinctly different from keeping up your yard) is a personal experience, from plant choices to garden style.

The gardener at Swallowtail Gardens (Edmund Taylor) is an exceptional plantsman, plant collector, and garden designer.  A semi-retired former SC extension agent, he's created an extraordinary garden full of choice Asian woodland plants and Eastern woodland natives.

The group that visited on a recent Garden-supported field trip was totally impressed with the lovely expanse of garden that he shared with us.  More photos will come!

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Abundant greens and vibrant sedums

raised beds in the mountains
It's been such a busy spring that I haven't been able to get up to my vegetable beds in the mountains in over a month, until last weekend.

They've been producing greens, greens, and more greens (my gardening companion kept bringing quite a bit back down the hill -- aka the Blue Ridge Escarpment).

vegetable beds and sedum

But finally, having a day to harvest most of the winter greens, and plant tomatoes and peppers, was welcome.  I was tired, but happy.  What fun to get quite a bit planted.

And in our Clemson garden, the potatoes, garlic, and onions are doing well, although there's definitely some herbivore sneaking up to snag the pea shoots.  At least s/he doesn't like tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, or onions!

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Louisiana Waterthrush

I've seen a Louisiana waterthrush in the Garden before, but didn't remember its song.

I heard it yesterday, with the director of the Garden, a great naturalist, who pointed it out to me, and then again today, on a lunchtime walk with a good friend.

It's a wonderful song. 

I imagine it's a male waterthrush, marking his territory. They apparently sing quite a bit upon arriving in their summer breeding grounds, being much quieter after that.

I heard it at exactly the same spot on the fern extension of the Woodland Wildflower Garden trail as yesterday.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Garden volunteers and dwarf conifers

I love sharing the Garden (where I work) with folks keen on plants -- and especially with a group of gardeners volunteering at another botanical garden.

They're an invaluable group -- thanks to all of you who volunteer, in whatever venue!  We had a great time (click to see the post on the Garden's blog).

We visited the Garden's newly renovated dwarf conifer garden, and I happened to mention the Iseli Nursery plants that I'd acquired at the Garden Writer's Association annual meeting in Portland a couple of years ago.

They've been the stars of a sunny window nook in our small mountain house since.

Dwarf conifers in the window
This isn't the best photo (click on it to get a better view), but they're three of the original plants I brought back from Portland.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

A ruckus in the neighborhood

Alarm calls and cries during dinner on the porch alerted us to something going on.

The cries and calls continued, and then we saw a pair of brown thrashers, a mockingbird, and a male cardinal mobbing something in the tea olive at the corner of the house.

We dashed out, to discover a large black rat snake high up in the tea olive.

My gardening companion (AKA my husband Tim) used a broom handle to snag the snake and nudge it towards the forest below (and away from whatever nest was in the tea olive).

OK, maybe the snake had already snagged eggs or nestlings, but the birds were so agitated, it was impossible not to intervene.

The thrasher pair kept harassing the snake (which climbed up the old Palownia tree) --uh, we know it's invasive, but it's big enough now to be a major undertaking to remove, and by itself, it doesn't appear to produce offspring.

The mockingbird and cardinal joined in, too.  They weren't happy to have the rat snake in their neighborhood!

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jack-in-the-pulpit seedlings

Abundant Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) seedlings have popped up along the streamside path at the botanical garden, much to my delight.  There are a few young plants with flowers, but most are still vegetative.

Arisaema triphyllum seedlings
This is an undistinguished photo, to be sure, but the light was dim in the forest understory.

Young plants are vegetative, then produce male flowers as they accumulate stored resources, and produce female flowers (and fruits) when they've become relatively large plants.   After producing fruits, plants become smaller, and revert back to being vegetative or producing male flowers, until their resources are built up again.

My gardening companion's species profile for Jack-in-the-Pulpit (in his recently-published book) describes the flexibility in gender expression that benefits the plant  -- it matches resources available to the energy demands required of male flowers, or female flowers, and for fruit production. 

How cool is that?

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