Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Meyer lemons

I was the pleased recipient of a Meyer lemon tree (in a container) when my friend CEN moved north. 

4 Meyer lemons
I'm not sure it's flourished exactly, but it's done fine outdoors in the last two summers, with a bit of fertilizing and pruning out offshoots of the kaffir lime rootstock (I need to do this again).  And, it's spent indoors in the winter, with sun exposure through a sunny southern window. (I need to get a decent photo during the day).

It's produced 5 lemons this year, 4 of which have turned a lovely shade of yellow already.  Woo-hoo!  The fifth is still green, but I'll see what it does.

They're not yet fragrant, but I'll wait a bit more before using them in something special.  (This account details some good suggestions).

This post (note the arrow) shows the lemon in May 2010 - it produced four lemons last year.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011


Woody watching a red squirrel
Our young Golden is a master at spotting and stalking squirrels (not that he'd ever catch one).

Woody taking a rest, but still alert
The red squirrels ('boomers' for their warning calls) fascinated him.  He peered at them for quite awhile.

Woody and me on the trail
Delightful to have him be so exuberant and confident on this trail, as it was his first real hike (he was tentative then, as a rescue fellow without experience of trails and the natural world).

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Hike at Craggy Gardens

Woody waiting
Woody on the trail

We had a lovely hike at Craggy Gardens off the Blue Ridge Parkway this morning.  It was a clear, still and warm day, most unusual for Craggy, which is more likely cool (or cold) and windy.

A follow-up excursion to Pinnacle Peak found folks hanging out enjoying the view in warm sunshine. Wow!  Normally, they'd look at the 360° view (whatever they could see of it) and scurry back down. Today, it was wonderfully clear.  And the air was still and warm. Perfect.

Seep with icicles

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Leaves are gold

You can never have too many leaves, I tell folks in classes.  But our neighbors in the Piedmont and the Mountains keep putting them out.

Grab them.  They're gold.
Collected leaves;  there are more to collect!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A fall vegetable garden planting

I didn't post about helping a group of students plant fall vegetables early this fall.  It's just part of what I like to do.

They have a courtyard, with small planting spaces, with full sun only in mid-day.  They're a great group - LIEF students, the acronym corresponding to something environmental.

So I was delighted to see a gallery of photos on their Facebook page. I probably wouldn't have noticed but my artist friend Ellen, founder of the Rensing Center, 'tagged' the gallery.  Woo-hoo!  Thanks, Ellen.

What a nice group of students, and I hope they've been eating their greens...

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Old Southern apples

Malus domestica
The Slow Food Clemson University group hosted a delightful heirloom apple celebration this afternoon, marking the planting of a collection of 5 varieties of South Carolina heirloom apples, among them, Red June, an Edisto Island selection (read coastal) that ripens early. 

The whips came from Century Farm Orchards, a NC nursery focused on heirloom apples.

The event was at the Student Organic Farm, where 10 trees are planted.  Ten more are slated for the upper part of the Heirloom Garden at the South Carolina Botanical Garden.

Apples are a venerable fruit, having traveled from their native western Asian homeland (where larger and tastier fruits were selected - through evolutionary time - by Asian black bears) along trade routes, and then taken with settlers throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.

Arriving in colonial America, apples were planted from seed, but around 1800, grafted varieties became much more popular. 

It was fitting that the author of Old Southern Apples, Creighton Lee Calhoun, had selected the apples to plant, and was there this afternoon to provide his thoughts.  He's one of the last descendants of the family that founded Clemson University through the gift of Fort Hill, a 19th century plantation, to the State of South Carolina.

The trees that were planted are semi-dwarf and will reach 15-18 feet tall. 

In the Piedmont, larger trees fair better in our summer droughts, apparently, and will do better in the long term than the smaller dwarf varieties popular in backyard gardens.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Winter vegetable gardening

I'm a bit behind (we had a medium hard frost overnight), but I'm ready to put plastic over bamboo and river cane supports to create low hoop tunnels. 

Arundinaria gigantea is one of our native bamboos in the SE US, and its young canes make lovely supports, as they're flexible and an attractive purple green color.

river cane hoops ready for protection
But young canes of Asian bamboo (overly robust where planted around here), work well too. 

When green, they're flexible, and have the advantage over PVC pipe of being sustainable (that is, biodegradable) and attractive.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Local food and growing lentils

I was at an interesting food forum today, focused on discussion of promoting connections between growers and consumer, farm to table, etc.  I was encouraged by the representation of interests of the folks that came, from SC Dept. of Agriculture to CU Extension to the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association to local producers, the Clemson Area Food Network, and the Upstate Locavores, among others.

I have only a slice of my professional hat in this, but a lot of what I'm interested in as a natural gardener (at least the food side) is involved in good food, preferably local (as from my own garden and kitchen).

And as a cook, eater of whole foods, keen vegetable gardener, and supporter of local food and local farmers, I'm interested in helping promote an interest in our local farmers and their products, and increasing awareness of how we could be growing a lot more food (diversity-wise) locally than we're currently doing.

So I was glad to be a part of this gathering.

A side conversation about growing beans (my artist friend Ellen grew some great-sounding Italian heirlooms that she'd brought back from Italy, she said) and lentils were brought up.  

Lentils were hard to grow in our climate, I suggested, remembering looking this up after returning from India a few years ago, and wondering about growing them.  Lentils were everywhere in their markets.

Here's a bit more about that, from NC State's ncherbs.org website, courtesy of Dr. Jeanine Davis and her Q & A page, http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fletcher/programs/herbs/FAQ/index.html
Q RICHLEA LENTILS. I was approached about growing Richlea lentils. What are they and can I grow them in eastern North Carolina? I've never seen lentils growing around here. Do you know why?
A The Richlea is a very desirable lentil. It is a medium green lentil. I used to live in the heart of lentil and dry pea country in the Palouse region of Washington State. I was surrounded by lentils!
Take a look at slides 1, 5, and 6 in this little presentation to see where lentils, peas, and chickpeas are grown in this country and what the terrain looks like:   http://www.wishh.org/workshops/intl/kenya/mar09/ppt/stobbs_mar09.pdf.

Lentils are already big business in these states: http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/DryBeans/PDFs/DPLOutlook.pdf. In other words, there is no shortage.

I think the main reason we do not have a lentil industry in the Southeast is because it is too hot, humid, and wet. Lentils are adapted to cool, semi-arid areas of the world. High humidity and rainfall reduce yield and seed quality. Where I lived, we got about 12 inches of rain a year, and that came in the winter. And there was no humidity.  (Bold is mine, lkw). 

Doesn't sound like North Carolina, does it? Drought and high temperatures can also seriously reduce yields. The plants will not tolerate even short periods of flooded or water logged soils.So, I'm sure that someone could grow some lentils here if they really wanted to. They would probably be successful some years, but probably most years they would get low yields and poor quality. Here is some general lentil production information: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/lentil.html

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Never too many leaves?

We have an abundance of leaves already, but my gardening companion still is gleefully collecting nice large bags of dry oak, maple, and hickory leaves. 

He's selective (no bags with excessive twigs, or trash, or yard debris), so we've got lots of treasure to distribute in our woodland forest (developing) and to compost (in the bags) to amend planting pockets for woodland herbs.
leafy treasure

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

A fall street planting

Street planting in front of The Junction, River Arts District
This photo doesn't do justice to the striking combination of tans and browns in one of the most unusual and striking street plantings I've seen in a while. A bald cypress is the anchor, surrounded by clusters of an ornamental grass, with the dark contrast from the spent seed heads of Rudbeckias. It was amazing in the late afternoon light.

By the time I returned with my camera, the light was a bit dimmer, so the browns were less vibrant.  We'd been poking around on the River Arts District Stroll, not something that I thought would be a photo op.

These are new street plantings in the River Arts District (Asheville, NC). A formerly industrial district, it's now a vibrant area of studios of working artists.  I'm going to find out who's the designer. Asheville Green Works, a local non-profit devoted to greening the city is located across the street, so I imagine they're involved, but the design is definitely something out of the ordinary.

Street planting in front of the building housing Asheville Green Works and numerous studios

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall to (almost) winter

Coming up the Blue Ridge Escarpment, the glorious oranges and reds in the foothills dimmed to patchy spots of yellow and red (Southern sugar maple) and a few final scarlet oak leaves.  It definitely felt like the transition from fall to winter, especially since a cold front was pushing through.  Stopping to take a picture of Table Rock (still surrounded by brilliant fall color), there was a beginning of a chill in the air.

Behind our house in the mountains, the ravine forest is brightened by two large yellow sugar maples, and the final color from the young ones in the understory.  The Japanese maple across the street is totally scarlet.

And it was below freezing overnight.  The sugar snap peas that I harvested were delicious (but an errant woodchuck has eaten all of the cole transplants in our absence - broccoli, kale, and collards, along with most of the parsley, and some of the pea shoots).  Hhrmph.   At least s/he left us some mustards and mesclun mix, and, of course, didn't bother the leeks!

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

More fall color

study window view
The views from my study window and out to the side garden were stunning this morning. 

The dogwoods are deep red, the yellows of sassafras and ginkgo persist, etc.

side yard (garden) view

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall color

Fall color at the South Carolina Botanical Garden
It's been another glorious fall, in terms of color.  The extended season, with cold snaps, then sunny warm days, has resulted in glorious reds, maroons, and oranges.

We haven't yet had a hard frost, so the leaves just keep hanging on!

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Plant a Row for the Hungry

Foothills MG vegetable garden
A devoted Master Gardeners of the Foothills group has been growing vegetables all summer and fall in the Heirloom Vegetable Garden site.  It's resulted in well over 600 lbs. of produce to our local food banks.

In the spirit of the Garden Writer Association initiative, I've titled this Plant a Row for the Hungry -- they've been encouraging this for years.  But lots of groups are doing this;  we have a lot of open space in our cities and towns that could be used to grow food. Often, it's devoted to lawn.

But look at the fall plantings they've made.  What a lovely, productive garden!

a mix of greens, broccoli, and a final few peppers

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Atlanta Botanical Garden

A delightful visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden last weekend included giving an evening talk (my gardening companion) and doing a program about native plants and native woodland gardens on Saturday (both of us).

Happily, our visit included some wandering around the Garden and a behind the scenes visit to their outstanding conservatories and conservation greenhouse with Conservatory and Conservation Director Ron Determann.

And we had a chance to interact with a great group of participants as well as other staff.

ABG is a class act, and has been nicely redeveloped and recently expanded (in terms of access) to now include the Storza Woods (through the Canopy Walk).

This expansion has included a new visitor center and entrance, a parking deck that's a model of how to do one, and a multi-use education facility since we'd visited last.

I've been a member for years (I like to support nearby public gardens) and was glad to renew and upgrade our membership to a dual one on this visit.

If you're in Atlanta, take time to visit. It's a special place, part of Piedmont Park in mid-town Atlanta.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall color

An email today describing a shaggy garden had me thinking today. 

view towards front woodland
Hmm, our garden is a bit 'shaggy' too -- but maybe it's just a little bit 'wild' and not manicured...

fall chairs
Yes, it definitely needs editing, and cleaning up, after a summer season away, and not so much time yet this fall.

porch corner
But it's still pleasing, and this afternoon was glorious, with fall color and late afternoon light.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cricket songs

Crickets were singing as I went out to the grocery store this evening.  I don't know what species they were, but they were noteworthy, as we've had frost on the ground the last few mornings.

I wondered if perhaps they'll be the last night singers of the season.  The cold snap followed (and accompanied) the last of the monarchs and a final hummingbird on Oct. 24.

Fall color is lovely now in the Piedmont (in the Southern US).  The clear yellows of the hickories, reds and oranges of the maples are evident, and the rich reds and tans of the oaks - not to mention the scarlet of sourwood and sumac!

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