Thursday, May 31, 2012

Parking lot meadows

Biltmore Estate (in Asheville, NC) doesn't seem a likely place for parking lot meadows, but it makes sense, given the working hay meadows nearby, and the agricultural aesthetic (and working farm ideal) that the estate pursues.

meadows in parking area for Antler Village and the Winery, Biltmore Estate

My destination this morning was the 'kitchen garden' beyond the Winery, but I was taken by the meadowy plantings around the parking areas for the Winery and Antler Hill Village.

Why shouldn't we be doing this in areas that are currently mowed much more frequently?

These meadows are fescue and clover, I think, with a spattering of other species, but our native grasses and forbs make equally lovely combinations, too.  And frankly, why not encourage a mixed meadow, if they're full of non-native species, if that's what you have. 

I just like to have plants that  'work for a living' in my garden.

Yikes.  This is post 1200!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pocket meadows

Meadows are wonderful places, full of movement, buzzing insects, and abundant wildlife.  But they're hard to create.

I've been thinking about small-scale meadows (really just exuberant plantings of native perennials and grasses) for awhile. I'm also thinking about ways to best approach their composition and maintenance.

I've admired this grassy meadow planting at the entrance to UNC-Asheville over the last few seasons.

meadow planting at entrance to UNCA
 It appears to only need a shearing once or twice a year.  How nice is that?

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Monday, May 28, 2012

A Memorial Day rainbow

In the U.S., today is Memorial Day, honoring veterans past and present.  We're increasingly mindful as a nation of what the holiday truly marks.

On an university academic calendar, Memorial Day and Labor Day aren't usually on the list at all as holidays. Summer classes begin, or continue, and university offices are open, so it's not been too much on my radar over the years.

Popularly, it's the unofficial first day of summer, marked by family picnics and outdoor grilling.

But what I noticed today is that it also seems to be a day to tidy up your garden.  Our neighbors in the mountains generated mountains of excess weeds and brush to be carted off on the next brush recycling day, noticed late this afternoon on a long walk. Who knew?

It's been uplifting to notice all the improvements folks are making to their gardens and landscapes this season.

And lovely to have a downpour for 10 minutes or so this evening, followed by a complete rainbow.  Here's half.

half of a complete rainbow
Thanks to veterans and their families...


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Green roofs

I'd noticed a new green roof installation a week or so ago, while previewing routes for the Garden Bloggers Fling (this was a detour) and thought it was spectacular.

I'd read about it awhile ago, but didn't know where it was.

It's part of a new community recreation center --  -- near the River Arts District in Asheville --t he link is to a Laurel of Asheville piece

Reading this interesting piece today about the benefits of green roofs in the NY Times encouraged me to return and take a few photos, with my gardening companion and gardening assistant in tow.

Livingston St. Recreation Center

Green roof at Livingston St. Recreation Center

More than sedums on this roof!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The first fireflies

Growing up in Texas, we didn't have fireflies.  Nor did we have any in the San Francisco Bay Area (California), where I was a graduate student. 

But in Maryland, where I was a post-doc at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, in Edgewater, they lit up the night.  At all levels, from ground level to up in the trees (it's a species-specific thing about what level in the forest they are).  What a treat! 

We rented a house for almost eight years while we continued to do research there (the owners were artists who went to Provincetown, MA for the summer), and it was an amazing display every summer.  There were flashes at all levels of the forest throughout June.

So I was delighted to see them this evening (at ground level) back home in the Piedmont. 

An evening walk with Woody (happily freed from total rest and OK'd for half-mile a day walks today post a partially-torn knee ligament) found me enjoying flashes galore. 

And a crescent moon and a lovely sunset rounded out an enjoyable day (complete with a bunch of curious 7th graders on a field trip earlier this afternoon).

Hard to beat.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gardening reflections: post-Asheville Fling

Art studio in the garden of Peter and Jasmin Gentling
After a final post-Fling visit on Monday to Nan Chase's bark house and urban edible landscape (and enjoying an impromptu group visit to our own small house and garden), I found myself musing (again) about how the character of our gardens reflects our spirit, personality, and connections to the world of plants and nature.

Damaris Pierce sculpture at Wamboldtopia
stream (created) at Wamboldtopia
During the Asheville Garden Bloggers Fling, the private gardens that we visited -- remarkably diverse and distinctive from each other - seemed to me to be even more evocative of the personalities of the gardeners/artists than is "usual" on garden tours.  The photos I've included were a few of my own favorites, but weren't taken to evoke the spirit of place  -- check out some of my fellow Fling bloggers posts and the Fling blog for a more extensive view of these gardens.

Part of this may be that we had the pleasure of getting a chance to visit with them in a relaxed way, but perhaps most pertinent is that each garden expressed the distinct artistic vision of the gardener(s).

These were not gardens designed by someone else; these were gardens created for personal enjoyment, but also joyfully shared with others.  They were gardens in progress, where gardening and creating was part of the delight, and change is embraced as part of garden-making.  And the gardening was personal and hands-on -some of the gardens were older, some were newer, but each garden was connected with the gardener(s).

As I look out the study window at the oakleaf hydrangeas in flower (in the Piedmont), I'm reminded of the connections that we make with plants and plant choices, too.

A plant combinations at Christopher Mello's garden (Gnomon)
Visiting gardens in the company of other gardeners reminds me of how different our tastes in plants can be.  A plant that one person loves can often be one that another person dislikes, and the combinations, contrasts, colors, etc. -- isn't it remarkably personal?  And isn't that why we garden, after all?

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Carolina Wrens

The nest site is hidden in the far corner.
Even with all of the excitement of the Garden Bloggers Fling the last few days, I couldn't miss the pair of Carolina Wrens that were busily building a nest in the eaves of the deck roof.

The tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle calls of the male have been starting the morning early, piercingly loud out the bedroom windows.  His calls continue throughout the day. (The link takes you to Cornell Ornithology Lab's All About Birds page for Carolina Wren calls).

The male and female were taking turns flying up with nest materials (the pine straw on the side beds looked to be a favorite choice).  It doesn't take long for a pair to build a nest  -  4-5 days after some practice.  I just spotted the male as I was typing and took a quick shot.

male Carolina wren

Hopefully, these wrens will be finished nesting by the time the scheduled replacement roof sheeting takes place.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Planting vegetables

Part of the fun of vegetable gardening is swapping out cool-season and warm-season vegetables. It varies year to year and spot to spot -- timing varies, whether the cabbage white caterpillars have decimated the cole relatives, how warm it is, etc.

This year was odd because of the warm winter and early spring warmth.

I've just now planted my first round of beans, cucumbers, and squash in the mountains (the trellises went in today).  There is still kale to be harvested, but the caterpillars are making inroads.... My gardening companion reminded me that I don't like cucumbers (true) but maybe the Persian Little Fingers from Renee's Seeds or the hybrid Diva will be the exception!

Tomatoes and peppers, planted some weeks ago are doing well, but the sugar snap peas are still producing, too, so I planted cucumber seeds at the base of their trellis and hope that it will work out.

The herbs in the front bed are taking over --they're lovely -- thymes, lavender getting ready to flower, tarragon, and oregano.  I've barely had room to tuck in some fennel and beets, and having limited space, may need to cull a bit in the future.  Basil seeds are ready to sow in flats, as soon as I bring them up from the Piedmont.

mid-May 2012 (beans are planted)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Community gardens

I love visiting community gardens. They come in all shapes and size (and levels of maintenance, too).  Some have art work, some are focused on production of vegetables, and others are a mix.

Burton Street Community Peace Garden is on the Asheville Fling (the fifth Garden Bloggers Fling) first day tour. As a bus "captain" -- I was doing my homework.  The Fling is this weekend. My first drive-by found me unimpressed.

But a second, more thorough visit, revealed the eclectic nature of the space and the enthusiasm that both gardeners and artists have brought.  Check out this great pavilion that was recently added.

What fun!

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Philadelphus inodorus

A native mock-orange, Philadelphus inodorus is a plant I've not actually seen in a natural habitat, although it's native to limestone areas in the Eastern U.S.
Philadelphus inodorus
It thrives in garden plantings, however, and this old plant, next to our small house in the mountains, is a great example.  This shrub flowers profusely each spring, without any care whatsoever (the neighbors are renters and not inclined to gardening, although our efforts, on their behalf have encouraged sporadic improvements).

It's a lovely plant, and deserving of inclusion in modern plantings, too, although I don't think I've ever seen it for sale in a garden center.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thomas Jefferson's vegetable garden

Thomas Jefferson's contributions to the scope of American life are remarkable.  My mother had a deep interest in his writings, philosophy, and contributions, so a family visit to Monticello in my early teens made an impression.

Later visits, after the renovations of Jefferson's gardens had begun, found me fascinated by the scope of his interest and knowledge in all sorts of plants, as well as vegetables. By that time, my interest in historic and heirloom vegetables (and vegetables of all kinds) and the history of plant exchanges and gardening in the Americas and beyond had been kindled, so I was hooked.

I'd been hoping all spring to get an opportunity to hear Peter Hatch, the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, speak about his new book "A Rich Spot of Earth" - Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello.  He was first speaking in Nashville, then the Triangle Area of NC (Raleigh, I think) and there was the kick-off event at Monticello, at a totally busy time for me in April -- and all of these places are 5 hours plus drives.

So, I was delighted to hear a wonderful piece on National Public Radio's All Things Considered this evening.  Melissa Block's interview with Peter Hatch brought Thomas Jefferson, the gardener, to life.  Take a listen and enjoy the visuals on the NPR's Food  blog, The Salt.  Click at the top to listen to the story first.

I'm ordering the book!

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

A glorious full moon

Last night, coming back from dinner, the almost full moon was exceptionally large and luminous above the horizon, looking towards downtown Asheville from Broadway. I'd heard a piece on NPR earlier in the day about how exceptionally close the moon is currently to Earth, so I was keyed into thinking this was special.

I wish I had my camera, I said to my gardening companion, thinking if I dashed back, I might have got a decent shot.  But it was getting late, full moon photos aren't that remarkable after all, etc. (I've made plenty of posts on the subject already!)

Tonight, the moon will be full at 3:25 a.m.  This was my best shot at 10:30 p.m. (totally blown out from what I actually saw, of course).

Full moon, May 6, 2012

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Blogging and gardeners

Getting ready for the arrival of garden bloggers from across the country for the 5th Garden Bloggers Fling in Asheville, NC has been fun (and taking up a bit of blogging time).  My recent two Fling posts were about Asheville and the NC Arboretum.

But, it's such fun to be welcoming blogging friends to our small mountain city, and enjoying the real-time community with like-minded bloggers. 

Gardeners are normally generous and interesting, and it's been a pleasure to get to know them through their blogs, but even more fun in person.

I'm looking forward to a great few days!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I like to encourage folks to keep their gardening manageable and focused on what they enjoy (in programs at the botanical garden where I work).  But plants grow, reproduce, and need editing, and it's not always easy.

In our acre and half in the Piedmont, I'm finding myself doing more heavy-lifting tasks than I'd like (with my gardening companion doing field work in the mountains).  Hmm, I guess I haven't appreciated how important mowing and weed-whacking have been to keeping even our 'natural garden' in shape.  Yuck -- not pleasant gardening tasks, and weed-whacking has produced a small back strain.  Phooee.

I worry about NOT having enough gardening to do in the mountains, when we eventually decamp to our small house and garden there (hey, there's plenty of gardening work to be done in local community gardens, etc.)  But it's hard not to appreciate what having a smaller gardening footprint means.  There are other things to do, after all.

At Chau Ram County Park (with camera and binoculars)

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