Saturday, June 30, 2012

More pocket meadows

I'm been on the lookout for informal plantings of native grasses and forbs (herbaceous perennials) --- these are the pocket meadow plants and plantings that I'm wanting to promote in an upcoming talk. 

More expansive meadows (at least in the eastern U.S.) are hard to manage, as they want to become woodlands and forests (natural succession at work).

But smaller 'pocket meadows' -- more like informal native perennial borders-- are a lot more satisfying, promoting pollinator visits as well as providing habitat for seed-eating birds like goldfinches, in the fall.

Here are some wonderful examples in the parking lot for the Botanical Gardens of Asheville and the adjacent greenway plantings along Weaver Blvd. (in Asheville, N.C.)

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Interesting daylilies

I'm not really a daylily person, much preferring plants that are covered over with pollinators and flower visitors of various sorts. But a daylily farm, in a valley outside of Weaverville, NC was quite the site this morning.  I was tagging along with a friend who's writing an article about the farm for a regional gardening magazine, but was totally impressed by the scope of the daylilies -- they were all shades of peach, orange, red, and yellow.

And as a display, quite extraordinary in their diversity.

Just a tiny view of the spectacular display
And there were other interesting perennial beds, too.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A firefly June

We've seen almost as many fireflies this year than we used to see in the summers we spent as (young) researchers near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, many years ago.

They're flashing again tonight, at all canopy levels.  It's probably the tail end of the mating season; they're definitely not as as abundant as earlier in June.  Fireflies are a seasonal component of living in the eastern U.S.  -  special, to be sure.

It's certainly been a firefly June in the mountains of western North Carolina!

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Garden tours

I've been going on garden tours the last few weekends. Totally fun and often inspirational.

I love seeing how gardeners create their gardens.  Everyone is different -- what plants they like, how they maintain their gardens, what sorts of elements they include, etc., etc.

This pot vignette was a highlight from last Sunday's tour.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

Lonicera sempervirens
Normally, Lonicera sempervirens (coral honeysuckle) flowers heavily in the spring, sporadically (one or two periodic flower clusters) through the summer, and then a bit more in the fall.

This plant is looking fabulous in late June -- practically in spring form! I imagine the cool temperatures in May and through much of June (it's warm and humid now) have been encouraging this.  Regardless, the flowers are lovely -- I just wish I could see them better from my studio/sun room windows (the windows on the right). The flowers are facing the opposite direction.

But, it just gives me more incentive to stroll around the house!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tuscan kale

I've grow Tuscan kale before, but this plant doesn't quite fit.  It has the dark green crinkled leaves of dinosaur or Tuscan kale, but it keeps growing.  It's not Jersey kale (walking stick kale) -- I have seeds of that, but the leaves aren't right.

It must just be a robust Tuscan kale plant that has kept growing in this mild spring and early summer.

Tuscan kale
Happily, the leaves are tough enough to deter the cabbage white butterfly caterpillars, too.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Roan Mountain

I had the pleasure of being on an excellent birding excursion to Roan Mountain today.  The Roan Mountain massif straddles North Carolina and Tennessee in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of the SE US.  

We saw interesting plants and plant communities (grassy balds and spruce-fir forests) and LOTS of new birds (to me) that hang out there, especially in the high-elevation spruce fir forests.  I should have been writing them all down, but I had a checklist, and was busily trying to repeat their calls in my iPod (via the earbuds).  Challenging.
Gray's lily

Rhododendron catawbiense (Catawba rhododendron)

Grassy bald at Roan Mountain

Rhododendrons and spruce-fir forest

A silhouetted bird (I've forgotten which one it was!)  There were a lot of new ones....


Monday, June 18, 2012

A more practiced fledgling robin

The fledging robin is looking much more practiced searching for earthworms and insects.  

Our mulch must be rich territory -- we had at least 8 robins poking around this afternoon along with this fledgling and mom.

I posted about them before (with equally ho-hum photos). 

They've been great to watch.

a fledgling robin

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

NWF Backyard Wildlife Habitat

Why not display your sign?
I've had my sign for quite awhile, but it graces an edge of my (inside) study in the Piedmont.

I saw this sign, prominently displayed on a mailbox) on a garden tour today (this garden wasn't on the tour).  But, it had me thinking about it.

The National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Wildlife Program (based here in the U.S.) is a long-running program, and it's evolved into quite a nice one -- encouraging native plants to support native wildlife (unlike in the earlier years of their campaign).

It's a bit of a gimmick, certainly; you as the homeowner go down a checklist about your garden, pay something for the sign, and bingo, you're a certified wildlife habitat.  But it's encouraging, too, so I'm supportive of their efforts --  they've tried to go beyond yards to neighborhoods and communities (college campuses, too).  These are all good things!

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Friday, June 15, 2012

A fledgling robin

A couple of robins near the feeders caught my attention late this afternoon.  They were hopping around in an unusual fashion.

It turned out that they were mom and older fledgling.  She would do a bit of foraging and then return to her offspring, who was complete with the lovely spotted breast of older fledglings.

A mama robin and fledgling
They were fun to watch, although I didn't manage to get a decent photo of the youngster's spotted chest!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Productive raised beds

mid-June, 2012, WNC
My raised beds in the mountains have been amazing.  Filled with commercial compost, topped up with bags of mushroom compost, and enriched with Espoma organic slow-release fertilizer, they've continued to produce. This spring, it was greens, snow peas, sugar snap peas, and lettuce.  I'm harvesting beets and leeks now, along with greens (uh, you see that Tuscan kale plant in the center of the photograph!)

raised beds in the mountains
 But tomatoes are coming along nicely, along with squash plants and beans.  Soon, there will be a switch in our 'local food' diet.  It'll be welcome, too.

sunset from the front door

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A diminutive passionvine

Passiflora lutea on porch railing
Passiflower lutea, a native passionflower, is delicate compared to its relative P. incarnata (Maypops).

Passiflora lutea flowers

Its small flowers are star-like -- ours is now in flower but I didn't get a shot last weekend.  This image is from Missouri

This plant has been doing great this year!  (Here's a view from earlier in the season).

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Bears and bear corn

young black bear foraging on bear corn
Check out my gardening companion's post about bears and Conopholis (Bear Corn or Squawroot) on a recent field trip to the Smokies.  This young black bear was yumming up fruits of bear corn for almost a hour (and holding up hikers in the process).

evidence of a forager!
These are a couple of additional photos that he didn't post.

Woody and I have been holding down 'the fort' at home, here in the Piedmont or in the mountains, but we're glad he's off having adventures, too.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

June-flowering perennials

It's amazing that this mixed shrub perennial border (a focal point from the porch) looks nice at all.  No irrigation.  A minimal bit of spring and fall cleanup. No mulch, dead-heading, dividing, pruning, etc.

But it has continued to look pleasing season after season.  I add plants, remove interlopers and declining plants, but really do very little 'gardening' there, although after the last two dry summers, I was thinking about redoing it entirely.
Perennial border in June
Even though I was busy this spring and didn't do much, graced with moisture and mild temperatures, the plants in the border have flourished.

It's been a pleasure to look at over the last few weeks.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

A June view from the porch

The Rudbeckia maxima in the border viewed from the porch (in the Piedmont) is looking fabulous (at least compared to any previous years) -- this is a view from quite a bit of distance and taken late in the day without a lot of attention to detail.  

Porch view (early June 2012)
The combination of warmth and regular moisture seems to have favored flowering, with multiple flowering stems in both plants that I've planted -- this particular plant in the porch view border has sulked through dry springs, looking anemic, and producing a single flowering shoot at most each year.  There are several flowering shoots this year on both plants.  Woo-hoo! 

A species native to the central U.S, it normally grows in moist soils in wet areas ( I just checked), so that explains the sulking, although apparently it tolerates drier soil, too).  Hmm, I guess that means that it sits there waiting for decent moisture...

It was lovely to eat dinner on the porch this evening, enjoying the Rudbeckia, along with a newly-flowering Liatris, and the huge Buddleia nearby.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Growing beets

Beets in raised beds
Beets are another root crop (in addition to carrots) that are supposed to be 'easy' - but have been problematic for me in (even in greatly amended) clay soils.

My best beets have been in raised beds filled with commercial vegetable compost from a local mulch yard (in the mountains).  Check out this post from a couple of years ago.

Beets, garlic, bananas, cyclamen, and shitakes in a cloth bag
We enjoyed this bunch as part of tonight's dinner.  Yum.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Red-bellied woodpeckers

Male red-bellied woodpecker, March 2012
We seem to have two red-bellied woodpeckers visiting the platform feeder this season in our 'backyard' in the mountains. Our backyard is actually a forested ravine with an increasing number of natives in the understory (thanks to our planting them), but also graced by a overstory of oaks and hickories, with a spattering of wild cherries in open areas near the house (thanks to nature).

The male is (and has been) a frequent visitor to the sunflower seed feeder (he's been around since late winter), chasing away cardinals, titmice, and other visitors.

The female (or perhaps a juvenile bird) is shyer, and doesn't visit the platform feeder as often (it's like Grand Central Station out there most days).

We've just noticed the second visitor in recent weeks;  today they were together in one of the cherry trees near the feeder.

I'll be checking to see if I can distinguish markings on the newcomer.  I couldn't tell if there was a red patch on the neck from the view I had;  it possibly was a congenial downy woodpecker, as well, but looked more like a red-bellied.

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Carrots, lavender, and bees

Carrots are always a dicey vegetable in southern climates. Touted as easy to grow, they're hardly happy in heavy clay soils and heat quickly makes them bitter in spring plantings.

The notion that fresh carrots from the garden are always sweet and tender isn't my experience.  But these Thumbelina carrots (from Renee's Garden seeds), harvested today, are delightful in appearance and pretty tasty, too.  (Uh, but not exactly like those baby carrots pre-packaged in the grocery store, either).

fresh carrots from the garden
The lavender in the front bed is starting to flower -- I've forgotten the cultivar, but it's flourishing.

lavender starting to flower

bumblebee visiting lavender flower

It's behind other lavenders in the neighborhood, but is robust, and the first bumblebees are enjoying the nectar from its flowers.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Perennial gardens

The rhythms of perennials are a primary enchantment.  I'm not a fussy gardener, nor do I have time or inclination to spend on grooming and pruning.  But it's lovely to see them reemerge and flower each year.

The main perennial border in the Piedmont, in spite of total neglect, looked quite lovely yesterday.  The Rudbeckia maxima is finally looking robust, and makes a nice contrast with the buddleia, oakleaf hydrangea, Asclepia tuberosa,  and Salvia guaranitica.

Perennial border in June

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