Saturday, May 31, 2014

Nature journaling and watercolor fun

Writing a blog about nature and gardening is really nature and garden journaling, but I've always wanted to practice real-time with sketching and art, too, but found the format intimidating, even though I loved drawing and art when much younger.

So an all-day workshop around using watercolor in your nature journaling, taught by Elizabeth Ellison, a wonderful artist based in Bryson City, NC at the NC Arboretum, was a wonderful way to encourage myself towards some watercolor artistic expression.

I've never done watercolors before (aside from pen and ink colored ones), with only a dabble into watercolor pencils, but have always loved watercolor art (and wanted to do it.)

I had a totally fun day -- great to learn some techniques and play with color.  I'm signed up for another class (much longer) in a couple of weeks.  It'll be fun.

Here are some of my impressions of trees and mountains, and a container planting (our "subjects" today).
mountains, evergreen trees, and deciduous trees
evergreen and deciduous trees

inspired by a container planting!

heading off with (pristine) art supplies

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Growing peanuts

I can't claim that I've ever grown peanuts, even after living in the South for 3 decades.

I know it's possible. One of my younger colleagues grew giant Spanish peanuts with the kids in one of our after-school programs (at the botanical garden where I worked, and now volunteer) some years ago.

Peanuts need warmth and space. They flourish in the coastal plain of SC and GA.

So I found this article in the NY Times quite interesting; here's a fellow trying to grow peanuts in NYC.  Lovely!  And learning more about the history of peanuts -- fascinating.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Penstemon digitalis "Husker Red"

Penstemon digitalis in the pocket meadow
Penstemon digitalis (in the pocket meadow) is looking lovely now, in full flower. Its lovely clear white flowers are a great addition to the mix!

Penstemon digitalis

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Flame azalea and Eastern hemlocks

We've gardened in our neighbor's yards on both sides of our house in the mountains (with their permission - so not guerilla gardening, but shared landscaping).

It's been fun to replace weedy things with desirable native plants, ones that restore some mountain habitat to an old urban neighborhood (and the formerly weedy woodland ravine behind the house).  This has my gardening companion's major gardening focus (and a welcome break for him). I appreciate the results!

A flame azalea and a couple of Eastern hemlocks were additions to the "blue house side"-- along with a number of other things.

flame azalea and Eastern hemlocks
The flame azalea (Rhodendron calendulaceum) is beautiful right now.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Carolina rose

We've enjoyed our Carolina rose: we planted it last year and it's flourished.

This is how it looked this afternoon. Lovely.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"Pocket" meadow
The plants in the pocket meadow out front are such a nice mix, flowering sequentially throughout the growing season.  This is somewhat (although not entirely) by design.

It was heartening to see how many of them survived the exceptionally cold winter -- and the ones that didn't; well, their spot just gives me an opportunity to plant something else.

The hybrid Penstemons, even though they were western species, were casualties, probably from the wet summer more than the cold, but the species Penstemon now in flower (also western species, I think), are a lovely lavender.  An single P. hirsutus, planted last week, makes a nice contrast to the others and filled in a gap. And the white flowers of P. digitalis "Husker's Red" will be open soon; the purple foliage adds to the mix.

The yellow Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) have flourished - they're huge this year. Interestingly, I just read that the flowers and foliage were edible -- it wouldn't have occurred to me!

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Native rhododendrons

This year has been kind to our evergreen Rhododendron catawbiense, if not to deciduous native azaleas (we lost one and another doesn't look robust).  Catawba rhododendrons (species) have been lovely here in the mountains as well as around town; their hybrid forms (often with Asian species) have done equally well.

Rhododendron catawbiense

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Assessing climate impacts

Here in the Southeastern U.S., we've had a very usual year weather-wise.  Way more rain than normal last summer, then bone-chilling cold in the winter.

It's made for some interesting losses and die-backs.

So, it was a reminder about how extreme our variations were over the past year to read this piece in the NY Times about the impact that extreme cold has had on midwest gardens.  It's telling that some gardeners lost plants that had thrived for 30 years.

As gardeners, we always like to push the envelope, even those of us who are trying to be mindful of our regional conditions, but certainly these were exceptional variations, and maybe a portent of more fluctuations to come. 

I gravitated towards being a gardener (and garden educator) as it was hopeful -- restoring landscapes and encouraging people to connect with nature. It's a nurturing and forward-thinking practice (vs. worrying about habitat loss, conservation challenges, etc.) -- this sort of news just makes me realize more that we need to keep planting as restoration gardeners interested in stewardship, too.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Golden ragwort (Packera aurea)

It's hard not to like Golden ragwort (aka Golden Groundsel) = Packera aurea.

It's a native across the Eastern U.S.  It flowers early in spring, supporting some early pollinators, providing a brilliant yellow in woodlands, etc.

It's a exuberant colonizer, and successful self-seeder, so grows prolifically in nice garden beds.

Happily, it's easy to "control" and share with fellow gardeners.

Here's a view of a patch through the front door in our (small) house in the mountains.

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