Friday, March 27, 2015

Time in the Low Country

The Low Country of South Carolina was naturally a place of coastal rivers, cypress swamps, and maritime forests. Historically, it included rice fields and indigo growing and plantations.

A visit today to Magnolia Gardens and Middleton Place (part of a Garden Writers regional meeting) brought largely moments of appreciating the natural beauty along the Ashley River.

Ashley River from the Magnolia Gardens river trail

Bald eagle above the Ashley River

An old live oak at Middleton Plantation

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A brazen woodchuck

If the squirrels eating the kale weren't enough, a woodchuck appeared in the back garden yesterday chewing on buckeye leaves. 

They're full of nasty compounds.  Amazing.

At least the squirrels don't seem to like spinach, Japanese red mustard, or parsley (at least not yet).

This is quite a sub-par photo, taken through the window, and blurry, but you get the idea.  Hmrph.

Eating buckeye leaves?  Really?  No wonder that they'll chew their way through cilantro, etc.   This one has just come out from its burrow, so probably hasn't discovered the small amounts of spinach, etc. that I have in flats.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Moving forward

As we get ready to pass on an old house (built in 1929) and relatively new garden (we've been here 22 years) to the next owners, I'm happy and wistful.  We accepted an offer last weekend, so it's now "contract pending."

My dad, not a sentimental sort, reminded me this morning via email of Robert McCloskey's words in The Time of Wonder, "a little bit sad about the place you are leaving, a little bit glad about the place you are going"  (he remembered:  happy about the place you’re going to, sad about the place you’re leaving.)
My mother often read that book to my sister and me, along with his other books. 

I've thought about that phrase a lot over the last couple of months.  

She's been gone for a long time, now, sadly, and wasn't married to my dad for quite a long time before that, but I still have the book.

I'm glad about the place I'm going to, but still a little bit sad about the place I'm leaving.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sassafras and dogwood

The flower buds of sassafras and dogwood are visibly swelling.  Sassafras flowers, both male and female, should be open any day, with the return of warm weather.

Today brought chilly and rainy weather as a cold front pushed against warmer air.

Flowers on our rabbit-eye blueberries are ready to open, and quince flowers are already visible.

This was March 6, 2012 -- with a sassafras in full flower.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Bloodroot in flower

Coming back to the Piedmont today, I was delighted to see bloodroot in full flower.  I've made so many posts about bloodroot -- it's a favorite early spring flower.  Here's a post from last year.

We planted it in various places around the garden, starting with one plant. Ants have spread the seeds and patches have popped up all over the front woodland border along the front path.  Totally rewarding.

There are a number of large clumps now in the front, along with smaller plants.  Lovely.

It's in flower in the South Carolina Botanical Garden, too. I took this photo late this afternoon.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A chickadee's view of the garden, indeed

Doug Tallamy has been a passionate advocate for expanding our landscapes to support native insects, and therefore birds, etc.

In this piece in the NYT, he made the case, again. Links to the article appear below.

This is good stuff.  We need to be good stewards of our gardens, adding back more native plants, and embracing even the less than lovely natives (hmm, black cherries and pin oak are species I have a hard time convincing people to add, as well as sweetgums and sycamores, for non-mulched areas.)

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ready for a new gardener

I cleaned up the main vegetable garden in the Piedmont today.  I meant to get a photo this afternoon, but time got away, with pulls of other things.

This is what it looked like getting ready a year or so ago.

prepped for planting (main vegetable garden)
It didn't need much prep, as I'd prepared and planted last fall, just to have early frost, deer, squirrels, and woodchucks pretty much clear what had been planted -  out.

I planted some kale, weeded around the perennial leeks, cleaned up around a flourishing patch of creasy greens, and "fluffed up" the soil around emerging sorrel and chives, and all of the bare areas.

It's ready for a new gardener.  The satellite garden has gone back to mulch, but it's ready, too, as is the sunny patch of lawn below the house (perfect for converting to a number of large raised beds for vegetables and herbs!)

My containers near the potting bench have parsley and spinach in them; the porch plantings have been equally spiffed up.

I'm about to prepare some sugar water for the hummingbird feeder. The males are heading north, now.  The feeder will be waiting to provide sustenance along the way to farther north.

I was wistful as I prepared the beds this afternoon, but I have lovely raised beds in full sun to look forward to.  I'm grateful for that.

full of greens and kale

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Cool-season vegetable gardening (and moving forward)

I really like to promote 4-season vegetable gardening here in the Carolinas.

There's no reason not to grow winter-hardy vegetables (kale, collards, and the like) through the winter, if you like greens.   The last two winters, though, have not been kind to even normally hardy (without any protection) winter vegetables.

So I've started from "scratch" two years in a row now.  Hmm...

I do have a decent patch of creasy greens in the Piedmont (it can freeze solid and bounce back) along with a similar, but less robust patch in the mountains.  The mache is coming back in one of my flats, too.  It's a tough plant.

The perennial leeks, although frosted, are fine, too.  And the chives are emerging, woo-hoo!

I'm cleaning up the main vegetable garden beds here in the Piedmont, readying them to plant.  I won't be planting them, simply keeping them ready for the next gardener who will come.

This image of the main vegetable garden and shed is one of my favorites - our real estate agent loved it.  The garden shed has been cleaned up.  It's ready for the next gardener, too.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Signs of spring

It's March.

It's time here in the Southeastern U.S.

The blueberry buds are swelling. Carolina jessamine flowers on the front porch railing are about to open (normally they'd have opened already).  Red maple flowers have come and gone (I think). Some of the earliest spring natives have emerged, although with sporadic blooms.

But the cold February has delayed much of "normal" early spring, from Asian and Mediterranean species to natives alike. My posts from previous years documented that flowering (of most) had already happened in February and early March.

We normally depend on camellias, quince, Japanese apricots, Japanese cherries, and Asian magnolias and their like for early flowers in our part of the world.  This year, they've been blasted again.

I was reminded sorting (and tossing) old slides last week, of my long-ago lab group excursion to see Hepatica nobilis (blooming in the snow), around April - a first sign of spring in Osnabruck, Germany.  

A search on Hepatica (on previous blog posts) brought all sorts remembrances, too. We have our own native species, often the first flowers in spring to be seen.

Usually in February.

Hepatica acutiloba

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Honoring an old house

I signed the listing papers today for our house in the Piedmont of SC.

The house looks good.

It’s a great house, with good presence. Built in 1929, it’s not old, compared to living places in many parts of the world, but it’s an old house (even historic) house here.

Our university (why our small college town even exists) was founded in 1898, through a gift of an enlightened 19th century owner, who inherited the land from his wife, and left it to for the establishment of a "high seminary of learning." It’s a public university, and the land grant university for our state. So it’s an old house for our town.

I planted hanging baskets and window boxes today – full of herbs (not much else available right now, because of extreme February cold).

It’s waiting for new owners who will love it, just as we have. I'm feeling like I'm honoring the house and garden today.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Downsizing your garden

I spent the day at the Davidson Horticultural Symposium.  It was great, full of thought-provoking presentations and interactions with fellow gardeners.

But a couple of the presentations, by very accomplished landscape architects, had me thankful for the opportunity and encouragement to downsize my garden.

Their clients were totally high-end, with unlimited budgets, so with the ability to create not only gigantic (if tasteful) houses, with equally expansive (lovely and high-maintenance) gardens to match.

These two successful landscape designers, and they looked like quite nice women, too (I didn't talk with either) certainly were helping their VERY affluent clients create the landscape/setting that was suitable for the extraordinary places that their homes were set in (Baja California, Martha's Vineyard, upstate NY, etc.)

It just reinforced my thoughts about simplicity and downsizing at this time of life.  I don't want bigger.  Smaller is good.  We're going from 2300 sq. ft. to 1500 sq. ft.

This has meant a lot of shedding, as well as identifying which pieces of furniture will come with us (not many), what will replace what we've acquired already (the couches), what artwork needs to be swapped out (for the time-worn framed posters), etc.

And although I'll totally miss the lovely, large expansive natural landscape we've created here, it's a good thing to simplify, too.

my study view
We'll downsize to the raised bed vegetable garden, the native woodland garden (in the ravine behind our house), the pocket meadow and the natural habitat plantings, on a small scale, that my gardening companion has created.

We'll continue to enhance our smaller landscape (I've had lot of new ideas after today's talks).

So, thankfully, we're downsizing (not upsizing!)

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