Friday, November 9, 2018

Another ginkgo post

I posted about ginkgos (again) on Places of the Spirit, so am linking that post here.
I've included links to many of the past posts about ginkgos that I've made on this blog over the years -- ginkgos are such great tree with a wonderful story.

Nov. 15,  2016
This year, the small tree in front is much yellower already, more like last year, although there are still ginkgos in the neighborhood that are completely green.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Wildlife in the garden

I'm currently revising and updating a favorite presentation (Gardening for Nature/Gardening for Wildlife/Creating a Garden that's Full of Life) for the Blue Ridge Eco-Gardener program at the NC Arboretum.  Their course satisfies a Wildlife and Garden credit for their certificate program. 

I've always focused on encouraging habitat and plant diversity (especially natives) in urban, suburban, and rural gardens (large or small), with the goal of restoring as much ecological balance in our landscapes in all of the versions of this presentation I've done over the decades.

But having a class with a more general title (Wildlife in the Garden) is giving me a fresh opportunity to reframe the benefits of ecological balance and diversity in our gardens, for a group of participants who live in a diversity of places in Western North Carolina.  Some live on mountain ridges, others in the urban landscapes in the Asheville Basin, and yet others in the open agricultural landscapes near Hendersonville -- with lots of other sorts of places, too.

The landscape that you start with is an essential part of the mix, of course.  What's around the property?  Is it forest?  How "natural?"  Is there farmland nearby?  New subdivision?  Old subdivision?   Is the landscape conventional tree and lawn?  What kinds of shrubs and trees?  Ornamental? Native?  What are your neighbors growing?  Are there sources of water?  etc.  These situations influence all sorts of things:  from the kinds of wildlife you may be able to enjoy watching in your landscape to the ones that you may wish to discourage!

Some of the most sterile landscapes I've ever seen are gardens full of ornamental plants that offer little in the way of food or habitat -- no flowers producing nectar, no native plants with leaves that provide food for a variety of wildlife, no shrubs with edible berries, etc. 

Not my kind of garden, nor one that satisfies any goal of doing anything more than producing some CO2 (it's still better than concrete and stone!)

A paper wasp nest
 Watching a Carolina Wren and a Tufted Titmouse forage for the larvae in this paper wasp nest on the porch roof this afternoon pleased me.  We don't bother active nests (unless they're next to a frequently used door) as the wasps do beneficial work in the garden -- and otherwise don't interfere with our activities.  (Yellowjackets are another story).

location of paper wasp nest

I believe strongly that we need to recreate and strengthen the ecological frameworks of our landscapes, communities, and neighborhoods to keep our cities and towns healthy and vibrant places for humans and wildlife.  I've been following habitat loss since I was a young plant ecologist, teaching classes on People and the Environment and doing research. 

I became an advocate of gardening with native plants and encouraging people to be gardeners as an antidote to just being gloomy about the state of the natural world;  it seemed more helpful to encourage people to plant a diversity of native plants and grow their own vegetables than to keep lamenting about loss of habitat.   Two Natural Gardening posts that came up doing a label search for "sustainability" were telling.  I've been thinking about these things for a long time.  Here was one on Sustainable Gardening and another on Gardening as Stewardship

I could just as easily have written them today.




Thursday, November 1, 2018

BearWise basics: co-existing peacefully with black bears.

I hadn't been aware until hearing a Backyard Bears program last Sunday how strongly the black bear population had rebounded in North Carolina;  this range map tells the story.

From a low of 1500-2000 bears in the 1970's, there are now close to 20,000 bears in our state.  So more bears and more people mean that we're more likely to interact, so we need to learn how to better co-exist responsibly. 

With an acorn failure at higher elevations in the mountains this summer,  many more bears than usual have been in spotted in urban Asheville, where I live, particularly in neighborhoods that don't usually see bears in the summer.  They're looking for food and being unfortunately "rewarded" by the easy pickings available in our trashcans, dumpsters, bird feeders, pet food bowls, and recycling containers.

Yes, they may also take advantage of the abundant acorns in the urban forest, or occasional fruit-bearing trees or shrubs, too, but the easy pickings are the unsecured "unnatural" foods.  Bears are adaptable and smart. But they're also normally shy and wary of people; we don't want them to lose their fear of people by becoming accustomed to unnatural human foods.

The neighborhoods in the mountains and more rural communities located in more typical bear habitat are used to bears and securing their trash, not so much in our central neighborhoods near downtown, where we normally might see just a few single males wandering through in spring or early summer.  (I wrote more about bear sightings this summer and fall on a previous post in Places of the Spirit.)

I was so impressed with the Bearwise program (and website) which the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission takes part in, that I'm planning to distribute their literature and outreach materials to some of my neighborhoods and include their recommendations in upcoming gardening for wildlife programs.

Black bears are NOT inherently dangerous to humans and black bear attacks are extremely rare, in spite of what you might "hear."  Black bears often walk through rural and suburban neighborhoods looking for food; ; if food and garbage are secured, they'll keep on going.  According to the BearWise site, bears that get unnatural foods may eventually lose their fear of people, which can be a risk to public safety.  Also, don't confuse grizzly bear behavior with black bear behavior.  They're quite different animals.

So, here are the BearWise basics:


I'm planning to learn a lot more about black bear ecology and their habitat requirements;  as a biologist, albeit a plant one,  I'm inherently interested in promoting living harmoniously with wildlife as much as possible.

The ecological framework of our planet is dependent on these interconnections, after all, and as  forests slowly came back across the Southeast (and the Eastern U.S., too), post widespread logging in the late 1800's and early 1900's,  and as abandoned farm fields turned back into forest, bear habitat came back as well, so their numbers have also come back.

More about black bear ecology to come!


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Revisiting a visit to Linnaeus' house and garden in Uppsala

An online discussion of a plant name had me remembering a botanical pilgrimage from July 2017 to Uppsala, Sweden.

Here was my remembrance on my post this afternoon.

Linnaeus as a young man

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Places of the Spirit

I’m largely posting now on my new blog site, Places of the Spirit, where I’m doing daily posts.

Please follow along if you’re so inclined.

https://placesofthespirit.blogspot.com/

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Being at home in the Southern Appalachians

It's been so nice to revisit posts that I've made in Natural Gardening over the last few weeks -- on fall color, favorite plants, preserving fall leaves, etc. 

I've been doing this on Places of the Spirit, my new blog, where I've committed to posting everyday for the next year.

yesterday's dogwood leaf drawing
And I'm planning to do a lot more of that reweaving of past posts with new ones in the year to come. So much of what creates a sense of place for me is the natural world, the gardens and natural areas that surround us, and where we are in the world.

I invite you to follow my new blog, too, if you've been following this one or are interested.  I'm finding that I'm doing similar posts, just on a slightly broader theme than strictly gardening and nature.

But I haven't abandoned gardening, either, so there will be more posts about those topics to come here as well, as we continue to develop our "new" garden in Quebec, and spend more time in our garden in the Southern Appalachians of Western North Carolina.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A pussy willow drawing

My last few posts on Places of the Spirit have been about doing some drawing at home -- along with a few sketches.  

It's nice to tip-toe back into drawing and watercolor - an aspiration for many years, but something that I just didn't do, unless I took a class of some sort. 

It's been fun.

After a quick partial clean-up of the front meadow, I thought, well why not a quick sketch, too.

Often taking just a little time to do something is all the encouragement that's needed.  A dried pussy willow stem was my sketch this afternoon.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Some thoughts about Vancouver a year ago

I was checking on seasonal posts from last October and was reminded that we'd just returned from Vancouver at this time last year.

Here are the thoughts I shared on Places of the Spirit.


And a reminder of the full moon view from Cambie Bridge.

View from Cambie Bridge

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Time in Quebec

Thinking about the Northern Appalachians, a search here for "a house in Quebec" brought up so many good memories.

I've just written more about this on a post in Places of the Spirit:  Thinking about the Northern Appalachians.  It's a place that's compelling, as I think about visiting for a month or so this winter, and then returning in the summer and fall.

At the table in the living room

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Many more monarchs

An abundance of monarchs deserves a repeat post, at least a link from here Our Asheville neighborhood is currently graced with multiple monarchs nectaring on Mexican sunflower, Buddleia, and Zinnia.

https://placesofthespirit.blogspot.com/2018/10/even-more-monarchs.html
A nectaring monarch
My post in Places of the Spirit continues the story.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Back to gardening

This post, in Places of the Spirit, about gardening again, a plant mystery and raised beds to tend is pertinent here.


It started out as a reflection about gardening as a practice, but detoured into an investigation of apparently sorrel seedlings.

This link describes the mystery.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Sightings of multiple monarchs

On our neighbor's butterfly bushes, we saw upwards of 20 monarchs nectaring over two days in a row.  How exciting!

Here was my post about it in Places of the Spirit, my new blog.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Another venture into drawing

I wrote about trying to capture a wonderful wildflower-rich view last summer in a practice drawing in Places of the Spirit (my new daily post blog).

It's equally meaningful here, too.

Here's the link.  Just click through if you're interested.

Friday, September 28, 2018

A welcome Rudbeckia

It's been great to have a volunteer Rudbeckia (it looks like fulgida) along the front path.


It's flowering much later than all of the other Rudbeckias in the front garden; they're glorious in mid-summer;  in full flower now, this individual is brightening the house side of the pocket meadow, accompanying the aromatic asters (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) that are signature late-flowering plants in early fall.  The goldenrods are fading now, so the bumblebees and other flower visitors have switched to the asters.

I haven't had a chance yet to edit the pocket meadow for a variety of reasons, but am looking forward to tweaking its exuberance here and there.  The Joe-Pye is looking wan and there are seedlings of Silphium and Vernonia to pull, too.  Not to mention the morning glory vines rambling on the edges of the front garden (where I squeeze out the car door stepping into flopped-over, but still lovely, Salvia guarantica).

The rhythms of the seasons are always pleasing;  there's now a bit of coolness in the air in the morning, while the afternoons remain (a bit unseasonably) warm and humid. But there are hints of color here and there, foreshadowing more color to come.

I went on to post this in Places of the Spirit, as I continued to think about seasonal patterns.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Migration of ruby-throated hummingbirds

Hummingbird visiting Campsis at Biltmore Estate
This business of having two blogs is a bit of a paradox. I'm trying to post daily on my new blog: Places of the Spirit, but on topics like this, it seems more normal to be here, on my long-running blog that encompasses observations about nature and gardening.

So, here's a link to my migration post on Places of the Spirit.


Monday, September 24, 2018

Revisiting local markets and local food

Market in Vietiane, Laos
I've been fascinated by outdoor markets of all types for many years; moving to California for graduate school in the mid-70's introduced me to the diversity of the produce available in the SF Bay Area.  The Monterey Market, especially,  and the Berkeley Bowl were iconic places at the time.

I had my first brussels sprouts, among other delicious things there!  I've now experienced all sorts of "new" vegetables over the last decades, some of which I've enjoying growing (yard-long beans and amaranth, for example).

The subject of today's post on Places of the Spirit revisited some posts about "markets" on this blog. 

Click through to read it, if you'd like.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Gardening as restoration

I just posted this piece on my new blog, Places of the Spirit.   It really belongs here too, since I revisit two posts that I made: one this summer and one over a decade ago.


Our new garden in Quebec to restore and transform to a native one

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The nocturnal symphony

We both noticed how few insects of any sort were evident in Germany.  Very few pollinators, even when suitable flowers were present.

We chalked it up (initially) to being in a much more urban environment in Freiburg, but it was true in the countryside, both in the vineyards and in the Schwarzwald.  Europe is much less biodiverse than North America because of glaciation, but it still seemed quiet.

A full moon from years ago
So it was nice to come back to the nocturnal symphony that's part of our evenings in the Southeastern U.S.  Field crickets, katydids, cicadas, and tree frogs all form part of the chorus as the evening progresses.

We missed the lightning beetles earlier in the summer -- they're part of the Southeastern U.S. summer, too.

A search on "nocturnal symphony" in past posts brought up quite a few hits. 

When I was still at the botanical garden as an educator, I did full moon night hikes;  the nocturnal symphony was always something that I interpreted.

So it's special here, to hear the night rhythms, played out by insects, amphibians, and occasional birds and mammals,

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

An overgrown garden

Well, another month away without the gardeners, with LOTS of rain -- of course, the garden is overgrown.  But the pocket meadow is lush (hey, it could be parched) and the overall impression isn't too bad.

Aromatic aster and Verbena are in flower.

I've been averting my eyes as I squeeze my car into the much smaller driveway space and step out into the Salvia gauranitica that's flopping over.  Thankfully, the Solidago 'Fireworks' is in flower now, so I'm distracted by its attractiveness (and the hordes of flower visitors).

Solidago 'Fireworks'
 Ditto for the vegetable beds. 

The chard plants, planted the day before we left, are huge, thanks to the rain and the organic fertilizer I added while planting, I guess.  My chard is usually much smaller, but I liberally applied the Espoma, too, finishing off a containter.  I'm usually quite stingy with it.


The parsley and herbs have flourished, too.  The sage in the deep bed in the back is a monster.  Yikes! The cabbage whites have happily defoliated most of the kale and broccoli plants (of course), but so it goes.  You can see an example to the left of the large chive clump.  Sigh.  Even the ones that I put wire cloches over were munched.  The morning glory vines and the climbing rose on the trellises in back look awful.  Oh, well.

Thyme, parsley, chives, oregano. rosemary and sage: looking robust
 Thankfully, this won't be a huge job to shape up, but I have lots of other things to do in the next two weeks, too, including doing 4 presentations (as a volunteer).  It's really all good, as they're favorite presentations (about native woodland gardens, pocket meadows, and native plants).  And I've been away so much this last year, I wanted to cluster my classes and talks during times that I knew I would be here after all!



Friday, September 14, 2018

A reminder from the past: pilgrimage

I wrote about pilgrimage and coming home from Germany a little over six years ago:  the post talked about Jakobsweg and pilgrimage paths

I had a strong sense of pilgrimage then, in particular, as I was thinking about what to do next as I reduced my work hours.

So, it was interesting to spot this hiker this afternoon carrying a traditional scallop emblem on his pack (just like the one St. Jakob held in the sculpture shown in the above post).

Add caption

Monday, September 10, 2018

Common milkweed saves the day

A search this afternoon for a different topic pulled up this post.  I was able to share my (abundant) common milkweed with a friend, so she could feed the leaves to her monarch caterpillars.

It was nice to re-read today -- and reminded me, too, of online friendships now in-person ones.  A wonderful offshoot of the digital age.

Looking again for that post brought up all sorts of other milkweed posts, too, including one the following year, where I shared more milkweed with her again.  We had a HUGE patch in what used to be the meadow up front by the time we left our garden in Upstate South Carolina.

Common milkweed with monarch at Beaver Lake a few years back

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Edelweiss and alpine gentians

A visit to the highest peak in the Schwarzwald yesterday brought wonderful views and a great hike, which I posted about in Places of the Spirit, my new addition to writing blog posts.

But a plant-related reflection belongs here:  about edelweiss and alpine gentians.  We didn't see either, but on the peak, one of the interpretive signs mentioned both. They're certainly iconic alpine plants.


The text describes how Edelweiss was once much more common in its range (which is limited to a fairly limited elevation and soil type, according to this Wikipedia account) and now exists in protected areas.  (Overcollection had an impact).  I'm thinking I even have a framed pressed flower montage from Switzerland that includes an edelweiss flower.  (It was a birthday present from my mom when I was a teenager).

Gentians comprise a species-rich genus, with a cosmopolitan distribution. My gardening companion studied three alpine gentians in the White Mountains of California in graduate school;  4 summer seasons were spent comparing their pollination biology and life history strategies (at ~ 11,000 ft).  It was nice to go visit in summer;  not so fun in the beginning of the season, for fieldwork, when there was still snow on the ground. So gentians have been part of our botanical lives for a long time.  

It would have been fun to see one on the Feldburg, but probably the short-stemmed, dwarf species described in this image flowered in late spring or early summer.


Its common name is first described here as yellow gentian (?), but then the description mentions a much better one: stemless gentian (Stengelloser Enzian).  Hmm.  There is a yellow gentian native to the alps, but its flowers are yellow, as you'd think.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Salad for lunch

Thanks to the Freiburg farmer's market around the Munsterplatz, we've had delicious salads and vegetables. 
ready for lunch
 I felt confident that I'd posted everything I could already about this farmer's market, but it is truly exceptional, especially the Saturday version.



Thursday, August 30, 2018

An excursion to Colmar

What a lovely city in Alsace!  I visited over three decades ago, and then again 6 years ago.  And even though it's now full of tourist-oriented shops and restaurants, instead of "local" shops," from years ago, it's still a wonderful place within the confines of the pedestrian zone and beyond. Lots of international tourists to be heard -- not surprisingly.

Just a few images to share.







Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A view from our Freiburg terrace

Alas, my iPhone didn't capture the image of the Schwarzwald in the light beyond the terrace, but it was a lovely view, nevertheless.

View from the upper terrace

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Wandering around Kaiserstuhl

A daytrip to Kaiserstuhl was both an opportunity to walk along one of the many paths that lace the region as well as enjoying the remarkable managed landscapes of vineyards, benefitted by the nutrient-rich soils of a unique geologic formation between the Schwarzwald and the Rhein.

This is a well-known German wine region; it’s also a favorite destination for walkers and cyclists. In the spring, rare orchids and other species adapted to the calcium-rich soils are in flower — another reason to visit!

Monday, August 27, 2018

A visit to Staufen im Breisgau

The nearby medieval city of Staufen is a favorite of Rick Steves, an excellent traveler and guide to all things about European travel through the "back door."  He's a favorite of ours, through his podcasts primarily, but also through his travel guides.  So, when he mentions Staufen, just a short way outside of Freiburg as a destination, well, we'll join the other tourists there.  We weren't dissappointed.

It's a postcard-worthy town, from the Rathaus and Marktplatz:
The Rathaus (city hall)


          
 Charming streets with restored houses and businesses reflect its popularity (and prosperity).


A destination konditorei/confiserie/café, Café Decker, was mentioned in several places; in a country, where every small town seems to have several such places, it definitely was worth checking out.  We don't normally have afternoon cake, but it seemed like a good idea here.  Both were excellent!

cakes at Café Decker
We weren't hiking in the countryside today, but for folks staying in Staufen, there are myriad opportunities for walking and biking, as there are throughout the region.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Coming back to a once familiar place


View of Freiburg from the Schossberg
It's been interesting to return to a vibrant university town that I knew well decades ago.  It was great then and lovely now, but of course, the experiences are different.  Freiburg is an even more prosperous place, it seems to me, now hosting even more tourists and regional shoppers, just as university students, both German and international come back for fall classes to resume.
Munster without scaffolding -- first time in 12 years

Walking around the Altstadt on a Saturday afternoon -- well, it was bustling.  Even on a drizzily morning, the Saturday market at the Munster Platz was busy.  Delightful.

But it reminds me, too, that our HomeExchanges where we're able to walk to shop for groceries or to the farmer's market, and be close to town -- and to experience the feeling of living in this place -- are really magic.

And it reminds me that I can actually walk to grocery stores at home in Asheville that are closer than the ones here!  I came back from Stockholm over a year ago thinking "I can walk to the grocery store" - a 8-10 minute walk- after walking 6-10 miles each day in Stockholm.  But having heavy bags quickly persuaded me back to my driving habits.  Here, both grocery stores that I've frequented so far don't have easy parking, not have I driven our HomeExchange partner's car yet, so daily short visits make the most sense. And it's easy to buy milk, coffee, etc.  just a block down the street.

But, more essentially, it's wonderful to come back to a vibrant university town, which, where history has been preserved and restored, seems familiar yet unfamiliar.  I came into town, years ago, from the opposite side of the Altstadt from where our HomeExchange apartment is located.  I've just in the last couple of days walked around a bit of the university area.

Back then, I walked ten minutes and took a bus into town, then walked to where my language classes at the Goethe Institute were held.  In the afternoons, I'd poke around the old city of Freiburg (uh, and practice my German!)

My favorite place was the robust vegetable, fruit, and produce market around the Munster.  It was amazing to me as a young post-graduate student, and remarkable still.

Artichokes, with and without flowers

Cut flowers for sale



Friday, August 24, 2018

Music in the Altstadt of Freiburg

A walk for shopping (ugh) brought some lovely moments. These young people stopped shoppers along the busy Kaiser-Joseph-Strasse, a mainstream shopping street in Freiburg.


They had a big group gathering round, including me;  they were a wonderful interlude from a "shopping" excursion.

Looking toward the Munster.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Munster market in Freiburg

I was planning to post about the central market surrounding the Munster in Freiburg, a favorite place from years ago.  But, while trying to find where some community vegetable gardens might be located here, one of the results from that search turned out to be my post from 6 years ago about the daily market next to the cathedral:  https://naturalgardening.blogspot.com/2012/09/freiburg-market-at-munsterplatz.html

What I wrote then applies, today, too, with a similar array of fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, and cheese for sale.  I'm looking forward to visiting the Saturday morning market -- the largest of the week.

The market looks similar today, although with a bit of fencing currently surrounding the cathedral, it’s not quite as picturesque.  Fortunately, the fence will be removed in early September, apparently, and the cathedral is looking great.

lots of fresh berries currently!




Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A first excursion in the Schwarzwald

We have the use of our HomeExchange partner's lovely Saab, obviously well-maintained over its long life.  We extracted it from its underground garage (an interesting business of moving platforms and keeping the garage door open) for an first outing into the Black Forest, both to practice our driving and navigation skills and to go out of the city a bit.

It wasn't disappointing.  The villages of St. Peter and St. Margen were both delightful, as was the drive.  I even was able to practice my German (with a Canadian!) who recognized us as English speakers, as we tried to go up (the closed) road to St. Peter, under construction, apparently;  the signs were subtle, to say the least.

I loved these signs in the herb garden next to the Kloster in St. Peter.

Flowers and herbs are the "smiles" of the earth.
The way to health is in a garden. 
And my sister, a clinical herbalist, now post her piano studio career, would have loved this walk. I'd have enjoyed it, too!
The poster describes a local walk identifying local herbs and edibles. 

There are lots of such events around -- in St. Margen and St. Peter, they were celebrating their 900 year and 925 year anniversaries of founding the religious communities there, the forerunners of the towns that are now vacation destinations for walker, bikers, and winter enthusiasts (walking, snow shoeing, skiing, etc.).
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