Monday, December 23, 2019

Remembering Christmases past

We spent a wonderful time in Lecce, Italy some years ago over Christmas.

These stars, hung above pedestrian streets, were magical.

Here is my favorite compendium post about Christmases past.


Thursday, December 19, 2019

Presentations in spring

Being a part-time resident again, now splitting time between the Southern Appalachians in Western North Carolina and the Northern Appalachians in Bas St. Laurent, Quebec, I'm clustering my volunteer presentations and classes for spring and fall, when we're here in Asheville.

It's a bit hectic, but always fun, even if sometimes a few too many commitments (this last year has included many, many more landscape consultations than I normally do, thanks to a garden writer friend connecting me to the editor of a regional magazine, leading to a feature pointing to me as one of three garden coaches (I was the naturalistic garden one, of course).

I do these as benefits for the NC Arboretum, Botanical Gardens at Asheville, local landtrusts, conservation groups, and other charities;  they're always interesting consultations, so I'm glad to do them. They're two-hour visits, with a preview questionnaire with photos, followed by brief summary from me.

This spring, I have three classes scheduled for the NC Arboretum, a presentation for the Southern Appalachian Plant Society in Johnson City, TN, and a couple of Saturday programs for Reems Creek Nursery, a local nursery in Weaverville, just outside of Asheville.

That's enough, I think!

pocket meadow in spring

A couple of images I sent for my pocket meadow talk and four-season vegetable gardening complete the picture.

early May vegetable beds

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Sunday, December 8, 2019

Small contributions: reducing plastic use

I've been trying to reduce our plastic use:  using beeswax wrappers instead of plastic wrap.

It's a bit challenging for some foods, but I've found for bread and muffins, it's not too bad, and I can use the wraps - short-term - in the freezer, where I normally have used freezer bags.  They work great for countertop/shelf storage, too, along with my linen "bread bag."

In the freezer
This rather dimly-lighted image from our freezer includes yeast bread and muffins - all waiting to be thawed out and eaten in the future.



Thursday, November 14, 2019

Coffee from Laos

My hubbie brought home a bag of coffee grown in southern Laos this morning (bought at Trader Joe's).  It was the sample coffee this morning and he'd liked it. 
We had a remarkable trip to central and northern Lao back around 2004, not long after it had been opened up to foreign tourists.
Coffee from Lao, I asked?  
Amazing, but apparently coffee is now a successful agricultural crop in Southern Lao (where we didn't visit).

coffee from Laos
And googling "Bolaven Plateau coffee" brought up quite a few interesting sites with more information, including this piece from CNN:

We haven't been back to Asia for awhile, but it's a great part of the world, with a wonderful vegetable gardening culture (as well as a long and diverse history, too).

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The storm has passed

As the arctic blast moved through, many of the remaining leaves blew off, although some yellows (mostly hickories) are falling slowly now. They're beautiful.

Remarkable to have such cold weather last night, and in the 20's again tonight.  Now, in mid-November.  The kale and collards look OK; I didn't expect that.  I'll see how they look in the coming weeks.

What I covered with heavy Remay -- well, I'm vaguely hopeful there, too, as when I rearranged the hoops and cloth covering the spinach seedlings this afternoon, they still looked largely OK.

I've posted this photo before,  but it's worth including again.  Talking about four-season vegetable gardening yesterday reminds me of the vagaries of the weather.

The far right Remay covers my seedling spinach. 
Perhaps I'll have some spinach to harvest in mid to late winter, when we return in early March from Quebec.

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Monday, November 11, 2019

Year-round kitchen gardening

It's a bit ironic to be talking tomorrow morning about year-round kitchen gardening down in Brevard, for a Master Gardeners outreach program, as our temperatures here in Asheville will dip into record low temperatures tomorrow night.

I've already covered some of my cool-season veggies, planted late from transplants in October and young spinach seedlings, too, with heavy horticultural fabric.

But the temperatures expected tomorrow night are so extreme for this time of the year, I'm expecting to lose even kale and collards, in spite of protection.  I'm planning to cover all of the beds tomorrow with Remay and greenhouse plastic film,  thinking well, why not?

Maybe some plants will survive the deep freeze -- it's been so warm recently, I'm thinking the stones will buffer some of the cold, as will the apartment next door.

Before the freeze a couple of days ago


Friday, November 8, 2019

Sudden low temperatures

The low tonight is predicted to be 23°F.  That's cold compared to recent temperatures, which haven't be lower than about 30°F and it's following a spell of quite warm temperatures, so plants are not accommodating very well, whether native or non-native.

The leaves of the Frazer magnolia near the porch were frosted before they dropped off.  Our ginkgo in front has just turned yellow --hmm.

And the purple mustard, Swiss chard, and young spinach seedlings -- well, I harvested most of the leaves of the mustard and chard (along with the chives), and covered up the rest with Remay.  Not pretty, of course, but.

Not my idea of attractive, but useful
This deep amplitude of cold is what I'm worried about.  Perhaps in the past, I never would have had purple mustard or Swiss chard.  I'm not that worried about kale and chard, of course.  All interesting.

I'm doing a presentation next week about four-season gardening in Western North Carolina.  It's interesting, that's for sure.


Monday, November 4, 2019

A talk about pollinator-friendly gardening

I've given lots of talks about pollinator-friendly gardening over the decades that I've been doing classes and presentations.  It's a much more pertinent (and immediate) topic today than it was when I began sharing thoughts about it.

Driving down the Blue Ridge Escarpment tomorrow to speak to the Greenville Council of Garden Clubs --- I'll be doing my regular encouraging talk about including more native perennials, shrubs, and trees that support pollinators in your garden, I'm pondering the topic again.

I think in some ways that this is largely a message for folks who are already gardeners, who are more easily encouraged around pollinator-friendly plantings than novice gardeners, although the message is the same.

At a meeting this afternoon related to pollinator-friendly gardening (one of the many initiatives of a local non-profit), a visitor who participates in the Blue Ridge Naturalist Program at the NC Arboretum related a recent experience in a class where a participant in the program didn't know what a bumblebee was.  Discouraging, to say the least. But, this person wanted to learn after all, so that's great.

Hey, I didn't know much about native bees until a couple of decades ago, as I participated in a symposium organized by my best friend from graduate school -- a pollination biologist like my hubbie.

Steve Buchmann, one of the authors of Forgotten Pollinators (published in 1996) was a speaker.  He talked about the 4000+ native bees here in North America.  It was a revelation to me.

And I always remember my mom, in her years of disability, when she watched a lot of documentaries on PBS, asking me once on our daily phone calls:  Lisa, did you know bats were mammals?  Well, I did, but I was glad she had learned that.

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Monday, October 28, 2019


A friend reminded me of how wonderful sassafras trees are in a FB post -- her sassafras tree is now perfectly framed in her view out the kitchen door, a gift via a native plant collection won some years ago.

It prompted revisiting my Natural Gardening posts over the years about sassafras (there are many), and reminded me of how the progeny of our sassafras trees in Clemson have enriched our landscape here in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Our sassafras trees came from an across the street Upstate South Carolina neighbor.  Sassafras seedlings and offshoots transplant easily when small; our neighbor across the street had many.
We transplanted a number to our landscape in Clemson, and after they became large enough, their seedling progeny were abundant; many were transplanted up to our landscape here in Asheville. 
I'm still enjoying one out the upstairs window currently (there were two, but one succumbed last year to some sort of root pathogen, encouraged by double the amount of rainfall than normal).

This photo is from November 8, 2017.  Sadly, the one on the right was the one that died.  The one on the left is still fine.

From the upstairs window
Sassafras was the inspiration for my Inktober, Day 28 drawing, too.



Friday, October 18, 2019

A bumblebee visiting an aster

An ordinary photo turned into this imaginative depiction in a drawing, for Inktober Day 18.

Bumblebee and aster

Here is the original image.  My sister used to say I was a good copyist of what I saw;  but I'm having a lot more fun trying to be imaginative now.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Inktober, Day 17

The daily practice of doing some sort of drawing has me scrambling at times.  Here's a quick sketch of an apple from the bowl on our kitchen table.

An October apple

drawing and subject with pencils and pens


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Beaver Lake, Inktober 16

I love walking around Beaver Lake in North Asheville.  The lake is lovely and the mountain landscapes that surround it are wonderful.

I've made many blog posts over the years about walks at Beaver Lake.  I'm realizing at the moment, I'm on Natural Gardening, not Places of the Spirit, but both are perfectly apt.

My inspiration for today's sketch

The sketch that I did


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

An Inktober drawing (number 15)

Interestingly, my updated OS on all of my Apple devices doesn't let me post directly on Facebook anymore, so why not post on my "legacy" blog site.

Here's a full moon-inspired drawing for Inktober, Day 15

Inspired by a full moon
Of course, the colors have totally shifted from the original sketch, but the vision is intact.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A garden walk

Getting ready to leave in the next week or so, it's hard to leave such a lovely garden.  My gardening companion has transformed our formerly ornamental garden into a much more naturalistic one, with a bit of chiming in from me, but it's largely his work.  More photos to come.

Here are some images from today's walkabout.

This is my bed, in front of the antique shed. I left the hydrangea.

A bed transformed from Bishop's Weed to ferns

An ornamental arbor, with burning bush (which gets a pass, as it's not currently invasive here, at least as far as i know.)

Diervilla with Sorboria beyond.

A yellow maple framed by a paper birch

A moss and lichen-coated bench, inherited from the previous owner

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An bedraggled aster for Wildflower Wednesday

This aster will be my offering for Wildflower Wednesday.  It's been covered with flower visitors until the rains started this week.

It's still lovely.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Transforming a garden

My gardening companion has transformed our garden here in Quebec from a largely ornamental one, to one that's harboring native plants of all kinds. 

We've snagged what we can find at local nurseries.  The Chelone, gentians, and Lobelia cardinalis are thriving.

This gentian is amazing.

a native gentian, nursery-grown

chelone, gentian, and cardinal flower


Monday, September 9, 2019

A late summer harvest

An almost final harvest of beets in my small vegetable garden here in Quebec yielded some nice-looking beet greens, along with a few (very small) beets.  Clearly, more nutrients will be needed next year in this bed!

beet greens and stems
 The scarlet runner beans have been beautiful -- this was probably close to their last harvest, too.

scarlet runner beans with linen bread bag and beeswax wrap in background
Both beet greens and scarlet runner beans will be on the dinner menu tonight, but in cutting up a yellow zucchini and a small bit of cauliflower (both from Quebec), I was reminded of these peppers I bought a couple of days ago, also from Quebec.

peppers from Quebec
I had just picked them up (they were on sale), noticed they were from Quebec (a point of pride and attractive labeling here), and put them in the vegetable bin.  Taking them out this afternoon, I was struck by their lack of uniformity (I guess I thought they had been greenhouse grown, as these sorts of peppers usually are), but then noticed that they were field-grown. 


Where the heck do folks grow "field-grown" peppers in this climate?  Well, apparently, south of Montreal, these vegetable producers do so, and have been doing so for some time.

"a passion for 6 generations" the label says

Remarkable and fun to discover.  I guess the very long days compensate for the cooler temperatures (in terms of pepper production).  Broccoli and cauliflower, I get, but peppers seem a lot more challenging.

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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Windfall apples

We have two old apple trees, now largely in shade.  They seem to be normally-grown Quebec apples -- largely "cooking" apples for pie and applesauce, Empire, Cortland, and the like.  They're similar to McIntosh back in the U.S.

They're ripening now and dropping in storms such as we had yesterday, so "windfalls" are abundant.

I've chopped up a few to put into muffins and will try to make some low-sugar apple crisps, but geez, making applesauce could get seriously tedious.  We'll see.

I'm mindful of the hand issues that resulted from peeling and chopping LOTS of apples several years back!  I certainly won't be peeling these...

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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Scarlet runner beans

I've only cooked a couple of these beans as of yet, but I'm finally harvesting them in a reasonable quantity from the lovely scarlet runner bean trellis.  They started flowering long before they started fruiting, so we're hoping our then resident hummingbirds were visiting the flowers.

I'll be glad to get a couple of side-dishes worth from these plants,  regardless.  It's been a lovely addition to my small veggie garden here in Quebec.

Oddly, one of our summer standouts has been wild-foraged sea spinach (from a nearby beach where it's naturalized).  Here was a recent post about it.  It's ridiculously easy to collect on this beach, where it's abundant.

And it's delicious!


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Squash (and other veggies) in a cold climate vegetable garden

Amazingly, squash seem to thrive here, absent the insect pests that they normally harbor in warmer places.  They grow rapidly in the long days of summer and seem to fruit well. 

This butternut squash in a local community garden in our nearby village of Le Bic is well along, I thought, for late August (of course, frost could come early, so...)

My container zucchini look like they'll produce a few more fruits -- I just planted them late, from seed germinated in the third week of June in Botanical Interest cardboard containers.

And the zucchini, spaghetti squash, etc. at our library vegetable garden have flourished, too.


I just harvested 4 cherry tomatoes, with lots of green ones still on the vine.  And there are finally scarlet runner beans developing, perhaps enough for a nice side dish! 

The broccoli has been interesting;  I'm getting another small head on a second plant, but largely have just had excellent leafy growth.  Broccoli leaves are actually quite good as a green (tastier than collards, in my opinion, even if a bit more chewy), so I'm not complaining.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Apricots in late August

This basket of large apricots was on sale yesterday at one of our major supermarkets in Rimouski. 

I'd gone to this one, an IGA, especially to get "wild" blueberries from Lac St. Jean, which our neighbor had alerted us to  - now available for a short few weeks. Wild blueberries (really a cultivated sort of thing at this point) are a major enterprise in this region across the St. Lawrence, but that's another post entirely.

Really quite nice apricots for the end of August

These apricots puzzled me.  They're from the U.S., packaged by a large fruit and vegetable packing firm based in Montreal.  They puzzled me because it's the end of August.  Normally, I see apricots from California in June in the Southeastern U.S.

What the heck were these, and where were they grown?

I didn't find definitive answers via my Google searches, but was surprised to learn that apricot breeding for late hardy varieties (for northern latitudes) has been robust in the western provinces and North central U.S. (Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc.) for some time, not to mention also in Europe, where late-maturing varieties are prized, especially in France.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Squash musings over the years

A group email from our Asheville community garden network had me going back to look at past posts, using the search "tromboncino squash."

The search pulled up a remarkable number of posts, all quite interesting to re-read, reflecting many seasons of growing squash (largely attempting to avoid squash vine borers, which make C. pepo varieties almost impossible to grow in the Southeast without chemical intervention, at least in my experience.  Maybe under row covers and hand-pollination?  But that wasn't ever going to happen.

In my new summer gardening climate in Quebec, the cold winter temperatures mean no squash vine borers.  I have two healthy container zucchini plants, planted VERY late in about the third week of June.  I've harvested two lovely fruits so far, so I'm heartened about next summer's prospects in a sunnier area.

Ditto with my favorite vining baby butternuts!

exuberant baby butternut squash
I'm going to have to plant them EARLY in Quebec next summer to get any fruits, I think.

Those nifty Botanical Interests cardboard seed planters would be perfect to use, for early starting, but... I'd need to be up here early!

I loved using them in early summer for nasturtiums and other summer annuals.

Botanical Interests compostable containers

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Monday, August 26, 2019

Great to still be seeing hummingbirds!

I'm the northernmost post towards the east on the beginning of the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec.

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Friday, August 23, 2019

Seaside goldenrod

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Sharing food

Two posters at a local coffee shop in Rimouski, where we hung out waiting for an oil change for my car.  Telling.

The first poster encourages gardeners to share their fruits and vegetables with local harvesters, if they can't use all of it.

Contact us, this poster says.
 This second one describes fresh/refrigerated food available for all.

Nice. And an always welcome thing to see, being a supporter of food outreach programs in the U.S.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Seeing hummingbirds still, here in Quebec

When I was still at the botanical garden where I used to work, I so enjoyed Journey North, both for tracking hummingbirds and monarchs, but also reporting my sightings.

I was delighted to sign in (on a different account and location here in Quebec) to report that we're still seeing hummingbirds.

That dot in the upper right hand corner of this map is my observation posted this evening, for a hummingbird nectaring.

This was a sighting map (my dot is still almost the farthest north in eastern Canada!  They'll be heading south soon, I'd imagine.


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A morning walk

I've been doing more posting over on Places of the Spirit.  A morning walk inspired this post.

Baie du Ha!Ha!


Friday, August 16, 2019

Interesting mushroom-growing kits!

Seen at the local garden center.  Marked down at the end of the summer.  What was remarkable to me was the diversity of mushrooms  available to grow.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A colorful snail

A while ago, these snails were an enormous surprise, along a local bike path.  I wrote about it then.

It turned into what has been my only drawing/watercolor so far this summer. I’d like to get back to drawing at some point!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A wonderful walk in the Parc national du Bic yesterday

A recently discovered trail from the overflow parking lot to Ferme Rioux (where the main visitor center is now located, in the old historic barn),  brought these delightful images.

I love the lichens, firs, and grasses going to seed.  They’re places of the spirit indeed.

And my favorite walk on Le Chemin du Nord - well, this view from the tea house was great, as usual.