Winter Game Strong

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It is truly winter now. The weather remained mild for longer than usual this season and the plants appreciated the respite from killing cold coming after the holidays rather than before. Leaves were still attached to some deciduous denizens but after several shocks of below freezing temps the garden now looks January appropriate. Along the south facing cedar fence clusters of lavender and rosemary carry on bravely. In making this bed, the naturally occurring little bluestem was left uncovered by the thick sheets of cardboard covered with mulch that was used to suppress the wily crabgrass. The tawny grasses catch the morning light and offer movement and color during these bleak months.

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Along the opposite north facing fence, the collection of metal watering cans hangs from hooks. The perennials have been left standing to make note of which among them has their winter game on. In the foreground, Aster tataricus ‘Jin Dai’ presents an imposing vertical accent. Pieces of Jin Dai were spread in the area this summer so next winter should see an even more impressive winter statement. Lesser blobs of Rudbeckias, Penstemons and Verbenas add some thickness, but the daylilies are like straw colored melted snowmen. They should be benched, er, cut back in the fall once the frost reduces their turgidity. The green spikes are Eryngium pandanifolium, pushing our USDA Zone 7a envelope. No blooming on those as yet, but they did make it through a harsh and wet winter in 2014/2015.

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Evergreens are stalwart winter interest performers and boxwood is a favorite of mine. These small specimens will be kept short, possible pruned as a low hedge or perhaps kept as rounded separate balls of greenery. These are Buxus ‘Wintergreen’ and do hold true to their name. Carex testacea gives a good contrast of color, texture and form along the edge of the upper nursery bed. It is hoped that they can hold up unscathed to the ice, snow and cold of the long nights ahead. The supine sea creature foliage of Musacari ‘Valerie Finnis’ adds embellishment now with the promise of pale blue flowers come March.

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In the lower nursery bed which is more shady and more moist than the upper portion, there is another row of the same boxwood. Carex buchanii ribbons behind with a grouping of Echinacea ‘Green Jewel’ still standing proudly erect. The dark stems and seedheads contrast with the beige miasma of grasses and various perennial foliage in the center of the bed. I like it.

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Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ blends well with neighbors, particularly the shapely Veronicastrum virginicum. We have high expecations that this combination will prove to be superstars of not only winter interest but for most of the year.

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Stepping back for the long view, we can see the upper nursery and leading edge of the lower nursery plantings of four Miscanthus ‘Adagio’, two on each side of the dividing boardwalk. Strong presence is what was needed here and this grass fits the job description. Many more of this cultivar are in use in the front lawn/meadow planting between our yard and the next door neighbors. These were purchased last year in three gallon containers, each sawed into four bits for easier planting and frugality. The impact was minimal during the first cold season, but this year has seen them rise up and excel. The future looks bright as the years roll onward.

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Moving to the front yard, the three Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ are attention grabbing in the mailbox bed. The suporting players still need some growth to gain girth to offer a better backdrop. Patience is a great gardening virtue, never forget.

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A closer look shows the painterly colors of red, coral and gold on each stem. A few leaves at the tips echo the same hues. This is an outstanding winter interest shrub.

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Redbor kale, grown from seed sown in September and eaten mercilessly by caterpillars offers a rich, velvety purple accent especially when frosted. It was surprising how much cold those hungry hordes of insect larvae could withstand. Luckily their bright green bodies were easy to detect against the dark leaves, once we noticed  the holey leaves.  Allium schubertii foliage has erupted to an alarming height already. There may be some damage to the leaves before bloom time in May since we haven’t really been hit with the harshest conditions of winter yet. Hang in there, guys!

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Blue fescue, Festuca glauca is the matrix planting along the front walkway. The desired look was for year-round uniformity, and I love the blue. Snow in summer, Cerastium tomentosum was chosen as an accent. Violas and crocus are planted along the edge for color in late winter.

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The red Phormium won’t last until spring without wilting down to mush, but it has done well and is such an architectural addition. More of that will be added next year.

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These leaves never let me down. Frosted or unadorned, they always come through, especially when backlit. They are from the wonderful glass artist, Barbara Sanderson. Her online shop can be found here. It is so nice to have a real garden again, even in the depths of the down time. Winter interest is so important if you happen to live in a four season area like east Tennessee.   Seldom is the yard buried in snow cover so what is left standing should offer a pleasing view from inside the house or when the weather permits outdoor perusing.  We do love a good peruse.

There was a series of blog posts written a few years ago about this topic if you wish to learn more. The How To Have Winter Interest series of posts:

How To Have Winter Interest With Non Green Evergreens
How To Have Winter Interest -Garden Grasses
How To Have Winter Interest-Seeing Green
How To Have Winter Interest-Shrubs Small And Large
How To Have Winter Interest-The Big Guys
How To Have Winter Interest-Hardscape

Frances

Posted in New garden, weather | 13 Comments

Return of the Pods*

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Some stories take years to develop. Some stories can be imagined and written in one day, even an hour. However, this, dear readers is a story that built itself over several months. Photos were snapped at proper intervals to better illustrate the tale. Please follow along , if you so desire, as Kitty and I explain what happened in the new Fairegarden during the summer of 2015.

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It began in the birdfeeding area along the fence. Sometimes sunflowers and grasses will germinate and grow from seeds dropped to the ground by careless bird diners. This sort of thing happens all the time. Sometimes the sunflowers will grow well enough to produce large flowers and seeds to feed the birds from their own sowing. But a plant arose in this area that did not look anything like a sunflower. What could it be, the gardener wondered.

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The mystery plant grew large and robust as summer progressed. Kitty found cooling shade under the large leaves, all the better to observe but not disturb the feeding birds. Warm weather storms caused some leaning in the tree like greenery from heavy wind and rains. Wires were run between the fence posts to hold it upright.

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Then beautiful blooms appeared, lots of blooms, many, many blooms. It was good.

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The blooms were an obvious clue, but the truth was revealed when large pods formed. This was an okra plant, but how did it get here, the gardener wondered again.

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Oh yes, the old okra pod wreath was still hanging there on the fence, totally obscured by its giant offspring. I remembered seeing birds perched on the wreath the winter before, pecking at the pods. I had thought that because the pods had been dipped in polyurethane the seeds would not be edible. I was wrong. The pods were shredded by strong beaks of various finches. Some stray seeds must have fallen to the ground and found the conditions to their liking. That seems odd since there is a only a thin layer of hardwood mulch over thick cardboard all along the fence, placed there to kill the crabgrass lawn and deter weeds. I was wrong about that, too.

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The first killing frost was late this year for us and the okra tree continued to grow to the sky and produce yet more flowers and pods well into November. The fence is six feet in height, so the estimate is about ten feet for the fully grown plant. Lower leaves were removed to better harvest the drying pods. Another, smaller red okra sprung up beside it. It was remembered that the original pods were from two types of okra, one of them red, Bowling Red I think.

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In the shed, the pods are drying. They were much larger than their parents, as the plant was much larger than any okra I have ever grown before.

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At the beginning of 2016, the old wreath is once again a feature on the bare fence, tattered pods flying like banners  in the wind. The wreath still seems to be in faire shape though, and would make a nice base for another okra pod wreath once this year’s pods are fully dry. The old wires look like they can even be reused to attached them. Waste not want not is a creed observed my entire life. In case I have forgotten how to fashion such a wreath, the old post will show the way.

“How To Make An Okra Pod Wreath”

The original okra pod wreath was featured in the blog post linked above. The wreath hung proudly on the door of the old house for several years before being brought to the new house in 2014 and hung on the fence. There is no wreath currently hanging on our front door. Perhaps there will be a new one proudly displayed on the door soon.

Frances

*Rather than pod people, old horror movie buffs will recognize this reference as from the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, these pods are more the botanical type.

Posted in Musings, New garden | 33 Comments

Remember December 2015

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Hello. 2015 has been a very busy gardening year here at the new Fairegarden. At what point does the new garden become simply The Garden, one wonders? Let’s start that right now, for there is now an actual garden here. Shown above is a plant much beloved at the old garden (there will always be the old garden, for reference and nostalgia purposes), Calluna vulgaris ‘Firefly’. There are three of them in the front walk bed, still quite small but with great potential. They will grow to be about twenty-four by twenty-four inches unless pruned. Pruning helps keep them neater and fuller so when they get larger there will be some snip snipping.

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It is overcast and wet but the rain stopped long enough for these images to be captured. Looking out the windows the colors were still joyful as fall slides soon into winter. Some leaves remain, even some flowers are still in bloom and the grasses are erect if bowed by wetness. Juniperus virginiana ‘Blue Owl’ can get larger than desired for this design but is easily pruned while small. Eryngium yuccifolium from saved seeds scattered last winter produced a few blooms the first year. Lamb’s ear, Stachys byzantina has been spread about and is a vigorous grower. Great gobs of it have already been pulled out to make room for other plants. The Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’ should prove to be a worthy opponent. May the best plant win, but if things don’t look right, the arbiter will step in with the shovel. The pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris is fading but still a frothy mass of beauty. This plot is the back of the bed behind the mailbox at curbside.

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Continuing in the mailbox bed, along the curbing is a trio of Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ still holding their leaves. The stems will offer winter interest with hues of coral, red and gold. These shrubs were hardly a foot tall when planted and have grown at a surprising rate. They are expected to be four feet tall and wide with hard pruning every three years. We will see how that goes. Ground covers include grape hyacinths, Muscari armeniacum most likely. They were inherited at the old garden so we really don’t know but they are wonderful and spread rapidly by seed and bulblets. I wouldn’t be without them. The Japanese blood grass, Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’ has been a little finicky to get going, but seems to have found its stride. This plant is listed as invasive in some places but it never has spread for us without me manually doing so. It is struggling here but alive. Violas and crocus will offer support in spring.

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Peering through the Cornus, the pink muhly can be seen. Harder to discern is the white flowered muhly, M. capillaris ‘White Cloud’ directly above the copyright symbol in the watermark. Only a couple of blooms were managed this year, but that is a hopeful sign since it never flowered at the old garden after the first year when it was bought in bloom. This shot shows pumpkins still sitting on the large boulders that were a Christmas present from The Financier last year.

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Evergreen foliage that is not green has been added along the front side bed that divides the property with our next door neighbor. A row of six Lavendula x intermedia ‘Provence’ have done well. Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ still looks good as do the bobbles of yellow sheffie mum spent flower heads. Several Salvia greggiis, sedums and a variety of other perennials fill this portion, all planted just this spring and summer. We will stand back as it sorts itself out, editing as necessary.

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Pycnanthemum muticum, mountain mint clumps have been added to the wilder back areas of the front side bed. Planted directly into an unmown lawn were an assortment of the toughest of the tough perennials including many daylilies, ornamental grasses and stalwart wildflowers. This is no place for sissies, having to compete with well established lawn grass. We were glad to see some wild asters, goldenrod, ironweed and fleabane spring up and flower this year. Everything will be cut down by mowing or weed whacking in January. It is to be a lawn/meadow similar to what we had at the old garden. Click here to if you are interested in learning more.

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The very back of the front bed is to be a collection of small trees and shrubs. Dogwoods, willows, ninebarks, a blue atlas cedar are now joined by winterberry hollies. Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Gold’ will be planted in the cluster of I. ‘Winter Red’ and the male pollinator I. ‘Southern Gentleman’. A variety of Chamaecyparis will grow to brighten the area in front of the large pine trees that form the back property line. Or that is the vision, anyway.

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Let’s go through the gate into the back. These beds have not been shown on the blog much because they are still very much a work in progress, but progress has been made. Two small sections of boxwood hedging, Buxus ‘Wintergreen’, the same as we had at the old garden, some even from cuttings, line the nursery and lower nursery beds. Carex buchanii has been spread directly behind the boxwood for color and textural contrast. The most delightful and generous Alison of Bonney Lassie was so kind to send me packages of plants that included this Carex earlier to help get my new garden started. I am proud and pleased to say that everything you sent has taken hold nicely, Alison, and I cannot express my gratitude in words for your meaningful contribution to my gardens. XOXOXO

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Ordered on a whim while selecting some climbers for the fence was this climinging aster, A. carolinianus. Having never grown it before, I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be evergreen and very late blooming, covered in pinkish lavender flowers that fed the pollinators well after most everything else had been zapped by several freezes. Chamaecyparis thyoides ‘Red Star’ stands below in a large container. There are three such containers sitting on the gravel patio area between the shed and the fence, all with red stars.

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Dying daylily foliage is giving temporary but tempting color right now. Nothing has been cut down in the back gardens as the stalks and seedheads are assessed for strength and attractiveness.

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Among the best  are the Rudbeckia triloba, so far. Most of these have been pulled, none were actually planted. Seeds hidden in the soil of scores of plants that were potted up and brought from the old garden germinated and were a pleasant surprise this summer. They finished up and turned brown early in the season but are near the top of the list of those plants that die well, or as was once written, fading faire.

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Providing color, movement, height, texture and viewing pleasure are Miscanthus ‘Adagio’. We bought all they had late in the season at Home Depot last year and chopped them into many pieces. Most were planted in the lawn/meadow front side bed but four were added as anchors between the nursery and lower nursery in back. A board walk was fashioned out of home made bench tops during heavy rains in late 2014 to get across the two piles of planting mix and topsoil that were trucked in to make these beds. It worked out that there were just enough bench tops, fashioned from leftover decking boards to span the eleven feet width. They look kind of goofy but certainly work very well. Maybe a raised walk can be built in the future, but for now this one has sentimental and utilitarian value.

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There was a lone Helleborus orientalis planted in the nurseries, for the self seeding can overcome an area with babies and there were many other plants I wanted to try here. Ferns, geraniums, heucheras, spring ephemerals among many others were planted in the lower, wetter and shadiest portion. This is an experimental bed and the hellebore doesn’t really belong there, but it sure looks pretty right now.

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This has been fun, sharing what is happening as this garden develops its own personality. I hope to keep posting through the seasons. Gardens are never static but constantly changing. Just like the gardeners. The final shot is Spiraea ‘Magic Carpet’. This was another member of the old garden that was potted up and brought here. Old and new, silver and gold friends….ahhhhh.

Frances

Posted in Design, New garden | 19 Comments

Starting To Look Like Home

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Home: Defined by some as where the heart is. Home, for me is where my garden is, with emphasis on the my. Imagined, created, planted and tended by me, that is my home and my heart. Guided by the lessons learned from a lifetime of trial and error, this newest Fairegarden is coming along. It is starting to feel like home. There is still much to do, but quite a lot has been accomplished in the span of one year and a couple of months.

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It began as a blank slate of crabgrass lawn in the summer of 2014. The utilities were called to mark out the cables and lines buried under ground. It was a graffiti of colors once all the spray paint was applied. It’s a good thing I wasn’t going to dig very deeply in the area now referred to as the mailbox bed.

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The grass was cut on the lowest setting, newspaper and mulch was added. Plants that had been dug, potted up and brought from the old garden were planted with love and high hopes. It was a start.

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Among those plants were several grasses and shrubs, including my beloved pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris. Most were seedlings extracted from the gravel paths at the old house, not yet blooming size. The three pots were originally planted around the mailbox. In late winter of 2015 those were dug and divided into fifteen smaller pieces, planted at the back of the ever expanding mailbox bed. The reason for this siting is that the muhly tends to fall forward when in full bloom and it would have been out in the street and run over by the mail lady and just not look its best around the mailbox. A gardener has to be quick to reckon with mistakes like that.

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Time passes and July sees that the mailbox bed plantings have grow well, some too well as various additions are swamped by their neighbors. The island of grasses and first rosemary then lavender has become home to grasses, shrubs, asters, salvias and lamb’s ear, among others. The Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’ front and center was hiding in with some black mondo grass and proved to be a happy surprise.

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There are flowers and butterflies, pollinators and weeds as the months roll by. And then, it begins. The hint of pink feathery inflorescenses peek from the blades. It takes more than a month for this peek to peak.

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This is my view from the chair where most of my sitting is done, inside by the window with the laptop ever at the ready and outside on the porch. Waiting with the camera for just the right back lighting has proven challenging. Everything is different at this new garden from the old north facing slope. The backgrounds are not cooperative as there are other homes all around. But that gleaming pink washes away any bitter feelings. It’s going to be all right here.

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The view from the street is not as wonderful. But that’s okay. The garden is for me, it feeds my soul.

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This keeps me going forward, not looking back, ever onward.

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As does this.

~~~

* Here is an older post that contains links to all of the muhly posts over the years if you are interested in learning more about this special grass. Pink Muhly Grass-Muhlenbergia capillaris 2013

Frances

Posted in New garden | 28 Comments

Starting To Look Like a Garden

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Welcome to the latest of the few and far between updates of the gardening adventures as a brand new Fairegarden comes to fruition. It has been one year since we pulled up stakes and moved house from southeast Tennessee to east Tennessee. Saying that there has been a lot of work done is an understatement. Most of that work has been in the gardens, front and back. There are still unpacked boxes in the house, but all of the gardening equipment and decor has been sorted and accounted for since day one. Naturally. There has been some success with the plantings. Shown above: Echinacea purpurea backed by Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ in a blue pot and Veronica ‘Royal Candles’.

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The last post was published in January. Nothing much was happening outside in the garden until May. Only a few bulbs had been planted the fall before because the beds had not yet revealed themselves to me. Among those initial bulbs were fifty Allium albopilosum syn. A. christophii planted in 5 quickly dug holes.

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The Alliums front the bed created that runs along the property line with our next door neighbors. The row of lavenders can be seen at the left. As is painfully obvious, this bed was still a work in progress.

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One of the plus points of these Alliums is how attractive and long lasting the seed heads are. The dried flowerheads are now gracing the front porch in a large container. When they are no longer pleasing, they will be composted. Seeds that drop out can be sown and will readily germinate, growing to flowering size in a few years.

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Some of the lawn at the very back has been allowed to grow on unmown to be a lawn/meadow of sorts. It is hoped that we can have something similar to what we had at the old house, which can be seen by clicking here. It was interesting to see the plants that were contained in the weedy lawn, ready to spring up if allowed. A pleasant surprise was the large stand of fleabane, Erigeron ssp. I wish that this plant was more highly regarded and not thought of as a weed by so many. It is beautiful, easy to grow and a pollinator magnet. The spring blooming lawn grasses were also quite attractive. They were cut down with the hedge shears when they became unsightly. Ornamental grasses and daylilies have been added to this meadow to be. More things will be added as we see what can withstand the competition of the myriad grasses and weeds over time.

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As May gave way to June the back gardens, which had been the initial home to an assortment of plants that were brought from the old garden last summer, written about here,  started to shine. The plan was to  consider height above all else in placement. Most, but not all were spot on. The Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’ has been a highlight and is still blooming in August. The hummingbirds adore it. Mountain mint, Pycnanthemum muticum, Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ , Asclepias incarnata and Eryngium yuccifolium are also in the tall section and have performed well.

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Only a handful of the over one hundred cultivars of daylilies which we grew were brought to the new house. Of those, one standout was this unnamed Hazel Dougherty seedling. What a beauty!

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Three of the fifteen seedlings from my own crosses were deemed worthy to be brought to the new place. #4, #15 and #12 all made the cut. This is #4.  It was a good year for daylilies.

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July shows some progress in the front entrance area that was written about last January. That story can be seen by clicking here. Heavy rains have proven the boulder and rock assortment to be up to the task of resisting washouts.

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Planting continues in the back gardens. There was too much reliance on annuals for this to be considered a low maintenance garden, but the African blue basil was certainly pretty and a pollinator favorite. Perhaps next year one or two will be added rather than the six that took up so much space this year. Trial and error, baby steps, a garden is never done, all those cliches apply here.

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If we squint just right, it almost looks like a real garden already. The featured plant above is Agastache ‘Rosie Posie’. I hope it turns out to be perennial, even if a short lived one.

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Pollinator visitations have been plentiful, including hummingbirds and butterflies like this little skipper supping on Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’. There are several large milkweed plants ready for monarch caterpillar dining pleasure, but so far there are no takers. We are not on the migratory flight path, but hope to see some stragglers this fall.

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There have been lots of seed sowing attempts to help fill up the new garden more cheaply if not more quickly. Rudbeckia triloba has been stellar, as has the Eryngium yuccifolium, both very easy to grow from seed. Saving and sowing seeds is something I love to do but alas, no greenhouse means outdoor sowing will have to do. So far, it has.

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Thank you for following along in this ongoing saga of the reestablishment of the Fairegarden. One year into it, the payoffs are being harvested. May there be more to come. Onward.

Frances

Posted in New garden | 32 Comments

Gardendate: January 2015

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Captain’s Log, January 2015:

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First a rehash; 2014 saw the Fairegarden enterprise make a tumultuous relocation of its home base in August, selling and turning over the helm after a fourteen year stint as its captain on a steep slope in southeast Tennessee. The new ship, located an hours drive north to simply east Tennessee received our goods and equipment in a jumbled and chaotic transfer executed in one very long day.

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Upon exploration of the new assignment, we found the front foundation plantings to be sadly overgrown and unpruned with weed tree seedlings that had been allowed to grow into  large and overbearing alien beings. The first order was to cut down the offending trees growing in the flower beds with a chainsaw.  The better to walk to the front door unobstructed, my dear.

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The shrubs were hard pruned with hopes that they would survive, live long and prosper.  Coreopsis was revealed as edging.  Weeds were pulled, the beds were mulched, containers and rocks were set in the empty spaces. With so many tree roots in the ground, pots were a good solution. Besides, we seem to have a kajillion large containers, accumulated over the years as gifts from loving family members. Maybe a few might have been purchased by me during markdown periods at favorite nurseries.

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The back yard was attacked with gusto with soil deliveries, shed and fence building. Those stories can be viewed by clicking here and here if you missed these posts and are interested. The front entryway was to be the next project after the winter holidays were fully celebrated and enjoyed in the new house by the Fairegarden clan. Grandsons LTB and the newest member, little Finny helped make the season bright.

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Among the gifts bestowed during those holidays was a big surprise from my spouse, The Financier. Shortly before Christmas he called to alert me that a delivery was coming and to be ready for it. When I asked what I was supposed to do with the mysterious item, he said that I would know when it came. He was correct.

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These two boulders were to be the cornerstone of a new gravel garden just below the walkway from the driveway to the front door. The drainpipe from the roof gutters goes under the sidewalk and ends in a popup device, the odd green circle right behind the rocks,  that causes serious erosion of the sloping front yard during heavy rains. Bits of roofing material were scattered among the crabgrass roots causing us to scratch our heads as to what in tarnation that green plastic thing in the middle of the lawn’s purpose could be. We finally saw it in action, with the center part sticking up several inches and water pouring out of it in a river going down to the driveway and on its way to the storm sewers in the street. Nothing would grow there and the rocks were to be the solution.

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Strong backed family members wrangled the boulders to the desired spots for optimum cul de sac playground viewing while seated on the flat topped surfaces. More rocks of various sizes were added to anchor the vignette. The old rusty wheelbarrow, some small metal birdbaths, the concrete cat named for our dear departed cat, Freedom and a couple more containers were added.

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In the bed along the walkway, a cobalt blue glass mushroom made by Barbara Sanderson of Glass Gardens Northwest, a Christmas gift from my dear sister in law, Lynn graces one of the yucca filled blue glazed containers. The cobalt blue Horn of the Unicorn, a previous birthday gift from The Financier and also made by Barbara Sanderson has joined in the parade of blue.

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The golden Chamaecyparis was finally taken down at the corner of the garage.  The metal sculpture Let it Rain, purchased in Asheville, North Carolina in the River Arts District  has made a fine replacement.  Slowly, ever so slowly the Fairegarden vessel moves ever onward toward gardendom and beyond, where no plant has ever grown before. Except crabgrass.

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Winter is still breathing icy gusts down our necks in between brief periods of welcome sunshine but there are promises of spring sprouting in the soil on this uncharted plant-et.

***

Please accept our apologies for the Star Trek-speak. It just popped into my head that the recording of the evolution of this newest Fairegarden was like Captain Kirk’s weekly journal entry into his log on the 1960s television program. Some things swirl around in our consciousness forever, just waiting to rise like cream to the top. HA

Frances

Posted in before and after, New garden | 32 Comments

Progress As The Curtain Drops on 2014

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Things have been moving ever onward here at the newly relocated Fairegarden. Fall veggies have progressed nicely in the cold frame.

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There has also been progress made in the back yard. We have moved many times in our adult lives and one of the first tasks, always, is the hiring of tree work. It is good to have any wayward trees addressed before gardening begins, and while there are still funds available for such. Renovations are notorious fund-suckers. At the new house, the upper level part of the back yard only was fenced by the original owner, leaving the north facing, steeply sloping 25 feet on the other side totally unkempt. Tree seedlings quickly grew to become chainsaw sized weeds during the eleven years since the home was built. Without at least a yearly cut down, that is what will happen to all wild land. It will eventually become a forest.

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The row of pine trees belongs to us and they mark the property boundary with the fenced yards of the subdivision next door. We love the privacy and wildlife refuge they offer. After the offending weed trees were cut, the view was very much improved.

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But there was more to be done after the trees were felled and hauled away. The landscaper can be seen above walking the area, calculating the cost to accomplish my vision for the land. At one time I had hoped to garden on this large parcel of soil, but wise advisors reminded me of the hazards that steep slopes can bring to aging feet and ankles. We know all about slopes.

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Before the work could proceed on the other side of the fence, the fence itself needed to be replaced. It was falling apart and the weed trees had twisted the lumber and caused general dilapidation on the slope side. A straight across the top style constructed of western red cedar brought a much more attractive sense of enclosure to the back yard. (It can’t be called a garden, yet, although the shed looks rather handsome already.)

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The assortment of bird houses and feeders, containers of various materials, statuary and benches that had been languishing unloved hither and yon were carefully placed to dress up the fence line.  A few climbing roses and some Clematis were planted to bring some greenery someday.  A deciduous azalea, seen just to the right of the raised turquoise container was even planted along there. It was found on the mark down table at a big box store in Asheville, NC. Incredibly, this particular cultivar was the earliest blooming, and a favorite of my signature plants at the old garden, Rhododendron ‘Admirial Semmes’. (You can read about my signature plants by clicking here.)  I was tickled to find this treasure at all, let alone for a reasonable price.  Some things are just meant to be.

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The day after the fence was installed, the landscaper came and cleared the mess behind the fence. Winter rye grass was sown and straw was added to help hold the newly bare soil in place. He and his crew were still packing up their equipment here when  I dashed out and quickly planted the fifteen small evergreens that were to provide color and winter interest over time. “Don’t forget to water the grass seed”, he said as he left. Thanks for the reminder, I thought, the trees will need watering until the winter rains come.

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The rains did come and the grass seed finally germinated. It will not be mown for I admire the flowers and seed heads of rye grass plus we can’t be traipsing around on that steep incline, anway. Happily there is new growth on the little evergreens, too. Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Crippsii’, Chamaecyparis thyoides ‘Rachel’, Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’ and Cupressus arizonica var. glabra ‘Carolina Sapphire’ should all grow tall enough to be seen over the fence from the house and yard but remain narrow enough to not interfere with the pine trees or the pretty new fence. We do hope to live long enough to see that vision come to fruition. Some saved wildflower seeds were scattered back there, as well. The maintenance plan is for a once a year cut down of the ground cover until the trees grow large enough to shade out weed germination.

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After the fence and landscaping work was completed, I gave myself a little present. Six yards of local topsoil mixed with composted horse bedding and some mulch and screened were delivered by a dump truck to the back yard. Merry Christmas to me!

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And a very Merry Christmas to you! Oh wait, somebody forgot to turn out the lights…

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There, that’s better. May you all have the most wonderful of times during the holidays and we’ll see you next year. Onward to 2015!

Frances

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