On days when the family comes home and asks what’s for grub because there has been no activity that they can discern in the kitchen, a term for that night’s dinner is called fending. There will be leftovers from previous night’s feasts, sandwich makings, or the ever popular nachos with chips, cheese and salsa. I need a break sometimes and if there is food available, the adults can put something together for themselves. With our new slant toward the design principles of Piet Oudolf, fending is a way for the garden to take care of itself as well.~~~ The photo above has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic other than it was taken the same day as the following shots. I went to visit neighbor Mickey who was out working in his garden to chat and see how the wedding preparations are coming along early this morning. We decided that some overgrown gold arborvitae needed to go, lucky I was there to advise on that. I counted his three little dogs at our feet, but saw movement over by his storage building. Going over to see what was there, he explained that someone had dropped a pregnant cat off at their place and she had kittens in the building. Ooooh, they were too cute, but I resisted the temptation. He had contacted the humane society and had the mama cat spayed and vaccinated. Those babies will go to good homes for they were the cutest things ever. Sigh. Anyway, overhanging the door of the building was a canopy of porcelain berry vine, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata growing on a chicken wire awning to shade the building during the heat of summer. This is a terribly invasive thug of a plant, but man oh man, look at those berries. Do not try and buy or borrow this plant, it takes over by roots and by seed, but if you have a neighbor that grows it, they will certainly let you take a couple of sprigs home for a vase, or to take a photograph. Onward to the meat of the narrative we go. You are going to see some long shots of the garden, not beautified cropped close ups to explain how this new way of thinking about garden design and maintenance applies to what is growing here. The above shot is a view of the slope behind the main house. You can see the wall, which is planted with Salvia greggiis of various colors and Japanese blood grass among many others. There are seven pink dogwoods, various ground covers and low growing perennials including yes, pink muhly grass, for four season interest. Very little tending is done here for the plantings have been in the ground several years and the only weeding is the battle of the violets, which cannot be won anyway. This area can fend. There is no deadheading, staking or even removal of spent foliage. The dogwood leaves are not so numerous as to smother the smaller plants and they do a good job of mulching. Bulbs will appear in the spring to start the cycle over once again. The view of the same area from the back door of the house shows the ajuga and creeping jenny lining the risers of the large concrete steps. Mixed in are various dianthus, more Salvia greggiis, some mums, heathers and roses. If we ignore the violets that insinuate themselves in the dianthus and choke it out, there is little to be done here as we go from fall into winter into spring into summer. Ideal fending. The middle terrace, ( sorry for the overexposure on these shots, but we haven’t seen a cloud in weeks), from end to end is carpeted in dianthus with Salvia greggii on the right side and a Chinese elm that has been mutilated by the mad pruner on the left. In the foreground is the beginning of a boxwood hedge to line the sunny bed that is home to eryngiums, heleniums and belamcandas. All of the browning stems and seed heads of these plants can be left in place until spring, and hopefully will scatter seeds about to increase the fullness and thwart the violets. Nigella self seeds in here too, and will be allowed to flower next spring before being pulled. For now, this area can fend, which means I don’t have to do anything to it. Hooray!We have now gone over to the far side of the garage. This bed has been difficult to work with because it is the old gravel driveway from the house that was torn down to build the garage. Compacted clay with gravel is not an ideal growing medium. We have added truckloads of compost and mulch, but it dissolves over time and returns to a driveway. But we have all seen how plants can seed themselves in the cracks of concrete and asphalt, eventually returning paving to forest. The key here was to find the right plants for the job. Once again we called on Salvia greggii, rosemary, thyme, grasses and in the middle is a self sown white snakeroot, the focal point of the bed. The grasses will remain until spring when they will be cut down to allow the fresh new growth to renew the look. The thyme, salvias and myriad other xerics that have been planted here need nothing. Fabulous fenders. Moving out to the street in front of the garage is the middle section of the curb planting areas. We have written about the care given to the front yard, which is a yearly mowing in late winter. Click here to read that story. Now blooming is the black seeded fountain grass, pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’, it is quite invasive but that is allright in this bed. It has seeded among the liriope which is fine with me. There are roses, crepe myrtles, chamaecyparis, junipers, gaura and lamb’s ear growing with abandon here. Please note the lamb’s ear and Moundry that have seeded in the STREET at the curbing. This is the very definition of fending.Not to disappoint, the final shot is of the highest maintenance bed on the whole property, the small lawn. This part of the yard is under the jurisdiction of The Financier. I do the mowing however. Each year he dethatches this patch with a rake that should be registered as a lethal weapon. The rakings are pure compost gold and go to the veggie patch to keep the strawberries, tomatoes and garlic happy. There is grass seed applied, a mix of tall fescue and Kentucky blue grass. This mix is evergreen in our climate. It does require watering to settle the seed in, one reason why this muhly grass is so lush. The lower section of the muhly was planted later and is not as full as the top, but it will expand in future years to make a pink bristled hairbrush along the driveway. At the far right is the black lace sambucus, also enjoying that extra grass watering.
These are not all of the beds in the garden, but are representative of the many years of planting that has resulted in what could be called low maintence. The difference this year is the lack of fall clean up. We are leaving spent stalks and not obsessing about it. Having that goal in mind as we walk the garden with the staff of power, we are learning to love the dying foliage and dried seed heads. Instead of seeing a task undone, we smile wisely and know that is part of the design. It’s all about your perspective, how you look at things. Fending can be fun.
My name is Frances and I am a lifelong gardener, having lived in various parts of the USA over many years. I am now gardening in USDA Zone 7a east Tennessee. From 2000 to 2014 I was gardening on a slope in a small town in Tennessee. I have been blogging about my gardens since December of 2007. Thank you for visiting!
The slope in spring
The slope in fall
The slope in winter
Visit The Hop Ice Cream Cafe When In Asheville, NC
640 Merrimon Ave.
or The Hop West
721 Haywood Rd.
Asheville, North Carolina
Older Posts Of Interest:
The story of the day a throng of cedar waxwings descended upon the garden, shown in the header image. (2009)
An awkward title that explains about making those very tall asters, mums and others shorter by cutting them down by half in May. Now is the time! (2011)
A book inspires the growing of lilies from seed. (2009)
How ten lily bulbs became hundreds. (2010)
A rant about the mistaken thoughts of non-gardeners. (2009)
There was something hidden in the forest and we were lucky enough to be able to see it. (2011)
Dreams turn into reality, in a way. The Green Man/Leaf Man faces live well in my garden now. (2011)
A yard without a lawn. (2010)
A history of all of the faire gardens and a couple of choice tidbits about me. (2009)
Very difficult to only pick your six favorite plants, some of us bent the rules a bit. (2009)
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