This bloom day (thanks, Carol of May Dreams) we are going to take a little trip up the interstate to offspring *Semi’s garden. She lives with her husband and offspring LTB, not LBJ, age three, in a new subdivision. The house and garden are five years young. She likes to sow seeds onto bare soil and let nature do the work. These volunteer cosmos are a good example of her successes. She
planted threw the seeds in the bed she calls the daylily farm, all her beds are farms of various sorts, after dumping mushroom compost from the nearby mushroom farm, an actual farm, on a section of land near her garage the first spring after moving in. No tilling, turf removal or weeding was done in preparation. The Fairegarden clan calls this method of gardening Semi School. You will learn more about the tenets of this type of gardening throughout this post.Not all of her plants are from seed. This Echinacea ‘Summer Sky’thrives under her benign neglect, as do most other perennials, tree and shrubs. The underlying philosophy of the Semi School is doing next to nothing to tend or care for your garden. She finely honed this school of thought while living in the house where I now reside. Plants were added to the landscape each time we would visit the house she shared with her sister Chickenpoet while they attended college here. Weeds were pulled, mulch was added, the grass was cut and watering was done on these trips. All four of the Fairegarden offspring contributed to the planting of the large hemlock and pyracantha rows that line the chain link fence at the back of the property, among other trees and shrubs. Potential boyfriends of Semi were tested by whether they could dig a decent hole to plant a tree. Some failed this test. When we moved to Texas the visits were fewer and the weeds grew so tall that we received a letter of warning from the city to take action or else.An attempt was made to get more garden maintenance from Semi and the parade of roommates after Chickenpoet moved out. Great garden clean ups would occur with each of my visits. As the overgrowth was trimmed and the weeds were pulled we were always surprised to see that all the original plantings were not only alive but prospering underneath the rubble. The garden was always in the same state of dishevelment when we would arrive after the fifteen hour drive from Texas. Sigh. I know for a fact that in addition to doing nothing whatsoever to tend the garden, there were beverage cans, make up cases and assorted articles of clothing found as mulch around the flowers. I witnessed some stomach ailments along with people unconscious on the plants after a Hallowe’en party that I attended in costume at a nearby friend’s house so as not to draw attention to the fact that I was someone’s mother who was also attending this party. A real eye opener that party was for me. I had just weeded and divided those Autumn Joy sedums too. Maybe it was fertilizer. Shown above is a cactus flowered dahlia just now starting to bloom.Moving forward in time we now can see that there were garden lessons being learned from living in a house with a garden growing in spite of the lack of effort on the part of the occupants. Semi has a real feel for roses. She can grow all types, even hybrid teas which are a tending nightmare. Shown above is a climber, Queen Elizabeth that grows on a fence in some of the worst soil I have ever seen. The digging is done with a pickaxe. There is no spraying, pruning, feeding or watering done. Weeding? HA to weeding!This antique rose on her mailbox is Landmark.Rainbow Knockout is showing interesting coloration.Gaillardia ‘Lemons and Oranges’ continues to be a standout as are all the gaillardias. They are plants that self sow and tolerate the drought we are experiencing with aplomb. They are fine candidates for graduation from the Semi School.This year a new bed was made, again by dumping mushroom compost over the sparse lawn with nothing else done, and all of her seed collection, purchased and saved was thrown around there. I can remember when the pure white marigold was highly sought after by the large seed companies. Interest has been lost in the lowly marigolds of late as fancier flowers caught the attention of the gardening public. This white is quite lovely and a cooling relief to the miasma of color at Semi’s place.Now for some long views, the mailbox farm by the street is narrow. She is on a cul de sac with a pie shaped lot that was one of the largest available when they selected it. Ground had not even been broken for the small subdivision when they bought the house. The builders do not treat the soil kindly as they build these houses very quickly. Bits of lumber, block, brick, nails and lunch bags can be unearthed when digging a hole to plant. But a nice topcoat of mushroom compost will cover all sins. There are bulbs galore in this bed seen by the public and many blooming flowers.Right at curbside is a zinnia that either returned or self seeded, it is not known which, along with one of many mums that have grown to giant proportions since the initial planting the first year. Seed heads of scabiosa dot the terrain along with celosia volunteers.There is a steep slope that occupies half of the back yard. Luckily there is also a large flat section that reaches back to the farthest corner for a play area for young gardeners, budding baseball stars and golf pros. A large bouquet of muhly grass seed heads were strewn about on the hillside and have become blooming size. They will produce more seed and more blooming size plants over time. Time is on the side of the Semi School followers.There is a project going on that defies the logic of the Semi School. In the beginning, dogwood seedlings have been plucked from the fairegarden, along with many, many other things, and transplanted to the hill at Semi’s. A few have died but some have sent their roots into this solid red clay. As the gulleys got larger and roots were exposed of the added quince and forsythia the need for a wall was apparent. Rocks collected by Semi’s father in law from their acreage in middle Tennessee have been used to put together a structure that will help hold the soil in place. Semi and I have been working very hard to get this built. She is the muscle, I am the mason and LTB helps out by sitting on our lap and filling buckets with soil for backfill that he has dug with his small shovel. The idea for the steps going up diagonally came to me in a dream. Moving those huge and heavy pieces was a lesson in perserverance.Our help in the transport is the sturdy wagon of LTB. Mulch will be added to the wall beds and Semi has replanted the daylilies, iris and Husker red penstemons that were moved to make way for the wall and steps.
Those of you with grown offspring that have their own gardens will know what it is like to want to help them with your expertise, but not insert your own vision into what should be their creation. Semi and I have very different ways of doing things, not just gardening but all things. Our minds work differently. But we share many things, and the sharing of the love of gardening and being able to garden side by side with her is one of my greatest joys. Thanks, Semi.
*The name of Semi was chosen by my lovely daughter with a lovely real name as the blog name for herself after one of my first posts describing the taming of the property with the (lack of) help by my semi-adult offspring. The use of the word Semi appealed to her greatly and she has made it her own. She has a sense of humor that finds tremendous hilarity in the tiniest of things. It is truly a gift to laugh hysterically at nothing at all, the clan marvels at her.
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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