Weave Only Just Begun…


March is a time of transition here in the Fairegarden. Early bulbs bloom, like the sapphire Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ in the knot garden. The tips of the Spring Green tulips can be seen poking up to join the chorus.


While order reigns supreme in the geometrically designed knot garden, just a few feet away, on the other side of the silvery stems of the appalling chain link fence, (yes, I chose it for security and low cost and have spent more than ten years trying to hide it with various plantings), is the nightmare tangle of seedling trees and vines, some as thick as my arm. It is a constant battle to keep the wild out of the composed. There is cutting involved using many types of tools; saws, clippers, pruners, loppers. All that cutting results in much useable building material. Waste not, want not is how I was raised.


While gazing over the metal fence, formulating a plan of attacking the vines that otherwise would swallow the garden in one season’s gulp, these long catkins were spied. Hmmm, I don’t remember ever seeing those before. There was one clump of long straight stems sporting these tassels.


Is this some sort of hazel, Corylus, prized by English gardeners for making wattles, domes and trelliage? (Photo taken May, 2010 at Hampton Court Castle) To the computer, post haste! On better thought, to a recent issue of Gardens Ilustrated, that gold standard of gardening magazines. There was an article about coppicing shrubs, with a hazel example shown. Yes, long male catkins, just like these, identified the bush. Oh joy of joys. It is a wonder how hazel got into the mix of maples, privet and grapevine in southeast Tennessee. In the earliest garden creation days here, a Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick was planted in a large concrete container. It died within months and the carcass was tossed over the fence. Could the rootstock of the grafted bush have rooted and grown? A romantic notion, we’re going with it. Onward.


A couple of small wattle fences had been fashioned here from available materials to hold back flopping flowers. As intended, these fences need to be replaced after a year or two as they biodegrade. The newly cut hazel was put to use immediately, while still bendable. These nodding Narcissus pseudonarcissus don’t really need propping, but other plants growing behind, particularly the Gladiolus byzantinus do need help standing straight and tall for proper admiration later in the season.


The old fence posts were left in place, seen in front of the new fence which is taller to better hold the perennial glads up for photo ops. The glad spikes can be seen behind the daffs, a darker green.


Here is a warts and all long shot. The ever present chain link fence surrounds the upper part of the garden on three sides. Pyracantha will soon fill in to cover the eyesore with new fresh foliage and white flowers followed by orange berries that will persist into December when they are devoured by hungry birds.


Even wartier is this shot of the new heater at the side of the house with the newly woven fence thingey made of mulberry cuttings. Deschampsia cespitosa has been planted to help cover it and Siberian iris was dormant when this shot was taken, February 9, 2011 but will grow to help give some green cover. Probably there will need to be a rethinking of the planting here, but this is a spot never seen so it is not a high priority.


There have been several deaths in the arborvitae hedges in front and along the back property line during the last year. It is believed that drought conditions are to blame, both recent and from 2007-2008, the damage being cumulative. Two dead shrubs were pruned to the main branches and those were woven together at the tops, secured with wire. It is hoped that the live bushes on either side will fill in over time to close the gap in the hedge. Until then, annual vine seeds might be planted. Or not. Still some warts being shown here. This corner is a repository of brush, overrun with Vinca major. Large evergreens are planted there to form a privacy screen. Leftover cinder blocks are stacked to help contain the vinca. Inadequate but, whatever.


This small fence is still a work in progress, this photo is informing me. It is used to hold up a group of Asclepias tuberosa later during the summer months. All of the butterfly weed plants need help remaining upright here for some reason. They do not receive such help in the wild, unless it is the neighboring native grasses doing the heavy lifting for them. More grapevine will be gathered and woven in the lower portion to help give a more finished look. The stakes and some cross pieces are made of mulberry, the closest thing to hazel we could find until the catkins discovery.


The vines that surround us must be kept at bay with constant vigilence. A pink flowering dogwood was killed by the aggressive twisting tendrils last year while our guard was down. Whenever the vines are pulled with resulting long pieces, those are woven into rounds and stored in the shed for future uses. As was said before, waste not, want not.


To wind up this story, get it, we close with what looks to be miniature grape bunches. Actually these are clusters of lilac buds, Syringa vulgaris, opening way ahead of schedule. They are fragrant already. Time Marches on.

Frances

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21 Responses to Weave Only Just Begun…

  1. I love this Frances, being a big fan of “warts and all” posts. It really brings your garden to life, showing the work that goes in to creating your beautiful space. Your re-use of prunings is inspirational, I am kicking myself for not hanging on to the prunings from my clematis taming. I hope your hazel thrives and creates may wonderful structures for you in the years to come.

    Hi Janet, thanks. The warty photos are shown sporadically to remind readers that this is just a regular garden, with no hired help. We do what we can when we can. It is about the journey, not the finished product. I feel you will have more prunings to use, they are never ending. I was wondering if the hazel cuttings could be rooted to grow my own supply, might try sticking them in the moist, cool ground now. Nothing to lose! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  2. I noticed my arb hedge this year with excessive browning. The winter took its toll. If our snow ever leaves, I will post the garden, but each shot so far has been under a blanket of white. I can not wait for my lilacs to bloom. I love the fragrance.

    Hi Donna, thanks for stopping by. Even now we are noticing more of the arbs losing the green color, a sure sign of death. First the green fades, then the brown sets in. Sigh. We have replaced three crucial ones at the end, will see about the others, after seeing how many more die. It might turn into a mixed planting. I agree with you about the lilacs, there is nothing so wonderful as that scent. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Your weaving has given me an idea Frances. I kept some straight sticks last year. Now all I have to do is find something I can weave between them. I have one of those ugly chain link fences. It is covered with vines too. I will have to go look at it with a weavers eye.

    Hi Lisa, thanks, so glad you are inspired. See the next comment about painting the fence black, that would certainly help it fade into the scenery. Have fun weaving! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  4. My neighbors put up a hideous shiny chain link fence the whole length of our property. I find that if you spray paint it matte black it blends into the landscape.

    P.S. Before I choose black, I did test patches of brown, green, and even camoβ€”black worked the best.

    Thanks for that tip, Carolyn. I should have painted it before all these shrubs are now growing against it. I did paint some silver end poles with black spray paint. It worked very well. They blend in with the black metal trellis’ that are wired to the poles. Good thing your neighbor allowed you to paint it, some would not be so accommodating. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  5. My Kids Mom says:

    I like seeing the parts of your gardens usually not published. We all have those “warts” and it’s good to know you do too! Too much yard and too many plants… and too many more to accumulate!

    I worry that our incredibly early spring will come back to haunt us with cold and killing weather later this month. I don’t own enough blankets to cover it all for a freeze!

    Thanks Jill. Isn’t this weather incredible? Scary to think of what will happen if *normal* temps return now. We all have the warts, my garden included. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  6. gail says:

    My dear, I am inspired by your woven fences…They are delightful and they’re exactly what’s needed behind one of my wildflower gardens. I don’t have the heavy infestation of strangling vines, but there’s plenty of bush honeysuckle to use. The iris is stunning and it looks spectacular against the gravel. Wowzer on the lilac buds! xxoogail

    Thanks Gail. Your space would look stunning with a few rustic fences made from bush honeysuckle! The gravel is wonderful, it makes every plant shine like a star. The lilacs make me so happy. I will be cutting the flowers to bring inside, the only flowers we cut here. πŸ™‚
    xxxooo
    Frances

  7. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Busy days ahead at Fairegarden! Love those sapphire iris. If you figure out how to camouflage the dang heater, let me know. My a/c is smack dab in between the two trellises on the north side. I’ve got a giant liriope in a pot there but I really need something bigger. It has to be movable so the a/c guy can do his thing as needed.

    Hi Cindy, thanks. Every day is busy around here, even though I get up very early. I don’t think these grasses are up to the task of hiding the heater and the fence is not dense enough. More thinking needs to be done on this one. Any plantings have to be able to withstand the maintenance in late summer with stomping workmen but still not grow to eat the heater. We haven’t found that plant yet. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  8. Nell Jean says:

    Lilacs! Be still, my heart.

    Nell Jean, my feelings exactly!!! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  9. Marguerite says:

    How nice to see photos of ‘warts and all’. Sometimes looking through old posts I notice I haven’t taken any ugly long shots to avoid embarassment but these photos tell such a different story and are really quite helpful both as the writer looking back and as a reader, so I get a better sense of the space of your garden.

    Hi Marguerite, thanks. In the beginning of blogging, I never showed the long shots, mostly macros, trying to put our best foot forward. After the comments one time when a warty photo was shown, they get thrown in every now and then, to show the REAL garden views. This and most all gardens are a work in progress, never finished and always striving towards unachievable visions. There are pretty parts, at some times of the year, and other times the same space is not so pretty. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  10. Layanee says:

    Okay, I tried just a few I. reticulata this year but really, I must have ‘Harmony’ and more than ten for sure. I planted a few ‘Rendez vous’ but it will be a while before they bloom. Do these come back reliably for you?

    Hi Layanee, thanks for dropping by. The retics have performed very, very well here. I have had to divide Harmony several times, it grows and multiplies so quickly. It is totally reliable at returning, and since the knot garden quads were mulched with pea gravel, it has grown even faster. I began with five in each quad along the front edges, there are now ten times that, in each quad. Go for it! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  11. Victoria says:

    I’m with Layanee. I’ve tried ‘Harmony’ before, but only a few in a pot. Even one is very pretty, but massed in large groups like yours, they are just spectacular.

    Hi Victoria, thanks. Like most of the plants, masses are better than a few, if they are easy to grow, that is. They look so pretty I even brought my husband up to the knot garden just to see them. He agreed, spectacular. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  12. nancybond says:

    How lucky you are to have blooms already! We may never see *ground* until August! πŸ˜‰ The daffodils are surely a sweet breath of Spring.

    Hi Nancy, thanks for stopping by. We are lucky, especially this time of year when spring visits. We are hoping winter doesn’t make a comeback and ruin much of it. Those daffs, whatever they are, make my heart sing. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  13. Bom says:

    Very nice idea! Your weaves are so practical and blend in naturally.

    Hi Bom, thanks so much. The little fences do blend in well, and can be remade every so often for free from materials on the property. Win-win. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  14. Jess says:

    Those iris’s are stunning, and I’m not really an iris fan. I guess there some variety out there for everybody.

    Hi Jess, thanks for visiting. There really are a lot of different types of iris. These little fall planted bulbs are like jewels in the late winter garden. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  15. Your irises are gorgeous! All your weaves are very impressive. I love that you have reused and repurposed what mother nature has provided! I am surprised that you can grow lilacs. My mother has them at her home in Michigan and they smell heavenly. Crape Myrtle, the southern replacement for lilacs, just aren’t the same.

    Hi Karin, thanks. We are at the southern most range of the lilacs and some tulips and the northern most range for things like the pink muhly grass. We consider it heavenly that all of those things can be grown here. So far, only the species lilac has lasted here and if it blooms later the flowers can be spoiled by high temps. This is going to be a good year, I hope! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  16. Hey Frances, I am always amazed at how crafty you are, and I don’t mean sneaky. My lilacs are also swelling up, and the winter honeysuckle should be already blooming. Cool structures and wattles and such.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks! How wonderful for you lilacs and honeysuckle. My parents had a huge lilac by the driveway, my dad would cut it down to the ground every few years and it would regrow and bloom like crazy. Oh the scent….yummmm. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  17. Rose says:

    Frances, I love the way you make use of available materials to create so many useful and artistic things. The wattle fence is pure genius! There are no shortage of mulberry branches here, either, so you’ve set me a-thinking about how to use them. I also so appreciate your showing photos with “warts.” Sometimes when I walk around the perimeter of our farm I get discouraged seeing how quickly the unwanted takes over–though I’ve gotten many inspirations for Wildflower Wednesday here:) It’s reassuring to know that I am not the only one who has to contend with the wild taking over.

    Hi Rose, thanks. I have seen those little fences around and about and love how they can hold floppy plants off the walkways. They look cute, too, winter interest. The battle to hold back the wild is a losing one in the long run. The wild will win as soon as we stop cutting. In our old neighborhood, we are surrounded with empty lots that have become or always were heavily wooded. Our city does not require anything to be done by the owner unless someone complains. I don’t complain because I adore the privacy the vines and trees give, not to mention the wildlife it attracts. I just wish poison ivy wasn’t one of the inhabitants.
    Frances

  18. Lisa says:

    Frances, just discovered your site. It is just what I need to get me through March in northern Wisconsin. You have a gift for gardening as well as writing. I so enjoy reading your commentary. Thank you for posting your trip to England. It is a dream my mother and I were recently discussing. Looking forward to watching your garden unfold. Now off to the local greenhouse so I can smell some dirt.

    Hi Lisa, thanks and welcome! I hope you and your mother get to go to England, it was a dream come true for me. Be sure and take loads of photos of the gardens, and see as many as you can. Looking at the photos taken from our trip helped get me through winter here. Spring is bursting out in southeast Tennessee, if we don’t have a sharp cold snap, that is. Enjoy the dirt smelling. I know how it is to need that, too. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  19. Lola says:

    Love that first pic. What are those long things in the 3rd pic?
    I adore how you have natural things to work with. Living in town we aren’t so lucky.
    I finally got to trim my Muhly. Grasses here do start late. It does make me worry.
    Worked on 1 flower bed & it’s hard to dig all grass & weeds out. I have a problem with a weed that has a white finger looking thing for a root & it smells. Strange. I have no idea what it is but guess I’ll take it to the right people to find out & how to get rid of it.

    Thanks Lola. The third photo is of the catkins spotted on some straight stems over the fence. I believe it to be hazel, Corylus of some kind and used those cuttings to make the little fence. It is used extensively in England for fences and structures to help hold plants erect. The muhly and others are late to begin growth here as well, but I have seen signs of new green shoots on most of them. As for your weed, a local nursery should be able to help you identify it, if not dig it. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  20. Way to go!! I started an arbor with twigs cut from my neighbor’s bushes as they leaned over my raised beds… (they didn’t mind). But it’s taken me so long to complete the project that half of it caved in last Summer! ha. Oh, well. I’ll work something else out… Happy Spring weather to you!

    Hi Shady, thanks. Good for you using the overhanging twigs, that meant you didn’t have to climb over the fence into the thorny brambles like I did. HA These structures don’t last and become very brittle quickly. But that allows for the fun of rebuilding better each time. Nothing teaches us like experience does. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  21. Sharon says:

    Wow your flowers are wonderful! I love the lilac blooms, my mom’s neighbor has a lilac tree/bush, and gave me some cuttings to root and some seeds. The cuttings failed to root although one seed did germinate!

    Thanks Sharon. Good luck with the seedling lilac! There is nothing like the scent and beauty of those purple blooms, a reminder of my childhood in Oklahoma. πŸ™‚
    Frances

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