The Occasional Gardener

Somewhere in Western North Carolina is a small house with a small garden.

The garden began as smoothed by machinery dirt that had been planted with grass seed by the contractor who built the small house in mid December in 2010, written about here. The gardener began the garden making process as soon as she took possession of the property by laying several thicknesses of newspaper on the ground and covering it with a thick layer of mulch, fifteen bags at a time. Yes, that is fifteen bags of mulch shown above.

Native grasses, Panicum virgatum and native winterberry hollies, Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’ and the male pollinator I. ‘Southern Gentleman’ were planted in the cold soil, as were the blueberries that were the gift foundation plantings of the contractor. It was a good start.

As the cold gave way to warmer temperatures, more plants were added, always natives or food crops, such as Rosemary and thymes. The garden space was enlarged with each occasional visit, usually once a month, with more newspapers and mulch. A large boulder from nearby mountains was added, named Rocky. Click here to see more about him.

The Panicums were divided several times and spread about, trying to find the best arrangement as some of the small plants grew larger and more were added. Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Gold’ was found at a local nursery and recently joined its brethren.

Over the months, the garden grew and thrived with no tending at all beyond the initial planting, some moving about for better spacing and a little crabgrass removal. Because it consists of natives, the plantings need no coddling or care. There is no extra watering, they must subsist on the moisture that comes down from the clouds.

In late winter, after the birds have picked the grasses, Echinaceas and Rudbeckias bare, the stalks will be cut down before the new green growth emerges to begin a new cycle. It is enjoyable to do this and see the volunteer seedlings popping up. The garden has evolved and will continue to do so. It brings a smile every single time the occasional gardener comes to visit.

This post is to be considered for inclusion in Wildflower Wednesday, the lovely idea of my dear friend Gail of Clay and Limestone.


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16 Responses to The Occasional Gardener

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What fun having two gardens to tend. You will be having many thoughts of natives and cultivars this winter. Happy gardening even if it is occasional.

    Thanks Lisa. It is fun to have another garden to tend while visiting. Knowing that it can fend for itself without becoming a weedy, horrible embarrassment is a very good feeling.

  2. Thanks for this lovely tale, Frances. Especially for the little intake of breath and big grin when scrolling down to the photo of the finch on the echinacea. That newspaper trick is how I turned my little patch from grass to pinestraw palette, too. Works great.

    Hi Geogie, thanks for reading. The newspaper method is the way to go, for sure. I will be using that for creating new beds from now on. So easy and effective.

  3. VP says:

    It’s lovely seeing how your new garden is coming along Frances – it’s so different from Faire Garden! It looks like the Occasional Gardener is doing a good job 🙂

    Hi Michelle, thanks so much. It is different especially because it is not a steep slope, even though the back yard does slope downwards away from the house. I will continue to tweak it and divide and move those Panicums, they grow so fast. There are many shrubs in there, too, that are very tiny right now. Someday…

  4. Layanee says:

    The verdict is in….bird worthy in addition to people friendly. Love the emerging garden.

    Thanks Layanee. The birds do love those seeds and to hide out in the grasses. As the shrubs get bigger, the birds will like that too. They already like the blueberries.

  5. gail says:

    Dear Frances, I officially accept this offering for Wildflower Wednesday. Fairegarden East is beautiful and the plantings are perfect for wildlife and an Occasional Gardener. Call me fanciful, but Rocky looks like a dinosaur face this morning. xoxogail

    Thanks Gail. You are sweet to allow the stretch of the meme, as seems to happen here sometimes. I looked again at Rocky and saw the face! HA

  6. Cindy says:

    Oh, how I love the goldfinches! I need to call the Executive Producer right now and ask him to go by Wild Birds on the way home to get thistle for them.

    I love them too, Cindy. I love to sit on the porch and watch them devour the Echinacea seeds. Sometimes even thinking to get the camera and capturing them in the act.

  7. Barbara H. says:

    What a restful yet lively garden, Frances. Love it. I had to go back up to look at Rocky, too. Definitely a dinosaur!

    Thanks Barbara. Rocky looks a bit like a Brontosaur Stomp!

  8. Catherine says:

    I love the transformation!

    Thanks Catherine. It is coming along better than expected, with very little effort from the gardener beyond the initial plantings.

  9. Patrick says:

    My you’re blessed to have two gardens and newspaper and mulch is smart for the occasional gardener. Your native and food base makes for some beautiful imagery. Enjoy both your spaces which almost goes without saying???

    Hi Patrick, thanks. Yes, doubly blessed. It was work to lay the newspapers and mulch, especially in the winter, but those efforts have proven to be wise, as has the choice of natives for the plants. So far, so good.

  10. balisha says:

    This is going to be fun… to follow your adventures in turning this spot into something of beauty.I love how you met the challenge of the unwanted Rose of Sharon. Balisha

    Thanks Balisha. Getting rid of the rose of sharon tree/shrub was difficult, but I believe Rocky is keeping it squished and the cardboard is preventing regrowth. So far. It is fun, yes.

  11. Andrea says:

    hello, i am new here. Even if plants differ in all conditions and climates, it is always lovely to see what others in the other parts of the world have. I love those very colorful berries.

    Hello Andrea, thanks for visiting and welcome! Seeing gardens from all over the world is very appealing. I hope you enjoy this and subsequent visits to see what is happening in Tennessee and North Carolina.

  12. Jean says:

    Wow, it’s really coming along, isn’t it Frances? I remember reading about Rocky some time ago. I love the fact that you’ve never watered it. Fantastic.

    Thanks Jean. The North Carolina garden with no gardener is doing well. It is pleasing to drive up to the house and not be horrified, but rather happy to see the plants alive and well. No watering.

  13. Scott says:

    So great…and I love the palette of plants you used…and, from the looks of it, so do the birds!

    Thanks Scott. It is quite colorful in summer with the Echinaceas and Rudbeckias. Fall and winter have dried grasses and berries. Spring needs some work, finding native bulbs is a challenge. Camassias are in there, but we need thousands more to make a show. It is a process…

  14. An enjoyable story of a growing garden, thanks.

    I am glad you enjoyed it, Green Bench, thanks for stopping by.

  15. What a lovely garden! Western NC is such a gorgeous area, and there are so many lovely natives that thrive there. I am surprised, though, that you only have a little crabgrass removal to do 🙂

    Thanks Indie. I agree, WNC is one of the most beautiful places on earth, with such a diversity of natives from which to choose. The garden is still quite young, the newspaper keeps things from coming up from below and it seems since most of the neighbors have only unweeded lawn, the only problem is crabgrass and some creeping bermuda. We put an edging of narrow concrete blocks around the garden and that has helped with both.

  16. Rose says:

    This is an inspiration to anyone who thinks they don’t have time to garden. You’ve created a lovely spot in your “occasional” visits here. That first photo is beautiful!

    Thanks Rose. This is definitely a garden with little gardening time devoted to it. The plantings were done a little at a time over several months. Now we mostly just enjoy.

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