Seasons Greetings from Christmases Past

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Seasons Greetings for 2013! We sincerely hope the end of 2013 finds all of you happy and healthy, enjoying the holidays in whatever way seems best for you. We will be spending time with our beloved Fairegarden clan with love and laughter. Below please find a few offerings from the archives of posts written to celebrate the joy. They remain some of my most favorites.

Gift from the Woodpeckers-The Yule Log 2008

Angel Cloud of Dreams 2008

Winter Solstice 2009

Caroling Cardinals 2009

Happy Holly-Day Holidays 2011

O Tannenbaum 2011

Home for Christmas 2012

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Posted in holidays | 13 Comments

Along the Long Wall

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You, dear readers are hereby invited to the before and after and everything in between story of the long wall behind the main house. This is an in depth explanation of the evolution of the Fairegarden told from the perspective of the steep slope and the wall that holds it in place. Please make yourselves comfortable, this will be a bit long winded in the telling. Above is the present day, November 2013 view of the pond. It is what we see from the glass sliders in the master bedroom, so designed to offer nice garden viewing during inclement weather. A few crimson leaves remain on the Japanese maple, Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Crimson Queen’, the pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris is swaying in the wind, The large leaves of the millions of hellebores, Helleborus orientalis are catching the final rays of the setting sun. It is pleasing to look at, but this was not always the case.

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Time travel back with me to 1996. While we were then living in the Tri-Cities area of northeast Tennessee, daughters Semi and Chickenpoet are now both attending a small college in southeast Tennessee on soccer scholarships. Having the two girls together was a blessing for us. Chickenpoet, the eldest, had previously been taking classes elsewhere in the state. It seemed a good idea at the time to look for a small, inexpensive house to buy for them to reside in, also giving us a place to stay when visiting. It was cheaper than dorm fees for two and allowed them to stay in town during the holidays and summer when the dorms were closed to students. Home prices were very reasonable and a place was found near the college that met all the criteria. It even had a yard for me to plant a few extras from my own garden. The back yard was a flat space with a lawn and a steep hill of wilderness. Some plantings of shrubs were done by the girls and our two sons, referred to in our very first blog post as semi-adults. That is how the name Semi came to be used as the internet name for our youngest daughter, who thought it was funny.

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In 1997 we left Tennessee for Texas due to a job transfer. Semi continued to go to school and play soccer, Chickenpoet moved back to northeast Tennessee, got married and had a child, a boy, our first grandson. An executive decision was made for us to return to Tennessee in light of this new family addition. We decided to live in the small house and do a very necessary renovation, thinking we would sell the house and move to a larger space afterwards. The first thing to be done was the clearing of the wilderness of the slope. A backhoe was brought on site to dig the foundation for the addition and a price was negotiated for the clearing and terracing of the steep incline. Jim, the backhoe operator did a very fine job and even lifted the shrubs and trees that were planted along the back of the house to be used on the hill.

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A small wooden shed that was built to house the lawnmower, bicycles and some items that defy reason or explanation was in the way of the renovations. I mentioned that I sure wished it could be at the top of the hill and Jim made it so. The fork attachment was put on the backhoe, the shed was lifted up and placed on the trailer bed used to bring the backhoe in. Around the corner it went, the truck in reverse, past our neighbors house while they watched in amazement. I must remark about the pitiful paint job applied by Semi and her soccer friends to the shed. D minus on that. It has since been repainted. Several times.

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A section of the chain link fence was removed to allow the backhoe access. A sort of road was built with the trees, shrubs and vines of the previous wilderness as a base and the shed was placed at the eastern edge of the property. Several truckloads of mulch were brought in this way, as well before the fence was repositioned.

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Finally the digging for the addition was begun. In the meantime, a garden was planted on the slope, using plants brought in the Noah’s Ark gas guzzler from Texas along with those dug up from the back of house.

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Progress was made, the structure was framed and roofed. We put in a hot tub on a concrete slab to the side of the master bedroom. The covered vestibule can be seen in the middle, and the greenhouse/sunroom with its two skylights is at the southeast corner of the house. The sheffie mums can be seen blooming.

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By spring of 2001, the house is done and the garden has been planted. The Tulipa ‘Spring Green’ tulips can be seen blooming in the Knot Garden. Look how small the maples are on either side of the pond. The pond has been built and rebuilt a couple of times. For more about the pond, click here. But there is a gaping omission for completion of phase one of this project. There is a wall of solid, red clay peeking out from under the mulch and landscape cloth at the bottom of the photo. Something is needed to hold back the hill. Stacked native stone would have been oh, so lovely, but it was out of the budget, which by that time had been hit hard by extras and overruns. Large cement blocks with a rough face were chosen as the material for the wall. A group of masons came to the house, lead by a fellow nicknamed Dead-Eye. He was so called because he could tell level dead on everytime. They did use spirit levels, of course, but he was always right on the money. A large piece of drainage pipe was placed behind the block to escort the water to the side and on down the slope to the street. Strong arms lifted the blocks two at a time, one in each hand as the wall was laid. These blocks weigh eighty pounds each, in case you are wondering. They completed the wall in two days. Sadly, no photos were taken.

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The filling in of the space behind the wall was left to my husband and me. This was the fly in the ointment. We used leftover scrap lumber, rocks, bits of broken cement blocks, whatever we had laying around to fill in. We used red clay from the excavation pile to fill in the rest, my husband using the Bobcat that the workmen had left here. We should have used drainage gravel up to about a foot and then topsoil with gravel up against the blocks. Voles have colonized the area behind the wall as a result of our ignorance.

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The vision was to have English ivy, yes, I know, cascading over the edge of the wall to reduce the stark prison wall look of it in the beginning. A line of lavender was planted along the mulched pathway to provide scent and evergreen sweetness. My husband and I made concrete steps going up to the top of the slope. A split rail fence was erected to hold back the drooping Miscanthus and help hide the silver chain link fence.

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In the meantime, the house next door that we had bought to enlarge the property, thus changing the plan to this being our forever house, happening midway through the construction, are you with me?, was torn down and a garage was built. The garden behind the garage was begun, without the help of heavy machinery. The end of the block wall can be seen above in this shot from September of 2002. The daylily hill has come into existence, protected at the corner by the cement casted keystone of Athena. The hose and patio furniture were not cropped out, to show the real view.

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The ivy grew surprisingly fast. Most of the lavender eventually died. There needed to be a rethink of the vision. The above shot is from April of 2003. As life has a way of happening during renovations and gardening, daughter Semi was married in 2003. The ivy was cut and used extensively in the church decorations for the wedding. Folks even remarked how lovely the long tendrils were. Where did we find so much ivy, they asked? Waste not, want not!

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Right after the wedding, the ivy was painstakingly dug out. It went easier than anticipated and only a couple of sprigs returned, quickly removed. The thinking cap was put on about the planting of this forty plus foot narrow bed. Daffodils that came with the property were used for spring cheer. Concrete stepping stones were made in place to help keep footsies dry and clean whilst traversing the lower terrace. Later, step stones were made for all of the pathways that were not already laid with gravel.

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Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ volunteers were one of the first replacements for the ivy and lavender. They proved to be too tall, at the time, blocking the view of the hillside and were later removed. The plantings up the steps were gorgeous that year. Pink Dianthus ssp., blue Ajuga reptans and white Cerastium tomentosum created a groundcover tapestry. Yellow deciduous Azaleas are beacons of beauty. This scene has never been duplicated.

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By March of 2005, only the daffodils remain. Voles and/or the tough conditions of poor soil have proven to be problematic for the plantings. On a brighter note, moss is beginning to grow on the concrete blocks.

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Experiments with plantings are not showing much promise, but the yellow creeping jenny, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ has spread from the hillside around the pond to the area behind the wall. This is the way the successful plantings have evolved, without help from the gardener. The above photo is from September of 2005.

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By March of 2007, with the daffodils being stalwart soldiers, there is still a lack of easy care successful perennials growing behind the wall. I built stone walls with leftovers from the stone purchase to help shore up the ever sliding soil.

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This brings us to the here and now. The planting behind the wall is finally pleasing. A couple of years ago I gave up trying to have colorful annuals or even flowers there. Japanese blood grass, Imperata cylindrica rubra is the matrix, impervious to voles and drought. One lone lavender remains alive and well from the original planting vision.

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There is more moss on the wall. A finely bladed Euphorbia is spreading, happily cascading over the concrete edge, giving the softening effect that I was hoping for.

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An escaped variegated ivy has attached itself to the blocks, coming from a container planting sited next to the wall long ago.

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Dianthus has joined the hard to get started party. Sedum acre moved itself over from the Daylily Hill where it had been living since before we bought this property. Native violets are now welcome. It was not always so.

In spring, Fritillaria uva-vulpis has survived the vole attacks to return each year, as have the grape hyacinths that came with the land.

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A thug to some, star of Bethlehem, Ornithogalum umbellatum is a welcome sight at the western end of the wall. It too was grandfathered in. I love how it blends with the yellow foliage of evergreen Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’.

2011 saw the final attempt at annual summer color plantings. These red salvias never grew at all and slowly died over the weeks. That is when I threw in the towel, or it should be trowel.

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The ever changing foliage of Euphorbia dulcis ‘Chameleon’ adds shades of reds, purples and others all along the wall. These self seeded plants are progeny of the two purchased parents planted early on either side of the pond.

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More self seeders include these pink columbines, Aquilegia ssp..

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Lambs ear, Stachy byzantinus was added last year, giving in to foliage as the stars. Black mondo grass, Ophiopogon planescapus ‘Nigrescens’, an original planting from 1996 has spread itself from the pond to the wall. A smattering of small heathers, Calluna ssp. have been survivors.

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Other Euphorbias have been tried in this space, including E. ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and E. ‘Blackbird’. While totally stunning, perfect and immune to voles due to the poisonous milky sap, these plants are short lived. We need long lived here. When these few die out, they will not be replaced.

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What we really appreciate are plants that replace, or reproduce themselves. These grown from seed Rosa chinensis ‘Angel Wings’ have done some self sowing, making for a nice stand of them in the middle of the long wall. The flowers are nice, but the winter interest offered by the tiny red hips are the greatest gift of this rose, dropping to the ground to sometimes germinate and share nature’s miracle of reproduction.

* * * * *

Thank you for reading this self indulgent garden history lesson, dear friends. As with all of the 956 blog posts, beginning on December 7, 2007, these stories were and are for my friends and family to enjoy. That anyone else would even bother reading them still is astonishing to me. They are to help me remember what was blooming when and where. I so enjoy sharing the photos, as you can see from above, I have been taking pictures of my garden well before the blogging began, even before owning a digital camera. That digital gift from my husband in 2002 was met with disdain. Why do I need that electronic device, I already have a good camera, was my ungrateful reaction. To take pictures of your garden, and put them on the computer to look at, for free, was his sweet response. And so a door was opened to a whole new world.


Posted in before and after | 25 Comments

Getting Up Close for November Bloom Day

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By the time November rolls around, the blooms are scant and often hiding behind dried foliage. Those brave souls that dare to flower are prized now, even more so when sweet skipper butterflies are spied feeding on them. The dark hue of the lacy leaf lavender that is planted in a hot spot next to the back door was an open invitation to the flutterby and the camera.

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Containers are holding a few blooming plants still. The south facing sides of the large pots at the edge of the lower deck shelter the overhanging alyssum, Lobularia maritima ‘Easter Bonnet Mix’.

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Wallflowers from the big box store, name unknown, that were planted in March have grown larger over the summer and have resumed flower production after a hiatus during the hot months. These are in a very protected location, to the delight of the tiny pollinator feasting on the petals.

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Most of the sheffies, Chrysanthemum ‘Hillside Sheffield Pink’ hold flowers that appear like soggy pink handkerchiefs, but a few late bloomers are offering dining opportunities to various pollinators.

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A packet of Calendula ‘Pacific Beauty’ seeds was sown in containers a couple of years ago. There are volunteers from those parents in various shades of orange and yellow, blooming better now than in the heat of summer. This, again, is a very sheltered, south facing sunny spot in my garden.

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A wayward Echinacea, hiding under spent foxglove stalks along the Azalea Walk is bravely trying to open. The cold snap will prevent a long life for this budding beauty, but this close-up shot will help us remember it with fondness.

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Violas are the stout hearted winter flowers here, planted in nearly every container. These are in the window box on the shed.

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Rosa chinensis ‘Angel Wings’ has opened a few more flowers. These seed grown roses are not grown for the blooms, however. It is the brilliant red berry-like hips seen in the background that are the main interest of these small shrubs. For more information about them, click here.

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Inside the greenhouse/sunroom, the frost tenders and orchids are safely ensconced for the winter. Black pearl ornamental pepper is loaded with fruit and has even produced some flowers. The shriveled peppers were stuck in the soil at the edge of the pot and have germinated. The seedlings have been repotted to grow on the sunny shelves until spring. There should be a good crop of them to plant out then. It is hoped.

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Orchids are the dominant resident in the greenhouse/sunroom, the reason for the construction of such a place. The Cattleya ‘Pumpkin’ bloomed earlier than usual this year, fading quickly now. A photo was snapped before the last of the flowers fell to the floor. The lady slippers, Paphiopedilum ssp. are well budded though, so there will be flowers in the darkest, coldest days yet to come to help a gardener smile a little. To read the initial post about this room, so old that the photos are without watermarks and small but clickable to full size, click here.

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You might have noticed that all of the images in this post are macro close-ups. Finding any flowers after several arctic weather blasts have hit is a joy, but the long garden views are less than floriferous, to say the least. Still pretty as the decidous plants fade faire, to my eyes anyway, but that is not the point of Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, the brainchild of sharing hostessed by my friend Carol of May Dreams Gardens. Go over to her place and check out what is blooming in November around the globe. Tell her Frances sent ya!


Posted in Garden Bloggers Bloom Days, wildlife | 13 Comments

Hedging Along

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This garden is sort of wild. Some might think it was out of control, and it has grown way beyond any plans on paper or the initial vision of what it should be. That is a good thing.

But the wildness can be tamed by adding plantings that remain more rigid in their growth, more traditionally formal in habit. While the hedges here in the Fairegarden pale by comparison to the yews of Sissinghurst trimmed so expertly as to resemble geometric steel rather than living plant material seen above, experience has helped raise our trimming up a notch. To see more about Sissinghurst and our visit to England, click here.

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Evergreens fit the taming requirements nicely, adding interest and structure during the whole year but they are especially noticeable when the flowers have faded and the leaves have fallen. We have finally tamed the row of Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Gold Mop’ that backs the Azalea Walk. Click here to find out why that taming was needed.

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Behind the Gold Mops and in front of the arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’ lies the veggie garden. Unsightly in its cage of plastic rabbit fencing to keep the critters out and the food crops safe, this sunny strip runs along the back of the property line. Privacy is provided by the arborvitae and the Chamaecyparis provides a golden screen for the produce growing area. Both get a yearly shearing to keep the pathways clear and to allow the sun to shine where needed.

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Evergreens trimmed into hedges have been a backbone of calm in the sea of surging energy provided by the waving grasses and unkempt wildlings.

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Trimming those hedges can be a daunting chore, especially when done in June when the temperatures can range from hot to magma. The cutting of the boxwood hedge, Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Wintergreen’ that surrounds the Knot Garden is particularly hard on my back due to the angle at which the whirring nine pound Stihl electric hedge trimmer must be held to get those points and curves just so. We are trying to allow the whole hedge to grow taller so I don’t have to bend over quite so much, while still keeping the overall shape. The progression of this shape can be followed by clicking here.

This week we decided to tackle the taxing task while the weather was more agreeable and there was no danger of accidentally cutting flowers or stepping on stems but before frost arrives. It went well, better than expected in fact. (Above frosty photo from December of 2011.)

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The season may change when the hedges are trimmed, the Knot Garden boxwood haircut is better done in the coolth of fall. It was almost enjoyable. A little more control of the chaos was exerted over the full blown pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, which was tied up with a bit of twine so I could work around it without fear of harm. I think the ponytail becomes you!


Posted in Seasonal Chores | 10 Comments

What Looks Good Now-Early November

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I need to go to the grocery store. Sitting in the gas guzzler that is parked in the garage, the passenger side mirror is checked to make sure there is adequate clearance to back out. This is the view in the mirror that I see as late October slides into November. The Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Wells Special’, the big green shrub on the right and the wildflower asters and goldenrod are on my property, the burning bushes and deciduous trees are across the street at my neighbor’s. It is an arresting sight. It causes me to pause for a minute to drink in the view before backing out. Every time.

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Backed fully out, the button is pushed to close the garage door. The gearshifter is set to drive and as we move forward this is the next view we see. It’s a wonder I ever get to the grocery at this rate. The pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris is fading faire, but almost seems even more beautiful as it ages. Like people do. The golden haze of various Amsonia ssp. behind the grass sets the scene aglow when backlit by the autumn sunshine.

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Onward! Turning slowly to pull out into the street, we turn our gaze westward to check for oncoming traffic. There are hardly ever any cars on our block, but the yellow button mums grab my attention and I brake and take a lingerling look at the bed under the tall pines at the edge of our property. Many hours of toiling during the summer have paid off in the shrubs and desirables now growing unimpeded by pesky vigorous vines and ground covers gone astray. It was worth the effort.

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Finally we pull out into the street with no cars coming behind us. That allows us to move along at a crawl and look carefully at the center island from the streetside, the same area shown in the opening photo. Among the wildflowers are the yellowing twigs of Cornus sericea flaviramea and the red berries of Ilex verticillata ‘Berry Heavy’. In a month or so this bed will be cut down with the lawn mower and those large shrubs will enjoy the spotlight for the remainder of winter.

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Moving on to the bed in front of the house, there are more winterberries. Soon the leaves will fall and the berries will show up better. Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Gold’ is really more orange than gold. A story about the winterberries can be seen by clicking here.

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We have featured photos of the eastern wahoo tree, Euonymus atropurpureus several times this fall already. Here it is in situ, with Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and the neighbor’s large deciduous trees in full glory.

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There is no lawn of mown grass here at all, only a little lawn/meadow at the side of the garage that is cut down once a year. Instead of grass that needs a weekly cutting, a mixture of trees, shrubs and wildflowers grows in front of the house and garage. A couple of years ago, Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ was spread from the various plants growing here and there to fill in the space between the shrubbery in front of the house. Blooming in early August with tall stalks of fragrant white flowers, the fading faire foliage is offering even more interest as it yellows. The frontage on all three sections of curbside plantings hold several rows of Liriope ssp. Let’s get a move on to the grocery. We can go see the back garden after we return.

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The groceries are put away so let’s go out back. As we walk along the gravel path at the side of the garage to get to the real gardens, this is the view. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ trained to a standard on a stout metal stake looks like a colorful midway ride, the type where feet dangle as the gondolas whirl.

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The tall feather reed grass, Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ will stand with the other plantings until February in the Gravel Garden, for there are no bulbs planted there. The Gravel Garden will be left wild and wooly to better capture any frost or snow during the cold months. Where there are bulbs, the stems and stalks need to be cut down sooner so as not to decapitate newly emerging leaves and flower buds as has sadly happened in the past. They seem to pop up earlier each year anymore.

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There are only a few flowers still in bloom, chief among them being the various Sheffie mums and the previously shown yellow button mum. It is the turning foliage that attracts the human eye if not the hungry pollinators buzzing all over the mums. Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Crimson Queen’, a story about her here, is holding court at the corner of the Daylily Hill.

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Along the rising stairsteps of the block wall, the blue pots have been put into the protective custody of chickenwire cloches. The oblong blue pot is planted with another fifty Crocus chrysantha ‘Prins Claus’. I say another because last year we also planted fifty of those treasures and every last one was eaten by voles entering through the hole in the bottom of the pot since the pot was resting on cute pot feet. With much muttering involving evil thoughts towards voles, hardware cloth was cut to fit the bottom of the pot before this year’s crocus planting and the pot is setting flat on the concrete topper blocks. The chickenwire was added for good measure to keep the squirrels from mucking about the top. If this doesn’t result in a good show of crocus in early 2014, I might have to hang up my trowel and call it quits.

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At the top of the slope, the main entrance to the Knot Garden has been blocked by the bowing pink muhly grass. There is another way to get in, around the side of the Shed Bed and up to the top terrace level. One of these days these majestic grasses will be cut down, but not yet. Not until they have lost all color and structure and collapse into soggy slovenly heaps, sometime at the beginning of the new year. That is a surprise, isn’t it, talking about the new year already. But that is the way of it. Onward indeed.



Posted in what looks good now | 17 Comments

How To-Tea Bag Craft

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Fall has fallen here at the Fairegarden. Gardening chores will wind down drastically once the final bulbs are planted and the leaves from the maples and dogwoods, among others that need to be dealt with are composted or spread on the beds. This is the time when our thoughts turn to inside endeavors.

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Besides cooking and decorating for the upcoming family fun holidays, the days are usually filled with indoor projects. Sewing and knitting are planned, but it was the online pinboard, Pinterest, (I am there as Faire Garden, clever, eh?), that has lit the candle of creativity to try something entirely new and different. It has been over a year now since the switch was made for the morning brew from coffee to tea. The tea bags were previously tossed nonchalantly into the compost bin. Now, they are hung to dry and saved, to be used in some kind of crafty way.

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Searching for and looking at the photos of tea bag art, they were added to the Pinterest board entitled Crafts, quilts and wall hangings seemed to be a good match for my skills and desires. The accumulation of tea bags was speeded up with the purchase of a box of one hundred stringless bags in sets of two, the price of $1.79 thrilled my tightwad heart. First they were steeped in a large pot of boiling water, a very strong tea was produced from so many bags. It could have been saved to make sweet tea, an iced southern favorite beverage, or used to dye fabric or weaving material. Both of those have been done in the past. After being allowed to cool, they were squeezed out by hand and laid out to dry on the dining room table on bubblewrap that happened to be lying around.

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After a couple of weeks of turning and rearranging for better drying, the tea bags seemed ready. They were sort of wrinkly so they were ironed on the number four setting, labeled *blends of cotton* on my iron.

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A roll of some kind of raffia material was found when I was looking for something to use as a backing in my craft/fabric stash. I was thinking of using non-woven interfacing but this seemed right. Eight tea bags, very slightly overlapped went across the width of nineteen inches.

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They were pinned in place and sewn on my old featherweight Singer sewing machine using the longest stitch setting. This is the only machine I have ever owned. My dad bought it for me when I was ten years old. I guess he wanted me to learn how to sew. I did take three successful years of sewing in high school after a miserable failing at it during one semester in seventh grade home-ec. I was better at cooking and cleaning the kitchen sink when younger.

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Buttonhole craft thread was used to sew the tea bags to the raffia backing, but any type of thread would probably be fine. The executive decision was made to let the bags hang freely, only attached along the top. After the first row was sewn and looked satisfactory, a tape measure was used to mark where the next row of tea bags would be placed. The bags are five inches long so we marked off four and three-quarters inches on each side with pins, then used electrical tape to make the sewing line. Electrical tape was used because it is the first tape I found in the utility closet, any type of tape would probably work just as well.

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The next row of tea bags were pinned in place along the bottom of the tape and sewn across. We continued ironing, pinning and sewing until all but two of the fifty double bags were used up.

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The finished size is nineteen inches across and twenty-eight inches long. It looks like the vision in my mind and smells divine, like tea. This could be considered finished or there could be embellishment of embroidery or drawing on the tea bags. At one point in my life, everything that came within arm’s reach of me was gussied up in some way. But now, my eyes and psyche crave simplicity, so this project will be left as is. It might be hung in a window to let the light through. That would be nice.

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There will be another tea bag craft when many more tea bags are accumulated and dried. There are strings and some staples that must be considered. There may be some hand sewing involved. There is plenty of time to cogitate on it. One cup of tea per day means this will be a lesson in patient persistence. I am good with that.

This story is part of the ongoing series of How To posts. To see them all, look for the How To page on the sidebar, or click here.


Posted in How To | 9 Comments

A Tale of Two Gardens-Wildflower Wednesday

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I am the gardener of two gardens. Just me, and I am not a big, strong, strapping specimen of super digging, weeding and pruning power. I am sort of small and weak and not what one would truthfully call young.
Above: Pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris grabs the focus away from the goldenrod and asters blooming in the front garden.

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Taking care of a garden on a steep slope in southeast Tennessee has been my full time occupation for over thirteen years. During that time the plantings have been adjusted in such a way as to take less time for toiling and making more time for quiet contemplation and enjoyment as the garden has matured.
Above: Aster tataricus ‘Jin Dai’

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Using more of what works is the key to the lowest maintenance and greatest beauty. Native plants have proven to be the best workhorses, although there are friendly non-natives planted in the Tennessee Fairegarden.
Above: Daddy of Jin Dai, the species Aster tataricus, shared with me by my friend Gail of Clay and Limesone who is also the founder of Wildflower Wednesday. To see more wildflowers on the fourth Wednesday of each month, go over and visit her!

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Consideration has been made for not only bloom appearance but also the for the art of *dying well*, sometimes referred to as Fading Faire. What this means is that the plantings need to offer texture and structure as the winter months approach and beyond.
Above: Fothergilla gardenii, click here for info about this native shrub.

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Trees and shrubs with berries and colorful fall foliage, strong erect stems and seedheads that don’t turn to mush are requirements.
Above: The native Eastern wahoo, Euonymus atropurpureus. Click here for more information about this berry laden beauty.

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Our other garden is located in western North Carolina. Gardening is sporadic on the other side of the Smoky Mountains, (there is no E in Smoky). The decision was made in the very beginning to plant only native trees, shrubs and perennials at Fairegarden-NC.
Above: Aster tataricus ‘Jin Dai’, winterberry holly, Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’, Echinacea seedheads and Panicums in the background.

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There are natives or edibles only, with natives being somewhat loosely defined. Four seasons of interest for this small space were considered with evergreens, berries and tall grasses as the backbone of the plantings.

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The house was purchased in December of 2010. Gardening began immediately, of course. Newspapers and mulch were laid over the newly seeded lawn grass. Winterberry hollies and three species of switch grass, Panicum virgatum went into the new bed. More natives have been added over the years. The garden is now full. The story of the garden’s creation can be seen by clicking here.
Above: Winter Red fronted by the well dying Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’

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Blueberries of various types back the flowers and grasses.

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Coneflowers and black eyed susans were added curbside for summer color. A single Aster tataricus ‘Jin Dai’ was brought over from the Tennessee garden to see how it would blend in. It has done well and more may be added if we are too impatient to wait for spreading by root and seed.

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“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better …” oops. Please forgive my slipping into Dickens’ prose, the inspiration for the title of this post. The idea here is to learn to love the remnants that remain as the garden slips into winter. Plant accordingly to make gardening less of a drudge and far, far better by using those plants that do best in your conditions. Look amongst the natives for prime choices. So saith the mockingbird. But that’s another story…


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