Progress As The Curtain Drops on 2014

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Things have been moving ever onward here at the newly relocated Fairegarden. Fall veggies have progressed nicely in the cold frame.

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There has also been progress made in the back yard. We have moved many times in our adult lives and one of the first tasks, always, is the hiring of tree work. It is good to have any wayward trees addressed before gardening begins, and while there are still funds available for such. Renovations are notorious fund-suckers. At the new house, the upper level part of the back yard only was fenced by the original owner, leaving the north facing, steeply sloping 25 feet on the other side totally unkempt. Tree seedlings quickly grew to become chainsaw sized weeds during the eleven years since the home was built. Without at least a yearly cut down, that is what will happen to all wild land. It will eventually become a forest.

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The row of pine trees belongs to us and they mark the property boundary with the fenced yards of the subdivision next door. We love the privacy and wildlife refuge they offer. After the offending weed trees were cut, the view was very much improved.

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But there was more to be done after the trees were felled and hauled away. The landscaper can be seen above walking the area, calculating the cost to accomplish my vision for the land. At one time I had hoped to garden on this large parcel of soil, but wise advisors reminded me of the hazards that steep slopes can bring to aging feet and ankles. We know all about slopes.

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Before the work could proceed on the other side of the fence, the fence itself needed to be replaced. It was falling apart and the weed trees had twisted the lumber and caused general dilapidation on the slope side. A straight across the top style constructed of western red cedar brought a much more attractive sense of enclosure to the back yard. (It can’t be called a garden, yet, although the shed looks rather handsome already.)

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The assortment of bird houses and feeders, containers of various materials, statuary and benches that had been languishing unloved hither and yon were carefully placed to dress up the fence line.  A few climbing roses and some Clematis were planted to bring some greenery someday.  A deciduous azalea, seen just to the right of the raised turquoise container was even planted along there. It was found on the mark down table at a big box store in Asheville, NC. Incredibly, this particular cultivar was the earliest blooming, and a favorite of my signature plants at the old garden, Rhododendron ‘Admirial Semmes’. (You can read about my signature plants by clicking here.)  I was tickled to find this treasure at all, let alone for a reasonable price.  Some things are just meant to be.

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The day after the fence was installed, the landscaper came and cleared the mess behind the fence. Winter rye grass was sown and straw was added to help hold the newly bare soil in place. He and his crew were still packing up their equipment here when  I dashed out and quickly planted the fifteen small evergreens that were to provide color and winter interest over time. “Don’t forget to water the grass seed”, he said as he left. Thanks for the reminder, I thought, the trees will need watering until the winter rains come.

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The rains did come and the grass seed finally germinated. It will not be mown for I admire the flowers and seed heads of rye grass plus we can’t be traipsing around on that steep incline, anway. Happily there is new growth on the little evergreens, too. Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Crippsii’, Chamaecyparis thyoides ‘Rachel’, Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’ and Cupressus arizonica var. glabra ‘Carolina Sapphire’ should all grow tall enough to be seen over the fence from the house and yard but remain narrow enough to not interfere with the pine trees or the pretty new fence. We do hope to live long enough to see that vision come to fruition. Some saved wildflower seeds were scattered back there, as well. The maintenance plan is for a once a year cut down of the ground cover until the trees grow large enough to shade out weed germination.

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After the fence and landscaping work was completed, I gave myself a little present. Six yards of local topsoil mixed with composted horse bedding and some mulch and screened were delivered by a dump truck to the back yard. Merry Christmas to me!

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And a very Merry Christmas to you! Oh wait, somebody forgot to turn out the lights…

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There, that’s better. May you all have the most wonderful of times during the holidays and we’ll see you next year. Onward to 2015!


Posted in before and after | 24 Comments

In the Beginning

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In the beginning of the newest, and we hope the very last incarnation of the Fairegarden, click here for the pictorial post of the traumatic move …

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there began the creation of a new backyard garden in the blank slate of mown crabgrass lawn with a truckload of planting mix dumped into a pile. It was six cubic yards of goodness.

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First there was dirt, then there were plants unceremoniously stuck into that dirt. Hosta ‘White Feather’, assorted daylilies with dislodged tags and some Hydrangea arborens ‘Annabelle’, all looking very sad for it was the middle of a droughty east Tennessee August.

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Time marches on and more plants were added to the nursery bed. A sprinkler was set up to try to keep these small bits of treasured friends alive until proper beds could be constructed in the seemingly distant future. The menagerie of garden art and accoutrements was stacked willy nilly out of the way, including the dear blue chairs.

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A project was begun in the back garden after many renovations were hammered out inside the house. It had great potential for inducing happiness in a sad gardener missing the fall show in her beloved former masterpiece.

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Some days were more exciting than others. The concrete truck barely fit between the houses and could not get through the gate of the dilapidated fence. Strong men would have to wheelbarrow the heavy mix in the mud to the framed base, for there had been torrential rains for several days that delayed the pour. At least the nursery of plants did not need the sprinkler running to keep their thirsts quenched.

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The sun came out just at the right time for the spreading of the concrete by two dedicated workmen, Tom on the left and Joe on the right. Did I mention that it was muddy?

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A frame sprung up, and it was good.

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There were portals to gaze out upon the garden and allow light into the structure, using the salvaged windows that were removed from the previous house because they had clouded up.

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There was an old door from the contractor’s shop that would give character to the new shed. Tears of joy ran down my face when Tom and Joe showed it to me.

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Walls, a roof and support posts for the small porches were added. The vision was becoming a reality.

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There was priming and painting. The original color, Sherwin Williams Foggy Day was much too blue and not the desired dark grey at all. A quick run to the paint store for a gallon of solid black that was added to the two gallons of Foggy Day already poured into the sprayer bucket saved the day. Black Fog turned out to be the perfect color.

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Some leftover fourteen year old paint of Dorcester Green was just right for the trim around the door and windows. More colors were planned but art is knowing when to stop. The little Fairegarden bench, click here for it’s birth story, just fit under the two foot overhang in front. Tom hung the large Westminster wind chime at the corner. It just fit as though the space had been made for it. The roof extension on the left side provides a workspace for a potting bench out of the hot sun and sometimes rain.

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Benches and plants were moved inside, just in time as the first frost was looming in the weather forecast. The orchids and tender annuals that were to be mother plants for cuttings were safely ensconced in the sun warmed space when the cold hit.

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Tool racks were hung inside to hold the shovels and forks. Outside, some décor has been attached. Large rocks were used to make an entryway that was less muddy. My grandmother’s wrought iron seating set looks right at home in front. Gravel will be added at some point to make a small patio there. The wire trough planter at the bottom of the picture is sitting on the deck railing. A deck post can just be seen at the bottom of the image, as well. This is the view from the deck that is located right outside the kitchen. The shed is to be the focal point as the garden beds are made and planted around it.

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It is gratifying to have made this progress towards the vision. Bees and butterflies have been visiting the nursery bed. Aster tataricus ‘Jin Dai’ did not fail to bloom despite being moved at the worst possible time. In the opening shot of this post, a newly purchased Eupatorium ‘Little Joe’ also gave succor to pollinators. It is now time for a little rest.

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But not for long!


There are many projects to come. Contractors have been contacted. They have come to the house and listened to my plans. They will work up estimates that are acceptable to us both. Then there is scheduling. Nothing happens fast enough for my liking, but we are trudging onward. Stay tuned for more to come.


Posted in Musings, New garden | 40 Comments

Goodbye, Hello

Nymphaea 'Helvola'

Nymphaea ‘Helvola’

Or maybe the title should be Hello Again.

Japanese anemone, Anemone hupehensis

Japanese anemone, Anemone hupehensis

There have been dramatic changes here at The Fairegarden*.

Perilla frutescens 'Atropurpurea' and Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm'

Perilla frutescens ‘Atropurpurea’ and Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’

The decision was made last year to move house.

Hosta 'Sunpower'

Hosta ‘Sunpower’

The old house was sold. A new house was purchased. Not in that order. It is done.

Mountain mint,Pycnanthemum muticum

Mountain mint,Pycnanthemum muticum

Bits of the old garden were moved to the new location, about an hour from the old slope. Those things not potted up, but rather rudely yanked from the earth were planted into a holding bed. We will try to keep them alive until proper beds can be made for them.

Yucca 'Color Guard'

Yucca ‘Color Guard’

Many carloads of garden-y stuff were brought to the new house. The above photo was taken in the new garden. All other photos in this post were taken at the old garden, the day before moving day.

Left behind

Left behind

Most of the garden was left for the new owners to enjoy. May they receive as much or more joy from the house and garden as we did. (Hey, to Lou and Andy!)

Cornus controversa 'Variegata'

Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’

In the journal pages of yearly plant purchases there is but one entry for 2014. So far. This new little tree will be a focal point in the now blank slate of level crabgrass lawn, it is hoped. The wedding cake tree, Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ will be planted after the beds have been visualized and laid out.

Kitty is ready to go

Kitty is ready to go into the soft carrier to begin a new phase of life. Hazel was already packed up.

We are not to that point yet. There is still renovation going on inside the new house and boxes are stacked high, waiting to be unpacked. I can’t find my shoes. As the new garden evolves there will be entries of before and after. Perhaps you, dear readers will wish to follow the progress. I missed you. Onward.

* The Fairegarden is defined here as the place where I garden. It is a metaphysical location that moves when I move. I am not only the gardener, I am the garden and the garden is me.


Posted in cats, New garden | 67 Comments

2014 Calendar

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January-Crocus ‘Pickwick’ and Yucca filamentosa ‘Colorguard’

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February-Narcissus pseudonarcissus and Stipa tenuissima

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March-Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ with creeping thymes and tulip foliage

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April-Peonia suffruticosa ‘Kamata Fuji’

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May-Nigella damascena with Sedum acre and Festuca glauca

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June-Athyrium niponicum, violas, Lobularia maritima ‘Snow Princess’ and Ophiopogon planescapus ‘Nigrescens’

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July-Great spangled fritillary butterfly on Asclepias tuberosa with Astilbe ‘Fanal’ and Lunaria annua

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August-Monarch butterfly on Eupatorium maculatum ‘Gateway’

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September-Agastache ‘Orange Nectar’ with Perilla frutescans ‘Atropurpurea’ and Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’

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October-Various pumpkins, one a volunteer with leaf still attached and a florist mum on the child’s bench on the front porch

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November-Muhlenbergia capillaris with Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’ in front and Amsonia ssp. behind

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December-Crocus chrysanthus ‘Violet Queen’ and creeping thyme

Each year a calendar is assembled from photos carefully selected from the files. The hard copy calendars are given to family members and special friends. The online version is shared with you, dear readers, who I also consider to be very special friends. May 2014 be your best year ever!

Previous Fairegarden calendars:






Posted in Photography, Projects, Seasonal Chores | 22 Comments

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.

2000 (2)
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