Sunday, November 23, 2014

While It Raged Outside

If it wasn't raining, the wind was howling. When it was raining, the wind was howling. It wasn't really possible to be outside. Sort of thought about chores will have to wait for another day.

Safe from the storm, an orchid blooms.

I would have preferred a color other than white. I get plenty of white at this time of year. There was just no way of knowing that in the discard rack.

But an orchid in the storm is better than no orchid at all. Maybe the other discard orchid will have color.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Is It Interesting Yet

The slow growth rate of the under garden which is my main source of winter interest is testing my patience. I know what the mature sizes of most plants look like. Far too many of the things I have planted are multiple years away from those sizes at the pace things are moving.

There is more visible progress when I plant in multiples and in dozens.

No doubt there are many reasons for the slow growth rate. I garden at the extreme edge of many conditions favorable to plant growth and vigor.

Buying dwarf plants promises slow from the get go. This Taxus cuspidata 'Emerald Spreader' is looking alright. It is alive. But this zone 4 rated plant was zapped by a late freeze and suffered some die back.

How do zone 4 plants suffer freeze damage in an alleged zone 6? Live on top of a mountain with weather extremes. That will do it.

The Red Twig Dogwoods did grow some this year. They had full sun, very moist soil and did not have to compete with the Lush and this pitiful bit of growth is all I got. The deer did nibble on them a little. Not enough to matter. At least they are red for the winter as advertised.

I'm sure it doesn't help the speed of things when I let the Lush cut off a good deal of the sun supply of the baby trees and shrubberies during the growing season. That is no excuse for the number of plants rated at or below my zone that have been damaged by freezes. That just seems cruel and unfair.

The evergreen clumping bamboo that was defoliated by last winter's -8 has filled back in pretty well. This year's growth was majorly stunted though. Will it ever get eight feet tall, much less a robust ten feet?

My baby pine trees are growing six inches a year at best. It's a long, long way to being a winter screening to the scenic byway.

I don't have properly mulched beds. I don't fertilize. I don't water more than once or twice after something gets planted. The wild runs rampant and I let a good deal of it be. My plants are tested from the beginning.

Gardening on the edge with every possible challenge is not for the faint hearted gardener. It's just every once in a while I feel like fainting.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Looking For Winter Interest

The barren time has a firm grip high on the low spot of a North Carolina mountain top. The very first winter up here I knew I had to do something to mitigate that. I needed some winter interest for the barren time. Heck, I needed something, anything, that said garden for the six months of the year when all is dead and brown.

What I had was a vast expanse of herbaceous and deciduous. What I needed was evergreen and some structure.

I had something else that not many gardeners get with a new garden, an existing garden folly. It was a bit lost in the tangle when I arrived. Slowly it has been cleared around and new plantings added. In the barren time the entire folly is visible. During the time of vegetation, the foundation disappears.

It's on the list to one day maybe cut down the trees growing inside the folly and shore up the chimney's foundation. One day.

At the moment I am still a bit too busy with work to spend much time checking on all my baby winter interest. On a short stroll yesterday I got to see the holly berries. They don't often last long. Most years they get devoured by migrating birds who use the low spot to pass over the mountains.

I did plant some Chokeberry, Aronia sp. in my part of the garden. They are still small of course and a few years away from a good berry display.

Art makes good winter interest too.  I love the Blue Pot art project, but the background has never suited it well. It needs a blank wall or a dense evergreen hedge to really set it off.

The Posh Estate #2 got a nice piece of art, structure and winter interest today. The fountain for the entry garden arrived.

It has a pineapple on top.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Slow Melt

It was a warmer day.

It was still quite a cold day.

It is the time of ice, the barren and darkness
When the morning light dazzles
An epoch of intermittent rest
A winter of contemplations

When chores are shuffled around the frigid.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nice Day For A Polar Bear

I don't know what it did during the night, but it did this on and off all morning, with wind mind you, at 16 degrees. The day was not habitable.

I did manage two trips to the mailbox for outgoing and incoming mail. I'm not sure the mail carrier ever did. There were no tracks in the snow. It was only an inch, hardly noticeable, surely not enough to stop the mail. I think being the last on the route, if there is nothing to deliver, sometimes I get skipped.

Beautiful blue sky at the end of the day still didn't make being outside bearable. A notional high of 24 held momentarily couldn't overcome the steady wind.

It was a nice day for a polar bear. The best I can say is I have adjusted and the deep chill in my bones is gone. Even stepping ever so briefly into the bitter out there, didn't bring it back.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Before The Next Ice Age

There was a mad dash to the other side of the county this morning to make sure the babbling brook and koi pond were running smoothly and would keep flowing before the next blast of arctic air arrived. It had been raining all night and the diagnosis scheduled the winter storm to begin at noon.

There is one thing I never want to try again if I can avoid it, driving up this mountain in my light truck with no four wheel drive in a winter storm.

I made it back home in the rain. The temperature had already started to plummet.

Even the rain is still making the grasses tumble. They must not be fully dried yet. Kind of an interesting look at the moment. I think they need more cold and more time.

The snow began at 3. It is only supposed to be an inch at most, followed by a day below freezing. If the wind is not blowing it could actually be a reasonably pleasant day.

The under garden becomes more apparent as the Tall Flower Meadow is turned to an icy dust. Now is when I can begin to contemplate where there is the need for more. It sure would help if some things grew a bit faster. Impatience can lead to over crowding.

A light snow falls and Creation, in the beginning, is revealed. There can always be a beginning, even in another ice age.

From my window I can see them come to a stop now, looking, at the little cabin surrounded by an odd assortment, high on the low spot of a North Carolina mountain top.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ready For Dung

The days are few and short. Between work and the weathers, I can't afford to procrastinate. When a day off appears with the new warm of 45, it almost made it to 50, it is time to get moving.

The roadside vegetable garden needed to be cleaned and readied for a fresh layer of composted dung and then topped with new wood chip mulch so it will be ready to go come spring.

Another round of rinse, snow and mega cold is on the way. There wouldn't be another opportunity to tidy the vegetable garden for at least a week and there is no guarantee of that.

I suspect I will be saying goodbye til spring to a number of gardens in the next few weeks. That will give me more time for the list of winter chores I need to tend to. It's a long list and it covers three acres. That gives me about one month per acre to get everything done.

I went ahead and started on the chop down of the wildflower surround. I still want to completely redo the planting in the strip between the vegetable garden and the scenic byway. It has too much goldenrod and not a long enough bloom time.

The roadside vegetable garden is now open to view. A public lesson in a no-till, mulched with wood chips garden is about to commence.

By now the regular traffic knows what is hiding behind and among all those wild flowers. The scenic byway draws all kinds of rubberneckers from far and wide though. Some of them might drive by and think, this garden is different. What is that about?

After collecting and tossing some Ironweed and Joe Pye seeds, the remaining dead sticks were burned. A little dash of terra preta in the vegetable garden can't hurt.

Would you believe I still have food to harvest. One more cold snap, then I will start eating my parsnips. You are not supposed to harvest them until after they have been chilled. The root gets sweeter when it goes into dormancy. They are biennials. Any left will return in the spring and pretty quickly bloom and set seed.

One roadside vegetable garden is ready for dung. I also have a winter art project in mind. Stay tuned.

The dung pile is also freshly weeded and ready for screening. It has been coming with 3/4" gravel from the horse's paddock and I don't want that in the garden.

Miss Dinah has settled in with no objections to her winter accommodations. She and Miss Collar actually seemed to enjoy each others company.

They are already froze, but one more deep freeze and there will be no more excuses. Tuesday's high after the snow is showing 26. That's the high. In November. We are talking really frozen now. It will  be time to go and cut out the bent stalks in the grasses simply because they annoy me. If they aren't going to stand, they have to go.

I want my winter interest to be perky.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Not Much For Bloom Day

Just a Promise of Things to Come.

But you won't be disappointed to visit Bloom Day headquarters at May Dreams Gardens.