Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It May Be Cold

But there's still varmints out there worth chasing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

So It Begins

A time when long naps may become more frequent.

I have made a list of projects to keep myself moving. It's quite a list. Slow mornings lead to slow days, so we will just see how it goes.

In the beginning the snow melts nearly as fast as it falls. The ground still holds some warmth. For a little while longer anyway.

It may be an over reaction to this round of snow, but the new anti-shoveling procedure has been put into place. I'm not shoveling any driveways this winter. A little parking pocket up top will do.

Let winter begin.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Lots and lots of rain. The creeks are rising rain. Then a bit of snow they say. For now there is rain. Lots and lots of rain.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Then there Were Four

Why can't I just compost them? Here are two of the three additional house plants that came over from next door. Now there are four. It's like getting a bunch of new pets that need to be fed, watered and fussed over. I don't need that. And they mess up the nice clean lines inside the cozy cabin. I should just toss them. If they were fake plants that would be oh so easy. But they are alive and I don't have the heart to toss them out just to watch them die.

I have been making an effort to create winter interest on a substantial scale outside even without greenery. A garden that can pull me outside 365 days a year negates the need for any indoor shrubberies. Perhaps the house plants can just be guests for the winter.

I only have to step out on to the front porch to be entertained by the garden. And there are many good views of it from inside.

I'll just have to see how it goes. Not a one more though. Four is the limit.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It Just Feels Right

Especially after a nice hot shower.

The poor kitties got fat while I was gone. Very fat. I don't think these indoor vacations are good for them. Time for them to get out there and chase some varmints.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Pink Muhly Still Blooms

It was deemed to risky of a procedure to attempt only a few hours before the house was filled for a second day of feasting. An executive decision was made to halt the hot water heater exchange. A real plumber would be called on Monday. I didn't argue. It looked easy enough though.

Our hostess may have lived through enough family gatherings in a construction zone for one life time and opted out of continuing the tradition.

Tomorrow I will return to the mountain top where the Pink Muhly Grass has faded to an amber wave. The kitties will be freed from their confinement in the big house next door. I will have a long hot shower at last.

Now I must trust in the southern climate to take care of the delicate flower until the crocus are in bloom and the flowers return to the mountain top.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thirty One Thousand Camellia Petals

Float to the ground one at a time.
There is no way of telling what the final count of petals will be.

This really is the garden where it all began, where a life could be counted in petals. A big part of my childhood remains here in a magical garden as the petals have floated off on the wind.

I come back when nineteen thousand camellia petals have already fallen one at a time. I yearn to gather them up off the ground and turn back the clock. Where did all the petals go? How did a magical garden turn to this?

But I can't. The petals have fallen.

One by one the petals fall for each of us. The time will come to leave the garden.

I must savor the beauty of each petal before it falls.

And be thankful that one garden filled with ancient trees and many camellias has served so many lives so well, with too many petals to count.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


The gas man called. No hot water heater valve for you. They only make the right thread valves now and you need a left thread valve. No valve for you. Aaack!!

What that means in layman's terms is you need a whole new hot water heater and why yes we do have those in stock. We'll deliver the new hot water heater. Now you need to call a plumber, disconnect, drain and remove the old tank, bring in the new tank, reconnect it, fill it and call us when it is ready for us to connect the gas line. We only do gas. You need a plumber for the rest.

I would be said plumber. The ongoing drip drip in the shower might indicate not the best of plumbers.

It dripped real good outside during the night. The Pleopeltis polypodioides that cloaks the trunks and branches of the Live Oaks has returned to life. My plumber persona that I thought had been put to rest for this trip after a failed shower procedure will have to be resurrected.

Now how does one remove an old hot water tank from a space so tight some other large items have to be moved first and install a new one when Thursday is out - no delivery for you - Friday there will be a house full of people eating food, the water has to be shut off for the procedure, the gas man is scheduled to come at 4pm for the final hookup, the tank is getting dropped off that morning and I plan to leave first thing Saturday morning? Scheduling and preparation. I must be prepared with everything I will need.

I wandered out to the building contractors stash to gather up the needed supplies and would you believe I found exactly the tool I needed to get the shower knob stems unscrewed out of the tiled shower wall. I should say stumbled upon the right tool. The building contractors stash is not what you would call organized. It's more like a heap grouped in to smaller sections containing all the tools used in each previous project.

So there was a slight diversion, but I am happy to report that after who knows how many years there is no longer a constant steady drip in the shower. I no longer have to worry about the Pleopeltis polypodioides taking root in the shower.

Now let's just hope my scheduling and preparations for the incoming hot water heater all goes smoothly. I have a plan of attack. The house full of people on Friday may never notice a procedure is in process. I just hope and pray the new hot water heater is exactly the same height and diameter and that its connections are all in exactly the same locations. It could get ugly if things don't fit.

That extra hot water tank might be hard to hide though. Someone might notice something is up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

No Hot water For You

There is a garden out there in need of attention. But I have graduated from assistant gardener to building superintendent and have only had the time for a few short discouraging strolls.

A second gas man came by today to rap on the gas control valve of the hot water heater with a hammer. That didn't work. The diagnosis was confirmed. They need to order a new control valve. It will arrive at some point, maybe before I leave, and I could speed up the repair itself by draining the hot water tank before they come back. What? No shut off valve at the tank. Guess you'll have to shut off the water to the house to drain the tank. What? No place to drain it. Guess you'll have to run a hose through the house and out the back door.

The leaking toilet was fixed. A new non sticking easy for older hands to use exterior keyed door knob was installed. The flooring transition piece between the laundry and kitchen was glued to the floor. Hope it sticks.

The leaking shower head still leaks. It has leaked for who knows how long now. I lacked either the strength or enough courage to force the shower handle knob stems to unthread. There's 80 year old pipes behind that tiled shower wall. I wasn't about to tempt disaster. It will just have to leak for who knows how much longer. Perhaps until the bathroom lands in the living room.

I can't find a drill and drill bits. The building contractor had two of everything. I know I used a drill the last time I was here. I've searched high and low and there is no drill to be found. My shelving project is stymied, unless I find a drill or put it back up the same way it was before it crashed to the floor.

No hot water and no shelving for you.

I take pictures of elegant decay often enough in my travels through the back woods of North Carolina. Those pictures of old abandoned houses often evoke a sublime beauty and sense of mystery. I don't get quite that same feeling living with and dealing with that very same decay.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Where The Pink Muhly Still Blooms

I have traveled south a ways to deliver a delicate flower to a more suitable winter climate. The climate is behaving for the moment. It can however turn winter like in due time. The 80 year old green house my grandfather built must be coaxed back to life after laying dormant for the last seven months. The delicate flower needs a comfortable place to over winter.

The green house is old. The building contractor spent many years fixing things his way when he lived in it with the delicate flower. Now I have to figure it all out, make things work and fix the newly and the neglected broken things my way..... while I am here.

Day one has already been a challenge. Lighting, internet, flooring and shelving projects were completed, begun and contemplated. Hot water was attempted. Hot water failed. The gas man was called and he says it needs a new part. No hot shower for you.

Tomorrow will be plumbing projects. My few days down south where the Pink Muhly Grass still blooms will be spent whispering sweet things to the 80 year old green house.

How much will get done while I am here, before the delicate flower is turned over to the southern climate for safe keeping?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Last Thing I Need

Is a house plant.

But it fell out of the pot and followed me home. Quite a few more of these Cordyline australis weren't so lucky and ended up in a compost heap. I hope it likes indoor living as much as its former poolside setting. While more cold hardy than most tropicals, it was surprisingly unfroze after repeated frosts, it wasn't going to survive the whole winter out there unscathed. It was time to put away the pots for the winter and one of the plants followed me home.

I don't need house plants to tend. It's a big garden to be out there with plenty projects that need attending to. At least the rain and the snow washed off the newly exposed rocks for me.

There's two more house plants next door waiting to follow me home when I close that house down for the winter. The last thing I need is three house plants in a tiny little cottage. We'll see how it goes over the winter. Maybe I will grow to like a little greenery inside during the barren time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


And The Beast

I want me one gargoyle. Big like this fellow.

While I was gone it was snowing high up on the low spot.

The beasts were most happy to see me when I got home.

It had gotten considerably colder. The beasts don't do cold if at all possible.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Blue Chairs

In a late fall garden after the leaves are raked
Looks like I missed one

Before the rains came.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Are The Chances For Bloom Day

My world has turned a somber grey and russet brown. Great bits of it are tipped in a white fluff waiting to take wing. The white fluff of flowers done may be all there is for Bloom Day.

A faint pink hue lingers in the cotton candy froth of the Muhly Grass. The Sheffie Mum is brown. The exuberant chaos of the tall flower meadow is gone. Withered and weak the hollowed out stems wait to return to the earth with the first heavy snow.

On a bad day I live in a zone 5b which means it can go as low as -15 degrees in the winter. I strive to plant things that are listed as hardy to zone 5. That is what I was told to think upon arriving here.

On a good day I live in a zone 6b where the winter low is only -5 degrees. In my four winters here, the lowest of lows I have recorded was - 4. I have one degree to spare and can still remain in a zone 6b. I can still be in a zone 6 down to - 10. I have quite a few degrees to spare.

You can see how I might be tempted to push the limits of my high elevation micro-climate. Nothing ventured. Nothing gained.

So I have a white camellia 'Winter's Snowman' for November's Bloom Day because I'm a rebel. If I can say the same thing next November so much the better.

The native ecosystem is not completely stingy in November. Hamamelis virginiana, the Witch Hazel, is the last plant in the forest to bloom before winter arrives for good. I walk by just to be cheered by the audacity of such a performance.

The Yellie Mum lingers, past peak, but still in bloom. I don't know if its later bloom time than its parent, the Sheffie Mum is a micro climate thing or an internal clock difference. I'd settle for a later internal clock and be happy to have something in bloom in mid November.

One more look at 'Winter's Snowman'. Live long and prosper my little cold hardy to -10 degrees camellia.

So I did it. I squeezed in another Bloom Day with blooms. Other folks in other climes are not as likely to have such troubles. You can find them all at the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day headquarters.

A garden is never about the flowers alone. Even on a good 6b day I have to plan for the long barren months of winter. I left out of a previous post some of the winter evergreens that I have planted over the years. The Yucca filamentosa have done quite well up here, gaining some real size to them. They could even bloom one day, but that was not their purpose.

I don't go dormant for the winter. I'm still a gardener with the sickness when the trees go bare and the world turns grey. A gardener who wants more, a gardener who wants a garden that will carry him through the entire year, even when that means no blooms for you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Some Structure

Bottle by bottle some structure begins to form.

The structure comes with free rocks. Most everything I do in the garden to be comes with free rocks. I wasn't about to try and move these.

The Lush was given a haircut so that I can contemplate the new structure during the barren time of winter.

A planting bed takes shape around many things already planted in there. More weeding and more wood chip mulch will give it even more definition.

I can be a bad gardener, creating the garden beds around the plants I plant instead of doing it the right way and making the beds first then filling them with plants. The plants just follow me home faster than I can get to bed making.

It will all work out with time. I don't however recommend doing it this way for clients, nor do I suggest you try this yourself at home.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Winter Greens To Come

I have been planting shrubberies practically from the moment I arrived four years ago. This definitely isn't anything like Maui. Baby shrubberies in these parts take their sweet time to grow. I suppose it is understandable when there are only six months of the year available for that.

To this day all of my baby shrubberies get lost in the Lush and swallowed up in the vast space of the garden to be. I find them again when winter settles in. One day surely my winters will be filled with large green plants that make a year round garden.

A recent planting of boxwood in front of the gas tank will grow into a Pearl Fryar topiary. The gas tank may get painted too.

Three Mugo Pines were the first evergreen conifers planted. I guess you can't really expect dwarf plants to grow fast. They have grown at least.

A single juniper needs a partner and I have never run across this cultivar again in my nursery visits. I may need to break down and get a Juniperus 'Close Enough'.

Another dwarf, the Bird's Nest Spruce has grown too. There are two of these in the garden to be. Miss Collar is doing her business.

Four rhododendrons so far. Planted six. Killed two.

The Bosnian Pines are settling in. In another decade perhaps they will provide some winter screening between me and the gawkers on the scenic byway.

The three Fargesia sp. clumping bamboos are thicker. It hasn't shown any sign of going for its labeled eight to ten foot height. I'm waiting. And waiting.

Bosnian Pine, Foster's Holly and Chamaecyparis nootkatensis are grouped as another section of future screening between me and the scenic byway.

The Weeping Nootka Cypress is supposed to be a sizable tree. Maybe it will grow faster. Maybe. I won't hold my breath.

I'll even have red holly berries in the winters to come, assuming these two hollies survive the winters. I'm on the zonal edge with this variety.

The three Gold Mop Chamaecyparis below the front porch will grow up and fill in one day. Shopping for these can be problematic. They get labeled at a whole range of heights from three to ten feet. Allegedly they are different cultivars selected for that. They all look the same in a pot in the nursery. I don't remember what labeled sizes I may have bought nor do I ever really believe the labeled size to be true. Time will tell what I got.

For now I must imagine them rising up from the Lush and adding a flash of golden color to the front of the cozy cabin.

I keep planting ever green for all the winters to come.