Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Welcome To Wamboldtopia

My readers and I have been to Wamboldtopia many times over the last couple of years. There was something special about watching the reaction of my fellow garden bloggers from across the country and Canada seeing it for the first time though. Enchanted, inspired, gobsmacked, mystified. There is only one Wamboldtopia. Damaris and Ricki Pierce, graciously and with open hearts welcomed us to the ongoing creation of the personal utopia they call home.

Speaking mason to mason, the Rock Pirate, Ricki Pierce and Frank Hyman of the Liberated Gardener. There was mention of some upcoming rock conference in Asheville I think. It didn't quite sink in.

Even the not yet used collectibles get artfully stacked.

And when the artist Damaris Pierce and the stone mason collaborate something special happens.

The gardens meld with the stone in a natural embrace creating a sense of timelessness. Sculptures dot the landscape in small vignettes.

Flowing water, gold fish, reflecting the massive oaks and the sky above.

The plants in the garden are as artfully and intentionally placed as all the other sculptural elements.

Resting. Is that really a picture on my camera? Did I see that for real?

This is my personal favorite piece in the garden. Every time I see it, she pulls me in, my mind radiates out.

I believe I have met this woman before in another setting. But here you see the house that was next to the house that it has become.

Welcome to Wamboldtopia.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Forest Takes. I Push back

If only I had had a little more time before the bloggers arrived to do some weeding. Things were a bit too hectic though for me to do much more than weed whack a path through the Lush. As it was, the Lush was already approaching four feet high. The forest is forever trying to take the garden becoming back into its clutches once the time of growing begins.

If I had been able to do some weeding the bloggers may have gotten a better idea of what I was up to and how much has been planted. In the four foot tall Lush, all the work I have done was hard to find.

Only a little follow up work remains post Fling. It was time to exhale. Weeding is an exercise in zen, very helpful for the winding down process.

In the wild Lush of the forest, weeding is also an exercise in determination. The garden to be will not be swallowed up this year. I spent a good 12 hours weeding over three days. I attacked four native species I consider invasive thugs to keep things focused. New England Aster was my primary target. Elderberry, blackberry and Clematis virginiana were also pulled as I covered large parts of the garden.

I barely had time to settle in back home when the PBS show GardenSmart came to film on the Wednesday after Fling. Seems a little bird told them about Asheville Fling 2012 and they wanted to talk blogging and to see some of the gardens the bloggers had visited. He wanted two. I offered five. He picked Wamboldtopia and the wild cultivated gardens high on the low spot of a North Carolina mountain top.

They arrived at my place first and asked where the garden was. I pointed off into the Lush from the front porch. Nobody said a word. Once we went next door to Bulbarella's garden he said, now I get it.

If only I had had a little more time to do some weeding before the bloggers and GardenSmart came, all the work I have done, all the baby shrubberies, ground covers and perennials I have planted might have been more apparent.

No matter. This garden is for me for the duration. The garden to be is not going to be swallowed up by the Lush this year, not after all the work I have done to get the bone structure of a garden planted. Twelve hours of weeding out the thugs has made a big difference. I even found things I like and left such as Joe Pye Weed, Ironweed and a mystery plant I have to watch to find out what it is.

GardenSmart can come back to film again in another ten years. Then they won't have to go next door to get it. In another ten years my garden may just start to look more like Peter and Jasmin Gentling's garden.

I keep at it. I keep adding. I keep subtracting. The Campanula medium, Canterbury Bells I grew from seed and planted four years ago are now self seeding.

All I have to do is keep the thugs at bay while the good things take over. In theory anyway.

In another six to eight weeks the PBS show GardenSmart will be featuring the Biltmore in two shows. Then for major contrast, one show will feature a short blurb on blogging and the Asheville Fling and visits to Wamboldtopia and the wild cultivated gardens at Betsys Gap, the other face of Asheville gardens.

I still need to send them a photo collection showing the gardens through the seasons. Just like the bloggers, PBS arrived at the peak of the lull between the rhododendrons and the start of the summer wildflower season. Oh well.

They said they would send me a DVD. Good thing cause I have no TV connection.

Food For Eating

How many local restaurants do you know of that grow some of the food they serve out back? What could possibly be fresher. Sunny Point Cafe in West Asheville does just that. They know exactly where their food comes from and what is in it or more to the point what is not in it or on it. One of these days I will manage to eat there.

I am liking these sturdy cattle fencing trellises. I could use something more substantial like this in my own roadside vegetable garden. Project. List.

Melissa Metz, the garden manager for Sunny Point discusses vital ideas with Frank Hyman. She graciously welcomed two busloads of garden bloggers to her garden with homemade lemonade and fresh baked biscotti from the cafe.

No Asheville garden would be complete without a little whimsy/yard art.

Perennial flower bed or vegetable garden? Good bone structure, a touch of art, a dash of flowers all combine to show that vegetable gardens can be a thing of beauty.

Then you get to eat some of the freshest, best tasting food in town.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Forest Gives And The Forest Takes Away

Three and a half years ago the forest coughed up three fur balls and the Spot family entered my life. When the spotlets were grown a year later, Mama Spot took off never to be seen again. She disappeared for about nine days and then came home. Then Crawford disappeared for five days and came back home. Mama Spot then left again and never returned. There were only two spots left. October 2009 was a test in the ways of the forest and kitties.

Crawford grew into a handsome cat. Life was good. Plenty small rodents to catch. Plenty food to eat and a nice warm bed when wanted.

He did what cats do, bossed me around until he got what he wanted.

There were two cats in the yard and everything was fine. Miss Collar had her brother and a companion to keep her company while I was away at work.

Crawford was last seen at Thursday night's supper after I had left for the Garden Bloggers Asheville Fling 2012. He has not returned since I have been home. He has been gone for at least a week now. The forest has probably taken him back. The possibilities for his demise are countless.

Now there is only one Spot left, the neurotic one, my least favorite of the bunch. She has been sticking close since I got home.

What to do, what to do? Do I go to the pound and get her a new companion or do I wait for the forest to take her away and have no cats. This is almost too much to bear.

I am filled with sadness.

Friday, May 25, 2012

BBQ And Ice Cream

After a whirlwind morning tour of four West Asheville gardens is was time to feed the hungry hoards. A garden setting seemed appropriate for lunch and it just so happens the lovely gardens of Curve Studios are directly across the street from my desired choice for lunch, 12 Bones.

What kind of a Planner Man would I be if I brought people from all over the country, from as far away as California and Canada, to Asheville, NC and did not take them to the most famous BBQ in town? We had to have 12 Bones.

This also allowed a little trip down to the River Arts district and gave the garden bloggers a look at other things Asheville has to offer.

The garden Pattiy Torno has created right next to the railroad tracks and around three old warehouse buildings are quite remarkable, at once garden and living sculpture in many of the vignettes around the buildings.

After a nice BBQ lunch, the bloggers were treated to fresh home made ice cream from the Hop. Yum. That tasty, cold ice cream hit the spot.

I did not wander around the vegetable garden to find out how to get inside, but that is some major varmint protection.

Thanks Pattiy. We had a fabulous lunch in your beautiful garden on a perfect sunny day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Redefining A Garden's Purpose

At Burton Street Community Peace Garden the plantings take second place to a more important function. The garden was started on a piece of land donated by the owners for use as an open space for a poor and troubled community to gather.

I did not take pictures of plants in this garden or the vegetables growing in the sunnier open section. I did not walk a few lots down the street to another vacant lot they have turned over fully to growing food. Gardens can have other meanings and serve other purposes.

Safi Mahaba and her husband Dewayne Barton have instead created a garden centered around peace, love and social justice, a garden where a community can gather to heal and find their own solutions to the common problems many poor urban communities face. Dinners can be cooked in the cob oven and served on site. What better way to have a community feel invited to gather.

Dewayne Barton is an artist who gathers the refuse, yes the garbage, that is the daily backdrop of trudging through a poor urban life and gives it a new purpose. The themes in his installations are apparent. It is a way for a community to look at and begin talking about the larger forces around them over which they feel they have no control, yet still affect their lives in many ways.

Turning dinosaurs into gasoline

Condoleezza Rice

The water park ride of plastic. You don't have to be poor and urban to understand his message.

The Burton Street Community Peace Garden is also very much a place for children. I did hear someone say while we were there that they were not sure it would be safe for kids with all this refuse around. This debris of urban life is what these kids walk through and play around in their environment on every given day. Why not take this garbage and put it to use to foster creativity under the watchful eyes of adults?

A garden can be many things. A garden can reflect the community it serves. A garden can foster children's curiosity about the world they live in. A garden can have another purpose.

A garden can be more than pretty flowers and textured shrubberies.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A West Asheville Landmark

The garden of Christopher Mello is fast becoming a West Asheville landmark. These older, close to down town neighborhoods are seeing a resurgence of new life and new activity. It is fitting that a man born and raised in these very neighborhoods on the west side of the French Broad River that splits Asheville in half is part of this new life.

Christopher is a passionate and professional gardener who has added artist to his repertoire. Many a gardener has an artists eye.

Shovelhenge marks the spot.

The dump truck arena might lure the playful inside.

A decade long determination in natural plant selection is worthy of close inspection and taking a few notes.

Behold the Blue Pearl poppies.

Reds and blues dominate the garden in foliage and bloom. In certain light this color combo becomes a force of its own. How many gardeners can pull off such a ruthless and determined accomplishment?

I have seen Christopher's garden many times over the last several years. The one thing I know for sure about it is that it is constantly changing.

This is truly gardening as delightful play and experimentation with a sculptor's eye for form, texture and color.

The next time I visit Christopher's garden I am sure to see something new.