Thursday, November 29, 2012

Now We Wait Until Spring

My job is the exterior landscaping of the new greenhouse. I can drop hints for what would be nice for the interior. I'm picturing a nice potted lemon tree on wheels.

The exterior is now prepped and ready to go the moment the nurseries reopen in the spring.

Such a posh greenhouse needs a posh landscape. I have been leaning towards strong hints of a formal Italianate design. The lady of the house has requested roses. The head gardener hates roses. So there will be roses planted within a strong formal design that will provide winter interest.

It will be the head gardener's job to steer the lady of the house to some reliably hardy to zone 6 shrub roses that are totally low maintenance and disease and pest free, preferably an old fashioned rose in a unique color. We can't be having off the rack roses. I know a few rose geeks who may have some good suggestions.

We already have a nice statue for a more formal landscape. I tried searching for who exactly this cupid with a wreath and greyhound is but had no luck.

At this time of year the goats will also have to wait until spring for any fresh greens. They have pretty much eaten up their acre and a half allotment. The corn stalk bundles from the harvest season decorations were a big hit though. The goats like me. They know I will toss things over the fence and come calling when I get close.

I'm ready for winter though. I can use the rest.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Dreary Day

Rain, fog, drizzle, cool now cold, there was little impetus to move. I still managed to get to town and do a half a day's work once the radar looked good. The weathers are never the same down there.

Baby kitties are already spoiled. They don't do rain or cold and were inside all day. They had a short visit outside before it got dark and I got them back in for the night. Now they are bouncing off the walls. I wonder if it is possible to retrain a cat's circadian rhythm? I would be most happy if they bounced off the walls between 1 and 5pm which is their nap time. Then they could do it outside.

That patch of grass across the scenic byway is where I saw the coyote. I see all kinds of things on that patch of grass; cows, turkeys, ravens, deer, skunks, groundhogs and the lawnmower dude. It's much harder to see anything in the deep forest.

The sun will come out tomorrow and the extended diagnosis is showing sunshine and highs aiming towards the mid 60's all the way through next week. I am beginning to wonder if winter has changed it's mind. I can use this nice weather to finish up my fall garden chores. With so many more clients this year, there are still gardens that need tending.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Green Shoots

In another decade the Bosnian Pine, Nootka Cypress and Foster Holly on the left should be approaching 20 feet tall and merging into a solid green screen. A path will move up the slope between them and the second Foster Holly on the right. Little green shoots hold hope for a future garden.

The baby evergreen trees are in the upper left in this picture, slightly above the tree line the utility company keeps cleared. Safe one hopes from indiscriminate pruning or spraying.

On the right in the easement itself, you can make out some of the Blue Star Junipers. I can plant in the easement. It just isn't wise to plant trees.

Winter annuals and the remaining clumps of fescue grass are about the only wild green that remain in the barren time of year. I make progress towards changing that.

Accidentally or deliberately, this Cordyline australis got left out in the cold. It survived 21 degrees. Come to find out they are hardy to the mid to upper teens.That means it can stay out there a while longer. I much prefer green shoots out there in the barren than cluttering up the inside of the house. I prefer not to do house plants. Some how I ended up with five.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Winter Projects Begin

I never liked this. It was a quick fix when company was going to be staying at my place and I thought they might need a TV even if it all it was good for was videos and DVD's. Ugly. Ick!

Much better. I went and bought an unfinished wall cabinet, stained it my cherry wood color and hung it on the wall. Now that that was done more art could be brought out of storage.

Now all I need to do is drill a hole through the bottom for the electric cord. When not in use it will be pulled inside the cabinet. No need to look at an icky electric cord.

My next winter project is on order. I bought two more of these full depth, 24 inches deep, above the refrigerator wall cabinets for a built in dresser and closet in the bedroom loft. They are 33 inches long x 24 inches high. Like this one beside the stove, I'll set them side by side on the floor, raised a few inches and put a counter on top. I found a nice wood counter top I am considering. The two cabinets will be my folded clothes dresser. A small hanging clothes closet will be built beside the cabinets.

It's all about storage this winter. I need places to put stuff so I can get the stuff out of storage in boxes and plastic tubs. Then I can restore it properly. I need to organize the stuff, toss stuff and dust stuff. The bric-a-brac can be strewn about.

All that's needed to keep this moving is some heavy snows.

Friday, November 23, 2012

To Grandmother's House We Go

A blast of real cold is headed this way, 20 degree cold. There may even be some flakes involved. While the day was still nice the kitties and I headed over the stream and into the forest for a visit to grandmother's house where the plumbing needed to be winterized and prepared for a blast of real cold.

This is baby kitties first complete trip there and back. Miss Collar came along of course. They are forming a cooperative and functioning herd, but they are still cats. Three in one picture is asking a lot.

There's a big rock on the way.

The dark clouds rolled in. A fine mist has started. The wind speed is increasing. It's dark now and the kitties are inside. I like to get them in around dark before the varmints come out. They are doing the usual bouncing off the walls, hyper energy, spazz attack that occurs every evening between dark and about 8:30.

It is tempting to toss them back outside until they have calmed down. Instead I'll just have to wait until they grow out of it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Visit To The Ridge Top Garden

With Destruction In Mind

It was a perfect sunny day, clear blue skies, no wind and a warm 65 degrees. No rain or snow was in the diagnosis for the next 24 hours. A perfect day for killing. The Lamium galeobdolon commonly called Yellow Archangel has been taking over the ridge top garden. That is really an under statement of the facts. It was time to put a stop to it.

With such great quantities and a dense mat forming root system, spraying it is the only real option. The good thing is it is pretty much an evergreen. It can be sprayed after everything else has gone dormant.

A certain gardener here keeps expanding the garden's boundaries despite my pleas to concentrate on infill. Now that I work full time and have a garden of my own there is less time and energy to help in the wild cultivated gardens next door. The lamium takes over everything and she sees no blank space. The only option it seems is to expand. Come spring she is going to see a half an acre of blank space inside the boundaries of the existing garden.

More bulbs can go where the lamium was. These are new fall blooming crocus planted in the annex expansion. The garden has since expanded beyond the annex.

I had another murder in mind when I went over there. The Oriental Bittersweet on the arbor is an invasive species. I have seen whole mountains up here completely infested with it. Ours gets frozen in bloom often enough that it has not spread by seed as much as they are capable of. Still, the vine was too big, too boring and a pain to deal with. I cut the trunks of the vine at the ground. Come spring when it sprouts, the stumps will get sprayed. Time to go.

The Blue Pot with Bamboo stands behind the arbor. I need to get rid of those ugly bricks and lattice behind the pot. It's on the list of chores. It's a list with no end.

From the Posh Estate to the Wild Cultivated Gardens, my gardening runs to extremes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The New Greenhouse

I am thankful for my job at the Posh Estate. Next spring I will get to plant around it.

It Takes A Long Fall

For Japanese maples to do right.

High on the low spot is the far edge of their preferred zonage. After a rough spring from which mine did not really recover, a good fall wasn't even an option this year. I am beginning to think I may only get one good year out of every four from them.

No more Japanese maples for me. Four will have to do for now. They have a chance now while there is still room in the garden, before it fills in and before my patience wears out.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Slow Wait For Winter Interest

Now that the hemlocks are gone, the forest on our mountain top is completely deciduous. There is a lack of  understory shrubberies in general and I only got a few of the native rhododendrons. Everything else is herbaceous. In the winter, it's all bare trees and dried remnants.

Dried remnants have a certain charm, but not enough to take you through five months of the barren time. After a few snows they are pretty much done anyway.

I realized quickly there was going to be a need for plants that remained through the winter. The native sedges are good about staying green all winter and this unknown variegated sedge that was tossed from a pot and rescued has also been reliably evergreen. It may be time to start dividing it.

I need more than green groundcovers though. The back bone and real structure of a winter garden is growing. I think we are on year three of creep now. I want some leap. The bamboo and a baby pine will be big one day. I'm sure there are a number of reasons for the delayed leap; partial shade, rocky soil, cool summers, short season and competition from the Lush. I don't fertilize things either. I want tough plants adapted to their conditions.

More shade and more rocks makes for even slower bamboo. One day soon I hope it will offer some screening from the scenic byway just above.

Hidden in the miscanthus is a Bird's Nest Spruce. For a dwarf shrub it has actually grown quite a bit in the four years it has been in the ground, enough that come spring I need to remove the nearest clump of grass.

Another dwarf, the Mugo Pine is another slow grower. It can get 6x 6 in time. The yuccas are speedy by comparison. They were little 4 inch pots when I bought them.

For now I have to imagine mature sizes. I have to imagine the garden that will become.

Blue Star Junipers will grow to help cover the slope below the cozy cabin. The two big ones were planted about three years ago. The smaller ones were planted this spring. I work towards a low mounding tapestry of texture and color on this wide expanse of hillside.

There is quite a bit of future garden that is hidden in the Lush during the season of vegetation. This is the time of year when I can really see how they have done for the season and can plot more additions. One day the Lush will lap at the feet of a real garden and winter won't be such a shocking transition.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fluffing The Grasses

Miscanthus in the 'Morning Light'. I couldn't give this up when it can stand through most of the winter. I went up there today and cut out all the broken stems from that first big snow and fluffed the rest of it back up. It has been below freezing with frost quite a few times this week The grass is beginning to freeze and dry enough that another heavy snow might not squash it. Maybe.

There are nice scenes to be seen from my front porch.

And there are eyesores. I always make an effort to take the ugly telephone pole out of the pictures I post.

Then I did a little tidying by the back service entrance. The Yellie Mums were done. The vines on the trellis were froze. The gladiolas were still green; frozen green. They needed to be put down if there is any chance of survival. Gladiolas are outside my zone. Gardy don't dig no tubers and bulbs. They will have to take their chances.

This is the bare bones of winter.

I do have a bunch of tiny baby hellebores in this bed. They will give some winter evergreen as they get bigger.

Then I painted the eyesore. I have stared at that pole for five years wondering what can I do to make this thing go away. A couple of months ago the idea of painting it the same red as the cement columns supporting the cozy cabin came to mind. I liked that idea. Turn an eyesore into a bold red pole. It is the repetition of a major architectural element in the garden.

Just don't look up. I got as high up as I was willing to go today. Maybe I'll take it to the top of the grey conduit later. I can't go past that without risking electrocution. It's better one bold color than the contrasting grey of the conduit pipe and the brown of the pole. Thankfully the pole in the roadside vegetable garden does not annoy me nearly as much.

Surprise. The Lycoris squamigera are coming up. They are still alive. They are also still on the Florida schedule from where they came. I planted three clumps and this is the first I have seen. They really should wait until April to send up leaves in their new home. I don't think these leaves are going to be cold hardy.

I tidied away the dried remnants of the wildflowers that have been taking over the basement patio in my neglect of getting it finished. We need a neater appearance for the rubberneckers in the winter when they can see everything so clearly. So clearly, they often come to a stop during the barren months of winter.

Tomorrow I may tidy the roadside vegetable garden just because the weathers will be cooperating. I'm planing on taking more control over the strip of wildflowers between the vegetables and the road. I have poppies I want to plant. That means the goldenrod in that strip needs to get yanked.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dinner Time

There is enough destruction just from keeping the beasts inside at night. The idea of leaving bouncing kittens inside all day while I was at work seemed like overkill, so out they went under the watchful eye of Miss Collar. They are half cat size now, big enough. Collar has been doing a good job and is sticking close to her new friends. They are forming a real herd. Now she just needs to show the babies they don't absolutely have to go in a litter box.

The first two days they were out, the first thing they did when I opened the door was run inside and use the litter box. How nuts is that. So the litter box was put outside with them until they come in for the night. This is going to take some step by step training.

I made them an insulated nesting box on the front porch with a larger size cat carrier. They have a place to get warm on chilly days. I don't think it has been much above 50 since I have been back. I've seen them poke their little heads out of the nesting box as I come down the driveway.

Miss Collar knows. The babies have figured it out by now. You get half a dish of canned food when daddy gets home. There is a rush for the door.

We all settle in to our new routine.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Time Is Stealing What Was Away

Numerous feral cats wander the grounds. A possum the size of a small German Shepard came back on the first night we arrived for a second helping of the trash the cleaning lady had left by the front door. The pink muhly was in full bloom.

The little boy who played in an enchanted garden long ago and the now adult maintenance gardener cry out in despair. Time is stealing what was away. Heaven's Scent goes the way of Grey Gardens.

All the dogwoods were killed by anthracnose years ago. The self seeded redbuds that replaced them are now starting to die off. An ancient oak crumbled to the ground. One arm leaning over the house remained. It was decided it was best to take the rest of the tree down. Camellias nearing their one hundredth year are in rapid decline. Multiple vines try to engulf everything.

The place actually looked better than it had in the last couple of years. A gardener of sorts regularly mows the grass and dabbles at keeping the rampant weeds and vines in check.

There is always hope when the gardener spends more time or money in the garden. Sadly, in this case both are in short supply.

The pink muhly was in full bloom.

I have returned to NC where things are much the same. A garden is only borrowed from the wilderness as long as a gardener has the strength and will to wrestle it away from nature.

Monday, November 12, 2012

In A Far Away Land

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

You Will Be Eating Parsnips

Last night's snow was a no show. It rained all night then snowed for about an hour this morning. Fortunately, it hasn't been cold enough for it to stick around, if you can call never rising above 40 degrees not cold. I was happy about that since I wanted something from the roadside vegetable to take with us to Florida.

It sure doesn't look like there is much to be had at this late date from the roadside vegetable garden.

The chard is looking a bit piqued from that heavy snow. It has been known to survive the winter to return in the spring. Any warmish sunny spells in the winter can produce useable leaves. That's not what I wanted though.

The cauliflower is looking no worse for the wear. I do wonder if the caterpillars that favor it went on a final eating binge before the snow came. I have no idea what it will do over the winter. My instincts tell me it very well may survive if the conditions work out so that it is buried under a blanket of snow when it gets mega cold. Maybe it will cauliflower in the spring. Time will tell. It's not like I need that row right now.

I am far too lazy of a gardener to put it in a hoop house for protection. I don't believe in extra steps in the garden. I have enough chores to tend to, which also explains the leaves being full of holes from caterpillars.

This is what I was after, parsnips, the food of European royalty before the potato became king. Their tops are looking a little piqued after the heavy snow too, but the tops don't matter.

It's the big fleshy root we are after, a root that can self store all winter long right in the ground. It can be dug until mid-spring as long as the ground's not froze solid. This is a root crop with real potential for hard times.

I will be bringing fresh organic parsnips to Florida and baking them myself for a nice side dish for the family gathering. I don't think any of my kin have ever eaten a parsnip. It will be an interesting experiment.

They are a great lower carb replacement for potatoes. "Nutritionally, parsnips are low in calories, about 130 for a whole one 9" in length, and contain no saturated fat or cholesterol. That same 9" parsnip can boast a 6.4 grams of fiber, 93.1 mcg of folic acid (that's nothing to sneeze at), 59.2 mg of calcium, and 46.4 mg of potassium, and lesser amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, vitamin C, iron, and zinc."

And they're yummy.

Life isn't all bad as we descend into the depths of winter. Besides tasty root crops we even have flowers blooming in the forest. Now is the time for the native Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana to bloom.

Once the Witch Hazel is pau that's pretty much it until the snowdrops appear.