Thursday, December 31, 2015

It Ends In A Fog

I have a feeling it may start that way too.

Life begins and ends pretty much the same way.

It was 35 degrees at the North Pole today. That is summer melting weather in 24 hours of darkness. The average temperature there is 20 below at this time of year. I have seen cherry trees in bloom. Today I saw a Magnolia stellata in bloom. I got a report of hosta waking up.

I have alliums in full spring growth with five nights of freezing temps on the way. Winter, if we will be having one, has not even begun.

It's going to be a bumpy ride, in a fog.

All I know to do is hang on and look for pretty along the way.

Gardening is going to get a lot harder when abnormal becomes the new normal.

My hope for a new year is that the world stays relatively calm. I will garden on and make more space for winter squash and storable root crops.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Stuck In El Nino

Can I just say I am tired of rain. I am tired of rain. My laundry is done. Even folded. That is the hardest part of laundry.

During an intermission, I went for a walk. Both 'Jelena' are in full bloom. 'Diane' is in the contemplation phase. One of the 'Diane' did not set very many buds at the end of the growing season. It won't amount to much bloom wise this year.

Will these be the only kind snowdrops I see this winter? Cold is coming. There has been no suggestion it would be joined by snow. At least it is looking to be rain free. I am tired of rain.

The rivers are full. The streams are running high. The ground is saturated. The air is thick with wet. Compared to many others, my El Nino is being kind.

But I am tired of rain. Give me snow. Plenty snow. Maybe I will mop the floors.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Will It Get Cold Soon Enough

I see four days of freezing lows in the diagnosis starting Saturday morning. Hopefully it is a trend that will settle in for a spell. It is getting to the point where winter needs to get started immediately or be cancelled altogether. I see big troubles ahead if it warms right back up after this coming round of cold.

The bulbs are waking up. They should not be doing this until mid to late February. I found crocus.

I found the first daffodils waking up. December is way to soon. The daffodils at the Inn and the Posh Estate are further along than this. They are in real danger.

All five of my Rudbeckia maxima have started to put up new growth. We need winter. We need it now and it would be best to have some deep snow cover.

All this fresh growth is highly susceptible to being damaged or killed should it decide to get polar vortex cold before winter is officially over. Up here that means April.

It's fine if the Witch Hazels bloom. It is not fine if they decide to break leaf bud dormancy.

Even conifers and evergreens that have not been set to dormant by a proper regimen of cold can very easily be damaged by sudden swings from way to warm to normal winter lows.

All this fresh spring growth needs to come to an immediate halt. It needs to get cold and stay cold now.

Monday, December 28, 2015


It was a dark and stormy morning the day I left. Lightning flashed. Thunder rumbled. The rain poured down. It was still too dark to see when I pulled out of the driveway.

Coming back days later I could tell it had rained hard while I was gone. The signs were there. Creeks were running high. There were washouts on the road. Trickles that slide down rock faces were at full torrent. I think Christmas day they got smacked.

I came home to find a new gully to go with the one I already had from Culvert Falls on the slope below the scenic byway. Thank you so much NCDOT. Your new drainage canals worked perfectly.

I will not be having another gash on the slope below the scenic byway in my garden. The next morning the DOT's new drainage channels for the low spot in their sunken road were filled in. We are under a flash flood watch again until Thursday morning. No you may not pour more water down through my garden.

My garden sits in a natural drainage. When my parents first bought this land, this spot was a moss covered wet seep. Then the neighbor above and across the byway built roads on his land and the water was shut off. A Tall Flower Meadow started to grow.

A good bit of water is still directed through this drainage. The amazing thing is all that water is absorbed into the ground before it ever gets to the bottom. I'd like to keep it that way.

The gravel in front of the mailbox got a fresh deposit of grit. It stayed put though. I directed more water off the byway from above into the existing channels. I did my part. The DOT does not get to put another gash through my garden when an existing gully down the road was handling things just fine.

All this rain is washing the dust off the new gravel in the basement patio. It will be ready for relaxation and refreshments come spring.

Warm and rain has put both 'Jelena' Witch Hazels into full bloom.

'Jelena' #1 is in full unfurl.

The snowdrops started popping up all over in just the few days I was gone.

I even have the first hellebore in bloom. Many other have started to send up buds. This is the first December out of the nine I have been here that there are actually flowers in bloom. December was always the one month of the year with no flowers in the garden. The gardener and the weather have conspired to change that.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Widespread Confusion

I expect it to be warmer in Florida than North Carolina when I head south in late December. I expect to see ripe citrus. That is when citrus ripens. It likes a bit of cool to aid in the ripening process and add a touch of sweetness.

Eighty plus degrees is a bit more than I expect. Sweating when sitting still is an anomaly these days. I did not taste the fruit of a tree known to be tart more often than not.

I know I will be seeing camellias in bloom when I head south. Camellias bloom in the cooler months of fall and winter down there.

I did not expect to see the camellias in full bloom. Usually in late December they are just getting started. I might see some of the earlier sasanqua camellias in full bloom. They were already finished this year.

This year I saw more camellia flowers than I have in the past.

Many have been lost, but there are still a number of living camellias my grandmother planted. Some of them might be approaching one hundred years old.

My grandfather built the final house in the early 30's. They had lived on this land in other structures before. My grandmother planted an extensive three acre garden. She named it Heaven's Scent.

Her garden is not what it used to be. The second generation of gardeners found North Carolina to be a much more hospitable place for gardening. Time is taking its toll.

I most certainly did not expect to see this.

Azaleas are supposed to bloom in late February to March in north Florida.

There are far more azaleas in my grandmother's garden than camellias. Many of them were confused. The heat is making them come into bloom incredibly early. I even saw a Sweetgum tree that was leafing out with fresh spring growth.

It was cooler when I returned home to a North Carolina mountain top. Sixty five degrees the last week of December does not really qualify as cooler though. 'Jelena' is in full bloom a good month earlier than last year. There is wide spread confusion in the plant world.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Dash Of Red Pepper

I'm a few grasses short of the Dutch Wave perennial planting style that uses mass plantings of different grass species to create that dramatic moody meadow effect. My desire for winter interest in the barren time sent me in another direction that may not be completely compatible with that Dutch Wave.

The winter under garden of low mounding evergreens kind of requires the Tall Flower Meadow is chopped down sooner rather than later. The dead brown time of that type of planting is almost half the year of its appeal, at least when it doesn't get bent out of shape by the weathers.

I'm waffling on the grasses at the moment, feeling caught between amber waves and a sharp pair of shears. As small groupings, the grasses don't have much impact. It looks like I missed a weed.

All the grass plantings are new though, two years or less and from divisions. They will get bigger quickly and I can always do more dividing to make larger sweeps for more effect.

That could still leave me with a possible contradiction in styles between the dried grasses and the evergreens.

I can experiment for a few more seasons and see how it goes. I have already considered leaving more of the dried perennials standing to contrast with the grasses when I do the first chop to reveal the under garden. I could also just cut the grasses down at the same time and not let them stand over the winter.

I will have to have a look at the garden again with the sole idea of where, if any more, grasses can be added. I do know they have to be shorter grasses. The tall miscanthus is too big for this slope.

I remembered in my horror yesterday that Bulbarella usually has big canisters of red pepper on hand for her bulb planting. I'm sure it discourages the varmints that follow around behind us digging up anything freshly planted. It may deter the voles for a bit from snacking on the edible bulbs.

This is the hesperaloe that is already seventy five percent gone. It's only hope is to sprout a whole new plant.

Merry Christmas you damn varmint!! May you get a snout full.

It is a good month early, but I have a Witch Hazel in bloom for Christmas. It isn't going to get cold enough any time soon to put a stop to it. These are the hardest flowers to get in focus. They don't have enough substance for the camera to latch on to. Maybe next time.

Merry Christmas to all. May your festivities be filled with all kinds of spicy delights. Just be careful not to get a snout full.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


There was a threat of rain all day. I planned a few light get it off my list activities thinking I could dodge the rain while doing them. It never rained. Oh well. Those items are off the list.

Two of what I think are Crytptomeria japonica 'Globosa Nana' fell out of some fall themed pots along with some hardy yellow mums and followed me home. I should know. I bought them. Oh well.

Since it wasn't raining I went ahead and planted them to add to the low mounding tapestry of texture and color on the slope below the cozy cabin.

It's a big slope with small, slow growing, dwarf plants. I knew I could squeeze in some more winter interest without any problems.

It was cloudy, sixty five degrees and not raining. I went on a little weeding foray after I was done planting, targeting the cool season fescue grass that is still quite green under these optimum growing conditions. It's a weed I don't won't in the garden.

While I was weeding I discovered a most horrible thing. I may never know if the discard rack Hesperaloe parviflora are cold hardy for me. It certainly has not been cold enough to find out.

What I discovered was the Hesperaloe are apparently quite tasty. Some damn varmint found them, most likely a vole, and has been eating them up. One was completely gone. There was not a root or crown to be found. A second was seventy five percent et up. If the crown can't bud, it's a goner. A third showed signs of burrowing. Damn Varmints!!!

I can handle a plant not being cold hardy or not liking the conditions I have to offer. I know I am pushing the boundaries, even when doing it rather cautiously. It pisses me off when a plant is not varmint hardy. Damn Varmints!!!

The remaining six and a quarter Hesperaloe were promptly doused with Louisiana hot sauce and black pepper. Take that you Damn Varmint!!!

Oh the horror. Let there be lamentations. I have a garden to grow under enough extenuating circumstances as it is. The vermin supply here far out weighs the capacity of three cats and all kinds of natural predators. I had such high hopes for the Hesperaloe. It may not be varmint hardy.

Monday, December 21, 2015

On The First Day Of Winter

It's going to be sixty whole degrees before it warms up to sixty seven big ones in time for Christmas Eve. No white Christmas for you. It's going to be a wet one. I will be further south though, where it will be eighty degrees. Eighty degrees is the bottom rung of the danger zone.

I got started on tidying up the collectibles around the vegetable garden annex when it was still a cold fifty degrees. It makes no sense of course. I need to build a shed. Hiding the collectibles would be so much better.

I was not happy to see this. I found alliums coming up. Alliums are bad about jumping the gun even in normal cold winter weather. Rumor has it January is going to be warm and winter will arrive for February and March. That does not bode well for the future greenery, especially if the transition is abrupt.

Even the baby rhododendrons would not like an abrupt change. They are a hardier evergreen for me than others, but can get winter burn on the leaves and loose their flower buds.

It's best not to fret over such things. Instead, I can marvel at all the progress I have been making to add winter interest to the garden with evergreen trees, shrubs and perennials.

Organizing all my rocks into monumental structures adds some winter interest too.

My garden says garden more in the winter really than during the time of vegetation when it is engulfed in the Lush. It's more wild then. It blends in better to the surroundings then too. Such is the way it was supposed to be. I always knew my garden would be a hybrid between the wild and the cultivated.