Thursday, November 29, 2007

Getting There

Four views of a rising rock wall

After five days of work

Not necessarily eight hour days mind you

It is wise to pace yourself if you want to actually see the wall come to fruition or try and make the project last all winter.

This first wall is only phase one of the basement patio. A second wall, I'm thinking a CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit) with stucco coating will be built under the cabin to match my columns and form the level terrace for the patio floor.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Puschkinia scilloides v. libanotica
Striped Squill

From humble beginnings great things can happen. We have all seen pictures of vast expanses in lawns or beds, under trees and in gardens of carpets of color from spring bulbs that have burst into bloom. Today I planted a small sack of small bulbs, the Striped Squill. It is a petite thing with striped ice blue flowers and has been called a naturalizer or even invasive by others. If these Squill should like it here, will I perhaps live long enough to see this small sack turn into a carpet of cool ice blue?

One of the generous gifts from Hank of A Lake County Point Of View, there is still a treasure trove of seeds to go through, I planted these bulbs on the opposite side of the garden path from where I planted the other blue flowering Scilla bulbs from Elizabeth at Garden Rant. Both of these blue bulbs are touted as vigorous naturalizers and self seeders. One day perhaps each will cross the path and they might mingle with each other in harmony.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Looking Up

Which I will be doing very shortly lying on my back with my eyes closed.

Cause liftin' and totin' and stackin' rocks on the side of a hill can wear a person out.

I also got to plant the Daffodil/Narcissus that came in the wonderful box of goodies that Hank from A Lake County Point of View was so incredibly kind to send me. More details on that later. This box was packed full of treats.

Today I planted:
Narcissus 'Golden Ducat', a double Daffodil
Narcissus poeticus 'Green Pearl'
Narcissus 'Odorus Linnaeus' (Campernelli) and
Narcissus triandrus 'Lemon Drops'

Tomorrow I'll get to plant some Squill, Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica.

And stack some more rocks and tote some more buckets of gravel.

But for now it is lights out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Rising Wall

The hardest part was getting started, but a bit like a bag of potato chips once you get going, it is hard to stop. One more bucket full. One more big rock. Ok one more.

There was a major change in the plan for building this wall. I decided to dry stack the stones instead of setting them in mortar.

As fate would have it, I met a very nice stone mason at my new clients last week while I was working in the garden. We chatted for some time and I mentioned I was about to build a stone wall. He mentioned that he had written two books on the subject that I might find useful. When I said I would be mortaring the wall because it was a retaining wall he said a dry stacked wall was just as durable and might be better.

A few days later when I was back there planting 392 Tulip bulbs with an electric drill and bulb auger, my client loaned me his office copy of one of the stone mason's books, "The Art and Craft of Stonework."

Is the universe trying to tell me something? Like read the book before you build the wall.

So I did. It seems I can build a perfectly stable three and a half foot tall dry stacked retaining wall that is better drained, less expensive, easier to build and hopefully more attractive than a mortared wall.

Now in the book there were mostly fancy, very rectangular, straight edged, store bought stacking stones being used to build these walls. Well the rocks on site that I am using to build this wall could best be described as a rockpodge. They are a lot like the stones on Maui, very irregular, but a bit smoother. Also the stones here appear to be of several different types and colors. On Maui there was a more uniform type of lava rock in a given location.

So I am following the directions in the book. The landscape fabric is to keep the soil from moving into the wall and the gravel back fill with rain and freeze thaw cycles and then causing future freeze movement in the wall. The gravel helps fill the empty spaces in between my irregular rocks and adds more stability. I am also doing a double thickness dry stack as opposed to a single stack of stones. This should also give the wall more heft and stability.

I have stacked a fair amount of irregular stones in my time. Never to hold back a slope though. These were free standing objects and they have stood for a long time. Still I do have a certain trepidation about not using mortar. It just seems like cement is more permanent and less subject to movement. The wall will have a batter (lean into the slope) like it should and dry stack retaining walls have been done for a long time. It should be fine. If not, well than I'll do it over.

As the wall rises, the soil behind it will be moved and packed in behind it. Stack some stones. Fill with gravel. Lift fabric and fill with soil. Stack some stones. Fill with gravel. Shovel and pack some soil.

If only the stones were as light and airy as these Milkweed seeds, particularly the stones at the bottom of my grassy hillside. That's were most of the really big rocks went during the lot clearing and road building. I have big plans for them, closer to where they currently rest.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tiny Crystals

No snow yet? It started as rain then turned to the tiniest of frozen crystals. It was like being in a frozen fog. Then once again the tiny pellets that were identified as sleet returned. No flakes. This time they piled up just a little deeper.

Bravely, after opening my frozen closed truck door with a screwdriver, I drove down from these white hills. It was going to be a first after a very long time, driving on frozen roads, but the roads were dry and completely fine. This new again first will have to wait for another time.

From a distance the uninformed might imagine these were snow capped mountains.

And what did I need in town that was worth the risk of a frozen drive and shopping on Black Friday? A few supplies and more bulbs!

Lest you think I have gone stir crazy or been touched by the Beautiful Madness, these bulbs are not for me, though the three packages of Daffodils on the left some how landed in my cart with my name on them. They are for my new client. We were late in ordering from the bulb catalog and everything was sold out.

So I went to the Big Box store and bought 392 tulip bulbs for $60. They were half off. I had a feeling there might be a sale on remnant bulbs on Black Friday. Maybe I should get some more.

Then again maybe not. They look like they are a touch smaller in size than the tulip bulbs I got from Elizabeth. Not being a bulb size queen myself yet, I can only go on the innuendo that size really does matter in this case. Still the bulbs look plump and firm and there is no mold that I can see through the bags. My search on the bulb packager Van Zyverden based in Meridian Mississippi turned up some negative feedback so that's not good.

Well if it turns out bad next spring they'll have to come up here and get me.

Back home you can see that the white line is several hundred feet above me. It is really all the trees up there encased in a white frosting, more than an accumulation of the tiny crystals or pellets on the ground.

This morning that line of tree frosting was on the top of the hill just across the road. It rose higher during the day. The days are still getting shorter and it will descend again. Maybe soon it will snow. By then I hope to have found locally a Shur-Trax water filled bag to add weight to the bed of my truck for better traction in poor road conditions. It will take some good nerves and adjusting (Go Slow) when the time for the new driving test comes.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Intimate Lives of Rocks





To Snow

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Planting of the Bulbs

Like a Care Package to a soldier in a foreign land, this under employed gardener was thrilled to receive the box o' bulbs from Elizabeth's overflow as a bulb junkie and some of the freebies she receives from those currying her favor as part of the Garden Rant team.

In this box of goodies were:
25 Tulips, most likely Miss Confection from Colorblends, possibly the Mama Mia.
30 Scilla siberica, some personal overflow I think.
20 Chionodoxa forbesii, Glory of the Snow and
50 Ixiolirion tartaricum, Lavender Mountain Lilies from Dutch Gardens Flower Power group fundraising sales program.

After a little research on the bulbs and a little scouting of the future garden it was time to plant the bulbs. I know the resident gardeners gave up on tulips long ago. When you are gardening in the wild it is pointless to try and win the battle with the varmints like voles, chipmunks and squirrels who find tulip bulbs to be tasty morsels. Even viewed as an inexpensive annual chances are good you will never see the tulips come spring.

These tulips were a gift so I had to make an effort. I planted them surrounded by what looked to be some left over deer netting.

Added a good dollop of Cayenne Pepper. Try not to get it in your eyes. It was a little breezy.

And planted them among the now frozen Daylilies in my front driveway bed as a confusion and diversionary tactic. I've read about the icky foliage syndrome too and thought the Daylilies would possibly help hide that.

Next to be planted were the Scilla siberica. I planted them along the entry of the roadside vegetable and flower garden by-pass path. It takes a lower route to the sunny utility valley meadow.

At this same path entry with the Scilla, I also planted what may be Crocus bulbs that fell out of the ground when I was at my client's garden the other day. They fell out while planting some new acquisitions for his garden. That is one of the good things about being a professional gardener. There is always excess.

The Chionodoxa forbesii went in the grassy knoll that will over time be transformed into a low growing tapestry of color and texture. It is a bit confusing not planting things in defined beds and knowing I want a new road to traverse this hillside much higher up on the hill in the future. Things can always be moved though if need be.

The Ixiolirion tartaricum also went on the grassy knoll in between the Chionodoxa and a Kniphofia I planted earlier along what will one day be a path that connects the basement patio to the future road and walks you through the hillside of color and texture.

It's a start. There is a lot of ground to cover and these bulbs barely made a dent. Hopefully they will live long and prosper and I will be able to spread them about with abandon in the years to come.

Standing there in contemplation when the planting of the bulbs was done, looking out over the now leafless terrain, the size of the space is more apparent. Just the land between my cabin and the road is a bit bigger than the entire half acre property where I gardened on Maui for sixteen years.

Thank you to everyone who has made this opportunity for me possible.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ku'ulei 'Aina

Fall is pau in the mountains of WNC. A new season is upon us.

Admittedly I was a bit concerned that the nakedness of the land would be unappealing. I have not found that to be the case so far. There is still much to see and the bare forest really exposes the habitat of man that stays hidden during the summer green.

If I had seen it earlier this would not have to be a post Garden Blogger Bloom Day picture. On the drive down to town yesterday I spotted several Witch Hazels, Hamamelis virginiana in full bloom. They were quite striking in an ethereal sort of way. I had been checking mine and had not seen any action, but went looking again anyway and I found some very tall ones that I had not noticed before in bloom. By next Bloom Day the others should be in bloom and if not I think us northern gardeners should be able to fudge a little on the actual day of the 15th.

My Penstemon strictus 'Midnight Blue' is one cold hardy sucker as is the companion red Penstemon next to it. I hope the cold will kill what ever bug has been bothering them. They were getting tip die back. It was causing them to branch and they seemed to be surviving it well enough so I ignored it for the most part.

Beyond the Chamaecyparis, Junipers and Rhododendrons there are smaller things that are hanging on through the beginning of winter. I am testing some of them for my future textural hillside. In large drifts these Sempervivums would be very nice, pretty low maintenance I hope and drought tolerant.

This Delosperma nubigenum has been doing quite well and has already been multiplied into five plants. It is a yellow flowered one. The Sedum 'Lidakense grew, bloomed and seems to have crapped out a bit for the winter. The Sedum tetractinum is still looking good.

There is life after fall. I just need to gather some more of it up and plant it in my garden.

This is what I have really been doing as opposed to gardening of late, replacing a section of the decking at the resident gardeners house. I'm almost done. Then I will start on the walls for the basement patio at my cabin.

Tomorrow it is time to head back to my new clients for another visit and then I can plant all the bulbs that arrived in the mail today from Elizabeth at Garden Rant. Yippee! More details to come.

Promises of an abundant spring are etched in the branch tips of the Dogwoods right off the western view side of the deck. That is easy to see in a tree without leaves. It is harder to feel when you get news of a friend who had a heart attack and died. It should not have been her time.

I can imagine that a good portion of Maui showed up for her memorial.

And I imagined a name for my garden, Ku'ulei 'Aina, "My Beloved Land" or "My Flower Land." I will let this name live with me and see how it feels.

Ku - u - lei - Ai - na
Coo - ew - lay - I - nuh

My best attempt at phonetic pronunciation of Ku'ulei 'Aina. The sound as it rolls off the tongue is as important as the meaning. It must be a pleasing sound.

There is more possible snow in the forecast for Thanksgiving night. This is doable. In between blasts of Arctic air are days in the 60's and lows in the 30's and 40's. In the next few years I may be wearing shorts until November.

Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono
"The life of the land is preserved in righteousness."

Down By The River

There were some scary things. Maybe I'll show them later.

There was a computer crash, my first, a pain, but I just happened to have another one that I brought from Hawaii and never hooked up. It was amusing and time consuming watching it come back to life and start communicating with it's long lost connections.

Friday, November 16, 2007

From These Hills

There outta be a law I tell ya, against strong winds below a certain temperature. It was a gorgeous day and I don't think it got above 40 degrees. The wind was gone and I felt fine working outside all day.

If you haven't checked the links in my sidebar under Blogs of Appalachia there are two I highly recommend. From These Hills and Appalachian Treks both reveal the beauty of this area in stunning clarity. They make my pictures look like the snapshots they are. Practice. Practice.

The Oaks are having the final say in this season called fall. They are the last to hang onto their leaves with colors of golden brown and umber reds. The mostly naked forest reveals just how many Oaks there are in these hills.

All the top boards on the resident gardeners deck were removed on this beautiful day. Tomorrow the joists will be reset and some new joists added. Then the new decking can be screwed on.

It should be another beautiful and slightly warmer day. I may peel off enough layers to get down to my T-shirt.

I am adjusting.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Has it Snowed Yet?

What is this stuff? It's coming down thicker and the tiny pellets are growing larger.

Last night's rain and leaf collection in the bed of my truck. Will the extra weight help with traction on frozen roads?

Must it be a flake before it is called snow?

Or is this just snow like?

Tiny Pellets

My vocabulary for frozen moisture has been in a drought for a long time. What is this stuff? I don't think it is snow. It began as rain, turned to a very firm rain then switched to these tiny little white pellets that are making an attempt to stick around as the temperature plummets.

Not to be deterred by the vicious cold winds from my appointed rounds for Garden Blogger Bloom Day I ventured out to the mailbox to pay a bill and took my camera with me to see what was happening in the world outside on November 15th 2007 in the mountains of WNC.

What is that stuff?

This Verbascum thapsus, Wooly Mullein was easy enough to figure out. It will be interesting to see what will manage to stay green through the winter or how long they can last through this onslaught.

What happens to fungi in the winter? You can see I am aiming towards a textural display for Bloom Day.

The Lamium maculatum, Spotted Dead Nettle has taken on a purplish tint to the leaves with the onset of cold. It apparently has quite a bit of staying power well below freezing. After a lovely 62 degree day upon my return from Florida, we are headed once again to a low of 24 and 40% chance of snow.

Has it snowed yet? What is that stuff?

The Maples are mostly gone. Only a few leaves on a few trees remain. It is hard not to marvel at the intricate pattens in a variety of colors that the Maples manage to produce.

Even the ground is still colorful in spots. Who really needs flowers for Bloom Day?

This cultivar of Wintercreeper Euonymus, Euonymus fortunei is evergreen. Until it snows at least, it adds some textural interest to the garden.

Maybe it is snowing now. The tiny pellets are falling with some regularity and the temperature has dropped to 32 degrees as of 3pm.

This little reindeer garden of lichens and moss on top of a boulder may have to help feed my Bloom Days through the winter.

And here you have it, a real flower. A very late blooming Goldenrod for November's Bloom Day. A late starter in my new bed along the road cut to my cozy little cabin hangs on valiantly. There was even an insect nestled in the blooms.

While gardening may have slowed down there is always some project to work on. I started removing the old boards on the original portion of the deck at the resident gardeners house to replace them with new decking. It's a might windy though and despite my new layers and thermal undergarments which have been a mighty fine improvement, working outside can wait for another day.

There really ought to be a law against strong winds below a certain temperature.