Thursday, June 30, 2011

City Kitty

City Veggies

Up On The High Spot

Of a North Carolina mountain top.

We went to see the Catawba Rhododendrons at Craggy Gardens. We were on time. The rhododendrons had bloomed a full two weeks earlier than normal. All that was left was a spattering of Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia.

Now that did not mean we could not go for a little hike to see what else there was to see like compact trees clinging to rocks at close to 6000 feet in elevation.

And a rock shelf holding nothing but lilies, most likely a big patch Clintonia borealis reaching its southern territorial limits way up high on a North Carolina mountain top.

Around a bend in the ridge line on the very same mountain was this ethereal and unusual forest lawn. I like it and have to wonder how did nature do that. Should I try this at home? I don't think it has to be mowed.

The high spot seems to have the same lull in bloom between the finish of the rhododendrons and the beginning of the summer wildflower season as our low spot, but there were a few blooms to be found. I'm not sure what this is. It looks suspiciously like wild strawberry, but the leaves are less serrated, glossy and leathery and the bloom is more profuse.

Patches of the tiny Houstonia caerulea, Bluets, lined the trail in places.

The Phlox carolina had started to bloom.

Maybe next year the timing will be right to see the heath balds of Craggy Gardens ablaze in color with the Catawba Rhododendron.

Still, not a bad way to spend a nice summer day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Posh Estate And A Wild Place

Where I work and where I live have always been two different kinds of gardening worlds. That is just the nature of things. I work for the people who can afford to hire a peasant gardener who will keep things neat and tidy. My new clients with the posh estate and my tiny little cozy cabin in the forest wilds make that contrast more sharp than ever.

We may have a lot of the same plants in common, but the presentation is entirely different. The peasant gardener's garden is the last garden on the list. Sometimes it doesn't even get on the list.

Twenty years from now I can see the Sisters walking home through the sunny utility meadow with a sack full of produce from the roadside vegetable garden in one hand, pulling weeds as they go. They are proving to be willing and capable weed pullers, even tackling the steel rooted Clematis virginiana. The wild place does not scare them.

A posh estate is not a vision I can foresee. I will always live half wild.

A fresh mowed path through the lush may have to suffice as the only touch of order that can exist in the wild place.

Planting, sowing, editing, visiting and sharing with The Sisters next door. The wild place will be a mighty fine estate.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Visit Begins

The sisters have arrived. The visit begins. First on the list of course is a stroll through the ridge top garden.

Summer time arrives with a whole new wave of blooming perennials. There are lots of dayliles, lots of Asiatic lilies. The hundreds of hosta and astilbe are in bud. The native rhododendron are in bloom. A large assortment of other perennials have stated to do their thing.

Every where you look something is bound to be blooming. It's not quite the same bold floral extravagance of 10,000 daffodils in April or the gargantuan rhododendrons of May. Summer blooms start slow and build to a crescendo. It is a much more species rich speckling of flowers, seemingly subdued by the the intense lush green of a forest in full leaf.

The shade has an effect as well. The sun lovers may not always operate at peak performance.

Hale Mana was readied for its first guests with the front door and the trim around it getting painted.

The service entrance door only got the first coat of paint before time ran short. That will get finished today.

It's back to the luxury basement accommodations for me. I can handle. Half living in two houses isn't all that easy and I miss my kitties.

The hard part is going back to the slow cantankerous computer in the luxury basement accommodations and it was in a very ornery mood last night. I wonder if its hard drive is ready to become but a distant memory.

There is the question too of how will I fit in visitation with work kind work and everything else that needs doing. I'll just have to work on the assumption that they don't need me to have fun or to pull weeds.

Friday, June 24, 2011

More Chaos

This is my roadside bed at the beginning of summer. I suppose I could have a scalped hillside of grass with a bit of fuzz in the drainage ditch like my neighbor across the byway, but that would be boring and who has the time for all that weed whacking?

Instead perennials are planted. Wildflowers are seeded, encouraged and ignored. The unwanted and undesirables are removed every so often. I end up with a cacophony of color.

Who knows where some of this stuff comes from. It just arrives.

But some devilish quirk in a gardener's genetic makeup is forever demanding more. More perennials get planted. More wildflowers get seeded, encouraged and ignored. Some of the unwanted and undesirables get removed every so often.

The cacophony grows.

A cozy little cabin is tucked below the roadside bed and the roadside vegetable garden with the wildflower surround. It peeks out as the world passes by.

It's no wonder that many people slow down or come to a stop while driving by on the scenic byway. How often do they see roadside weeds on steroids in somebody's front yard?

Seen In West Asheville

It may be a sign that things are changing when you are far more likely to see a scarecrow in a vegetable garden in city neighborhoods than out on a drive in the country. There is a lot of food being grown in the gardens of West Asheville.

And I never would have expected to be sent sailing away on the winds of imagination in a mountain metropolis far from any large body of water on which to set sail.

This is not a place of cookie cutter suburban developments and landscapes maintained by the help.

It's the new urban frontier filled with all kinds of interesting notions.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Organizing Chaos

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows that chaos rules in the gardens high on the low spot of a North Carolina mountain top. There is no budget and no staff for the ever expanding gardens now aiming for three acres of semi-cultivation. It is tended by gardeners with big appetites and an appreciation for a wide array of botanical personalities both nursery bought and those of wilder origins.

And when the lush gets going, well it just grows faster than the gardeners with so much land in semi-cultivation and not enough time can get to.

The Renegade Gardener had second thoughts over Garden Rant's manifesto item "In love with real, rambling, chaotic, dirty, bug-ridden gardens", feeling that gardening well mattered more. Susan then wanted to know what do gardeners really think about "real, rambling, chaotic, dirty, bug-ridden" versus "perfect magazine" gardens, particularly the chaos part?

Let me just say that when that's what you got, when the site and the situation both lean towards chaos, well you learn to live with it. Sometimes grudgingly and sometimes in utter amazement at what astounding design and beauty nature is capable of in the guise of chaos.

The gardeners keep at it. Planting and planting some more in the hopes the chaos will subside when the plants fill in. Weeding and weeding and weeding in a vain attempt to keep the lush at bay and give the plants a chance to fill in. The gardeners are only vaguely aware that in many not so subtle ways their large appetites contribute to the chaos.

But what does "gardening well" really mean. Is this a design competition or is this about the plants? When over 90% of plants planted, seeds scattered and bulbs buried survive, thrive and multiply under the watchful eye of the gardener does that count as gardening well even if chaos constantly attempts to fill any void?

My designer self saw what I was up against in this setting and my maintenance gardener self keeps saying the only way to beat the chaos is by winning the lottery. Chances of that are slim. I want someone else to buy the tickets and give me the jackpot.

So not only am I constantly being taught to live with chaos by a power greater than me, I am learning how to design organized chaos that will blend right in with the natural surroundings.

Am I gardening well yet? A good part of this chaos was well thought out. I planted it to look like this. How many people passing by will know this is not wild lush, it is gardener designed lush? A few have known or knew something was different about this spot alongside the road because they stopped. They got out of their cars and they took all kinds of pictures. This was no ordinary chaos.

When I need order I have a place to go. It is small by comparison to the great expanse around. It is completely surrounded on all sides by exuberant chaos enhanced by gardeners with large appetites. Wild chaos would not be as species rich. Wild chaos would not bloom over such a long period of time.

How does a gardener take a roadside weed like Chicory and arrange it so that cars actually come to a stop?

Am I gardening well yet? It's hard to tell with all this chaos.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Perennial Restoration

I have spent three days reclaiming a perennial bed that was possibly never fully planted and let go for the last two years at least. It was completely filled with weeds and it took some looking to save some of the good stuff. The worst weed by far is Bishop's Weed, Aegopodium podagraria. That is the white leaved blob in the front of the bed next to the lawn. It forms a dense mat interconnected by millions of rhizomes. I am digging it out in chunks because it does not belong in a perennial bed being restored to a cutting garden. And I will no doubt continue to weed it out for several seasons to come.

And when I look up from my restoration (weeding) there is a view.

I wait for a load of mulch to arrive so this weeding procedure does not need to be repeated. It will be fully planted and paths will wind through it. A cutting garden with a view.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Conning The Spots

The plan was to paint the trim and the exterior of the front door and service entrance today after harvesting salad greens for the larder at the chef's house next door. The Spots like to go for strolls and have been down to the cozy cabin many times. After the harvest was washed and stored it seemed like a good time to bring them down for an extended stay at their soon to be new home.

The followed me no problem. Crawford had to inspect the cleaning and priming job and even came inside to check things out. Collar hung outside in the lush. This far from home they won't stroll back unescorted, weird cats, so when a wicked storm descended, the painting ended and the Spots ran for cover. Not inside mind you. They wouldn't come in. A quick inspection is all they have ever managed and if the doors closed them inside they freaked.

Once the worst of the storm had passed Collar came out of hiding and reluctantly came inside, only to figit and pace once the door was closed and a second storm blast arrived.

Crawford had hollered to be let in in the middle of the first blast of the wicked storm. He was more mellow, but still paced non stop. Weird cats.

Boy were they happy when it was time to go back home. Poor things had been traumatized by ferocious winds, lightning, thunder, flying branches and a very hard rain, then trapped inside a strange box to boot. I fed them dinner and they went straight to bed, safe and sound in their real home. This move ain't gonna be easy I can see.

A big branch, one of dozens that pummeled the ground had landed where I usually park my truck. Good thing my truck was at my house and I had planned to con the Spots into going for a walk.

It was breezy to say the least. I'll consider standing the sunflowers back up tomorrow after they and the ground have had a chance to drain just a bit.

That's just the way it goes up here, closer to the innards of the thunderstorms.

I try to avoid plant bondage as much as possible and in these conditions you really gain an appreciation for plants that refuse to flop over or can stand themselves back up after a vicious sideways blast. Gardy has enough to do without having to tie things up.