Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Clean Slate

Is it odd that the satisfaction I am getting from burning up all the rubbish piles in the ridge top garden borders on euphoria?  For all these years I have had to photograph around them. There were so many it was often a challenge. Now there are only two left, one at each end of the garden. I'll burn them up soon.

My maintenance gardener self is loving this clean slate and the unobstructed views across the garden without countless ugly brown hairballs of sticks marring things. I just know the wild cultivated garden can be more civilized and still be wild.

Bulbarella may not recognize her garden when she returns in the spring. It will be the cleanest she has ever seen it. I was burning up stuff that had been piled up for 25 years. Black Locust doesn't rot. More Lamium has been sprayed to clear more ground. The chop and drop of the dead perennials has begun. There are going to be all kinds of places for infill.

There really is a great deal of wasted space inside the borders of the garden. All it needed was to be cleaned up. If I start burning or tossing all the stacked up log sections there will be even more vacant space.

It is so much better without the rubbish piles. This is probably the first time I have ever taken a picture from this vantage point. Now the slate must be kept clean. I'm thinking just two permanent burn piles now. The question becomes where?

On the last day, high on the low spot, a fresh clean slate is being readied for spring.

Monday, December 30, 2013

We Might Get Rimed

I came home to 31 degrees and a thick rich fog sitting on top of the mountain. There is already a thin layer of ice on every surface. We might get rimed in the night if this keeps up. It would make for a beautiful morning.

I made a decision a while back. I need two ten inch diameter silver gazing balls with no stems for the crumpled wire basketabras. I just don't want to pay $100 for two of them. That seems a bit much. So I search.

Under most conditions the crumpled baskets are invisible unless you are coming down the stairs. Gazing balls will be much more visible from many vantage points in the garden and add a dramatic touch, two round balls perched on fifteen foot tall tree trunks. What? Only when you get close will you see what keeps them there.

There is going to be more than enough to keep this garden interesting in the winter when I am done.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Amusements On A Wet Winter Day

I strolled the entire garden today during and after the rain, picking up the fresh crop of sticks from last night's big wind, taking notes, making lists, contemplating this mad act in the wilderness. If only I could devote myself full time to madness.

Imagine that.

A midden was established, a place for shiny useless found objects until they might find a use, a cage of refuse.

I found a shiny Ice Cake. Even nature has moments of beautiful madness.

A slow stroll on a wet winter day in a manipulated wilderness where madness lurks at the edges. I got a little bit done.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cleansing Fires

When a task feels daunting it is best just to start - anywhere. It doesn't matter where. The biggest hurdle is getting started. The rubbish piles of fallen sticks and branches scattered throughout the ridge top garden have annoyed me for six and a half years. Today they began to disappear.

I'm talking piles like this that grow bigger with every storm. The forest is messy. What doesn't get tossed into the next county has been piling up for years. There is a strong incentive now to finally get started on this chore. Hordes of visitors are coming in June.

There used to be two rubbish piles in this picture. Now they are gone. I burned up eight large rubbish piles and three small ones. There are six more to go in the ridge top garden and at least that many in the sunny utility meadow.

Two more days of cooperative weather should get the job done. Then we can start new piles of rubbish. I'm thinking three or four permanent burn locations are probably in order for a garden this size. Hauling branches and sticks over long distances is a pain. The forest is religiously messy. Cleansing fires should be an annual event.

The wild cultivated garden will maintain its forest primeval character without all the rubbish piles no problem. There are more giant logs laying about and huge stumps left from long ago logging than I care to count. Gardy ain't going to be burning up all those giant logs. He has better things to do. Besides, the giant logs add a certain unique ambiance to the wild cultivated garden.

It only took six and a half years to get around to this project. The fact that I finally had the time for it means I am making progress. It made it to the top of the list. Over the years Gardy has done all kinds of long forgotten chores in the ridge top garden that seemed more important at the time. All of the wild cultivated garden is slowly getting more civilized. Just give me time.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Second Coat

You have to act while the weathers are cooperating. The second coat of paint was applied to the arbor before the next round of rain and snow arrives on Sunday. I think it needs a third coat, but this will do for now. There are other chores that need tending to.

All year long while strolling the wild cultivated gardens, a list of things that need doing is compiled. It is in the down time of winter that the gardener's gardens gets more attention. Part of that includes my assistant gardener duties to the garden next door.

I had watched Bulbarella lunge forward one too many times coming down these steps because the tread was wrong and she had to skip a step. That needed fixing. A sledge hammer was taken to the old cemented in stone steps. New steps were installed with a better rise and tread and a handrail for support was added. The handrail got its second coat of paint too. It is still a bit off for my big feet. I hope it is just right for Bulbarella's little feet.

I also made up a jug of Roundup and went out in the ridge top garden spraying the Silver Lamium, Lamium galeobdolon. This yellow flowered species is quite aggressive and has been taking over the entire mountain top. It's root system is so thick and tough Bulbarella can't plant in it. Her solution was to keep expanding the garden, trying to stay ahead of the Lamium.

My solution is to get rid of the Lamium. Because it is evergreen I can spray it in the winter when all else is dormant without having to worry about collateral damage. When Bulbarella comes back in the spring she finds all this empty space inside the garden that needs filling.

My main goal to stop the expansion of the garden into the back forty has been accomplished. The assistant gardener only has so much time and energy.

Maybe tomorrow I will light some fires.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Back To The Snow

It was pouring rain when I left. There was a conversion at some point while I was gone. And on the shortest days of the year there was not enough sunshine or warmth to melt it all.

Now I am back. Time to add more layers. The kitties were happy to see me.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Where The Camellias Bloom

Merry Christmas from chilly North Florida.

Where the 80 year old house my grandfather built has a new coat of paint.

And the steamy gave way to cool after I arrived.
Thank goodness.
I don't tolerate steamy well no more.

Now there is a hint of Fa la la la la in the air.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Big Rain Is Coming

And it's packing big winds.

It takes a substantial rain to get any water flowing towards the bottom of the garden becoming. Even when a flow manages to start it disappears into the ground before it gets very far. I have that proverbial moist, well drained soil full of organic matter. Lucky me.

It would be interesting, but I don't really ever want to see water actually flowing stream like through the crease in the bottom. It is a bit surprising that I haven't seen that so far. Twenty feet below me on the adjoining property is an old road cut. Right in the crease on the uphill side is a small spring. There is water constantly flowing through the garden becoming. It's just slightly below ground.

Better rain than snow at this particular juncture. A white Christmas would be fine if I was staying put. I'm headed south. Snow is better, but heavy rains and strong winds will do their part in pressing the tall flower meadow back into the earth. The longer I wait the less I will have to chop and drop before bulb time in the spring.

The exuberant chaos of the wild abandon is getting thread bare. That will make it a bit easier when I start fetching rocks for the new short wall. The thick carpet of leaf litter is another matter. It is very much a visual block when rock hunting.

Patience, patience, patience. Wait, wait, wait. I have chores that need doing. I need blue skies and 50 degree days.

I'm already a bit squirrely and today is the winter solstice, just the very first day. Well at least I haven't had to wait for that.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Evergreen Groundcovers

I may have already lost interest in this winter. Part of that could very well be my list of winter projects is nagging at me. The weathers and other necessities have prevented me from getting to that list as a much as I'd like. I have hopes it will be a mild, light snow winter coming up. After the holidays I will be having a nice chunk of extra time. I don't want to be buried in snow and burdened with cold.

I want to be out in the garden. There are a whole bunch of things I'd like to get done before June 21st, 2014. You see, Bulbarella and I agreed to have the wild cultivated gardens high on the low spot of a North Carolina mountain top on next year's Haywood County Master Gardener tour. I've done garden tours before with less progress, but I feel compelled this time to make an extra effort. I want the wild to be more enticing to the uninitiated.

I really need to chill.

A major component of my planting scheme from day one has been for winter interest. Six months of down time for a garden is too much. I want to be drawn into the garden all year long. Evergreens are a must for winter interest in a completely deciduous forest.

It is one thing to stand on the front porch and look down on the garden. Being in the garden gives a completely different perspective to my winter interest efforts. I want to be out in the garden when I have extra time, even if it is in the middle of winter.

Three one gallon pots of Cotoneaster dammeri 'Streib's Findling' have now covered the bulk of one slope, a steep 20 foot long by 10 foot deep piece of ground. I sped up the progress by spreading self rooted stem cuttings further afield.

The Creeping Raspberry, Rubus calycinoides, (Rubus hayata-koidzumii) had a very good growth spurt this year after being relocated from where it had originally been planted. This evergreen to semi-evergreen groundcover is one slope down from the cotoneaster, divided by the path that will be getting the new dry stack stone wall.

It is my aim to have the everyellowgreen Yucca filamentosa growing in a carpet of the Creeping Raspberry. It is my aim to turn the slope below the cozy cabin into a modernist piece of art mainly for the winter months using plants as my paint colors.

Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' is another evergreen groundcover that has been started on the slope below the cabin. Texture will play an important part in the painting.

Evergreen groundcover shrubs are being put to use in my scheme too. Taxus cuspidata 'Monloo' is alleged to spread eight to ten feet wide. In a decade maybe. We shall see.

Winter interest isn't all about flat groundcovers. 3-D color in the winter garden is also welcome. A whole bunch of rescued variegated Cornus alba of an unknown cultivar, my best guess is 'Elegantissima', came home from work with me one day. They have settled in well in their first year.

The big 3-D of winter interest is going to take a while. My baby trees and shrubberies have yet to leap. At some point (when?) their size will form walls and rooms, blocking complete views from above. You will be forced to enter the garden if you want to see it all. That is my aim.

I really want a garden that will pull me in, pull me outside in the middle of winter. That's when a working gardener has the most extra time.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


There was either more snow than I thought or less melt than there should have been. We've had two sunny 45 degree days in a row. Granted, the sun is at it lowest ebb and barely makes it over the top of the mountain across the byway. The garden becoming is half a north facing slope. Snow lingers.

My next stone wall is calling me. It will be a short one on the lower half of the switchback path just like the one on the upper path out of the basement patio. I'm starting to have more time for these projects. The weather just hasn't been cooperating much. At the least I could start fetching rocks. It will take some extensive rock hunting for this wall.

Shortly after this picture was taken the wind started to howl. Something's coming. By dark it was spitting dough ball snow blobs mixed with rain and the temperature began to plummet. It's another quick slap of winter. Sunday there is a suggestion of a high of 65.

On again off again. I should be able to get my new wall built before winter is done. Must fetch rocks.

Monday, December 16, 2013

When It Was Over

And the sun came out.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's Bloom Day

Some where out there.

Is anything there, out there in the fresh frozen tall flower meadow?

Great swaths of the once Lush meadow are being pressed back into the earth.
Every rain, every snow, all that winter wind is pressing down.

But look what I found.
Hydrangea arborescens 'Winter Storm' in full bloom for December Bloom Day.

I looked further and didn't find much.
The weathers have so not been cooperating for a second coat of paint on the arbor.

It's a long road ahead until spring time.
But some where out there I know there are blooms for Bloom Day.

And when the cold night wind starts to sing a bloomless lullaby
It helps to think we're all sleeping underneath the same big blooming sky.

Meanwhile, I wait for the snow drops.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Lush Decomposition

With each new storm a little bit more of the Lush vanishes. Wear patterns that are paths become visible in the earth and baby evergreens hint at the mature garden to come.

It is in my best interest to be patient. This natural process that returns most of the Lush back to the earth from where it came saves me a lot of work. The dead sticks left standing will be chopped down closer to spring before the bulbs arrive.

The smallest and most recently planted baby evergreens, long hidden in the Lush, are coming back into view. These tiny Emerald Green Arbovitae, Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd' will one day be fifteen feet tall and four feet wide. They are planted close together, but further apart than they look in the picture.

A small Mugo Pine has reappeared.

It's not just the evergreens that are more visible. There are countless deciduous woody shrubs hiding out there in the garden becoming and many of them are still not much more than twigs. In an ocean of dead brown sticks they are much more susceptible to an accidental decapitation in the chop down. The more of the Lush I let decompose, the easier they are to find.

The garden's bones are growing. I get to see them clearly in the barren time.