Monthly Archives: October 2012

As Good An Explanation As Any

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There is another kind of hunter, who never carries a weapon, who always sees the wildlife around him. He goes forth to discover and admire, not to kill. And since all living things, even plants, like to be loved and told how wonderful they are, they are not reluctant about showing themselves when this person comes along.

— Alexander Key

Heh. Just tripped over this quote and liked it. Call me sentimental, but frankly, when people ask me how I manage to see so many things in the garden, this is as good an explanation as any.

(Mind you, I would also accept “entertainment value” as an explanation, since lord knows, it’s not stealth or skill that’s doing it. For all I know, the caterpillars are having a good snicker behind my back… )


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“Is Glorious—um—a usual sort of name for wolves?” asked Summer timidly.

“Yes,” said the wolf. “My sister is Strong and my brother is Splendid. We call ourselves what we are, or wish to be, or could be again.”


Fall is in full swing, and damn, it’s glorious.

This was Thursday:

NC Botanical Garden

Today it’s overcast, by contrast, and fairly breezy.

View over the back gate

You get that occasional wash of cool air, and then all the yellow leaves from the pin-oak and the hickories come drifting down around you. The wild grape has gone bright yellow and the paw-paw has shed all its leaves already. The sweet-gum is making up for being an obnoxious shedder of caltrops the rest of the year, and one of the other oaks is going burgundy. The ground is the color of a red fox. (One of which I saw trotting by the other day, and of course you can’t move for deer. Haven’t seen the wild turkeys yet this fall, but they’re probably out there somewhere.)

Days like this are just ridiculously glorious. “Crisp” was invented to describe this sort of weather. It’s nature’s equivalent of newly washed sheets. The air feels clean and–I don’t know, friendly, even to a gardener, who knows perfectly well that Nature is a mother.

We opened up all the windows until it got too cold. There is local cider in the fridge. I harvested the last onions for dinner tonight and the scarlet runner beans are drying on top of the toaster oven. (Not a big crop. You’re supposed to harvest them all year and eat them like string beans, but since I didn’t keep up with it, it’s just a couple of cups of dried beans now. But I’ve got enough to plant next year, and maybe we’ll get a nice side-dish out of it, at least.)

Tomorrow I’ll take down what’s left of the basil and make basil oil. Since there’s a very small crop this year—the nasturtiums got very out of control—I may try a lemon verbena oil and an oregano oil, since I’ve got plenty of that too.

My thanks to everybody’s who’s expressed concern about Hurricane Sandy—I appreciate it, but worry about the people farther north! The storm is currently tracking to miss us completely. (The Outer Banks may get whomped, mind you…) We’re slated for maybe a quarter-inch of rain and some gusty winds here, but odds are good it won’t even keep me from having coffee on the front steps in the morning.

I have two truckloads of cow manure to be delivered Monday or Tuesday, and then life will be glorious indeed.

Fair Garden

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The gardening show at the Fair was not quite so exciting as the other bits—and contained less deer-butt art—but there were some neat bits. I was very pleased to see a Native Plant Society garden there. (This time of year, everything’s a bit ragged locally.) There were some very…peculiar…little show gardens, about which the less said the better. (Best Use Of Replica Saber-Toothed Tiger Skull oughta be an award, though.) There were some spectacular bonsai trees, including a dogwood that rightfully won every award possible.

And then there was the Great Lawn Flamingo Migration.

Migration…or hunting pack?

I loved this way more than was probably healthy. If I had a huge watery area full of sedges…well. We know what I’d put in it.

Bloody Great Asters

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Well, we had a hard rain and knocked the giant willowleaf asters flat. I don’t know why anybody wants a six-foot-tall aster anyway, except that I apparently do. Show me a native plant that gets eight feet tall and I will hand you my wallet, grab the pot, and run giggling down the street.

It’s a bit of a problem, I grant you.

This one was grown up against the back of the garage, a big blank white wall that should have been a perfect canvas for the aster, except that the aster decided to hell with it. Very tall plant stakes, it turns out, can be torn out of the ground by a sufficiently determined aster.

The flowers are lovely. The bees like them.

Great tall wands, covered in nickel sized flowers. You could say “forms an attractive vase shape” if you were the sort of garden writer that delights in deceiving your fellow man while still somehow telling the exact truth.

And the rain forms such marvelous little glass beads all over the flowers. You’d have one of those epiphanies about the glory of nature if you weren’t trying to drag the stems off the fig tree and the giant salvia that was behaving quite well and standing up just like it should until a bloody great aster fell on it.

At times like this, I must remind myself that I live in a very beautiful place. Despite my—and the aster’s—best efforts.

(View over the back fence. Looking away from the aster.)

Grey Days and Scarlet Sage

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It’s a grey day in the garden, and it’s beautiful.

Why this particular grey day is beautiful, and the last handful just made me want to sleep for a week, I will leave for the reader—either you know the difference in greys or you don’t, and there’s not much point in explaining it. Possibly it has to do with the thunderstorm that is wandering around, scraping ions together. I don’t know, I just work here.

I got up and drank coffee and had some oatmeal and went outside and said “Crap, it’s cold!” and decided that I absolutely positively had to get the last two Aristolochia vines in the ground today, since those are A) not cheap and B) not common, even though once you get one firmly established it’s approximately as delicate as a cinderblock.  (Also known as Hairy Dutchman’s Pipe. Larval host for Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly. We hatched one solitary butterfly out on my one vine this summer, and I am bound and determined, if the swallowtails are here, to give them as many meals as I can manage. Also I’m hoping it’ll cover the fence.)

What with one thing and another, though, I spent upwards of an hour puttering around, planted a Japanese roof iris (not native, obviously, but a glorious foliage plant and apparently made of iron.) planted a discount pansy that had been sitting around for awhile, and finally potted up a Mammilaria cactus. (Yes. Exactly why you think.) The cactus has been sitting there being ignored in its plastic pot for five months, healthy as a horse, and now that I have finally put it in dirt, I expect it to die instantly and with extreme prejudice.

I also divided the southern stonecrop. There are a few—very few—sedums native to my neck of the woods, and I have all three. So far the Sedum nevii has done fairly well (although looking at photos, I am becoming less and less certain that what I have is actually S. nevii and not something mislabeled.) S. ternatum, woodland stonecrop, is quite marvelous in the shade, and the jury is still out on my newly acquired S. glaucophyllum, which has only been in the ground for a month.

I also yanked up some of the Salvia coccinea. Oof. That’s…quite a plant. Native from Texas to South Carolina, which is good enough for my occasionally somewhat lackadaisical form of native gardening (particularly given our recent zone shift, it’d be creeping this way anyhow.) Also known as “blood sage.” It’s supposed to be an annual. Perhaps it will be. There’s a good chance it could be a tender perennial as well. Either way, I expect that I will never be without it again, because it re-seeds like nothing I have ever seen in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a gorgeous plant, it grows fast, it has blazing scarlet trumpets of a clear, pure, shocking red, and I am perfectly happy to have it on my painfully dry hillside. It was undoubtedly found in the Piedmont Prairie back in the day (at least that stretch of it south of here) so it’s welcome in mine. But holy crap, it’s EVERYWHERE. One plant, and I have probably fifty babies seeded all over the hillside, and I have a grim premonition that those little tiny green leaflets spread across the path there are not going to turn out to be chickweed.

It’s one of those plants where if you chop off a flower stalk and leave it on the ground, you’ll come back and find a line of seedlings started up where it touched the ground. (Agastache foeniculum will do this, too.)  I’m hoping a fair number of the seeds will fail to overwinter, because otherwise I’m going to have the All Blood Sage, All The Time garden.

That’s not as bad as it could be, honestly. While it’s sometimes called “hummingbird sage,” the hummingbirds are fairly neutral on it. The sulphur butterflies think this stuff is the Best Thing Ever, though, as do those native bees who can manage trumpets and lots of tiny little flitty butterflies that I can’t get close enough to identify.

What I will probably end up doing, if they do overwinter, is tear the stuff up now and again and lug it out to the field out front, where nothing much is going on and I have not bothered to do much in the way of planting. I expect the blood sage would probably manage to sink roots in there. I’ll throw some of the A. foeniculum too, and see if it doesn’t take as well, since lord knows, I’ve got plenty of that, too.