Saturday, December 31, 2016

DECEMBER AND A CLOSE TO THE OLD YEAR










"I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.


'We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,'
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December."
-   Oliver Herford


I'm always cheered when I hear and see my favorite bluebird in December, eating the suet of berries and nuts I put out for them.  Soon they will be filling the many nesting boxes I have put up  in my little forest.  Of course there are many other visitors to the feeder -a rather large woodpecker, mourning doves, cardinals , chickadees and wrens.

We have been lucky this December -no extreme cold , snow or ice storms.  Some days were pleasant and mild -often in the 60's and low '70's.   I am experimenting with a Fall/Winter veggie garden and have covered it several times when it got down below freezing.



Cabbages, kale, broccoli flowers, spinach, and parsley growing nicely in raised beds, well mulched and with a layer of peat moss to keep the soil warm.  I have harvested some rainbow chard and broccoli flowers.

When I'm not able to garden on cold days I use the time to paint.


This one is called " Dogwood. "  I am going to create as many paintings as I can this winter for an exhibition I will have in May or June next year.

December is always a time of reflection as the days fade out and a new year arrives.  This year has brought both good and bad news but I am ever hopeful that next year will be better.

Happy New Year to everyone and wishes for a prosperous and healthy one.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A NOVEMBER TO REMEMBER



November

Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
One mellow smile through the soft vapory air,
Ere, o’er the frozen earth, the loud winds run,
Or snows are sifted o’er the meadows bare.
One smile on the brown hills and naked trees,
And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast,
And the blue gentian flower, that, in the breeze,
Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee
Shall murmur by the hedge that skirts the way,
The cricket chirp upon the russet lea,
And man delight to linger in thy ray.
Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.
We had a most unusually warm November which made me very happy and allowed me to escape the malaise of the presidential election that has gripped our country.  Now that the election is over I look to the supreme leader of us all - our Lord and Savior who will rule over not only our nation but the world.
Another thing to be grateful and happy for was the first visit of my son Jason .  I'm not bragging but I think he's about the youngest 44 year old you'll ever see !  He loved our home and garden.  
          Jason and Cecile enjoying Momma's special Southern Fried Chicken and all the trimmings.
Meanwhile I turned my attention to the Fall/winter garden that I planted last month.  The cabbage, broccoli-kale , parsley, and strawberries are doing well.  We have had 3 hard freezes that they've survived but I'm preparing for really cold snaps.  I've added a layer of shredded leaves topped with compost and will install a hoop greenhouse later on.

The roadside garden looked really good this season and I've added more bee and butterfly friendly plants.
        Late blooming 'radon's favorite ' blue asters, mums, goldenrod and ornamental grasses.
This last day of November saw temperatures in the mid-70's !  Although we've had a little sprinkling of rain the last few days we need a good steady overnight downpour and we may get it !  


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

I NO LONGER DREAD NOVEMBER



"If it is true that one of the greatest pleasures of gardening lies in looking forward, then the planning of next year's beds and borders must be one of the most agreeable occupations in the gardener's calendar.  This should make October and November particularly pleasant months, for then we may begin to clear our borders, to cut down those sodden and untidy stalks, to dig up and increase our plants, and to move them to other positions where they will show up to greater effect.  People who are not gardeners always say that the bare beds of winter are uninteresting; gardeners know better, and take even a certain pleasure in the neatness of the newly dug, bare, brown earth."-   Vita Sackville-West 


I used to dread November in my Chicago home and garden because it meant the ending of the gardening season.  But here in the sunny South November can be and often is a delightful sunny season with many plants still blooming .   Aster, Mums, Lantana, coreopsis, zinnias, marigolds, sweet william, goldenrod, and sages, to name a few, still show their colorful faces.



The days grow shorter and cooler and there is more time to relax and enjoy the wonderful month of November.  



I have added a hundred daffodils to the beds so I can enjoy their colorful cheerful faces in April.  


The Lantana still blooms and attracts the last of the swallowtails.  November in North Carolina is now delightful and slowly ushers in the end of the growing season.

Monday, October 3, 2016

FALL IN LOVE WITH OCTOBER







"Across the land a faint blue veil of mist
Seems hung; the woods wear yet arrayment sober
Till frost shall make them flame; silent and whist
The drooping cherry orchards of October
Like mournful pennons hang their shriveling leaves
Russet and orange: all things now decay;
Long since ye garnered in your autumn sheaves,
And sad the robins pipe at set of day."

-  Siegfried Sassons, October 



Farewell to a hot, dry September and hello to the cool, wet month of October.   The last week of September it rained every single day and the ground is saturated.  The mornings are now cool , in the 60's , as are the evenings and perfect for working in the garden.



The profusion zinnias and lavender are still looking good despite the extreme heat and drought we had in August and September.


The last roses of summer are slowly fading after blooming almost non-stop since summer.

In the roadside wildflower garden I am planning to add more purples, reds and blues to the many yellow and orange perennials I have currently.  



I have started buying Spring bulbs -purple allium, red and yellow tulips and daffodils to plant later this month or the beginning of November, depending how cold it gets.

Next to Spring and Summer, October is my favorite month for planning and planting.   The long, hot summer is but a distant memory now as the cool days and nights call us out into the garden.

SEPTEMBER PROMISE



                                                   THE PROMISE OF SEPTEMBER


"The golden-rod is yellow; 

The corn is turning brown;

The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

 By all these lovely tokens 
 September days are here,
 With summer's best of weather,
 And autumn's best of cheer.

 But none of all this beauty
 Which floods the earth and air
 Is unto me the secret
 Which makes September fair.

T'is a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget." 
-  Helen Hunt Jackson, September   

Farewell to the hot, dry days of August and welcome to the promises of September - hints of autumn and cooler weather and hopefully, more rain to relieve the parched garden.


The woodland garden is partly shaded and has thrived despite the heat and lack of water.  I have a thick layer of leafmold and pine needles on the bed and I've tried to plant drought tolerant, bee and butterfly favorites such as Lantana, zinnia, crape myrtle, coneflowers, hyssop and coreopsis, to name a few.  


My engineer hubby built this great picket fence to enclose my soon-to-be veggie garden.  I am going to paint it a chestnut color  ( yellowish-brown ) .  This is a large space and I will need to haul in some fresh topsoil mixed with manure and compost to fill 6 raised beds I'm creating with logs from trees that we had removed.  Since the bed is on a slope I had to find a way to slow down the water during our heavy rainfalls and I think the logs will help a lot.   I may try straw bales in some of the beds and surround the inside of the logs in others with concrete block .

I'm also planning to get a chicken coop and run and maybe two chickens to start with.   My 7 year old grand will be so excited !  I can only imagine how my year old Aussie will react.

Sometimes I think all the work I've done in three years in this new garden is to no avail but then I realize how many obstacles I've had to overcome to create it - rocky clay soil, weeds, deer, rabbits, heavy shade, water run-off, heat and drought , and yes, too much rain at times.

But, one thing's for sure-gardening teaches patience.  This summer I had fresh white peaches, nectarines and blueberries from my young orchard, fruit of my labor.

Hoping that September will deliver on its promises of good weather and abundant rain.





Monday, August 1, 2016

AUGUST MOON


"August rushes by like desert rainfall,
A flood of frenzied upheaval,
Expected,
But still catching me unprepared.
Like a matchflame
Bursting on the scene,
Heat and haze of crimson sunsets.
Like a dream
Of moon and dark barely recalled,
A moment,
Shadows caught in a blink.
Like a quick kiss;
One wishes for more
But it suddenly turns to leave,
Dragging summer away."
-  Elizabeth Maua Taylor 




August is usually a slow month in the garden due to the sultry heat.  Maintaining and caring for the garden are the main things for me this time of year.  

We had abundant rain up until last month and now we are in need of it . Keeping newly planted flowers and shrubs watered is a must.

Each morning I walk about the garden looking for signs of pests - Japanese beetles, deer , rabbits and raccoons.  After consistently picking off the Japanese beetles off the Crape Myrtles for several weeks  I find they are finally gone.  Maybe now they will bloom.

I also carry my shears with me to give a haircut to all the overgrown plants and deadhead the flowers. Filling the birdbaths and feeders on a regular basis is another task, and of course, the never-ending pulling of weeds.

On days too hot to work outside I spend in the studio painting landscapes and gardens.  



Blue Garden by yours truly

I have joined two local garden clubs and enjoy participating in their activities.  In one we visit other members gardens and listen to them talk about them.

Last night, the last of July, ended with a show of thunder and lightning.  Suddenly my prayer for rain was answered in a big way - 3 inches of rain on the thirsty garden.



Friday, July 1, 2016

A COLD DAY IN JULY





"We go in withering July

To ply the hard incessant hoe;
Panting beneath the brazen sky
We sweat and grumble, but we go."
-  Ruth Pitter, The Diehards


Farewell June, filled with above normal temperatures followed by a lot of rain.  Wonder if we'll have that "cold day in July " as the country song goes. 

 In between the hot weather and rain I managed to plant a few new perennials and shrubs and divide and transplant the overgrown ones.


Divided the Japanese roof iris and planted them at the edge of the woodland garden.


The astilibe and zinnias add much needed color and texture to the woodland garden.

With all the rain the weeds grew like wildfire and the Japanese beetles invaded and chowed down on the crape myrtles and cannas.  Every morning I am out in the garden by 7 to do all these chores before it gots too hot and humid to work.  

My favorite part of July is the tomatoes.  There's nothing better than a homegrown tomato and next to that a fried green tomato samich.

Saw two baby fawns in the front garden this morning, apparently twins , which means the pickings around here are good.   Got out my gong and scared them away.   It will indeed be a cold day in July before I let them eat my garden.




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