I sit here with the soil stains still on the sleeves of my work sweat shirt.
There is still a bit of clay still staining my hands, and I feel the cold
trying to grab these fingers, but I wanted to just ramble a bit about
Today was a cold-assed, foggy, January day back in Fairy Holler. It's
weather like today that makes me appreciate where I live. When it's this
foggy, I have to realize that it's probably clouds that are hanging low and
skirting across the tops of the hillsides and foothills of the Appalachians
and Smokies where I live. This truely is a ridge with a holler, and today's
wet and rainy weather was replaced by thick fog. But like I said, I knew
these were gray clouds clinging to the trees and shrubbery moistening
everything with wet. . You could feel the humidity and taste it.
The birds were all subdued, and out of the corner of my ear, I could hear
the tentative creeeeking of a foolish peeper. One of the ridge top's
residents, a sleepy, and cold tree frog. The small water frogs are still
under slabs of rock and edges of things until true springtime. They're not
so foolish to waken as early on a false spring like January day like today.
I had all my tools in the various pockets of my carpenter jeans I always
wear in fall and winter. Pruners in case I want to whack at something, and
my Maple Appalachian Ball weeder, which I quickly realize is all I'll need.
I should have left the pruners in the drawer inside. (no sitting in the
garden trug on the potting table for THESE). The excessive moisture we've
had recently has softened up the soils considerably, and I am still
determined to rip out every piece of vinca major. Maybe not all TODAY, but
as much as I could before running outa steam. It was mid-afternoon, after
all and I only had so much light left.
The grayness thickened to literal swirling of fogs so thick that I knew
immediately that it WAS clouds that were skimming past the south side of the
ridge I live on in their trek eastwards towards the southeastern edge of the
Smokies and into North Carolina. The birds hushed down a bit more, and only
the scoldings of the smaller birds was audible. The absolute still was
softened and I was able to listen to every little sound. (it doesn't help
when two desperately adoring dawgs are voicing their objections that I'm
outside without them....but I wanted them inside this time) The dogs
eventually went to aggrivate Squire in the dragon cave where he was doing
things on his computer.
Once the dogs left, the skittish birds started venturing back and taking
notice of my maneuvers. But I soon forgot their inquiries as I was caught up
in the sheer removal of individual growing clumps of vinca. This sounds all
relatively simple. Let me tell you......it's not.
I was starting to trace long tendrils back to the central clumps, where
there can be as many as 9, and as few as five shoots or buds at the central
portion of a joined vine. You have to look closely at how the plant grows
and the strategy is to wrap all the vines around each other to form a green
rope of sorts and gently tug and work the whole piece out of the softened
soil. The roots don't seem deep, but they spread outwards like a hand,
gripping the soil, and they go at least a couple of inches deep. The easier
ones that just rooted are simple. The older ones are harder. You have to
bury your fingers around the central portion. And even then, you'll feel
the give of too soon as a root hangs on while the rest lets go.
You get caught up in tracing another vine to yet another clump of buds and
sinewy green stuff that WILL throw you off your feet. I got a square foot
cleared. Then I got angry and distracted, when I decided I needed to at
least get up the piles I'd made of the ripped out vine so far, and put them
in my garden cart so they'd not ROOT while waiting for me to pick the stuff
up. It's sneaky. I'd not put it past it....
My trip over to the side yard where the garden cart is resting, was full of
wonderful rainwater. I can't waste that. The plants inside would LOVE that!
Ok, so what do I do......those three cat litter buckets I used to haul
manure back to the cart when I cow pie pick are sitting behind the remaining
forsythia (the grand daughter of the ancient ones my neighbor has cut down
to the ground). Scoop the water into each bucket, and there's still five
gallons left. I soak the area with the remaining, and see the advancing
carpet of vinca I foolishly planted underneath the Zebra grass and hold
myself back and not stoop and tug...later. Later.
Put the water over by the BBQ fountain and gardens to be used later for the
indoor plants. Then back to get the cart and load up the bed of the cart
with pulled vinca. But first, let me just rid the few remaining strands and
clumps from the fig bed. I had successfully removed all of it from out of
and around the edges, or so I thought. It's sneaky, like I was saying. I
enough to deter me from just taking the cart to where I had originally
started. I began tracing long vines that were trying to root behind my
back, and pulled them carefully thru the leaves and fallen debris. Then
traced the whole thing back to the central clump, and tugged gently and the
whole plant came up. Toss into the cart, and look for more dark, evergreen
lush leaves. I love and hate it so.............
When the eye is so in need of green, there it is, but it will not reside
quietly if you intend to move thru the area where it grows. This is best
planted in a spot where you have no intentions of walking through unless
stepped carefully. A place you would plant ferns and little woodland
flowers. And yes, it has it's endearments, but let it tackle you just once
and you'll finally get tired of it's evil beauty, too.
My back started noticing that it wasn't just merely foggy now, and since it
really wasn't fog but clouds,then those clouds decided to do what they
normally do, rain a bit. Nothing downpouring, but just started up. A nice
dampening rain that allowed the fog to penetrate the clothing that had by
now cooled off. I kept pulling. I noticed my hair which gets all frowzy
wasn't flying up in my eyes. The long braid that usually hits me in the
face, slapped me once, and that was a cold,wet slap, and when I flug it back
over my shoulder, it stayed. I had forgotten my hat...... I kept going.
I pulled out all the vinca I saw in the fig bed, again......and along the
sides of the timbers that raise the bed almost a foot, and worked back
towards the Lady Jane magnolia, Leneii magnolia, Autumn jazz viburnum, Wine
and Roses weigelia and the surviving clump of assorted lilacs. It had me
stumped. Literally as I pulled a tendril and followed it to it's source of
rooting and discovered a particularly tenacious piece had rooted in between
stems of the ancient Forsythia and there would be no total removal. I'd
have to remember it was there and snip it back until it gave up. I moved
on. I had to, or get lost working around the fig bed. That would cause me
to follow the growth around to the end of the bed which I used to call the
wisteria portion (until the wisteria gave up on me after 35 years, which I
missed all but it's last two years). Getting into that tangle would take
longer than I had with the waining light.
I finally figured that I'd better drag the cart to the spot where the huge
pile was, or I'd be pulling into the night. A quick yank at a few beside
the driveway with questions running through my head like 'where the heck am
I gonna put all this stuff??' and I pulled the cart out of the first
"doorway" into the side yard-garden between the forsythia and trumpet vine
and aimed towards the western end of the front bed.
There's nothing more motivating than to come across pictures of what it all
looked like before I went nuts and planted every spot. The other night I
was poking thru some photo books that I'd put the last 35mm film prints into
sleeves. I have no life. It's pictures of flowers, cats, a few of beloved
friends and stray family that wanders up here, but mostly flowers and cats
and my sweet Rose.
Some clear spots aren't a bad thing, they just shouldn't be writhing with
vinca major! Once the cart was parked in the driveway, I realized I'd need
to find the rake. I keep things close by and in little pockets all along
the dogrun and side porch, and on my way to retrieve it, I was distracted by
the obvious need to put the pile of vinca I'd pulled out of the backside of
the western end of that same bed a couple of weeks ago. It was still alive
and green............a couple of weeks it had been lying there (well maybe
not THAT long) and it was still green. Slightly wilted, freezing a time or
two, on top of cold concrete, and it wasn't dead yet. Holy
cow................I was humbled. I kept going <g>
So I used the rake as a metal hand and scooped the pile up and carried it
over to the cart. Back and get the rest of it, see the experiment of
sticking the largest clumps inside a pot was working. No soil, just plants
shoved into a black nursery pot and they're still living. Amazing. After
seeing the tangle of pulled plants over a bit from the mad gardener
experiement, this paled in comparisson. Of course they'd still be alive.
Something didn't seem right, so I put the rake near the swing and went and
got the broom and swept up all the leaves and soils that have gathered at
the back edges of the raised beds on the concrete. A quick passover of the
broom east to west got me a pile of assorted leaves that were starting to
break down, to go to the compost pile. Change the stumps the cats use to
get in and out of the cat window. Move the neat one with the jutting healed
rim that looks like a stumpy arm that I can plant something into this spring
finally because the center has deepened a bit more where the core has
These were the same stumps I spotted on a dirt road that leads into the edge
of a lake inlet near my house. There is a time when the water table has
been dropped all winter, just before they really let the water loose, and
the clay has hardened enough to drive a vehicle in there. The locals take
advantage of those neat rocks jutting sideways from ancient earth kiniption
fits, and park and go fish in the pockets of water and at the edges for
catfish and bluegill and maybe crappie.
I spotted some cut logs of a tree that had fallen over the pathway that is
the usual taken path to the water when it's down, and someone had kindly
come upon the tree, cut it up, put the stumps and chunks along the side in
the underbrush and gone on. I had son with me. He's 6 foot 4. He should
know by now that usuable things to put into my garden area are subject to
his help in hoisting them. He doesn't love this, but I figure it will give
him a story later on about his mama and her whacky ways and things she useta
I did this when I had my truck. The chunks were large enough to sit on,
they had been cut to where they sat firmly. One piece of the tree had a
natural boel that had been a jutting limb. It had been cut off, but had
healed perfectly with a little piece of limb left, a collar of bark and a
slight depression when it drew in and healed over time. The piece had
character. I also saw a possibility to plant something in the depression I
was just still searching for the plant that could take a little bit of
dryness. I suspect the tree was a small oak. To say they were heavy is
obvious by the description. That they are STILL heavy is amazing. Each one
weighs about 35 pounds or more and the pieces are almost three foot high and
two foot wide. I had to walk them over to clean around them.
After my back reminded me I was 53 now, I made a note that garden hose lying
on the sidewalk have a tendency to be gathering places for leaves to compost
down into soil and hang caught along the length of them.
Lifted the hose and swept all the debris from underneath and there is quite
an impressive pile to transfer later on with a shovel. Grab the rake and
rake from south to north, which is to say, I was raking front to back. That
allowed me to see if any hidden pieces of vinca were underneath debris.
There were a
few. There was also dark green tongues shoved out of the dark soil from
clumps of bulbs that were wakening. And in other places where I moved the
debris, yellowish white shoots of just newly emerged stuff. Careful not to
crush anything, I just reached and pulled any sight of dark green and vine
and moved on. And kept going.
The rain had spit enough that I was deffinately wet, but then it stopped and
the twitterings of birds became more evident and I now distinctively heard
the creeeeeking of a peeper. He seemed to be asking "is it spring yet??" I
grumbled with the ache that was trying to slow me that was touching me in my
rusty hinge of a back. I kept on.
Having made two small, neat piles at the back edge of the western bed, I
walked back up the sidewalk with the rake and reached thru and dragged them
forwards where the cart was a few feet near a planter jar full of phlox,
little bulbs and succulents of sorts whose feet were tangled up in vinca. I
ignored the tangle and focased on the pile before me. It was like pulling a
reluctant mule thru the underbrush. I'll pay for this one tomorrow, just
The pile was fluffing out. And the light was starting to remind me it was
late afternoon. And yes, I was feeling the cold. So I started getting angry
at the pile of twine. I'd pull and heave, and yank. Then I'd work back to
the back of it, and rip out, literally tens of stems out of the wet clay
soil. Toss them southwards and rip out more and then tug with the rake. I
just wanted to get the initial clump out so I could see where it all was.
It really was pissing me off. Why I couldn't tell you, but I guess the sheer
amount that I was removing and how much was still THERE.
I lost track of time. I was absolutely focased on just getting two huge
wads of vinca into the cart. I'd get serious about inch by inching on my
knees again when I could kneel on the bean kneeler when it wasn't so rainy
and foggy. If it's not cold, I'll hit it again tomorrow. But for now, I
was at least making some progress. As I ripped it loose, I tiredly hefted
it up into the cart's stomach and went back for the second pile. This was
hilarious, and more time consuming, but I finally wrestled it loose and
rolled it towards the
cart with the rake and picked it up as well and piled it into the cart with
the rest. Now the cart was piled up two foot over the top, and I decided to
stop and get a picture of my accomplishments and failures (well, it was
evident that there was still MORE vinca on the ground below, I needed to at
least expose the rest.)
My fingers were aching now, but I got the camera into view and got some neat
pictures of the mass. I swear as I watched it, it seemed to rise, and as I
look at the pictures in my jpg folder, the pile is about three foot above
Put the camera into my pocket, and pull out some more clumps that seem
growing from the ground to the cart. That's scary. But I just know it's
looong tendril vines that are unbelievably long. I've measured some as I
pulled them carefully thru the leaves and not been too surprised that some
vines were no less than 12-16 foot in length with slightly rooted pieces all
along the long tendril.
Makes me wish I had a place to just let it run. he he he, that's actually
what I DO have. My neighbor across the driveway. His mama's patch she got
her start from me that is thriving on dog poop and pine needles and other
humus rich tree droppings. Not to mention all the cat lumps. So this is
wonderfully happy vinca major. He tells me he likes the blue flowers. Well
there you go. I can pull ALL mine up and enjoy the encroaching wave of it
coming over on my side of the ridge from his yard. I can keep it at bay at
the property line.
Wash my hands in the puddle in the driveway and look at all the little leaf
shoots on everything. St. John's Wort bush is exfoliating. It's now about
10 years old and I love it. The shape is quite nice naturally. I've only
had to do some dead pruning on it, the flowers are awesome, and the new
leaves are the cutest things. Right now they resemble little pine needles
clipped short and inserted along the stems.
The transplanted hellebore is still ticked off at me. The stems and leaves
are drooping and I don't see sign of new leaf coming up from the center. I
was so careful too! The discovery of the loss of my variegated redtwig
dogwoods was hard for me, but I know I can find a couple to replace them.
Right now I want to see how the Indigo is going to do thru a mild winter and
the shape it's going to attain.
A nice surprise is a Loripedilum I found at Home Depot that had an amazing
shape. Almost Japanese maple-like. Arching. And the dark burgundy leaves
hold. I've only had to drive a short stake into the soil and gently tie it
to help it right itself at the edge of the bed near the tree line of the
black cherry. I hope it can compete with the cherry successfully. I have
planted the other stressed Loripedilum at the opposite corner of the black
cherry bed to balance the points, and take the time to firm the rootball
into the humus rich spot I plugged the little shrub.
I'm like a child in a toy store who goes so many times, they know where all
the good toys are to look at and admire and think about. These are my fairy
gardens. I have created a little perch of retaining blocks encircling a
Lady Jane magnolia that is loaded with little silvery fuzzy buds, just
itching to bulk up and plump out and wow me with their pink petticoats. I
have forgotten what the fairies enticed me to plant into the soft, rich soil
that is poured and heaped and piled to almost three foot around the rootball
of the magnolia. I just sat down with the bag and reached into it and
pulled out bulbs and clustered them together in little pockets. I'm sure
there was some subtle whisperings going on in my ear as my hand was guided
by little fingers to pick this bulb, get that one. I will find out this
And get back to you on it. I wander up the steep paved driveway, and have
to stop and gaze at the blue green clumps of Corydalis. The common yellow
one, I still adore it and it's brazen ability to produce good strong
children. Who like a variety of enviroments, it seems. One clump is quite
happy in dappled eastern light, but full southern if the car is gone, and
indirect western with bricks radiating heat in the summer. The tall phlox
overhead is part of the protection. The white butterfly bush is another. And
it likes that spot, apparently as the clump is still there this year.
I see I have enough seedlings I can share one and move another so I can
increase my community. Where these originally came from was deep shade with
humus rich soils and a little old lady who tended them with her fairies.
Mary Emma had started them from seed, shared them with her friend, Dean, and
Dean's plants had spread into a community that took frequent thinning and it
was still full! I was hesitant when Mary Emma announced we were going
across the street to Dean's yard to get some Corydalis. But she filled me in
on the original history and I did all the dirty work. The offspring of those
original four are now acclimating here where it's a bit different from where
they originally came.
There are buds on everything. The Sorbaria is tipped all over. Glory Bower
is the last to bud so I won't know until the last. I already see little
tight palms of Anemone, and as I pulled vinca, I think I solved the mystery
of how my Blue Enigma returns every year. I will search out more when I can
get into the garden at eye level and investigate. Today I had a blast. I
unearthed old friends. Those great, black and brown and white with speckles
bug that has lots of legs, a hard body and I'm sure it's attracted to
rotting wood, as it's where I unearth it most times. It seems harmless and
never tries to sting me. So I always let it live. I thought about the
flying squirrel in the locust tree and made a note to check the hole for an
eye peering back at me. . I hope I didn't scare it away deeper into my
The light was slipping away quickly, and I was feeling the chill, so I made
sure the cart was far enough into my front sliver of a yard so Jerry
wouldn't run into it with his old truck. Saw more glowing, dark green
leaves laughing up at me against the black looking wet soil. I'm not
through with you yet.............
Inside, Maggie was waiting for me. The last leg of my clean up had her
curious enough to watch from a careful perch on the timbers along the
backside of the flowerbed, but not out there in the wet perennial remains.
She just sat like a little queen and watched me and queried me as to what on
earth was possessing me to be out in the damp and cold. When I went down
the driveway, she gave up on me and went back inside where she waited for
As soon as I was in, and washing my hands under the strong bathroom faucet,
she came in briefly and trilled something but skittered away before I could
respond. Turn on the space heater to warm my wet feet, and sit to write.
This would have gone quicker had Maggie not careened down the hallway,
climbed up the sides and back to the top of my padded office chair, and then
walked down my shoulder, to plop down on my chest and turn and give me a
kiss. She searched my face for quite a bit, and hooked a leaf out of my
hair and played with it for a brief moment and we had a magic moment that
people sometimes have with a young cat.
She then got bored with me and moved to her usual place in front of the
monitor to block the screen while she preens herself and then lies across
the catalogs or bills to snooze until I either get up to get more tea or
something, and then she awakens, glares at me and depending on how fast I
move and return, she'll follow me and chastise me for daring to leave her
presence. I fill up the wire feeder outside the kitchen deck, and come back
inside and grab a drink, and go back to Maggie and a warmer nook and
computer to sit down to and share with you.
So there you have it. A good day today. Quite a bit done physically.
Tomorrow I will see the cart piled up and that will make the ache in my back
less noticable. Then I'll find a spot and dump the whole thing safely so it
won't root where it falls, and start again. And there will be more fairy
spottings and occurances of which I am sure.
thank you for allowing me to share a day. My gardens are my solice as well
as my pains <g>
"Perhaps no word of six letters concentrates so much human satisfaction as
the word 'garden' " (Richard LeGallienne,1914).
madgardener, up on the ridge, tired as hell but happy, back in Fairy Holler,
overlooking a sleepy English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee