I've been away for quite awhile, but after so much strange weather, rains, cooler than normal temperatures, chaotic gardening attempts, and general normal behaviors in my Fairy Gardens, I decided I needed to touch base and write to my friends here in the NG.
This summer for us here in Eastern Tennessee was cooler than normal. All the rains we received were welcome, but the abnormally low temps in August were unsettling. My fairies and their flowers however loved the cooler temperatures and excessive moistures.
There wasn't but one day of 90 degree temperatures the whole month. Before I knew it, August had slipped past and September was warmer it seemed than August. And while I was distracted by the erratic and contradictory schedules of work at Lowes, my gardens bloomed without me........
When my back was turned, the Mirabilis Fairy had a field day. Despite my yanking out great succulent knobby knees of magenta and yellow 4's throughout late spring and summer as I was able to, I still have a virtual forest of great, flopping, heavily flowering, incredibly fragrant plants EVERYWHERE. I yank and toss their limbs onto the dogrun to dry and then I'll sweep up the seeds and toss them into my woods this year. The stems I'll put in the compost pile or driveway like always.
Even in places I never had them before. It was scary to see them rising up everywhere I turned when I was able to tear myself away from my schedules and actually enjoy the flowers. In the compost pile, around every pot,(that's a LOT of pots!) in seven of nine flower beds........the Mirabilis Fairy had gone seed insane.
The Cleome Spinosa Fairy though, was sparse in sowing seeds. Despite that there was a twisted and strange clump of them huddled like spiny Triffids at the front of the far western end of the south bed last year numbering in the tens, this year I only got four plants, in two shades of pink. No purple ones returned. No white. But more than plenty to provide me next year with plants and pop up in pots if I relocate them elsewhere.
One morning was perfect for walking about my gardens and slope and take inventory of who was doing what, and see where the seasons were in reference to the time. No sign of my first bulb of Colchicum from Mary Emma. I fear it dissolved on me. But the other harbingers of my micro-climate's season were everywhere.
Goldenrod. Beautifully distorted branches of Soladago that had slipped past my eyes and not been staked to grow straighter. The soil of my raised beds is still too rich for alot of perennials and I have to stake them to encourage them to grow straighter. But their golden yellows are welcome, wherever they show up. I have them all over, seeded by the finches and fairies who gather their seeds in the pastures next to me and fling them to the winds to land and germinate wherever they find a perfect spot to live and thrive.
Under the Black Cherry tree, the shade bed has Toad Lilies and perennial Begonias with dangles of pink blossoms and funny triangular seed pods already turning tan colored on some. They flutter and dance in the winds, and if you see their leaves turned just so, the ruby red veins are better than stained glass.
The Toad lilies are a soft pink, nothing fancy, but hopefully next year the clump of Tojan will fill out. In a frustrated moment of garden madness, I remembered there were two busted bags of cheap topsoil in our garden center's recovery bags squashing down the vinca and newly sprouting 4's next to the well's spigot. I had had a brainstorm. So before I could get distracted and needing to FEEL soil on my hands, I stopped in mid-wonder of what was cranking out blossoms under the black cherry tree, and grabbed the two wheeled garden barrow.
While I was up there (the slope mercifully on the eastern side is more gradual than the western side of my ridge) hoisting up moisture laden bags that felt like 70 pounds into the barrow, I noticed the 4's and Vinca had almost grown up past the rims of the last pots of perennials I'd grabbed up for a quarter in the garden manager's moment of madness to get rid of SOME plants a few weeks earlier. (He has no garden sense at all, a man in a world of shrubs and flowers who would rather be back in the lumber department with his bud's). There was totally freaked out and wilted Lambs ears, parched and gasping quietly for water, so I stopped and watered them, and I could almost hear their parched roots sighing in relief "she remembered US!!" and in between four gallon pots, blooming still, the deep maroon Sweet William's we'd gotten in all of a sudden from Stacey's nursery and that I'd nabbed for 50c per pot. Three of them. Into the cart with you!
I felt a pang of guilt on buying these plants and sitting them where I thought I'd see them and plant them.........huge sigh...well at least I am doing this before I discover the plants all forlorn and neglected and crispy despite the rains, because these plants are the nursery plants that are overfed with growth fertilizers to bulk up for sale at these places. When you pop them out of their plastic girdles, you hear their roots gasp for air like swelling feet in too small shoes. The mass of roots makes your garden heart break. The first thing that comes to mind is "What's wrong with these nurseries????!???" I lose perfectly wonderful plants sometimes because there is no way to save these overgrown root monstrosities despite my every effort. They either don't know how to adjust to the room they needed to grow that much root, or by the time I tease the roots apart or cut thru them, they are too far gone and die of shock at having room finally.
The bags of cheap soil are heavy and almost impossible to lift up into the cart, but now my stubbornness has risen up in me and I hoist and dump in one motion, and as I do, I see the Lemon Queen Helianthus are finished under the fig tree and I wonder if they'll sow a plant somewhere. The same applies to the five foot tall "Mary Emma's" asters in pink and purple on the opposite side of them that lean and block your path when you try to cut thru to the side yard. I KNOW the asters will seed somewhere, but the fairy is sneaky and I won't know until I spot it. The aster joke of the year was finding a pink one behind the house in that weird grass near the heat pump's bog area where the tube leaks the moisture from the house when the air conditioner is on.
I'm distracted now, the intent on what I have in mind still clear, I want to see how the plants over here on the western side are faring. Diablo ninebark is happy and hitting a growth spurt. But the dry spell we had for a couple of weeks took it aback and I see signs of shrivel on the black leaves. Well no matter, it's fall and the plant needs to think about winter and nurturing those buds for next springtime.
My eyes and soul are rewarded for my spaciness, though. The lance leaf Heliopsis has finally set buds and is opening the brilliant flowers. Like perfect yellow daisies in bouquet clusters on the ends of the stems. My heart is uplifted. The colors even more wondrous in the fall light. I stop and groan out loud. This plant needed a support stake when it was small. There are four brittle stems, each loaded with a bouquet of daisies on each end lying in odd twists and attempts to reach the southern and western sky in the overgrown grasses. My failed attempts to carefully picking them up, reward me with the tender stems breaking and I promptly lay the whole stem back down. And run get my camera to record this display. Next year I will put a grid ring over them for stem support if it graces me with returning.
Back outside, I capture some awesome pictures of her, and have let Sugar out so she'll stop crying with her head stuck out the cat window begging to be with me. She runs off to see how much poison ivy she can go thru down in my woods while I search the upper branches of the fig tree for any remaining sweet figs to pop into my mouth. the birds have discovered this bounty, and there are "bite" marks out of a few, but there will once again be more figs that will get nipped by the first frost before they can plump up and ripen for me. I get one. One is adequate. I feel blessed to have found that one.
Over in the Colorado or western bed as I've begun calling it (mainly because all the plants from my visit in Colorado have disappeared on me in the years I dubbed it) I see something unexpected and wonderful. The plug of feverfew I pulled out of the herb jar's mouth and poked into a blank space has caught it's breath and in appreciation for the release, is blooming white flowers with faint yellow centers like little flattened mums. And near it, the Apache salvia has adjusted to it's new home and there are ethereal threads with scarlet red, bird-like flowers dangling over the white Feverfew's. Perfect! The digital camera captures the moment and I feel proud to have seen this.
There were so many things I know I missed out on. Had it not been for my friend, Karol visiting the other night while I was cooking a great pan of my enchilada's, and walking out onto my crowded deck to look at all the plants there and see if we were moving in anyone (not that night, I told her, the cold snap wasn't going below 39, so we're safe this time, but probably next week just to be safe) I stepped out to talk with her in the misty evening and was telling her about the Euphorbia collection I apparently had that I'd been unaware of until I started looking for them. Thanks to Michael LaForest, who gave me several rare and unusual ones in the spring, I kept hunting for the oddballs and made a miniature garden out of a multiple pot that I'd purchased at a great nursery. But as I pointed each different one out, I saw a flash of pure white and there behind the elephant pot with the Caterpillar cactus in it(you all know it as my "Elephant ball's cactus), was the cactus that Mike had included. And it was blooming. I need to take a picture and ask Cereus Longspinus to identify it properly for me. The cool, damp weather must have inspired it to set a bud for me.
Thus inspired, I searched out any and all of the last bloomers and got a few shocks. The Pawlonia tree has long set it's fuzzy buds for next year on the ends of the spent branches. And as I glance upwards, I see some of the buds have ripened and thinking the coolness is spring next year come, opened up. I can't reach a branch to bring it down to capture a picture of this odd and off schedule bloomer, and as I look about me, I see a fallen tubular lavender-blue blossom lying in the Western bed and pick it up and take a picture.
The volunteer castor bean plant rising like a statement in the sea of overgrown grasses between the pathways has pods and also has a new flowering shoot with funny little red tassels sticking out from the ends of the ?whatever? they are's. My oakleaf Hydrangea has started browning and tanning the two foot long clusters of this late spring's show to remind me during times of winter sadness. I can snap off a few and bring them inside to enjoy up close, but the dryness of the house will cause them to demise quicker so I leave them alone.
That reminds me and I turn towards the Variegated blue lacecap hydrangea on the first terrace near the Butt rock and am rewarded with the sight of a limb that grew so well that the leaves are creamy and hardly show any green in them. It fairly shouts out to me as I take her picture. And beneath the bush, my cramping and planting of a different hydrangea has decided to put out a small knot of bud that is pinking up. Is this the waxy flower variety I wanted so badly? I can't even remember if I purchased it or not now it's been so distractive this year.
Back up the steep slope, I hook around the Vitex or Chaste tree bed and see another clump of perennial begonia's dangling their triangular seedpods in the cold winds and keep going. Looking for color or textures. The textures are easy. Autumn ferns under spent Christophii alliums seedheads that disconnected from their stems and have lain unharmed all the rest of the seasons. I leave it there. The picture is perfect if I had done it deliberately.
Everywhere the evidence of fall blustering thru the ridge is evident to me. And a sadness grips me as I inhale deeply of moist and cold air into my nostrils, and take a picture of some Heuchera leaves tightening up against the cold winds. In the BBQ pit fountain garden area, the happy Japanese painted fern leaves are another reminder of my ever going attempt to texture more with leaves instead of flowers because the spent stems of the Mexican primroses are brown and in need of removal. I leave them there. I suspect the large frogs are peering up thru the Parrot feather plants in the water. I haven't a clue if the goldfish have survived. The water is too murky. But every evening, I'd sat with the western livingroom window open until last night and heard the distinct croooooakkkkkkk of a frog, and finally when I located the high beam flashlight, aimed the light towards the trough of water that sits on the north side of the BBQ pit/fountain and sure enough, bigger than my hand, brownish green frogs sit in their designated perches. Two of them are HUGE, and sit unaffected, the lights giving them an unearthly look as they sit in defiance to my light cutting thru their dusk. There are four smaller ones in various places around the edges of the bricko blocks and one sits in the actual pond portion up where the stream dumps out when the pump ran. The pump hasn't run for months. I killed it somehow or it clogged up, and never had $60 to replace it since. Once Piquito got bored with thinning out the population and wandered off to do other destructive feline antics, these remaining survivors held tight to their squatters rights. I hope they survive the hard winter I think we're in for this year. Water full of tadpoles would be wonderful and rather neat. and hopefully by next spring, I'd have replaced the pump so that the fairy fountain dribbles water and recirculates. I've missed the sound of trickling water.
I get chilled while thinking of this encounter with my sound effects team outside the window on that night, and go back inside and grab a jacket and put the camera on the computer desk in my nook.
Back outside, I pick the handles up and move the barrow around, then remember I need my shovel, and search in vain for the Bean pad. A wonderful new kneeling pad shaped like a bean that is easy on my old creaky knees. No matter, I have a plan. My knees can suffer a bit.
Back over to the Black Cherry tree, I settle the barrow and the load of soil and plants at the east side of the tree and start hunting whole bricks. Once I have as many as I can locate and pile up near the northeast side of the tree and driveway, I take my new Fiskar's shovel and start removal of a honeysuckle bush that has popped up on the roots of the Black Cherry. It's no easy task. It's grown next to the roots, but has since wrapped under and around the ankle thick root. Eventually my Fiskars and I pry it out and I stand there, sweating but proud of this, because I am going to finish and extend the black cherry shade bed. I spot the three busted bags of Miracle Gro soil I'd nabbed at work one day and dropped near the carport. Ahhhh, I just might have enough to raise up the bed and can plant all the bulbs that can take eastern sunlight.
I steal bricks from the top layer of the border around the south side of the bed, and start extending and opening the bed up where I'd cupped it against the tree trunk. The epimedium's roots are exposed, but as I stack the bricks out from the tree, I see the plan is working out. I'm able to stack them three high, which for now until I can replace them with retainer blocks later on, one at a time will do just fine. I grab some cedar steps from what used to be my back steps out the back of the nook's doors.
When Squire built a balcony, he removed the stairway leading down to the back terrace ledge, and I can't stand to waste things. the stringers I laid down and you can walk to the next ledge, but it's overgrown with things right now. So it's just mostly a good place to sit and contemplate what to do with these woods.
When all the bricks and edging things I can find are depleted, I stand back and see that it's not so bad. It works. I start heaving the heavy bags of cheap soil out after moving the pots of plants and I can almost hear the excitement of the Lamb's ears and Dianthus as they anticipate finally getting planted. Dump the soil, hoe it into the hollow's of the roots, dump more, hoe. I go over to the cache of 3 cubic foot Miracle Gro bags with the tears in them and drag them over and dump them too. Then I go up to the nook and seek out the dust pan and broom. At the flood hump in front of the carport, is three inches of rich, black, sandy soil that has washed down the driveway during all these rains this season. The dust pan disturbs healthy and frisky red worms that dance and jump like they're on a hot griddle. I shovel the soil and worms into a plastic bucket and get every cup of soil. I then move over to the ledge of the carport and driveway's edge and take the shovel and make a trench for the water and lift out more black, sandy soil and put it into the bucket. Some I sift over the mound of the Lady Jane magnolia I planted a few weeks back.
Lady Jane is loaded with fuzzy little buds for next years wow......
Bucket full, I take it and dump it into an empty hollow near the Variegated Pieris I'd tucked in this spring. It's happily taken root and thrived along side the Blazing mountain Pieris I got at the same time. One's new emerging leaves will be bloody red, the other will be edged in white, a great contrast.
With all the soil used and in place, I see I have a good nine inches of dirt to plant bulbs in, and tuck those Stachys and Dianthus in the edge. I alternate the Lambs ears with the Sweet Williams (Dianthus Novernai Crimson), hoping they'll have time to set seeds, and gently fill the pockets with dirt and firm them. I'm already feeling better.
Stop and go inside and grab the bags of bulbs. A fiver of Woodstock hyacinths. My second attempt at growing them. Careful to wash my hands in dirt after I tuck them in a group so they won't itch me mad later on. Eight White Lion daffs, 13 Happy Generation tulips, 12 Pink Pride daffs, 20 Blue Eyes Muscari, 20 Magic Blue Dutch iris reticulata, 10 Professor Einstein daffs, then 15 Ivory Queen alliums and 25 corms of various wind flowers or spring anemone's. All that is lacking is a bag of Black Night tulips, but by the time I get them if there are any left, I will have forgotten where the Ivory Queen is sleeping. No matter.
This is the smallest amount of bulbs I've planted in years, but logic this year took over and I resisted the urgings of the fairies to buy a lot of them. And I'll still have more to plant when Karol shares some with me after she gets her order for her client she landscapes all the time. and in the middle of the Woodstock's, I tenderly place a gift from her. An Arborvitae fern. It gets the last of the worm filled wash soil to hopefully nurture it thru winter. All I need now is a good blanket of leaves, and Miz Mary is starting to rake hers up and I'll scrounge them soon enough. If I don't move fast though, she'll burn them.
I creak up off my knees, feeling the lack of locating the bean kneeling pad, and look at my accomplishments, one thing more for safety's and sanity's sake. Sugar is still breaking my heart with occasional diggings so I go retrieve some of that upholstery wire for old cars and straighten the curve out and lay them over the soft, loose soil. No temptation for her. And it'll even deter the cats if they happen across it. I learned my lesson when she unearthed the Astilbe I tucked into the south side of the Black Cherry shade garden. I always wonder why there is less soil to put BACK into the hole than is taken out......
I hear sighs of delight and whisperings in the rustling of the leaves in the trees that I've done well and can and should go inside to warm up. Sugar is lying near me, content to be close this time and not sniffing across the driveway and tormenting Peanut to play with her. If she'll stop her vindictiveness of paying us back for leaving her home when we go to work, I will work on getting her a buddy from the pound. After seeing her lying on the floor the other night with two Jack Russell terriers climbing all over her and playing, I realized this dog needs another dog for companionship.
Empty bags go into a trash can, empty pots into the trash can too, no more saving nursery pots for me. Just cleaning up the empty pots this winter will be a labor of love and hilarity.
I wander back to where I started, and see some mums are showing their skirts. One mum bloomed and then grew more buds under the spent stems and are making a second flush of rose daisies. I adore these. And the pot of mums that have grown up and then cascaded back down to make quite an impressive pot haven't even opened up yet. they'll be the last bloomers in the gardens for sure. A soft yellow cream, and this year I planted a white Veronica in the middle where the mother had given her life for her daughters at the edges of the pot. Bending down is one of Zhanataya's large flamingo's she brought me last February and that we stuck on wooden dowels. Bright pink and hilarious.
There is a new garden greeter in one of the perennial pots outside the nook and den. A green glass sun with brass flames on a brass pole greeting you in the white balloon flower pot.
The fall's winds have chilled me and I know it's time to come inside and share with you all the doings. The False coreopsis has finally set seeds, and that's the next thing to do before they cast their prodigeny all over my gardens next spring. And there are millions of little black hand grenade like seeds of the magenta 4's to carefully harvest before I just rip out the red, knobby knees. They're still blooming!
The Hummers left before I had time to furnish them with the rich buffet of sugar water for their trip to Mexico. But the Blue Enigma salvia is cranking out more blue flowers and I find more and more cold bumble bee babies asleep in the mouths of the flowers.
Thank you for letting me share a ramble with you. It's been too long. I've missed you all. I hope fall is gentle and colorful for you all. The dogwoods are all burgundy, and now the maples are jealous and have begun turning at alarming rates. It's officially fall. Sumac's that turned four weeks ago have held onto their screaming red flame leaves thru the cooler temperatures and today's high of 49 was enough to keep a few visible in the ditches and roadsides.
The next time we visit, it'll be the antics of me dragging in a desert and tropical jungle to a warm and dry house where the space has dwindled mysteriously because Squire has brought another fish tank upstairs and it ain't small.............. until next time........ madgardener, up on the ridge, back in Fairy Holler overlooking English Mountain which has a shawl of steel gray and blue clouds with darker gray brushing the tops going towards North Carolina, in Eastern Tennessee, zone 7, Sunset zone 36
-- Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect." Chief Seattle