Saturday, December 8, 2012

Four And Counting!

Yesterday marked my four year anniversary in the blogging world.!!  I can't believe how quickly the time has gone by.  It has been a wonderful experience and I have been lucky enough to meet many of you over the past few years.  To all my electronic pen pals I want to thank you for reading over the years.  It was funny to go back and read through some of the first posts, what a difference four years makes.

Yesterday was South Carolina's Arbor Day.  Last year I went up to USC Upstate's campus in Spartanburg for their celebration, the speaker was Dr. Michael Dirr.   I enjoyed it and decided to come back each  year!!   I went up this year with a couple Master Gardeners from my area.  This year's speaker was Tracy DiSabato-Aust.  I know her books from reading many of your posts about her recommendations for tending to the perennial garden.   Her program topic was "The Well-Designed Mixed Garden".

Tracy started off with some very clear expectations... first and foremost, no zone denial!  What? Not me, I live in zone 8a, ok, 7b.  I may have been known to stretch the zones, but sometimes I stretch it the other direction...try to baby some plants that are marginally zone 7 and my 7b/8a could stress it.  Micro climates!!!  
After getting us on board to work within our zonal limits, Tracy took us through the steps in the design process.
Site evaluation seems pretty straight forward, check how many hours of sunlight you have, soil test, and of course, know your hardiness zone.  You must then determine your objectives for this garden spot.  Points to consider include

  • maintenance- how much work do you do in the garden?
  •  budget- how much are you going to spend?
  • location of the garden-private or public spaces?
  • function- how are you going to enjoy your garden? 
  • peak season of  interest-- I am working on getting more seasons of interest
  • what is your style?  What inspires you?

She spoke of scale and proportion.  Scale is the size of an element or area and proportion is the relationship of the elements' size to each other -- a ratio of one dimension to another.  (I didn't know we were going to have math!)  She spoke of the Golden Mean, which is 1:1.618, also called the proportion of divine beauty.  I understand using odd numbers of plants and when picturing a space that you don't want to divide it in half, use 1/3 2/3. This takes it a little further.  When graphed, a series of numbers that have the Golden Mean ratio, form a perfect spiral.   It is found in nature, a spiral shell, the arrangement of sunflower seeds, the way rose petals shape a bud.  Read more about this here. Wow, more math than I have done in a long time.  Tracy says to use the ratio in size, plant choice, color selection, textures and placement of plants.  It will be more pleasing to the eye.
Color is another focus of design.  She covered hue, value and intensity of color.  Hue is pure color.  Value is degree of luminosity (how much light is reflected back) and intensity is colorfulness or grayness or a color.   Choosing colors takes control, I love so many colors.  My last post shows how I needed to have a better plan for the colors in the front garden.  Colors next to each other on the color wheel, analogous colors and colors opposite each other, complementary colors work can create harmony or cause the eye to stop.  You can choose color schemes that are analogous, complementary  monochromatic (one basic color in various shades and tones) or polychromatic- many colored.  
Other elements of design include form-- you know, all those shapes (more math- Geometry) and texture-- fine, average and bold.  One technique for seeing form in your garden is digital photography...using the black and white feature or the pencil line drawing feature.  It eliminates the color your eye is drawn to, seeing form.    The Golden Mean is used with texture, keeping that balance.  I remember in my Virginia garden I ended up with too many spikey plants, too many spires.  It was out of balance.  
The design principles Tracy follows are Order, Unity, and Rhythm.  Order in balance and mass plantings.  Unity with dominance, repetition and interconnection- plants that mingle.  Rhythm in color, textures, plantings... repetition, alternating, and gradation (color or size).
Color, form or texture can be achieved using art  in the garden.  Tracy likes to add some art to bring in a color or create a focal point or repeat a shape.  You can personalize your garden with art.
I hope to keep and use some of these principles in my garden.  It was such an informative program.  I have barely covered all that Tracy shared.
Immediately after the program I met up with my buddy Julie from Growing Days.   Julie lives close by but this is the first we have seen each other since the Spring Fling.  It was great to visit over lunch.  Julie suggested that my Master Gardener buddies and I stop by Hatcher Gardens on our way home.  What a great recommendation.  It is a 10 acre garden and Woodland Preserve.  The Hatchers worked this garden, adding acreage over the years, making a slice of heaven out of a weedy trashy portion of land.   I hope to get back to this garden many times over the seasons.  It was truly a labor of love.
I will leave you with photos of our short time in the garden.  Thanks for sticking around for these four years.
Pitcher plants in clay chimney inserts

See the little hairs on the throat of the flower?  

Hillside of Oakleaf Hydrangeas

Hand made bird feeders adorned the trees

Various conifers created a beautiful setting

Honey bees on Fatsia blooms

Water features throughout the garden, filtering storm water

Pretty pink Camellia

Honey bees were all over the Mahonia blooms

More pathways to explore next time.  What a tranquil setting.

Thanks for giving us directions to this wonderful garden Julie.   I look forward to seeing it in all seasons.
I bought Tracy's book "The Well Tended Perennial Garden".  Will share what I learn once I read through it.  Stay tuned!

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford.

  words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Geraniums, Love 'em or Hate 'em

 I occasionally buy zonal geraniums for my garden.  They offer a good deal of color all summer long with minimal care.  I really don't care for geraniums.  They bring back memories of Mrs. Blackett's eighth grade English class.  She loved Pelargonium zonale, Zonal Geraniums.   Our classroom was an old school building, the outside wall was full of windows.  She lined those windowsills with various geraniums --- ugh.  The smell of them made me sneeze, my nose itch, and my eyes water.  So in that condition, I diagrammed sentences.  Do you remember diagramming sentences? Double whammy.... diagramming and geraniums.

This summer I bought red geraniums for our front garden.  I didn't buy enough to really fill the area, so I bought more red ones.  Not a good idea, one was a nice true red, the other, kind of tomato soupy red.  Even the foliage was a different shade of green.  I wasn't happy with how the front looked for most of the summer.  When I was looking for photos to share here, there were few to be found.    The photo above was from the end of June.  The one below was taken the beginning of November.    Yes, I know, the geraniums and the mums are not good together.  Don't get me started on mums.

Over Thanksgiving weekend we had a couple frosts so it was time to cut back, pull out and do some clean up around the garden.  I needed to decide what to do with the geraniums.   I don't like geraniums much, but I hate buying new plants if I can save the ones I have.  Time for a Google search.  I was NOT keeping these geraniums in the house.....visions of eighth grade English revisited.

The frost kissed geraniums did have some nice fall colors. 
Garden Gate magazine had a short video one way to overwinter geraniums without too much muss or fuss.   In short, get a box and put the plants (minus the soil around the roots) in the box.  The first box I got out of the garage wasn't large enough.  The box keeps the light off the plants while they are resting in a dormant state.  In the video she was putting the box in an unheated basement.  Our lower level is built into the earth, so it isn't that cold.  I decided to keep mine in the garage, up against against the house wall.   After finding a larger box, the geranium experiment has begun.

The box is closed, facing the wall and should be fine.

Accessing more of the yard, I found some bunny was hungry-- these are my gladiolus.  All eaten back to a nub.  Foliage left to 'mulch' the garden.  Rotten critter!!

Do you overwinter any plants?  What about nasty Pelargoniums?  
Tree posts will continue, having to go back through many of my photos to get a full season's photo profile.  

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tuesday's Trees- Fall Color

Yes,  I know it isn't Tuesday.  This week will go by pretty quickly, so I thought I would share this post now. Fall color.  Many of us in the blogging world are sharing our gorgeous fall color.  Dave's Growing the Home Garden shares a link for many to share their fall colors.  It is great to see the various fall foliage across the country.

I like seeing the various colors in the landscape as a way of identifying what trees are in our woods.  Leaf shape another method of identification.  The tree in the photo above is also the tree in the next few photos.  The large yellow statement in the woods might lead you to think it is a hickory or maple of some variety.  No, closer investigation tell us it is Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua.  See the palmated leaf?  What a wide range of colors.  Love the red shades.

In addition to yellows and reds, Sweetgum also has dark burgundy colors.  This one stands out nicely against the yellow of another Sweetgum sapling.

Now we do have Hickories in our woods.  There are a few varieties of Hickory, Carya, each showing its bold yellow foliage.  

Love how the yellow stands out against the water.

Multiple colors in the woods, showing us that there is bio-diversity in our woods.

Another yellow in the forest is Beech, Fagus grandifolia, with its golds, yellows, bronzes, and soon --beiges. I love the way Beeches seem to glow as they start to lose their green color.  It is another tree that you can identify in the fall as it has its multiple shades of yellows.  Winter its foliage will be the beigey tan color, remaining on the branches, another identifying feature of the Beech.

In addition to the yellows, there are many reds in the woods.  I love the White Oak, Quercus alba, with its russet burgundy reds.  It is like a beautifully tanned leather.  Just gorgeous.

Remember my Sassafras albidum from a couple days ago?  It continues to change, getting more orange and red and coral colored.

Many think of Crepe Myrtles, Lagerstroemia ssp. for their summer bloom color or perhaps its lovely exfoliating bark in the winter.  I love its great fall colors. 

Some are brighter and more brilliant than others, but, wow, what a presence in the landscape.

I love the colors of fall.  The angle of the sun gives an extra warmth and glow to the myriad of color.
My front yard--- 

And my backyard--

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  Enjoy the beauty of nature around you.

While writing this post we had the TV on.  A fascinating show on CNN called 'The Next List'- this week's show is about Nalini Nadkarni, a professor and scientist doing tree canopy research.  If you have a few minutes to watch it is very interesting.

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tuesday's Trees- American Chestnut

The mighty American Chestnut tree, the once grand giant tree is on the verge of disappearing.  Many of us know of the Chestnut Blight, Cryphonectria parasitica, and its affect on the tree.   At the turn of the last century the American Chestnut started dying in large numbers.  This fast growing, large tree, was developing  cankers.  These cankers run around the cambium layer of tree, killing first the leaves, then branches, and finally all above ground plant material is dead.  

The American Chestnut, Castanea dentata, once had a native range from Maine to Georgia and west to Ohio.  It was approximately 25% of the forest.  It is now either on endangered species list or special concern lists for many states.     
It is a fast growing, straight tree that can achieve heights over 100 feet in good conditions.  A mature tree can have a diameter of 17 feet.  These were huge trees.  Interestingly it was branch free on the lower part of the tree, sometimes up to 50 feet of trunk before branching.  

It was called the cradle to coffin tree.  From fine furniture to railroad ties, fuel to posts, this tree constituted more than 50% of the timber produced before the blight.  The timber is decay resistant, making it a useful wood for many applications.   Wildlife benefited from its nut production.   Bears to raccoon to deer to humans, everyone found the nut a good food source.  Trees will fruit 5- 7 years of age.  It needs another Chestnut to cross pollinate even though it is monoecious.  Much of the economy was based on the American Chestnut.  The bark and the wood were a great source of tannic acid, used for tanning leather.  After the blight killed a tree, the timber that remained was still used.  Worms had bored into the wood, so timber harvested after the blight was called wormy wood (holes). 

Chestnut blight was first discovered in the USA in 1904 on some trees newly planted in the New York Zoological Garden.  Many Japanese Chestnuts, Castanea crenata were imported as early as 1876 by mail order.   Chestnut blight, Cryphonectria parasitica, (known as Endothia parasitica - name changed 1978) spread as far north as Ontario.  One attempt to stop the spread of the blight was to create a firewall, sadly eliminating many healthy trees.  This practice was stopped after World War One.   By the 1940's there were more than 3 1/2 BILLION Chestnuts lost to blight.   Chinese Chestnut, Castenea mollissima, is resistant to blight, more on that in a little bit.   
Blight is a fungus and is spread by airborne spores. The spores are dispersed by animals, including man, and insects.  It can colonize on other plants, including oaks.  Chinquapin Oaks, Quercus muehlenbergii and Live Oaks, Quercus virginiana, are affected by blight.   
Sadly, blight is not the only thing that is killing American Chestnuts.  Meet Dr. Joe James, adjunct professor of Forestry, Clemson University.  Our Master Gardener group had Dr. James come and speak to us about his research with American Chestnuts.   

On his farm in Upstate South Carolina, he used to have a number of Chestnuts.  As they died he started doing some detective work.  Calling on the Forestry Department of Clemson, it was discovered that the roots were dying from Phytophthera root rot.  Phytophthera cinnamomi is a soil borne organism.   It is another import from Asia.  It is believed that it was imported by wealthy Charleston landowners in the late 1700's, bringing new plant material into the country.  This is not a fungus but similar to red algae, it is a oomycete (also called a water mold), has its own phylum.   It spreads through the soil, slowly.  Water can carry it to new locations.    It needs moist soil to live, dry conditions kill the oomycete but not the spores.  Frozen conditions kill it.  Here in the South, even if we have a cold winter, our soil does not freeze to the bedrock.  Mountain tops and further north this is not an issue.  
P.cinnamomii can remain dormant in the soil..  It is called Black Ink disease as the infected roots look as if black ink is being taken up through its cellular system.  Many plants are susceptible to it, 100% lethal to American Chestnuts.  The root rot girdles at the root collar, killing the tree.   Chinese Chestnut is immune to Phytophthera cinnamomii.  That is the good news.

Dr. James is part of a research program with cross breeding the American Chestnut with the Chinese Chestnut.  This breeding has been going on for a number of years, breeding into the American Chestnut, the resistance to Blight.  Each generation of this hybrid is tested by inoculating these new trees with blight spores.  Successful resistant trees are then crossed again with another American Chestnut, breeding out the Chinese characteristics except for its resistance to blight.  This is producing trees that have a fraction of Chinese Chestnut genes, the new American Chestnut hybrid.  Dr. James receives nuts produced from these trees, now blight resistant, and runs trials with various family groups (different lineage tree families), testing them for resistance of Phytophthera root rot.  One strain of Phytophthera is introduced to the roots after the seedlings start growing. Many die, but the survivors are transplanted into berms from the tubs they started in.  Once the tree has survived three years in the test mode, it is transplanted into the wild.   It will take many years for Chestnuts to return to the grand size that they once were.  This fascinating research bringing back this beautiful tree.  

The pictures of the small, understory trees at the top of the post were taken this past May, at the North Carolina Arboretum.  While on our guided tour, Tim Spira pointed out these small trees.  The blight keeps killing off the top growth.  Blight is coppicing (pruning to the ground to encourage suckering) these trees.  The new sucker growth will again be attacked by the blight, never allowing these trees to grow to their size of years ago.  
I did a posting on the Chinese Chestnut.  I have since learned more about the differences between American and Chinese Chestnuts.  The leaves-- American-- longer than width, prominent teeth which curve like waves breaking, base of leaf tapers sharply, leaf is thin and papery.  Chinese -- oval shaped, smaller teeth, base is rounded, leaf is waxy and thick.  The nuts are different, American nut is smaller, sweet, has fine hairs on the bottom of the nut.  Chinese nut is larger and less tasty. 
There is also some genetic research being done with isolating the gene that has the resistance to blight and phytophthera.   Many are working at bringing this tree back.  
This has been an interesting post for me to write, truly a learning experience.  My references online were
USDA Plant Profile, Duke, VA Tech, NC State, Appalachian Woods, and Columbia University.  My notes from Dr. James' talk were also used as well as a copy of "The Journal of the American Chestnut Foundation" issue on 'Phytophthora- The Stealthy Killer that Attackes Southern Chestnuts' September /October 2011.   I did double check my notes with online information.

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sparkles and Other Interesting Sights in the Garden

This time of year in the garden I find interesting items.  This is a seed pod from one of the vine-y pea wildflowers that we have all over the woods.  I saw the long pods earlier, but now, it is a  spiral open pod with the seeds ready to drop.  

About this time of year the Euonymus americana, 'Heart's A-Bustin' is only green stems --except for a few uneaten 'hearts'.   The edged green stems are an easy ID for this plant.  I like having those absolutely certain indicators.  

Love these bright red seeds.  Apparently so do the little critters in the garden. 

In the front yard is my Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide', a very young and new plant for me.  I am thrilled to have it blooming so profusely in its first year in my garden.  I love Camellias and have a couple others in the back garden, one along the side, one waiting to be planted (impulse buy at Lowe's) and an offer of one I LOVE 'Pink Perfection' from a fellow blogger.  (He has propagated some of his!)

Don't you just love all that pollen?  The bloom looks like it was dusted with gold. 

My little Sassafras tree is finally starting to change to its fall colors.  I think that is one of the reasons I like Sassafras so much, the fall colors of oranges and corals and salmons.....ohhhhhh my.

It is hard not to again showcase the Sumacs in the front yard, their red colors are just sparkling. 

Lots of seeds are ready to be disbursed in the wind, these are some of the Goldenrod that are native to my area.   These delicate little seeds, each with their own bit of feathery fluff, help to carry them to new locations.  

This is a poll question for you like the photo as it is above or lighting/shadows adjusted and polariod tool used in the one below.  Above or below?

More of the Goldenrod seeds, different variety, ready to fly.

or be carried--- when the dogs go out, they like checking out the woods and come back in with all sorts of seeds all over their coats.

From the sparkles of ornamental grasses--- here in the backlit setting sun

To a close up of the seeds--

To gorgeous fall color of a Crepe Myrtle, I love the offerings of fall in my garden.

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.