Monday, July 25, 2011

summertime rolls

 It's been four years (almost to the day) since I got the nerve to sign up for a blogger account. Considering how much has changed since then in terms of twitter, facebook, etc., I can't believe how bashful I was to open this thing up in August of '07.

Since then, I've gone from an aspiring garden writer with a day job at Duke...... to a business manager at Duke with an aspiring home garden. I am very happy with that formula.  Speaking of aspiration, that home garden of mine is doing its best to slow traffic without any supplemental watering right now. And except for the kitchenette garden, I can't complain.  What's doing really well in the dog days of summer? Ironweed, native grasses, blackberry lillies, and asiatic lillies are thriving with no care. Also, coneflowers have reseeded across the yard by the hundreds and I even have a chance at flouting a ginger lily bloom or two in the ditch by my road come September.

I also have two young kids who are now old enough to appreciate the garden. My six year old and four year old know the difference between camellias and gardenias. They can point to a zinnia by name and are more interested in this year's vegetables than I am. I am proud and hopeful that they will grow to love and appreciate both the cultivated and wild outdoors as they get older. 

So, I am pressing pause on piedmont plots and putting myself on a blogger diet for a few more months (or maybe longer)..... In the meantime, I will still cherish my daily commutes through Sarah P. Duke Gardens and my home "yarden" in southwest central Durham. But with my mind's eye open more than my iphone.

I want to thank  those handful of readers out there who have encouraged me over the years. I have had fun. And happy gardening to every single one of you.  Oh, and grow more chrysanthemums.  No, not that pincushion type outside Harris Teeter. You'll thank me later.

Victor Gordon / Durham, North Carolina
USDA zone 7 / Cape Fear River basin

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Duke commutes: May

I've been busy these last few weeks, both with my job as a research administrator at Duke and taking care of my own home yarden. Thankfully,  it is bright enough in the mornings that I can get some work done outside before my house wakes up.  I've finally done all the transplanting, pruning, and potting that I wanted to do by April 15. It only took me an extra month.

From inside the historic terraces at Sarah Duke Gardens where folks were (justifiably) peony crazed all month long. This may be the best shot I've ever taken in the terrace garden.

Wherever the porcelain berry wants to grow, it has led some of us to think it might be a wild hop vine.  And yes, that would be me.  I was very disappointed to learn otherwise. This picture is from near the Davison Bldg. on West Campus and definitely the best shot I have ever taken of an exotic invasive.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

April's Piedmont Pick

'Kim's Knee-High' purple coneflower, photograph courtesy of Niche Gardens
This month's Piedmont Pick is in partnership with one of the country's best native plant nurseries....Niche Gardens, located outside Chapel Hill. Here's the unique back-story behind the plant from Niche's own Lauri Lawson:

"Echinaceas, or coneflowers, are a flower face every gardener can relate to. A basic daisy-type
arrangement, with a prominent spiny orange central cone, surrounded by bright pink petals. They are easy to grow in average soil, bloom well, spread, and attract tons of butterflies and other pollinators. This wonderful sunny garden favorite has become the poster child for the rising interest in native plants, as well as traditional medicinal plants.

Currently, there are hundreds of echinacea hybrids available, in many colors and habits, for gardeners to choose from. And the one that paved the way for the current trend was Echinacea 'Kim's Knee High' from Niche Gardens of Chapel Hill. 
Found in the Atlanta garden of Jimmy and Becky Stewart, and shared with Niche plantswoman Kim Hawks, the original plant was notably shorter than the average echinacea, yet very vigorous. At the time, there were a few seed varieties of coneflower available, but nothing this radically different. Kim, at the forefront of making native plants available in nurseries, thought it worth developing. It took a couple of years to grow out seed from the parent plant, select the shortest and most vigorous, and make sure it was stable. Then, in partnership with Sunny Border Nurseries, who then developed the tissue culture protocol for echinaceas with 'Kim's Knee High', it was introduced to horticulture, and became an instant hit worldwide. Now, years later, there are hundreds of hybrid coneflowers, short and tall, doubles and bigger flowers, in all shades of pink, white, yellow, orange and red, for gardeners to enjoy. 'Kim's Knee High' still remains one of the tried and true favorites, sturdy and vigorous, with a small stature perfect for smaller gardens or mixed containers."

Friday, April 15, 2011

making a haul from one the country's best and oldest blueberry nurseries

Finch plants  for sale and pickup at Club Blvd. Elementary's first annual blueberry bush fundraiser, held two weeks ago...

Finch Nursery is also well known for their handmade bluebird houses
I've helped hustle blueberry bushes by the truckload over the last few weeks. These have come from Finch Nursery in Bailey, NC...not too far from Wilson. It's been well worth the two hour round trip. My son's school has been selling them as a PTA/Garden Club fundraiser. And it's been a wild success. I'm in charge of the sale next year. We are thinking about expanding to include muscadine vines along with the blueberries. Send me an email if you know a good grower in North Carolina.

Lehrich Ford

Dan Finch started the nursery over 50 years ago
Driving into the nursery, you will notice  the large groves/windbreaks of Empress Trees. A fascinating sight in early April when they bloom

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

coffee break

this free landscape design has been brought to you by Morning Coffee and a
distracted / freelance / part-time landscape business together since 2009.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

march sky

I took this picture last week. It was the last warm day of a warm spell but you could feel the air changing as a front was moving in. I guess wind and March are familiar partners. It was cool enough that the inside of my car (where the picture was taken) felt great after being zapped by a few hours in a sunny parking lot. But it was warm enough that I didn't need a coat.

Friday, March 25, 2011

you and millions of others "like" Spring's status

I've been a sloppy blogger since January. First, I misspelled February in one of my post titles and left it there for weeks. No one really cares but me. And then, I somehow overlooked publishing a very nice comment from Alice and Stuart on my last post... I'll blame my iPhone. Since I've started using it to check email, I've been more likely to forget things, drop things, and procrastinate things. How can that be?

My goal for the rest of the Spring? Attend to the moment. So that may mean posting on the blog less. And that's okay. But it may make for more great pictures (like the cherry blossom walk above) that I took yesterday. So of course I will have to share that.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

for sale this week: my moss terrariums and cam forest's tea shrubs

I am selling both of these for February's Piedmont Pick. See this link for details.  Pictured below are a few of the terrariums that I will have on hand at the Bull City Arts Collaborative (401 Foster Street) during the Third Friday Durham event.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Duke commutes: February yellow

wintersweet- Sarah P. Duke Gardens

crocus- Sarah P. Duke Gardens

winter jasmine- West Campus

yellow berried nandina- Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Salix- Sarah P. Duke Gardens

winter honeysuckle- West Campus

Saturday, February 5, 2011

" roses, only easy to care for, don’t have thorns and aren’t ugly when they aren’t blooming"

That is probably one of the five best quotes I have ever read in a garden article.

In case you missed Thursday's Home and Garden section from the NY Times, check out this wonderful story about rare camellias in southern Louisiana. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

winter's green

 Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria Japonica 'Globosa') Sarah P. Duke Gardens terraces

I have been in hibernation mode for the last month or so both in the garden and on this garden blog. Life's busy, work's busy, and the weather has been dismal.  Things are looking up. I had a nephew born this week. The sun is starting to stick around after I get off work and half a dozen clumps of narcissus bulbs are showing their foliage in my herbaceous border. Sometimes, seeing this new growth is as exciting as watching the flowers unfold. 

In the next few weeks we will start noticing the occasional daffodil around town and the swelling buds and early blooms of  several choice flowering trees and shrubs: Japenese camellias, flowering apricots, Chinese witch hazels, and quince.  But before we wish the mood ring beyond winter, we really should let our appreciation for the evergreens stick around.  One of the best places I know to see what evergreens can do for a garden are the terraces at Sarah P. Duke Gardens. The staff does a wonderful job placing golden yuccas, colorful violas, and sivery cardoon plants throughout the beds.  However, it is the cedars, the cypresses, the broad leaf evergreen shrubs, the plum yews, and the junipers that provide balance. Of course they are there for the structure. But they are beautiful by themselves.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

outdoor miscellany: my favorite non-plant pictures from 2010

I am culling and sorting and deleting odd pictures from 2010. I couldn't resist posting some of my favorites that do not easily fit into a gardening topic. I hope you enjoy them.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last minute wishing

Dear Santa,
If you are looking for ideas for me, here are four:

Please have your elves build me a tool shed from shipping pallets.
My personal shed construction project has seen the DP (design & procrastination) stage stretch on and off for almost two years. This unfortunate timeline has taken another blow now that I have just acquired 14 panels of glass windows from my father-in-law’s freshly demo’d Florida Room. …. Should I tack on a large cold frame or a tiny greenhouse? Please help.

this book

this app (although it won’t be available until after Christmas, I can take a rain check)

a badass  Japanese farmer’s knife
P.S. I have been good.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

terrariums: no gloves, jacket, or trowel required

This month's Piedmont Pick keeps you indoors. Given the way winter has come on strong, that is a good thing.

If you live in or near Durham and are interested in buying one of my terrariums, then check out the
details here. There you will also see my call for folks interested in attending a terrarium making class in early 2011.

Friday, December 10, 2010

a week of real winter

Since last Friday we have seen the first night below 20 degrees, a first snowfall, and the first seed catalog in the mail...It feels like January already.  Last Saturday's inch-plus of wet fluff broke a limb on one of my adolescent wax myrtles.  A chunk of ice shattered my rain gauge.  My roses are probably done and my spring bulbs are finally planted. So now I am taking notes on what to do next year.

Speaking of next year, I got the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Catalog in the mail on Tuesday and it is filled with lusciousness.....pulling names at random from its glossy pages, you could find things like the Knife River Squash, originally cultivated by Native American tribes from present day North Dakota;  a watermelon developed by Mississippi State University in 1965; and the "Spanish Mammoth" sweet pepper which was (according to the authors) shipped to Paris markets in the 1880s from Algeria and Valencia.  Oh, and if that is too Western Civ. for you, then you could cash out for Christmas on dozens of Pan-Asian antiques. I have my eye on a Japanese pumpkin developed in the Edo period (1804-1818).  I don't know where the hell I could plant 1/100th of all the good stuff but I am excited to read and dream. 

If you are interested in the heirloom, the unique, the rare, and the organic seeds that you can't find in local stores, then other catalogs I would recommend are:
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and Seed Savers Exchange.

eye candy from the 2010 Baker's Creek catalog

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

for Durham backyard poultry enthusiasts..

....there is a new website to check out.  Purple Roost is a recently launched business designed to take care of your flock while you are away. Other services are in the works too. Keep this electronic bookmark handy if you or someone you know needs help raising chickens or is just interested in getting started. The entreprenuer, Michelle, lives in Duke Park but can service Raleigh area coops too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

a two year program

Here is a hollyhock leaf. It's been swelling in size ever since I stuck the seedling in the ground during one of our hot months (I need to keep a better garden journal b/c I can't remember exactly when).

Biennials are one of those "concepts" that make gardeners sound a bit like magician-scientists to non gardeners. Even the whole annual and perennial thing smells like a mystery to the indifferent masses. But simply put, they are like a master's degree program: the first season, they sit around getting acclimated (growing foliage) and then they spend the next year trying to show off (this clump will exit via a flowering spike in late spring).  After that they wilt (move in with their parents).

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