Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bombs Bursting In Air

     Solidago is also commonly known as Goldenrod.  Now, before you stop reading this article because you feel your eyes watering and your nose starting to tickle from the mere mention of Goldenrod, remember, it’s the Ragweed, not the Goldenrod which causes the allergies.  Besides, Solidago Fireworks is so much more attractive than it’s ragged, roadside relative.
     Solidago Fireworks has its roots in North Carolina, literally.  Back in the 1970’s a plant rescue took place near a motor repair shop in the countryside close to Wilson, NC; the plants were relocated to a coastal display garden.  After a few years an elegant and unique goldenrod became visible catching everyone’s eye with its beautiful yellow sprays.   It was finally introduced in 1993 by Ken Moore of the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill and aptly named ‘Fireworks’
     This plant is very easy to grow, reaching 3 feet in height on thin but strong stems, which remained standing, even after some of the strong storms we had this summer.  It grows well in full sun.  During the summer it makes a great backdrop for summer blooming perennials, creating a strong contrast with its dark green foliage.  In late summer the flower clusters begin to form.  By September the clusters, radiating in all directions, are bright yellow and look like the glittering trail from exploding fireworks. 
     People aren’t the only ones who find this plant a great addition to the garden.  Migrating butterflies load up on the nectar as they start their fall migration, bees rely on the pollen to build up their winter stores and finches and sparrows love the seeds.  To top it off, it’s deer resistant.
     I leave my Solidago up for most of the winter.  The stalks will be bare, but the brown flower clusters are still attractive and give some texture to the winter garden.  Around February, I cut it down to the ground where you will notice a small evergreen patch, waiting for spring to arrive.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Love The Night Life

     The days are getting shorter. I know I know….the days are not actually getting shorter; we are just having fewer hours of day light. Anyway, the days are definitely getting shorter, which makes you think that you have less time to enjoy your garden. These longer evenings can give you an opportunity to enjoy and experience you garden in a whole different way. A night garden plays with your senses; causing your eyes to focus on luminous blooms, touching foliage and catching the scent of a hidden flower. A night garden can be a totally separate part of your garden or it can be incorporated into the existing one.

     When the sunsets in the evening, the garden usually fades with the light, but with certain plants you can bring out the beauty of the garden in the moonlight. 

      White blooms, such as large mop head hydrangeas, take on a luminous glow in the evening light. Yellows and pinks can take on a beautiful glow at night that they cannot achieve in the bright sunlight. Patterned flowers and variegated foliage become more visible at night. One of my favorites is Minuteman Hosta; its dark green foliage is deeply edged in white, which stands out in the half-light of dusk.

     If you are looking for a night blooming plant, look no further than the Moonflower vine. It is an annual vine which can be prolific in its growth. It produces six inch pure white trumpet flowers that unfurl in slow motion every night at sunset. The blooms only last one day, I mean evening, and remain fragrant well into the night. It may be a fast growing vine, but it doesn’t freely reseed itself so save some seeds for next year. Along with the moonflower, other flowers wait until nightfall to release their perfume into the air, such as nicotiana and four-o’clocks.
    A night garden takes on an exotic appearance at dusk with different sounds, smells and sights and can extend your garden enjoyment for a couple hours longer each day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Fair Is In Town

     I know this is a ‘Gardening” column, but if you read it you know I stretch it a bit, so today I’m in the mood to stretch a bit more.  The Alexander County Agricultural Fair is in town. 

There is something about the fair that intrigues us.   While the Midway pulls us with the smell of sawdust, the sweet taste of cotton-candy and the calliope music coming from the Carousel, if you look past the huge stuffed bears and bowls of goldfish waiting to be won with ping pong balls, and head to the Exhibit Halls, it is there you will find the heart and soul of our county.  You can find information about our schools and local Community College; local organizations such as Rotary, Ruritan and of course the Lions, who sponsor the Fair.  Boy Scouts, FFA and 4-H will be represented, along with the Sons of the Revolution.  

 The Republican and Democrat parties will also be there (in separate corners). 

You can get information about the Brushy Mountain Quilters Guild, the Beekeepers Association and the Alexander County Soil & Water Conservation, along with several more which I apologize for leaving out.  The Livestock Hall will of course feature cattle, sheep, pigs and fowl.  Entrants for judging must be residents from Alexander County and the entries range from painting, baskets and jams to pumpkins, crops and livestock, showcasing the interests, talents & abilities of the people that make our area so unique.  You may find a friend or neighbors name next to a Blue Ribbon, discovering a hidden talent you knew nothing about, or inspire you to submit an entry next year.

    So take a ride on the Ferris wheel for an aerial view of our county, but walk the halls for a much closer look to what makes Alexander County a great place to live.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rock Your World

     Stone cold, set in stone, stone faced, hard as a rock, rock solid, carved in stone.  These are all phrases that describe a certain attitude that withstands the elements.  Solid, enduring, timeless.  When we garden, we usually focus on plant material, such as trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.  But a strong statement can be made with permanent elements like stone. 

Stone can be used as steps, leading you up and into your garden.  A stone walkway can guide you to a favorite plant or particular area of the garden.  A well placed stone can be the perfect place to sit and enjoy the view. 

 It can even serve as ‘home’ for a game of hide-and-seek.   Stone can act as a support, define a boarder or mark a resting place of a favorite pet.  In the winter when the leaves are gone and the ground is bare, a stone can give a new dimension to the garden. 
     Plants die for various reasons..too much water, not enough water, too much sun, not enough sun, age, not established, wrong plant, wrong place.  The list goes on.  I’m certainly not encouraging replacing plants with stone, but every garden should have at least one.
     My parents have a home in Florida and my Dad often complained about a shrub near the front of the house that visitors saw every time they came to visit.  For some reason nothing would grow there and it had been replaced several times.  Then he got a stone, a black stone.  He was so proud of that stone.  He would tell us how it never needed to be pruned or fertilized.  It made it through the hottest parts of the summer, never wilting back.  If there was a late spring frost warning, he never worried about it getting nipped by the frost.  If someone hit it with their car door, well, they were more careful next time.
     So become a rock-star and find a stone and set it in your garden.  I guarantee it won’t be your last.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Time To Head South....In August?


  Last week a shadow over head caught my attention; it was a flock of Canadian Geese in V-formation, flying south.  What?  It’s only the end of August, for heaven’s sake.  I sure hope this isn’t one of those warning signs that we are in for a hard winter.  I know we have had a really, really hot summer, but I think we deserve a nice mild winter with maybe a weekend snowfall so the kids can go sledding and be gone by Monday morning.  I don’t think I’m asking for much.  So what signs does nature give us to let us know that we may be in for a tough winter?
·         An unusual abundance of acorns
·         Thick husks on corn
·         Spiders spinning larger than normal webs
·         Narrow orange band in the middle of a woolly worm caterpillar
·         Hair on the nape of a cow’s neck is thicker
·         And according to the Farmer’s almanac….an early departure of geese….Drat!

But one of my favorite stories is this:
        It was fall and the Indians on the remote reservation asked their chief if the winter was going to be mild or cold.  Since he was an Indian Chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets, so when he looked to the sky, he couldn't tell what the weather would be.  Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he replied to his tribe that the weather was going to be cold and the members should collect wood to be prepared.  But, also being a practical leader, after several days, he got an idea.  He went to the phone booth and called the National Weather Service to see what the coming winter was predicted to be like.  The meteorologist told the chief that it looked like it was going to be a cold winter, so the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more wood in order to be prepared.  A week later, the Chief called the National Weather Service again and asked it they were still predicting a cold winter.  The answer was a strong, "Yes, most definitely a cold winter."  He then went back to the tribe and ordered them to collect every scrap of wood they could find.  Two weeks later, the Chief called the National Weather Service again just to make sure they were still predicting a cold winter.  "Absolutely", they told the Chief, "it's going to be one of the coldest winters ever!"
          The Chief then asked how they could be so sure about their predictions.  The weatherman replied, "Because the Indians are collection wood like crazy!"     

The signs nature sends us may not prove accurate, but when I went to bed one night last winter, after hearing the TV weatherman say it would be partly cloudy, only to wake up to four inches of partly cloudy, I may rely on nature a bit more.