Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ongoing Projects, Part IV

Before continuing down the hill, I want to turn to the space between our driveway and the neighbor's pasture.

There's the slightly raised bank of the ditch, the ditch itself, then a narrow strip that widens and becomes a sloping hill past the vegetable garden. I'm using these photos from last spring because the "undeveloped" areas are in the background.

As you can see, the hill has quite a steep slope

before leveling to the bed that I put in beside the neighbor's pasture.

In the right lower corner, south of the young redbud, is an area that I have struggled with and have sown with Bidens seeds. It's rampant with native bamboo. Our native bamboo doesn't get that big -- rarely more than 5' -- but it's ugly and keeps coming right back up through any amount of mulch that I put on it. I would just bushhog it or mow the area every week, but the area is very uneven and has several tree trunks in it. Eventually I may put understory trees and native azaleas there.

November 2009

Because of the trees near the neighbor's pasture -- loblolly pines, sweetgums, and a large red maple the area can be classified as -- gulp -- dry shade.

Can anything grow in dry shade, you ask? Well, there's a bumper crop of Chinese privet, Japanese honeysuckle, red maple seedlings, devil's walking stick, greenbriar and poison ivy. About ten years ago the stand of devil's walking stick was rather striking, but then it became enshrouded in honeysuckle and had to be chopped down. As you can tell from this plant list, this is not completely brutal dry shade, just periodically brutal dry shade.

At the bottom of the small hill are wild highbush blueberries, sorrel trees (Oxydendrum arboreum), and wax myrtles. The sorrel trees are all rather young and the chance seedling offspring of a mature sorrel tree at the edge of the neighbor's pasture. Apparently they do not like being flooded, because they start popping up just uphill of the floodplain stake. They are beautiful trees, but from what I have seen not the easiest to make or keep beautiful. I have seen many sorrel trees on banks next to roads denuded of leaves and covered with bagworms -- on the other hand, I've also seen sorrel trees about a 100 yards off highway 40, magnificent in their autumnal scarlets and still sporting their flower bracts from spring. I've read that they can be sensitive to pollution, so perhaps part of the problem with the sorry ones I've seen is their close proximity to the road, which of course is not a problem here. Mine flower, and color in fall (often very early), but the leaves tend to spot too. They don't look perfect (and will probably get better with age), but are still beautiful and I'm very happy that they are there. The soil is quite lean where they are, so I'll probably throw some compost around them this year.

The more blueberries, the better.

In the interest of full disclosure, here is a series of decidedly un-glam shots, taken today at midday:

The new beds between the house and the big perennial bed, seen below on the left, will be the subject of the next post.

For the upper portions of the hill, I have some ideas:

I have tried and killed mapleleaf viburnum already (not at this location), but would love to try it again. My FIL has mapleleaf viburnum all over his forested property, and the hype about its fall color isn't just hype. It's truly extraordinary, a mix of rose and raspberry pinks and purple. Yes, you read rightly, purple. A stained glass violet-purple kind of purple.

One of those native azaleas that likes craggy places, like pinxterflower and Alabama azalea.

Rusty blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum) and smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) -- check them out at Gail's.

More Highbush blueberries

Sparkleberry, a relative of blueberry that does not produce edible fruit, but likes it dry and has the same beautiful fall color.


  1. What beautiful property you have, and great ideas for new and old areas to garden with. I'm sure whatever you decide will look wonderful.

    Happy Gardening ~ FlowerLady

  2. I'm glad that you are young and have energy enough for your big projects! I like all that, but I no longer have the energy and strength to actually accomplish it. Go for it, and I wish you many happy hours of gardening!

  3. Sounds like you have a lot going on. Your property is beautiful. I can't wait to see how it progresses as the weather warms.

  4. You sure have some beautiful land! I love the stone/brick pathway int he first photo, and the gentling rolling hills. Sigh.

  5. You call the tree Sorrell and I call it Sourwood, ah those common names. haha
    You have such great gardens and they burst forth with color at all times of the year. I especially love the photo taken November 2009 of the lane to the pastures. Just lovely.

  6. What a beautiful place to dream and design. I look forward to seeing the transformations ahead! :)

  7. You have done such a wonderful job already, I'm sure you will conquer this section too.

    You have a lovely piece of property!

  8. Sweetbay, You have to know how much I love your garden! I gush over it's exuberant bidens and aster display each time I see them! The iris are pretty darned great looking, too. Dry shade is tough and C&L is all about that one! Look at a few cedar glade plants~Hypericum frondosum 'Sunburst' is a great plant for almost any soil conditions Seriously! ( for info. gail

  9. I'm getting tired thinking of all that space and gardens. Oh wait, that's because I just came in from a garden. lol You have so much work and have done so much I just wish to know where you get the energy? And to take care of horses too! It's beautiful. Great ideas for the dry shade that I will be following.

  10. Happy Bloom Sweet bay, thanks for sharing the wider shots. It is great to be able to place a garden. I love the look of your garden and surrounding area :-)

    I can see how dry it looks with you. In our small garden we have both dry and damp shade. I have to say the dry is by far the worst. I can appreciate your probs. However, that Iris walk you have there is thoroughly enjoying your conditions. A perfect example of right plant, right place! Love it :-D

  11. Thank you so much everyone for your comments. Gail, I will have to look at the cedar glade plants. I have that species of St. John's Wort and really like it. I'll have to try to propagate it and try it on the bank. Sunlight Gardens is one of my favorite mail-order nurseries. I have gotten some really lovely azaleas from them.

    Thank you Tina, sometimes I do wish I had more energy lol.

    Shirl most of my property is damp and sunny (excepting what's right around the house) -- except when it's dry. lol I agree that dry shade is the hardest condition to deal with. So much just disappears!

  12. What a wonderful property. I would just spend the day walking around looking at everything that was growing, and probably never get anything done.

  13. Do you know how lucky you are to be able to say the words, "undeveloped areas"? Just looking at your photos makes me feel relaxed. Yes, even the last photos you describe as un-glam.

    Hard to believe that a plant with a sweet name like Honeysuckle could overtake something named Devil's Walking Stick.

    Sounds like you have a busy season ahead of you. Good luck with it all.


  14. I love seeing all that property, Sweet Bay, and hearing what has sprung up there. Our worst weeds are the same as yours, privet, honeysuckle and tree seedlings. Thank goodness we don't have the bamboo though, that sounds very hard to beat, although the honeysuckle is quite the competitor itself. I want to suggest hollies along with the viburnums for your dry shade. We have several different ones introduced, along with the seedling American hollies that are everywhere in the neighborhood. I would not plant anything that attracts bag worms, oh I hate those with a passion. We look forward to the next installment. :-)

  15. Even your "un-glam" looks pretty darned good to me.

    I came to you from Flower Lady.

    Lovely postings. You ARE ambitious.

    All joys,

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  16. Those irises are beautiful, and oh, to have wild blueberries! You have lots to keep you busy for a long time to come, but I think your plans sound great. The difficult part for me is always clearing the unwanted vegetation away, but the results will be worth it.

    Also, congratulations--you were the winner of my seed and cookbook giveaway, Sweet Bay! Just e-mail me at prairierose one five oh at gmail dot com and I'll order the seeds you'd like.

  17. How exciting it must be to have wild blueberries! The shots of the irises are gorgeous. :)

    You have your work cut out for you -- and I know you've already killed a Mapleleaf Viburnum once. But just your evocative description alone made me root (pardon the pun) for you to put another one on the upper portion of the hill.

  18. Hi Sweetbay

    I enjoy reading your plans/anecdotes.

    I've read about Japanese honeysuckle being invasive in the eastern US.

    It doesn't seem to be the same 'thug' over here. I recently planted some Lonicera japonica var. chinensis!!!


  19. Hi Sweet Bay,
    We just had our kitchen remodeled, and I am trying to catch up with my blogging and getting some gardening in. I am so excited for spring to be here.

    You sure have been busy! I love your property. When did you move your house? I'm scatterbrained, and can't remember if you've posted about it in the year and a half I've been blogging.

    It's supposed to rain today, so I am going to go and try to finish planting some veggies. I look forward to picking up where I left off and read your other projects posts.

    Have a great day!


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