Monday, March 22, 2010

Ongoing Projects Part V

There's a lot of ground left to cover: down the driveway on the left and right and the open space between the house and the big perennial bed. A small part of a new bed in that open space is just visible on the left.
September '09

There is still open space on the other side of the new beds. This used to be a gravel pit where we parked the horse trailer and is still occasionally used as a turn-around by visitors. I haven't decided what I want to do with it yet. For now I have broadcast Bidens seed around it, as a temporary fix.

For now I like the negative space in front of the trellis. The area will form a sort of a bowl if the Bidens come up.

I started on the new beds in July of last summer

and here they are in November, almost finished. The new beds are a mix of compost, the old clean shavings pile by the horse shelter (which was left when we moved the house and had to board the horses for several months), and hay.

I have broadcast Bidens seeds beside the driveway -- if they come up, that will eliminate 3-4' of mowing on each side.

Bidens gain most of their size during the month of August, before they bloom. Often they are only about a foot high until the beginning of August, after which they grow as though given a megadose of Miracle Gro.

A balance will need to be struck between plants and bugs. The more plants, the more bugs. Even all of the birds cannot keep up with them, and I mean biting bugs that drive the horses (and us) crazy. Fly spray is essentially useless, except for the first 20 minutes after it is applied. However, since the Bidens are not very big for very long, their effect on that type of bug population may be negligible.

Trying to plant around the well has been another ongoing project. The soil in the year is extremely acid, and packed by construction machinery. A relatively thin layer of poor sandy soil over clay. Well, rugosas don't care. They love it. I put some seedlings in last year, and some this fall, mulched them with hay and watched them go. The rugosas won't hide the well in the winter, but I didn't want a small forest dead in front of the house either. I had so many rugosa seedlings that I ended up filling up the new beds with them, with some other plants on the side -- beardtongue, Baptisia, hardy ginger, and Carolina rose.

The ditch full of Teddy Bear's Paws on the left is a continuation of the ditch beside the driveway. Before the house was moved the ditch was an a narrow deep ravine that ran through the woods before it flattened out behind the big perennial bed. We didn't change its path but it was necessary to put part of it underground.

I have plans for the ditch as well. Besides putting in hibiscus and Louisiana iris in the bottom, I put in American snowbell seedlings, Rosa palustris scandens, Magnolia virginiana seedlings and 2 blueberries (the only wild seedlings I have successfully transplanted) near the bottom; at the top wax myrtle seedlings, a sassafras, a couple of Lindera benzoin seedlings, a pawpaw, beautyberries, and winter honeysuckle.

August 31, 2009

We have a lot of wild snowbells here; the biggest and most beautiful one is at the edge of the woods near the old house site. It's easy to grow from seed. I never could manage to get a good shot of the whole tree, but here is a picture of the flowers. The fragrance is both strong and exquisitely sweet.

Below is a picture of a Snowbell next to one of the pastures that has a western exposure. In more shade the tree has a more layered and graceful aspect. Sun or shade, it's the most wonderfully fragrant tree that I have ever come across.

These are only three pine trees left by the ditch after we cleared a path for the house. All of that space across the ditch from the big bed was filled with trees before the house move, but it wasn't an exactly ideal view. There were a lot of falling-down trees from when Fran and Floyd went through, and there is so much greenbriar and honeysuckle here, it wasn't like a beautiful upland Piedmont forested area. These trees may be the only two trees left, but they are greedy. I stopped watering the big perennial bed last year, and as a result the pine tree roots sucked the life out of a lot of what was planted at the back of the bed. Good-bye woodland phlox, good-bye goatsbeard, and even some of the Amsonia tabernAEmontana may be gone. Not the Carolina rose, however. It's very happy. So I planted new starts of Carolina Rose all along the back of the bed and mulched with hay. It's ambitious on its own, sending up runners, but it would take years to fill the 30' strip of garden that I want it to fill if it didn't get some help. There's one snowbell planted near the teddy bear's paws and lone cattail, and Carolina rose is starting to creep down the bank too. There's a lot that could do well here -- Aronia, blueberries, Virginia sweetspire -- but I'll probably have to water the first year if we have a dry summer. I love loblolly pines but there seems to be a 20' Zone of Death around each one.

Below is the back of the big perennial bed in May '08. Small's penstemon is one of the few perennials that likes it there, along with Carolina bush pea. However, Small's penstemon (on the left) is just a biennial really, one of those plants that you realize too late that you didn't start last year.

Close-up of Small's penstemon

Carolina bush pea (tall yellow spires) and Carolina rose

Carolina rose is one of my favorite roses, beautiful and blessed with a lemony rose fragrance. It seems to be able to grow anywhere, even in the dry shade of my parents' yard (where, btw, wild Pink Lady's Slippers also thrive). I may plant this on the dry hill beside the driveway, although it grows low in dry conditions -- sometimes only a foot -- and the honeysuckle may overwhelm it when I'm not looking.

I will be very happy if this fills up the back part of the big perennial bed. There are some young Baptisia back there too that have sized up and should starting blooming in the next couple of years. Baptisia alba seems particularly adept at handling dry poor soil and part shade.


  1. Dear Sweetbay, Wowzer you have a beautiful piece of property. I like the seed scattering method with bidens...It looks wonderful! I have seeds of Rudbeckia subtomentosa, Sweet Black-Eyed Susan, or Sweet Coneflower, (flower's sweet anise scent) and would be glad to share them with you. It would like some of your low areas. Plant them in the fall! Let me know! gail

  2. I have flower envy! I can't believe the large variety of plants that you have. I am sure that when summer comes your yard will be a garden paradise. I have never heard of a snowbell, but now I want one!! Hope you are enjoying this wonderful warm weather for a change. Carla

  3. I love how your gardens are wonderful examples of how to manage planting large areas. Working with what works instead of nurturing those plants that struggle is probably absolutely necessary for you. The existing planting areas are just beautiful and I look forward to seeing what new things are to come.

  4. Dear SweetBay ~ I LOVE your place more every time I see pictures. There is such beauty and sereneness, my heart and mind sigh and I become more calm. I look forward to seeing pictures as the season progresses. Enjoy your bit of heaven on earth.


  5. I've never heard of a snowbell tree either. I'll have to check it out. Anything with wonderful fragrance is a favorite with me.

    You certainly have some work ahead of you. Your place is already beautiful, it will be stunning when you finish.

  6. I love all of the acreage you have for planting, walking, riding - just everything. I also know you must be a VERY ambitious person to keep up with it and that it's a lot of work. But your work is paying off because it is just gorgeous. Of course I say this every time I come here. LOL Guess I'm consistant! By the way the Yarrow you sent looks SO good. Sure hope it will bloom this first year but I won't cry if it doesn't because it's still such a pretty color and love the texture!

  7. Please pass the Teddy Bear's Paws, a Snowbell and a double helping of Bidens.


  8. You have so much space, so many gardens, and such an abundance of wild trees and shrubs to complement it all. My half acre overwhelms me... I can't imagine how you can design and tend all the areas you have! I'm enjoying your posts as you take us through the property area by area. Beautiful!

  9. I'm amazed by the size of the area you are planting! It looks great but I can't imagine tending such a big yard! Good luck with your plans!

  10. Sweet bay, I love this journey through your gardens - I feel I should just pour a glass of lemonade and sit back - so pretty and serene. You are truly blessed to have such a beautiful piece of earth. Enjoy!

  11. You've done a really good job planning it all out. I think you would be a great landscape designer!

  12. Wow, always so much to see here. Love the yellow and purple combo, I've always been drawn to complementary colors. Does negative space mean empty, LOL? I have quite a bit of that myself.

  13. I just loved seeing more of your property! It sounds like you work really hard to make it look so beautiful.
    Dealing with your Loblolly pines sounds like the Ponderosa pine in our yard. I can get things to grow under a Cedar, but the Pine is almost impossible.
    I can't wait to see more of your garden as the year progresses.

  14. I hope you're blogging years from now so we can see all these areas after renovation SB! :-)
    Thanks for commenting about your methods on my blog. It's good you pace yourself ~ you are smart (but we already knew that!) I was reading along admiring your vision then came to a dead stop when you mentioned your parents grew pink lady slippers! WOW. Those must be a sight to see. I remember walking the woods with my own parents (we lived in Virginia during part of my childhood) at the time ~ looking for wildflowers like the Lady Slippers, Trilliums, Jack-in-the-Pulpits etc. I think my fascination with the slipper orchids comes from finding the Lady Slippers in the wild. You've done so much already to your property ~ I know it will just get better and better every year.

  15. Hi SB~~ I love the area you call yours. And your Japanese Snowbell is amazing.

  16. Thank you everyone for your comments.

    Kathleen, it is amazing to see wild Lady's Slippers isn't it? Every year I'm always a little surprised at the size of the flowers. My parents don't grow them, although my mom does garden -- rather, they just grow there.

    Hi Grace, the Snowbell is an American Snowbell. It's native to lowlands and grows wild here on the farm.

  17. Sweet Bay your gardens ... especially the landscape shots are stunning! What a great project you have going I cannot wait to see the new beds fill in! Wonderful photos... I love the Snowbell tree!


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