My #1 priority this past fall was to try to lessen the amount of area that needs to be mowed.
Right now we are having to mow too much.
My strategy is to a) sow large and difficult to cultivate areas with Bidens aristosa seeds and b) to propagate many plants, plant them willy-nilly and then re-arrange them until I have them the way I like. It's the least efficient way and the most fun to accomplish what I want.
Bidens aristosa is a beautiful and carefree annual native to lowlands that blooms in central NC during the month of September.
To begin: this is the view turning into the driveway. There's not a whole lot up here -- on the left, just out of sight, is the Prunus mume by the mailbox; up ahead on the right are three crape myrtles, two seedlings with the parent, a 'Pink Lace' seedling itself, growing in the middle; a field that's crying out to be a wildflower meadow; two dwarf apple trees, an American smoketree, and a third crape myrtle seedling. I've spread the seeds of Bidens aristosa on the field and plan to add native mints, bee balm, and asters.
Once upon a time the field was a wildflower meadow, but all that remains of the original seed mix are yarrow and blanket flowers. On the left I have planted some understory trees: redbuds, dogwoods, a sorrel tree -- and a sugar maple, all grown from seed. They are still tiny, which is why you can't see them. I also want to add wax myrtle in some places, especially as a backdrop to the Prunus mume -- something evergreen besides that &@*# Chinese privet that comes up everywhere -- and highbush blueberry. Getting more wax myrtle is easy. I pulled up a half a dozen seedlings to pot up this afternoon. Getting more blueberries won't be as easy. I am going to try layering, as cuttings and growing from seed has not worked at all. I want blueberries like the ones that grow wild here. The fruit is tiny but abundant, and the fall color is outstanding. Like most of the wild blueberries on the farm, there's a blueberry nearby the Prunus mume that turns to beautiful colors very late in the fall. The leaves darken first a rich dark burgundy, later changing to a brilliant scarlet.
There are other trees I'd really like to try as well: wild olive (Osmanthus americanus), sweetleaf (Symplocos tinctoria), silverbell (Halesia), and hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana). Florida leucothoe might be worth trying too, as an understory plant, as well as Lindera benzoin, if I can find one that actually smells good.
The American smoketree near the neighbor's pasture has been a nice tree. It has a lot of character. The leaves are beautiful as they emerge and the airy blooms have more grace than those of the Chinese species, imo. Unfortunately it rarely shows the fall color that the species is famous for. A couple of years it has briefly shown an old gold color, but usually mildew takes the leaves before they can change.
The apple trees have been nice too. One is 'Liberty' and another is 'Freedom', both grafted onto dwarf rootstock. The trees were planted in 1999 when Floyd went through and leaned toward the south, away from the wind, for several years. The lean is no longer very apparent. When we remember to thin the young fruit we get a lot of apples that are good for baking. I am surprised that the deer have always left the trees alone. We've never sprayed the trees with anything.
A view from the house showing the smoketree, crape myrtle, and apple trees. (Prince looks like he's posing for a horse magazine ad.)
I rather like the openness up there around those trees; on the other hand, it's literally a pain to mow. That's a steep slope. I may put more prairie roses (R. setigera) up there; the two I have currently I grew from seed obtained in a trade from a gardener in Missouri, and one of them set a bumper crop of hips this year. Plus, they're easy to propagate from layerings. They are residing on the bank opposite the paddock and look very happy.
I think I would also like to try Tea roses up there. I love tea roses but have had a lot of difficulty with them. I do the lasagna style of gardening when I start the beds, having found it to be the easiest and most effective method. After all we have a lot of compost. The problem is that this type of bedding holds a lot of moisture and is very nutrient rich, which is not good for teas. They put on a lot of new late-season growth, which is sensitive to freezes and really allows canker in. I only have two teas right now in fairly well-drained and lean situations, 'Devoniensis' and 'Duchesse de Brabant'. 'Devoniensis' is sometimes semi-double and sometimes very full, and always very fragrant. Not like a rose though -- more of a combination of fruit and tea. 'Duchesse de Brabant' has everything that teas are known for: beautiful flowers, beautiful fragrance, and beautiful foliage.
You can see why I have to have more.
Turning the corner of the driveway, on the right you can see the bank of a ditch that runs between our driveway and the neighbor's pasture.
This bank was created when the ditch was re-dug at around the same time the house was moved. I tried putting Bidens seeds out last spring, but that was before I found out that the seed needs chilling, so that didn't work. The bank itself is raised up and quite dry, so there's an opportunity to try a variety of things. I planted American beautyberry, roses, bee balm, mountain mint, a Aster 'Miss Bessie', and a soapwort from raingardener. The bank is heavily mulched with hay to keep the weeds down until the plants fill in. During winter good hay is hard to find, and some is inevitably wasted by the horses. But it makes an excellent mulch.
The dreaded blue tarp (which covers shavings for the horse stalls) comes into view. I hate the tarp on many levels -- it doesn't even do a very good job of keeping the shavings dry -- but it's the easiest way to deal with the shavings for now.
The bank extends even with the end of the vegetable garden.
'Nasturana' is one of the roses planted on the bank along with 'Violette', the musk rose 'Vanity', Rosa setigera, arkansana, virginiana, and rugosa.
I will stop here or this post will end up being a novel.
Next: the gardens beside the house and the vegetable garden