Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ongoing Projects

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.

Oct '09

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.

The flowers are lovely and sweetly fragrant.

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.

May 2008

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.

October 2009

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.

Oct '08

'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


  1. Wow, that's a lot of space! But oh how lovely to have it. Looks and sounds like you're going to be quite busy. Look forward to seeing your progress.

  2. what a beautiful place you have.

    Besr regards

  3. I love the space ... that surely invites the best of creativity out of any gardener! ~bangchik

  4. A great tour! Plus, you know old roses. Since I'm so close to you in NC, I will say the Tea, Dr. Grill performs beautifully here. Also, the polyantha Perl d'Or. Both large plants and care free.

  5. You are blessed to have all of this earth!! Beautiful area..

  6. You really DO have a lot off space to mow. No wonder you want to plant more! I'd say you have a lot of work cut out for you!! Good luck with the project!

  7. Sweet bay, I wish all gardenbloggers would give a tour of what they're dealing with, complete with pictures and thoughtful analysis of what's needed, what's planned. Your tour was fascinating (and you have such a great property to work with!) I'd never heard of bidens, and will surely try some now... very happy looking flowers. I'll look for more tours of your place, - I love following your thoughts and debates about what to plant.

  8. SweetBay,
    Duchesse de Brabant is really something! As is the last rose. The bidens in the meadow is a great ideal too!

  9. Your landscape is beautiful! I love it. I can't wait until you post your vegetable garden. I need some ideas for mine! Have a wonderful day! Carla

  10. What a wonderful overview of what I *knew* would be an absolutley gorgeous property. Very pastoral. Your ideas sound fantastic and you have all those great trees as a backdrop. What fun you are having!

  11. Thank you for this tour, Sweetbay! I've seen glimpses of different parts of your property on your posts, but this helped me to get a broader view of it all. I have a lot of space to work with, too--though not as much as you--and for me the challenge is the design and knowing where to start. Right now I have flowerbeds here and there; my husband wouldn't mind if I lessen the amount of mowing he has to do, but not if it means having to mow around all the flowers:) Looking forward to seeing what all you do--you may give me some ideas!

  12. What a dream space to live and garden! Oh my how I would LoVe to be in your shoes living out in the wideopen space with horses in front!
    Oh boy..I can only dream!
    thank you for sharing your wonderful garden space!sigh..aNNa

  13. Well Sweetbay you are sure ambitious! Good luck with all those new seedings and plantings! I do understand wanting to cut back on mowing. Prince looks so beautiful!! I love that photo! ;>)

  14. Your farm is beautiful....with lovely natives. I just planted zizia...Golden Alexander and wonder if you've run across it. It would love the low lands and it reseeds and spread it self about like bidens. I saw it in bloom at the Chicago Botanical Gardens during Spring Fling.
    It's carefree from what I've seen. If I have luck with it in my dryer garden I'll save seeds for you this summer.



  15. I see exactly why you want more roses ~ wowee, what a beauty!
    You have a beautiful, beautiful place Sweet Bay. It always looks so peaceful to me. Saying I want to mow less seems funny now ~ compared to all that you have to mow. I hope you do get your wildflower meadow ~ I think it would be an outstanding addition. If you do absolutely nothing tho, you would still have a very lovely spot on earth.
    ps The photo of Prince is great. It does look like it could be in an advertisement.

  16. I can hardly wait to see your progress!-- Randy

  17. I always admire your farm so much. The combinations of wild plants and hybrids is lovely. I know how hard it is to maintain a large property. I had just about eradicated the burdock and giant ragweed when the garlic mustard moved in so quickly I couldn't get it controlled.

    Most people here use burning to keep invasive weeds under control and allow native plants to spread. I have too many out buildings and the crops are so close I don't even consider it.

    I'm anxious to see what you do with the acreage you don't want to keep mowing.

  18. I'm doing the same thing! The crazy man who built this house put in 12,000 square feet of Kentucky Blue Grass (which needs too much water for the desert SW.) Each year I rip out another 2,000 feet. Pretty soon the dog will have a spot that's just big enough for a good nap. :)

  19. Good evening1
    Lovely roses you are giving as temptations for a roselover in the north...
    But soon, it will be time here too with pruning and times for roses too.
    Have a nice week!
    Best wishes,

  20. I'm with you on the mowing. It's like dishes and laundry- unless you just finished it needs doing again:~ Have you posted what seeds you're planning on sowing this spring yet? I'm always curious about what new natives you'll be raising from the NCBG seed collection.

    Enjoy the temps this week!

  21. When I look at your photos, it looks like something from the part of Sweden where I was born and raised. What Zone do you have? I think mine is about 6a.

    Love that white rose Nasturana. Beautiful wild feeling.

  22. Thank you for your comments everyone.

    Thank you for the suggestions Jim. I have seen pictures of both of those roses and they are beautiful. I think the lady that Delia's Purple originally came from also grew Perle d'Or.

    Gail I'll look into the Zizia -- I think the NC Botanical Garden often offers the seeds.

    littlewing the only seeds I have started so far are the seeds I have in the fridge -- roses, iris and daylilies. I haven't gotten the seed list from the Garden yet. Getting that list is always a rite of spring. :)

    Trädgårdsmakare Hillevissan, I am in zone 7b/8a. It's a pretty mild climate here. Hot in summer but not very cold in winter.

  23. Tea roses do really well here - like irises - wild and cultivated. In fact they can take over a bed if you're not careful. They have such a sweet fragrance.

    A gorgeous shot of Prince. He could be a model :)

  24. You've got a lovely spread there, SB. Your projects seem sound and should lift your spirits, although I don't see that you need to make any improvements.

  25. If you ever decide to write a novel, I'll be first in line to read it.

    When I read your blog, it makes me feel like I don't know a darn thing about gardening or blogging....but that doesn't stop me:)

    Really now, is there anything better than being out in the country?

    I think Prince is looking at your garden wishing he could nibble on it.



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