Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I had planned to take some photos for Halloween -- there are many spooky old buildings and shots to be had along nearby Crantock Road -- but I didn't get around to it. I love Halloween although since we live in a somewhat isolated locale we don't do much for it anymore. When I was a kid and lived in a suburb filled with other kids I used to decorate the yard with ghosts and carved pumpkins. We had a garden with trees in the front yard that lights from the house could not penetrate, so that the pumpkins set on stands looked like they were floating in the darkness. In addition to decorating and pumpkin carving I loved ghost stories. A local AM station had wonderful ghost stories that they played hourly. To this day I still re-read Ghosts of the Carolinas and This Haunted Land by Nancy and Bruce Roberts, both compilations of short stories. "The Demon of Wizard Clip", "The Talking Corpse" (set in Old Salem Tavern), and "The Surrency Ghost" are among my favorites. There's something about those stories that really captures the history and essence of the Southeast and North Carolina. In the garden I am often reminded of this passage from "Room for One More": "It was dusk and for a few minutes there was that intense light in which everything takes on a glow all its own. The fragile, spider-like cleome flowers in front of the dark gray unpainted little shacks were a vibrant pink. The cotton fields could not have looked more green."

Currently it's cold and raining, too gloomy even for Halloween! These days we decorate for fall mostly in black and gold

Texas Sunflowers

pumpkin orange

leaves of rugosa rose

Tommy the cat

hints of ghostly white

Dog Fennel

Crinum 'Royal White'

Rose 'Blush Noisette'

with dashes of blood red thrown in, and let the spiders decorate the garden with webs.

rugosa hip

Rosa arkansana

American Holly

Black Highbush Blueberry

Granted these pictures are not at all spooky but Happy Halloween anyway!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blooming Friday ~ Mouth-watering

We visited the State Fair this past weekend to see the farm animals, garden exhibits, and watch people ride those crazy rides. I'd love to ride some of the rides but I'm afraid of heights and would feel like a wimp riding the tamer rides with the 5-8 year olds. We also go there to eat evil but delicious carnival food. The cinnamon roll with a frappacino was the best. The roll had a luscious cream cheese icing that was like cake frosting whipped with extra air.

Candied apples are very popular at the fair and I might even make them at home, but the lovely blossoms on our two little apple trees have unfortunately not resulted in any mouth-watering fruit for three years running.

Despite being pruned and hung with baits for moths and other pests they have remained unproductive.

They are ornamental, with beautiful bark

and sweetly fragrant pink-tinged flowers,

but we'd like some apples! So I think we're going to replace those two trees with heirloom varieties and get a pear tree as well. I found this article about a man in our state who has 300 heirloom varieties, and two nurseries that will ship. Appropriately enough, since I have two horses, I'm thinking of getting a variety called 'Horse' which was developed in North Carolina before 1800 and was the most commonly grown apple in our state. It has soft yellow fruit with a tart tang and the tree is healthy and produces large crops of apples that are good for cider and cooking. DH said his grandparents had an apple tree that they said was a Horse apple tree but it may have been a seedling, as its fruit was green, or perhaps another cultivar altogether such as 'Roxbury Russett'.

Another old apple tree that sounds intriguing is 'Sops of Wine', an 1832 apple with a taste similar to the famous 'Esopus Spitzenberg' (Thomas Jefferson's favorite apple), but much more disease resistant. The fruit is firm, sweet and acidic, my favorite kind of eating apple.

Apples are not the only food crop we've attempted to grow.

We've had success with broccoli and cabbage,

pole beans, lettuce and kale.

I've always thought the name 'Buttercrunch' sounded delicious, and the lettuce lives up to its name.

The Southern staples of okra (pictured here is the flower, which shows its relation to Hibiscus)

squash and even 'Silver Queen' corn (truly mouth-watering) grow well here.

Crops like eggplant, peppers and Marabar Spinach love even the hottest weather. I have
not actually tasted Marabar Spinach but it smells wonderful sauteed with onions and garlic.

But tomatoes? Not so much. :( We lovingly planted these tomatoes in our vegetable garden last spring

and practically got nada for our troubles.

So this spring we tried them in a new bed in the back yard, in front of the very young Baptisias, Narcissus, daylilies and Siberian Iris. We prepped the soil

and staked the tomatoes well. This didn't stop them from falling over from wilt, even the varieties that are supposed to be resistant. One Roma survived and we got about half a dozen of the most wonderful tomatoes ever, but that was it.

Next year I'm going to try some of the tomatoes in pots. I really really want homegrown Black Russian and Roma tomatoes and more than just half a dozen!

On a more positive note, there were plenty of strawberry runners to spread around this year. I have of course lost the cultivar names but they are everbearing varieties that produce a lot of berries in spring and some during summer and fall if the weather isn't too dry. They're so sweet and delicious they go down before getting their picture taken.

Happy Friday, and join Katerina at roses and stuff for more Blooming Fridays.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

We are enjoying beautiful weather here this weekend, the beginning of fall color, the fireworks of Purple Muhly Grass, asters and sunflowers, and a sprinkling of nearly perfect late season roses. Later today we're off to the State Fair to see the garden exhibits and farm animals and eat carnival food.

A young Blackgum

Purple Muhly Grass with Mexican petunia and four o'clocks

Aromatic aster

Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)

along with Azalea 'Autumn Amethyst' and Northern River Oats, with another young Blackgum in the background.

The petals of Clotilde Soupert are sheer like some beautiful cotton fabric.

I wish you could breathe in the fragrance ~ it's divine!

Just as the planet Venus is gaining ascendency in the fall, a brilliant jewel set low in the sky, the mum that shares her name also becomes a star in the October garden.

Thanks Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Blooming Friday ~ Poisonous

Foxglove: poisonous but so lovely.

These summer and fall blooming lovelies are sweet to smell but not to eat. Supposedly they are even poisonous to Japanese Beetles, according to P. Allen Smith.

Azaleas are not poisonous to deer but they are to horses, so I don't plant them anywhere near the pastures. Horses do generally avoid poisonous plants but there's no reason to tempt a bored or curious horse. (btw when it comes to curiosity, cats don't have anything on horses!) ;)

Our native Coast Azalea, Rhododendron atlaticum

I can't write a post with the subject of poison without including everyone's least favorite native vine in the US, Poison Ivy!

It may have glorious fall color in rich shades of crimson and burgundy ~ in fact I've heard it's been imported to Europe, Australia and New Zealand because of its fall beauty ~ but it's to be avoided at all costs because of the itchy rash it produces if you're sensitive to it, and most people are.

Happy Friday, and join Katerina at roses and stuff for more Blooming Fridays!

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