Sunday, September 28, 2014

First day of fall

The official start of autumn felt like fall here, cool and drizzly. Normally I don't think pictures turn out very well on dull days but I noticed when I turned the horses out that the colors were really popping in the gray mist, so I took the camera out.

Slenderleaf gerardia (Agalinis tenuifolia) is a very showy annual that I have not been able to establish
in the garden, but it always pops up in the ditches alongside the pastures and in the floodway fields.

It's time to mow the pastures again.

Sugarcane plumegrass growing wild in the ditches next to the pastures.

The more delicate bloom of purple muhly grass

American beautytberry and river oats near the hay shelter

The Bidens are starting to fade but still colorful with 'Autumn Amethyst' Encore azaleas.

Seasonal pumpkin orange cat

Anemone 'Honorine Jobert'

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

After the Sun Game Out and Plant Suggestions Please -- updated

Last Tuesday after the sun came out..

I'm happy with the Bidens to the left, but feel like there needs to be something of intermediate height added to that space. Something independent and non-fussy, that will grow big enough not to have to be rescued from vines every year. The intermediate sized stuff at the middle left in the picture is naturalized Chinese privet and somehow it doesn't count. I'd like to get rid of all of it all. The tree and bushes growing in the distance to the left are wax myrtle, coastal pepperbush, American beautyberry, and swamp titi. I have several small serviceberries that I found them growing wild in various places and potted up last year that can go out next year. I also have 3 redbud seedlings that should be ready to go out next fall. Although that stretch to the left is low, it's often quite dry in the summer. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Edited to add this picture.
The plan is to clean out the privet from the wood's edge and add one or two American hollies and some understory trees/ large shrubs. I already have several wax myrtles in front of the manure pile (out of sight in the above picture) and along the ditch. I thought about the plantings at the Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill and consulted my copy of Gardening with Native Plants of the South and came up with many choices, in addition to the already mentioned serviceberry: possamhaw (Ilex decidua), wild olive (Osmanthus americanus), silverbell, sweetbay, sourwood, blackhaw, sweetleaf, native witch hazel, and native azaleas. I collected a bunch of sweetbay seeds from trees here (including one that I started from seed 8 years ago) so I should get at least one sapling from those.

To the strips of Bidens I want to add tall perennials, something that I can mow over with the tractor early in the growing season to keep vines and woody plants down. The plants need to be able to tolerate drought as well as short-term flooding. I know that swamp sunflower fits the bill. The Joe Pye that grows wild here really likes a lot of moisture, growing in ditches or even in standing water, so I don't think it would thrive there. I think groupings of white Hibiscus coccineus could work. Perhaps ironweed or green coneflower too.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Buckets of rain

We got a boatload of rain on Monday! Over 6.5". Our rain guage only goes up to 5" and was overflowing by the time I checked on it. We'd only had about 3.5" by 4 o'clock in the afternoon and the rest of the rain kind of snuck up on me. I had to lead the horses through a deep spot near the old house site (where the big ditch goes under the drive) that went up over my knees. So much for rubber boots! The horses had not been standing in water; the paddock is more than 2 feet higher than that spot in the drive. The creek was up the next morning so the horses had to stay in the paddock behind the house for a day.

These pictures were taken on Tuesday, which was humid and overcast and looked to be threatening rain although the system was off the coast by then. The seashore mallow is still blooming strongly but was beaten down somewhat by the rain. Seashore mallow can get quite big -- over 5 feet high and equally wide -- and without wood to hold up all of that weight it can be a little fragile. They are loving all of this rain though. They are still covered in flowers even after a full month of blooming. As you can imagine the grass leaped even more after the rain, so I took the tractor out last night. Everybody was out mowing their grass on Thursday and Friday. I could hear the mowers going in the neighborhood and saw several people mowing on my way to the feed and grocery stores.

The swirls of debris in the water are basically bits of ground up leaf litter, nothing ominous. Middle Creek is a clean creek according to water tests, and is crystal clear in normal weather. This flood water indicates some erosion though.

The big bed has a shallow ditch in front that was filled with water, and then rises 2+ feet in elevation, forming a small ridge that remained dry even after Floyd.

View of the old front yard from top of the big bed

View of the driveway/waterway

This dead sweetgum on the other side of the neighbor's fence, although empty in this picture, is a favorite among birds as a perch, hummingbirds and bluebirds especially.

The bank of the neighbor's pond washed out during Floyd so after heavy rains the pond spills over into the horse pasture. Later the rising creek waters join the pond water to completely submerge the area. (This is only a small lowland part of the whole horse pasture.)

Another view of the old yard and house site.

I was happy to see a lot of Bidens outside of the garden again this year. I spread a lot of seed last fall and winter and was happy to see this many germinate.

The pollinators are happy too, the most numerous being digger wasp and hundreds of fuzzy little bumblebees. I think they are adorable.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

If you like pink

then this post is for you!

Pink everywhere! August is the month for seashore mallow and at the beginning of September they are still in full bloom. If any white ones are left (same species, different color) they will begin blooming later this month.

After an amazingly cool week (in the 70s! with low humidity!), both the humidity and the temps have risen again. We're expecting mid 90s today and are in need of rain, so I've been watering. Seashore mallow need a rich diet to attain their full size and plenty of water or they will turn into brown potato chips. They are worth it though.

The bees agree. Every morning dozens of little bumblebees forage among the pink flowers. The garden sounds like a giant hive. The vast majority of the seashore mallow, if not all, originate from packs of seeds from the NC Botanical Garden. Seashore Mallow is easy to start from seed; no pretreatment is needed and all the seed requires is heat in order to germinate.

The white flowers are those of Hibiscus coccineus alba. As much as I love the red hibiscus for its flashiness and vigor (it has seeded itself all down the ditch behind the big bed and next to the old house site), I love the white hibiscus even more.

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