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Uvularia perfoliata, Bellwort


While the warm season grasses rise above last year’s stubble and the trees are beginning to leaf out in earnest, all of the ground layer of plants are grabbing sunshine while they can. The meadow is sporting blue eyed grass (Sisyrhinchium), violets, pussytoes (Antennaria), and wild strawberries (Fragaria). The cool season Junegrass (Koeleria) is already spreading its pollen, along with all the Carexes. In the woods, the violets are joined by a delicate carpet of bellwort (Uvularia).


The redbuds are wrapping up; as hot and dry as it has been, those flowers won’t last much longer. The dogwoods are well into their season. I’m hopeful we’ll get some of the rain forecast for the coming week, or these won’t last long, either. The highbush blueberries have only just gotten started. I don’t think the groundcover blueberries have opened yet.


In the greenhouse, I’ve transplanted the peppers into larger pots. It may be hot, but I don’t trust that we won’t have a sudden cold snap, and these plants take a long time to reach plant-out size. I’m not taking that chance. This year’s varieties are sweet peppers Super Shepherd, Sweet Banana, Corno di Toro, and Ashe County pimento, and hot peppers Jalapeño and Tiburon poblano–most of them aren’t locally available.


Today I also sowed the larger portion of the plants I’ll be setting out in three or four weeks. So many seeds! We’ve got six varieties of tomatoes (slicers Vinson Watts, German Johnson, and Illini Star; plums Illini Gold and Black Plum; and Pink Princess cherries), three varieties of tomatillos (Everona, Cisneros Grande, and Purple), and herbs Thai and Genovese basils, catnip, borage, parsley, and cilantro.


Daucus carota ‘Dara’ – OMG


I’ve started another several pots of the Daucus carota ‘Dara’ I flipped for two summers ago in hopes of actually getting a decent stand of them this year. I also started a bunch of Red Drummond phlox, something that came up on its own from a set of plants I purchased elsewhere and which I liked so much I located a source to start my own crop. And for the bees I’ve sown three marigold varieties (Jaguar, Spanish Brocade, and seed saved from marigolds that self-sowed in the garden a couple of years ago), Tithonia, and two varieties of sunflowers (Tiger Eye and Lemon Queen).


Later this week, I know I’ll be laying hoses and running water out to the garden, even though the outside beds won’t be in use for another couple of weeks. There’s only just so much hauling of jugs of water a person is willing to do, and I just doubled my watering duties.


 

::waves::

Apr. 11th, 2017 09:04 pm
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So glad to see more people here - hi! It's nice to have a sense of community once more.
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Carex pensylvanica and Nassella tenuissima along the path.


The other morning, it was 24F in my corner of the world, the second or third frosty morning in a row. The little garden behind my house – the one visible from the kitchen window, and called the winter garden because it’s the only one I spend much time with in winter – has an increasing number of native plants in it. There are several Carex pensylvanica in there, all self-sown.


On this particular morning, I happened to be checking the plants in the winter garden, looking to see which ones had survived the weather. I blinked, then leaned closer to the Carex. Damned if it wasn’t blooming.


Cool season grass (“grass”), yep.

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I’m pleased to announce that I am now a certified Chesapeake Bay Landscape Pro! The program involves a rigorous series of practicums (practica?) and testing, and emphasizes a dedication to sustainable landscape design.


So, what is sustainable landscape design, and why do you need it?  Essentially, sustainable landscape design aims to provide not only beautiful landscapes, but also landscapes that serve the invisible lives that share those landscapes with us (and without whom we stand no chance of life on this planet).  Sustainable landscapes feed soil, protect water and air, support the flora and fauna indigenous to the project site…and at the same time bring beauty, health, recreation, and solace to those people using the landscape.  Win-win, right?


Of course, climate change being the juggernaut it is, deliberately setting out to not only maintain, but to actively improve the conditions in which we live is becoming more and more important.  Let’s not kid ourselves:  the very air and water are at stake, here.  The combination of greed and a simple lack of education on what really matters – how what we do, the choices we make, affect everything around us – degrade everything we know and love every moment of every day.


All is not lost, however.  Changes we began to make two decades or more ago have made our water safer, our air cleaner.  It’s returned the bald eagle to a common sight along waterways.  It’s reducing sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus in the water that runs off into the Chesapeake Bay, and increasing the numbers of native oysters in beds of native grasses replanted along the Bay’s shallow waters and the numbers of crabs and fish whose babies grow up in those grass beds.  It’s bringing the Bay back to you, and me, and everyone around us.


We must not give up.  We cannot simply shrug and say, Oh well, at least today is pretty.  Our children and their children won’t be able to say the same if we don’t work to make our landscapes truly sustainable.


I, for one, have hope that we can slow this juggernaut.  I think we can help all life adapt as inevitable change continues.  If you want to talk about sustainability in design, or want to see what your personal landscape can do to help with the greater battle, give me a call.  If you want to read up on the subject, allow me to direct you to Dr. Douglas Tallamy [Bringing Nature Home:  How you can sustain wildlife with native plants], Larry Weaner [Garden Revolution:  How our landscapes can be a source of environmental change], and Claudia West and Thomas Rainer [Planting in a Post-Wild World:  Designing plant communities for resilient landscapes].


Yes, it’s a pretty day.  Let’s make sure tomorrow is, too.

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The ruins garden waterfall at Chanticleer


Hang onto your hats, Central Virginia folks! The weather’s weird this year, weirder than it’s been in a while. Thanks to accelerating climate change, it’s likely to continue being weird for the foreseeable future.


So, you may ask—why should you care? For any number of reasons, but specifically in a landscape vein, I think it’s important to note that climate change is pushing the temperature zones northward. Plants which were barely able to handle summer’s heat and humidity in years past are going to be even more stressed, and some will probably have to come off our list of reliable species for our zone 7A or B (depending on where you live).


Additionally, you should expect to get heavier, and more infrequent, rain (or snow) events throughout the year. This means longer periods without rain, too, so keep an eye on those plants in your garden which tend to droop anyway without moisture; water them, or replace them with something better adapted to droughts. Preferably native plants, please! Natives are already adapted to local temperatures and moisture levels and, while those things are changing, the natives are better positioned to do well overall than something not from our local area. In short, you’ll have to water and fertilize a native plant less, and you’ll spend less time fussing over it. Want low maintenance? Plant natives.


Seedheads of Andropogon ternarius

LJ to DW

Jan. 15th, 2017 03:14 pm
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I know I'm not the only one making the journey from LiveJournal to Dreamwidth, given the crazy climate of the day. I look forward to seeing who also came across, and to building a vibrant community on this new soil.

War!

Jul. 11th, 2016 09:06 pm
clarentine: (cavalier)
Hornworms to the left of me, hornworms to the right--the carnage was everywhere. Tomato plants raised denuded stumps to the sky, crying out for help. Frass littered the scene.

I surveyed the terrain and struck! One hornworm. Two. Three, four, in quick succession. Then, employing an old scout's trick, I crouched and moved in closer.

The enemy thus revealed was appalling. Well-hidden, they had only to wait silently, they thought, for their natural predators to retreat once more, convinced that all was as it should be.

Woe betide those overconfident in their camouflage! I inched nearer, poised just so, and then snapped off a series of fast assaults. Eight-ten-twelve rapidly added to my coup. Fourteen. Sixteen. Eighteen!

At the end of that morning, under the pitiless bowl of cloudless July sky, I tallied my feat: four and twenty they numbered, brilliant in their sleek, striped skins, their lacquered horns raised uselessly against an unexpected foe. Dripping in gore, I escorted my prisoners to their ultimate fate.

And the chickens loved every one.

clarentine: (cavalier)
Whew! Now, that was a day. I've been to a client's house to measure out the front yard for a base map - thank you, T., for your help. Bought and ate bagels. Drafted up that base map and did some preliminary work on the new circular driveway loop.

Out in the greenhouse, we got the new strawberries watered and set up ten flats of greens: Tyee spinach and Lacinato (both standard and variegated) and Red Russian kale. Screwed down some of the support frame that came unmoored in last week's tornado-y winds. Cleaned the chickens' waterer out and refilled it and their feeder. Dug up a mess of weeds from the onion and garlic bed and fed them to the chickens (who know to watch from that corner of their run when I go into the garden).

Back at the house, we refilled the kindling boxes for the woodstove and refilled the water jugs that live in the greenhouse, and finally I mixed up the latest batch of dog bikkies.

I think that's enough for one day. Don't you? :-)
clarentine: (cavalier)
Nine degrees this morning - rising to ten just before I left for work. Yay. :-/
clarentine: (cavalier)
What else are Fridays for, but for playing along with the current meme?

Instructions: Go to the 7th page of a work in progress, go 7 lines down, post the next 7 lines, then challenge 7 other writers to do the same. (I'm passing on the last part; I don't think writers need much encouragement to share what they're working on. But please do share!)

Here's my entry in today's challenge:

He had learned long ago never to correct his father, not on any provocation, but how to answer this one? No said she'd lied, and was doubly dangerous if it caught his father in the black mood which had been almost constant since the spring. Yes painted him a coward, and would not stop the punishment, anyway. Behind him, he could feel her spirit salivating in anticipation. He did not look up again.

"Sir," he said.
clarentine: (cavalier)
This is a tune many of those who don't live in the country sing as well, only with slightly modified verses. No doubt you'll recognize your own version.

There's a bear in the field, oh my. A bear!
Suet feeder, sunflowers, rows of corn all sniffed.
(Suet feeder was found to be tasty. Uh oh.)
Countermeasures contemplated, none of them fun.
Ugh. There's a bear. What shall I do?

There's a rooster in the field, oh my. A rooster!
Not my rooster--don't have, don't want.
(Hens don't need rooster, thank you very much.)
Means of trapping him and rehoming contemplated, all of them conflicting with bear issues.
Ugh. There's a rooster. What shall I do?

There's a delivery to be picked up for the field, oh my. A whole pallet!
The greenhouse-to-be needs a face, but the truck can't get up our driveway.
(No, we can't be available at a half-hour's notice to meet the truck nearby. Sheesh.)
Long-distance trip to trucking company's warehouse contemplated; won't be home to handle either bear or rooster issues.
Ugh. There's a delivery. What shall I do?

Put out corn to lure in rooster. (Catch him when he goes to roost?)
Store new suet feeder in garage tonight.
Caravan - car and truck - to warehouse (in rain).
So very many moving parts. For just one day can we avoid disaster?
clarentine: (cavalier)
It's August, and the weather gods are not above reminding us of that fact: we are still deep in late summer's sticky heart. Nevertheless, as we sink closer to autumnal equinox, the occasional chill snap in the air and the angle of the sun remind us - in case we needed the warning - to pack up the fruits of the season and get ready. It won't always be warm breezes and plenty. If we are smart, we will be ants, not grasshoppers.

Right now, though, it's August, and I could do with a breeze. :-)

This weekend, we had one of those cold front weather blessings cross our path, and I seized the opportunity to get the fall greens planted. That meant, of course, that the beds had to be cleared of summer's crop of weeds. By noon on Sunday, however, I had two forty-foot rows planted in Premier kale, collards, and purple mustard greens. I'm trying out a new ground cover, too, for after the corn, a Crotalaria called 'Sunn Hemp' (which isn't a Cannabis at all). Lovely seeds, glossy like sun on an oil slick and about the same range of colors.

The tomatoes are all but done. Once again, German Johnson was my star performer, giving me gorgeous, deep pink fruits the size of softballs right up to the point where the vines gasped their last. I was somewhat more pleased with the Virginia-adapted version of Brandywine I tried out this year than I have been with Brandywines in the past; they did their best to keep up with the Johnsons. The fruits have a bad habit of cracking at the stem end, however, and rotting there. If it had been a wet year, we wouldn't have gotten a single one of these. Illini Star, my other main crop tomato, had a really rough time this year for some reason. More often than not, its fruits would just about ripen, then rot on the vine. Could have been the bugs, I guess. We were heavily infested with brown marmorated stinkbugs this spring.

Of my two paste varieties, the Black Plums gave their many, many small tomatoes as expected and fought whatever blight it is that afflicts them regularly every year all the way to the end--a good producer. Illini Gold always catches blights, too, but it gave me less fruit than last year.

Only the cherry Pink Princess is still producing...hand over fist. The fruit tends to crack after a rain, but it's been dry on the farm this season (not so in the mountains and on the plain around us, but right here, we're dry). Kay takes every opportunity she gets to come down to the garden with me and graze on the cherry tomatoes. Silly dog. :-)

Otherwise, the first planting of corn is gone, its stalks uprooted, and the second is tasseling. The tomatillos continue to give me an enormous crop. The cucumbers failed even more quickly than I'd expected, with only the Asian and Persian cukes persisting any real length of time. The winter squash are beginning to ripen (the summer squash all croaked but for a single plant). The sunflowers I transplanted all did just fine. The pole beans and butterbeans are just ripening for picking; I expect to be down there this evening, filling my basket.

And maybe, just maybe, we'll get a little rain today. Maybe.
clarentine: (cavalier)
It's official - summer has arrived. The fireflies are once again decorating the night with semaphore declarations of love. The heat has been here a good week, and the deer flies are already driving us crazy, but until the fireflies return, it isn't summer.
clarentine: (cavalier)
The garden's doing just fine, growing quickly now that the heat's arrived...wait, I didn't say what I'd planted, did I? Okay, for the record, this year we have:

Last fall's Rocambole garlics and the potato onions which are sharing a bed because they're both all-season crops. I decided to see if the voles, which have yet to bother the garlic, could be kept away from the onions by planting garlic in rings around them, and thus far the experiment has proven successful. I also put my spring-planted shallots in the gaps between plants. They're also doing well.

(Pam Dawling recommends digging garlic three weeks after the scapes show up, which is a lot earlier than I've done it in the past. I noticed scapes today, so that means the weekend of June 14, the garlic should come up. I'm curious to see the difference if they're pulled this early. I think the onions will have a while yet. Fortunately, I don't have to disturb them.)

Purple Peacock broccoli. It's a hybrid with one of the kales, I think, something with purplish, frilly leaves (like Red Russian kale, actually). Looks nice when I pull off the insect cover to weed that bed. This one's not to be harvested until some time in the fall. I think I planted it way, way too early. This is the first time I've planted broccoli, though, so it's all a learning experience.

The spring-planted Premier kale has long since bolted, but the leaves are still nice and tender. I cooked up a mess of the greens last weekend, and will pick and cook more this coming week, before I pull all the plants. The late corn should be in there afterward, but I think it's going to see buckwheat first for some green manure.

Speaking of corn...again this year I've tried Augusta early sweet corn. Last year, in a different bed, I got poor germination. This year, I got none. Too wet and cold? Probably. So, this weekend, I've planted the first batch of midseason corn (new variety Tuxana, as a replacement for the Silver Queen I'd been planting) where I'd planted Augusta. We'll see how it comes along. It certainly doesn't have the same excuse of cold and wet!

And, at the end of this bed, the tomatillos and peppers are doing fine. They all got off to a slow start - tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos - in the seed flats. Part of that was damping off fungus, I think, but the rest...I just don't know. Not warm enough?

In the next bed is even later-planted Premier kale, doing just fine (if besieged by weeds). The cilantro and tatsoi both bolted quick when the spring warmed up; I'm waiting to collect seed for both before turning them under.

The tomatoes I planted two weeks ago are really starting to hit their stride. This year we have Pink Princess cherries, paste tomatoes Illini Gold and Black Plum, and slicers Illini Star, German Johnson, and a Virginia variety of Brandywine. I need to get the first row of Florida weave trellising up, but it's been wicked hot today. Maybe tomorrow evening.

The cucumber trellis is up and I planted out the cucumbers yesterday: Garden Oasis (a beit alpha type) and Chelsea Pride (an English-style cuke), both old seed and showing poor germination after a couple of years, and new cukes Suyo Long (an Asian) and Empereur Alexandre. I really like the beit alphas for their tender skin and juicy, sweet, never-bitter flavor, but they just don't germinate well. We'll see how the new cuke varieties handle our heat and humidity.

I'm planning on seeding out some Senposai for summer greens - it was indeed durable last year - but that hasn't happened yet. Too many weeds to clear and not enough good-weather hours in which to do so. When I finally got down to it yesterday morning, I cleared half the bed before the heat and the sun sent me indoors.

I still need to plant out beans, both my favorite green snap Grady Bailly and the limas I grow for a customer at work, but that hasn't happened yet, either.

Yesterday I also planted out my summer and winter squash: old reliables Butternut and Seminole winter squashes, and summer squashes Costata di Romanesco, Dark Green, Black Beauty, and Greyzini. Both Dark Green and Black Beauty are new varieties; one of the two is a trap crop for squash bugs, a practice recommended by Pam Dawling. I could cover the plants, but that's a pain and they'd still need to be uncovered for pollination. If the trap crop idea works out, I will be pleased. I planted a lot, deliberately; I promised the woman who coordinates the local food pantry that they'd get my extras, so this is my attempt at planting an extra row (I should also have cukes, Senposai, chard, peppers, and tomatillos, and maybe tomatoes).

(I had two more of the volunteer winter squashes turn up where they'd been grown last year. My two varieties had cross-pollinated two years before; they gave me something we were calling Butternoles last year, a nice, tasty, bell-shaped squash. I'm hoping the two volunteers are both Butternoles and have put them in the row with the deliberately sown ones. I want to save seed from them this year.)

Last year, I modified my rotation plan and planted Lemon Queen sunflowers in the middle of the winter squash bed. I thought the birds had cleaned up all the seeds, since when I pulled the plants down there was nothing left on the discs. Ha! The bed that has corn and summer squash this year bore a beautiful crop of self-sown sunflowers first. I transplanted as many of those as I could to the far side of the new winter squash bed.

Still to plant out, though I have them in pots, ready to go (or nearly): Swiss chard, both Scarlet Charlotte and Gator (which is supposed to be perennial but froze over the awful winter); tithonia, the Mexican sunflower, which turned out to be a favorite of the Monarchs headed south last fall and which are great markers for the ends of rows; Sweet Genovese basil; and borage. I sowed marigold seed, but none of it came up. Fortunately, I do have some self-sown stuff coming up where I grew them last year. Those need to be transplanted.

And that, in a long nutshell, is my garden this year.
clarentine: (cavalier)
This morning, headed down the sidewalk past Capitol Square from the bus stop, I was composing a post about the effects of this long, cold winter on the camellias planted there when there was a rustle and a heavy thump on the other side of an azalea. I glanced in that direction and then came to a dead stop: it was a big bird. Not one of the hawks that hunt in the park, either - it was one of the peregrine falcons who live in downtown. I'd never seen one in person, but they're popular webcam subjects because they like to nest on the ledges outside of upper floor windows in the office buildings downtown. I gazed, and it gazed back, and then since I knew there was someone coming down the sidewalk a ways behind me I went on, leaving the falcon to continue with whatever it was doing in the underbrush undisturbed.

And the camellias? Hardly even popping out of bud. No color showing at all. On March 3. This week, we're expected to be near 70 degrees on Wednesday...and there'll be 1-3 more inches of snow on Thursday. ::whines::

Brrrrrr

Feb. 15th, 2015 08:31 am
clarentine: (cavalier)
Well, I now have empirical proof that you can, indeed, freeze your hair. :-) No damage done, though it was very weird to wonder what was poking my scalp as I turned my head and realize it was my hair. Fortunately, the wood stove was already fired up for the morning, so I stood there in my coat for a couple of minutes until it thawed.

There's a most hellacious wind howling through the trees right now. The thermometer says something like 10 degrees, taking into account that it's up alongside the house and thus reading slightly higher than it would without that shelter. The weatherbeings have been warning that, with the wind chill, the outside temps are down into negative territory. I am always grateful we invested in the wood stove, but never more on a morning like this. The stupid heat pump that came with the house would never have kept up.

So, we're tucked up inside the house, dogs, cats, and people. The chickens are huddled in their coop, having come out only long enough to eat the scraps and scratch I put out for them when I was out freezing my hair. We filled the wood boxes yesterday morning before the weather blew in and it began to snow - sideways - so we are in no danger even if the power should go out (which it has not, despite the wind, and thank you very much Rappahannock Electric Cooperative). The weather report has this misery continuing until some time Monday, when the next front comes through and supposedly brings us snow before dropping the bottom out again. Argh.

I wanted to come to Virginia because I genuinely like having a full four seasons. I don't mind the cold, so much, if I can get out of it into real warmth, like we have in this house. Right now, however, I think I have had enough cold for one year.

Brrrrrrr.
clarentine: (cavalier)
Oh, my god, what a glorious day - what a beautiful weekend - this has turned out to be. Clouds gave way to sunshine and a warm, southerly breeze yesterday about midday, and today is an incredible 70 degrees! I changed out the bedding in the chicken house in my shirtsleeves. I helped stack up the next bunch of logs to be split, and then took Kay down into the garden and stood around in the sun while she explored where the rabbits have been hiding out. Days like this don't come along all that often in February; I'm glad these two happened on a weekend so I could make use of them.
clarentine: (cavalier)
Yesterday, my commute gave me the complicated lace of branch tips stark against a salmon-pink winter sky.

Today, it was a pod of whales swimming ponderously across a sky gone just pale with the coming dawn.

Whenever I feel down, or overwhelmed, the remedy is always there waiting for me. I just have to remember to step outside my head, quiet my thoughts, and really see.
clarentine: (cavalier)
This post - https://medium.com/message/never-trust-a-corporation-to-do-a-librarys-job-f58db4673351 - and the news it communicates, is awesome. So very awesome. Every generation has computer software it uses, and loves, and then abandons when something that seems cooler comes along...only to find out later the previous software did some things better or was more fun to play with. The past seemed lost forever; software is all too often now not backward-compatible, so the early versions might as well not exist. Old movies, books, games, all rendered as if they'd never been.

But they do exist, and so does the Internet Archive, and things we had given up on might now, again, be accessible. Read the article; I know what I am struck most by having once again available (MS-DOS-based Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game, anyone?), but like those thousands of old games and movies, we each have our own favorites. I hope you discover yours there. And if not, who knows? It might be the next item the Archive team turns its attention to.

I just acquired another non-profit worth donating to. (And another reason to despise Google, but let's not go there just now.)

Good Omens!

Jan. 3rd, 2015 06:17 am
clarentine: (cavalier)
In case you hadn't yet heard: BBC Radio 4 is playing the radio show of Terry Pratchett's and Neil Gaiman's "Good Omens" - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04knthd.

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