Friday, May 16, 2008

Get Your Eyes On

I live and garden beneath a large, gargantuan actually, pin oak. My emotions toward this tree define a love/hate relationship. We considered getting rid of it for a brief moment in time (we thought that would be the answer to our kitchen remodeling woes) but have realized the beauty of it's presence in our lives. However ...

It drops leaves (and the leaves, they are many) from November until February. That's four months of heavy raking. We spend a ton of money replacing the slate on our roof after hurricane season every year. And some years the acorn drop is so thick, we advise just staying under the patio umbrellas for safety reasons.

You would think that spring would be the season when I just unequivocally love the tree - no leaves to rake, no acorn missiles, no hurricane winds propelling limbs through the air. Just the shade, the wildlife haven, the cooling effect on our home ...

and yet these buggers keep popping up ... everywhere. The squirrels have not done their duty. They buried. But they did not recover and eat.

Have you read "The Omnivores Dilemma?" Michael Pollan writes about how mushroom hunters "get their eyes on" for their particular mushroom. Well, I get my eyes on for these oak babies. I can sense them hiding under the hellebores and almost smell them tucked amongst the coreopsis. After a particularly good day of hunting, I see them every time I close my eyes. I see them in my sleep.

I love the first day after a good rain when I can pull them out easily (of course without stepping in the garden and compacting the soil -- that's for all you garden professionals out there). Tomorrow will be that day and I'm ready for them. Watch out pin oak babies. I'm coming for you and I've got my eyes on.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Spring Favorite

I was given a hardy orchid (or bletilla striata) as a pass along from my mother about 8 years ago. They've always done pretty well but I've never had a year this good. A late frost usually burns the leaves and the blooms that followed were never anything to crow about. But this year with the mild, moist winter ... oo la la!

Do you have some moist semi-shade in an area to receive some protection from a late frost? If so, this is a plant worth having.

How Green are You?
I'm greener than some, but not as much as I'd like to be! That's what I learned from the Greendex Survey. Now, unlike Garden Punks or our dear friends the Farleys, I don't think I'll ever get down to 5 kWh/day or running off solar panels (remember that big tree?). But I know that I could switch my computer off at the surge protector to stop the phantom drain and walk to pick up the kids from school more.

Luckily, being a vegetarian helps as does living in Central VA where we have delicious local fruit and vegetables (and tofu!) for most of the year. We decided not to grow veggies ourselves this summer since we belong to a great CSA (we do have alpine strawberries, blueberries, and figs in the garden). Instead we'll be focusing on putting in a great fall/winter veggies garden in August and munching on yummy homegrowns during the "off season."

Green it up, folks!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Carbon Sequestering Rock Star

Immediately after reading Adrian Higgins' article in today's Post, I dashed into the backyard to measure my trees in order to find out how much carbon my backyard sequesters. (Carbon calculator is here.)

Unfortunately, our ancient Pin Oak has a diameter of 176" and the largest diameter that I could enter was 43". So let's just multiply my result by 4, shall we? That would be 2,308 pounds of carbon sequestered a year.

2,308 pounds. Dude. My backyard rocks the air quality big time.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Visit to Colesville

Three weeks ago, two friends and I took a quick junket to Ashland, VA to visit Colesville Nursery. For years as I travelled up I95, my eyes had searched the nurseygrounds that would taunt me from the highway wondering what interesting plants lay in the fields and hoop houses.

I came with a tight budget and a short list of plants. A short, boring list of plants. A very tight budget. Oh well, I figured I could have some excitement vicariously through my friends who had bigger budgets and far more exciting lists.

Here is my personal take on Colesville. We had an extremely positive experience. We were lucky enough to hook up with nurseryman Tom who guided us in the right direction and even carried us to some spots in his golf cart. I was especially impressed with how willing he was to chat with me about my garden and how I garden. He is a Japanese Maple collector and, though one is not currently in the budget nor on the list, he gave me the names of his favorites for my yard and growing conditions. He also showed me some other plants that he thought I might enjoy based on my interest in color -- I didn't buy any, but a Lady in Red hydrangea is now on the list for my front yard garden.

I would definitely checkout their website before visiting, especially this page for new visitors. As I've said, we had excellent customer service although Tom was busy trying to fill orders for landscapers while he was answering our questions and checking inventory for us.

The prices for trees and shrubs were less than I could have gotten at a nursery in town (I'm trying to avoid buying plants at big box stores) and well worth the drive to Ashland. I can't attest to the variety of selection since I'm not a collector nor a plant expert. However, if Tom has anything to do with it, I'm sure they have a nice selection of Japanese Maples. You can see their entire inventory here.

The perennials were disappointing both in terms of selection and price. I was looking for flats of mondo grass and they were $6 more expensive per flat at Colesville than at The Great Big Greenhouse. I bought an Arborvitae Emerald Green (boring but looks stunning in the garden and was on the list) and a scotch broom (Dorothy Walpole, which was on the list). I also bought a dwarf pampas grass (cortaderia selloana) which was not on the list but I have a hard time not buying some kind of grass when I'm at a nursery.

All in all, a wonderful shopping adventure. We wanted to have time to stop at Little Five Azalea Farm on the way home, but as it was, we were barely in time to pick up the kids from preschool. Little Five will have to wait for another day ...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Morning of Pizza and Fun in the Garden

Yesterday was wonderful. I would post pictures of the 30 children and adults enjoying conversation and pizza in the garden except my camera died (so predictable -- and all my backup batteries were not charged).

Here's what the backyard looked like before the party (when the camera still functioned):

It was a beautiful day with bright sunshine and cool temperatures (please note the full green lawn -- we have a lawn!).

I left a basket of baking and gardening themed books by the bench under the weeping cherry.

Here is the businesslike yet cheerful pizzaiolo with his trusty companion.

We really had a wonderful time! And the children were incredibly respectful when I asked them not to climb on the weeping cherry and to stay on the paths. The garden survived quite well with the exception of a hosta that, truth be told, was crowding the path anyway and needed to be moved.

Luna is sniffing around for dropped pizza.

All ready for the next party!