Showing posts with label Musings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Musings. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Into Autumn

I must admit, autumn is not my favorite season. You see, I don't really care for winter much, so for me autumn is just sort of the precursor to what can be several months of cold, damp, drizzly weather that sometimes seems as though it may never end. But even though autumn means that winter is just around the corner, I love the beauty that it brings to the garden at the end of the season and I love the warm, breezy days that let summer linger, whispering away across the hills.

Those are the days that bring scenes like these, of Joe-Pye-weed (Eupatorium) and miscanthus beckoning from across the way--radiant, feathery plumes backed by the rich, warm shades of the Joe Pye passing its prime but still looking stunning dressed in autumnal shades.

With miscanthus being on the invasive exotic list (something I'm going to be blogging about soon) in some states, other scenes just as beautiful could easily be created with native grasses such as Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) or one of the many switchgrasses (Panicum).
Other fall favorites include Aster oblongifolius 'Raydon's Favorite' and 'October Skies', Callicarpa americana (American Beautyberry) and the many Anemone x hybridus cultivars whose poppy-like flowers dance in the breeze on long, wiry stems.

More on other great autumn additions to the garden coming soon!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Life Lessons

I have a new garden post that I will put up tomorrow, but tonight I feel inspired to take a detour from gardening for just a moment. This won't happen often. The garden blog will remain the garden blog and 99% of the posts will be just that. However, I've discovered something so extraordinary and so touching that I think everyone needs to see it. Some of you probably already have, as this video has "gone viral", as they say and has become an overnight internet sensation with more than 7 million hits. It has been a Yahoo! headline, it was shown this morning on The View and I've already passed it around to all of my friends via email after discovering it on YouTube yesterday.

This is a reminder to all of us to never judge a book by its cover because in each and every one of us lies something extraordinary. I grew up with an aunt who had Down's Syndrome and she was one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known. She taught me not to be afraid of people who didn't look or talk or act the same way I did. She taught me not to judge by what I saw on the outside, but to see the beauty of her soul and the spirit within. The Down's Syndrome reference is a personal reference to a special person who touched my life and has nothing to do with the following video, other than to point out that each of us, as an individual, is unique and extraordinary and should not be judged on outward appearances.

Watch the reaction of the audience to this amazing woman as she enters the stage.....and then watch as she sweeps aside every cynical thought, every snicker and laugh, every raised eyebrow with a voice so powerful and so precise and so beautiful that it cannot be denied. Enjoy and remember the name Susan Boyle. You're sure to hear more from her! And I promise that I'll get back to gardening tomorrow.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Winter Blast

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Winter--REAL winter--has reared its ugly head. We're expecting the coldest temperatures in six years here in Nashville tonight and, in the outerlying areas, possibly the coldest temperatures in nearly 10 years!

For those of you in the midwest and northeast, what we're experiencing here is child's play compared to the temperatures that you and your gardens are having to endure. But for those of us who like to garden on the edge of our gardening zone, weather like this can be devastating--and enlightening. We'll learn alot from this. For instance, we'll learn whether Loropetalumis truly a Zone 7 plant or whether we can get away with it in Zone 6. My guess is Zone 7 and we'll see significant dieback if these temperatures endure for long.

On a brighter note, the fact that we've gradually approached the single digits rather than plummeting from one extreme to the other is a good thing. Yes, it was fairly balmy earlier in the week--mid to upper 40's--but at least we didn't plunge from 48 to 8 in just a few hours' time. That has happened on several occasions and the effects are devastating. Also, we're not going to remain bitterly cold for days on end, but cold is cold and for plants that aren't adapted, it can still be damaging. Be prepared to do a little pruning and deadwooding on your tender shrubs this spring.

So, what to do? For the most part, my plants are on their own. I confess that I did move some of the more tender conifers (still in containers) around to the south side of the house, just to keep them out of the wind. Another group was moved to the south side of the garden shed for the same reason. And a small handful of plants that I REALLY wanted to protect were set inside the garden shed--unheated, but protected nonetheless. That's all the preparation I'm doing. Beyond that, the plants are on their own. They'll just have to survive--or not. It's a cruel, cruel world...

Monday, December 29, 2008

A New Year and Hope Springs Eternal

Happy New Year, everyone! I'm sorry that I've been away for a little while, but I hosted Christmas in Tennessee this year and that, coupled with several projects that needed to be put to bed before the holidays, has kept me away from the computer more than I would like for the past couple of weeks. I hope everyone is having a great holiday season.

I woke up this morning (now that all of the Christmas fuss is past) with a renewed sense of hope and optimism as we leave 2008 behind and look forward to 2009. Certainly, there are things whose outcome is yet to be determined--the economy, for one--but I've decided that I'm not going to let those things dictate how I'm going to approach each day. I'm not going to listen to all of the news reporters bawling like a herd of goats about how "horrible" everything is. Nope. I'm choosing the higher path and I'm deciding that the days are going to be good ones. And even if some are harder than others I'm still moving forward on life's path and not getting stuck in the rut that we're all being guided into every time we turn on the television. I would encourage you to do the same.

If you need a little boost--a little sense of hope--a little sense of renewal--I would encourage you to go to the garden. Even if you live in the cold and snowy north, take a walk around. There is always hope and optimism in the garden; the tiny buds laid tight against the branches of trees and shrubs, awaiting spring's arrival and the opportunity to burst forth with renewed vigor, bringing joy with beautiful foliage and flowers; the tiny green tips of the first leaves of the snowdrops already beginning to push through the soil; the fat buds of the hellebores curled tightly into the crown of the plant still, but pushing forward nonetheless.

The garden never gives up. In every season, there is an opportunity--something to look forward to. Whether it's the first flowers of spring, the ebullient display of summer, the soft whisper of autumn or the grandeur of winter's frosty morns, in the garden hope springs eternal. There is hope and renewal around every corner, in every season. I hope that your garden provides the same sense of hope, renewal and joy that mine brings to me and I wish you the very best for 2009.

And don't forget to keep checking back! There are great changes ahead for the new year, both on the blog and at the main website, Happy New Year!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Great Prairies

The older I get, the more reflective I become. I think it happens to the best of us, doesn't it? Some of the things I find myself reflecting on most these days are the things which ultimately shaped my chosen profession and which had lasting impact on my psyche from the time I was a child. Some of the most profound influences I had, though I don't think I fully realized it until later in life, were my childhood surroundings. The great prairies.

Like most children, I absorbed the world around me like a sponge--especially the natural world. The pulsing, rhythmic heartbeat of Mother Nature ran through my veins like the elixir of life. Nowhere was this feeling more prevalent than on the open plains of Kansas, where the prairie grasses danced and nodded in the continual breeze and the sunflowers painted the roadsides, hills and valleys--faces upturned--greeting the heavens with a sunny yellow smile.

It was this magnificent, untouched, ever-changing prairie that fed my spirit. The warm breeze caressing brown, summertime faces and the bitter howl of winter's fury that could all but knock you down and take your breath away with a single, frigid gust. It was the gentle rain that fell and made slow-moving rivers through roadside ditches where neighborhood boys floated boats made of lumber scraps and the ominous thunderheads that towered miles into the sky, forboding and black, a warning to those who were wise enough to take heed. It was the timid prairie dog--burrowing, watching, waiting--ever vigilant; their guards on high alert in the knowledge that one misstep on their part and SNAP!, the loss of a loved one to the talons of a red-tailed hawk on silent wing.

Some say you can't go back. I disagree. When the day is long, when work provides more stress than comfort, when the world begins to spin faster and faster out of control--the prairie is still my calming force. It is home. It is where I return in quiet solitude, in meditation--the prairie of my childhood--and all is right again with the world.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Not So Elusive

Well, as it turns out, my elusive waterfall turned out to be not-so-elusive. We found it. However, we found it at the end of the hike when, as it turns out, had we turned right instead of left we would have found it at the beginning. The end was good, though. The waterfall was a great way to end an hour's worth of hiking the ridge, as well as the valley behind it. If we'd found the waterfall first, we might have turned around and left before really doing some good exploring!

After seeing the lay of the land and the variation in trees and shrubs that it supports, I can only imagine what kind of elation I'll feel when I walk through and see the wildflowers coming up in the spring. If the vast stands of native forest sedges and Christmas fern are any indication, the spring show should be stunning. In addition to the few herbaceous plants still bravely hanging 'round this late in the season there were also a fair number of unusual woody plants along the way. Some of the more uncommon ones included an excellent stand of Lindera benzoin (Spicebush), numerous Ostrya virginiana (American Hop Hornbeam) all along the streambank and an as-yet-unidentified native azalea. I'll let you know what it is when it flowers in the spring.

The only problematic encounter we had was when we finally reached a point where the stream took a hard turn to the left and, on our side of the streambank, straight into a bluff. Our options were to turn back and re-hike the distance we had just come and the go back up to the top of the ridge or to go up from where we were. We chose the latter. The word "grueling" comes to mind, though not in an "I'd-never-do-it-again" sort of way. I'll say this: I'd ONLY do it in the winter when anything legless and scaly was NOT out sunning itself on the rocks or hiding sneakily under the leaves. This is timber rattler territory if I've ever seen it. No, we won't be scaling the cliffs in the summertime. Uh-uh. Not me. Sorry. I'm staying on flat ground and carrying a big stick.

Cliff-scaling aside, we had a fantastic afternoon. The weather was perfect (perfectly horrible for photography) with the sun coming down through the leafless trees and helping to warm us up just a bit. When we did find the waterfall, two problems posed themselves immediately: One, the weather. "Severe clear" as a photo friend of mine would describe it--washed out light and harsh shadow--not even good snapshot weather. And two, the best vantage point for shooting the waterfall is IN the creek. Seeing as it was 41 chilly degrees fahrenheit, my feet stayed on dry land. I snapped a few shots just to prove I was there, but the pretty shots will have to wait til summer. For the moment, though, I had found what I was looking for and it did not disappoint. Now I can't wait for spring and all of its lush, green exuberance. The photos then will be spectacular! I'm sure of it!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Elusive Waterfall

It's chilly this morning in Tennessee! Not as chilly as it is where some of you are located, I'm sure--and not as warm as it is for some of you either. I do have to say we're in a good climate here with just enough winter to still be able to appreciate four distinct seasons, but with short enough winters that by the time I'm really beginning to go stir-crazy it's just about over. If you really plan well here, you can have something blooming in the garden almost 12 months out of the year--even in the winter.

Today's not a gardening day, though. Nope. Today's a hiking day. As I've mentioned in some previous posts, I moved to a new piece of property back in August and since that time I've hardly had the time to get the lawn whipped into shape, let alone go exploring on the 150 acres of grassland and woods that extends for two ridges back behind the house. If I'm being totally honest, there are a couple of other reasons, too, not the least of which are the chiggers!

For those of you who don't live in the South and are asking "What the heck is a 'chigger'?", let me explain. For lack of a better term, they're sort of like a tiny little mite--maybe a spider mite, for you gardeners. They're tiny, horrible little sucking buggers that burrow into your skin and cause raised bumps like overgrown mosquito bites that itch like you simply cannot believe. If I had a nickel for every time I've woken up clawing at my ankles in the middle of the night because of them, I'd be writing this from some quiet beach in the Caribbean instead of from the living room in Primm Springs, Tennessee.

They like tight places. Shoes. Socks. That place where your jeans rub right behind your knees. Anywhere with an elastic waistband..... They're the worst. And unlike a mosquito bite, they don't just go away. No. They linger. They itch for the first week and then usually take two more to heal. So why am I babbling on about this? Well, because they love the woods. So that's the reason I haven't gone exploring yet on the new property. That and the rattlesnakes. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the rattlesnakes.

I know, I know. They won't bother you if you don't bother them. I'd rather not take my chances, thanks. Especially not after I photographed a nearly 6-foot-long timber rattler not 20 minutes from my house earlier this summer. He was an old boy. Thirteen rattles.

But back to the title of this post and my "Elusive Waterfall". My landlady tells me that somewhere on the property is a magnificent waterfall. She says it's about 30 feet wide and 15 feet high and I'm going looking for it. From her directions, I know the general direction in which it lies, but I don't know exactly where it is. The weather is perfect--39 degrees. No chiggers. No rattlesnakes. I'm going to go find a waterfall. If I'm successful, I'll post some pics! If you haven't heard back from me in a couple of days, send out a search party, would you?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

First Frost

Well, it finally happened. The first frost. We had skated by a couple of nights when the temperatures looked as though they were going to sink, but then stalled out in the upper thirties. Not last night, though! It was a brisk 26 degrees when I woke up this morning and there was an absolutely gorgeous frost on everything. If I hadn't had an early appointment I would have taken the time to get the camera out and get some photos.

The restored grassland just outside of the confines of the fence was particularly beautiful, the frosty plumes frozen in place and glistening as though encrusted in diamonds as the sun began to peek through the trees. The birds were all atwitter, too, flitting and fluttering in and out of the shadows, looking for the last good seeds that the grasses have to offer up. There must be a bounty of natural food right now, as the traffic at the birdfeeders is almost non-existent--a few doves, a titmouse, the 4 bluebirds (usually at the birdbath) and a very chatty nuthatch.

I love to watch him scale headfirst down the trunk of the white oak in the back yard and he IS a chatty little thing. Cheep. Cheep. Cheep-cheep. Territorial, too. He'll flit over to the seed tray, rustle around a minute, pick out a few tasty morsels and then flit back to his tree trunk. Let someone else fly into the seed tray, though, and look out. Nuthatch on the loose! Maybe that's why I don't have many other birds. One little general is running them all off!

It's getting colder, though. It won't be long before their natural resources are depleted somewhat and then the birds will be back in droves. It will be my first winter in the new house, so I can't wait to see what different kinds of birds will begin to converge on the feeders once winter really sets in. For now, it's just the few frequent visitors and I'm patiently waiting for them to tell their friends about all the treats awaiting them atop the oak-covered knoll they (and now I) call home.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Autumnal Musings

The smell of wood smoke hung heavy in the country air this weekend. In the mornings, especially, the sweet smoky fragrance drifted by on the gentle breeze, reminding everyone that it was time to stock up on firewood if we intend to keep warm this winter. Thirty-eight degrees at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning when I first awoke was actually a welcome respite from the 80's that we experienced earlier in the week. I did have the good sense to go back to bed, mind you.

The chill in the air really makes me want to get out and garden! I know that probably seems backwards to some, but it's time to finish (or start!) all of those tasks that it has just been too damned hot to do for the past several months--like getting into that corner of the garden that "got away" this year and is now 5-feet-high in things that have seeded in, taken over and are threatening to strangle a few very desirable plants. Out, cosmos! Out, zinnias! OUT, cleome! And even the Verbena bonariensis has become a cotton-pickin' pest! Out, out, out!

It will all reseed and be back next year with renewed vigor, anyway.

Next year, though, I'm starting early. No feeling sorry for little seedlings that appear in unwanted locales. They're out, desirable or not. A weed is simply a plant that is growing in the wrong place, right? Famous last words.

For now, though, this cooler weather has my gardening gears turning at full speed. Time to get plants in the ground, trees and shrubs, especially. And heaven knows all of these poor little plants that I have, who have so patiently waited for 4 years for a permanent home, deserve to finally have their roots in real soil! Oh, it won't all happen at once. As with any garden, this one will be a work in progress. But these nice cool, sunny days sure do make it easier to get out there and really go at it full bore and not feel like you're going to pass out 30 minutes into the task.

There are a lot of weeds yet to pull, garden spaces to clear, paths to lay, soil to condition, holes to dig and visions to turn into reality, but isn't that always the way of the garden? It has been for me. I have an impatient friend who asks, "When is the garden going to be finished?" My reply? "Never, if I'm lucky!"

Happy gardening, my friends, until next time.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A New Gardening Friend

Well, spring has finally sprung here in Nashville and even though a few cold nights still linger in the long range forecast it doesn’t seem, at least for now, that we’re looking at anything terribly threatening. Of course, that could all change at the drop of a hat, but for now I’m choosing to believe that spring is here. It SMELLS like spring and that’s always the best of signs!

When I walked out the door this morning, it smelled earthy and damp and fresh and rejuvenated. It did wonders for my spirit. Spring is the season of renewal–the season of rebirth–the season when everything is clean and sparkling and the bedraggled days of summer are but a mere speck on the horizon. It’s the season when I simply cannot be outdoors enough, soaking up the warm rays of sunshine, feeling the cool, damp earth beneath my fingernails (real gardeners don’t wear gloves!) and that SMELL–that glorious, amazing, wonderful smell. The smell of spring.

I’ve made a new gardening friend that I felt I must write and tell you about. Helen Dillon. Perhaps some of you know her or at least have heard of her. She’s a prolific writer, an amazing gardener and an absolutely delightful person. If you subscribe to The English Garden magazine, I’m sure you’ve read her column that appears in each issue. Perhaps her books have a prominent place in your horticultural library.

We were fortunate to have her visit Nashville last weekend as the keynote speaker for the Nashville Lawn and Garden Show. I was on the roster this year, too, and had the good fortune to follow Helen after her Sunday presentation to a crowd of about 100 serious gardeners. I had the even better fortune of being able to join her for dinner on Friday evening and then take her out afterward for a little “honky-tonking”, Nashville style. You haven’t been out in Nashville unless you’ve been to Robert’s Western World on Friday night to hear The Steve Kelley Band and Brazil Billy–so that’s exactly what we did!

We said our “Goodbyes” after I finished my talk at the show on Sunday afternoon, but it doesn’t take gardeners long to bond. The common thread that is tied to and through all of us who love plants is a very strong tie and I already feel as though I have made a great new gardening friend with whom to trade information, ideas and the occasional chat. I hope Helen feels the same and I hope she had as delightful a time here in Nashville as we had hosting her. The pleasure was certainly ours. Please be sure to visit Helen’s website at

Happy Gardening!

The Addict

As I’ve already admitted, I have a serious addiction. My friend Dan would tell me to introduce myself thusly, “Hi. I’m Troy Marden and I’m a hortiholic.” Well, it’s true. This addiction has been with me for more than 30 years and seems to have no interest in releasing its icy grip. Some friends suggested that perhaps I should go to meetings. “I do,” I replied. “Garden clubs, orchid societies, rose societies, herb societies, Perennial Plant Association, Garden Writers, lawn and garden shows, flower shows, bromeliad societies, cactus societies, tropical plant societies, open gardens…..” I go to meetings all the time! Anything to feed the beast!

Others have suggested I should take up another hobby–something to redirect my attention elsewhere. “Perhaps you should read more,” tried one friend. I READ!!! Thank-you-very-much!
The Forest Farm catalog is right here next to the computer! I type and read at the same time. Not only do I READ, I multitask! Perhaps you should read more…..hmmph! On the sofa there are catalogs from Plant Delights, Heronswood, Greenhouse Growers Supply, Tomato Growers Supply and a dreeeaaaamy plant list from Sean Hogan at Cistus Nursery. On the night stand are Garden Design, Fine Gardening, Horticulture, Tennessee Gardener, The English Garden, and at least six special interest publications–container gardening, perennials, planting combinations–you name it. And next to the commode are the back issues! Perhaps you should read more…..hmmph!

It has become a running joke amongst my friends–my little plant addiction. For the past 4 years I’ve been living in a rental situation where I refused to actually plant any of my prized plants–children, actually–into the ground in a place that I would not be residing permanently. So, they’re all in pots. “All of them?” you ask. Yes, all of them. Over 200 as of last week’s inventory and this number swells to over 300 during the summer months when I have all of the annuals and tropicals thrown into the mix. Some I overwinter and some I don’t.

“Oh, are you starting a nursery?” one unsuspecting visitor asked. No, I’m not, thank you. They’re mine. ALL MINE!!! Don’t touch them. And don’t even THINK about taking those tiny little scissors out of your pocket that you think I can’t see and try to sneak cuttings! I have eyes in the back of my head–with X-ray vision. I can spot one missing cutting off of a 6-foot shrub at 100 paces, so don’t even try. We addicts can become highly irrational when our babies are threatened–or worse, dismembered. Highly irrational.

And if you want to know what something is, ask me. Take me over to the plant and ask me. More than likely you will wish you had not asked, after a 15-minute diatribe on its finest points and the fact that I have done so incredibly well with it because, really, it’s a bitch to grow. Do not, however, break off a piece of it and carry it up to me for its proper identification. Remember, you’ve already been warned–highly irrational–totally unpredictable behavior when an addict is approached with a severed piece of one of his (or her) prize possessions. How would you feel if someone asked you which one of your children this belonged to and held up a foot? Well? Hmmmmm??? Highly irrational.

I know there are hundreds, even thousands of you out there. We’re all in the same boat, really–we gardeners. It starts out very innocently and before you know it your kids are eating cold cereal for dinner because mommy is in the garden until dark every night. Sometimes mommy is in the garden until after dark, having moved from the darker parts of the garden to the bed under the streetlight where there is enough light to continue weeding. You know it’s true. I say stand up and embrace your demons! “Hi. I’m Troy and I’m a……..” Gardening is such good therapy!