Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cultivate your Future

Cultivate your future through landscape planning and design.

CCCT&I will begin offering Hort 112- Landscape design 1
January 7th-May 6th Tues. and Thurs. 5:00-7:45 pm
Watauga High School -Room 123
This is the essential course for learning to produce scaled drawings and landscape plans for your home, business, or farm operation. The class will teach the elements of professional garden design and its historic past. You will develop drafting skills, learn how to conduct site surveys, create site plans using the principles and practices of landscape design. Plant identification and selection will be emphasized. Time will be spent learning to estimate the cost of the design, and professional standards for installation of a project.
The instructor, Andrea Watson, is now a certified North Carolina landscape contractor and business owner in Blowing Rock. Andrea has 30 years of hands on experience as a landscape designer, contractor and nursery owner. She has an A.A.S. degree in Horticulture Technology and Design. She was assistant horticulturist for The National Trust for Historic Preservation during the 1980’s restoring the 200 year old boxwood gardens of Oatlands Plantation. This experience put her on the path of designing and restoring the gardens for historic estates all over the Washington DC metro area. Traveling to the great gardens of Italy and England, Andrea has studied the bones of ancient gardens and farms in history and has given her a sense of being taught by the masters. She has a passion for creating beautiful, natural, sustainable, outdoor spaces.
Cultivate your future by expressing your creativity and love of nature through landscape planning and design.

For Registration Contact Debbie Mitchell, Director Landscape Gardening

Sign up soon.......Class Starts January 7th. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Silence is Golden

I have been silent as the season turned toward Fall. I figure there is so much being said in the world at any given time, I thought I would just shut my pie hole for a while and paint some of the seasons flowers. I also have had to rebuild my computer and get all the printer/scanner things working again.

I have some neighbors with four Belgian Shepherds who bark all day long at anything that moves. It was getting difficult to relax at home ever....I requested that they find a way to train their dogs not to bark for 8 hours a day while the family was away at work. They finally got barking collars that are working beautifully. My garden is peaceful once again, and I am loving the silence. So os Finn, he never participated in all that barking, I think it was wearing him down as well.

This is a little Japanese anemone flowering away in my fall garden. We had a huge windstorm in Blowing Rock this week, what the deer haven't eaten the wind demolished. Everything is being cut back. The nights have been chilly and the blooms don't like it.

The season of leaf raking has begun, and little fall color to boot. Because of our wet and cool growing season, half the leaves have just dropped due to fungal disease.

Gratefully, the Roses love the cooler weather and they are putting out another round of bloom in golden fall sunshine. I had to paint one.

I don't feel as though this rose portrait is finished, but I thought I would share it since I got my scanner functioning again.

I have been fussing with the software all day! Now I can shut the computer down and go paint on this fine Fall afternoon.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Community and Design

My family moved to Reston, Virginia in 1969. It was called a new town, and my mother attracted to the exiting new community that was forming around Lake Ann Plaza. They realized it was an ideal place to raise children.
Because Reston was designed by Robert E. Simon to be a walking community, my mother was thrilled that she would not have to drive us everywhere we went. As young adolescents, my sister and I covered a lot of ground. It was a win/win...freedom for my mother, freedom for us. I spent my childhood, mostly unsupervised, meandering through nature with walking trails that lead to Lake Anne Plaza, the community pools, lakes, community centers, horse barns, schools and clusters of beautiful, modern town homes.

Thanks to Wikipedia, I just now learned Lake Anne Plaza was designed by James Rossant to emulate the Italian coastal town of Portofino. A little factoid I did not know about my hometown, but when I visited the villages of Cinque Terra, Italy, as I sat in the piazze eating wonderful food, I watched the children playing wildly about the piazza on a Friday night, while the parents sat at the tables of the outdoor cafes, sipping wine and visiting with friends. I was reminded of my own childhood, so similar on any given Friday night on Lake Anne Plaza. We were wide open and allowed to roam while our parents ate and drank at the cafe.

In 2003 as result of finding each other through a spontaneous reunion happened on Lake Ann Plaza with the now, scattered across the planet, group of souls that bonded on that plaza during all the revolutionary changes of the 60's and 70's.

I grew up in a well designed town. It developed my interest in nature, design, art and architecture. Today I found a great slide show on another planned city called Forest Hills Gardens, in Queens, New York. Forest Hills Gardens introduced the British garden City movement to the United States and is now 100 years old.

I was listening to a local radio program last week about a new sustainable living model being developed called agriburbia .
The idea is that the homeowners association provides the infrastructure for the farmers. So, the town itself would build the greenhouse, irrigation, barns, and equipment needed while building a community around farming. It makes good sense to me. Developers love to build communities around golf courses, which don't really appeal to me. I grew up with fields and rivers and streams and barns. I would love to see a community developed that centered itself around such things.

Yesterday I was going over a landscape plan with a couple who live on Heavenly Mountain. Heavenly Mountain is a beautiful meditation community and spiritual retreat. As soon as you enter the gate, you can sense the peaceful energies of the area. Yet another example of intention for community.

These things are on my mind as I dream of my next home. I spent a few afternoons this week sketching designs for a Cob House I would love to build.
On my 49th birthday I treated my self to a week long Cob Building workshop in Tennessee. There is a magical quality that draws me to the sculptured earth friendly home. I don't know how it could all come together yet, but obviously my soul is talking to me about community and home. I have learned to follow my soul wherever it leads me, though I do get distracted from time to time, usually via having to earn a living.....and if the perfect wee cottage shows up in my life that I don't have to pat together from mud, I may take that instead....just sayin....

I am enjoying the winged insects and thier late summer songs. They inspire me to day dream, and vision for what I want to create next in my wee little gardeners life.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Harvest Season

The August light has returned and I am enjoying the late summer sounds of crickets and other winged creatures.

This morning I watched the butterflies work over my Joe Pye weed, which towers above the garden at almost 9 feet tall.

We have been experiencing the effects of
Tomato and Potato Late Blight this summer. It is devastating. One day your plants are healthy looking and lush, the next day the entire plant is black and rotting. In a rainy year like we are having here in the mountains of Noth Carolina late blight has devastated the entire harvest. I have bought tomato's from Zydeco Moon Farm at the Blowing Rock Farmers Market and asked them how they managed thier tomato's organically.

They use a biological fungicide called Serenade early in the growing season and copper sulfate as the season progresses. The main ingredient in Serenade is Bacillus subtilis strain QST 713. B. subtilis strain QST 713 (marketed as QST 713 or Serenade) has a natural fungicidal activity. Not a dangerous to humans other words. Copper is a mineral useful to plants, and is used effectively in the grape production to control fungal disease.

Next year I will be armed and ready for the blight. I was able to pick several boxes of my favorite tomato's from the patch I planted at the dairy farm this spring. I made sauce from the Black Plum, and dried the little oxheart tomato Princepe Borghese So I have been busy and eating well!

I have noticed that Finn has quite a weekly routine going on at work. On Monday's, his friend Daisy cleans out the fridge, and Finn gets snacks of the leftovers from the weekend barbecues. Sometimes he stands at the door and barks, like he is expecting a meatball to arrive. There is a nice pond on that job for his swimming entertainment and liquid requirements.

On Tuesdays, as soon as we arrive to the job, he is off to Debbie's garage next door. He is friends with her black lab 'Abbie'. Finn likes to borrow some of Abbie's toys for the day. We always return them when our work is done and head for home. If the garage is closed, he will sit there and bark until Debbie opens the door and gives him a treat, which Finn knows are kept on the shelf with the toys. He always seems to get back to the job in time for his treat from his buddy Welbourn.

There is now a construction job going on across the street, and Finn loves construction workers...they always have sticks and snacks, so he heads over there for a while. I can hear them playing and talking with Finn while I work. Sometimes he proudly brings me back a chunk of 2 x 4 so we can play while we work. If he gets a little hot, he heads over to Dean's next door where we built the pond and goes for a dip.

Dean has two Shar-pei dogs that have a big pottery crock of toys on their back porch, so when ever we water the planters there, Finn sticks his head in the crock and takes out every single toy....which we have to put back before we leave.

Sometimes on Thursdays we head over to the Farm Market to help Matt Cooper keep his little girl Sita entertained while he sells his produce. Finn with the little ones is a dear sight, they all love him, and he attracts a lot of dog loving customers to his table. It is a very dog friendly market. And Blowing Rock is a very dog friendly town.

On Fridays we start out the day on Wonderland trail, where a new home is being built right next to the garden we manage there. The construction workers there feed Finn bologna sandwiches and throw sticks over the cliff of the gorge for Finn to haul back up the mountain. He loves this, and is shortly exhausted from the fun. When we finish there, we head over to Margaret and Franks who are big lab lovers. They sometimes share a bit of peanut butter sandwich, or last week a turkey burger, much to his delight. They even let Finn in the house at times, and last week Finn tried to climb into Margaret's lap while she was petting him on the porch.

By the end of the day we are over by the elementary school, just in time for recess. As soon as hear hears the voices of children he is off running, ears flapping in the wind to go to the playground where hundreds of kids happen to think he is a really cool dog.

What a life he lives. Most in Blowing Rock know Finn by name now.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Turks cap Lilly

The Turks-cap Lilllies are beginning to bloom. This orange native Lilly is taller than I am on this misty mountain morning.

I know this is the Turkscap, Lillium superbum by the green star on the inside of the bloom.

The smaller flowers of the Carolina lilly (L. michauxii) do not have the green stripe on each petal that forms the star.

They are blooming with the Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) in this summer woodland garden.

A Dutch woman I knew in Virginia called the black cohosh 'Fairy Candles', like they are called in her country. They do seem to light up the dark woods in their bloom season.

The mist of the clouds gives the garden such an enchanted look and feel. Though it is not that comfortable working in the drippy wet fog.

I have been feasting on the summer harvest. Blowing Rock now has a farmers Market on Thursday evenings. This makes food shopping so easy for me, I can easily go after work. Plus, I get to see my friend Matt and his daughter Sita for a change while he sells his produce, I can help out with keeping Sita occupied while her Mom is at work.

Last weekend I attended a watercolor workshop with Sterling Edwards at the monthly meeting of the High Country Watermedia Society. Please take a look at his art Gallery linked above.

Needless to say, I have done nothing but paint ever since trying to ground my body into acting on what I learned. Such an inspiring artist he is. I appreciated that he took the time to show me a few things. He was really interested in making sure we got it. I am now concentrating more than ever on discerning good combinations of mid tones, & darks, while leaving more room for white spaces, as well as practicing negative painting techniques and the brush stokes he so deflty uses. Very fun and challenging stuff. My stuff looks nothing like his, but I guess it is not suppposed to.
I want so badly to paint scenes like from my misty gardens well.....

Enough typing, I am heading back to the paints for the day!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer Still Life

I took a holiday for the 4th of July weekend and painted this teapot. It even rained on Monday so I had 3 whole days all to myself, while the rest of the world celebrated births, deaths and Independence.

It was a sweet gift from a friend years ago, I have always wanted to paint it.

I got the white fleshed nectarines from the farmers market in Boone, the daylilly is from my garden.

I seldom paint still life well, but this one turned out OK. Well, it turned out OK the second time I painted it. On the first try I ruined the background.

I am back to watercolors after playing with acrylic paint this last month. The paintings were alright, but when I tried to scan them into the computer they looked awful. I still have so much to learn. When I straightened up my house last month I got the chance to review the work I have painted over the last year, and I am making progress. It is challenging though, to do the kind of physical labor I do every day and still find time to paint. I am grateful for holiday weekends.

With the dog days of summer setting in, Finn & I are moving a little slower now. I can't believe how much that big brown dog can sleep when the weather outside does not suit him! I love that the phone is not ringing so much, and that I can feel a bit cloistered and unreachable, at peace in my own little world, painting vignettes that catch my eye. I think I will go rummage through the house and start composing another still life. There is not much flowering in the garden right now that I haven't already painted at least once.

I do want to get started on a painting of a dear clients garden. She has not been feeling well lately, and I want to see if I can paint a portrait of her sweet garden for her.

In fact, now that the laundry is done, the house is cleaned as well as the car, and the lawn is mowed....I am free for the day to do just that!


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Peaky Top

This is the view from the porch of 'Peaky Top' where we worked last week. Peaky Top is a private family retreat, right on the edge of the gorge. The home was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. We are upgrading a few steps, adding some stone walls, upgrading the patio and clearing some views.

I got there before Mike that morning and snapped some photo's. In this photo, Finn is watching intently as Mike pulls into the property. He loves his buddy Mike. Within a second after snapping this photo, Finn made a mad dash for Mikes truck to say good morning.

As always, the two boy's are excited to see each other in the mornings, and had a moment of playtime on the wall. On the other side of that wall, it is about 3,500 feet to the bottom of the gorge. We are pretty much standing on the continental divide here.

Last week, the weather was cool and dry, much better for working
in the gardens. Perfect weather for the 4th of July holiday.

The Town of Blowing Rock was filled with happy visitors for the Holiday weekend. The American flags were waving in the breeze, often hitting me in the head while I worked, the families were visiting and the party atmosphere was all around. All the gardens are ready for visitor's.

Mike's wife Jennifer, and his baby son Malone came by for lunch, so we had little picnic on the porch. Babies do love Finn. When my granddaughter talks to me on the phone, she always mentions Finn.
Earlier in the week we were working on upgrading the entrance beds at the Chestnut Hill Condos. There was a little girl toddler out playing, and Finn played with her so gently, giving her his paw to shake. Malone enjoyed riding on Finns back at our picnic.

Malone also got to do a little bouldering with his dad before we had to get back to work.

I am always amazed with the properties I get to work on here. Each one is so unique.
I just never know what I am going to find at the end of the lane, the first time I drive in.

Like I say...everyday is an adventure.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Seasonal Shifts and Changes

The Summer heat intensified with the Solstice last's official. We have shifted from being too wet all spring, losing much in the vegetable gardens to slugs and drowning, to an intense and dry heat wave. Working in Happy Valley is like doing hard labor in a sauna.

Up in Blowing Rock, there is always, gratefully, a breeze. OK, well Friday there was a windstorm right along the ridge where I was working, but the air is almost always in movement in Blowing Rock. The town is full of visitors escaping the heat from down below.

If I correlate the heat of summer, to the emotional temperature of the world, it is heating up as well. So much is shifting on the world stage it is hard to keep up.

In the dog days of summer I like to stay away from intensely colored flowers. Hot colors in the garden tend to make you feel hot and agitated. Of course, this is the time that nature puts out all it's orange and red daylillies, Black Eyed Susan's, and Coreopsis....all hot and intense colors. I drive by gardens filled with Stella D'oro daylillies, and magenta petunia's...I call it technicolor madness. Summer is intense enough in my opinion with out adding more heat to the pallet.

In my own gardens I tend to plant colors that soothe the emotional state if possible. I will usually pick a softer color of the native species if I can find it, Like The soft ivory colored day lilly 'Joan Senior' , or the variety of coreopsis 'Moonbeam'. I love the 'Jade' Sunflower, and the 'Green Envy' Zinnia for that reason. I also tend to hang out in my garden at night. So the lighter colors tend to light up the garden longer in the evenings.

These blooms are fun to sketch as well.

I love this pot of creamy yellow tuberous begonia's mixed with Veronica reptans alba, tucked into the boxwood.

The best part of the hot summer evenings is the fragrance. I love the spicy scent of my nicotiana alata greeting me at the end of the day. That is when I can say Ahhhh, I love summer.

I had a little giggle over finding these sweet potato's growing in my compost bin.....what a nice surprise. Summer is so full of bounty. I am watching the blueberries ripening this week, it will be a great crop this year, just in time for the Fourth of July. Perfect, it is all so perfect, but we could use a little rainstorm right about now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

There is something about Hydrangea's

Someday, I want to settle into a spot of land and stay there until I keel over in the gardens and become fertilizer. Then I could actually collect and save all the plants I love.

I have collected hydrangea's for years. Other people are enjoying the rare Japanese lace caps I planted years ago in various places. This white lace cap is now blooming in my current home garden.

I am working on a painting of it to see if I can get it on paper in a lovely way. After attending a workshop last weekend with Robert Burridge I decided to try painting with acrylic paint instead of my usual watercolors....a whole new medium to me...I doubt I will do it justice.

Here are some photo's of the Japanese Lace caps I have planted in my various gardens and no longer have. I do miss them and they would grow well here in the foothills of North Carolina no doubt.

This delicate Pink hydrangea is called Hydrangea macrophylla 'Izu No Hana'
I do not know Japanese, but I believe most of these are named after waterfalls and Islands in Japan.

Hydrangea serrata

I love this Hydrangea
macrophylla 'Jogasaki' bearing the magical silvery blue florets!

There are more than a few orchards bearing fruit long after I get them started... I have had a very nomadic life. Sometimes I feel like the Johhny Appleseed of gardens...... I collect, plant, and as soon as things mature a bit I move on to the next geographical location that calls me. When I think about leaving my rare Martagon Lillies, after years of looking for the mauve ones....I wonder if the next person living in the garden realizes their rarity and hopefully hasn't weeded them out the gardener goes, so does the garden.

My white Siberian Iris are blooming this week as well. As is the Annabell Hydrangea with it's greenish white blooms.

With all the rain we are still having, all the white flowers are so beautiful set off by the green lush foliage surrounding them, creating a wonderful luminous effect in the gray foggy gardens.

All this rain does allow me a little more indoor time for sketching and painting, but not much.....there are designs and estimates to do...and the billing and book keeping......such is the life of a wee busy gardener, Finn is finding me to be terribly boring. Must get back to business now...Enjoy!

White Iris sketch....June 09

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Full Strawberry Moon

On this full moon Sunday I am feeling a sense of completion. We finished up the last of major spring planting jobs this week. The vegetable gardens are mostly in and mulched. I finished my own spring cleaning and overhaul of my house and have put it on the market for sale. I love my house very much, but it is simply too large for me. I don't have an exact plan for what is next, but a smaller home and bigger garden are calling me.

Not that things will let up one bit, but a corner has been turned and all the things on my to do list are accomplished, just in time for the full moon. I love how the rhythm of life works! Now, I get to savor my ripening strawberries and look around a is beautiful.

We are still having rains and storms, hail hit some spots in Blowing Rock last week, meaning we were grooming lots of hosta's. This garden wasn't hit, as we just put a lot of energy into re working the perennial gardens surrounding beautiful stonework terraces and patio's.

In between storms, it is getting hot and humid when the sun appears. Finn is taking cover in the cool lush foliage. This week we were working in a huge bed of daylillies, it felt like we were working in a hot oven. I hadn't seen Finn in a while and called his name. Not three feet from where we were working, a little fuzzy brown brown dog head popped out of a clump of daylilly foliage where he had been sleeping, invisible to us. I gave us quite a giggle, and I wish I had my camera ready in that moment.

Michael took him for a lunchtime swim for relief, while I spoke to the Blowing Rock Garden Club on Wednesday. I think it was the garden along main street in Blowing Rock that these ladies created that led me to move here. I am looking forward to their 'Miles of Flowers' tour on August 29th that will be featuring nationally renowned horticulturalist Chip Calloway, ASLA..

Finn did pose for me under the rhododendron that was proving him shade while we worked to finish up.

In the heat, we have reached a shift from the spring blooms, to waiting for the summer color to begin. A resting moment, before the Solstice, and the beginning of the celebration of summer and the enjoyment of the bounty that the efforts and challenges of spring make worthwhile.

There is much to do still, but for this one day I am going to enjoy my beautiful clean and spacious home, my private woodland garden, my strawberries and my silly sweet dog.