Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

This year, I think, more than ever before, 

I realize just how very fortunate I am...

A Very Happy Thanksgiving  everyone!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Visiting Ayrshire

I had a special treat last weekend. My daughter brought me out to see Ayrshire Farms in Upperville, VA.
She is the landscape gardener for the farm, and I was delighted to get to see her daily world and handy work.

First she took me to see the produce fields, greenhouse, hoop houses and her herb beds. Most of the vegetable production is done by another woman, who's growing skills were impressive.

Airynee's herb boxes were in beautiful shape.

I loved seeing the espaliered cucumbers and tomato's growing in the hoop houses.

Ayrshire is a beautiful historic property, the barns, outbuildings and service areas are lovely. Espalier is everywhere you look....
I have toured this Farm in the past during the Loudoun County Farm tour. It was newly planted then. Is was amazing to see it a decade later and how it had developed.  Airynee has much to do. The gardens are not intended to be manicured. Mowing is only done occasionally.  I like the effect. It is relaxed and natural. But, I can see it easily gets out of hand. The gardeners before my daughters arrival have planted a lot of invasive species. She taking this year to access the situation and come up with a plan for how to deal.
Airynee spent the winter getting many the espaliered tree's back under control. I was amazed at the size of the wood she had to cut to restore them. They are beautiful now. She has also worked on the orchards. I am so proud of her. Pruning is such an art. She gets it!  You can't be wimpy when it comes to espaliered fruit tree's. The growth in the above photo's had extended way out from the wall when she arrived. Now they are flat against the wall and bearing fruit in sweet clusters, as they should be.

I love the antique watering trough on this outbuilding.

And this view of the lake.
We ended the tour with a feast at the Hunters Head Tavern also a part of Ayrshire Farm.
Airynee tends the gardens and planters there as well.  All of the food served at the tavern comes from the farm.  I was delighted to meet the owner of Ayrshire and Airynee's employer.It was clear they are glad to have her on their staff. 
There is nothing I like more than spending a day with my daughter, touring beautiful estates and eating wonderful food. What a perfect day!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reality...It's not always what you think it is.....

Matt's little daughter Sita is still young enough to think that if her mother is not in sight, it is because she is sleeping. She uses sign language to express that factoid to her Dad.  

I think my clients think of me the same way.  If I am not working for them at the moment I must be doing nothing, therefore I can stop what ever I am doing and take care of their needs.  This means that I can be called and emailed on weekends...( I usually work on weekends too....) and be asked to do just a few things that are feeling urgent to them.  I suppose I have allowed them to think this, because I always respond, and get the job done. This energy peaks for Memorial Day weekend.  It's really pretty funny.  I am in recovery all got done, it's beautiful, and for one weekend people can relax in their beautiful gardens, enjoy their families and leave me alone to gather my strength for two days. Not three....a client called yesterday to make sure I was showing up on Monday for her.

On Friday, I had to get one of my favorite gardens ready for a family to move in after the holiday.  Normally, I do the mulching and such before all the foliage emerges. This year, the client didn't want me to do that, so I took on other projects to fill the void.  When she gets into town and realized how behind things are she goes into a panic. She is surprised that my schedule is so full. Like, I can hold her spot, and not need groceries.

A large area where an old aphid infested hemlocks once stood had sprouted a carpet of jewel weed.  She asked me to spray it with round up.  Under pressure I said OK, but that I hadn't used that product but maybe 3 times in the last 30 years, and this is why I won't use this product or others like it. She called me a 'bleeding heart liberal'.  Now, I have to say, I love this woman, and in context, we have had a few discussions on politics, and I knew she was saying it with affection and humor. But, I do get tired of being called a tree hugger and such, for just using my own common sense.  The choice to not use harmful toxic chemicals in a garden is not an ideology.  It is sane and practical.

So, two weeks pass, due to huge rainstorms the Friday before, that kept me from her job, and the jewel weed had grown to be a foot high. I stared at that roughly 600 sq ft patch of the remedy for poison ivy, and calculated the cost of the round up, the time it would take me to drive to the hardware store, buy the stuff, and a new plastic sprayer, that can never be used for anything else,  and considered that I would have to store or dispose of that product after only needing a few tablespoons of the herbicide, at my home, or hers, etc....  

I also thought about my own health, and my dogs's as he lay in that cool green patch in the shade.  His father died of lymphoma when he was the same age Finn is now.  

At the age of 5, I watched my grandmother spray her roses with Ortho Rose Spray, and then she would eat the petals, happily telling me they were good for your skin. I didn't eat the petals...I still vividly remember the Ortho label on her sprayer and the chemical smell. She died of cancer when I was 12.  

                                 Eating  rose Petals  Painting by John Singer Sargent, 1885/1886

I also thought of the time it would take to watch the Jewel weed turn brown and die, how it would look all brown and ugly as she drove up her driveway, and that I would still have to remove the brown dead growth anyway. We would then have to wait two weeks before anything could be planted in that spot. 

Bottom line, these people will not pay for my chemo if needed and they do not pay me enough money to poison myself or others. In truth, no one could pay me enough money to spray poison on the earth.  That's why I never got my pesticide license., I weeded it.  It took less than an hour and I pruned the hydrangea's along the drive at the same time. Job done.  Cost, $35.00, less than the cost of the round up, sprayer and mess clean up.  I still had plenty of time to get the rest of her garden into shape. 

It is a typical misconception people have who don't weed for a living, that it is easier, faster and cheaper to spray.

I can almost bet, she will never notice, because her garden is so beautiful.  

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Oil Spills and the Angel of Grief

Sometime's all we can do is pray....

Prayer by Dr. John (5.6.2010)
Recite at Sundown

Great Spirit, Mother God, Father God
Surround your people with white light
To protect them from harm.
Send your spirit guides to keep the earth strong;
Angels to protect the land from the oil;
The waters from pollution;
The animals from the storm.

Surround us with your holy light,
Smile upon us to keep us strong,
Preserve the land.
Spare your children and enlighten the masses.
Give us a solution.

Four winds blow; swirl to the sea.
While the white light shines and protects the sacred center.
Remove the earth from the path of harm.
Forgive the transgressors.
Let the light remove the dark.


I found this prayer here  A Creative Response to the Gulf Oil Spill

Listen to Dr. Johns 'Clean Water' here

Angel of Grief is an 1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story which serves as the grave stone of the artist and his wife at the Protestant Cemetery, Rome.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

As if I don't have Enough to do

There are times when there are a thousand things I should be doing, like making the mulch pile in my driveway disappear, billing and accounting, spring cleaning, enjoying the mountains and local creeks....the list could go on....

But, my garden is mulched and mowed and beautiful in this mornings spring rain, and I have so wanted to paint the flowers of my garden, but with a twist.

The last few weekends, I have been obsessed with painting my spring garden onto every old white T shirt I have. I have always loved hand painted clothing. I have collected the supplies needed for years, as well as the art skills. I have also become completely bored with painting on rectangular squares of paper.

My daughter, Morgan, knows of my love for hand painted clothing and gave me a beautiful, simple sun dress with one morning glory painted on it that she found in St Croix.  Little did she know how that simple, white sun dress had inspired me to try again.

It had become clear, looking into my closet that I had not really bought any new clothes in about a decade. That was when all the good cotton seemed to disappear from the clothing stores. I hated the idea of having to go to a mall and buy clothes I hated. So, I invested in an assortment of good cotton blanks, short sleeved tee shirts and tank tops. Even some bamboo socks!

While I waited for the blanks to arrive in the mail, I dug out my old Procion dyes, beeswax, and the chemicals needed to fix the dye on the cloth, and thicken it for painting. I had to search for instructions, and information I had on the techniques I wanted to use.

I felt like a mad scientist, mixing Urea, soda ash and dye in my kitchen, while my mind had about 20 or so ideas for what I wanted to paint. Peonies, poppies, bleeding hearts, all soooo beautiful and in full bloom right now!

My house is on the market, by the way, and who in their right mind would turn their kitchen into chemical chaos on a weekend, where by some miracle, someone would want to view my home? 

After spending lot's of time watching you tube instructional video's, I pulled every piece of white cotton used clothing I had in my closet and began experimenting, knowing I didn't want to learn on my new cotton blanks, knowing the potential for mistakes at first try. After two weekends of experimenting I have four shirts I would be delighted to wear in public.

I feel as though a whole new world has opened up for me!  So many ideas, so little time.  

I'll be wearing one of these to a picnic today, and now I know what everyone is getting for Christmas this year.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Blooms and Abundant Beauty

Spring has arrived in a hurry, with abnormally warm temperatures it is all happening fast!

It is as though I left for Easter weekend in Virginia at the beginning of Spring bloom time, and returned 3 days later to the end of spring.

Fortunately, I went out with my camera last evening in my half acre wood and photographed the blooms. When I returned from work today, the 4th day of the heat wave.....most of the early spring bulbs were spent and browning in the heat.

The upside of this warm spell is sleeping with the windows open. I love hearing the birds waking up at dawn, and feeling the chilly morning air move through my room.

These photographs were taken in the evening light. Even though I had the setting on automatic....I held the flash lens down, and wanted to capture the true light. I did a quick edit and enhanced the photo's a bit, and I feel they represent very well energy of the pulsating and light filled spring season.

My garden is now 3 years old. It is maturing and fairly lush. Though, over the Easter weekend I visited my dear friend Carol, and her garden. Carol has had at least 20 years to naturalize her garden. I wish I had taken photographs of that!

Her Forget Me Not's are the offspring of seeds her son Shaughan scattered about when he was a 5 year old boy. They now bloom in drifts along her stone terraced walls. There are so many memories in her garden, of our children, our clients and gardening adventures lived over the last 30 years.

Here is a link to a slideshow of my blooming beauties this Easter week.

It has been a fun and family oriented Easter celebration with Easter egg hunts on Long Branch Farm with the grand children....with silliness and joy abounding.

I am most grateful for this magical spring and my amazing family.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rain Gardens

I am brushing up on my understanding of rain gardens today. It is raining, and I am preparing the information for a garden club meeting later this week.

A rain garden can improve local water quality while creating a beautiful natural area that will attract birds and butterflies to the garden. Rain gardens allow rain and snowmelt to seep naturally into the ground, filtering the water before it reaches the water table.

This helps recharge the groundwater supply, and prevents the water quality problem of pollution runoff.

It is a simple process and so beneficial. Basically you dig a shallow depression that collects water from your downspouts and plant the area with native shrubs and perennials, see the links below for links to some good rain garden native plants.

I see so much erosion everyday on the mountain and in the foothills. I know of at least 5 drain pipes emptying out under the roads and running down hills. It would be so easy to plant a rain garden under them to make good use of all that water. In the spring rains, I am watching muddy water flow down my street. Rain gardens can do so much to keep our beautiful North Carolina rivers clean.

I look forward to introducing this simple garden concept to my neighbors in the Garden Club this week, as well as the yummy desserts they serve for us at the meeting.

This video is very helpful for understanding how important Rain Gardens can be for our natural water systems to keep them clean. Enjoy Learning!

Follow these links for more information and how to create your own. Enjoy!

Gardening with Water Quality in Mind

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Heart of an Art Collector

Yesterday, I attended the monthly meeting of the Hibriten Garden Club. The topic was a study of the genus Helleborus.

The meeting was held at the home of Mary. Mary's gardens are just beginning to explode with hundreds of Helleborus blooms. Mary's lives in a woodland setting and over the years her helleborus have cross pollinated and self seeded in mass all the way down to her neighbors driveway.

Helleborus orientalis cross pollinate easily, in the right conditions, and the blooms colors range from dark purple to apricot to pink to white.

When we finished the chocolate torte with fresh raspberries and cream, and discusssed all the attributes of the best woodland perennial ever....we were then given a tour of Mary's beautiful art collection.

For me it was an eye opening moment into the heart of an art collector. Mary has a fondness for the artwork of a group of women artists known as the Philadelphia Ten. A unique and progressive group of women painters and sculptors who broke the rules of society and the art world by working and exhibiting together. The Philadelphia Ten exhibited together between 1917 and 1945, at first annually in Philadelphia and later, with traveling exhibitions at major museums and galleries on the east coast and in the Midwest. All members had studied art in the schools of Philadelphia and all but three of the original ten were graduates of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design). Relatively unknown today, this group of a total of 23 painters and 7 sculptors was critically acclaimed, aggressively shown, and widely patronized during the twenty-eight years they formally exhibited together.

For Mary, the significance and range of these artists was great, because at the beginning of their era, they did not have the right to vote, and the artwork of women artists more often than not, was not counted as significant in the art world, because they were women. At this time in our history, women were expected to raise babies and stay out of sight.

Forming a group of artists to exhibit their work, some of the women were students of the influential PSDW teacher Elliott Daingerfield, who painted mystical, visionary landscapes, as well as poetic genre scenes and academic figural compositions. Beyond the studios of PSDW, Daingerfield conducted summer classes in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Thus another link to Mary's heart with this group of artists.

So, not only did I enjoy a great group of southern women gardeners, I so enjoyed the art, the history of the artwork, and insight into why people collect the work of certain artists.

Cora Smalley Brooks, Nasturtiums, c. 1920, oil on canvas, Collection of Michael Chutko

Friday, February 5, 2010

Poppies in February

Here is a bouquet of poppies and nasturtiums (my favorites) to enjoy on yet another snowy day.

Alas, the Landscape class didn't fill, we came close this time, and will offer it again in another semester this year.

Truthfully, I am grateful to not have to drive over the mountain two nights a week, considering the never ending ice and snow we are experiencing this season. I did get into Boone this week, and everyone was wondering when their children would ever go back to school.

I haven't posted in such a long time! It is as though my mind had been emptied of any meaningful thought. I read, and take in information, but nothing comes out! At least I am painting. Poor Finn, being a snow and rain wimp, just sits at the sliding glass door and sighs.....What kind of Lab doesn't love the snow? It is so funny to watch this huge brown bear dog tippy toe through the fluffy white stuff....I know he is strange.

I will mention an incident we had driving up interstate 81 on the way to Virginia for Christmas.
Finn had a seizure in the car while I was passing a line of trucks at 80 mph. When it began he jumped into the front seat, wanting to get into my lap, and seized into the steering wheel, turning off the car. His head sank down to the gas pedal near my foot and I had to yank on his collar to keep him from sliding down and affecting my control of the gas. I was afraid I was going to strangle him. His 90 lb body was stiff as a board and he was foaming at the mouth. I kept shouting at him 'Come on Finn you can do it!' I quickly turned the car back on and kept passing the trucks. Amazed that no one had plowed into me from behind. I realized, I am really good in a crisis! This is why I claim that everyday of my life is an adventure, and after this incident, I am grateful to still have one.

He came out of it and I exited off a ramp and right into a hotel parking lot. He was terrified, I was as well. I walked him on the leash in the parking lot until we both stopped shaking. He didn't want to get back in the car.

I realized the trip was worth it when my grand daughter wrapped her little arms around his thick fuzzy brown neck and whispered 'Oh Finn...I do love him! ' after he dropped her rubber ducky into the tub for her. He loves bath time with Barrie and all her toys!

When Finn & I got home to NC, I realized how much that incident affected me. We were exhausted! Thus January was for resting and recuperating. We have had one warm day where I could get to Blowing Rock and clean up from the Christmas day ice storm. Blowing Rock looks like a war zone.
There will be much to do come spring...devastating!