Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day

When I arrived home last week from a visit to my mother in Virginia, it seemed as if the garden had been magically transformed by the wand of a Fairy Godmother, bippidi-boppidi-boo!  Since it was late afternoon, I grabbed my camera before going into the house to take these photos for Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day.

Fullmoon Japanese maple (Acer japonicum) in the front garden.

Fullmoon Japanese maple (Acer japonicum) in the front garden.

Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) in the front garden.

Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) in the front garden.

Serviceberry 'Autumn Brilliance' (Amelanchier x grandiflora) in the back garden.

Serviceberry ‘Autumn Brilliance’ (Amelanchier x grandiflora) in the back garden.

Pignut hickory (Carya glabra) in the wild garden on the middle terrace down to the river.  (Thankfully, so far, the beaver has stayed on the lower terrace adjacent to the riverbank.)

Pignut hickory (Carya glabra) in the wild garden on the middle terrace down to the river. (Thankfully, so far, the beaver has stayed on the lower terrace adjacent to the riverbank.)

The next-door neighbor's maple (Acer), in her front garden.

The next-door neighbor’s maple (Acer), in her front garden.

The oaks (Quercus) towering over the house will be the last to let go of their leaves.

The oaks (Quercus) towering over the house will be the last to let go of their leaves.

Thanks to Christina of Creating my own garden of the Hesperides for encouraging us to take a closer look at foliage each month. Be sure to visit and follow the links to other blogs sharing photos today.

Caught Red-Handed

Recently, while looking out a back window, Tim spied a well-worn path from the riverbank into the sparse woodland at the bottom of the hill behind our home. Eager to get a closer look, we put on our boots and clomped down the steep slope.

Yes, there definitely was a path, but no, we couldn’t determine the identity of our visitor. Maybe a raccoon, we thought; or perhaps one of the river otters we sometimes see around this time of year.

We should be so lucky.

Tim’s trail camera has revealed our busy, nocturnal friend is a beaver.

PRMS0022

PRMS0023

And unfortunately, this one is doing his best to earn his reputation as a mover and a shaker. In short order, he’s taken out every tree I’ve planted on the terrace near the river, including the small dogwood (Cornus) you can see in the photos.

Hmmm…maybe coyotes aren’t so bad after all.

Land of Cotton, Part 3

I had hoped my recent trip to Virginia would coincide with the cotton harvest, but I missed by a few days. When wind and rain is forecast, cotton farmers work overtime as quality of the crop diminishes quickly in poor weather. When I arrived at my parent’s farm earlier this week, gray skies lingered, but fields had been gleaned just ahead of the storm.

Soon after the harvest.

Soon after the harvest.

Looking across the land that has belonged in his family for generations, my stepfather notes that today’s machines leave as much cotton on the ground as was realized from a harvest when he was a boy.

Just up the road, five cotton modules — shaped like giant loaves of bread and weighing as much as 25,000 pounds each — wait for transport to Mid-Atlantic Gin.

Ready for the cotton gin.

Ready for the cotton gin.

Before ginning, cotton is dried to remove excess moisture and then cleaned of leaves and other unwanted debris. Lint is separated from seeds through a mechanical system of blades and blasts of air that force the fibers through closely-spaced ribs. Pressed into 500-pound bales and classed by USDA standards, the cotton is graded according to fiber strength, length, length uniformity, fineness, color, and the measure of non-fiber content. Since cotton is a non-perishable crop, it can be stored rather than sold if the price is too low.

For every 100 pounds of fiber, cotton also produces more than 160 pounds of seed.

Teased apart, you can see this 1/4 boll contains 7 seeds.

Teased apart, you can see this 1/4 boll contains 7 seeds.

Roughly 5% of the seed is retained for planting, but the remaining is processed. Hulls are removed from kernels, which are then pressed for oil, cotton’s most valuable byproduct. The remaining meat of the kernel is converted into meal for livestock and poultry. As most gardeners know, cotton meal is also an excellent natural fertilizer.

Cotton production in Southern states began growing in the mid 1990s as prices soared in response to demand from the clothing industry, especially Asian makers. Today, it’s estimated that farmers can pocket $200 to $500 more per acre from cotton than staple food crops such as soybeans, corn, and wheat. Once called “King,” cotton is again credited with saving untold farms and farmers of the region.

On my return trip to South Carolina, I passed many fields waiting for the cotton combine, such as this one wrapped in a halo of thick fog.

Field of cotton on a foggy morning in November.

Field of cotton on a foggy morning in November.

Whether you consider it good or bad, the song “Dixie” and “land of cotton” is forever linked to Southern culture and history. The song was, in fact, a favorite of President Lincoln. “Dixie” was played at some of his political rallies, and to demonstrate his willingness and eagerness for reconciliation it was played at the White House on April 10, 1865, after the announcement of General Lee’s surrender on the morning of April 9 at Appomattox Court House.

Many Southerners of my era will agree “Dixie,” such as the version found here, was best sung by Elvis.

Name that Plant?

I was at the South Carolina Botanical Garden yesterday for a meeting of the Foothills Master Gardeners and saw a flowering plant covered in bees that has defied identification.

Here’s what it looked like in the garden…

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And here’s a small cutting I brought home with me for identification purposes…

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The color in the second pic is better, as the rays are a light buttery yellow, not white as they appear in the garden photo.

Most likely, it is a hybrid or cultivar of Ajania pacifica, previously Chrysanthemum pacificum and commonly known as gold and silver chrysanthemum. But Ajania pacifica has button-like flowers without rays, and is typically smaller than this plant which (if my memory is correct) stood about 16-inches tall. Leaves of the mystery plant do, however, have the woolly white undersides characteristic of Ajania.

If you have a clue, I would love to know its name.