The new week begins with a bit of fanfare this morning, as a holiday Amaryllis snapped up just before Christmas offers two snowy blooms to match the frosty landscape outside.
Typically, I pot this type of bulb in soil, but on this occasion I took the lazy route by just putting it in a glass vase with marbles. The method has not proved satisfactory, with the blub tilting first one way and then another as the bloom stalk grew to an immense height.
Friday’s sleet and ice, followed by 3 or more inches of snow later in the night, fashioned a winter wonderland for the weekend. Rising temperatures, reaching a high in the mid 50s today, should soon send Frosty and other snowmen hurrying on their way.
In many respects it was a perfect snow. School children had a day at home on Friday, the early ice caused fewer difficulties than expected, and it was a thrill to see our world transformed. Best of all, we were not snowbound longer than we could bear.
Tim and I set out for a long walk early on Saturday. Along the way, I took photos from the far side of the Reedy River showing our home high above the waterway. There are four terraces, including a narrow back garden and three sections of woodland. Looking carefully, you can see a stairway on the second terrace just beyond the substantial retaining wall, and then look left to find a stairway descending the third terrace which ends at a lower retaining wall. The final terrace, along the riverbank, is the section of the garden which floods after heavy rains.
From another angle, you can see how much the river rises before it overflows its banks, plus the kitchen window above the sink that provides a dreamy view when I wash dishes.
Has winter reached your neck of the woods yet?
For some of the most eye-catching flowers around the world today, visit the queen of Monday vases, Cathy, at her blog Rambling in the Garden.
Winter is only a week old and yet by this morning my gauge had measured nearly 8 inches of rain for the season. Following on the heels of a wet autumn, including a 2-day October deluge that dumped 7 inches in the Upstate and more than twice that amount in the Midlands, it’s safe to say we’re all praying for a respite.
We’re not the only ones hurting, though. Northern England has suffered devastating floods this past week and I’m heartsick for those who have suffered loss and damage.
Everyone knows how destructive a flood can be, but Tim and I discovered firsthand the power of water when a log pile (fashioned as a critter refuge when a 2014 torrent felled a tree) was moved more than 50 feet. Since the flood crested in the early morning before the sun rose, we didn’t see the heavy pile move, but were shocked to find it in a new location when we explored the riverbank a few days later.
Unfortunately, my friend Chris Crowder, head gardener at Levens Hall, has seen this power at work in a more damaging way. In the past few weeks, the gardens at Levens have flooded three times, and the most recent was the worst ever. Here’s a look at what Chris has experienced, along with a couple of comparison photos I took when I visited the garden in June.
Upstate weather is clearing and getting colder as the week progresses, but the forecast for Cumbria and other counties of northern England is more rain.
Fingers crossed there will be blue skies for us all again soon.
After a month of nearly non-stop travel, it’s wonderful to be home this weekend for some much-needed relaxation and a bit of gardening. Early Saturday, I began the day by changing out the containers on the front stoop. In my previous garden, these reddish-brown glazed pots were sprinkled throughout the landscape, but here they make a nice accent clustered together and they’re much easier to water.
The collection of containers includes four pots plus a deep birdbath, which holds a couple of large stones for perching. After pulling out winter pansies and violas from three of the containers, I potted up the remaining plants for transplanting, except for a variegated boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’), which was pruned into an upright oval. New Jolly Gardener Premium Potting Mix replaced the old, which was set aside for use as a soil amendment in other parts of the garden.
The containers receive about 90 minutes of light as the sun crosses over the top of the house at the middle of the day, but like the rest of the garden, conditions are mostly shady. It’s always difficult to choose plants that work well in low light and yet still provide an eye-catching display. This season’s selection includes a white and pinkish-purple Torenia hybrid, white flowering New Guinea impatiens (I. hawkeri), and a mix of foliage plants for color and texture (listed below).
The tallest pot holds a cone-shaped yew, which creates a nice backdrop and adds some structure to the arrangement. Two additional pots were stuffed with a mix of plants, while the final container needed only a ring of groundcover to accent a rusted metal agave sculpture.
I found two hanging baskets of golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), which was easy to pull apart for planting along the edges of the container. This is a much better option, I’ve discovered, than purchasing smaller plants in individual cups. As a bonus, it’s also less expensive.
Here’s what the pots looked like today (Sunday):
Though it’s not the best time of year for woody propagation, after finishing the containers, I decided to see if some of the clippings from the boxwood would root. I removed the hangers from the baskets and filled them with a measure of the recycled potting mix before trimming the cuttings into 6-inch pieces. The bottom third of each cutting was stripped of its foliage and held for 5 seconds in liquid Dip ‘N Grow before being firmed into place.
In all, 15 cuttings were stuck. The baskets were then moved to a shady location where I can keep an eye on them to maintain moisture.
Believe it or not, Tim and I were still able to get downtown for our favorite breakfast at Mary Beth’s, followed by a stroll through the Saturday Farmers’ Market and Artisphere, an annual performance and visual arts festival.
If you live in the Upstate, you might like to know that many of the choice plants for the containers where purchased at Roots on Augusta.
Here’s the promised list:
Purple foliage plants: Purple heart (Setcreasea purpurea), purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’
Chartreuse foliage plants: Kong coleus, golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), Everillo carex (C. oshimensis ‘Everillo’)
Variegated foliage plants: Variegated box (Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’), Hosta ‘Risky Business’, variegated creeping myrtle (Vinca minor)
Foliage for texture: Creeping wire vine (Muehlenbeckia complexa), and ferns
After another round of slushy snow on Wednesday and Thursday, today is bright and warm, so it’s been hard to stay focused on work. Needing a break, I pulled my wellies on after lunch for a quick walk to see if any of the woodland natives had “endeavored to persevere” through our extremely cold winter. I hoped to discover a sign or two of Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot), my favorite spring ephemeral, but couldn’t find a trace.
Surprisingly, however, many of the Trillium cuneatum (sweet Betsy), which I rescued from a nearby area of development last spring, are up and already in bud. There’s still no sign of other, established trilliums.
Erythronium americanum, commonly called trout lily for its speckled foliage, is even further along. One bud has apparently been eaten by a critter, but the rest are within a few days of opening. The plant, given to me by a friend from her garden in 2013, has bulked up since last year.
I also found foliage of Tipularia discolor (cranefly orchid), easily identified by the dark coloring on the underside of its leaves. The foliage will die long before flowers appear in late summer.
I often refer to the terraces that extend down to the Reedy River at the rear of our property. In the upper right-hand corner of the photo below, you can barely see the retaining wall that supports the back garden. And just to the left of the photo is a second, but shorter, retaining wall.
Each neon-pink flag marks a spot where an herbaceous plant grows. Though unsightly now, they help me remember where it’s safe to add new natives, and they’ll be removed when the area is better established.
The garden surrounding the house contains many non-native ornamentals, while the terrace closest to the river cannot be kept clear of non-natives because of periodic flooding. The woodland shown here, about a quarter acre, is a haven for native plants only.
This weekend, Tim and I realized it was now or never. Well, maybe not “never,” but at least not until next year, as I will soon be traveling again and when I return the weather could be iffy. No one, especially me, wants to get in the river when it’s cold outside. So Saturday we put on our hip boots, hauled the necessary gear down to the Reedy, and celebrated Labor Day weekend with the Second Biennial St.Clair Riversweep.
Though I often write about the Reedy River in glowing terms, Friends of the Reedy note it is historically the most polluted river in South Carolina. Even from our home’s high perch, Tim and I can see aluminum cans glinting in the sunlight and the dark form of automobile tires half buried in river sand. On our first riversweep, undertaken on Labor Day weekend in 2012, we wrestled more than 45 automobile tires from a few hundred feet of riverbed, plus removed cans, broken bottles, old shoes, and other trash, including a typewriter.
Rather than struggle as we’ve done in the past, Tim fashioned an easy method of getting in and out of the river with a step ladder and length of rope. Getting down to the river is not much of a problem, but getting out with a garbage bag packed with debris can be a challenge.
Our focus area is the stretch of river which begins behind our upstream neighbor and extends just beyond our property. We start upstream since the trash there is headed our way next and clean roughly 300 feet because it’s what we can do in a day.
In all, we moved about 15 tires and collected three bags of trash on Saturday. This doesn’t sound like much, I know, but the cumbersomeness of the hip boots and the force of the rushing water, which is more than knee deep in some places, make the effort exhausting. Plus, everything is full of sand, tires must be scooped out and each can must be torn open and emptied.
In the photo above, the overhead tree branches indicate how high the river reached in the August flash flood–more than 11 feet above normal. And below, you can see that our neighbor lost another chunk of land to the rushing waters.
Despite the pollution, the river teams with wildlife. Small fish dart about and I frequently see a blue heron high-stepping through the shallows, focused on its next meal. The two snakes I scooped from the inside of an old whitewall in 2012 seemed healthy enough too, and thankfully, were as eager to escape from me as I was from them. Red-tailed hawks are frequent visitors, the great horned owl we hear at night has used the rail of our deck as a hunting perch, and we’ve even spied river otters on occasion.
A riversweep is physically demanding work, and at times even unnerving, but I know the effort we have put into the job, and will continue to make, is worthwhile.
For locals who care to lend a hand, Friends of the Reedy just announced plans for a community event…
I thought I was going to write a blog about a fun visit to the downtown market, but I had to work on a magazine article about dahlias instead.
I wanted to highlight summer’s flashiest flower, but the flood was very unkind to the Lobelia cardinalis I planted last autumn amidst Japanese sedge grass on the bank of the Reedy River.
I planned to tell you about the crack in the patio (circa 1952) worsened by summer rains, the pending removal of the unwanted deck, and the consultation to construct a double-decker porch, but I was overdue in producing the minutes of a June meeting.
I wish I could share my excitement about this past weekend’s wildflower hike in Alleghany County, Virginia, and the visit to Humpback Bridge, but now I’m packing for a meeting in Baltimore.
Although blogging isn’t working into my schedule just now, I wanted you to know I’m still thinking about you!
What have you been up to lately?