Sunday, April 05, 2020

No Use Crying Over Spilt Milk(paint)

Yesterday I walked down to Arcadia with a large yogurt container of just-mixed fuchsia milk paint, excited to be painting Artemis hive, which is of course empty and awaiting its nuc which is coming mid-late May.

I’d tung-oiled it two days before, and while that was satisfying, not nearly as much fun as putting color on, so I was excited to get started.

Echo hive is doing very well, and the girls were busy foraging when I got to the apiary. I set up my painting stuff and got to work. I realized I’d made the paint a bit too watery, but milk paint is so forgiving it’s not a big deal. If I’d been closer to the house, where the powder was, I might have added some more to thicken the paint a bit, but since I had plenty of paint and could do several coats, I opted to forge on.

I got one side painted when somehow the yogurt container slid from my hand and bright pink milk paint flew everywhere. ACKKKKK!

After a few moments of total frustration, I realized that because we’d put cardboard down to smother some weeds around the hive, the paint was pooling and not totally lost. Instead of cursing, I just continued to paint, dipping the brush in the pink pool and applying it as I would if it were still in my container.

I really didn’t think I’d be able to complete the entire exterior of the hive boxes (you don’t paint the insides) but guess what - somehow there was enough to do it, and even enough to add a second coat to most of the areas that needed one.

After not crying over spilt milk paint, this is what I have:

You can see the paint splattered on the bottom box legs, which initially I fretted over, but decided to let go. I also made a mistake and painted the handles which I’d meant to leave natural, but oh well. Thankfully milk paint is nontoxic and water based and the rain will wash away the paint on the ground with no ill effect and a bit of time. I’ll do a second coat today and build the color up, but even as is, I love it. Note the chicken feeders we use for providing water to the bees. We filled the bottom with stones so they can perch and drink without drowning. We have two of these and refill them as needed with no trouble at all. I noticed birds using them yesterday too!

Here’s a shot looking back toward Echo hive. I chose these colors because I love them separately but even more together. I also have a sapphire blue that will go on the third hive. 

After using up all the paint I could sop up from the ground, I took my cherry soda and went to my chair in Poplar Folly. The view:

Paint on boots.  And sky.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 18: Virginia sweetspire

I needed something for the corner of Poplar Folly that could grow tall enough to be a screen, has pretty flowers, is native and a pollinator, and if possible offered some color. Virginia sweetspire hit the spot. The long willowy flowers are pretty and loved by bees, it can grow to 8 feet, and in the fall its leaves turn a deep burgundy red. Perfect!

Ours are young still, but have at least doubled in size since planted, and we’ve enjoyed the flowers and the fall color already. They’re doing well in the spot we put them.

There are two in this corner and my hope is that as they grow they’ll fill it in. 

More info:

Itea virginica (Virginia sweetspire)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy 

Itea virginica

Itea virginica L.

Virginia Sweetspire, Tassel-white, Virginia Willow

Saxifragaceae (Saxifrage Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Virginia sweetspire is a mound-shaped, slender-branched, deciduous shrub to 8 ft. Small, white flowers bloom in 4 in. spires that droop with the arching branches. Flowers open from base to tip so that the plant appears to bloom for a long time. Leaves turn red to purple in fall and persist well into the winter. This plant is semi-evergreen in the southern part of its range. 
The long tassels of white flowers and red fall foliage make this an attractive ornamental. Most effective in massed plantings, as single plants tend to be scraggly. 

Friday, April 03, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 17: our beloved oaks

So, technically the oaks aren’t coming up in the garden, they lived here before anyone did and they offer me inspiration, comfort, shelter, art, and more on a daily basis.

Yesterday I was filling a water trough in the back pasture when I looked up. What a sight, all the oaks leafing out, their tassels blowing in the wind, floating in water, clustering on the ground. It’s a sight, and a joy, to see them leafing out.

Between the oaks of various species, the tulip poplars, the sweet gum, maple, and pine, we live in an enchanted forest of sorts. While fall is my absolute favorite season, and spring second favorite, I love the shapes of our trees’ winter branches against the sky, and in spite of biting insects and heat, our summers are like living in a jungle thanks to our magnificent trees. We can’t see anything outside the farm when the trees are fully leafed out, and they filter the sounds of other people and their comings and goings.

Looking ahead, I saw our home, which includes the barn, and I thank the goddesses that it’s so close to our house. This is my ecosystem. I love it.

And on a different note, or maybe just an outlying part of the ecosystem, I finally hung my apiary sign yesterday. A lovely artist from Etsy made it for me last fall. It’s been hanging in the garage for some unknown reason ever since.

She painted her interpretation of my favorite pollinator plant, spotted horsemint, monarda punctata. 

Thursday, April 02, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 16: persimmon

We have an old persimmon tree on the strip of our property that goes up the gravel lane we live on. Every fall I watch for the splashes of bright orange that mean the fruit on the tree is ripe, and for weeks after, I find wildlife scat full of persimmon seeds. It seems to be a popular food for many creatures.

I’ve never gathered any of the persimmons myself, but think of doing it each autumn that comes.

When Duke Energy took down some of our tulip poplars in Poplar Folly two years ago we began to replace those trees with other natives that don’t grow so tall, which means they won’t ever be in danger of being cut down. Persimmon was one option that is both native, wildlife-friendly, and a pollinator, so we put one in. Here it is today:

I believe it too is a slow-growing plant, but it’s more than doubled its size at planting and I love seeing its progress. Technically we need another persimmon to pollinate for fruit, so we’ll likely add a few more this fall now that we’re seeing this one thrive.

Unlike the two young redbuds we put in at the same time, the persimmon has had no problems at all. I’m not sure what happened to the redbuds - it’s possible they just didn’t get enough water the winter we planted them. Poplar Folly is too far back for hoses, so all the watering down there has to be done with a wheelbarrow and either buckets or the wheelbarrow water bladder I bought. Most things only need dedicated watering their first year, and I track the rainfall to make it easier on us and on the plantings. Some things, like the seed I just sowed, will be left to their own hardiness and the rainfall we get. 

I’m happy the persimmon is doing so well.

More info:

Diospyros virginiana 

Phonetic Spelling
dy-OS-pe-res ver-jin-ee-AY-nah
American Persimmon is a deciduous tree in the ebony family that is native to central and eastern USA and is found in all areas of NC.  It is slow-growing and thicket forming and can be a nuisance in fields. The trees are usually separate male and female and both are needed for fruiting to occur. Flowering is in spring to early summer with fruit ripening in the fall. A string of cool days is usually needed for maturation. The 1-2 inch fruits are orange and very sweet when ripe. They are a source of food for many types of birds and mammals.
Moist, well-drained sandy soils provide the best conditions for growth but the tree will tolerate hot, dry, poor soils and clay, including urban conditions. It blooms and fruits best in full sun to partial shade. A deep taproot makes it difficult to transplant.
Cultivars are available that may make a better tree for the home garden. However, the specimen can be grown as an ornamental and fruit tree or use in naturalized areas for wildlife.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 15: little bluestem

While I’m doing native grasses, I’ll go ahead and add little bluestem to the list. It adds another lovely visual element to the beds, on through the winter months, and the birds love it.

Here you can see both the old growth and the new. This is another edge of the front bed that slopes sharply in the corner and the little bluestem has secured the soil nicely. The birds have flocked to it all through the winter, and are still doing so, which is why I haven’t cut back the old growth. As other things come in, I’ll cut it back.

I have it in my upper pollinator bed as well, where it creates a nice green area between other flowering plants. It’s super hardy and requires zero maintenance.

There’s a big bluestem as well that I planted in Arcadia but the deer ate it. I’ll try again. If I can get it established it should be able to take some deer nibbling, but I may have to plant it inside the fence until it gets big enough to survive their munching.

More info:

Schizachyrium scoparium 

Previously known as:

  • Andropogon scoparius
Phonetic Spelling
ski-za-KRY-ee-um sko-PAIR-ee-um
A native ornamental grass with attractive blue-green foliage in the Poaceae family.  Purplish bronze seed heads and yellow-orange leaves make for great fall interest in the landscape.  It is attractive planted en masse and would make an excellent addition to a rain garden. It performs best in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun.  However, it does tolerate a wide range of soil conditions including infertility and clay.  It has drought resistance once established. It is well-adapted to southern climates as it tolerates high heat and humidity. It is found naturally in a wide range of moist to dry habitats. Cut back to the ground in early spring to promote new attractive growth. There are many cultivars available, which means it can be difficult to find the straight species in trade.
Little Bluestem is a perennial, warm-season grass that may grow to 5 feet. The leaves and stems frequently have a bluish cast in summer, while the fall color is a very warm copper that does not fade throughout winter. 
Seasons of Interest:
     Leaves: Summer/Fall/Winter; Bloom: Late Summer/Fall; Fruit/Seed/Nut: Fall/Winter