Monday, December 27, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 144

 Well, another Christmas day has come and gone. We had a wonderful time with my daughter, son, our daughter-in-law, and our grandson. I can’t even express what a wonder it is to have him here crawling all over the living room investigating things.

We’re having unseasonably warm weather this week and while it’s not unusual in the larger span of years, it always rubs a little bit the wrong way when it coincides with the winter holidays. Although this year, with Keil being older and bearing some residual weakness after the EPM, I am grateful that he’s not having to (so far) contend with very cold weather. I will not mind if we have no snow or ice this winter. 

Today I’ll begin putting away the most Christmasy of decorations, one bin a day, until we have only the trees left. We enjoy the white lights and I’ll keep them up as long as the trees themselves are not getting too dried out.

Last year right at Christmas I developed a sudden and very intense abdominal issue - it was relieved by cleaning up my diet, getting structural massage, chiro, and a good medical check up to rule out any serious problems. I was very annoyed this week when, as if on cue, it happened again. I know the drill, and it’s true that once again as the holiday season approached, I gravitated toward a less healthy diet, had a few too many cocktails, decreased exercise, and rescheduled two chiro appointments. Add the general stress of Covid and holidays and wham. The perfect storm. 

I had already been prepped to reboot at the new year, but my body, this year and last, has stepped up sooner to say NOW PLEASE, or else. 

Is this part of the aging process in action? In any case, I found gentle yoga with Adriene videos online and those have helped immensely as I shift things back to better self care.

It will take a few weeks to get myself back to feeling good, and next year I believe I need to get out in front of this in November to break this two-year pattern.

I’ve been working on my annual review, a project that spans several weeks in December, in which I go through all the things I wanted to do in 2021, the things I actually did, the things I did not do, and I spend time pondering and writing about how I think the year went. It’s a useful exercise, not meant to be punitive or harsh in any way, but just a time to consider what worked and what didn’t. Each year I give a name to the theme of the year ahead. I’m not sure what it is yet for 2022, but I’m thinking about it!

It’s been a big year, 2021, and I’m taking my time with processing things.

A glimpse of today on November Hill: the skies are cloudy, the temperature is mild though in the 50s today instead of 70s, and at this moment three dogs are sleeping in the living room with me, one cat is here sleeping as well, the herd were just grazing in front in full view through the window I am sitting by, and my body is at peace with itself. I am grateful for the quiet moments and for the ability to choose, for the most part, what to do next in my day. 

This is what I always call the “between time” - when we’re past Christmas but not yet to the new year, and somehow it always involves a gray day or two, and a slowing of activity to some degree, which makes space to think and just be. I hope everyone reading this can have the gift of this space to breathe and reflect. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 143

 It’s been warm here until last night, when more normal December weather rolled back in. Horses went into blankets and I turned the heat on again. 

We’ve gotten some rain, too, after a dry autumn, and it’s good for all the plantings I’ve done this fall. Today I hired a landscaper to put in 14 American hollies along the side of our property that borders the very close neighbors. Between cars, yellow and white striped awnings, and bright lights coming on outside all night, it’s time to finally get the hollies bought and planted. 

The landscaper sent me photos after our meeting today and has located 9-foot trees but is continuing to look for 10-12-foot ones as I’d like to get some immediate relief in place. These hollies will be good screening, visually beautiful, food and shelter for birds, and the blooms will be nice forage for the bees. 

Right now the farm is in its most dormant state, plant-wise. The most prominent features are the bare branches against the backdrop of a winter sky, and ground covered in fallen leaves. We had sunshine today after the rain, and of course, when the blankets came off, the horses rolled, so Keil got a good grooming while he had his afternoon wet tub. 

We’re about 1/4 of the way through the laundry room updating. Between the bigger washer/dryer and the spruced up walls and new sink, I decided the feed bins for horses need to go back out to the barn. Which means it works best to put the feed bags out there (currently stored in the garage), which means I had to figure out a way to keep the bags safe from moisture and mice. One of our neighbors tipped me off to a storage bin he found for his animal feed and I’ve ordered the same for the feed room. Of course, now I need to work on finally getting warm water at the barn, and that’s a whole other project. It’s a fact of updating that one thing pushes the next and on and on and on. 

It’s been fun doing the holiday decorating this week, though we were quite late this year, and the white lights on the trees are cheerful as the nights fall. It’s hard to believe that in three months or so we’ll be back at the start of the jungle season here.

With the new Covid variant gaining momentum I’m grateful for this farm and all its beauty and work and space in which to be and to stay busy while also staying safe. May we all move through this and come out safely on the other side. 




Sunday, December 19, 2021

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Update on the Big Handsome Bay

 I’ve written a number of posts over the past year or so about EPM and Keil Bay. I admit that as autumn approached this year, which was the one year anniversary of Keil being diagnosed with EPM and PPID, I felt some stress that he might relapse. It wasn’t rational but just the power of the anniversary effect. 

In fact, he has not had any new issues this fall going into winter now. We continue to give him the full battery of supplements that I researched and added in with his 90 days of Marquis and 30 days of Rebalance. He continues to get acupuncture, chiropractic, and a Legend injection monthly. We keep a check on his ACTH and other things like vitamin E level via bloodwork. He remains on Prascend and I have Equioxx which I haven’t had to use much this year. I give it if he seems to need it, but generally he does everything he has always done, sometimes more slowly.

Keil Bay sings for his feed tubs, knocks flakes of hay out of the hay barrow as I serve it in the pastures, splashes in the water troughs on hot days, nudges me for peppermints, charms his vets, gives me the stink eye on occasion when I am being silly (like yesterday when I was grooming him and Cody snuck up in the  stall behind me and gave me a tender nip on the backside, causing me to scream in surprise), and generally behaves as the benevolent leader he has always been for his little herd.

He drags the hay pillows around, breaks through the stall door now and then when he feels he is not being attended to at the exact right times, touches my arm with his lips very gently to check in, bobs his head until the chiropractor gets to the right place, does his googly eyes during his treatments, and truly enjoys his treats and feed.

He is not the same as before the EPM, but as all the vets remind me, at 32.5 years of age, we cannot know that the slowing down and occasionally cocking a hind leg out when standing are due to the EPM or due to his advancing age. He’s a big horse, and I wish he’d been able to stay remarkably sound and fit and healthy all the way to the end of his life, but he remains happy and he can do what he wants to do. After our recent and much-needed rains, he rolled like he always has and I had to groom his mud-cake self to get his fur clean again.

I remain an overprotective companion to him. If I see a hind leg cocked out, I feel a moment of panic. If he seems the least bit “off” in any way, I get tearful and have to take a few deep breaths. I have told him that I want him to live as long as he can, as long as he is happy and feels good. I also very tearfully told him it’s okay for him to go when he’s ready, and while it will be probably the hardest day of my life, I will help him and I’ll be (eventually) okay with it. I have asked him to do whatever he can to let his passing be quick and easy. If he just fell to the ground with a sudden cardiac event, I would consider that a gift from the universe. But I do hope we have more years to go before that happens. (May it please happen when the time comes though!)

Some may think this is a morbid post, but this is the reality when you live with your horses until the very end of their lives. It is the most difficult thing about loving horses and keeping them with you as they age. But it’s also joyful. I can tell you that every single day I lift Keil’s forelock and see the growing tufts of silver hairs, I revel. They are beautiful and they represent a long and happy life. I see him moving more slowly and I rejoice that he has the kind of life that he feels safe and cared for and loved and knows nothing more will be asked of him but to meander around the farm and enjoy his remaining years. 

I am grateful for every day.

This is Keil Bay a few days ago. Something was going on down on the gravel lane and he strode from the bottom of the back pasture to come check it out. This is Keil at 32.5. Oh, how I love him!





Saturday, December 11, 2021

Streetlight Anthology 2020

 I learned this week that my essay, Stealing Light, which was a prizewinner in Streetlight’s 2020 nonfiction contest, was selected for their annual anthology. I’m honored to see my work among other beautiful writing. 

The anthology includes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Support a small publisher and enjoy the work of many fine writers!

You can get it HERE.



Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Possumhaw!

 


Today I happened to take the path past the possumhaw - and the color! I had forgotten this is why I chose the possumhaw for this location on the farm. There are two, they’re taller than me now, and they’re doing THIS. I love them.


Monday, November 29, 2021

It’s A Dog’s Life (not sure what number I’m at with this)

It’s been a relaxing weekend and the November Hill pack seem to be enjoying a lot of rest and relaxation. They’re a fun crew. Baloo is in a search and rescue class that’s giving him something to focus all his intense energy on, and he’s doing quite well. Clementine is patiently waiting for her turn at search and rescue. Bear’s still chipper as ever but given his age and mild arthritis, we are not planning any more work for him! His job is to be fluffy and snuggly and to sniff out the farm and all its visitors. 







Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving from November Hill and the Mountain House

 


I’m grateful for blue skies, big trees, native plants, honey bees.

Horses, ponies and donkeys.

A pack of hounds, cats full of curiosities.

Family and friends.

Lands preserved and protected.

Books to read, books to write, the creative process.



From our homes to yours, I’m thankful for you who may be reading here today and every day. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 142

 


Happy to see this photo husband took that reveals November Hill spruced up for its namesake month. It’s taken months, but it has new roof, new paint, new upstairs windows, new attic HVAC, and I’m so glad these things are over I’m going to pour myself a little cocktail and celebrate. :)

I’m behind on my native plant updates, but will get back to that soon. Meanwhile we have a thornless blackberry going onto a trellis in the potager and still have the witch hazel and the heirloom local apple trees to plant. 

We’re having crazy weather. Warm days then cold days, temperature going all over the place. 

This week I had a few little repairs done with a contractor who will do it all, from little things like repairing door latches that don’t latch to bigger things like building new stall doors. He repaired a door latch, installed new light fixture on the deck, replaced a deteriorating exterior vent, and measured the back door so I can order a new Dutch door. This took him a couple of hours and compared to the larger jobs that we’ve done this year, it was a piece of cake. (Maybe I’ll add that to my cocktail time)

It’s been a relatively quiet day today and I’m doing some housework and for some strange reason am still wearing my pajamas. I very rarely do this but I’ve done it twice in the past week and one of those times I actually put a fleece vest over them and drove to get a coffee order!

I also ordered and received my 2022 day planner and the thought of all those blank days lying ahead is intoxicating. I know they will get filled as the year opens out, but for now I have an empty year ahead of me and I’m going to enjoy the thought of lazy days and puttering around trying to find things to do. 

Back to my wood floors and mop. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Thankful this is being knocked off my list today!

 


Finally, the new windows! There were a couple of moments when it looked like something was missing and then another thing didn’t fit, but the crew worked through those before I could get too freaked out.

I’ve always wanted these casement windows in the upstairs front and it’s been an 8-month wait since we ordered them, so it’s wonderful to see this project coming to fruition on this beautiful 75-degree day. 

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 141

 


On Monday I said goodbye to Weymouth and my writing women and headed home. It was a wonderful week of writing, writerly company and conversation, and an amazing dinner out. Our waitperson asked for our first names, told us we were her favorite table of the evening, and named us the Bright Little Diamonds. 

The thing about a writing residency is that it is limited in time and thus very precious. Weymouth has a history of hosting writers even before it was a center for the arts and humanities, and you definitely feel that when you’re working there.

Of course, as I’ve said before, the best thing about the end of a writing week is coming home. To November Hill.


It’s definitely this farm’s namesake month right now, with trees losing leaves and color continuing to develop. 

Since arriving home I’ve had a great day of housekeeping with my helper, a big batch of planting to get my fall natives into the ground, some bee hive prep for the freezing temps forecast for later this week, and today, getting horse sheets out of storage. 

I have a few things left to plant and then it will be my job to track rainfall and water the new plants as needed so their root systems can develop over this winter. I’ll be doing some leaf mulching in the pastures, and focusing on a few projects we need to get done before the end of the year. But in a lot of ways, it’s time to enjoy the season and wind down the to do lists for the year.

Up at the mountain house the temps will be in the 20s this week, with the possibility of snow!

This morning I’m back to my regular writing routine, coffee and dogs and some quiet time to think and write. It’s not the great long span of writing days that Weymouth gives, but it’s sweet and it’s where the work lives most of the hours of the year. I’m glad to be home. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Synchronicity In The Creative Process

 I’ve written about it before, many times in various places, how the creative process opens up to synchronicity if one pays attention and lets it happen.

Last night while editing a novel chapter I was reading the words Blackhawks and Pave Lows when a Blackhawk flew by overhead. What a charge of energy that moment gave to the editing process, and fueled me working on late into the night. 

I’m editing a novel that has been sitting complete for several years. It’s a novel I love, but for whatever reason I moved on to other work and yesterday I dove back in to this novel’s world. We’ll see where this editing journey takes us.

This view from the writer’s kitchen helps:



Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Much Needed Writing Time In Process

 



It’s been a very long time since I was here at Weymouth Center For the Arts and Humanities as a writer in residence, and I’m absolutely relishing this week of time to dig in with my writing projects. It’s beautiful and quiet and I have no chores to do. No interruptions. Pure creative time.

I almost always come here with a project to finish, a self-imposed deadline, and a burning fever to “get it done.” This trip I made the decision to come with nothing on a list, no plan of action, but just me, my work, and the time to dip in and out of the various projects in a whimsical way. 

Today I submitted two short pieces, redesigned my submission journal pages for a better ease of use, and who knows what I’ll do next as I move into the afternoon. 

I’m not sure if this is my own aging process kicking in, lending its wisdom to the writing process, or if the pandemic has pushed me to view things differently. Surely some combination of the two. But it feels nice to be here letting the time and space guide me to what feels like the next right thing.

Whether or not you can go on a retreat like this, find some time and a place to be where you can retreat from the daily routine, even if just half an hour, and let yourself open up to creative thinking or other creative pursuits. It’s a gift we can give ourselves if we choose to do so. And it’s easy to forget in our busy lives how valuable this is for our minds, bodies, and spirits.

Go on, schedule a half hour, or an afternoon. If you can take a weekend or a full week, do it. This is the kind of thing that doesn’t just happen. You have to put it into your life. 

Do it. 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 81: whorled milkweed

 Today I added in more pink/swamp milkweed, butterfly weed, and a new variety, whorled milkweed. I have an entire strip alongside the front walkway now that will be filled with milkweed come spring. I can’t wait to see it!

The whorled milkweed is a pale pale pinkish white and it will be lovely along with the deep pink and bright orange of the other varieties. But the main thing is that it will help the butterfly larva and keep the beauties coming to November Hill. 

MORE ON WHORLED MILKWEED

Friday, October 22, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 140

 We are moving on into autumn here and have (mostly) switched the herd to being out during the day and in at night, though Keil Bay has been asking to do his own version of this and we are letting him create his own custom turn-out this fall season.

He’s doing well, just had his acupuncture and Legend injection with his interim vet and a vet intern. These two are also young women vets who seem to really love their work and they enjoyed meeting him and hearing a few Keil Bay stories. He was a gentleman and was very appreciative of the acupuncture. 

In other news, we have a new hoof trimmer, which is a long story but in a nutshell the previous trimmer exploded at Keil during his trim in September and resigned 5 days later. We need someone who is strong enough to do this hard work, can do it in a time frame so that senior horses and even younger ones are not kept standing for long periods of time, and most of all, we need someone who is cheerful, feels good, enjoys the equines here, and would never explode in a tirade of curse words at any equine, ever. I’d say that is asking for perfection, but honestly, in all the years we’ve lived with equines, I’ve never had any professional behave that way, period, so it was time for someone new.

We had a wonderful trim day with the new trimmer this week and are all very happy to be moved on. It seems none of them were getting trimmed properly, mostly just not enough toe being taken off and a lot of unneeded focus on cutting the sole. Everyone looks great and I’m very happy with how it went.

We’re still working on getting the mountain house up and running. It’s going to take another month or so I think but we’ve made a good start. We’ve met the immediate neighbors and gotten to know them a bit, and are very fortunate that they’re super nice people and eager to be helpful to us in any way they can. We never expected that but how wonderful to find it! Apparently there’s a trail through the new land that is spectacular in the springtime, so we’re aiming for a big walk together when we get through the winter and see the spring bloom up there. 

For now the fall color is in full swing and I’m going to be up there soon to enjoy it. 

I’m happy that I put a moratorium on myself with regards to adding anything else to my calendar this season. I have a couple of therapy workshops and my ongoing writing workshop, and I’m enjoying these things all the more now that I’m not swamped with stuff going on. This isn’t rocket science, as they say, but sometimes I really do behave as if I’m Hermione in Harry Potter, able to be in two places at once, taking care of multiple to do lists. It’s been so nice to slow down and just do things in a more laid-back manner.

I’m going to be writer-in-residence soon, which means a week away to focus on writing, and that too will be delicious and savored this year especially. 

It’s a gorgeous day, with dogwoods changing color, a few other trees coming close to that, and a lovely blue sky. Horses in their pasture, or barnyard, as is the case with Keil Bay, dogs sleeping in the living room, and nothing on my schedule. 

Happy autumn, everyone!

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 80: sassafras

 Today I’ve put in a couple of sassafras trees in an open area of Poplar Folly. Since they’re not as large as tulip poplars, oaks, and maples, they’re a good fit for the space and will create a sub-story layer on the sloping ground.

They’re good for wildlife, insects, and are larval hosts for several butterfly species, and they have interesting leaves and fall color. Win-win-win-win, right? And of course they’re NC natives.

Sassafras is what is used to flavor root beer, so gosh, maybe I’ll try that some year when I’m bored and have nothing else to do. (Small joke)

MORE ON SASSAFRAS

Monday, October 18, 2021

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 79: axillary goldenrod

 This is a smaller goldenrod that is less likely to spread, can take some shade, and supports many insects and birds, as well as other wildlife. It has a much different look to it than the usual goldenrod species, and I’ve added it to the center of my shady bed along the driveway in hopes that it will get just enough afternoon sun to keep it happy. 

I’ve tried to fill in this bed this fall, as I started it a couple of years ago and then got busy with other spaces. At this point I have:

White wood aster

Common blue wood aster

Wild ginger

Oak leaf hydrangea

Cutleaf coneflower

Axillary goldenrod

There are a couple more things in my staging area that will likely join these plants in the original shade bed, so stay tuned. 

MORE ON AXILLARY GOLDENROD

More Cutleaf (green-headed) Coneflower!

 I put this in the potager last spring where it gets a fair amount of sun, and it’s done well out there. In a botanical garden course this summer I learned it can tolerate shade, which made me think to try it in the shade bed for something taller and a pop of yellow, and in the bird haven for the same effect and color. 

I’ve put a couple in the shade bed - the ones in the potager are quite large now - and I have four more to go in the bird haven area. If they do well they will prove themselves to be a truly versatile coneflower! 

In addition to the flowers, these have very distinctive and lovely foliage, so lots to enjoy about them.

Butterflies and songbirds, especially the goldfinches, love them.

MORE ON CUTLEAF CONEFLOWER

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 78: common blue wood aster

 I love the white wood aster in the shady bed along the driveway and wanted more asters to fill in the space, so I was happy to find common blue wood aster on the botanical garden sale list this fall. These asters that are shade loving can get weedy and I’ve seen that with the white wood aster - but if you pinch it back some it will get more upright and bushy. It’s taken me a couple of years to learn that lesson! But you can see the difference when you do it and it makes for a lovely bed plant.

It also gives pollinator insects much needed variety in fall forage.

These are very delicate flowers and so very pretty!

MORE ON COMMON BLUE WOOD ASTER

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 77: passionflower vine (or maypop)

 I’ve been looking for something native to replaced the clematis at the corner of the front porch. The clematis produces a deep burgundy flower and while I like it okay, I’ve never seen an insect go to it for pollen or nectar, so it’s not doing its job in the pollinator bed it’s in.

It has never really climbed profusely where it is, so I’m not sure it’s in the best growing space. It came out and the native passionflower vine has gone in. This vine has very fancy flowers in a pale lavender color that bees go crazy for, and the fruits are food for various kinds of wildlife. I think I read that box turtles like the fruit (or am I thinking of May apple?)

In any case, the passionflower is installed and come spring we’ll see if it likes its new space, with a lot of sun and a trellis to climb.

MORE ON PASSIONFLOWER.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 76: Carolina allspice or sweet shrub

 I’ve put a couple of these in my shady driveway bed, in back to provide a backdrop to the flowering plants up front. They are pollinator plants and have deep maroon flowers that will be a nice thing to see both looking out the windows on that side of the house, as well as driving in and out from the garage. I’m hoping they do well in this shady area that can also get some water when we have a lot of rain.

MORE ON CAROLINA ALLSPICE


What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 75: spicebush

 I’ve gotten behind again on updating the plantings for this fall. I put in two spicebush plants in the bird haven area - there were a couple of bayberries along the inner fence line that didn’t like it there and died, presumably because the rainwater creek was too much for them. Spicebush will tolerate that just fine, so I’m trying them there and we’ll see. 

They’re great for birds offering both food and shelter and are a host plant for a species of swallowtail butterflies. I’m looking forward to seeing how they do. 

MORE ABOUT SPICEBUSH

Thursday, October 14, 2021

This is our grassy bald!

  Safe now from development and going into conservation trust soon. Thanks to dear husband for these early morning photographs. 





Monday, October 11, 2021

Baloo’s first visit to the mountain house!

 He got to enjoy his first sunrise up there:



And his first sunset:


Photos courtesy of dear husband. 

Very happy to be starting this new adventure with our entire family!

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 139

 Playing catch up with the native plantings here, as we had some busy days and my routine got messed up a bit. I have my vines and shrubs left to go and then there is one more batch that I’ll be getting in later this month.

However, I did have a moment this weekend to snap a quick photo of the corner of the oldest of the native pollinator beds I’ve put in. This one is three years old and has really come together well.


This is the fall bloom in this corner. I love how things are intermingling and the textures are varied. I planned some of this, and some volunteered here - the blue mist front and center - and overall I’m very happy with it.

We’ve had some rain today and more to come so my watering is taken care of for all the newly-planted things. A nice gift for the week. 

In other news we have closed and started moving furniture into the mountain house, and learned yesterday that our back-up offer on the adjoining 175 acres is now the primary offer. We should be closing on that in a couple of weeks. I’m very happy that this worked out this way. The land was in immediate danger of being developed, and it’s too beautiful for that to happen. It’s nestled in among thousands of acres of protected land and now it too will be protected. 

It’s October! I’m barely able to believe it but here we are, entering my most favorite season of the year. May it be a good season for us all. We need it, for sure. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 138

 A break in the plant series today, though of course some of what’s going on is me planting things. Today we got the arrowwood viburnum in, and I watered everything in the bird haven area since we had a hot day today. The stones are placed, and we need another load, so that’s on the list.

The butterfly bush in the grassy front “yard” was removed today in advance of a new/small bed that will angle the corner on that side of the grassy yard area. Its blooms had finished so it was time to get rid of it. Mowing that small grassy area will be a lot easier, I’ll have room for this new/small bed, and I planted a grouping of butterfly weed in the walkway strip to offer something next year in its place. 

We still have a number of new shrubs to put in, a couple of sassafras trees, and two new climbing vines. I’ll feature all these over the next week or so.

A few photos from today, starting with the wetter end of the bird haven area. We’ll fill in the rock, spread it further toward the inner fence line, and maybe wrap it around the bed of dwarf crested irises. The rock area is where most of the rainwater ends up when we get a lot of rain, and the rocks slow it down some. Unfortunately we can’t dig in the area to create a proper rain garden because telephone and internet lines go through here. Why they didn’t follow the fence line up the hill I do not know. If they ever put in fiber optic they’re going to run those lines up the side of the driveway and to that side of the house, which will be so much easier to deal with if any repairs are ever needed. 



This is just a photo to document the new colors of roof and house, and how things look at this moment in time from this angle. It also gives me a moment to just stop and appreciate some of the work we’ve had done this year. The upstairs front windows are FINALLY getting replaced next week, after 7 months of waiting. Pella does great work and they have great products, but they are SLOW.



Next, the view up toward the drier area of the bird haven. In the foreground are the southern shield ferns, behind them the hearts a bustin’, and behind that the arrowwood viburnum. Outside the fence are the southern bayberries. My aim with the shrubs is twofold - feed wildlife including pollinator insects, and screen this corner from the gravel lane. 

To the left of this space, outside the photo’s frame, are the winterberry hollies, and to the right a huge old oak tree and more southern bayberries. In the upper corner also outside this photo’s frame and outside this fence to the right, is a lovely redbud. I hope in the end to have four layers of height and a sun-dappled haven for birds and pollinators. For now, it’s a work in progress.



And finally, the view from the broken down chair I was sitting in, perusing the staging area for my plants waiting to be put in, and the autumn-blooming plants across the driveway. In another week or so the huge butterfly bush will be removed and a new native bush put in. I admit that I’ve put off removing the butterfly bushes because they were beloved by our cats early on when we moved to November Hill. The one at the corner of the bed and house is huge and a sort of fixture there by the back door. It’s going to feel very empty without it. Once I get it out, I’m going to also remove all the goldenrod in the lower terraced bed, as it has just taken over and I’d like something different in there. The goldenrod I moved last spring can stay, though I’m going to have to be truly tough on myself about pulling it out as it tries to move forward. That’s the thing about all this - it is not static! Which is part of why I love it.



In other news, Keil’s primary vet is going on maternity leave at the end of this week and she’s coming one more time to do his acupuncture before we switch to the interim vet. Keil Bay and I have a surprise for her. She’s been such a great support for both him and for me through this EPM year. 

And on Thursday we are closing on the new house. I’m excited and also a bit overwhelmed with the furnishing side of things. But as is always the case, I had to notch myself down some and remind myself that everything does not have to happen overnight. It’s a process. Slow down and let it unfold. The key to a more peaceful life, for sure!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 74: arrowwood viburnum

 Doug Tallamy mentioned this as a highly beneficial plant to put in if you’re wanting to help insects, birds, and other wildlife. It’s native in many states and offers year round interest in the garden. I was happy to find one at this year’s NCBG plant sale, though I wasn’t sure if it would go in Poplar Folly or the bird haven garden area.

After being in the bird haven space yesterday I decided that this will go in the very corner of that area where it will have room to round out and create both a screen and mid-height layer in this garden space. From the street side it will be behind the southern bayberries that are outside our front fence, and to the right of a lovely redbud that sits just outside the corner. 

From inside the bird haven area, it will be at the top corner, with hearts a bustin’ and southern shield ferns in front of it. In my mind’s eye, it will be perfect. Sometimes my mind’s eye is accurate, and sometimes I don’t quite nail it, but I’m going to give this a try. 

More on this lovely shrub:




Viburnum dentatum (Southern arrowwood)
Cressler, Alan 

Viburnum dentatum

Viburnum dentatum L.

Southern Arrowwood

Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)

Synonym(s): 

USDA Symbol: vide

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

A 6-8 ft. shrub, sometimes taller, with multiple, erect-arching stems in a loose, round habit. White, flat-topped flower clusters are followed by dark blue berries. Lustrous, dark-green foliage turns yellow to wine-red in fall. A shrub with downy twigs, coarsely toothedleaves, and flat-topped clusters of small, white flowers. Some botanists recognize two separate species for this highly variable plant, the other being northern Arrowwood (V. recognitum) with smooth twigs. 

 

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial 
Habit: Shrub 
Leaf Retention: Deciduous 
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite 
Leaf Complexity: Simple 
Leaf Shape: Elliptic , Ovate 
Leaf Margin: Serrate 
Size Notes: Many branced shrub to 10 feet. 
Leaf: Shiny dark green above, pale below. 
Autumn Foliage: yes
Flower: Flowers 2-4 inches across. 
Fruit: Black, Purple 1/3 inch long. 
Size Class: 6-12 ft. 

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White 
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul 
Bloom Notes: Yellow stamens 

Distribution

USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV 
Canada: NB , ON 
Native Distribution: FL to e. TX, n., especially on the Coastal Plain to MA & OH 
Native Habitat: Stream banks; moist woods 

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade 
Soil Moisture: Moist 
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8) 
Soil Description: Dry to wet, acid soils and sands. 
Conditions Comments: Flood, insect and disease tolerant. Suckers freely from base and transplants well. Most soil-adaptable of the viburnums. Pest free. 

Benefit

Use Wildlife: Gamebirds, songbirds and small mammals. Attracts Eastern Bluebird, Northern Flicker, Gray Catbird, and American Robin. 
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies 
Larval Host: Spring Azure 

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees 
Special Value to Bumble Bees 
Supports Conservation Biological Control 

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Spring Azure
(Celastrina "ladon" )

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 73: equisetum or horsetail

 You can guess why I love this plant, maybe, and I’ve been thinking about how to bring it to November Hill. I learned that it is very invasive and not something I want where equines can eat it, so I’ve put it in with the water garden container with the pitcher plants. We’ll see how it does there. 

It’s a very appealing and unusual plant, and I’m curious to see how it looks through the entire year.

More from Missouri Botanical Garden’s website:



Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: scouringrush horsetail  
Type: Rush or Sedge
Family: Equisetaceae
Native Range: Eurasia, North America
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Bloom Description: Non-flowering
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Water Plant, Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Insignificant
Tolerate: Heavy Shade

Culture

Best grown in medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerates an extremely wide range of soils, however. Will grow in up to 4” of standing water. Spreads to form large colonies in the wild. Homeowners are often more interested in learning how to eradicate this plant from the landscape than how to grow it. It is a very aggressive plant which, if not preemptively restrained, will spread aggressively by branched, creeping rhizomes. Once established, it can be extremely difficult to remove by digging because its rhizomes spread wide and deep, and any small section of rhizome left behind can sprout a new plant. Consider using soil barriers to restrict growth. In water gardens or tub gardens, plant in pots at water bottom to contain growth (both height and spread).

Noteworthy Characteristics

Equisetum hyemale, commonly called scouring rush or rough horsetail, is a non-flowering, rush-like, rhizomatous, evergreen perennial which typically grows 3-5’ tall and is native to large portions of Eurasia, Canada and the U.S., including Missouri. It typically occurs in wet woods, moist hillsides and peripheries of water bodies (lakes, rivers, ponds). This species features rigid, rough, hollow, vertically-ridged, jointed-and-segmented, bamboo-like, dark green stems (to 1/2” diameter at the base) which rise up from the plant rhizomes. Each stem node (joint) is effectively marked by a whorl of tiny, stem-clasping, scale-like leaves which are fused into an ash-gray sheath (1/4” long) ending in a fringe of teeth. Teeth are usually shed during the growing season. Each sheath is set off and accentuated, both above and below, by thin, stem-ringing, black bands. Photosynthesis is basically carried on by the stems of this plant. Vegetative and fertile stems are alike in this species, with some vegetative stems bearing, at the stem tips, pine cone-like fruiting heads (to 1” long) which contain numerous spores. The evergreen stems are particularly noticeable in winter and can provide significant interest to the landscape. Stems have a high silica content and were used by early Americans for polishing pots and pans, hence the common name of scouring rush. Equisetum is not a rush however. Nor is it a fern. Equisetum is the single surviving genus of a class of primitive vascular plants that dates back to the mid-Devonian period (350 + million years ago). Today, the equisetums are categorized as fern allies in large part because they, like the ferns, are non-flowering, seedless plants which reproduce by spores.

Genus name comes from the Latin words equus meaning a horse and seta meaning a bristle.

Specific epithet means of winter or flowering is winter. Most probably for its winter interest as Equisetum is not a flowering plant.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Very aggressive spreader.

Uses

Water gardens. Japanese gardens. Bog gardens. Stream or pond peripheries. Good plant for covering a wet low spot where nothing else will grow. Interesting plant for large patio containers. Provides strong vertical accent to any planting.

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 72: mountain Indian-physic

 I admit that I selected this plant totally for its name. I don’t know why but it seems mysterious and a bit exotic for a native plant!

It’s very delicate and pretty and I had a spot in the bluebird bed that needed something special, so this is where I planted it this morning.

I also took the chance to clear the bluebird boxes out.



More on the mountain Indian-physic here, from NC State’s plant site:

Gillenia trifoliata 

Previously known as:

 
  • Porteranthus trifoliatus
Phonetic Spelling
gil-le-nee-ah try-foh-lee-AY-tuh
Description

Bowman’s root or Indian physic, is a perennial flowering plant in the Rosaceae or rose family. It is native to the eastern United States and Canada and spans from southern Ontario to Georgia. Bowman’s root can also be found west to Kentucky, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Its native habitat is in the woody mountainous regions where it enjoys partial sun, dry to moist conditions, and rocky soil.

This deciduous herbaceous plant that blooms with five-petaled white flowers on wiry red stems from late spring to early summer. The airy look of the flowers is effective in mass plantings or borders. The serrated green leaves turn red in fall.  This plant may benefit from support.