Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In the Dining Room

I took our dining table downstairs to my workshop on Monday so I can refinish it.  This left a huge open place in the dining room, and our critters seem to be puzzled by it.



The animals segregated themselves like this ... cats on one side, dogs on the other.  Looks like the dog toy has chosen to be on the cat side.  (Ruby plays rough with it, so I think I would choose to hang with the cats, too, if I was him.)

I will show you the dining table when I'm finished with it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Does One Eat an Elephant?

One bite at a time, of course.

This old saying is perfect for describing the project that I began over the weekend ... yet another attempt at reclaiming the Rose Field, my largest and most neglected and overgrown garden.

The garden looked like this in the spring of its second year in May 2009.


The best way to solve a problem is to acknowledge it, and I am doing so publicly.  My Rose Field is a garden in name only right now.  The lovely new garden that you see in the photo above had fatal flaws ... no ground cloth under the gravel paths, beds that are too narrow and without edging, roses planted too close together, etc.  (I have learned so much about how to prep and build gardens here since I did this one.)  Maintenance was more than I could handle, weeds and brush and seedling trees got ahead of me and my poor garden disappeared.  Without drastic measures, I am afraid that this garden will be gone forever.

Same view, photo taken on July 19, 2014


A few weeks ago, I had an idea for how to remake the beds in this garden.  As I get farther along, I will show you exactly how the new plan will work.  For now, the beginning of the process is to locate and dig out the roses in one section of the garden at a time, then bush-hog and spray herbicide on that section to clear the ground for the new paths and beds.

My husband and I got started with this over the weekend.

There he is, diving in with our DR walk-behind bushhog.


We cleared an area about 40' x 50' and the whole 150' aisle through the center of the garden.  Roses that were in this area were moved to other gardens on the property or are living in pots for a while.

I left that one rose you see in place because it was pretty large, had grown back really well from a lot of winter damage, and I didn't want to risk killing it by digging it up.

Center aisle, looking from the barn toward the house.


Can I keep at it and actually get something accomplished in this garden this time?  I think so.  I believe that I have a viable plan to correct the mistakes I made with my initial design, my husband is available to help me with whatever I need him to do, and I am determined to bring this garden back from the brink. 

As I said at the beginning of this post ... one bite at a time.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Who's Pooping on the Porch?

We've been finding little turds like this on our porch for the past few weeks.  They are about an inch or so long, and they appear to be made up almost entirely of bug carcasses.



These are being left behind by an animal who must visit our porch quite regularly.  What poops like this and has a diet rich in bugs?  Internet search suggested that it may be skunk.  In an attempt to catch the critter in the act, I trained my game camera on the porch and steps and waited.  Each morning, we had more poop on the porch and no photos on the camera.



Poop by my shoe?



Debris and bug parts IN my shoe?



Here's the little pooper!



And here he is with his roommate.



We have known for a while now that these toads had set up housekeeping in my shoe.  It became a running joke, checking my shoe from time to time to see if the toads were still living in there.  It never dawned on us till the other day that they might be the critters who have been leaving all the poop on the porch, too.

Mystery solved.  This has been your nature lesson for the day.  You may now resume your normal routine, secure in the knowledge that you, too, can ID toad poop if the need arises.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Plants in the New Shade Garden

I spent a good part of yesterday finishing the new shade garden that I showed you earlier ... choosing plants from my stash and arranging them to my liking.  Putting together a shade garden is all about the challenge of playing with size and color and texture of the plants ... very little or no consideration for flowers, because the leaves of the plants are the stars of the show.

Here is what the garden looks like as of earlier this morning:



The plants in here are:

1.  Hosta 'Zebson'
2.  Pink Lily of the Valley
3.  Camellia japonica 'Pink Perfection'
4.  Hart's Tongue Fern
5.  Disporopsis (evergreen Solomon's Seal)
6.  Fortune's Holly Fern
7.  Seedling Hellebores
8.  Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears'
9.  Hosta plantagenea, existing
10.  Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide', existing
11.  More seedling Hellebores
12.  Hydrangea paniculata 'Bombshell'
13.  A group of a few assorted plants in pots that will be planted later on the other side of the garden.

With the addition of cardboard and newspaper on the ground, and spreading three bags of shredded cypress mulch, this area is finished!  I will start work on the other side of the bed once the digging and destruction of replacing our water main is over with ... probably late next week.  

On a rose-related note, Fortune's Holly Fern is a cultivar that was collected by Scottish botanist Robert Fortune in the mid-1800s on one of his plant finding expeditions to China.  Fortune is also known as the namesake of Rosa fortuniana and Fortune's Double Yellow roses.  Just a bit of useless trivia to brighten your day.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Catching Up on Other Stuff Around Here

(Let's take a break from long posts about my recent trip to England, and I will share with you some of what has been happening here on the farm since I got home.)

I mentioned in my last post that I got a whole lot of new inspiration for my gardens from my visit to so many wonderful English gardens.  The area behind our house is going to be the first to receive some attention and to benefit from these ideas.  There were a few existing hostas in this spot when we moved here.  (Most of these got moved out to make room for the propane tank a few years ago.)  While I was outside with the dogs one morning, I could clearly see the new design of this bed in my imagination ... I love it when this happens.



What used to be a narrow, ill-defined strip of plants is now much larger (the original configuration was three feet wide in a straight line along the back of the house.)  We already had all of the materials you see ... this project is intended to be one to make do with what we have on hand.  Our fireman son-in-law laid the concrete and flagstone landing pad (in the bottom right of the above photo) at the foot of our deck stairs last year.  Last week, I laid out the new sweeping curve to enlarge the bed, put down the cobblestone edging and laid the little curved path to the back door.



Planting this new garden will also be done with what I already have.  The hosta, camellia, and iris you see above were already in this spot.  I added the hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Bombshell') and the Hellebore (a seedling that I dug from another part of the yard).  I had a few more things (more hostas, for the most part), but decided to wait to plant them.

While I was doing this, I received a note from a friend.  Without going into details, she is unexpectedly having to clear things out to prepare to sell her house and move, and she asked me to please bring my truck and help her by taking her stash of potted plants.  Whether I have a place for the plants or not, she needs the help and I am pleased to do what I could to ease her stress.

This was yesterday's load ... there's still more to do later.


Coincidentally, most of these new plants will be perfect to add to this new shade garden.  The 'Pink Perfection' camellia will go to the right of the propane tank ... hostas, hellebores, Bleeding Heart, and pink Lily of the Valley will go in there, too.  There are also four large roses and a Damson tree in this load, which will have to stay in their pots for a bit longer and wait for a sunny place in the ground.  

The small Hellebores she gave me are especially personal, having been grown by her from seed from pollinations that she did herself.  I love Hellebores for shady areas, and it makes me happy to add these to my garden.



Summer is here, with its typical hot-and-humid Virginia weather.  When it's supposed to be a hot day, I work outside early in the morning and I plan indoor projects for the afternoons.  One feature of summer weather is the threat of storms ... which we have had every evening for the past three days.



Earlier this week, I spent my indoor time in my basement workshop, repairing and reglazing the two picture windows that I bought to use in The Shack.  I chipped out the loose glazing compound, scraped and sanded the frames, replaced two broken window panes, and laid in new glazing compound on all of the panes.  It's time consuming, but it looks so good when it's finished.  (I have to wait a few weeks for the new compound to cure, then I can paint.)



During one of my spells of wasting time online, I checked in on the new arrivals at Covesville Store.  My scrolling came to a screeching halt when I saw this painting.  It only took a quick exchange of emails and a PayPal transaction, and it was mine!  I drove to Covesville last week to pick it up.  It's even more beautiful in person then it was in the web site photo.

Heidelberg castle, where we had our high school proms and graduation.


Going to England was a dream come true for me ... and coming home was even better.  I missed my husband, my critters, and I longed to work in my own garden.  Everyone here missed me, too.

Ruby and Winnie and I were enjoying a cool evening on the glider on the porch.


There's no place like home.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mottisfont HRF Trip to England, Day Three

On our the third day in England, after all the build-up and anticipation created during the presentations on Day Two of the HRF conference, it was FINALLY time for us to board the bus and head for our tour of the grounds and gardens at Mottisfont Abbey.



This first garden within the walls began as Mottisfont's car park.


From the Mottisfont web site:  Mottisfont's story is told through the people who have lived here for 800 years, from the Augustinian Canons in 1201 to sparkling 20th-century society hostess Maud Russell.


This way to the walled garden ... the reason why we are here!


The border on this south-facing wall contains China and Tea roses.


'Golden Wings' is beside the doorway.



Mottisfont began as a priory, so the first 'family' there was a religious community of Augustinian canons.







When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries when he broke from the Catholic Church, Mottisfont became the home of Tudor statesman Sir William Sandys in 1536.

Lucky shot, getting this bee in mid-flight over this poppy.




These rustic trellis structures with Ramblers added height and enclosure.


With Georgian times came the Mill family and transformation of house and estate.  Hunting, shooting and fishing became the main activity while elegant stone and the remains of the priory combined to make the facade of today's house.

Cool color bed, with its brilliant combination of perennials and roses.


Stachys byzantium 'Cotton Boll' was one of my very favorite things in the garden.


What a wonderful place to sit and smell the roses on a sunny day!


The white rose is 'Madame Hardy'.


The end of the nineteenth century saw Mottisfont let to wealthy banker Meinertzhagen.  His ten children enjoyed family life here to the fullest, the estate was their outdoor playground.




'Blush Rambler' and 'Cerise Bouquet' planted behind this vintage jar and trained onto the brick walls.


The white rose is 'Felicite et Perpetue'


The arrival of Maud and Gilbert Russell in 1934 made Mottisfont the centre of fashionable artistic and political circles.  Gilbert Russell died in 1942.  Anxious that Mottisfont should be preserved, Maud went to the National Trust and, after long negotiations, ownership of Mottisfont, including the 2,080 acre estate, came into the care of the National Trust in 1957.

Statue of Acteon and his hound.


The oldest and largest London Plane tree in England.


Imagine the view from this window out into the garden!


From THIS article in 'The Telegraph':  Mottisfont's garden is Graham Stuart Thomas's masterpiece.  It brings together his strong sense of design, his immense knowledge of plants, his love of roses, and his genius for combining plants in attractive colour combinations.  On the walls are old Noisettes and Climbing Tea roses, plus a few of the best Wichurana and Multiflora Ramblers.  In the beds beneath them are Hybrid Perpetuals, China roses, Scots roses, a few Rugosa hybrids and Bourbon roses.  More structure comes from the box edging, occasional pieces of trellis work and tall, clipped yews.

Rustic arbor with roses and clematis in the background.


This structure is a circle of pillars and arches.


The pillars alternate 'Bleu Magenta' and 'Debutante' rambler roses.


Our group arrived at Mottisfont early in the day.  We were divided into four groups, and each group in turn was taken on each of four tours ... a tour about the gardens and roses led by David Stone, a tour about the perennials led by Joan Taylor, a tour of the grounds led by Gary and (I apologize because I have totally forgotten your name), and a tour by Jonny Bass to show us how he plans to preserve the gardens and honor the legacy of the head gardeners before him.  In between tours, we had coffee and shortbread, a delicious luncheon, and cream tea with scones and clotted cream.  There was time left at the end of the day for us to explore on our own.

What a lovely view through the wall into the garden!


Clipped yews and box hedge, with rustic arbors and 'Adelaide de Orleans' roses.


Leaving for the day, I was struck by the beauty of the view beyond this shepherd's hut.


As I wandered and marveled at Mottisfont's expertly designed gardens, with the roses and shrubs and perennials, I am inspired to try to create a bit of the same magic feeling in my own garden.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mottisfont HRF Trip to England, Day Two.

Day Two of my trip to England for the Heritage Rose Foundation conference was filled with inspiring presentations by expert rose gardeners.  (Fair warning, the photos in this post are from my visit to RHS Garden Wisley on Day One, and they have nothing to do with what we did on Day Two.)



Lily pond at Wisley


HRF President, Stephen Scanniello, opened the day with a few words, and then he introduced our first speaker, David Stone.  David is retiring as the head gardener at Mottisfont Abbey after 37 years, and he is responsible for much of the beauty that is to be found in the gardens at Mottisfont ... which is where we spent all day on Day Three.  After hearing him speak, those of us who had never been to Mottisfont were very excited to have the chance to see it in person.

Arches with Rosa mulliganii at Wisley.


Detail of Rosa Mulliganii at Wisley.


Fountain and rose arches at Wisley.


Next up was John Wood, Head Gardener at National Trust Hinton Ampner (which would be our first stop on Day Four).  The garden at Hinton Ampner is fairly formal, very different from the one at Mottisfont, reflecting the personalities of the previous owners of the property along with some changes and improvements that John is responsible for.

View to a shady area at Wisley.


I'm not all about roses, here is a Hellebore at Wisley that I really liked!


One of the rose gardens at Wisley.


After lunch, we heard a program by Maurizio Usai, a garden designer in Sardinia and a frequent contributor to the discussions on GardenWeb's Antique Rose Forum.  Maurizio showed us how he designed his garden and how it evolves throughout the year, taking best advantage of Sardinia's Mediterranean climate.

Wisley.


Wisley.


Another rose garden at Wisley.


Our next speaker was Jonny Bass, who is replacing David Stone as the head gardener at Mottisfont.  His program, "The Conservation of a Legacy," detailed his vision for honoring the history in the gardens at Mottisfont and showed how he plans to continue the work of David Stone, and of Graham Stuart Thomas before him.

A rose that caught my eye at Wisley.


A drift of David Austin's 'Morning Mist' at Wisley.


Detail of Morning Mist.


Our final speaker of the day was Peter Boyd, an expert on Scots Roses (Rosa spinosissima and its hybrids).  I admit that I had little interest in this corner of the rose world, but that quickly changed as I saw Peter's beautiful photos and heard about the history of this tough class of rose.  I have one spinosissima hybrid rose in my collection, Double Blush Burnet, which was sent to me by a kind reader from the site of her family's homestead in the upper Midwest.

I never have had an appreciation for Flower Carpet roses till I saw this one


'Flower Carpet Red Velvet' at Wisley


The last event of the evening was a delicious dinner in honor of David Stone.  

I wish this rose was available in the US.


There were so many wonderful things for sale in Wisley's garden center.  It was torture for us to only look and not buy.


It was a long day, but one in which I learned SO much!  As I turned in for the night, I was really excited for our tour of Mottisfont the next day ... which is the subject of my next post ... stay tuned.

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