Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Leaving the November garden

Today is the last day of November, and even though autumn is not officially over until December 21st, the fall will be a distant thought as of tomorrow.

But, I wish I could stretch out November.  I love all the foliage arrangements you can make.  Above is the one I had for Thanksgiving this year.  In my usual fashion, I was running around trying to clean the clutter from my main rooms, throwing things into closets and furiously sweeping up obvious debris from the floor.

On the morning of Thanksgiving eve, I called a wholesale florist to see if they had any red rose hips.  In the past, I've combined those with American beech leaves I've picked Thanksgiving morning (they don't last overnight, but shrivel and turn a tan color, so I have to gather at the last minute).  The wholesale guy I talked to said, yes, he would pull me some.

I drove like a maniac over there, only to discover there were no rose hips at all.  He had three packages of aronia berries waiting for me.  But they were a dark red, and I really didn't want to spend $45 on something I didn't want, so I rushed back here and ran up the hill to the vacant house.  You can see my haul here.

Despite my panic at running out of time, I greatly enjoyed gathering material for this arrangement, which was thrown together in record time Thanksgiving morning.  I did have a large oasis that was already soaked, so that made it easy.

Here's what I found:  Brown-backed magnolia (I'm thinking it's not 'Bracken's Brown Beauty', but can't be sure; the habit is more open on this tree),  Japanese maple that shriveled a bit overnight (I had all this in buckets outside), Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'; nandina berries that hovered between orange and red.  The yellow-green American beech leaves you see on the left came from my tree outside the back door.  Usually, it's already tan, but I was lucky it hadn't all turned yet, so I had good yellow, green and bronze color.  Those were gathered Thanksgiving morning.

My time of foraging on the vacant lot next door may soon come to an end.  If the new U.S. President lifts sanctions on Russian plutocrats, I imagine this property will either be occupied or sold.  The rumor has been that it was bought by a Russian billionaire whose assets in this country were frozen.

On Sunday, I went to the farm to gather winged sweet gum sticks, American red cedar and pine for Christmas arrangements at church.  I almost had a meltdown when I realized that my favorite cedar tree - the one with tiny brownish-orange berries - was dying on the bottom.  I was able to reach a few branches, but I first assumed that the drought had taken its toll.

But, as my friend Richard with the jeep and I soon realized, most everything was dead or dying around the edges of the fields.  We concluded they had been sprayed - unthinkable!  I can't really write much more about this, as I want to keep my blood pressure down.  The hay man had taken it upon himself to kill everything in sight, including all the pines, cedars and a beautiful stand of berry-laden native yaupon holly next to one of the fields.  Even the young sweet gums, which are a nuisance until I need the winged sticks, were dying and brittle.

When I called Mr. Hay Man the next day, he thought I should be grateful because he killed some privet, too.  He scolded me and said I needed to let him know next time what I didn't want sprayed  - as if I had been forewarned of this travesty.  I was sick over it and can hardly think about it now, but all that lovely foliage the jeep guy and I gather every year - one of my favorite traditions of Christmas - is now brown and unsightly.

But, I was able to salvage some evergreens - just not as many.  I think I made it clear to Mr. Hay Man that he needn't warn me, because there won't be a next time.  Who would ever have guessed anyone would do such a thing on someone else's property without their permission?

But, back to November and this last day of the month.  I hate to think that I might not be able to duplicate this arrangement next year.  It's bad enough that I am trespassing now (I had called the realtor two years ago to ask for permission, but she never got back in touch with me;  I justify my actions because I've kept ivy off the magnificent old trees up there).  In my own yard, I do have a 'Little Gem' magnolia and nandinas,  but I need to replant a 'Yuletide' and find someone willing to spare Japanese maple foliage.  Or maybe I can find something at the farm that the Hay Man hasn't killed.  I've used lots of autumn branches from there in the past.  I guess we'll see next year what happens.

Below, American beech leaves on the dining room table.  That goose decoy will be changed out for the darker, more elegant ones I use on the tables at Christmas.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Stopping by a shady garden

If you've read my blog, you know that I long for a large sunny, flat space to make a garden.  For 43 years, I've had anything but.   I live in a forest with steep hills.

There are compensations.  Just this morning, I did a double take when what I thought was a large orange cat trotting down my driveway turned out to be a red fox.  I haven't seen one since 2011.  While he was going too fast for me to grab a camera, I am going to record his appearance in my bird book so I'll remember.  I was afraid the foxes were gone forever - I used to hear them scream in the wee hours of the morning.  Then, for years, silence.  So, I was so happy to see this little creature zipping along.  My tenant saw him last week, so maybe he's back to stay.

I do like to walk around my house looking for potential garden spots.  I'll think I've found a sunny spot, but then the seasons change, and I'll realize there is not enough light for what I would like to do.  So, I'm back looking at places for yet another shade garden.  While wading through some old photographs, I came across this grouping in an Atlanta garden.  This is something I could do if I can find the right spot with the proper overlook.

A word about these woods, and one good thing I can say about the deer, who first came here around 1999.  They have cleaned all the underbrush from the forest floor.  I had pretty much eliminated poison ivy from my four acres, but a part of my neighbor's property which I can see from my kitchen window had plenty.  Deer eat poison ivy?  Who knew?  Now, there's not so much as a piece anywhere.

One time I was on a train going into Brussels.  Out the window was this exquisitely beautiful forest with very tall trees and absolutely nothing on the forest floor.  It was so magical.  Ever since, I've thought a clean forest would look great here.  The deer have helped me out, but I do have a good many fallen trees that sort of mar the idea.  Still, it's not out of the realm of possibility to get someone with a chain saw to help me out.

So, I now have a mission.  To find just the spot for a grouping like the one above.  Not that I would ever take the time to sit on a concrete bench, but I'd love to look at a scene like this.  Sometimes you just have to "settle", rather than get exactly what you want.  If I could have a serene garden area like this, I think I would be ecstatic - at least until I started thinking about rose-covered arches and a giant cutting garden where I would grow all those sun-loving flowers I've dreamed about for so long.  Until that day comes, though, I can work on being a good steward of the riches I've been given and be grateful that I have a place to get out and garden.