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Books by Peter Loewer
Vitreographs: Series 1
Vitreographs: Series 2
Educational Presentations with Peter Loewer
The Beauty of the Moss Garden
Ferns for the Graceful Garden
Growing Unusual Fruit
A Fungus, Among Us!
On the Green Road with Tosca and Forest
The Trip to Scotland
The Botanical Gardens
Smithsonian Archive of American Gardens
Past Columns from
The Wild Gardener
Plant & Seed Sources
We're Still Under Construction!
Happily, the worst seems to be over with the site and I hope by weeks end (today is June 21)
I'll have most of the pictures back where they belong. I've survived some back problems plus
the happy duties of being a teacher but the worst was having the site stolen by hackers and
plagued with viruses. But we persevere and now with the help MAIN the problem is a matter
of time. I teach at AB-Tech and right now classes are taking up a lot of my time so it
will be two or three weeks or more before this site is back to normalcy.
The Garden Trio Is Returning to the Public Air-Waves!
Alison, Patryk, and Peter will again be broadcasting, this time on 103.7-FM on WPVM-LP here
in Asheville, North Carolina. Since thrown off the air some two years ago (we and our friends
are still wondering why) thanks to the good offices of MAIN, we will be back every month to answer your
gardening questions from our distinctive point-of-view!
More Turkeys Visit Kenilworth--and the State
That's one angry duck above getting ready to spout off, not about the turkeys visiting
our neighborhood (see below) but the Turkeys who have invaded Raleigh and within a short
time (politically speaking) have relegated North Caolina to the status of a state now
flagging (and lagging) behind the rest of the Southeast--and that includes Florida!
They live up to the collective moniker of being outrageous politicians with no thought
to what tomorrow might bring to the state, especially in the line of great corporations
ready to invest in a state that numbers 49th
in teacher pay, has disenfranchised an incredible number of honest folk, who have cut
taxes to the point of no return, and continue on their march to eventual demolition!
A Lovely White Morning Glory that's a
Wildflower of the Mountains
The manroot or wild potato vine (Ipomoea pandurata) is a rambling perennial vine
that can grow to fifteen feet in a season, producing large white funnel-form flowers with
purple centers, the flowers usually about three inches wide. Even though each bud is open for
only a day, there are many buds on those stems, and you will have flowers for weeks at a time.
The vines spring up from a very large tuber that resembles a cultivated sweet potato and American
Indians used these tubers to make a poultice for treating rheumatism, and also for a laxative.
So be advised to leave healing qualities to those who know and allow this vine for flowers only.
A Spectactular Passion Flower Hybrid
Give a rousing welcome to a great new Passion flower hybrid, a cultivar known as ‘Fata
Confetto’, and a flower that is sure to be welcome in your backyard in a pot, or in warmer parts
of North Carolina, planted out in the garden proper, only asking for a wire, string, or spare
branch to grow upon. This free-blooming hybrid will produce a year-round show of fragrant,
three to four inch lavender blooms with decorative and striped, frilly corollas. Banded in
lavender and white, the crinkled filaments engulf each flower including a pleasant fragrance
to add to the total package of floral beauty. The parent of this beauty is our native Passion
flower (Passaflora incarnata) and is said to be hardty to USDA Zone 8 with some protection.
But if unsure, grow it in a pot and bring into the greenhouse or anyplace above freezing for
the winter. When in active growth this particular cultivar never stops blooming or rests like our
hardy native that is known as the Maypop and is pollinated by, among others, carpenter bees.
The Night Phlox from South Africa
The night phlox (Zaluzianskya capensis), is a half-hardy annual from South Africa
named in honor of Adam Zaluziansky von Zaluzian (1558-1613), a physician from Prague and author
of Methodus Hervariae in 1592. These beautifully fragrant, night-blooming flowers belong
in every garden border or planted along the edge of a wall. There the gardener can not only smell
the fragrance but will easily see the clusters of pretty but small phloxlike flowers. Each blossom
is about a half-inch wide and the five white petals are notched at the tip--like the campions and
catchflies--and when closed,m both the petals and the ouside of the floral tube are a satiny maroon
with just a hint of white showing where the petals overlap.
They're Called Acacia Trees in the Southeast
Albizia julibrissin is commonly called the mimosa, silk tree, or silky acacia. This hardy
tree talked about as a great ornamental because of the fragrant and showy flowers. Trees seed with
incredible abandon and if cut, quickly resprout from the severed trunk. Mimosas can reach a height twenty
to forty feet and easily grow up to three feet in a typical summer season. The thin, light
bark is nearly smooth. Deciduous leaves are feathery and fernlike and known as being bipinnately
compound with ten to twenty-five pinnae per leaf and forty to sixty leaflets per pinnae.
The flowers are very showy arranged in massed floral bunches (paniculate) at the ends of branches.
They are composed of fifteen to twenty-five sessile flowers with numerous, conspicous stamens
with a strong and sweet fragrance, especially at night. They bloom from May to August.
Unfortunately, with all the beauty going for them, these mimosas are thugs. They take advantage of
disturbed areas, and the seeds falling where they may, usually sprout and soon you have a forest of
trees that force out most native species. Trees prefer full sun and are often seen along roadsides
throughout the Southeast.
A Bumblebee and a Small Beetle at the
Bloom of a Cardoon
My cardoon is blooming early, an unusual event at the plant is only two-feet high. But
the blossom quite resembles one of the sky fireworks expected to fly over the city of Asheville
tonight in celebration of the Fourth of July. Cardoons are marvelous plants for a special spot in
the center of a garden bed or used for their silver-gray leaves alone at the edge of a stunning
What a Face
The photo above shows two recent imports from the wonderful world of bugs--green stink bugs--
who are taking advantage of a rip in a leaf, becomming a face looking out on the world with a look of surprise.
The green stink bug (Acrosternum hilare feeds on native or ornamental plants with the
preferred hosts being wild plants. They are a flattened, shield-shaped bug named for the
absolutely foul odor that they produce when flattened with a swatter or rolled-up newspaper.
Adults are bright green and about two-thirds of an inch long. Avoid them whenever possible and never
vacuum them up to save time and effort!
A Naturalized Poppy of Small Stature
Although it's touted as being a common weed, I've missed it over the years until
this year a plant appeared on the edge of the back wall, some twelve feet up from the
ground. It's a member of the poppy family known as Chelidonium majus. The leaves resemble the regular celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) being a light lustreless green,
and marked with neat and small lobes, but the flowers are only about three-quarters of an inch wide. The deep yellow
petals surround many yellow golden stamens and honeybees continually visit in search of
pollen. The one to two-foot-high plant exudes a strong yellow sap and these plants are
high on the list of valuable members of plants that boast many medicinal qualities.
Turkeys Visit Kenilworth
Since early spring our neighborhood in Kenilworth has enjoyed a visitation of six healthy and quite beautiful
turkey hens, who wander as a group all over the woods and backyards of this great section of Asheville.
Friday morning last (May 31) four of the grand dames chose to have a gobblefest in my driveway. With
cajoling on my part, they moved on down the road so I could exit for a fast trip to the post office.
"The Wild Gardener" Is Back on the Air--TWICE!
That's cyber-air but air none-the-less. Once a week I'm again
voicing my hort-thoughts on Asheville-Fm and all you have to do is click the link
The Wild Gardener and the
voice and the thoughts are there, if you know how to listen to radio from your computer.
Then once-a-month our old program, Back to the Garden is returning to MAIN-FM at 103.7
the first Thursday of every month uniting Alison Arnold,
Patryk Battle, and Your's Truly for hort-thoughts from around WNC and the state, and sometimes
--and "The Wild Gardener" is back again in book form!
Thanks to the good graces of Bella Rosa Books and its publisher, Rod Hunter,
The Wild Gardener, that award-winning book that opened up American
gardens to the wonderful world of native plants, is back in print. Selected
as one of the 75 Great Garden Books by the American Horticultural Society
and winner of the Garden Writers of America Art of Communication Award, this
book is not only full of hort-knowledge but entertaining as well.
In addition Mr. Hunter has also republished Thoreau's Garden and in addition now
stocks that great children's book The Moonflower.
Click this link to reach the publisher!
A Visit to Lichtenfelt's Nursery in Greer, SC
Had a great time on Saturday morning visiting Lichtenfelt's Nurseries over in Greer
South Carolina, not too far from a well-attended soccer match on a beautiful, but chilly
morning. I was introduced to a number of my garden friends by Jani, the talented and gracious
horticulturist who is the chief factotum at this marvelous nursery. A plant question arose about
a shrub called the Turk's-Cap Bush. Turns out it bears during most of the garden season,
bright red flowers that resemble the hats worn by Turkish men during odd moments of that
country's history. It's botanically known as Malvaviscus penduliflorus and is known
to be hardy through most of USDA Zone 7. Ladies, I did my homework! The photo above was
provided by a garden writer friend of mine, Cheryl Kearns, who snapped this shot at the JC Raulston
Arboretum over in Raleigh.
The Naked Ladies Are a Bit Early!
Their scientific name is Lycoris and their leaves appear--without flowers--in early
spring and then in about a month, the leaves vanish and nothing more is seen until, suddenly,
usually in mid-September the blossoms appear on stems naked of leaves, hence on common name.
This year just in time for the first major hurricane (they're also called hurricane lilies in
the South) the complex and quite beautful red flowers appear on foot-high stems.
The Cut-Leaf Forsythia Blooms Out-of-Season!
The cut-leaf forsythia is, like all forsythias, hardy up to USDAZone 5. It's ultimate
height is eight feet and it spreads out about six feet with an upright oval to rounded
shape. The unique quality of this particular cultivar, known as 'Tremonia', rests in the
most unusual handsome dark green foliage that is deeply cut (in the trade it's serrate) making
it a standout in the garden when it's not in bloom--but when it is, this is a stellar plant.
A Carpenter Bee Awakes in the
Blossoms of the Great Blue Lobelia
Early Monday morning of August 20, I was about to plant a great blue lobelia (Lobelia
syphiliticus) out in the new meadow garden when I noticed that a carpenter bee was sound
asleep wrapped in the beautiful blue petals of this fascinating wildflower. So I let him snooze
until the morning sun touched the plant and the bee woke up to a new day. Back in the 1700s
it was believed that a drug made from this plant would cure syphilis but, unfortunately, for the
New World and the Old World, it didn't work. Carpenter bees are almost identical to bumble bees,
the difference being that the body of the carpenter is black and the body of the bumble is black
striped with yellow. Both make honey.
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A Tropical Passion Flower Blooms in the Garden
The scientific name is Passiflora and there are dozens of species throughout the
warmer parts of the world ranging from the jungles of Rangoon to the mountains of North
Carolina. Their floral structure is complex and in the Christian Church the many parts from the
coiled tendrils to the central structures represent the Passion of Christ.
An Eastern Box Turtle Rests in the Garden
Their scientific name is Terrapene carolina carolina and it's our only turtle species that
can enclose their bodies completely in their elegant hinged shells. We have a garden not far
from a lake best described as an open woodland and these land turtles have a home range of about 250
yards so the turtle above continues to roam while searching for berries, funguses, and fruit;
they abandon the carvierous live style upon reaching adulthood.
A Giant Lacewing on a Coleus Leaf
Lacewings usually fly at night aiming for lights. They are often found in gardens
tht are located near water and at the edges of a forest or large grove of trees. Little is
known of their food preferences and even less about life cycles. They are found from Nova
Scotia down to the mountains of North Carolina.
The Harvestmen Are Early
Harvestmen are members of the spider family but have their own order. They resemble
the visiting Martian spaceships described in H. G. Well's sci-fi novel The War of the
Worlds but are far more beneficient. Often called daddy-long-legs, some scavenge on
dead invertebrates and others on bird droppings and some even sip drops of flower nectars.
Until the arrival of winter when they are driven to shelter in leaf litter on the ground,
you'll see them harmlessly wandering through the garden as they look for something to eat;
they are harmless.
A Beautiful Night-blooming Nicotiana
Actually a tropical perennial that blooms the first year from seed, the woodland tobacco (Nicotiana
sylvestris) is native to the Argentine and usually used as an annual in northern gardens.
Reaching a height of four to six feet, the tubular flowers are pure white on the inside and on the outside
beatufiul pastel shades of green and tan while waiting to open. The sweet scent will undo many misfortunes
of the day. They close in late morning to open again in late afternoon.
The Triple Daylily 'Kwanso' Blooms in
Gardens and along Roadsides
Originally blooming in Eastern Asia and carried along the Old Silk Road by carts, wagons, and feet,
the tawny daylily eventually made the journey to the fields and roadsides of America. During most
of the 1900's daylily hybridizers have delighted in breeding tetraploid plants, plants
that tend to have sturdier sepals and petals with many color traits not found in diploids.
Until this time nearly all daylilies were diploid. Called "Tets," by breeders these
plants have 44 chromosomes, while triploids have 33 chromosomes and diploids have 22
chromosomes per individual. Hemerocallis fulva 'Europa', H. fulva 'Kwanso',
and H. fulva 'Flore Pleno' usually do not produce seeds and reproduce with underground
runners. A polymerous daylily flower has more than three sepals and more than three petals.
Some gardeners link "polymerous" with "double," many polymerous flowers have over five times
the normal number of petals.
The 15-Spot Black and White Ladybug
This morning I found a new (at least to me) ladybug on the leaves of a big geranium
out in the side garden. It's known as the 15-Spot Black and White Ladybug, and it's
as cute as a ladybug usually is. This is a native species usually limited to the eastern part
of the USA. Each wing-cap (elytron) has seven spots: one near the shoulder, a row of three near
the middle, and another row of three to the rear. At the top of the wing-caps is the
beetle's fifteenth spot, which is divided between the two caps.
The Single Most Important
Architectural Treasure in Asheville!
It's in the news again! Another hotel threatens an area right in the middle of Asheville's downtown, the home of the Basilica of St. Lawrence (1909). Designed and
built by Rafael Guastavino Sr., this magnificent structure is a salute to the entire spirit of
humankind and the master's last project completed in his lifetime. It's one of only two churches built
worldwide where Guastavino Sr. served as the primary architect. And please grant the City of Asheville
the wisdom necessary to provide the gracious and dignified surroundings necessary for such a
great ediface by supporting the church in its efforts to control development in the line
of sight surrounding the church's property.
Greetings to the Moon
I took this photo in the early morning light of last Sunday (09-18-11) before the
night owls nodded off or the morning paper was delivered. A member of the great morning glory tribe,
this particular tropical plant (Ipomea alba) begins to bloom in mid-July and continues
to charm the gardener until just before frost cuts it back to the earth below. But there are
always seedpods left behind to provide flowers for the next summer season. These fantastic
flowers are fragrant, too!
Welcome to My Garden!
Margaret Shook took this photo last week of the sundial (the fancy name is an
amilliary sphrere), on one of those days when the temperatures were moderate, there had been
adequate rainfall, and the sun was high!
English Ivy in Bloom
Last year, during the first week of August, the mature English ivy (Hedera helix) growing on the
very old white oak that shades the path leading down to the larger of our gardens, began
to bloom. The flowers are small with tiny yellow petals, are deeply fragrant (mostly like
rich honey) and full of honey bees in search of nectar. Note the leaves are more like a goose-foot
rather than traditional ivy but that's what happens when ivy reaches maturity (30 to 45 years)
and changes from an climbing vine to an aboreal shrub.
This is a beautiful shrub that is perfect size for smaller Asheville gardens.
The current scientific name is Salix eleagnos angustifolia but I still prefer
the original name of Salix rosmarinifolia. Usually never topping ten feet this plant is
perfect as a hedge or as a great pot plant, easily surviving our winters as long as the pot
is an adequate size. The present such shrub came from a cutting offered by my old garden friend
from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Budd Myers.
Desert Cyclamen for Winter Bloom
The other day I talked with Brent of Brent and Becky's Gardens, one of the great bulb houses in the
Southeast and told him about the origin of my most beautiful desert cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) now
blooming in my greenhouse. The picture shows one of the original bulbs that came by way back
in 1983, a gift from the HolyLand Conservation Fund. The corm just gets a bit bigger every year
and each March continues to produce hundreds of fragrant blossoms.
Caladiums in the Shade
When summer winds blow (certainly not now), some tropicals just get to looking better because they,
like most of us, enjoy bright light but cooler temperatures. Here caladiums revel in
Fleabane in Mid-May
Fleabanes are charming wildflowers that if they were rare, everydody would want them in
the garden. But because they are found in virtually every state on the continent they are not rare
and their praises must continue to be sung by only wildflower lovers. The scientific name
of the common fleabane is Erigeron philadelphius. Back in the early days of America
it was a common belief that dried fleabane flowers and leaves could be placed in bedding,
clothing, and even pockets to keep fleas at bay. As a flea-fighter, such weapons do not
work. If they did there would be few, if any, fleas in the USA.
A Salute to Leeks and Garlic:
Morris Graves (1910-2001) remains today one of the more interesting of American artists, a man who
devoted most of his life to extolling the wonders and beauties of nature. In 1932 after graduating from
high school he settled in Beaumont, Texas but soon returned to the Northwest living around Seattle. His early
work featured oils and often touched on birds, especially birds that were metaphysical orphans of the
storm. In the early 30s he bagan to study Zen Buddhism and in 1934 built a small studio in Edmonds, Washington
that soon burned to the ground and included all his works to date. In 1940, Graves began building a new house,
which he named The Rock, on Fidalgo Island. He lived at The Rock with a succession of cats and dogs, all
called Edith, in honor of poet Edith Sitwell.
The following pictures (except for the Arundo donax,
photographed in a Wake Forest garden)were taken in my garden during the late spring,
summer, and early fall of two years ago. I call them tough plants because they are
growing in garden clay laced with shredded leaves and if in pots, bagged potting soil
that is fertilized two or three times during the growing season.
Here's another bit I was tardy about:
Some months ago I promised to run the old column on what you can grow in the vicinity of walnuts.
Walnuts, as most gardeners know, produce a poison known as juglans, a
chemical that attracts a number of other plants causing them to
languish, then slowly fade away. But there are a number of plants that
appear to be immune.
Read the Walnut Tolerant Plants List Here.
And let's not forget the squirrels of Asheville,
rather entaining but by some considered trouble-makers, as they spend
their fun-filled days in eating birdseed, chewing off high branches of
oak trees, and using all the tactics of jewel thieves in Topkapi
when finding that birdseed. Look below and hear that tap of clashing
sabers. Listen! You can almost hear the memorable score of Manos
Hadjidakis as these furry critters play at fencing (courtesy of a
Victorian stuffed-animal display in a small antique shop just down the
road from Sissinghurst).
Remember the world of strange flowers--
There are a number of very, very strange flowers living in the world today,
having nothing to do with prehistoric times. One belongs to a group of tropical
plants with blooms referred to as peilican flowers or calico flowers.
The most bizarre is the pelican flower, Aristolochia gigantea, which first arrived
in England being shipped from Guatemala in 1841. This is a high-reaching vine that can reach up ten feet, and bears flat,
smooth, heart-shaped leaves that have a slightly rank odor when crushed. The six-inch flowers are
off-white, veined with purple, and sit on top of a U-shaped tube of a greenish color and also with
an unattractive odor. Best as a flower for the evening garden, this is a showstopper.
The vines do best in pots that hang on wires, allowing plenty of room for growth. They can also
be carefully unwound from one wire and rewound on another but remember to maintain the counterclockwise
connected with the passing winter, the temperatures, the rainfall, and
It was a phenomenal spring, the spring of 2006. For some reason (closely
the mountain psyche), everything seemed to bloom at once: Red maples
vied with camellias, in turn blooming above crocuses and daffs,
providing one of the best floral shows that we've seen in years. Then
came the trilliums on parade. The image on the right is the noble
yellow wake robin or toad shade (Trillium luteum also called var.luteum or
T. viride var. luteum), a yellow-flowering variety of the common deep maroon toadshade, with
flowers usually lemony yellow to a very pale green. The yellow
wakerobbin is native to the American Southeast, and found in damp woods
ranging from Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, to North Carolina and
Tennessee. Three yellow petals stand upright in the middle of three
green sepals that either lay flat or are somewhat upright like the
petals. The elflike mountain dwellers call it the goblet trillium and
unlike the maroon variety, this form has a light scent of lemons. Like
its maroon relative, the three large leaves are mottled and if somebody
could develop a variety that would keep its leaves until the fall,
their fortune would be made--many times over.
October the toad lilies bloomed in my garden and the election came and
went--with about twenty percent of Ashevillians voting while eighty
percent sat at home, apparently watching survival shows on TV as their
city continues to embowell itself with dirt, traffic, noise, and woeful
development. This year Asheville pits those who want to keep the city
green and thriving with those who want commercial developement (like
the Grove Park Inn condos in our downtown square, a project soundly
defeated by the citizens of the city), brought in to eventually
strangle that golden goose who only awaits more developement in order
to burst! The rain promises to wash out our air remember, the higher up
the mountains you climb, the worse the ozone levels get. But be of good
cheer, the power companies to the west of North Carolina, continue to
spew smoke and the President wants to roll back any responsibilities
for those power companies. And the congress (lower case, here) bows to
political pressure believing that if the citizenry want to breathe, let
'em don masks!
while ago, moving some houseplants around the livingroom, I disturbed a
very small napping spider who was resting from building a little small
web that stretched between two branches on a flowering maple. It
reminded me to watch a great Sherlock Holmes' movie that I have on VHS
entitled Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman, with Basil
Rathbone as Sherlock, Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson, and Gale Sondergard as
the Spider Woman. In a dank basement in Soho, The Spider Woman was busy
raising a special breed of poisonous spider using a cultivar of the
night-blooming cereus as pet food. Upon reaching her goal, she was
prepared to attack the Houses of Parliament, freeing dozens of the
spiders and aiming them in the direction of politicians in general.
Only two things could stop her devilish scheme: The government could
pay her big bucks (or pounds) or Sherlock and Dr. Watson would foil her
dastardly plot. The government went to Sherlock and the Spider Woman
fell victim to her own little beasts. It all reminded me that Vanilla Sky
was very, very bad and would have benefited from spiders somewhere in the plot.
Dear Wild Gardener:
I realize there is often no answer to what market forces perceive to be
in the public's interest but I thought I would bring the latest threat
to good gardening to your attention (I will keep the process called
"Donut Mulching" for another letter). It comes from northeast
Pennsylvania where "colored mulch" has hit the scene with the physical
force of an old mushroom but the mental "POW" of a juggernaut. The
wood-chips are dyed with a fast color that borders on bright orange but
(thankfully) does fade over time. But, today, orange! Tomorrow,
possibly red, yellow, and blue! Imagine: Smiley Faces to beat the band!
Adding insult to injury, they spread the mulch over layers of black
plastic sheeting. I realize that education continues to be under
assault in our United States but imagine the future of gardening as
these folks continue to march in the name of the masses?
The term donut mulching might be in transition as the new moniker turns
out to be volcano mulching, the mulch being the volcano cone and the
tree assuming the guise of the spurting lava, usually brown instead of
fiery orange! And so it goes...
bad taste rears its ugly visage in the garden and often the horror is
brought to the backyard in the name of art. Remember, I'm not talking
about rubber tires, turned inside out, painted white, then filled with
masses of petunias because I salute this method of container gardening,
finding it far more respectable then nothing. No, I'm talking about
gnomes, elves, and the polka-dotted garbed rears of rotund ladies who
are made of plywood and painted in primary colors. For example, at left
is one of the uglier elves (if it was a gnome it would be
subterranean), I've yet encountered and quickly point out, it's not
from around here.
a case where the urge to do something decorative has been pushed into
service with no thought given to what is one of the fastest fading
trends in society, that of good taste. I am reminded of the old addage:
"Everybody to their own taste," said the Old Lady as she kissed the
cow. As to the "OL" look for her to the right where she continues to
garden away, possibly there until the mountains fall, all based on the
longevity of the plywood and the paint.