The Wild Gardener

Welcome to the Rainy-Warm,
Chilly-Hot(?) or Chilly-Cold(?)
and Windy-Dry(?) or Windy-
Wet(?) Summer Pages of
The Wild Gardener!

---and find the answers to all sorts of questions dealing with gardening, wildflowers, native plants, an occasional orchid (or two), your life style, and how to bring nature's world (usually minus "tooth and claw") into your own back yard. My email is second from the top of the list at your left and again at the bottom of the page.


     
     

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Books by Peter Loewer

Peter Loewer--Printmaker

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
at Asheville

Smithsonian Archive of American Gardens

Past Columns from
The Wild Gardener

Plant & Seed Sources

 

 

 

"Remember, a paranoiac is simply a person in full possession of the facts"

"Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing." Marcus Tullius Cicero.

 

 

 

"Every breath is a guinea in the bank of health." Robert Morley in Truman Capote's script for Beat the Devil.

 

 

 

"A narcissist is someone better looking than you are." Gore Vidal.

 

 

"Since then the Moon has heard jackals cheeping in thyme deserts--" Arthur Rimbaud in "A Season in Hell."

"A jay hasn't got any more principle than a Congressman. A jay will lie, a jay will steel, a jay will decieve, a jay will betray; and four times out of five, a jay will go back on his solomnest promise. The sacredness of an obligation is a thing which you can't cram into no bluejay's head." Mark Twain in his story "What Stumped the Bluejays."

"He's not worth a sack of peatmoss!" said by orchid grower Ray Milland to Detective Columbo in the 1972 TV program entitled "The Greenhouse Jungle."

"History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns to speak of the plowed fields whereby we thrive. It knows the names of the kings' bastards but cannot tell us the origin of wheat. This is the way of human folly."
-- J. H. Fabre

 

 

 

 

 

Stealing the Garden! What was once the glory of the garden is now color swatches parlayed by interior decorators into TV shows of such insignificance, that even Fox News has purpose. Thanks to Pam Beck for sending me the following quote from the BBC Garden Site:

"I have to say that I am really angry at the moment. I have watched with increasing frustration my beloved hobby, my chosen way of life, the thing I love the most hijacked by what seems to me to be a gang of interior decorators and installation artists."
-- Nigel Colborm

 

We're Under Construction!
My Website Was Stolen on July 8, 2013 by a
Renegade Company Located in Melbourne, Australia!

With the help of Dotster (who I pay to keep the title of "The Wild Gardener" registered in my name), the pages were returned during the third week in July--but they were in sad shape with coding having run afoul in the transition and pictures just scattered from place place, some in my files and some obviously far away in Cyberspace.
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 a week or more (pledged on 09/16/13) before this site is back to normalcy.

More Turkeys Visit Kenilworth--and the State

One Angry Duck

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!

Turkeys Visit Kenilworth

Turkeys Checking the Mail

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.

From the Winter into Spring Garden

The Widow's Iris

Went out last week to check the burgeoning buds on both leaf and flower and found the widow's iris in full bloom, just below the steps down to the garden next to our house. Although not strictly speaking an iris, Hermodactylus tuberosus, the snake’s head or widow iris, with its velvety brown falls and the off-white petals is closely related to Iris reticulata. For continued late winter flowering provide a well-drained soil in a place where it gets a hot, dry summer.

From a Winter Garden

Peony Seed Pods

My good garden friend and traveler Randy Harter has a great garden on the side of a hill overlooking trees, forest, and sky not far from the Asheville VA. A few weeks ago he took some time for taking photos of what he found of interest in his garden. The image above features the now-dried seed pods of an alpine peony that bloomed last summer.

A January Afternoon

A January Afternoon

It's warming up again and this lovely Monday afternoon of January 7th, welcomes a warm sun, a Caroliona blue sky, and gentle breezes from the south. If that marvelous sculpture called "Fat Persian Cat" could talk what a climate tale he could tell.

"The Wild Gardener" is back on the air!

--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.

--and "The Wild Gardener" is back again,
at least in book form!

The Wild Gardener

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!












Night-Bloomer at the Movies

Beaucatcher's Dracena Blooms at Night

A week ago Monday I took some time off to take in a matinee movie over at the Beaucatcher's Cinema, across from the Mall on South Tunnel Road and thoroughly enjoyed the new James Bond film Sky Fall, an aptly named and well-done 007 thriller. While in line I got a faint whiff of a very sweet and pungent perfume and glancing to my right saw the corn plant (Dracaena fragrans) in their small lobby garden was in full bloom. Most house plant gardeners often miss this late autumn or early winter blooming because the plant needs almost perfect conditions, consisting of just the right light to trigger flowering and cool temperatures of the degree often found in public places. The small triangular theatre garden is under skylight that provides filtered illumination of just the correct amount and as the daylight hours shorten the plant got the signal and began to bloom in mid-November. Yesterday on November20, I went to see another very fine film, Lincoln, and the blossoms had shed their petals and were slowly drying up, hopefully to bloom again next year.

Brought in from the Wind and Cold to Bloom
with a Nuance of Tropic Nights

Acidanthera in Bloom

Last year I overwintered in the potting shed a large pot (about eighteen inches across at the top and two feet high) of twelve acidanthera corms purchased from a local box-store after they languished in a cardboard box unwanted by the passers-by. Why? I suspect because there were no illustrations of the beauty possessed by this cormous flower that is usually at home in far-flung countries of the Tropic Zone, originally being Ethiopia. The scientific name is Acidanthera bicolor and in older books the name is Gladiolus callianthus, because it is, indeed, a member of the great gladiolus family.
After a summer of growth the sword-shaped leaves are between two and three feet high, and attractive enough in their own right to occupy a space in the garden. But then towards summer's end about two-thirds up the leaf, a stem with four to six buds appears and opens one bud at a time, buds that bear a marvelous fragrance. They began to bloom in mid-September. Then in going through the garden to save desired plants from the ravages of Sandra, found they were still blooming in the pot. Turns out they make great cut flowers.

A Visit to Lichtenfelt's Nursery in Greer, SC

Malvaviscus 
enduliflorus

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.

Autumn in the Wings

The Remains 
of Hurricane Isaac

The first Saturday in September and warm rains fall, the temperature just a bit less than the time Sadie Thompson and her admirerers went slightly mad back in the jungles of Central America. Already the blossoms of the tall goldenrod bloom against the backdrop of the falling waters of Kenilworth Lake.

The Naked Ladies Are a Bit Early!

Naked Ladies in Bloom

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!

Cut-Leaf Forsythia

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

Carpenter Bee Awakes in 
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.

A Tropical Passion Flower Blooms in the Garden

Tropical Passion Flower

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

Eastern Box Turtle

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

Harvestman visiting a 
pineapple lily--

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

Nicotiana sylvestris

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

Hemerocalis fulva
'Kwanso'

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.

Read the Walnut Tolerant Plants List Here.

Such a great spring but one wonders
about the summer to come!

Archimboldo's painting is a great representation of what just passed in Asheville, giving the idea that everything this year bloomed about the same time!

Lest We Forget, Here's an
Autumn View of Kenilworth Lake

An Autumn View of Kenilworth Lake

The Single Most Important
Architectural Treasure in Asheville!

The 
Basilica of St. Lawrence

Right in the middle of Asheville's downtown is 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.

The Cincinnati Show

Peter Loewer's Botanical Drawings A Line of Drawings Richard's Figure Drawings Drawings in a Row The Show More of the Show Guests Arrive

Japanese Palm Number 2

The top eight pictures above were taken at the opening of a dual art show that featured some of my botanical drawings alongside figure drawings of my old Manhattan partner Richard George. The event was held at Cincinnati's Malton Gallery. It's a great gallery and owner Sylvia Malton was a marvelous hostess. That night I was introduced to some of the most gracious guests from the art world of Cincinnati. My images were all in black and white drawn the old-fashioned way with pen and India ink.
The two images at bottom are (left) Japanese Palm Number Two and (right) Japanese Palm Number Three. Both measure eighteen by twenty-four inches and are again drawn in pen and ink.

Greetings to the Moon

Moonflower in Bloom

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!

The Amilliary Sphere

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

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.

Those Naked Ladies

Some call them 
Lycoris and others naked ladies.

The leaves of the lycoris species generally appear in mid- to late spring where they persist for a month or so, then vanish. But towards the end of July, stout stems shoot up from the earth, each capped with a number of beautiful blossoms--obviously lilies--and in England known as naked ladies because there are no leaves to be found.

A Favorite Shrub

Rosemary-leaf Willow

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.

Desert Cyclamen for Winter Bloom

Desert Cyclamen

The other day I talked with one of radio's great voices, Ken Adams, about the most beautiful desert cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) now blooming in my greenhouse. Hope you listen to Ken!

Website for Great Plans Outlining Dr. Wilson's Hoophouse

Over in Black Mountain one Dr. Wilson heads up the great community gardens and also formulated clear and easy-to-build plans for a plastic-sheeted hoophouse so you can grow veggies all winter long. Dr. Wilson's HoopHouse

Caladiums in the Shade

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 morning sun.

Joe-Pye Weed in Bloom

Joe-Pye weed 
in full bloom

At the entrance to the garden a white form of Joe-Pye bends over with the weight of the blossoms and welcomes the butterflies (and other pollinators, too), for a chance to rest from the heat and at the same time, a great snack.

Waterlily in Bloom

Down at our dock on Kenilworth Lake, a waterlily cultivar 'Lemon Chiffon' is blooming to beat the band. And while wondering about pollinators, when I posted this picture you'll see within the lily's blossom, a small bee.

Ozone Alert!

. . . and you thought the ozone alerts in the newspapers or on TV-weather shows were only attention grabbers and aimed at people with weak lungs or respiratory diseases? Well, thanks to Pat Battle, the following link is the ozone alert we talked about on the WCQS Garden Show that aired on July 7. The Dangers of Ozone!

My name is Peter Loewer, I'm a writer and artist, and often become quite passionate about plants, from daffodils to orchids to the love of roses to the lore of poison ivy. Friends call me The Wild Gardener and perhaps I can help you to get the best from your garden and, along the way, give you some fascinating insights into a world that, up to now, just might have escaped your notice. After all, I'm the guy who brought back the evening garden and the night garden from oblivion, and that includes the night-blooming dayliliy (Hemerocallis citrina). They're stealing your days--at least fight to keep your nights!

A Big Welcome to Fiona Dudley

Fiona is an old friend, who delights in the wonderful world of nature, and knows a lot about one of my favorite creatures of the night, the great family of moths that fly about our woods, fields, and gardens, with only the moon and the stars above to guide their way. Fiona has a great website with some marvelous pictures of wildflowers and the creatures that haunt their vacinity. Fiona's Website. Be sure to put an icon on your desktop so you'll be able to keep up with her continual discoveries.

Rapid River and the Asheville Art Scene

By-the-by, I've got a column now appearing monthly in Asheville's very fine publication Rapid River, entitled "Thoreau's Garden." If you can't get to a local newstand, it's easy to download the magazine from their website Rapid River Magazine and you won't be disappointed in the style or the content of this fine review of the arts.


Peter Loewer - Printmaker

Vitreograph print of a red TulipVitreography: Hand-pulled prints using glass plates instead of stone.

Please visit my galleries on this site:
Illustrations
Vitreograph Series I: Botanic Wanderings
Vitreograph Series II: Images and Botanicals

I also have a new Web site devoted to my prints, powered up by Microsoft with sound and fury, possibly signifying absolutely nothing!

 

 


 

A Salute to Leeks and Garlic:

Morris Graves in his garden of leeks 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.









 

Tough Plants

The following pictures (except for the Arundo donax, phototgraphed in a Wake Forest garden) were taken in my garden during the late spring, summer, and early fall of this year. 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.

Euphorbia leucophyla 'Silver Fog' Arundo donax Geraniums in a pot Caladiums in a pot Naked ladies Yuccas and bedding begonia White Meideland rose and 'Green 'n Gold' euonymous Solomon's seal in the fall Japanese maples in pots


 

The Wild Gardener Blogs:

Garden Dragonfly When thinking about the madness of today, remember what W. G. Sebald wrote about Austria's Thomas Bernhard, as quoted in the December 25, 2006 issue of The New Yorker:
"He found a dark humour in the tension between the insanity of the world and the demands of reason."

The following digest of a poem by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) is a salute to the continued stupidity of the White House and the Cabinet and the Generals and the Congress and the whole ball of Washington wax.

The Conundrum of the Workshops

The tale is as old as the Eden Tree-- and new as the new-cut tooth-- For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth; And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart, The Devil drum on the darkened pane: "You did it, but was it Art?"

We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yelk of an addled egg, We know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart; But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: "It's clever, but is it Art?"


 

Recently, thanks to the instigations of Byron Belzak and Byron Belzak's salute to Asheville, I have started my salute to the upper level of Society Asheville and its all-in-fun, continual pursuit of pleasure here in the mountains. Of course The Green Road is the road less-traveled but eventually, the public will jump on.


 

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).

Touche!


 

Pelican Flower Blossom

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 turns.


 

Yellow Trillium

It was a phenomenal spring, the spring of 2006. For some reason (closely connected with the passing winter, the temperatures, the rainfall, and 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.


 

Toad LiliesLast 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!


 

Spider WomanA 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.


 

Colored MulchDear 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?
Best, J.H.

NOTE: 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...


 

Garden GnomeOccasionally, 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 Noble Rear ViewHere's 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.

 

 


 

 

My garden in September

 

   

Peter Loewer: The Wild Gardener, Asheville, NC Email The Wild Gardener

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