Archives for July 2011

Tupelo Farewell


Like every gardener, I’ve met with success and disappointment. The fate of this young Nyssa sylvatica (known as tupelo and black gum) is, sadly, an example of the latter.

The tree seemed healthy enough – I saw it every day when I went to the mailbox and until a few weeks ago, everything seemed normal. Then, all the leaves started turning yellow and, before long, had fallen on top of the thick layer of mondo grass at the base of the tree. The trunk had a few black spots, previously hidden by the leaf canopy, but no major signs of decline were evident.

On closer inspection, I found that the ground under the black gum had become very unstable, most likely due to a decaying tree stump which I had not seen because of the heavy groundcover. I also wondered if voles might  have caused damage since they had just severed the roots of a nearby hosta. (Black gums are one of the few trees that have a strong taproot instead of a broad network of lesser roots). I’m just speculating, since it was too late to get a tree specialist to help diagnose the problem and potentially save the tree.

I don’t think the tree would have lived to maturity since it had developed a heavy lateral branch at the top instead of the strong central leader it needed. But that’s not much consolation: the birds won’t benefit from future berries, I won’t see the magnificent fall color again, and a valuable eastern native is lost in the landscape.

Hawks-eye View

Morning rest

What appears to be a large leaf in the center of the photo is actually a hawk. It’s sitting on a short piece of branch that juts out from a larger one. I can’t identify him or her because the grey morning light made everything appear silhouetted in stark black and white. Also, I don’t have binoculars with enough magnification. (Better start saving up).

Jump at the Sun

Max Patch

Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at the sun’. We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.

– Zora Neale Hurston

Echoes of Pink

Summer Phlox

Today I noticed tall clumps of the native Phlox paniculata blooming throughout the yard.  (The original plant came from my mother’s garden). I love the way the pinkish-purple color repeats in layered echoes, with the woods as a backdrop. The plants in full sun have no mildew, while a few in dense shade do, thanks to all the high humidity and lack of air flow now.

I remember a friend whose mother lived in a genteel old farmhouse in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and swam every morning in her small, unpretentious pool . There was a massive row of summer phlox in back of the house – the biggest I’d ever seen.  I hope I have a photo of that  scene somewhere – it was such simple, rural beauty.

The Cooling Stream


Open Wide!


My speckled eggs have hatched! This nest of baby birds is just outside the kitchen window and on top of a plastic bag set on the ground last fall.

I’ve never had the experience of looking down on a nest of birds exposed in this way, so I’m amazed at the four wide-open mouths that turn upward when I pass nearby. The yellow and red throats remind me of tropical flowers in bloom. The babies aren’t aware of such things, though – they’re just waiting for nourishment.

Spotted Outside

Yesterday this fawn climbed to the top of the hill and waited for its more pokey sibling (just out of camera view).  To the right of its head is what’s left of the Euonymus americanus, or heart’s-a-burstin’, ravaged by the baby’s mother the day before.

I don’t get too disturbed by the damage the deer inflict on the garden since there’s not a lot I can do about it, but I sure do miss the good stand of heart’s-a-burstin’ that used to be on the hill.

Keeping Watch

Bluebird Nest Box

Over the years, this weathered box has provided shelter and a nesting site for numerous bluebird families. As I tried to get in closer to photograph this particular parent, I could hear the babies chirping inside. It was a sweltering, very humid day – over ninety degrees – and I wondered how the little birds could keep from suffocating.

I think there is no more uplifting, hopeful sight than a bluebird. I hope these babies fare well in the world.

Where’s My Raft?

The Big Crafty show was downtown at the Asheville Art Museum on Sunday. Vendors (mostly local) displayed their homemade creations inside the museum, as well as outside under tents on the adjacent Pack Place plaza.

It was a hot, humid day and the fountain near some of the outside booths proved more enticing to these young folks than arts and crafts.

Bee in Crimson

I took a shortcut through the backyard this week-end and, unexpectedly, saw this bee balm in flower. The blooms fairly glowed in the afternoon sun, enticing me and a plump apian visitor to linger.

There aren’t a lot of red plants in my garden. This may change.