Archives for July 2013

Wispy Blue, Newly-Valued: American Bellflower

Campanulastrum americana - Tall bellflower

Campanulastrum americana – American or Tall bellflower

Why am I just now appreciating this beauty, growing on the bank between ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod and several native asters? Is it because this year’s stand is thicker — the flowers bluer — than last year?

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Campanulastrum americana -delicate blue flowers

My American (or Tall) bellflower has been growing in the same spot for several years, but the plant was so straggly-looking, I glanced right over it, thinking it was a weed. Why I didn’t pull it up, I don’t know, although I generally  give suspected weeds the benefit of the doubt, just in case I take out a treasure and regret it later. This means some plants get a free pass longer than they should.

I’m so glad Campanulastrum americana got to stay, and will remain, for as long as it’s happy and wants to grow here. I love the hue and composition of its flowers, the candelabra structure of the plant, and the way the blooms contrast with the pastels of nearby spiderwort and summer phlox.

There’s a lesson here: to pay attention, investigate, and not make assumptions about things — garden or otherwise. Mother Nature — teacher –comes through, once again!

Country Road (Take Me Home)

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Garden Art at Grovewood

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Rain threatened to derail my recent, spur-of-the-moment visit to Grovewood Gallery, located on the grounds of the venerable Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC.  The gallery holds an annual Sculpture in the Garden exhibit, featuring bronze, glass, iron, and ceramic works of nationally-known artists. I really wanted to see this year’s sculptures, even if I had to leave my camera in the car. Fortunately, the rain subsided. The sculptures were sparkly clean and ready for viewing.

The architecture and grounds of Grovewood and Grove Park Inn mesh seamlessly, if you’re using original inn buildings — not additions — for comparison. The gardens outside the Gallery are lush, and a good setting for art. The terrain is hilly, though, and may present challenges to staff when installing or removing sculptures.

Some of the pieces had already been sold, but there were still plenty left to ponder and photograph. Prices were high, as you’d expect for work of this quality and size.

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“Steadfast” by Roger Martin

This bronze and wax casting “Steadfast”, would be an imposing presence in a large garden or public setting. It’s nearly three feet tall, excluding the base.  Mr. Martin is known for his bronzes of wildlife, including one featured at last year’s sculpture exhibit and shown in a blog post here.

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“Diana” by Carl Powell

I could picture this piece by Carl Powell in a courtyard outside a contemporary house or office building. It’s made of glass, concrete and steel and sells for $2100. It would be beautiful at certain times of the day with light refracting through the glass. I was a little distracted by all that English ivy taking over the beds and climbing the nearby tree, but I like the idea of a uniform expanse of groundcover surrounding the concrete column.

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“Great Flaming Lotus” by John T. Unger

Mr. Unger uses recycled and industrial materials in his work. This would be a nice on a stone patio. It’s not your basic firepit.

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“Journey North” by Stephanie Dwyer and Donna Davis

The giant flower in the background is not a feat of Photoshop. It’s made of metal, and part of the temporary sculpture exhibit in the garden.

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“Tan Horse Light” by Susannah Zucker

Horses are such iconic, mysterious, and powerful creatures to me. Although this one is not real, I had a very visceral response to it, as well as to the other example of Suzannah Zucker’s work, shown below.

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“Rise” by Susannah Zucker

The themes of trauma and human frailty and resilience are common in Ms. Zucker’s sculptures.

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The 2013 Sculpture in the Garden exhibit at Grovewood ends December 31. If you don’t make it on time, mosey on over at your own pace. There are permanently-installed works of art at Grovewood, which I’ll cover in another post. ‘Til next time….!

Red Mulberry Tree: Birds Gather Round

A few weeks ago, a cacaphony of wing-fluttering and bird calls came from the direction of the creek in the back of the house. It was LOUD out there and I had to go investigate.

The cause of the commotion? The mulberries were ripening. A mature red mulberry, the native Morus rubra, was the source of big-time, early-summer bounty.  Several kinds of birds were in a fruit-picking frenzy. They darted back and forth in the treetops and in the sky, their varied shapes outlined against the clouds. They were happy, happy, happy — especially the bluejays.

The birds appreciate our 35-40′ mulberry, but sometimes I forget about the tree when the berries aren’t ripening. Its foliage is high and it’s nestled among a group of other native trees — hemlock, tulip tree, sugar maple, and sycamore — that make up the landscape canopy along the creek. Some years, I’m out of town and the birds strip all the berries while I’m gone. But when I’m here, and the fruit start to ripen,  the scraggly, unpretentious mulberry becomes the star of the garden.

The vegetation under the mulberry is thick — both at canopy and ground level — so it’s hard to see the berries when they fall. Some of the berries land on the lawn (i.e weed/moss area) in the sun, so they’re easier to spot.

Morus rubra fruit

Morus rubra fruit

Guess who else was out there getting a bellyful of berries? A squirrel (naturally) that kept jumping from one limb to another, pausing just long enough to stuff it’s mouth full. Here’s a blurry picture of him/her semi-camouflaged in the leaves.

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Birds? What birds?

Not far from the “mother” mulberry, there’s a seedling — also a red mulberry — about 10′ tall. The yellow leaf in the photo below is actually from the mother mulberry, while the big green one is from the seedling. Leaf variation is common with mulberries, although I suspect the yellow leaf was under stress and assumed its fall coloration.

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Morus rubra leaf variation – two trees

It pleases me to look in the direction of the big mulberry and realize there’s not an exotic tree in sight — an increasingly rare experience in the home landscape. (Note: You will see some wonderful non-native specimens trees nearby, including a Korean stewartia, fullmoon maple and Japanese umbrella pine. There’s definitely a mix in my garden).

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Mulberry among the native trees by the creek

The mulberry trunk is in heavy shade. It likes the moist acidic soil above the creek. Judging from the shape of the tree, it probably started as a seedlling. I love having it in at the edge of the woods but would not want it near a patio or deck.

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Red mulberry bark

If I had been more diligent I would have lingered in the shady spot under the mulberry and hemlock tree and collected some of the inch-long berries to make jam. I did pick up a few to keep in a bowl in the refrigerator, just for the pleasure of looking at something from my own yard, mixed-in with fruits and vegetables from someone else’s land.

I left the rest of the berries for the birds. Maybe next year I’ll get the squirrel’s share.

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Ripening mulberries (Morus rubra) and immature wild grapes