Archives for September 2013

Fencerows and Fond Memories


Every time I go back to the Carolina home place, I notice subtle changes outside. The fences have held up well, but after decades of weathering, many of my dad’s well-crafted posts have either tilted or fallen. The barbed wire is loose and not a steady perch for birds. Sometimes a scraggly shrub can serve equally well, though, judging from this artistic, long-sustained, bird posing.



The pond in the background — hidden by the goldenrod and dying foliage — is low this year, even though rain has been plentiful. The crawfish have been busy carving out the dam, I suspect. My dad would not be happy and would be getting his tractor out to repair the bank about now.


A few spindly Russian sages appear every year despite some stiff competition from weeds below.


There are mountain views all around the house, but I often end up looking at quirky combinations on the ground. Old-fashioned obedient plant, iris, and bits and pieces of other plants (including weeds) make an interesting vignette. Mental note: I like this limey-green, maroon, lavender, and grey color palette and want to use it more in designing.


Concord grapes and morning glories grow side-by-side. It’s an iconic look/memory from the past.  (Note: there are multiple containers of Concord grapes in my refrigerator. If I can stop eating grapes, there will be jars of Concord jelly this week).


An un-named yarrow amidst echinacea and other plants, including the very unwelcome Glechoma or ground ivy. It’s everywhere — in the grass and lots of beds. It’s impossible to eradicate.



Every year my mother’s neighbor shares either red or green apples from her trees. They’re the old-fashioned kind that don’t get pruned much or produce big, unblemished fruit. Last year, this red variety was almost bare, so my son missed out on a long-held, annual ritual at his grandmother’s.

This year, the tree was full of apples. All of us, including the woodpeckers that hovered in the upper branches, were grateful. Going to the grocery store and buying apples is just not the same, even if the specimens are big, shiny, and perfect (albeit tasteless).


The neighbor’s cat is watching something in the grass, not giving us the evil eye for being near the apple tree.  His pal, Stella, disappeared several months ago, possibly the victim of one of the many hawks we’d seen flying over the house.

The rituals of nature play out and the fenceposts keep holding on.

A Garden at Clem’s Cabin

statueclems_mmtnClem’s Cabin is a quaint historic structure located within an urban mix of houses and apartments along one of Asheville’s busiest streets. The cabin and its little compound are the site for garden club functions and community plant sales.

Whenever possible, I’ve gone to the garden club’s annual Christmas greenery sale here. On those occasions, the parking lot has always been full. Today, there was not a soul to be seen– except for St. Francis of Assisi (or whichever patron saint was keeping watch that day).

I had a leisurely visit watching spiders and birds and exploring interesting little nooks throughout the site. The garden areas are small. Overall, the design is formal, with some elements of a kitchen garden. Boxwood hedges and herbs are the dominant plantings. It’s obvious the place is well-cared for, and there a definite sense of permanence, created by stone walls and paths.

I liked the detail on the railing leading up to the front door of the cabin. Notice the spider webs on top of the boxwoods, which looked like mature specimens of ‘Suffruticosa’.


Isn’t this a graceful, artistic complement to Clem’s stone porch?  Wish I knew who created it.


Here’s what the herb garden looks like in winter. (2011). Nice design, with good structural elements, don’t you think?


Mother Nature’s design: complex, artistic, captivating.


This visit, I saw dill, Russian sage, and the orange berries of a viburnum (possibly tea viburnum, V. setigerum?). The branches were spilling to the ground.


herbsclems_mmtnI arrived at this garden after leaving the dentist’s office, still thinking about work to be done, schedules to arrange. Funny how being outside, watching a spider scurrying into its funnel-shaped web, can put such mortal concerns to rest. Well… at least for a while.

Reminds me of a verse in a 1936 poem by Edward Thomas:

It is enough 

To smell, to crumble the dark earth,

While the robin sings over again

Sad songs of Autumn mirth.


No Worries: A Fawn Beds Down


I looked out the kitchen window this week and and saw this little spotted fawn, lying all alone at the edge of the woods. It looked so peaceful, so unworried that anything would ever disrupt its rest or its plentiful source of food. It stayed for a long time, unaware that human eyes were watching from a short distance away.

Yes, this baby will probably grow up to eat lots of our ornamental plants, plus seedling trees and undergrowth emerging from the ground. And, most likely, it will run with the groups of adult deer that scrape the bark off  trees and create general havoc on the hillsides.

Still … at this moment … the sight of this little one is lovely and sweet. And this mother’s heart (mine) is helpless to resist.

*     *     *      *     *

Since the fawn ended up staying so long, I became a little concerned that something was awry. But after doing some research and learning the following facts, I figured baby was just fine:

–  Very young deer (white-tails or Odocoileus virginianus, in this case) don’t have the muscle mass or strength to run from predators. Instead, they rely on camouflage: the large white spots on their rust-brown fur.  Since wolves and dogs don’t see colors and shapes the way humans do, the deer’s spots are perceived as part of the surrounding landscape, broken up into uneven patterns of light.

  When they’re born, baby deer don’t have a scent that can be picked up by predators. The mother/doe keeps the baby groomed and fed, then stays far enough away so that her own scent won’t alert other animals and endanger her fawn.  The doe is also foraging for food while she’s away, but she comes back around dusk or before to gather up her young ones(s).

  It’s not a good idea for humans to touch, go near, or try to rescue baby deer. If a fawn seems seriously hurt or if it’s determined that the mother is injured or dead, it’s best to call an animal rescue organization. Unlike birds, deer are more vulnerable to predators if they have  a human’s scent on them.

  Does usually have their young in late spring, but the deer that spend time on our property don’t seem to adhere to such schedules. It’s probably too late in the year for more babies, but I’ll surely see the adolescents over the winter, lingering over vegetables at the compost, or helping themselves to evergreen plantings that might not appeal during more temperate months.



Red at the farmers’ market

Fall Is In the Air



The signs are here: changes in light patterns and intensity, dry leaves littering the paths, the waning sounds of frogs and insects. Black-eyed susans reach for the sky and I reach for the last remaining moments of a gentle, nature-filled summer.