The Blue Planter and Fresh Produce (Supposedly)

blueplanter

Late last summer I was walking down a sidewalk in Asheville and noticed a vibrant blurb of periwinkle blue in the distance. As I got closer, the blurb evolved  into a beautiful planter, chock full of leafy, multi-textured herbs and annuals. The planter sat in front of a large window painted with the words Fresh Produce. I walked faster — with anticipation — figuring the store sold plants, or seeds, or something garden-related. Maybe even produce.

I didn’t notice the words behind the ornamental grass in the planter. I stepped inside and saw that the shop sold …. clothes and accessories. Nice clothes and nice people, but no food, plants, or garden-y things. A bit of a disappointment, I must admit.

I figure it’s best to accept most things as they are, but why do people name their business something that has nothing to do with what they actually sell? The name Meander is pretty vague, but the blog isn’t called Meander Machinery or something that might lead to different expectations if you landed there by mistake. Oh well … there’ll be plenty of garden and produce places later on. And I wish the clothing shop nothing but success.

No matter what, that blue planter was awfully nice. I’m buying some paint — that same color, I guarantee.

Coral Bark Maple On a Wintery Day

coralbark1

Whenever you read a description of coral bark Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’), you’ll probably see the word glowing used early on. While there are many maples I find more appealing year-round than coral bark, I was struck by the fact that it really did seem to be glowing as I rounded the bend of the road one recent overcast day. There it was, all lit up against a backdrop of magnolias and other evergreens — probably the most effective use of the tree I’d seen.

coralbark2

This maple has suckered and spread to a width of 8-10′. Nestled in a variety of plants between the road and the lakeshore, it’s an unexpected treat for eyes that have grown accustomed to winter’s more muted colors. Hmm…. maybe I need to reconsider the virtues of Sango kaku.

The Lovely, Welcome Snow

snow-yardmm

It snowed this week — one of those soft, all-encompassing, old-fashioned snows that says, There’s no need to worry. Everything is working according to nature’s plan. Come outside. Feel the joy.

The earth and trees seemed to revel in the calm and purity of form that enveloped the landscape. Every turn of the camera revealed a different hue of white.

hemlock_snowmm

A cluster of Canadian or eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) formed a backdrop for bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) and other deciduous shrubs. Was there ever a more beautiful evergreen tree?

pine_snowmm

The umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) became laden with snow very quickly. I knocked most of it off, for fear that the branches would break overnight.

boxwood_snowmm

There are five or six mature, very lush specimens of boxwoods in the garden, most of them Buxus sempervirens ‘ Suffruticosa’. Since boxwoods are very susceptible to snow and storm damage, I gave them a good shake too.

tracks_snowmm

These are squirrel tracks, I’m pretty certain.

pattern

These are tracks of the very rare and reclusive  ….. ??  Actually, a pattern in the rubber mat outside the door :>)

snow_hummingbirdmm

This copper water sprinkler came home with me from a yard sale last year. I had sworn off yard sales, but this one had a definite “garden” theme. The hummingbird reminds me that spring is not far away!

Wordless Wednesday: Brush Pile Art

Garden Clean-up. The Rabbits Approve.

 

Kittens and Greenery: Irresistible!

newkitten2

Home

Dear people in my family have just adopted this fuzzy girl with the big ears and eyes. Her name is Sophie. When Sophie crossed the threshold and began adjusting to all the sights, sounds, and smells of her new home, she quickly discovered all kinds of low-hanging leaves in the jungle of houseplants on the floor. None were poisonous to her, but many were appealing for their grassiness, or lushness, or who-knows-what. At least the Christmas tree had already been taken down.

Years ago, I had a sitter come in several times a day to take care of my two cats while I attended an out-of-town conference. The Christmas tree – a fresh spruce about seven feet tall – was resplendent in all its holiday finery (mainly lights and bird ornaments, if I recall) and was tucked away in the corner as far I could place it.

When I returned from my meeting, I found the tree lying on its side, with most of its ornaments spread out on the floor. Fortunately, there was no broken glass, or any evidence of feline distress or damage. The cats were very nonchalant and evasive about the entire episode. The note from the sitter said how sorry she was, but never mentioned why she just left the tree lying in the floor.

This Could Happen

This Could Happen

It’s been a while since I’ve had any pets. Over the years, they all succumbed to illness or old age.  One cat, Katie, was almost twenty when she died. I found her in the woods when she was young and very ill. I was on my way to the Humane Society with her, when I turned my car around and drove her home.  I was with most of my pets when they were euthanized and, for a long time, felt I couldn’t go through that again. But maybe it’s time to welcome another dog or cat to our home. I think Sophie has definitely stirred the old longings. Besides, what’s a home without pets and plants?

Morning Deer Run: Leading the Pack

Just One of the Gang

Just One of the Gang

Just above the house, on the well-trodden path on the hill. Seven more deer – young ones and older females – are following this male, just out of camera range.

The Snow Lies Down

Calm

A Snowy Afternoon Last Winter

BEYOND THE SNOW BELT

Over the local stations, one by one,

Announcers list disasters like dark poems

That always happen in the skull of winter.

But once again the storm has passed us by:

Lovely and moderate, the snow lies down

While shouting children hurry back to play,

And scarved and smiling citizens once more

Sweep down their easy paths of pride and welcome.

  – Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems

—————-

My wish for you in the New Year:

May there be lots of “smiling citizens” in your life. May the worst of the storms pass you by.

DJ

Red Leaves on Cedar. Nature’s Christmas Tree.

redleavesincedar

mapleandcedar

A few weeks ago, this twenty-foot Japanese maple in the backyard was ablaze in red. (No color adjustments have been made to photos). In fall, the leaves were a muted shade of purple-burgundy and, before that, a bright green hue that remained through spring and summer.

This tree of many colors has seen several homes — I couldn’t bear to leave it behind at two different gardens. I bought it two decades ago from a dear, gentle man named John who ran a small nursery beside the home where he lived with his elderly parents. The nursery no longer exists, but  I think about the afternoons I spent on the hillside there, wandering through rows of one exquisite maple cultivar after another.  I’ve misplaced the name of my maple, an out-of-the-ordinary one that I may not find again. No matter. The attributes of this tree stand alone. They bring pleasure to me and others, every season of every year.

There is a little eastern cedar tree –Juniperus virginiana–growing beside the maple in its current (and final) location. It came up as a volunteer a few years ago. When the red leaves rained down from the maple in late November, some of them got stuck in the cedar’s prickly, green branches, reminding me of ornaments on an outdoor Christmas tree. For my photo, I was tempted to place the star-shaped leaves in a symmetrical pattern on the cedar. But I decided not to. Exact spacing is for indoor trees. Nature’s arrangement was perfect, just as I found it.

Timeless.

mtnsnc

Dear Blue Mountains

Biltmore Village. Festive Greenery, Art, Architecture.

 

It was a balmy sixty-five degrees on Sunday — not quite what you’d expect on a December weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains. After a few hours wandering through Biltmore Village near downtown Asheville, I began to feel festive nonetheless, somehow now caring that it felt more like the beach than the mountains outside.

The village’s old brick buildings and sidewalks are a perfect setting for Christmasy window displays, playful children, and trees in transition from fall glow to winter dormancy. There’s plenty to take in, from roof and window details above, to the herringbone-patterned walks and raised beds below — each filled with colorful tapestries of leaves and branches.

I miss the days when my family would pack into the old Willys jeep and drive through the snow for hot soup and home-made cookies at our good friends’ home in the country . Although snow and Christmas will always go hand-in-hand in my memory, I think it’s important to start new traditions and appreciate what is instead of what was. The village in Biltmore is a charming blend of the past and present to me.