Friday, July 31, 2015 6 comments

Where the wild things are

We think a fox family lives near the trail

The "critter cam" Santa brought me for Christmas is the gift that keeps on giving.

Dad loved the mountains and wildlife
As many of you Dirt Diaries readers recall, we built a small nature path  in memory of my Dad back in 2012. 

We've always wondered what cool things were happening on "Curly's Trail" at night or when we weren't looking. (Was there a Sasquatch or zombie on the loose?)

So I set up the camera (a Browning sub micro) on the last post you can see in the accompanying photo.

That stairway is about 30 yards from our deck and leads down to the stream and a little waterfall. 

The camera takes a photo of anything that moves within 100 feet of its view, night or day. 

 The resulting picture includes an information bar that displays the time, date, moon phase and temperature.

A raccoon heads towards the stream

 That’s great unless you forget to turn the camera off when someone is working in the area. We had 150 pictures of Alfredo’s legs when he was sprucing up the trail and patio by the stream.

Caught the head of a pileated woodpecker

 Some of the critter pictures have been surprising. We didn’t realize there were so many deer around. (As long as they stay away from my roses, that’s okay.)

The deer love my hostas and wildflowers.

We thought we might catch a glimpse of a bear since they’ve visited our deck several times. None yet. We’ve seen owls around, but thus far they haven’t shown up to have their portraits made.

The discovery that a bobcat had been sauntering around the trail was a true shock. I often work down there in the new rose bed Alfredo built for me last spring.
Yikes! Mr. Bobcat strolls along the trail at lunchtime

We’d heard they do live in Western North Carolina, but no one in our community has ever seen one. Until they take a peek at the photo on my iPhone.

From now on, I’ll be looking over my shoulder when I’m down by the trail tending to my beauties.

Because we no longer have to wonder where the wild things are.

They’re right here in our very own garden.

Thursday, July 9, 2015 10 comments

July is dressed up and playing her tune

Love these delicate, canary yellow daylilies

July got off to an unhappy start with Chris back in the hospital for emergency surgery. The work that was done last September went bad, so he had an unplanned six-day staycation at Mission in Asheville.

Thankfully all is going well and he is now home trying to do too much out in the garden.

I can’t blame him because July is when everything is happening from the veggie patch to the roadside to the rose garden. Tomatoes are ripening, wild rhododendrons are showing off, and the roses are just getting their second wind.

It’s a great month to enjoy all the blooms around us, and appreciate how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

Even when there is the occasional health hiccup.

Skylark with more blooms and buds than ever

Thomas Edison
Volunteer Balloon Flowers. No clue where they came from.
I'm becoming a phlox phanatic. This was from a "free to good home" bin

The wild rhodies are near their peak. The mountain laurel was the prettiest we've seen in years

Genevieve and visitor
Our Nikkos got nipped again but the Annabelles are gorgeous at High Hampton
The Lark Ascending and visitor

Sir John Betjeman

The Indian Pipes are in bloom

My black and blue salvia has come back for a second year

Welcome to our mountain world, where things are always looking up

Monday, June 15, 2015 8 comments

Return to Rose Paradise

 In 2012, I wrote about my first visit to Doug and Shari's majestic mountaintop rose garden. If you missed "What you didn't see in Southern Living", you can read the article here.

Since then, I've hung around photographing the garden so often, we've all become friends. I ran into Doug at a local garden center (where else?) in late May and he urged me to stop by soon because everything was blooming at the same time and the roses were in top form. Of course, I made a beeline over there and the garden looked more spectacular than ever. 

Words still cannot describe the beauty. 

Words truly are not necessary. 


Last night we were honored to be on the guest list for the celebration of Doug and Shari's 45th wedding anniversary. It was the first time I had seen the garden at sunset. 

I can't wait for more magnificent photo ops in years to come.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 9 comments

One of the oldest names in rosedom wins the 2015 Biltmore International Trials

The fabulous Biltmore Rose Garden hosts the International Trials

A part-time hybridizer made history in 2013 when one of his creations won the George and Edith Vanderbilt Award for Most Outstanding Rose at the first Biltmore International Rose Trials competition held in Asheville, North Carolina.

Mike Athy of Gisborne, New Zealand entered his climbing/groundcover rose (temporarily known as 'Athyfalaa') in 2011 and after eight rounds of judging over two years it was declared the winner in five of eleven categories. Another of his roses was the second highest scorer in the trial.

'Miracle on the Hudson'
In 2014, another amateur, Robert Neal Rippetoe, took top honors with 'Miracle on the Hudson', a vibrant shrub named to salute the Captain, crew and passengers of US Airways Flight 1549. Rippetoe’s rose also won for Best Shrub Rose, Best Growth Habit and Most Disease Resistant.

This year, one of the most honored names in rosedom took home top honors. This year Best in Show went to the hybrid tea ‘Savannah’, bred by Kordes Rosen of Germany. The rose also won Best Hybrid Tea and Most Fragrant.

'Savannah', Courtesy Kordes Roses

This is the third year Biltmore’s Rose Garden has been home to the trials where dozens of varieties from growers and breeders worldwide have been planted and cared for by the team of rosarians and horticulturists there.

No fungicides or insecticides are used on these roses and any entry that displays disease over 25% of the bush is removed from the competition.

Each trial lasts two years and a permanent jury judges the roses four times annually. I am fortunate to be on that permanent panel (despite the fact it can be mighty cold out in the gardens in mid-January.) 

The difficult path to disease resistant roses

I love Kordes roses and especially admire the fact they stopped spraying their bushes in the early 90s. They were way ahead of the curve when it came to breeding more disease resistant varieties. It almost cost them their business as you can read in my 2009 article in The Christian Science Monitor:

'Bajazzo' (right) from  Kordes won Best Climber in 2014
Their determination to create a line of plants that could stay healthy throughout the growing season without the aid of chemical sprays has paid off handsomely. The Fairy Tale, Parfuma and Vigorosa Collections are hugely popular, and for good reason.

I loved the fairy tale endings where the amateur hybridizer bests the big names in the business.

This year, it is nice to see folks who started producing roses in 1887 step into the Biltmore spotlight.

Here is a complete listing of the winners:

·        The George & Edith Vanderbilt Award for Most Outstanding Rose of the Trials (Best in Show): 'Savannah,' bred by Kordes Rosen in Germany

·        The Pauline Merrell Award for Best Hybrid Tea: 'Savannah,' bred by Kordes Rosen in Germany  

·        The Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil Award for Most Fragrant Rose: 'Savannah,' bred by Kordes Rosen in Germany

·        The Award of Excellence for Best Established Rose: 'Queen Elizabeth,' a Grandiflora rose.

·        The Edith Wharton Award for Best Floribunda: 'Tequila Gold,' bred by Meilland in France.

·        The Honorable John Cecil for Open Group: 'Popcorn Drift,' bred by Nova Flora, a breeder in West Grove, Pa.

·        The Gilded Age Award for Best Climber: 'FlyingKiss,' bred by Ping Lim, based in Portland, Oregon.

·        The Chauncey Beadle Award for Best Shrub Rose: 'Peachy Keen,' bred by Bill Radler, of Milwaukee, Wisc.

·        The William Cecil Award for Best Growth Habit: 'Phloxy Baby,' bred by Bill Radler, of Milwaukee, Wisc.

·        The Lord Burleigh Award for Most Disease Resistant: 'Peachy Keen,' bred by Bill Radler, of Milwaukee, Wisc.
Friday, May 8, 2015 22 comments

The melodic beauty of my Appalachian spring

Solomon's Seal is a native that blooms in April and May

The ballet score Appalachian Spring won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1945, and remains one of the most inspiring works in American history.

But composer Aaron Copeland didn’t have mountains or forests in mind when he started working on the orchestral suite in 1942.

He initially called the score “Ballet for Martha” for the ballet’s choreographer and lead dancer, Martha Graham.

Graham suggested the name the day before the ballet premiered.

Copeland once said “I gave voice to that region without knowing I was giving voice to it.”

Shooting Stars are spring superstars
And he was often told he’d brilliantly captured the beauty of the Appalachians in his music.

As far as I'm concerned, it really doesn’t matter that this region wasn’t the original inspiration for his masterpiece. 

Every time I hear Appalachian Spring I can't help but envision the beauty of the mountains.

Especially this time of year.

 Diverse and dramatic

The mountains that surround me make up one of the most biologically diverse areas of the world with more than 1,600 flowering plants.

Here, visions of violets signal spring is on the way. The Halberd-leaf Yellow Violet is usually the first flower I see. 

Halberd-leaf Violet
Its name comes from an observation that the arrowhead leaves are reminiscent of a battle-ax type weapon used in the 15th and 16th centuries. I’ll have to take the historians at their word.

The humble violet has been celebrated in myths and literature from ancient times, a symbol of modesty and simplicity. Longfellow wrote that it “lurks among all the lovely children of the shade.”

Shakespeare described the violet as “forward” as it trumpets the awakening of the earth following winter. He also writes the violet is “sweet, not lasting. The perfume and suppliance of a minute; No more.”

So we should gather our Halberd-leaf Yellow violets while we may. 

Confederate Violet
Along with the other violets that grow along my trail, including the Confederate, Common Blue, Pale and several other varieties.

 Trillium heaven

A couple of years ago, according to folks in the know, a very warm winter caused many wildflowers to go into a tizzy.

Apparently a number of species flowered up to three weeks early and because of the warmth, the bloom period was very short. Trilliums also appeared early and were quickly devoured by hungry deer.

Catesby's Trillium (maybe)
At that time I was new to the mountains, so I didn’t know what I was missing. 

This spring has been an entirely different story.

 Trilliums are members of the Lily family and are among the showiest of springtime wildflowers. The local natives sport three distinctive leaves and when they bloom, the flowers have three petals.

Stinking Benjamin
American Indians used the plant as an eye medication and women boiled the roots to make a love potion. Mountain folk say if you pick a trillium you will bring on a rainstorm.

Wake Robin, a favorite that I did see last year, is back with its deep burgundy blooms. Apparently that is the “nice” name because I’ve learned it is also known as Stinking Benjamin or Stinking Willie because of the putrid smelling flower. Early herbalists used it to treat gangrene.

A number of Painted Trilliums are growing down by the path. It was a happy surprise because I didn’t see many in the past. I’m delighted to have them because experts say they have been virtually bulldozed or picked into extinction.
Painted Trillium

The white and pink trilliums nearby are beautiful, too. But I’ve become partial to the Painteds.

Every time I see one, I hear music.