Hellebore Time

StandDbl

Under the oaks and pines

A plant grows mighty fine.

Evergreen, shades of pink, burgundy or lime

Blooming ever so sublime

Hurray—It’s Hellebore time!

My friend Kathy's yellow Hellebore peaking through the snow.

My friend Kathy’s yellow Hellebore peaking through the snow.

Imagine, seeing this hopeful sign of spring—just out your window as winter’s wrath has driven you to wit’s end—peaking through the bareness of the last snow.

Or being able to cut and bring a variety of fascinating blooms inside…

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Having many forms—singles, semi-doubles, doubles, anemone-centered—and colors—it is easy to see why there are passionate breeders and collectors of this winter bloomer.

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Hellebores can be successfully grown in shade, but I have some also in sun;  They are drought tolerant and even the deer won’t nibble!   What is not to like?

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They can be cut for arrangements or floated in bowls indoor, or outside, to bring cheer in late winter and delight with hope of spring to come.

Stop by a good nursery and ask for them…  They grow in Zones 4-9.

Having Cabin Fever?   Saturday March 8,  is the last day of Hellebore Festival at Pine Knot Farms in Clarksville, Virginia… the weather is expected to be sunny and high 50’s… so go if you  are anywhere near by!   I have met folks from DC, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina… all beaming with joy for making the journey, wagons filled with Hellebores, hardy Primrose, Hepatica – just to name a few things!

Entrance to Dick and Judy's Garden... Pine Knot Farms.

Entrance to Dick and Judy’s Garden… Pine Knot Farms.

Judith Knot Tyler and her Husband Dick have customers in 49 of the 50 states and will gladly ship!

Magical gardens to meander around their hand-built home.   Plenty of Hellebores and other woodland garden plants for sale.

More next week with tips from Judy Knot Tyler of Pine Knot Farms on tips for propagation and care.

Judith Knott and Dick Tyler
Pine Knot Farms
www.pineknotfarms.com
434-252-1990
434-252-0768 fax

Enjoy – living the  EntwinedLife

Jayme B

NC Certified Environmental Educator

Garden Conservancy Regional Representative

JC Raulston Arboretum Volunteer

Under the Oaks – Vistiting Guests and Author too…

While sweeping the back deck  of the endless Oak leaves, I spotted these visiting guests – two caterpillars out for a stroll on the deck railing:

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I know that often fuzzy caterpillars are a warning not to touch – so counter intuitive!

So yet another reason to take a  well needed break – head inside and look them up – to see who these visitors are.

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Both  are caterpillars of Halysidota tessellaris – commonly know as either the Pale Tiger Moth or Banded Tussock Moth – the Oak  tree over head is their host plant.

In researching, I found Canadian entomology graduate student and nature photographer Morgan D. Jackson’s blog Biodiversity in Focus.  

Morgan writes about  their ability to hear incoming sonar pings of bat predators.  Some have even evolved sonic countermeasures. (Dunning & Roeder, 1965)

How Cool is that!

Morgan has graciously allowed me to share his blog on the Sonic Moth… who knew?

Banded Tussock Moth – Halysidota tessellaris #NMW2012 » Biodiversity in Focus Blog.

Explore some of his other cool posts and he’ll have you hooked on Natural Science!

Thanks Morgan for leading and sharing an Entwined Life!

Jayme B

NC Certified Environmental Educator

Garden Conservancy Regional Representative

A Visit under the Oaks

At this time of year chores at Entwined Gardens include raking the leaves and acorns from under the Oaks.  It somehow seems like a never-ending task, but one that always elicits a mixed bag of frustration and wonder, as I visit under the Oaks.

The grove of Oak trees was on the property when my husband purchased this woodland paradise.   He hates the thought (and expense) of  thinning them.   So many hardwoods were cut adjacent to our property when the woods became a golf course community – habitat lost.

But their  limbs have begun to hang over our rooftop,  making the back deck and terrace a constant battleground… and a potential threat of roof damage in some crazy storm.

I know – first world thinking!

Overhang

The acorns under foot can be dangerous, the leaves slick…  and with a back that easily twists out of shape… I do get annoyed from the raking and sweeping.

It is not an easy task to establish new plants under the Oaks, as they provide a dense shady canopy for most of the year, so I often grouse (to myself) that I’d really like a more refined view from my dining room and kitchen…  more light would be nice.

Most recommended woodland plants I’ve tried have languished, as the roots of the Oaks are far-reaching – sucking  up any available moisture from the hard packed,  root bound clay soils.

Then  comes the fall when the thick drop of leaves builds up an anaerobic layer, smothering anything below.

To have any success,  I have learned to plant specimens in pots. Should they survive the deer, then  I create a modified raised bed – planting on top of the of the woodland floor adding good soil amendments  around the root ball and  spreading out the  hauled in soil around the plant – yet not too high to smother  the roots of the Oaks.  It’s a learning experience and indeed a delicate balance.

I grumble more as most of the acorns sprout with ease just laying on top of – well anything –  in the pots in the raised planting and across the woodland floor…  while nothing else grows with vigor under the thick woodland floor of  tannic acid…  each spring I have a sea of Oak seedlings.

Oh a good remainder  when raking – to limit the amount of Oak leaves added to the compost pile –  no more than twenty percent  because they take forever to break down and will create an acid, anaerobic mess.

While on the topic of tannic acid, (Plant Geek Alert!)  it  is also found in acorns… this is the true reason that squirrels and Jays hide the nuts… waiting for rain and melting snows to wash away the tannic acid  over time to make them palatable.  It is also nature’s way of distributing the nut seed with squirrels acting as dutiful gardeners planting them in new locations where often they forget to retrieve.

Or, is it Mr. Squirrelly shrewdly planting a tree for ensuring a future harvest?

The deer eat acorns and don’t seem to have a digestive problem.  Then again the deer seem to eat just about anything, except poison ivy or just plain ivy!   Dang!

The sprouted acorns cannot get raked,  so this becomes a zen like meditation of tugging them out one by one.  There  are hundreds each year! It always amazes me how quickly they can put out a tap-root of several inches long once they get growing as temperatures become mild in early spring.

Last year I had an indoor mini forest of Oaks growing in a large pot of Aspidistra – cast iron plant – which we bring in for the winter.  It was amazing that 15 or so acorns sprouted and developed leaves!  Note to self: to look for photo.

So in the midst of raking, hauling and grumbling,  I am reminded to pause, look up and ponder…

OakWonder… good for the back, good for the soul – the majestic Oak.

Today with milder temperatures  under a Carolina Blue sky,  I laid down in the leaves to take the photo, resting and hoping to capture some frolicking squirrels, as they perform aerial feats of delight, soaring from tree to tree, but no suck luck.

I am reminded that these giants are also woodland habitat to Woodpeckers, Jays and lodging for migrating flocks.

Squirrel NestMajestic crooks are protected nurseriesfor the baby squirrels called kittens.

Shelter also for butterflies and host plants for moths.

All in all – grateful for their beauty,  the  shade for our home.  The Oak flooring we walk on, and Oak furniture we use.  The delicious wine that is aged in Oak barrels…

Grateful for the Oak table our family gathers around.

Now back to work…

Enjoy – living the EntwinedLife

Jayme B

NC Certified Environmental Educator

Thanks for taking the time to visit under the oaks…

Leave a comment on your what your favorite Oak …

Hunkering down for winter and Elephant trumpets…

The fall is upon us… the excitement of the NC State Fair, leaves blowing and swirling, critters foraging…   colors now yellow instead of the pervasive green.  Hits of pinks, reds and oranges – emerge across the horizon.

Over the last few days with temperatures dipping to 38 degree F.,  we are hunkering down for winter at Entwined Gardens.

The careful lists of selecting which tropicals to dig up, re-pot  and drag into shelter for the winter,  have been checked off the ‘To-Do” list.

The Korean Mums  by the white garden gate – lovely with their peach tinged petals are open for diners – the last of the visible pollinators.  I notice that these two insects  have the same  striped markings – the one on the upper right is quite a bit smaller, wings perpendicular rather than angling, as they feast on nectar.

  DaisiesDendranthema rubellum – Korean Mum

Walking the paths, I reflect on each plant as a quest or gift from a friend.  The Dendranthema –  a division from Gail Ingram – from the back of her pickup truck after a Master Gardener meeting in 2000,  a feeding frenzy of outstretched arms… hoping to feel the plant material fall into their fingers… What Joy!

Hence my Motto:

“It’s always a great day when you bring home a plant!”

Entwined Gardens has been the recipient of many such plant shares  and trades from amazing horticultural giants and mentors – I’ll refrain from much of the name dropping.

I’ve dug, dragged, dumpster dived (from the JC Raulston Arboretum ‘plants only’ dumpster),  put on waders bogged and slogged on a quest.     Shopped till I’ve dropped, then traveled hours with a with a coveted Acer palmatum ‘Okukuji nishiki’ – a lovely variagated Japanese Maple specimen  –  stuck between my knees on a road trip from Athens, Georgia to sweet home North Carolina!  Thanks goodness my friend Jean was driving!

Over the years, friend Mitzi has shown us how to pack in the plants on these expeditions.    And in the horticultural Mecca of the Triangle,  it is not uncommon to see all types of specimens in all shapes and sizes of vehicles being driven on highways and byways!

Nearby I reflect on a  stand of Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’  which will stay in the ground.  Although only known to be hardy zones 8-10,  it over wintered well in my Zone 7B garden last year.

To date,  in all my shameless, plant obsessive (OK, addicted) escapades – my 5’2″ frame was no match for the these elephants!

ThaiGiant

I laugh every time I think of this Elephant Ear… a share from friend and divine garden writer Helen Yoest.

I arrived at Helen’s Haven with some thick gauge heavy-duty giant lawn bags.   Gratefully, Helen had already heave-hoed them out of the ground for sharing.  How sweet was that!

Elephant Ears like their large mammal name sakes,  must hold a heck of a lot of water which is the only logic I could give to their weight.  I struggled to lug their root balls into the bags.   I strained to budge them around the side of the house and down the garden path without trampling one of Helen’s borders.  I tried dragging, then pushing them in the heavy gauge plastic.  I think a stubborn Pachyderm would have been easier to coax than this Colocasia gigantea!

Laboriously breathing, I finally made it to the intersection of walkway and driveway…   I wondered if I could roll them down without damaging the magnificent leaves and roots, but decided against this option.  I walked around the house and couldn’t locate any thing with wheels.

Dazed, my short arms straining,  I took a breath pondering, “If only I had a real  elephant… an elephant could easily use its proboscis or trunk to transport these down the drive – easy peasy…  and most likely for a couple of bags of peanuts.  This would really give the neighbors something to talk about!”

Reality check… when did Helen’s driveway get so long and steep? Even going downhill it seemed like an abyss!

My desire for these plants once again snapped me back – pushing me forward like a goat in quicksand…   I was one with them,  I was not letting go –  and then it hit me like a ton of elephants, if I do get to the street, how will I ever hoist them up to the bed of the pick up?   I wanted to weep.

I felt like I was in an Abbott & Costello escapade, but I sure wished Abbott (my Hubby) was there as  I struggled comically down the driveway.  I would take a few steps,  teetering with the weight over head, stop and walk around this stubborn as a mule plant predicament – barely budging a few inches.

I thought for sure Helen would find me in heap at the end of the drive, trampled by an elephant stampede.

The neighbors would complain… about some horticultural circus act gone very wrong, peering out behind a jungle of designer draperies, but afraid to come outside of their climate controlled environs.

What seemed like hours later, I climbed into the truck bed, positioned myself on bended knees and prayed for strength… I wish I had thought to bring some rigging and a winch for the aerial act  that ensued!

Focus.  Rest.  Sip  some water.  Bend the knees. Pray to the Almighty Horticulture God and by some  miracle… it was in the truck for the transport home.  I have no earthly idea how these were hoisted or levitated from above or below or what kind of other worldly pact might have been made.

That night and the next morning, I ached everywhere… but the prize was mine!

There is nothing like a shared plant from a friend’s garden.    This gargantuan punctuation in the garden unlike any other.    In my mind I hear the sounds of  loud (click listen and hit back button to return)  Elephant trumpets which then elicits a break into an enormous ‘laugh out loud’ every time it comes into view.  OK sometimes I preform the elephant walk… a joy of living in the woods!

So once again I will leave it in the ground, keeping my fingers crossed that  it will be a star attraction, after the spring migration of warmth summons it forth.

A last peek behind its big top ears  finds a surprise – tree frog hunkering down against the incoming frigid air.

ThaiFrogDid you know: that the American green tree frog, Hyla cinerea

converts glycogen into glucose – acting like anti freeze – during cold months?

Listen to the (click listen and hit back button to return)  song of the tree frog.

A second, smaller clump of ‘Thai Giant’,  also dragged from Helen’s Haven,   spent the winter inside the barn last winter.   It emerged at a reasonable time last spring.  I  planted it out, but  it stopped growing at a mere 7 1/2 inches!   Although planted just feet from its giant friend, perhaps planted in an area where the light is being shaded, but definitely a freakish curiosity.

Tiny EarsI laugh at these tiny leaves…    “That’s IT???  That’s all I got for pulling my back muscles out?”

I am delighted none the less.

Thanks,  Helen for your amazing gift a giant plant, a story to tell, Elephant Trumpets in my ear and being a friend with Horticultural Benefits.

Helen’s new tome is available for preorder:   Plants With Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies in Your Garden

Perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Enjoy – living the EntwinedLife

Jayme B

NC Certified Environmental Educator

Garden Conservancy Regional Representative

Helen’s Haven – a wildlife habitat in the heart of Raleigh

Playground to garden guru – Helen Yoest, husband David Philbrook and their charming brood, The Yoest /Philbrook Family are surrounded by Helen’s Haven – a wildlife habitat in the heart of Raleigh, North Carolina.

You are invited to  visit and meet the newest additions to the family – Pepper and the Chicks. Saturday September 21!

Pepper

Pepper on patrol!

Helen inspires an adoring public with wit, wisdom & whimsy…

Just an uncanny sense of solid Horticulture mixed with thoughtful solutions and non stop delight.  Frankly if she doesn’t empower you to Garden with Confidence… Perhaps you should try Mahjong!

Let’s meet Helen:

Helen

David is my husband of 25 years, but he doesn’t do anything in the garden. But I thought I should mention him since he does let me get away with gardening.

 How long have you been gardening at this location?

 16 years.

What was the first thing you planted in or changed at Helen’s Haven?

Hmmm, I had to think about that! 

I put in a privacy hedge of Leyland Cypress. Yup, sure did. They are doing SO well, but not a day goes by that I wonder why I wasn’t more creative at the time and put in multi-species hedge instead. The privacy is wonderful, though.

Do you collect plants and if so what?

Dear oh dear, I have to admit to an addiction? No wait, I see you are only asking about a collection. Elephant ears, any native wildlife plant, weeping trees, rock garden plants, and any BIG, BOLD, LUSTFUL plant.

How much time do you spend working in your garden?

Every Sunday. It may be for an hour or 6 hours, but that is the only day I have. It is my most anticipated day of the week. If something should get in the way of that, I will pick up another day to cover my lost time. I couldn’t go a week with out getting my hands dirty. But I visit daily.

Any favorite Garden tools?

My knees.

What is your mulch preference?

Composted leaf mulch from the City of Raleigh

Anything new added to your garden art collection?

I have a couple of new pieces of garden art. You will have to come see them for yourself.

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 What is your first memory in a garden?

 Planting tomatoes with my dad.

 What is it that got you started gardening?

 I wanted to be with my dad and be like my dad.

 Who is your Horticultural Hero? Or Garden mentor?

My horticultural hero are the staffers at the JC Raulston Arboretum. I’ve even dedicated ” Plants with Benefits” – to them, specifically naming Mark Weathington, Tim Alderton, and Chris Glenn. Then there is John Buettner. Thew, I’m one lucky gardener!

Where do you go for inspiration?

Everywhere. I’ve never visited a garden I didn’t like. I get to see lots of them as a Field Editor for BHG and my other garden writing travels. I get ideas from every garden I see. I was just in Anthropologie and took away a gardening idea.  Once your eyes are open to something new, ideas just jump out at you.

 Do you have a favorite Garden you’ve visited?

Oooo, this is a tough one. Public garden I’d say Chanticleer. Private garden I’d say the one I just scouted.

 Do you have a favorite Garden Book?  Website – Blog – Magazine?

 My favorite garden book is Gardening with Confidence ® of course lol.

 And my second favorite book  is naturally my next book due out the first of the year,

But seriously, Fallscaping  – Extending your Garden Season into Autumn- is an all out fave. I guess it’s because I’m such a big fall garden love.

My fave magazines are Country Gardens and Gardens Illustrated.

How much time do you spend just enjoying your garden? And what type of things…

About an hour a day. Usually take a walk through to feed the chickens, throw the ball to my dog, Pepper, and hang with the kids.

If money were no object what would you add or do differently?

I would feel less guilt. lol  Dang if my kids don’t eat a lot of beans and rice….

Do you have garden wisdom’ to share? 

Nope. Just get out and experiment. If I have to convince you to garden, then your heart isn’t in it. You’ll know when the time is right.

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Describe where you most often sit in your garden or looking out at your garden.

The back porch. I invite everyone to just come and sit. It’s very relaxing. The mixed border is before you, giving you an opportunity to watch the wildlife.

See you at Helen’s Haven!

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Enjoy – living the  EntwinedLife

Jayme B

NC Certified Environmental Educator

Garden Conservancy Regional Representative

JC Raulston Arboretum Volunteer