Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Tables

I wish you could have been at the Master Gardeners' holiday party last night.  We had great food, great fellowship, and a great table decoration competition.  It's so much fun to get to socialize with the spouses of our members, too.  Several people were shocked to learn that my dear husband actually exists!

Here are a couple of photos of the tables that Julie sent me.  Neither of these was a winner, can you imagine?

Here's hoping that we all have joyful holidays, safe travels, and time for family and friends.  I'm going to take off from posting until after the new year, so see you then!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lifelong Learning at Meeman

Dorothy C. King Hall - the Meeman Center's home

Because it's not all about gardening (gasp!), I want to tell you about a wonderful community of learners in Memphis.  The Meeman Center for Lifelong Learning, across from the Rhodes College campus on University, is one of those places that quickly becomes a second home for anyone interested in continuing their education.

The classes are small and participation is encouraged, but not required.  The format for most of the classes is this:  three to eight weekly sessions, from 5:30 to 7:30 with a break (and wonderful refreshments provided by the Meeman.)  An instructor from the Rhodes academic staff leads each class, so you get the advantage of some of the best minds in their fields.

The courses are varied, as you would expect from a liberal arts university, so there's sure to be something that will pique your interest.  Most of us Meemanites have the difficult problem of narrowing our choices!  After all, there are only so many days in the week!

The Spring 2013 course schedule is online now.  You can also request a free catalog at this link. Take a minute and peruse the classes and consider joining one.  I guarantee you'll be so glad you did.

Here are some of the classes I'm interested in this semester:

Lore of Literature
Constitutional Controversies
As You Like It
Hilary Mantel
Anna Karenina
Search for Values

So many good opportunities, so little time!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Quilt Squares

I promised to post pictures of the quilt squares that my neighbors in North Carolina have made and put on their houses.  But when I went back through my photos, I discovered that they were not good enough to give you a good picture (as it were.)  We're going there for Christmas, so I'll take some better  photos and post them later.

Are you familiar with quilt squares?  They're large paintings of quilt motifs that appear on barns in rural areas of the country.  North Carolina has several quilt trails and it's fun to drive through the countryside and locate them.  Middle Tennessee has one, as does the Upper Cumberland and East Tennessee.  Arkansas has a different version, with full size quilts photographically applied to vinyl and mounted on the sides of buildings.  I couldn't find one in West Tennessee - what's up with that?

I made a quilt square for my house there.  You can read about it here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

It hasn't been such a good week.  I have a bad cold, I had to miss a party I was really looking forward to, and the Christmas cards I ordered have gone into deliveryland limbo.  So forgive me for slacking off a little.  I hope to do better next week.

Here's a article from the great folks at America's Test Kitchen about using dried herbs.  Since fresh herbs from my new bed are still just a glimmer in my eye, this will help tide me over!

Monday, December 10, 2012


The Crossnore Labyrinth (source)

Did you read Felder Rushing's column on Friday?  I love labyrinths.  There's a large one in Crossnore, NC that I visited one day with a group of my Blowing Rock neighbors.  We made a day of the trip and viewed the Ben Long fresco, visited the gorgeous Presbyterian church, the weaving rooms at Crossnore, and the shops there.  We had lunch and we walked the labyrinth on the grounds of the Crossnore School.  (This is a wonderful residential school for children in need - read about it here.)  Our special purpose in walking the labyrinth was to hold up our friend, Debbie, who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer at the time.  The good news is that Debbie recovered and her health is fine.  Ironically, one of our group, Martha, died six months later from breast cancer that was diagnosed too late.

Martha was a great lady, a prolific and thoughtful reader, a fabulous gardener, art collector, and hostess.  I still miss her.  Remembering the wonderful day we had at Crossnore, I located a small clearing on my property and determined to make a labyrinth in her memory.

For Christmas that year I asked for a labyrinth design from The Labyrinth Company. (You can certainly lay one out by yourself; I just found this to be much easier, though more expensive.)  I chose the Mini ClassicalTM from their Garden TemplatesTM designs.

Mini Classical
I had a small area and, after some clearing, this one fit perfectly!  We leveled the area as best we could (lots of roots!) and spread a layer of builders sand.

Then we laid out the template.

Each of the sheets is marked with its position and the labyrinth lines are printed on.  You basically match up the lines and secure the sheets, which are landscape fabric, to the ground with u-shaped pins.
Then you start laying whatever border material you've chosen.  We decided on stacked stone.

This clearing is in the midst of pine trees and rhododendron, so I just went to Lowe's and bought several bales of pine straw for path cover.  Here are my handyman, Sherman, and his helper laying the straw.

And here it is, finished:

We had a dedication ceremony and invited our neighbors.  I had a sign made up for "Martha's Walk" and we took a few moments to remember and reminisce about her.

The labyrinth is at the back of our property and is used by our friends and neighbors for quiet meditation.  Sherman built some steps from the street on that side so that folks can come enjoy the quiet without walking through the backyard, which I felt might make some people uncomfortable.

Every time we're in Blowing Rock, I spend time in the labyrinth.  I especially like to be there early in the morning as the sun comes up.  It fills my heart.

I have to tell you a funny story about Sherman.  He has a gravelly voice and a slow, mountain drawl.  As we left the stone company after choosing the stone, he said (and I wish you could hear this), "Suzanne, you need to save your receipts so you can deduct this on your income taxes."  Ever being the CPA, I replied, "No, Sherman, this is a personal item.  I can't deduct it."  He thought for a minute, then said, "Then give them receipts to me - I'll use 'em!"

Where are your favorite labyrinths?  Let me know in the comments.  In my next post, I'll tell you about my neighborhood's quilt squares!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Garden Mums

I admit it:  every year I plant pretty mums in the fall and every year about this time I pull them up and pitch them in the trash.  But this year, I want to try to keep them.  What to do?

My research reveals that it seems pretty simple.  Just cut the plants to ground level and cover with a mulch of leaves until spring.  Lord knows I have enough leaves, except I think I'm going to use mulch for aesthetics.

The only thing is, I'm cautioned to plant "garden mums," not "pot mums."  Well, those labels are long gone!  So we'll just have to wait and see.

Have you done anything else?  Were you successful?

So this is funny.  While I was doing this cutting back, I saw this wonderful leaf.  Wow, I said, that's perfect.  So I snapped this photo.  Then I decided to take it inside and put it on my kitchen window and discovered - it's silk!  It must have fallen off of my fall door decoration!  No wonder it was perfect.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Herb Bed Reveal

Well, good morning.  Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday.  I meant to post this on Monday, but Eli (aka PAR-Dog) got very ill last Friday night and we've been dealing with him every since.  The good news is that he (finally) passed a small piece of plastic that he chewed off on one of his toys and he seems to be back to normal.  But he gave us quite a scare.

Here's the big reveal for the herb bed that my neighbor, Dotsie, and I recently built!  We live next door to each other in a zero lot-line community.  The south side of my house is next to her driveway.  It's basically the only sunny part of our lots because of the wonderful mature trees we have.  Here's the before:

I discussed this idea here

Here's the sequence:

Shrubs removed

Prep work for brick border

Footings poured

The border completed

Ready for planting!
We prepared the bed using Dianne's raised bed method:  a layer of bagged garden soil, a layer of shredded leaves, a layer of shredded newspaper, a sprinkling of worm castings, topped with another layer of garden soil.  We'll let this set all winter, do a soil test in early spring, amend if necessary, then plant.

The shrub that we left in the center is a beautiful gardenia that we just couldn't bear to remove, it's so happy there!

Here is Dotsie's front door.  See how the new herb wall ties in with her existing brick borders?  The the variegated lirope is echoed in her beds...

...and in mine.

We're really looking forward to playing with our new herb bed!  Some spring lettuce may be in our future as well!

Let me know if you need any masonry work done.  We were very pleased with this gentleman.

Monday, November 19, 2012

PAR Davies Update 11-14-12

Hi Everyone!

A great day last Wednesday at the garden with Suzanne, Jamie, Bob, Carol, Cathy, GA, Susan, Nancy and myself. First we worked and then we relaxed by the fire and ate. We had a pretty good harvest day with 23 lbs total. We got lettuce, cabbage sprouts, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, cabbage and 'micro greens.' Nancy delivered all the produce to the women's shelter. The microgreens were a combination of different varieties of leaf lettuce and spinach. Next week there should be a lot more cabbage and broccoli to pick. We decided to harvest the small cabbage plants that were planted from seed because they wouldn't have time to head up. I've seen them sold at Easy Way before, so I thought it would be good to pick them before they froze.

Gorgeous microgreens!

We have covered two of our beds with floating row covers for winter growing. We have a bed of spinach recently planted that is emerging and a bed of green oak leaf type of lettuce that we have covered. We'd like to see if we can harvest these crops all winter. We have been talking about winter gardening for a while now, and this will be the test to see if it will work.

An experiment in winter gardening

We finished planting the garlic in the concrete block beds. The holes in the blocks have been planted full as well as the perimeter of each bed. The center of the bed is open to a later planting of another crop, perhaps carrots. The garlic should be ready to harvest in May or June. We have approximately 13 known varieties planted as well as a mixture of hardneck and softneck.

We should have no vampire problems going forward

The leaves that Bob had deposited outside the garden were raked up and added to the compost beds.

After all the work was done, we were treated to a warm fire that Bob had going, and we roasted hot dogs, and drank hot drinks. It was so nice to be warmed by the fire as we sat and chatted. We missed all of you who couldn't make it.

'Til next week,

Hot dog!

Friday, November 16, 2012

PAR Garden at Collierville in the News

Read about Collierville Victory Garden in today's Commercial Appeal.  MAMG is proud that this is one of our core projects.  We help fund this garden and our members provide hours of volunteer service.  7,000 lbs total to date donated to area food banks and shelters from our three PAR gardens!

David Budbill - A Long and Gracious Fall

We've enjoyed David Budbill's poetry before on this blog.  Here's another.  This poem was on the Writer's Almanac last Sunday, Veterans Day.  To hear the incomparable Garrison Keillor read the poem aloud, go here.

A Long and Gracious Fall
by David Budbill

A long and gracious fall this year.
The leaves are down. Gardens: emptied,
manured, tilled, smooth, and waiting.
Mower and tiller serviced and put away.

Smoker put away, as is the summer table.
Prayer flags, windsocks and their poles: down.
Twenty-foot homemade badminton poles,
peace flag at the top of one, store-bought net—
all down and put away for another year. No more
outdoor summer chores.

Fall planting — peonies and tiger lilies — done.
Summer flower stalks removed, beds mulched,
a blanket for the cold. Fall pruning done.

Woodshed roof hammered down and sealed again.
Cellar closed. Drive staked and flagged so the
snowplow knows where to go.

What else is there to do? Finally, for once, we are ready
for the snow. Ready now to come inside. Time now for
words and music, poems and shakuhachi. Time now
to light some incense, sit and stare at candlelight.

"A Long and Gracious Fall" by David Budbill, from Happy Life. © Copper Canyon Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

A shakuhachi is a traditional Japanese bamboo end-blown flute.  For a sample, John Kaizan Neptune playing Tsuru no Sugomori (The Nesting of Cranes), click here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Memphis in Autumn

What's your favorite time of the year?  Leading question, 'cause now I'm going to tell you mine:  it's autumn!  I love, love, love the colors.  The good news is, you don't have to go far to see perfect examples of the real colors of leaves.  You knew that, right?  These oranges, reds, yellows, bronzes and everything in between are the real colors.  They're there all along, just masked by the chlorophyll that reflects green.  Autumn is the time to get real.

Since this climbing hydrangea has NEVER bloomed,
it'd better do SOMETHING!

Crepe Myrtles in their fall glory

I think this is a maple, but maybe not

Japanese Maple

My dogwood that I considered removing, thanks Julie
Notice the construction going on beneath the dogwood?  It's the new herb bed!  More about that later.

My friend David sent this to me.  Gingkos are the best.
David's photo looks like the Regions Bank building on Poplar in East Memphis.  All of the other photos were taken within a half block of my house.

Post your favorite Memphis in Autumn photos on our Facebook page here.  We should just waller in it!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Penland School of Crafts

Penland meadow from the porch of the Dye Shed
This weekend I was at Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC.  Penland is an internationally known school where crafts makers of all ages and levels of experience have the opportunity to learn more about their own craft, or even try out a new one, under the instruction of the best artists in their field.

The Dye Shed

The major plus is what we call the "Penland Experience."  The workshops are eight-, two-, or one-week long; the studios are open 24/7; the dining room provides fantastic food; and the campus is tucked away and beautiful.  It's a total immersion experience:  art and artists all the time.  It's magic.

A hollyhock in front of the Dye Shed
Penland was started back in the 1920's by a woman named Lucy Morgan who wanted to preserve the craft of weaving that had been practiced by the women in this area for over a hundred years.  It evolved into a way for these women to earn an income as their fine woven items became known and sought after.  Over the years Penland has added classes in clay, books and paper, drawing and painting, iron, metals, glass, photography, printmaking and letterpress, wood, textiles, and other media.

 So what's this got to do with gardening, you say?  Well, two things.  First, the Penland campus is approximately 420 acres with over 50 buildings.  You can imagine the landscaping opportunities.  The school recently added a full-time gardener.  Her name is Bronwyn and she's full of ideas.  I got to see the new compost operation and it's amazing.  Only four months old and there are piles and piles.  There's plenty to feed it:  all the scraps from the dining hall, grass cut from the meadow, leaves in abundance.  They have found it impossible to separate the meat scraps from the vegetable ones, so they just throw everything in.  Quite an odor and the working pile is surrounded by a solar-powered electric fence to keep the bears out.  Wish I had taken a picture!

The second gardening related highlight from this weekend was visiting with Catharine Ellis, who is teaching a class called The Intersection of Weaving & Dyeing.  She showed us how the class was using plants from the Penland dye garden (!) to dye the threads that they then wove into beautiful scarves, wraps, hangings - whatever the student wants to do.  I learned that you have to use something called a "mordant" to set the dye.  In other words, you can't just dip something in, say, onion skins, and have it be colorfast through subsequent washings.  There are several mordants and each one of them reacts with the dye source differently.

The examples above had different mordants painted on the material in strips, then the whole cloth was dipped in the dye source.  (See how where there's no mordant the dye didn't take?)  I'm sorry I didn't take good notes about which mordants and dye sources were used (you'll have to take the class!)  So what they do is make of these test cloths to see what color they want for a particular project, then they dye the thread.  This class was in the Lily Loom House in a lovely light-filled room full of looms and dying equipment.  They even had some indigo in process!  Indigo is the only natural source of blue and it's difficult to extract and set.  Click on Catharine's name above and see her wonderful work.

Lily Loom House - see those wonderful windows on the second floor?
Just a few more images from Penland, where it's all art, all the time!

Most of the buildings have a hand-made marker

A wall in one of the bathrooms

Closeup of the wall

A set of flame-worked birds for sale in the Gallery

Oh, yes, check out the Gallery.  Fabulous.  I bought a scarf that you're going to dye for (get it???)