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???)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Seed Libraries and More from Heirloom Gardener

Our friend and PAR Davies capitaine, Dianne (Dianne's Journey) turned me on to a great niche magazine called Heirloom Gardener.  She loaned me two issues and I loved them.  So when I was buying reading material for a recent road trip and I saw the Fall 2012 issue, I had to get it.  It provided several hours of fantasy time for me!

All of the articles were interesting:

  • Antique Apples:  don't you wish that MAMG could have a teaching orchard?
  • Nanticoke Maycocks: what?  It's the story of the revival of an almost extinct family of Native American summer squashes
  • The Great Moschata:  did you know that what's in that can of Libby's Pumpkin Pie Filling is not really pumpkin?
  • Homemade Organic Pest Control:  note to Dianne, there's a recipe that's supposed to repel cabbage worms
  • The Mystique of Heirloom Dalias:  with gorgeous photos
I could go on and on.  But I want to talk about one more article that really piqued my interest.  It's all about the seed library movement.  Never heard of it, never thought about it, but it makes so much sense.  The idea is to build a collection of heirloom seeds, then let people "check them out."  Some groups sell the seeds, others give them away with the proviso that the borrower has to return the seeds, with interest, after their harvest.  

Wouldn't this make a great project for MAMG?  A great collaboration with Grow Memphis and other local community garden groups?  There's a Seed Saver's Toolkit and lots of information at  

Leave a comment if you're interested and we'll talk.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bad tree, bad tree!

The National Association of Realtors has put together a slideshow of 11 Trees You Should Never Plant in Your Yard.  I've had personal experience with a few of them, and I bet you have, too.

Bradford Pear

Like everyone else in the Mid-South, I planted Bradford Pears back in the early 90's.  That was at a previous house, but I don't think any of them are there today.  The Walnut Grove/I240 interchange is beautiful (or was before the construction) in the spring and fall, but it's fleeting and short-lived.

Black Walnut

The black walnut tree out at PAR Davies could just as easily be pictured here.  We've had to work around that monster for four years.  The raised beds helped, but we're constantly trolling for dropped walnuts.  Yuk.

Green Ash

I wish I had a picture of the Green Ash that was in the backyard of another house I owned years ago.  It was magnificent.  The Green Ash is on this list because it's being attacked by the Emerald Ash Borer, making its longevity questionable.  So sad.

There are some trees on the list that we don't grow in the Mid-South, for example, the Quaking Aspen. Then there are some that aren't on the list, but should be.  I would add River Birch and Sweet Gum.

What would you add?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Japanese Maples in the Mid-South

Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Crimson Queen'
For magnificent color, delicate foliage, dramatic form, and adaptability, Japanese maples can’t be surpassed. One of the best adapted small trees to our area, they excel in specimen, accent, border, and mass plantings. They do well in containers and are also valued as bonsai. With proper drainage and aeration, they majestically frame water features. Their shallow root system makes them well suited for rock gardens. Michael  Dirr says Japanese maples lend “an artistic and aristocratic touch” to the landscape.

Our slightly acid soil, so beneficial to azaleas, provides an excellent culture for Japanese maples. Michael Dirr reports that he has been “amazed at Japanese maple performance in zones 7 and 8.”  Many perform well in less than perfect soil, but plant Japanese maples in good organic matter with excellent drainage. Over- fertilizing is detrimental. For the best coloration, plant red cultivars in dappled shade. Deep shade will reduce red coloration while too much sun will burn foliage. Green cultivars can take more sun. Morning sun with protection from harsh afternoon sun is preferable. Since Japanese maples have a shallow root system, mulch (1 to 11/2”) around the root zone to protect roots from weed & grass root competition. Mulching also provides protection from water loss in the summer & from root damage in the winter. Water requirements are moderate, but be sure to provide adequate water in drought periods.

There are thousands of Japanese maple cultivars. According to J. D. Vertrees, the majority of cultivars are from Acer palmatum. Other cultivars come from Acer japonicum.  Still other Acer species are classified as ‘Maples from Japan.” The classification of Japanese maples can be, as Michael Dirr  points out,  “a taxonomic nightmare.” Two resources that I have used and recommend are:  

Japanese Maples: The Complete Guide to Selection and Cultivation, Fourth Edition, J. D. Vertrees and Peter Gregory 

Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Sixth Edition (revised), Michael Dirr

Below are three (of the many) Japanese maples that flourish in the Memphis area.  

Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku'
Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’ :  During winter, the coral bark of the ‘Sango kuki’ provides striking color accent. ‘Sango kuki’ means “coral tower.” The opposite simple bright green leaves have five or seven lobes. Leaves are up to 5 cm long & 6 cm. wide. In the spring leaves have a reddish margin that fades into light green by the summer. Fall foliage has bright yellow with apricot accents. Maximum height is 35 ft, with maximum width 20 ft.

Acer japonicum f. Acontifolium 'Dancing Peacock'
 Acer japonicum f. Acontifolium ‘Dancing Peacock’:  Prized for its striking scarlet tones in autumn, this japonicum cultivar has deeply incised, multi-divided leaves with 11 to 13 sharply toothed lobes. The foliage is often described as fern-like.  Maroon red samaras compliment the dazzling red foliage. Reddish petioles intensify the colors.  During the summer the 3 to 6” deep green leaves adorn sturdy horizontal branches. With a strong upright multi-branching habit, this round topped tree can reach 16 ft.

Acer palmatum f. dissectum
Acer palmatum f. dissectum: This graceful lace-leaf variety located in the area SE of the red bridge in MBG’s Japanese Garden is one of my favorite trees to photograph. During the fall, its 7, 9, or 11 lobed finely cut leaves turn brilliant crimson. In contrast to the dramatic red foliage, the strong twisted dark trunk and branches provide an elegant natural sculpture. The f. dissectum trees reach up to 15 ft. and can live for a 100 years.

Jan Castillo
MG '05

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Quilts At Davies Manor

I normally don't post on Saturday, but I just had to give you some incentive to go to Hillwood at Davies Plantation today or tomorrow for the Quilt & Fiber Show.  I went yesterday and wow.  I'm a needleworker, so I can appreciate the time, effort, and imagination that go into these quilts.  But even if you can't relate to all that, you can certainly appreciate the sheer beauty.  Here are some of my favorites:

Love the shading from light to dark

Naturally, since I'm a gardener

In the Fairy Tales competition
Blocks were embroidered, then quilted

A close-up of the embroidered block
Don't you love the colors and the way the puzzle pieces make another design?
In the prestigious Hoffman Competition - it sparkles, too!

This is probably my very favorite.  Completely hand pieced and hand quilted.  Unbelievable.
Celtic Quilt
And since everything always circles around to chickens...

Photos don't do justice - get yourself out there and see these works of art in person.  And while you're there, walk around to the back of the Manor and see the PAR Davies garden.  Guides are on duty.  The show is open from 10-4 today and from 1-4 on Sunday.  A link to a map is here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

PAR Davies Update 10-30-12

Note:  Kay McAdams, who has been the PAR Davies leader since inception, has "retired" to focus on family concerns.  Dianne Parks (yes, our very own from Dianne's Journey) has stepped into those ginormous shoes.  Kay, thank you for everything you've done over the past four (?) years.  It's too much to even think about and our thanks are feeble in comparison.  Dianne, welcome!  We know you'll do great.

Also note:  We focus on PAR Davies in this blog because PAR CVG (Collierville Victory Garden) has its own site run by the incomparable Carl Wayne Hardeman.  We encourage you to subscribe to that blog as well.  At this time the PAR garden at Shelby Farms doesn't have a regular reporter.

Noto bene (that's Latin for "Note Well!"):  Total pounds of food contributed to local food banks and shelters from our three PAR gardens, to date, is 

9,136  !!!!

And now, for Dianne's first report:

Virginia in the experimental bed harvesting curly red lettuce

Hi everyone….what an enjoyable time harvesting so many veggies. Our workers were Virginia and Bob Vierkandt, Bob Hathaway, Tay Chaffin, Suzanne (and Eli) Allen, GA Crosby, Janet Futrell, Jackie Mahon, Marta St. John, Cathy Cuenin and myself. We harvested 34 lbs today, which included radishes, butter beans, lots of different lettuces, hot peppers, cabbage, turnip greens, kale and herbs. GA brought some turnips from his garden, and all was taken to the women's shelter. The last of the strawberry runners were transplanted and all of the strawberries were mulched with straw. We could actually expect a few quarts of strawberries next year with all the new transplants. Virginia checked for cabbage worms and sprayed again, but they were disappearing after last week's spraying. We just harvested 3 heads of cabbage, but more will be ready next week. 

Cabbages will be ready next week

We pulled up some romaine heads and cut a lot of the different varieties of leaf lettuce. The last of the radishes were pulled. Bob had pulled most of the pole beans up and put in the compost, and the rest of the fence was cleaned off today, in addition to some general weeding.

GA and Cathy harvesting 7-Top turnip greens

We will continue to plant the garlic. Bob is going to start gathering leaves from the grounds for us to shred. We discussed gardening 'under cover' this winter. Sharon and Russ volunteered to start some Baby Romaine seedlings. We could cover the big leaf lettuce bed and see if we can keep this from freezing, in addition to trying some direct seeding of carrots and mustard greens just to see if they would emerge under cover. Bob will check the barn to see if we have what we need for this. This is a big experiment. I feel good that we are trying it, rather than continuing to talk about doing it and wondering if it will work!! We are not putting in huge plantings, so not much will be lost if it all freezes.

Eli Allen (aka PAR DOG) harvesting romaine

The garden will be open this Saturday from 10 to 4 during the Quilt Show at Hillwood. Today several signed up to be tour guides: Bob Hathaway, Jackie Mahon, Marta St. John, Janet Futrell and Tay Chaffin. I will be at Hillwood and encourage people to check out our beautiful fall crops.

'Til next week.