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My new red coneflower August 5, 2012

Posted by Jenny in gardening, home, nature.
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It starts out blooming orange, then turns reddish-orange, then goes solid red and weirdly fluffy. This is the middle stage.

It was an impulse buy at the plant nursery. I’m not usually into strange hybrids—I’d rather have plants that are close to what you see in the wild. But this was just too interesting to pass up.

The blossom at the top is the one furthest along.

The photo shows the blooms in different stages of their progression. What’s really strange is how the blossom not only changes color but changes texture into this oddball fluffy concoction. I must say, it looks a bit foofy—what I would call a “poodle plant,” like double peonies or double clematis, all ruffly and complicated. To some gardeners, this is the height of desirability. Like I said, not really my style, but I had to admire its weirdness.

I see from a little googling that several red echinacea hybrids are on the market now. We have gone from the purple coneflower, which is a genuine prairie plant, to white coneflower, and now to red. The coneflower has always had the tendency to morph through darker shades of color as the blooms mature. This hybrid takes that tendency and goes to town with it.

You can see from the photos that I am a “shaggy” gardener, or whatever the opposite of “manicured” is. My coneflowers are growing out of the middle of a patch of wild violets, which many people would consider to be weeds and pull up by the roots.

But it is wonderful to stroll outside after a refreshing rainshower and see what the garden is doing. My red bee balm has come and almost gone, so it is nice to have something else red in the garden. The bee balm is my hummingbird plant, and the resident hummingbird is still hanging around. The coneflower doesn’t have the tubular shape the hummingbird prefers, but hummingbirds do love red flowers.

I am growing two eggplants! June 25, 2010

Posted by Jenny in gardening, memoir, Uncategorized.
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I am inordinately proud of these.

What is it about the eggplants, out of all of the vegetables I am growing this summer? I really don’t know. Perhaps it’s that the eggplant foliage suffered a vicious assault from an army of tiny hardshelled black beetles earlier in the season. I belatedly doused them with pyrethrum. I didn’t expect that the plants would have any particular inclination to do anything for me after that. But I discovered one eggplant a week ago, and then today, I noticed the other one.

Here is my vegetable plot.

I have very little experience growing vegetables, having lived surrounded by shade for the past 16 years. I tended to my shade-tolerant perennials and grew a few tomatoes on the deck. In March I moved into my current abode in Asheville, and learned that my landlady and her husband had plans for a large vegetable garden in the ample space behind my house. Their plan was to do a combination of the traditional rows of vegetables and the “Square Foot Gardening” (SFG) system popularized by Mel Bartholomew. I was under no obligation to participate, but I felt this was an opportunity I could not let pass by.

I never would have had the ambition or energy to do the tremendous amount of work involved in getting this project started. Walt, Gordon, and Ralph did a lot of roto-tilling and building of the SFG boxes. Peggy, Claudia, Resheda, and Debbie advised on the planting and the irrigation, and once the beds and rows were established, I saw them going continuously up and down the hill and doing an admirable amount of planting. After a while, I got my act together and planted tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, sage, onions, chives, peppers, and the potatoes that Peggy generously gave me.

Onions, basil, peppers, and some zinnias I threw in for color

Peggy and Walt constructed a very professional-looking SFG space with thin PVC piping.

PVC piping in foreground, looking down one of the rows over a lot of squash

Walt was the mastermind behind our rain collection and irrigation system. This involved a hell of a lot of PVC pipes, valves, hoses, and barrels. We collect rainwater off my roof at the end of my porch.

The green rain barrels are at the end of the porch

Water collected in the barrels is pumped up periodically to a giant cube-shaped tank at the top of the garden. One of the outflow hoses goes to a soaker hose system and the other is for hand-watering.

The magnificent water tank

With very little effort on my part, I have become part of a flourishing neighborhood garden.

The row of tomatoes is irrigated under the black plastic

Thanks to Claudia, we even have beehives, which are protected from possible ursine invasion by an electric fence.

Birdbath in the foreground, beehives in the background

I am not sure that Mel, of the SFG system, has the answers to everything, but he seems like a benevolent presence hovering in the background.