I saw these ollas displayed for sale at the North Carolina Botanical Garden yesterday. Bury the unglazed clay pot leaving about 2 inches of the neck exposed. Fill with water. Plant within 18 inches from the center of the olla (creating a 3 foot circle that will be irrigated by the olla). Tempting. Have you tried this technique?
On this sunny Sunday afternoon I am safe and dry while many parts of North Carolina and other southern states are reeling from wind and rain brought by Hurricane Matthew. There is vast flooding that is expected to increase as rivers swell. While many are saying this storm could have been a lot worse, it is heartbreaking to see images of streets and homes underwater, including in my hometown of St. Pauls.
For all of my life I have heard reverential tales of the force of Hurricane Hazel which in October 1954 hit North Carolina, the only category 4 hurricane to do so. (Matthew approached as Category 3 but was Category 1 when the eye passed the Cape Fear region around Wilmington). Yesterday around 4:30 pm Hurricane Matthew surpassed a record set by Hurricane Hazel when the tide gauge in downtown Wilmington rose to 8.21 feet. Hazel’s record of 8.15 feet which had held for 62 years was toppled.
We probably had 4 or 5 inches of rain here yesterday. The meditation circle was largely underwater during the day but the water has soaked in now. Zinnias were knocked down as were the native swamp sunflowers. I had watched the sunflowers swaying all afternoon, surprised to see them standing. They tend to fall over each autumn with or without a storm. Here is how they looked a few days ago.
Last Thursday my husband and I stopped by the Botanical Garden to see what was in bloom. Though I know many of you enjoy asters, I am not really a big fan; however, it was easy to appreciate this large planting in its prime.
Nearby golden flower heads danced in the gentle breeze.
And the pink muhly grass was looking splendid.
Since discovering the beauty of colchicum several years ago I have yet to plant my own, so it is lucky to live close to public gardens where someone thought to grow them.
Scenes from North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill yesterday.
I have always like pink muhly grass but how about this white form? Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘White Cloud’ (Hairgrass).
I think the darker yellow in the next photo is Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius). Not sure about the pale yellow flower.
My husband and I had the good fortune to host a quick visit from Christina and her husband this week and it was such a great experience.
The weather was more than a bit challenging, as we are in the middle of a serious heat wave. Maximum temperature records are flying out the window, including here in the Piedmont area where we live. The average temperature at this time of year is 85°F (29.4°C); however, yesterday was a sunny, hot, humid 100°F (37.7°C) day.
Our guests were real troopers as we tried to catch some of the garden highlights in this area. We started humbly with a look around pbmGarden. The meditation circle, Christina said, is what first drew her to my blog, so it was a treat to see her and her husband navigating the labyrinth.
Next up we toured Duke Gardens in Durham and though we did not cover all 55 acres, we managed to see quite a lot of the specialized gardens. Christina’s husband was quite interested in seeing North American birds and were able to spot American robin, red-bellied woodpecker, Eastern bluebird, brown thrasher, crow and blue jay, among others. An Eastern towhee was audible but never stepped out where we could spot it.
While cooling off at water’s edge we encountered a variety of ducks, watched a family of Canada geese and admired a stately Great Blue Heron. All the birds seemed eager to pose.
Across the water in the distance we could see a focal point of the Asiatic Arboretum, a red Japanese-style arched bridge, which we later crossed.
The White Garden showcased beautiful hydrangeas.
As time ran short we had to scrap plans for Niche Gardens, a retail nursery for native and unusual plants. But before it closed for the day we managed a brief stop at nearby North Carolina Botanical Garden, where we saw a sampling of milkweeds, ferns (including southern maidenhair), carnivorous plants and trumpet vines. We admired the enormous leaves of Magnolia macrophylla (Big-leaf Magnolia), a staff member explained to us about vining spinach that grows all summer and Christina was able to get a close-up look at a bee-covered Vitex angus-castus tree. Our bird list for the day grew to include American goldfinch and mourning dove.
There were a thousand more places I wanted to share and a thousand more things to say, but all too soon it was time to say good-bye. Thanks Christina for stopping in.
Late morning at North Carolina Botanical Garden.
Chamaelirium luteum (Fairywand)
Bunchflower Family – Melanthiaceae (formerly in Lilaceae)
eastern North America
Iris fulva (Copper Iris)
Iris Family – Iridaceae
eastern United States
To celebrate the first day of Spring yesterday, we went headed to nearby Durham. First we viewed a photography exhibit at the Nasher Museum of Art on the Duke campus and enjoyed lunch at the museum cafe. Next we went to see early spring flowers in the Italianate-styled terraces of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.
The beds here are planted with annuals and bulbs. Last year when we visited these gardens the tulips were just past their prime and this year we were early. Still there were many pleasures to behold whether looking close-up at the plants or taking in the long views.
The day was partly cloudy and I felt a bit cool, that is until we met a woman from Indiana who told us she had left home the previous day in 9°F. weather. She and her daughter were wondering the name of these eye-catching blooms. I had admired this plant earlier and was able to identify it as Anemone (Anemone coronaria ‘Lord Lieutenant’).
Anemone ‘Rosea’ (Windflower) was also striking.
At the bottom of the terraces is the fish pond, a favorite spot of small children and and grown-ups alike. To the right of the pond was a wonderful Witch-hazel.
Working our way back up the terraces, one planting I particularly admired was this mix of daffodils and orange tulips.
There were many Erysimum (Wallflowers) interspersed with tulips in the beds. Since most tulips were not open we will have to return to see the full effect. One combination of Erysimum with a salmon-pink Hyacinth was lovely.
Sweet William is an old-fashioned flower that I just love.
These were pretty flowers but I must have been distracted before locating the plant label. Anyone know what they are? [Update: Thanks to both Cathy and Malc for the quick ID of these. This is Bellis perennis, a perennial lawn daisy.]
I imagine it might be April before the Wisteria Pergoda at the top of the terraces blooms. Another reason to visit this garden again.
Our spring celebration continued last night at North Carolina Botanical Garden Director Peter White’s presentation of the natural history of Robert Frost’s poetry. Robert Frost visited Chapel Hill for many years to give readings in celebration of spring and walked the woods here. His knowledge of plants is evident in his poetry as White illustrated during his talk.
I turned my back on pines and never looked back. Living among loblolly pines for twenty-three years indeed was an experience. They were nice for the azaleas, but the deep scent of pines fallen in an ice storm and lying across the roof of the house is imprinted in my memory. The cracking sound they make when they break off is easy to conjure as well.
But during Darwin Day at the Botanical Gardens today the garden walk highlighted for a few minutes a different pine, the longleaf pine. Our tour guide today, Johnny Randall, Assistant Director for Natural Areas and Conservation Programs, led a large group into the Sandhills habitat and discussed how longleaf pines had adapted to withstand seasonal fires. The garden now does a controlled burn in this small educational area to approximate the natural fire regime. The smoke awakens the seeds. The bark can withstand fires up to about 120 degrees.
It is unlikely there will be pines in my current garden, but against the Carolina blue sky today the longleaf pines, the state tree of North Carolina, cast remarkable spherical shadows that were irresistible.