June 6

Back again with a short tour of what’s blooming this spring. Consider this a part II of Roses, Chickens & Bees. 2017 will be our third season here (we arrived in mid April, 2015), and we’ve certainly had, and continue to experience, our share of struggle as we fix up this home.

Besides the garden, we’re also in the throes of renovating a home which was left to it’s own devices for decades and that has drained us completely in every sense. I don’t really share any of the interior house reno work because, mainly, it isn’t finished. But also, we’re doing all of it ourselves and I guess there is that level of self-consciousness of putting something like that out there on the interwebs.

Needless to say, we reached a breaking point not long ago and decided that once the chickens and bees were safely installed, we would dial things back. How do you think that’s working out? 😉

You know me, I like to keep it real, sharing both the good and the bad. Truthfully, we’ve experienced challenges like no other garden I’ve ever cultivated. In case misery loves company, and you’re struggling with your own garden headaches, here are mine in hopes it makes you feel a little less alone. It’s rough here. Many days, it feels like we’ll never get ahead of it. For starters, the soil is very, very poor. That sounds surprising since we’re in the woods, right? Well, at some point, the topsoil on our property was scraped away. We think it was when some of the houses around us were getting built.

Beneath the thin layer of forest soil lies red clay and under that, sand. What that means is we are working with extremely nutrient poor soil that drains very quickly and with an acidic pH of about 4.5. Nothing grows in it except invasive plants and poison ivy. Also, somewhere in this home’s history, the tenants buried their garbage. This was not uncommon “back in the day” but means that large pieces of broken glass are constantly just emerging, especially after a rain, which I’m sure you can imagine is very dangerous!

I mentioned invasives. Well, we continue to battle the dread Japanese Knotweed but there are others, like non-native honeysuckle and bittersweet and my current nemesis, the “air potato” vine which is everywhere and strangles the plants around it. You can literally watch it grow about a foot a day. There are multiflora roses, too, but honestly they are the least of my worries! We talk about the work that needs to be done on this property all the time and try and tell ourselves to ignore it until we can just bring someone in to help us. But it’s hard to not see it, you know?

One of the downsides of living in the woods are insects and their larvae. We have them in abundance. They drop out of the trees! I’ve never seen such a variety and they all want to eat my roses and our house. The subterranean termites have been an expensive thorn in our side since we first moved in. They’re great for all the woodpeckers in the woods but not so fantastic for homes. Thankfully, the chickens are starting to pick up the slack around the perimeter. (I watched Bonbon snatch the biggest centipede and run through the yard being chased by the other two. It was hilarious, gross and totally encouraging.)

Last, the disease pressures on our roses which we are experiencing in a whole new way since we live at an elevation: warm days/cool nights=fungus heaven. Just the other day, I dug up and discarded about 7 roses and I know that there will be more this summer. Some days I think, I’ll just grow species and hybrid rugosas! In fact, I’ve been building my collection of rugosas so that when one weak rose gets removed, boom, I drop in the rugosa replacement. (Because I know I’ll get asked, at this stage, I am not worried about rose sickness as they are all so young and not well established. The soil also gets replenished with each transition.)

In bee news, one of our Warré hives swarmed and I was unable to lure them into a bait hive. It was surprising and frustrating, but in retrospect, not really. With Langs, you control the possibility of swarms through various methods. With Warré, your method of “control” is to nadir (add) empty boxes to give them room to build comb, which we did, in plenty of time. However, we had a strong queen and the bees’ population was just exploding in growth. We think that even with the room to expand, they felt the need to split. Indeed, it was the first sunny day after a long bout of rain, which is often when things like that get moving, or so I’ve read. Swarming is natural and healthy for bees (think of it like giving birth) and the point with Warré hives is to let them do what they need to do to be well. It was discouraging, and if we’re being honest still kind of is, to see half my colony fly away, but also tells me they were strong and healthy and that’s the way it goes sometimes. The remaining bees in that hive are doing just fine, btw.

And that is a summary of what’s been going on here this spring! A-little-bit awesome, a-lot-a-bit challenging. But all of it part of the journey. All of this is to say, just remember, if you’re dealing with something insanely frustrating as you build your garden, you are not alone. I’m fighting the good fight with you and it will all be worth it!

Anyways, I hope you enjoy the photo tour! Please feel free to ask questions about any of the plants you’re seeing. Side note: I am really enjoying our red roses (the darker the better) aesthetically but also because they discourage thrips! I can’t wait to finish the new borders so I can tuck in a few more.

About those borders, you might have seen in my IG stories that they were widened a bit more but we had to stop when we ran out of compost! 18 yards sounds like a lot but it isn’t really. I’m going to be hunting down some manure this spring from a local farm.

You may also have seen that we began work on building steps up through the rockery. This is going to make such a difference in our daily lives as we trudge up there several times every day. I also have this fantasy of inviting members from our rose society to our home for an open garden in spring of 2018 so things like steps and paths are going to be crucial.

Speaking of open gardens, did you see the videos and photos I posted of the tours we went on in Asheville last weekend? So inspiring! I love taking peeks into what other people are doing in their gardens and you know what’s funny? When we came home, we looked around our own yard with fresh eyes and were happy with it. Maybe because it was ours.

How gorgeous are these poppies we saw in an Asheville garden? As I shop for plants to continue filling it out, I have been looking more and more to those that are totally self-sufficient. If they reseed themselves, added bonus.  It was a reminder that as much as I love my Lauren’s Grape, I want to up my poppy game for next year.

Next year… only 6 months away. Slow down, 2017! How strange: we’re stacking and storing firewood already but I still haven’t finished mulching the borders and planting out the containers and raised beds! Maybe Hermione could lend me her time turner.

And that’s all for now! Tell me what’s new in your garden… What kinds of challenges are you facing this spring? Anything you’re really proud of? Love hearing from all you other gardeners out there!



12 thoughts on “June 6

  1. Frustrations or no, your plants are gorgeous!

    I am now in my second year of slowly digging out my boyfriend’s front lawn and creating a cottage garden. The rabbits in his neighborhood are relentless, so almost everything in the yard has a cage around it right now and it looks like some sort of avant-garde sculpture installation. Ha.

    1. Haha! That’s too funny! Yup, I know that feeling…we have caged off many of our plants in the courtyard garden so the chickens can’t get to them. I’m going to tell people it’s art. 😉

      Sending best wishes for the cottage garden…all the hard work will pay off. It’s going to be amazing before you know it!

  2. Wow, what is that first clematis shot? The little red-purple ones? I really like those.

    I can vouch that the Champagne Bubbles icelandic poppy seedlings are great. I found them on Floret, which is just eye candy forever. 🙂

    1. Thank you for the tip on the champagne bubbles! I’ve grown them before, but never from seed. Must try that next spring. 🙂

      Oh and the clematis is called Abilene. It’s a real good one!

  3. I’m so glad you can take moments to capture the beauty along with the challenges of your garden (and share them with us!)– just gorgeous photos. Those poppies! The adorable chickens! I have a newbie (started this year) townhouse garden with five roses and am scared we might have midge! Been reading your older posts and put in some nematodes… wish I knew for sure! Compared to that the thrips and hungry rabbits (and something else that keeps nibbling rosebuds?) don’t seem so bad!!

    LOVE your red roses. Do you have a list of favorite reds? I see Basye’s Purple and Tuscany Superb up there? And I hadn’t ever thought of Munstead Wood until I found this blog with photo after stunning photo! I’ve been wanting to add some darker reds to our pink-and-white-so-far garden… Benjamin Britten I think would be too bold, but SO gorgeous in the photos! Maybe Tuscany or your Basye’s Purple! Saw The Squire at a local rose garden and was BLOWN away– just completely stunning rose (though on a not super attractive-looking bush.) One spot I’d like to plunk a red in doesn’t get much sun– 3-4 hours, but hot mid-day sun.

    Do you do garden consultations? I wish we could download your rosarian brain! Thank you so much again for the delight of this blog!

    1. Hello Claire! Thank you for your kind comment! I would be happy to take a look at any photos you have of your roses for evidence of midge damage. You can email them to hedgerowrose@gmail.com Try to send me photos of the “burned” looking new growth/buds. When you peel back the calyx are you seeing teeny tiny white larvae?

      OK on to happier things. 😉 I do have a red rose suggestion for you. See if you can get the Kordes rose ‘Dark Desire’ I think Roses Unlimited carries it and if you call them they might have some left from the season. This rose hits all the marks: fragrant, disease resistant, gorgeous coloring, long vase life. The only downsides are it’s very prickly (if that bothers you) and I find the growth habit can be a little strange. The flowers make up for it. Definitely do try Munstead Wood, too, it’s just a stunner and makes a great container rose! As for your sun issue, 3-4 hours won’t be enough for a rose to thrive and bloom well. If you can find a spot that gets morning sun (at least 4-5 hours) and shade in the afternoon, that might work for some!

      I don’t do consultations, unless you count this blog, but I’m so tickled you asked! 😉 Are you in the Asheville area? Cinthia Milner at BB Barns does do garden consult work.

      Thanks again and have a wonderful week!

  4. Thanks for sharing your updates – as mentioned before above, despite the challenges your garden looks incredible! I’m so sorry to hear about your soil situation, my heart kind of sank for you when I read that because that makes everything hard. The red Carolina clay is a pain to garden in, in so many ways! The way you are feeding your soil, removing invasives and cleaning up your property – your soil will be tip top in no time! I can vouch for your farm manure idea (and good compost of course!) – I did the same thing in our garden and the manure (and compost) quickly helps the soil to improve. Hope you guys can catch a break this weekend to enjoy all the fruits of your labor!

    1. Thank you Cole! Still on the hunt for the right compost. I think I found someone locally with composted cow manure so I hope that works out. (This is one of the many times I wish I had a truck/trailer.) Your encouragement has been such a help to me! I read your comments and they really lift me up…I know you know what it’s like to build a new garden and all the hard work that goes into it. Your photos you share on Instagram are just beautiful. 😀

  5. I think the one of the coolest things here is that you came home and loved your garden.

    Sometimes the work of it seems too much, but for those of us on the outside looking on, the results are just beautiful. Who knew a home in the woods would be so much work? But sharing what you are doing is helping so many people.

    I am cheering for your hens to eat all the bugs, and if you find Hermione’s time turner, share please!

    We just finished digging out a drainage ditch, putting in pipes, building a drainage basin at the end of it lined with BIG rocks in the side of our yard. Been putting it off for years, but one of the side gardens has slowly been sliding into it, plus getting over it has been terrible. Of course, we had to do it in the hottest days of the year. But, now that it is done (and the grass is planted over the pipe) it was worth it.

    Perhaps that is the lesson of gardens. You pay a price, but the results are worth it.

    1. My goodness that project you described sounds MAJOR. I definitely know what that’s like having drainage issues in your yard! But I hear ya, you need to put in the work initially to get those long term benefits. Your garden is looking so beautiful and I know how hard that was to get it that way because I remember what it looked like when you first moved in! 😀

  6. Even with all the soil, fungus, bug, nutrient, etc. problems, your roses are spectacular. Your poppies are gorgeous and your chickens and bees seem to be happy in their new homes. My ongoing struggle is the soil. Like you, I thought this piece of forest land would be ideal for gardening, but it is rock hard, dense, clay. And, there are so many wild, multiflora roses along the roadsides that are pretty to look at, but keep me worried about rose rosette disease. There is a huge one on my road, but I think it’s on someone’s property, so I can’t do anything about it except keep an eye out for weird growth. Roses do have their challenges. And, rewards!

    1. Thank you Andrea! Getting the roses where I would want them to be has been a real challenge but like you said, it has it’s rewards. I feel your pain about the bad soil! The name of the game around here has been raised beds wherever possible. 😉

      Sooooo, multiflora and rosette. The forest we live in is completely engulfed in multiflora roses (among other things.) I attended a great talk about RRV and learned that physical barriers can actually work since the mite floats in on the air. Is it possible to encircle your garden with a tall fence, shrubs, etc? Just a thought…

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