Friday, August 31, 2007

Biltmore Gardens - Walled Garden

In addition to the Conservatory, we also visited the walled garden of the Biltmore Estate last weekend. The walled garden is a formal garden comprised of four acres of roses, perennials, espaliered trees, and a beautiful grape arbor that spans half the length of the garden.

I was disappointed to see how badly the rose garden was struggling. Many of the roses had been cut down to the ground, and a lot of them had just been planted newly, probably to replace dead plants. It's no shock though, since the late Spring frost we endured in April probably damaged the roses badly, and the relentless drought we have been experiencing this Summer hasn't helped them in their recovery. I did not photograph the rose garden, because it was in such poor condition, and I didn't want to share my disappointment with others!

Despite how poorly the rest of the roses are doing, the two knock-out roses they have in the garden are thriving.

biltmore gardens

Look at the canes on these knock-out roses! They look more like tree trunks than rose canes.

biltmore gardens

Here is a view of part of the grape arbor. It is really large and difficult to photograph with one shot.

biltmore gardens

Here I am looking out from inside the arbor.

tammy biltmore gardens

Since the grapes were hit hard by the Spring frost, they had squash growing from the arbor. They were the biggest squash I have ever seen!

biltmore gardens

Here are some gourds growing on the top of the arbor.

biltmore gardens

Here is an espaliered tree, probably a pear tree. The espalier technique is done not only to save space, but also to improve the productivity of fruiting trees. Espaliered trees produce greater bounties of fruit, fruit earlier, and live longer than non-espaliered trees. I have been wanting to try this technique for myself!

biltmore gardens

The calla lilies are blooming late on the Biltmore grounds. I was surprised to see them in bloom this far into the Summer!

biltmore gardens

Here is a mass of beautiful pink flowers in the formal perennial garden. The garden designer seems to like doing masses of one cultivar rather than a mixture. It is quite a lovely spectacle, but I like a little more variety in my flower beds. I would have done a pink display of three or four different flowers of varying height to add some variety instead of hundreds of this one flower.

biltmore gardens

Here is a view of the formal perennial garden from inside the arbor. The garden designer seems to be in love with coleus and likes to do mass plantings of coleus with russian sage. This mixture is really not to my liking at all. The dense dark purple coleus just does not work with with the airy pastel greens and lavendars of the russian sage. The colors clash violently, and their weights don't match. The overall feeling is that the coleus is invading the russian sage, and it's going to win! Flowers in a grouping should work together to produce a harmonious feel, not work against each other in an attempt to gain the attention of the viewer.

biltmore gardens

The black-eyed susans were in full bloom. This flower never disappoints!

biltmore gardens

Ian peering from outside the grape arbor. I like the oval-shaped windows of the arbor.

ian biltmore gardens

In October the formal perennial beds will be filled with mums! I am really excited to see them. We bought a 12-month pass, so now we can visit the gardens whenever we want. For anyone who visits Biltmore 2 or more times a year, I really recommend that you purchase a pass. It's $40 plus the cost of your ticket, and it is really worth it!

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Carrot Complex

Look at my fat little carrots!


Do you think they have a complex about being so short and fat? Maybe they don't know they are strange looking since they have never seen a "regular" carrot. I'm being very careful not to bring any other carrots into the house until we eat all these fat little guys, because I don't want them to get a complex about their size - LOL!

These carrots were grown from Ferry Morse "Red Cored Chantenay 7317B" seed purchased from the Jesse Israel Garden Center at the Farmer's Market here in Asheville. This seed is specifically for "poor soil", and the packet indicates that the carrots perform well in heavy soils. "Regular" carrots require sandy soil as their tender roots are able to push through the light soil to become long and slender. I suspect my fatty little clay-loving carrots are so short because carrots don't have the strength to push through our heavy clay soil.

What these carrots lack in length, they make up for in girth, and they have a nice sweet flavor. I don't really like carrots, but even I recognize that these carrots have a good flavor. I bet they'll make a great stew!

I did try some "regular" carrots purchased from Park Seeds, and they completely fizzled out, so if you have clay soil, don't bother with the regular carrots.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Biltmore Garden - The Conservatory

We visited the Biltmore Estate this weekend and spent a lot of time in the gardens and conservatory. The conservatory is home to mostly tropical plants, many of which I do not know the names of, but I will share some pictures here and maybe someone else can shed some light on their names.

This is one of my favorites, so I will share it first. I love the chunky star-shaped bloom on this plant - I bet it tastes like a marshmallow - LOL! The soft lavendar color is a nice change from the bright reds and pinks of most tropical plants.

biltmore conservatory

Speaking of bright reds and pinks, here is a lovely tropical flower. It reminds me of a Hawaiian shirt print. I think it would make a great shirt or sundress, or it would look lovely tucked behind my ear.

biltmore conservatory

There are many iron-work benches located around the grounds of the Biltmore. I want to find a nice antique bench for myself, but I doubt I could afford this one!

tammy biltmore conservatory

A beautiful lily bloom. I like the focus on this picture.

biltmore conservatory

A flamingo topiary. There were two of these in the conservatory. I bet they were fun to make!

biltmore conservatory

A bee collecting pollen from an orchid. I think the pollen on his legs look like those horrible moon boots my mom made me wear when I was in 5th grade! Since the awful fashion of the 80's seems to be making a come-back, I guess this bee is styling!

biltmore conservatory

The bloom on this plant reminds me of a mobile, like those hanging over childrens' cribs. It was so delicate and intricate, and each time I look at the picture of it, I expect to see it start whirling around like a mobile.

biltmore conservatory

A view of the conservatory from outside. Can you tell how hot it was that day? I chose a bad day to wear my hot hair down!

tammy and ian biltmore gardens

Ian in an archway in the conservatory.

ian biltmore conservatory

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Limoncello Petunias

I bought a pack of Limoncello Petunias from Park's Seeds to grow along with Chaenarrhinum Summer Skies. I sowed the petunias indoors in March and they finally bloomed in June. They grow very slowly at first, but once they are blooming size, their growth rate speeds up drastically. The germination rate was very low, and the seeds I attempted to sow outdoors did not even pretend to sprout, so if you try these seeds, be sure to sow 3 to a peat pod and don't bother sowing outdoors.

My blooms are not quite the same color as Park Seeds shows. Mine have a greenish center instead of rich yellow as advertised. They have lived up to their blooming hype though, as they have bloomed repeatedly, and the plants are never bare.

limoncello petunia

Here they are 2 months after sowing.


The first blooms appeared 3 months after sowing.


Removing spent flowers will keep them in better bloom. I have not been so good about this, because petunias are surprisingly sticky, and I don't like to touch them!

limoncello petunia August 2007

I'm probably not going to sow my own petunias next year, because it was really disappointing. Out of an entire packet of 50 seeds, only 4 plants survived. Those are pretty poor statistics! I am torn though, because I read that a great location to place your tray of sown seeds for germination is on top of the refrigerator. I have been sowing mine in the "spare room." Maybe that room just doesn't offer the best environment for flower seeds. I am going to try the refrigerator method next year, and maybe I will toss a few flower seeds in there just for the fun of it. I guess we'll see what the "winter blues" causes me to purchase from the seed catalogue!

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Perennial Garden

We started a perennial garden late last year from plants we purchased for half off at Jesse Israel's. Yes, they actually put their plants on half off at the end of the year! The perennial garden centers around a purple and yellow color theme accomplished through use of hydrangeas and many varieties of perennials. I have been tinkering with the space all year trying to get the right combination of flowers in the right places, and I am finally happy with the results. It doesn't look as good digitally as it does in real life, but here are some pictures anyway.

View from the deck:

perennial garden 8 2007

Opposite view:

perennial garden 8 2007

I have already shared photos and information on the hydrangeas in this garden, so let's talk perennials. I planted a prairie petite lilac, coreopsis, artemesia, scabiosa, calla lilies, irises, baby's breath, baptisia, veronica, cone flower, catmint, pilgrim's sage, polemonium, obedient plant and centaurea montana.

I purchased the prairie petite lilac from Wayside Gardens last fall. I was VERY disappointed in the size of it, and it has not grown much since then. I was excited about this shrub, because I love the scent of lilacs, but I have no place to put a huge lilac bush. The prairie petite grows to only 4' x 4', so it will fit into the perennial garden very nicely ... if it ever grows. It is currently about 12" in height. I don't think it has grown since we bought it. Side note : I do not purchase from Wayside Gardens any more.

prairie petite lilac

When my niko blue hydrangea didn't make it through the winter, I decided to fill in its bare spot with some taller perennials instead of another hydrangea. I chose baptisia after falling in love with it in the Bluestone Perennial catalogue. Baptisia forms a bush-like habit reaching 3' x 3' in size at maturity. In late spring, it forms lovely blue lupine-like flowers that age into unique black pods. The pods are good for indoor flower arrangements and provide a nice winter snack for birds. Baptisia performs well in full sun or part shade and does not require much water. I planted mine in the back of the flower bed, which receives only 3 hours of sun a day, and they have done well. Baptisia does not appreciate being moved once established since it forms a long taproot, similar to that of a tree. Cutting the taproot cuts the plant's source of nourishment.


Veronica is a great plant to fill in here and there since it has beautiful foliage and lovely vertical flowers. I have a grouping of 4 of them in the garden. I like how the purple of the veronica contrasts with the yellow of the coreopsis to create interest. Veronica is drought-tolerant and blooms all summer long.

veronica 8 2007

Cone flower is a standard favorite around Asheville. Every garden I see as I drive around town is overflowing with it. I like it too, and since it seems to do well in this area, I had to add some to the garden. I decided on White Swan for this part of the garden since I could not find any in yellow, and the "purple" standard for cone flower is actually magenta. I have found it in a beautiful orange color, but it is priced a little too high for my taste. I don't like to pay more than $5 for a perennial! That doesn't seem like much, but when you are buying three of one plant, it adds up quickly.

white swan cone flower

My friend Chleone shared some flowers from her beautiful garden. Two of those are obedient plant and centaurea montana.

Obedient plant has a habit similar to Veronica, but it grows a bit taller and is quite invasive if not contained. I want to fill up this portion of the garden quickly, so I didn't contain the initial division. I'm sure I will regret that in a couple years! It seems to be pretty drought-tolerant and can withstand the part shade that it receives in the back of the perennial border. Once the hydrangeas reach full-size, I think this plant will be gorgeous peaking out from behind the big white poms of the Blushing Bride hydrangea.

lavendar obedient plant

The centaurea montana has grown very quickly since I received the division. I initially cut it back to the ground after planting, and it has not only grown back, but is getting ready to bloom. This plant has been very drought-tolerant and hardy. It is also invasive, but spreads via seed, so if you keep it dead-headed, you shouldn't have much problems with this plant.

centaurea montana

I have been disappointed with the calla lilies this year. I purchased three bulbs last May, and they bloomed beautifully. I dug them up and stored them over winter and replanted them in late spring. I was AMAZED at how many more I dug up than I had initially planted. The bulbs grew very quickly, and I had a couple blooms, but the blooms never turned yellow, just stayed green. I'm not sure what is going on here. I need to do some investigating!

calla lilies

The baby's breath has done nothing but creep along the floor of the garden. It may not actually be getting enough sun. I guess I'll see how it does next year.

baby's breath

I think I am satisfied with the positioning of everything in the garden for now. I am excited to see the plants spread and fill in the bare spaces. Perennial gardening certainly takes some patience!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I love Hydrangeas! It was not until I moved to the South that I was first introduced to these lovely shrubs. How did we live without them in Ohio? I think Ohio would have been a much more pleasant place with Hydrangeas.

Hydrangeas prefer early morning sun followed by afternoon shade. They do not like the late afternoon sun that causes their leaves to wilt, but with enough water, they can tolerate these conditions. Some hydrangeas are flexible in color and will bloom blue in acidic soil (add sulfur) and pink in alkaline soil (add lime). White hydrangeas always bloom white and green hydrangeas always bloom green.

We currently have five hydrangeas, all different species. Let me show you some of them!

I'll start with my favorite, because you might get bored with this long post, and I really want to share this one with you - the Endless Summer Blushing Bride. Check out that dark green foliage and snow white mopheads. This bush was just planted this year in May, so it is still quite small, but it will reach 4' x 4' at maturity.

blushing bride endless summer hydrangea

The blooms start off small and green. I think they're quite lovely in their miniature form.

blushing bride endless summer hydrangea

As they age, the blooms get fuller and begin to turn white.

blushing bride endless summer hydrangea

Until they finally reach maturity and their glowing white color.

blushing bride endless summer hydrangea

The blooms stay this gorgeous white for many weeks, when they start to get a "blush" of pink to them. (If your soil is acidic, they will blush blue!)

blushing bride endless summer hydrangea

As they continue to age, the blooms turn green with a blush of red (or blue). They are gorgeous and dry very well. I have no pictures at this stage although I do have a nice vase of them on the counter. Maybe I'll do a follow-up post on drying hydrangeas.

We also have a standard Endless Summer hydgrangea that will not bloom this year, because it was damaged by the late April frost we experienced. It will bloom again next year though, and probably more prolifically than ever! This bush was planted last May, and it has reached about 3' x 3' in size. The first year it did require a lot of water, but it has become more hardy and drought-tolerant in its second year.

endless summer hydrangea

This is a Penny Mac hydrangea, named for the founder of the American Hydrangea Society. I found it at Lowe's and have been pleased by its wonderful performance. I was very naughty and planted it in full afternoon sun, but the shrub has taken the heat like a champ!

penny mac hydrangea

I'm currently letting it bloom pink, because it seems our soil is naturally alkaline. Next year I am going to force it to blue though. You can see that the flower petals of the Penny Mac are smaller than those of the Blushing Bride.

penny mac hydrangea

I love watching the progress of the blooms as they open.

penny mac hydrangea

We also have a Niko Blue and a Woodlander hydrangea, but they were planted alongside the Penny Mac in full afternoon sun and are not doing as well as the Penny Mac. I think they will pull through and thrive next year, but they aren't really in shape for a photo shoot at this point!

Catmint is a popular perennial for underplanting with Hydrangeas.

catmint and hydrangea

Catmint gives off a light minty scent and the delicate blooms are a nice accent to the blooms of the hydrangea.


I love hydrangeas because the blooms are very long-lasting and cover the plant all summer long. I recently trimmed some blooms off the Blushing Bride that had been on the plant since I purchased it in May, so they were at least 3 months old. Hydrangea blooms also dry very well so you can enjoy them all year long. Although they can be needy when first planted, mature hydgrangeas require very little care and look great in any setting.

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Impatiens in the Flower Box

I'm not very good with flower boxes. I can't quite envision how big each plant is going to get and how they will look together when they are in and out of bloom. I guess I just need some more practice.

Sometimes I do get things right, although it is usually by accident! Like this year, I really like what I have going on in the flower box on the side of the house.


I combined four impatiens and two verbena with a gerbera daisy. The impatiens grew like crazy! I guess the early morning sun followed by a day of filtered shade was the optimal growing environment for these guys.

The gerbera daisy only bloomed a couple times, but I am OK with that, because the pink blooms of the daisy didn't really match the orange blooms of the impatiens. The verbana would have bloomed more if I had kept them dead-headed, but geesh ... what a chore!

Here is a pic of the flower box when I first planted the flowers.


Funny how it turned out! I expected the gerbera daisy to be the tallest plant and the verbena to really fill in better, but the impatiens decided to steal the show!

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Knock-Out Roses

The Knock-Out roses are over a year old and are performing beautifully. I haven't blogged about them yet this year, because the front yard has not been the most photogenic area this Summer. We suffered through an awful drought in May that left the grass brown and patchy, and now our weed wacker is broken, so the yard is quite disheveled. However, since this blog is my personal gardening diary, I need to document the Knock-Out roses regardless of how ugly the yard looks.

The roses in the left bed are performing a little better than the roses in the right bed. Although the frost did severely injure Francisco (3rd from the right), he is recovering like a champ. He had to be cut down almost completely to the ground after our late April frost, because most of his branches were mortally wounded.

knock out roses august 2007

We decided to plant the caladiums again this year to add some excitement to the rose beds. I like the texture and color variations they add. They did not grow as large as last year, but these are not the same bulbs from last year, so perhaps they aren't as vigorous. Although we did dig the bulbs from last year for Winter storage, they were stricken with mold and had to be burned. It was sad, because it took us hours to dig them all up!

knock out roses august 2007

I photographed the right bed in two shots so I didn't get much of the grass in the picture. This is the far right side of the right bed. The Graham Blandy upright boxwoods are looking great! I love them mixed with the roses - so English cottage garden-like.

knock out roses august 2007

The left side of the right bed has not done as well as the rest of the roses. They are having trouble growing vertically for some reason and want to spread out horizontally. I have tried to explain to them that this is wrong, but they are persistant! I'm sure they will even out eventually.

knock out roses august 2007

I am still using Miracle Grow for Roses on them every other week, but I have not had to water them as much as I did last year. Sometimes I don't water them at all aside from the fertilizer application, and they are doing just fine. Now that they are well-established, the roots are reaching deeper into the ground, so they aren't relying on getting their water from the topsoil that dries out much quicker than the subsoil.

knock out roses august 2007

We have had an awful problem with Japanese beetles this year. I so hate those little things! I have sprayed and placed beetle bags around the area, but they are still eating away at my roses.

knock out roses august 2007

This is the view from the front door. It's my favorite view of the roses.

porch view august 2007

For anyone considering Knock-Out roses, I want to share with you my experience, because I feel people have some misconceptions about these shrubs as being completely worry-free. I purchased these roses as very small plants - they were only 6 inches to 12 inches tall. They have performed absolutely wonderfully, but it was not by accident. The secret was good soil preparation and careful nurturing of the young plants.

knock out roses august 2007

Before planting, we used the double digging method in both beds. This is time consuming and labor intensive, but necessary for extraordinary results. We added peat, manure and loads of phosphorous to the soil. Phosphorous is very important for forming a good root system, and roses love it.

knock out roses august 2007

Once planted, I watered the plants at least twice a week and used Miracle Grow for roses every week for the first growing season. I did have to spray for aphids that threatened to kill the young plants several times during the year.

knock out roses august 2007

You may have read about how hardy these roses are, and they are ... for roses. But they are still roses. They still need a lot of water and fertilizer. Roses are greedy feeders! They are still susceptible to powdery mildew, black spot and pests. Regardless of what you read, you will still have to spray them and nurture them to some degree if you want them to thrive. If you don't care about them thriving, I'm sure you can just pop them in any hole and let them go, but if you want the results I have seen, they will need a lot of care and water.

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