I finally visited Duke Farms in Hillsborough. This is the former estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, which until not that many years ago was only open for tours. The foundation that runs the place has made some changes — her house has been torn down, and the focus is even more on sustainability and native plantings. Clearly that includes no (or perhaps minimal) pesticides, and their gardeners have not been charged with digging up dandelions or my other nemesis, hairy bitter cress.
Given that I filled the better part of a five-gallon bucket with dug-up dandelions yesterday and have another two giant recycling buckets full of hairy bitter cress just waiting for the monthly yard waste and brush collection, should I just learn to chill?
I hope to be back in a few months to see the meadow in bloom. But do not come here looking for a traditional garden with lots of flower beds.
Here are some other images from the day:
A ruin? The foundation of the mansion James Duke stopped building after his tobacco business was broken up.
Another ruin? The remains of the burned-out hay barn and what I think sums up Doris’ taste in sculptures:
The coach barn (first for horses, then for cars) … because every garage needs a clock tower.
No, this wasn’t the house.
The Durham bull, to pair with the one I saw on a bike trip through Durham
Can I have a piece of this hosta? I like variegated ones.
And some brilliantly colored orchids in the Orchid Range (Doris was big on orchids).
OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it sure feels like it, especially after all the rain we got last night. We even have our first flowers!
We are experimenting this year with growing the plants upright by containing each in a large tomato cage instead of using a “fence” to keep them from sprawling all over the raised bed. It seems like only a week ago they were still pretty tiny. Now the leaves have topped the second of four rings. I try to push the leaves back into the cage before they get too big. So far it’s working.
The idea is that by growing the plants up, it will be easier to see the actual zucchini before they become the size of a baseball bat. I have another incentive to harvest them small — apparently it encourages more flowering.
This is how big one plant looks on the last day of spring. The top leaves are ginormous!
The other advantage is that it can be easier to spot the squash vine borers that attack the stem and kill the plant. That’s been our problem in the last few years, of course just as the glut gets going. This video is inspiring me to start checking, to find out what I need to use for dusting — and to start fertilizing since the plants are heavy feeders. Good thing I have some TerraCycle worm poop fertilizer, made in down the road in Trenton. I worked a little bit into the soil, ready for the next rain, which might come Friday.
Keeping leaves off the ground helps fight against bugs. This video says I also need to scatter Sevin Dust carefully around the base. But it does seem like nasty stuff and kills beneficial insects like bees, which we don’t want to do. So I’m googling away for other ideas. This video suggests just spraying dishwater detergent dissolved in water could do the trick too, at least with aphids, and can work on cucumbers. Sounds like that requires some persistence. Maybe we will use some of the aphid-fighting Neem we already have.
Want to weigh in?
We are using the cages the same way we would use them for tomato plants, so the narrowest part is at the bottom and the prongs are in the soil. If we wanted to test it the other way, well, it’s too late. Plus we’d have needed some kind of clip to keep the cage from toppling over in the wind. We have no idea how heavy the plant will be and whether an upside-down cage could support them or would tip over. That first video says we should have bamboo stakes too. One more thing to do…
So they didn’t start blooming in February, despite unseasonably warm days.
But I spotted on with my headlights on March 1, plus another already in bloom early on the 2nd that I am crediting to the 1st. So it looks like a new first bloom date for me, just barely. (The previous earliest date my records show is March 2, but usually it’s the second half of March.)
Then there’s this one that looks like it is just about unfurled and will bloom properly today.
Yes, I know we have hundreds (likely 1,000+, since they keep naturalizing) already in the yard. Yes, I know I didn’t need more.
I tried to resist. I resisted the offer of two bags of 50 mixed bulbs for $12 at an area garden center. I resisted an email fall clearance offer, though after some internal debate. I resisted when a friend emailed about it, suggesting we go in on an order. Everything 35% off! But when he repeated the offer and said he was ordering the next day, I took another look. Not just at those listed in the email but all the daffodils on the website. And when I saw the mixed assortment of “double” daffodils — fragrant, frilly, showy — well, I caved.
The smallest pack was 50 bulbs. But I’d already fallen off the wagon, so why show restraint now? I figured I’d get 100 and worry about where to plant them later.
Fortunately, my friend missed that part of my request and only ordered 50 for me.
I picked up the bulbs on Thanksgiving morning and just stared at the size of that bag. What had I done? Where would they all go? I didn’t know where the other bulbs were, just that they were all over the flower beds. And I’d moved some in the spring from a back bed that hasn’t worked out. At least then I could see where I could squeeze them in. But after all that, did I have any space left?
No time like the present to do a bit more “editing” of the beds .. thin out some, move some others. And yes, try to find room for daffodil bulbs.
I had some early success, but then it got hard. I’d dig — and slice through some bulbs. (I hope they can heal.) Time to be more careful. I would find a spot — and tuck in one, maybe two bulbs. This was slow-going. I eventually got about 30 in the ground and had no idea where to put the last 20. I really didn’t want to create a fresh bed, and I didn’t want to put them in a section of the front beds where I’d rarely see them. Could I put them in one of the raised vegetable beds for the winter and transplant them in May or June, when I could see the gaps? That might mess up the spring peas, or the tomatoes or …
But maybe somewhere else where they could later be moved? I settled on a spot in front of our garden bench, visible from the kitchen window. It nicely connected a flower bed and a lemongrass plant that just expanded and expanded over the summer (and now is indoors) on one end and that weigela we’d planted in the spring on the other. (Yes, the bench will likely get squeezed out as the shrub grows.). Plus it was an excuse to clear out some mock strawberry (a pointless effort, I know, but it made me feel good). The bulbs will stretch along the length of the bench and beyond, look pretty in the spring and yet be easy to transplant.
When I’m tempted again next year, I should read this again and just keep saying no. Unless, of course, I’ve created a new bed in anticipation.
We’re in the garden’s annual purple phase, dominated by the Siberian irises. I’ve spread them out so there are many clumps. I wish I could be as successful dividing the amsonia (or finding more). I need to thin out the black-eyed Susans and hope that will let the Walkers Low take off.
This year we have some white Siberian irises in one spot as well as lots of purple ones. I can’t remember where those came from, but I’ll be looking to spread them out over the next few years.
The first red-hot poker is blooming. (Yes, those are more Siberian irises behind it, and some yellow irises of some kind to the left.)
Last weekend it looked like this:
The next plant to bloom is likely to be this peony. Yes, more Siberian irises. You want some?
Some alliums that I thought had disappeared are back. But just some of them. I want to move these out of an ignored far-back bed:
We’ve also got these alliums:
These dianthus along the front walkway really look much more pink. I want to extend their section of the border (and get them off the walkway):
I feel like I turn around — and another clump of hostas has expanded!
I just dug out one giant clump of hostas and gave all of it away. But today I looked in one bed by the house and it looked like this:
Everything is a bit squished, and the ferns are getting to be too much.
And then it keeps going (the variegated clump in the first photo is also in this one):
I love the range of hostas we have, but it’s time to thin these out!
Oh did I say range of hostas? Here are some in another bed today. I love the lime-and-blue-green combo and hope it takes off (move the ferns!), and the giant blue seems very happy (did I move it there last year or the year before?)