13 November 2012

Asheville McMansion

Three days in Asheville, North Caroline. The blue isle in a sea of red is what I saw on the local television news analyzing the upcoming the election. I drove out from Greensboro while there for a convention in September. One full day was spent at the Biltmore.

The landmark home held my interest for an entire day. After the architect's tour, the butler's tour, and a lunch with fried green tomatoes (for only the second time in this native New Yorker's life) it was time to head to the gardens and greenhouse. This is a garden blog after all. So enjoy lots of pictures with some little comment and thoughts.

There were no suburban foundation plantings at the front entrance. But MY! Look at the size and contents of some of the planters along the front!

A staff member explained that there were planters at the front originally, but they did not contain the same plants we see there now.

The front lawn was, well, expansive - before riding mowers came along. The original rows of linden trees died out from disease and were replanted with a stronger variety. Notice the small one on the end - the new replacements continue to die in this one location. It's cursed. (By a gargoyle's evil eye?)

Water Gardens
The first stop was at the sunken garden. It featured three water gardens.

Notice the formal plan and shapes of the ponds: Informally arranged plants within the formal outline of the ponds.

Some large tall non-water plants were sneekily planted above the water (bananas for example), looking like they were growing in the ponds, too. I did not know that (what looks like) canna could grow in standing water. They might look better than the ratty cattails in the highly visible stormwater management basins plopped around here after the roads and Potomac River's Wilson Bridge was widened.

Annuals Garden
A path from the sunken garden to the greenhouse crossed what I call the annuals gardens - right down the middle.

Each side of a pleasant trellis-covered walk looked onto a large expanse of grass and beds of mundane annuals. Quantity (of some of my least favorite annuals) rather than quality inspired admiration. Where could one find the largest grasshopper in American but at the largest house in America.

But wait, look at some of the beds along the perimeter walk: Bananas, canna, and castor bean.


The greenhouse was stuffed with plants - maybe a little overstuffed? --Every cactus and succulent under the sun (or glass.) It's larger than a lot of botanical gardens and commercial greenhouses.

Guarding an entrance was a harmonious combination of purple castor bean plants (Ricinus communis) and elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) I believe were Mojito. Yellow Brugmansia were in bloom outside on a terrace.

04 November 2012

Gone With The Wind

I ventured out in middle of hurricane Sandy to pick fresh herbs for minestrone soup. I must have been nuts, but the oregano, cutting celery, and basil did the soup well. The gardens did not do as well though.

The 8-foot tall (2.5 m) castor bean plants were flattened. These annuals were going to go when we get our first frost, so it's no loss. They were staked up a bit after a thunderstorm in August bent them over.

The Tuscany basil was blown to one side, like someone combs their hair to one side. Zinnias, another annual, were smacked down. The lonely second season sunflower was flattened. The sunflowers were picked and brought indoors for late flowers in the house - along with a few tomatoes still going.

But Sandy left a little new autumn gift in the deck. Some type of fungal growth appeared along the seams in the wood platform steps, probably where dirt and gunk accumulated. In two days (after the rain stopped) it all vanished.

Fortunately, there were no power outages beyond a few minutes. No one in my neighborhood was flooded, although the low lying areas were evacuated because of flooding in the past five years. We await more surprises climate change may bring in the future.