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An Autumn Beauty

September 30th, 2011

I was lucky enough to inherit this beautiful ‘Sweet Autumn’ Clematis (Clematis terniflora) when we moved in here at Chiot’s Run. It’s planted in the worst spot, almost in the gravel driveway, but it doesn’t seem to mind. It’s always grown well and bloomed nicely despite neglect and the tough conditions. Last year, I planted a comfrey at it’s base, to bring up nutrients from deep within the soil. The comfrey leaves also provide a nice mulch in the winter, protecting the soil and composting down in spring.

As you can see, the clematis is really appreciating this partnership. This year it looked better than ever, blooming profusely and providing food for all kinds of pollinators during a season when food is scarce.

This is a fantastic clematis if you’re looking for an easy care tall flowering vine. It blooms on current season growth and should be cut back to about 8-12″ in spring. It’s a vigorous plant, topping out at about 20′, so it can cover a trellis in no time flat. I now prune it several times during the summer to keep it to size. Before I pruned mine as often, it would grow to the top of a dogwood tree nearby.

Some people say this plant invasive, as it puts off seeds. I have only found a few seedlings in my gardens in the nine years I’ve lived here. I find that the deer eat all the seeds in the winter. I’ve never seen one growing in the wild around here, so I think the seeds only survive a mild winter with the right conditions. Since I deal with a few very invasive plants, this one doesn’t strike me as too much of a problem. Be aware though that it might be invasive in warmer climates than my zone 5 garden.

I’m truly amazed by the tenaciousness of this vine. For all the mistreatment it received early in it’s life, it is one of the most beautiful and easy going plants in my garden. Each fall I relish it’s season, happy that it survived the previous owners to grace our fence with such beauty each fall.

What’s your favorite fall blooming plant?

Rain, Rain, Rain

September 29th, 2011

So far this fall has been fairly wet, which we really needed after our dry July and August, however, it makes it really tough to get all the fall gardening chores finished. I have managed to get the new garden area weeded and I’ve been clearing more space, photos on this to come when the rain stops. One great thing about fall and the rain – sunsets.

There’s just something about the sun setting right as the rain moves out. The clouds, the colors, it’s really quite beautiful. This time of year I start to notice the sunset more, just as I do in February. There must be something about the changing seasons, the change in day length and the weather patterns that make them especially spectacular this time of year. Earlier this week, this was the view out my front window right before the sun went fully down.

One of the great benefits of gardening is that you notice the subtle changes in weather more. I notice that the longer I garden, the more I notice those small changes that happen when the seasons change. I really believe, that tending the soil gets you more in tune with the seasons, nature and God.

What are some of the benefits of gardening that you have noticed? What little things do you notice at the the change of the seasons?

A Sweet Harvest

September 28th, 2011

On Monday, I harvested my first fruit from my ‘Hardy Chicago’ fig tree. I’ve been keeping my eye on it for a while, watching and waiting for it to come ripe. Since I’ve never grown figs before, and my eating of them has been mostly reserved to the dried kind, I wasn’t exactly sure when it was ripe.

Somewhere, I read that once they start to droop and crack you know they’re ready to harvest. Mine was turning a beautiful shade of purple and was slightly soft, I figured it was time.

I took it inside and cut it open to reveal it’s beautiful jeweled interior. It was perfectly ripe. Mr Chiots and I each enjoyed half, the typical crunchy seeds reminiscent of the fig newtons I ate as a kid, but much less sweet and so much better. I think this may be the first ripe fig I’ve ever eaten, I cannot recall ever having one. There are still 4 or 5 figs on this tree, and a few on the fig tree I purchased at Monticello last summer. I hope these still ripen with the weather turning colder.

Figs are such a wonderfully exotic fruit, they remind me of many of the different fruits I ate during my childhood in Colombia, especially guava. I certainly miss the tropical flavors I became accustomed to during my youth, it can be tough to find a good mango, papaya, maracuya, or guava here in Ohio.

What’s your favorite fruit that’s not native to your area? Do you grow any exotics?

Mom, We’re RICH!

September 27th, 2011

Earlier this week, my sister and I took her kids over to my mom’s house. They love visiting great grandpa and the candy and snacks that he doles out freely- we always did too when we were young. They ate their fill of M & M’s, potato chips, and other snacks while all the adults enjoyed listening to my grandpa’s stories about gardening and growing up in the hills of West Virginia.

After the kids were stuffed with candy, and we were filled with stories, it was time to go. The kids gathered buckeyes, from the same tree my we did at their age. Little Orin was so excited and gathering as many as he could in his little hands.

He threw them in the box my sister was gathering black walnuts in and exclaimed excitedly, “MOM, we’re RICH!”. Then he explained that he was hoping to be able to play conkers when he got home. Don’t worry if you don’t know what conkers is, I didn’t either until he explained it (see link for explanation).

When I was young, candy was also one of the highlight of my visits to my grandparents, now that I’m older it’s his wonderful stories. As a child, I also loved walking through the woods with my grandpa learning to identify trees, animals and other plants. He definitely installed in my dad and in us a love of the natural world.

I must go over and soon and start documenting these stories for the kids to appreciate when they’re older. Preserving the Legacy of your family is such an important thing, head on over to the Your Day blog to read my post about my grandpa’s legacy . With the technology available today, it’s to easy and worthwhile to do, as this is truly one of the most valuable family heirlooms you can have.

Did you have someone growing up that shared their love of nature with you?

Gardening is a Social Activity

September 26th, 2011

Last Friday I stopped by the library to pick up a stack of books. My friendly librarian was excited to see me, she wanted to invite me to a plant swap they were hostling the next morning. Our head librarian and all the ladies that work at the library are gardeners and, as most gardeners, they love to meet other people that love plants. The library sponsors many gardening events each year, trying to educate the local community about gardening. Usually, I’m working on Saturdays in the summer and cannot attend the events. Luckily, however, I happened to have Saturday off.

It was raining on Friday afternoon, so I couldn’t go out and dig any plants. The next morning, everything was still soaked, so I decided to split my aloe plant instead of digging something out the garden. Being the creative person that I am and having the need to do things well, I made labels for the plants with a short history and care information. Of course my blog address was on there too, I figured a few of the attendees might enjoy visiting.

The skies were dark on Saturday morning and it looked like rain. Luckily it held off, but I think it scared a few folks away. There weren’t a ton of people, but that’s fine with me, being slightly averted to large crowds. It was also nice to have a smaller group for ease of conversation.

We chatted about plants and gardens for a while then the plant swap started. There were some very interesting plants available and a door prize of a Kousa Dogwood tree. It was great to hear the stories behind some of these plants, where they came from, how they arrived in their respective gardens, and how to take care of them. Someone even brought mimosa plants, a plant that grows wild in Colombia and one that I loved as a girl.

Luckily, everyone wanted an aloe plant, one will even reside at the library for soothing scrapes and burns. I made it home with a few interesting new plants including: burgundy hibiscus, black pussy willow, mimosa, corsican mint, Japanese iris and a nice big houseplant that needed a new home (I believe it’s an anthurium).

It certainly was a great event, hopefully next year I’ll be able to attend again. I’m already thinking of which plants I’d like to share. I would love to see a few more events like this, as it’s a great way to acquire new plants and meet new people. These ladies will be great allies if I ever decide to try to start a community garden for our town.

Have you ever attended a plant swap? Is there an active gardening community in your area?


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.