The Gardens at Ashland Hall
We were selected for the prestigious Garden Conservancy's Open Days program and welcomed 200 visitors to our gardens. It was a fun weekend.
A tornado came barreling through our property this month but we were fortunate it hit the back wooded part of our lot. The gardens miraculously were untouched. Much to be thankful for.
One of my favorite flowers is the peony. I noticed that my 8 peony bushes do incredibly well with over 100 blossoms on each of them each Spring. I found a company where I can purchase them by the 1/2 bushel (about 50 plants for $100). So I planted them all around the garden this month and we'll see how well they perform this Spring. Granted, peonies need to be about 5 years old to be fully mature. If this batch turns out nice, I'll probably plant 100 in the tropical garden next year since nothing is really going on there in April/May when they bloom.
The Rose Garden got a major overhaul. While it looked fabulous 3 or 4 months out the year, the remainder of the time the roses were a bit boring. So I did a major revamp and transformed the Rose Garden into a cutting garden. The roses are still there, just part of a much larger planting scheme which now will be in bloom from April through November. It will take a bit to fill out but I think it will be outstanding by the end of the summer.
The tropical experiment of 2008 worked. 90% of the tropicals that I planted last spring survived without any added protection or measures so I decided to finish off my original concept of the tropical garden. It took 60 yards of soil (topsoil/compost mix), 24 yards of mulch and 40 yards of wood chips. I added the two side beds and the large bed behind the tiki hut. You can compare it with the photo in the April 2008 update below.
The tropical garden contains two open areas on both sides of the tiki hut, designed so we can have large gatherings in the garden. I'd love to be able to share the garden with non-profits who are looking to do fundraisers or events to help their cause.
The Inauguration Day snowfall painted the gardens beautifully. We received nearly 7 inches of fluffy powder. We instructed the kids to play in other places so the gardens would stay frosted and serene as long as possible. We spent hours looking out of the windows to see God's handiwork.
Because to the structure of the garden, there are still things to enjoy all the seasons. A nice snowfall is just icing on the "cake".
The tropical garden did so well so I decided to move forward with the planned expansion. Tomra's brother has experience building Tiki Huts and was out of work so we decided to hire him to put in a six-sided hut in the middle of the Tropical Garden. It was a whole family affair. We all took part in the project from digging the electrical trench to cutting the lumber and putting on the thatch roof. Ashton (he's 8) learned quite a bit about construction from Uncle Danton. We ran electricity to the hut so we could entertain out there (a little jazz in the jungle maybe?) and run the ceiling fan to help keep the bugs at bay when we are eating out there. I'm looking forward to finishing the gardens around it this coming Spring. Because we built it after the frost, it doesn't look very "tropical" right now.
Looks like the tropical garden is going to be a success. Started out this Spring as some new beds and 100s of baby tropical plants added over a few months (just added about 50 earlier this month when a local nursery was selling all their tropicals for $1 each). Almost all of them have thrived and some of the bananas must be close to 20' tall. If many of them return next Spring as I hope, I'll be doubling the size of the tropical garden and maybe even adding a Tiki Hut!
We are "officially" opening the gardens for the first time on Mother's Day, Sunday May 11 from 1p-5p. Many have commented how they would like to see the gardens and it is always open to our friends but some really want something more "official" before they come traipsing through the garden paths. The formal rose garden should be spectacular as long as we can keep the deer away from the new buds and blossoms. The English garden is really beginning to fill out and is looking quite colorful. The berry garden is full of hundreds of blueberries and blackberries waiting to be picked in just a month or two. The butterfly garden is doing its thing and beginning to attract our fluttering friends. The newly planted tropical garden wont be ready for any photo shoots but it is coming alive. Come and explore and relax in our own little Eden.
This month saw a flurry of new activity in the Gardens at Ashland Hall. The beds that were put down for the new tropical garden were covered with weeds. We don't know if that was because the soil that was brought in had the seeds or if it was the mulch that was put down. Regardless, the nice rains in March and April made for some relatively easy hand weeding.
We also planted about 50 specimens in the tropical garden that we ordered from Brent & Becky's Bulbs. I've always been extremely pleased with the quality of plants and their prices. I'm hoping the trend will continue. The tropical garden received a little set-back when we received the unexpected frost on April 14. It was a very light frost so hopefully no permanent damage was done.
After the planting took place we (the Bazer family) placed 20 cubic yards of new mulch (that's a full dump truck load) on the tropical beds (which are the dark brown beds at the top of the photo), the rose garden, the berry garden and Hydrangea Alley. It is probably the most labor we'll need to do all year. The rest of the gardening season is pretty fun.
I was surprised to learn that our formal rose garden contains one of the largest plantings of David Austin English Roses in North Carolina. The plantings were expanded a little this month. About a dozen of the original bushes stayed on the smaller size (aptly described in the catalog) so we moved them to the new "driveway garden" to show off along with the five cherry trees and the hundreds of daffodils we planted this past fall. We replaced the dozen rose bushes with some newer varieties of the English Roses that should be more similar in size with the rest of their "cousins" in the rose garden. It will probably take them a season or two to catch up. So far they look healthy and strong.