Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

To all our friends and family!
  May this night presage a happy and healthy year for you all!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

'Tis the Season!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our Daily Bread

In local news, Country Kitchen Herbs will be on hiatus this month. This means my Pumpkin Cranberry Bread will be in short supply, so don't call.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread
For those of you who don't know, Country Kitchen Herbs is Janette Wright, who grows her own herbs - herb gardens being a topic we intend to cover another day. But for now, we want to bring to your attention what Janette does with those herbs (and other things): she makes bread - fresh baked, home made, bread of all kinds. If it's true that you cannot live by bread alone, Janette's makes the case that it sure doesn't hurt!

Janette made her way to Brodnax, Virginia (and Scott Wright) by way of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, which is a story in itself. She can be found most times at the local Bakers and Farmers markets in South Hill, Virginia, and if you contact her ahead of time, she will have just about any kind of bread you desire: Chewy Bulgur Wheat, Caraway Rye, Pumpkin Cranberry, Rustic Italian, and also scones, Iced, Cinnamon-Ginger, Cranberry-Pistachio, and more. Talk about having it your way!

For those of us who have lived on Wonder Bread (alas, RIP), Janette brings a noticeable upgrade in our quality of life. 

Here is a typical newsletter from Janette. As I said, she is on hiatus this month, but will be back in January. If you would like to be on her email list, you can subscribe here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Winter's Cold

 When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
Shakespeare, Sonnet 73

On that note, we continue our winter theme. Here is a lengthy and helpful article from the venerable Better Homes & Gardens, advising us about garden preparations for winter.

The short answer? Winter preparation is all about cleaning up...
As fall progresses and temperatures drop, those plants that aren't killed outright by frost prepare for dormancy. Clear out the blackened stems and foliage of annual flowers and vegetables to prevent the possibility of their harboring disease pathogens and insect eggs over the winter. The cool weather is a good time to make a cold frame, dig and box in raised beds, and make general repairs.
....and covering up....
It's important to spread new mulch now -- a thicker winter layer -- to protect plants and soil over the winter months. The idea is not so much to keep the soil warm as it is to keep the temperature even. Once the soil is frozen, mulch keeps it frozen. So if you have shade trees, convert the fallen leaves to mulch and use it throughout your property.
We've long advocated the benefits of mulch in other contexts (see here and here). But in fact, it is a prime part of Ben's Creek's winter preparation services as well (coming soon to a flyer near you!).

Read the whole article, and then prepare your yard for a well deserved winter nap.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Will the World End in Fire or Ice?

That question is just a bit above my pay grade. See Frost, R., if you have to have an answer.

But garden-wise, the question of what summer heat or winter's cold might do to our plants is right up our alley. We posted summer heat advice here. Today, we direct you to extensive advice from Fine Gardening on preventing and repairing winter damage. Whether it's snow, frost or ice (or rodents?!) that ensnares our landscapes, Bonnie Lee Appleton warns us:
Over my many years of dealing with winter damage, I have experienced just about every kind under the sun—or snow, I should say. From an evergreen shrub’s burned leaves to the total death of flower and leaf buds, winter can be a devastating season for our gardens.
"Devastating" - not a happy word. But cheer yourself up with practical tips on broken branches, frost damage, dessication, and more (including a bonus non-answer at the end on sun scald)!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

That Which Abides....Hardscape, Part Deaux!

Shoreline Repair
Lake property hardscape work is as unique as the properties themselves. Following up on this post, here are more photos of our recent  work.

New stone and retaining wall

Rip rap

Herring bone pattern walkway

Dock steps

Dublin fossil beige pattern walkway
New stone against large wall

Monday, November 26, 2012

New Plant Hardiness Zones

FYI: as of this year, there are new plant hardiness zones. The USDA publishes this information, about which it tells us:
The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones.

You can find a USDA helpful interactive map here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, combining the best we have in one long weekend: faith, family, friends, and food!  We at Ben's Creek Nursery feel especially blessed by the continued loyalty of our customers, who have entrusted to us their landscape needs.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all! May your travels be safe and your gatherings full of joy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

From the Nursery

Greenleaf Hollies, pruned
A small picture sampling of some of the November action at our Nursery, primarily involving pruning of our field grown material by the maestro of pruners, Antonio!

Greenleaf Hollies, unpruned
Greenleaf Holly, unpruned
Greenleaf Holly, pruned

Eastern Red Cedar, pruned

Thursday, November 15, 2012

No Guff!

That's the tag line from the rear cover of this book, No Nonsense Vegetable Gardening, a delightfully irreverent and fact filled book.  For instance, here is a suggestion for improving your soil:
Leave rock outdoors for a few thousand years to allow it to be pulverized by the force of freezing water, consumed by algae, chiseled by tree roots, sandblasted by wind, eroded by waves and glaciers, and worn down by rushing rivers
If only I had the time ... But with the humor, the authors also supply information aplenty, such as this offering on the importance of frost:
The date of the average first fall frost is important too: More than the curtain falling at the end of the summer show, it allows us to gauge how many frost-free growing days we have—something that is important to know when choosing crop varieties. Some tomato varieties, for example, are ready in 60 days, while others take 85 days. The difference of 25 days is a big deal in an area with a short frost-free period ... Don’t restrict yourself to published first- and last-frost dates. Talk to other gardeners in the area to find out what dates they use—because your microclimate might be unique.
In any event, read this review by Billy Goodnick of Fine Gardening fame, post a comment for a chance to win a free copy, and then when that fails, buy it for yourself. We can all use a few more veggies.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

That Which Abides....Hardscape!

Nothing says permanent like good, solid hardscape. Hardscape includes things like patios, walls, walkways, decks, driveways, and rocks.

Rocks? Well, decorative rocks. Here are photos of some recent wall and rock additions we installed for our customers.

 These rock additions may not look like much work, but hey, decorative rocks don't grow on trees! And they also don't select and place themselves so as to provide that certain eye-catch and accent to your landscape.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Go to Bed!

As we've said before, Fall is a great time to Install! But sometimes, smaller is better; accent and suggestion preferable to bold garden pronouncements.

Ben's Creek Nursery can do big or small, bold or quiet for you, and to prove it, here are some recent photos of an array of small beds we installed for some of our customers. They may not look like much now (and some are not completed), but wait until Spring!

Click 'MORE' for more!

Friday, October 5, 2012

October Garden Tips

I know what you're asking yourself: I've grown this monster pumpkin, but what do I do now? Look no further than Gardener's Paradise for the answer.

And while you're there, remember that October is the traditional month of the first frost, and now is a good time to take a fresher on October garden tips. Gardener's Paradise has some nice tips; just scroll past the pumpkin recipes to the bottom of the page. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Go West, Young Man!

Autumn Blaze Maples
Ben's Creek Nursery's Iles Farm
Go west, that is, if you want to see some fall leaf colors in early October. From where I sit in the North Carolina piedmont,  the leaf changes are spotty at best.The real action, where you'll see some of the most spectacular leaf colors on the planet, is west of here: the mountains!


At my elevation, a mere 387 feet above sea level, leaf change is predominantly determined by temperature: the colder it is, the faster the leaves will change. In the mountains, however, the shifting weather patterns only nudge things along. It is elevation that primarily determines leaf change.This means that if you're a leaf watcher, you can choose your best time to travel, and know that somewhere in the mountains, at some elevation, you can find some peak colors a-happening.

So where and when should you plan to go to the mountains to catch this dazzling array?

Click 'MORE' for more!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Let the Parade Begin!

Herewith another recent project. This one involved work done in preparation for a local Parade of Homes, wherein we built the landscape from the ground up. UPDATE: see the results of the Parade of Homes competition at the end of this post.

Click 'MORE' for more!

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Sioux Crape Myrtle
For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these "it might have been." So said John Greenleaf Whittier, back around 1856. He wrote in a slightly different context (to say the least!). But what called this to mind for me was a recent visit to our Iles Farm and the sight of our Crape Myrtles bursting with color.

August doesn't usually provide such things, what with the heat and often near drought conditions. So, I thought, what might have been .... the look of YOUR yard in August, if you had just installed some Crapes.

Here are some more pictures of our Crapes Myrtles. Most of our varieties are Lagerstroemia fauriei, indica, or some other cross pollinated cultivar, but I give here the more charming common identifier for each. Mainly because I like the whimsy of it all!

12 foot Biloxi
 Click 'MORE' for more!

Friday, August 24, 2012

From Soup to Nuts - Continued

For those of you just tuning in, we are posting pictures from one of our latest jobs. This was a large, three month project which we literally took from the ground up. In our previous post, we showed you lots of 'before' pictures; below are a few more 'before' photos, followed by the 'after.'
But first, I just have to post these pictures. The one above shows our customer coming from a direction we weren't expecting to conduct a surprise inspection! Needless to say, we had to stop work and look at this classic car.
But now, back to the project. Enjoy! We certainly did.

 Click 'MORE' for more!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

From Soup to Nuts

 "Soup to Nuts." Wikipedia tells us (so it has to be true, right?) that this is an "American English idiom conveying the meaning of "from beginning to end". Apparently it is derived from someone's notion of a full course dinner, which begins with soup and ends with a dessert of nuts.

My desserts are usually a little sweeter than that.  But be that as it may, here is a recent 'soup to nuts' project, in which our crews built the lawn and landscape literally from the ground up. From excavation to grading, to installation of irrigation, shrubs, flowers, trees, and sod, this project took 3 months of concentrated work.

The work was so extensive that it will take two posts, just to cover it all!

Herewith the 'before' pictures:

Click "More..." for more!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Do You Know What Time It Is?

August is almost upon us.  People with gardens ought to have a general idea of the needs of their patch of earth each month.  Fortunately, in this internet age there are a plethora of gardening websites providing calendars for gardeners.  Here are a few that we find helpful for August:

The Garden Helper. Annuals, Perrenials, Bulbs, Shrubs, Trees, Fruits, and Vegetables; even Lawn Care.  A comprehensive concise rundown of August tasks for those in the Ben's Creek hardiness zone (7-8).

The Green Mountain Gardener, of the University of Vermont Extension, has some nice tips for those of you of a Northeastern persuasion.

The venerable Farmer's Almanac has a musical allusion followed by some August tips, probably the most important of which is to simply "...sit back, iced tea in hand, and behold all that you have worked for."

Fairy Gardens. Need a pick me up in the August heat? How about some garden color? Fairy Gardens lists some particularly colorful August plants and trees, along with a copious list of to-dos.

Gardener's Paradise. Scroll down for links to tips for bulbs, flowers, vegetables, and more!

This ought to keep you busy through August. Meanwhile, I intend to follow the advice of The Farmer's Almanac and pick up a case of ice tea. After 200 years, they must know something about August.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cover Up!

Ground cover. This sounds like something you might pull over a wet baseball field, but it actually refers to plantings that perform a variety of useful functions, e.g. preventing soil erosion, weed control, or simply filling in ugly bare patches. However, you don't have to settle for a "plain green" look. Nancy Ondra of Fine Gardening covers all the bases regarding flowering ground covers:
 ...numerous spreading perennials do an equally good job protecting the soil and crowding out weeds while producing a bounty of beautiful blooms. Mass plantings of these easy-care perennials are great for new gardens because just a few can fill plenty of space, easing the strain on your budget. In established landscapes, linking individual shrubs into larger beds with flowering ground covers dramatically cuts down on tedious mowing and trimming chores.
 Let's see, soil protection, easy on the budget, reduces tedious yard chores; what's not to like about flowering ground covers?

Read the whole article here.