Friday, May 29, 2009

killer cat

Hoppsan is 19 years old and the garden is still her domain. She's had a happy life and is famous for her feistiness (notice the jagged ears), but lately we have worried about her health. Her hearing is ailing, she is very skinny, and definitely has some renal issues. Yesterday, we found her proudly prancing around the kitchen with a recently deceased chipmunk in her mouth. Not that I want to promote violence in any way, but I could tell that this particular kill did wonders for her self esteem. She had singularly stalked out the hole to the burrows, waited for the innocent victim, and pounced when the time was just right. Not too bad for an ancient cat lady...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Wild. This is the best way to describe the garden's current state. So much of it is patiently waiting for my attention. The perimeters are slowly being engulfed by bittersweet, wild grapevines, trumpet wines, and an endless list of other invasive weeds. Small oak trees, and hack berries are sprouting in once carefully tended perennial beds. So this is a starting point of sorts. These photos were taken the other day, early in the morning after a long spring rain. To my defense, the lawn mower had been in the repair shop for almost three weeks, and therefor everything looks extra shaggy...

a rugosa rose in the stump bed, first photo shows red roses, original to the garden, along the front fence

Trevor, the fountain, by the base of the oak tree

the adirondack chairs in the far northeastern corner

redbud 'forest pansy' in the stump bed

oak leaf hydrangeas and azaleas by the back patio

the path to the arch and the vegetable garden

clematis unfurling on the arch

Saturday, May 16, 2009


This garden (and the accompanying house) became ours in the summer of 1998. It was love at first sight in many ways, but still not an easy acquisition. We had been hunting for a new home for months, when I spotted the sale sign the first time. The property is located in a historic neighborhood along a throughfare in the heart of Charlottesville. I knew it would be out of our price range, but something made me stop the car to have a look. The first thing I noticed was the trees. There is a gigantic beech tree in the front yard, a majestic oak just behind the house, and several large trees (tulip poplar, yellow wood, weeping beech, hackberry, and magnolias) along the north edge of the yard. The next thing I noticed was the house, with its peeling paint, broken shutters, iffy roof. My heart sank. Not only would this be a very expensive proposition, there was a lot of work to be done as well...

the house and surroundings in 1998

After much stress and agony, including a tour of the house which revealed much more peeling paint, pet urine stained floors, and a questionable electrical system, we signed the contract a few months later and moved in with our two young boys. Needless to say this place has been a never ending project ever since. We have undertaken big renovations (kitchen, family room, and bed room additions) as well as small (sewer repairs, new roof, painting, lots of painting...)

the former next door estate

We soon learned about the history of our new home. The house was built in 1936 for three spinster sisters and the land was parceled off from their uncle's next door estate, which had both a vineyard and an arboretum. The sisters never married and lived in the house until the youngest one died in the mid 1980's. Roumors say the garden back then was impeccable with large peony stands, a renowned rose garden, and a gardener to take care of it all. By the time we came around only traces of the former garden remained. The next door estate was demolished to make place for a large church built in an unfortunate 1970's design style.

the plat

There has always been something enchanted about this place, be it the sisters kind spirits still looming large, or a sense of quality and craftsmanship that we found underneath all that peeling paint and neglect. When it came to the garden I was first overwhelmed by the large space (almost one acre) and the tradition that so obviously was hidden beneath the all the overgrowth, but little by little we have reshaped the land to be ours, while trying to maintain the original feel and intent. If caring for my own garden was my full time occupation, I would have a masterpiece by now, but regretfully it has been hard to keep up over the years. Sections once redone, has been overtaken by weeds again, and there are large parts that were never fully mastered. The love and the eagerness are  still there, its just time that is lacking...

Monday, May 11, 2009

this place

A garden is never truly yours. This garden journal is created with the sole purpose of documenting the garden I am lucky enough to inhabit. It will portrait mundane tasks, as well as more exciting ones, big  projects mixed in among the small. There will be lists of  current plants as well as ones I wish for, and pesky bugs and funguses will be observed. Successes will be celebrated, but the mistakes will not be ignored. There will be plenty of photos, but all of them will not be pretty. This is my garden journey, and if you like I invite you to come along.

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