Sunday, December 05, 2010

Nandina Hills

I have been working off and on over the last few years on a beautiful home and property in the Columbia area near to where I grew up. This piece of land slopes down to a lake and has several smaller hillsides contained in it as part of the general irregular slope of the land. These hillsides are covered with large rocks, granite I think, many a couple of yards across. Working on the site has been a lot like playing on a mountain stream bed, hopping from boulder to boulder.

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I asked the owner (who bought the house 50 years ago) about the rocks, thinking they must have been brought in as part of a design. No, he said, they were "native." Apparently there is a quarter-mile band of such rocks that runs across this area of the sand hills. I never knew about it even though I grew up not far away.

This property provides a perfect example of the work that I enjoy doing. Obviously much thought and love had once been put into the design and care of the plants and trees. Time and perfectly understandable neglect had taken its toll however. More recently a daughter has been working as much as possible on keeping up the garden and even adding some nice features to the place, but she is a busy person and things around here just grow so fast! Over the years many trees and shrubs have died. Much of this has been due to the loss of a large number of pines to pine borers, and a few giant tulip poplars to lightning and wind.

Vines of all sorts have swarmed the area choking out desired plants. Large saplings/small trees, many less than desirable, have sprung up all around. Many of them have themselves been covered in vines! Although for the most part this is not a typical traditional southern garden, there are many azaleas and camellias in one of the flatter and damper ares. I have done some pruning of dead and overly-gangly azaleas and camellias and am gradually bringing the area back to shape and health.

I have spent even more time trying to conquer the mass of native and non native vines and trees swarming the place like fire ants! Everywhere there is the familiar stuff that grows like mad here, the vines especially - English ivy, honeysuckle, vinca, potato vine, muscadine, moonseed vine, cucumber vine, five leaved akebia, fox grape, crossvine, trumpet vine, and smilax. There is also a lot of native switch cane (which I kind of like but which the homeowner does not), and which I have been digging out gradually. There had been a very large thick grove of honeysuckle bush which has now been tamed, and of course all those saplings - princess tree, mimosa, elderberry, cherry laurel, hackberry, maple, red bud and pine - everywhere. Since there is a large beautiful sweet gum tree on the site - one of the largest I have ever seen - there are thus also sweet gum babies abounding.

I have come across many dogwood stumps. Since the dogwood demise red bud has become the default under story tree, and the owner has wanted the red buds preserved. There are also lots of elderberry of which the owner is fond so have I left those too.

And then there is the nandina...Folks have different and often passionate thoughts about nandina. It is not native and can be invasive, choking out other plants, and the berries, so they say, are not as nutritious for birds as some other native berries. I can take or leave nandinas. But the nandinas have taken to these rocky hills like a fish to water and when they are in full fall regalia they are beautiful. After I cleared much of the unwanted stuff from the hillsides and cleared off ivy and honeysuckle from many of the rocks, and generally just made the place look less unruly, the nandinas have really stood out. And as the sun falls lower into the sky, these nandinas and their berries glisten in the glow. I have to say they are downright beautiful. You could call the place nandina hills or nandina acres!

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 I once found several little clumps of wild ginger in damp areas between rocks here and there, and have taken care not to harm them. I also found and was able to save saplings of many interesting local trees like sassafras and black gum (the latter being my favorite tree).

Gradually this amazing property is starting to reflect its former glory, and that is very satisfying,

1 comment:

evb said...

I have an unexplainable fondness for Nandinas...thanks for sharing.