Sunday, April 1, 2012

We got a Horticulturist!

Byrd and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jason, the Horticultural Consultant for the Blacksmith Shed Project.  The following is an excerpt from some casual discourse between the three of us.  Byrd had broken out a dusty, 20 year old port and before we knew it the hour was nearly eleven and the conversation had never dulled.  The drink was good and the company superb.  

We pick up mid-conversation; following a lengthy greeting involving a complex symphony of handshakes, back pats, cigar smoke, and multiple good-natured vulgarities.

Big Tuna (BT):  Jason, you move through the forest with the deftness of a seasoned Patawomeck brave, read the trout waters with the clarity of the wily merganser, and dance the Rumba with a passion unbeknownst to the mortal man, how do you do it?

Jason (J): Just a passion for life my friend...I make love with each of my ideas before they become a reality.

Big Perm (BP): That's wonderful, Jason, but do you honestly feel that you are ready to take on a project of this magnitude?  How did you get roped into dealing with the Blacksmith Shed anyhow?

J: Being involved with a project like this has always been a dream of mine.  When I was approached and asked if I would like to provide some consulting regarding the horticultural component of this project: It was a no-brainer.  The native trees and shrubs in this part of Virginia are woven deeply into the fabric of our past; whether they served to provide remedies for the ailments that plagued the numerous indigenous tribes in our region, as the masts that carried the sails of the merchant ships that used to carry goods to and from Flintshire Landing, or simply as shade for our forefathers as they pondered independence from Great Britain.

BT: I, for one, am truly excited about the prospect of your involvement.  Our previous conversation about relocating native Sassafras as a means dressing up the site got me thinking.  Deer munch on sassafras leaves and twigs, right?  Perhaps the cultivation of the deciduous Flintshire variety will in turn cultivate good karma come hunting season.  Do you think that this next year will be the year that I finally harvest that elusive swamp buck that's evaded me for so long?

J: Only time will tell Tuna.  I will say that I only know of one man who has the answer for taking exceptional mossy horned monster bucks, and that is William R. H. Dickinson, who I believe is also involved with this great project to some degree.   (laughs) I am not sure if he incorporates sassafras into his hunting strategy or not.

BP: Ignore him, Jason.  I'm going to shoot the big boy and unless sassafras cures buck fever it's not going to help anyhow.   Let's talk about something that would be helpful though. Jason, can you recommend a creeping vine or plant that could be incorporated on or near the privy?  We are looking for something that could be used in case of a real emergency (blow out scenario).

J: I will say: the problem with creeping vines is their aggressive growth patterns.  I once knew an old fella who had got pretty deep into a bottle of corn liquor one night, went to the outhouse and passed out on the can.  His old lady found him two days later, still on the can and naked as the eyes of a clam, entangled in Kudzu vines that were growing around the outhouse.  These creeping vines grow fast and will choke out any other desirable vegetation in the area and will require constant control.  I would stay away from them.  Not to mention many are invasive species.

BT:  Well in that case, I'd like to see some aromatic flora incorporated into the privy plantings; plants that would really kick in during the high traffic seasons.  Any suggestions along these lines?

J:  There are a few varieties of native honeysuckle you may want to look into.  I would suggest coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).  This species would actually satisfy Perm's desire for a creeping vine and your desire for an aromatic species.

BP: I think in the big picture it would be nice to provide an intimate setting that is landscaped in an aesthetically pleasing manor.  We do need to be able to mow yearly though.

BT: You getting soft in your old age Big Perm?

BP: Well, we need some cover plantings and this is the reason why we have a horticulturist isn't it? 

BT: I think that apple trees or other types of fruit trees would be nice additions.  And like sassafras, they might bolster the local deer herd. What do you think a good overall plan for the Blacksmith Shed going forward would be?

J: I would, of course, incorporate only plants native to our region and go for a layered approach with the landscape,  so a few canopy trees, some subcanopy specimens, and finally some understory species.  I would say your canopy specimens are already in place.  I would suggest flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) for your subcanopy, and witchhazel (Hammamelis virginiana) in your shrub stratum.  The above mentioned species are shade tolerant and should do well under your existing canopy trees.  Fruit trees are a good idea, Tuna, and would contribute greatly to the landscape:  These would do well around the periphery where they would receive more sunlight.

BT: Mr. Mann, you may have very well described a setting every bit idyllic as that of Fallingwater.  One day your name will be synonymous with the Blacksmith Shed landscape design; just as Frederick Law Olmsted is to Central Park, Michelangelo Buonarroti is to the Sistine Chapel, and Kurt Russel is to Captain Ron.

BP: We may want to get the siding fixed before we get too excited.     

Special thanks to Jason. 
Naturalist.  Frontiersman.  Rumba Dancer.


  1. Great exchange! How about a shadbush and a blackberry patch.

  2. Hilarious exchange! Keep up the great work!!!