Friday, July 1, 2016

A COLD DAY IN JULY





"We go in withering July

To ply the hard incessant hoe;
Panting beneath the brazen sky
We sweat and grumble, but we go."
-  Ruth Pitter, The Diehards


Farewell June, filled with above normal temperatures followed by a lot of rain.  Wonder if we'll have that "cold day in July " as the country song goes. 

 In between the hot weather and rain I managed to plant a few new perennials and shrubs and divide and transplant the overgrown ones.


Divided the Japanese roof iris and planted them at the edge of the woodland garden.


The astilibe and zinnias add much needed color and texture to the woodland garden.

With all the rain the weeds grew like wildfire and the Japanese beetles invaded and chowed down on the crape myrtles and cannas.  Every morning I am out in the garden by 7 to do all these chores before it gots too hot and humid to work.  

My favorite part of July is the tomatoes.  There's nothing better than a homegrown tomato and next to that a fried green tomato samich.

Saw two baby fawns in the front garden this morning, apparently twins , which means the pickings around here are good.   Got out my gong and scared them away.   It will indeed be a cold day in July before I let them eat my garden.




Wednesday, June 1, 2016

THE EARTH IS IN TUNE IN JUNE



And what is so rare as a day in June?

Then, if ever, come perfect days;

Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,

And over it softly her warm ear lays;

Whether we look, or whether we listen,

We hear life murmur, or see it glisten.
                                               
    -James Russell Lowell








Duke the digger will be 10 months old this month.  He has matured a lot but still has the habit of digging holes and pulling up plants.  He has become a very alert watch dog, checking out any suspicious noises outside his territory which is fenced in. He's very affectionate and has a good personality.


May was a very rainy month, even more so than April it seems so it was frequently too wet to garden but I did manage to pulll a lot of weeds in between showers.  I also managed to divide and transplant many of the spreading perennials in the roadside garden. 





The roadside wildflower garden is flourishing and most plants returned from last year.




I have been looking for this fabulous cultivar , brunnera 'alexander's great ' which is twice as big as most in the species.  I planted it in the shade garden and just for extra insurance against deer, pinned netting around it and sprayed with deer deterrent.

The huge mound of topsoil and compost I ordered ( 4 c.y. ) is slowly getting smaller and smaller as I wheelbarrow it around the beds and dig it in the existing soil.  If I added up all the yards of topsoil I've had delivered so far it would probably be around 50 cubic yards.  I've already noticed an improvement in the drainage after a heavy rain but it may take 5 or more years before I see a significant difference.

The nectarine I planted two years ago bore a lot of delicious fruit and I managed to save them from the squirrels and birds by using netting and mylar tape.  I think my two Asian pears were nipped in the bud just as they were blooming during the late April freeze we had , although I see a few pears made it.  The blueberries have begun to ripen and I've also netted them to prevent the birds from scooping them up.  I think I could use a scarecrow with some motion action in the veggie garden to scare away the birds who like to swoop down and scoop up the strawberries.

With June comes summer and, I hope, the end of countless rainy days.




Sunday, May 1, 2016

TRA LA, IT'S MAY !




A delicate fabric of bird song
Floats in the air,
The smell of wet wild earth
Is everywhere.

Red small leaves of the maple
Are clenched like a hand,
Like girls at their first communion
The pear trees stand.

Oh I must pass nothing by
Without loving it much,
The raindrop try with my lips,
The grass with my touch;

For how can I be sure
I shall see again
The world on the first of May
Shining after the rain ?

-Sara Teasdale

Tra la, it's May !   The garden in my old Chicago home would be just beginning to emerge but here in Chapel Hill I have been gardening since March .  




I added a rose arbor at the entrance and planted a 'lady banks ' rose which is yellow and thornless.  I've added a circular lawn for my dog Duke and granddaughter Lea to romp and play on.  



Fell in love with this fernspray japanese cypress with its golden arching branches.



Rescued this old rusty chair from the neighbor's trash.


Added some much needed seating .  Planted two prunus mume, or Japanese apricot on each side of the chairs.  When mature the trees will form a natural shade arbor.  I love the prunus mume because it blooms in winter.


Painted a little garden quote on my new fence.  On the left is one of the 7 birdhouses I've installed on the existing fence posts.


The garden looks lush.  The Japanese roof iris, forget-me-nots, dianthus, catmint, wisteria, jasmine and azaleas are blooming.

The garden is maturing along with me as I turn another year older this first of May.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

BURN ME WITH YOUR BEAUTY DEAR APRIL


How many million Aprils came
before I ever knew
how white a cherry bough could be,
a bed of squills, how blue 

And many a dancing April
when life is done with me,
will lift the blue flame of the flower
and the white flame of the tree 

Oh burn me with your beauty then,
oh hurt me tree and flower,
lest in the end death try to take
even this glistening hour..."
-  Sara TeasdaleBlue Squills, 1920


Spring flowers of my Korean pear tree


Although Spring comes on the calendar March 21 it has been Spring-like here in the Piedmont, N.C. off and on since February.  How joyful it is to see Prunus Mume, or Japanese Apricot, blooming  in late January , daffodils in late February, azaleas, in early March and Pear trees , dogwood, magnolias and cherries in late March. To me this is the land of eternal Spring. Bluebirds are busy building their nests in the boxes I put up, colorful Cardinals visit the feeders I installed for them. I am amused by the tiny little lizards that dart to and fro among the boulders they love in the garden. Frogs and turtles visit the little inground pool of water and butterflies and bees are out and about the few early flowers in search of nectar.

Having endured more than 40 Chicago winters I no longer think in terms of when Spring will come.  Soon summer and its heat will arrive but then we had some pretty hot and humid summers in Chicago as well. Like the plants we have learned to endure and thrive.  



Azalea blooming in the boulder garden.

This last month of March I planted evergreen Viburnum, azaleas, dogwood,cross vine ,  wildflower seeds, vegetables, contorted filbert, hostas, ferns and a moss garden.   Walking around the garden I was surprised and delighted to find things emerging that I planted last year and thought was dead.  

April is the month that marks the end of the freeze/frost date on the 15th and when gardening here begins in earnest.  I look forward to continuing my plantings in the woodland , roadside, boulder , herb and vegetable garden.  









Tuesday, March 1, 2016

MARCH COMES IN LIKE A GENTLE LAMB





"The March wind roars
Like a lion in the sky,
And makes us shiver
As he passes by. 
When winds are soft,
And the days are warm and clear,
Just like a gentle lamb,
Then spring is here."
-  Author Unknown

This first day of March is warm and sunny with a high of 70 degrees. I planted cool season vegetables in the Kitchen garden a few days ago -broccoli, kale, carrots, and red sweet onions.  Today I was bold enough to plant two tomatoes but will be prepared to cover them in case of a late frost/freeze.  

Signs of Spring are everywhere -daffodils, red budded leaves of maples, Okami cherries, hellebores, veronicas, and forsythia are blooming.   The blue birds are busy building nests in the many boxes I have for them.



I couldn't believe my luck when I visited the garden center and found the Kousa augustata, aka Evergreen dogwood , that I had been looking for a long time.  Naturally I bought and planted it.  The photo above depicts how it will look when its fully mature. It will have great fall color and bright red fruits as well.

I also purchased and planted my favorite viburnum plicatum ' mariessi ' in my back garden.  I have one in the front as well.

I had 6 yards of compost/topsoil delivered and have been busy spreading it about the beds in back.  I have one area that is so low it collects a lot of rainfall so I'm building it up into a raised bed where I will install the ornamental kitchen garden. As I was turning the wheelbarrow around I backed up and tripped over a stump .  I hit the ground hard, taking the brunt of the fall on the back of my head and shoulder.  I barely missed hitting a huge stone.  I feel lucky to be alive and shudder to think that it could've been much worse.   I iced my muscles and took some pain meds and fortunately I wasn't stiff or sore the next day.  Thank you Jesus ! He was certainly looking out for me.

While I realize our last frost date here is April 15 and we could still get some cold weather we have been so lucky this year to have Spring-like days that allow gardening.  

I have many tasks planned for this month in the garden.  One is to make a grape arbor for the sunniest part of my backyard .  It will also be a shady nook in which to sit and enjoy the garden.   

I am looking forward to Spring !









Monday, February 1, 2016

FEBRUARY'S FACE







"Why, what's the matter, 
That you have such a February face, 
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?" 
-  William Shakespeare,  Much Ado About Nothing


The biggest storm of the season hit here in late January and it was declared a state-wide emergency due to the ice, cold temperatures and falling snow. Schools and businesses were closed for several days and most supermarket shelves were bare.  This wouldn't even make the news in Chicago but here it's very serious due to the freeze and thaw.


Then in a flash it was gone, replaced on February 1 by a very mild 70 degree day.  Naturally it drew me back out to the garden where I started attacking the alarming amount of creeping charlie that had not expired in the freeze.

The warm weather has forced daffodils in bloom and the Blueberry shrub has buds on it.  The Hellebores are blooming nicely and there is much green in the hollies, ferns, gardenia, camellia, nandina and mahonia .  

 
These minature daffodils have naturalized from my neighbor's yard.  They are the earliest to bloom.


Adding a lot of lavender , ornamental grasses and silver plants to the roadside garden gave it both winter color and texture .  Backed by evergreen fragrant olives and a Southern Magnolia it has good form and winter interest .

My winter vegetable garden of savoy cabbage, leeks and mustard survived the freezes with row covers and shredded newspapers.

If today is any indication we will have an early Spring.  Last year on this day it was -9 .  



Friday, January 1, 2016

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016



January used to mean dark cold days full of ice and snow.    After  a few seasons here I don't dread it so much. This Christmas was the first we needed to use air conditioning as it was an astonishing 76 degrees and sunny.
Below is our darling grand Lea who has sparkles in her eyes this holiday season.   Her Irish grandparents are visiting from Cork and she is super excited.



We've had a very rainy warm December and now that January is here I expect that will soon stop and the real winter will set it .  The warmth has caused my 'Peggy Clarke ' Korean apricot to bloom as well as the daffodils .  

I planted two new broadleaf evergreens - Korean 'Chindo ' viburnum and Cleyera, both reputed to be "deer resistant ."  Although I usually spray all newly planted material the constant rain prevented me from doing so.  Yesterday I noticed that the Cleyera had been stripped of all its leaves.



With the torrential rains came a lot of flooding with creeks and rivers overflowing their banks.  I am still in the process of amending my soil and filling in low areas to prevent runoff.  My house is at the bottom of a hill and all the neighbors runoff comes into my yard.  He has dug a trench and created a berm along the property line between us and this has helped a lot but there's still much to be done on our landscape to remedy this problem.

With the New Year comes many plans for the garden.  I will bring in lots of compost and local top soil to continue to improve the hard rocky clay we have and thereby improve its ability to absorb rain.  I am beginning to see some small improvements on what I've done so far in this regard.  

I will also continue to plant an underlayment of shrubs, perennials and bulbs in the woodland garden and add more perennials to the boulder and roadside garden.

I am very pleased with the roadside garden and how it looked good from Spring up to winter.


An amazing amount of blooms were present right up until the 2nd freeze in December.  

While the season slows to a crawl I am enjoying feeding the birds and providing them with water.  It's fun to watch the woodpeckers, cardinals and Bluejays .

Happy New Year to everyone .  Hope your dreams and wishes come true.


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