Monday, February 1, 2016


"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


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.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


December is the beginning of the end in my garden.  I've shredded all the fallen leaves and pine needles and applied them to all the beds.

The roadside wildflower garden continues to bloom despite some cold nights and lots of rain.

My mahonia , aka, Oregon grape is blooming.

I love its cheerful yellow blooms and artistic sculpture like structure.

On warm days I sit and enjoy what I have created.

On this last month of the year the garden still looks very much alive but I know that it can change in the blink of an eye.  Meanwhile I have cabbage, kale and mustard greens growing in my veggie garden.  My camellia japonica has buds on it and my flowering apricot will bloom sometime in February .  

While I tend to hang up the trowel this month there's always the possibility that this will be a mild winter.  One can only hope.   

Thursday, November 5, 2015


The roadside garden is still going strong this November.  The Muhly grass has finally begun its show with the pink plumes and the Robinson red mums added a much needed spot of red color to the  yellows, oranges, purples and white .

These zinnias performed beautifully through the summer drought and flood and are still showing off their beautiful orange blooms.

Lavender 'provence ' also took the drought well and bloomed several times.  THe lovely light purple asters are late bloomers in the Fall garden.  

Painted a dead tree turquoise and installed it by my new birdhouse.

Delighted to see Rodgersia , aka, Rodger's Flower is thriving and sent up a stalk with a bud as if it couldn't wait to bloom.

Added Lorepetalum, a brilliant purple leafed evergreen, an Asian pear '20th century ', oakleaf hydrangeas, Southern wax myrtle,  two blueberries, anemones, ferns, hostas, kerria japonica and bear's britches to the back garden.  Added some sage and bay leaf to the herb garden and kale in the vegetable garden.

It's too warm now but I am thinking of adding more bulbs such as tulips, alliums and daffodils .  Meanwhile I am just going to relax and enjoy this mild November weather that we've been blessed with.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Finally my new deer proof fence is installed and I'm a happy gardener.  I just planted 9 savoy cabbages and will continue to develop my Fall / Winter veggie garden.  

Another new addition to the Sweet Garden is my sweet puppy.  Duke, 8 weeks old, is a Miniature Australian Shepherd.  He is a little fluffy bear cub with a sweet personality.

Of course having a new puppy is not much different than having an infant in the house but before you know it he'll be tagging along with me in the newly fenced in garden where he'll be taught a flower from a weed.

The 'Miss Huff " Lantana was spectacular as usual despite the hot dry summer and many swallowtails and hummers found them delightfully delicious as well.    The roadside wildflower garden flourished with coreopsis, milkweed, blanket flowers, sages, Joe Pye weed, goldenrod and ornamental grasses, to name a few.

 Monarch butterflies found their way to my garden to lay their eggs on my milkweed.  

The boulder garden is filling in nicely as well.  I had to bring in 5 yards of fill dirt to grade some low areas in the backyard where my veggie garden will be.

Fall has arrived and September is departing.  Where did the time go ?   Looking forward to October and cooler weather to garden in .

Tuesday, September 1, 2015



When my eyes are weeds,
And my lips are petals, spinning
Down the wind that has beginning
Where the crumpled beeches start
In a fringe of salty reeds;
When my arms are elder-bushes,
And the rangy lilac pushes
Upward, upward through my heart;

Summer, do your worst!
Light your tinsel moon, and call on
Your performing stars to fall on
Headlong through your paper sky;
Nevermore shall I be cursed
By a flushed and amorous slattern,
With her dusty laces' pattern
Trailing, as she straggles by

-Dorothy Parker

August was dry, dry, dry and the temperatures were high so whatever watering I did was quickly absorbed.  To conserve water I added compost with biochar which is supposed to cut down on moisture loss.  I also covered the beds with a layer of pine needles and leaf mulch.

Meanwhile much to my delight I discovered that the endangered Monarch butterfly had discovered my milkweed that I planted last year.  I counted at least 8 caterpillars.

I started laying out the herb garden even though my backyard fence is not going to be installed until early September.  The deer and rabbits don't seem to like the herbs but they have devastated my tomatoes .

Despite the lack of rain this month the woodland garden which is partly shady has continued to thrive.  I added some colorful birds from a local artisan to provide some much needed color and whimsy.

The last day of August brought relief in a drenching overnight rain that saturated the garden and filled the rain barrels.

Farewell to August and welcome September !

Friday, July 31, 2015


The roadside garden with a mixture of coreopsis, lavender, cosmos, lantana, allysum, yarrow, lambs ear, marigolds, salvia , rose campion, sneezeweed, goldenrod, cardinal flower, delpheniums, gaura, muhly grass , and milkweed, to name a few, continued to thrive  and garner so many compliments from passersby.

Tragedy struck  in mid-July when my little canine companion of 14 years, Mini-Schnauzer Jojo had to be put to sleep due to an inoperable brain tumor that caused her to have constant seizures.    Below is a picture of her in our Chicago home, in her favorite chair, checking out the action on our busy street and barking selectively at people she didn't like.  She is gone from our side but never from our heart. I spent the last day of her life consoling and soothing her, giving her favorite treats .  The vet told me that I took such good care of her that she lived 2 years longer than most of her breed .  Farewell my faithful companion.  We shall meet again.

 I was fortunate to find a piece of whimsical art for my garden produced from recycled materials by a local  artist. Birds are a common theme in my woodland garden with many birdhouses, feeders and birdbaths.  

I am enjoying watching my young garden mature .  Despite the many challenges of gardening here in the Piedmont - deer, rabbit, clay, drought, etc.  I love my woodland cottage garden .  A small house and a big garden is my dream come true.  

Now August approaches and I have many plans for the Sweet Garden.  A new fence will be installed in my backyard so that I can garden without worrying about critters eating everything.  I will start my vegetable garden and add plants that I love but couldn't have due to deer.  I used to dread Fall because I knew that a harsh Chicago winter was ahead, but here you can garden all year. The sight of  Camellias and Flowering Apricots in Winter cheer my very soul.   And , what I planted this year - 4 dogwoods, viburnums and magnolia will be wonderful in Spring.  

And to end this Blue July tonight  there will be a blue moon.  
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