Sunday, May 1, 2016


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


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


"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


"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.

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