Monday, June 30, 2014


"Mine is the Month of Roses; yes, and mine

The Month of Marriages! All pleasant sights

And scents, the fragrance of the blossoming vine,

The foliage of the valleys and the heights.

Mine are the longest days, the loveliest nights;

The mower's scythe makes music to my ear;

I am the mother of all dear delights;

I am the fairest daughter of the year."

-  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How did June get here so fast ?  She finds us adding a small addition to our little cabin in the woods.  It will be a "flex room " - a family gathering place with a pull-out sofa bed for guests.

In the garden I have watched the wildflowers sprout and grow from seeds.   In addition to fighting deer I discovered we had a nest of bunnies under the shed that had been dining on my plants.  Off to the store to get stinky stuff to spray on the plants.  I have encased all my edibles in thin black plastic netting and haven't had any casualties since.  I have to have the boundaries of our property marked by a surveyor before I can put up a much needed fence.

Thus far it has been a hot and dry June so I keep a close eye on all the new plants to make sure they have enough water.   I  added a small pond with a water hyacinth and the birds just love it .  Added several new ferns to the woodland garden and planted 'Miss Huff ' lantana, coreopsis, blackeyed susan, cone flowers, bear's britches, bee balm, and some fountain grass.

It's so pleasant to get up early and walk about the garden .  The birds singing and the cool country air are so relaxing.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I realize I am back in my beloved South.  Even though I lived in Chicago for over 4 decades my heart was always here.  

Traveled up to the Outer Banks  on the Atlantic with Lea and family and my daughter Cathy and husband Randy from Chicago  where we spent some pleasant days on the beautiful beach there.   This gave us a little break from the many months of rehab we've been doing non-stop.

Joined the local community garden where I volunteered to weed for several hours once a week.  In return I am rewarded with some great veggies.

Soon the dust will settle and the rehab will end and maybe then I can concentrate on more important things - like gardening.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


A mighty cold winter and a fickle Spring - back and forth with the hot and cold, rain and no rain.  Many homies tell me that this was the coldest and longest winter they could remember.

I've been busy with remodelling our small cedar house - adding a new half bath , a deck, new kitchen and an additional "gathering room " that will also be a guest room for visiting family members.  I love our small, cozy home and with all the improvements it is even more comfortable.  Outside I plan to install a fence around the perimeter so that I can garden without worrying about deer . I don't like fencing in a woodland garden but I will make it as invisible as possible with some lovely vines and other plantings.

In the garden I have added  mahonia, lorepetalum, dwarf butterfly bush, scarlet sage, Japanese iris, mugho pine, soft leaf yucca, forget-me-nots, nandina and astile.  In the frontage near the busy road I have eradicated the grass, formed beds, added horse manure and compost and planted wildflower seeds.  Behind them I am forming a row of pink muhly grass for Fall color.

As I work in the garden in the cool of the morning I encounter many passersby who comment on my progress or strike up a conversation about gardening.   Folks here are so friendly and always say hello when they pass, just one more thing I love about the South. I also love this small town feeling and its unique character - it's actually a melting pot of people from just about everywhere . It's also a foodie's town with lots of interesting places- at least 200 to dine.

I miss my family and friends in Chicago and often think about my old homestead and garden there.  The nice thing though is that my daughter there will fly down with her hubby in June and we'll all go to the lovely Outer Banks on the Atlantic for vacation.

My daughter took me to a Greek restaurant named Kipo's for my birthday and I asked the waiter what that meant.  We were surprised by his answer : Garden.  Lovely, because we were actually dining outside in a beautiful garden.

I also miss my loyal Chicago garden clients.  The garden design business in this small town is quite different I've found but I am giving it serious study before passing judgment.   I am enjoying visiting various garden centers and nurseries to check out their inventory.

But here in the merry month of May I find myself quite content with my new home and garden and the adventures that await me.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


On this last day of April, the eve of my 70th birthday, I am reflecting on my life.

The first ten years of my life were traumatic - I lost my dear mother in my 4th year and for the next six I was in an orphanage .  My Dad, a farmer, took us to our first real home when my two sisters and I were old enough to take care of ourselves and help do chores.  Our brother Cecil had gone off to the Korean war.

My next decade was also very eventful - I finished high school and moved to the big city of Chicago where I met and married my husband Simon.  We celebrated our golden anniversary last year .  We have three children -two wonderful daughters and a son.

In my third decade I worked full time and raised a family.  We bought a great old American Foursquare home and starting rehabbing it ourselves.  What were we thinking ?  With 3 kids and a job we were the weekend warriors and it took us many years to achieve our goals but we managed to turn the tarnished old jewel into a grand old lady.   My hubby Simon, who left Korea right after high school to go to college here, missed his dear Mother and we decided to bring her to live with us so that our children could experience their only living grandparent.  It was a precious time that they will always treasure and she lived with us for 10 years before passing.

                                                    My Little Urban Paradise in Chicago

In my fourth decade home ownership made me realize how much I actually enjoyed gardening .  I had been avoiding it because of my childhood filled with daily work in the field and garden . I realized that gardening wasn't just about work but pleasure as well.

In my fifth decade I decided to quit my day job and take up the two things I loved most - gardening and art.  I painted during the winter and installed landscapes during the growing season.  I thrived in both pursuits and I'm so glad that I took the risk.  Being the middle child means having a lot of gumption.  Meanwhile our children pursued their own lives and got married.

In my sixth decade the most important event was the joyous arrival of our first grandchild - a girl named Lea.
Before her arrival I was settled into living the rest of my life in my wonderful home and garden, but circumstances beyond my control came into effect -my daughter moved to North Carolina for her job.  I had looked after Lea since she was 3 months old and not being able to see her when I wanted to was all I needed to return to my beloved South.  As much as I loved Chicago the long cold winters finally took their toll as well and the Southern breeze beckoned.

                                                      Raising the Next Generation of Gardeners

Now, how did this happen -I'm suddenly into my seventh decade which finds me in a new home and garden here in the great state of North Carolina.   Old age sure is sneaky.   Since I'm suppose to be older and wiser I leave you with these pearls of wisdom :


·        Time flies in a garden.

·        Gardening is a lot like relationships-both take hard work to succeed.

·        Gardening keeps you young.  You may have as many wrinkles as a Shar Pei but your body will look like Suzanne Sommers.

·        Gardening gives you a sense of humor.  When hubby says you don’t have room for one more plant you say watch this !

·        The birth of a grandchild is like watching your favorite flower blossom.  Having the chance to pass on your love of gardening to her ; priceless.

·        Gardening is the best therapy to relieve stress.  Those with teenagers will understand this the best. 

·        Gardening is a lifelong obsession from which there is no retirement .


Sunday, March 23, 2014


I know the folks in my old hometown Chicago will think it laughable what passes for winter here.  Snow is not the problem, ice is. It rains then the temperatures drop and a thick coat of ice covers everything and everything comes to a grinding halt because of the dangers of walking and driving.  Schools and businesses are closed.  So far this winter we've had 3 or 4 snowdays, which is a lot for North Carolina.

In between the cold and miserable days we are teased with sunny warm temperatures in the 60's and even 70's.  I've managed to plant ferns, violas, quince, forsythia, spirea, bleeding heart, heather, emerald green yew, cotoneaster, hellebore, creeping phlox and lily of the valley.  I received my mail order of 70 assorted varieties of willow cuttings which I planted to form a fedge  ( hedge + fence ).

Despite the wintry March I am enjoying watching the delightful heads of yellow daffodils in the woods.  These are one flower the deer don't seem to touch.

From my window its also a delight to watch the many colorful cardinals, bluejays, bluebirds and woodpeckers share the food I put out for them.

Woody woodpecker can be seen clinging to his suet in the lower right hand side of the above photo.   He and his redneck band haven't been drumming on my cedar wood siding since I provided his favorite treat.

We've had a lot of moisture in the form of rain and snow this winter and the clay soil is frequently waterlogged.  I have a garden cultivator on order and will have a bulk delivery of compost and manure to start tilling into the ground as soon as Spring decides to come and stay. Of the many kinds and colors of clay I am fortunate to have a yellow gritty one that was formed from rock deposits.  It drains better than the gray clay of Chapel Hill, one of the worse soils anywhere.

Looking forward to my first full garden season in my new home.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


                   This post I did for the Garden Designers Roundtable in 2010 is reprinted here for your inspiration, especially those being inundated with the polar vortex this dreadful winter.  Winter has also been way too long and cold for North Carolina.

 May Flowers by Moi

One of the most beautiful and beloved gardens in the world was designed by Monet,  an artist with no landscaping experience . He declared "more than anything I must always have flowers, always, always. "  He planted his gardens as subjects for his paintings.  " "The richness I achieve,"  he said, " comes from nature, the source of my inspiration."

 I also combine my passions for gardens and art and like Monet, nature is a great source of my inspiration as well.    The verdant rolling hills of my youth are forever in my heart and mind and the fragrance of cedar and pine in my nostrils.   I cannot pass a garden , no matter how humble or ostentatious, without appreciating the good elements of design it may have, but more than that, the beauty it brings to my eyes and soul.

Winter does not bring landscaping or gardening to an end, rather it is the season we spend planning for the coming Spring.   I find inspiration in the glossy garden magazines, the many treasured volumes I have on gardening, attending garden shows and visiting numerous gardeners who blog on the subject.  I know many who welcome Fall and Winter as a break from the gardening season but if I had my druthers I would choose a place to garden year round for I never tire of it .

Spring renews my winter-weary soul.  Like the earth I am awakening to a new season, a new beginning.  Every emerging plant is a source of inspiration and I am eager to start creating a beautiful garden for someone to  enjoy and attending to mine as well.

Having grown up without the inspiration and nurturing a mother gives a daughter, I have found a source of it in friends , family and others I come into contact with.  From the person who bought my first painting to the client who trusted me enough to say " do your thing " with my garden and loved the results,  all have inspired me to greater heights.

One of my greatest inspirations comes from visiting both public and private gardens, especially those that have left a living legacy of their work behind.

Monet's Masterpiece -Giverny

Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst

Thomas Jefferson's vegetable garden at Monticello

To create a garden or a work of art doesn't require a degree in horticulture , landscape design, or painting.  As famous fellow Alabamian Helen Keller said " Don't look to college for ideas. " That is not to say that education isn't important, it is, but inspiration is the well-spring from which creativity flows.

The gardens of novices Monet, Vita Sackville-West,  and Thomas Jefferson  provide a continuous source of delight and inspiration to all who are fortunate to see them.  As a primitive painter and garden designer I think I'm in good company.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

January Post Delayed Due to Snow

Snow is as rare as hen's teeth here in North Carolina but getting a 

dusting of 2 inches causes immediate chaos.   Schools and businesses close and the supermarket is busy with shoppers stocking up.  I know that people up North think we're all crazy and laugh about our frantic antics , but hey, they don't live here or they'd understand.  Its the fear of black ice more than the snow. After living in Chicago for 4 decades I know something about snow but for the life of me could never understand the locals need to reserve their parking spaces with chairs, buckets, etc.  Instead of helping their neighbors dig out the entire block so everyone could find a spot they go to great lenghts to stake their claim, even flattening tires or breaking car windows.  

January has been unusually cold here and saw the lowest temperatures and most snow in 14 years.    But the nice thing about it is no matter how bad the weather it will change in a short time.  So from 7 degrees one day it went to 65, bringing everyone out to enjoy the sunshine.  

Soon we will be able to enjoy the beautiful dogwoods and azaleas such as the ones above at Duke Gardens.  I have two dogwoods in my garden that I can't wait to see bloom.  No azaleas yet as deer dine on them but looking for Rhododendrons they may leave alone.

Farewell, January, or good riddance is more like it.   You made us more appreciative of the coming Spring.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


November was filled with renovations -2 bathrooms were totally gutted and redone.  New ductwork under the crawlspace, water heater replaced  and major re-grading of backyard to improve drainage .  The dismantling of  a huge mound of dirt and boulders created the future site of a rock garden.

December came with some very cold and then warm days which lured me out to the garden center where I managed to blow all my money on holly, dogwood and crape myrtle.   I managed to plant them on a warm day and now I have something to look at .  I have to totally change my way of thinking about planting.  Here a shallow bowl-shaped hole is recommended as is planting high .

Near the driveway entrance I started my wildlife garden with a bird feeder, bird house and bath .  I love to watch the bluebirds, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Woodpeckers and Wrens .

This month's renovation project was a tear off of the old porch and a new one built of cedar. We also had a cedar shed installed for extra storage and a workshop since we don't have a garage.

I have continued spreading the huge mound of mulch from over 30 trees taken down .  The rain doesn't soak into the ground here and forms puddles and run off everywhere, so the mulch will help slow it down and eventually improve the soil's drainage.  I need to bring in loads of top soil and compost and plant the bare spaces so that rain water will be absorbed better.   I'm also planning to buy a garden tiller/cultivator since the soil is difficult to dig and I need to work in some compost and manure to improve drainage and absorption.

Christmas has arrived and with it Lea's grandparents from Ireland.  She is 5 now and loves to entertain them with made up stories and Christmas songs.    This Christmas the weather hasn't been as warm as Christmases past when they arrived for their visit.   I do believe they brought the rain from Ireland with them.

Soon December will come to an end and the New Year will begin.  I hope that 2014 will bring much joy to our Sweet Home and Garden Carolina.

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