Sunday, February 17, 2019


The new year started off with a warm 68 degrees and ended with a record shattering frigid 14 .  In between were a lot of ups and downs-one week warm and the next cold.  Lots of rain for days on end.    
One thing that cheered me up was the sight of Peggy Clarke in all her finery. Yes, Virginia there is a tree that blooms in January ! I love this Prunus mume ( Japanese Apricot ) so much I bought two of them.  

Another winter favorite is the Hellebores ( Lenten Rose ) which I have lining my driveway.  Their cheerful bobbing heads in colors of rose, burgundy and white are a delightful sight.  

Another January favorite is the Edgeworthia, aka, paper bush that is both beautiful and fragrant.

During the last five years I've been working on my garden it has been a real challenge to grow plants that deer, rabbits, drought, floods and clay soil don't affect.  Each January I go over my planting plan which includes something blooming /or green each month of the year.  I've had no luck with rhododendrons which I love but I've resorted to planting the hardy PJM  ( named for the hybridizer Peter J. Mezzitt ) which I had in my Chicago garden.  So far it appears to have survived the heat of the summer and I'm looking forward to seeing it bloom in April.

If my PJM, pictured above, continues to do well I may add Mrs. Olga Mezzitt  ( PJ's wife ) to the garden.  She's another keeper that brightened my Chicago garden for many years. I'm also searching for a source of the very hardy Korean azalea 'poukhanese ' that grows wild in the mountains there.
My plan this year is to add Viburnum 'carlessii '  ( Korean Spice ) , Daphne 'carol mackie ' and the above mentioned rhododendrons.   And in the empty spots that need something evergreen I will fill in with low-growing fragrant gardenias and Indian hawthorne.
This is my eighth year here and I find that the mild winters are very agreeable, especially when it is punctuated with Spring-like days of sunshine.  And the sight of daffodils blooming whispers that Spring will soon be here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


"How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness every where!
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time;
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute:
Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer,
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near."
- William Shakespeare, How Like a Winter Hath my Absence Been (Sonnet 97)

Old Man Winter paid a rare visit to North Carolina last week and we were snowbound for most of it -a heavy wet 8 to 12 inch snow followed by below freezing temperatures at night and warmer daytime ones that created a freeze/melting mess.

The week previous to that I selected and planted 6 varieties of Camellias, both Japonica and Sasanqua . For extra protection I sprayed them with a waxy coating of Wilt-pruf and laid on a thick mulch.  I re-cycled a cedar felled by the heavy snow and added the cut-up branches around the base of the camellias to protect them from any future storms

Camellia japonica 'Korean Snow '  is a rare cultivar , the only white one in that cold penisula and one of the hardiest  .  I was fortunate to find it at the nearby Camellia Forest nursery . 

I've always been fond of evergreens-both conifers and broadleaf as they provide a great structure for the garden in general .   Even more so since I can enjoy them more in the mild winters here.  I have 20-plus evergreens so far and want to add even more : magnolia, osmanthus,  camellias , hollies, nandinas, hellebores, rhododendrons, azaleas, sedges, ajuga, prague viburnum, oregon holly, cedars, autumn ferns, sweet flag, lady banks rose,  anise, yucca, japanese cypress, pines, all splendid in their winter green.  It's wonderful to have a winter green garden.  Soon color will be added by the prunus mume, (Japanese apricot tree  ) that blooms here in January/February, Camellia japonica and of course the lovely hellebores. 

 'Peggy Clarke ' prunus mume one of the earliest blooming trees of winter here in the piedmont.

After a week of staying indoors with the snow storm today it was a balmy 60 degrees today and I found myself in the garden picking up debris , fallen tree limbs, and applying more deer repellent washed away by heavy rains.

I'm once again dreaming of Spring here in the deep of December.

Friday, November 16, 2018


Last November was full of warm, sunny days with temperatures in the 70's.  The tables turned, however, this month, bringing our first freeze and cold, hard rainy days.  
My preparations for an open studio tour for the very popular annual event sponsored by our Orange County Artists Guild kept me from doing my normal gardening chores.  Since my indoor studio is small I set up my display under the carport.  
I was honored to welcome Helen Yoest to my home and garden. She's a huge art lover and of course gardening diva.

For all the work she does and inspires us gardeners with I created a painting for her titled " The Gardener's Dream. "  Below is a picture of it. The sleeping dreamer is my depiction of Helen . We also toured my young garden which was in the process of decline as winter approaches.  

The open studio was an incredible experience for me as I welcomed many Chapel Hill art lovers who were visibly impressed with my art.  I was also successful in selling quite a few pieces.

November has been a very unusual one weatherwise.  I am still planning to plant a lot of Fall bulbs once the saturated ground dries up.  I'm also hoping for a return of Indian summer.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

September Sorrow

"September: it was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret."
-   Alexander Theroux

                                                  'Ann's Beautiful Daughter '

Flashback to a year ago-August and September had little or no rain but this year Hurricane Florence changed all that for many people in North Carolina. Here in the Triangle we had heavy rains and fierce winds but fortunately escaped severe damage. My heart goes out to all the people affected by this devastating Hurricane.

The last rose of summer -a special shrub I ordered from the Antique Rose Emporium flushed out its last blooms.  In the garden many plants suffered and died due to the excess rainfall. Lavender and Artemisia in particular do not like it. 

I have also been fighting Southern Blight -a fungus that's caused by excess humidity and my Ajuga in the roadside garden was hit the hardest. 

I've had no luck in growing Rhododendrons but found a beautiful specimen of PJM, reputed to be one of the easiest to grow so of course I was hooked.  

I also found this newly developed improved variety of Oakleaf Hydrangea to replace the one I lost last year.

This lovely 'shades of pink ' evergreen viburnum was added to my growing collection -now numbering 9 !  I love the fact that some of the viburnums are evergreen which gives an added season of interest.

The old saying to be careful what you wish for came true when lamenting the dryness of August and wishing for ample rain in September !   My newly planted lawn groundcover was washed away and I decided to replace it with Ajuga groundcover. 

The days grow shorter but not yet cooler as summer promises to hang on in October and we face yet another hurricane.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Most Unusual August

"August rushes by like desert rainfall,
A flood of frenzied upheaval,
But still catching me unprepared.
Like a matchflame
Bursting on the scene,
Heat and haze of crimson sunsets.
Like a dream
Of moon and dark barely recalled,
A moment,
Shadows caught in a blink.
Like a quick kiss;
One wishes for more
But it suddenly turns to leave,
Dragging summer away."
-  Elizabeth Maua Taylo

My hyacinth  bean vine in bloom always reminds me of my visit to Monticello and bringing back the seeds from Thomas Jefferson's garden.

While July was extremely dry August was just the opposite -unusually rainy and while not a record, it was way above average, almost four inches more than normal.  I didn't have to water the garden even once !

It's a challenge to grow an old fashioned Lilac here in the South . After a futile search in local garden centers I had to resort to ordering my long sought after Lilac -'Pocahontas ' , a Canadian variety that is supposed to survive the Southern summer heat.  It arrived potted in its own soil instead of the bareroots most nurseries have which will reduce the transplant shock considerably.

I love the deep purple of this old fashioned Lilac and can't wait for Spring to see it's new blooms.

Yesterday at the garden center I spotted a beautiful Chinese Snowball Viburnum and brought it home with me.  I now have 8 in my collection.  Guess you might say I'm kinda fond of them.

I have totally given up on growing grass in my backyard.  I had a circular lawn but every year around July it would slowly die away.   While I was digging the soil I found the reason why - Japanese beetle grubs.   I applied a grub control and have ordered ground cover seeds for heneria aka green carpet.  No more lawn.

Farewell to August and hello to September which will bring cooler weather and hopefully ample rain for the garden.  

Saturday, August 4, 2018


"The Summer looks out from her brazen tower,
Through the flashing bars of July."
-  Francis Thompson, A Corymbus for Autumn  

June's drought continued into July but unlike last year at this time the temperatures didn't reach 100.  The last week of June brought almost daily rainfall which was very welcomed.
I walk about the garden taking notes on which plants are most affected by the heat and lack of rain.   My beloved viburnums, although located in a semi-shady place, are the first to bow their leafy heads and ask for a deep soaking and I use rain collected in my barrel to answer her demands.  Below is a photo of her Spring blooms .  The asters, goldenrod, blackeyed susans, spurge, zinnias, ornamental grasses, and autumn sage , catsmint and lavender have fared rather well in this drought.

Viburnum plicatum 'mariesii '

In the orchard the 'Blushingstar ' white fleshed peach tree produced many deliciously sweet fruit .  

The tomatoes, cucumbers and squash have been abundant in the veggie garden.

In the hen house HeiHei, my Buff Orpington,  has gone broody !  She sat on her nest all day and all night, seldom leaving it for food or water.  To break the broodiness I isolated her in a wire cage with food and water.  It took 3 days before it worked.  If nothing is done about the brodiness it affects all the other hens and the result is no eggs .

I am on the hunt for the Canadian hyrid lilac Hyacinthiflora 'Pocahontas ' which claims to be able to take this Southern heat.  Two other shrubs on my wishlist are 'carol mackie ' daphne and 'koreanspice ' viburnum which local garden centers don't carry.

My roadside garden is bordered with Ajuga which has been attacked by the soil borne disease known as Southern blight or crown rot.  The experts advise to dig everything up, excavate soil 6-8 inches below and replace it .  Or you can save a lot of toil and trouble by applying Bonide lawn and garden fungicide which I aim to do once the ground dries out .

Looking forward to Fall and cooler weather .  I have plants that need dividing and transplanted and plants that died over the winter that need replacing.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Beautiful Summer Month of June

"It's beautiful the Summer month of June

When all of God's own wildflowers are in bloom
And sun shines brightly most part of the day
And butterflies o'er lush green meadows play.

Light hearted skylark songster of the wing
High o'er the quiet and lonely moorland sing
Above her nest cloaked by the tangled heath
Her charming song so exquisitely sweet.

So mellow the gentle breath of june day breeze
The birds rejoicing on the leafy trees
And dappled trout in pool bed of the stream
Bask in the sun their spotted skins agleam."
-  Francis Duggan, June

June was a very busy month in the Sweet Garden-the blue bird boxes quickly filled up and the proud parents were soon busy picking up insects for their brood.  The Japanese beetles once again were on the attack but not as bad as last year and so I at least had blooms on my dwarf Crape Myrtles for a change.  I have sprayed them and I'm adding more nematodes this Fall to further control them in the Spring.  They've spread to my fruit trees in the back garden as well.

June was very hot this year -more like July weather . The weatherman kept predicting rain everyday for a solid two weeks but it never appeared.  When we finally did get some much need rain it came down in buckets !  

With June comes the bloom of my favorite tree -the Southern Magolia, its sweet fragrance and spectacular blossom.

My roadside garden continues to flourish and get's fuller with time.  I've added Russian Sage and re-seeded with a wildflower perennial mixture.  The red yarrow, blue catmint, purple lavender, red autumn sage, white oxeye daisy, Joe Pye weed , Lantana, ornamental grasses and canna lily are now well-established and their blooms provide good , continuous color and attract the pollinators.

I couldn't find the Korean Spice viburnum that I want locally but found a nursery in Tennessee that grows it and ships it bareroot.  It doesn't look happy yet but I'm patiently waiting to see if it survives.   I also ordered two sumac bareroots and they have sprouted nicely.  

I found a mail order source for an old-fashioned Lilac that will supposedly survive this Southern heat but will wait until Fall to order it.  

Meanwhile in the fruit orchard the White fleshed peaches are growing, the grape vine is producing its first real crop and the Asian pears are heavy with their Fall-ripening fruit.  This is the second year for my dwarf fig and I'm hoping it might produce fruit as well.

Now it's time to welcome July.  Hoping against hope for ample rain and cooler temperatures !

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