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 !

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


What is so sweet and dear
As a prosperous morn in May,
The confident prime of the day,
And the dauntless youth of the year,
When nothing that asks for bliss,
Asking aright, is denied,
And half of the world a bridegroom is,
And half of the world a bride?"
-  William Watson, Ode in May, 1880

Like last May the month has been rainier than April.  I haven't had to water the garden, with the exception of some transplants, even once.

This outstanding clematis, 'bee's jubilee' made an early appearance.  It will bloom through-out the season.

Rhododendrons, with the exception of the native, 'rosebay' or 'maximus ' do not grow well here.  I've heard that the well-known 'pjm ' may be an exception so I bought and planted one.   I also ordered the 'rosebay' from a Texas nursery since I couldn't find it here.

This splendid perennial 'jack frost ' brunnera has emerged and bloomed.  I love it's colorful foliage and it's one of a very few variegated plants that I have .

My 'western pride' nectarine produced an abundant crop of low acid, sweet and juicy nectarines.  This is a semi-dwarf fruit tree that is disease and pest resistance.
My Asian pears, for the first time, have been hit with cedar rust, a fungus that happens when it rains too much.  I've given them a systemic soaking of a sulfur product to try to stop it.
After a long search I finally found and ordered a Viburnum 'korean spice' one of the most fragrant shrubs ever, from a nursery in Tennessee.  It's a two-year old shrub .  For some reason they are not stocked by local garden centers.  They were one of the most demanded cultivars in the Chicago garden center where I used to work.   I now have 8 Viburnums in my garden.  

                                    Korean Spice Viburnum
May has been a very busy month in the garden and tackling the weeds was one of the main chores because of all the rain.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.

You know how it is with an April day.

When the sun is out and the wind is still,

You're one month on in the middle of May.

But if you so much as dare to speak,

a cloud come over the sunlit arch,

And wind comes off a frozen peak,

And you're two months back in the middle of March."

- Robert Frost

Last April I purchased four hens and it has been delightful to watch them grow. Granddaughter Lea loves to feed and play with them. They are all good layers and the mother hen ( the red one -Henrietta ) lays the largest eggs I've ever seen.

True to its "April Showers do bring May flowers " reputation, April has been very rainy with some teasingly warm days and some very cold days.

Amazingly the hellebores have continued to bloom since Feburary. The dogwoods, red buckeye, Asian pear , apple, nectarine and peach trees have all bloomed and luckily weren't hit with a late April freeze as they were last year.

This outstanding foliage plant, Butterbur, or Petasides, a passalong plant, is colonizing in my front woodland garden and adds a much-needed spot of color.

The long stretch of below freezing temperatures caused my evergreen 'Lady Banks' rose to drop its leaves, however, it recovered very quickly and bloomed profusely.

The Autumn Sages, a favorite of mine, were also hit hard by the prolonged freeze but also have recovered and are blooming nicely. It's one of the longest blooming, drought-and-deer tolerant plants in my garden. I have at least six reds but fell in love with this purple one and had to have it.

A grand lady that shows off her finery in April is the lovely "Marie " viburnum ( Viburnum plicatum tomentosa 'mariesii ' , as she stretches her arms full of blossoms. The blossoms will be followed by bright red berries, another spectacular show.

April is full of activity as the bluebirds, Carolina Wrens, Bluejays and Cardinals set up their nests. I have four birdhouses full of newly laid eggs. No sooner had I installed a new birdhouse it was promptly claimed and the nest built very quickly.

As April fades away the Iris, catmint, hellebores, ajuga, green and gold groundcover, vervain, Solomon's seal, woodland phlox and Euphorbia are putting on a spectacular Spring show.

I know that gardening is the "Slowest of the performing arts " but I'm glad to finally see the fruit of my labor as my garden is beginning to fill in and mature.

Farewell April and welcome sweet May.

Monday, April 2, 2018

March Into Spring


That come before the swallow dares, and take
The winds of March with beauty."
-  William Shakespeare 

This march was seldom kind, teasing with its warm days followed by winter-like weather and true to its reputation, chilly winds and lots of rain.

One cheerful flower that  continues to brighten up my garden is the long- blooming Helleborus. As everyone knows who has them they are prolific spreaders which I don't mind because and as they grow I am going to divide and spread them about my woodland garden.  I love them for their evergreen foliage as well as their bright blooms.

I need to plant more daffodils and spring-blooming bulbs .  I added alliums last Fall and as they are mid-to-late season it will be sometime in April before they bloom. 

I found this most unusual lavender  ( fern lavender ) and couldn't resist it.  Can't wait to see how it performs in the heat of summer this year.

I am continuing my search for a native rhododendron 
( Maximus 'rosebay' ) and a nearby garden center has promised to try to find one for me.   I may try PJM rhododendron as I have seen a few that have survived our hot summers and look spectacular this Spring.  My neighbor has one that is around 7 - 8 feet tall.

With Spring finally arriving the last week of March things are popping up in the garden - variegated Solomon's Seal, hostas, Japanese roof iris, viburnums, dogwood, Ajuga, Catmint, woodland phlox, butterbur, clematis, tulips, and fruit trees to name a few.

Looking forward to a nice April and praying it doesn't bring us a late season freeze this year.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


"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

My February face this year was quite frosty.  Last February was so mild I was re-seeding my lawn and planting cool season vegetables. Even the potted bamboo I have in a pot turned yellow and dried out.  

The harsh winter we have this year may have killed off my semi-tropical plants such as the Banana palm and Elephant ears. I like them so much I will replace them if so.

Blooming in my garden now is Edgeworthia , aka, Paper bush  .

Edgeworthia is so fragrant and is a cheerful sight in the midst of February.  A most unusual shrub which originated in China and was actually used to make paper.

Another favorite is my Hellebores all of which were gifted to me due to their habit of spreading quite quickly.  They were late to bloom this year but now they are putting on quite a show.

I have a border of various colors -ranging from the pink/lavender/burgundy above to a pure white. 

My fruit trees -peach, apple, nectarine and pear are budding and some are blooming.  Last year a late April freeze nipped the Asian pear trees in the bud and I had only a few pears from them.

And a first -Lady Banks rose, an evergreen thornless variety, lost its leaves for the first time.  It has already bounced back due to the warm up we had at the end of this month.

Even though it blooms just once it's a great addition to a trellis because it's green even when not in bloom.

Since we had such an unusually cold winter it's my hope and dream that we will have an early pleasant Spring.  Just a gardener's dream as in the painting I did with that title.

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