Thursday, October 1, 2020

September's Song

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer."
- Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885

Ah September and the days grow shorter and cooler. The birds sing loudly outside my window and  I arise early to begin editing my boulder garden which had become overgrown with exuberant Lantana . 

Since we have such a long growing season here I added more evergreens -Mahonia, Japanese  Ligustrum, Lorepetalum, Mugo Pine and golden privet, to name a few. I also want to be able to see the boulders which are native to this area.

The many birds that visit my garden love the bubbling solar fountain.  I don't feed the birds in the summer but providing water is more important as they are able to easily find lots of insects. I just wish they would devour the Japanese beetles.

I ordered a truckload of compost and topsoil to spread over my newly dug garden bed then I topped it with the leaf and pine needle mulch that had been aging over the winter in my front yard forest.

Rainfall has been abundant this growing season and the roadside meadow garden has flourished without much help from me.

              Above :  Brazil Verbena in the background, daisies and artemisia ,
               three prolific colonizers in the meadow garden.

I dislike the roundy/moundy mums sold each Fall at the Garden Center and last season I planted hardy garden mums that are now blooming and  brightening up the garden with their lovely yellow color.  I'm going to add some spider mums this Fall but will have to special order then since they're not available at local garden centers.

'Bolero' hardy garden mum , a prolific bloomer and spreading perennial.

Another Fall favorite is Goldenrod which I combine with purple Asters.

In the vegetable garden I sowed seeds of 5 types of Kale, spinach and Chinese broccoli.  I'm going to add some cabbages and leeks as well.  With the occasional use of row covers the winter veggie garden will thrive.  

I used to dread the coming of October in my Chicago garden as it meant the end of the gardening season but here I look forward to it.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020


 "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 Taylor 

For five months my sweet gardening companion Duke fought valiantly against the lymphoma that finally took over his tired body.  He went from a super energetic Aussie to barely being able to walk.  He was only 5 years old which makes the loss even greater.  And so on August 26 he crossed the rainbow bridge and I can imagine how he  now runs free and easy through the hills and meadows of  doggie heaven.  He will be greatly missed.

       Duke with one of his favorite humans,  Lea.  They grew up together.

This August was very hot but we were blessed with plenty of rain.  Just keeping up with weeding was a chore by itself. 

I enjoy sitting on the deck in the evening and watching the hummingbirds fly around the Lantana they love so much.  Bees are also attracted to this colorful shrub that blooms all summer.

Although August brought a sad farewell to my beloved Duke , I  count my many blessings.  All of my children now live close by and my dear younger sister as well.   It is a great comfort to have them here, especially during this horrible year of the pandemic.

Now that August is "dragging summer away " I look forward to the pleasant days of September.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Ruby Glow of July

"Loud is the summer's busy song
The smallest breeze can find a tongue,
While insects of each tiny size
Grow teasing with their melodies,
Till noon burns with its blistering breath
Around, and day lies still as death."
-  John Clare, July 

I love the sound of  running water in the garden.  I have three frolicking goldfish in my stock tank pond which is surrounded by banana palms and elephant years that provide much needed shade.

Even though July is suppose to be the rainiest month of the year in North Carolina it has seldom lived up to that label since I've been here.  Last July was one of the hottest and driest on record, but this month I was surprised and pleased that we had ample rainfall, despite 25 consecutive days of above 90.  I only had to water a few times and even then the hot temperatures dried it up.

I have planted several different varieties of azaleas and rhododendrons with no luck.   The intense heat is just too much for many of them even though I planted them in the right conditions.  Finally, I have a winner -I was so delighted to see new growth on my 'Formosa ' azalea.  

The 'formosa' azalea can reach heights of 6-10 feet but can be pruned to the desired size.  It's a very hardy specimen that can take the Southern heat.

Another thing that can't take the Southern heat is my Sweet Aussie Duke, my constant gardening companion who follows me about the garden and inspects every new addition.   This month he reached his 5th birthday but his chances of having another one are very slim due to his lymphoma diagnosis.  I am spending a lot of time making him happy and comfortable and it's very difficult to watch this spirited young one decline before my eyes.

Some good news -my eldest daughter and her hubby have relocated here and live only 6 miles away.  Like her mother, Cathy is an artist and amazing gardener.  The acorn doesn't fall far from the Oak.  Our family is now complete -there's 10 of us for Sunday dinners at my house.  I had to buy a second dining table.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Loveliness of June

"And since all this loveliness can not be Heaven,
I know in my heart it is June."

– Abba Woolson

Can there be anything lovelier than a beautiful day in June in the garden when the plants are enjoying mild temperatures before the scarlet face of July appears and the gardener is able to add new things.

             The garden as viewed from the Lady Banks rose arbor.

No matter how old I get I hope that I will always be able to work in the garden, a task I find most therapeutic. My Aunt Nell, my mother's sister, kept a home and garden 'til the day she passed. She also buried 4 husbands. Bless her heart she was the spittin' image of a strong, Irish woman. 

June saw temperatures in the 60's and plenty of rain, very unusual for this time of the year.  I make it a policy not to complain about too much rain because sometimes we often have too little.  You can water the garden from the hose but it's just not the same as the minerals the rain brings.

As June draws to a close and July promises its usual unbearably hot days I will retire to my studio to catch up on painting.   I will have a virtual art show but the very popular annual Open Studio for artists in this area is on hold this Fall.

July will bring my last remaining daughter to Chapel Hill and my family will be complete.  She's an artist and gardener like her Ma.

Monday, June 29, 2020

May Day

"A delicate fabric of bird song 
Floats in the air, 
The smell of wet wild earth 
Is everywhere. 
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, May Day 

May Day and I'm another year older. I'm so easy to buy for -plants, and more plants.

May is always a delightful month in the garden as the season begins in earnest.

Since I was unable to grow a small round patch of grass, due mainly to the dog and the hot Southern climate, I decided to tear it up and create another garden bed full of perennials.

I created a gravel path to run through the garden and one that I hope the dog will use instead of rushing through the beds.

Unlike last year when we had the worse drought since I've been here, rain was abundant.

Started the vegetable garden. Planted Japanese eggplant, romaine, squash, tomatoes, basil and green peppers.

I'm so tired of seeing nothing but 'bloodgood ' Japanese maples . I finally found a Japanese Maple that I liked named 'Summer Gold ' and its suppose to be able to tolerate the Southern heat. It's a dwarf with large gold leaves that turn pink and orange in the Fall. It'd also a good sized 10 year old tree .

With all our rain and early warmth the weeds have out-grown the flowers and I've been constantly after them. Whoever named 'creeping Charlie ' got it wrong - it should be runnning Charlie!

I'm spending as much time as I can with my terminally ill Aussie Duke as he enters the last stages of lymphoma. It is sad to see this once vibrant 4 year old turn into a lethargic dog with a ravenous appetite and constant thirst for water, caused of course by his meds. He mostly sleeps and eats all day.

The boulder garden is full of blooming daylilies, autumn sage and verbena. It is my aim to plant so close together that I don't have to mulch. I cover bare areas with pine straw and shredded leaves.

This year for the first time I had mums blooming in May ! I've never seen them bloom this early but of course we've had a very early Spring, but still I'm accustomed to Mums blooming in late Fall in Chicago.

While we had more than enough rain, and actually way too much, I promised myself I would not complain after last year's terrible drought.

Thursday, May 28, 2020



"Well-apparel'd April on the heel
Of limping Winter treads."
- William Shakespeare

My young dogwood bloomed for the first time this April.  The dogwood is the State flower of North Carolina and one of the best native trees that grow well at the forest's edge.  Thus far I have planted six of them.

April 15 marks the last freeze date and thus the beginning of serious planting in the garden.  Due to the lock-down the local garden center has been busy adjusting to curb-side service and safety precautions for those who want to shop inside.

Walking about the neighborhood I see a new found interest in gardening.  So many projects that were never tackled before are now being done and I see old, overgrown shrubs chopped down and thrown to the curb for pick-up.    A new revival in gardening has rapidly spread and the garden center is busier than ever.

Since I can't go to client's gardens as usual to help with their projects,  I have been busy dividing and transplanting and creating new garden beds in my own garden .  

Meanwhile it's great to see so many flowers blooming this month, and they're about a month early as well.  Below is my clematis 'bee's jubilee ' a very prolific, repeat bloomer.

    Roses blooming in April ?  Indeed, a surprise but there she is, my 'golden showers' climbing rose's first bloom, which was followed by many more.

Meanwhile I set out my tomatoes early and planted some spinach and kale.  Rain has been abundant and the garden looks lush.

I'm behind on my weeding and creeping charlie has started running so I have got to catch him before he takes over !  

March Madness

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

Spring is so early this year and with the mild winter we had there's an abundance of  blooms in the garden.  Above is my 'Marisii ' Viburnum and the cobalt-blue Ajuga.

I had so many plans for my garden this year and for my client's as well but those were put on hold with the horrible news of the Corona virus pandemic.   To add to the misery my sweet Awesome Aussie Duke was diagnosed with lymphoma and given a short time to live. He's only 4 years old. My constant garden companion, standing on his favorite boulder and surveying his kingdom.

I'm quarantined at home but I will find solace in my garden as well as painting.  I'm hoping that April and May will bring better news about this horrible pandemic.

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