Monday, April 30, 2012


"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 is an ancient holiday in many European countries that still follow the traditions.  " Bringing in the May " meant that one was to go out early in the morning, wash their face with the dew and gather flowers to make garlands and bouquets.   It was an important occasion that marked the beginning of Spring or Summer, depending on where you were.    May is a big occasion in my family, too,  -as  today, May 1st ,  in my birthday and two of my children were born this month as well.  And then, of course, there's Mother day. 

On this May day I can't help but reflect on what a difference a year makes - last year on this day my ornamental kitchen garden in Chicago looked like this :

and now I am a "landless " gardener in North Carolina .  But I must garden no matter what and I'm fortunate to have an outdoor deck and great weather to grow plants.  My garden this May Day looks like this :

April showers do spring May flowers . Seeing what's growing in both public and private gardens this month gives me lots of pleasure as it seems that there's always something in bloom here.   The irises are still blooming and are now joined by roses of all colors and varities.  Along the roadside are small white wild roses with arching branches dancing in the breeze, a fond sight I recall from my youth .

It appears that almost everyone has a vegetable garden -some in their front and some in the back. I've been enjoying my own lettuce and herbs from the container garden and appreciate how they just spring right back when you snip them .

Happy May Day my friends.  I look forward to celebrating my first birthday in sunny North Carolina .

Monday, April 23, 2012

First Tomato Emerges Unscathed

" Ok, I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille. "  - Gloria Swanson.

April 10, 2012 has a big circle around it on the calendar -the emergence of my first tomato of the season.  Visions of fried green tomatoes danced in my head, and the tune of Home Grown Tomatoes  on my lips.

'Better Boy ' has come through a few nippy nights and time spent in an unheated garage.    He now has brothers and sisters vying for my attention.  A mother's work is never done and days of mid-80's and direct sun demands more watering for my containers and unexpectedly cold nights mean that I must move it to the unheated garage.

The neighbors haven't planted their tomatoes in the ground  yet, waiting for that last, sure to come frost, but I just couldn't wait and so my portable tomato is way ahead of the rest .

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

March was warmer than April this year and as my little deck garden grew quickly with the sun and rain, ole' Jack Frost suddenly reared his ugly head.  I moved most of my pots into the unheated garage and covered the deck planters with sheets until the threat was over.

Upper left is the first tomato, 'Better Boy '.  Upper right is my rosemary, basil, parsley, mesclun planter.  Since my space is full sun most of the day I have a mandevilla ( lower left ) that can take the heat and bloom all summer.  My flower container ( lower right ) is planted with Lantana to attract hummers.  Butterflies love it as well. 

Here in North Carolina the seasons unfold with unbelievable displays of perennials, trees and shrubs popular in most public and private gardens .    Chionanthus, commonly known as the fringe tree, and seldom seen in Chicago area gardens is prolific here in its beautiful white dress.   Chinese wisteria, an invasive vine, hangs from trees everywhere,  red buckeye with its showy blooms and irises in colorful drifts of every color imaginable delight the eye and grace the landscape. 

In my Chicago garden the Asian pear and Magnolia made its earliest appearance ever in the mildest winter on record.    I'm keeping fingers crossed that a May freeze won't come this year.

Visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens to see what's blooming all around the country.

Monday, April 9, 2012

And Now for the Next Really Big Show

Spring unfolds in all its glory in North Carolina as poppular trees and shrubs put on a command performance.

With the warm weather the tulips, pansies, dogwoods and azaleas have begun to fade as seen in the above picture taken at Duke Gardens in Durham.

Following the meticulous notes of Elizabeth Lawrence in A Southern Garden , beginning in April the bloom of the tall bearded iris lasts nearly two months and I have enjoyed seeing them in many public and private gardens in every size and color imaginable.

These are the irises that bloomed in my Chicago garden.  The orange perfection on the upper left and the fragrant blue next to it were gifts from my daughter.   'Lorelei ' an old cultivar of deep purple and yellow was left by the former owner of my home and grew in my garden for 4 decades without any disease .  Not only was it a beautiful color but its medium height and strong stems prevented it from flopping over in the wind.

Miz Elizabeth mentions a very early variety called I. pallida dalmatica that has long been in cultivation in the South and says that having one is something like belonging to the Colonial Dames.  She also writes that its fragrance fills the borders and drifts into the house and that  'Princess Beatrice' is an outstanding cultivar. 

                                              'Princess Beatrice ' -   Photo courtesy of Bob Gutowski, Flickr

I'm not aiming for membership in the Colonial Dames, but I've got my heart set on getting a Princess Beatrice for my next garden.

Monday, April 2, 2012

An Azalea for Every Garden

I've always had an affinity for azaleas and have two- a Karen and a Korean - in my Chicago garden.  When I tried to sell them to customers at the garden center most of them would say they couldn't grow them.  Azaleas were not a common sight, much to my dismay.

But here in North Carolina, March and April bring out azaleas of all sizes and colors from pale pink, magenta, red and white -and they are in abundance in almost every garden and public place.

                                                      Azalea 'poukhanense ', aka, Korean

Having about the same bloomtime, azaleas look good with the dogwoods.

No Southern gardener would be without their beloved azaleas, or for that matter dogwoods and magnolias.   I have so enjoyed the magnificent Spring flower show in Chapel Hill and am very excited to see what April and May will bring.  I saw buds on a Southern magnolia the other day.  I believe they'll be early this year.
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