Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Practical Portable Garden

For the first time in over 4 decades I find myself without a real garden of my own.   The house that I'm renting is new and a proper landscape was not installed.  I must have some kind of garden so I started down the path of least resistance -a container garden on the back deck which has flourished very nicely.

The bare front yard was put off as I tried, in vain, to persaude the owners to install a proper landscape.   The owner is not willing to put in a landscape for fear that tenants in the future won't care for it.  Very lame as far as I'm concerned but, it is what it is .  I will probably be here for another year or so and don't want to spend a lot of money on someone else's property.

The other day I noticed that the first container plant I purchased last Fall, a beautiful Ilex Crenata , or Japanese Holly,  had outgrown its pot and needed re-planting.  I brought it around to the front yard to see if there was a place I could put it temporarily.   On either side of the front entrance to the house is a recessed space begging to be a real garden.  The soil on both sides is hard, compacted clay so I am not able or willing to dig it out .   After a good soaking rain the ground was somewhat softer and I dug out a hole and placed the holly in it, right next to the stairs .  I purposely planted it high because of the clay.  I also went to the forest in the back and borrowed some of the good leaf mold and top layer of good soil to surround it.

Since the recessed space is small I started getting more ideas on how I could turn this area into a portable garden that I could take with me when I left.  One thing led to another and before I knew it I had my eyes on a 4 x 4 ' raised cedar garden beg from Home Depot.  This bed will be filled with colorful long blooming annuals for seasonal color.

On the other side of the stairs was the only sign that one of the past tenants had a green thumb - a struggling, diseased rose bush which led to even more brilliant ideas.  Why not do a raised bed of  roses on that side which has a lot of sun ? 

Well, there you have it.   Right  now there's a holly and a rose , a good beginning but it won't be long before its joined by others and before you know it, a real garden will be created .

I know everyone loves before and  after photos and when I'm done I will post them.  Right now, here's my garden plan .  I hope to have it done before the snow flies.  Wait a minute I don't have to worry about the snow, I'm in North Carolina now.   Stay tuned for more updates.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Memories of a Southern Childhood


Flowers, trees and shrubs hold special memories of childhood.  I realized this more than ever while working in the tree and shurb department of a garden center where customers would come looking for a certain specimen to plant in memory of a departed loved one or to give as a gift for a wedding or anniversary.  Or, they wanted a tree from their childhood for their own garden or their children's.

After moving to North Carolina last year I  have started to become re-acquainted with many things I had forgotten about from my Southern childhood.   On a visit to the North Carolina botanical garden I saw an interesting looking tropical tree and peering closer I saw it's unfamiliar name Asimina trilob and beneath it the common name :  Paw-Paw tree.    It brought back memories of the folksong we sang at school.

Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.
Come on, boys [or girls, or kids], let’s go find her,
Come on, boys, let’s go find her,
Come on, boys, let’s go find her,
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.
Pickin’ up paw-paws, puttin’ ‘em in her pockets,
Pickin’ up paw-paws, puttin’ ‘em in her pockets,
Pickin’ up paw-paws, puttin’ ‘em in her pockets,
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.
—The Paw Paw Patch

 The Paw-paw is the largest native fruit in America .  Daniel Boone and Mark Twain were said to be big fans of the Paw-paw  which is sometimes called the " poor man's banana. " According to Lewis and Clark it saved them for starvation on their expedition and Native Americans consumed them regularly as part of their diet.

We didn't know who owned the property near the creek where the Paw-paw trees were but they seemed to be fair game for the first to discover their ripening fruit in the early Fall.  We'd load up our baskets and pockets with them, licking our lips at the thought of them mashed up with a little milk and sugar. 

Fall also meant searching for  ripe persimmons , hickory nuts and chestnuts, all special treats when the fruits of summer were a distant memory.

As I gaze upon the familiar crape myrtles, mimosa, dogwood, magnolia and hollies that grow so prolifically here I feel as I've truly come home to my beloved South again after so many decades away.

What trees, shrubs and flowers hold special memories from your childhood ?   Have you preserved a little history by planting some in your garden ? 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Proven Flowers for Hot North Carolina Summers

I am following the wisdom of Miz Elizabeth Lawrence author of A Southern Garden, which is still fresh and practical as it was 50 years ago when she wrote her famous book.

Drought is something we must face sooner or later here and what flowers to grow that will endure it is key if one is to have a four seasons garden. Miz Elizabeth praises daylilies as one of the early summer southern gardens mainstays. They begin to bloom in late May and continue to mid-July. With these she planted spurge, white phlox, veronica, butterfly weed , tritonia, and cosmos for a bright and cool scheme.

If Miz Elizabeth was alive today I think she'd be amazed at how many wonderful varieties of daylilies there are now. This one is a triple .

Phlox paniculata

Coneflowers, Chrysanthemum maximum, Alaska daisies, yarrow, tiger lilies, and the torch lily are other summer favorites. She considered garden phlox the foundation of perennial borders in June and July . Her favorite companion plant with phloxd was a red Monarda, or bee balm , combined with a light purple aster. As Monarda colonizes rather quickly, one must keep a close eye on it, but it is easy to pull up and thin out.

Salvia azurea

Salvia greggi

Salvia patens

Long blooming perennials in Mis Elizabeth's garden were autumn sage, S. Greggii, gential sage,

Salvia patens, Salvia azurea, and the mealycup sage, S. farinacea which blooms from early June to November. From June to August, Achillea nitida or yarrow kept good foliage and tolerated drought very well. The New England aster, A. novae-angliae began in early June and goes steadily on until very late Fall.

The cornflower aster, Stokesia laevis , is one she considers the most satisfactory perennials for the South. Heliopsis and gaillardias are two perennials she named that bloom very long under all conditions.

Miz Elizabeth used indispensible annuals that re-seeded themselves and came back year after year, such as the prickly poppies, cosmos, zinnias, marigold and cleome. She considered Gazanias as the sturdiest of South African daisies and members of the Amaryllis family become the center of interest in summer and Fall.

Argemone, prickly poppy

Gazania rigens

I will certainly put these on my list of must haves for my future Carolina piedmont garden.
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