Saturday, December 28, 2013


November was filled with renovations -2 bathrooms were totally gutted and redone.  New ductwork under the crawlspace, water heater replaced  and major re-grading of backyard to improve drainage .  The dismantling of  a huge mound of dirt and boulders created the future site of a rock garden.

December came with some very cold and then warm days which lured me out to the garden center where I managed to blow all my money on holly, dogwood and crape myrtle.   I managed to plant them on a warm day and now I have something to look at .  I have to totally change my way of thinking about planting.  Here a shallow bowl-shaped hole is recommended as is planting high .

Near the driveway entrance I started my wildlife garden with a bird feeder, bird house and bath .  I love to watch the bluebirds, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Woodpeckers and Wrens .

This month's renovation project was a tear off of the old porch and a new one built of cedar. We also had a cedar shed installed for extra storage and a workshop since we don't have a garage.

I have continued spreading the huge mound of mulch from over 30 trees taken down .  The rain doesn't soak into the ground here and forms puddles and run off everywhere, so the mulch will help slow it down and eventually improve the soil's drainage.  I need to bring in loads of top soil and compost and plant the bare spaces so that rain water will be absorbed better.   I'm also planning to buy a garden tiller/cultivator since the soil is difficult to dig and I need to work in some compost and manure to improve drainage and absorption.

Christmas has arrived and with it Lea's grandparents from Ireland.  She is 5 now and loves to entertain them with made up stories and Christmas songs.    This Christmas the weather hasn't been as warm as Christmases past when they arrived for their visit.   I do believe they brought the rain from Ireland with them.

Soon December will come to an end and the New Year will begin.  I hope that 2014 will bring much joy to our Sweet Home and Garden Carolina.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


This November 1st my husband Simon and I celebrated our golden anniversary and moved into our forever home here in Chapel Hill.  It is a small little cedar house of about 1400 square feet and set on a wooded lot.  There's at least 30 ' or more on each side between neighbors, so unlike Chicago where you could just holler out the window if you wanted to talk to them.  The house is set back almost 50 feet or so from the busy roadway and the many trees buffer the sounds of passing cars.

The house was built in 1980 and not much has been done to it since so our  " to do " list is very long.   One thing I do like is its tall ceilings and exposed beamed ceiling downstairs.    There's also a sunroom with floor to ceiling windows to look out into the backyard.

The first thing we did was demo the upstairs outdated bath and  nstall a new one.  I kept it simple -white walls, dark wood and nickel hardware. I dislike curtains so I chose to cover the bathroom window with decorative film that has  a leaf design as you can see in the last row below. It allows in light but provides privacy and I like its clean , crisp look.

There was no sign that a gardener had ever lived here as it was hard to see any kind of plant other than those of  Mother Nature.   Many dead longleaf  pines were throughout the 1/2 acre so we had them removed, along with some other weed trees, which added up to around 30 trees or more.

The  first thing I did outside was to have an 'Appalachian Spring ' dogwood planted that my girls bought me for the new house and our anniversary.

That's Mike from Trees to Go and the dogwood is behind my head.    He planted the tree that was sent as a gift, first time I've allowed anyone to plant anything in my garden but me .

There are many boulders and  stones on the property which I plan to utilize to build a retaining wall along the back property line to prevent water runoff from my neighbor up the hill.

I used to long for a larger garden when I lived in Chicago and now that I have one I find it can be overwhelming as to where to begin .  I just got out the shovel the other day and started removing grass from near the curb to plant some Spring bulbs and I stacked some of the stones around to form a little garden goddess  and rock wall.

I want to make my new garden a woodland sanctuary and fill it with plants that are either native or look like they're at home here. I have a very long list but I plan to tackle each project one at a time.

We are fortunate to live a few blocks away from our daughter and granddaughter.    Next year she will be going to first grade at the school across the street from us .

This is a total lifestyle change for us but I feel right at home in this community -a mixture of local Southerners and people from all over America.  It makes for a nice diversity .

I just met my neighbors up the hill and they tell me that there's a great garden club for the community and of course I was delighted to hear that.   I'm looking forward to setting down roots in this land that my first Scots-Irish ancestors chose when they came to America in the 1700's .

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


It's always delightful to visit other people's gardens but on a recent Saturday I set out to see THE garden in these here parts -Helen Yoest's Raleigh garden that she calls ' Helen's Haven. '    Her book in my hands I asked her to autograph it and she did.  Then she laughed and told me she couldn't believe she put two 'F's ' in confidence.  I said don't you dare touch it because like the U.S. mint those sorta things can someday be worth money.  So the extra F in the post title above was deliberate.

I went along with garden coach Meghan DeCooke May from nearby Pinehurst .  As we entered the garden we couldn't help but "ooh  and ahhh " at the lovely vistas before us.  As the post title says - it wasn't perfect - she didn't fluff the mulch or fuss too much,  there were perennials needing to be deadheaded, etc. but as gardeners we know that this is a natural part of the garden and Helen's Haven is a wildlife sanctuary.

                                                Yours truly, Helen Yoest and Meghan DeMay Cooke

In the midst of the busy city we stepped into a lush paradise filled with a vast assortment of perennials, trees and shrubs, both native and exotic .   Vistas were beautifully framed by vines and trees that beckoned you to enter.

               On the right side of the house the entrance to the garden has a wonderful crape myrtle ,  surrounded by holly and boxwood.  Love the colorful orbs.

                                                             Love this vine covered pathway .

Art was placed so naturally in Helen's garden it was if the artist had created it for that very spot.

And as we always like to steal  borrow ideas from other gardens lookee here :

      You may not be able to see them but there's chickens in there .

And of course no visit to Helen's Haven would be complete without getting to sit in the ' Loveshack . "  This is the awesome view from it and below is moi enjoying this wonderful  retreat .

I want to thank Helen for the cordial invitation to experience her delightful garden .   She promised me some passalong plants when I start my own garden in Chapel Hill and I hope to take her up on that offer soon.

Thursday, September 5, 2013



Upper row : Pyrus 'pyrifolia'
Second row left to right : Magnolia liliflora 'betty',
Clematis maximowicziana 'sweet autumn' ( on fence ) Hydrangea
Paniculata 'limelight' ( behind statue;) Acer japonicum 'autumn moon '
last row : Rhododendron 'poukhanense '

( click to enlarge )

At the request of Steve Bender of Time, Inc.'s Southern Living I am participating in the April 20 Blogathon. All participants are to write about the six plants they can't live without. As avid gardeners we all realize that this is not an easy task.Only six ? This is a heart- wrenching decision because it means I'm leaving out a lot of my beloved evergreen favorites such as the Chamaecyparis family.

Following are my selections :

Rhododendron Poukhanense. I love the graceful arching branches and the soft lavender blooms of this cultivar from the Poukhan Mountains of Korea where it grows without any assistance.Korean cultivars are hardy for the Chicago area as their climate is very much like ours. For all of those who've said they have no success with azaleas this is one that you will.

Magnolia Liliflora 'betty. ' It's a nice small magnolia hardy to Chicago . Of course it can't compare to the Southern Magnolia; no tree can in my opinion. Betty is one of the "little girls" hybrids that the hybridizer named after his granddaughters.

Acer Japonicum 'autumn moon .' The autumn moon japanese maple because its breathtaking and pretty hardy. In autumn its chartruese leaves turn a bright pink.

Prunus ' pyrifolia ' or Asian pear tree. It's a dwarf, reaching only 12 feet and its also a graft of two varieties of pears -one side bears smaller fruit early and the other size large fruit late in the season. Unlike the regular pear the Asian pear keeps well and is crisp and sweet . It's used in Asian cuisine to add some tartness and it's good sliced in salads.

Hydrangea Paniculata 'limelight. ' Not only is it gorgeous it blooms early and stays in bloom for the entire season. The dried flower heads make wonderful floral arrangements.

Clematis 'maximowicziana 'sweet autumn ' , a perennial vine that produces thousands of tiny star-like fragrant blossoms for a wonderful show from early August for several months. Its fragrance fills the late summer air. I'm sure there will be a lot of protests about this choice being invasive and I sympathize with those that have had that experience but my particular cultivar hasn't self sown at all.

Please visit the following participants in Blogathon :

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In An Irish Garden

For the first time I got to visit Ireland as a guest instead of a tourist .  It's much more relaxing when you have an Irish host who will gladly show you their beautiful country.  My daughter, her husband and my 4 1/2 year old granddaughter Lea enjoyed a splendid week in which there was little or no rain, very unusual for them.  As a matter of fact I joked that we had more rain in North Carolina , and in fact, it was true.

From the city of Cork we travelled by car to nearby destinations -Kinsalle and Blarney and various other little seaport towns.

The Irish coast at the Atlantic ocean .

The rugged beauty of the natural rock outcroppings .

   A street scene on the way to Blarney .

     View of the garden from my host's sun room .  I love the Irish stone walled garden .

It has been a great summer in Cork as evidenced by these beautiful flowers in full bloom.

And of course there's always the rainy day when it's best to stay inside.

I really treasured my time in Ireland as a visitor with gracious hosts who enjoyed their little granddaughter as much as I do .

Friday, July 5, 2013


Even though it has passed into new hands it will be called the Choi house for many years to come.  I still called my neighbors house the old Carpenter's place years after she sold and moved.   And they will recall the gardener who could be seen almost daily in the garden and the three youngsters who grew up , married and moved away.

We were young and ambitious when we bought the neglected American Foursquare and started the long process of removing the atrocies that had been done to her :  dropped acoustical tiled ceilings, tattered wallpaper, layers of linoleum and asphalt siding.   The garden, too, had been neglected and was filled with weeds and overgrown shrubs.  There was only one full bath for the large, boxy 4000 square foot house.

 During our four and a half decades our house was home to many people.  My husband's mother, whom he had not seen since arriving in America from Korea  15 years prior,  was the first resident, followed by brothers and sisters and their children.  At one time we had a dozen guests.  We housed them for a year or so until they got on their own feet.

The house has been witness to both joy and sorrow -births, marriages, and death.  The house also went through a transformation as we uncovered century-old oak flooring, 11 foot plastered ceilings , and  original cedar siding . We updated the interior with more bathrooms, central air and heating, new kitchen,  a finished lower level and loft.

When our street was in danger of being taken over by greedy developers buying old homes and tearing them down the neighbors formed a committee and had it declared a city landmark.  I was so proud to be a part of preserving our historic homes and neighborhood for generations to come.

The garden was developed and went through many changes as the children grew and left home.  After 30 years I quit my day job and dove headfirst into my two passions -landscaping and art, which I am pleased to say was successful.

Then along came a series of events that upset my apple cart.  I had no intentions or desire to leave my home but the birth of my first grandchild changed that.   When my daughter moved to North Carolina for her job it was the incentive I needed to downsize and move back to my beloved South .  I didn't want to miss being a part of my only grandchild's life.

After four months on the market  my house sold.  It is slowly sinking in and I'm now going through the process of looking for a new home here .

Getting used to life in the South again after a long absence has been an adjustment.  I've been reading NEW TIMES IN THE OLD SOUTH or Why Scarlett's in Therapy and Tara's Going Condo.  This is not the South of my youth nor do I expect it to be.  Because of the University of North Carolina its like a little UN here in Chapel Hill which is a good thing  in many ways .

 Getting used to being callled  'Miz Carolyn ' , people that you don't know striking up a conversation with you , the Southern drawl so lyrical to my ears and yes, grits and BBQ.   Someday soon I want to visit the city of my Irish ancestors - Charlotte .   I want to go to the church they attended in the 1700's  which is still there and visit the old cemetery where many pioneers were buried.

A new beginning in the land my ancestors settled after their long journey to America.   A new home and garden.  My third sweet home -sweet home Alabama, sweet home Chicago and now sweet home Carolina.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

INSPIRATION IN THE GARDEN , Garden Designer's Roundtable

This is an article I wrote as a member of the Garden Designers Roundtable  (

 May Flowers by Moi

One of the most beautiful and beloved gardens in the world was designed by Monet,  an artist with no landscaping experience . He declared "more than anything I must always have flowers, always, always. "  He planted his gardens as subjects for his paintings.  " "The richness I achieve,"  he said, " comes from nature, the source of my inspiration."

 I also combine my passions for gardens and art and like Monet, nature is a great source of my inspiration as well.    The verdant rolling hills of my youth are forever in my heart and mind and the fragrance of cedar and pine in my nostrils.   I cannot pass a garden , no matter how humble or ostentatious, without appreciating the good elements of design it may have, but more than that, the beauty it brings to my eyes and soul.

Winter does not bring landscaping or gardening to an end, rather it is the season we spend planning for the coming Spring.   I find inspiration in the glossy garden magazines, the many treasured volumes I have on gardening, attending garden shows and visiting numerous gardeners who blog on the subject.  I know many who welcome Fall and Winter as a break from the gardening season but if I had my druthers I would choose a place to garden year round for I never tire of it .

Spring renews my winter-weary soul.  Like the earth I am awakening to a new season, a new beginning.  Every emerging plant is a source of inspiration and I am eager to start creating a beautiful garden for someone to  enjoy and attending to mine as well.

Having grown up without the inspiration and nurturing a mother gives a daughter, I have found a source of it in friends , family and others I come into contact with.  From the person who bought my first painting to the client who trusted me enough to say " do your thing " with my garden and loved the results,  all have inspired me to greater heights.

One of my greatest inspirations comes from visiting both public and private gardens, especially those that have left a living legacy of their work behind.

Monet's Masterpiece -Giverny

Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst

Thomas Jefferson's vegetable garden at Monticello

To create a garden or a work of art doesn't require a degree in horticulture , landscape design, or painting.  As famous fellow Alabamian Helen Keller said " Don't look to college for ideas. " That is not to say that education isn't important, it is, but inspiration is the well-spring from which creativity flows.

The gardens of novices Monet, Vita Sackville-West,  and Thomas Jefferson  provide a continuous source of delight and inspiration to all who are fortunate to see them.  As a primitive painter and garden designer I think I'm in good company.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cool Carolina Spring 2013

This is only my second birthday in Carolina and  by May 1  Spring is uusually more than happening by that time.  But not this year. I asked a local resident if there was any such thing as a cool Carolina summer and she said absolutely not.  So I suppose that one day soon it will be suddenly summer.
Even though it wasn't as warm as last year which had hardly any winter and Spring came very early, I went about planting my gardens despite some very chilly days in March and April.  The one major thing I noticed is that despite the weather the landscape never looks as dreary as it did in Chicago because we have so many green trees and shrubs blooming throughout the season.  I love the evergreens here - hollies with red berries, evergreen viburums ( can you believe it ?) and magnolias so huge , beautiful and magnificent to behold. The Star magnolias, forsythia, azaleas, Irises,  cherry trees, quinces, fringe tree and dogwood have added their delightful blooms despite this late Spring.

      'Lorelei ' an antique iris from the garden in Chicago.

Meanwhile I have added to my renter's garden in my frontyard -two nandinas , and some annual marigolds and celosia .  Much to my surprise the 'ham and eggs' Lantana is slowly erupting from the soil . I thought the cold temperatures we had in the 'teens had killed them.  My backyard deck is filled with tomatoes, cukes, cabbage, leeks, green onions, peppers, herbs and a hummingbird planter.

A neighbor's cat visited one night and thought that my raised garden bed was a giant litter box.  After removing the affected plants I placed chopsticks in every space between and added a mesh covering over it to prevent such misunderstandings in the future.

The month of May is always filled with so many promises.  Perhaps it will be so with me as well.  I've been in limbo for two years now waiting for the right time to sell my Chicago home and set down roots here.  I'm thinking this could be the right time for that to happen.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


 The blog post below is from my former blog Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.  I had a typical small city garden and specialized in designing them as well for other clients.  I was contacted recently by Joe Lampl of the PBS show Growing a Greener World to ask if he could use this article for a presentation he was giving in Canada.  Being the generous person I am of course I said yes :-)

I used to be a member of the Garden Designers Roundtable before moving to North Carolina. You can follow the many talented members and their great articles at


First word of advice :  If you have a small garden you need a small dog.  Just kidding. But do keep dogs out as they and gardens do not mix.  Unless its Jojo,  my mini-Schnauzer and garden companion.  I've taught her the difference between a flower and a weed and she is ever so mindful of them. Plus, she keeps the rabbits, possums and racoons away.  Well, most of the time.  She missed a bunny the other day that ate my asters down to the ground. 
For June's Rountable posting I am using my small city garden as an example to show the unity, creativity and texture I try to bring to each of  my designs. There are endless possibilities in designing a small space and while there are no set rules there are guidelines that will help you avoid the pitfalls along the way.  

It's a very short walk from the public sidewalk to my front porch so making the entrance to my century-old American Foursquare as inviting as possible was my first goal.   A container with seasonal color flanks the stairs and a  Japanese maple, ' Autumn Moon ', brightens the small corner planting bed on the right.  Every inch of space is packed with long-blooming perennials and annuals that provide color, texture and interesting foliage.  And BTW,  I've planted everything in my garden myself, including the trees, so it is truly my creation.

A path swings around to the back garden entrance and a  beautiful pink climbing rose graces the fence.  You can see how little space there is between houses.  My  neighbor's large bold-leafed Oakleaf hydrangea draped on the fence shares its  blossoms .

I had a client that planted thousands of dollars of annuals in her garden each year just for the wow factor.  It looked like Disney World !  I could fill my garden with mostly annuals for instant glamour but being an avid gardener I enjoy seeing perennials that I love come into bloom.   April and May is for tulips and daffodils, June is for roses and lilies, July for Phlox and Blackeyed Susans, August for Sedum and Asters, September for Mums, etc.  .  But how the garden looks when it's not in bloom is key to a good design and in a small space every plant must do its job.  Plants with interesting texture or form, colorful foliage that's effective even when not in bloom, evergreen shrubs that give year round interest, and colorful annuals will make your small space garden a delight.  Mine is so tightly packed with my favorites that a weed finds it difficult to enter and eliminates the need to mulch.

Below is the layout of my front garden made to go along with my last will and testament  which may give you an inkling of how I feel about  it.  And this is just the front.  My somewhat larger rear garden is my real paradise.

I encounter a lot of weekend warriors searching for ideas to use for their own small urban gardens and have enjoyed helping many of them at Gethsemane, Chicago's best garden center .  My advice to them is do your research before buying a single plant. Know how much sun/shade you have, your soil, the size of your plot, preferred style -formal or informal, plant likes or dislikes, etc. and how much maintenance you're willing to do.  Allocate a budget and try to stick to it.  Be prepared to put in a lot of sweat equity as well. 

In today's economy more  homeowners are doing their  landscapes themselves, whereas they would've hired a designer before the recession hit.  For these brave souls I say go for it but remember that a great garden starts with thoughtful planning.   Read gardening books and check out the many garden websites offering advice.  Take a stroll and seek out gardens that please you.

 Get in touch with the designer inside and turn that small space into your pride and joy.   The secret to a good garden is not how big or small it is but how you use it.

In his garden every man may be his own artist
without apology or explanation.
Each within his green enclosure is a creator
and no two shall reach the same conclusion ;
 nor shall we, any more than other creative workers
 be ever wholly satisfied with our accomplishment.
Ever a season ahead of us floats the vision
 of perfection and herein lies its perennial charm.

-Louise Bebe Wilder

For more on small space garden design visit these members of the Roundtable:

Jenny Peterson at
Laura Livengood Schaub at
Lesley/Robert at
Shirley Bovshow at
Susan Morrison at
Susan Schlenger at
Tara Dillard at

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

April Fools

Chicago and North Carolina are both capricious when it comes to weather.   This is my second April here and I'm discovering the ups and downs of the Middle South climate-changes from one extreme to the other and so sudden and frequent. April has fooled me this year with its cold and warm days.   And as I read ' Miz' Elizabeth's My Southern Garden I find her words to be so true :  " In the South the progress of the season does not follow the accepted pattern of spring, summer fall, and winter.  Spring, when spring should come, has already been with us at intervals throughout the winter.  Summer lasts into fall, and fall into winter.The garden year has no beginning and no end. "

Spring has indeed been with us this year throughout the winter, teasing us here and then with some nice warm sunny days .  I planted a winter veggie garden in my deck containers and they survived some very frosty mornings .  March was not as warm as the previous one but nevertheless it enticed me to wander out to the garden center in search of more plants.    I planted up my raised bed garden on the deck with pak choi, a chinese celery, leeks, green onions, mustard greens, savoy cabbages and chard and they are doing well.  Some chilly nights I have to wrap them in their blankets.

My first deck garden which I planted last season in early April .  I had an abundance of harvest from the container of herbs ( upper left ) all summer and the only vegetable I planted were two tomatoes that gave us an ample supply. 

As my four year old granddaughter Lea and I walk around and see the various blooming shrubs and trees  I point them out by name.   " Oh, look at the " forsinthia " bushes, Grandma, " she declares, " aren't they gorgeous ? "    She knows and loves the pear and cherry trees that are blooming all over Chapel Hill .  

On this what promises to be a bright, sunshiny day in April  with temperatures in the mid-60's I think I'll venture out once again to the garden center to see what will call my name.   Any day now it will be suddenly summer and I've got to be ready.  My little renter's garden in front is peaking out from its winter doldrums - the roses are looking good and I actually saw some growth on the Lantana .   I'm going to add some colorful annuals this Spring .  This may be the month or year I finally sell my Chicago home and move closer to getting one here.   It has been a real emotional roller coaster and lifestyle adjustment but I'm confident that once I get settled into my own home and plant my own garden I can thengrow along with it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Transforming Space and Culture-Creating Inspiring Frontyards

Here is my article published in the March 2013 issue of Carolina Gardener.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Carolina Gardener Magazine March 2013

I'm tickled pink ( no pun intended ) to have my first article on garden design published here in North Carolina.  Isn't that a lovely cover with the gorgeous pink coneflowers ?  It's one of my favorite flowers  .

 Transforming Space and Culture -Creating Inspiring Front Yards is the title of my article and I will reprint it here when next month's issue comes out so that I won't be in conflict with the publisher. Of course if you live in North Carolina you can pick up a copy .

The March issue is outstanding and chock full of some great articles, including one by Nan K. Chase whose home and garden I visited during the Springfling in Asheville last May.

Friday, February 1, 2013


As Elizabeth Lawrence so aptly states in MY SOUTHERN GARDEN,  "  The special charm of a Southern Spring is its earliness, it is as long drawn out as it is sweet. " In the midst of of January I was elated to have two days of Spring-like weather that compelled me to visit the Arboretum and Botanic garden where I saw numerous trees and shrubs in bloom and the foliage of daffodils and other bulbs peeping out of the ground.

This lovely Japanese camellia was in bloom at the Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh during my mid-January visit.

Although we had some extremely low temperatures in the teens that damaged tender plants in the garden , the last week of January had days so warm that strong winds and thunderstorms arrived early and caused damage to trees and power lines.

As the Carolina Spring comes in February and this is my second one here I am slowly adjusting to the transition from long Chicago winters in which I wasn't able to get outdoor until April or May.  Here I take each day as it comes -temperatures in the 50's and 60's are frequent and I eagerly throw on my jacket and go out to smell the fresh air and watch Spring unfurl in the cherry and apricot trees, the Forsythia, Quince and Hellebores.  

I am still amazed that I am able to tend my deck container garden in winter and have spent days watching my vegetables and herbs grow .  A few nights I had to move some of them to the garage and others were covered with blankets but they all survived.

It's great to clip mustard greens in the middle of winter. When I get my forever home I will definitely plant and tend a vegetable garden year round because I find it so rewarding.

As Spring comes in February in Carolina I welcome it with open arms on this first day as I wander out into the garden this morning to chase away the ever present creeping charlie that is the bain of my  existence.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Gardening in the New Year

It tickles me whe I recall shovelling  snow in my Chicago yard and hear my neighbor who's doing the same ask " Global warming - where is it  ? "   My first winter in North Carolina had me so spoiled -hardly a day below 50 .  I knew it was way above normal and was warned not to expect it this year but, excuse the pun, new ideas , like seeds, began to germinate in my head.  I would never dare to think them back in Chicago but with the number of freezing cold days here being very limited I could plant a winter herb and vegetable garden.  Of course I had to have a portable one and be ready with the row covers but that was well worth the risk.

So now I am pleased with my pots of savoy cabbages, kale, chard, garlic , bay tree, and herbs that line my back deck. To have something growing in the dead of winter brings great joy to this otherwise gray season.

Snow has not fallen this winter and we've been teased with a few mild days in the upper '50's.  Then came mid-January and the weekend was in the mid-70's for 2 whole days.  What bliss to feel the warm sun on my face and back.  I headed outside and discovered that Creeping Charlie had started to peep up above the layers of mulch in the front yard flower beds and I spent an hour digging it out.  

January also brings an amazing number of trees in bloom and with the mild Spring-like weather I headed out to see some of them at the Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. 

 The Xeric garden with its tropical palms and succulents was amazing -just seeing its greeness delights .

 But the Japanese garden with its blooming cherries, apricots and camellias was the most delightful of all.  Even without a flower or tree in bloom it would've been just as enchanting with all the natural elements that make up its foundation.

The Spring-like weather is behind us now and the bleakness of winter returns with its gray days but there is joy in knowing that the real Spring is not far away.  Back in Chicago the arrival of a robin was a sign of Spring, but now when I see them it reminds me that they, like me, are home in the sunny South.

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