Tuesday, December 30, 2014


     This shady woodland bed is planted with Autumn brilliance fern, violas, Japanese iris, and hellebores.

November was cold by North Carolina standards but December more than made up for it with mild, sunny days and plenty of rainfall. I had 5 yards of a custom blend of topsoil  ( compost, manure and gray sand ) delivered and spread some on the various flower beds and created berms as well.  Spent a great deal of time shredding and incorporating leaves into the existing soil in the beds.

It was warm enough to plant so I visited the garden center and selected a gorgeous Mahonia, White 'japonica ' camellia and 'christmas jewel ' holly.   I planted them near the large picture window which has a lovely view of the bird feeders and houses.

I finally had to cut back the ginormous elephant ears that I planted in the Spring.

I dug up and divided the bulbs which I spread around the shady areas of the rock garden.  I also planted a lot of daffodils and alliums in the roadside garden beds so Spring should be quite colorful.  

Since my front garden is not fenced in I plant only what the deer are not supposed to like.  As extra insurance I have been spraying faithfully with Liquid Fence which stinks to high heaven until it dries, which can take about a day.  I've found it very effective in keeping the deer away, but winter will be the real test.  

    My roadside wildflower garden, started with seeds, looked good through late Fall.

Christmas snuck up on me and it was time to retire the trowel for awhile.  Lea's grandparents arrived from Cork, Ireland for the holidays and I've spent time visiting with them as well. They were impressed with the garden I've created thus far, having seen the blank slate it was during their visit last year.

This was a very special Christmas for Lea as she gets to share it with her paternal grandparents.

As the year draws to an end I'm already looking 
forward to my plans for the garden. My first priority is a fenced-in backyard so that I can garden without worrying about deer . I want to naturalize lily of the valley, hellebores, sweet woodruff and ferns in the woodland areas.  I want to create a privacy buffer near the main entrance to our property but I don't want it to be hedges in a row -something mixed with both deciduous and evergreen shrubs.

I wish all of you good health and happiness in the coming New Year.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


November marks the first year in our new home and garden.  We have not been idle.  When we bought our little cottage in the woods we knew we had lots of work to do.  We had to put on a new roof, replace the front porch, replace HVAC in the crawlspace, re-do two bathrooms and add a third, gut the kitchen and install a new one, update the lighting system, install new water heater, build a carport and add a new addition for a guest room and small deck .  Whew!  

Outside we had water problems when it rained - our neighbor up the hill had two drain pipes gushing water to our property and there was a huge mountain of dirt that a contractor had left and was untouched for many years.  We plugged and re-directed the drain pipes and had a contractor level the mound.  We uncovered a ton of boulders under it and viola! I had an instant boulder garden.   I love the look of the boulders and I'm developing a garden with them.

In the wooded area in my front yard which borders a busy highway, I removed all the grass and spread wildflower seeds.  I added birdhouses , baths and feeders.  The wildflowers grew very well and I added butterfly weed, lantana, asters, mums, sage and grasses which attracted many butterflies, bees and birds. I planted lots of ferns, hollies, mahonia, violas, daffodils, crape myrtle, hellebores ,osmanthus and climbing hydrangeas in the wooded area fronting our house.  On the side of the house near the large picture window I planted a Korean maple in the bird sanctuary.

In my boulder garden in back I planted catmint, yucca, verbena, asters, japanese iris, elephant ears, ajuga, scarlet sage, red buckeye, ornamental grasses, pyracantha, forest pansy redbud and a nectarine tree.

In my future vegetable garden I planted two Asian pears and an herb garden.  I am waiting to get the backyard fenced in before I start a larger vegetable plot.

My younger sister Linda came down for a two week visit and got to see all the progress we had made since she was here last year when we first moved in and she was amazed.

I added two  new tools to my garden collection that I had never had before :  a leaf blower and shredder.  I have so many leaves and instead of raking and bagging, I shred them so they can easily compost into the soil.  

My future plan is to make this little half acre into a bird sanctuary by adding more birdbaths, feeders and birdhouses.  It's wonderful to be awakened by the sound of birds singing in the morning and to watch them as they enjoy the suet, birdseed and water  put out for them.

November also marks my third year in North Carolina and my granddaughter Lea's sixth birthday.  She chose a farm venue to celebrate.  She's a natural on a horse !    As my one and only I think that God smiled down on me and embodied everything -beauty, brains and sweetness into one little girl who is our constant joy and pleasure.

Friday, October 31, 2014


October may become one of my favorite months of the year.  The air is cooler, the rain is plentiful and the trees begin their colorful displays.

I planted hundreds of daffodils and alliums , added some perennial mums, including an unusual one  -the japonica, which is white.  The leaves on it are very striking.  Pansies are a popular Fall flower around this town but I prefer the more woodland viola variety that will spread and return again in the Spring.

I added several 'provence' lavender to the wildflower roadside garden so that when they are mature I will have something to see in winter.  Planted rosemary, another popular plant seen everywhere, and which grows very tall and robust here.  I laugh when I think of the lenghts I went to in Chicago to just keep it alive under grow lights in the winter.

Added more ferns to the woodland garden -Korean rock fern and Autumn brilliance, two evergreens. Planted more 'Miss Huff' lantana which adds up to about 6 or more.  Can't wait to see them blooming all next summer.

Being diligent in spritzing the garden with deer repellent has worked so far.  I observed a whole herd passing my property boundary and keep right on going.  I am getting bids on putting up a fence in the back so that I can garden without worrying about them and rabbits.

Created a driveway vignette with the stash of boulders and large stones left from an old stone wall.  It's planted with grasses, dianthus, veronica, lavender , japanese rock garden juniper, bear's britches and ferns.

The rock garden in my backyard is filling in nicely.  The catmint I planted in the Spring bloomed almost all summer and spread to three times its size.  I've added some Spring blooming bulbs, asters, veronica and Japanese iris.

This month marks the first year of my garden and thus far I have planted seven different garden beds, all with my own two hands.  I've worn out and broke two hoes on the hardpan I had to break up to add compost and manure to.   The wildflower roadside garden, started from seed, did very well for its first season and I will continue adding more perennials for Fall and Winter interest.  When my fence is installed I plan to develop a real veggie garden , plant more trees and shrubs and of course, some fragrant 'sweet autumn' clematis on it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


The weather has been a real mix of dry and wet this September.  I love the cool mornings and evenings which give me a chance to get some gardening done before it gets too hot.

I helped oversee my daughter's garden installation of five beautiful 'Arapoho ' ( red ) Crape Myrtles lining her driveway. They will look beautiful with her gray house.

I planted a new bed in the pile of stones left from an old wall next to our driveway. I had four yards of a custom blended top soil 
 ( gray sand, compost and manure ) delivered and I set about spreading it on various garden beds .To say that I wasn't even sore the next day, at 70 years young, well, I think it's grand .

My favorite evergreen for the rock garden -Juniperus procumbens, Japanese Rock Garden Juniper.
Last week we had a drenching rain just as I finished adding dianthus to the wildflower garden. What a bargain to get a flat of dianthus at the price of annuals when its really a perennial, especially in this area.  I haven't really had to water much this month and caught a lot of the rain in my barrel.  

Still contemplating having a deer proof fence in my backyard but until then I continue to spray deer and rabbit repellent after it rains.  I watched 8 of them cross my back property line on a recent morning and they just peered at my garden and kept on going. Each time I plant I spray for extra insurance and so far its worked.  

It's too early to plant bulbs but I've been collecting daffodils because the deer don't like them. 

In my sedum garden in the front I created some stone statues and planted a curly leafed dwarf ligustrum that looks like a living sculpture.
I've had fun creating several different stone statues about the property .  This one is near my little water feature.

The one below is placed on an old tree stump.  Looks formidable doesn't it ?

It's been a sweet September in the garden and everywhere I see signs of my gardening efforts paying off -blooming wildflowers along the roadside and in the boulder garden the veronica and asters have bloomed.

The star of the summer boulder garden was definitely the huge Elephant Ears that are the envy of all the neighbors.  

Farewell to September and hello October.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Sweet Garden in August

August was pleasantly surprising this year with ample rain and only a few unbearably hot days  I arise early and do my gardening in the cool of the morning or before dusk .

              Yes, Virginia, those are violas blooming in August. They love my semi-shady woodland garden.

I planted Rudbeckia, yarrow and Lantana in the wildflower garden, all purported to be " deer resistant. " I also added two burgundy leafed semi-dwarf Crape myrtles  'plum magic ' at the rear of the bed.

My boulder garden is filling in well with Nepeta 'walker's low ', Japanese flag iris, Scarlet sage, veronica, iron weed, 'chocolate chip ' ajuga, creeping verbena, asters and the jinormous  elephant ears which my neighbors are coveting.  This month I added some Maiden grass and a pyracantha to the back border and a Carolina jessamine vine to twine around my deck so I can catch its wonderful fragrance in the Spring.

To the bed that borders the woods facing the front of my house I added Sweet woodruff,  lantana, ligularia, climbing hydrangea, cone flowers, and coreopsis.   This area is beginning to fill in nicely as well .  Three dwarf 'diamond dazzle ' white crape myrtles adopted from last year's Fall clearance have started to bloom.

As chance would have it during my gardening activities passers- by would comment on how lovely my wildflower garden which fronts a busy heavily travelled road looked .  One lady in particular stopped to chat and she said I should join the local garden club. I told her I'm not interested in joining if its just a bunch of ladies that lunch but she assured me it wasn't and invited me to go along with her to the next meeting.  Turns out she was the past president of the club.  ME and my BIG mouth !  But she just laughed it off and said I wasn't the first to say that which made me feel somewhat better. Reckon I'll be going to the first meeting next month.

I hope to get my backyard fenced in this Fall so that I won't have to worry about deer and rabbits.  I have plans to add a vegetable plot, plant an Asian pear to go along with my other two fruit trees -a Japanese persimmon and a Nectarine .  

The garden centers have already started stocking Fall bulbs.  I have big plans to add a lot of Spring-flowering daffodils, more Hellebores , Primrose and violas.

Farewell August, hello September.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


July has been very quirky this year with some days near a hundred and some mornings and evenings so cool I had to wear a jacket. What little rain we had was usually a heavy downpour, much welcome by my newly planted garden. The wildflower garden fronting the property is blooming nicely and passersby comment on how great it looks. Only Mother Nature could design such a dazzling array of colors and textures. I'm still battling with rabbits and deer even though I've planted what they're not suppose to like and try to keep spraying with repellents to discourage them .

The guest room /flex room addition to our house was supposed to be a two week project but it turned into a 7 week one due to a permit not being obtained by the previous owner for the existing deck . We are burned out with home improvement at this point, having done it non-stop since we moved in last November.

I love getting up early and walking around the garden in the cool of the morning. The well traveled road in front of our house is lively with joggers and walkers and many will strike up a conversation when they see me tending the garden .

Everywhere you go you are greeted with the lovely sight of Crape Myrtles in pink, purple, white, and red and the great thing about it is that they will continue to bloom for 100 days. I finally found the 'Burgundy Cotton ' cultivar I had searched for so long and two ' burgundy plums ' and added them to the front entrance garden . I inherited two old Crape Myrtles and am trying to rejuvenate them.

I was also thrilled to find Viburnum plicatum ' mariesii ' which will look like the mature specimen below in a few years .

I've added Bears breeches , Lantana, coreopsis, more ferns, and Sweet Woodruff to the woodland garden . Looking for Lily of the Valley to colonize there as well. Added more varieties to the succulent garden and plan to go to the big container sale at the garden center this weekend to add one or two there as well.

My next project is to fence in the backyard so that I can garden without worrying about deer eating my plants.

Monday, June 30, 2014


"Mine is the Month of Roses; yes, and mine

The Month of Marriages! All pleasant sights

And scents, the fragrance of the blossoming vine,

The foliage of the valleys and the heights.

Mine are the longest days, the loveliest nights;

The mower's scythe makes music to my ear;

I am the mother of all dear delights;

I am the fairest daughter of the year."

-  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How did June get here so fast ?  She finds us adding a small addition to our little cabin in the woods.  It will be a "flex room " - a family gathering place with a pull-out sofa bed for guests.

In the garden I have watched the wildflowers sprout and grow from seeds.   In addition to fighting deer I discovered we had a nest of bunnies under the shed that had been dining on my plants.  Off to the store to get stinky stuff to spray on the plants.  I have encased all my edibles in thin black plastic netting and haven't had any casualties since.  I have to have the boundaries of our property marked by a surveyor before I can put up a much needed fence.

Thus far it has been a hot and dry June so I keep a close eye on all the new plants to make sure they have enough water.   I  added a small pond with a water hyacinth and the birds just love it .  Added several new ferns to the woodland garden and planted 'Miss Huff ' lantana, coreopsis, blackeyed susan, cone flowers, bear's britches, bee balm, and some fountain grass.

It's so pleasant to get up early and walk about the garden .  The birds singing and the cool country air are so relaxing.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I realize I am back in my beloved South.  Even though I lived in Chicago for over 4 decades my heart was always here.  

Traveled up to the Outer Banks  on the Atlantic with Lea and family and my daughter Cathy and husband Randy from Chicago  where we spent some pleasant days on the beautiful beach there.   This gave us a little break from the many months of rehab we've been doing non-stop.

Joined the local community garden where I volunteered to weed for several hours once a week.  In return I am rewarded with some great veggies.

Soon the dust will settle and the rehab will end and maybe then I can concentrate on more important things - like gardening.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


A mighty cold winter and a fickle Spring - back and forth with the hot and cold, rain and no rain.  Many homies tell me that this was the coldest and longest winter they could remember.

I've been busy with remodelling our small cedar house - adding a new half bath , a deck, new kitchen and an additional "gathering room " that will also be a guest room for visiting family members.  I love our small, cozy home and with all the improvements it is even more comfortable.  Outside I plan to install a fence around the perimeter so that I can garden without worrying about deer . I don't like fencing in a woodland garden but I will make it as invisible as possible with some lovely vines and other plantings.

In the garden I have added  mahonia, lorepetalum, dwarf butterfly bush, scarlet sage, Japanese iris, mugho pine, soft leaf yucca, forget-me-nots, nandina and astile.  In the frontage near the busy road I have eradicated the grass, formed beds, added horse manure and compost and planted wildflower seeds.  Behind them I am forming a row of pink muhly grass for Fall color.

As I work in the garden in the cool of the morning I encounter many passersby who comment on my progress or strike up a conversation about gardening.   Folks here are so friendly and always say hello when they pass, just one more thing I love about the South. I also love this small town feeling and its unique character - it's actually a melting pot of people from just about everywhere . It's also a foodie's town with lots of interesting places- at least 200 to dine.

I miss my family and friends in Chicago and often think about my old homestead and garden there.  The nice thing though is that my daughter there will fly down with her hubby in June and we'll all go to the lovely Outer Banks on the Atlantic for vacation.

My daughter took me to a Greek restaurant named Kipo's for my birthday and I asked the waiter what that meant.  We were surprised by his answer : Garden.  Lovely, because we were actually dining outside in a beautiful garden.

I also miss my loyal Chicago garden clients.  The garden design business in this small town is quite different I've found but I am giving it serious study before passing judgment.   I am enjoying visiting various garden centers and nurseries to check out their inventory.

But here in the merry month of May I find myself quite content with my new home and garden and the adventures that await me.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


On this last day of April, the eve of my 70th birthday, I am reflecting on my life.

The first ten years of my life were traumatic - I lost my dear mother in my 4th year and for the next six I was in an orphanage .  My Dad, a farmer, took us to our first real home when my two sisters and I were old enough to take care of ourselves and help do chores.  Our brother Cecil had gone off to the Korean war.

My next decade was also very eventful - I finished high school and moved to the big city of Chicago where I met and married my husband Simon.  We celebrated our golden anniversary last year .  We have three children -two wonderful daughters and a son.

In my third decade I worked full time and raised a family.  We bought a great old American Foursquare home and starting rehabbing it ourselves.  What were we thinking ?  With 3 kids and a job we were the weekend warriors and it took us many years to achieve our goals but we managed to turn the tarnished old jewel into a grand old lady.   My hubby Simon, who left Korea right after high school to go to college here, missed his dear Mother and we decided to bring her to live with us so that our children could experience their only living grandparent.  It was a precious time that they will always treasure and she lived with us for 10 years before passing.

                                                    My Little Urban Paradise in Chicago

In my fourth decade home ownership made me realize how much I actually enjoyed gardening .  I had been avoiding it because of my childhood filled with daily work in the field and garden . I realized that gardening wasn't just about work but pleasure as well.

In my fifth decade I decided to quit my day job and take up the two things I loved most - gardening and art.  I painted during the winter and installed landscapes during the growing season.  I thrived in both pursuits and I'm so glad that I took the risk.  Being the middle child means having a lot of gumption.  Meanwhile our children pursued their own lives and got married.

In my sixth decade the most important event was the joyous arrival of our first grandchild - a girl named Lea.
Before her arrival I was settled into living the rest of my life in my wonderful home and garden, but circumstances beyond my control came into effect -my daughter moved to North Carolina for her job.  I had looked after Lea since she was 3 months old and not being able to see her when I wanted to was all I needed to return to my beloved South.  As much as I loved Chicago the long cold winters finally took their toll as well and the Southern breeze beckoned.

                                                      Raising the Next Generation of Gardeners

Now, how did this happen -I'm suddenly into my seventh decade which finds me in a new home and garden here in the great state of North Carolina.   Old age sure is sneaky.   Since I'm suppose to be older and wiser I leave you with these pearls of wisdom :


·        Time flies in a garden.

·        Gardening is a lot like relationships-both take hard work to succeed.

·        Gardening keeps you young.  You may have as many wrinkles as a Shar Pei but your body will look like Suzanne Sommers.

·        Gardening gives you a sense of humor.  When hubby says you don’t have room for one more plant you say watch this !

·        The birth of a grandchild is like watching your favorite flower blossom.  Having the chance to pass on your love of gardening to her ; priceless.

·        Gardening is the best therapy to relieve stress.  Those with teenagers will understand this the best. 

·        Gardening is a lifelong obsession from which there is no retirement .


Sunday, March 23, 2014


I know the folks in my old hometown Chicago will think it laughable what passes for winter here.  Snow is not the problem, ice is. It rains then the temperatures drop and a thick coat of ice covers everything and everything comes to a grinding halt because of the dangers of walking and driving.  Schools and businesses are closed.  So far this winter we've had 3 or 4 snowdays, which is a lot for North Carolina.

In between the cold and miserable days we are teased with sunny warm temperatures in the 60's and even 70's.  I've managed to plant ferns, violas, quince, forsythia, spirea, bleeding heart, heather, emerald green yew, cotoneaster, hellebore, creeping phlox and lily of the valley.  I received my mail order of 70 assorted varieties of willow cuttings which I planted to form a fedge  ( hedge + fence ).

Despite the wintry March I am enjoying watching the delightful heads of yellow daffodils in the woods.  These are one flower the deer don't seem to touch.

From my window its also a delight to watch the many colorful cardinals, bluejays, bluebirds and woodpeckers share the food I put out for them.

Woody woodpecker can be seen clinging to his suet in the lower right hand side of the above photo.   He and his redneck band haven't been drumming on my cedar wood siding since I provided his favorite treat.

We've had a lot of moisture in the form of rain and snow this winter and the clay soil is frequently waterlogged.  I have a garden cultivator on order and will have a bulk delivery of compost and manure to start tilling into the ground as soon as Spring decides to come and stay. Of the many kinds and colors of clay I am fortunate to have a yellow gritty one that was formed from rock deposits.  It drains better than the gray clay of Chapel Hill, one of the worse soils anywhere.

Looking forward to my first full garden season in my new home.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


                   This post I did for the Garden Designers Roundtable in 2010 is reprinted here for your inspiration, especially those being inundated with the polar vortex this dreadful winter.  Winter has also been way too long and cold for North Carolina.

 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.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

January Post Delayed Due to Snow

Snow is as rare as hen's teeth here in North Carolina but getting a 

dusting of 2 inches causes immediate chaos.   Schools and businesses close and the supermarket is busy with shoppers stocking up.  I know that people up North think we're all crazy and laugh about our frantic antics , but hey, they don't live here or they'd understand.  Its the fear of black ice more than the snow. After living in Chicago for 4 decades I know something about snow but for the life of me could never understand the locals need to reserve their parking spaces with chairs, buckets, etc.  Instead of helping their neighbors dig out the entire block so everyone could find a spot they go to great lenghts to stake their claim, even flattening tires or breaking car windows.  

January has been unusually cold here and saw the lowest temperatures and most snow in 14 years.    But the nice thing about it is no matter how bad the weather it will change in a short time.  So from 7 degrees one day it went to 65, bringing everyone out to enjoy the sunshine.  

Soon we will be able to enjoy the beautiful dogwoods and azaleas such as the ones above at Duke Gardens.  I have two dogwoods in my garden that I can't wait to see bloom.  No azaleas yet as deer dine on them but looking for Rhododendrons they may leave alone.

Farewell, January, or good riddance is more like it.   You made us more appreciative of the coming Spring.

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