Saturday, December 31, 2016


"I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

'We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,'
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December."
-   Oliver Herford

I'm always cheered when I hear and see my favorite bluebird in December, eating the suet of berries and nuts I put out for them.  Soon they will be filling the many nesting boxes I have put up  in my little forest.  Of course there are many other visitors to the feeder -a rather large woodpecker, mourning doves, cardinals , chickadees and wrens.

We have been lucky this December -no extreme cold , snow or ice storms.  Some days were pleasant and mild -often in the 60's and low '70's.   I am experimenting with a Fall/Winter veggie garden and have covered it several times when it got down below freezing.

Cabbages, kale, broccoli flowers, spinach, and parsley growing nicely in raised beds, well mulched and with a layer of peat moss to keep the soil warm.  I have harvested some rainbow chard and broccoli flowers.

When I'm not able to garden on cold days I use the time to paint.

This one is called " Dogwood. "  I am going to create as many paintings as I can this winter for an exhibition I will have in May or June next year.

December is always a time of reflection as the days fade out and a new year arrives.  This year has brought both good and bad news but I am ever hopeful that next year will be better.

Happy New Year to everyone and wishes for a prosperous and healthy one.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016



Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
One mellow smile through the soft vapory air,
Ere, o’er the frozen earth, the loud winds run,
Or snows are sifted o’er the meadows bare.
One smile on the brown hills and naked trees,
And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast,
And the blue gentian flower, that, in the breeze,
Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee
Shall murmur by the hedge that skirts the way,
The cricket chirp upon the russet lea,
And man delight to linger in thy ray.
Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.
We had a most unusually warm November which made me very happy and allowed me to escape the malaise of the presidential election that has gripped our country.  Now that the election is over I look to the supreme leader of us all - our Lord and Savior who will rule over not only our nation but the world.
Another thing to be grateful and happy for was the first visit of my son Jason .  I'm not bragging but I think he's about the youngest 44 year old you'll ever see !  He loved our home and garden.  
          Jason and Cecile enjoying Momma's special Southern Fried Chicken and all the trimmings.
Meanwhile I turned my attention to the Fall/winter garden that I planted last month.  The cabbage, broccoli-kale , parsley, and strawberries are doing well.  We have had 3 hard freezes that they've survived but I'm preparing for really cold snaps.  I've added a layer of shredded leaves topped with compost and will install a hoop greenhouse later on.

The roadside garden looked really good this season and I've added more bee and butterfly friendly plants.
        Late blooming 'radon's favorite ' blue asters, mums, goldenrod and ornamental grasses.
This last day of November saw temperatures in the mid-70's !  Although we've had a little sprinkling of rain the last few days we need a good steady overnight downpour and we may get it !  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


"If it is true that one of the greatest pleasures of gardening lies in looking forward, then the planning of next year's beds and borders must be one of the most agreeable occupations in the gardener's calendar.  This should make October and November particularly pleasant months, for then we may begin to clear our borders, to cut down those sodden and untidy stalks, to dig up and increase our plants, and to move them to other positions where they will show up to greater effect.  People who are not gardeners always say that the bare beds of winter are uninteresting; gardeners know better, and take even a certain pleasure in the neatness of the newly dug, bare, brown earth."-   Vita Sackville-West 

I used to dread November in my Chicago home and garden because it meant the ending of the gardening season.  But here in the sunny South November can be and often is a delightful sunny season with many plants still blooming .   Aster, Mums, Lantana, coreopsis, zinnias, marigolds, sweet william, goldenrod, and sages, to name a few, still show their colorful faces.

The days grow shorter and cooler and there is more time to relax and enjoy the wonderful month of November.  

I have added a hundred daffodils to the beds so I can enjoy their colorful cheerful faces in April.  

The Lantana still blooms and attracts the last of the swallowtails.  November in North Carolina is now delightful and slowly ushers in the end of the growing season.

Monday, October 3, 2016


"Across the land a faint blue veil of mist
Seems hung; the woods wear yet arrayment sober
Till frost shall make them flame; silent and whist
The drooping cherry orchards of October
Like mournful pennons hang their shriveling leaves
Russet and orange: all things now decay;
Long since ye garnered in your autumn sheaves,
And sad the robins pipe at set of day."

-  Siegfried Sassons, October 

Farewell to a hot, dry September and hello to the cool, wet month of October.   The last week of September it rained every single day and the ground is saturated.  The mornings are now cool , in the 60's , as are the evenings and perfect for working in the garden.

The profusion zinnias and lavender are still looking good despite the extreme heat and drought we had in August and September.

The last roses of summer are slowly fading after blooming almost non-stop since summer.

In the roadside wildflower garden I am planning to add more purples, reds and blues to the many yellow and orange perennials I have currently.  

I have started buying Spring bulbs -purple allium, red and yellow tulips and daffodils to plant later this month or the beginning of November, depending how cold it gets.

Next to Spring and Summer, October is my favorite month for planning and planting.   The long, hot summer is but a distant memory now as the cool days and nights call us out into the garden.


                                                   THE PROMISE OF SEPTEMBER

"The golden-rod is yellow; 

The corn is turning brown;

The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

 By all these lovely tokens 
 September days are here,
 With summer's best of weather,
 And autumn's best of cheer.

 But none of all this beauty
 Which floods the earth and air
 Is unto me the secret
 Which makes September fair.

T'is a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget." 
-  Helen Hunt Jackson, September   

Farewell to the hot, dry days of August and welcome to the promises of September - hints of autumn and cooler weather and hopefully, more rain to relieve the parched garden.

The woodland garden is partly shaded and has thrived despite the heat and lack of water.  I have a thick layer of leafmold and pine needles on the bed and I've tried to plant drought tolerant, bee and butterfly favorites such as Lantana, zinnia, crape myrtle, coneflowers, hyssop and coreopsis, to name a few.  

My engineer hubby built this great picket fence to enclose my soon-to-be veggie garden.  I am going to paint it a chestnut color  ( yellowish-brown ) .  This is a large space and I will need to haul in some fresh topsoil mixed with manure and compost to fill 6 raised beds I'm creating with logs from trees that we had removed.  Since the bed is on a slope I had to find a way to slow down the water during our heavy rainfalls and I think the logs will help a lot.   I may try straw bales in some of the beds and surround the inside of the logs in others with concrete block .

I'm also planning to get a chicken coop and run and maybe two chickens to start with.   My 7 year old grand will be so excited !  I can only imagine how my year old Aussie will react.

Sometimes I think all the work I've done in three years in this new garden is to no avail but then I realize how many obstacles I've had to overcome to create it - rocky clay soil, weeds, deer, rabbits, heavy shade, water run-off, heat and drought , and yes, too much rain at times.

But, one thing's for sure-gardening teaches patience.  This summer I had fresh white peaches, nectarines and blueberries from my young orchard, fruit of my labor.

Hoping that September will deliver on its promises of good weather and abundant rain.

Monday, August 1, 2016


"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 

August is usually a slow month in the garden due to the sultry heat.  Maintaining and caring for the garden are the main things for me this time of year.  

We had abundant rain up until last month and now we are in need of it . Keeping newly planted flowers and shrubs watered is a must.

Each morning I walk about the garden looking for signs of pests - Japanese beetles, deer , rabbits and raccoons.  After consistently picking off the Japanese beetles off the Crape Myrtles for several weeks  I find they are finally gone.  Maybe now they will bloom.

I also carry my shears with me to give a haircut to all the overgrown plants and deadhead the flowers. Filling the birdbaths and feeders on a regular basis is another task, and of course, the never-ending pulling of weeds.

On days too hot to work outside I spend in the studio painting landscapes and gardens.  

Blue Garden by yours truly

I have joined two local garden clubs and enjoy participating in their activities.  In one we visit other members gardens and listen to them talk about them.

Last night, the last of July, ended with a show of thunder and lightning.  Suddenly my prayer for rain was answered in a big way - 3 inches of rain on the thirsty garden.

Friday, July 1, 2016


"We go in withering July

To ply the hard incessant hoe;
Panting beneath the brazen sky
We sweat and grumble, but we go."
-  Ruth Pitter, The Diehards

Farewell June, filled with above normal temperatures followed by a lot of rain.  Wonder if we'll have that "cold day in July " as the country song goes. 

 In between the hot weather and rain I managed to plant a few new perennials and shrubs and divide and transplant the overgrown ones.

Divided the Japanese roof iris and planted them at the edge of the woodland garden.

The astilibe and zinnias add much needed color and texture to the woodland garden.

With all the rain the weeds grew like wildfire and the Japanese beetles invaded and chowed down on the crape myrtles and cannas.  Every morning I am out in the garden by 7 to do all these chores before it gots too hot and humid to work.  

My favorite part of July is the tomatoes.  There's nothing better than a homegrown tomato and next to that a fried green tomato samich.

Saw two baby fawns in the front garden this morning, apparently twins , which means the pickings around here are good.   Got out my gong and scared them away.   It will indeed be a cold day in July before I let them eat my garden.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


And what is so rare as a day in June?

Then, if ever, come perfect days;

Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,

And over it softly her warm ear lays;

Whether we look, or whether we listen,

We hear life murmur, or see it glisten.
    -James Russell Lowell

Duke the digger will be 10 months old this month.  He has matured a lot but still has the habit of digging holes and pulling up plants.  He has become a very alert watch dog, checking out any suspicious noises outside his territory which is fenced in. He's very affectionate and has a good personality.

May was a very rainy month, even more so than April it seems so it was frequently too wet to garden but I did manage to pulll a lot of weeds in between showers.  I also managed to divide and transplant many of the spreading perennials in the roadside garden. 

The roadside wildflower garden is flourishing and most plants returned from last year.

I have been looking for this fabulous cultivar , brunnera 'alexander's great ' which is twice as big as most in the species.  I planted it in the shade garden and just for extra insurance against deer, pinned netting around it and sprayed with deer deterrent.

The huge mound of topsoil and compost I ordered ( 4 c.y. ) is slowly getting smaller and smaller as I wheelbarrow it around the beds and dig it in the existing soil.  If I added up all the yards of topsoil I've had delivered so far it would probably be around 50 cubic yards.  I've already noticed an improvement in the drainage after a heavy rain but it may take 5 or more years before I see a significant difference.

The nectarine I planted two years ago bore a lot of delicious fruit and I managed to save them from the squirrels and birds by using netting and mylar tape.  I think my two Asian pears were nipped in the bud just as they were blooming during the late April freeze we had , although I see a few pears made it.  The blueberries have begun to ripen and I've also netted them to prevent the birds from scooping them up.  I think I could use a scarecrow with some motion action in the veggie garden to scare away the birds who like to swoop down and scoop up the strawberries.

With June comes summer and, I hope, the end of countless rainy days.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


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

Red small leaves of the maple
Are clenched like a hand,
Like girls at their first communion
The pear trees stand.

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

Tra la, it's May !   The garden in my old Chicago home would be just beginning to emerge but here in Chapel Hill I have been gardening since March .  

I added a rose arbor at the entrance and planted a 'lady banks ' rose which is yellow and thornless.  I've added a circular lawn for my dog Duke and granddaughter Lea to romp and play on.  

Fell in love with this fernspray japanese cypress with its golden arching branches.

Rescued this old rusty chair from the neighbor's trash.

Added some much needed seating .  Planted two prunus mume, or Japanese apricot on each side of the chairs.  When mature the trees will form a natural shade arbor.  I love the prunus mume because it blooms in winter.

Painted a little garden quote on my new fence.  On the left is one of the 7 birdhouses I've installed on the existing fence posts.

The garden looks lush.  The Japanese roof iris, forget-me-nots, dianthus, catmint, wisteria, jasmine and azaleas are blooming.

The garden is maturing along with me as I turn another year older this first of May.

Thursday, March 31, 2016


How many million Aprils came
before I ever knew
how white a cherry bough could be,
a bed of squills, how blue 

And many a dancing April
when life is done with me,
will lift the blue flame of the flower
and the white flame of the tree 

Oh burn me with your beauty then,
oh hurt me tree and flower,
lest in the end death try to take
even this glistening hour..."
-  Sara TeasdaleBlue Squills, 1920

Spring flowers of my Korean pear tree

Although Spring comes on the calendar March 21 it has been Spring-like here in the Piedmont, N.C. off and on since February.  How joyful it is to see Prunus Mume, or Japanese Apricot, blooming  in late January , daffodils in late February, azaleas, in early March and Pear trees , dogwood, magnolias and cherries in late March. To me this is the land of eternal Spring. Bluebirds are busy building their nests in the boxes I put up, colorful Cardinals visit the feeders I installed for them. I am amused by the tiny little lizards that dart to and fro among the boulders they love in the garden. Frogs and turtles visit the little inground pool of water and butterflies and bees are out and about the few early flowers in search of nectar.

Having endured more than 40 Chicago winters I no longer think in terms of when Spring will come.  Soon summer and its heat will arrive but then we had some pretty hot and humid summers in Chicago as well. Like the plants we have learned to endure and thrive.  

Azalea blooming in the boulder garden.

This last month of March I planted evergreen Viburnum, azaleas, dogwood,cross vine ,  wildflower seeds, vegetables, contorted filbert, hostas, ferns and a moss garden.   Walking around the garden I was surprised and delighted to find things emerging that I planted last year and thought was dead.  

April is the month that marks the end of the freeze/frost date on the 15th and when gardening here begins in earnest.  I look forward to continuing my plantings in the woodland , roadside, boulder , herb and vegetable garden.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


"The March wind roars
Like a lion in the sky,
And makes us shiver
As he passes by. 
When winds are soft,
And the days are warm and clear,
Just like a gentle lamb,
Then spring is here."
-  Author Unknown

This first day of March is warm and sunny with a high of 70 degrees. I planted cool season vegetables in the Kitchen garden a few days ago -broccoli, kale, carrots, and red sweet onions.  Today I was bold enough to plant two tomatoes but will be prepared to cover them in case of a late frost/freeze.  

Signs of Spring are everywhere -daffodils, red budded leaves of maples, Okami cherries, hellebores, veronicas, and forsythia are blooming.   The blue birds are busy building nests in the many boxes I have for them.

I couldn't believe my luck when I visited the garden center and found the Kousa augustata, aka Evergreen dogwood , that I had been looking for a long time.  Naturally I bought and planted it.  The photo above depicts how it will look when its fully mature. It will have great fall color and bright red fruits as well.

I also purchased and planted my favorite viburnum plicatum ' mariessi ' in my back garden.  I have one in the front as well.

I had 6 yards of compost/topsoil delivered and have been busy spreading it about the beds in back.  I have one area that is so low it collects a lot of rainfall so I'm building it up into a raised bed where I will install the ornamental kitchen garden. As I was turning the wheelbarrow around I backed up and tripped over a stump .  I hit the ground hard, taking the brunt of the fall on the back of my head and shoulder.  I barely missed hitting a huge stone.  I feel lucky to be alive and shudder to think that it could've been much worse.   I iced my muscles and took some pain meds and fortunately I wasn't stiff or sore the next day.  Thank you Jesus ! He was certainly looking out for me.

While I realize our last frost date here is April 15 and we could still get some cold weather we have been so lucky this year to have Spring-like days that allow gardening.  

I have many tasks planned for this month in the garden.  One is to make a grape arbor for the sunniest part of my backyard .  It will also be a shady nook in which to sit and enjoy the garden.   

I am looking forward to Spring !

Monday, February 1, 2016


"Why, what's the matter, 
That you have such a February face, 
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?" 
-  William Shakespeare,  Much Ado About Nothing

The biggest storm of the season hit here in late January and it was declared a state-wide emergency due to the ice, cold temperatures and falling snow. Schools and businesses were closed for several days and most supermarket shelves were bare.  This wouldn't even make the news in Chicago but here it's very serious due to the freeze and thaw.

Then in a flash it was gone, replaced on February 1 by a very mild 70 degree day.  Naturally it drew me back out to the garden where I started attacking the alarming amount of creeping charlie that had not expired in the freeze.

The warm weather has forced daffodils in bloom and the Blueberry shrub has buds on it.  The Hellebores are blooming nicely and there is much green in the hollies, ferns, gardenia, camellia, nandina and mahonia .  

These minature daffodils have naturalized from my neighbor's yard.  They are the earliest to bloom.

Adding a lot of lavender , ornamental grasses and silver plants to the roadside garden gave it both winter color and texture .  Backed by evergreen fragrant olives and a Southern Magnolia it has good form and winter interest .

My winter vegetable garden of savoy cabbage, leeks and mustard survived the freezes with row covers and shredded newspapers.

If today is any indication we will have an early Spring.  Last year on this day it was -9 .  

Friday, January 1, 2016


January used to mean dark cold days full of ice and snow.    After  a few seasons here I don't dread it so much. This Christmas was the first we needed to use air conditioning as it was an astonishing 76 degrees and sunny.
Below is our darling grand Lea who has sparkles in her eyes this holiday season.   Her Irish grandparents are visiting from Cork and she is super excited.

We've had a very rainy warm December and now that January is here I expect that will soon stop and the real winter will set it .  The warmth has caused my 'Peggy Clarke ' Korean apricot to bloom as well as the daffodils .  

I planted two new broadleaf evergreens - Korean 'Chindo ' viburnum and Cleyera, both reputed to be "deer resistant ."  Although I usually spray all newly planted material the constant rain prevented me from doing so.  Yesterday I noticed that the Cleyera had been stripped of all its leaves.

With the torrential rains came a lot of flooding with creeks and rivers overflowing their banks.  I am still in the process of amending my soil and filling in low areas to prevent runoff.  My house is at the bottom of a hill and all the neighbors runoff comes into my yard.  He has dug a trench and created a berm along the property line between us and this has helped a lot but there's still much to be done on our landscape to remedy this problem.

With the New Year comes many plans for the garden.  I will bring in lots of compost and local top soil to continue to improve the hard rocky clay we have and thereby improve its ability to absorb rain.  I am beginning to see some small improvements on what I've done so far in this regard.  

I will also continue to plant an underlayment of shrubs, perennials and bulbs in the woodland garden and add more perennials to the boulder and roadside garden.

I am very pleased with the roadside garden and how it looked good from Spring up to winter.

An amazing amount of blooms were present right up until the 2nd freeze in December.  

While the season slows to a crawl I am enjoying feeding the birds and providing them with water.  It's fun to watch the woodpeckers, cardinals and Bluejays .

Happy New Year to everyone .  Hope your dreams and wishes come true.

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