Friday, December 1, 2017

The Gold of November

peering from some high window;
at the gold
of november sunset
(and feeling:that if day
has to become night
this is a beautiful way)
~e.e. cummings

This November was one of the coldest I remember since I moved to North Carolina.  I also think that the beautiful golds and reds of Fall were more brilliant this month.  The golds of the Sweet Gum trees, the reds of the Viburnums, Dogwoods and Oaks paint the landscape with an artists brush.

I have had the row covers on standby and used them  in the vegetable garden for more than 6 or 7 days of below freezing temperatures.  I have planted chinese cabbage and kale from seed and they are growing nicely.  Also planted Savoy cabbage and it's thriving as well.  I've added elephant garlic and stir-fry broccoli this last month.

Taking note of what's still in bloom this late November.  The aster above , ' Raydon's Favorite ' is also one of mine.  It grows wide and tall, blooms late but long.  I have divided it into several transplants that I've spread through-out my roadside garden.  It goes well with the ornamental grasses.

Another favorite is Autumn Sage.  I have several different colors-red, red and white and now this new cultivar -violet.  They also spread and become a woody shrub with a long blooming period.  The hummers , butterflies and bees love this plant.  Last year mine bloomed through-out the winter.

Another bright shining star in the November garden -'sheffield's pink ' Korean mum.  Blooms early but stays late.

My favorite annuals -Dianthus and Snapdragons-are still acting like perennials despite the harsh freezes we've had.   Soon the hellebores of which I now have many passalongs will be in bloom.

The herb garden which I planted right next to the chicken coop so I could pick oregano and thyme to feed the chickens is still growing.  Oregano is considered an antibiotic and the girls love it .I used sage and thyme to season the turkey dressing and chives for the potatoes.   Speaking of the girls only two of them continue to lay eggs -the red star Henrietta and the Americauna Luna.  I doubt they will lay all winter but I'll have to wait and see.

This last week of November brought back some Spring-like weather of highs in the upper 60's.  I'm just waiting for the last leaves to fall so that I can shred them and return them to the earth to enrich the soil.

And now on to the last month of the year.  It's hard to believe that it's here but with it comes a lot of good cheer and a time of rest for the gardener.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Glory of October

In the October Garden

In my Autumn garden I was fain
To mourn among my scattered roses;
Alas for that last rosebud which uncloses
To Autumn's languid sun and rain
When all the world is on the wane!
Which has not felt the sweet constraint of June,
Nor heard the nightingale in tune.

Broad-faced asters by my garden walk,
You are but coarse compared with roses:
More choice, more dear that rosebud which uncloses
Faint-scented, pinched, upon its stalk,
That least and last which cold winds balk;
A rose it is though least and last of all,
A rose to me though at the fall. 

 My aim is to use the plants as mulch - planting them so close together that they shade out weeds.  I'd rather buy perennials and plant them than mulch and have to apply it. I do add a good layer of mulch to newly planted trees and shrubs to help in the consevation of their watering.

October was relatively dry and required additional watering for new and transplanted plants. The late blooms of mums, asters , Autumn sage and goldenrod are still hanging on.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


I love this Hyacinth Bean vine I bought when I visited Thomas Jefferson's Monticello garden.

September - so hot and dry.  I joked that the chickens were laying boiled eggs.  Most of the time they had their tongues hanging out and their wings fanning themselves.  I put  lots of ice cubes in their water.  All four hens are now laying-some off and on but we are getting around 2 dozen eggs a week. 

I expect to get a large water bill this month as we've had hardly any rain for the past two months -August and September.   I take sections of the garden at a time beginning with those that need the water the most - new transplants . I don't like to complain about the lack of water when the poor people of Houston , Florida and Puerto Rico got way too much.

I spent days that were too hot to venture out in planning the renovation of a 20 year old garden.  I had the homeowner rip out all the old , overgrown shrubs. She selected, upon my advice, a beautiful Full Moon Japanese Maple for a focal point in her front garden bed.  Around it I planted a bright golden Illicium, some Lorepetalum and Recurved ligustrum.   The color contrast was remarkable. 

The last day of September brought a huge change to the heatwave we were having.  It suddenly cooled off to a wonderful 72 degree day which is perfect for gardening . 

Farewell dry, hot September and welcome cool and wonderful October !

Thursday, August 31, 2017


"Let me enjoy this late-summer day of my heart while the leaves are still green and I won't look so close as to see that first tint of pale yellow slowly creep in. I will cease endless running and then look to the sky ask the sun to embrace me and then hope she won't tell of tomorrows less long than today. Let me spend just this time in the slow-cooling glow of warm afternoon light and I'd think I will still have the strength for just one more last fling of my heart." 
- John Bohrn, Late August

The goldenrod to me means that Fall is slowly creeping in.  The last week of August has been remarkable cool all of a sudden.  Temperatures of 70 as the high and 60 as the low are very enjoyable for getting gardening chores done.

Despite the lack of rain this month the garden has thrived, with the exception of pesky deer nibbling on plants they usually leave alone.   Above is a shot of the edge of my woodland garden that faces the front of my house.  I still have empty spots calling for some plants.  I'm looking for bellflowers that will naturally colonize and fill in the blanks so that the plants will act as mulch.

Henrietta, the red hen on the right, has been laying eggs everyday.  She is the queen of the coop and keeps the other ones in line.   The yellow buff orpington on the left, named Hei Hei should be laying soon as she's only 5 days younger that Henrietta.

     Found this lovely violet Autumn sage at the local garden center and got two of them planted.  I'm very fond of this plant since it has a long bloom time, attracts bees and butterflies and turns into a small woody shrub.

I found this beautiful spotted bee balm and couldn't resist it.  It's self-sowing and attracts a lot of pollinators.

In the vegetable garden I've harvested a lot of okra, tomatoes, basil and onions.  I've planted some kale and stir-fry broccoli and have more seeds to sow once it gets a little cooler.

Monday, July 31, 2017


This prunus mume ' peggy clarke ' , one of two I have in my garden, will always remind me of my gardening buddy who sold it to me.  " What other tree will bring you cheer in the midst of winter, " she asked.   She was the most cheerful, loving and charitable person I know.  One sad  day this month she decided to end it all, leaving behind a multitude of friends and family.  Our grief was overwhelming.
As expected July brought many extremely hot and humid days with no rain in sight.  Temperatures over 100 degrees for a week at a time.

Despite the heat some flowers, such as this 'Little Gem ' magnolia actually bloomed.  The most drought-tolerant flowers in the roadside garden are the goldenrods, asters and ornamental grasses.

Harvested some tasty tomatoes, okra and zuchinni from the veggie garden.  Strawberries are still putting out fruit.  I harvested 20 white peaches from my semi-dwarf tree and they were very sweet.

We added an outdoor enclosure to the chicken pen so the girls could have room to roam .

Today, the oldest girl, Henrietta started clucking like a mad hen and when I went to see what the matter was I found the first egg !  It was small and brown.  This is early as she is only 5 months old.  Then a few hours later I found a second egg.  I had to hurry and assemble her nesting box since there are 3 other girls who might want to peck or even eat the eggs.  The nesting box allows the eggs to roll down to a collection box to avoid this.

Farewell, July.  Looking forward to lower humidity and temperatures and hoping we get them !

Sunday, July 2, 2017


Normal rainfall for June is 3.6 " but actual accumulation this year was 6.36 ".  It rained almost non-stop for days.  Since my property is on a downhill slope I have lots of run-off that I've been dealing with.   I dug a deep trench around the veggie garden and along the fence that runs down the slope and added a corrugated drain pipe with a mesh sock to direct the rainfall to the woodlands in front.  It worked !  No more standing puddles .

 View from the Boulder garden

Peeping through the arbor with the Lady Banks rose on it.   This unique rose is thornless and evergreen.  It has tiny yellow flowers that smothers the vines in early Summer.

We finally finished the chicken coop that is attached to our shed.  It's a good size - 8 x 12 ' and our four chickens are quite happy in their new home.  It's so much easier to clean as I have plenty of headroom.

Took some time off and drove to the Outer Banks to vacation with family.  The sound of the ocean waves are  so tranquil.

                                                            Nags Head, N.C.

Visited the beautiful garden of  Gail Norwood and picked up some of her passalong plant -pestacides, aka, butterbur, a very impressive, large-leaved specimen that loves a moist woodland garden.  It has already adapted to its new enviornment

I am waging a battle with Japanese beetles.  First they appeared on my crape myrtles and now they are on my apple, nectarine and marigolds.  I may have to start a regimen of Milky Spore to get rid of them entirely.

I have been enjoying both red and green tomatoes from the veggie garden, along with strawberries, basil and onions.

With the coming of July summer will be in full force and gardening will have to be limited to the early morning or late afternoon .

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


"A delicate fabric of bird song 
Floats in the air, 
The smell of wet wild earth 
Is everywhere. 
Oh I must pass nothing by 
Without loving it much, 
The raindrop try with my lips, 
The grass with my touch; 
For how can I be sure 
I shall see again 
The world on the first of May 
Shining after the rain?"  
-  Sara Teasdale, May Day  

                                         'Whirling Butterflies ' Gaura

April and May were reversed this year - April was dry and May brought an over abundance of rain.

I've spend most of this month learning how to be the grandmother of my granddaughter's newly acquired chickens that are kept at my house . She named them Henrietta,( a Golden Buff -Red Sex Link ) Cleopatra, ( Cream Legbar ) Moon  ( Ameraucana ) and Hey Hey ( a Buff Orpington ) .  I let the chicks out of the coop every morning and provide fresh water and food.  I also clean up their poop on a daily basis. The rest of the day they are free to roam the chicken enclosure .  I used sand for their litter so they are quite happy taking sand baths.  Since there's a lot of chicken-loving critters in this area I lock them up in their coop at night.  

The roadside garden is very lush due to the excessive rain we've had. I have added more wildflower seeds that attract bees and butterflies.

I added more perennials to my boulder garden -coreopsis, poker plant, verbena, fern-leaf lavender, violets, butterfly weed, spurge, woodland phlox and spider daylilies to name a few.  I also found the hardy banana palm tree that I wanted to plant near my container pond.  

I added two more dogwoods -a  'cherokee brave ' and 'appalachian mist '.  

May is a very busy month both in the garden and at home - two of my children are born in May and then there's my May birthday and Mother's day so a lot of presents change hands.

Sunday, April 30, 2017


Here in the Piedmont April 15 is usually considered the day when it is safe to plant as the danger of a heavy freeze is passed.  This April we had a late freeze and I had to cover some tender budding fruit trees.

An April addition to the Sweet Garden - " Freckles " , a woodland violet.

It was very dry in early to mid-April and I had to frequently water the newly planted flowers and shrubs during some summer-like hot weather.  But, true to its rainy reputation, April didn't fail to produce an abundance of rain that fell so hard and fast it flooded many areas , causing extensive damage and loss of life.

               Edgeworthia, aka paper bush, is another April addition.

My experiment with the Fall/Winter vegetable garden was successful and I harvested kale, spinach and green leaf lettuce. I've added cantoloupe, okra, green and red sweet bell peppers and cucumbers .

The time finally arrived to fulfill my promise to Lea to get some chickens.  She was so excited to be able to select two choices of her own - a Golden Buff and a Cream legbar.  We picked two more-an Ameraucan and Buff Orpington.  I chose a coarse sand for the floor of the coop and run as I read it was cleaner and easier to maintain.  We shall see.  The larger chicken -the Golden Buff, is dominant and the smaller chicks act as if she's their mother.  

Farewell April and welcome May.  April was certainly full of surprises from very cold to very warm and very dry to very wet.  I have come to expect no less from this unpredictable month.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


March was another great month with more mild than cold days.  Thus I planted some more veggies that are usually done in mid-to-late April.  Below you will see some of them - my sweet onions, leaf lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, cabbages, kale, cucumbers and spinach.  I've only had to cover them 4 times this winter.  I also planted the seeds of okra, chives and cantaloupe.  

I was reminded by my eight year old granddaughter Lea that I promised to get chickens.  Below is the coop that will house two chickens to start with.  She is excited to go shopping and pick them out.  I'm adding a six-foot exercise pen and run and poultry wire to the picket fence so the chicks can free range in the garden as well. This area is completely closed off from the resident dog.

My 3-in-3 apple tree arrived from California and I got that planted.  It's already sprouted new leaves.  

Purchased and planted glory lily, purple meadow sage, red fox veronica, 3 kinds of  woodland phlox, purple verbena,yellow blooming edgeworthia, and virginia bluebells, to name a few.  A neighbor gave me some seedlings of her Cushion Spurge and Oxe Eye daisies.

I'm delighted to see that the passalong  variegated Solomon's seals I planted last year are emerging, as are the Hellebores.  My Hellebores were outstanding this season and bloomed for a very long time.  

I want to add more sages to the garden as they are not only long blooming and deer resistant , they don't die back in the winter.

The queens of the shrub garden -the viburnums-have begun their blooming - the very fragrant 'mohawk',  'nantucket' and 'mariesii ' . I want to add some more evergreen varieties as well.  

Life is emerging in the roadside garden -the cobalt blue ajuga, powder blue catsmint, yellow daffodils, and false lupine.  I will add more wildflower seeds this Spring to attract more bees and butterflies.

Farewell to March and Hello to April.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


"Late February days; and now, at last,
Might you have thought that
Winter's woe was past;
So fair the sky was and so soft the air."
-  William Morris

February was a very warm and pleasant month albiet a bit short of necessary rainfall for all the emerging plants.  In the orchard my white-fleshed peach , nectarine and asian pears are blooming.

I added a pollinator blueberry and a dwarf fig to the vegetable garden.  Also planted a tomato, green pepper and green leaf lettuce.    I sowed okra and cantaloupe seeds as well.  Sowed the Hibiscus and Hyacinth Bean seeds I purchased at Monticello.  A freeze is predicted for this week so I have the row covers standing by.

                       'Little Miss Figgy ' dwarf fig.

 The weather has been so delightful I was able to create my second rockery, a chore indeed.  Planting was the easy part but hauling in all the topsoil to create it was not.

Planted primulas, phlox, bergenia, pinks and sandwort in my newly formed berm of topsoil mixed with compost and manure.  This berm's main function was to stop the overflow of rainwater from my uphill neighbor.

I had my heart set on a Fuji apple tree which needs a pollinator so I had to find room for two trees.  I couldn't find one so I ordered a special grafted apple tree that has 3 different apples -Fuji, golden delicious and early summer red so it pollinates itself .  It will arrive in mid-March.  

I love the many daffodils that are showing their cheery heads around town and plan to plant a lot more this Fall.  I see many are naturalizing in the woodlands as well.  

February was a very busy and productive month in the garden.  I re-seeded my lawn and it emerged in 5 days ! Grass takes consistently warm temperatures to sprout and my timing was perfect.  An accident I'm sure but glad it worked out.  

Farewell February, hope March will try to best you.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


"The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer.  Minute by minute they lengthen out.  It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.  It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a 

twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour."
-  Vita Sackville-West

A surprisingly warm January with just a few days of below freezing temperatures.  Much to my delight my two Prunus mume ' peggy clarke ' bloomed and the bees were busy buzzing in and out of their fragrant flowers.   

Pleasant days in the high 60's and 70's inspired me to do some weeding and transplanting.   My vegetable garden has done quite well and I have harvested parsley, kale, chard and spinach.  The cabbages are forming heads.

My Mahonia, aka Oregon Grape, is a welcome spot of color in January, as are the Hellebores in purple and chartruese.

I know that there's always the danger of more ice and snow so I will take each warm day as a gift and use it wisely.  I am eager for Spring to come but I know that I need to be patient for another month or so.  

Meanwhile I am spending time in my art studio and making plans for more garden projects in the Spring.  My 8 year old granddaughter is super excited because I promised her I would get some chickens this year.  
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