Tuesday, December 18, 2018


"How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness every where!
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time;
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute:
Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer,
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near."
- William Shakespeare, How Like a Winter Hath my Absence Been (Sonnet 97)

Old Man Winter paid a rare visit to North Carolina last week and we were snowbound for most of it -a heavy wet 8 to 12 inch snow followed by below freezing temperatures at night and warmer daytime ones that created a freeze/melting mess.

The week previous to that I selected and planted 6 varieties of Camellias, both Japonica and Sasanqua . For extra protection I sprayed them with a waxy coating of Wilt-pruf and laid on a thick mulch.  I re-cycled a cedar felled by the heavy snow and added the cut-up branches around the base of the camellias to protect them from any future storms

Camellia japonica 'Korean Snow '  is a rare cultivar , the only white one in that cold penisula and one of the hardiest  .  I was fortunate to find it at the nearby Camellia Forest nursery . 

I've always been fond of evergreens-both conifers and broadleaf as they provide a great structure for the garden in general .   Even more so since I can enjoy them more in the mild winters here.  I have 20-plus evergreens so far and want to add even more : magnolia, osmanthus,  camellias , hollies, nandinas, hellebores, rhododendrons, azaleas, sedges, ajuga, prague viburnum, oregon holly, cedars, autumn ferns, sweet flag, lady banks rose,  anise, yucca, japanese cypress, pines, all splendid in their winter green.  It's wonderful to have a winter green garden.  Soon color will be added by the prunus mume, (Japanese apricot tree  ) that blooms here in January/February, Camellia japonica and of course the lovely hellebores. 

 'Peggy Clarke ' prunus mume one of the earliest blooming trees of winter here in the piedmont.

After a week of staying indoors with the snow storm today it was a balmy 60 degrees today and I found myself in the garden picking up debris , fallen tree limbs, and applying more deer repellent washed away by heavy rains.

I'm once again dreaming of Spring here in the deep of December.

Friday, November 16, 2018


Last November was full of warm, sunny days with temperatures in the 70's.  The tables turned, however, this month, bringing our first freeze and cold, hard rainy days.  
My preparations for an open studio tour for the very popular annual event sponsored by our Orange County Artists Guild kept me from doing my normal gardening chores.  Since my indoor studio is small I set up my display under the carport.  
I was honored to welcome Helen Yoest to my home and garden. She's a huge art lover and of course gardening diva.

For all the work she does and inspires us gardeners with I created a painting for her titled " The Gardener's Dream. "  Below is a picture of it. The sleeping dreamer is my depiction of Helen . We also toured my young garden which was in the process of decline as winter approaches.  

The open studio was an incredible experience for me as I welcomed many Chapel Hill art lovers who were visibly impressed with my art.  I was also successful in selling quite a few pieces.

November has been a very unusual one weatherwise.  I am still planning to plant a lot of Fall bulbs once the saturated ground dries up.  I'm also hoping for a return of Indian summer.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

September Sorrow

"September: it was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret."
-   Alexander Theroux

                                                  'Ann's Beautiful Daughter '

Flashback to a year ago-August and September had little or no rain but this year Hurricane Florence changed all that for many people in North Carolina. Here in the Triangle we had heavy rains and fierce winds but fortunately escaped severe damage. My heart goes out to all the people affected by this devastating Hurricane.

The last rose of summer -a special shrub I ordered from the Antique Rose Emporium flushed out its last blooms.  In the garden many plants suffered and died due to the excess rainfall. Lavender and Artemisia in particular do not like it. 

I have also been fighting Southern Blight -a fungus that's caused by excess humidity and my Ajuga in the roadside garden was hit the hardest. 

I've had no luck in growing Rhododendrons but found a beautiful specimen of PJM, reputed to be one of the easiest to grow so of course I was hooked.  

I also found this newly developed improved variety of Oakleaf Hydrangea to replace the one I lost last year.

This lovely 'shades of pink ' evergreen viburnum was added to my growing collection -now numbering 9 !  I love the fact that some of the viburnums are evergreen which gives an added season of interest.

The old saying to be careful what you wish for came true when lamenting the dryness of August and wishing for ample rain in September !   My newly planted lawn groundcover was washed away and I decided to replace it with Ajuga groundcover. 

The days grow shorter but not yet cooler as summer promises to hang on in October and we face yet another hurricane.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Most Unusual August

"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 Taylo

My hyacinth  bean vine in bloom always reminds me of my visit to Monticello and bringing back the seeds from Thomas Jefferson's garden.

While July was extremely dry August was just the opposite -unusually rainy and while not a record, it was way above average, almost four inches more than normal.  I didn't have to water the garden even once !

It's a challenge to grow an old fashioned Lilac here in the South . After a futile search in local garden centers I had to resort to ordering my long sought after Lilac -'Pocahontas ' , a Canadian variety that is supposed to survive the Southern summer heat.  It arrived potted in its own soil instead of the bareroots most nurseries have which will reduce the transplant shock considerably.

I love the deep purple of this old fashioned Lilac and can't wait for Spring to see it's new blooms.

Yesterday at the garden center I spotted a beautiful Chinese Snowball Viburnum and brought it home with me.  I now have 8 in my collection.  Guess you might say I'm kinda fond of them.

I have totally given up on growing grass in my backyard.  I had a circular lawn but every year around July it would slowly die away.   While I was digging the soil I found the reason why - Japanese beetle grubs.   I applied a grub control and have ordered ground cover seeds for heneria aka green carpet.  No more lawn.

Farewell to August and hello to September which will bring cooler weather and hopefully ample rain for the garden.  

Saturday, August 4, 2018


"The Summer looks out from her brazen tower,
Through the flashing bars of July."
-  Francis Thompson, A Corymbus for Autumn  

June's drought continued into July but unlike last year at this time the temperatures didn't reach 100.  The last week of June brought almost daily rainfall which was very welcomed.
I walk about the garden taking notes on which plants are most affected by the heat and lack of rain.   My beloved viburnums, although located in a semi-shady place, are the first to bow their leafy heads and ask for a deep soaking and I use rain collected in my barrel to answer her demands.  Below is a photo of her Spring blooms .  The asters, goldenrod, blackeyed susans, spurge, zinnias, ornamental grasses, and autumn sage , catsmint and lavender have fared rather well in this drought.

Viburnum plicatum 'mariesii '

In the orchard the 'Blushingstar ' white fleshed peach tree produced many deliciously sweet fruit .  

The tomatoes, cucumbers and squash have been abundant in the veggie garden.

In the hen house HeiHei, my Buff Orpington,  has gone broody !  She sat on her nest all day and all night, seldom leaving it for food or water.  To break the broodiness I isolated her in a wire cage with food and water.  It took 3 days before it worked.  If nothing is done about the brodiness it affects all the other hens and the result is no eggs .

I am on the hunt for the Canadian hyrid lilac Hyacinthiflora 'Pocahontas ' which claims to be able to take this Southern heat.  Two other shrubs on my wishlist are 'carol mackie ' daphne and 'koreanspice ' viburnum which local garden centers don't carry.

My roadside garden is bordered with Ajuga which has been attacked by the soil borne disease known as Southern blight or crown rot.  The experts advise to dig everything up, excavate soil 6-8 inches below and replace it .  Or you can save a lot of toil and trouble by applying Bonide lawn and garden fungicide which I aim to do once the ground dries out .

Looking forward to Fall and cooler weather .  I have plants that need dividing and transplanted and plants that died over the winter that need replacing.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Beautiful Summer Month of June

"It's beautiful the Summer month of June

When all of God's own wildflowers are in bloom
And sun shines brightly most part of the day
And butterflies o'er lush green meadows play.

Light hearted skylark songster of the wing
High o'er the quiet and lonely moorland sing
Above her nest cloaked by the tangled heath
Her charming song so exquisitely sweet.

So mellow the gentle breath of june day breeze
The birds rejoicing on the leafy trees
And dappled trout in pool bed of the stream
Bask in the sun their spotted skins agleam."
-  Francis Duggan, June

June was a very busy month in the Sweet Garden-the blue bird boxes quickly filled up and the proud parents were soon busy picking up insects for their brood.  The Japanese beetles once again were on the attack but not as bad as last year and so I at least had blooms on my dwarf Crape Myrtles for a change.  I have sprayed them and I'm adding more nematodes this Fall to further control them in the Spring.  They've spread to my fruit trees in the back garden as well.

June was very hot this year -more like July weather . The weatherman kept predicting rain everyday for a solid two weeks but it never appeared.  When we finally did get some much need rain it came down in buckets !  

With June comes the bloom of my favorite tree -the Southern Magolia, its sweet fragrance and spectacular blossom.

My roadside garden continues to flourish and get's fuller with time.  I've added Russian Sage and re-seeded with a wildflower perennial mixture.  The red yarrow, blue catmint, purple lavender, red autumn sage, white oxeye daisy, Joe Pye weed , Lantana, ornamental grasses and canna lily are now well-established and their blooms provide good , continuous color and attract the pollinators.

I couldn't find the Korean Spice viburnum that I want locally but found a nursery in Tennessee that grows it and ships it bareroot.  It doesn't look happy yet but I'm patiently waiting to see if it survives.   I also ordered two sumac bareroots and they have sprouted nicely.  

I found a mail order source for an old-fashioned Lilac that will supposedly survive this Southern heat but will wait until Fall to order it.  

Meanwhile in the fruit orchard the White fleshed peaches are growing, the grape vine is producing its first real crop and the Asian pears are heavy with their Fall-ripening fruit.  This is the second year for my dwarf fig and I'm hoping it might produce fruit as well.

Now it's time to welcome July.  Hoping against hope for ample rain and cooler temperatures !

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


What is so sweet and dear
As a prosperous morn in May,
The confident prime of the day,
And the dauntless youth of the year,
When nothing that asks for bliss,
Asking aright, is denied,
And half of the world a bridegroom is,
And half of the world a bride?"
-  William Watson, Ode in May, 1880

Like last May the month has been rainier than April.  I haven't had to water the garden, with the exception of some transplants, even once.

This outstanding clematis, 'bee's jubilee' made an early appearance.  It will bloom through-out the season.

Rhododendrons, with the exception of the native, 'rosebay' or 'maximus ' do not grow well here.  I've heard that the well-known 'pjm ' may be an exception so I bought and planted one.   I also ordered the 'rosebay' from a Texas nursery since I couldn't find it here.

This splendid perennial 'jack frost ' brunnera has emerged and bloomed.  I love it's colorful foliage and it's one of a very few variegated plants that I have .

My 'western pride' nectarine produced an abundant crop of low acid, sweet and juicy nectarines.  This is a semi-dwarf fruit tree that is disease and pest resistance.
My Asian pears, for the first time, have been hit with cedar rust, a fungus that happens when it rains too much.  I've given them a systemic soaking of a sulfur product to try to stop it.
After a long search I finally found and ordered a Viburnum 'korean spice' one of the most fragrant shrubs ever, from a nursery in Tennessee.  It's a two-year old shrub .  For some reason they are not stocked by local garden centers.  They were one of the most demanded cultivars in the Chicago garden center where I used to work.   I now have 8 Viburnums in my garden.  

                                    Korean Spice Viburnum
May has been a very busy month in the garden and tackling the weeds was one of the main chores because of all the rain.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.

You know how it is with an April day.

When the sun is out and the wind is still,

You're one month on in the middle of May.

But if you so much as dare to speak,

a cloud come over the sunlit arch,

And wind comes off a frozen peak,

And you're two months back in the middle of March."

- Robert Frost

Last April I purchased four hens and it has been delightful to watch them grow. Granddaughter Lea loves to feed and play with them. They are all good layers and the mother hen ( the red one -Henrietta ) lays the largest eggs I've ever seen.

True to its "April Showers do bring May flowers " reputation, April has been very rainy with some teasingly warm days and some very cold days.

Amazingly the hellebores have continued to bloom since Feburary. The dogwoods, red buckeye, Asian pear , apple, nectarine and peach trees have all bloomed and luckily weren't hit with a late April freeze as they were last year.

This outstanding foliage plant, Butterbur, or Petasides, a passalong plant, is colonizing in my front woodland garden and adds a much-needed spot of color.

The long stretch of below freezing temperatures caused my evergreen 'Lady Banks' rose to drop its leaves, however, it recovered very quickly and bloomed profusely.

The Autumn Sages, a favorite of mine, were also hit hard by the prolonged freeze but also have recovered and are blooming nicely. It's one of the longest blooming, drought-and-deer tolerant plants in my garden. I have at least six reds but fell in love with this purple one and had to have it.

A grand lady that shows off her finery in April is the lovely "Marie " viburnum ( Viburnum plicatum tomentosa 'mariesii ' , as she stretches her arms full of blossoms. The blossoms will be followed by bright red berries, another spectacular show.

April is full of activity as the bluebirds, Carolina Wrens, Bluejays and Cardinals set up their nests. I have four birdhouses full of newly laid eggs. No sooner had I installed a new birdhouse it was promptly claimed and the nest built very quickly.

As April fades away the Iris, catmint, hellebores, ajuga, green and gold groundcover, vervain, Solomon's seal, woodland phlox and Euphorbia are putting on a spectacular Spring show.

I know that gardening is the "Slowest of the performing arts " but I'm glad to finally see the fruit of my labor as my garden is beginning to fill in and mature.

Farewell April and welcome sweet May.

Monday, April 2, 2018

March Into Spring


That come before the swallow dares, and take
The winds of March with beauty."
-  William Shakespeare 

This march was seldom kind, teasing with its warm days followed by winter-like weather and true to its reputation, chilly winds and lots of rain.

One cheerful flower that  continues to brighten up my garden is the long- blooming Helleborus. As everyone knows who has them they are prolific spreaders which I don't mind because and as they grow I am going to divide and spread them about my woodland garden.  I love them for their evergreen foliage as well as their bright blooms.

I need to plant more daffodils and spring-blooming bulbs .  I added alliums last Fall and as they are mid-to-late season it will be sometime in April before they bloom. 

I found this most unusual lavender  ( fern lavender ) and couldn't resist it.  Can't wait to see how it performs in the heat of summer this year.

I am continuing my search for a native rhododendron 
( Maximus 'rosebay' ) and a nearby garden center has promised to try to find one for me.   I may try PJM rhododendron as I have seen a few that have survived our hot summers and look spectacular this Spring.  My neighbor has one that is around 7 - 8 feet tall.

With Spring finally arriving the last week of March things are popping up in the garden - variegated Solomon's Seal, hostas, Japanese roof iris, viburnums, dogwood, Ajuga, Catmint, woodland phlox, butterbur, clematis, tulips, and fruit trees to name a few.

Looking forward to a nice April and praying it doesn't bring us a late season freeze this year.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


"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

My February face this year was quite frosty.  Last February was so mild I was re-seeding my lawn and planting cool season vegetables. Even the potted bamboo I have in a pot turned yellow and dried out.  

The harsh winter we have this year may have killed off my semi-tropical plants such as the Banana palm and Elephant ears. I like them so much I will replace them if so.

Blooming in my garden now is Edgeworthia , aka, Paper bush  .

Edgeworthia is so fragrant and is a cheerful sight in the midst of February.  A most unusual shrub which originated in China and was actually used to make paper.

Another favorite is my Hellebores all of which were gifted to me due to their habit of spreading quite quickly.  They were late to bloom this year but now they are putting on quite a show.

I have a border of various colors -ranging from the pink/lavender/burgundy above to a pure white. 

My fruit trees -peach, apple, nectarine and pear are budding and some are blooming.  Last year a late April freeze nipped the Asian pear trees in the bud and I had only a few pears from them.

And a first -Lady Banks rose, an evergreen thornless variety, lost its leaves for the first time.  It has already bounced back due to the warm up we had at the end of this month.

Even though it blooms just once it's a great addition to a trellis because it's green even when not in bloom.

Since we had such an unusually cold winter it's my hope and dream that we will have an early pleasant Spring.  Just a gardener's dream as in the painting I did with that title.

Friday, February 2, 2018


     Neither rain nor sleet stops the blooms of my treasured Prunus Mume, aka Japanese Apricot.  I love it so much I planted a second one. What other tree blooms in the deep of January ?

We had an unusually cold January with the biggest snowfall since I've been in North Carolina -8-10 inches !  Of course businesses and schools were closed for 3 days until temperatures returned to the 60's and melted it away.

I thought my girls would suffer during the extreme cold but they made it through with no side effects.  I fed them warm oatmeal every morning and cracked corn in the evening.  Surprisingly they continued to lay eggs.

Good riddance to January and hello February as we move closer to Spring.  Spring in the South usually arrives in April .  I'm praying that I haven't lost many tender perennials to the freeze.

Monday, January 1, 2018


Here we are in the last month of the year.  There's been no snow but this must have been one of the coldest on record.  The last day of the year we had bone-chilling temperatures in the teens.  I hope that all my beloved plants are safe and snug beneath their covering of mulch. 

Chickens eat one and a half times more food in the winter so I have been adding to their diet.  Feeding them cracked corn before they retire for the night helps keep them warm as their digestive system goes to work.  I don't have electricity in the coop so I bring out fresh water a few times a day.  The chief hen, Henrietta, is still laying huge eggs. 

Above :  The pecking order -Henrietta, the red star is the oldest and bossiesst, Moon, the Americana , Hei-Hei, the Buff Orpington and the most unique chicken in America -Cleopatra, the Cream Legbar.

Since I can't be outside gardening I'm spending lots of time in the studio. This coming New Year I'm planning to join the local art guild and have an open studio which is a popular art event for the entire county.  I had to cease painting activities for awhile to have surgery on two "trigger " fingers on my right hand. I am able to use my fingers for a limited time but it will take a few month before they are completely recovered.

Looking forward to the New Year and the beginning of the gardening season.  Right now December is the garden of my mind's eye. 

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