Tuesday, November 12, 2019

SEPTEMBER SURPRISE









"But now in September the garden has cooled, and with it my possessiveness. The sun warms my back instead of beating on my head ... The harvest has dwindled, and I have grown apart from the intense midsummer relationship that brought it on."- Robert Finch






September is usually fraught with hurricane threats and this one was no different -Dorian slammed parts of the Outer Banks but left us without any damage or rain which we could've used.


September's surprise was the arrival of my youngest and only son Jason and his wife Cecile who have re-located to Chapel Hill. It is great to have family nearby and soon we will be joined by my Sister Linda and my daughter Cathy and husband Randy. I will definitely need a bigger dining table !









My son Jason and his wife Cecile being welcomed to North Carolina .




Meanwhile back in the garden the dry, hot days of summer continued with no rain, even though September marks the beginning of Fall. My days were spent watering and keeping thirsty plants alive.




I am praying for October, rain and cooler weather.





Friday, August 30, 2019

AUGUST MUSINGS





"When summer opens, I see how fast it matures, and fear it will be short; but after the heats of July and August, I am reconciled, like one who has had his swing, to the cool of autumn."
-  Ralph Waldo Emerson 





The grapes and persimmons are ripening and I must rush to pick them before the birds and squirrels try their luck.   In the veggie garden I have harvested most of the ripe tomatoes and I'm picking the green ones to fry and pickle.  The okra has flowered and will soon produce its fruit. The cucumbers and green peppers continue their production as well.

This August has been rather dry compared to last but off and on we've had some rain , albeit , not nearly enough so I had to give the garden supplemental water.  While temperatures are still hot and the humidity high we have brief periods of cooler days as well.  Mornings are often cool with high 50's to 60's.

The Ajuga groundcover has suffered from too much rain in May to not enough in July so I'm  replacing it in the roadside garden with herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage, lavender and oregano which will endure the heat and resist deer.



Most of my roadside garden plants are drought-tolerant -yarrow, artemisia, brazilian verbena, japanese iris, ornamental grass, catmint, asters, euphorbia, and goldenrod, to name a few.  I will replace the black and blue salvia with agastache as it didn't seem to do too well with the heat.

The Pocahontas Lilac I planted in the Spring has survived our heatwave.  Looking forward to seeing it bloom in the coming Spring.  Also hoping that the six camellias I planted and the rhododendron will bloom as well.

Ah September and the countdown to the cooler days of Autumn when Fall planting can begin.




WITHERING JULY



"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

Back in May I promised never to curse the excessive rainfall we had and now I'm wishing for it.   Just watering the garden to keep it alive as the withering July temperatures cause even the sturdiest plant to suffer.


The banana palm is one plant that didn't seem to mind the hot weather.  It's grown to at least 12 feet !.


The "dog days of summer " are especially tough on my black Aussie Duke as his fur seems to hold more heat than other colors.

The weatherman has been wrong in his predictions of rain at least 99 per cent of the time but finally, on July 23 and 24 we got a good soaking rain and the temperatures cooled off into the 80's.  The garden and gardener are both elated !



I am making a note of the least drought-tolerant plants and will replace them this Fall with those that are. The Mexican petunia is one that constantly demands water so its out the door.  I love viburnums but pay the price by having to give them extra water during this heatwave, despite the fact that they are in the shade.  I've planted several rhododendrons only to have them die so I ordered one from Southern Living that so far is holding up to the heat it claims it can.

Farewell and good riddance July.  Hoping for a better month in the garden in August.

Friday, July 12, 2019

KNEE DEEP IN JUNE










"Tell you what I like the best --
'Long about knee-deep in June,
'Bout the time strawberries melts
On the vine, -- some afternoon
Like to jes' git out and rest,
And not work at nothin' else!"
- James Witcomb Riley, Knee Deep in June









A June fragrance I love - my 'little gem ' magnolia blossoms.



Ah June you are as capricious as April. Unusually hot summer temperatures with little rain kept me on my toes as I had to keep my new transplants watered.


I had to rush to pick the strawberries before the birds got to them. They were juicy and sweet as usual.


I started planting my veggie garden in May -tomatoes, green peppers, squash, okra, basil, and rosemary.


A June surprise - my 7 year old yucca bloomed for the first time !













June was full of surprises both in the garden and life. The good news is that my younger sister, son and daughter all plan to re-locate here to North Carolina this year . I will definitely need a larger dining room table !

MAY the Gardening Season Begin





"May and June. Soft syllables, gentle names for the two best months in the garden year: cool, misty mornings gently burned away with a warming spring sun, followed by breezy afternoons and chilly nights. The discussion of philosophy is over; it's time for work to begin."
- Peter Loewer



This May was lovely with temperatures wildly swinging from one extreme to the other -hot, cold, in between . April was dry and May was rainy . It is a busy time in the garden as any planting should be done before the really hot days of summer begin in June.


I've had no luck in growing rhododendrons because most of them can't endure our Southern heat but I've discovered the Southgate series and one developed by Southern Living named 'Grace ' that I ordered and planted.







Another rhododendron I coveted, the largest , which can reach 16 ' is 'Rosebay ' a native which I ordered from a nursery in Asheville. I will be paying special attention to keeping them watered this season.


Last Fall the owner of my former home in Chicago sent me a 'Lorelei ' iris from my garden. It's a dwarf of a century old antique variety. I was thrilled to see it bloom for the first time in my new Carolina garden.




May is indeed the beginning in earnest of the gardening season. As a May Day girl it is always a month when I look forward to being another year older and wiser.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Dancing April


"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 Teasdale, Blue Squills, 1920 


Once again March and April reversed their weather -March rains were so heavy and frequent that many plants suffered from root-rot.  I fear if I complain about the excess then May will surely be hot and dry. Plus, it's a waste of time .


This used to be my lawn in the backyard but grass didn't grow well here despite my every effort so I am trying a low ground cover - 'chocolate chip ' aguja which is hardy and spreads rather fast.  Plus, it has a beautiful cobalt-blue flower.  I'm hoping this will soon spread and cover the entire area.

I had my eye on a beautiful yellow Peony at the local garden center but the price tag of $99 gave me pause.  I managed to find the root of one for $19.  The root has been planted and it should look like this next year.



April has been a mixed bag of weather -both cool and warm at the same time.  The garden has really burst forth and my many fruit trees for the first time escaped a late April freeze.  The Asian pear, nectarine, peace, fig and apple all have tiny fruits emerging.

Alas, I lost my PJM rhododendron, probably due to root-rot.  I placed an order for a special cultivar that is suppose to tolerate our Southern heat - The Southgate Collection from Southern Living.  Meet Grace.  


I also ordered the native Carolina rhododendron-'Rosebay' from a nursery in Asheville.  I planted it in my woodland garden. It's the largest rhododendron, growing up to 15 ' tall and wide.

April has done her Spring dance and has strutted her stuff.  Time to welcome the Merry Month of May.






Tuesday, April 30, 2019

MARCH toward Spring




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




Last Fall I planted a hundred more daffodils to add to my existing ones and they bloomed beautifully this sunny, rather warm March.  




Last August I planted the PJM rhododendron ( above ) and it rewarded me with this display of lovely lavendar blossoms.  Rhododendrons are difficult to grow in the sunny South and do not like our heat and humidity.  I had the PJM in my Chicago garden and it survived some very cold temperatures so I'm hoping that it will also be able to take the heat.



The Edgeworthia bloomed early this year due to the unusually warm Spring we're having.  I love to sit on the bench and smell it's fragrance.




This is the first year that my evergreen Clematis 'armandii' has bloomed.  It has a wonderful fragrance as well and I like the fact that it is an aggressive spreader as I planted it in front of an unsightly chain-link fence that I want to block out.




And, still blooming since January is the formidable outstanding Hellebores which I am planting through-out my woodland garden.  This has to be the longest blooming Spring perennial of all time.

With few exceptions March has been a very busy one in the garden.
   




Saturday, April 13, 2019

FRIVILOUS FEBRUARY-Let the Gardening Begin

"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
 Yes, Margaret, there is life in the garden in February -here in the Piedmont of North Carolina.  This February was a mixture of warm one week, cold the next but fortunately without extremely cold winter storms. Of course my granddaughter and many her age would love to see a great big snow storm.
In the vegetable garden I have hearty bok choy, spinach, cabbage and kale growing.  Below are my herb beds located next to the chicken coop so I can pluck some oregano and give to the chickens as a treat.  It's an antibiotic as well.  


Since Janurary I've enjoyed seeing the Hellebores and their cheerful blooms lining my driveway garden bed.



I've been very watchful of the deer and I spray all my new plants but I didn't get to  my 6 new camellias in time and they were nibbled.  I've since covered them with deer netting and they seem to be recovering .

My five girls have continued to lay eggs but not as often as before the cold set in.  Here's the "chicken whisperer " Lea getting their undivided attention with a treat. Star, the last chicken on the left was a rescue from last year.  I found her half dead in a dog's mouth and made him drop her.  I brought her home and nursed her back to health and she is now the biggest chicken in the flock, lays the biggest eggs and eats the biggest meals.  It took one month before the other chickens would accept her into the flock.  I swear chickens are more selective in whom they allow in their social circle than humans are !




Farewell February.  March come right in.  One month closer to Spring !

Sunday, February 17, 2019

NEW BEGINNINGS IN JANUARY

The new year started off with a warm 68 degrees and ended with a record shattering frigid 14 .  In between were a lot of ups and downs-one week warm and the next cold.  Lots of rain for days on end.    
One thing that cheered me up was the sight of Peggy Clarke in all her finery. Yes, Virginia there is a tree that blooms in January ! I love this Prunus mume ( Japanese Apricot ) so much I bought two of them.  


Another winter favorite is the Hellebores ( Lenten Rose ) which I have lining my driveway.  Their cheerful bobbing heads in colors of rose, burgundy and white are a delightful sight.  


Another January favorite is the Edgeworthia, aka, paper bush that is both beautiful and fragrant.


During the last five years I've been working on my garden it has been a real challenge to grow plants that deer, rabbits, drought, floods and clay soil don't affect.  Each January I go over my planting plan which includes something blooming /or green each month of the year.  I've had no luck with rhododendrons which I love but I've resorted to planting the hardy PJM  ( named for the hybridizer Peter J. Mezzitt ) which I had in my Chicago garden.  So far it appears to have survived the heat of the summer and I'm looking forward to seeing it bloom in April.


If my PJM, pictured above, continues to do well I may add Mrs. Olga Mezzitt  ( PJ's wife ) to the garden.  She's another keeper that brightened my Chicago garden for many years. I'm also searching for a source of the very hardy Korean azalea 'poukhanese ' that grows wild in the mountains there.
My plan this year is to add Viburnum 'carlessii '  ( Korean Spice ) , Daphne 'carol mackie ' and the above mentioned rhododendrons.   And in the empty spots that need something evergreen I will fill in with low-growing fragrant gardenias and Indian hawthorne.
This is my eighth year here and I find that the mild winters are very agreeable, especially when it is punctuated with Spring-like days of sunshine.  And the sight of daffodils blooming whispers that Spring will soon be here.



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