Saturday, February 28, 2015

FEBRUARY AND WINTER UNLEASHES ITS WRATH UPON US





"In winter's cold and sparkling snow,

The garden in my mind does grow.
I look outside to blinding white,
And see my tulips blooming bright.
And over there a sweet carnation,
Softly scents my imagination.

On this cold and freezing day,
The Russian sage does gently sway,
And miniature roses perfume the air,
I can see them blooming there.
Though days are short, my vision's clear.
And through the snow, the buds appear.

In my mind, clematis climbs,
And morning glories do entwine.
Woodland phlox and scarlet pinks,
Replace the frost, if I just blink.
My inner eye sees past the snow.
And in my mind, my garden grows."
-  Cynthia Adams, Winter Garden.




A few warm days in early February and I was enticed to visit the garden center and browse.  I came home with  2 'celestial' dogwoods  ( large white flowering mix of the Florida and Kousa dogwoods ), an Edgeworthia,  American wisteria, prunus mume and a 'Little Gem' magnolia.   I still pinch myself to think that I'm planting in February.

Just when I thought that February would continue to bring us days of 60 degrees without end old man winter came roaring in on the Siberian express to remind us that we were not forgotten.  We had days of freezing, cold rain that turned to dangerous ice, followed by slushy wet heavy snow.  Our total snowfall was at least 7 or 8 inches, almost unheard of here.

The temperatures reached lows of near zero and I covered my camellia with a warm row cover which helped, along with the anti-dessicant spray that I applied before winter set in.  It seemed to have helped keep the broadleaf evergreens from freezing.   My newly planted magnolia lost a few limbs to the heavy snow .  Lesson learned.  Next time I will protect it by wrapping it in burlap or creating a snow tent around it.

In my back woodlands I saw a cheerie sight - daffodils in bloom.


A most welcome sign of Spring despite winter's brief visit.  During my confinement indoors I enjoyed watching the birds gather at the feeders.  Blue birds, my favorites, cardinals, woodpeckers, bluejays, robins, Carolina wren and mourning doves filled their bellies with suet and seeds.


Two weeks of this shortest month were spent indoors because of the dangers of driving on icy roads. Unlike in the big cities, everything comes to a standstill here.  

Now comes the last day of February and March has just announced that Spring will arrive on the 4th with temperatures in the 70's.  I don't know how long it will last but I will promise that I'll enjoy it even for a day.   The garden in my mind does grow .


Saturday, January 31, 2015

JANUARY THE FIRST MONTH OF 2015 IN THE SWEET GARDEN




Another new year has dawned. This is the eighth year of my writing this blog and much has changed in the blogging world, a lot of it due to facebook, twitter and other social media. People don't read blogs the way they used to . Back in the beginning it was customary to blog whenever you felt like it -daily, weekly, or monthly. Now I've resorted to blogging just once a month and have decided that I will make my posts a diary of my home and garden life.  

At this point in my life it matters not whether I have a vast audience or no audience at all. My blog is now my personal gardening journal. I am a passionate gardener and am never happier than when I'm busy at it .  My late Aunt Nell lived to be 95 and kept a house and garden until the day she passed.  I want to be like her.  I want folks in the neighborhood to pass my house and garden and say that's where the gardening-crazy woman lives. Not that they don't do it already as I am out in the garden almost everyday that is agreeable.


The snow scene above was last winter .This January passed without any measurable snowfall or ice storms and actually had some days when I was able to get out and garden.

I was able to find enough rock to line our 100-plus feet of driveway and hauled them from all over to their final resting place.  Quite a chore as the drive is long and two sides required a border. And, the old body is now 70 Springs old so keeping it in gardening shape is a chore in itself. 

I started preparing the beds for Spring planting. No surprise the soil is rocky and hardpan clay.  When it rains the water puddles but slowly sinks down into the ground. The soil has to be amended . The area in front of the house was left until last due to the rehabbing of our house, thus the reason for its bareness.



This bed will be ready for Spring planting by adding compost, manure and new top soil to form a berm.  

My plan is to add several white-flowering dogwoods and underplant them with perennials and naturalizing ground cover such as lily-of-the-valley,ferns, hellebores,sweet woodruff, and the like.  

I started a sedum garden in front last summer but have decided to replace it with an herb garden which makes more sense to me as it is hardier and less fussy. I dislike bringing plants inside to overwinter as I don't have the room or the necessary sunlight.

One nice January day I added a little whimsical color of my own by painting my dead tree red . I'm going to use it for a mini-birdhouse collection. I like bottle trees but everyone has them and I want something different. Can't help it - I'm a middle child.




I also want to have something in bloom for every month of the year, which can be a challenge. I planted a white-flowering Camellia japonica which has big fat buds that are near opening.  The night temperatures went down to the low '20's so I wrapped them in a row cover to keep them from freezing.  My violas and pansies are still blooming and the reddish-purple leaves of the coral bells add much needed color to the winter garden.

Although January was not a bad month weatherwise, I'm always happy to see it whizz by because it means we're one month closer to Spring.  I saw a Robin the other day and my daffodils have emerged.

I am enjoying feeding the birds and supplying much needed water. The large pair of woodpeckers that use to play the drums on my house are now content with the suet I provide them.  Bluebirds, chickadees, Carolina wrens, cardinals and turtle doves are frequent diners.




I just stuck these birdhouses/feeders in the ground but this Spring I will make a 4 x 4 wood post for them. This is the roadside garden that I planted with wildflowers last Spring.  There's an old saying " Don't expect to get compliments on a wildflower garden within 3 years of planting " but I guess I was an exception to the rule because I planted the seeds early and by summer there were a lot of blooms. 

 Yesterday a gentle breeze was blowing and I looked up into the pines swaying to and fro.  It took me back to my childhood in Alabama and I realized how happy and lucky I was to be back in my beloved South again, to be doing what I love and to be able to help grow the most precious flower of all-my beloved granddaughter, a sweet, precocious child that is the center of our happiness.

Looking forward to a new year filled with many adventures in gardening.











Tuesday, December 30, 2014

DECEMBER IN THE SWEET HOME AND GARDEN


   
     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 IN THE SWEET HOME AND GARDEN



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 IN THE SWEET GARDEN




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

SEPTEMBER IN THE SWEET GARDEN


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.





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