Friday, July 31, 2015

A BLUE JULY IN THE SWEET HOME AND GARDEN



The roadside garden with a mixture of coreopsis, lavender, cosmos, lantana, allysum, yarrow, lambs ear, marigolds, salvia , rose campion, sneezeweed, goldenrod, cardinal flower, delpheniums, gaura, muhly grass , and milkweed, to name a few, continued to thrive  and garner so many compliments from passersby.

Tragedy struck  in mid-July when my little canine companion of 14 years, Mini-Schnauzer Jojo had to be put to sleep due to an inoperable brain tumor that caused her to have constant seizures.    Below is a picture of her in our Chicago home, in her favorite chair, checking out the action on our busy street and barking selectively at people she didn't like.  She is gone from our side but never from our heart. I spent the last day of her life consoling and soothing her, giving her favorite treats .  The vet told me that I took such good care of her that she lived 2 years longer than most of her breed .  Farewell my faithful companion.  We shall meet again.





 I was fortunate to find a piece of whimsical art for my garden produced from recycled materials by a local  artist. Birds are a common theme in my woodland garden with many birdhouses, feeders and birdbaths.  



I am enjoying watching my young garden mature .  Despite the many challenges of gardening here in the Piedmont - deer, rabbit, clay, drought, etc.  I love my woodland cottage garden .  A small house and a big garden is my dream come true.  

Now August approaches and I have many plans for the Sweet Garden.  A new fence will be installed in my backyard so that I can garden without worrying about critters eating everything.  I will start my vegetable garden and add plants that I love but couldn't have due to deer.  I used to dread Fall because I knew that a harsh Chicago winter was ahead, but here you can garden all year. The sight of  Camellias and Flowering Apricots in Winter cheer my very soul.   And , what I planted this year - 4 dogwoods, viburnums and magnolia will be wonderful in Spring.  

And to end this Blue July tonight  there will be a blue moon.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

JUNE AND SUMMER BEGINS

     
         Once school is out we head up to the Outer Banks on the Atlantic for a short vacation with our daughters and granddaughter.
         



June was a busy month in the garden and due to lackof rain and hot humid days I fussed over my new plantings with extra water and an added layer of mulch.



My roadside wildflower garden did well despite the lack of rain and most plants were drought-and-deer resistant.  I added a heavy layer of shredded leaves and pine needles to preserve moisture.



The birds were very busy building nests in the boxes and houses I put up.  This little wren laid five eggs.  A beautiful American Goldfinch occupied another house and had a small brood.  I supply them with food and water so it makes their parenthood easier.



Much to my delight the seeds of this Robinson's Red Mum not only sprouted but bloomed this month.  How great to have mums in the summer !  

I made of list of the plants that deer and rabbits have not browsed for the past two years :   Pink Astilibe, Bergenia, ajuga, daffodils, ferns, red buckeye, cannas, hellebores, coreopsis, Japanese iris, Florida anise, lavender,ornamental grasses, rosemary, salvia, yarrow, verbascum, zinnia, and other herbs.

This month I will finally have a fence installed in my backyard so that I can enjoy gardening without fighting the deer and rabbit.  I plan to construct a round flagstone patio near the boulder garden and plant an ornamental kitchen garden .

Farewell June.  You have been a brutal month to deal with in the garden but it appears that July's forecast is to be cooler than you were.  

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Merry Merry Month of May

 THE month of May, the merry month of May,
So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!
O, and then did I unto my true love say,
Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my Summer's Queen.

Now the nightingale, the pretty nightingale,
The sweetest singer in all the forest quire,
Entreats thee, sweet Peggy, to hear thy true love's tale:
Lo, yonder she sitteth, her breast against a brier.

But O, I spy the cuckoo, the cuckoo, the cuckoo;
See where she sitteth; come away, my joy:
Come away, I prithee, I do not like the cuckoo
Should sing where my Peggy and I kiss and toy.

O, the month of May, the merry month of May,
So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green;
And then did I unto my true love say,
Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my Summer's Queen 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

APRIL LIVES UP TO ITS NAME


  
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

-T.S. Eliot

As a child growing up in rural Alabama one of my fondest memories was sleeping to the sound of rain on our tin roof. It was also one of my greatest fears that the rain would change into a terrible thunderstorm or tornado, as it often did in April and May. I can't even begin to guess how many sleepless  nights we spent in a storm cellar during tornado season.



                         April in the Sweet Garden


This April has lived up to its reputation " April showers bring May flowers. "  It rained heavily everyday for an entire week.  I was astonished at the huge volume of water that poured from the sky during a very heavy downpour.  I wish that I could pipe some of it out to California .


                    Birds have set up a nest in my birdhouse.  There is food and water nearby for the parents when the babies hatch.

Despite the many rainy days we had I managed to add quite a few new shrubs to the woodland garden :  Aronia, Red Buckeye, kerria japonica, 2  'celestial ' dogwoods, a kousa hybrid and 'appalachian snow. '   I spread one large bag of butterfly and hummingbird wildflower seeds in the roadside wildflower garden.  So many plants from last year have returned, much to my surprise and delight, given the harsh winter we had. 


                One of my favorite natives, red buckeye.

It is my goal to have drifts of sweet woodruff, autumn ferns, woodland phlox, lily of the valley, ferns, barrenwort, astilibe, bergenia, mullien, cranesbill geranium, hellebores, pulmonaria, brunnera , jacob's ladder, and columbines in the woodland garden that fronts my house.  Planting them requires a lot of work as its not possible to dig very deep in the hard pan soil that is rock and clay so I must prepare all the areas with good topsoil mixed with compost and manure.


   The boulder garden in back has sprung to life with iris, catmint, daffodils, lamb's ear, dianthus, ajuga and soapwort in bloom.

Since I haven't put up a fence in my backyard yet I've only planted tomatoes and green onions which I keep sprayed with deer and rabbit repellent.  I'm hoping to break ground on a new fence sometime within the next month or so.  So far I have an orchard of 2 Asian pears, persimmon, pawpaw tree, and a nectarine.


     Spring onions and Better boy tomatoes in raised bed.

Because of my intensive purchasing and planting my daughter asked me if I there would ever come a time when I wouldn't have anything left to plant to which I replied a gardener's work is never done.  I do however look forward to the day when I can enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Now April draws to a close and so does my 70th year.  Tomorrow I shall be a year older and hopefully, wiser.




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

DEAR MARCH -COME IN AND BRING SPRING WITH YOU

Dear March - Come in - 
How glad I am -
I hoped for you before -
Put down your Hat - 
You must have walked -
How out of Breath you are - 
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest -
Did you leave Nature well - 
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me -
I have so much to tell -

I got your Letter, and the Birds - 
The Maples never knew that you were coming -
I declare - how Red their Faces grew -         
But March, forgive me - 
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue - 
There was no Purple suitable - 
You took it all with you -         
  
Who knocks? That April -
Lock the Door -
I will not be pursued -
He stayed away a Year to call 
When I am occupied -         
But trifles look so trivial 
As soon as you have come
 
That blame is just as dear as Praise 
And Praise as mere as Blame -

-Emily Dickinson
March was a fickle month of wild swings in temperatures -some warm and inviting and others with the sharp biting winds that she is known for. The daffodils and violas enjoyed the cool brisk days and the birds were busy gathering nesting materials and food.
On warm sunny days I ventured to the garden center and selected a curly Japanese corkscrew willow, more lily of the valley, sweet woodruff, bleeding heart, bergenia, foamy bells, cranesbill, ferns, rosemary, lavender, rose campion, monards, and mullein, to name a few. I started my fragrance garden in the front near the porch so that when I walk out I can smell the aroma.
I planted a 'bees jublilee' in the urn and added a twig trellis for it to climb on. All the plants in this area are fragrant herbs or perennials, with the exception of the evergreens.
In the front woodland garden my plan is to grow drifts of sweet woodruff, woodland phlox, lily of th valley, cranesbill, and ferns. Below is the area that fronts my property. The woods are a little sparce so I will plant more dogwood, viburnum, mahonia and nandina to fill it in.
The little blue chair is where my granddaughter Lea likes to sit and look in the small pond for tadpoles. As you can see I keep a layer of mother nature's mulch -leaves which I've shredded and pine straw, to protect my new plants and to enrich the soil.
I used to just tolerate March when I lived in Chicago but I feel differently about it now. It really does bring us Spring here - even if just for a day or a week. And while I know that April 15 is our last hard freeze date I have gambled by planting many things this month and so far they've all survived.

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.











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