Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In the Land of the Dogwood

Cornus florida, or dogwood, is the state flower of North Carolina .  I was so pleased to see this beloved tree flowering in most every garden and forest here.  When I first moved to Chicago and started my garden, it was one of the first trees I planted .    A transplanted Southern belle like myself, my dogwood wasn't happy at all with the harsh winters and late Spring frosts that nipped it in the bud most years.

 As you may know the dogwood was hit hard by antracnose and its number have decreased by significant amounts.   Disease-resistant cultivars are being developed and so in the future we may be able to see them more in abundance. 

 In the forest that edges my home I see three or four young dogwoods beneath tall pines.    Planted by and cared for by Mother Nature, they impart such cheer to an otherwise drab scene. 

As a child I heard the Southern legend of the dogwood .  Folks said that it was the tree from which the cross that Christ was crucified on was made and that the blossom, shaped like a cross, bore blood stains at the edges and a crown of thorns in the center. 

When I get my own garden the dogwood will be on the top of my list of Spring-flowering trees  .


Monday, March 19, 2012

Learning From A Master

Although written over 70 years ago, Elizabeth Lawrence's My Southern Garden,  is a classic that has never grown old or outdated.  My well-worn copy, read during the bitterest of a cold Chicago winter, transported me back to the sunny South where something was blooming year round.    Now that I am in Piedmont North Carolina I am finding new meaning in the meticulous records of Miz Elizabeth's Raleigh garden .

My first winter here, extremely mild, but not unusual, according to her writing : 
" In the South the progress of the season does not follow the accepted pattern of spring, summer, fall and winter.  Spring, when spring should come, has already been with us at intervals throughout the winter.   Summer lasts into fall and fall into winter.  The garden year has no beginning and no end. " 

Since arriving in early fall my eyes have been dazzled by the brilliance of the golds and reds of trees that grace the highways as well as parks and gardens.   Then came winter and the lovely berries of evergreen hollies and Nandina, silver grey of rosemary, roses still in bloom, camellias, Japanese apricot, and flowering cherries. 

A stroll in the park in Clemmons, N.C.

There are two months of winter -December and January and Spring comes in February according to Miz Elizabeth.   With Spring comes hosts of daffodils in almost every garden, both public and private. 
  " Everyone greets the first daffodil with the feeling that there cannot be too much sunlight or too much yellow in the world. "   Along with the daffodils are the Star Magnolia, Redbuds ,  Carolina Jasmine, Japanese Quince, Forsythia,  Dogwood, and ornamental Pear. to name a few.

                                        A cozy Carolina Cottage in Blowing Rock, N.C.

I see that there will be no rest for the gardener here and I am delighted to be in what I consider paradise.  As Miz Elizabeth says  " To follow the tradition of bloom in three seasons only is to miss the full meaning of gardening in a part of the world where at all times of the year there are days when it is good to be out of doors, when there is work to be done in the garden, and when there is some plant in perfection of flower or fruit . "

Thursday, March 15, 2012

First GBBD in North Carolina

A great big HEY Y'ALL from North Carolina where the question for my first garden bloggers' bloomday is :  What's NOT in bloom ?   I have been amazed by Camellias blooming in January, Star Magnolias in February and now in March the Forsythias, Quince,  Redbuds and Bradford pears, to name a few.   I am enjoying, as many of you are, one of the mildest winters on record.  Chicago broke four records in one week with the mildest temperatures ever for the dates - 80 degrees in March !

The garden center has been opened for business since March 1 and of course  stopped by to see what was in bloom there.  This stunning Camellia immediately caught my eye.  I have a fondness for Camellias as they are the state flower of my home state,  Alabama.

Camellia R. L. Wheeler

Then I spied a beautiful evergreen in bloom and was astonished to discover that it was a Viburnum.  I have never seen one before and I think its great that when not in bloom it provides a beautiful evergreen background of shiny, leathery leaves.

I know its early and I may be sorry but I purchased some hardy perennials, herbs and lettuce for my deck garden. 

                                                             Rosemary, Parsley and Mesclun

                                                   Hardy perennials :  Licorice Plant, Coreopsis and

I will add colorful annuals to my containers as they become available.  My exposure is full hot sun so I couldn't plant the colorful pansies so abundant at the garden center because I know they'll fry .

As you may be able to see in the above photos I live at the edge of a forest.  The leaves of the mature trees have already started to green up and soon the beautiful dogwoods there will be in full bloom. 

Happy GBBD to all.  Visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens to see what's blooming all over the USA.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

For the Love of Gardening

I live a few miles, as the crow flies, from the site of the garden in Raleigh that famed garden designer and writer Elizabeth Lawrence wrote about in My Southern Garden.  It will be a book that I will return to time and again when finally I settle in my own home and garden. 

Like myself, Elizabeth came from the deep South, and loved the Market bulletins put out  in her native Georgia, as well as Alabama and Mississipi where the rural folks would advertise plants for sale or exchange.  It was a way for them to also earn some pocket money.   Her book,  For the Love of Gardening, is a most unusual and unique story of her interactions with rural Southern gardeners and her pursuit of rare plants.

My mother, four years younger than Elizabeth , lived in that era and gardened for the love of it.  She was a tall, big-boned no-nonsense woman who farmed right along with my Father, took care of four children, tended the vegetable garden, milked the cows, churned butter, made all our clothes, cooked, and canned and without the luxury of any modern conveniences.  Flower gardening was a luxury and time wasted in many farmer's opinions.    But in her spare time my mother took much delight in planting a garden of flowers with seeds and plants she had swapped with friends and neighbors or ordered from a catalogue.   Her most cherished treasure was her rose garden which was the envy of everyone.   My mother passed at age 40 and my most precious memory  as a child was a visit to what remained of the garden she planted.   Much of it had perished but the gnarled old apple trees and a few roses remained.

Today we are so blessed to have garden centers and cyber nurseries where we can buy almost every plant imaginable.   While visiting the nearby garden center recently I realized just how many  of the plants in My Southern Garden were still popular here -Crape Myrtle, Magnolia, Mahonia, Yaupon Holly, Firethorn,  Viburnum fragrans and  Flowering Plum to name a few.  A gnarled rosemary was named as one of Elizabeth's most treasured plants and I marvel at how well it grows here.  In my Chicago garden I had to coddle it inside under grow lights to keep it until Spring.

This big guy  has spent many winters in the ground outside the fence of the garden center and has been neatly shaped.  I see many growing wild and blooming this winter.

I also happened upon a Viburnum in bloom and it had the most beautiful glossy evergreen leaves.  A Viburnum in bloom in March .  Be still my heart.

This winter of my content has been spent reading the classic works of Elizabeth Lawrence.  I have read them before but this time they have so much more meaning now that I live in her beloved North Carolina.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Welcome To Sweet Home Carolina

NO, this is NOT my new garden, y'all. Wish it were. This is the Sarah Duke Garden in Durham, N.C.

I have been home-less, garden-less and blog-less for the past six months since packing up and leaving my home of over four decades in Chicago and moving here to Chapel Hill., known as " The Southern Part of Heaven. " My current home is a rental and my garden is a deck . There's a forest just a few feet away filled with critters -deer, rabbits, birds of all kinds , racoons, possums, ferile cats and all sorts of insects.

My first winter here has been nothing short of heaven with most days being on the mild side. A pot of annual mums left on the deck have returned and the ornamental grass in my planter is greening up. My eyes have been dazzled by Cherry , Magnolia, Camellia, and Pear trees in bloom this winter. Hosts of bright yellow daffodils greet me everywhere. I have no doubt that one could garden year round here . I have seen public container gardens with plants happily thriving despite cold night temperatures .

I think I'm going to love it here. I know, I know -hot , humid summers. Heck, we had those in Chicago. It's the mild, warm winters that get me everytime.

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