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This week the Persicaria “Red Dragon” finally wilted. 

 I was impressed. 

During this long, hot, dry September when so many plants have needed watering– that’s the first time  Persicaria (common name: Knotweed) has needed any help from me. 

Which means it’s a super-tough, drought tolerant plant that’s easy to establish.  My three little rooted sprigs were planted just this Spring. 

That’s very good news.  I’m always looking for new plants for my woods garden which even in the best of summers gets really dry. 

Another plus--It's nice and tall, knee-hi at least.

Red Dragon Knotweed came from the annual Raleigh Garden Club Sale at the State fairgrounds–a recommendation from noted Apex gardener Rita Mercer who lives just down the road. 

When Rita speaks, I listen.  Her garden is very impressive–she opens it to the public each spring– and since Rita’s Garden is on a shady slope it’s even drier than mine.   

So I put down another plant and picked up the Knotweed.  And it’s been a wonderful purchase for me. 

Not only is Red Dragon tough and drought tolerant, it’s has a subtle beauty, small white flowers and looks good all summer long–a rare combo in my woods. 

The airy white flowers last a long time--

Persicaria “Red Dragon”  –You should grow that. 

Another note about plants you should grow–Check out the Garden Section of today’s Raleigh News and Observer for a great article about what plants local gardeners are buying this fall.  Columnist Carol Stein picks one of my favorites, the  locally propagated beauty,  Blue Chip Buddleia.   This plant still looks fantastic, as it has all summer, in my sunny garden by the street.    Campbell Road Nursery has them for 15 dollars each.  Nursery boss, Lane is co-propigator of the variety.  Love this plant.  You should grow it.

Pretty blooms and then some--a good looking Butterfly bush for the front of the border--


Last year my peppers did awful.  This year, I have had a little bottom rot, but my poblano peppers are producing like a champ. So many  people confuse these for their hotter sibling peppers, but poblanos are usually a mild chile. But a word of caution…they have a wild side to them.  You may get a hot one…sort of random actually..from the same plant too. I think they are just a flavorful version of the bell pepper.  Their flavor is complex with a hint of smokiness.  They are perfect for chillies or fajitas.

My Poblano Peppers dangling in the breeze

They origins are from Mexico as you would have guessed.  They are often used in Mexican cuisine. It is a start ingredient on the famous mole sauce. When dried it is called an ancho chile.

The plant itself grows to be about 25 inches tall.  The pepper actually has quite a color transformation as it matures. It goes from a deep purple to a dark green, and if you wait long enough, a dark red.  I pick them at the dark green stage.  They like it drier than some of your other veggies so you should plant them together and water them differently than you tomatoes or squash.  And boy do they love the heat…it seems the hotter the better.  I have 3 plants this year and they are getting full.

I have the perfect recipe for these.  It is simple and delicious. It from Steven Raichlen’s BBQ USA.  You can cook it on the grill or in the oven…your choice. Sometimes I don’t make the whole recipe, you can half it and it comes out fine.

BBQ Bean & Cheese Chiles:

6 Poblano peppers

2 cans of low sodium pinto or black beans (you can also cook the dried ones too)

3 tablespoons of EVOO, plus 1 tablespoon for drizzling

1 med onion–fine chop (toss it is in the food processor and puree)

2 cloves of garlic

2 jalapeno peppers

1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1/4 chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1-3 teaspoons of your fav hot sauce (depending what heat level you want)

3 cups of pepper jack cheese (i have used cheddar in this as a sub)

salt and pepper to taste

Prep the veggies.  Heat skillet with oil and add onion, garlic, jalapenos, red pepper cilantro and cumin and good til golden brown (4 min). Stir in the beans, hot sauce and 2 cups of cheese. Taste and season. Then spoon mixture in poblanos to stuff. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

You can set up your grill to medium and put on indirect heat and throw in some moist hickory wood chips for added smoke) You can cover and cook 30 minutes.  You can sub the oven at 375 degrees and 30-40 mins, until cheese is bubbly.


You should grow poblano peppers….

Happy Gardening.


An impressive picture from  blog-reader Kremer after my post on super-easy containers for shade.  He used the same formula–something spiky, something trailing and something in the middle to create this stunning hanging basket.

Hanging baskets are tough.    They dry out quickly.  But Kremer, who must be our Northern-most reader in Princeton  NJ, needs to elevate his flowers away from hungry ground hogs and the deer.  

Must work–his basket looks very happy.  

By the way–Kremer may live in NJ, but he has deep Southern roots.  His green thumb hails from down here…

Well done. 

Back in my North Carolina  garden–another update as the Violet Queen Zinnias start to pay off.  Love this annual which is about 44 inches tall now, branching and blooming well. 

Not nearly so impressive when I started seeds outdoors in little newspaper pots. (check out my May 14 post

My splendid zinnias had humble beginnings

Zinnias, Manos Beauty, and Celosia were my last round of seedlings and more than worth the trouble.   These plants should only look better as time goes by and will bloom right up to frost. 

Another annual from my last flat of seeds--Manos Beauty

Why did I use  newspaper pots?  Lots of heat loving annuals resent transplanting.  Transplant shock sets  seedlings back and in summer heat,  some never really recover.  But newspaper pots break down quickly, much faster than peat pots which seem to hang around forever.    And newspaper is free–It’s  my favorite way to start a late crop of seeds. 

It also helps if you stake the zinnias after transplant.  Helps get them off to a good, strong start.

So what’s paying off in your gardens?  Send us your photos–share your successes.   August is a great time to make plans for next spring and summer.  Stay cool.

Yikes…bitter cucumber is the worst taste ever…kind of like when you get a little pecan shell.  And talk about a flavor that sticks with you..yucko indeed.

Here is the stage for this bitter flavor caper…I was having my parents over for dinner one night.  I was proud as a peacock to be cooking lots of veggie bounty from my garden.  You know the great southern summer recipes like grandma’s squash casserole and good old fashion cucumber’s in apple cider vinegar–still one of my all time favorite dishes.

I went out to the garden and collected my cucumbers.  I peeled and cut them up, not even thinking I should taste them before I mixed them all together and before I added my vinegar.  I added my salt and pepper and went on about my dinner preparations.  When we sat down to eat them.  OMG…my mom and I had a bitter bite from the cucumber…the worst.  And it appeared to be there was only one that was bitter so it was kind of like a game of cucumber “frogger”..can you dodge the bitter one?

So why on earth did one of my cucumber’s go to the dark side? Here is what I found out:

A bitter cucumber could be a result from 4 things:

1) Too hot. One of the most common is if the plant is stressed from too much heat.  This is a viable cause, with our record heat wave this summer.

2)Inconsistent watering. So the process of  over watering and drought stress the plant and causes it to produce bitter fruit. This is also a possible culprit because I have been trying to fight the heat and lack of rain, and it is possible I have had times of overzealous watering between limited watering(especially after I looked at my water bill this month OMG…it was rough. But this rain today will fill up my water barrels, so perhaps I can better have a better alternative.)

3)Temperature fluctuation.  If the temperature dramatically switches from one extreme to the other…a bitter fruit may result.  I don’t think this is the case, as we all know…it has been consistently 90+.

4)Heredity. Apparently there is a recessive gene that can cause a plant to produce bitter plants.  Just the way it is, doesn’t matter if you planted them from the same pack of seeds. The luck of the draw.  I don’t think this is my issue, but good to know.

So, what can you do about it now?  I can’t change the weather or the genes, so the only think I can do is try to be more consistent with my watering.  And taste a bite from each cucumber before I put them in the bowl to eat.

I hope yours didn’t go bitter.  Any other advice on bitter-cucumber prevention?

Happy gardening


You should go to these…  Here are some spring garden events you might enjoy.  I never know when these types of events occur, until after, it seems.  So mark your calendar now. Maybe I will see you at one!

Here are some garden events around the Triangle for March:

Spring Pruning
March 18, 1pm-4pm

Some plants simply must be rehabilitated occasionally through skillful pruning. Instructor Jonathan Smith, of Bright Leaf Landscaping, will demonstrate several pruning techniques to help you manage plants in your home garden.  $20/members, $25/non-members. Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 426 Anderson St., Durham. 919-668-1707. (

Friends of the Arboretum Lecture
March 18, 7:30pm

Big, Bold, and Bodacious-Creating a Lush Tropical Feel in a Temperate Garden, by Tony Avent, Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens. Free/members & NC State students and Horticultural Science faculty and staff. $5/non-members-others. JC Raulston Arboretum, 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh. 919-513-7005. (

Camellia Forest Nursery Spring Open House

March 19-21, 9-5pm F, S, and 1-5pm Sun.

Visit the blooming camellia. 620 HWY 54 West, Chapel Hill, NC

Nature for Sprouts: Birds, Birds, Birds
March 19, 10:30am-11:30am

Find out what makes a bird a bird. Go on a bird-watching walk and discover how birds behave. Make a bird feeder for your garden. For children aged 3 to 5. Children must be accompanied by an adult. $6 per child. Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 426 Anderson St., Durham. 919-668-1708. (

Birding with the Beardens – Neuse River Forest
March 20, 9am

Greet spring with a birding excursion along the Neuse River in Johnston County. Grab your binoculars and join birders Karen and Joe Bearden as they explore a portion of the Neuse-Clayton Forest natural heritage area placed under a conservation easement last year by the Triangle Land Conservancy. Look for returning spring migrants and possibly a few lingering winter species.  Details at

Expert Answers to Your Rose Growing Questions – Open Q&A.
March 20, 10am

Class at Witherspoon Rose Culture. Free. Durham. 800-643-0315.

Carol Stein’s Gardeners Forum “Vegetable Gardening”
March 20, 11am

Learn the steps to grow your own vegetables and make good on your resolution to eat homegrown and healthier this year.  Free, registration requested.
The Garden Hut, 1004 Old Honeycutt Road, Fuquay-Varina. 919-552-0590. (

Signs of Spring Family Hike
March 20, 1pm-2pm

Celebrate Spring Equinox exploring the gardens and trails for signs that the natural world is waking from its winter slumber. We’ll learn some spring facts and folklore, then search for singing frogs, salamander eggs, budding trees, wildflowers, and more. $10/members-family, $15/non-members-family. North Carolina Botanical Garden. Chapel Hill. 919-962-0522. (

Blooming Shade
March 20, 1:30pm-4pm

You don’t have to sacrifice color for plants that thrive and bloom in shade. Special considerations for planting around and under trees will also be discussed. $30. Swiftbrook Gardens, Raleigh. (919) 828-2015 or

Healthy Gardening: Taking Good Care of Your Body
March 20, 2:00pm-3:30pm

Learn how to be good to your body while you garden! This free workshop focuses on key concepts of body mechanics with multiple gardening examples, proper use of tools and ergonomic features/options, and common gardening injuries and how to avoid them. Jean Genova has a doctorate in physical therapy and is nationally certified as both an orthopaedic specialist and athletic trainer. Free. Call to register. 919-962-0522.

Attracting Bees and Butterflies to Your Garden
March 21, 2pm-4pm

Curious about how to attract more bees and butterflies to your garden? Come learn what makes bees, butterflies and other insects beneficial pollinators in our landscape and what specific plants provide nourishment and protection during each stage of their life cycle. Durham County Master Gardeners Gene Carlone and Faye McNaull will also include tips and perspectives on the proper use of herbicides and insecticides in the gardens and lawns that we share with these valuable creatures. Free, registration required. Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 426 Anderson St., Durham. 919-668-1707. (

Yoga at the Garden
March 21, Sunday 3:30–4:45 pm

Enjoy the benefits of a mindful yoga practice—emphasizing restoration & relaxation— in the Growing Classroom of the Education Center. Perfect for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. Bring your yoga mat if you have one; a limited number of mats will be available. Per-session fee: $5/members, $10/non-members. 919-962-0522. (

Birdhouses on Parade
March 21- April 11

The Carolina Inn celebrates the spring with a display of over 80 unique, one-of-a-kind birdhouses crafted by North Carolina artists and a series of spring-themed events including afternoon teas, luncheons, and historic tours. The Carolina Inn, 211 Pittsboro Street, Chapel Hill. 919-918-2711. (

Meeting the Challenges of Climate & Weather in Changing Times
March 27, 10am

Class at Witherspoon Rose Culture. Free. Durham. 800-643-0315.

Color in the Garden
March 25, 7pm-9pm

All of us perceive colors a little bit differently from others. That makes color both interesting and useful in the garden. Jan Little, the Gardens’ director of education and public programs, will outline some basic strategies to use color as reinforcement for other garden goals. Then she will show some applications that will help you make the best use of color given your particular site situation. $10/members, $15/non-members. Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 426 Anderson St., Durham. 919-668-1707. (

Nature for Sprouts: Tree Home
March 26, 10:30am-11:30am

Who lives in a tree? Discover what creatures make a home in a tree. Look closely at trees to see who lives there, find out the parts of a tree, and make a bark-rubbing. Make an owl puppet and a tree home in a bag. For children aged 3 to 5. Children must be accompanied by an adult. $6 per child. Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 426 Anderson St., Durham. 919-668-1708. (

Japanese Tea Gathering
March 27, 1pm-4pm

Enjoy a traditional Japanese tea gathering and tea tasting to celebrate the early bloom of Japanese cherries. The event will take place rain or shine. But if the weather is nice, there’ll be an additional guided stroll through the serene Culberson Asiatic Arboretum and the new Durham-Toyama Sister Cities Pavilion on the hillside above the Teien-oike Lake. You’ll also see a display of Ikebana and Bonsai exhibits in the Doris Duke Center, where the event begins. $15/members, $20/non-members. Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 426 Anderson St., Durham. 919-668-1707. (

Inviting Native Plants
March 27, 1:30pm-4pm

Identifying and encouraging native plants in your garden or natural areas benefits wildlife and your garden. Learn to identify some Piedmont native plants and learn how to recognize and control invasive exotic plants. $30. Swiftbrook Gardens, Raleigh. (919) 828-2015 or

NC Native Plant Society: Signs of Spring
March 28, 2pm

Join Carol Ann McCormick, Asst. Curator of the University of North Carolina Herbarium, for a walk at TLC’s Horton Grove Preserve in northern Durham County. Slated to become the newest TLC preserve, this outing, organized and hosted by the NC Native Plant Society, is a great opportunity to see the land before it is made accessible to the general public. The walk will be off trail, along streams and on moderately steep slopes, so wear sturdy shoes. Details at

Natural Egg-Dyeing
March 28, 2:00pm-3:30pm

Learn how to dye Easter eggs naturally! It’s fun and easy to use fruits, spices, and more to create beautiful colors. Please bring hard-boiled eggs (up to a dozen) and wear clothes you don’t mind getting colorful. $20/members (child+adult), $25/non-members (child+adult). North Carolina Botanical Garden. Chapel Hill. 919-962-0522, (

Remember, field trips are always fun and insprirational.

Happy Gardening!


A long-time gardener and a passionate beginner share the dirt on their NC gardens-

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