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It was a great week for me last week–Lots of sunshine and more spring blooms like the purple lenten rose above–plus I delivered a load of vintage fabric garden journals and tool belts to two of my favorite stores in Durham. 

Garden pals and blog readers Jon and Bea saw the New Years post about writing stuff down and asked for some of my hand-crafted garden journals for their great flower and plant shop–Floral Dimensions

They also took some of my Rewind Design work belts, along with George Davis at another of my favorite stores–Stone Brothers and Byrd.  

I’m so flattered to be in such good company.  Both Floral Dimensions and Stone Brothers sell top quality, unique products–roses that open, orchids that live (from Floral Dimensions) , grass seed that’s geared to our area, seed starting mix, seeds, bulbs and bedding plants (from Stone Brothers and Byrd).  

So as we all gear up to start the spring flower spending frenzy, a reminder to shop local independent stores like these.     

Not only do they sell unique items you won’t find in the big box stores,  they have lots of experience, passion and  give out lots of free advice–

They are part of the local garden community–and that’s very, very important to me.  

Plus our choices would be so limited without them–

Here are more local suppliers I couldn’t live without.  What about you?  Would love to know your favs.

Campbell Road Nursery in Cary.  Great perennial and annual plants, knock your socks off sales and they contribute to world of plants:  Lane is co-hybridizer of the wonderful dwarf butterfly bush–Buddleia Blue Chip

Camellia Forest Nursery in Chapel Hill–World famous camellia breeders.  Most of the best shrubs and small trees in my garden began life here (including my Edgeworthia Snow Cream that blog partner Melissa and her dad covet) 

Big Bloomers in Sanford–More perennials than you can count, great annual selection.  My little sis always travels from Ashland, Va TWICE every spring to fill up her mini van…but don’t tell her husband.

Final notes:  Did any of you ever shop at Buchanan’s Nursery on Western Blvd in Raleigh?  Great plants and service–staffed with lots of people from NC State.  You could call them up with a question and they’d spend 20 minutes on the phone with you.  Gone now–killed by big box competition.  How sad. 

And if you ever buy cut flowers, read the article in this months Smithsonian Magazine.  Like our food, we need to know where our flowers come from.  Another reason to shop with someone you trust. 

Finally, one more milestone for me last week, one of my Kiki’s Rewind Designs made the new issue of Green Craft Magazine.  Look for it on page 133 in the spring issue.


I wish I could claim these photos but my little sister is the one with a gift for great containers.  She’s not a pro–but she could be one.   Year after year she makes these fabulous big pots for her entry space that knock my socks off. 

Here are some of her secrets:

  • Think big.  Her pots are  large.  She buys the big fiberglass ones at Costco and adds to her collection every year when they go on clearance.  Because the pots are so big, they make a big impact.
  • Use good potting mix.  Also from Costco she buys the Miracle Grow Potting Mix with fertilizer.  Change your soil every year, she says or your petunias will get a blight.  And she likes petunias, they trail out of pots.
  • Buy lots of plants.  Every May she comes from her home in Ashland, North of Richmond VA, to shop at Big Bloomers down the road from me in Sanford.  And she’s not the only one.  They get a lot of customers from the Richmond area because good nurseries are hard to find.  Big Bloomers has great variety and good prices.  My sister fills up her mini-van and heads home happy. 
  • She doesn’t bring a shopping list but picks plants she likes.  For every pot she selects tall things, trailing things and something for the middle.  She buys mostly annuals.  They grow the fastest and bloom the longest.   And she always buys extra plants.   Experience has taught her that she’ll be sorry if she goes home without them. 
  • She doesn’t expect all the pots to look good all the time.  Some are best in spring, some are just coming into their glory on these 95 degree days.
  • Speaking of heat, she keeps her pots watered–not as hard as you would think since they are all grouped together. 
  • And she tries something new every year.  There’s always a new favorite plant or combo to keep it all fresh. 

Another tip from my sister–never sneer at annuals.  She has a lot of space and a lot of beds.  Cheap, easy annuals keep them full, lively and interesting all summer long.   Her marigolds and zinnias from seed always look stunning because there are so many of them. 

And the final lesson from my sister’s garden–visit all the gardens you can and make friends with the people who tend them.  There’s so much we can learn from each other.

If you’d like to know more about the fabulous plants in my sister’s containers, leave a comment.  And if you have any great container combos, please share.  

Happy gardening.  Stay cool.

It’s 90 in the shade and I guess that means I should feel fortunate.  Yesterday at this time it was 96.   

As if the heat and drought weren't bad enough--the beatle invasion has begun

In the front beds over-sexed  Japanese Beatles are mobbing  the rose blooms. The hollyhocks  have  a terrible orange disease  called rust–I will hack them down tonight.   

But no worries. 

Fight back with tough plants like this melampodium. Even people who don't like me, love me after I give them a start of my heirloom variety.

My garden is still pretty–rich with  tried and true heat lovers– annuals like cleome, penta, melampodium and two perennials no southern garden should  be without–Canna and Salvia.  As the temperature climbs,  I love these two plants more and more.  Here’s why:

Salvias  don’t just take the heat–they dig  it.  Many of my favorite salvias  don’t really coming into their glory until our “second season” –late August into fall. 

If you ever see Salvia Van Houttei blooming at my house in September, you will carry it over all winter in your dinning room like I do.  This is a splendid plant!  There’s a wonderful garnet red that goes well with cool colors and lovely orange that looks splendid next to my most favorite of all salvias–the one I call Richard Faun. 

Richard gave me this wonderful plant decades ago and since then my friend Susan and I have passed it on to almost everyone we know.  It blooms all summer.  It blooms all  fall too.  It comes back every year and multiplies well.  There’s always plenty to give away but it’s never a pest.   The hummingbirds love it. The blue is stunning.  And the flowers look good in a vase.   

Richards Big Blue Salvia just keeps on keepin' on. Nothing seems to bother this big, beautiful plant.

I think the proper  name is Salvia guaranitica (Giant Blue Sage)  but Susan and I like to call it Richard’s Blue  Salvia.  It reminds us of  the very talented and  generous gardener who gave us many of our first plants and early advice. 

Nice that gardens  can go on even after the gardener passes away. Hats off to Richard.    Spreading a beautiful, blue, trouble-free plant is a pretty good way to be remembered. 

There are hundreds of  Salvia varieties and Big Bloomers in Sanford (my favorite perennial  nursery) has more than any place I know.  I often take a July trip with my little sis to set our gardens up for fall.  It’s well worth the effort and the 20 or 30 dollars.  A few happy salvias call fill a lot of hollyhock holes. 

The second plant you should grow is Canna.  The big leaves are stunning, lush and  colorful.  And these plants never wilt.   No lie.  I have gardened through two of the worst droughts in NC history without a dead or wilted canna in sight. 

Contrast works! Chocolate Cherry Cannas rub shoulders with my varrigated Wigellia

Ok–cannas do have flowers but I confess I cut them off.  For me flowers spoil the effect of lovely back-lit leaves– A perfect foil for my other flowers.  

They can get leaf rollers.  Be sure to clean up good and you’re home free. 

My two favorite cannas are Bengal Tiger and Chocolate Cherry.  They make everything around them look great. 

Canna Bengal Tiger makes a statement. This time of year it gets more comments than any of the flowers.

Any other tried and true heat lovers out there?  Will trade some of Richard’s Blue Salvia for what’s looking good at your house.  (In the fall of course, this is no time to be digging things up.  Too hot-not enouigh rain and my little castle doesn’t have a staff.  Stay cool.

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

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