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Tis the season. Every time I go to my favorite local nursery, Campbell Road in Cary, shoppers are stuffing these shrubs in their cars.


Good choice. Beauty Berry takes shade, has a nice airy form, looks great in my woods and shrub borders. It can be cut back to the ground in spring or left to go wild.


And then there is the big selling point–fall berries. Even after all our recent rain, my beauty berries still have stunning, neon-colored fruit. And they will for weeks to come. This long season of interest another big plus.

Beauty Berries seed for me–which means I have more than a dozen in my garden and always a few to give away to friends.


Most of my plants originally came from another favorite nursery–Camellia Forest in Chapel Hill. They’re having a Fall Open House this month. I think I’ll go buy some more beauty berry.


Is anything nicer than Autumn sunlight slanting through trees–


My favorite fall camellia heavy with blooms–


This is William Lanier Hunt, a Camellia Forest introduction.


A long awaited honey-do project finally getting done–


Thanks to pals Ivy and Megan for the gate and husband Bill for doing such a splendid job hanging it.

A new bed waiting to be filled–


Our pup Tralee also likes to garden.

A newly arrived bulb order waiting to be planted–


More on this mass of bulbs in a later post. I’m in a hurry to finish writing and go enjoy the sunshine.

Fall is the best season in the South, time to get back to the garden and all its pleasures (including the garden blog in my case–sorry for my long absence).

How are you celebrating the season?

I’ve been out of the garden way too long and it shows. I was getting crabby. So right after our (way too busy) Christmas, I took a walk around the paths and found that the new year had already arrived in our Wake County woods.


There’s always a rogue Early Sensation Daffodil that blooms before the others. It promises hundreds more ahead.


This little pink Camellia is bridging the gap between the fall bloomers and the japonicas of spring. The tag is long lost. I’ll have to ask my friends at Camellia Forest Nursery in Chapel Hill for an ID.


Also from Cam Forest, Prunus Mume in bud.


Many years ago, I started the Wintersweet with seed ordered from England (and I’m still bragging–sorry). This is a favorite fragrant plant. It seeds a lot, if you want one.


Our Grandmothers grew another fragrant beauty with a fitting name, Sweet Breath of Spring.


And Grandmas loved Quince. This is Texas Scarlett in bud.


Bear’s foot Hellebore is one of my favorite green blooms. These will hang around for MONTHS–no fooling–which is one of the coolest things about winter flowers–they last.

So what’s blooming in your garden. Get out there, find out and let us know.

camellia_2….and more Camellias.  This plant loves my Wake County woods. 

And if you want winter colors (like blog partner, Melissa), Camellia Crimson Candles can’t be beat. 

I love the way it showers the ground with spent blossoms.camellia_wide

And I love the way it shines from my kitchen window where I spend a lot of time working over the sink. 

We’re blessed with one of the country’s best Camellia Nurseries in Chapel Hill.  Most of my favorite shrubs come from Camellia Forest.  Pay them a visit and start enjoying Camellias of your own.

We were lucky.  We started with trees. And no matter what I plant in our backyard garden. the mature hardwoods that came with the place will always be the stars.

Not so for my friend.  She’s  living in a new house on what looks like an old corn field.  There’s nothing going on her backyard but grass. 

Boring.  But she wants to change that.  So here are 4 steps for creating  a garden. 

1) Lay out your bed(s.)  Then increase the size.   I suggested she use surveyor stakes or a garden hose to make the shapes–then live with them for a while.  Most of us make our beds too small and way too  narrow.  Think of your house from Google Earth and you’ll get a better sense of scale. 

2) Improve your soil.  If you’re living in a new house, chances are the ground is compacted and the builder took all your topsoil away.   My solution is to go up.  Here’s a mixed border in my yard built on cardboard last fall.  If you don’t have a truck to bring in topsoil and compost, buy bags and mix it on site.  1 bag topsoil and 1 bag organic humus, to 1 bag composted cow manure will work just fine. 

3) Start with shrubs and small trees.  Flowers come and go.  Garden beds need year-round structure.  Always think fall and winter interest before you consider spring and summer flowers. 

4) Finally, Find an independent nursery in your area, go there, ask questions and make friends.  Big box stores may be fine for nails and light fixtures, but I’ve seen lots of plants in their garden centers that just don’t like the weather here.   A good  local nursery will be stocked with locally grown plants.  They’ll do well for you.

Now it’s your turn–any advice from the seasoned gardeners out there for someone just starting out??  We were all beginners once, remember.  What have you learned along the way?

PS.  Campbell Road Nursery on Tryon in Cary is my go to nursery.  Stone Brothers and Bryd in Durham is great for growing supplies and good advice.   And it wouldn’t be spring (or fall) with out a trip to Camellia Forest in Chapel Hill.  The coolest trees and shrubs  in my yard came from Cam Forest.

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

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