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Gloomy and cold as it can be, January is one of my favorite months in the garden.prunus

Blooming trees like this Prunus mume amaze me with their fragile beauty, but sturdy nature–camellia_2

Ditto the camellias.  edgeworthia

My Edgeworthia buds give me something to anticipate.  Very fragrant orange blossoms will follow soon.fern

My favorite evergreen fern, the autumn fern, adds a nice pop of fresh color to the brown and grey woods. 

While  Wintersweet, carpets the yard with patches of fragrance on sunny days. 

There’s no reason that Southern gardeners can’t have something blooming every month of the year.    These are just a few of my favorites.  What are some of yours????


My friend who is building a new garden in an old corn field asked me for a plant list. 

Good move.   Getting recommendations from other gardeners is a great way to start your own garden. 

But my friend lives several states away.  So my advice comes with a warning:  Take this list to a good LOCAL nursery and see what they have to say. 

Now the list:  

Start with viburnum  The family is LARGE with a lot  pleasing variety.  You could make a whole garden of viburnum and never get bored.  Some have fragrant blooms.  Others  have  wonderful berries and fall color.  Some are evergreen.   Grow lots and lots of them. I do.

When it comes to small trees, I vote for the prunus family.  My all time favorite flowering tree  is prunus autumnalis which blooms twice in my garden.  But any strong  flowering cherry tree is a joy.   

Ask the nursery about shrubs that have winter color and interest in your area.   This is easy in the South, but my camellias, azaleas and Pittosporum won’t live in your colder climate and full sun.  Ask them which evergreens would look good in your mixed shrub border. 

Knockout roses can’t be beat.  They bloom all season and are trouble-free.

Once your shrubs are in place, you can add some perennials.  Try Rudbeckia, coneflower and daylily.  I’m terribly smitten with Iris like the Japanese variety above.  Like viburnum, Iris is a big family.  Don’t assume they all look like the bearded Iris your grandmother grew. 

Finally, rake in some annual seeds.  A couple  packs of zinnias, cosmos and marigolds are the quickest and cheapest way to fill a new garden.    And you’ll have plenty of flowers  to cut for the house. 

Did I leave anything out?  What plants do you recommend for new garden?  Share your thoughts and I’ll pass them along.

So another field trip yields yet another garden adventure and another awesome investment.  It was Friday afternoon, one of the best spring days so far this season and an early escape from work…A quick rendezvous to meet 2 companions that made this trip so memorable and the adventure began.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been to Chapel Hill. Oh hell, I lived there in college, but something about the trifecta…the company, the weather and garden shopping that made it magical.

So Chris, Megan and I went to Camelia Forest…I thought we were going on some nature walk. Yeah, I didn’t do my usual research.  In fact, it is a nusurey owned and operated by Dr Clifford Parks and family (he taught me horticulture at Carolina, and helped me skip freshman biology).  And what we found there was more than just plants…First of all, they were having a BOGO–buy one get one free, on select plants. One was Chris’s favorite Prunus Mume–Japanese Flowering Apricot…ooh…those were tempting, among many others. So Megan was sort of leading the inquisitive charge, asking the sage Chris…what should I put here and there? Will this take all shade? What about some woodland sun….and then..there she was…Kai Mei Parks…she was decked in her garden gear, ready to lend a hand.  Immediately she recognized Chris–who had been shopping there 25 years or so on her lunch breaks from WTVD.  You know…you never feel that way anymore it seems.  That sense of community, that feeling of being recognized….I miss that.

Anyway, we looked at all the camelias…boy, was that a fantasy to see all in bloom at once.  We looked at a variety of magnolias–one Bay magnolia caught Chris’ eye (hey, it was a BOGO).  We learned about redneck rododenrons(Daphniphyllum macropodum), “William Hunt” Camellia Sasanqua, Leucothoe, Acuba…the list goes on and on.  And then it started…the buying frenzy–Mrs Parks was egging us on…”they need good homes.” Who knew…that became our justification for all our purchases in the end–“they need good homes after all.”

We saw the infamous heat-tolerent primroses, cultivated by Dr. Parks.  Every southerner that longed to grow primroses now can through the hard work and research of Dr. Parks. Oh and they come back year after year…aka plant once enjoy always–my kind of gardening.

Here are the ones I picked out–only $5 a peice, or 9 for $36–I am a sucka for a deal.  But so beautiful.

And then there were the winter witch hazels…we each took home 2 of those, BOGO.

As for me, I got 2 more treasures by the urging of my “partners in crime”–one was a William B. Hunt Camellia Sasanqua, a fall flowering Camellia that is tough as nails.  This is not just a plant, but a symbol of the famous Chapel Hill gardener, writer William Hunt. Chris and Mrs. Parks shared with me the image of Mr. Hunt–wore a bow tie every day, had lunch at the Carolina Inn, did ballet for exercise and could still push up on his toes well into his eighties.  Well…with a story like that, who wouldn’t buy it.

And then the Edgeworthia.  I had never heard of it.  Never even knew I needed to know about it.  Chris mentioned it in passing.  I went to Logan’s last weekend and saw a couple of people pining over them…then I saw Megan’s…in her woodland backyard, all a bloom.  Unique. A conversation peice…ooohhh, and what a fragrance.  So the enabling crew I was with…added it to the cart.  I knew just what to do with it.  Remember the vision of my new path and tropical beds…the one where I say, I need some sort of interesting feature at the end of the property…well I decided on this one-two punch…William B Hunt Camelias Sasanqua–blooms in the fall and has waxy small everygreen leaves, and right in front this–the sculptural Edgewortha that blooms winter to spring.  What a combo! What stories to tell when people come to my house and walk my path.

So that’s it.  The best $100 I ever spent.  Heat tolerant primeroses, 2 winter witch hazels, William B Hunt Camellia Sesanqua, and Edgeworthia…but the plants were only some of what I brought home.  A fabulous field trip with great friends, an encounter with a legend…oh…did I tell you that we almost couldn’t fit all our stuff in the truck.

We laughed all the way home.  That is the best way to shop for plants…with friends, with passionate and wise helpers and credit card in hand 🙂

Camellia Forest is open on weekends throughout the spring…it’s worth it.  You should go there!

Happy Gardening!


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

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