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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.


Fall is the best time for planting In the South —

And lucky for me (and my little sister) Campbell Road Nursery  in Cary, NC always has a great fall perennial sale. 

Check out the back of her mini van after our latest shopping trip. 

Gallon perennials were only $2.50–4 inch pots just a $1 which means we could  be wild and crazy with our selections and try lots of great new plants. 

I bought Salvias, wood asters, foxgloves,  Siberian iris, Verbascum, blackberry lily and more. 

Our purchases may look a little beat up now, but no worries.  We’ll plant, mulch, and cut these plants back in the next few weeks.  Next spring and summer–lots of new flowers will grace our gardens.  What a deal!  

Were do you find your best plant bargains?

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.

Fall is for planting in the South.  Perennials and shrubs do better when they get settled in before our summer heat, so find a good plant sale and go.

Here are a few of my favorite sales and the plants I bought this weekend:

No time to sit with all these new plants!

5 perennials for 10 dollars at Campbell Road Nursery on Tryon Road in Cary.  I came home with some splendid Carex, Erysimum Bowles Mauve, Mexican Petunia, Veronica Georgia Blue plus some dollar annuals and 50 cent perennial herbs.  Some of my best plants have come from the retail side of this well-respected wholesale nursery.  They are great growers.

Some of my most unusual plants come from Plant Delights Nursery in Wake County.  Tony Avent’s  plants are pricey but many are very  rare and all are splendid.  Even if you don’t take your wallet,  the display gardens are free and worth the trip.  I came home with a sweet almond tree verbena (Aloysia virgata)and a red Mexican Bamboo (Polygonum cuspidatum “Crimson Beauty)–plus a maidenhair fern that is supposed to take the heat.  Rare indeed.

Finally, everyone should go buy some greens by the end of the weekend.  Even if you live in a third floor apartment, you can grow collards, kale, lettuce, chard and cabbage and they will be so much better that what you buy.   Grow transplants in beds and pots.  Toss leaves in  your soups and salads until next spring.   I have arugula, romaine and spinach.  I’m shopping for collards and cabbage.

What about you? Share your fall planting lists and favorite sales.  Maybe I’ll see you there.

Blog partner Melissa says she has baby plant envy.  My seedlings (in a photo taken this am) are much  bigger than her’s.

After a Q&A over wine we determined that she’s using the same soil mix, Fafard Professional Growers Mix.

Lots of light–my adjustable grow lights were a long-ago investment from Park Seed. I have them on a timer.

A fan–it keeps the air moving and makes the plants sturdy.

But no fertilizer.  I use a very weak solution of this plant starter fertilizer.  Miracle Grow also works–just make sure to only a use a tiny bit.  The water should barely have color (blue) .  And I water with this ultra light food almost every time.

Melissa took some fertilizer home.  We’ll see if her plant envy subsides.

By the way, this fertilizer is a plant starter formula because it’s high in phosphate,  the element that promotes roots and flowers or fruit.   Check out the middle number (10) –that’s the phosphate indicator. When my Daddy lived in Lowland South Carolina two decades ago, the commerical tomato growers put Triple Super Phosphate on their crops as in 0-48-0.  Strong stuff and another reason to grow your own tomatoes.

Now a baby plant horror story.  Can you see the gnats on the sticky trap above?   My sister’s seedling crop had a serious infestation that came out of her Miracle Grow Potting Mix.  She called the company and got “we don’t gurantee our soil to be sterlized”.  She’s using sticky traps from Garden’s Alive to control the problem.  Still–this is another a reason to use a starter mix you really, really trust.   I always buy my mix from a nursery or seed and feed, like  Stone Brothers and Byrd, and Campbell Road.

Any other readers with a crop of baby plants?  Let us know how they’re doing and what you’re growing.  Maybe we can swap. As you can see, I have a lot of tomatoes. 

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

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