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After sleet, snow, ice and 6 degrees, my February Gold daffodils can still lift their heads.

feb_gold

Amazing–since this winter that won’t end has nearly flattened me–

Flowers that bloom at this time of year have to be study. And our recent cold, icy weather has certainly put them to the test.

My (splendid) winter-blooming trees, Prunus mumue and winter sweet have lost their flowers to the cold. Don’t worry. The plants will survive but the blossoms are gone for this year.

survior_2

Not so for my February Gold.

survior_lenten rose and daf

Is any color more hopeful than yellow?

It’s snowing again in Wake County this morning. Enough already. Please hurry Spring!!


This is the year I’m going to finally give up on my dream of an English border. I have neither the space, the sun, the climate, or the staff required to pull it off.

After all, I live on a mostly wooded lot in hot, humid climate where plants slug it out for water and sun. It’s time to grow up get real.

Wake up. girl! You live in the woods.

Wake up. girl! You live in the woods.

So this year I will plant more shrub groups. Shrubs give my garden backbone, and they’re generally super-tough.

Shrubs make a big splash in less than perfect conditions

Shrubs make a big splash in less than perfect conditions

I will still plant flowers in 2015, but this year I’m going to try working backwards. Instead of leafing though beautifully photographed seed catalogs on long winter’s nights, I’ll pick 4 or 5 tried and true annuals I can’t live without and plant them in larger patches.

Manos beauty is one annual I will always grow

Manos beauty is one annual I will always grow

This is the year I will finally say NO to polka dot planting. I will set out my flowers in groups of 5 or more.

It's a garden, not a vase.  Plant fewer varieties in multiples of 5 or more--

It’s a garden, not a vase. Plant fewer varieties in multiples of 5 or more–

And I’m finally going to give up on zinnias. I won’t stop loving them, but I will stop trying to grow them. I just don’t have the space or full sun.

What about you? January is a month for planning. How do you plan to improve your garden this year?


Coleus are great mixers. Who can’t use more. So when my little sister gave me these cuttings last month, I couldn’t wait to root them.

coleus1

The cuttings will keep in water for a few days. In fact, they’ll even sprout roots in water. But when it comes time to transition them to soil, I always have too many causalities. That’s why I like to root all my cuttings in professional growers medium. It should be moist, but not soggy. Pack it in pots and use a stick to make a deep hole for each cutting. Don’t crowd. The leaves shouldn’t touch.

coleus2

Rotting hormone speeds the process. Just remember, dump the power out and roll stems. Dipping stems in the container will contaminate your powder.

Note (in the photo below) that I’ve stripped off many lower leaves. Those spots on the stem are where new roots will grow.

coleus3

Next I’m going to knock off the excess power and put the stem in the pot. Press the soil around it well so there are no air pockets.

coleus4

Finally, I put my cuttings in pots to protect them, and put my pots in a shady place. These are under a large, open shrub. Don’t let them dry out and in a few weeks, voila–free plants!

colues5

This is also a great method for rooting begonias, hydrangeas and other soft stems. Just remember to take more cuttings than you think you’ll need. Even the greenest thumbs lose some cuttings along the way.

So what’s up with your green thumb these days????


If I can just get up an hour early and get out in the garden at least once a week I’m a happier person.

Benefit # 2 is a happier garden. (It likes to be tended.)

Here are 4 chores I tackled and completed early on the morning of July 15th.
july_spray

I sprayed the weeds in the walk and drive way with a homemade mixture of 1/2 gallon white vinegar, 1 cup of Epson salts, and a little bit (1/8 of a cup) of blue dawn dish washing liquid. While this mix won’t kill poison ivy, it gets most grass and weeds, and it’s much safer than Roundup to use around our dog-child.

july_maters

I picked and watered the tomato plants which need almost daily care this time of year. The cherry and plum tomatoes will be slow roasted and frozen. As for the rest–‘mater sandwich anyone???

july_larkspur

I collected the seeds from my favorite blue larkspur by cutting the dried pods and dropping them head down into a paper sack. The sack will sit on a shady porch, air-drying the seed until fall when I’ll rake them in the garden for next year’s spring blooms.

july_coleus

Finally, I stuck some coleus cuttings my sister had shared. These colorful plants are easy to root and the perfect foil for fall flowers and leaves. More on the process in my next post.

So what’s going on in your garden???


Well, I finally did it.  I pulled out my tomatoes.  It is bittersweet.  Whenever you rip out those summer veggies, you are saying goodbye to that season.

Before: End of the season 2013 Tomatoes

http://www.scotts.com/smg/goprod/osmocote-outdoor-indoor-plant-food/prod70362/

After: A couple of hours of taking out tomato plants and cages

aftertomatoes

While this year wasn’t particularly fabulous because of the massive amount of rain <I swore I would never complain about rain, but this summer was tough….a colleague had a great description of the last couple of years of NC weather: “From Drought to Drench”>, I am grateful for the vegetables I did harvest.

The seasons are changing and that means you need to change your veggies too.  I call it the Great Fall Veggie Transformation — it sounds so epic, but really so simple.

Here are the 5 Steps to Transform your Summer Vegetable Garden into a Fall One:

1)Remove your summer vegetables – take your tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, eggplant and others out.  I usually put this out for the city to pick up, so I don’t contaminate my compost pile.

2)Shop and pick out your fall veggies.  I love fall because it makes me think of greens, autumn squash, and other grand root vegetables. I choose lots of kale, cabbage, swiss chard and threw in a few lettuces for fun.  I am going to try to do broccoli and butternut squash – though I haven’t had luck in the past.  But it’s a new season.

3)Collect your good planting soil, Osmocote fertilizer and a trowel and you are ready to plant. BTW-I usually do my major fertilizing in the spring, but of course your little seedlings need to eat.  The slow release Osmocote does the trick– look for the pink top.

Look for the pink cap! Osmocote fertilizer rocks!

Look for the pink cap! Osmocote fertilizer rocks!

4) Plant your little plugs according to the package.  I usually do it at least 6 inches apart so they have room to grow.  Throw in a sprinkle of Osmocote, the plant plug and cover with good soil.

5) Water.  That’s the final step.  Remember transferring plants can be extremely stressful, so almost over-watering is best to help relieve the stress. Just think after you do strenuous exercise how water can be so healing.

Fall Veggies

My fall vegetables ready to grow. I see collards, kale, swiss chard and other tasty fall vegetables in my future.

Now, just keep up with the rainfall, watering when needed and watch it grow.

That’s it! 5 steps to the Great Fall Veggie Transformation.

Go on…get out there and get dirty!

Happy gardening.

m

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

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