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Nothing takes us back like fragrance.  It is our strongest memory.  And the honeysuckle that is blooming EVERYWHERE  right now make me feel like a carefee kid with a great, long, lazy summer just around the corner. 

But don’t relax too much.  This honeysuckle  (called Hall’s, latin name: Lonicera Japonica)   will take over quickly.   An import from China and Japan, it escaped cultivation generations ago and now twines and climbs from the Northeast to Flordia. 

So the message is– be careful what you plant! 

I only have to walk down the local greenway to see how many ivys and ground covers  are escaping into our NC woods.   It’s bad for our fragile native plants.  Very bad. 

In Raleigh’s fabulous Reid Wildflower Garden (a must see) members of the NC Native Plant Society  must gather reguarly to pull out invasive species.  Otherwise the natives would be lost.

So do some research about your plants.  Be responsible.  Control your ground covers.    How each of us  gardens  MATTERS. 

Final Notes:  My favorite open garden event —  The Conversation Garden Tour is 1-5  this Saturday.  For the first year it’s in Durham.  Go to:

for more info.  See you there–

Finally, since it looks like Hall’s honeysuckle is here to stay, best make the most of it.  Here’s a link to Honeysuckle Sorbet recipe made at Chapel Hill’s Crook’s Corner.    Like the fragrance, it takes me back…



WARNING–Gooseneck Loosestrife makes my friend Kristen cuss.  She’s sorry she ever planted the $#@ thing  in her garden.  Meanwhile–a few miles down the road, I love the same plant. 

Sure,  it’s a matter of taste.  But we also have it planted in different kinds of beds.    My Gooseneck Loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides)  grows in wild places:  an edge of the woods bed that gets very little water, a dry, rocky place in front of the tool shed.   Kristen’s loosestrife  is unfortunately running around her flower and shrub bed.   Gosh–I hope she didn’t get it from me, cause she’s pulling it out all the time. 

She dreams of day when her garden is finally loosestrife free.   I dream of the same plant in bloom–bunches cut for pewter vases. 

For me Gooseneck loosestrife is a favorite cut flower.  The nodding, graceful plumes of purest white are like nothing else I grow.  In a vase they are the perfect contrast to disk-shaped flowers like daisies and lace-cap hydrangea (picture below).   And in arrangements–cut or growing in beds-contrast makes things pop.   It’s my back of a match book rule for combining flowers and foliage–bold with fine, dark with light, rays with disks.  Contrast works. 

But the plants have to work for you–for your garden.  There are thousands and thousands of plants to choose from.  It’s almost like picking wall colors–emotional, personal choices.  So choose what you love.   Then be prepared to  work with it.  The plant may baffle you, up and die on you, overrun the roses–but if you love it enough, you’ll figure out how to grow it.

Invasive plants escape! Threaten native woodland! 

It sounds  like a headline from my old News promo writing days–But it’s true.  Invasive plants are a huge problem across the country–and right in my own back yard.

That’s thugs–not slugs in the title of this post.  These rampant plants know no boundaries and smother most plants  in their path. 

Just check out these photos of my neighbor Mike’s backyard, where Algerian Ivy  is racing for the  sun.  What fool unleashed this killer  plant on Mike’s woodland–which is full of  beautiful native gingers, by the way??  Well, I’m afraid that fool was me.  

Me bad.  Me very bad.  Ok–I was a fairly new gardener at the time and I did grow up next door to a college campus with ivy covered walls.  But colleges have something that I don’t have in my little Apex woodland–besides stately brick buildings and sweeping lawns–Colleges have a staff of grounds keepers.  And they work  5 days a week, 8 hours a day to keep plants in their place. 

That Ivy got out of bounds fast.  So I killed it, first by pulling, then with Round up, then  I pulled some more.   I was vigilant.  I carried an old kitchen knife in the yard and dug out every new sprout I saw.   

It worked.  After several treatments, Algerian Ivy was gone from my woods and I was feeling pretty smug, until one day I happened to glance over the reed  fence and see that the Ivy had just moved next door. 

So I’m at it again–this labor intensive process of pulling, digging, spraying and digging again.   And I’m getting really good at it.  Chalk that up to lots of practice.   I’m afraid Ivy wasn’t the only invasive plant I  foolishly introduced in my yard. 

There was–

The Periwinkle, a gentle little name for a devil of a plant.  Yes, it has nice blue blooms but periwinkle is  not so sweet when it’s climbing into your shrubs and smothering your ferns.

The Lirope (aka monkey grass).  I can’t believe I every paid money for this.  I rip it up every winter and I spent last year’s NCAA tournament, listening  to games on my Walkman while digging lirope seedlings out of the lawn. 

The Yellow Archangel my friend Robert warned me about…but oh, it was so pretty.   I can control it–I thought–

Get rid of these thugs.  Spray them,  smother them with cardboard over the winter then spray them again.    I mulch over the card board so it won’t look so ugly.  And  I keep pulling and digging…all the time, especially now when the ground is soft.     

But it’s worth the work.  North Carolina is home to many beautiful wild flowers.  We need to protect and preserve them.    So be careful in your planting .  Think kudzu.   And if you make a mistake, like I did more than once–(ok–four times actually), be a good gardener–Fix it.

Even though they are fighting with tree roots, these Nandinas always look good Photo: My Nandina thicket brightens up the woods and screens an ugly view, all while fighting mature tree roots.

Melissa’s Nandina post is right on target!  Nandina was the  very first shrub that I brought to my garden–and all these years later it’s probably the most useful shrub I have.   Here’s why I love Nandinas-

Tough as nails.  They will grow in sun, shade, bad soil, dry soil .   They will probably grow at the gates of hell (along with Iris–but the two might look like hell together).  I have dug up Nandinas of all sizes in all seasons–and they all survived.  If you have a tough spot, plant a Nandina there. 

They multiply making them the ultimate cheap plant–though  some people think they multiply too much.  The red berries are seeds, and they sprout all over.      I have seen Nandina on at least one list of invasive plants for the South, but at my house, it’s easy to control.   And I don’t see Nandina popping up in the woods, or choking trees  like some other rampant imports from  Asia–Hall’s honeysuckle and kudzu come to mind.   So I don’t feel bad about growing Nandina–but I am very careful about what I put in my yard.    Do pay attention to Melissa’s warning–Some plants don’t belong in your garden.  I am still digging up lirope…but like Melissa’s English Ivy,  that is another story. 

Nandinas make great screens–That is their real beauty in my garden.  Over the years, I have grouped  my Nandinas in two patches.    One screens  an ugly wood pile, the other  buffers my neighbor’s drive.  As seedlings pop up around the yard, I transplant them to my Nandina thickets , or give the extra plants  away.  

Two notes on  Nandina culture–

While they don’t need pruning, Nandinas can get top-heavy with lots of leggy stems.  I solve this problem by occasionally cutting some of the stems (maybe two or three on a big plant)  close to the ground.  When they sprout, you’ll have a  fuller look. 

And finally–Nandinas  look great in summer, fall and winter, but  can make for some bad color clashes in Spring.  Keep those bright red berries and bronze foliage  away from pink bloomers and you’ll have a plant that always looks good.

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

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