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greenhouse_snow

It’s not a fancy greenhouse–but thanks to husband Bill, it does the job. Inside, lemon, lime, and kumquat trees are producing fruit. Penta, coleus and other tender plants are wintering over.

I could show you, but on cold days and nights, I’m not allowed to open the plastic shell that adds an extra layer of insulation.

Simple–but like the little greenhouse, it does the job.

Bill’s greenhouse heat source is simple, too: A pair of heat lamps and three aquariums heaters set in buckets of water. We monitor how well this system is working with the remote thermometer that sits on our bedroom dresser.

greenhouse_monitor

As you can see: 27 degrees outside, 69 F in the bedroom, 49 in the greenhouse with humidity in the 80s.

Good job, Bill. Needless to say, our fingers are crossed that the power stays on–

And yes, we ARE ready for spring.

So how is your garden coping with this record breaking winter?

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First, a BIG thank you to all the wonderful local farmers markets that have cropped in recent years. Because of you, I don’t have to try grow everything anymore.

What a relief, because I’m really bad at growing several things:
Beets and carrots. (I hear they like sandy soil.)
My squash always get squash borers.
Peppers never get enough sun.
Beans don’t have enough space to make it worthwhile.
And heirloom tomatoes, frankly, hate me.

seedcatalogs
So while the catalog photos and descriptions are SO APPEALING, this year I’m using my garden space for what I do best.

Here’s the list which co-blogger Melissa and I worked out last weekend. (seed ordering takes time)

early_girl1

Hybrid Tomatoes: When buying for Wake County and the Southeast, look for plant descriptions that say “great disease resistance”. Our humid summers really take a toll on these plants. If “good for the Southeast” and “heat tolerant” appear in the description, all the better. And bunches of letters after the variety name, like VFFNTA are a great sign.

We’re ordering:
Bella Rossa
Big Beef
Phoenix
My favorite cherry, Sweet Chelsea
And Melissa’s favorite Red Jelly Bean

Summer herbs like basil and parsley are big winners. They’re easy to grow, don’t take a lot of space, but pay back with tons of flavor. You can grow these in pots.
Italian Basil
And a second variety
Italian parsley

Grow a veg you love–Cucumbers are mine. Look for AAS winners. Again, Southeast and disease resistant are keywords in the plant description.
I like Diva
And Capylso

And then there are the eggplants. They’re best when eaten within 24 hours of picking, so I will devote the space to growing my own, but always a compact variety. This year it’s Hansel.
<a
Those are our summer garden seeds. What about you? What plants are you growing and eating in 2014?


manos_wide1
Annuals, especially hard to find annuals often get overlooked by gardeners. Some people write them off as common, others think they’re too much trouble–

But there are so many annuals I NEVER want to garden without.

At the top of that list:
Manaos Beauty aka Brazilian Button Flower aka Centratherum Intermedium. A perennial in it’s native country, here in Wake County NC it’s tender and needs to replanted in the spring.
manos_beauty1

Even the leaves are pretty–

And the button-like buds and flowers rock the front of the border from mid-summer to frost.

manos_tight2

I first saw this plant at he famous Montrose Garden in Hillsborough. Fortunately I was able to find seed at my favorite source for hard to find and old fashioned annuals, The Fragrant Path. http://www.fragrantpathseeds.com/product.asp?ID=135.
manos_wide2

Annuals like Manaos Beauty are the reason I usually have lots of flowers in the garden. What about you? What are your workhorse plants?


When the season changes, so does the pallet in my Wake County NC garden. Cooler temeperature mean deeper colors.
Red which looks too hot in summertime suddenly seems to glow. spider-lily
And of all the reds, spider lily may be my favorite. I’m lucky if it blooms 2 weeks out of 52. Still, I wouldn’t be without this old southern flower that makes the path suddenly exoitic and full of color after the long hot summer.
wide_spiderlilies

All it asks from me is an initial investement. Plant the bulbs in an area where they won’t be disturbed and every year you’ll be delightfully surprised. The dark green leaves belong to Lenten Roses, BTW.

Salvias look their best in fall. This is “Lighthouse” my little sister’s favorite which she grows from seed and shares every year.
lighthouse-salvia

Popping up and not quite blending is the oxblood lily. It’s another of those plant it and forget it blubs that do well in the South. Just don’t forget where you planted them. Like spider lilies, they hate to be disturbed.
cypress_vine

Cypress vine grows readily from seed and is great to cover a mail box. I save the seeds from this plant every year and start them indoors under lights. (BTW, our mail man says he loves it, too even though he can no longer read our address)
beauty_berry

Finally, the beauty berries are a delight this time of year. This one is a Asian variety–but I’ve never met a beauty berry I didn’t like. They’re tough, will grow in my deicious woods, and make a great cut-back shrub for a mixed border in part sun or part shade. Do put it on your “grow that” list. And do share–what early fall colors are you enjoying in the garden?


flowergarden_wide Ok–this is NOT the best time to dig and divide Black Gamecock Iris.  But the plants, which bloomed in April, were taking up way too much space in my summer flower bed. flowergarden_iris

So out they come–and out go emails to friends who admired them in the spring. As you can see, I have  plenty to share.  flowergarden_bare

In their wake–blank space, glorious blank space.  I will fill it with these summer annuals (zinnias, cleome and Mexican sunflower) that I’ve been nursing along for weeks. flowergarden_newplants

Because flowers come and go, and sometimes fail, I’m always nursing a few annuals along this time of year.   In fact, I just planted cosmos seed  in plugs today.  I’m hoping they’ll take over when these splendid flowering tobacco flower out.flowering_tobacco

And on the other side of the garden–I finally gave in cut out the path our puppy dog was stomping through this stand of black eyed Susans. flowergarden_smashed

As you can imagine, Tralee was not happy. Dogs do tend to hate change–flowergarden_tralee

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

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