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Finally– this week brought some good weather to get out and clean-up in my (very) winter weary NC garden,
Here are some things that make it much easier to get the beds in shape.

1) A big pile of mulch. Yes, I own a pick-up for hauling mulch and other bulk stuff, but Spring is so short and busy, it’s impossible to get everything done. Driving and unloading take time. After years of never completing this job, I opted for delivery of 8 cubic yards.

mulchpile

2) And since this big pile of mulch has been sitting in our drive though rain, sleet and snow….the second thing you need in March is a patient partner, one who won’t mind too much when he/she can’t park in the garage through rain, sleet and snow. Or when dinner is late cause you’re out in the garden–or when you ask him to load the cart, etc.

rake

3) It’s also wonderful to have a retractable rake. This is my most favorite tool! Pal Susan gave it to me for a b’day many years ago, and I still use it almost every day. The re-tracked version is great for getting around shrubs and plants. Spread out the tines to rake leaves and trash. One tool, never put it down. Brilliant.

retracted

4) Organic fertilizer is a March ritual at our house. Yes, you can go cheaper, but it’s your garden, your earth–I go for the good stuff. Don’t try to toss it out all in one day–spreading fertilizer properly takes time. I rake the bed, prune, move plants. Next, I spread the Planttone from my galvanized dish pan, rake in the soil and water. Mulch from the big pile goes on last. It’s pleasurable work. Don’t rush it. Make the most of your investment.

planttone

5) I always need tons of soil mix and recycled nursery pots this time of year. There are more baby plants to pot up than time to pot them. My kingdom for a staff–

helleborouspotting

6) Finally, in March, I always need a manicure in the worse way. But to a gardener, these hands are beautiful. It’s been a long time, Spring. Welcome back.

manicure

What’s going on in your gardens???


It’s time–

Time  to cover the dinning room table with plastic, dust off the grow lights and  sow tomato and pepper seeds indoors. time_1

Timing is critical when it comes to growing from seed.  I want to have these plants ready to plant in the garden by our last estimated frost date, April 15th.  Too early and they will be floppy and leggy.  Too late and the plants will  be stunted. 

Let’s hope my timing this year is just right.   (These plants were started March 8-14.) 

It’s time to set out purchased transplants of lettuce, spinach and other cool weather crops in the garden.time_2

And it’s time to eat lots of homegrown kale, collards, cabbage and other greens that wintered over so I’ll have that space empty when the aforementioned tomato plants are ready to set out. 

It’s also time to fertilize, mulch, powerwash outdoor furniture, weed the beds, clean the porches  etc, etc, etc.  Spring is the busiest season in the garden, sort of like Christmas if you’re in retail.  

So  don’t forget to enjoy the fruits of your labors.  Sit down and take in the view, even if your chairs are covered in winter’s grime.  time_chair

Bulbs, like these (Ice Follies and February Gold) daffodils planted in the woods last fall are looking good. time_newdaf

And here’s another favorite bulb blooming in my garden–Spring Starflower (Ipheion uniflorum and Tristagma uniflorum).  It will grow anywhere, even in the dry shade at the base of trees.Time_starflower_3

This tough little perennial will even grow between pavers, but since the foliage smells a bit like a skunk when it’s bruised, planting starflower on my little patio was not the best idea.  

One day, maybe I’ll move these. time_starwide Gardens are like mine are never really  finished. Might as well relax and enjoy!

PS.  It’s also time to start checking  yourself for ticks.  Can you believe I got my first tick bite on Sunday?  Yikes that’s early.


Everyone loves something new in the garden—even our crazy puppy Tralee.  She’s checking out the spider flower blooms, photographed here on the 2nd day of September.   They make a splendid show adding great red color along the path in my green woods. 

 I like the fact that Lycoris radiata blubs don’t need their own bed.  They rise out of other plants, bloom their heads off and go away.   I’ll admit it all happens rather quickly.  Still, I wouldn’t be without this shade loving gem that brings some spark to the September garden. 

The new Terra Ceia Farms Catalog arrived last week and they are offering 15 radiata bulbs for $24.60—a bargain in my book and just the right number to make an impact. 

The hardy cyclamen has a much longer season of interest in my Apex woods—often sending up a few blooms on the hottest, driest days of August.  But September is really this plants’ season—bringing nice bunches of delicate pink flowers.   Cyclamen hederifolium flourishes in the hard, parched ground at the base of oak trees where nothing else will grow.  After flowers, fresh-looking, green leaves appear and hang around all winter.  Then the plants go dormant before blooming again next summer and fall. 

Don’t confuse Cyclamen herderifolium with the florist cyclamen—a greenhouse plant that always dies in my dinning room window.   Hardy cyclamens are anything but fussy.  Just plant and leave them alone. 

Across the backyard from the cyclamen, the first of my Japanese anemones just started to bloom. These late-flowering perennials enjoy a very un-cyclamen like environment– soft soil, moisture and part shade.   I grow them near the hydrangeas on the North side of the garage. 

Can’t find the tag on the double variety photographed above, but I remember the word robustus in the Latin name.  It is robust and I have shared the plant again and again. 

My favorite anemone will bloom later this month.  September Charm is a light pink single variety that looks great in the beds and a vase.    It’s in bud now.  I’ll post a photo when this lovely plant blooms.   Meantime— it’s something else to anticipate.   Change in the garden is good.

And speaking of change—Blog partner Melissa is looking forward to the end of a huge work project.  She’s on the west coast for the launch that has dominated her life almost 24/7 recently.  (Don’t you just hate it when work gets in the way?)

 Melissa promises to be back home and blogging again soon with renewed vigor.   Nothing like a trip out West to make her miss her Raleigh garden and her Southern Roots.    

I miss her too.  Maybe a group Weed-A-Thon when she returns.


Lil Nuggets of Love

So these tomatoes are my all time favorite, I call them “nuggets of love.”

Let me tell you why I love these.

First what the heck are these lil beauties called—Red/Yellow Jelly Belly Grape Tomatoes

  • Prolific producers, as you can see by the featured pic
  • Adults and kids love them–they are sweet and delicious
  • Perfect for salads, sauteeing with olive oil and garlic
  • Roast them and add to pasta or spread on bread
  • Share them with friends and neighbors

So next year you should grow them. Learn where to order and how to start from seed here.

Happy Gardening

melissa


When my friend Linda told me her Formosa lillies (Lilium formosanum) survived last week’s big storm–I grabbed my little camera and rushed over the next afternoon.  These tall, fragrant white flowers  are not to be missed.  And Linda has a slew of them weaving in and out of her mixed bed of a front yard in Raliegh.  (Grass is too boring for her–so she has none)

The old Art-History major in me thinks they are the same flowers in the lovely Sargent painting–Carnation, Lily, Rose.  Linda started with 7 plants.  She now has dozens.  Her propagation method couldn’t be simpler–In the fall she collects the seed and sprinkles it around the yard.  (She also shares and gave me a handful last year)

I may have gone to see the lilies–but I was also very taken with her giant Chinese Abelia (Abelia chinensis).  Another stunning August bloomer–it is also fragrant, makes a great cut flower, and attracts butterflies by the flock. 

Plant envy.  Chinese Abelia goes on my fall must-have list.

The butterfly magnet in my yard right now is Clethra alnifolia, or Sweet Pepper Bush.   Another fragrant shrub that saves its best for August, this hardy shrub languished my garden until I found in some moisture and a little morning sun.  After I planted it at the base of on of the drainage/runoff pipes, it lived up to its potential and became a star. 

All three of these plants have great things going for them–fragrance, blooms, butterflies–

And they’re at their best at the toughest time of our year–August.  That makes them stars in my book.

Final thoughts about Linda’s garden:

Linda’s passion is spreading the word about healthy, fugal eating (check her out at www.cookforgood.com ) and we counted no less than 15 edible plants growing on suburban third of an acre.  It’s a good inventory to make when you’re strolling your yard sometime.  How much can you grow for the table?

Some plants in her garden bloom and flourish despite never making it into the ground.  Shows us how important it is to pick the right spot…then tough plants (like these camellias) and fend for themselves.

And don’t forget the mantra about visiting other gardens and talking to other gardeners–you will learn a ton.

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

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