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When I started growing  Lenten Roses (Helleborus) almost 30 years ago, white and green flowers were the only colors available.   daffocils_helborusThank plant breeders for these darker strains–seen here with my favorite daffodil, February Gold.daffoils_foliage

My second favorite daffodil, Ice Follies, is blooming early this year.   Most of the time it comes into flower by my niece Becky’s birthday, March 6th.  The flowers have a wonderful fragrance, so I always cut a bunch for the house.daffodil_vaseHere’s another February milestone–

The year’s first cut flowers always end up in the rabbit vase.   A gift from our nephew Bob many, many years ago–the boy is now 6 foot 4, living in Costa Rico and well past his bunny loving stage–it is still a welcome tradition at our house. 

There’s nothing like the first flowers of the new season.  How do you celebrate them?


Gloomy and cold as it can be, January is one of my favorite months in the garden.prunus

Blooming trees like this Prunus mume amaze me with their fragile beauty, but sturdy nature–camellia_2

Ditto the camellias.  edgeworthia

My Edgeworthia buds give me something to anticipate.  Very fragrant orange blossoms will follow soon.fern

My favorite evergreen fern, the autumn fern, adds a nice pop of fresh color to the brown and grey woods. 

While  Wintersweet, carpets the yard with patches of fragrance on sunny days. 

There’s no reason that Southern gardeners can’t have something blooming every month of the year.    These are just a few of my favorites.  What are some of yours????

Call me silly if you want–but I think the world would be a far better place if everyone grew at least one thing they could eat. 

Good pal Kristen is more than doing her part.  I was very impressed with her suburban summer vegetable garden and how much good food she’s packed in the small space along her back deck.   

Kristen didn’t grow up tending big vegetable gardens like Southern girls (blog partner) Melissa and I did. 

And she lives in an uptown Cary neighborhood, where pulling up grass to plant FOOD is pretty brave.  

I’m so proud of her for bucking the norm of perfect turf to grow food to feed her family. 

I’m proud all my friends who grow food at home. 

So show off your gardens.  I’ll put your pictures in upcoming posts.

If you hurry, there’s still time to plant some hardy annuals like the pansies, snapdragon, and Dianthus transplants above. 

They’ll bloom though spring rain, sleet, and snow; then peak in late May or early June. 

After that you can toss spent plants on the compost pile and use the space for summer flowers.   

It’s crop rotation for flower gardenersHardy annuals are an easy way to bring more blooms into your southern garden and have more than one season of flowers in your beds.

I grow them from transplant.  These came from the awesome Campbell Road Nursery (off Tryon Road in Cary) for just 10 dollars a flat. 

I also grow hardy annuals from seed.  The larkspur above were sown in the fall. 

These baby Nigella were raked in the garden in January.   As the weather warms, they’ll grow like weeds.   Hardy annuals are EASY, which means more newbie gardeners should them a try.   

Annual poppies, and sweet peas can also be grown this way in triangle gardens.  Any other suggestions.  What hardy annuals would you add to the list?

I wish I could claim these photos but my little sister is the one with a gift for great containers.  She’s not a pro–but she could be one.   Year after year she makes these fabulous big pots for her entry space that knock my socks off. 

Here are some of her secrets:

  • Think big.  Her pots are  large.  She buys the big fiberglass ones at Costco and adds to her collection every year when they go on clearance.  Because the pots are so big, they make a big impact.
  • Use good potting mix.  Also from Costco she buys the Miracle Grow Potting Mix with fertilizer.  Change your soil every year, she says or your petunias will get a blight.  And she likes petunias, they trail out of pots.
  • Buy lots of plants.  Every May she comes from her home in Ashland, North of Richmond VA, to shop at Big Bloomers down the road from me in Sanford.  And she’s not the only one.  They get a lot of customers from the Richmond area because good nurseries are hard to find.  Big Bloomers has great variety and good prices.  My sister fills up her mini-van and heads home happy. 
  • She doesn’t bring a shopping list but picks plants she likes.  For every pot she selects tall things, trailing things and something for the middle.  She buys mostly annuals.  They grow the fastest and bloom the longest.   And she always buys extra plants.   Experience has taught her that she’ll be sorry if she goes home without them. 
  • She doesn’t expect all the pots to look good all the time.  Some are best in spring, some are just coming into their glory on these 95 degree days.
  • Speaking of heat, she keeps her pots watered–not as hard as you would think since they are all grouped together. 
  • And she tries something new every year.  There’s always a new favorite plant or combo to keep it all fresh. 

Another tip from my sister–never sneer at annuals.  She has a lot of space and a lot of beds.  Cheap, easy annuals keep them full, lively and interesting all summer long.   Her marigolds and zinnias from seed always look stunning because there are so many of them. 

And the final lesson from my sister’s garden–visit all the gardens you can and make friends with the people who tend them.  There’s so much we can learn from each other.

If you’d like to know more about the fabulous plants in my sister’s containers, leave a comment.  And if you have any great container combos, please share.  

Happy gardening.  Stay cool.

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

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