It’s been four months since my last post. I sincerely apologize. It has been a rough summer, with ill parents to attend to. They’re finally on the mend, for which I’m thankful, and I’m looking forward to getting back in the flow.

I’m one of those irritating creatures who loves to start projects much more than I like to finish them. Consequently, I have dozens of projects around the home and garden that are about three-quarters complete. Over the past months, war broke out in my mind between my love of creating and my hatred of the resultant clutter. The war drew to its grim end recently, but I’m satisfied that the hatred of clutter emerged victorious. My long-suffering husband is cautiously optimistic. My pledge to myself, then, is to take as long as I need to tie up the ragged ends and to not start anything I can’t immediately finish. In my own optimistic moments I believe I will enjoy improved levels of sanity and mental peace, not to mention a relief from the need to apologize whenever company comes over.

The current task in the garden, then, is to move a clump of azaleas near the southeastern corner of the house. We hope to add on to this wing of the house in a year or two, and the azaleas, which are (were) gorgeous, will be smack in the way of heavy machinery when it comes to dig footings. So they’ve got to get moved.

I can’t hope to remove the two shrubs intact without the aforementioned heavy machinery, and I don’t have the cash for that at the moment. So I am taking them apart bit by bit, and starting a new garden bed in a neglected spot behind the kids’ swingset.

Decimation underway. This is the larger of the two shrubs. You can see the hole where part of it has been removed.

The patch to be moved is perhaps 100-150 square feet. It’s two plants. I don’t know the cultivars; they came with the house. The larger of the two blooms rosy purple.

The smaller, which also has much smaller leaves, is more of a pure hot pink. The two didn’t look particularly well planted next to one another, so it’s an improvement that they’re finding new homes.

This is the smaller of the two. It’s about one-third removed. Pieces of it are going into the pink-purple-yellow garden I started last year.

So far, I’ve chunked the beast of a shrub into eight pieces, which means I am halfway done with the larger one. The new bed isn’t much to look at right now.

Three of the eight pieces (so far) are visible here.

It backs up to a rather tired-looking wire fence that separates my lot from the neighbor’s, but the fence belongs to the neighbor, so I can’t do anything to it. I am hopeful that once the shrubs are established, they’ll fill in gracefully and camouflage the wire fencing, at least in that spot. The vision in my mind is spectacular. Let’s hope I can deliver it.

The bed is temporarily edged in brick discarded from the kitchen redo two years ago, when we took down the masonry chimney. I can’t bear to throw much away (another of my charming habits), especially vintage brick. I’ll make it permanent in the future, but for now I need to live with it and see how I like the shape.



New plants for 2012, part 4

I went to Lowe’s today to get epoxy and came away with:

  1. A 1-quart Penny Mac hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Penny Mac’)
  2. A 1-quart Sister Theresa hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Sister Theresa’)
  3. 2 orange mints
  4. 2 larkspur ‘Summer Blues’ (Delphinium grandiflorum ‘Summer Blues’)
  5. 1 ‘Miss Kim’ lilac (Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’)
  6. and 3 Japanese painted ferns (Athyrium nipponicum‘Pictum’)

I had thought to get just the epoxy and to see if a white Camellia sasanqua might be on sale, that I could use in the under-construction white garden. There were camellias on sale, but only japonicas, with which I have less luck; I suspect the sasanquas compete better with the roots of my oaks (in my garden, it’s impossible to be planted far away from oak roots). The only white variety they had was called “White Debutante.” I couldn’t bring myself to purchase it, knowing that if I did, it would succeed and I would have to spend the next 30 years being embarrassed by my White Debutante. Really, who names these things?

I did put back the doublefile viburnum, knowing that I have to get more ground cleared in order to plant more things.

I should never purchase plants unless I have the time and space to immediately get them into the ground. I did fairly well today. My container plants played musical chairs: My Viburnum carlesii now resides in the ground in the white garden, and the variegated English ivy that had filled out the viburnum container is now skirting Penny Mac.  The orange mints (along with the spearmint and the chocolate mint) are naturally in containers, lest I wish to return the garden to the condition in which it came to me. All the houseplants came outside yesterday for a haircut and a snack. The deck will never look like the entrance to Great Dixter, but I can pretend.

The Japanese painted ferns are installed in the white garden, and Sister Theresa will be once I get some more ground cleared. The larkspurs are tucked into tiny pockets in the blue-and-yellow garden, just next to the foxgloves that are planning to bloom soon. Miss Kim will go into the pink-purple-and-yellow garden this weekend. Between now and then, I’ll need to keep her watered, as she is bursting out of her pot (which may be why she came so cheaply).

I’m hoping the rain finally comes this afternoon….we really need it.

Lastly, a few months ago I bought two Canna ‘Cleopatra’ bulbs and planted them in the hot border. No sight of them yet, but I’ll let you know.

The view in the soup

Venturing down into the backyard swamp, though, I can get a good look at Hyacinthoides hispanica, Spanish bluebells, that are just starting to bloom.

They look great next to the unknown euphorbia my neighbor Martha gave me when I had little more than mud and weeds to cope with (I thought for a long time it might be the variety commonly known as “graveyard spurge,” which is an invasive species, but to my relief, it’s not. It will spread like the dickens, though.)







And Iris ‘Eco Easter’ is starting to unfurl. Its petite, pale blue flowers are sweet looking even when weatherbeaten by the recent heavy rains.

It grows about 12 inches high for me and spreads rapidly in the loose soil of this bed, but is quite manageable. I’m glad to have plenty of it to play with. I do hope to manage it effectively this year, and create clusters rather than long, thin ribbons of plants. I have many such tasks on the to-do list, though, and I am better at rearranging the furniture later on than avoiding the mess in the first place.

Still no sign of Arisaema triphyllum, jack in the pulpit. But Halesia carolina, Carolina silverbell, is leafing out charmingly. I’m looking forward to watching this beauty grow.

The view from the deck

Yet another morning of heavy rain. The garden is soupy. I know I shouldn’t muck around much in it when it is so wet, but who can help it when the sun comes out? I cannot wait to see what’s changed from yesterday.

Turns out, plenty is happening just off the deck, and I can limit the wading I do today. The sweet peas I planted in February are coming up. I have never had much success with them in the past, but I confess I never made much effort, either. I must get some netting in place for them to climb up.

Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ has put on about a foot of growth in the past week. She, too, needs something to climb on. I put one of those skinny pot trellises in place until I can get the sweet pea netting up. They can share after that; I hope they’ll play nicely together.

I grew a massive stand of Claytonia over the winter, only to find that the flavor is bland to me. Perhaps I simply have not found an adequate recipes that will let it perform to its potential.

I pruned the rue (Ruta graveolens ‘Jackman’s Blue’), which has taken off. Now that it is making itself comfortable where it is, I have found the perfect spot for it. It needs to be next to the osmanthus; the color and texture contrast will be magnificent. But there are bearded iris in that spot now, as well as plenty of tiny sprigs of Solomon’s seal that will require relocating, and I cannot do that until the iris have bloomed. If things keep the current pace, that should occur about next Tuesday.


I pinched back the Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) that I am coaching across the screen that is the backdrop to the blue-and-yellow garden. I know it gets too much shade to do well there, but I am a stubborn old goat. But so far it seems to be resigning itself to its site and making the best of it. Perhaps this year is the year it will become the glorious screen I envision. I have seen, however, the way it behaves at my mother’s house and should probably be careful what I wish for.