Friday, December 21, 2012

Catch You At The Rapture

  If you are reading this, chances are that we will all survive another near-death experience when it comes to world ending events.  Mankind has managed to evade the Rapture hundreds of times, with some of these predicted events predating the birth of Christ.  From Nostradamus to 1960’s psychic Jean Dixon; from mass murderer Charles Manson to Marshall Applewhite, who instructed followers to have rolls of quarters for the spaceship vending machines after they were saved from earth’s destruction.  So why think the Mayan’s are any better at predicting the end of the world then these other geniuses.     
     Needless to say, come Friday morning, I will wake up and my garden will still need pruning, there will be leaves to remove from the base of the shrubs, there will be stubborn weeds still growing and in need of pulling.  There will still be mulch that needs to be spread, plants to be relocated or divided, a pond to be cleaned.  My vegetable garden will still need to be tilled and prepped for spring and seeds will need to be ordered. 
     I’m not planning on cancelling any garden magazine subscriptions nor will I fail to renew any of my certification licenses.  Besides, how can the world come to an end when I still have so much work to do?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Not Feeling The Muskrat Love

      Many years ago, The Captain and Tennille singing duo, had a hit song called ‘Muskrat Love’.  They sang about a pair of muskrats twirling and doing a tango and jitterbugging in muskrat land.  I hated that song then and even more so today!     
      One of our customers called because they were experiencing drastic water lose in their pond and the water was very muddy.  After some rock moving and poking around, we found very large holes in the thick rubber liner of the pond.  Muskrats!  A muskrat had decided the pond was a perfect place to call home and proceeded to dig through the liner and create a burrow with several entrances.  This is a disaster, and I thought groundhogs were bad. 
One big hole

A second hole
A third hole...
there are more but I got tired of posting them
I am getting quite the education about muskrats.  They are the largest member of the microtine rodent family and spends its life in aquatic habitats.  Adult muskrats are usually 18”- 24” in length with large males reaching 30” long.  The average weight is around 2 ½ pounds and those big males can reach 4 pounds.  Females can produce 3 to 6 litters per year and 5 to 6 kits per litter are not uncommon.  They are capable of remaining under water for 20 minutes.  They are known for their damage; chewing boat motor wires, burrowing into floating boat docks, burrowing into earthen dams, which can lead to collapse, and of course the above mentioned atrocity  to our customer’s pond.
    It is trapping season so the homeowners can set out some traps and try and catch this aquatic devil.  I have seen several recipes online for ways to grill, roast and sauté muskrat, which I may pass on to them.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stink Bugs And Elections

What is up with all the stink bugs?  I think it may be connected to the 
political elections this year, but that is just a personal observation.   I have been finding them everywhere; on window screens, in drawers, in my knitting, living and dead ones on every window ledge and even one in my shower. 
Stink Bug
     So why so many this year?   It may have to do with the early spring we had this year, allowing for two generations of stinks bugs to grow this season.  Expect more of the same next year.  Each female carries 10 egg sacs with up to 28 eggs in each sac. 

Wheel Bug
 But help may be on the way in the form of the wheel bug, a type of assassin beetle, which if possible, is uglier that the stink bug.  There is also a tiny Asian wasp, which controls the stink bug in China.  I’m sure I’ll be writing about those future infestations one day…the cycle just continues.  
Asian Wasp

      The best way to handle these bugs is to seal your home’s cracks and openings, repair screens and hope for a cold winter.  If you vacuum these bugs in your house, change your bag that day because stink bugs live up to their name.  I have heard a solution of water and rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle is one way to kill them and spraying your screens with a mix of water and dawn detergent is suppose to repel them.
     Stink bugs may be with us for a few years.  Elections have consequences and so do mild winter.     

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Don't Judge A Plant By Its Name

Tricyrtis hirta is a wonderful perennial with an exotic, orchid looking flower which goes by the common name, Toad Lily.  Such an unfortunate name, for such a beautiful plant.  

     Toad lily is a valuable addition to a shade garden and is one of the few that bloom so late in the garden year; the flower, making its appearance in September and October.  The creamy white flowers, often in clusters, which open to purple-spotted petals with centers resembling pieces of chenille, are borne on arching, hairy stems which reach 2 feet on height.   It is 
the spotting on the petals which attribute to the amphibian name.   The clumps will grow in size each season and can be divided after three to four years.  I plant mine among my hostas, and appreciate the unique blooms as the rest of my garden starts to fade for the season.  Flower varieties range from white, tinged with lavender to mauve and the spotting can be muted to intense.  There is even a yellow variety which I will hunt down for my garden.
     Toad lily is an elegant plant with a rather in-elegant name, but no matter what it is called, still a wonderful find for a shade garden in fall.

Friday, August 24, 2012

This Means War.....

     Three years ago my husband installed a 28’ long stream which cascades into a small pond.  This stream is at our nursery and serves as a visual for customers interested in a water feature.  It is also a place where I can grow our plants to show customers what that small plant they just bought will look like in a couple of years.  It is also my favorite place.  I never get tired of the sound the stream makes, and the sound changes as you travel around the area.  The water lilies are always beautiful and the cattails sway in the breeze.  Frogs hop into the water as I near it and dragon flies dart about.  But my fish are my pride and joy.  They are just dime store goldfish, bought with the intention of replacing them with expensive Koi, once I was sure fish would survive in the pond.  Over the past three years I have become attached to my cheap fish and this year they rewarded me with some new additions.  About a half dozen of the fastest ones avoided being eaten and are now large enough to swim with the big boys. 
     Last week my spot of paradise was disrupted when I walked outside and found a Blue Heron standing in the middle of my pond.  Yelling and waving my arms I chased the bird away, though I must admit, I was very impressed by its 6’ wing span.  I ran to the pond, relieved to see that my three large goldfish were still there, but not sure about all the babies, as they move around so fast.  The Heron has returned a few more times and I have repeated the same actions mentioned above.  One of us is going to win this battle and I have every intention of being the victor, just not sure how I plan to do it. 
     This Heron has no idea who he is dealing with.  I have previously spent a summer dealing with a family of groundhogs, who turned my garden into their personal ‘all you can eat’ buffet bar, so there is no way I’m letting this bird stake a claim on my pond.  Let the battle begin. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sway With Me

                                Like a flower bending in the breeze
                     Bend with me, sway with ease
                        When we dance you have a way with me
                     Stay with me. sway with me
                                                 Pablo Beltrán Ruiz

   Gaura or wand flower is a billowing perennial which makes quite an impact.  This somewhat shrubby plant reaches 3’ in height and develops a long taproot allowing it to be heat and drought resistant.  Narrow lanced shaped leaves are sometimes tinged with maroon.  But what makes this plant so wonderful are the  buds along the wiry, wand-like stems which open to reveal its 4-peteled, orchid –like blossoms.   Blooms are either white or pink, in combination or fading from one to the other, and it continues to bloom from spring to autumn.
     Gaura sways with the gentlest breeze, bringing beautiful movement to your garden.  
Butterflies and bees have no problem landing on these swaying arches.   I have mine planted on the stream where it almost seems to keep time with the sound of the water.  This plant also does well in a container, but make sure where ever you plant it, it gets plenty of sun. 
     Gaura is a great plant as a single specimen or its arching wands mingle well with other plants in a boarder.  Add this plant to your garden and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Making Beautiful Music

      When a garden is designed, certain design elements are used, such as, form, texture, shape, color, and scale.  One of the most overlooked design elements is sound.  Sound is often taken for granted and just assumed that nature will provide, which it usually does, but when you incorporate sound into your garden, you enrich the gardening experience. 
      There are a few types of sound we find in the garden.  Geophony is sound created by geophysical activity in the earth system such as wind, rain, thunder and water flow.   With this in mind, planting certain trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials can create unique sounds in a breeze, such as, whispering, rustling or rattling.  A fountain or a stream and pond can bring the sound of water to your garden.
     Biophony encompasses the array of sounds generated by the earth system’s living entities.  These include birds, amphibians, insects and mammals.  Planting large growing trees will attract squirrels, which can fill the air with their chatter.  Trees and shrubs offer protection and nesting areas for birds and planting plenty of berry bearing plants seed head perennials will supply winter food.   A pond will attract frogs which not only help control mosquitoes, but will provide a nightly chorus.
     Finally, there is anthrophony, or man-made sounds.  These are the sounds of traffic, lawn mowers and leaf blowers, or rowdy neighbors and playing children.  Some of these sounds we welcome and others we can do without.  Planting a dense hedge not only creates a visual barrier, but it can also block sound.  A well placed water feature can also help to reduce unwanted noise.

From the sound of birds and squirrels over head to the sound of cicadas from all sides, frogs croaking or splashing into a pond and the crunch of gravel or crackle of leaves under your feet, the sound of garden music can surround you. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

As July Melts Away

   This is such a miserable time of year for gardening.  I look out the window and see all the plants struggling in the heat, grass is dry and brittle and downright painful to walk on, and if you do venture outside for a closer look, the heat sucks the breath out of you.   Creativity seems to melt away in this sweltering heat. 
     Fading garden, fading spirits and fading energy are all par for the course in July.  But, this is where all your hard work throughout the rest of the season can pay off….that is if you did it.  A plant, planted in the fall, and given the time to adjust and send out some good roots, will most likely deal with this heat by going dormant, as opposed to a plant that was put in the ground in June, which just swivels up and dies.  A plant living in amended soil is much happier than a plant trying to survive in our red clay which is more like a brick in July.  Doing some research and knowing which plants can tolerate hot dry conditions will help your garden survive the summer.
   Is it any wonder most people leave town and go on vacation in July?  Most will say it is to head to cooler areas for some relief, but I think it is so they will not have to look at the pitiful state of their garden.  Spend sometime this fall getting your garden ready for next summer and you may decide to stick around next July.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Swimming With The Fishes

June was almost the perfect month.  The temperatures stayed somewhere is the low 80’s, almost no humidity and cool, pleasant evenings to sleep in.   But June decided to end in brutal fashion; temperatures in the 100’s, air dripping in humidity, and the evenings ... well, sleep was elusive.
     My only relief from this miserable couple of weeks has been my pond.  My pond is my obsession.  I can sit for hours watching the fish (and with great envy in this heat), admiring the water lilies and just listening to the frogs, birds and insects which call this pond home.   As tempting as it is, this pond is not for swimming.  The eco-balance took a couple of years to evolve and too much of my presence would disrupt the balance.  However, it can tolerate my being in it for short periods of time for maintenance, and I have been very diligent in my maintenance the past couple of weeks.  I have happily cleaned out aggressive plants, divided and fertilized water lilies, and cleaned out creeping roots from some of the hard to reach nooks.  
 The pond is only 30” deep, so only my arms and legs benefit from the cool water, but I’ll take it.
     It may not be a proven, scientific fact, but ask any pond owner and they will agree, that just the sound of water, seems to drop the temperature by ten degrees.  If you do not own a pond, you have no idea what you are missing.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Maxima To The Max

     A member of the Black-eyed-Susan family, this native perennial turns heads.  The name is no mistake, the Maxima does everything to the max.  The powdery-blue foliage produces leaves the range 1’ to 2’in lenth, and not to be out done, in mid-summer, it sends up a flower which easily tops 6’.  The flowers have intense yellow petals which dangle from dark brown seed head centers and the flower stalk is so sturdy it rarely needs staking.  The Maxima can also handle our intense heat and isn’t overly picky about soil conditions.  The plant spreads by underground rhizomes, but not to the sometimes aggressive state of its much smaller relative.  This plant is beautiful planted en mass, in the back of a boarder or as a single specimen, but no matter how it is planted, people will stop and ask about it. 

   I love my Maxima.  When the foliage emerges in the spring, it’s almost like having a blue Hosta in full sun, then when the flower shoots out in the summer,
I am in love with the color and shape, but my favorite time of year is when the seeds have matured and I can sit and watch the goldfinches feast on the seeds as they ride along with the swaying stalks.   

Monday, July 2, 2012

Oh Yeah....Pancakes Too


For about 47 weeks a year, I curse the briars which cover our property.  I have numerous snagged sweaters and quickly learned to wear a canvas barn jacket when I wander the fields in winter.  When small, my children would come home with scratches on their arms and legs and tears in their eyes from the rambling thorns.  I could usually keep them within sight by warning that there were ‘briars over there’; that often kept them from wandering outside the confines of mowed grass.
     We are now in that three to four week period where the briar magically transforms into Blackberry bushes.  I have been up very early every morning for the past week, trying to beat the heat and insects to wander carefully through the brambles, picking pails of blackberries.  I have about twenty jars of jam and several bags of frozen berries and am already envisioning blackberry sauce over cheesecake this winter. 
     Long sleeves and jeans in June are well worth the discomfort for these delicious berries and not just for the taste.  Researchers have known for quite some time that berries contain antioxidants which help to fight cancer causing free radicals.  A study at the University of Ohio has found that blackberries are the most potent cancer fighting berries of them all, by nearly 40 percent.
     In another week or so, I will be cursing the horrible briars which bring me so much joy through my morning toast with peanut butter and blackberry jam.  If you are looking to pick some for yourself, you had better hurry, the shoulders of the roads have been busy with pickers and the season is very short.

Friday, June 29, 2012

In Loving Memory


 I lost my dear, sweet sister-in-law unexpectedly last month.  She left behind a loving husband, son, family and many friends.  Lil was not just my sister-in-law, she was a sister of my heart, a friend and a gardening companion.  When she and my brother and their son Abe moved from Hickory to Virginia ten years ago, it was hard to see them leave, but we saw each other several times a year and spoke often on the phone.  Our talks often turned to gardening, one of her favorite topics. 
     Lil loved to share plants and advice and she planted what she liked; case in point, the castor beans.   One day while over at her house, I pointed out a plant I was not familiar with, she informed me that it was a castor bean plant.  I, in turn, informed her that the pods where extremely poisonous.   She told me that she was aware of that, but she liked how the plant looked.  I had to agree that it was a very pretty plant, but at the first opportunity, I advised my brother to keep up with the “honey-do” list and to pick up after himself for a while.
     I plan to make a trip to Virginia soon to gather some cuttings and take some plant divisions from Lil’s garden.  I will nurture these young plants so one day when Abe has his own home, I can give him some of his mother’s plants, I will also give some to her sisters and mine.  Lil will be greatly missed in our family, but having some of the plants that she loved growing in our gardens would be exactly what she wanted.

                                  Lillian Nettles Beucus  
                          December 17- 1956  May 6, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012


 In college the words “Road Trip’ would send a thrill through us.  It meant dropping whatever you were doing, grab a change of clothes, a toothbrush and a few dollars and hit the road.  Maybe heading to a nearby campus to crash on the floor at a friend’s dorm or borrow the house of someone’s parents who just left for a cruise (all participants, to this day, will remain nameless), but no matter the destination, it was always an adventure.
     So a road trip to a Botanical Garden can still be an adventure, in a different sort of way.  Maybe not as spontaneous; having to work around kids’ sporting events and dentist appointments can be difficult.  There may not be a stop at the first package store for beer, but there will be a stop at Starbucks for some lattes.  And maybe there isn’t the same amount of freedom; after all, dinner has to be on the table at a decent time. 
Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens
     If you are looking for a Garden Road Trip, there are some wonderful places a short drive away.  Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens in Belmont is only an hour’s drive.  Besides the glorious gardens, they offer classes and events at different times of the year.  

Sarah P. Duke Gardens
The Sarah P. Duke Gardens, located near Duke University is considered one of the premier public gardens in the United States. The JC Raulston Arboretum located at NC State University has one of the largest collections of plant material for the Southeast.  Wandering these beautiful gardens will both, inspire and relax you.  Take a camera to snap some pictures for possible ideas for your own garden.
JC Raulston Arboretum
    Any of the above mentioned gardens would make a memorable road trip and would not require a call to your parents explaining the reason they could not reach you all weekend was because you were at the “library”.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

And The Award Goes To....

I love old movies and movies about old things.  Often, as I sit and watch these wonderful classics, usually alone, because no one else in my family has good taste in movies, I find myself noticing the landscape and the gardens used as settings.  There are some great movies worth watching for the gardens alone.  ‘Secret Garden’ goes without saying, whether you watch the original or any of the remakes, it is beautiful.  ‘Edward Scissorhands’ is one movie I can watch and hardly notice Johnny Depp.  ‘Grey Gardens’ shows what happens when gardens go bad. 

 ‘Marie Antoinette’ shows the splendor of Versailles.  ‘Pride and Prejudice’ or any Jane Austin book made into a movie will have fantastic scenery and along the same lines is any version of ‘Jane Eyre’.  Then there is the vegetable garden in the movie ‘It’s Complicated’…they wired the tomatoes onto the plants to make it look so good.  

 And let’s not forget ‘Being There’ filmed on the breathtaking grounds of the Biltmore House.  The list can go on and on: ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘Room with a View’, ‘Atonement’, ‘Under The Tuscan Sun’ and even ‘The Godfather’ for its grapevines.
 I can honestly say I have never watched the Academy Awards, but I might start if they ever give an Oscar for the best garden.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Welcome To My Garden, Atticus Finch

    Atticus Finch, in the classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird said, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Well, Atticus Finch has not walked through my garden during nesting season. Those melodious warbles turn to raucous squawks and graceful glides turn to perilous dive-bombs.

My son has a cat named, Trout (don’t ask). This cat was a semi-feral kitten when we got her and after seven years of attention and regular meals, she is still irritatingly skittish. One day, in the garden, she surprised me by doing loving, figure eights around my ankles. My joy at this unexpected show of affection quickly evaporated when I noticed the pair of mocking birds swooping nearby….the cat was using me as a human-shield.
 There is a lovely Crape Myrtle outside our bedroom window, which is a favorite place for a pair of mockingbirds to build their nest every spring. It is also near the porch where we feed the cats. At six o’clock, every morning, Trout and our other cat, Millie, sit on the porch, waiting to be fed. They do not have too long of a wait during the week, but on weekends, well, they just have to wait. These patient cats drive the territorial mocking birds into a frenzy, thus, waking me up and since I am up, I feed the cats; I’m angry because I wanted to sleep in and the mocking birds are still squawking, but the cats are happy. Short of cutting down the tree, I see no end to this cycle.

I’m keeping the tree and will live with the mockingbirds. I’ll just hope they earn their keep by eating all the insects this mild winter did not kill.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Peepers and Marshmallow Peeps mean Spring

To many, spring means the arrival of the first daffodils or the sight of the first robin, but to me, spring is here when I hear the spring peepers. These well camouflaged amphibians are rarely seen, but step outside on a cool spring evening and enjoy the chorus of these tiny frogs as they fill the air with what sounds like tiny bells. The peepers are only 1 inch to one and 1.5 inches long, so while they are heard, they are not often seen. But, if you decide to venture out for a look, they are tan or brown in color with a tell-tale X on their back. Large pads on their toes allow them the ability to climb trees, but prefer the dense, damp woodland floor. Their favorite snacks are ants, flies and spiders and they are favorite snacks for snakes, skunks and larger frogs. During the winter, peepers have been spending that time hibernating deep under fallen leaves or under logs in the forest. As the weather warms and the ground heats up, the peepers come out, starting their spring chorus in March and early April.

It is the male which is making all this noise, trying to attract a female by inflating a sac on its throat, which inflates and deflates like a balloon, to create the distinct sound. Once mating season is over, the spring peeper becomes silent, leaving the evening airwaves to crickets and whip-o-wills. With these warm March days we have been having, the peepers should be out very soon, so come outside, the concert is free.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Best Sale I Never Made

  A couple of springs ago, I had a customer request a White Fringe Tree. She had grown-up with one in her mother’s yard, recalling that they called it ‘Old Man’s Beard’, and wanted one for herself, so I went on the hunt. It is not a readily available tree because they are difficult to produce from cuttings. Sometimes a specialty plant comes with a high price. Once I located the tree, I called the customer to make sure she still wanted it. She paused once she heard the price, but decided it was worth it. The tree arrived and I called the customer to tell her the tree was at the nursery….that was the last I heard from her. I learned my lesson and now require a deposit for special orders, but it turned out to be the best sale I never made.

Chionanthus virginicus is a native plant to our area. It has earned the name White Fringe Tree from the narrow petal flowers which drip like silk fringe from its branches. It is slow to leaf-out and flower in the spring, but well worth the wait. The flowers also have a wonderful fragrance which is an added bonus to this unique tree. The Fringe Tree will reach fifteen to twenty feet in height and spread and prefers full sun, but can take some light shade. This tree is dioecious , meaning there are male and female trees. The male is typically showier in bloom, but the female is covered in blue, olive-like fruit in late summer, supplying a feast for birds.

I decided to keep the Fringe Tree rather than put it up for sale in the nursery and have it planted out front where I can see it every day. Last spring it was breathtaking and I expect no less from it this year.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Murder In The Garden

It reads like a Southern crime novel….Southern beauty killed mercilessly in the garden in the prime of her life. I am talking about Crape murder, that horrifically, brutal pruning that is sometimes inflicted on Crape Myrtles. This has become a crime spree committed by a single killer who attacks one single tree; a serial killer who attacks multiple trees; and copy-cat killers who have seen a neighbor’s victim and commits the same crime. This is a senseless, crime against nature, which needs to stop.

The purpose of pruning is to create a canopy where air can circulate and all branches can receive sunlight. Unfortunately, many homeowners and professionals alike decide to ‘top’ the trees which can damage and disfigure the trees. This results in the ‘witch’s broom’ appearance and leaves the tree out of proportion. The topped area results in a profusion of new growth which restricts air movement and makes the tree susceptible to disease and insects. Topping may result in more blooms; however, the blooms will be on weaker branches, prone to drooping and breakage. The tree will also be more prone to ice damage.

Some of this severe pruning is done to control the height of the tree. There are so many types of crape myrtles available and they range in height from dwarf varieties which only reach six feet in height to the beautiful white Natchez, which can quickly reach twenty to thirty feet in height. So rather than setting your heart on a certain color, decide the maximum height you want and go from there.

The Crape Myrtle is a stunning tree all year long, so treat it with Southern kindness and say fiddle-dee-dee to the chainsaw and be gentle with the pruners.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Don't Let The Door Hit You OnThe Way Out

February has decided to leave us with a memorable blast of cold and as I have mentioned before, February does not rank very high on my ‘favorite months’ list. There is one plant that truly stands out in this cold month and that is the Red Twig Dogwood. As its name implies, this shrub grabs the spotlight in winter when its stems turn bright red, earning a spot in any garden.

Photo: Greenwood Nursery
Though it’s time to shine is winter, this plant has value throughout the year. In the spring it produces clusters of white flowers which have a light fragrance. In summer the medium green foliage provides a nice back drop for perennials. In late fall the leaves turn a rich coppery color and drop their leaves late.

This shrub prefers full sun to part shade. It has a loose growth habit and reaches eight to ten feet in height and width if left to itself. Regular pruning will keep this plant looking best and keep it looking stunning in winter since the reddest color is on younger stems. Pruning should be done after bloom time. If however, you have an overgrown plant, it can be cut back to the ground, rewarding you with a flush of new red stems the next year.

This is a wonderful shrub to place where it can be seen from a window in winter, to be enjoyed from the comfort of your couch. And those few times we get snow, the red stems against the white snow will take your breath away, and almost, make you like February.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Leap Day Should Be In May

According to the calendar, February is the shortest month of the year, but honestly, it goes on and on and on and on. It starts out bad by celebrating ‘Groundhog’s Day’, (groundhogs and I do not get along) and this year it ends on a bad note by being a leap year and being one day longer. It’s a cruel month with its hash cold and windy days followed by its harsh cold and windy nights. Then when you least expect it, a couple of unbelievably warm days will come along, teasing plants and buds and people. Plants begin to emerge from the ground, buds swell, an occasional daffodil is sighted, and people wander outside in less layers of clothing. Then WHAM! Brutal cold, snow and ice drive us all back inside and turn those poor, early plants to brown.

Not much good can be said about February. The previously mentioned groundhog celebration goes without saying, and then there is Valentine’s Day. Chocolate + cold weather = weight gain.

 Blooms are rare, except for the spectacular Camellia japonicas and the incredible array of Helleborus. There is also the exotic fragrance from the blooms of Edgeworthia and of course the Witch-hazel’s wild looking flower. And let’s not forget the stunning stems of the Red-twigged Dogwood. Okay, so February may not be a total loss, but pretty darn close.

About the best thing I can say about February is that it is followed by March and March signals the end of winter and heralds the coming of spring. I will end this article in an upbeat manner by saying; we celebrate Pancake Day on February 21, so bring on the Maple syrup.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Gertrude Jekyll To My Mr. Hyde

Mention the name, Bret Favre, and people think football or Michelangelo, and they think art, but say, Gertrude Jekyll, and you get a blank stare, unless those people are avid gardeners, then you get wistful sighs.


Gertrude Jekyll, doyenne of late 20th century British gardening and mother of the awe-inspiring herbaceous boarders, has had a long lasting influence on modern gardens. Following the advice of doctors, Miss Jekyll gave up her passion for painting due to deteriorating eyesight. She channeled her artistic talent to the landscape with astounding results, creating some of the most beautiful gardens in England and America. The Impressionist Movement’s influence can be seen in her use of color, en-mass plantings and contrasting foliage textures. She treated the garden as a whole, with sections within, but each part complimenting the other. She also popularized the informal, naturalistic look which we equate with cottage gardens.

Gertrude Jekyll inspires me, especially when she says things like: “There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight”. It gives me hope for my garden.

Whether your style is the billowing boarders of Gertrude Jekyll or the symmetrical , clipped hedged parterre style of Charles Bridgeman or the majestic beauty of Fredrick Law Olmsted, designer of the Biltmore Estate, studying the designs of experts can help you pull it all together or at least help you find direction. I will never have a true Gertrude Jekyll garden, (I do not own a huge English Estate) but I can at least strive to incorporate some of her ideas into my landscaping.

More than eighty years after her death, Gertrude Jekyll’s gardens continue to influence, and the simple epitaph on her tombstone sums it up – “Artist, Gardener, Craftswoman”.