Sunday, May 12, 2019

A charming hoophouse

I certainly haven’t seen a hoophouse devoted to be a flower garden before, although I know many gardeners use their greenhouses for tender ornamentals of all sorts.

This one was at The Organic Center, an interesting place in quite a remote spot north of Sligo Town.

I’d looked for the Organic Center before, without success, but had seen a sign for it, coming back from a recent far-flung excursion, so was emboldened to try again.

Nice to see a small-scale place like this seemingly flourishing. The rest of their polytunnels were filled with vegetables of all kinds!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Traveling in Ireland

My recent posts have all been about traveling in Ireland. This was the most recent

Follow along at Places of the Spirit, if you’re interested.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the feeder

We were delighted to see a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at our bird feeder yesterday and today.  They're such amazing birds.

I'd only see one once before, here at our bird feeder in the mountains; my gardening companion hadn't seen one before.

For now, we still have our feeders up, both seeds and sugar water for hummingbirds.  There are bears in our wider North Asheville, Town Mountain, and Sunset Mountain neighborhoods, but don't seem to be in our particularly urban bit so far, on a regular basis.

Here's a photo from

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Friday, April 19, 2019


Yesterday, at the end of my class about Designing with Native Plants, there was a question about Phlox.  What species did I recommend?  Hmm.

Well, we've added several now to our woodland garden, but my gardening companion acquired them, so I wasn't sure of the species that we'd added -- certainly there were at least four different "sorts" -- whether species or cultivars.

We have lots of native species in the Eastern U.S., as well as cultivars that do well, too, to choose from, too. 

Check out this Wikipedia list.

And, yikes, here's a nursery person's list of favorite species and cultivars.

Just a few of our native species here in the Eastern U.S.:  Phlox stolonifera, Phlox carolina, Phlox divaricata, Phlox subulata, and Phlox paniculata.

Phlox stolonifera (image from NC

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Designing with native plants

Of course, adding plants of whatever sort is really what I encourage, but native plants are my favorite plant palette as are the ones of my gardening companion.

Teaching a class at the NC Arboretum today had me adding the sidebar of the updated presentation,- "Designing with native plants" along with pushing up (on the side bar, too) my favorite "Home Gardening Fundamentals" references, that include Julie Moir Messervy's Home Outside: Creating a Landscape that You Love.  

What a wonderful book, as are her others! 

And Gordon Haywood's book about
Creating a welcoming garden, equally brilliant.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Crested Iris (Iris cristata)

Iris cristata is a favorite in our spring garden;  we had large patches in our Piedmont garden, thanks to one of my favorite SC Botanical Garden volunteers.

Here's a post from 2010 that I wrote about him (and how I appreciated that he shared his Iris cristata with us).

The small clump that we brought with us here is now in full flower, so I'm reminded of him this evening. 

He was the best sort of volunteer; even as he became increasingly unsteady with Parkinson's in his later years, he kept showing up week after week to help in so many ways across the Garden. 

Thanks, Rodger.

Our Iris cristata now in the mountains

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Adding plants and preparing for travels

A lovely Silene virginica to plant
A native Viola
We only have a few weeks here before we're off for traveling.  My gardening companion is in full swing, snagging various Phlox species to plant, a Silene virginica, and a native Viola, in addition to some colorful annuals to add to our porch pots for our summer folks to enjoy.

I'm trying to use up all of our "staples" -- wheat berries, rye berries, dried fruits, and nuts.  We'll be away for four months in Quebec this summer, and I want to leave a clean slate in our pantry hutch for our summer residents. Ditto, in terms of freezer space, too!

So, I baked whole-grain rye sourdough bread today (started yesterday);  I'm channeling the wonderful whole-grain bread we bought in Freiburg last fall.  These loaves have fruits and nuts added, so a bit different, but they're delicious.  They'll be a nice thing to have in the freezer as we count down the coming weeks.

I'll be away in Ireland for 3 weeks in late April to mid-May;  my gardening companion will be heading toward Quebec with Woody, and our Ireland HomeExchange partners will be here, followed by me for a week and then by our summer folks.

I'm grateful that we have the opportunity to do this.

Monday, April 8, 2019

A perfectly-hued tulip

ColorBlends, a wholesale bulb company has been a generous sponsor of the Garden Bloggers Fling.  Two years ago, attendees could choose among a variety of their color blends.  I'm not sure which one I choose, but it included a range of pastel colors.

This one was one of them, currently flowering in a pot in the raised bed garden.  Beautiful!

A search for "tulips" brought up a variety of posts over the years.  

It seems ironic on a day that I'll be talking about gardening for pollinators that I'm writing a post about tulips, but tulips have been a favorite since long before I was a gardener.

The first post that the search pulled up started with the phrase:

Sometimes, my screen around "plants that work for a living" includes plants that bring joy.

Woody and I were enjoying the tulips at Biltmore Estate in this photo from 7 years ago.

So much fun to revisit my tulip posts!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A gardening post on my sister blog:  Places of the Spirit, remembering a garden in Umbria.

I reposted this piece from April 4, 2018.

Puttering in the garden

I love the sense of adventure and delight that’s part of being in the garden each day. What’s new, what’s flowering, what shall I add or tend?
Away from my own garden, I had a lovely time tidying up here in our HomeExchange garden yesterday- simple weeding of bedstraw and foxtails and discovering what’s been planted.
I’m going to plant the window boxes and containers, too, as thanks for our extra time here. They’ll be here around mid-May for the summer. Perhaps some succulents and drought tolerant perennials!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Encouraging other gardeners

I've had such good experiences over the past decades encouraging folks about gardening.  There have been classes, presentations, newsletter articles, field trips, school groups, etc.

But my landscape consultations have become increasingly rewarding, too, in recent years.

I started doing 2-hr consultations when I cut back my hours at the South Carolina Botanical Garden to half-time about a decade ago;  I realized after doing classes about "Creating a landscape that you love" and "Home landscape fundamentals" that folks were delighted to have personal coaching/teaching beyond these classes. As a decades-long teacher, I realized that I was actually pretty good at helping people figure out what THEY wanted to do in their gardens.

I was able to encourage them to visualize their interests and visions for their gardens (usually). So when I started doing this, it was for a donation to Education Programs at SCBG.

Now, I do consultations as benefits for the various places that I teach classes or do presentations, or simply for a local non-profit, if someone has found me through my website, which is relatively unusual.

I am so delighted to help folks think about their gardens;  I've just done two site visits over the last two days, totally different, but both nice.

One contribution will go to a local native plant garden (Botanical Gardens at Asheville), where I teach regularly, with the other going to the Autism Society of Western North Carolina, where the main gardener contributes her time.  Both work for me!

Since I'm talking about Pocket Meadows again tomorrow, that'll be the image for this post.

in early August
It's a summer and fall front garden, for sure!  This image is definitely exuberant;  we were traveling a lot that summer.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Front gardens

Green comes in different forms in our urban landscapes, from street trees and public parks to hidden back gardens.  All of these bits of green are important threads in the fabric of the natural world as it exists in our city.

Among the green spaces that I've been enjoying most recently, as spring is here, are front gardens, which have experienced a renaissance in our historic neighborhood  (as elsewhere in our mountain city), as gardeners are invigorating their gardening efforts with a variety of annuals, perennials, and ground covers, in the spring versions that I'm seeing currently.

There's been a distinct uptick in front yards that are truly "gardened," not simply maintained, resulting in a patchwork of small gardens to appreciate as I walk in the neighborhood.

I've particularly noticed this in smaller front landscapes, where mixes of sedum, thrift (phlox), and other groundcovers (even problematic ones like vinca) create a wonderful substitute for lawn.

A particularly vivid example just around the corner from our house
Gardening the strips between sidewalk and fence, wall, or building has been another trend, along with the "hellstrips" between sidewalk and street.

Gardening is an activity that quickly can become captivating, whether it's adding perennials to support pollinators in sunny spots, or adding shade-loving plants to a shady nook, or growing some of your own vegetables.   And the gardens that result are diverse; some of us enjoy a naturalistic style, where others are more orderly.

There's always room for planting something new; as we lose plants (or decide it's time for them to go), it's an opportunity for adding something that will enrich your garden, whether for pollinators, the table, landscape interest, or habitat.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Pearson's Falls

A link to a post on Places of the Spirit.  This post belongs here as well as there!

Pearson's Falls is a wonderful rich cove forest site.
 April is the time to enjoy the woodland wildflowers there.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Thinking about meadows

I wrote this on my sister blog, Places of the Spirit, but perhaps it's most appropriate here on my gardening blog:  Thinking about meadows

Ditto for remembering Italy last April.

Poppies in flower down the road from our Home Exchange house

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A flurry of talks, programs, and garden visits

It's so interesting to be here in Western North Carolina as spring arrives.  The patterns of a Southeastern spring are familiar:  first, the early-flowering Asian species, then the first of our natives, Hepatica and bloodroot.  The rare Oconee Bells, transplanted to the Botanical Gardens at Asheville years ago, is now in flower.  It's time.

I've posted recently about my clustering of talks and other gardening activities during the two months that we knew we'd be in Asheville this spring;  perhaps it seems like a lot, but I enjoy sharing thoughts with fellow gardening enthusiasts and gardeners new to the area.  Several upcoming garden visits (as 2-hr consultations will be fun)  -- usually, they're folks new to the area who want to incorporate more natives into their landscapes.  Love that.

Hmm, with all of that, trying to reconnect with friends here, studying French, keeping up my fitness, and attending to my own garden -- well, that's all good, too.

A beautiful clear day foretells spring and summer ahead (regardless of where we'll be in the Northern Hemisphere!

A couple of pocket meadow talks are next on the agenda, this Saturday and next Wednesday.  They're always fun as I emphasize natives that are pollinator-friendly, in various small-scale guises.

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, Aromatic Aster, with bumblebee

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