Thursday, May 28, 2009

Matching Home Gardeners with Local Food Banks

A brilliant initiative of Ample Harvest.

Contact your local food bank and encourage them to register. Then let all the "tomato growers" in your neighborhood know that they have a destination for their surplus produce.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Athens Select

This year, I am in a group of gardeners who are evaluating some new "Athens Select" plants. This Gaillardia Georgia Sunset and Pennisetum Princess are two of the four plants that were sent to me a few weeks ago. The Gaillardia did fine from the start. The Pennisetum looked pretty miserable when I unpacked it, but look at it now!

You will "meet" the other two some other time. They are a Begonia and a Verbena.

Gaura & Peace

This is where the newest Gaura has found a home; it is, for me at least, the most peaceful spot in my garden, with Sages, Irises, Shasta daisies, and Sedums. English Ivy as backdrop (yes, I know . . . . it's invasive and shunned, if not despised, by many gardeners, but here it's a good cover for the railroad ties), and a small blueberry bush just to the right. The pink of the Gaura is now a nice contrast; in a few months it will complement the blooms of the Sedum.

Gardening on Memorial Day 2009

The white Angelonia and the pink Celosia are two of the newest plants in my garden. They are complemented here, from left to right, by a Russian Sage, a huge and unruly Lavender Provence, a purple Angelonia and an enormous clump of Chives.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


A few weeks ago, a friend bragged about her hybrid Bearded Irises. There hardly is a plant on the market these days, it seems, that is not a hybrid. Two years ago, I had a huge crop of Thai basil in my garden, right next to an equally huge planting of purple basil. Guess what I have this year . . . . "purple Thai basil"? I have no idea what it tastes like (the plants are still too small to try), but I'll let you know later in the season!

Sweet Potato in Bloom

Here in the South, it's a good idea to have your ornamental garden in order by Memorial Day. Sure, some "filling in" can still be done in June, but July and August are too hot and humid for gardening and we're anyway too busy keeping up with bugs and weeds. Then, come Labor Day, our thoughts begin to turn to fall clean-up and plantings. So, here is was May 23 yesterday and I raced around to get some more plants for my garden.

First stop: the Hoschton Farmers' Market. I bought an angelonia from Fil Jessee and two parsleys from Cheryle and Ray Maddox. I would also have bought a morning glory from Miriam Parks Gruwell (the one she sold me two weeks ago made a splendid meal for the snails and I've got to get one quick now, to grow up the trellis with the moon vines that are doing well, having escaped the slugs!), but she did not have any with her. Next week!

Next: The Home Depot. I bought a gaura ('Passionate Blush') and a salvia ('Snow Hill') and did not see anything else my garden needed. My impression is that HD caters mainly to landscapers who buy stuff for mass plantings, and home gardeners who are looking for ready-made containers. I looked at that new LiquaFeed I'd seen advertised on TV, but at $16 for the starter kit, decided against it.

After that: WalMart. No plant held my attention for more than 2 seconds. Many were "leggy", almost spent and disorderly. I did buy the LiquaFeed starter kit, however, for $13. Used the first bottle this morning; it worked well. Now we wait for results.

Finally: Lowe's. Lowe's seems to think about the home gardener when it makes decisions about its plant offerings. I bought pink begonias for my porch (6-pack for $1.67), red salvias for sprinkling throughout my garden and patio containers (ditto), sweet potatoes (see picture, above), a nicotania, and a few celosias. Sure, Lowe's has the ready-made containers also, but the fact that it has those $1.67 6-packs, and individual plants for $0.75 tells me they realize there are gardeners like me, who prefer to buy small plants and watch them grow in the ensuing weeks and months. They had the LiquaFeed starter kit also, on "special" for $12. So much for WalMart's low prices!

So, here is my 2009 garden on the Sunday before Memorial Day. I had never before seen a sweet potato in bloom - even though I have had them in my garden before - and had no inkling of any buds when I bought the plants yesterday. But this morning - this was my reward!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wild Geranium

The Wild Geranium, or Cranesbill, will probably still be in bloom if you make it up to the Hike Inn next month, but if you miss it then, you will have to wait till April/May again next year.

Virginia Sweetspire

Virginia Sweetspire grows so prolifically in the gardens around the Hike Inn that it is hard to contain and is almost becoming a nuisance. I was offered a few shoots that were about to be pulled up and thrown away and guess what my response was . . . . :-)

Mountain Laurel

The Mountain Laurel is about to bloom in the North Georgia mountains. In some of the lower elevations it may already be in bloom. At the Hike Inn, above Amicalola Falls, the buds are plentiful and promising. I thought of my friend Nada Bunnell, a professional nature photographer, as I was taking this photograph; she lives at Mount Yonah, farther east, in a forest of Mountain Laurel. Some people are very lucky indeed!


The wild azaleas could be seen throughout the woods surrounding the inn. If you go looking for them and focus your eyes toward the ground, as you would for azaleas in your garden, you will miss them; they are high up, reaching for the sun through the trees' canopy

Moore from the Hike Inn

Saturday morning, May 16, was overcast and dreary, but these Trillium simply had to be photographed, regardless of the poor shooting conditions.

Len Foote Hike Inn

The Rhododendrons flanking the entrance of the Len Foote Hike Inn displayed splendid blooms on May 15. This pink one on the right and an equally spectacular white one on the left side of the steps leading up to the office, first of four buildings that make up the inn.

Following a conversation about Georgia native plants and their importance in our world, I promised to post a list of nurseries where native plants can be purchased on this blog. The list is far from complete, but here it is:

Bannister Creek Nursery
3769 Rogers Bridge Road
Duluth GA. 30097

Nearly Native Nursery
776 McBride Road
Fayetteville, GA 30215

Wilkerson Mill Gardens
9595 Wilkerson Mill Rd.
Palmetto, GA 30268

Walker Nursery Farms
2024 Walt Stephens Road
Jonesboro, GA 30236

Autumn Hill Nursery
4256 Earney Road
Woodstock, GA 30188

Buck Jones Nursery
7470 Hickory Flat Hwy
Woodstock, GA 30188

Buck Jones Nursery
689 Grayson New Hope Rd
Grayson, GA 30017
770- 963-8227

Thyme After Thyme
550 Athens Rd.
Winterville, GA 30683

Pinebush Nursery
3332 Highway 106 South
Hull, GA 30646

I also promised to list the books I brought with me last Friday, to help in our discussion; here they are:

Georgia Gardener's Guide, by Erica Glasener and Walter Reeves.
This is the book that started me off on the path towards becoming a gardener. Its information and advice are indispensable for the novice gardener and ever-helpful to the veteran.

The Southern Gardener's Book of Lists; The Best Plants for all your Needs, Wants, and Whims, by Lois Trigg Chapin.
From "vines with showy fruit", to "perennials for poor, sandy soil", to "shrubs for alkaline soil" and everything else one can imagine putting in one's landscape, this book offers a multitude of choices for every soil condition and Southern location.

All About Georgia Wildflowers, by Jan W. Midgley.
There are, I am convinced, no wildflowers in Georgia that are not in this book. Everyone who is interested in wildflowers needs to have this book on a shelf at home - and take it off often!

The Curious Gardener's Almanac; Centuries of Practical Garden Wisdom, by Niall Edworthy.
Practical, whimsical, overflowing with good advice and trivia ("Americans consume 30 pounds of potatoes per person per year, 25 percent of which is in the form of French fries."), this is a book to curl up with when it's too hot, too cold or too wet to go out and garden.

Rain Gardening in the South; Ecologically Designed Gardens for Drought, Deluge, and Everything in Between, by Helen Krauss and Anne Spafford.
The newest book of which I am a huge fan! The authors will be speaking at the October 17 Georgia Master Gardener conference at Gwinnett Tech in Lawrenceville.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Arthur Thomas, up in Eastanollee, may have his acres and acres of blackberries, but my one plant cannot be any less spectacular than his!

Now in its second year, I expect this bush's crop will be at least four times what it was last year.

See that little Dutch Iris underneath it?

My garden looks good this morning!

Dutch Iris

The other week, when I interviewed Grace Fricks for her LinkedIn profile, she told me that what gets her "up in the morning" - enthusiastic about a fresh day in the very important work she does (she heads up a non-profit microlender) - is walking outside at the crack of a spring dawn and looking for what might have come up out of the ground overnight in her garden.

I thought of that this morning, when I stepped outside with my cup of coffee for a quick look around my garden. Here is the first Dutch Iris in bloom! It and others around it sit underneath a blackberry bush that is fully in bloom at the moment.

Tara Dillard is known to say that one of the nicest aspects of a perennial garden is that even though many plants only bloom for a short period of time, "every two weeks something new opens up and gives a garden a totally new image". In my garden, the Bearded Irises are now almost all gone, so it is nice to have the Dutch variety take their places.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Best Perennial Plants for Georgia Gardeners

Recently, I gave a talk about this topic at the Tannery Row Artists Colony in Buford (great audience!) and now that I am getting ready to present "Georgia Native Plants" at the Len Foote Hike Inn, following which I plan to post an overview on this blog, it occurred to me that a summary of the Buford talk might benefit the Amicalola hikers as well, so here goes!

"Best Perennial Plants for Georgia Gardens. Or: how to keep your garden beautiful if you have no time, no money and only a little water."

Actually, with all the rain we've had lately, water worries are not as prominent this year as they have been in the past few, but we are still under watering restrictions in Georgia and sooner or later a drought will come back, so invest in a rain barrel! There are many available from local "Big Box" stores and on-line vendors, but I believe in "buying local" and supporting local small businesses, so my rain barrel has come from Karen Alexander in Suwanee, whose telephone number is 770-813-0271. This is also where the "no money" of the subtitle comes in -- Karen's rain barrels are not free, but they are a lot less expensive than those you see ubiquitously advertised.

This is my Georgia plant list for sun:
Bearded Iris
Garden phlox
Joe-Pye weed
Russian sage
Shasta daisy

And this one for shade:
Calla lily
Cardinal flower
Ginger Lily
Lenten rose
Woodland phlox

Two resources for locally-grown plants for your garden:

1. The Farmers' Market in Hoschton (exit 129 off I-85 north - one exit up from Chateau Elan) is open every Saturday from 8 AM to 2 PM and has expert vendors with great plants, including lots of herbs and lots of flowering annuals and perennials. Call Dan Graves at 770-861-7232 for details.

2. The UGA trial gardens in Athens host an "Open House" once a year, with the Athens Area Master Gardener Association conducting a plant sale. This year's is on July 11, from 8 AM till noon, and the association charges a $5 admission fee.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Does Size Matter?

Not in my experience! Not in my garden! The above photograph is of two small purple Violas (click to enlarge), with a variegated Sage on the right, a new Pineapple Sage at the top (almost killed by the early April frost, but coming back nicely), and a Canna "fan" near it. Cannas, I was told when I first started gardening, only grow at trailer parks and abandoned gas stations. Not so! I only have one, but my daughter who lives two towns over has a bunch of them in her garden. All are beautiful.
A few tiny Violas, sprinkled throughout my landscape last winter are now blooming their little hearts out. This bright yellow one, with a smaller purple one to its right, just below the clump of Thyme, is a perfect example. The red specks (top of picture) are Alternanthera 'Gail's Choice' -- cuttings from last year, kept in water to root during the winter, just added to the landscape. They will turn a deep purple/rust when summer arrives and, I hope, grow as tall as their "parents" did last year.

Another Bearded Iris

The blue one (all blue) is still not in bloom, but isn't this pink-and-blue one spectacular? I should keep better records of the names of my Bearded Irises. This one, I thought, was "Beverly Sills", but I've just realized that is the all-pink one (see May 3 post). Well, more important than the name is the show they put on in my garden. Imagine - just a few years ago, I thought Bearded Irises were old-fashioned has-beens. Now, I love them!

Common Sage

A few years ago, one of my children asked me if I wanted any plants for my garden, for Mother's Day. I told him I'd love to have a Pineapple Sage. When he arrived, carrying a nice, but small plan, he told me he had not been able to find a Pineapple Sage, but hoped this "sage" would do. Well, it certainly did! It's come back year after year and its blooms are among my favorites in the garden. So much so, that I've added half a dozen new ones this year, for lots more lavender blossoms in the future!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bearded Iris (2)

What did I tell you? Here are the pink ones in bloom also. Absolutely gorgeous blooms and were wide open when I walked into my garden this morning. Now we will have the blue ones to burst open. They were showing color this morning, but were otherwise still completely folded up. Chances are that with this evening's rain, they will be open tomorrow also. So, come back and take another look soon!
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Saturday, May 2, 2009


O.K. - one more today! This no-name Viburnum, flanked on the left by Lavender and on the right by Sedum (with just the tip of an Astilbe showing above the right bloom), is blooming its sweet heart out - becoming more attractive by the day.

Salvia Mai Nacht

Not too shabby, either, this Salvia Mai Nacht! Salvia was such a favorite of mine last year (and I think the whole country) that I planted lots of it, in lots of varieties. Some are coming back this year, but certainly not all. This is the best so far: Mai Nacht. Or, if you prefer, "May Night". Disappointments so far are the Black & Blue, the Argentine, and the Mystic Spires. About half of the Black & Blue have not come back, there is no sign of the Argentine at all, and the Mystic Spires has got two small green leaf clusters coming out of the ground that one can only hope will make it into a full-size plant.

The Russian Sage is coming back nicely, but the Brazilian Sage, bought last year at the State Botanical Garden in Athens, is gone. It was a beautiful plant, but I did not know until I got the thing home and did some research that I learned that its hardiness only goes as far as Zone 9. My subsequent contact with the Garden resulted in a comment that "here in the Garden, some survive the Winter and some don't". Well, mine didn't and I am not happy that in Zone 7B such a plant was offered for sale (with a $6 or $7 price tag) without adequate information about its habitat.

Meanwhile, I just added 3 Salvia microphylla 'hot lips' to my landscape ($2 each, from the Gwinnett Tech plant sale of a few weeks ago) and they are doing great.

Lesson: it may be wiser to stick with $2 plants and leave the more expensive ones for others to buy . . . :-)

More Blooms Today

The first Foxglove (a 'volunteer' in this particular spot) is also in bloom today. It is surrounded by Lavender, which will soon bloom, and Monarda, which will take a little longer still. For one reason, I am assiduously pinching it, to keep it branching and relatively short; last year, I was not quite so diligent, and as a result the Monarda was prone to flopping over in a good rain. Upright they are prettier than half laying on the ground!

Bearded Iris

In my garden, unlike the gardens of friends and neighbors I have visited in recent days, the Bearded Irises are late. But now that they are beginning to bloom, they are spectacular. On a warm morning, after a good night's rain, I was thrilled to find these fully opened blooms today. Another variety is doing its best to unfold its blooms as well, so there may be a picture to be taken again tomorrow.