Tag Archives: almanac

A Hint Of Winter

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Frosty patterns on Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

It was cold during the night and frost was heavy on the ground when I entered the main garden early this morning. Icy formations accentuated leaf shapes and stem structures, lending elevated status to the humble remnants of the garden season just past.

In the meditation circle the frost’s silvery-white seemed to enhance the colors of the plants.

Meditation Circle

Meditation Circle

The textural contrast between hard red stepping stones of the path and soft mounds of thyme was made stronger by the thyme’s frosty coating.

Thyme in Meditation Circle

Thyme in Meditation Circle

The weather is warming again for the weekend and into next week high temperatures will be in the sixties, but today there was a hint of winter.

Veronica spicata 'Pink Goblin' (Speedwell)

Veronica spicata ‘Pink Goblin’ (Speedwell)

Last night the sky was clear for the annual Geminid meteor shower.  Despite street lamps and traffic headlights in our neighborhood we were able to watch meteors streaking through the sky. Awesome!

Garden Walk In Early December

During a late afternoon ramble through the garden I noticed the simple dignity and beauty of this fading Clematis flower.

Clematis 'Jackmanii'

Clematis ‘Jackmanii’

For the most part I have been letting the plants die back naturally, leaving seed heads for the birds and winter interest. This suits my gardening style and is a good way to postpone cleanup chores until at least January.

Four and five-foot stalks of Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ criss-cross and lean along the southern side path, each topped with brown cones. At the base its large leaves are in various stages of change.

Seed heads of Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes'

Seed heads of Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Leaves of Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes'

Leaves of Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

This fall there have been several brief periods of cold nights and a couple of hard frosts, but soon the weather warms again. A small Spiraea transplant, after experiencing this transition from cold to mild temperatures and detecting a similar amount of daylight as in spring, sent out a few more flowers this week, even as its leaves turned rich red-orange rust and rosewood.

Spiraea Blossoms

Spiraea Blossoms

Rust-colored Spiraea Leaves

Rust-colored Spiraea Leaves

In many areas mounds of Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) soften the garden at this time of year and fill the beds with soft greens, reds, yellows and burgundies.

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

The cold temperatures have damaged many of the sasanqua blooms, but the shrubs are full of buds and continue to brighten the northeast corner of the house.

Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'

Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’


Fifty-two degrees at 4:50 pm. Overcast most of the day. The sky was deep blue and clear during my garden walk but the sun was low and most of the garden had fallen into shadows. Chapel Hill and about two-thirds of the state are in a moderate drought with little chance of rain forecast. Temperatures will edge back up into the seventies by the weekend.

November Essence

Lobularia hybrid ‘Snow Princess’ (Sweet Alyssum)

November passed quickly with the garden left largely unattended and mostly unvisited, except by the avian community. Most days colorful Eastern Towhees, Northern Cardinals (North Carolina’s state bird) and Eastern Bluebirds vie for turns at the feeders. Occasionally, Red-bellied Woodpeckers stop by and frequently, Brown-headed Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees watch for their chances to approach.

On November 22 there were ample flowers left in the borders to fill Thanksgiving day vases with fresh zinnias, echinacea, lavender sprigs and foliage, Iceberg roses, chrysanthemums, and there were pristine camellias to float in small ceramic dishes. The next day brought the first hard frost of the year and this week a few nights with temperatures down into the twenties finally have convinced many plants to consider winding things down.

I wandered around today to see what has survived the cold. The old-fashioned woody-stemmed pale yellow chrysanthemum looks very sad, but I included a couple of pictures below to illustrate an interesting transition. One image shows the original yellow of the flower and the next shows how the chrysanthemum flowers change to pink as they fade.  Most of the garden is wilted and tinged with brown, though a few flowers still look nice for this time of year.

As November’s end approaches the day is clear, the sun is low. By 1:30 pm much of the garden lay in shade cast from the Carolina Sapphires. The sunset will come early at 5:02 p.m., after making its late start this morning at 7:06 a.m. November accomplishments are few except for the addition of a few daffodil bulbs, but the garden and the gardener are content.

Late November Sky

Looking over the garden past other homes in the neighborhood, tall hardwoods stand silhouetted in the western sky.  These trees are on property that borders our neighborhood, a strip of federal land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The sun popped out only briefly a couple of times today. The high was 59 degrees Fahrenheit.

November Sky Looking Behind The Garden

A November Note

Tradescantia (Spiderwort) pops up all over the place often with subtle color variations. This deep red-violet is one that caught my attention early this afternoon. This little insect also found it interesting.

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

It is well into November and some perennials continue blooming, mostly Echinacea. Pale yellow Chrysanthemums still brighten the southern border and Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ and one unknown sasanqua are laden with fragrant flowers. Rosa ‘Iceberg’ has been lovely for several weeks.

Several camera-shy butterflies visited the last of the zinnias today.

Zinnias in November sunlight

Recently opportunities to spend even a few minutes in the garden have been rare. There are still many autumn tasks to complete—irises and daffodils to plant, weeding and mulching to finish. The garden is not waiting on anyone to get a list of chores done. It is shutting itself down gradually and gracefully, as if ready for a nice rest.

There has been no rain for a few weeks. Several light frosts have left the thyme in the meditation circle briefly coated in white, but today was a warm and sunny 73° F.

October Blooms Inventory

October 15, 2012 update. As everything listed here is still blooming today, I am connecting this October 9 blooms inventory to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for October 2012. Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting.

Fall is coming in spurts. Pumpkins sit on porches in the neighborhood along with ubiquitous potted chrysanthemums in yellows, golds, rusts and burgundies.

Oddly though my garden has lots of pink, including this Phlox paniculata, one of several that I noticed blooming today in a back part of the border, miraculously undisturbed by deer.

Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox)

The ground is soggy. The garden has been heavily saturated again for the last few days as rains fell and temperatures dropped. Today’s high of 58°F is quite a change from the 88°F of a week ago. Tomorrow the weather will warm up to 72°F and by next Tuesday the temperature is projected to rise again to 80°F.

Rain held off during the day, but dense clouds reigned this afternoon as I inventoried which plants are blooming in the garden today. Some plants are fading fast. Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm) can just barely qualify as still blooming, but there were a few red petals so I counted it! Other plants are still producing fresh blossoms and will keep going until frost, such as Hedychium coronarium (Ginger lily). There actually were a few stray flowers on the large Spiraea shrub in the western border.

  • Achillea filipendulina (Fern-leaf Yarrow)
  • Ageratum
  • Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon)
  • Aster
  • Buddleja davidii  (Butterfly Bush)
  • Camellia sasanqua
  • Clematis ‘Jackmanii’
  • Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower)
  • Cosmos
  • Dahlia ‘Stargazer’
  • Dianthus
  • Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)
  • Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ (Coneflower)
  • French Marigold
  • Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’
  • Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Blush’ (Butterfly Gaura)
  • Gaura Belleza (™) ‘Dark Pink’ (Butterfly Gaura)
  • Hedychium coronarium (Ginger lily)
  • Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)
  • Lantana camara (Common lantana)
  • Lavender
  • Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy)
  • Lobularia hybrid ‘Snow Princess®’ (Sweet Alyssum)
  • Meadow Sage ‘May Night’
  • Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm)
  • Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass)
  • Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint) 
  • Penstemon  mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue)
  • Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)
  • Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox)
  • Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant)
  • Rudbeckia fulgida (Orange Coneflower) and Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’
  • Salvia splendens (Scarlet Sage)
  • Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’
  • Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage)
  • Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Herbstfreude) (Stonecrop)
  • Spiraea
  • Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’ (Purple Heart)
  • Tradescantia (Spiderwort)
  • Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena)
  • Zinnia

I have already thought of a few plants not listed here, but the inventory is fairly complete and putting it together today made a rather interesting exercise. Click an image to see these at a larger size in gallery view.

Early October Garden

Days of cool rain marked the year’s transition from September to October. The harvest moon remained hidden behind deep clouds.

Yesterday, temperatures and humidity rose dramatically. This afternoon the sun broke through the clouds lifting the temperature to 86F, quite a change from highs in the mid-sixties at the weekend.

Certain signs of autumn belie today’s warm weather. Berries now adorn the Flowering Dogwood, whose leaves had already browned in July’s extended dry spell.

Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood)

A windblown spire of Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage) rests against of Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’ Autumn Joy (Stonecrop). The Salvia’s pink calyx reflects the ruddy, rusty hue of the flowering Stonecrop.

Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage) and Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’ Autumn Joy (Stonecrop)

A multicolored flower petal of ‘Blue Sky’ Salvia sits suspended in a spider’s complex world.

‘Blue Sky’ Flower In Spider’s Web

The burgundy Chrysanthemum in the background has bloomed most of the summer and now complements the rose-colored wisps of fall-blooming Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass). In the foreground stands a spent stalk of Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage).

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage), Chrysanthemum, Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass)

Blue-violet Ageratum brightens a dark corner of the garden.


Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower), became very aggressive and was theoretically removed from the garden a few years ago. Unaware of its banished status, it displays brilliant yellow blossoms annually.

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

The annual, Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon), has bloomed throughout the summer among the stepping stones of the meditation circle.

Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon)

The meditation circle itself is soggy this week and needs attention.

Pine-bark mulch now sits in drifts, having been swept across the stone paths during the recent heavy rainfalls.

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) still performs satisfactorily, while generous green mounds of Thyme surpass expectations.

Unfortunately other evergreen perennials that were chosen specifically for their drought-tolerance, Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) and ‘Pikes Peak Purple’ Penstemon (Beardtongue), are brown and may not recover. ‘Purity’ was beautiful all winter and spring and ‘Pikes Peak Purple’ was lovely in spring, but both choices will need to be reevaluated for long-term performance.

Last Blooms Of Summer

Summer is winding down. The light in the mid-afternoon garden reveals late summer blooms and insects and portends the seasonal shift.

The blue sky and 75°F temperature has made for a beautiful day. The Autumnal Equinox will occur on Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 10: 49 AM EDT.

Mid-September Blooms

One week before the autumnal equinox, large puffy clouds adorn the deep blue sky. It is a beautiful, sunny day, 79°F.

This Stargazer Dahlia is a cactus-flowered dwarf variety. Grown from seed and passed-along a few years ago by a dear neighbor, this lone survivor returns annually without any special attention.

Dahlia ‘Stargazer’

Speaking of survivors, this tomato was a surprise, surprise when I discovered it last week growing underneath a bird feeder. My next-door neighbor grows beautiful and delicious tomatoes and I assume a little bird thoughtfully brought this into my garden.

A Tomato Volunteer

A patch of zinnias is finally adding some cheerful color in a back corner of the property. Mixed seeds always seem to be mostly pink but finally a few yellow, coral and orange are blooming now.


Though most have faded by this point in the season, several Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) continue to display fresh blossoms.

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Tradescantia (Spiderwort) are a very favorite flower but they have become so aggressive I have had to cut back, pull up, and repeat the same removal process over and over throughout the summer. The result is that many Tradescantia are still present and blooming. My former garden has very heavy clay and lots of shade and the tradescantia stayed very well-contained, but here it is too spready. This white blossom is an unusual one, most in this garden are blue or violet.

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

The gardenia shrubs continue to be welcomingly fragrant. This is one of the Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’ that grow along the western border of the garden. The newly planted ‘August Beauty’ variety is doing well but it will be some time before it can provide much screening to hide the heating and air conditioner units.

Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’

Roses are not my forte but this Rosa ‘Iceberg’ belonged to a special friend who passed away a few years ago. Several times I have almost given up on it but it did not give up. So here is this lovely bloom today as a special reminder of a special person. I enjoy that gardens can honor memories and cultivate friendships. Thanks for visiting my garden today.

Rosa ‘Iceberg’

Cleome Sparkles In Early Morning Dew

Early morning sun revealed water droplets on Cleome petals in the side garden this morning.

Dew on Cleome (Spider Flower)  09-10-2012

Old-fashioned Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower) is an annual that reseeds easily in my zone 7b garden. Many years ago a friend gave me a few plants she had started from seeds purchased at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, Virginia. The plants came to me with her warning, “They will spread.”

They did and they do; I love them. They grow easily but require little effort to pull up if they get into the wrong spot.

Cleome were still blooming last year in November. By mid-May this year Cleome seedlings were again on their way. I transplanted a few to other areas of the garden. In one new situation where it was very sunny they did well, but another area was perhaps too shady for them.

Cleome Seedlings Mid-May 2012

Cleome hassleriana has such an interesting form with buds, open flowers, fruiting bodies and sticky, palmate leaves all coexisting to create a complex architectural structure. As buds continue to open near the top, fruit forms underneath and all the while the stem grows taller and thicker, easily reaching 3-5 feet by the end of the flowering season in fall.

Cleome (Spider Flower) 8/24/2012

The flowers are delicate and airy with 6 long stamens suggestive of spidery legs (in shape, that is, not in number) and four oval petals.

The fruit of Cleome hassleriana are long capsules. Being dehiscent, the capsules split open when mature, discharging the seeds and setting up another possible encounter with dew on Cleome petals in the garden next year.

Cleome (Spider Flower) Capsules

The weather is beautiful. Temperatures began cooling Saturday night and lows in the 50s and 60s are forecast for this week. Highs will be 79F tomorrow and 80s for the rest of the week.

Thyme For Meditation

Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme)

Thyme in the meditation circle is green and healthy. After a year of growth it has gently spread, helping to soften the path of stepping stones. I am not completely convinced the trays were correctly labeled when I purchased these plants last year, but they were marked Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme). This thyme is not fragrant at all, but I must have thought with “citriodorus” in the name, it would be become fragrant eventually!

Dianthus and Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme) Along Meditation Path

Drought-tolerant plants were selected for this labyrinth and some that performed great last summer may be staying too wet this summer. A few heavy downpours knocked over plants several weeks ago, blocking many of the paths. Yesterday was clean-up time.  I sheared away lots of Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue) and Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon) to open up the stepping stones.

While some of the Pike’s Peak are still blooming, many are brown and look like they may not even survive. Similarly the center planting of Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) has died back significantly. Iberis bloomed from December to May this year and maybe just needs a rest. It may revive in the fall, but at this point last August, the Candytuft was lush and healthy-looking.

Meditation Circle


I realize the fence along back of the Western border looks awfully bright. While a new ‘Carolina Sapphire’ Cypress gets established, a mix of annuals were supposed to fill the void and provide vibrant summer color along the back fence.  The seeds did poorly though, giving just one small group of zinnias.  The cypress is growing fine though.

During a few weeks of drought and extreme temperatures in July, the garden had quickly turned brown and dried up. Convinced the garden was finished until September, I turned my attention elsewhere. Then something interesting happened. Rains returned and the garden responded. Now the garden overall is probably the greenest it has been in August for years. The last few summers have been so discouragingly dry, I failed to recognize and appreciate that this summer was different. 

So yesterday I began to make amends. I trimmed back some Shasta Daisies, Echinacea and a few other things to make them tidier and to encourage re-blooming. I did save a few cone heads for the American Goldfinches. There is still a lot of clean-up to do, but now I am much more motivated to make plans for autumn plantings.

Though an annual, the Angelonia should provide color into October.

Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon)

A Garden Journal To Conclude July

Cleome (Spider Flower)

Desiccation was the word that best described the garden at the end of June, but as July ends there are some signs of verdancy. July was a difficult month for the already stressed perennials and shrubs, but some decent rains have had a visible restorative effect on many of them. Even the lawn now shows less brown and more green.

While the garden seems willing at this point to make the effort to improve, this gardener is finding excuses. The garden could really use some serious maintenance but as usual, it is getting very little attention as the summer goes along. Among the many tasks that need tackling are applying mulch garden-wide and dividing the irises. I have done some weeding, deadheading and trimming, but not nearly enough to improve the overall effect—there is so much more left to be done. Another week though before I can get some time to concentrate on it.

Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon)

In the meditation garden Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon) lies sprawling across the labyrinth’s path, knocked over by recent poundings of rain.

Last summer was the first time I had planted Angelonia, an annual, and it was outstanding well into October.  This year it has not been quite as spectacular, but it is finally beginning to bloom more profusely. The bees really enjoy the flowers.

Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon)

Garden View With Meditation Circle

The meditation circle is normally a very low-maintenance feature, but a heavy rain this past weekend also washed away much of the pine bark mulch, covering many of the stepping stones.

Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme)

The section of Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme) is mostly green, but in some poorly draining areas it is starting to show some brown spots from excess standing water during the storm.

Perhaps the thyme will bloom yet. There are a few faint colored puffs on it that, when one looks close, are seen to be little lavender flowers.

Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft)

Once the star performer of the labyrinth, Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) is losing its shine.

Many of the mounds are severely stressed. This time last year it was holding up beautifully and was quite green.

The candytuft bloomed from December to May this year and perhaps needs a rest. Maybe some compost should be added for nutrition.

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)

‘Husker Red’ is still working well in the meditation circle. Curiously the leaves of the ones planted last year are mostly green, with little or none of this luscious dark red colored-foliage found in these that were added this year. The coral Dianthus lining the entrance makes a nice pairing.

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage) has flopped over but is blooming now and should last well into autumn.

Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ and Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Encouraged by recent rains, Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ now has a few new blossoms. Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ is in full bloom to the delight of many insects. The stalks of this Rudbeckia seem very sturdy but, like those of so many items in this garden, they would benefit from staking.

Cleome (Spider Flower)

Cleome has flowered well in one spot and poorly in another.

In early July there was a heartbreaking loss of a Crape Myrtle in the front yard from a freak wind storm.

The same storm brought down a pine into the garden, obliterating a Buddleia davidii and some other plants in an area along the back fence, an area I have been actively trying to invigorate.

‘Carolina Sapphire’ Arizona Cypress


Actually there are several large gaps along the back fence. In the northwestern corner a ‘Carolina Sapphire’ Arizona Cypress was planted earlier this year to replace the eleven-year old one we lost last summer. This is a fast-growing tree that will fill this area in a few years. Meanwhile I can tell it has grown quite a bit.

While waiting for the ‘Carolina Sapphire’ to mature I envision this corner overflowing with cutting flowers in the summer, but my efforts have been small.

Zinnias were planted from seeds, but thwarted by extreme temperatures, they remain small and insignificant. I think the birds must have eaten most of the seeds.  This is a rather poor showing.

Transplants of cleome did not survive here.

Also Gladioli planted in this same area flopped over after their first exposure to wind, so they did nothing to make the garden look nice long-term, but their blooms provided enjoyment in cut-flower arrangements.

So, there are many openings and opportunities around the garden at this time. Although I am not doing much work in the garden this summer, I am thinking and planning. I am optimistic the garden will be fun again next Spring. And, while there are no grand views, no wide vistas in the garden right now, it is surprising to me how many individual plants are providing some interest. It seems much better than in years past.

Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm)

Meanwhile birds, wasps, bees and other insects do not seem to mind the garden’s disarray, as they feast on nectar and seeds. The yellow of American Goldfinches brightens the garden as these tiny birds feed on various plants—they especially seem to appreciate the Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower).

Hummingbirds regularly visit Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm), which is no longer lush and spectacular but is still in bloom.

Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy)

And fresh dew on Shasta Daisies is still a remarkable thing.


With two days to go this hot July stopped short of setting a local record for the number of consecutive days above 90 degrees, when the temperature reached a mere 89 degrees yesterday. Precipitation was 0.5 inches above normal for the month (actual month total was 4.64; normal month total, 4.04). Three heavy storms on the 21st, 22nd and 28th accounted for 3.31 inches of that.

State Butterfly And Late Lantana Rally

Lantana and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), Female

In trying to precisely identify this swallowtail, I discovered my state of North Carolina selected the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) as its official state butterfly in mid-June of 2012. After such a rancorous session, who knew what the legislature was really up to? I will not comment on the livermush part of the bill.

This North American native butterfly species is quite commonly found across the entire eastern United States. It has adapted to many host plants and to a wide range of habitats, including, of course, gardens.

There are many interesting things to know about these butterflies. Males are usually yellow. Females are dimorphic and can be yellow or black. When the female is yellow, its upper hindwing is more bluish (so I assume this is a female).

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), Female

Here is one fact that may not be well-known.  The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is:

generally considered the first North American butterfly to have been drawn. The first drawing of it was by John White. White was an artist, cartographer, and is also known as the governor of the Roanoke Island colony that came to be known as the “Lost Colony.”[1]

In this garden yesterday the native Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was attracted to a non-native plant. It fed on the nectar of Lantana camera.

Lantana and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Though reported to be drought-tolerant, a few weeks ago this lantana appeared to be completely dried up.  Since then there have been fierce storms, intense days of triple-digit heat and more storms. Though sprawled and splayed after such abuse this shrub is rallying with bright, cheery flower clusters of red, pink, orange and yellow.

Lantana camera


1. Michelle Czaikowski Underhill (2012). “Eastern tiger swallowtail” . NCPedia. Retrieved  July 28, 2012.

Seeing Green (Irish Eyes)

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ Against A Brown Clematis Vine


Distressed from heat and drought the first yellow flowers of Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ are opening with petals already streaked with brown. This cultivar gets its name from the green center.

A plant division taken last year is faring better than its parent near the garden’s southern entrance, where it waves above the four-foot gate.

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Yesterday I explored the garden and though the heat has been keeping the gardener away, there is activity in this ecosystem.


This morning a steady rain sounds against the roof. From the upstairs window I watch goldfinches dart between spent stalks of verbena and echinacea, supplying bright sunny color to the gray morning.

Early into the record-setting heat of July, the garden became quickly desiccated. The change was dramatic and yet, from the window there is green again in the garden. Plants stand refreshed. Will this rain be restorative? For a time I think so, but the rain stops.


July 3 – 8, 2012. This area of North Carolina set a record for having six consecutive days with temperatures above 100 degrees F. (Most days were hotter and heat indexes were around 110.)

July 8’s 105-degree day tied the record for highest temperature ever recorded for this area and beat the previous record of 103 set in 1977 for the date July 8.

Despite last Friday’s big thunder and wind event that sent two trees crashing down in the garden, July has been seriously hot and dry. That afternoon storm brought an hour of much needed rain, but the severe heat wave continued through the weekend. The heat wave finally broke on Monday leaving the area feeling noticeably cooler with highs in the mid-eighties, even bringing occasional, spotty showers.

Winter and spring were marked by abundant rainfall that left the garden lush and verdant. Rains stopped around mid-June while temperatures steadily rose. Early into July’s record-setting heat the garden responded by shutting down. Now rain is forecast for a couple of days.

Drought-free Vignettes

Gladiolus and Liatris Spicata

Today it was announced North Carolina is completely drought-free for the first time in two years.

This could change, as surely many hot summer days are ahead, but this remarkable spring with its generous rains has been a welcoming one for flowers in this Chapel Hill garden.

Gladioli and Liatris spicata have grown strong and tall and Hemerocallis (Daylily) looks well nourished. Even native and drought-tolerant perennials such as Monarda and Echinacea are noticeably healthier, with richer foliage and color.

This evening temperature is 79°F, still quite sunny with blue sky.

Last Day of May

Canna and Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Early this morning Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) and Canna waited in the shade as the sun slowly moved to warm these sun-loving perennials.

Echinacea purpurea is native to Eastern USA and bees find it attractive. Later American Goldfinches will enjoy its seeds.

Canna and Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

While it still can this bee should enjoy the Tradescantia (Spiderwort) that abounds in the garden. This week I am making some progress in cutting it back, but am finding it difficult work to remove it by the roots.

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

Although afternoon temperatures reached 92 degrees, the garden this morning was pleasant and mostly shaded, perfect for welcoming visitors to view the flowers. So when a neighbor and her friend walked by while I was taking pictures in the front side garden, I eagerly asked them to come to the back to see my garden.

This year, more than in any other year, I have felt comfortable with the state of the garden overall and am happy when I can share this place. It is not perfect, of course, but some key garden renovation projects during the last year have made the garden much more cohesive and have given it personality. The meditation circle is one such project and today my neighbor’s friend walked the meditation path, experiencing  a labyrinth for her first time. It was a nice morning in the garden.

Basking In The May Flower Garden

The weekend weather has been ideal—sunny with low humidity and slight breezes. With a high of 81°F. today it would have been an enjoyable day to garden.  Instead the garden provided perfect surroundings for lunching on the back porch and later, for sitting on the patio in the warm sun, being very still and watching the birds.

Among the species at the two feeders today were Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Mourning Dove, House Finch, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, Common Grackle, American Goldfinch, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Brown Thrasher and some other little ones I could not identify. Spotted a rabbit in the middle of the western border. No hummingbirds yet. That should change when the Monarda, now three feet tall in some places, opens its red flowers.

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)

Gladioli and zinnias are coming up in several places around the garden (although that rabbit may explain why there are not more zinnias).  They were planted just a couple of weeks ago to fill in some of the bare spots: around the foundation of the house where shrubs were removed last year that had become too overgrown and in the northwest corner where a Carolina Sapphire Arizona Cypress died. Yesterday I transplanted some self-sown cleome into these same bare areas to add more height and texture later in the summer.

Cleome (Spider Flower)

The garden has never seemed so full of bees as it is this year. The Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) in the meditation circle is attracting them, and along the southern path so is Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion) and Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear). Bees also enjoy Tradescantia (Spiderwort) but I am currently battling its pushy encroachment.  The delight at seeing its first blooms has worn off and I am cutting down large cart loads of it to make room for other emerging perennials. My skin has become very sensitive to its sap and breaks out into a rash if in contact for very long.

Bee enjoying Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)

This year I remembered to prune back the Buddleia in early February. That, plus the good rains we have had, encouraged it to a height of five feet and it soon will be providing some color in the western border.  Buddleia is now on a watch list for invasive plants in my area.  If it does not put on a much better show than last year, it will be easier for me to choose to remove it.

Buddleia (butterfly bush). [Maybe Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’]

I intend someday to locate the tag for this Coreopsis. It is a dwarf variety with lovely, strong color.


In front of a long row of Shasta Daisies, which grow along a sidewalk, is a tall spire of Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Blush’ (Butterfly Gaura). In its first year the gaura has not filled out very much and it is hard to tell if it is just in its sleep year or really does not like its location.

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Blush’ (Butterfly Gaura), Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy)

Several Shasta Daisy buds are slowly, slowly unfolding.

Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy)

Achillea x ‘Appleblossom’ (Yarrow) is very floppy, especially in one area where the soil is heavy from clay and though amended, may not drain well enough. The flowers are cheerful anyway and are long-lasting when used in indoor arrangements.

Achillea x ‘Appleblossom’ (Yarrow)

Another plant with a lost tag, this Clematis is still forming a few flowers but has not been very showy this year.


Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) is starting to bloom around the garden and should provide color and flowers for cutting all summer.

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

A Perennial Sweet Pea is entwined among salvia, chrysanthemums, yarrow and daylilies in the southern border. Unlike annual sweet peas, this is not fragrant but I enjoy its old-fashioned appeal.

Perennial Sweet Pea

Sunday Garden Vignettes

The sky was gray since early morning and by early evening soft rain began to fall. At mid-afteroon the garden was a peaceful, serene setting for a leisurely walk.

Echinacea as well as lavender are opening in several places around the garden, just about the same time as last year. Perhaps Spring is slowing down from its frenzied earlier pace. Other observations: Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ will soon be blooming along the southern side path, a bit ahead of that planted in other areas. Liatris spicata is adding feathery softness to the northern border that has been dominated by sword-like iris leaves. Proving to be very weak-stemmed again this year, Achillea x ‘Appleblossom’ is falling over into a thick stand of Shasta Daisies. Many of the perennials attract bees, including Veronica spicata, Stachys byzantina, Nepeta and Penstemon. Verbena bonariensis looks strong and healthy this year and the American goldfinches are loving it.

A Perfect Day In May

Meditation Circle

Today’s weather could not have been more perfect to have a group of friends visit the garden, walk the meditation circle and share a potluck lunch. Cloudless blue skies, low humidity and temperatures in the mid-seventies made for a fine day to be outside.

Inside the labyrinth Penstemon (Beardtongue) hybrids are blooming this week and buzzing with bees.

Penstemons In Meditation Circle

Penstemon  mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ delineates a long stretch of path near an outer edge. Its color is deep and rich violet-purple. Its loose form means it sprawls over into the paths on either side, making it necessary to trim the overhanging flower stalks to help keep visitors safe when walking the labyrinth.

Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue)

Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue)

Marking several turnaround points in the labyrinth is another penstemon cultivar, Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red.’ This variety has a tighter and more upright form, making it more suitable and requiring less maintenance in the narrow space between the paths. Both Penstemon cultivars remained green during this past mild winter.

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)

The garden has transitioned away from the focus on roses and irises, but a few Bearded Irises linger.

German Bearded Iris

German Bearded Iris

German Bearded Iris

Yesterday the garden’s peony opened. This is ‘Pink Parfait.’

Peony Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait’

Early May Garden Views and Notes – Part 1

Forecasts warned today would be 92 degrees. Since there are a few new things in the garden I spent some time selectively watering them very early this morning. With the garden still sheltered at this time of morning by shade from the house, it was a peaceful time to be outside.

View from the Southern Border

With the grass freshly mown the garden is vibrant.

Tradescantia (Spiderwort) has moved into every available bit of soil, making the garden burst with color during the morning. By mid-day the little blue-violet flowers close up, diminishing the garden’s overall impact. I began cutting back large swaths of spiderwort this morning to make room for emerging echinacea purpurea, liatris spicata, foxglove and maybe a few more plants.

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) has bloomed prolifically for six weeks and is beginning to go to seed. I removed many of the flower stalks today to make the garden look tidier and to prevent further proliferation of this native wildflower.

The one-year-old ‘Blue Point’ Juniper hedge is growing well, although I did notice a worrisome brown branch on one. Probably I need to clear some room around the trees to give them adequate sun and air to keep them healthy.

Japanese irises and white and black bearded irises continue to provide color and interest at one end of the southern border. The old-fashioned rose at the other end of the border is waning quickly. A group of Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear) caught the early morning sun as light began to enter the garden.

April Showers And Flowers

Flowers, flowers.

Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait,’ a peony added last spring to the garden, has just two buds this year.

Peony Paeonia 'Pink Parfait'

Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ is opening in several places around the garden, its color a rich dark indigo.

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'

More fully open another Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ looks pinkish in the late day sunlight. The actual flower color is more like that of the bud in the previous image, a beautiful deep blue.

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'

In the southern garden bed the black iris continues to stand out against silvery Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear).

Black Iris

Close up the color of black iris is intense.

Black Iris

A couple of pink Achillea (yarrow) opened recently. This is a dwarf variety that stands about 10 inches high.

Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox) and Catmint (Nepeta) are paired together though happenstance but appear to make nice companions.

Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox) and Catmint (Nepeta)

The phlox divaricata is a pass-along plant that has been in this garden and a previous garden forever. It is an old-fashioned, charming favorite.

Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox)

Nepeta (Catmint) makes a nice show a the front of the border.

Catmint (Nepeta)

This Coreopsis was added to the garden last year and did very poorly. It is surprisingly healthy this spring with a deep rich golden yellow.



Except for one hot and dry week April has brought generous rains to the garden. Following a few threats of frost this past week, temperatures reached into the seventies today. Starting very early today, rain alternated with sun throughout the morning and then the afternoon was fair. All day the birds have sung incessantly.

The garden needs attention now, but it is going to be on its own a few more days. After this recent strong period of bloom, some things such as the roses and a few of the irises need grooming as they are beginning to look a little tired. The tradescantia is encroaching in every direction and the eastern red columbine should be cut back soon before it spreads seeds. In the meditation circle Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft) is overdue to be pruned back, but the recent cooler weather and rains encouraged it to produce fresh blooms, earning it a few more days.

Iberis sempervirens 'Purity' (Candytuft)

Garden Tour Weekend

Touring the gardens on the Chapel Hill Spring Garden Tour this weekend was a great way to gather gardening ideas and see plants that work well in this area. Each garden had a very distinct personality and it is fascinating to see the different styles and approaches to gardening.

I was particularly charmed by the Marson Garden, where I helped out as a tour guide on Saturday morning. The enthusiastic and talented owners, Pat and John, were on hand to answer questions as people walked around their garden, setting a comfortable and friendly atmosphere. Unfortunately the pictures I took do not do this garden justice, but one feature I really like is this bench, created from a rock uncovered during some grading work. Something like this would fit in well with my concept for a seating area in the center of my meditation circle.

Bench at Marson Garden

Back at home

After seeing so many well designed and well tended gardens it was easy to grow an ever longer task list of things to do in my own garden—plants to add, plants to remove, paths to build. Plantings in the meditation circle really need to be completed…

But for today around this garden there was just time enough for a quick glance.

Meditation Circle

Clematis 'Jackmanii'


Batik Iris

Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue' (Pincushion Flower)


After cooler days last week the temperature today was about 82 degrees F. There has not been rain for a week and things are starting to look stressed and dry.

Quickly Changing Spring Garden

German Bearded Iris

This is my third post today but so much is happening in the garden I want to record a few more things.

After reaching 82 degrees yesterday the skies turned dark and lightning flashed late in the afternoon. Soon heavy rain cascaded down, thunder roared and the temperature fell into the low 60’s within a few minutes. Today it has reached only 63 degrees with the skies mostly overcast.

During an early morning walk I discovered this year’s first German Bearded Iris blooming. Following a small stand of Dutch Iris that opened and closed too quickly this year, the yellow irises along the Southern Path are always among the first to open.

Another nice surprise this morning along the same path was the delicate blue of Linum Perenne ‘Sapphire’ (Flax).

Linum Perenne 'Sapphire' (Flax)

An early flower has formed on the Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower).

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Added to the garden in mid-March, the Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly Blue’ (Pincushion Flower) seems to be adjusting well. This plant usually does not survive long in my gardens but it always tempts me at garden centers.

Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue' (Pincushion Flower)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) is in full bloom now in several parts of the garden.

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

A garden in spring is such a rewarding place to be, full of excitement and change.

Garden View With Meditation Circle

Still Raining

A few brief periods of sun punctuated the day, but mostly there was rain and very heavy rain at times.  Still waiting out thunderstorm and tornado watches for another couple of hours and listening to the rain come and go against the windows.

Early this morning the meditation garden was looking refreshed as the rain cleansed away some of the yellow pine pollen that had settled on everything this week.

Meditation Garden On Rainy Spring Morning