Thursday, October 25, 2012

Autumn Blooms

According to the local weather reporters, we have some  much colder weather coming next week, so today's sunny 70's were appreciated that much more.  The unique "blooms" of Fatsia japonica are already
 out, and I love how they contrast with the secondary bloom of the Encore azaleas behind.  Truth be told, 
I'm not a huge azalea fan, but there is no question they are effective in such a large drift.
We're making progress on the winter containers.  This one definitely leans toward classic Atlanta elegance, and I am loving the juniper called "Iowa" for containers.  They'll go out into the landscape in the spring.  The sedum "Angelina" will turn show bright orange streaks through that chartreuse as soon as it gets really cold for a couple of days.
 The prostrate rosemary is getting slightly out of control under the rose trellis, but it's also just starting to show those distinctive blue blooms that come in autumn and winter.  The "Snow 'n' Summer" Asiatic jasmine that is spilling out from behind the planter is a plant that I love for part shade.  According to the grower, only the new growth is white, but we do virtually nothing to it, and it has that awesome white and pink variegation.  We almost never use orange at the Big House, but it works so beautifully with these two planters (they're actually stained concrete, not metal).
The "Texas Tarragon" (Tagetes lucida) just started to bloom a week ago, and will keep that great color until a hard frost kills it back.  The added bonus is the distinct tarragon scent (and flavor, if so inclined). 
In the Stepchild Garden, "Ryan's Yellow" provides a great burst of color, and is another favorite perennial.  It requires virtually no care, and just continues to do its thing year after year.   
This rose, called "Mardi Gras" almost hit me in the face while walking Sadie the Dog this afternoon.  She almost seems to be screaming, "No, I'm not ready for winter!  Look at these hot colors!"  Let's hope Mother Nature listens to her......I'm not ready for winter, either..... 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Sloppy Chicks" Recipe

This one is for Gary at "A Day in the Life......."

We are still up to our eyeballs in the pansy planting, though we're about three-quarters finished at the Big House.  The lake house was done about a week ago, so we're now able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  More photos to follow later, but let's just say the greenhouse looks a little like a plant bomb exploded, with the remnants of all of the tender plants we've removed from containers lying around, waiting for their winter homes to rest for future plantings (like the 30 lb Alocasia bulbs!)

Since time is at a premium during these few weeks, I wanted a dinner that would come together quickly and easily.  I discovered this recipe on Pinterest the other day, for a vegan version of "Sloppy Joes," that is actually good for you (apologies to the Brits, but I don't know if "Sloppy Joe" is a recipe you are familiar with).  If not, consider this a healthy introduction to a delicious (but often not so good for you) American classic.

If you are turned off by the idea of "vegan," I think this recipe would be incredible with traditional ground beef.  I would just go ahead and brown the ground beef, drain off the fat, and insert the cooked meat into this recipe where the chickpeas are used.  The sauce flavor is really outstanding, and I'll definitely check out more of this blogger's recipes.

The only comment I would make is that it was a challenge to smash up the chickpeas with a fork.  I ended up stirring/smashing this during the cooking process with a potato masher, and that worked just great!  I didn't change a single thing with the seasoning or other ingredients.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cold Weather Chili

I've been doing the "almost vegan" thing for a couple of months now, so the chances aren't good that this is going to get made in my kitchen any time soon, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still an incredible chili recipe!  In this season of doing lots of yardwork (for myself and others), this is a great item to have on hand in the freezer.  It's great on its own, with a corn muffin, over a baked potato, and in lots of other forms.

Cold Weather Chili

3 T. vegetable oil, divided
3 c. chopped onions
2 t. cayenne pepper
2 T. chili powder
1 T. ground cumin
2 t. crushed red pepper
1 T. oregano
1 t. salt
2 lb. beef for stew
1 lb. ground chuck
2 T. chopped garlic
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
2 c. beef broth
2 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Combine all of the dry spices in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large heavy pot, heat 1 T. of the oil, add in the onions, and sauté until translucent.  Add about half of the dry spice mixture,  and stir to combine thoroughly. 

In a separate skillet, heat the remaining oil, and begin browning the stewing beef in batches.  As it browns, add it to the large pot with the onions.  Once the beef chunks are browned, add the ground chuck to the same skillet, and brown it, adding in the balance of the dry spices and the chopped garlic.  Add this to the large pot with the onions and beef chunks.

Add the remaining ingredients, except the kidney beans, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook one hour, stirring occasionally.  If it gets too dry, add more beef broth (1 cup at a time).

Add in the kidney beans, cook for an additional half hour, and you’re done!  Add whatever other things you’d like for serving (sour cream, cheese, etc., etc).  We usually serve it with cornbread, as well.

I'm off to spend the day working in the Stepchild might require a flamethrower.....

Friday, October 19, 2012

And The Pansy Process Continues.......

It's mid-October, which means all of the gardeners in the Southeastern US are consumed with installing winter annual color!  It is actually something of a reunion at the wholesale growers, since this is one of those times when I bump into all of the people I know from the industry, and don't get a chance to see during the summer craziness.

At the Big House, we're bouncing between the large annual color beds and the containers around the property.  As Patti says, the creative process of doing the containers balances out the knee-breaking process of installing all of the pansies in the ground.  This year, the weather has been absolutely glorious, so it really has been a fun crisp mornings, delightful dry sunny afternoons, dodging the squirrels and chipmunks with cheeks loaded down by acorns, pine cones and hickory nuts.

In the wooded area, this is one of my favorite containers, though its size dictates that the planting always be fairly simple.  It's only a few years old, but because it is in part shade all the time and regularly gets sprayed with the irrigation sprinklers, it's aging beautifully.   For this season, it's just jammed with Pansy "Matrix Sunrise."  We pointedly left the Virginia Creeper climbing up the base of the planter, since it has such incredible fall color.  This particular pansy also really highlights the blooms of the surrounding Camellia sasanqua.  The woodland garden was designed and planted with two hundred camellias in large drifts of the same cultivar, so when they are in bloom, it's pretty spectacular.

Nearby, there is a large drift of white Camellias, where are also in full bloom.

Rhododendrons really struggle in Georgia, because the clay soil is so heavy, the winters don't usually get quite cold enough for them, and the summers are so hot.  As a result, their bloom cycles are never predictable.  While walking through the garden this morning, this one was blooming in the midst of all the white camellias.   Usually they bloom in March here, but I'll take what I can get for a rhododendron bloom in Georgia!

The Japanese Silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis "Cabaret") really is at is showiest now, and the blooms are just incredible against the foliage of the "October Glory" maple.  It spreads itself around just a little bit here, but is certainly not something I would consider invasive.  

At the pool, we're about a third of the way through the winter planters.  This bed above the waterfall has been filled with mondo grass for the past few years, so the current look with the planters and massed pansies is new.  I can't wait to see how this fills out as the season goes along.

Here's another view of that same area.  The conifer in the containers is Juniper "Iowa," which I think is just great for color and structure.  Again we've used the pansy, "Matrix Sunrise," and in the containers have added Dusty Miller, Heuchera "Citronelle" and "Autumn Bride," Autumn Ferns, Rhodea japonica, and ajuga "Caitlin's Giant."

I often get asked how I approach a large number of containers on one property, and how we tie the whole thing together.  I'm not sure there is any "correct" way of doing it,but we tend to use the same color family in flowers throughout (or at least throughout one large area).  From there, we have calculated the number of  complimentary plants needed per bed or container,  and use the same selection of five or six plants in large quantity across the property.  Rather than treating each container separately, we treat them all as one group, so they all have the same generally "family" of color, texture, etc.  More about this later.

For now, get outside and enjoy this incredible autumn weather!

Monday, October 15, 2012

843 In the Ground, 4827 To Go!

It's pansy planting time again at the Big House!

The first round of pansies arrived last week and we were able to get a little jump on some of the beds.  So far the weather is cooperating and has been delightfully pleasant for planting.  Every year I worry about the inevitable bursts of hot or cold at this time of year, but so far we're having wonderful warm days and cool nights...perfect for planting!
 The beds look to be a little sparse when the annual color first goes in, but fill in very quickly; I'll follow this up with posts showing the progress.

This photo also shows a container anchored by "Angelina" sedum (which has awesome winter color) and a Juniper called "Iowa" that I'm really liking this year.  Those two items will stay until spring, and we'll move annuals in and out of the containers to work with the season - once these crysanthemums fade, we'll replace them with pansies, then another switch for Christmas holidays, and then finally back to pansies and snapdragons for spring.

The "Limelight" paniculata hydrangeas are showing their Autumn colors, which we'll leave until around Thanksgiving, and then cut them back.  I like the juxtaposition of the aging hydrangea blooms with the fresh and perky new pansies.
The hydrangeas were installed a couple of years ago, and I'm still delighted with them!  They replaced a rather "stand offish" clipped holly hedge, and I think the hydrangeas add a suitable romantic feel that suits the home and "the Missus".  If there is a negative, it's that they are completely naked in winter, which is why we have an evergreen holly hedge behind them under the windows.  When we set up for Christmas (typically the weekend after Thanksgiving), we'll give the hydrangeas a good whack to neaten them up for the winter.  For reference, these were cut to 30 inches last year, and are now more than 8 feet tall.  This time we're going to cut them to 30 inches at Thanksgiving,and then back to 18 inches in spring before the new growth starts (the beauty of paniculatas is that they take full sun and bloom on new growth).

Over just a little along the front of the house, we also plugged Pyracantha "America" into the holly hedge, and I'm thrilled with the way it's now breaking up all of that dark green.  As long as we hand prune a couple of times a season, we are able maintain it at about 5 feet, and it's still covered with those great berries for a long showy period in autumn and winter.
Only 4827 more pansies to plant, lots of containers to get done, and winter veggies to go into the ground, so more pictures on the way.  For now, enjoy this glorious time of year in your garden!

One Last Whiff

We're in the midst of switching out the summer annuals for pansies and other cool weather blossoms.  I was just about to pull the dying annual verbena from this container when I realized the concrete bunny appears to be savoring that last little whiff of summer fragrance.  Perhaps I'll wait another day or two......

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Late Bloomers

This has been the perfect morning to grab a cup of coffee and take a little stroll through the Stepchild Garden with Sadie the Dog.  It’s in the mid-50’s at the moment, so there’s lot of residual moisture on the plants, which doesn’t really please Her Majesty, but she loves to just hang out in the sun pretending to be interested in what I’m doing.

Many of the summer perennials are ready to be cut down for the season, but the late bloomers are going crazy with these cool nights and the abundant rain from earlier this week.  Every year at this time I am reminded of that basic plant cycle of  “ grow, bloom, and then collapse.” I was speaking to a Master Gardener group recently and we were discussing the importance of including late blooming plants in the landscape, because they are generally easier to manage.  Since most plants don’t tend to collapse until AFTER they bloom, the autumn bloomers give you great green structure all summer, mightl require the “Chelsea Chop” once or twice during the course of the spring and summer, but generally will still look amazing long after some of the other perennials are reduced to brown sticks.

Many people say that gardening in the south doesn’t allow them to mix things like geranium, geum, wallflowers, etc., that can’t tolerate out hot summers.  If looking at it from another angle, we actually get TWO seasons of those flowers in the south.  Walking around this morning, I was amazed at all of the old-fashioned things that have resurfaced after their hot summer hiatus.

Go out and enjoy your garden today.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Farro Salad with Asparagus & Cranberries

This is a great recipe that I've made a couple of times recently, and it's been overwhelmingly well-received by everyone who's tasted it.  The added bonus is that it's vegan, very low fat, very low sodium, and no added sugar.

I am always poking around at the supermarket looking for foods that I've never cooked before, and farro was one of those.  It's an Italian wheat, and I would equate the size and texture perhaps to barley.  What I bought at Whole Foods was "pearled" farro; pearling removes the rougher outer husk on the wheat kernels, which makes it cook faster than plain farro.  If you can't find the pearled type, I would guess that you would just have to boil the farro a little longer.

2 cups pearled farro
1 lb fresh asparagus, blanched and chilled, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper 

Rinse and drain the farro.  Put in a large bowl, and cover with a good amount of cold water.  The farro will double in size by soaking.  Cover with plastic and allow to soak for 6 to 8 hours at room temperature. Rinse and drain the farro again. 

Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil (like for pasta), add the farro, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until al dente.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, mustard and spices.  Slowly add the olive oil, whisking to emulsify into a vinaigrette.  Add  vegetables, nuts and cranberries.
When the farro is cooked to taste, drain and rinse.**  Add to the mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients and combine.  Can be served at room temperature or chilled.  This recipe makes about 12 cups of finished salad, which will hold for a few days in the refrigerator with no real change in quality. 
**In my opinion, it isn't necessary to rinse the farro after cooking to the point of making it cold.  It actually absorbs the flavors of the dressing better when it's mixed warm.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Road to Getting Healthy

When I reach fifty (a couple of years ago), I realized I needed to focus on being healthy for the remainder of my life, which hopefully is at least another thirty years.  With that in mind, I had my first complete physical exam in several years (typical male), and was shocked into reality.  I left the doctor's office with prescriptions for cholesterol medication, a blood thinner, blood pressure medication, and a couple of others. 

Through the "wonders of modern medicine," my numbers were quickly brought into the normal range by the medications, and I figured everything was just fine and dandy; a year later, though, I got to start the routine of "well, now it's time to check your liver function to make sure there are no serious effects from the cholesterol medication."  Clearly, the medications weren't going to be a long term solution that I was comfortable with.

I'm happy to say that since January of 2011, I've managed to drop 90 pounds and eliminate all five of the medications from my regimen, all based upon quite simple changes in eating and lifestyle.  On the insurance charts, I've gone from "morbidly obese" to "normal." Since I regularly get questions about how I managed to bring my weight into line (and maintain that loss), I'm going to start sharing some of the things that I've done, particularly recipes that are now a part of my regular repertoire. 

This is not going to morph into a healthy lifestyle blog, but if this information is helpful, feel free to borrow whatever works for you.

In this first post, I'll share that the key to losing the first 30 pounds for me was removing artificial sweeteners from my life.  If you pay attention at the convenience stores and restaurants, it is almost always the overweight person who is buying the diet soda or sugar free snacks.   It was difficult for the first couple of weeks, but after that it became much easier.  Consider that some of the zero calorie sweeteners are 600 times sweeter than sugar, and it makes perfect sense that these products INCREASE the craving for sugar rather than decreasing it. 

Let me emphasize that I did not remove sugar or natural sweeteners from my life.   I did stop drinking sweetened beverages (soda, sweet tea, etc.), but  I continue to use honey, raw sugar, etc., in my diet, just not artificial sweeteners.  Because I have been able to remove that craving for sweet, I have become steadily more sensitive to just how sweet some things are, and I am able to choose accordingly.

I'm not a dietician or a physician, but this was a huge breakthrough in weight loss for me, and one I would encourage you to consider.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ya Gotta Love Tatarian Aster!

I snapped this photo yesterday with my telephone as I was playing in the garden with Sadie the Dog.  If you aren't familiar with Tatarian Aster, it's one that you need to check out!

Aster tataricus, hardy zones 3 to 9

I got a tiny little clump of this baby a couple of years ago from a gardening friend, and now have enough to have split that original piece into six spots around the Stepchild Garden.  It is definitely a strong plant, but not one that I would call invasive or a thug of any sort.  It just hangs out in its original location, steadily growing into a larger clump.  It separates beautifully and easily, so sharing is no problem at all.
The real appeal to me with this plant is that it is as close to maintenance free and I have found in the perennial bed.  Seems to be just fine in wet years and dry, and is always neat and tidy.  I have done NOTHING to this plant all season, and the stalks are all now about 4 feet tall and standing perfectly erect.  No staking, no "Chelsea Chop," nothing.  When frost finally gets it, I'll go through and cut back to the stalks to the base, and then it will do its thing for another year.
It is a late bloomer (some time shortly after Labor Day in Atlanta), so tuck it somewhere in the back of the bed.  It just sort of hangs out looking well behaved and a strong green until August, and then it gets its growth spurt.  Once it bursts into bloom, it is covered with butterflies and bees, and has a really beautiful clear lavender-blue color. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fifty Shades of Green

One of the programs I developed recently for presentation to local gardening groups is called "Fifty Shades of Green."  (One of those garden porn things......)  This presentation is a very casual list of fifty of the best ideas I've learned from other gardeners, some of whom I know well, and some I have never known personally, although they are (or were) well known.  My goodness, is that a convoluted introduction to this post!

In any case, if you're bored and want to hear some excerpts from this program, we discussed it on a local radio station recently, and it's now available on podcast.  We recorded two programs that morning, so I think it's listed as "Winter Containers" on the website.  My guess is that the container program will show up there soon.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Late Summer Container for Shade

I honestly tried to upload this photo because I've been having such difficulty getting Blogspot to accept photos I've always been able to upload.   Since this photo seemed to work, I figured I would just let it stay.
This photo isn't the best quality, since it was taken with my phone a couple of days ago, but I think the container has handled the Atlanta summer heat really well.
It is in what I would call "bright shade," since the driveway where this is positioned has a bright white finish on it, and when the sun hits this pavement, it is almost painful for humans.  This collection of three containers doesn't get direct sun, but it gets a ton of indirect light from that reflection.
The large fern is an Australian tree fern, that came to me in a 3 gallon container in April.  I learned from my grower that the trick to these guys is to NEVER let them dry out.  They can take a ton of heat and are even ok with a fair amount of sun, but the water has to be there all the time.  We also fertilizer all of the tropicals really heavily (high nitrogen) all summer.
The other plants that stand out are "Kong Rose" coleus, Alpinia (Shell Ginger, which never blooms, but has great foliage), Kimberly Queen fern, Farfugium, Browallia, and Pseudoanthemum.  If you want specific cultivars, let me know and I'll find that information in my files.
Hopefully this breakthrough with the photo means I'm back up and running on the blog!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Blueberry-Basil Granita

Blogger still isn't letting me post pictures for some unknown reason, but here's the recipe for a pretty awesome Blueberry & Basil Granita that I made a couple of nights ago.  The recipe was on a sign in the basil patch at Atlanta Botanical Garden, and I made it exactly as the recipe was written.  Rave reviews from all of the dinner guests!

1 Pint Blueberries
1/2 cup water
8 basil leaves
The juice of one lime
4 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt

Blend all of the ingredients until smooth, and freeze in an airtight container until slushy, about 2-1/2 hours.  Serve in a glass garnished with additional basil leaves for garnish.

I served this with a lemon pound cake and ginger snaps.  Pretty great combinations!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Atlanta Botanical Garden

I had a couple of meetings this morning with other people from the gardening world, and Atlanta Botanical Garden seemed the perfect place for morning coffee.  I haven't been there since The Inspired Gardener syposium in February, so it was wonderful to see things in their full late-summer glory.

This first shot is of the water wall at the entrance.  Unfortunately the water doesn't show well in the photo.  The top planted area is a bog garden, and you might be able to see the wall of water spilling down over the granite.  The sound is very effective as you're entering ABG.
The iconic Dale Chihuly fountain in the middle of the Parterre Garden is one of my favorite installations at ABG. 
"Frog Baby" is officially on loan from the High Museum of Art, but it's been in this little frog pond for at least the past five years, so it's seeming pretty permanent to me.  It's another favorite piece of mine in the garden, and it looks even better at this time of year surrounded by papyrus, cannas, and other water lovers. 
The lotus blooms are just exquisite in an almost bizarre way.  I always expect water to start squirting out of the middle like the flower on a clown's lapel. 
This new vertical herb garden is very cool in the edible garden.  This section to the right is actually a vertical rill of water (several of them, in fact), so the sound of running water is really spectacular, particularly in such a hot spot where all the edibles are growing.
The current sculpture exhibit contains pieces by several artists in several different media.  This one is, I think, great fun in the long border.

More photos from ABG later.  If you're in the Atlanta area, definitely a spot worth visiting!

Fat Free, Cholesterol Free, and I Grew Most of It Myself!

Three Bean Vegetarian Chili from Sunflower Cafe

1 large onion, roughly chopped -didn't grow that
3 bell peppers, roughly diced (I used one red, one yellow, one green, since that what I had) - grew those!
2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced - grew those, too!
1 T. chopped garlic - grew it!
1 T. chili powder
1-1/2 t ground cumin
1-1/2 t. dried oregano - grew it!
1 t. salt
1 t. ground pepper
1 c. cooked white beans
1 c. cooked black beans
1 c. cooked pinto beans - didn't grow the beans.....
1 lb. chopped fresh tomatoes - grew those!
4 ounces tomato paste

Use a nonstick spray in a heavy pot, and saute the onion over medium high heat until it's starting to color.  Add the peppers and garlic, continue cooking five more minutes.
Stir in the spices and incorporate well.  Add the balance of the ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and allow to cook 15 to 20 minutes.

When it's done I typically stir in 4 cups of cooked brown rice.  Freezes beautifully, and a great recipe for a winter lunch while working in the garden.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Little Side Trip on the Way Home from the Beach

This first picture is demonstrating the most strenuous thing I did over the past couple of days.   Since this is the time when we have a slight break in the gardening in Atlanta, it was the perfect opportunity to visit friends who live at the Sandestin Resort on the Gulf Coast.  Having grown up in a beachfront community, there is nothing quite as wonderful for me as waking up and walking across the street to nap in the sun for a few hours. 

The bad part about going to the Florida panhandle from Atlanta is "you can't get there from here."  On a map it looks to be relatively close, but in reality it's about a six hour drive through the backroads and fields of rural Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
Since we were already in that neck of the woods, it was a no brainer for me to stop at Petals From the Past,, one of my favorite nurseries anywhere, on our way home.  Fortunately I was driving, and Frank has no sense of direction, so my comment that it is "just slightly out of the way" didn't get any objections.  And after the drive from eternity, even Frank agreed that it was a pretty fabulous place!

A few of today's treasures are here.  First there is a pink brugmansia.  I absolutely adore Angel's Trumpets, and this is a color I don't have.  The plant I bought is really a baby in a 1 gallon pot, so it may not flower this season, but they're so easy to chop up and overwinter, I'll have a few for containers next summer. 
Salvia greggii "Raspberry" is one that I have for really great color in the Stepchild Garden, but not in any clients' gardens.  I bought one for the walled garden at the Big House, and may split it for other places, as well.  It has thrived in the Stepchild Garden for three years with absolutely zero attention, and comes back every year in spite of being totally ignored. 
The rose below is called "Peggy Martin," and is a survivor of Hurricane Katrina (there is another post about this rose many months ago here, but if you click that tag, it should come up).  This baby is like a pink version of Lady Banks, and is just as exuberant in its growth and blooms.  I planted two on the black iron fence at the Big House two years ago, and they have grown like weeds.  I'm going to add this one to another area of the fence, and then try to root some cuttings this year, as well.

Lastly, I got two LSU Purple Figs.  Again, they're both pretty small, but both have fruit on them this year.  I'm going to try them against a brick wall at the Big House, where they should love life!

Off to do laundry, since tomorrow's a work day!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Three Plants I'm Loving This Summer!

Here are three very different plants, with three very different uses, that I am absolutely loving this summer.  Each of them has weathered this summer's crazy weather admirably, and each is entering August looking incredibly good. 

This first one is Lythrum virgatum "Morden's Pink," and it's now in it's second season.  It's not getting as much sun as it typically likes, so it's getting off to a slow start, but that's not such a bad thing.  Lythrum (Loosestrife) can sometimes be invasive in the South, though this particular cultivar is supposed to be much better behaved.  I have had it in the Stepchild Garden now for four years, and it's perfectly controlled.  This photograph doesn't show it well, but we planted it along the length of this very long fence (about 150 feet), alternating with Russian Sage (Perovskia), behind yellow daylilies.  Since the daylilies have pretty much ended for the season, this combination of the pink and soft blue will fill in some of the empty space left behind once the daylily foliage gets cut back.

Hibiscus x moscheutos 'Robert Fleming' is a great plant for some pretty tough situations.  This is its second year of being used in a container at the pool, in full blistering sun.  The flowers are almost 10 inches across, the foliage stays clean and fresh (it looks almost like Hydrangea macrophylla foliage), and the plant itself doesn't get much more than 3 feet tall.  It is winter hardy to something crazy (like Zone 4), so at the end of the season we throw it into a nursery pot and overwinter it behind the greenhouse.   
"Snow n Summer" is an Asiatic Jasmine that I first saw in Vince Dooley's garden in Athens about five years ago, and just fell in love with it.  This might be pushing the ticket just a little, but where we have it planted it's getting more sun than at Coach Dooley's house, and I think it's doing better!

It is like most Asiatic Jasmines, which are very "exuberant" growers in the South.  In this particular spot, the ground is like cement, since this brick walk goes between two massive retaining walls, and there is a ton of mechanical work under the surface (drainage, lighting wires, etc.)  Prior to planting this last year, virtually nothing would grow in this spot.  It gets blistering sun for about four hours a day, and is then in full shade the rest of the time.  Monrovia had recommended cutting it back to keep the new growth (pink and white) coming, but we haven't had to do that at all.  The colors are beautiful, and ultimately the white goes to a variegated green with pink and white.  The only drawback is that we really MUST use a pre-emergent here, since weeding becomes next to impossible if we don't stay on top of it.  (What you see in this photo was planted as eight 1-gallon plants two years ago.)

One of the best things about these three plants is availability.  Each of them is readily available at this point, I haven't seen a pest issue with any, and I can't say enough good things about them!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Colocasia esculenta "Elena"

The sunlight was really incredible this morning, coming through the leaves of Colocasia esculenta "Elena."  According to Plant Delights Nursery, this baby is hardy to Zone 7B, and is a hardier version of "Lime Zinger."  These all came from one original bulb three years ago (there are about 8 big clumps now).  I've not tried overwintering it outside yet, but think I'll leave a couple of them out this winter to trial.  They are in dappled sun, with irrigation, in potting soil, and loving life!

The photo below isn't great lighting, but I think it will show some better perspective.  This little chapel in in an ocean of Camellia japonica and Delaware Azaleas along a creek, so the Elephant Ears in the window box planters give a great change in texture to the scene.  The photo above was from a seat inside the chapel.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Syncing My Hub......I Think Not!

I got a message today from my phone.  The message was a reminder that I need to “sync my social hub,” and did, in fact, come FROM my phone, not VIA my phone.

My first realization was that my telephone is directing me to do something I don’t know how to do, with something I didn’t know that I had….after all, what is my “social hub?”  And how does my telephone know that I need to sync it, whatever that is?

It was at that moment that I realized I am officially in technological overload, and I need to handle it.  Much like that moment when you realize you’ve created a monster of a garden that is no longer bringing you pleasure, I am at that point with technology.  As much as I like hearing from lots of people and staying in touch with those that I tend to lose track of over time, I am clear that technology in my life has created a whole new set of aggravations.

When I investigated my “social hub,” I discovered that I have a Twitter account that I’ve never used.  I can say with some certainty that I never want to be tweeted or twitted or whatever is done when I’m in the garden!  That’s the first thing to be removed from my hub.  I also have a Tumblr account, which seems to be a hybrid form of blog that is for more pretentious Pinterest pinners.  Oh, yes, I do have a Pinterest account, to which I pin like a maniac, only to realize later that I’ve been sucked into a pattern of pinning anything that creates a thought of “oh, that’s pretty” in my brain.

I am reminded of the dieting woman with the Johnny Bravo haircut on television some years ago screaming, “Stop the madness!”

I am clear that I enjoy adding to this blog (although I’m still not sure what people find interesting about my posts), so this will once again become the priority.  I also delight in reading the entries of other bloggers I follow, and feel a real sense of attachment to them.  I can’t say that I feel warmly about any tweet, twit, or Tumbl (no “e”).

So for the time being, let me thank you in advance for your patience while I regroup a bit, and go through all of the dust that has settled over these past few months.  I am looking forward to catching up with your blogs, as well, and hearing about your adventures. 
The magpie in the photo seems a perfect companion for me…intense, somewhat smart, quite clever, and easily distracted by any shiny thing put in its path!  The magpie might become my new mascot!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

'Tis the Season....

I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth, though it may seem that way.  Just up to my eyeballs in the winter-to-spring flip of flowers!  We've had an exceedingly warm March, but then in the past couple of days the temps have dipped back down to near a result, all of the annuals are stacked to the rafters in the greenhouse, and we're on pins and needles over those that are already in the ground.

Here are a few pictures of the garden to tide you over until I can come up for air!  Hope all is well in your world, as well....I hear they're getting slammed with this crazy cold burst in most of the US, and the weather in the UK is just bizarre.....

The Chinese Fringetrees doing their thing above the pool.....they got chopped down (at the direction of a very agitated "Mr" a few days later for doing their thing a little too much for the filtration system, so they're going to enjoy life elsewhere.)

Poppies are poppying all over the walled garden!

Ajuga reptans "Caitlin's Giant" lines the steps up toward the main house from the greenhouse

As always, click on them to make them larger if you'd like!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

An Early Morning Stroll in the Garden

This has been an incredibly mild winter in Atlanta, and the spring is also seeing temperatures well above normal, which means the spring flowers are just bursting all over the place!  Here are a few photos from early Friday morning in the garden.  As always, click on them to make them larger if you'd like.

The Carolina Jessamine completely engulfs a black iron fence each year; this season is no different.

The view from the gate of the walled garden across the creek is a beautiful greeting every morning.  The little helicopter-like seedpods on the maple, the Easten redbuds, and requisite Azaleas stand out in this shot. 
Mexican Feather Grass hides some of the mess in the area near the "critter feeder".....don't tell the neighbors that we put out peanuts and corn for the squirrels and crows!  The concrete leaves are little little headstones to plants from past seasons in the garden. 
I'm tempted to put a sign near this bed of narcissus repeating Queen Victoria's quote, "Nothing succeeds like wretched excess!"  If 25 narcissus are good, then 75 must be better! 
The pansies in these beds near the greenhouse are loving the early burst of sunshine and heat....pity we're going to tear them out of the ground in a few weeks! 
This patio peach is called "Bonfire" and was in a container for a couple of seasons before being transplanted into the garden.  Pretty amazing color! 
The Eastern redbuds and Yoshino cherries are both bursting with color around the greenhouse at this time of year. 
Senstive Fern and Heuchera that we thought were gone seem to have reemerged this year. 
This broken pot of Solomon's Seal lives under a cluster of Southern magnolias, and is incredibly tough, despite its delicate appearance. 
The variegated iris positively glows in the early morning.  That coreopsis gets torn out every year and comes back with more vigor than ever again in the spring! 
A view toward the swing across the creek