The Last Plant?

I think perhaps I’ve planted the last plant in this very long sunny bed. Unless I suppose, I happen across another perennial that wants to come home with me. But, mostly, I want to see how these plants spread and if they hold their own. I don’t want to overcrowd this bed. The last two plants are on the far end and are another Encore (everblooming) azalea and another “Frost Proof Gardenia.” The herbs below are basil, mint (perennial), and Italian parsley (it will come back for a second year and seed itself).

I still need a hose solution…

The roses are THRIVING and the moment and are covered with blooms and new growth. And unlike the roses in islands in highways, these have lots of leaves all the way down–which means they are getting the nutrition they need.

The roses are so cheerful. And, pretty.

The Asiatic Jasmine (which is not really jasmine) is spreading nicely now. It is sending out shoots underneath the pine straw in many cases.

Here it is in the long bed on the sunny side of the house. For the moment, I’m not planning on doing anything else with this bed as the ground cover will cover it. And, it will bloom and be fragrant in the spring.

On the front (street) side of this bed I planted one of the gardenias, and the luscious smell from it greets one at the garage door area.

These two plants below were among the first ones of the first I planted. They are to the left of the screen porch door and are under my bedroom windows. Each will get MUCH bigger. The Limelight hydrangea is forming blooms. And on the left, the viburnum will bloom next spring.

These herbs are mostly doing ok. I put some compost on them the other day. The lavender and the taller thyme are blooming.

The rosemary in the pot on the porch is thriving. I use it all the time.

As is the newly planted small pot on the table–with an annual I know but whose name is not on the tip of my tongue this morning.

We are expecting rain today, which is now needed again. The grass will be happy, the new plants will be happy, and I will be happy as I’m going to have time to sew. The Traverse quilt is only lacking 2 pieced rows now, and one of those is half finished.

The Gardenia Is Blooming

The “Frost Proof Gardenia” I planted on the shade side of the house is BLOOMING and is covered with buds. I couldn’t believe how fragrant it is. I cut two blooms and brought them into the house to occupy one of the little pottery vases that sit next to my kitchen sink. The pottery vase on the left holds a sprig of mint and some blooms from the Vitex I planted last week.

I often bring herbs from the into the house and put them into these vases, so their goodness is available when I’m cooking. I particularly like the mint in the bowls of fresh fruit I’ve been eating lately (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cut up cantaloupe).

We had two nights and one day of really good rain, so yesterday when the sun emerged again, I dug a hole for the azalea that has been waiting for me to plant. After all that rain, the digging into the clay was easy, so I went ahead and dug the last two holes I will need on the sunny side of the house. And I prepped them with sand and compost mixed with the clay. I hope the sand will provide the drainage needed here and the compost will provide food for the plants.

I am off this morning to buy one more of these amazing azaleas that will bloom all summer and another gardenia. I would love a Tea Olive shrub, but the remaining area I could plant isn’t sunny enough for one. Plus, even the shrub versions get too tall for most area around this house. The plantings, for the most part, need to be kept to shorter choices. And, more shallow rooted.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Garden Update

I’ve been busy these past few days–part of which involved buying and planting more plants. And more amendments, some of which like sand and compost are HEAVY. And I left the wheelbarrow in Maine and don’t want to buy another one as the planting here is almost done now.

First, here’s a beautiful street island covered by the Asiatic Jasmine ground cover I’ve planted here. Those trees are live oaks, and you can see this ground cover thrives in their shade. And my AJ is spreading now in good form. It seems to be happy.

The plants I added to this sunny bed are all perennials or shrubs that thrive here–and they all bloom–so my garden will draw in pollinators. And for the past few days, I’ve seen a butterfly on the butterfly bush I planted last week.

Yes, I was very inspired by watching the live documentary in which DIL Tami Enright, director of The Bee Cause Project, participated this past week. I learned a lot, actually. And I decided I wanted everything I planted here to bloom and not just be plants that “hold down” places in the beds that surround the house.

I added Russian Sage, a Mexican sage (new to me), some pink dianthus nestled along the pine straw border, and a perennial lantana that is such a pretty color. (There are two forms of lantana here: annual and perennial. The annual plants I’ve seen here are either white or a vivid yellow. I have enough white and there is already yellow with the Stella D’Ora day-lilies. Besides, I lucked into finding this lantana which is exactly what I wanted. I trimmed it back a bit after I took this picture to encourage it to be less “leggy.”)

Last week, I planted in this long sunny bed a white Encore Azalea, Autumn Joy, that is some kind of Rhododendron Hybrid that will bloom spring through fall. How cool is that? It comes in other colors too.

At the far end of the bed is a “Flip-It” Chaste Tree/shrub that will get tall, die back in winter, and come back in the following spring. One keeps it as tall or short as one wants by trimming, depending on where it lives.

It is called a Chaste Tree as it has herbal properties that some claim can cause a loss of libido. It’s called Flip It because the underside of the leaves are the most beautiful soft lavender.

This vitex plant blooms with long purple spikes, so thrives in dry conditions. I didn’t add any compost to its planting hole, but did add a lot of sand for drainage and some fertilizer to give it a good start. This plant hates having wet roots–so time will tell if it can manage the clay here, augmented by sand for drainage.

And on the far side of the house–the shade side–I planted a fragrant white “Frost Proof Gardenia” that will bloom spring and summer. I wanted a plant that would get big enough to form a kind of visual barrier to the equipment on that side of the house.

Here’s the long view. It’s hard to know yet how much these holly bushes will fill in at this corner. This gardenia will get about 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. I’ll have to figure out something attractive on both sides of the house for the hoses. (A gas line runs along this bed to that piece of equipment, so I’m not comfortable doing more digging in this area.)

Digging all those holes–was made much easier by the purchase of this very heavy Maddox. I left a totally good Maddox in Maine. I had no idea I’d be digging holes in clay in SC!!! Or, trying to.

The roses do seem to be thriving. They have a lot of new growth and are starting to spread sideways. I’ve lightly trimmed the tops off and on so they will spread sideways. They are about to put out a new flush of flowers.

The grass is doing well mostly and is a healthy deep green color. There are some bald spots where the grass is just sitting down on clay. I’ve added some manure compost to some of those spots in the hope it will give them something to feed on in the sterile clay. There are pieces of the grass in those spots; it just needs a bit of help with the clay. And, apparently, lots of water.

Centipede grass is tricky, as I’ve said. But I’m hoping I’m learning to understand it better. It does not like competition, for one thing, so I’ve spent many hours after a heavy rain hand-pulling weeds in the early morning or late afternoon. I don’t mind that work; it gets me outside in the sun. I’ve filled several big grocery plastic bags with weeds–and the grass is showing the results now. Clearly, this grass LOVES water.

I’m taking a rest day today, for the most part. I’ll sew placemats after my dinner. The finished placemat pile is growing–I think I have six more to make. Each has its own napkin and most napkins are solids. The napkin to the side of the pile in an extra and is smaller–maybe it would be nice in a bread basket?

Dinner in a bit is lamb rack, baked sweet potato, roasted zucchini, some cut fresh veggies from yesterday, fruit for dessert (cantaloupe, raspberries, blackberries with a hint of maple syrup and mint from the garden), and an espresso with raw honey and raw cream–and time on the porch to read.

Have a great weekend! And thanks for reading this far, if you did!

Pine Straw Gardening

***Today at 10 am is DIL’s Tami’s live bee interview in Athens, Georgia. Now, 330,000 educators have signed up to view it live, along with school children and some adults. Details are on yesterday’s post. It can be viewed taped later, which I will do as I have a dentist appointment this morning.


I grew up with pine straw being used in my Georgia grandmother’s magnificent gardens and on her open back yard areas.

I remember that in the shady back yard areas, people visited together in a ring of metal garden chairs, or worked in the summer kitchen to can tomatoes, or ate some wonderful and special food at the long wooden outdoor table. This backyard area got new pine straw a couple of times a year.

New pine straw is prickly on children’s bare feet, which was our condition most of the time in our summer visits, unless we were made to put on shoes to run up the block to the local grocery store to get something someone needed immediately, like, for instance, cold coca-colas for a morning backyard chit-chat break. But no weeds came up under the pine straw, which offered a pretty way to cover a shady back yard space that would not have supported grass.

This use of pine straw would have predated the current market for wood chips and/or mulch made of composted wood pieces mixed with composted dirt which now is used to cover garden beds. But here in the Deep South, pine trees are abundant and are sources of…pine straw. And pine straw, unlike mulch, covers dirt and keeps one’s feet clean.

The builder of my house and neighborhood used pine straw around the new houses. And that triggered memories for me. Honestly, I don’t remember what grandmother had in her formal flower beds, but I don’t remember weeding being a huge issue either.

As an aside, look what I saw in my front garden bed the other day. One of the little lizards so common in the South. Hello, my friend.

I’m seeing, also, tiny little black rain frogs in the pine straw when I have an occasion to disturb it. So the pine straw is doing a good job holding in moisture. And these tiny frogs will consume smaller insects I think. Pine straw, thus, is a natural part of the habitat here. And it is inexpensive and not heavy to transport.

After years and years of mulching in both Virginia and Maine, I’m enjoying this reunion with pine straw being used in one’s garden. I’ve been in my new home since early January, and I’ve only had a few sprigs of grass or weeds spring up in my pine straw beds, so I am kind of amazed, actually. That is so not true of other forms of mulch I’ve used over so many years. I had to do a lot of weeding in both Virginia and Maine.

Pine straw is high in acid and is a boon to acid-loving southern plants like azaleas, camellias, rhododendrums, tea olives, and many more southern plants.

It’s really easy to lift the edge of a pine straw mat and fold it back to weed beneath, which I had to do along some of the beds’ edges where the pine straw covered the centipede sod mats that come with a grid of plastic to hold them together. It’s a bit like folding back the covers on a bed one is making up. Then, when the sodded grass and its plastic grid is cut and removed, one just refolds the turned back pine straw edge.

Many of my neighbors are taking out the pine straw and putting in types of wood-chip mulch. Heavy wood chip mulch without added compost will retard weed growth, but it also pulls nitrogen out of the soil for a year or two while it degrades, which is not so good for the plants. Or so I read many years ago. And heavy compost mixed with wood chips feeds weeds as well as plants.

One neighbor told me she thought the pine straw harbored insects, which I took to maybe mean the dreaded palmetto bugs. But I’ve been outside a lot working in my beds, and I have not seen more than a spider or two. And, yes, a few of the tiny rain frogs. And that beautiful lizard, which also eats bugs.

The folks coming around to spray garden insecticides help foment this dread of “insects,” of course. Inside and outside. Can I just say data today clearly shows that herbicides and insecticides are WAY more dangerous than any insect–especially for children, which are happily abundant here in this neighborhood. (I love living where there is a healthy mix of human ages.)

One DOES have to treat for termites here. They are a menace. And once in Maine, carpenter ants got into one of my dry storage spaces upstairs, and I had to spray for those. And, then there was the time when we brought home bedbugs in, probably, our suitcases after traveling. That was a terrible spraying event. Terrible. So, yes, there is sometimes a need to stop a particular kind of destructive insect. But there are always health costs involved as well. Face it, we live in ways that encroach on the balance of the natural world all the time. But I hope that I’m making the point that insects are also part of the natural world and each has their place in it.

THUS, it makes no sense to me to spray to kill ALL insects (and creatures) in your lawn and on the whole of your house when many are needed in gardens and are doing no harm. My little lizard friend is here to EAT some of my insects, as are those tiny frogs, as are the spiders–insects and frogs and spiders that may have moved to my lawn and beds to escape death, as one sprayer predicted while standing on my front porch.

I can live with my insects for now. I baited some for roaches inside and in the garage where the big garbage cans live. And the house was treated for termites. But for me, that’s it for now.

And Alex, who mows for me, put down more pine straw Monday.

Look at how fluffy and pretty it looks:

Those azaleas and hollies are HAPPY.

I’m really liking recalling my Georgia pine straw memories–which are supporting what I think is the best thing to do in my own southern garden now.