Sunday, December 30, 2018

Hits and Misses

Some years past, I made lists at the end of the year of Hits and Misses in the garden.

This year's list is more about what took a direct hit and what I'll miss in years to come, but here goes nothing.

The biggest Hits early in 2018 were tomatoes. Sometimes we even had one or two to share. It worked out well when Lane took over fertilizing and watering  until his memory started to fail. He started putting little spoonfuls of undiluted blue crystals directly on the soil. When I pointed out that the box said to dilute, he said, "I do it this way." and we didn't speak of it again. I added extra water past what his little dribble hoses were supplying.

Eventually the weather got warm and they stopped 
setting fruit.

Reviewing past years, I see the plan for successful winter vegetables: Veggies cut back in late summer put up new shoots very quickly. As the weather cools, some will come inside that have young fruits to see how long they bear in the greenhouse.  I could do that with pots of patio plants and keep them on a screened porch until a freeze comes and let them come in the house until freezing temps pass.

 Christmas Cactuses were a Hit. Those who fail to bloom by Christmas are a continuing Hit until the last one blooms. 

Every year past I've given away some of the prettiest and kept little plants to grow on. I brought some to the beach with me and they're rewarding me for their vacation by blooming a very few at a time. 

A non-plant Hit that we really enjoyed in late winter was Banana Pudding made with homemade Vanilla Wafers because I was not about to drive 15 miles to town to buy a box of cookies. 

Banana Pudding is always a Hit.

One year not long after we moved to South Georgia, I found a wildflower growing across the highway along the old hog pasture fence. I was so thrilled -- until the electric company spray guys came along and killed everything under the power lines including my wildflowers. 

Years passed and one day I noticed some dainty foliage in a flower bed that resembled sort of, maidenhair fern. I left it. It bloomed. Corydalis! Somehow it found its way back and to a safer spot. An aside here: the Chinese use a derivative of the roots of a corydalis species as a non-opiod pain reliever for fibromyalgia. I just used it as a self seeded filler for beds of Daffodils.  Hit!

Azaleas were a hit in the Spring of 2018. 

The bare horizontal branches are 
Dogwood not quite ready to bloom.
Below is the same spot in summer.

When the hurricane came in October, the huge oak 
fell and many azaleas and smaller trees were HIT.

Since this picture was taken the limbs were cut and moved off the driveway. The huge trunk and roots remain. It will take months to clear all we have waiting. Fields come before yards for planting.

 Remember when we used to go to the woods and pick sweet shrub flowers to tie in the corner of a handkerchief to smell the fruity aroma?

The big oak missed the Sweet Shrubs, at least some of them. I hope to have native plants in my garden always. 

Like Ladies' Tresses Orchids -- 
This one came up under my blueberry bush.  

Blooms and seed pods of Wild Indigo. Baptisia.

Too many things to list them all. This lily flowered Magnolia bloomed out of season in late June. It had bloomed at the usual spring time and suddenly here was a blossom. This plant goes back to before I was first here. More than 50 years ago it was a small tree. It's been cut down several times and came back. 

It's a promise.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Year in Review

2018 started out like any other year. We had Hyacinths in January, tomatoes in the greenhouse in February.

During that time I began to notice small things that made little sense, like the day that He Who Mowed drove through his friend's plowed garden spot at the lake in 4 wheel drive instead of backing out when he realized that it was very soft ground, leaving deep ruts.

Eventually the small things that I attributed to Old Age became bigger things like secretly ordering off online for things we didn't need that I learned about after the fact like a gun and a piece of furniture. Suddenly in late February he was badly confused. I could see no signs of stroke. An MRI showed a glioma the size of an orange in his head. Brain tumor!

Steroids to reduce swelling before surgery brought back not only his memory but his hearing and took away his chronic back pain. We fought the side effects with insulin and antidepressants.

He refused surgery and subsequent treatment when his memory returned, saying he'd seen what cancer treatment did to his friends and then they died anyway. He was a man with a plan. It was as if he was given superhuman strength and determination. He was able to accomplish most of the tasks he set for himself, despite my fears for the rest of us.

video of Lane's Last Hurrah

Doctor feared that he would have a seizure and instructed him not to drive. A compromize was reached in which he could drive but only machinery on his own property, not on the highway. He used the issue of someone else driving to make sure we knew the rules of the road: "Do you know what STOP means?" after one of us kind of rolled through a 4-way halfway to town.

Eventually the steroids stopped working. There were other medical issues and logistics issues but we managed. When I reached the point where I knew I couldn't go on with only Glenn's help, we called Hospice. They quickly set us up with equipment and other support both physical and emotional.

Two months had passed. When he took to the hospital bed after ignoring it for a few days, I knew. Four days and he was gone.

 April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain. -- T S Eliot

In June, I had pneumonia. We decided that maybe I should be closer to family. It all happened quickly and I kept wondering what had possessed me to lease a house in Panama City Beach.

Then the storm came on October 10 and I knew. It was shelter from the worst Hurricane ever seen in these parts. We were just west of the eye and this house stood, less than a mile from the sandy beach. A tree fell into Glenn and Charla's house across the bridge. Shingles blew off my roof in the country, 100 miles north where the storm had hardly slowed. We were safe here.

"What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief...."
-- The Wasteland, T S Eliot.

I know how to put together another one.

We are slowly recovering as are the rest of NW Florida and SW Georgia, hardly anyone untouched by the winds and rain. The house at the farm has a new roof. Glenn's house gets a new roof next week. They have much work to do inside the house. We have much to do at the farm outside.

Recently on the day of what would have been Lane's 80th birthday, his lifelong close friend just 3 miles down the road went to be with the Lord too after a valiant fight that included a few months of surgery and chemo.

Betty, former Hospice nurse used to say, "We only die once and we each get to do it our way."

"I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter." --T S Eliot, also from The Wasteland.  The Wasteland

Here I am, hopeful for a better year in 2019. I'll be going back to the farm soon to wait for a house being built farther from the beach. It will be interesting to see what survives under all the debris from the storm.

I reviewed some of my ancient blog posts this morning and realized that most of my best plants came from seed, or cuttings or divisions. Life goes on, or as Miss Billie used to say as she broke off a huge piece of Hydrangea, 'Stick this in the ground. It will root.' You can put down roots anywhere.

Saturday, October 27, 2018


When I came home from Metro Atlanta the day after Thanksgiving, I noticed that 'Little Gem' magnolia had a single blossom near the top. Today I found this poem:
So much hath happened! and so much
The tomb hath claimed of what was mine!
Thy fragrance moves me with a touch
As from a hand divine!

So many dead! so many wed!
Since first, by this Magnolia's tree,
I pressed a gentle hand, and said
A Word no more for me!

Lady, who sendest from the South
This frail, pale token of the past,
Oh, love, we live, but many fell!
The world's a wreck, but we survive! ---
Say, rather, still on earth we dwell,
But gray at thirty-five!

Parsons, Thomas Williams. On a Magnolia Flower. The Magnolia. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Privately printed. 1866. Pages 1-2.

Small Trees Complete the Garden

Lagerstroemia indica  Crape Myrtle

Dogwood Cornus Florida




Pears and Peaches

'Little Gem' Magnolia

Magnolia stellata

Vitex agnus-castus CHASTETREE

Trees I aspire to

Nellie Stevens Holly Ilex x 'Nellie R. Stevens

Loquat Eriobotrya japonica

Parkinsomia aculeata JERUSALEM-THORN There used to be one in town behind McDonald's before the restaurant burned.

Nyssa sylvatica BLACK TUPELO* Blackgum

Chionanthus retusus CHINESE FRINGE TREE -- not a native tree, Chionanthus virginicus is the native. I want a Chinese fringe tree.

Plants That Survived a Short Freeze and Look Well

Even when 21º was the expected low, we never got that low. Freezing temps here hover around freezing and do not last long, even though it always seems too long for me.

Some plants that did survive temperatures belowing freezing in my sort of microclimate garden included Graptopetalum paraguaynense and Sedum acre in the header photo above. These make great ground covers for rocky spots.

Brave Daffodils that bloomed a bit early survived. Now their companions are showing buds.

Rose Campion survives cold better than it survives wet. It will stand up again after temperatures warm. Prolong wet means it will need the rotten parts pulled out.

Bath's Pinks and other Dianthus stand cold very well.

Foliage of Lycoris Radiata makes a great wintertime edging, green and pretty despite short hard freezes.

Most broad-leaf evergreens fared well in cold. New growth on Boxwood turns bronze. It will need pruning by spring anyway so I don't worry. Camellias look good. Gardenias still look good. They shed old leaves in spring, so no worries there.

Uncommon Gardening with Common Plants

Starting with Alyssum and ending with Zinnias, common flowers can be used to make an uncommonly beautiful garden. Wide swaths of ordinary annuals make spring and summer shows, as do common bulbs like daffodils and hyacinths.

Perennials are even more delightful because they persist without reseeding or replanting. Some perennials are root hardy in the Coastal South, zone 8b, that bloom year 'round in Florida and tropical locations.

Graptopetalum is an old fav that we called 'Ice Plant' as children, now known as Ghost Plant. My favorite combo, discovered in a garden online is Graptopetalum and Russelia equisetiformis. It works better as container plantings for me.

Chlorophyllum, usually seen in hanging baskets, makes a pretty ground cover.

Gardenias are not as hard to grow as many gardeners believe. They will split at about 5 degrees Fahrenheit in a cold winter but most years they are quite happy despite freezing weather. June is the primary bloom time, worth a long wait.

Loropetalum has almost replaced azaleas as a spring favorite. Rebloom in late summer is a plus. The trouble with Loropetalum is that it doesn't stop at being a shrub. Many of mine are now trees. They bloom earlier than azaleas and last much longer.

Azaleas are still the show pieces of early spring in the Gulf South, blooming under dogwoods to form a fairyland.

Camellias can be counted on to bloom in winters. Hard freezes take out open blossoms which are quickly replaced by the opening of tight buds not affected by frost.

Lantana is my summer star. Lantana montevidensis prefers cooler temps and blooms into the winter. Frost blackens Yellow Lantana but it returns in early spring. Lantana is a butterfly favorite where there are long swaths of it along border edges.

Purple Heart and Persian Shield are my favorite purples. They play well with others, except that Purple Heart is a stronger grower. Not invasive, just tends to crowd its companions unless they also have strong roots.

Gulf Muhly Grass is a fall show not to be missed. Cotton candy infloresences seen against the setting sun are stunning. Gulf Muhly is fading in my garden now that the seeds have dispersed. I divided one plant in the fall. There is some green visible. I am hopeful.

Pentas are sold in garden centers as summer annuals. If you don't like to keep cuttings over winter, that's the easy way. Cuttings will bloom  on a window sill all winter if they get some sun. Late season bouquets can be deadheaded and the stems kept in water until early spring and rooted for even more plants. Butterflies and I believe there can't be too many Pentas.

Shrimp Plant Justicia brandegeana and Justicia betonica -- the red and the white. The red is sure to bloom all summer and into the winter. The white blooms in late winter and seldom do I get blooms out in the garden. Both return reliably from roots.

Brugmansias and Daturas. Daturas do not reliably return from roots for me but are easily seed-grown. Brugs return from roots and are among the easiest of cuttings. They're worth the wait for summer bloom. Last summer white species Daturas planted under pink Brugmansias were one of my favorite combos. I stuck in purple and white Swirl Daturas and that was pleasing, too. Purple Daturas have black stems that look like lacquer, a nice touch.

Three Newly Discovered Secrets

A newsletter that I get revealed what I already knew or suspected:

Gardening is back in style.

Green Roofs Are on the Decline

Healthy Turf Equals Healthy Kids