Thursday, April 3, 2014



"Still - in a way - nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small - we haven't time - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time."
                                                                   Georgia O'Keeffe


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March and April Gardening Tips

What a great time in the garden. As the days get warmer and longer, it's exhilarating to see our plants slowly growing in spite of a really cold and difficult winter in our area.  Some trees are beginning to bloom and will come to their full glory in April. 

Tips:

  • Finish your clean up from the winter and fall.  Remove twigs and rake leaves if there are any left.

  • Remove any weeds as they return early! Getting rid of them now is much better (and easier) when the ground is wet.  Some flower very early and their seeds will produce many more weeds later in the season.

  • Plant seeds outdoors now for those early spring cool crops, such as lettuce, spinach, peas, onions, potatoes.  Wait until after April 15, our last spring frost date, to plant the summer vegetables such as squash, melons, okra, corn.  Shrubs and trees can be planted. If you still have pruning to do, do it immediately. However, do not prune those that have spring or early summer blooms, or you will lose the flowers (azaleas, rhododendrons, etc.) They can be pruned after blooming.

  • Roses can be planted now.  If you haven't pruned your roses, now is the time.  Cut out all diseased and dead wood, any branches that are crossing and all other branches that are smaller than the size of a pencil.  Altougt you may not want to prune climbing roses, others can be pruned to a size you prefer, usually waist high.

  • Many flower seeds and transplants can be planted, such as zinnias, impatiens, begoias, and other warm loving flowers. 

  • Lawns:  In spring your lawn will grow very fast so get your mowers in good condition. If you have any bare spots, plant new seeds.

  • Don't forget to water if we have high temperatures.  Check any irrigation systems to be sure they are in good working order as May can get really hot and dry.

  • Above all, enjoy your garden!  This is one of the best times of year to enjoy and get back outside for the fresh air and sunshine.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Iris Farm Wonderland (This is a small rewrite of the entry I wrote two years ago; the garden will be in full bloom around May 1)




A Wonderland of Iris

My irises are coming up better each year. 

Several years ago when I first returned to Winston-Salem, I drove by Meadowlark Road  and noticed a field with many small signs. Thinking that it might be a day lily farm, I was even more curious when I began to see the plants growing. It occurred to me that this might be a nursery of some sort, but there were no signs or other indication of what it might be. On May 12, my friend Patsy called to say that she was going to the Iris Farm so let's meet there. Since I wasn't able to go on that day, I really forgot about it. I had no idea that this was the same field I had been observing for some time. That afternoon I decided to call Patsy about something else and she was IN the iris field selecting iris for her new garden. Her excitement indicated to me that now I HAD to go to the Iris Farm and SOON before the iris had stopped blooming. Although they had already reached their "peak", there were still still plenty to enjoy.

It turns out that the iris in the field below was created  by the 86 year old  mother of Faye Short  (she's the one in the photo below). Visitors were welcome anytime. I couldn't believe what I saw. Purchases are possible from the 2000 varieties available; yet, it seems that the main purpose of this garden was the sheer joy it brings to the community. Mrs. Short's sister  described it as their  mother's obsession gone wild.

TIPS on iris cultivation from these experts:

Iris need full sun, don't care much about the soil type (and grow well in our dense clay soil in western NC). When planting these iris (as soon as possible), plant them with the rhizomes near the top of the soil (in another words plant them high), cut off the folIage to about 5". This will encourage root development and a clumping effect, if done every fall.

I came home with twelve new iris, all different colors. I went with the idea of getting maybe 12 of the same color; forget it! Hopefully, I'll get some bloom next year, but it maybe be a little later. Meanwhile, I have these wonderful photos to encourage my anticipation of the future bloom in early May.

IT'S APRIL 2009 NOW AND MY IRIS ARE COMING UP ALL OVER MY YARD; ONE HAS A BLOOM JUST GETTING READY TO OPEN. PHOTOS TO COME AS SOON AS THEY BLOOM.

IF YOU ARE ANYWHERE NEAR WINSTSON-SALEM, NC GO TAKE A LOOK AT THE FARM. YOU WILL BE AMAZED.

Oh, if you want to see this Iris Farm, it's approximately 920 Meadowlark Rd. in Winston-Salem, NC. Go in early May to see the peak of bloom.

David Bare, the garden columnist for the Winston -Salem Journal wrote and extensive article about the iris farm in the Friday, May 6 paper (see Journalnow.com).

Friday, May 3, 2013

Garden Coaching: What is It?

Simply put, garden coaching is like any other coaching. A person with experience guides another person. It could also be called garden mentoring. Recently there has been an increase in home gardening, especially vegetable gardening. When a person is just learning or is moving to a new place, they might want someone to help figure out next steps. Whether you want a flower garden or a vegetable garden, it should be a fun process for all involved.

As a Garden Coach, I do not do the actual installations but I teach you how to develop your own garden. Here are a few types of situations that might be aided by a garden coach:


-planning a garden for a new home (or renovating an existing one)

-planting a perennial bed, a cutting garden, a cottage garden, children's garden , etc.

-improving your property if you want to put your property on the market

-analyzing what will grow best on your property, sketching a plan

-tips on what tools, soils and plants you can use and where to get them

-go to the nursery to choose plants if you wish

-starting a vegetable or herb garden

-developing a maintenance plan including teaching you how to prune, water, weed, etc.

-incorporating your goals for conservation and environmental responsibility into your garden

If you are more interested, check out my garden coach blog at gardencoachws.blogspot.com

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I am moving all my new posts to my blog "Garden Coaching in Winston-Salem". 
Do you need someone to help you plan and plant your garden? To show you how to prune? To work out a maintenance schedule?

A garden coach might be a good way to go. I'm offering my services to coach interested people whether they want a full garden, a vegetable kitchen garden, a perennial or annual border or containers on their deck. I can also show you how to set up a compost system. You can contact me by email at ellen.kirby@gmail.com. Also, visit my Garden Coach blog at (click here) http://www.gardencoachws.blogspot.com/ to learn more about what I do.




Monday, December 27, 2010

A great time to rest, read and plan

While the snow is on the ground, gardeners can relax from the busy times of the planting seasons. I just got my first two catalogues.  Cook's Garden catalogue is a feast for the eyes.  It's a good time to plan as well.  I will begin to look at my notes from last year and think about how to move things around, where to start new flower beds, etc.  I don't think I will do much winter sowing unless I direct sow larkspur and other hardy annuals. I will really push the envelope by planting some daffodils that never got into the ground.  I planted them as late as Christmas in New York and am not sure I can get by with that here in WS. Meanwhile at the Food Bank Farm we have truckloads of leaves to get distributed into the fields in time to decompose for the spring planting. 

Since January and February provide a great time to dig into gardening books, I want to remind folks to look at the book Community Garden, published by Brooklyn Botanic Garden a year ago.  Hopefully, it will inspire you to look at ways to start your own community garden.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Winter Sowing


For several years I have thought I would like to try Winter Sowing. After several attempts at sowing seeds indoors without much luck, I decided to try outdoors sowing. It's a really easy no fuss way if you have patience and trust. Patience that you can wait for the seeds to sprout when the conditions are right. Trust that they WILL germinate and grow, even if the temps in January are hovering around freezing or lower. If you are interested, go to www.wintersown.org for a delightful website which explains it all. www. Dave's Garden.com also has a winter sowing forum. With what I learned on these two sites, I set up my clear plastic covered box with about 15 different zip loc bags with different seeds in each including larkspur, kale, mesclun, lettuce, chard, spinach, poppies and zinnias (I could have waited on those but decided to give it a try). All but the zinnias are hardy annuals. Will see what happens and will keep you posted.

Here's a photo of what I hope to see, maybe in April as a result of my experiment. It's dinosaur kale!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winter Beauty Camellias











I'm introducing this series of posts on winter gardening with this most beautiful Camellia that was planted in my yard near the front door by the previous occupants. It blooms every winter.  These flowers often seem "out of sync" with the rest of the landscape at this time of year but I love it. According to the NC State Extension another good choices for winter color is Camellia x 'Crimson Candles'. The new foliage is bronze- red, and the flowers bloom in Feb and March. Both these plants can withstand night temperatures in the 20s and is hardy in USDA zones 7 through 9.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Winter in the garden in Zone 7b USA (North Carolina)


Yes, it does snow in North Carolina! This is a photo from 2010.  So far (as of Dec. 31, 2013) we have not seen about two flakes.  

I don't know if you remembered the little garden with the Muhly grass that I posted in the fall of 2010 but this is the same scene from another angle in the winter.   The topic of these next few posts is "Winter in the Garden". I'm trying to show what is going on in my garden and will be adding more posts on the topic as ideas come to me. The soltice is approaching and the whole process starts to reverse itself with daylight gradually lasting longer each day. Hope you are enjoying some winter in the garden if you happen to be in the Northern Hemisphere, that is.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Snow....Nature's Mulch

A Great Tool....the Bulb Planting Auger

I just posted information about my new favorite tool...check it out on my blog http://www.gardencoachws.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cones of all kinds


This is a beautiful little cone that appeared on our very little Italian Cypress. Cones like this are unusual for me but wonderful to collect to add to holiday decorations.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Home from Hotlanta...American Commmunity Gardening Association Fabulous Annual Conference


Participants loved to explore the gardens...this is the Dill Street Community Garden that is part of the Sullivan Community Center in Atlanta


I haven't blogged in a while but am still on a "high" from a fabulous annual conference for ACGA and NEED to write about it because it was so wonderful. Previous conferences have been held in Portland (Oregon), Indianapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia, NYC, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Toronto, Boston, Columbus (Ohio) and Atlanta again (did I forget any?).  This conference took place August 6-8 at the Loudermilk Center in downtown Atlanta.

The mood of the conference was enthusiastic, inspiring and hopeful. There was amazing energy among a truly diverse group of nearly 300 participants of all ages and backgrounds. The conference was filled with great workshops, garden tours and excellent speakers (including First Lady Michelle Obama via videotape about the White House vegetable garden and her commitment to fighting child obesity). The theme "A Holistic Approach to Building Sustainable and Healthy Communities " was carried out beautifully with an emphasis on how community gardens can be a force in preventing childhood obesity and promoting child health.  Speakers and workshops gave great examples of how this is being done in schools, community gardens, food banks, etc. 

Two workshops that I attended were outstanding.
Bikes and busses were the methods of transportation to visit community gardens

Founder of a booming neighborhood community garden in a lot behind her backyard
Participant from a new citywide program in San Francisco
"Growing Healthy Kids: Community Garden with Obesity Prevention in Mind" was presented by Maria Hill from Chapel Hill, NC.  Maria shared their experience from three years of establishing new community gardens to serve immigrant families with young children. The one in Chapel Hill primarily includes Latino families who are learning to grow food for their children and encouraging healthy eating habits of fresh vegetables and fruits. Close to 30 per cent of children in NC are either obese or in danger of obesity leading to higher child rates of hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.

The Mother Hubbard's Cupboard is a food pantry in Bloomington Indiana. Leader Stephanie Solomon led a workshop "Growing Food Access: Garden Education at the Food Pantry". Mother Hubbard sponsors four gardens which are tended by those who receive food from the food pantry.  Stephanie shared great ideas for connecting families with healthy eating habits.

 I left feeling in awe of how brilliantly these women are organizing truly  "holistic" programs.

Dill Street Community Garden
Program of Sullivan Community Center
(Top)Atlanta's Community ToolBank progam that lends tools for communtiy programs
(Bottom) Tool shed that has a solar panel to provide power for lights and sound systems)
Experienced and enthusasitc gardener tells us about her plants including this awesome Princess Amaranth
Bus and bike tours to community gardens were fun and inspiring. I really learned a lot about design, crops, community organizing and eco practices.  I went to three outstanding community gardens plus the Atlanta ToolBank Program (www.atlanta.toolbank.org) which was a totally new concept for me. This is a lending warehouse for tools for gardening, home repairs and other community projects.  Tools can be borrowed for a week.  ToolsUSA is now a new organization based on the Atlanta model and the next one will be in Charlotte!  (Just wish I could get some tools for our Food Bank Community Garden project with 80 wake Forest students next weekend when we convert our garden from a summer to a fall garden).

My only regret is not having photos of a fabulous party on Saturday night at the Urban Metro Farm with every kind of southern food, a blues band and a tour of their new farm. A silent auction yielded $1500 for ACGA.
Ursula Chance from Bronx Greenup...checking out that mulch!

I returned home feeling renewed and refreshed.  I'm inspired to keep connecting with these great people, especially those in our NC gardens and to improve our Food Bank Community Garden here in Winston-Salem.  (http://www.foodbankgarden.blogspot.com/)

Thanks to the organizers and the great participants.  Bobby Wilson and Kathy Walker of Fulton County Extension are the best!

For more information about the American Community Gardening Association, go to http://www.communitygarden.org/

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hydrangeas at last!

After moving to our home three years ago, I discovered two hydrangeas planted by the previous owners.  For the next two years they didn't bloom. I don't even remember doing anything to them the fist year.  The second year, after the leaves had fallen, I thought the stems were dead so I cut them to the ground.  Wrong!  I realized  that those dead sticks would come alive if I let them and in fact, those stems harbored the buds for the next year's flowers. I had an oakleaf hydrangea in my Brooklyn back yard and I knew not to prune it except to control the size.  I this Niko blue macrophylla was totally different.  Live and learn.  A good source on all things hydrangea is hydrangeashydrangeas.com

Monday, April 5, 2010

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pollination Works!


Ilex 
verticullata, a native holly, is one of my favorite plants. I LOVE IT!  Anyway, I bought two. You have to have male and female to get berries.  The male, quite appropriately is named 'Jim Dandy' and is very low key obviously with no berries.  However, he did his work, or at least the pollinators did.  The female is full of berries.  In addition, and this is the really cool news, there is another very  large shrub in my garden which I inherited from a previous owner.  I knew it was deciduous but I couldn't figure out what it was.  It was so blah that I pruned it back bigtime last spring and was even thinking of taking it down. It had flowers which were very inconsipicuous.
 
Now, at the end of summer, it  is full of berries...amazing,  my own very large Ilex verticullata, commonly know as winter berry.  When everything else is colorless and bear and bleak, it is in its shining glory.
Continuing to love this tree like shrub, I'm now a total convert to the amazing wonder of pollination.

Now, rush out and get one, but make sure you get two...male and female.  I love Jim Dandy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Dog Days of August

I think the heat and humidity is getting to me. I see lots of gray, hazy casts and some vile weeds taking over. I have to wear special armor to get rid of those awful prickly one (what are they anyway??), agressive ones that challenge the most patient gardener. Hey, I usually like to weed. But now, so many things are finishing their bloom time and the fall bloomers are awaiting some cooler temps and shorter nights. I looked around and decided to do a good check of what IS doing well and made a list to remind me to plant more next year:

First Prize: Zinnias

Second: Crape Myrtle

Third: Roses: Duan Juan and Veteran's Honor

Fourth (Tie): Phlox and Verbena

I have to admit, now that I've thought about it, that things aren't as bad as I thought, especially early evening and morning (oops, I forgot those Morning Glories). That midday sun really washes everything out. Somedays I think I am just too greedy and fail to take in what is, rather than what isn't.

Now, let me hope I will remember next year to plant those zinnias with their many shapes and colors.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa

Making Our Water Garden


Richard and I put together our water garden ourselves, after much consideration of whether we could do it. Of course, getting prices from professionals gave us a pretty good idea we would have to do it ourselves or not at all. We drew our plan, had a big hole dug, got the flexible liner, skimmer box, water fall, plumbing things, some water plants ( water lilies, pickerel weed, acoris, etc.) We ordered a ton of stones and put them around the edges.
We love to sit on our deck listening to the sound of the water fall and watching the dragon flies, fish, flowers on the water lilies and anything else. There is a lot of life in a pond. We had two frog visitors but they only stayed a few days.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Good, the Bad and It Depends Where You Are

I haven't blogged for a while and have a lot of catching up to do. Of course, everyone out there knows that this time of year is more doing than thinking and I have been totally immersed in the world outdoors, plus my computer died. Now I'm back in action during the middle of the day when it's just too hot to be outside in North Carolina.

I decided to write about my experience in NC vs. my experience in Brooklyn, NY. It's amazing that even though I garden in both which share Zone 7, there is a huge difference in what goes well here and there and here and there.

Comparison of specific plants that grow well for me here (in my sunny hot location) and there (in my Brooklyn shade garden). Lest you say, aha, it's sun vs. shade, I know many of these plants growing in full sun at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in NYC and Reynolda Gardens here in NC.

Shasta Daisies.....totally a winner in NC and always a failure for my in Blyn.
Hydrangeas........totally a winner in NYC and not so hot for me here in NC
Oakleaf Hydrangeas.....the MOST beautiful flowers in my Brooklyn shade garden; just planted one here in NC....we will see. After all it's a native to the south east.
Day lilies..............totally a winner in NC and not so hot in NYC, except the NY Botanical garden where they have an extraordinary day lily collection
Hostas........I guess it depends on the variety as some do well here in NC but one which was spectacular in my Brooklyn garden did not do well as a transplant here. I tried seveal times iin the shadiest part of my garden; meanwhile,other hostas are doing great. Conclusion is that it depends on the variety.
Cercis canadensis "Redbud" ....Fabulous in NC, the woods are full of them blooming in the spring; a rarity in NYC
Crape Myrtles.....Fabulous and probably over used in NC; just beginning to be known and popular in NY.. Brooklyn Botanic garden has a terrific collection.
Balloon flowers....great in NC; never grew them in NYC
Lavender....Have great luck in NC with plants I bought in Long Island; never could grow them in NYC
Nepeta....Grows well here but really falls apart when it gets hot; much longer bloom time in NYC
Echinacea....They are fabulous in NYC and I wasn't able to get much bloom until this year, 3 years after planting
Rudbekkia....Great in both places
Lilacs...Unbelievable in NYC and very rare in NC. I've seen one this season.

Why these differences....Soil is VERY different. In NC it's clay and in Brooklyn, well it has more organic material and lots more rock. In NC the winter is about a month shorter so everything is at least two to four weeks ahead. Heat and humidity....higer in NC. Amount of rain; can vary totally. This year NC is having fair amount of rain and NYC is having huge amounts of rain. When I recently visited NY I can never remember, in the 40 years of living there that the tree canopy from the air was as green and lush as it is now.

Of course, the fall leaves are another topic as they are very different in NC and NY. Will wait for that until my October report. Meanwhile Ithink I'll go have a glass of sweet ice tea.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My organic roses

What can be more beautiful than the first roses of spring? These blooms, photographed on Mother's Day are my gift to myself. I am trying to use all organic practices....constantly enriching the soil, mulching, using organic spray, removing Japanese beetles by hand, organic fertilizers, etc. The proof will be as the summer progresses. I also water with underground irrigation and also my rain barrel collection. All of the collected water goes into my roses. I'm in Zone 7 in Winston-Salem, NC.

More later as the summer progresses and I get more photos. For more on roses, also see the post on my friend Kay's beautiful rose garden in Raleigh, NC.

Zephrin Drouhin....an heirloom French rose

Summer Bliss