Friday, September 18, 2009

Pollination Works!

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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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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 heirloom French rose

Summer Bliss

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Community Gardening Guidebook Goes into Second Printing!

 A much needed resource for starting a community garden or for learning more about it....Available from and See sidebar for details about contents.  Photos alone are worth the price and tell the story.                                                                                
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Monday, March 2, 2009

Installing a Rain Barrel Step by Step

Installing a rain barrel is great fun and terribly satisfying. We can collect 55 gallons in this barrel with less than 1 " of rain off our roof. See right hand column for all the steps to installing your own barrel. With a drip hose channeled from the barrel we can water our ten rose bushes with a steady slow watering for over an hour. Try it. You'll love it!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Community Gardens Grow Healthy Food!

With all the alarm these days about getting safe food, it's no wonder many people are looking for a community garden to get their own tomatoes, lettuce, watermelons or whatever suits them. Folks like a community garden because they can learn from each other the best practices. I find food crops a lot harder to manage than oramentals. Seems as if they are more prone to disease. To be an organic gardener you need as much advice as you can get. Organic Gardening magazine has always been a great resource for me. In Brooklyn, where I have gardened a lot, youth have developed a farmers market from their produce. They've learned business skills as well as horticulture. If you want to grow food for your family, a community garden is a great way to go. Get ideas on how to start a community garden from Also, check out the new guidebook COMMUNITY GARDENING from or from AMAZON.COM

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Although this photo of Susan JOhnson in Brooklyn was taken last fall, it oculd have been here in Winston-Salem yesterday. It was in the mid 50 degrees and sunny. After several days of temps in the mid 50's it was a great day to work the soil Such a day gives a healthy dose of spring fever! I ventured into my garden to take soil test samples. I'm sending four to the Ag Extension Service in Raleigh (see my column on soil testing). I took samples from each of four gardens; rose garden, little forest area, perennial flower border and vegetable garden. It was great to dig in the soil. But, the real excitement came from harvesting compost! We put all our kitchen cuttings and coffee grounds (filters and all) into the compost on a regular basis. However, the fall leaves are the biggest part and I had to plow through a pile of them to get to the rich compost at the bottom of the bin. (Yes, I know I should be layering the leaves and the kitchen material to get a proper carbon nitrogen mix, but I will do that task later). I have a three level bin made of recycled plastic (purchased from Smith and Hawken) so I took off the top section and removed the contents then the second section. I got to the compost in the bottom section. Rich, finished and full of earthworms. The sight of the earthworms gave me the biggest thrill because that tells me the compost system is really working. I removed about 30 gallons of finished compost and put that into our vegetable beds (we have raised beds) as well as several large containers which I will spread into other parts of the garden. The photos are ones of the compost harvest in the Schaef Earth Garden. I will add some photos of my compost here in North Carolina asap.

Compost is the supreme soil amendment to add structure and organic material to your soil, something we DESPERATELY need with our clay soil here in North Carolina. It enhances plant growth, helps with water retention (especially to create a drought tolerant garden) and is easy to make yourself. Winter is a great time to add to the garden before the spring rush of planting.

Home composting saves money too and you know what's in it because you put it there.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Winter Sowing Containers

I decided to see how many different kinds of containers I could use. And, I wanted to recycle as many different things as I could. Now, I look at every container to think about it's potential to plant seeds. The ones I have used so far are:

Large clear plastic container (as you put under your bed to store sweaters) with plastic baggies. I removed the plastic top but be sure to put it on and to drill holes in the top. Photo 3.

Other examples: Ice cream cartons, Soda bottles, Empty Canola Oil bottle, Styrofoam cups, strawberry container from grocery store. If you go to the winter sowing website they have more details and even more container options. Photo 2.

The first seeds that sprouted were mesclun seeds (took about ten days). The temps have been below freezing all the way up to the 50's but it doesn't seem to matter. Chard is also coming up. Don't forget to keep the containers covered with a baggie but make little vent holes.

Also, these styrofoam cups in photo 2 were cut in half and I will use both the tops and the bottoms.

Winter sowing is addictive. This is my first year and I'm already convinced it works. It's so much easier than seed starting indoors as you are letting nature take care of all the guesswork, etc. For a comparison I'm also planting seeds indoors of similar or same varieties. Will try to see what does best and is the most successful. Watch for future reports.