Coneflowers in Kindergarten

I love perennials. The idea that they go away in the winter and then come back every spring is magical. I know they don’t always flower as prolifically as annuals, but their loyalty every year makes you want to hug them.

My favorite thing to do with perennials is pot them up and place them on our deck. It’s kind of like our version of plant kindergarten. They spend a year in a pot on our deck and if they perform well they get placed in elementary school in our garden. (Please forgive the school metaphors, but we are getting ready for school in our house.)

My garden really is similar to a school classroom in that every plant in my garden has its own strengths and weaknesses like individual kids in a class. The tiny, feathery flowers are put in the front, so the teacher can keep an eye on them. The big, overgrown, shrub that looks just like a football player, sits in the back of the class, sometimes driving the teacher crazy.

I guess kindergarten really does relate to so much of life. Even gardening.

My current little kindergartener on the deck is coneflowers. They really are a wonderful plants. They come in several colors. My coneflower is white with petals that stretch downward when fully open.

One of the great things about coneflowers is that tiny finches love to eat the seed that the flowers generate. The birds hang on to the bobbing flower-heads and pull the seeds out of the center of the flowers. It’s fun watching them act like acrobats in a tiny circus.

Last year, my kids and I watched a tiny yellow finch visit our kitchen window every day. We would hear a tap-tap-tap and look up to see him hanging on the window sill. It’s almost as if he tapped to just say hello. How are you humans? Everything okay?

I guess I need to find a place in the garden to put the coneflowers. They can be planted, in the garden, in the spring or fall. They did very nicely on the deck. I’m a proud plant Mommy.

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Garden Tours or Snooping and It’s Okay!

Mother’s Day is my favorite holiday and not just because I’m a Mom. It is when my whole family goes on a local Garden Tour. For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you may have seen that I had gone this past weekend. It’s called the Connoisseurs Garden Tour and proceeds go to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. It has been held every year on Mother’s Day since the early 1980’s. It’s my favorite gardening event of the year and my family treats me like a queen.

My hubby, who is not a gardener, but loves a redheaded gardener (me), acts as chauffeur for the day. This is his brilliant solution to the difficult parking problem. The gardens on the tour are private homes and therefore parking is nonexistent. He selflessly drives us around to each house on the tour, me and the kids jump out of the car and he parks several streets over till we call him on a cell phone to be picked up. It is such a kind, loving thing that he does for me every Mother’s Day. Otherwise, I would walk my legs off just getting to and from our car. If money ever becomes a non-issue in the future, I have promised myself I will hire a driver for the day and give my sweet husband a break.

It is the simple act of snooping behind someone else’s garden fence. Don’t we all want to see what is in our neighbor’s garden? It’s a fun day. You can see so many different styles and sizes of gardens. We saw gardens the size of postage stamps and one garden that was on 5 acres. I took some photos of some great ideas.

This garden had a gravel and stone walkway out to the street. The gardener had planted Bachelor Buttons in between the flagstones. They were the most amazing blue color. I loved it!

Cobblestone path at a garden on the tour Bachelor's Button close-up

This garden had a wonderful sitting area in a corner. I’m a lucky Mom to have such beautiful children (13-year-old Nathan and 5-year-old Jamie). They love going with me and always notice plants or items I would have otherwise missed. I hope they will grow up to be fabulous gardeners!

A lovely sitting area

This gardener had a metal, bathtub water feature. Very different and unusual. It makes you think of other things that could be used the same way.

A bathtub repurposed as a water feature

I am envious of gardeners with Foxgloves! I’ve tried many times to grow them. One day I will make them work in my garden somehow.

Foxgloves

I loved this container planting with Ferns, Caladiums, and Geraniums. Really pretty and full. Shows you what can be done with a simple container. Love the colors, too.

A colorful planter

Look at this incredible Boxwood garden. I love the sculpture in the center. It shows us all that green should be included as a “color” in our garden. And there are so many shades of green. I love topiary like this because the sun and shade on the Boxwood create so much texture.

A boxwood hedge

Another beautiful water feature. My children loved playing with the gardener’s dog. He was garden mascot for the day!

A water feature with the gardener's dog

Here’s me and my son Jamie. It was a wonderful little nook with a bench and dozens of different kinds of groundcovers. The wheel in the middle is a millstone. I loved the urns on either side of us.

A seating nook

Here is a terraced garden with a Tuscan feel. It was unbelievably high. When you get to the top you find their raised beds of vegetables and herbs. Really inspiring and beautiful!

The Tuscan garden

The last garden we visited was mind-blowing. The size was very large – 5 acres and packed full of trees, shrubs, roses, and flowers. It had a mystical feel to it. Like walking through a mirror into another world. From the street to the front of the house is a meandering path through a forest. In a shady glade is a 7 foot tall statue of a buck.

A deer statue

As we moved closer to the front of the house, we heard beautiful music. When we reached the front steps, we looked up to see a young girl playing a harp. Very well, I might add. She was beautiful and magical and like a little fairy princess.

A little fairy princess on her harp

This garden also had a labyrinth made out of privet hedging. I would love to have taken a picture of it but to do so I would have had to climb a tree to get a good shot above it. It was amazing and the children loved it.

This garden had many different fountains and water features. One water feature became awe-inspiring when you reached the top of a hillside and looked down at the tiers of ponds. Only a photo will explain it properly. Amazing!

A water feature with many beautiful pools

I love living in the Atlanta area. We have such an amazing climate to garden in. I am so grateful for this annual garden tour. I can think back to so many wonderful gardens I have seen on many Mother’s Day weekends. Thank you to all the gardeners who opened their garden gates and let me and my children walk through on Sunday.

My English Garden

Okay, first I would like to apologize for not posting as often as I should. If you’re going to have a blog and not post very much – that’s kinda stupid. Sorry. I got lost in motherhood and to be honest, I love to garden much more than I love to write about gardening. I’ve spent a lot of time writing comedy lately and really enjoying it. I hope in the near future to start a blog for my comedy writing.

So often I would work in the garden and tell myself I Inside the Garden Gateshould write a post about what I’m doing but then I would go in and realize I need to start dinner or homework needs to be graded. I’ve had a lot of emails from friends, followers, and family telling me to get off my bohonkous and write. They have suggested I get more personal and less clinical. Put in lots more photos and talk about what I’m doing. Okay. Okay.

Well. I’m a forty-something lady, with two sons, a wonderful hubby and a beautiful, never to be finished garden. When I’m not in the garden, my nose is pressed against the window looking into the garden. If it’s sunny outside and I’m not in the garden I feel a little guilty. I somehow think it can’t live without me. I really do think gardening is a form of an obsessive compulsive disorder. I really do love it, though.

Garden - North SideThe style of my garden is an English cottage garden. Yes, that’s right an English garden built in a suburb outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve been studying lately the connection between Southern gardens and English gardens and they are very similar. You could take a picture of a Savannah or Charleston garden and swear you were in England. Boxwoods, ivy, roses. A lot of the same plant types are used in both.

My garden has lots of ivy, roses, hydrangeas, viburnums, itea, ornamental grasses, etc. I love Lamb’s ears; they add a wonderful silver color to the garden. I’m in love with flowering shrubs and plants that reseed themselves like Sweet William, and Balloon flowers. I love herbs like lemon balm, catnip and chives. I have planted lots of chives around my roses to help deter pests. My lemon balm photographs are in an Asian cookbook. If anyone has any great recipes for lemon balm then please e-mail them to me. I have a lot of lemon balm!

Viburnum - Summer SnowflakeOne of my most favorite plants is my viburnum cultivar “Summer Snowflake.” It is so wonderful when it is in bloom and in my region they can get to be 12 feet tall. More like a small tree than a shrub. I have planted many around my fence to add height to the fence. In our neighborhood we can only have 6 foot tall fences. The viburnum gives a sense of privacy.

I try during the spring and summer to cut flowers to bring into the house. I love the old “still life” paintings of flowers One of my rosesand fruit and tabletop scapes. What do you think of my “still life” photo of flowers? I’m very happy with it. Flowers make me happy. I sometimes think I would like to take pictures of my summer flowers and frame them for my walls. Then I could see them all year.

Still Life with RosesRoses Close UpI’m trying to grow fruit in the garden, too. I have a small amount of strawberries. I also have 3 small blueberry bushes which turn a lovely red color in the fall. Last year I didn’t get many blueberries as they were still too young to have much fruit. I think this year I will have to fight the birds, chipmunks, and rabbits for those blueberries! I also have a fig tree in a large pot. It came from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. No, I did not steal a cutting from his tree. They sell plants at a nursery on the grounds of Monticello. My understanding is that it was propagated from a cutting from one of his Brown Turkey fig trees. According to an arborist there, he was quite the fig farmer! Baby StrawberriesI’m not sure if that is true, but I still think of it as Jefferson’s fig. I leave it in a large decorative pot so that harvesting is easier and I can prune it to keep it small. The figs I harvest (2-3 dozen a year) taste spectacular. I am anxious to grow more fruit and veggies. I would love raised veggies beds on the south side of our garden. There is always something to wish and plan for. Bye for now. Happy gardening!

Garden - South Side

Angel with the RosesBay Window GardenSweet William

How To Keep Cats Out Of Potted Plants or The Case Of The Prickly Paw

I love cats. I really do – I have two of them. But there is nothing that makes me angrier than finding a pile of dirt next to my beautiful ficus tree. Or even worse, a “present” inside the pot. Keeping cats out of potted plants is a frustrating task. Some cats won’t give the time of day to a houseplant, while others love the smell of rich, earthy potting soil better than any catnip. I’ve tried many things to keep them at bay and I’ve finally come up with the best idea. Not only does it work, but it’s quite stylish, too. Pinecones! They are prickly on Fluffy’s paws and she will look elsewhere to do her digging. If your cat dreams of being Rambo and nothing will stop him – wire the pinecones together in a long swag. Then, drape them in a circle on top of the potting soil. Luckily, pinecones are cheap to buy or free if you go collecting with your whole family. Give your kids each a canvas tote bag and see who collects the most. Have fun collecting and have fun gardening.