Sunday, March 28, 2010

Camellia "Taylor's Perfection"

Camellias are one of my favorite plants and I don't know why it took me so long to start growing them. When I did fall in love with them, I did it in a big way. I remember visiting a camellia specialty nursery in Birmingham and coming home with a truck load. I have lots of favorites but one that would be in my top ten is "Taylor's Perfection".

This camellia is the most profuse bloomer in the garden. The buds started opening last week and the bright pink semi-double flowers really light up the landscape. The buds open gradually so you can usually be assured of flowers for several weeks.

One drawback, and the only one I can think of, is that the flowers nod so, unless you want to get down on the ground, it is difficult to see them well. Our shrub is only about four feet tall and it is reputed to get six to eight feet tall. When it attains that height, the flowers can be better enjoyed. Still, it puts on quite a show in the garden.

Taylor's Perfection is classified as a C. x williamsii variety which is a cross of C. japonica and C. saluenensis. Its parentage is unknown but originated in 1975 with J. Taylor of Alton, New Zealand.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mulch, mulch and more mulch

It can be a back-breaking job but mulching is a job that is very satisfying to me. Making a shabby area look neat and organized always leaves me with a sense of accomplishment.

Michael gave me an overdue haircut this morning and when I left his salon, I took a detour through a neighborhood that has a lot of pine trees. I was in luck - there was a huge pile on the curb on the first street. I ended up getting three loads and used it to mulch the rose beds outside the fence in front of the house.

After lunch, I made a trip to the landfill to get a load of leaf mulch. Collecting the pine straw isn't that bad but the damp and heavy leaf mulch can be bad on the back. I decided to start in the circular garden and mulch the hydrangea beds.

Before -

and after -

A short break and two Ibuprofins later, I was back at it, completing another bed (there are four in the circular garden) and around the fountain.

I normally can get at least two loads of leaf mulch, sometimes even three, but exhaustion kicked in and my back was killing me, so I called it a day.

Michael made a delicious supper, I took a bath in Epsom salts, and Netflix delivered the latest season of Mad Men. Life is good! Now if I can only get up in the morning...

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back to the garden

I was away only three days and I could not believe how everything had greened up so fast. There is so much to do in the garden that I wasn't sure where to begin. I still haven't pruned all the roses and I finally cut back the mondo grass today. I also got the urn fountain out and set up and cleaned up the vegetable garden. I also did some much needed weeding. After supper, I took some photos.

This is an unidentified camellia with big pink blooms -

Camellia "C.M. Wilson"

Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

Harry Lauder's Walking Stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta')

Daffodils among unpruned roses and uncut grass - lots of work to do!

And this is my favorite at the moment. Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana 'Rustica Rubra') which has never been more beautiful than it is this year.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A trip to New Orleans

It has been over 15 years since I've been to New Orleans. Michael and I had planned a short trip at the beginning on my spring break with his brother and family. Things didn't go as planned, however, and the death of the father of one of Michael's dear friends prevented him from going. I didn't want to go without him but we had invested in a place to stay and it was too late to cancel plus we didn't want to disappoint Michael's family who were so looking forward to it.

We left early Saturday morning and arrived by mid-afternoon. I had forgotten how many people are on the streets and how bad the traffic is in the French Quarter on a weekend and I have to confess, we were wondering just what we had gotten ourselves into and I know we all went into panic mode for a while. We had booked a room right in the heart of the French Quarter and parking places were difficult to find and the one-way streets were driving us nuts. But finally, we located a parking space, got our lugguge into the room and found a parking garage to store the car. After the initial culture shock, the trip went pretty smoothly.

This is where we stayed - The St. Philip Apartments on St. Philip Street. Appropriate no?

The courtyard was so nice -

After we settled in and finally ventured out, we first walked down to the French Market -

Saturday was beautiful but Sunday was anything but, with a drastic drop in temperatures and a bitterly cold wind. We spent Sunday visiting the Aquarium and World War II Museum (Colton, our nephew, is an expert on the subject and he loved it). Some shopping on Decatur Street but the temperatures kept us mostly inside.

Tim and Colton take a stroll down a deserted side street near Jackson Square -

An artist on Jackson Square -

Monday started out cold as well but the sun came out in the middle of our cemetery tour and it turned out to be a nice day. We continued to shop and buy souveniers. Later that afternoon, Tim and I took a long leisurely strool and look at some of my favorite things in the city - the architecture, the plants and the balconies.

A beautiful Lady Banks rose was in full bloom -

And more beautiful architecture -

I'm hoping we can plan more trips to New Orleans. I think the city is so beautiful and fascinating. I find it very intriguing and there is so much to explore there.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring keeps springing

Corylus avellana `Contorta', (Harry Lauder's Walking Stick)

After a week of warm temperatures, the weekend arrives and it is apparent that winter doesn't want to loosen its grip just yet. More rain last night, which brings the total to 2" this week, but worse this morning, a biting wind and temperatures in the 40s. I had a list of chores planned for today but mother nature would not cooperate. After stepping outside, I came right back in and changed into a warmer shirt and added a tee-shirt underneath. It was cold! Heading back out to get started on chore #1, it started raining. The garden was already soaking from the rains from last night and as I've mentioned in the past, I really dislike working in a wet garden. But as soon as the sun comes out for a few minutes, it gets dark and starts raining again.

I won't go into the other things that have went wrong today but they do involve almost running out of gas and my cell phone going dead. Oh yeah, today is the 13th isn't it?

I did get out later and take some photos but I felt like a bum the whole time with weeds everywhere and tons of unfinished chores staring me in the face.

The daffodils offer a promise of cheer and good things to come -

A camellia that was supposed to be "Sawada's Dream" but apparently it is not.

This spot in the lower garden behind the garage is a very fragrant one at the moment. First off, the Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) continues to get bigger and bigger and is a delight this time of year.

But there is another plant that even beats it in the fragrance department and it is a tenth the size of the winter honeysuckle. That would be Winter Daphne (Daphne odora). This little shrub is just amazing.

Here is a wider shot showing Magnolia "Little Gem" in the background. Just ignore the surrounding weeds.

And I leave you with this charming little viola which happens to be UNA's school colors.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Signs of Spring

Spring is a little late this year (we've had a cold winter) but it just takes a few warms days for signs to appear.

The tulips that I planted late are emerging -

And there are a few flowers -


Hellebores -

Daffodils -

Snowdrops -

And Camellia 'Professor Sargeant' is loaded with big buds -

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy