Sunday, June 27, 2010

Visiting the Engineered Garden

Yesterday, some friends and I had the opportunity to visit Jeff's garden in my hometown of Russellville (about 25 minutes south of Florence). I've been reading Jeff's blog, Our Engineered Garden for some time now and I'm constantly amazed at his inventive ways of growing vegetables. He truly takes the art of square foot gardening to another level.

Jeff grows many vegetables on trellises. In this photo, tomatoes grow on one side of the trellis and watermelons grow on the opposite side. I didn't realize that you could grow different plants so close to each other but Jeff says that it is not a problem.

Here is a wider shot of the bed. Okra (one of my favorites) grows in the middle. Beans are planted on the trellises. The beds are fenced in to keep the deer out.

And some yummy squash -

The tomatoes growing in this bed are all "Cherokee Purple", a variety he recommends highly.

Tomatoes growing on a compost pile!

And speaking of that, Jeff is the master of compost -

Turning the compost piles can be back breaking work so he built a contraption that turns it for him -

He also grows many plants in self-watering containers. Here he is demonstrating how he builds one (see his blog for instructions).

These are sweet potato plants growing in self-watering containers.

And more containers made from cat litter buckets. Hmmm, I have a basment full of these...

Another highlight of the trip was meeting the star of Jeff's blog, Jude. What a sweetheart!

We all enjoyed the visit and learned a lot. If you want to learn more about these techniques and more, be sure to visit Our Engineered Garden. Thanks Jeff!

Speaking of vegetables, we had fried squash (from Michael's customers), butter peas (from the Farmer's Market), cornbread, and peppers from our own garden tonight. Delicious, but if I keep this up, I will have to renew my gym membership soon.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Florence Beautification Winners

Today we presented the Beautification Awards for the city of Florence at a luncheon held at River Heritage Park. It was a hot day but at least we didn't have a major thunderstorm like last year. Every year we select properties in various categories and reward the top winners with a beautification sign for their property. We really appreciate their hard work and their commitment to make our city more beautiful.

Here are the winners for this year:

First Southern Bank (downtown location)

Heart Health Center

Keystone Business Center

Dr. William McClanahan

Chick Fil-A

Burger King (Cox Creek Parkway location)

Huffaker & Associates

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

Florence-Lauderdale Public Library

Olive Garden

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Ranger Batteries

Red Lobster

Trinity Episcopal Church


Wilson Lake Wastewater Management

Congratulations to all the winners!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, June 18, 2010

More You-Know-What

So is anyone getting tired of hydrangeas? If you are, just skip this post. Here we go with several more varieties without a lot of commentary. Hopefully the photos will speak for themselves!
This is the new "pink Annabelle" called "Invinsibelle Spirit". I'm not crazy about the name but the thought of an Annabelle with color excites me. I didn't expect to see it in nurseries this year but lo and behold, they had it at Porter's Nursery in Muscle Shoals ($30 in a 3 gallon pot, ouch)!

And speaking of Annabelle, the original.

"Ayesha", one of the most unique hydrangeas I've ever seen. It has really taken off this year (its third year in the garden) and is loaded with blooms. It has been a shy bloomer in the past.
"Charm" sports huge blooms.

"Merritt's Supreme", a tried and true variety and heavy bloomer. The blooms were so heavy that they were flopping to the ground. I have attempted to stake them.

"Penny Mac", named after hydrangea doyenne Penny McHenry of Atlanta, Ga., it was discovered in her garden.

"Tokyo Delight", an elegant lace-cap.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hydrangea "Amethyst"

Here is another hydrangea that would be on my top 10 list. It is a compact grower, no taller than 3 feet and wide, with large, tight blooms. Most books say that the flower color is pale pink to violet but in our garden, it is a bright robin's egg blue. It is in a bed lined with bricks and sided by concrete steps. I don't know if that affects the bloom color but I suspect it does. The flowers have white centers in the early stag of blooming and the sepals are serrated.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Road Trip - Memphis Hydrangea Tour

Michael and I braved the heat yesterday to drive up to Memphis (about 2.5 hours from Florence) to attend the Mid-South Hydrangea Tour. I had printed out maps from the MapQuest website and tried to pinpoint the best routes so that we wouldn't spend too much time lost. From experience, you don't want to be with Michael when he doesn't know where he is. That man is in serious need of a chill pill.

The MapQuest directions were not that bad but they were not the best either. We made a few wrong turns but managed to visit 4 out of 6 gardens and finished before noon and before the sweltering heat became unbearable. I do have another item for my wish list - I want a GPS device for trips like this. If you have any recommendations, let me know.

We then drove across town to visit our friend Joann, had lunch at PF Changs (yeah!) and stopped at a few shops. Michael's aunt and cousin drove up from Mississippi and we all had a good visit. Got home around 8pm totally exhausted and slept till 8am this morning. Unheard of!

On to some garden photos. The first garden was very small and charming - a lush patio/courtyard area. Not too many hydrangeas at this one. I think this is "Ayesha".

Doesn't this look like a great place to relax?

This beautiful hydrangea was at the second garden and I'm kicking myself because I didn't write the name down.

This one is "Angel Song", one from the "Halo" series that I wrote about earlier.

I love this archway made from terra cotta pots - clever!

My favorite garden was this one. This is a narrow pathway along the side of the house which leads to the beautiful garden in back.

Looking back in the opposite direction toward the front lawn.

The back garden featured this adorable potting shed.

A patio area. I love the rock work and the way she integrated architectural pieces into the borders.

A long view of the garden. This garden had a Mediterranean feel with manicured grassy areas and lots of stonework and gravel. Loved it!

I don't know what this groundcover is but I like very much.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy