Monday, November 29, 2010

Roses in November

Mrs. B.R. Cant was displaying some nice blooms this past weekend.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, November 26, 2010

Japanese Maples

The Japanese Maples got off to a late start this year with their fall color but it was so spectacular while it lasted. Last night a front came through with heavy winds and rain followed by colder temperatures. This morning 90% of that beautiful fall color is on the ground. Winter is coming!


Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, November 22, 2010

Camellia "Snow Flurry"

I can usually find something exciting in every gardening season. As winter approaches, the anticipation for camellias builds. Sasanqua camellias bloom in the fall and the showier japonica types will begin blooming in January and continue through early spring.

One of the earliest to bloom is the hybrid "Snow Flurry". It has been blooming now for weeks in our garden. The exquisite camellia is often regarded as a deep south plant but hybridizers continue to work on pushing the envelope. As a result, more cold hardier varieties have been introduced so gardeners farther north can enjoy these beauties as well. "Snow Flurry" is hardy to zone 6.

"Snow Flurry" was released in 1986 by the National Arboretum and it is advertised as one of the most cold hardy camellias available. This is one of the few camellias that I planted on the north side of the house and knock wood, it is thriving nicely.

The pure white anenome type blossoms are rather delicate and shatter easily. This makes them tricky to work with for flower arrangements. It gets an A+ in the landscape, however, and the beautiful flowers are a most welcome treat this time of year.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Carrot and Pineapple Cake

This recipe comes from Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa). I made it this past weekend for my family and it was very good! I did use canned pineapple and I found that in my oven, the baking time only took 40 minutes so better aware of that and check it early.

Carrot and Pineapple Cake

For the cake:

* 2 cups granulated sugar
* 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
* 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
* 1 cup raisins
* 1 cup chopped walnuts
* 1 pound carrots, grated
* 1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple

For the frosting:

* 3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
* 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted

For the decoration:

* 1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

For the cake:

Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light yellow. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the raisins and walnuts with 1 tablespoon flour. Fold in the carrots and pineapple. Add to the batter and mix well.

Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack.

For the frosting:

Mix the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.

Place 1 layer, flat-side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with diced pineapple.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fall colors

The Home Garden blog is celebrating Fall by gathering together blog posts that showcase fall color in their areas. I was beginning to think that we would not have any color to boast about this year. It has been a bad year for the garden - bone-dry conditions from drought being the chief culprit. October is usually a gloriously colorful month here in north Alabama. This year, it is late and we've even had a few frosts already.  A lot of leaves have been lost already before they had a chance to change color. However, the last few weeks has brought about a magical change. Last night brought rain (hooray!), so I rushed yesterday to get a few shots of the garden in her coat of many colors.

The first two photos were taken from the street (W. Limestone) which borders the north side of our property. Ornamental grass "Adagio" and oakleaf hydrangea "Sikes Dwarf" are planted outside the fence. In the background, you can see the foliage of Japanese Maple "Boskoop Glory" and Red Maple "Autumn Blaze". The yellow leaves on the left are also from a red maple.

Hydrangeas, the macrophylla and serrata types, are also very colorful in the fall season. The large yellow tree in the background is actually in our neighbors yard (the lower garden lies between it and this bed) and I don't know what it is.

Standing in front of the bird bath that you see in the above photos, I took this shot looking down along the patio. A Chinese Pistache tree is planted on the patio (to the right). In the background, you can see Japanese Maple "Sango-Kaku", Dogwood and Sugar Maple.

The "Sango-kaku" Japanese Maple is one of my favorites -

The large Dogwood trees were here when we moved in. They offer pleasure in every season -

On the opposite end of the house (the north side) is a small area I created underneath the Yoshino Cherry tree. The crape myrtle in the background was also here when we moved in and I tried to kill it several times (imagine that!). It has beautiful pink flowers that we can see outside our kitchen window as well as brilliant fall color. That is Chester on the bench.

Around the corner to the front garden, you see Japanese Maple "Boskoop Glory" again. The large tree on the left was one of the first I ever planted - a red maple that was on the clearance rack at Wal-Mart. I was very miffed when I saw that the leaves were yellow but I now love it.

Not a lot of color looking inside from the front gate but I wanted to show off the Armandii clematis that I'm very proud of. "Autumn Blaze" maple in the background to the left) -

And finally, a beautiful wisteria inside the secret garden -

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Still hanging on - Euphorbia "Diamond Frost"

This tough little annual is still going strong after two light frosts. It is now a "must have" on my annual list. It blooms non-stop and looks great in containers.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Pot Arbor

Earlier this year, I posted about the Memphis Hydrangea Tour sponsored by the Mid-South Hydrangea Society. One of the gardens on the tour is Brad Dantone's whose striking pot arbor attracted a lot of attention. Several of you commented about it and asked for directions on how to create one. Brad graciously sent me the directions and I'm just now getting around to posting them (sorry to be so slow!).
Here is Brad next to his pot arbor -

Here are his instructions on how he did it:
{{{This project is easier if two people work together. 

Rebar must be small enough to fit through the hole in the bottom of the pots.Cement the rebar 2 feet into the ground.  Start the pots through the rebar and put mortar on the bottom side of each pot.  Put the next pot on top of the previous pot.  Every pot has the mortar to hold to the next pot as they are treaded through the rebar.

Cement the Post in the ground in the center.

Get a large 2 gallon container, cut the bottom out and centered around the rebar and the first layer of pots.  Stop adding pots above the container.

Pour in the cement and after it dries, cut the plastic off the container.  Use mortar dye to color the cement to a terracotta color.  You can see where the container frame is on the left side of my leg in the picture.

After the cements dries, continue adding more pots with the mortar in between each pot.    

Bend the two rebars to meet in the middle at the post.  The rebar must be bent before the pots are layered.  If not, the pot will crack as you bend the bar.

You will need to cut a piece of rebar to go through the post. Butt the two ends of the rebar together with the piece of rebar in the middle of the post.  Fasten together with a metal gasket that gets tighter as you turn the screw. 

There will be a space of rebar at the top which the pots cannot cover.  Cover the rebar and gaskets with mortar and also dye to the terracotta color. 

A nice winter project! Thank you Brad for sharing your instructions. So, who is going to try it?

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Irene & Jim Fowler's garden in Greenhill

Irene Fowler is an artist, as anyone might guess while strolling through her exquisite woodland garden. Like Pam Harper, she is a master at combining plants in striking combinations that accentuate form, texture and color. I had a field day photographing her garden because at every turn I would find perfect visual vignettes.

The garden lies in a patch of trees behind the Fowler's house. They also garden in the areas surrounding their house, sunnier areas with less trees, but the woodland garden is an extraordinary treat. The Fowler's garden is often featured on garden tours. If you have the chance to see it, do it! It was well worth the drive (they live in the rural Greenhill community).

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Fowler garden (Greenhill, Alabama)

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pamela Harper, gardening guru

A few weeks ago, I had the great opportunity to hear Pamela Harper speak at the Mid-South Hydrangea Society meeting in Memphis. I've been an admirer for many years and her book "Time-Tested Plants: Thirty Years in a Four Season Garden" is one of my gardening bibles. I've found that most of the plants she grows in her Virginia garden do well in north Alabama. About the only difference is her soil is sandy and ours is clay. Here are some of the great plants I've discovered from that book:

Climbing Raspberry (Rubus rosifolus "Coronarius") - This thorny vine is compensated by beautiful spring time blooms that look like an old rose.

Bleeding Heart Vine (Dicentra scadens) - Gorgeous and dainty, it is tougher than it looks. Planted in dry shade, it always goes dormant by mid-summer but reliably returns each spring.

Fatshedera lizei -  The result of a cross between English Ivy and Fatsia. Another winner for dry shade.

Michelia Figo (Banana Shrub) - Another tough customer, it has survived the dry shade death trap. Beautiful glossy foliage and exceptional fragrance.

Euphorbia corolata - Drought tolerant perennial that resembles Baby's Breath.

Japanese Roof Iris (Iris tectorum) - A tough iris that actually grows on roofs in England. Doubtful it would do that here but does well in shade.

Carex phyllocephala "Sparkler" - An evergreen sedge that reminds me of a tiny grove of palm trees.

Lespedeza thumbergii "Pink Fountain" & "White Fountain" -  Large arching shrub with tiny pea-like flowers in summer and golden foliage in fall.

Azalea "Koromo Shikibu" - Beautiful, evergreen, fragrant pale purple variety.

As you can see, Ms. Harper is good for my garden and bad for my wallet. As a result of her talk, I know have more plants on my wish list! Her topic was "Hydrangeas and Their Companions". She shared beautiful slides of her garden (she is an excellent photographer) and educated us with her knowledge and lulled us with her beautiful English accent. Here are a few plants that she mentioned that I made notes of:

Climbing Hydrangea "Moonlight"
Liripe "Lilac Beauty" and "Christmas Tree"
Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla)
Phlox "Minnie Pearl"
Hydrangea "Little Honey"
Picea "Skylands"
Sweet Flag "Ogon"
Witch Hazel "Jalena"
Anemone nemorosa
Cestrum "Orange Peel" and "Lemon Peel"

A memorable night and well worth the 2.5 hour drive!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy