Friday, July 27, 2012


I spent most of last night in the kitchen baking goodies for a retirement brunch for the lady who has cleaned the library for many years. We were all sad to see her go. Since it was a brunch, I decided to make bran muffins and chocolate muffins that are actually more like brownie cupcakes. I also decided to make chocolate banana cookies at the last minute. The recipes for the muffins are on my baking blog. I will be adding the cookie recipe later this weekend.

Tonight it is pizza, the sofa and catching up on my favorite program "The Chew". It has been a long week!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Plume Poppy

Plume Poppy (Macleaya cordata) - one of the few bright spots in the drab late July garden.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Homemade Vegetable and Fruit Wash

Just picked today! The tomatoes are really coming in now and unlike me, they really enjoy the heat. These tomatoes and the cayenne pepper came from our small raised-bed vegetable garden. The jalapeno peppers were grown at my mother's house.

We all know that vegetables and fruits are good for you but if you are buying your produce from a grocery store (or use pesticides in your garden), you might worry what chemicals are on your food and if you are properly washing them off. I know I'm paranoid about things like this. I've used store bought vegetable and fruit washes before but they are expensive. I recently came across directions for making a homemade wash. It is cheap and very easy to do.

All you need is:
Distilled white vinegar (diluted with 1/2 with water)
Hydrogen Peroxide
A soft brush or scouring pad

Place the vinegar and peroxide in separate spray bottles (I picked up some at Dollar General for $1 each).

First, spray the vegetable or fruit with vinegar and water mixture.

Then spray with the hydrogen peroxide.

Use a soft brush or scouring pad and rub softly.

Rinse thoroughly.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

And a stingy one at that. Our garden isn't very interesting from mid-late summer with very little color. I was just over at Nancy Ondra's great blog Hayefield and was amazed at what all she has blooming!  

We have been very fortunate this past week with some abundant rainfall (at least 4 inches so far). It rained again yesterday and is looking like today might give a repeat. I wish other parts of the country could get some of this. It has been a huge relief and I know how frustrating it is to go without rain for long periods.

The only blooms I could find in our garden were:

A lone Shasta Daisy
Lily "'Scheherazade"
A fading coneflower that I can't remember the name of - just planted this year.
Crape Myrtle "Tonto"
A morning glory that I've tried to eradicate from the garden but it just keeps
reappearing year after year
A faded hydrangea blossom
The only hydrangea with fresh blooms is "Big Daddy"
The paniculata hydrangeas are just beginning - this is "Tardiva"

Thank goodness for the containers. They were all looking like they were on their last leg until the rains came. They have doubled their growth in the past week and look all refreshed.
This butterfly was really enjoying the impatiens. I think this is the Swallowtail Butterfly
that uses our Dutchman's Pipe vine as a host.
Containers at the back door steps
I wasn't too successful in planning the Pan Statue planter this year. It looks like the Euphorbia "Diamond Frost" has vanished!
One of my favorite annuals for containers is purslane. It is forgiving and will survive a few days without water, unlike impatiens, which every year I vow to never plant again due to their insatiable thirst.
Be sure to check May Dreams Gardens for more garden bloggers sharing their blooms this month!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chimney Rock

One last post for the vacation series and then it is back to my own garden. Not really a garden but during our stay in Asheville, we drove to Chimney Rock State Park.  I had always wanted to visit and the last time we were in Asheville (back in the 90s), we had planned to stop there on our way home and they were closed.

Chimney Rock is a dramatic 315 ft. monolith with 75-mile views. The elevator was being worked on so the only way up to the top was climbing a series of newly built steps. There are 419 steps and it takes about 20-30 minutes to get there.

Michael, afraid of heights, stayed below, so I took the journey up alone.

One of my favorite movies, "Last of the Mohicans" was filmed here. Hickory Nut Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, is not visible from Chimney Rock but you can hike to it. Since I didn't want to keep Michael waiting too long, I didn't make the trip to the waterfall.

On the way up

Almost there
Atop the rock - that is Lake Lure in the distance.
Far down below you can see the road we took to get here
A dramatic view looking toward Asheville
Looking back you can see that you can go even farther up the mountain. Note the "Opera Box" on the lower right in the crevice of the rock.
Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

After departing the Pinkham garden, we headed west to Richmond, Va. We drove through a torrential thunderstorm with rain so hard it was difficult to see the road. The weather finally calmed down and we began to notice these billboards for Virginia Diner. The signs just kept appearing about every mile or so, it was like the old Burma Shave advertising. We thought this was either a great place or a really bad one to warrant all the advertising. We decided to give them a try since there were not many restaurants to choose from (we were not yet on the Interstate). Turns out they had been featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" on the Food Network. Very cool! I had their world famous Peanut Pie for dessert!

We arrived in Richmond before dark, located a motel close to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, and crashed for the night. The next morning was a mixture of sun and overcast skies following heavy rains the night before. We were at the gardens a few minutes before they opened. Outside the visitor's building was this beautiful espaliered magnolia -

Walking through the visitor's center and exiting out the back, you come to a series of patios and a long vista with a beautiful conservatory in the distance.

There were volunteers planting the annuals while we were there. There were a lot of areas and pots that had not been planted yet. If you look closely in the above photo, you will see a pomegranate tree to the right next to the brick wall. I had only seen the orange pomegranates before, never one like this -

Inside the conservatory -

They were featuring an orchid display -

The Japanese garden was lovely  -

One of my favorite areas was a long brick walkway through wooded areas. This was adjacent to the Japanese garden. It was so serene and peaceful -

After leaving this area, you come to a Children's Garden and then on to another woodland area on the opposite side of the gardens. This walk winds around a large lake -

This was a project by an artist - it was just sitting out in a field with no landscaping.

A large rose garden was next but the roses were past their prime so I didn't get any good photos. They did a nice selection of David Austin roses so that was exciting to see. 

Leaving Richmond, we headed south again, this time to Asheville, N.C. where we arrived late Thursday afternoon for the Garden Blogger's Fling. I have already covered the Fling events in past posts. Only one vacation post left and that was an excursion we took to see Chimney Rock.

Our Trip Itinerary

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Pinkham Garden

I mentioned in a previous post that luck seemed to be on our side for most of our trip. Before we left home, both Pam Harper and Les Parks told me that if we were coming to the Norfolk area, we should see the garden of Bill and Linda Pinkham. I planned our route loosely, giving us plenty of time,  so that we would not over extend ourselves and if anything bogged us down, we would still have extra time to accommodate the schedule. I had not included the Pinkham garden because I was afraid it would cut into our time. However, we arrived at Pam's house early and left Wednesday morning and realized that we had almost 2 full days before getting to Asheville for the Blogger's Fling. The only stop scheduled was the Lewis Ginter garden in Richmond.

I thought about Les, whose blog "A Tidewater Gardener" is one of my favorites (he is an awesome photographer!). I remembered that he worked in a nursery in Norfolk. Pam gave us the name of the nursery and said that it would be on our route to the Norfolk Botanical Garden. Now I hate to drop in on someone unexpected, especially at their work place, but that is exactly what we did. Well, it turns out Les was a super nice guy (aren't all garden bloggers nice?!) and he asked me if we were seeing the Pinkham garden. I told him that I had not contacted them and that we would probably have to miss it. Les said that the Pinkhams only lived 5 miles away and that he would call and see if we could visit (the Pinkhams used to own the nursery where Les works). Mr. Pinkham was at home and he told us to come right over. Les even accompanied us and led us there. Again, luck was with us, or perhaps it was destined that we see this garden?

It was still a bit hot but rain was threatening. Upon arriving in this garden, it is evident that there are plant collectors here and also you can see that the work of an artist is at hand. The photo above shows the first area that we explored. This was next to a greenhouse. Stepping inside the doorway, you enter a small garden room of evergreens.

Unfortunately, I have misplaced my list of the plants I wrote down so I'm sorry I cannot identify many of them. One day I'm going to learn to take photos of the plant tags and use that as a guide. I remembered this almost at the end of our tour.

The garden on the other side of the greenhouse features a beautiful Japanese maple and bromeliads.
Working our way away from the greenhouse, we come to a shady Asian inspired garden.

The pathway leads downhill and after you round this bend you can see that you are on an enormous hillside. The steep hill is plastered with beautifully arranged plants. A valley and a large lake can be seen in the distance.


I think I was dumbstruck by this garden and the plant variation. They had large collections of conifers, hydrangeas, hostas, camellias and trees but all kinds of other plants accompanied them. 

You can see the water in the distance on this shot.
I have the name of this hydrangea written down somewhere!
We made our way along the steep hillside garden which circled around to the garden directly behind the Pinkham's house. There were trial gardens here where many unique plants were being tested. I remember seeing a contorted camellia. It was amazing.

Back around to the front of the house where a circular lawn is surrounded by borders and conifer gardens.

Isn't this column fantastic?

A beautiful healthy clematis (I don't recall the name)

Believe it or not, I actually photographed the plant tag for this spectacular Japanese maple.
It is "Beni Otaki".

It turns out there is an artist at work in this garden. Bill Pinkham is a ceramic artist and he showed us some of his beautiful work which included bowls, vases, plates and faces. It was quite incredible.

The Pinkham garden was certainly a sensory overload and I'm so glad we got the chance to see it. Thanks again to Les who made the visit possible!

Our Trip Itinerary

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy