Monday, March 18, 2013

Thunder brings out the buds and the blooms

Sauce Magnolia "Rustic Rubra"
There is always a day in early spring (or late winter to be accurate) when you wake up and look outside and the plants are noticeably greener and buds are popping out all over. This is often preceded by a thunderstorm and I've always heard the old saying that thunder causes buds to open. We had a nice thunderstorm last week and thunder is again rumbling this morning. 

When I looked out the window this morning, the first thing I noticed that that the hedges were greener than usual and much more vibrant. There are other signs that spring has arrived.

Buds opening on the hydrangeas - don't prune them off!

Starflower (Ipheion)

Kerria (Kerria japonica)

Bear's Foot Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)
Ornamental Kale going to seed
Vinca major
Rosemary "Arp"
Euphorbia "Despina"
Euphorbia "Despina"
Loropetalum - not sure about the vareity. It was purchased about 12 years ago at Wilkerson Mills Nursery in Georgia. I found the receipt in my garden journal and it said "Witch Hazel - Loropetalum". It is very large (see the following photo) and always blooms early and is always lovely.

Camellia "Spring Festival"
Camellia "Professor Sargent"
Camellia "Taylor's Perfection"

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Early bloomers

Bear's Foot Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)

Okay, I don't think we are getting any snow this year so I'm ready for Spring. Bring it on! I'm tired of the cold weather and the cold wind. Today was sunny and it looked nice and warm outside but that was a teaser. The wind was blowing from all directions and it was downright cold!

The daffodils have been blooming for ages but there are other blooms of interest. The above photo is of a plant given to me by Margie Anderton (she is on the garden tour and I highly recommend that you see her garden). She called it "Bear's Claw" hellebore but most descriptions I have come across refer to it as "Bear's Foot". It is also called "Stinking Hellebore" but what an awful name for a plant. I think I'll ignore that. (And for good measure, I didn't smell anything while photographing it although I didn't stick my nose in it). This hellebore grows in an upright position and the flowers appear on stalks. It is evergreen and has been blooming for weeks now. I have three of them planted together and they really catch your eye from a distance.

The plant I'm most excited about at the moment is Pieris japonica or Lily of the Valley Shrub. I have never grown this plant before and I cannot remember what prompted me to buy it last year. I think I wanted a tall plant to fill in a empty spot and bought this on impulse. Imagine my surprise when I saw all these blooms on it this week! And, most incredibly, this is a very small plant, not even a foot tall. 

I leave you with this lovely forsythia which is blooming at my mother's house.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Getting ready for a garden tour

I can't believe it is March 10th and I am behind on garden chores already. Usually by now, I have completed the things I did today weeks ago. We are scheduled to be on the garden tour in 5 weeks (5 weeks!!!) and that should be enough to set a fire under a person.

Yesterday, I managed to get some outdoor painting done and today I had the morning to do the following -

Cut back the monkey grass - As you can see, there are some thick areas. The band that runs in front of the house (second photo) was planted here when we moved in and since that time, it widens more every year. I've even dug lots of it up and it doesn't faze it any.

Since mowing it down has always been difficult, I thought I would try using hedge trimmers. That didn't work well at all so I ended up using the mower and to my surprise, the electric mower did a great job. I adjusted it at the highest setting which is much higher than the old gas-powered mower. 

A few weeks ago, I cut back the ornamental grasses but forgot this stand of miscanthus -

I did use the hedge trimmers for this and it just takes a second. 

Thank goodness for daylight savings time. At least I can work in the evenings. At this rate, I will probably be out there every evening for the next 5 weeks. 

In other news, about a million black birds stopped by the neighborhood this morning. They didn't stay long.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, March 1, 2013

Garden Tour of the Shoals

featuring "Garden Improvisations"

Saturday, April 13, 2013    9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Sunday, April 14, 2013       1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Tickets available at each garden--$5 for all gardens Saturday or Sunday


A “ must see” garden designed by an artist and Master Gardener! Wander through her many paths and you will get lost in the beauty of the design. Wildflowers, ferns, rare perennials, native shrubs and unusual plants abound in this wonderland! Arbors and other features backdrop all the beauty of the many blooms.
Directions: Out Hwy 43 north to the Greenhill area, turn right on county road 47, go 2.7 miles, turn right on county road 33, go 1 mile turn left on county road 174, go .6 miles turn left on Gillis Dr.(dead end street) about 100 foot on right.


This garden is a native plant bonanza! As President of The Shoals Wildflower Society, and a Master Gardener, Margie’s main interest is native plants and plantings for butterflies, hummingbirds and all other fauna. Her husband was a talented sculptor and you will notice all the wonderful wildlife carvings that abound in her garden. Don’t miss her “Redneck” area!  Her garden is surrounded by a Treasure Forest of hardwoods planted for wildlife. All the evergreens are shelters for the many birds that call this home. This is a collector’s garden so wander across streams, by bubbling rocks, ponds and you will get lost in the notion of plants, plants, plants!
Directions: Out Hwy 72 East through Killen. Turn left on County Road 31 at old “Outpost 72” restaurant. Go to 4 way stop, turn right on county road 71, go ¼ mile, turn right on county road 69 at Antioch Church, go 500 foot, turn right on county road 68. 3rd driveway on left.


Although this is a small garden, it is full of wonderful surprises! As a Master Gardener, see what you can accomplish to make your home look beautiful and comfortable. Connie has an artistic flair that you don’t want to miss!
Directions: Off Hwy 72 Take Indian Springs Road all the way to the river.


This garden’s design is what makes it an artist’s delight. You know immediately that the homeowner is an artist extraordinary!  Every shade and hue of green abounds throughout the garden. So restful to the eye and mind. Don’t miss the statue that centers the garden! Tommy’s artistic flair makes this garden complete.
Directions: Off Darby Dr. Turn into Hickory Hills, On left at corner of Hickory Hills Rd and Hickory Hills Court.

Dee is a certified landscape designer and Master Gardener and it shows in this indescribable garden! She calls it a backyard! We call it magnificent! Charles is a retired archeologist and stones and fossils abound throughout the garden.  The way Dee uses every item to make a statement is indescribably flawless!
Directions: Off Cox Creek, turn into Creekwood Subdivision, take first right and go one block to end of street. Her garden is on the left corner.


Phillip and Michael have developed their garden into a showplace! This historic small bungalow garden is full of surprises and BEAUTIFUL plants. There is something in bloom throughout the seasons with roses, hydrangeas, jasmines and special treats to admire!
Directions: Going west (towards ECM), turn off Dr. Hicks Blvd 1 block after Pine Street onto South Cedar St. Go one block - on right at corner of Cedar & Limestone

See what a wonderful job the Cole’s have done with a difficult home site! On the bluffs overlooking Cypress Creek, these beautiful brick terraces outline their beautiful home magnificently! With their tied planting beds and wonderful plants they have grounded what could have been a disastrous home site! Be prepared for a steep walk up to a wonderful view at the back.
Directions: Take Pine Street north, turn left onto Irvine St., turn right at 4 way stop. At bottom of hill turn left onto Waterloo Road at the UNA campus. Drive across bridge at Cypress Creek, turn left first street, then take immediate left onto Wildwood Trail (dead end St.) About middle way on left.

These two gardens together make quiet and forceful statements. Janice, as a Master Gardener, as turned their beautiful home with a fantastic view of the Tennessee River into a paradise! Pat, whose husband was the gardener and is now deceased, is only the “caretaker” she says! But she and her son have managed quite nicely. The views from these two gardens will take your breath away!
Directions: Hwy 72 south across O’Neal Bridge, take first right. Take next right and follow street around the bluff.