Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hydrangea time

Oakleaf hydrangeas
Behind the garden wall is the "secret garden". I have tried to keep the flowers
in this area white and oakleaf hydranges are dominant.

I tend to think about our garden as a play with several acts. Act 1 comes with the emergence of Spring and transforms the barren limbs with capes of greenery. The dominant color, besides green, would be yellow (daffodils, kerria, forstyhia, Carolina jessamine). Oddly, we don't have that many azaleas. A slight intermission before Act 2 begins with the roses commanding complete attention for an all-too-brief period before Act 3 which brings on the hydrangeas.

We have a lot of hydrangeas - around 50-60 varieties - and they do exceptionally well in our garden. The hydrangea binge started when we got tired of mowing a sloped area underneath a huge pecan tree. We planted hydrangeas and they did well and we were hooked. I cannot think of a plant that is easier to grow and offers so much in blooms and landscape enhancement. Granted, occasional problems can arise, but rarely.

The hydrangeas will bloom for a long period of time (practically all summer) which is good because the garden during the long hot days of summer is mostly a green affair with the exception of container plants.

Rose "Sea Foam"
The roses are not completely finished yet. "Sea Foam" grows rampantly up a crape myrtle.
On the archway is "Blaze" which blooms throughout the summer.
Oakleaf Hydrangea "Snowflake"
Oakleaf hydrangea "Snowflake" (discovered in Alabama) usually is covered in
blooms during the summer. The show is just beginning for it.
Hydrangea "Annabelle" and Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata)
Also getting ready is Hydrangea "Annabelle". The blooms will turn to pure white in a few weeks.
Planted around it is Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata), a plant
I would not wish on my worst enemy.
Oakleaf hydrangeas
Oakleaf Hydrangea "Sikes Dwarf" and Rose "New Dawn"
Oakleaf hydrangeas are not all big. This is "Sikes' Dwarf" which stays under 4 feet tall.
Rose "New Dawn" is to the left.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The long weekend

Early morning sunrise

It was a wonderfully long and eventful weekend. Actually the entire past week has been busy. Last Monday we were visited by fellow Alabama garden bloggers Eve, Deb and LaRue (owner of John's Native Plants). What a wonderful group of ladies - we had a great time!

On Saturday, Jenks Farmer visited! He had been in the Iuka, Mississippi area for a series of events and a bold spur-of-the-moment Tweet from me invited him to see the Shoals and our garden (I think I am getting bolder in my older age!). I had just finished "Deep Rooted Wisdom" which is a fantastic book. I urge all of my readers to read it. It is filled with wonderful stories and practical advice from gardeners who do gardening the old-fashioned way. I learned many things from this book and highly recommend it.

The rest of the weekend was spent pruning and trimming in the garden.

I was up very early on Sunday morning and took a lot of photos (including the one above) which I will share later in the week. The hydrangeas are just beginning to bloom and things are growing like crazy. The heat is creeping in as well. Yesterday was a scorcher but we did get an unexpected downpour late yesterday afternoon which was quite welcome.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Thursday, May 15, 2014

More roses

Rose "Veilchenblau"
"Veilchenblau" on archway, "Mutabablis" below. "Mutabalis" is a bit puny from the winter die-back but it is rebounding.

Roses "Russell's Cottage Rose" and "Rambling Rector"
Roses on top of the pergola - "Russell's Cottage Rose" on the left and "Rambling Rector" on the right.

Rose border and pergola Rose along the pergola border - "Double Knock-Out" on the left. On the right you can see "Gourmet Popcorn" (white miniature), "Gartendirektor Otto Linne", "Russell's Cottage Rose" and "Rambling Rector".

Rose "Moonight" The hybrid musk rose "Moonlight" always put on a good show.

Rose "Daydream"
Roses in the upper border include "Lyric", "Daydream" and "Clair Matin".

Rose "Daydream"
"Daydream" is a modern shrub rose that I purchased on a whim at Home Depot a few years ago. It is beautiful when it first blooms but usually tends to get blackspot later in the summer.

Rose "La Marne"
"La Marne" - all around fantastic rose.

"Peggy Martin" aka The Hurricane Katrina Rose, is growing up the trunk of a declining cyptomeria.

Near the back driveway entrance and alongside the street is a hedge of "Gartendirektor Otto Linne".

Behind the fence is "Tausendschön", also known as "Thousand Beauties".

Rose "Marjorie Fair"
Along the front border "Marjorie Fair" blooms on the right. The center row of roses are "Alba Meidiland" which are just beginning to open. Also in the border but harder to see are the roses "Marchella Boccella", "Frederic Mistral" and "Marie Daly".

Rose "Marjorie Fair"
"Marjorie Fair", aka "Red Ballerina" on the right. The light pink rose on the left is sold by the Antique Rose Emporium as "Lavender Pink Parfait". The tall pink rose in the back is "Frederic Mistral".

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Radish Salad (what to do with all those radishes)

I grew a lot of radishes this spring. I use them in green salads all the time but there were so many this year that, short of opening my own food stand, I didn't know what to do with them. I found this recipe online and loved it. This is good as a side dish with fish or some other main course.

I cut this recipe in half which still makes 4 good servings.

(Recipe courtesy

Summer Radish Salad

2 cups thinly sliced radishes
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sliced red onion (I used slightly less because I do not like a strong onion flavor)
1 cup seeded and sliced cucumber
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 TBS. white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. chopped dill

Toss the radishes with the salt and let it stand for about 10 minutes. Drain off any liquid and transfer to a bowl. Add the onion and the cucumber slices and gently toss.

Whisk together the olive oil, white wine vinegar, sugar, garlic and dill in a small bowl or measuring cup and pour the mixture over the radish mixture. Toss to combine, cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, May 12, 2014

Rambling Rector - the rose that almost ate our garden

The rose that almost ate the garden - Rambling Rector. You may recall I tried to remove it a few years ago and gave up. Severely pruning it back, it just came back with a vengeance and was back to the top of the pergola by the end of summer. They call it "Rambling" for a reason!


rambling-rector-2 Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A visit to Cheekwood Gardens in Nashville

We recently visited the Cheekwood Home and Gardens in Nashville. This was my second time there (I toured it a few years ago with the Master Gardeners). Although we missed the tulip display, which I heard was spectacular, the gardens have a lot to offer. It is worth a trip if you are in the area.

The name "Cheekwood" derives from a combination of the names of the husband and wife who built it - Leslie Cheek and Mabel Wood. The Cheeks were an entrepreneurial family - Leslie's father was a wholesale grocer and his cousin developed Maxwell House coffee. The Cheeks were investors and in 1928, General Foods purchased the Maxwell House brand for $40 million. 

The Cheeks purchased 100 acres in West Nashville to build a country estate. They hired New York architect Bryant Fleming to design both the house and gardens. The home and grounds were inspired by great English homes of the 18th century and the project was completed in 1932.  Leslie Cheek died two years later after moving in and his wife lived there for another eight years before deeding it to her daughter Huldah Cheek Sharp. The Sharps lived there until the 1950s when it was turned into an art museum and botanical garden.

The house/museum is interesting (my favorite display is Mrs. Cheek's snuff bottle collection). There is presently a bamboo art collection that is quite awesome. But, on to my favorite part, the gardens!

The gated entrance sits beneath a massive oak tree -


We were too late for the tulip display - I can just imagine the sea of color along this walkway and at the entrance to the Visitor's Center -

A beautiful young dogwood just inside the entrance -

And farther into the gardens, we came upon this lovely double-flowered dogwood variety "Plena" which I don't see that often -


A dramatic hedge of Chinese Snowball (Viburnum macrophepalum) -  

Next to the house is a boxwood garden and a stone grotto and water feature -

A woodland garden with native plants and azaleas -

A thatched-roof cottage -

A terraced garden -  


A woodland garden with Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia), Japanese maples, boxwood and ferns -

A portion of the Herb Garden -
More Japanese Maples and garden art -

It was a beautiful day to see a garden. For more information on Cheekwood, visit their website.


Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, May 5, 2014

Roses beginning to bloom


"Clair Matin"

"Fortune's Double Yellow"

"La Marne"

"Madame Plantier"

"Marchessa Boccella"

"Marie Daly"

"Mrs. B. R. Cant"

"Mrs. Dudley Cross"

"Nearly Wild"

"Pink Knockout"

"Pink Knockout"

"Pink Knockout"


"Russell's Cottage Rose"

"Souvenir de la Malmaison"


"Buff Beauty"
"Climbing American Beauty"

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy