Skip to main content


The Garden Awakens

Anise 'Woodland Red' ( Illicium floridanum ) A few weeks ago, I thought spring would never arrive, but now the change is astonishing. The nights are still cold (40s and sometimes even 30s) so planting tender annuals and vegetables is unwise although I have already succumbed, but covering and uncovering things gets old quickly. Someone made a wise comment last week and I must agree with them - "Don't plant anything tender until after May 1". Several plants are blooming like never before. One is the Anise shrub (above and below). I don't know if the recent tree pruning, which is allowing more sun into the woodland path, is affecting it or perhaps it is just age, but I've never seen so many blooms. Michael refers to this as "the stinky fish shrub" and I have to admit to smell of the flowers is quite unpleasant. It is so beautiful that I can overlook that. The old pink dogwood tree, which was already here, shades our woodland path and it too is prett

The Alabama Garden (1992-2015)

Our Former Garden in Florence, Alabama

We started our garden in Florence, Alabama in 1992 and lived there for 23 years. We did not know very much about gardening then but I had already been bitten by the gardening bug when we lived in a tiny apartment just down the street. The big house at the end of the street, a stately Cape Cod, had been on the market for a long time. Michael first looked at it as a possible place for a salon but he feel in love with it and took me to see it. I never dreamed it would happen but our offer was accepted and it was ours in September of of 1992.

I was amazed at the gardening space I would have - a whopping 3/4 of an acre. The property covered two town lots and had a large sloping area on the south side of the house. Way back in the day, a barn once stood there as well as an orchard. A few sad-looking fruit trees remained and except for some beautiful dogwood trees around the driveway behind the house, it was all grass. The house was known by locals as "The Bradshaw House". It was built in 1928 by Henry Bradshaw, a prominent attorney. A local school is named after him.

My plant obsession started with roses, first the hybrid teas and then on to old garden roses. We made long trips to Dahlonega, Georgia to visit the Antique Rose Emporium as well as other nurseries where we would load the car up with roses. Michael became interested in hydrangeas and as the once sunny garden began to get shadier (trees grow fast in Alabama!), we started collecting them. Camellias also became a favorite of mine and we had quite a number of them in the garden.

When I think about how we worked in the garden - often from sunrise to sunset - I am amazed that we had so much energy. Ah, youth! It was a lot of work and as any Southerner knows, often quite hot and uncomfortable.  It was beautiful though and rewarding in so many ways.

The following are a just a few of my favorites, beginning in early spring with the Yoshino Cherry trees bursting into bloom and progressing into April with roses and hydrangeas in June. We planted a number of Japanese Maples and autumn in the garden is very colorful. Snowfalls are rare in northern Alabama, but as you can see in the last photos, they do happen. This particularly large snowfall occurred in January of 2011.

Clematis armandii

Yoshino Cherry

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana 'Rustic Rubra')

Flowering crabapple     
Chinese Snowball (Viburnum macrocephalum)

An area behind the garden wall that I called "The Secret Garden" features a white wisteria, spirea and Rose 'Lady Banks'.

Rosa 'Lady Banks' in a particular good year (the view from outside the Secret Garden).

One of my favorite roses, 'Buff Beauty' and our beloved cat Isabella in 2008.

The large rose on the pergola is 'Rambling Rector'

Hybrid Musk Rose 'Moonlight'

Hybrid Musk Rose 'Robin Hood'

Buddleia alternifolia and climbing rose 'All American Beauty'

The first hydrangea border was created underneath a massive pecan tree.

November 2010

A rare heavy snowfall in January 2011


  1. I was so very sorry to see you had moved but happy you have a new space to adventure in. I live in Richmond, VA, and there are so few gardening blogs that cover as much time in the same space as your Alabama garden blog used to. I was sad to see so many of the photos are not functioning now, and I especially miss the "garden over time" portion of the blog - it was so inspiring for those of us starting out. I would so love it if you could revive the old Alabama garden posts for those of us who loved it - I referenced your blog frequently and would love to continue to do so. In any event, thank you so much for sharing your gorgeous creations - they are truly inspiring to those of us still living in a sad sea of grass. <3

    1. Thank you so much for the note! Actually I am in the process of fixing those pages with the lost images. Fortunately, I did not loose the photos so I just have to reinstate them. It may take me a while but I am hoping to make that a winter project. If there are any specific pages you wish to see, let me know and I will get right to them. It is good to know my blog was/is helpful. I think blogging is a dying thing these days.

  2. This sequence of images in your Alabama garden is beautiful and so informative. I've been establishing a garden of my own in Montgomery and have been looking for local examples to learn from and emulate. While there are plethora from the Pacific NW, California, Midwest, and even NE, it's been so difficult to find any deep South gardens, until now! I'm going to enjoy reading through your blog posts on this cold winter day. TYSM for taking the time and effort to make such a record and share it with all of us. I wonder what resources you found helpful early on?

    1. Thank you so much jamiew! I no longer live in the south (I've since moved the Pacific NW). When I gardening there, I was greatly inspired by Elizabeth Lawrence (especially her "Southern Garden" book. Another great one is Pam Harper who gardens in Virginia. Her books are all wonderful and so inspiring. Michael Dirr and Alan Armitage both have great reference books full of plants to inspire, especially ones that do well in the south.

  3. Hi Phillip, I am glad I was able to meet you and tour your lovely garden before you moved. I am sure your new garden in the Pacific NW is just as beautiful. I do envy your new climate, especially in August! Best wishes to you and happy gardening in 2021!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts