Shopping on Death Row


Posted by ngs123 | Posted in Generally Speaking | Posted on 20-06-2011

Tags: , , , , , , ,

my nikko blue hydrangeaI am a patient gardener. I grow shrubs from cuttings, knowing that in just 3 or 4, or 5 or 6, years, I will have a wonderful lush shrub where there are now only four leaves protruding from the ground. I am also big on plant rescue. Just like some people have 14 dogs and 8 cats because they can’t stand the thought of an animal being homeless, I have been known stop the car to pick a houseplant from someone’s trash because I know it still has some good years in it. It just needs someone to love it and bring out the best in it, someone to believe in its greatness. It’s kind of like codependence, with plants.

I also love to shop what I call “death row.” Some local big box stores and garden centers have racks of bedraggled plants, one step from the grave, marked down to practically nothing! I patrol these shelves all summer, and so my garden, much like my closet, isn’t a perfectly planned and coordinated whole as much as it’s a mish-mash collection of things I love. And although I’ve learned to pick up objects at yard sales and mentally walk through my house wondering where I’ll put it, and if not finding a spot, leave it, I have no such discipline with plants.

sunny garden spot

Who can resist the siren song of a Nikko Blue hydrangea for $4.00?? Crape myrtles for $2.00? Sign me up! I once bought a ton of bags of bulbs at the end of the season for 50 cents or $1.00 a bag. I potted them all up and the following year wandered around mumbling to myself, “Now where am I going to PUT these???” But there is always a spot somewhere, and if that spot doesn’t work out, it can be moved and moved again if necessary. That’s the beauty of gardening, it isn’t an exact science, and a garden is never “finished.”

shade garden

When I worked in landscaping a fellow project manager stopped by one day to see how my project was coming along. In the back of his truck I spotted 3 bedraggled Knock Out roses that had been planted in the shade and were replaced with something more suitable for the situation. “What are you going to do with those roses?” I asked. “Take them back to the shop and throw them in the dumpster” was the answer. “Oh no you’re not!” was my indignant reply, “I’ll take them home with me!” And I did. I put them in pots to allow them to recover their root systems, and they became part of my garden rescues.

My mom and dad could never stand to see a leaf fall from a plant without putting it in soil or water to start a new plant, and I have inherited their tender heart toward the struggling and unwanted plants of the world. So even if my garden isn’t a coordinated, meticulously designed showplace, it satisfies the rescuer in me to see that those who were given a second chance are gratefully thriving there.

How Dry I (and My Garden) Am


Posted by ngs123 | Posted in Dealing with Drought, Generally Speaking | Posted on 20-06-2011

Tags: , , , , , ,

garden in drought

It never fails. The rains of April raise our hopes that this year will be different! This year we will have ample rain, spaced just right! Days of steady rain, or even better, steady rain at night at just the right intervals to keep our hydrangeas hydrated and our lilies lush. And then sometime in mid-May the spigot is turned off and we look in vain for rain.

By the beginning of June we’re outside watering morning and evening as the ground turns to hardened dust and our poor perennials try to squeeze out a bloom with precious little resources. In the winter I swore I was going to install soaker hoses this year so that I wouldn’t have to stand outside fighting mosquitoes while watering, watering, watering. But here it is, June again, and did I buy soaker hoses? No.

southern garden in drought

How long has it been since we had a good soaking rain? Two weeks? Three? Saturday there was a nice “pop-up thundershower” as the weather folk like to call them. But then back to day after day of 90 degree temps and sun, sun, sun. It’s enough to make you want to take out the hydrangeas, who seem to be problem drinkers, and install some tee-totaling cactus. Well, almost.

hydrangeas - problem drinkers

Fortunately last fall I had a tree company dump a load of shredded mulch in my driveway, and spending day after day in the spring spreading it 3″ thick all over everything now helps keep the ground cool and retain any moisture that might stray into the area. It attracts good earth worms to aerate the soil as well. Other than that, how do we cope with the effect of blistering heat on our gardens day after day? How much time do you spend watering? Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping your parched plants happy?

A Weed By Any Other Name


Posted by ngs123 | Posted in Generally Speaking | Posted on 14-06-2011

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as they say, and one woman’s weed is another’s cherished garden flower! This year I am exulting that I was finally successful in getting Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota – wild carrot) to grow in my garden. I’ve been trying for years, but never succeeded in getting it to (ahem) take root.

It is extremely drought tolerant and attractive to butterflies, Caterpillars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly eat the leaves, bees and other insects drink the nectar and predatory insects, such as the Green Lacewing, come to Queen Anne’s Lace to attack prey, such as aphids. Its fluffy greenery and pretty white lace cap make it a beautiful contrast to the strappy leaves and colorful flowers of the lilies.

Queen Ann's Lace

I first noticed how great it looks with lilies while driving local back roads. The orange daylilies that grow wild in this area, called “ditch lilies” by locals, are often intermingled with Queen Anne’s Lace and the effect is stunning. I coveted it for my own yard, as I have quite an extensive variety of lilies. So last year on the way home from work one day, I pulled over and dug some up. (You know you’re a rabid gardener when you keep a shovel and plastic bags in the back of your car at all times to facilitate digging up something on the spur of the moment.) I ignored the funny looks I got from passersby who, I’m sure, were wondering what this woman in dress clothes was doing digging on the side of the road, and scored a huge clump of the precious plant.

At home I rushed to change clothes and immediately planted my trophy. I pampered and nurtured it all summer. When it went to seed in the fall I spread it all over and hoped for the best. To my joy and amazement it has begun to bloom among my own lilies! There are lots of little plants coming along, and I dote on them like they were favorite children, which, they kind of are. To see lilies, Monarda (bee balm) and Queen Anne’s Lace mingled together in my garden is a goal I’ve had for years and years. The combination seems so right to me!

I think we all have favorite combinations of plants that were inspired by something we saw in a magazine, or maybe by a friend or relative’s garden. What are some of your favorite combinations and where did you first get the notion to put them together? What “weeds” do you like as garden flowers? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and I think Queen Anne’s Lace is as sweet as any rose in my garden!

Name Change and June Meeting


Posted by ngs123 | Posted in Generally Speaking, Past meetings | Posted on 12-06-2011

Tags: , , , , ,

Blackeyed susanThis month’s meeting was moved to accommodate Father’s Day next weekend, so we’re meeting a little early. Bowing to outside pressure, the name of our group has changed to the Backyard Beez, or BYBz. We feel this makes us more fit for public consumption. Some have been reluctant to share our garden adventures for fear of offending with our name, so now we are cleaned up and ready for our close up.

June’s meeting took place at Jane’s and we forgot a camera, so you’ll just have to imagine how bad the befores and how good the afters look!

Our task was backyard clean up. The yard has gone a little bit wild, so we have to tame it down again. This included bagging piles of limbs, cuttings and vines that she had in the back yard. Not exciting, but one of those tasks that is brutal and punishing if you have to do it all by yourself. We hauled about 15 bags to the street at the end of the day! We also cleaned up a little area she can see from her martini corner (am I allowed to say that?) or, if you like, her breakfast deck. This area will be made into a butterfly/hummingbird garden so she can enjoy their activities and antics while sipping an adult beverage in the evening.

Another garden pest was taking over the entire area – honeysuckle. We pulled up reams of it, and Sharon creatively fashioned some of it into a wreath as she pulled it up! We fought yellow jackets, poison ivy, and billions and billions of tree seedlings, but at the end of the day we prevailed! The area was nice and clean, ready for butterfly bushes and all manner of attractive new plants. We placed a bench against the fence and decorated it with a birdhouse and some found pots. A pleasing view and a good day’s work. I only wish we had pictures to show. Sigh.

Allan Armitage shakes his booty for charity


Posted by ngs123 | Posted in Generally Speaking | Posted on 08-06-2011

Tags: , , ,

This is a re-post from another garden blog ( How I wish I had known about this – I would have LOVED to see Allan shake his groove thang!

Begin re-post:

No, our friend, writer/grower/horticulturalist extraordinaire Allan Armitage has not lost his mind. He doesn’t even have Night Fever.  Rather, Allan is putting himself out there to support an important cause. See his note, below. On a non-dancing note, I am very excited about a recent introduction of Allan’s: the “Athens Yellow” climbing dicentra. It climbs? And it’s yellow? That’s enough to make me feel like dancing! Maybe not the The Hustle, though.

To My Friends in Horticulture:

I know this is hard to believe, but I have been asked to participate in the Athens-area chapter of Dancing With the Stars—as a star! I would not have agreed to make a fool of myself, except that it is a major fundraiser for Project Safe, a terrific organization working to end abuse against women. The world is a tough place for many, and having a support group like this makes a huge positive difference. For those of you not familiar with Project Safe, read more here.  Recently this organization has experienced an unprecedented rise in demand for its services. More than ever it relies on  local community events like Dancing with Athens Stars to provide financial support.

allan at practice

I am practicing hard for the “Audience Favorite Award” which is given to the couple who receives the most votes, both during the show and in the months leading up to it. I will keep everyone involved as the dance date, Mar 21, approaches.

So I am asking for your votes, not for me but for Project Safe.  You can laugh at me while giving.  Here’s how it works:

Each vote is $1 donated to Project Safe, and voting early and often is definitely encouraged!  You can vote in several ways. Voting through the website is probably easiest. Go to the site and click on the Dancing with Athens Stars button. You’ll see my name and my beautiful and talented partner Liza Pitts [shown with Allan, above] as couple #9.

By the way, I will be doing The Hustle.  I never heard of The Hustle, but there you go. I will keep you up to date here and on my site.

—Allan Armitage

Hats off to Allan and I hope the gals at Garden Rant don’t mind the re-post!