The wonderful spring weather in the South easily calls me to leave my kitchen, put down all of my work from the office, and to simply go outside to sit still in my gardens . . . to stop for a moment, take it all in and . . . just breath.
The generous late winter rains contributed to one of the showiest, most bountiful amount of blooms with the most vivid colors and long-lasting bloom-time this spring. “Wow!” is all that could be said by my friends who stopped by to enjoy the floral display with a glass of iced tea on the front porch with me.
Take a walk with me along the stone path through my gardens as I share nature’s gifts with you. This is a long walk, so sit back and enjoy!
Under the shade of the birch trees, Maui, our cat sits for a spell along the middle path of the front azalea gardens. Hostas popping up everywhere.
A prolific bloomer with dense hot pink blossoms, “Renee Michelle” dominates the entire front side of our house.
On the sides of our house is this extraordinary Encore double season bloomer with more fuchsia and variegation.
Stunning huh? I love the variegated blooming azaleas!
We have three varieties of Iris that bloomed longer this year than ever before. I can’t remember the name of this variety, but it’s pale, creamy yellow petals are striking against the deep, velvety blue petals.
Above is an iris variety that we’ve had in our family for over 3 generations and we’ve even moved it to 3 different states: Ohio (where it originally came from my husband’s parents’ home), Iowa and South Carolina!
Here’s a sure winner of a clematis, “Nelly Moser”, never fails to show off on our front lamp post! (above)
OK, I know there’s a vining weed growing in here, but truthfully, those vines are keeping the heavy headed Iris standing straight without a cage. They are more natural looking this way and appreciate being able to stand tall instead of flopping over onto the ground.
I’m more of an old-fashioned English gardener in that I fill up every space for a big ‘show’ of flowers. Plus gardening this way kills the weeds that grow beneath the compact, dense flowering shrubs due to the lack of sun reaching the weeds and they die on their own! Nothing like having a natural weed killer instead of bending over and straining your back. It’s truly an easier way to garden!
In this side garden we planted a birch tree shading the azaleas with filtered light. Hen and chick Autumn Sedum give a nice ’round and dark green’ structure to the random branching of azaleas. In about a month the flowers will start to form with a gorgeous lime-green chartreuse color which turn to an autumn red color for fall. In the back is an old fountain that broke during the cold winter temperatures. It no longer functions so instead of disposing it, we converted it into a planter with geraniums and vining plants that spill over the top.
I like to add height to my gardens for a better composition and this fountain-turned-planter fits perfectly there.
We plant our gardens so that there is always something in bloom. After “Renee Michelle” shows off for two weeks, this low azalea planted in front of them blooms; another partial variegated variety, “Hilda Niblett” is more of a coral pink color. She takes over for about another few weeks.
Another beautiful blue iris with a soft yellow throat (above).
Gardens need to be fun and full of playful whimsy! They can’t be all about hard work or you’ll never enjoy gardening. So each year I add some new pieces of garden art. This year I picked up this rusty old mint-green garden chair with a basket. With some bedding inserted I planted my traditional, favorite color combination for potted flowers: pinks, blues, mixed with white.
Next (above) I found the most darling little tricycle garden accessory and filled it with the same flower composition for consistency on the opposite side of one front garden. Renee Michelle is blooming behind the tricycle. Fun, huh?
Our Knock-Out roses have been in bloom for a month now (above). They’re so wonderfully disease and pest-resistent!
I don’t use any orange, or orange-red colors in my gardens, I stick to more of an array of blue hue based pinks, coral-pinks, and rosy pinks as in these geraniums (above).
We lose several Hostas every year to some nasty under-ground moles who literally eat Hostas from the bottom and pull the Hostas down through the soil and then eat the entire plants! This year our cats nabbed two of those icky rodents, so we have two less moles underground. Who knows how many are still there! So as you can see (above), it’s time for us to plant and replenish the disappearing Hostas on the north side of the house.
We have to cover our north exposure gardens with sun shade tarps due to the intense Southern sun. Even though our Hostas are under the filtered light of the birch trees, the Carolina hot sun beats down so hard on them that sadly, most of our Hostas are completely and literally burnt to a crisp by August. That’s when I’m inside the house canning tomatoes anyway. August is no time to be outside in a garden in the South — unless you have a pool . . . or a boat on a nearby lake. And we don’t. So I stay inside to cook and catch up reading books on my list!
The only annuals that I plant in the gardens and that have shown to withstand the heat of the South, is Vinca. That’s it. Period. These are the colors that I use that coordinate with the rest of the gardens. I plant a lot because Vinca are more ‘linear’ plants and don’t spread very wide to fill in the gaps.
The deer, rabbit, and squirrels don’t touch Vinca either. I used to plant Impatiens, but sadly, those pretty little fragile things wilt in the intense summer heat here and the deer devour them as if they were sugar cubes! Money and time down the drain. And that’s not a good thing.
More gap filling, this time with a year-round selection of low-height evergreen shrubs to add in a little lime green color to provide contrast to the darker green foliage. Behind them are more Azaleas and Autumn Sedum. The border of the gardens are lined with variegated Monkey Grass that comes back every year. We’re in the process of mulching our gardens now after everything new is planted. It will be so helpful to cut back on the weeds that are beginning to creep in.
Here’s a partial view of the front garden from the east side showing the azaleas, roses, and clematis in bloom. You can see the little sundial on the left of the stone walk that we also added this year. The grass is not fully green yet, but will be after another week or so. Our lawn is about half weeds and half grass. And we truly don’t care. We’re not concerned with having a perfect golf-course lawn. Plus we don’t like to use chemical weed killers either just to look at more grass. The dogs romp around in it, dig in it, and do their ‘you-know-what’ in it, so it’s just fine with us to have an imperfect patch of grass in the middle of a woodland acreage.
We hang garden flags on both the front and back of the house since we like a lot of movement and sound that adds to the senses. On the front porch is a huge Corinthian wind chime that has a beautiful soft, low sound when the wind blows. Our water fountain broke over the winter, so we’re off to replace it with a more durable concrete fountain.
But it all takes time and patience. This garden is a result of 12 years of gardening from scratch — there was nothing here but dirt after we built the house.
Gardening is a labor of love that everyone enjoys . . . family, friends, and even the UPS and Fed Ex guys who stop and just say, “Wow, your gardens are so pretty!”
It’s all worth it!