The Absentee Gardeners

Stop Digging

“Your garden’s so pretty! How do you do that?” my neighbor gushed. She: stylishly dressed, walking her dog; me: wet and muddy squatting down with my hands in the soil. I was about to explain that I enjoy tending my garden and that, with a little effort…

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A Plea for Contrast

In April I attended a Zoom presentation on plant diversity led by Tony Avent of Plant Delights fame. This old dog learned some new tricks — and I suddenly understood what I had done right in my garden and what I had done wrong.

Rethinking the Rose Garden

The horticulturalists at Sarah P. Duke Gardens are busy redesigning the rose garden, one they had completely overhauled just five years ago. Ten years ago, the garden…

What on Earth Did I Order?

In the delirium of winter, I tend to go on an ordering spree of plants that will arrive the following April. It’s a good time to order because the nurseries haven’t yet run out of the hot new plants; the winter garden looks relatively bare; and there’s nothing much to do in January…

Beware of Some Pass-Along Plants

Last week I extolled the virtues of the Southern tradition of pass-along plants. Sometimes the only way to acquire a plant that is no longer at the…

Beware of the Floozies

Sex is rampant in my garden, and I’m getting sick of it. This is the time of year that the hellebores wave around their promiscuity as the plants flaunt their swollen seedpods. Soon you begin to realize that there are probably more seeds on one hellebore than there are people in the Triangle. After a couple of years of hellebores taking up residence in the garden, you begin to fear that they will overtake the world.

Spring Garden Safety

It’s a dangerous world out there. In the past few weeks, Kit and I have both been injured — nothing life threatening, but ego bruising. I share this because we both know better.


I wish I could grow echinacea as I’m a great admirer of this native prairie plant. It’s a great accent plant in the perennial border, and there’s a spartan quality about it that appeals to me.

Start With Your Soil

Right now, it’s all about the plants. We’ve sat inside long enough reading catalogs and cleaning our tools. Our fabulous friends are arriving at nearby garden centers, and we can’t wait to bring them home. But wait.

Back to Basics: The Need for Well-Draining Soil

This past winter, I began to think that it would never stop raining. Now, rain can be a gardener’s best friend, but a rainy winter can ruin a garden. How can that be? After all, aren’t many of our plants sound asleep in winter?

How to Order Sustainable Roses

As far as I am concerned, when it comes to roses, planting sustainable roses is the way to go. Do you really want to put on the zoot suits while lugging out the sprayer every 10 days just to prevent fragile roses from falling into the ravages of blackspot?

Garden Shopping Made Easier

I am happily shopping for plants. To my husband’s chagrin, our kitchen table is littered with lists, dog-eared catalogs and old annotated seed packets. But I may just sweep the mess aside in favor of my new discovery. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service has a new online tool…

Have the Courage of Your Gardening Convictions

A long time ago I mentioned to a rather snobbish gardening friend that I was thinking of planting some gladioli — and met with a withering response that, “No one plants gladioli anymore.”

Hostas: Plants to Enjoy

I love hostas — it really is that simple. I love the many varieties of hostas, extending from blue hostas to ones with red stems. The variation of their leaves, ranging from different shapes to different color patterns, enchant me.

Gifts for Gardening Sweethearts

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and finding the right present for a gardener can be frustrating as we gardeners are an opinionated group…

Hail to the Chief: Walter “Bucky” Horton

By the time you read this on Monday, Feb. 1, Walter “Bucky” Horton might be out fishing, playing golf or pumping iron in the gym. That would be fitting since it’s his day. Literally, Monday, Feb. 1, is officially Police Chief Walter Horton Day…

Good Time for Native Plant Seeds

Usually, winter’s confinement gives me time to ponder my coming garden. I flip through the arriving seed catalogs, marking pages while revising my shopping list at a leisurely pace.

The Wonders and Perils of Daphne

Sometimes I think that daphnes take all the fun out of gardening. There can hardly be a gardener alive who hasn’t lusted in his or her heart for a Daphne odora in the middle of winter. The luscious blooms coupled with a delicious scent manage to enchant us during the month of January.

The Maturing Garden

Generally, from a gardening standpoint, I enjoy the month of January. Typically, I peruse the garden catalogues that arrive this time of year, daydreaming about the possibilities my garden might produce. However, reading the garden catalogues recently has not given me a great deal of enjoyment for the simple reason that my garden, like me, is maturing.

A Garden Needs a Soul

It’s a new year, 2021, and it’s time to plan for the garden. Spring is almost here! I have written about this topic before but it bears repeating as I see gardeners twisting themselves in knots, trying to follow the rules of good landscaping: A garden needs to reflect the personality of its owner.

Doing Something About the Weather

Before we write off 2020 as a year to forget, I’d like to point out that it was a pretty good year for North Carolina gardeners.

Soil for Christmas

We have a tradition in our house. My husband asks what I want for Christmas. I reply, “a load of well-rotted manure for my garden beds.” He rolls his eyes. Gardeners know it’s all about the soil. Sure, the plants are pretty, the rock walls sublime…

Please Wear Your Gloves

I am always amazed at how many people fail to don their garden gloves while gardening. My gardening gloves are like having a second skin, and I cannot imagine going outside with my hand pruners in hand without them. You see, there are dangers lurking in that eden you so lovingly created.

How Sweet They Are

There are some people who, while they appear sensible, are not fans of the sweet potato. I, on the other hand, am happy eating them year-round. Thanksgiving gives me cover so I can tuck into my favorite dish.

Garden Latin

New gardeners inevitably ask us: Why does the horticultural world insist upon inflicting an ersatz Latin upon us? They point out that names such as Hakonechloa are unpronounceable, that it would be much easier to call it by its common name, Japanese forest grass. 

The Case of the Dangerous Seeds

A package unexpectedly arrived from my father. It seems he may have had plans to kill off his only daughter. My dad sent me a handful of beige seed pods, dried leaves and a note…

The Story of a Fence

When I moved to North Carolina from New York in 1992, I knew very little about gardening. Gardening to me meant hiring someone to mow the lawn while I place geraniums in a planter.

Garden Mania

I, alas, am subjected to garden manias. Over the years I have suffered through many of these obsessions: ornamental grasses, tropical plants, daylilies and even salvias.