The Absentee Gardeners

 Good Grooming for Plants

It is a truism that plants, like people, benefit from good grooming. And, as with people, good grooming practices differ from plant to plant. When I’m busy anthropomorphizing my plants, I envision that they appreciate what I’m doing to enhance their looks. Of course, this lies in my imagination because the reason plants produce flowers and the reason I think they produce flowers are two entirely different explanations.

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A Very Bad Bug

A pretty insect lays its eggs on a stone. That stone is part of a global supply chain that starts in Asia, arrives in Pennsylvania — and now threatens North Carolina’s tourism, wine and Christmas tree industries. A thin line of North Carolinians stands between us and this invading menace. North Carolina’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has fielded teams of experts…


How Foxglove Got Its Name

When I’m thinking about a plant I like to start at the beginning, with its name. Today, I’m thinking about foxglove. A few weeks back, Kit told you a foxglove plant mysteriously appeared in my garden. After much debate, she and I concluded that my garden gnome was responsible for planting foxglove seeds.


The Charms of Coleus

Recently I have been pondering which annuals I want to put in the spring garden. While I emphasize perennials in the garden, I always need annuals to fill in the holes that inevitably appear. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, I abhor unexplained garden spaces.


Consider the Foliage

Recently, friends who have come over to see the garden have commented on my Japanese roof irises, Iris tectorum, that are in full bloom. While I’m not an iris aficionado, I am quite fond of these irises, having planted them throughout the garden. Now, there are a lot of irises out there.


A Foe We Can See

I’ve grown weary of living in fear of things I can’t see. Happily, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture is raising a call for help — they need our collective eyes watching for the arrival of Lycorma delicatula, commonly known as the spotted lanternfly. At least this is a foe I can spot.


The Gnome Did It

It began innocently enough: a small seedling turned into a foxglove, Digitalis purpurea. Lise sent me a photo of her new-found treasure, wondering how it got there as she knew the history of her neighborhood – and it didn’t include gardens.


A Lack of Concentration

As I write this column, I’m on day 27 of confinement. Because I’m a member of the Silent Generation, I’m taking this lockdown very seriously. My excursions outside my house are few and far between.



The Wild World of Geophytes

Recently, I was asked to give a presentation on the use of bulbs in the garden. While protesting that I knew very little about bulbs…


Let’s Talk About Baptisia

I’d never thought much about Baptisia until recently. For some unaccountable reason, this genus has been much on my mind. Perhaps it’s because I vaguely feel guilty about not having incorporated more native plants in my garden…


Hellebore: Friend or Foe?

Recently Lise wrote an article describing invasive exotic plants that caused me to ponder over plants we consider invasive and those we do not. Obviously, kudzu is an invasive exotic plant but what about Helleborus x hybridus?


Beware of Exotic Bullies

Eventually we all leave home, only to have someone take our place. Sometimes the newcomers are like us and occasionally they are different. If enough “different” newcomers arrive the character of the area changes.


Control Weeds Without Chemicals

One of my main glories as a gardener is that I’m a talented hand puller of weeds. And, the older I get, the less trustful I am of garden chemicals.


Remembrance of Plants Past

For years I struggled to find a good marking system for my plants. When I first started to garden, I had a large area to fill.


Gardening to Remember

“Excuse me, do you have jumper cables?” a young woman said as she approached me at the gas station. Turning, I saw her car, hood propped open, in the bay next to my car. “I’m sorry, I don’t,” I replied…



Saving a Unique North Carolina Plant

In the plant world, North Carolina can claim a plant that is unlike any other: the Venus Flytrap, aka Dionaea muscipula. Location is everything — and North Carolina offers its Venus the perfect site.


Monarda: Easy but Difficult

When poring through the catalogues, you’ll inevitably come across exciting descriptions of Monarda. Before making the plunge, you might want to learn more about this popular native plant.


Catalogue Daydreaming in January

Beginning Dec. 26, the garden catalogues start to pour in. The planting season is short – and growers know that they have to get the word out on their new products as soon as possible.


A Book of All Seasons

Book Review: Gardening in the South by Mark Weathington. Recently, I had occasion to meet Mark Weathington, director of the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University — and immediately bought his book.


Our Dog Makes Me a Better Gardener

We have a new puppy — although he’s been part of our family for nearly a year. As our last dog was with us for 15 years, this little guy will hold the “new puppy” title for a bit longer. Maybe it’s how he came into our lives or maybe because I think this will be our last dog, that he seems so precious. I’m weirdly picky about everything related to this critter. I shudder at the thought of any chemicals near “new puppy…”


The Garden of Wrath

Two things incur my wrath when it comes to gardening: certain wildlife and nurseries that sell the wrong plants. There are few serious gardeners who haven’t felt fury at wildlife. You see, wildlife has to eat — and many creatures savor the meals we unwittingly prepare for them in our garden. We call graceful does “giant rats.” We reread Peter Rabbit, only this time we sympathize with Mr. McGregor. Deer and I share one attribute in common: We happen to enjoy the same plants.



Patience is a Virtue

THE ABSENTEE GARDENERS By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins For a long time, I was into instant gratification in the garden. The acre allotted for the garden had large bare…


Herbs or a Bottle of Pills?

THE ABSENTEE GARDENERS By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins It started with some herbs in pots in our kitchen window. I happily snip while I cook, feeling righteous about growing…


Phlox, Glorious Phlox

THE ABSENTEE GARDENERS By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins The genus phlox is comprised of approximately 60 species that are native to the U.S. Recently, the Mount Cuba Center in…


Yes, There are Plants We Cannot Grow

THE ABSENTEE GARDENERS By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins “What is it about echinacea? Why can’t I grow it?” my neighbor asked me. I assured her that for some inexplicable reason…


What Goes Around Comes Around

THE ABSENTEE GARDENERS By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins A year ago, I developed what I thought was an original idea: Why not plant a clematis with a rose? To me…


Why Do Some Autumn Leaves Turn Red?

THE ABSENTEE GARDENERS By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins Many of us look forward to the arrival of autumn with its cooler temperatures and brilliant colors. We know that there is…