The Absentee Gardeners

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.




Finally, Planting Trees

These past two weeks Kit and I have fretted and fussed about trees. We’ve confessed poor choices and lamented mistakes in the hope of helping you avoid costly problems.


How to Kill a Tree

These are good days to plant trees. You can do it right or you can lay a trap for future generations. Last week Kit shared some of her misadventures with trees;


Misadventures with Trees

“Let’s write about trees,” Lise e-mailed me. I groaned. You see, as a gardener, I have a love-hate relationship with trees. My reply to Lise was this: “Okay, I’ll write about the trees I have lost and you can write about…


Why Do You Garden?

Every garden has to have an aim attached to it, otherwise it simply doesn’t make sense. A garden is more than just a conglomeration of plants.


A Tale of a Japanese Maple

When I first saw the Japanese maple, Acer palmatum Mikawa yatsubusa, it literally stopped me in my tracks as I’d never seen anything like it. Now Japanese maples are commonly found everywhere, primarily for two reasons: (1) They are lovely…


When is a Bulb Not a Bulb?

Recently a garden group asked me to give a presentation on bulbs. When I replied that I really was a perennial gardener, rather than a bulb gardener, the chairman replied, “But you like to do research.”


Change in the Weather

Soon, the weather will transition from one season to the next. It’s too hot outside to be enjoying your fall garden, but it is time to start counting the days — counting backward that is. The successful fall gardener starts with the date of the first predicted freeze, calculating backwards from there.


The Trades We Make

Last week I introduced you to my neighborhood’s Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) conundrum: choose between synthetic or organic treatments for controlling them and be ready to accept the consequences. I staked out my position — I’m willing to accept some damage…


Garden Trade-offs

It started with a question posted to our neighborhood forum: “Looking for a company to treat our landscape for pests.” That question turned into a lengthy discussion of ways to eradicate the garden pest having its moment, the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica).


 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.


Killer Petunias

This season I’m trying out some forthcoming Wave petunias that are faring well. Although pleased with them, I’m now saddled with a chore I don’t enjoy. If you’ve grown petunias you know what I’m about to say — they are sticky.


More Lazy Gardening

In our last column, Mark Weathington mentioned that turf was terribly labor-intensive, soil improvement was imperative and we should buy good plants while disposing of those plants that failed to perform. Here are the additional points that he makes:


Gardening while Lazy

This summer, what with dealing with a changing world due to COVID-19, I find that I’m not as enthusiastic about spending time in the garden. Whether it’s due to a creaking, aging body or a loss of concentration, my enthusiasm has waned a bit.