Wordless Wednesday: A Chilly Day at the Botanical Garden

Asheville Botanical Garden

Last hours: native plant sale at the Asheville Botanical Garden

Surrounded by green. Asheville Botanical Garden

Blue tents in a lush, verdant setting

Headed for a different wooded garden


Ornamentals Arrive at the Farm Stand

Craving fresh strawberries this week, I stopped by a favorite local farm stand to stock up. As you’d expect this time of year, shoppers were everywhere. Some were there for produce, but most were on a different mission: looking for garden ornamentals.  The parking lot was full of people grabbing annuals and hanging plants,  perennials and herbs, and non-hardy vines.


It’s hard to resist all the little pots of goodies — maybe just one of this, or two of that to take home? I’m trying not to succumb. Besides, I already have this gold sedum,’Angelina’.


The Knockout roses on the right really stood out, but I confess that I’m tired of seeing them planted everywhere. There are so many exceptional flowering shrubs that do well in zone 7, yet the Knockouts prevail.  Availability, long-blooming time, and resistance to diseases that a lot of roses get are all factors in their popularity. But still…. my mind gets a little numb when I see large expanses of these all over town.


The color of  ‘Blue Moon’ phlox (Phlox divaricata) makes it stand out from other plants. The rabbits eat mine to the ground, unfortunately.


I guess there’s a demand for pansies in the spring, but it’s pretty much a waste of money if you’re looking for a long-lasting summer annual. Here, pansies just don’t hold up in the heat and humidity. In a few months, they will start declining.


This ‘Husker’s Red’ penstomen (on the left) is a nice, native plant. It doesn’t get very robust in my garden, but isn’t the color contrast nice with the blue-leaved dianthus?


I wasn’t familiar with this sedum. It’ called ‘Chocolate Ball’.


I consider Mazus repans a weed, but it does have sweet little flowers. (There’s a blue-flowered version too).  At $3.79 a pop, I figure I have about $500.00 worth of mazus in my own back yard, taking over what’s left of my so-called lawn.

So what did I come home with? One basil, one parsley, and a ‘Pink Chintz’ thyme. (Oh, and lots of fresh strawberries).

Next: Native plant sale at the Asheville Botanical Gardens!

Out in the World and Blogging

Enjoying Life - Max Patch, NC

On Top of the Mountain — Max Patch, NC

Today has been a lazy, rainy, indoor Sunday and the first day for a blog entry in several weeks. You’d think with so many photos in reserve, I might muster an image or two, at the very least. But no. Procrastination has prevailed.

Like many, I’ve found it hard to process the harrowing events of the past few weeks, especially with the relentless barrage of news coverage that followed. As for blogging, every topic seemed inconsequential when people throughout the nation were experiencing such trauma and upheaval.

Also, this past week I learned there was some kind of concentrated, widespread effort by super-hackers to infect blogging software. While this was nothing compared to the level of threat in Boston, it still added to my feeling of vulnerability and concern. I kept thinking of that line in William Wordsworth’s poem that begins “The world is too much with us.”

Whatever Wordsworth’s meaning for that line (it’s up for interpretation), it did start me thinking that we need to put ourselves out in the world more — to travel, participate in community events, hear music, enjoy times with families and friends and, yes, write blog posts. I believe we can feel the suffering of others and still find pleasure and comfort in the routines of our own lives.

So, here’s wishing you joyous times out in this beautiful spring weather. I’m off to blog….

April Bloom Day: Seven Favorites, Native Plants

You’ll find the usual spring bloomers here now: quince, viburnum, and pieris; purple flowering scilla and phacelia; ‘Jane’ magnolia; celandine poppy; stinking hellebore; variegated solomon’s seal; various azaleas and epimediums; many wildflowers. There’s so much color, scent, and new life, it’s hard to decide what to include in this month’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posting.

After much dithering, I narrowed my list to seven native plants. They return every year and I love them all. Starting with Little Brown Jugs, I’ll work my way up to ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud, which occupies the first layer of the tree canopy, still well below the oaks and tulip poplars towering above.

Hexastylis arifolia - Little Brown Jugs

Hexastylis arifolia – Little Brown Jugs

Low on the forest floor is the delightful Little Brown Jugs, Hexastylis arifolia.  The tube-shaped jugs or urns are actually flower sepals that are fused together to form a vase-shaped calyx. The urns are so endearing — they remind me of baby birds waiting for the next feeding.


Dicentra canadensis – Squirrel Corn

Next is squirrel corn, which has flowers shaped like pantaloons. It’s the feminine counterpart to Dicentra cucullaria or Dutchman’s britches.

Rue anemone - Thalictrum  thalictroides

Rue anemone – Thalictrum thalictroides

Rue anemone is so delicate, I’m surprised there are any left in our woods. Deer, voles, and chipmunks pretty much decimate Thalictrum habitat around here.

Wake Robin - Trillium erectum

Trillium erectum – Wake Robin

There are lots of trilliums here, but just a few wake robin or erect trillium. The vibrant flower color contrasts beautifully with yellow, white, and soft blue hues of other early-blooming wildflowers.

Sanguinaria canadensis 'Plena' - Bloodroot (double)

Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Plena’ – Bloodroot (double)

The shade of a nearby ‘Nana Gracilis’ falsecypress is getting too deep for this double-flowering bloodroot. Although bloodroots last a short time, I’d love to see a big drift of them at the edge of the woods.


Fothergilla gardenii – Dwarf Fothergilla

Fothergilla gardenii is just beginning to leaf out. Who needs leaves with gorgeous, fragrant flowers like these?


Cercis canadensis ‘ Forest Pansy’ – Redbud

‘Forest Pansy’ leaves are soft shades of purple when they emerge; they’re so pretty contrasted against newly-green leaves of deciduous trees in the background.

I am a little concerned about the health of this ‘Forest Pansy’. Many branches on one side seem to be dead. Also, a lot of the tree’s flowers are clustered directly on the limbs — more than what’s normal for a redbud.

Our soil is rich and moist and a prime freeway for voles. They’ve destroyed larger trees than a redbud, most notably a treasured blackgum  (Nyssa sylvatica) which died several years ago. I still haven’t gotten over that. Oh well. Life goes on in the garden — this year in splendid fashion!

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Thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day each month.

What’s In Your Yard?

From the Asheville Botanical Garden bulletin board

Asheville Botanical Garden

Some days, you really need to be outside, looking at real plants instead of pixelated ones on your computer screen. Some days, nature (and whatever’s out there) beckons. Just get out there. Don’t resist, or you might be sorry!



Bottlebrush Buckeye – Aesculus parviflora (U.S. native)

These are the days a gardener waits for. Every day — every hour — there are new offerings from the earth. It’s like a time-lapse photo in real time.

Everywhere I look, things are unfurling, emerging, bursting with color and chlorophyll. In the backdrop, birds are gathering leaves, twigs, and bits of ornamental grasses in preparation for the next cycle of life.

Christas Fern

Christmas Fern – Polystichum acrostichoides (U.S. native)


Variegated Solomon’s Seal – Polygonatum odoratum ”Variegatum’ (Asia native)

Soon, the dizzying display of flowers will begin, in other gardens and other places, mostly.  For me, in my woodsy part of the world, flowers are more subdued and ephemeral.

Sometimes, I dream of herb gardens and colorful perennial borders. Then, the hot days of summer come and I remember why I appreciate this shady setting and the palette of plants that grow here.

Buffet for Chipmunks

Mama and Baby Chipmunk

Mama and Baby Chipmunk

There’s no need for a weather report around here. Just look out the window for chipmunks on the stone wall. Chipmunks: warm. No chipmunks: cold.

Chipmunks don’t actually hibernate. They sleep much of the winter and, supposedly, wake up every few weeks to eat. They mate in early spring and usually have one litter a year. Their burrows can be thirty feet long. I believe this, since the crevices of our wall seem to get deeper and more pronounced every winter.

Eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) are found throughout most of North America. Most gardeners tolerate them and are amused by their antics. I was not amused a few years ago when I suspected them of raiding the nest of some newly-hatched birds. I kept seeing chipmunks sitting on the fence  under the nest;  I had never seen them in that area before  the birds disappeared.

Last week, a mama chipmunk crept out of the stone wall with her baby in tow. They could see me through the kitchen window so I had to sneak around to get their photo. All day long they took turns popping in and out of four or five crevices, like little jacks-in-the-box.

It’s hard to resist a baby chipmunk, so I decided to take it a snack. I had a container of pre-chopped vegetables and put out a few pieces each of purple cabbage, broccoli, celery, carrots, and what appeared to be parsnip, or maybe jicama.


A few minutes later, I saw one of the chipmunks standing on its hindlegs, chewing on a piece of celery held in its paws. I didn’t see them eat anything the rest of the day, but by the next morning, everything had disappeared. I found that chipmunks prefer celery, broccoli, and red cabbage to carrots and jicama. I did not throw seeds, nuts, or fruit in the mix, which might have changed the outcome of my experiment. (Obviously, I am easily entertained, and my little garden inhabitants are easily sated).

Outside Lea’s Window

A perfect, unnamed camellia flower catches the light.

A perfect, unnamed camellia blossom catches the light.



Veterans Cemetery, Knoxville, Tennessee

Old Trees

Old trees, old trees! in your mystic gloom

There’s many a warrior laid,

And many a nameless and lonely tomb

Is sheltered beneath your shade  . . .

Old trees, old trees! we shall pass away

Like the leaves you yearly shed,

But ye, lone sentinels, still must stay,

Old trees, to guard our dead.


Selected verses, Old Tree, by Abram Joseph Ryan, 1838 – 1886



Little Sweet Betsy

Trillium cuneatum - Little Sweet Betsy

Trillium cuneatum – Little Sweet Betsy

Spring begins….. at last. A few leaves of sweet Betsy trillium, Trillium cuneatum, emerged from the rich, black soil near the stone wall a few days ago. Seemingly overnight, those few leaves turned into a clump of several plants, one with a fat bud which will soon become blackish-purple bracts. These native trilliums are all over our three-fourths acre lot, but this particular location is a first for them.

There used to be a lot of mayapples nearby. They’re disappeared, except for a few spindly plants I hope re-appear in a few weeks. Supposedly the deer eat the fruit when it’s fully ripe, so maybe that’s why the mayapples have all but disappeared. Or maybe it’s because of the gardener, who has allowed Vinca minor to get too thick there. (Can’t blame everything on deer).

So much to see right now, but the first signs of life are always the sweetest. Welcome to you, little Betsy, with the splotchly green markings.

Most likely a cross of Trillium cuneatum and Trillium

This clump is likely a cross between Trillium cuneatum and Trillium luteum, a yellow species.