Top Ten Signs That You Are A Plant-Obsessed Gardener

  1. You hide your new plant purchases from your spouse.

  2. You still have plant catalogs from 1995.

  3. You read gardening blogs instead of newspapers.

  4. You give your plants pet names.

  5. You move nine plants for every one you buy.

  6. You chase down squirrels to get your tulip bulbs back.

  7. You hope that "PPAF" on the plant label means "propagate plant after flowering."

  8. You buy flower seeds so that you can participate in a free seed swap.

  9. You are miffed when fast-food restaurants use your favorite plant in their landscape.

  10. You know exactly how many plants will fit inside your car.

Photo and Top Ten List by Freda Cameron

The Garden through 2008

With 2008 drawing to a close, I have looked back over the changes in the gardens this year. While there were many beautiful blooms in the garden, it is the transitions through the year that seem most significant to me. The transitions provided by nature.

January 2008 brought just a slight dusting of snow. Just enough for a pretty scene, but not enough to cause any problems. At the end of January, we cut back the ornamental grasses, the butterfly bushes and chaste tree.

By mid-April the garden was very colorful. The roses along the fence had new foliage and buds. The Japanese Maple was brilliant and the dianthus provided a spicy fragrance.

By June, it was beginning to feel like summer as we experienced several days in a row of 100°F heat. The Japanese irises were in bloom all along the rain garden path and the dry stream bed.

The corner willow tree provides the dividing corner where the cool colors of the front outer garden give way to the hot colors in the butterfly garden.

The little garden bench provides a perfect place to sit in the shade to take a welcome break from gardening and watch the hummingbirds in both gardens.

The willow tree is a favorite hangout place for all the birds who visit the garden.

Salvia uliginosa (bog sage) and perennial ageratum bloomed beautifully in August. The coneflowers had been in bloom since June and were still going.

In September, my husband and I pulled out three abelia and a weeping cherry tree in the cottage garden. The shrubs and tree were too large for the space. The cherry tree was always a target of the Japanese beetles, making it unattractive throughout the summer. Rather than fight nature, we decided to change the garden to be more suitable to the environment.

I amended the soil and planted a mix of agastache, salvia, echinacea, sedum and verbena for the full sun space. These perennials will take the heat, remain a size suitable for the space and will not attract the beetles.

I left space to sow poppies and other annuals since this garden space is by the front porch. The poppies have already emerged as seedlings, having been planted in October.

Ornamental grasses started the fall showing of plumes and some perennials continued to bloom into October. The salvias put on the biggest fall show, especially the greggii variety. The Knock Out® Roses bloomed through several frosts.

When I reflect on the garden this year, I think about what worked well and where I can make improvements. I'm making a list of things I learned this year so that I won't forget... to partner with nature.

Photos and story by Freda Cameron

A Variety of Garden Paths

What's the best material to use for a garden path? A lot depends upon your preferences and the style of your house and gardens. Brick, stone, gravel, mulch, grass and other materials are used for garden paths.

There are pros and cons to all materials, and we use three different styles within our gardens (photo taken from second story window to show examples):
  • Flagstone with polymeric joints (main walkway)
  • Flagstone stepping stones over mulch (outer garden paths and in cottage garden)
  • Gravel (cottage garden along roses)
Since our house is a cottage style, we didn't want a formal walkway.

Our main walk consists of flagstones with polymeric sand in the joints. We didn't want cement in the joints on the walk as we felt it would appear too formal for the style of our house and meadow setting. We considered growing thyme between the stones, but decided to try the sand.

The polymeric sand is used for dry-laid projects. It's a sand product with polymers that make it harden so that you don't have to keep sweeping loose sand or screenings between the stones.

In a nutshell, here's an overview of the steps to use polymeric sand:
  • dig and level the ground
  • layer of permeable landscape fabric
  • layer of screenings
  • lay the flagstone
  • sweep polymeric sand in the joints in a thin layer
  • mist with water
  • wait 10 minutes and repeat with layers/misting until sand is level with stones
Since the house was finished in fall 2005, we've had to re-apply the sand once, but it was an easy project. Some weed seeds, like spurge, will find the way into the sand, but that is minimal. I've had petunias reseed into the sand!

The stepping stones are the same Pennsylvania bluestone (lilac heather) as used for our main walkway, front porch floor and patios. These are laid on the ground and dressed with triple-ground hardwood mulch. The stepping stones are almost carefree, with the occasional weeding of the mulch. The mulch is thick enough that weeds aren't too much of a problem.

The gravel used along the roses inside the cottage garden requires the most maintenance in terms of weeding. Weed seeds sprout quite easily in the gravel. I wait until after a rain, then use a trowel or flat shovel to dig and scrape out the weeds, then rake the gravel back into place. Vinegar sprayed directly on the weeds is also useful. There is no weed mat/landscape fabric beneath the gravel. The gravel is locally known as "Chapel Hill grit" or "Chapel Hill gravel" as it comes from a local quarry.

We've not yet had to replenish the gravel, but we are considering using pea gravel. We have a small test section by the guest parking to decided whether or not we will want an entire path made of pea gravel.

An added benefit of all of our paths is that we can maintain these ourselves. In fact, we built a large dining patio ourselves using flagstones and polymeric sand. I like that we have a variety of path materials in different sections of the gardens, rather than using all one material everywhere.

Photos and story by Freda Cameron

In the Beginning: The Deer Resistant Garden

What does it take for a fast-growing flower garden? Good soil, sufficient rainfall and the right plants for the right spot.

When I work with, rather than against, Mother Nature, the garden grows pretty well. In other words, I don't grow anything exotic in my garden!

My garden is in full sun with lots and lots of deer. In 2007, we had a prolonged drought here in zone 7 of North Carolina. That happened to be the same year that I planted 99% of my outer gardens. My "outer" gardens are really just outside the cottage garden fence. I just haven't come up with anything clever to name the whole garden.

There are named sections within the outer gardens... butterfly, rain, fragrance, waterfall, guest parking and driveway island. Not very glamorous, I know. There's a bit of chaos, as I've just plunked some plants in spots within the garden because I don't have a holding bed.

For those who are just getting started with gardening, take heart!

As you can see, the first photo, taken in July 2008, is quite different from the second photo which shows the same garden in May 2007. To understand the vantage point, I have drawn an arrow on the photo to show the same crape myrtle tree. This is a view from east to west, with our driveway and parking areas at the far end of the photos.

Not everything planted in May 2007 survived the drought. I lost coreopsis, deutzia, penstemon and asters and probably a few more perennials that I've since forgotten.

The plants didn't have a chance to get established since it was difficult to keep the garden watered during the drought as there is no irrigation on the slope. There is drip irrigation along the bottom for the rain garden plants. Even though we have our own private well, we didn't feel inclined to risk watering the large area after months and months of prolonged drought.

In spring 2008, I filled in those gaps with salvia, agastache, perennial ageratum, echinops, spirea, monarda, perennial heliotrope, herbs and buddleia.

This area was bare ground on a slope. We first tried sowing grass, but with every rain, the seeds washed down to the bottom of the slope. This is full sun, on the south side, front of the house.

To turn this into a garden, we brought in several double dump truck loads of really great gardening soil. I spent September of 2006 spreading the soil by hand, with a depth of 6-8 inches, over the entire area. It was quite a workout! I planted a few Japanese and Siberian iris that fall along the bottom of the slope to begin creating a rain garden.

As you can see in comparing the two photos, the driveway and parking area are no longer visible. I used buddleia, illicium, amsonia, ginger, and itea beside the large crape myrtle to help define the far end of this garden section.

All of the plants selected are full sun, zone 7, deer resistant plants. No deer repellants have ever been used, but I may resort to rabbit repellants! For just a few months, I did surround the garden with a 32" high wire edging fence to just keep the deer from trampling and sampling the newly planted perennials.

The reason that I think this garden has been so successful is that I started with good soil and selected plants that are drought-tolerant for the top of the slope. At the bottom of the slope, I use plants that like the occasional wet soil. The plants in the middle of the slope like average moisture and rich soil.

There's still a lot of tweaking to be done as I improve the design by increasing the number of hardy plants and removing the ones that aren't good performers.

Photos and story by Freda Cameron

Pretty Perennial Foliage (After the Flowers)

We all want flowers. We want lots and lots of flowers in our gardens. I often struggle with decisions on bloom time. Should I go for "one big show" in spring and another in summer? What happens with the perennials when the blooms are gone?

The problem with trying to achieve colorful bloom with large mass plantings of the same plant is that when the blooms are gone the foliage may look pretty bad. Since my gardens are in front of the house, I'm trying to avoid large spaces of dying or wilted foliage that even annuals interspersed cannot hide. My garden is in full sun in zone 7b.

Winter is a great time to review photos of the garden to see which perennials provided good foliage after the bloom times. This summer, I intentionally went around my garden to photograph the ugly spots where the flowers had played out and detracted from the late blooming flowers.

There's still improvement to be done, so I have a strategy of expanding the perennials with beautiful flowers that continue to provide beautiful foliage. I'm also incorporating more annuals next spring and have already sown larkspur and poppies. I will sow cleome, nicotiana, zinnias, cosmos and other annuals to fill in the gaps.

My favorite perennials with beautiful foliage after the blooms include Japanese or Siberian irises, monarda, and salvia. I'll use the irises and monarda as the main players in my examples.

Even though it is December, the monarda foliage is still showing green to burgundy colors close to the ground like a ground cover. The iris leaves have finally turned brown and are ready to be cut back with the ornamental grasses in January.

This is how the combination looked back in early June 2008 with the irises in bloom and the monarda (right) not yet in bloom:

When the Japanese Irises are not in bloom, the foliage continues to look great. The foliage of some irises doesn't impress after the blooms, but the foliage of these provides a beautiful, tall, lush spike form.

The monarda blooms for several weeks, then I deadhead it for repeat blooms. Once the second flush of blooms is finished, I deadhead again back to leaf joints to keep the foliage looking good. Another thing to note about monarda is to continue to provide watering if there isn't sufficient rainfall. Monarda will get powdery mildew if it gets too dry.

The next view is from the top of a slope looking down into a different grouping of irises, monarda and amsonia hubrichtii. There is a nandina 'alba' providing additional foliage interest in the upper left of the photo. The monarda is barely in bloom, and the Japanese and Siberian irises are providing foliage after the blooms are gone.

In another grouping, there is also white ginger on the left (will bloom in September) and a buddleia at the back. The yellow blooms of the buddleia don't show up in this view, but the monarda blooms are apparent among all the other foliage.

A few more of my favorite blooming perennials that work double-time to provide beautiful foliage include:
  1. baptisia
  2. crocosmia
  3. dianthus
  4. hypericum
  5. perennial geranium
  6. lavender (multiple varieties)
  7. nepeta
  8. salvia guaranitica and greggii
  9. scabiosa
  10. sedum (multiple varieties)
  11. stacys hummelo

For variety, my perennial garden also includes a mix of flowering shrubs such as buddleia, itea, and spirea as well as ornamental grasses, sedges and ground covers.

Photos and story by Freda Cameron

Foliage Combinations in the Perennial Garden

When the flowers aren't in bloom, there are several foliage plants that I use to help carry color and texture in the perennial garden. I use a combination of perennials, shrubs and ornamental grasses to divide the dry stream garden from the front garden. Since this area is right beside our front path, I selected plants that would provide nice foliage from spring through fall and included a few for winter interest.

Amsonia hubrichtii is a southern native perennial that produces tiny blue flowers in the spring. While the flowers are nice, the threadlike, lacy foliage provides a nice texture when mixed with other foliage shapes. This perennial also provides a pretty background for flowering perennials since it quickly reaches a nice 3 x 3 foot size in the garden. The foliage turns a brilliant gold in the fall and is rated for zones 5-9, planted in full sun.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Little Zebra' PP 13,008 is a dwarf ornamental grass that fits in well with a perennial border. The fountain-shaped blades have horizontal gold bands. In the fall, the plumes shoot up straight in my full sun garden, making this grass easy to use when it is planted closely with perennials and shrubs. This grass is also rated for full sun in zones 5-9, making it a nice texture combination with the amsonia.

Illicium is an evergreen shrub that is also a southern native. I can't tell you exactly which one I have as this was originally planted next to our foundation by our landscaper. I moved it to this area because it enjoys moist soil in full sun and provides foliage year round. That is, until the deer are hungry enough to strip the leaves off of this shrub. The shrub does recover fully by summer and is left alone. For this reason, I put a little 32" high wire edging fence around this shrub in the winter months to prevent deer damage. This shrub can grow quite tall and wide and does have fragrant blooms, but mine has been pruned back a few times by the deer. If I were to substitute another shrub for this one, it would be osmanthus fragrans.

Itea virginica 'Little Henry' is a deciduous shrub that likes full sun to shade and moist soil. This shrub is an adaptation of the native itea virginica. This little fellow has blooms of white spirals in the early summer. The fall foliage is a brilliant red, a great contrasting companion, with the amsonia foliage in the fall. The small scale of 'Little Henry' makes it easy to tuck this 3 x 3 foot plant into the perennial border in zones 5-9.

Each of these four plants adds a different leaf shape and texture to use in a grouping as companion plants. Since they like the same growing conditions, there's no stress on any of these plants in the same setting. Only the illicium grows large, so the smaller companions are easy to fit into a mixed border.

While all are planted in my rain garden, these plants can be grown in less wet conditions. The rain garden is the lowest point along the path in my front garden.

With the exception of winter browsing of the illicium, all of these plants are deer resistant and rabbit resistant.

Photo and story by Freda Cameron

In the Kitchen: Scones for a Brunch or a Tea

I started making lavender scones this summer after a visit to Sunshine Lavender Farm.

My new tin of Provence Culinary Lavender arrived just in time for holiday baking!

This popular recipe was first featured on my blog a few months ago. Since I'm ready to bake more scones, I decided to publish the recipe again for the holidays.

I adapted a tried-and-true scone recipe to create these lavender scones. The original recipe for cranberry scones came from my best friend, Betsy Livak.

On several of my visits with Betsy (many years ago), she made her scones for me. In fact, those were the first scones that I'd ever tried! I have fond memories of our chats over scones and tea. We've been best friends for almost thirty years. Since Betsy is in California and I'm in North Carolina, we don't get to visit each other very often. When we have a rare opportunity to visit, we pick up right where we left off!

To make these lavender scones, I just substituted lavender and omitted the cranberries. That said, I highly recommend making these scones with cranberries, too. Either way, you will not be disappointed!

Lavender Scones

Makes 1 dozen scones
Preheat oven to 400°F

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (substitute whole wheat if desired)
1/2 cup sugar (I use turbinado sugar or organic cane instead of refined white)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 tablespoons culinary lavender

3/4 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher or sea salt)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (I use a microplane)

1 cup buttermilk (lowfat is okay)

  1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lavender in a large bowl.

  2. Add butter and beat with an electric mixer (or pastry blender) until well blended.

  3. Stir in zest *.

  4. Pour in buttermilk and mix until blended.

  5. Gather dough into a ball and divide in half (I use a knife).

  6. On lightly floured surface, roll each half into a circle.

  7. Cut into wedges.

    I make mine thick so that I get 6 scones (pie shaped wedges) out of each half. I use parchment paper to reduce the amount of flour needed. I also tend to hand shape, rather than roll the circle. I cut the wedges with a sharp knife. I gently tap the 3 sides of the scones on the parchment to make smooth edges.

  8. Place scones on lightly greased cookie sheet.

  9. Bake in preheated 400° F oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden.

  10. Serve warm or cooled.

*Original recipe: You can omit the lavender and use 3/4 cup dried (or fresh) cranberries.

If using the fruit, add it with the orange zest, just before the buttermilk.

Serving suggestion: Serve with preserves or lemon curd. If you live in the United Kingdom, you have real clotted cream!

Left-overs: Wrap a scone in a slightly damp paper towel and microwave for 15 seconds if you like scones warm. Most scones are served at room temperature.

Reduced recipe: I have made 1/2 recipe and it worked out just fine.

Photos and scones by Freda Cameron. Lavender from Sunshine Lavender Farm. Recipe adapted from Betsy Livak's Cranberry Scone Recipe

In the Kitchen: Savory Gouda Bites

When you need a quick and easy hors d'Ĺ“uvre for a party, this recipe is really fun to make. Since these savory bites resemble cookies, you'll have to tell your guests that these aren't sweet!

You can make these the day before serving. Using gouda, these savory bites are very light and mild tasting. You can decide whether or not to garnish with whole roasted cashews or other nuts.

One of our favorite places in North Carolina is the Biltmore Estate™ in Asheville. There are several great restaurants at the Estate and I've found them to be quite willing to share recipes, upon request, when dining there. They also hand out recipes during cooking demonstrations in the store beside the winery.

This recipe is adapted from a similar recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Bounty of Biltmore Cookbook, that is no longer offered online by the Biltmore Estate™. I purchased my cookbook at the Estate store several years ago.

Savory Gouda Bites

Preheat oven to 375°F
Makes 36

1/2 pound (8 ounces) gouda cheese, shredded (I use the food processor shredding blade)
1/2 cup butter, softened (not melted)

1 1/2 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon DRY mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Mix the gouda and butter together in a large bowl until well-blended and smooth.

  2. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

  3. Add the dry ingredients, a little a time, to the gouda mixture and continue to mix.

  4. Continue to mix until the ingredients bind together into a soft dough. (This may seem like it will never happen, but keep mixing. The appetizers will not be toughened by the mixing)

  5. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.

  6. If not using nuts*, press the ball to flatten slightly.

  7. Bake at 375°F for about 18 minutes (slightly brown).

  8. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

  9. Store in an airtight container.

*Optional Garnish:

36 cashews, roasted, whole, lightly salted

Press one whole nut into the top of each ball of dough before baking.

Photo by Freda Cameron. Recipe adapted from Bounty of Biltmore Cookbook, by Biltmore Estate™

In the Kitchen: Sour Cream Pound Cake

Sour Cream Pound Cake

This recipe was originally provided by my son's great-grandmother on his father's side of the family. I have been baking this cake for over thirty years. It is always a favorite and turns out beautifully!

I make sure all the ingredients are room temperature before I begin mixing the cake. I now use a very heavy duty Bundt® pan, but a pound cake pan was originally used.

2 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 lb)
3 cups sugar

6 eggs
3 cups sifted plain flour

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (stirred into the sour cream)

1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1 teaspoon almond flavoring

Pre-heat oven to 325°

  1. Cream butter and sugar together.

  2. Add remaining ingredients in order given and mix into a smooth batter.

  3. Pour batter into a prepared Bundt® or pound cake pan. (Lightly buttered and floured.)

  4. Bake approximately 1 hour in a 325° pre-heated oven. It must bake longer if using a heavy duty Bundt® pan. Test for doneness.

  5. Cool for 10 minutes (use a timer) on a cooling rack, then invert cake onto the rack. It should slide out in one piece!

This optional glaze is my own creation that I like to use in the colder months. Fresh strawberries or blueberries with whipped cream or ice cream are perfect with this pound cake in the summer months.

Optional Amaretto Glaze:

1 1/4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
toasted slivered almonds

In a small bowl, mix the sugar and liqueur. If the glaze is too thick, you can thin with a bit of milk (or more liqueur). I like to drizzle the glaze over the cake while it is slightly warm and on the cooling rack. I put paper underneath the cooling rack to catch the glaze to make clean up easier.

Garnish the top of the cake with toasted, slivered almonds.

Photos and cake by Freda Cameron; Family recipe.

Garden Inspiration: French Garden in the Dordogne

This Garden Inspiration was written by guest blogger and gardener, Rob Harrison, who lives in France.

Karen and I moved to Le Banquet, Les Eyzies near Sarlat in Spring '04. We fell in love with the Dordogne following a Summer holiday the previous year.

Le Banquet is a beautiful ensemble of old farm cottages which we operate as self-catering gites during the Summer season.

Situated in some four and a half acres of the Vezere Valley, the most stunning garden of all is the areas outstanding natural beauty.

Faced with both more time and land than I had previously been used to, I have become hugely interested in gardening and never miss an opportunity to 'get outside'and 'do a bit'. I don't have any particular style, I just like to try things each year, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't-- but, that's gardening I guess, always work in progress.

One aspect of the garden that remains unchanged is the roses. Each year from about mid-June through most of July they are the star of the show. They simply look stunning blooming against the sand and limestone buildings typical of this area. I had over 50 at the last count.

At the start of spring my cold frames are over filled with as many annuals as I can sensibly sow to plant around the grounds. This year I grew Cleome, Amaranthus, the beautiful Nicotiana Sylvestris, Calendula and many others, too many in reality but who can resist the seed catalogues.

In the courtyard area I have some large Italian terracotta pots planted with clipped box and numerous pots filled with Perlagoniums (this is France after all) plus around the terraces, I like to grow things like Verbena, Ageratum and patio Roses again in terracotta pots.

As you follow the path down from the courtyard toward the river which runs through the estate you come to a small stone herb planter from which the guests can help themselves.

This year I planted a hot border close to the old tobacco drying barn. Filled with Canna 'Phasion', Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff, Verbena Bonariensis and Ricinus, by August it had really developed into haven of lush, abundant growth filled with sumptuous colour.

Away from the buildings, there are large areas of lawn puntuated with fruit and walnut trees that offer pretty views of the Valley.

Photos provided by Rob Harrison, Le Banquet.

Also visit Rob's blog Our French Garden in the Beautiful Dordogne

Evergreen Gold in the Garden

Evergreens come in many colors. Gold foliage brightens up the winter landscape when Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Mops' (Japanese Falsecypress) is paired with carex oshimeensis 'Evergold' (Sedge).

A grouping of three of the shrubs and three sedges beside the stream in the waterfall garden provide a nice display that is visible through the windows in our garden room.

This place in the stream is the favorite drinking and bathing spot for birds. This is a southeastern location in our garden, receiving morning sun year-round.

Even in the cold of winter, the birds will wade onto the stones in the shallow stream and take an enthusiastic bath. Since the waterfall pump runs all the time, the water never freezes.

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Mops' (Japanese Falsecypress) grows in full or part sun with a height of about 6 feet and width of 5 feet. It is hardy in zones 4-8 and is evergreen (gold foliage). The golden stringy branchlets droop to form a compact pyramidal mound.

Carex oshimeensis 'Evergold' (Sedge) is for sun or part sun, growing about 1x1 feet. It is hardy in zones 7-9 and prefers well-drained soils. This is an evergreen sedge with green and cream variegation along the center of the leaf blades.

In the spring, Spanish bluebells bloom among the sedge and shrubs and then disappear after blooming. The foliage of the 'Golden Mops' and the sedge is brighter in summer through fall and turns to a burnished gold in the winter until spring.

Not shown in the photos are the evergreen companions of cotoneaster to the left that hangs over the edges of the waterfall rocks, cryptomeria japonica above the waterfall, and a burgundy loropetalum to the right behind the third 'Golden Mops' shrub. Other plants in this garden include osmanthus fragrans, Lady Banksia rose, as well as calla lily, creeping jenny and acorus that are growing in the stream.

The waterfall garden is based on more foliage than blooms since it is also viewed from inside the house. All of these plants combine colors and textures for year-round interest. Container plantings are used on the patio to provide blooms as well as more foliage plants.

Photos and story by Freda Cameron; First photo taken in December 2008; 2nd photo taken April 2008;

Garden Inspiration: Farmland to Flowers

What do you do when your land is devoid of trees, but covered with wild Bermuda grass? Shari Britt's land had probably been farmed in a previous life and had been taken over by the grass. Shari says, "I cannot just kill, smother or till the grass to create new planting space."

Shari has to manually remove the sod to clean out all the roots and runners of the stoloniferous Bermuda. "My precious planting space has been hard won and has slowly increased over the years. If I am not vigilant the Bermuda will creep in and take over quickly."

Shari's efforts are shown in the above photo with a large grouping of Miscanthus 'Cabaret', Chrysanthemum 'Single Apricot Korean', Mexican Bush Sage, Buddleaia lindleyana on the far left. Not easily seen in the photo is a Viburnum bracteum 'Emerald Luster' on the far right. The scale of the plantings fit with the scale of Shari's yard.

The success of Shari's gardening is well known to those of us who participate on the Garden Web Carolina Gardening Forum. Shari gardens in zone 7b of North Carolina. Like many of the forum participants, Shari attends the plant swaps to trade her own plants with other gardeners.

According to Shari "I don't think I have to tell you how much Garden Web has meant to my gardening. The plant swaps have given me so many plants to grow and experiment with and my garden just evolves with the general goal of privacy in my back yard and less grass to mow."

Another example of Shari's gardening is her vignette of Canna 'Musafolia' with Powis Castle atremisia, Mexican Bush Sage, Eupatorium coelestinum (hardy ageratum) and Salvia 'Indigo Spires'.

Shari is not only winning the battle with the Bermuda, but creating interesting designs with her plants. Shari has a way of combining ornamental grasses, shrubs and perennials for year-round appeal. Just mention a yucca to most gardeners and they are unsure of how to successfully combine the perennial in the garden.

Using a yucca filamentosa 'Bright Edge’ as a focal point, Shari adds orange daylily 'Trial By Fire', white Rose Campion, Salvia transylvanica and the ornamental grass, Kalamagrostis 'Avalanche' for a stunning combination in her full sun garden. Shari's daylily photos always draw accolades from her fellow Carolina gardeners.

Like many gardeners, Shari spends a lot of time photographing her gardens. She says "I'm just a byproduct of the digital age that discovered another facet to the hobby of gardening. I spent on average 30 minutes a day taking pictures through most of the growing season this year- making myself late for work more often than not because I would lose track of time."

Fascinated by the idea of using her garden photos on a calender, Shari started browsing her photos. She ended up with 400 potential pictures in the first round!

Since Shari loves to create CafePress® items for herself, she hopes others will like the items, too. CafePress® makes it easy to set up shop. Shari says "I am just beginning to explore what I can create and offer for sale there. I have no doubt that my products offered for sale will be a progression of new and different items- hopefully improving along the way."

Shari has two stores on Cafepress. Her SDB Garden Photography includes calendars, mugs, shirts, totes, pillows and other items featuring photos from her garden. For those who love daylilies, Shari features the perennial on the items in her Daylilies4U online shop.

Browsing Shari's online stores, I must say that her flowers look fabulous as wearable art and on other items!

Story by Freda Cameron. Photos provided by Shari Britt. Click photos to view larger images.

Organizing Photos with Keywords

Every flower gardener that I know takes hundreds of photos during the growing season. How do you easily organize all of those photos? There are a few technical tips to reduce your frustration.

For this discussion, let's assume that KEYWORD=TAG.

Keywords can be added with the following software:
  1. Utility software that came with your camera to transfer photos to your computer.
  2. Photo organization software that came with your computer, or that you downloaded or purchased.
  3. Web photo storage software (such as Google Picasa®)

Most software comes with basic keywords to help you get started. These are general keywords like FAMILY, VACATION, HOLIDAYS, BIRTHDAYS, etc. The software will also allow you to create new keywords, probably with an EDIT KEYWORDS option.

You may have to spend a bit of time adding keywords to your hundreds of photos the first time. This may take a few hours. Afterwards, you can add keywords as you download photos from your camera to your computer or with the organization software.

Right now, your photos are probably stored in FOLDERS on your computer. The FOLDER name may be the date that you took the photo, or you may have created a folder name such as SPRING, SUMMER, VACATION, etc.

To use a keyword, you do not have to move your photos!

A keyword will help you search for, and display, photos with the same keyword. In other words, if I use the keyword PERENNIALS on photos in different folders, then search for PERENNIALS, those photos will be displayed.

You may add more than one keyword to a photo.

For example, I could use three keywords to describe one photo of a purple perennial that is located in my butterfly garden. If I search on any of those keywords, I will see that photo.

Since I also grow ANNUALS:

Search for PERENNIALS-- see all PERENNIALS, no matter what color the flowers or the location in the garden.

Search for PURPLE FLOWERS-- see all PURPLE FLOWERS, PERENNIALS and ANNUALS, in all locations in the garden.

Search for BUTTERFLY GARDEN-- see all flowers and all colors that are located in the BUTTERFLY GARDEN.

The keywords that you use need to mean something to you.

I have COMPANION PLANTS as a keyword to represent a photo of a group of flowers that I like to plant together. I use PERENNIALS as a keyword; I also use ANNUALS and BULBS as well as the names of the location in the my garden, such as COTTAGE GARDEN, FRAGRANCE GARDEN, RAIN GARDEN, etc.

If you have added keywords either with your camera download software or with photo organization software, then those keywords should carry over if you upload the photos to the web.

Most web photo storage sites allow you to add keywords or tags, too. If you uploaded photos without keywords, you should still be able to add them to your photos. Look in the HELP section for instructions. Once you've added the keywords, then you don't have to remember which folder has your photo, you just search for the keyword and display only those photos.

If you are a blogger, then you may want to add keywords on the web to indicate the topic that relates to the blog story. For example, if you write stories about FALL COLORS, then you may want to add that same tag to your online photos.

As for the software that I use, my Canon® camera software utility has the ability to add keywords. On my MacBook® computer, I use iPhoto®. On the web, I use Google Picasa®.

Once you've completed the initial task of adding keywords to your photos, then you'll find it so much easier and faster to locate the photos stored locally on your computer or in a web photo storage package.

Photos and story by Freda Cameron. Click photos to enlarge. All registered and trademarked product names are owned by those respective companies.

All Creatures Great and Small

I was organizing my many photos and started grouping the wildlife photos in an album. Winter is a great time to reflect on everything that goes on in the garden. Here are a few of our creatures.

Monarch butterflies stop by our butterfly garden, a certified Monarch Waystation. This Monarch Caterpillar is munching on asclepias tuberosa. Agastache 'Blue Fortune' is a favorite nectar perennial for Monarch butterflies.

The Black Swallowtail Butterfly uses our garden for both host and nectar plants. While this one decided to visit us on the front porch, I have bronze fennel in the butterfly garden that serves as a host plant for the BST cats.

A Red-banded Hairstreak on the chaste tree (vitex) in the butterfly garden. The Swallowtail butterfly is common in our area. We have butterfly bushes (buddleia) throughout our gardens to serve as nectar plants.

"Godzilla" is a regular in our garden. He hangs out with us on the front porch and is always showing up nearby when I work in the garden on sunny days. He's easy for us to recognize due to a little scar on top of his head.

The fawns, born in our woods, stay in our garden and meadow during the day while the mother doe goes foraging for food. I suppose were the fawn-sitters. The fawns born here aren't afraid of us and don't run away until we get very close to them. These little ones are now much larger and have lost their spots.

Frogs and bullfrogs live in the stream and waterfall. They don't like to be approached and will jump into the water whenever we walk by.

A Purple Finch waits for a turn at our bird feeder that is located in the butterfly garden during the winter months and a hummingbird feeder in the summer. The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were plentiful this year. The hummingbird feeders are scattered about the butterfly garden, the waterfall garden and a garden room window.

The bee and wasp posed on the flowers for me when I visited another garden in July.

Our gardening greyhound, Charm, takes a break inside with a few of her many stuffies. She doesn't tear up anything, so there are many little stuffies residing in our family room with her.

Photos by Freda Cameron


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