Spring Fever: Do You Have It, Too?

It's a good thing that I am a freelance writer with a flexible work schedule! It is difficult to sit inside an office (like I did for 32 years) when the sun is shining and the temperature is nice and warm. Perfect weather to be outdoors. I'm outdoors so much right now that I'm even struggling to sit down and blog!

The Musician and I drove out in the countryside yesterday to Hillsborough to shop at the Multiflora Greenhouses. It is too early to plant annuals, but the grower is so popular that the annuals will be sold by May. We picked up a flat of impatiens and ageratum, plus a few individual pots of coleus, fuschia, strobilanthes and a hanging basket of begonias. The annuals will stay on our warm front porch until the danger of frost has passed.

On this morning's promenade in our garden we found the daffodils, jasmine and akebia blooming. The winter daphne is still holding on to her blooms that began in December! The Japanese maple leaves are starting to unfurl. The Japanese and Siberian iris foliage have grown several inches already this week. The echinacea are sprouting leaves and I have monarda and bog sage spreading out in all the right places in the rain garden. The salvia 'Black & Blue' are showing tiny green leaves, too.

What shall we do today? The Musician and I are going to walk a mile to catch a free, UNC bus instead of trying to drive into town and find parking. We're going into Chapel Hill to meet our pharmacy student son for lunch. We'll walk a few miles from campus each way to our downtown lunch spot. It will be a beautiful day on Carolina's campus where the spring trees are in bloom. By the way, if any of you are basketball fans, make sure you watch the UNC Tarheels in the NCAA game on Saturday night! Go Heels!

What are you doing about your case of spring fever? I know that all gardener's have it right now!

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Moving Water, Wildlife and Plants

After several days of rain, the garden is sprouting green. There are a few plants in my garden that like water all year and take to being planted directly in our water feature.

We keep the waterfall running year round. Our temperatures dip can down to 11°F in the winter, but the water doesn't freeze because it's moving. This enables us to provide a place for the birds (and other wildlife) to drink and bathe year round. The morning sun hits a shallow section of the stream that is within a few feet of a bird feeder. The birds have made a little path between some shrubs where they walk from the feeder to the stream. The large frogs don't like this shallow section, so they aren't a threat to the birds.

The bullfrogs are plentiful in the deep end of the stream by the front porch. The water there is too deep for the song birds.

I've not yet seen our one remaining goldfish this spring, so I don't know if the Great Blue Heron, who can wade in the deep end, has been snacking again or not.

Because the water is constantly moving, all plants have to be anchored in the rocks at the edge. Pots can be submerged and anchored with weights to keep them from floating away. Since the stream is shallow in most places, I've not found the pots to be concealed well enough, so I have removed those from the water feature and planted directly in the rocks. I have to put large rocks around the plants until they root. Once the plants develop a good root system on the rocks, they are very stable.

This year, I'd like to add more plants to the water's edge. Since our stream is fairly narrow, I have to select plants that won't rapidly take over the stream. The calla lily in the waterfall is growing rapidly. This calla was planted three years ago and has already been divided numerous times and shared with friends. Since it takes to division so well, a sharp knife (and a lot of strength) keeps it under control. New leaves sprout from the cut roots, so I don't have to be careful with the plant - it's tough!

At a previous house, I grew Louisiana irises, so that's a good candidate. Iris versicolor is another possibility. Since my stream is man-made and not natural, I can control this area and not introduce species that will invade any natural streams - always a concern with planting anything.

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Inspired by Spirea

For flowering shrubs that are small enough to tuck into a mixed border of perennials, I use a few spirea in my full sun, deer resistant, zone 7 garden. The bloom and leaf colors work well in my color scheme.

There are so many spirea that I can't begin to give you a good summary on performance since I have only three varieties. At a previous house, I grew Spirea japonica 'Shirobana' (Japanese Spirea) that had pink and white flowers. However, the deer picked those blooms so I didn't plant that variety in this garden.

Spirea x bumalda 'Magic Carpet' (correct me if this is wrong as the shrubs weren't labeled) and spirea japonica 'Neon Flash' have performed well with minimal deer sampling of the flowers. The sampling seems to occur on the re-bloom in August rather than the more bountiful blooms in early summer. The summer leaves don't seem to be of interest and since these are deciduous shrubs, there's no winter damage. Although deciduous, the spirea are among the earliest shrubs to leaf out in the spring.

The 'Magic Carpet' starts out with rusty orange leaves that give way to green-gold as the deep pink blooms appear in May through June. It's a short, mounding shrub and hasn't exceeded 18" in the three years that it has been growing in my garden.

I have another spirea japonica 'Golden Elf' that I grow for the bright leaf color as a mounding ground cover. 'Golden Elf' quickly grows to 1' x 2' for a bright splash among darker leaves. It looks great as a companion with nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' in bloom with blue flowers.

My favorite spirea is 'Neon Flash' as the darker green leaf color and the deep carmine blooms make it a great companion for agastache 'Cana', echinacea 'Ruby Star' and salvia greggii 'Dark Dancer'. I also have monarda 'Blue Stockings' and 'Raspberry Wine' as well as chives growing in the section with the 'Neon Flash' spirea. This is the spirea that inspired my color scheme of shades of deep pink, magenta and blue.

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Time After Time: Daylily Joan Senior

Gardeners quickly learn that one of the easiest perennials to grow is a daylily. The adaptable daylily (hemerocallis) grows in a variety of soil and sun conditions. I've grown them in partial shade to full sun in moist soil and average soil. Most daylilies are suitable for zones 3-9.

When it comes to color, there are pink, red, purple, yellow, white and orange... and many hues and shades for variation. The lily bloom can be different shapes. There are short, medium and tall daylilies. With a bit of timing, you can have daylilies in bloom throughout the summer.

What makes a daylily rank high with me? Repeat blooms on the same plant. Stella d'Oro (which I have) is the most commonly grown for repeat blooms, but the gold color makes it a bit more difficult to use with some color schemes. Stella works best with deep purple. 'Happy Returns' (which I have) is a softer yellow and blooms off and on all summer long.

My favorite reblooming cultivar has been around since the late 1970s, but it was the 1990s before 'Joan Senior' was on my radar. This 25-30 inch diploid is getting established in my cottage garden. By getting established, I mean that it has been growing for two years and will be ready to divide next year to create more daylilies.

Joan is a creamy white with a yellow throat. I decided to echo the yellow throat by planting companions of 'Happy Returns' and the shasta daisy 'Broadway Lights' with Joan.Taking the economical approach, I bought a few of each of these plants and must have a bit of patience until I grow enough to divide and group for impact.

Right now is the time to divide daylilies. Joan, Happy and Stella are looking all perky and green in my garden. The foliage was nipped a bit by rabbits recently, but they tend to leave the plants alone once spring arrives. My daylilies have already outgrown the nips. I grow the daylilies inside the cottage garden because there are deer outside fence. Although I see swaths of Stella growing in roadside plantings, I know that the deer will pick the blooms in my outer gardens. I've resisted the urge to tempt the deer.

With over 60,000 distinct varieties, there is probably a daylily for every gardener!

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

True Grit: A Garden Path

Obtaining a truckload of gravel to refresh a garden path was a bit scary. My husband and I drove our pickup truck down into a gravel quarry. A gigantic shovel dug the gravel right out of the hillside and dumped the scoop into the back of the truck. I have to say that the fellow handling that big machine didn't get a scratch on the outside of our truck!

This particular gravel has always been called "Chapel Hill grit" here in my area. The grit hardens enough that it stays put for years. After almost four years of using it for one of the cottage garden paths, we decided to refresh the look.

It didn't take long with my husband hauling it from the truck in a wheelbarrow. I used a garden rake to smooth it out and filter the large rocks out of it. In less than an hour, our path looked as good as new!

The path is now refreshed. The garden is starting to emerge from winter. The flower pots are placed and ready for planting when the danger of frost has past. Charm, the "gardening greyhound" approves of the new grit - it's easy on dog toes!

Story and photo by Freda Cameron

Locally Grown: North Carolina Plant Nurseries

As a gardener, I am fortunate to live in North Carolina. Here in the Piedmont, I am surrounded by wonderful plant nurseries that provide everything from annuals to exotics to native species.

Beyond retail nurseries, there are also the plant experts who are breeding new plant varieties or going on expeditions to collect new varieties that will grow well here. The wholesale growers provide plants for many local retail garden shops.

The individual and family-owned gardening businesses in North Carolina are often well-known throughout the country. Additionally, our universities provide so much in the way of research and conservation to help improve plants for our home gardens and preserve native species.

Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill is one of the first nurseries to specialize in native plants. Visiting Niche Gardens is also a treat given their different display gardens that include wetlands/bogs, sun and shade gardens. Niche sells plants through mail order and are open most days at the nursery.

Plant Delights Nursery is located just outside Raleigh. Tony Avent, the owner, is well known for his plant finding expeditions and exotic plants. Plant Delights Nursery sells through a catalog, online and during open house days several times a year.

Camellia Forest Nursery in Chapel Hill is renowned for introducing their own camellias. The Parks family continues to expand their nursery to include other trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.

Rich DuFresne is a Candor, North Carolina plantsman who has introduced and bred salvia and agastache. He also goes on plant-finding expeditions for new salvia varieties.

Big Bloomers Flower Farm in Sanford has greenhouses that are overflowing with annuals, herbs, perennials, daylilies, hostas and so many other plants.

Green Hill Hostas in Chapel Hill is a reliable source for hostas, including new varieties. The Solberg family sells both wholesale and retail.

Holly Hill Daylily Farm in Moncure is a daylily breeder who also sells crinum and a few other plants like verbena and red hot pokers. As with many nurseries, they have special days when they sell to the public. Holly Hill is known for daylily introductions.

Multiflora Greenhouses in Hillsborough has six acres of container, bedding annuals and other plants that they grow for both wholesale and retail. The same family has been operating the business for over 25 years. They are a "green sensitive" grower using bottom heat and capturing rainwater, then recycling the runoff from the retention ponds.

Witherspoon Rose Culture in Durham has been selling roses for over 57 years! They have a display garden for their gorgeous roses. Witherspoon sells online with great photos and information about the roses.

Dickinson Garden Center in Chapel Hill is a local retail garden center and family-owned business has been in the same location for over 55 years. They use North Carolina wholesale growers, too.

Lowe's Hardware is a North Carolina company that was founded in 1946. They also sell plants that are grown by North Carolina wholesale nurseries.

The NC Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill has a daily plant sale (April through October) of native plants that they grow and propagate.

JC Raulston Arboretum performs research to determine which landscape plants perform best in our southeast gardens. There are sometimes special plant sales at the Arboretum that may include rare varieties.

Another wonderful source of North Carolina plants can be found at our many Farmer's Markets in towns and cities. There are flower farmers who sell at the larger State Farmer's Market in Raleigh and the Western North Carolina Farmer's Market in Asheville, too.

Story and photo by Freda Cameron

Spring into Action

How many gardeners spent the first day of SPRING outside, working in the garden?

It was a sunny day here. The temperature was in the mid-50s and that was great gardening weather. My husband (aka The Musician) even joined in the fun. This is the first time that he's been home (retired) during the spring season. It was great to see his enthusiasm for getting the garden into shape. The man hates weeds more than me!

The Musician went on his three-mile run while I dug wild onions out of the garden. When he finished his run, he went to work shoveling the gravel to pull out the weeds. We have had several rains recently, making the ground and gravel perfect for weed eradication. Using a flat blade shovel, he scraped off the top of the gravel to loosen the weeds. They came right up. He raked the gravel back into place. It has been almost four years since the gravel path was made, so it's time to buy a bit of gravel to freshen it up again.

While we were working side-by-side in the garden, The Musician kept mentioning his enjoyment of the beautiful day for gardening. He's never had time to really enjoy gardening until now. In the past, it has been a weekend chore for him. He now sees the joy in gardening as well as the health benefits of the activity.

We went on to remove three lavender plants that didn't survive days and days of rain. When I say "we" this took on a new meaning - I pointed to the plants and he graciously dug out the very heavy shrub-size plants and dragged the 50 pound (they seem that heavy) off to the lavender graveyard that is used to block a deer path at the edge of the woods. He usually lifts weights before he runs. We both agreed that the heavy lifting in the garden is a great switch from indoor weights.

By lunchtime, we had cleaned up the cottage garden and the front pathway. I realized that I wouldn't have gotten so much done without my husband. I realized that gardening with him is more fun than gardening alone. He realized the fun of gardening when there is no rush to fit it into his spare time.

Gardening has always been enjoyable and The Musician has always been very supportive of my gardening activities and the results. I am so happy that he is so happy - to spring into action, too!

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

A Sweet Little Shrub

I like shrubs that do well with little maintenance. A cute character that grows in my garden is itea virginica 'Little Henry.'

Before I purchased several of these shrubs in fall 2006, I only knew about the large, native itea, often called sweetspire. I saw the bright red fall leaf color of 'Little Henry' and decided to give it a try.

This deciduous shrub is versatile and can handle sun or shade, and a variety of soils. Suitable for zones 5-9. Standing between two and three feet high and wide, these are compact shrubs that take up no more space than some of my perennials.

I planted these in my rain garden since they can handle wet feet and sunshine. In mid-May, 'Little Henry' produces spirals of white blooms.

Itea 'Little Henry' is on the deer resistant list. A few blooms seem to disappear, so I do believe that the deer are sneaking a snack now and then. I've not had a problem with aggressive runners or spreading of this shrub, but always research whether or not a plant will be a problem in your area.

Amsonia hubrichtii looks like a good companion, so I need to do some rearranging to move the amsonia and itea closer together. Perennial ageratum and iris ensata are other good companions in moist soil areas.

Story and photo by Freda Cameron

A Perennial Planter

When I think of container plantings, I envision using seasonal annuals to provide long-blooming color. There are quite a few resources now for "recipes" for container planting success. These container plans include great color combinations, and tell us which, and how many, plants to buy.

I first heard the "thriller, filler, spiller" recipe for success in a special edition magazine from Fine Gardening® magazine. The nursery grower, Proven Winners®, also includes quite a bit of information on their website for creating beautiful container plantings from their plants.

In April 2007, I decided to use a few perennials that like part shade and moist soil to use in a planter on my patio. I've had the copper planter for several years, having brought it along from my previous home.

I used a purple heuchera and a Japanese Painted Fern as the basis for my color scheme and tucked creeping jenny around the edges for highlights.

I filled in with annuals of impatiens, dahlias, calla and a tall, spiky dracaena for height. Then, we had a very long drought (until March 2008) and it reached a point that using water for container plants was difficult, even with our own well.

When the spring of 2008 came, I was reluctant to create any container gardens due to the drought experience. I ignored the planter, except I moved the fern over to the left side to cover the bare spot vacated by the annuals.

To my surprise, the impatiens and dracaena came back! The accidental planting wasn't too bad.

While writing this story, I am looking out the window at the same planter. The heuchera looks fine. The jenny is turning gold. The dracaena is droopy from the weight of a few recent snowfalls. The painted fern is just barely starting to come up.

What will this perennial planter look like in 2009? To be continued...

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Deer and Rabbit Resistant Perennials

My deer friends haven't been hanging around the garden much these days. I am using a 32" high wire edging fence around the garden to keep them from plowing up the seeds that I've sown. Yes, they can jump it, but since everything in the outer garden is deer-resistant, they are too lazy to go over the little fence to forage.

The rabbits are proving to be more of a challenge. I don't use repellants for deer, but I recently started using a rabbit repellant. Rabbits fit under my cottage garden fence and have been making nightly raids.

As gardeners in deer and rabbit country begin planning, here are my three favorite perennials that are reliably resistant for both critters in my Zone 7, full sun garden. These plants are relatively easy to find at local nurseries or online.

I always use this disclaimer: your deer and rabbits may like plants that my deer and rabbits won't eat.


Agastache is a perennial for many color schemes. Agastache bloom from June through fall in my garden. I have 'Salmon and Pink' that looks good with coneflowers and salvia greggii 'Dark Dancer'. Agastache 'Cornado' is apricot and looks good with agastache 'Blue Fortune'. In the fall, I added 'Purple Haze' and 'Tutti-Fruitti'. I have seeds for 'Purple Pygmy'. Drought-tolerant, sunny locations and poor soil. There are quite a few agastache choices available for zones 5-9.


I rely upon nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' and 'Walkers Low' as easy, deer and rabbit proof plants that look good from spring through fall. The base foliage of these are already green, so I cut back the dead stems last week using cordless hedge trimmers. Nepeta will repeat bloom all summer if trimmed when the blooms fade. This is an easy perennial to divide by using a shovel in the spring.


Salvia greggii has never been touched by deer or rabbits. I have several colors and sizes, including the generic autumn sage. I like the red and magenta colors, but have also added the white and purple. Salvia guaranitica 'Black & Blue' is a nice, cobalt blue. Salvia greggii and 'Black & Blue' are hummingbird favorites and do well as drought tolerant perennials. If you have a moist soil area in full sun, salvia uliginosa (bog sage) is another variety that is not eaten by the critters. The bog sage is pale blue and white. It grows quite tall and will spread rapidly by runners. There are so many salvias in the world, that I cannot begin to describe all the choices!

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

House Hunting

Spring is house hunting time. The new house must be perfect. It can't be too small or too large. A lavishly decorated house is nice, but a simple little cottage will do just fine. Of course, the house must have a garden!

The birds are house hunting again! The chickadees are scouting around the bluebird houses to select a nesting home. The bluebird population is very high here in our neighborhood, too.

There are bluebird houses mounted along the board fencing throughout our neighborhood of open meadows. We have two more birdhouses behind our house, too. When there aren't enough birdhouses to go around, the bluebirds nest in the wooden newspaper tubes below everyone's mailbox!

Each year, the chickadees are the first to nest in our bluebird houses. After they raise their young, a bluebird pair takes over the same house. Our birdhouses are four feet off the ground and positioned along the edge of our woods, facing the open meadow.

We've noticed a male chickadee standing guard on top of one of the bluebird houses. The female has been going in and out of the house for several days, carrying nesting material. However, the male chickadee isn't very territorial compared to bluebirds!

If there is a car parked in our driveway when the bluebirds are nesting, there is a problem. The male fusses at his reflection in the side mirrors for hours and hours at a time. My son left his car parked here while he was in college. I had to tie grocery bags over the car mirrors to give the poor bluebird a break from his guard duty!

Meanwhile, we'll keep the bird feeders full of seeds for the nesting couples. Nesting season is another reminder that spring is in the air!

Making Our Own Sparkling Water and Sodas

With another small step toward going green, we started making our own soft drinks and sparkling water this week. I had read enough information to make me feel guilty about buying bottled water in plastic bottles. Stop! Okay! Filter water. Reuse bottles. Save money.

However, I like sparkling water. For some unknown reason, flat water doesn't sit too well with my stomach. We have been buying sparkling water by the case for several years.

A few days ago, my husband announced that he had found an item that we must purchase. He had already run the numbers to compare what we spend on bottled sparkling water with the high price of this device. He showed me the video. I read the rave reviews. We were both convinced. We headed out to Williams-Sonoma to buy a Penguin.

The Penguin uses refillable CO2 cartridges to turn flat water into sparkling water. Each cartridge makes 60 carafes (620ml/20 ounces) of sparkling water. The machine includes two cartridges and two carafes, so the price includes enough CO2 to make 120 carafes of sparkling water.

The carafes are glass and they are dishwasher safe. The carafes come with airtight caps, so you can easily store these in the refrigerator. We will return the empty CO2 cartridges to Williams-Sonoma when we need to buy more cartridges. The Penguin does not use batteries or electricity! Another way to go green!

We use our filtered well water to make the sparkling water with the Penguin. The taste is wonderful! Since I am a fan of San Pellegrino®, I am so pleased that our homemade fizz tastes great to me.

Today, we learned that we can make our own soft drinks, too! Diet soft drinks or sweetened. More savings. No plastic bottles or aluminum cans.

We bought Torani® Italian flavored syrups (sweetened with Splenda®) for $6.99 for 24 ounces. I used one ounce of flavor in a glass, then poured in the sparkling water and stirred. Perfect! You can make the sodas with more flavoring if you like. I made diet black cherry, diet cream soda and diet black cherry cream soda by mixing the two flavors. I love the taste of all three.

The machine will pay for itself in twenty weeks. The price of the supplies will be much less than what we have been paying for bottled water. We won't be buying soft drinks either... and we'll use the glass carafes over and over again. Better for our budget. Better for the environment.

Photo and story by Freda Cameron

Have iPod, Will Travel and Garden

With nice weather, I won't be inside chained to my computer! It is time to be out and about in the garden, around town and on day trips around North Carolina.

I have the Apple iPod Touch, 2nd Generation. Operating like a tiny wireless laptop, iTunes player and an organizer, I'm finding many convenient uses for the iPod. Owners of an iPhone have these capabilities, too.

When I am in a wireless hotspot, I can check my email, surf the web and respond to comments on my blog.

I am getting my iPod ready for our upcoming vacation to France, too. When I'm offline, I can read ebooks using Amazon Kindle for iPhone. I just purchased and downloaded Rick Steve's Paris 2009. I won't have to carry a large print book with me to Paris this spring. I can easily access the table of contents and click to the chapter that I want to reference while walking around Paris. As a traveler who likes to travel light, this is a real benefit to me.

I have also downloaded a French language reference ($0.99) that provides audio so that I can hear the translation. This is quite important since I speak (a little) French with a lot of Southern drawl!

Using Safari on my MacBook, I can save a web page to be read offline, too. To store the page on my iPod, I use Airsharing software ($4.99) that I purchased from the iTunes online store. This software allows me to copy documents from my MacBook to my iPod. I store pdf, MS Word and Excel documents that I need for my travel and day-to-day activities.

Gardeners can carry their plant lists around without any problem! I also store map images and directions to public gardens. I really like having a copy of the web pages to reference while visiting a garden. I can make notes on my iPod about a plant and look it up on the web when a wireless connection is available.

Thin and light, I carry the iPod Touch in my pocket while out in the garden. I can make notes on the spot (including blog story ideas).

I guess you can say that I use my green thumb for typing, too!

Story and photo by Freda Cameron. All products mentioned are owned by their respective companies.

If A Frog Sees His Shadow...

Is it spring?

The sounds of the frog chorus are so loud and constant, it is difficult to carry on a conversation over the raucous. The bullfrogs emerged this weekend to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather.

Why do we rely upon the groundhog to predict spring? Why not the frog songs? There are a lot of frog reflections in the water today. Thinking about this, I answered my own question.

The groundhog is all furry and fat. He has that cuddly and c-u-t-e factor going for him. The bullfrog has that e-w-w factor going against him. Who wants to pick up a slimy frog to pose for photos every year? The critter just doesn't have that same Hollywood appeal as a groundhog.

What's the most disgusting thing a princess does in a fairy tale? Kiss a frog! What about trolls under bridges? We have two bridges over our stream where the bullfrogs congregate. It doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to think that these may be the models for trolls in fairy tales. Our bullfrogs are the size of chihuahuas! Really.

If you think that I'm being too harsh, fellow gardeners, know this... bullfrogs eat butterflies... they eat birds, too!

Story and photo by Freda Cameron

Home on the Screened Porch

What gorgeous spring weather we're having here in North Carolina this weekend! The screened porch called us. With just a little tidying up, it was ready to be used.

For me, a screened porch with a ceiling fan is required for our Southern climate.

The porch (photo from summer last year) is located on the northwest side of the house. This is our breakfast and lunch place everyday in the hot summer months. When we built the house, we gave up the space for a breakfast room in order to give the kitchen more space and to add the porch. As a gardener, I'd rather dine outside anytime the weather permits.

I designed a pass-through window from the kitchen to the porch. I bought an inexpensive potting bench and painted it dark green to use for serving. It is a perfect fit under the window!

Like most potting benches, the top can be moved aside to reveal the trays meant to hold soil. Instead of soil, the trays make a great ice bin for keeping drinks cool! The outdoor string lights are dragonflies. They provide just the right amount of light to spend an evening on the porch.

With the wide overhangs, this is also THE place to sit during a spring or summer rain shower. Overlooking our woods, there is a sense of green and tranquility. The sofa makes for a great place to nap, too!

In another month, I'll add a few plants to the porch for the summer. Farewell to cabin fever!

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Two Years and Still Blogging

It started out simply enough. My son was attending graduate school in archaeology in London. He was blogging. While he was home on holiday, he showed me how to start a blog. This gardening blog was started in March 2007 as a way for my son to see what was happening in the garden... but the blog grew and grew...

My blog continued to be mostly read by friends and family until September 2008 when I decided to quit or kick it up a notch.

I kicked it up a notch! I began blogging almost daily. I joined Blotanical and began interacting with other garden bloggers. I realized something about my writing, too. When I include other events, places, people and gardens, I find it very rewarding - especially for good causes.

Since September 1, 2008 (six months) there have been 35,333 page views of this blog! With 52.84% new visitors and 47.16% returning visitors, I realize that almost half of my readers are regulars. I thank you for your time and interest! As for the new visitors, I hope that you'll like the blog well enough to become a regular reader, too.

Gardening is very important to me.

I can't imagine my life without a garden. I get so much joy from the activity of gardening, writing about gardening and getting to know other gardeners. Most of all, I enjoy just "being" in my garden.

Travel is very important to me.

Getting to know my own home state of North Carolina or the people of another country enriches my life. I like to share tips on travel - where to visit, great gardens, restaurants or just the experience of travel. I pride myself on packing light, too! My son claims that he is an archaeologist because he went out into the world with me to see ancient and interesting places.

Home is very important to me.

In fact, it is difficult to leave home to travel! I like to cook. I love how we use our rooms, indoors and outdoors. My husband and I put a lot of thought into building our "forever" home for comfort and energy efficiency.

These other topics are fun for me. I intend to continue as a garden blogger, I just want to bring in more of my world. I hope you'll find it interesting to read...

Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Host Caterpillars in a Butterfly Garden

From egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. This life-cycle of only 6-8 weeks is so fast that we are fascinated and amazed. We see the change taking place before our eyes. Butterfly habitats are endangered and we can help.

Most "butterfly garden" plans that I've seen include only the nectar plants for butterflies. To increase the butterfly population, we need to include host plants.

Have caterpillars eaten up some of your garden plants? You were probably growing a host plant and didn't know it. A host plant provides food and nourishment for the caterpillar. Different butterflies prefer different hosts. I grow bronze fennel for Black Swallowtail butterflies. My willows host Tiger Swallowtails. I grow milkweed for Monarchs.

Since the plants are meant to be eaten, I surround the host plants with other perennials to keep the garden looking good. My bronze fennel stands at the back of my butterfly garden, but I can walk behind it and count the caterpillars. I'd like to attract more butterflies to my garden.

What are some of the other host plants? The best place to start is with what butterflies will be in your area, then decide what to plant. Here are a few interesting links, but if you also search by state, or region, you may find specific information your your garden.

Monarch Watch
The Butterfly Site
Blossom Swap
Carolina Nature (North Carolina)

One of our fellow garden bloggers, Randy Emmitt, also has a butterfly site, Butterflies of the Carolinas and Virginia that provides details of the butterflies, the range, habitat and fabulous photos.

Maybe you already have host plants, maybe not. Here's my plea to all gardeners. Please add at least one more host plant to your garden this year! I know that photographing butterflies can be tricky, but caterpillars don't move very fast! Let's start to love these little critters and raise awareness by posting their cute faces on our blogs this summer and fall. Are you up for the challenge?

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Snowfall Before Spring

The world is gray today and I long for the green of spring and summer. I shouldn't complain. I remember a snow, 29 years ago, that was much worse than today's weather. Today, the snow is only 2 inches deep. That year, it was 20 inches deep!

The year was 1980, a leap year. On February 29, one of my Arabian mares gave birth to a little filly that I named Pamlico. Pamlico was born outside in a grassy paddock on a sunny, 75° day. For the next two days, March 1-2, 1980, the snowstorm hit. I've always referred to that snowstorm as the Pamlico blizzard. I trudged through the snow every hour to check on little Pamlico.

I no longer have horses or any other outdoor livestock to tend. Our gardening greyhound, Charm, loves to run in the snow -- it obviously brings out the puppy in her. Greyhounds don't have enough fur or fat to keep them warm, so Charm has to wear a fleece coat. I don't have a photo because Charm runs so fast (40 mph) that I couldn't capture the moment!

My husband gave the birds a lot of extra seeds this morning so that they don't all have to wait in line for a turn at the feeders. He piled seeds on top of an outdoor table and on one of the stone corners of the cottage garden fence. The Juncos and Cardinals can't believe their good fortune!

As for me, I'll go back inside to the comforts of the house. There really isn't a good place to sit outside today. Without the sun, the snow photos appear to be black and white. The only color is from the birds.

Within just a few days, this snow will be gone. There will be sunshine and warm temperatures again. The garden will be nourished from this quick snowfall. There's no need to worry. Spring is just around the corner -- really, it is!

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Nature Watch

I've watched this woodpecker do chin-ups for years. It must take a lot of strength to reach the seed in the tube feeder! I finally had to set up a tripod in the house to steady the camera enough to capture this shot of a moving bird and feeder.

The feeding frenzy over the last week has increased significantly with each day. I've enjoyed this entertainment. Is it the hint of more winter weather to come?

Just two days ago, it felt like spring. The bullfrog had even come out and was splashing in the stream. I guess he's gone back under the water to hang out for a few more days. There is a prediction of snow tonight, then strong winds and 17°F lows until mid-week. The forecast for next weekend is back into the sunny 70s!

The goldfinch feathers are starting to turn gold again -- a good sign that spring is coming. I've seen activity around the bird houses for the upcoming nesting season.

All the members of the deer herd are still wearing their dark, winter coats. We're not sure if there was a race, or just a wild frolic in our meadow the other day. The large herd ran full speed out into the meadow, made a circle, and ran back into the woods. It was quite a show with all those white tails carried high!

Sometimes, I get the feeling that nature is watching me.

The deer can see me through the French door when I'm in the kitchen. They stare at me, and I just wave back to them. The birds hang out in the trees and shrubs while I'm in the garden. The bullfrog eyes are barely above the surface of the water, but he's watching. The little green anoles come up on the porch and strut back and forth on the warm stone floor. They seem to follow me around.

Do you think nature finds us entertaining, too?

Story and photo by Freda Cameron
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