Favorite Plant: A Sedge for the Edge

There are few plants in the garden that are virtually maintenance-free. My favorite foliage plant is carex hachijoensis 'Evergold' that can be used in sun or part shade, zones 5-10 and is both deer and rabbit resistant.

I have several varieties of carex in my garden, and 'Evergold' is the best for hot summer sun in my zone. The plants along my waterfall have been growing for four years and are shaded only in the late afternoon.

Other great sedges growing in my garden include Carex dolichostachya 'Kaga nishiki', Carex morrowii 'Silver Sceptre' and Carex testacea 'Orange New Zealand Sedge' - though all require more shade and less sun than 'Evergold'. Shade is rare in my young garden, so all of the sedges are having to tough it out while waiting for shade to grow! Nonetheless, they have been surviving these harsh conditions for several years.

While I have not cut back my sedges at all so far, they can be cut back in very early spring to prevent seed heads from forming. I have had no problem with reseeding, so I don't concern myself with this chore.

The sedges are growing in normal garden soil, moist soil and even wet soil, in my garden.

The graceful, large mounds are wonderful for ground cover as well as edging a garden or as an accent companion plant. The blooms of an orange rose really stand out against the backdrop of carex 'Evergold'.

The thin, colorful foliage works well with plants with wide leaves such as hosta (if you don't have deer) or calla lily (growing in the waterfall).

How much do I like carex 'Evergold'? Enough to recently plant an entire flat of it! More about that project in the future...

Words and photos by Freda Cameron; Home garden; all photos taken November 2009 unless otherwise indicated.

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone has a happy, safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!

I Can Dig It, He Can Dig It, We Can Dig It (The Garden Edge)

Six inches of rain and the ground was soft. Nature provided the perfect condition for digging a nice, clean edge around the outer gardens. I got out the flat blade shovel and started cutting straight down through the grass to dig out a perfect edge. Only 160 feet. No problem. I was enjoying the cooler temps and misty days for this task. The lyrics to Grazing in the Grass kept playing in my head as I made fast progress. I can dig it!

I was having great fun and was more than halfway around the garden when... along came my dear husband who had just finished up his daily five-mile run. I ran/walked/cycled last week. Enough of that - I was getting "real exercise" by gardening again.

Obviously, my task looked either too difficult and he felt like he should help... or, it looked like too much fun and he was missing out.

I'm not sure which it was, but he can dig it, too... only, he wanted to add a stone edging inside my perfect trench! My husband has been after me for three years to add a stone edging. I didn't want to spend the money. Call me cheap, but I just didn't see the benefit.

He persisted. I agreed, but said that I wanted to use square pavers and place them below the grass level to create a mowing strip. We had to dig the trench deeper as well as wide enough for us to work with pavers. We can dig it!

At the hardware store, he found a different cast concrete edging that he decided would look better and loaded up the cart with forty (yes, 40) "samples" to take home. That's a forty foot long sample! He removed twenty pieces at my request (pitiful begging). He said the edging matched the stone in our chimney, foundation and fence columns. True. He immediately laid the twenty stones in a section of the trench and declared the result to be fantastic.

At this point, I realized that he'd made up his mind and I was just going to have to surrender control of my project. Okay, I'll admit it. He was right and he was helpful... but, I really could have done this all by myself!

I can dig it, he can dig it
She can dig it, we can dig it
They can dig it, you can dig it
Oh, let's dig it
Can you dig it, baby

- lyrics by The Friends of Distinction

Words and photos by Freda Cameron; Home garden; November 2009; Lyrics referenced - The Friends of Distinction.

Free Yourself and Your Oven; Grill the Turkey

It all started with Thanksgiving 2006. Expecting a crowd for the big meal, I couldn't work out a way to get everything in the oven since the turkey was so large.

We had to figure out how to get everything cooked on time. The microwave wouldn't do it. Ah ha! What about using the grill? Would that work? My husband placed the turkey (in the pan) on the grill to see if the lid would close. It did. Since it was already Thanksgiving morning, I frantically searched the Web for turkey grilling instructions. After finding several versions, my husband and I created our own variation.

All of our guests showed up. We announced that the turkey was on the grill. Amazed, all the men went out onto the grilling deck to witness what they'd never seen before -- a turkey on the grill!

They didn't bother with the games on TV, they wanted to watch the turkey. There was a problem with that. The guys kept opening up the grill lid to see the turkey! Opening and closing the grill lid slows down the roasting with all that cold winter air. It took longer than expected due to the spectator interference and the meal was still late. However, the results were fabulous and we agreed to grill the holiday turkey in the future.

Fast forward to summer 2007. I was shopping for a new gas grill for my husband's birthday. After all, if he was going to grill the turkey from now on, he needed a better grill.

I asked the salesman if grills came with windows. No.

I asked if I could buy a "turkey cam." He laughed hysterically! No, they don't make cameras for the inside of a grill.

I bought the grill in spite of the lack of desired features.

A few days later, I went to my favorite kitchen gadget store. Telling the salesperson about the problems with the spectacle of turkey grilling, she had a brilliant idea...buy a remote digital thermometer!

When I enthusiastically presented that thermometer to my husband, he was skeptical. Very skeptical. I was tempted to return the thermometer with such a reaction, but we kept it. It was several months later before the debut of the remote thermometer at Thanksgiving 2007.

I prepared the fresh turkey by rubbing it with olive oil and Herbes de Provence--a mix of basil, savory, fennel and lavender. I placed the turkey in a standard roasting pan fitted with a roasting rack. I put chicken broth in the bottom of the roasting pan to create moisture during the roasting process. The culinary sage in the garden was still looking great, so I added fresh leaves to the chicken broth. I handed the turkey off to my husband. He programmed the remote thermometer and agreed to keep the grill lid closed.

I was free and my oven was free! I worked on the side dishes without having to worry about the turkey.

The remote radio control sat in the kitchen. Several hours later a voice said "your food will be ready in five minutes." The thermometer had worked! We double-checked the temperature with another thermometer and the two agreed...the turkey was done.

The Herbes de Provence and the fresh sage provided great flavor. The turkey was moist from the method of grilling. Our guests all agreed that it was the best turkey...even if they didn't have the fun of watching it grill!

Story by Freda Cameron, November 2009; Photo added Thanksgiving 2008;

My recipe (Your results may vary. I'm not a chef!)

Baffle the Squirrels and Feed the Birds

The IQ of a squirrel is greatly underestimated. They solve problems with logic and they know how to use tools. There's a "think tank" of great squirrel minds out in our woods right now, putting together a plan for how they can get an easy meal from our birdfeeder.

Gardeners and other bird lovers hang their feeders hoping to attract, and feed, a variety of beautiful feathered friends over the winter. My husband and I take down our hummingbird feeders in the fall and bring out the birdseed. Our birdfeeders are positioned so that we can view the activity from our garden room while we enjoy our morning coffee by the warmth of the fireplace. Our Peterson's Field Guide® is handy so that we can quickly look up any unfamiliar birds.

From our view of the garden, we have personally witnessed many successful schemes of seed-stealing by the squirrels. We started out with a simple, inexpensive birdfeeder mounted on a simple, inexpensive hanger pole. The birdfeeder was filled with expensive, gourmet, premium wild bird seed. It didn't take but a few hours to realize that is equivalent to a neon "Open All Day" sign for squirrels.

We went back to the store in search of a solution. We saw a rather amusing video of a battery-operated feeder throwing squirrels around like a mechanical bull. We took one home. We replaced our cheap feeder with the animated attraction. We took our seats ready for the morning entertainment, confident that the squirrels would be unable to steal the seed.

The first squirrel was a bit stunned by his merry-go-round ride. He sat on the ground staring up at the new feeder. We "high-fived" thinking that the only seed for that squirrel was going to be what was dropped on the ground from bird beaks. He attempted his thievery a few more times, then went up on the roof to survey the situation. He sat up there for awhile pondering how to get around this new contraption. He came down with a new plan and told all his squirrel buddies.

The next thing we knew, a squirrel was on top of the feeder, where there is no flipping mechanism. He struggled and struggled to try to open the top. Unsuccessful in getting the lid off, we thought for sure he would give up. Instead the squirrels regrouped and sent their scout back on the roof to gather more intelligence about this new machine.

The next trick was to hang onto the pole with hind feet, stretch across and hold onto to the feeder trough instead of the flipping mechanism. The squirrels took turns eating from the feeder, ever so persistant and patient. The crew spent an entire day working systematically to reach the food. In the process, they managed to empty the feeder of seeds, replenishing their troups for another day's raid.

It was time for us to go back to the store. This time, we asked for assistance. The experienced salesperson pointed out a cone-shaped pole baffle. This purchase also required the purchase of a larger, taller pole to fit the baffle.

Having spent a considerable amount of money on this defense system, we were cautiously optimistic about our new fortress. With our mechanical feeder, a better pole and a new baffle, we were ready for the next onslaught.

The squirrels huddled together at the bottom of this new pole and baffle. From their vantage point, they could see the feeder, but it disappeared into darkness with every attempt to climb the pole. They tried to hang on the edge of the baffle, but there was no grip. They tried tipping the baffle to no avail. The sentinel on the roof had no battle plan for dislodging the baffle. Without trees close enough to launch an airborne attack, the defeated squirrel troop sulked back into the woods.

Through all of last winter, the baffle continued to baffle the squirrels while the birds got plenty to eat. We did show a little sympathy now and then by spreading a little seed around for the pitiful squirrels. We're ready for the attacks this year. Unless the squirrels bring a ladder, we think the birdfeeder is safe.

This is a repeat of last year's popular story by Freda Cameron

My Best Low-maintenance Plants: Part I (Salvias)

Time is a luxury. Although I throughly enjoy working in the garden, I like to spend more hours - just being in the garden.

When I began my extreme makeover garden project this fall, I realized that not only was I keeping the best bloomers, but the easiest plants to maintain. I ruthlessly culled out poor performers, aggressive or high maintenance plants and threw those on the compost heap.

My garden conditions:

Zone 7b
full sun all day
outside the fence, deer resistance is critical
drought tolerant, once plants are established


Salvias provide a long bloom season and there are varieties available for many growing zones. This is important - choose salvias that are appropriate for your zone. Salvias that grow in New Mexico may not grow in your zone.

To help the perennial salvias overwinter, I do not cut them back in the fall. Some varieties of salvia require slightly more attention than others, but I still consider all of those in my garden to be low-maintenance. There are also annual salvias that can be grown for color all summer and then pulled out if they don't overwinter.

Photographing salvias is difficult, but otherwise, they are great plants!

It is November and almost every salvia in my garden is still in bloom. Only the salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna' and uliginosa (bog sage) are not in bloom. The nemorosa blooms in spring and may be deadheaded for lesser repeat blooms (they reseed, but that's okay). I'm not a big fan of nemorosa because there are so many other salvias that bloom longer, however I like 'Caradonna' for the spring blooms and nice foliage.

The bog sage blooms non-stop all summer and takes a break only when the temperatures drop. It can be aggressive, but the stolons are easy to pull when it wanders too far.

For year-round, the salvia greggii varieties are my absolute favorites and I have them in violet, dark purple, deep red, cherry red, magenta, white and grape. They are semi-evergreen to evergreen in my garden. These salvias will put on a big spring bloom display, bloom off-and-on all summer and then put on the best display in autumn when so many other flowers have stopped blooming. In very late winter, all I do is a little shaping of the shrub-like plants to prevent stem breakage.

If you asked a hummingbird to select their favorite, it would be salvia guaranitica 'Black & Blue' so I have at least fifteen of these! This is a tender perennial for my zone, but I've had good luck with overwintering. This salvia can take a bit more summer moisture, richer soil and partial shade than other salvias. Still, it cannot be in a wet winter location in the garden. Black & Blue blooms from summer until fall freezes.

I've added salvia 'Mystic Spires Blue' as well as it's larger parent 'Indigo Spires' to the garden this summer. I have high hopes that these non-stop bloomers will overwinter here as they are truly beautiful and the color works with all other colors.

There are literally hundreds of salvias from which to choose, but I don't consider myself a collector, just a gardener who loves to grow great plants. These low-maintenance, deer resistant, rabbit resistant, drought tolerant plants work hard for me, so I'll keep them!

For more information on salvias, I can think of no better resources than Robin's Salvias (United Kingdom) for an incredible gallery and Rich Dufresne, a salvia expert right here in North Carolina who has introduced so many salvias to gardeners. Both gentlemen participate regularly on the GardenWeb Salvia Forum.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron; Home garden; 2009

Azaleas Bloom Again in Autumn

I think that I enjoy my azalea blooms as much in autumn as I do in the spring. My six Encore® Azaleas reliably provide blooms twice a year. My azaleas bloomed in April and have been repeat blooming since September. All the while, they provide evergreen foliage for the cottage garden.

These azaleas work great for my south-facing garden where the azaleas get plenty of sunbeams and some afternoon shade. Three of the azaleas are planted beneath a Kwansan cherry tree. The other three are standards (tree form) up against the garage wall beside the front porch.

While there is plenty of space outside my cottage garden for azaleas, I can't really grow them successfully due to deer foraging. There's nothing I'd like more than a garden full of native azaleas. However, I have to accept the things that I cannot change!

When it comes to growing azaleas in small spaces such as my cottage garden, having two bloom seasons from the same shrubs is very rewarding.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron; Home garden; November 4, 2009

The Shifting Faces of Coreopsis

From butter yellow with a red center to a deep burgundy, Coreopsis Big Bang™ 'Redshift' has been changing faces in my garden all summer. This coreopsis influenced my decision to redesign an area of the butterfly garden around the colors of blue, yellow and burgundy.

Out with my camera this morning to photograph (and document) my redesign, I noticed that the coreopsis was showing three colors on one plant. I haven't deadheaded this coreopsis since I planted it, so all of these non-stop blooms have been happening on their own.

The coreopsis has been reliably upright until recently when the abundance of blooms weighed down some of the stems. I think I'll give it a few light trims along the sides next year. I like the height of 24-30 inches so that I don't have to use this coreopsis along the front of the border.

The 'Redshift' is said to bloom July through September, but I'm sure that is for colder zones as mine have been blooming since planted in June and they are still blooming for November! The location is very sunny, with east and south sunbeams most of the day.

The deer haven't touched the coreopsis though their hoof prints indicate that they are responsible for breaking a few stems while they trudge through to reach our manmade stream for water at night.

As mentioned before, this coreopsis influenced the overall color theme and companion plantings for this redesign, but I'm now calling this section "done" until I see the results next spring and summer!

To recap the redesign:

Seeds of annual salvia farcinacea 'blue bedder', nigella 'Miss Jekyll', larkspur 'Galilee Blue' and 'Blue Spire' as well as cornflower 'Blue Boy' have now been sown around the perennials to provide spring blooms.

More seeds for the perennial gaillardia 'Burgundy' were added since I have only three plants there right now. Seeds for perennial gaillardia 'Yellow Queen' were also sown to provide more yellow with the blue and burgundy.

Other perennials include achillea and another coreopsis variety for more yellow, agastache 'Blue Fortune', nepeta 'Walker's Low' and dark red salvia greggii.

Dutch irises in blue/yellow and iris pallida (blue blooms and variegated foliage) were relocated to this area, too. I noticed a lot of the Dutch irises around my gardens are sprouting already! They won't bloom until April, so I suppose they are loving our weather.

For the next week, we'll have fabulous warm sunny weather with little rain which is great for gardeners, but too warm and dry for seeds! Everyday for the next week or so, I will mist all the seeded areas to prevent them from drying out. A time-consuming activity, but well worth the efforts to increase the germination success rate.

As for the coreopsis, I want to see just how much longer they will bloom with a freeze expected for Thursday night!

How Did You Spend Your Extra Hour?

After adjusting the clock (fall back) and gaining an hour, I put it to good use. Sunday was a very, very rainy day, so we went to see the movie Paris starring Juliette Binoche (of Chocolat fame). Actually, the movie took two hours!

Anyone who loves visiting Paris may find this film quite insightful into the daily living in the city. This French film (with subtitles) explores the old versus the new in so many ways - social structure and building structure as well as views on sibling and romantic relationships.

Paris is my favorite city, so it was highly interesting to see the familiar sights onscreen as well as the back streets and neighborhoods that are seldom seen by visitors. The cinematography rewards viewers with long shots of the city from the high vantage points such as the Eiffel Tower, Montparnasse Tower and from the steps of the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre.

There's another French film out that I plan to see on the next rainy day - Coco Before Chanel.

Meanwhile - back in the garden today, the weather was perfect for sowing seeds. There's something about sowing seeds that is perfect fun. It's not exact and that results in imperfect surprises!

Words and photo by Freda Cameron; Photo taken May 2009 in Paris.
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