Autumn Gardening

You may have noticed my more regular posting schedule lately, because it’s November and I am once again participating in NaBloPoMo.  That means a post per day.  And it’s hard, VERY hard, for me to find the time.

So today I’m posting a few pictures, and writing a little about my garden.

Camellia Blossom
Camellia Blossom

Today is one of those impossibly beautiful autumn days, sunny and crisp, and because we haven’t yet had a killing frost, my garden is still in bloom!


The (over)abundance of rain we’ve had over the past few weeks has made digging very easy, so I’ve been able to expand my flowerbed by several feet since the last time I shared pictures here.  I have purchased but not yet added higher-quality dirt and mulch, so you can see the rock-filled clay soil that I am attempting to grow things in!


I’m in the middle of transplanting things that I put too close together or that are too tall or short for their current locations, setting out mums and pansies, and adding some peonies and irises that were my grandmother’s, removed from her garden because they house was recently sold.


I may have mentioned before that I am a pretty lazy gardener and I don’t really follow the rules, so we will have to wait for spring to see what comes of all this.  In the meantime, I am having a lot of fun.  Writing and gardening are the two activities that I never have enough time for AND which make me happiest.


This Year in the Garden

Last year, I posted about my gardening efforts often.  This year I haven’t found the time.  I’ve gardened, though, and I’ve taken pictures.  And as fall approached I thought it would be fun to show you the progress I’ve made this year.

Here’s what the area that I refer to as the “cool” garden looked like in March.  My plan, if you can call it that, is to expand this part of the garden by a couple of feet every year until our front yard is all garden and no grass.  The neighbors with their manicured shrubbery and polite rows of liriope no doubt think I’m some kind of loon, but I don’t care.

garden 2015 3

You can see where I dug out the newest part.  Just look at all that rocky red clay!  I have so much to work with!  After I dug it up, I just started by sticking the early spring annuals (pansies and violas) in there until it was time to buy perennials.  I’ve been at this for two years now so I expected the perennials in the rest of the garden to pretty much fill all the available space.

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Within a week or two the phlox and dianthus started to pop, along with (I think) the blue lobelia:


Here you can see the echinacea (purple coneflower) coming up, along with that purple stuff which I love but cannot remember the name of:

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Next the azaleas (I have three so far):

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The salvia is just amazing!  I have little baby ones this year that I have planted all over the place:

garden from the back

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I am a terrible gardener–I can’t remember what those blue things, which were new last year, are called–but they went crazy this year (just starting in this picture):

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In all, quite a change from the first picture above:

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Meanwhile, on the other side, this is some of what was starting to happen in the “hot” garden.  It’s constrained in size by the walkway, so I’m contemplating making another bed just across from it.

Here are lilies, a gift from the neighbors across the street, starting to come up although they don’t bloom until late summer:

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And when the roses start blooming over there, WOW.

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Here’s where things really started to fill out on the other side:

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Back on the hot side, the daisies below got WAY bigger than I thought they would:

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I cannot even remember what most of this is or whether it is perennial or annual! We will have to see what happens next year!

garden 7


The flowers I have enjoyed the most this summer are zinnias that I sowed from last year’s seed.  And when I say sowed, I mean I just kind of threw seed wherever.  I didn’t bury them or anything.  Just look what happened:

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The purple coneflowers are also spreading by seed, although none of the “babies” are blooming yet:

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A few final shots of the cool side of the garden:

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The real gardeners among you will surely have noticed the crowding and lack of proper spacing above.  The plan is for a lot of transplanting to take place this fall.  I’m going to dig out a couple more rows in front and then separate and rearrange almost everything.  I did a little of that last year and most things handled it find although they did not grow as big as they had the year before.  I’ll come back next year and let you know how it all worked out.  For now, here’s the transition from beginning to middle to end of six months in the garden:

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garden 17

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Walking in East Knoxville: Welcoming Spring at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum

Okay, y’all, I know it isn’t Spring anymore.  And I’ve been terrible about showing you new places to walk in Knoxville lately, for one thing because I haven’t been doing as much walking this year, and for another, I’m behind in my blogging.  Way behind.
But y’all don’t want to wait for next year to see these pretty pictures.  Nor do you want to wait that long to go walking at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, a lesser known treasure that more people should be taking advantage of.
These gardens are over 200 years in the making, because the Howell family who originally owned this land operated it first as a an orchard and later as a nursery.  It was, in fact, the longest continuously run business in East Tennessee.  You should go read more about its fascinating history on the website above.  And you should appreciate how very, very fortunate we all are that its 40 some acres have been set aside for us to enjoy instead of being sold to developers.
There are several trails to walk on but you may not get a lot of exercise unless you walk it all twice, because I guarantee the first time you are going to be stopping a lot to look at things, smell them, and take pictures of them.
The gardens are enhanced and complemented by beautiful stonework.
These gardens are not just beautiful, they are also useful:  they are providing a venue for teaching children about gardening and for growing food for people in the community.
In addition to flowering bushes, trees, and perennials, the gardens showcase fabulous views.
But more than anything else it’s about the plants.  So many plants.  The awesome thing about the KBGA is that it should present a feast for the eyes in every season, and the feast will be different.  Here is a taste of springtime for you:
Now that I’ve virtually revisited the gardens, I’m excited to see what grows there in the summer time!  If I do, I will come back and let you know.

Fall in the Garden

Summer may be over but you couldn’t tell it by looking at my garden.  For all my lack of planning, it’s still blooming happily.
On the cool side, we have Autumn Joy Sedum:
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Chrysanthemums (which I divided last year–they did great!), verbena (needs dividing and transplanting BADLY), and butterfly bush (planted last year and filling out nicely this year):
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Meanwhile, on the hot side, where there’s less space, we have crazy zinnia action, most all from volunteers, and more mums, also transplants:
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And also this silliness, which isn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing but I’m hoping to end up with four nice decorative gourds, grown accidentally:
For next year, I’m planning to continue to expand the cool side out into the yard (till there’s no yard left, eventually).  I absolutely have to move some things.  I always plant everything way too close together, for one thing.  Then some things have just gotten big–the salvia, for example–or are not the right height for their current location–that would be the verbena, which needs to be at the front so it has room for all its crazy spreading action.
There’s no room to add anything on the hot side except in the shadiest part where things keep dying anyway.  So I’m going to come across the walkway and put some matching flowers there, because the volunteer zinnias and marigolds have already let me know that’s what they want to do!
Finally, I took advantage of the wet weather and softened soil yesterday to start planting these:
Lorelei and I planted 15 crocuses throughout the yard for naturalizing.  I’ll add to that each year.  We planted 25 wood hyacinths on the cool side, randomly but near things that won’t be blooming yet when they are.  And we made a start on planting 40 daffodils on a difficult-to-mow hillside which I would like to eventually cover with daffodils and wildflowers.  I had to stop after the first three because 1) It’s hard to do anything while kneeling on a wet grassy hill and 2) My yard consists of red clay mixed with gravel and it is just exhausting to dig in.  But we will persevere and see the rewards in the spring.

Tennessee Volunteers

Although it is in fact ALMOST football time in Tennessee, I am not talking about THOSE Volunteers!  No, I am talking about the ones that appeared in my garden this summer.
Last year I planted zinnias for the first time ever.  I didn’t know anything about them, and I had no idea how bountiful they would become.  I got a couple of six packs at Kroger or somewhere, and they got bigger and bigger and bloomed and bloomed all summer long.  So of course I wanted to plant them again this year.  And of course I couldn’t find the same kind this year!
But apparently zinnias re-seed, and so a month or so ago, these appeared.  They didn’t grow where I would have planted them, but I let them stay.
volunteer zinnias
volunteers zinnias 2
I am actually not a huge fan of annuals.  I’ll set out a flat of pansies in the fall, and in the spring put in a few to fill in empty spots or provide a missing color, but in general I am too lazy to want to bother with replanting things year after year.  But I have to have marigolds, and this one below is my favorite kind.
volunteer marigolds
It, too, is a volunteer!  The marigolds I planted THIS year mostly died.  I have never seen anything like this one, though.  I don’t even understand it.  It’s bush-sized now and I didn’t know marigolds could get this big.
garden volunteers
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Did you see my other volunteers?  I don’t know what they will turn out to be yet, but I know where they came from.  Every year we get vines like that all over the front yard, anywhere that pumpkin seeds fell when we carved our Jack O’Lanterns.  Last year we got all excited thinking we would have pumpkins.  I transplanted every one I found over in the side yard, and was disappointed when they instead grew various kinds of gourds, something that apparently happens with hybridized crops.  So I don’t know what’s going to happen here, and even though I hate to pull up vigorous and healthy plants, these are getting so long that I will probably have to.
Do you have volunteers in your flowerbeds?  Any suggestions for me for plants that re-seed reliably?

Cultivating My Garden

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
 ~ Cicero
I can’t believe I’ve never come across this quotation before today, but I’m beginning to believe it.  Certainly few things give me as much pleasure as do reading and working in my garden.
I haven’t shared any pictures since the beginning of May.  I was waiting to be “finished” with the garden.  Not that I won’t plant anything else this summer–I expect I will–but I wanted to get more dirt, mulch the whole thing, and get the grass mowed before I photographed it.  That was last weekend’s project, and I should have taken pictures of myself as well as the garden, because I was a sight to behold.  I just can’t wear gloves when I garden, so my hands are always dirty, but this time I had dirt just all over me.  And I was so sore the next day!
Last year, I would only garden for an hour at a time.  I just didn’t have the energy.  That’s not true this year, but I’m still not as limber as I’d like to be.  Maybe that, too, will improve, as I lose more weight and exercise more.
Shall I show you some pictures of what I’ve accomplished this year?
I was so excited that my peony bloomed this year!  I planted peonies years ago and grew them for three years without a bloom, so I wasn’t expecting this to happen.  I love peonies so much.  They are old-fashioned and the smell just says “May” to me.  They were some of the flowers we used to take to school for the May Procession when I was a little girl.
Remember me griping about the trouble I was having with the climbing rosebush in my last garden post?  Here’s a picture after we fixed it–at least for now.  I wanted an arbor to go over the sidewalk, and I used some of my Mother’s Day money to buy one, but when we got it home we discovered it wouldn’t fit across the sidewalk.  So we took it back, having measured the sidewalk this time, and soon discovered that anything that would be wide enough was also prohibitively expensive.  So we got a taller trellis, but even it had to be tied to the porch post due to the heaviness of the roses.
hot garden
I’m not really a fan of cut carnations, but growing in the garden they are another story!  Most of the other plants you see here are annuals.  I plant a few to fill in, especially blue ones, because blue perennials seem to be rare.
purple garden 2
These lilies were planted before I came up with the color scheme for the garden.  They don’t really go here, but I hate to disturb them.
Garden 2
Here are the rest of them, on the side where they go!
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These purple coneflowers–echinacea–are in full bloom right now.  I planted them last year and they are enormous.  Y’all, you really should pay attention to the tags that come with the plants that tell you how big they are going to get.  I’ve got things growing all on top of and in front of each other.  It’s a mess.
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We need our little friend to pollinate our flowers!
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Garden 3
I planted two of these salvia plants last year.  I moved one because they were way too close together.  This is the one I left, and it is HUGE.  And it’s got little babies next to it, too.  I did not know it would do that.  Next year I will have several of them to spread around the garden.
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Garden angels are nice to have.
The plant in the center is Mexican heather.  It’s an annual in this climate, but it gets really big and if there is no polar vortex this winter it might come back.  And even if it doesn’t I may just plant it every year because I like it.
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In these pictures you are seeing gazania, zinnias, and daisies, and a bunch of other things that either already finished blooming or haven’t started yet.  I have to be honest–I must prefer the other side of the garden.  For one thing, I like the cool colors more.  But more important, this side is hemmed in by the sidewalk so there is only so much room, and there is a lot of shade, which limits what I can do.  Plus the cats use it as a litterbox, and I think that kills some things, frankly.
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I saw this coreopsis just last weekend when I was at Lowe’s buying mulch and dirt. I wasn’t supposed to be buying any more flowers but I couldn’t resist this, and it bit just perfectly in that spot where something else had died.
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Here’s the mint side of the mailbox garden.
Mailbox Garden 4
And here’s the cooking herbs side.
Mailbox Garden 2
I really do cook with them, but isn’t it nice they are pretty too?  I have sage, oregano, several kinds of basil, oregano. rosemary, and lavender, among others.
Mailbox Garden 3
Here’s the back view, with this little friend:
Mailbox Garden 1
And here he is again, with daylilies all around him.
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I don’t know whose bright idea it was to plant just one of these lilies here, but it’s so tall and majestic it makes a statement of its own.
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Here’s the whole “hot” garden as it looks today.
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Here’s the “cool” one, and you can see all the mulching I did!
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And here’s the whole thing, with the grass super-short, to make John happy.
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If you want to read more of my gardening posts, visit these links:
In the Garden
In the Garden II
A Work in Progress
And if you have any easy perennials to recommend to me as I continue my quest to go lawn-free, tell me in the comments!

A May Stroll You Must Take!

Let me start by saying that I love love love the smell of honeysuckle.  That’s probably not an earth-shattering revelation because who doesn’t?  But when I had to answer all those email questionnaires that want to know what’s on your mouse pad and whether you like chocolate or vanilla better, honeysuckle was what I always named as my favorite smell.
This love has roots in my childhood, when we had a fence in our side yard that was covered with honeysuckle and wild roses this time of year.  I remember my mother teaching me how to suck out the nectar, and when I was little I probably was more excited about that than smelling it!  My mother also had honeysuckle perfume–just a very simple roll-on variety from Avon, I think–that I would just love to have if I could ever find something similar.  We all loved honeysuckle so much that we even named our collie Honeysuckle!
After Emily was born, for many years our summer visit to Baltimore was timed for Memorial Day weekend.  When we’d get back home, it was usually late at night, and the first thing we would notice upon getting out of the car was the strong scent of honeysuckle in the air.  So not only is it just an awesome smell, it also holds nostalgic associations of childhood and homecoming for me.
In these parts, May is prime time for honeysuckle, at least for the wild (some would say invasive) and strongly scented variety I’m talking about here.  And all of this has been a lead into a very brief Walking in Knoxville post because I don’t want anyone who loves honeysuckle to miss the chance to take this particular walk before it’s too late to experience the intoxicating scent.
I mentioned Grigsby Chapel Greenway briefly in my most recent greenway post.  It comprises 2.25 miles or so of asphalt trails interspersed with walks through several neighborhoods on their sidewalks.  If you do the whole thing, you’ll get to see many beautiful houses and gardens along the whole route.  But if you don’t have time to do that, or don’t want to walk that far, at least do this:  Park your car at St. John Neumann Church and walk the portion of the greenway that connects it to the next neighborhood.  The smell will probably hit you before you even reach the trail.  The air is positively redolent with it.  (And yes, I know that’s an overused phrase, but it’s really the only way to say it.) You will be walking through what amounts to almost a tunnel of honeysuckle.
honeysuckle tunnel
After that, there is just honeysuckle EVERYWHERE.  Back in the woods, next to the trail, bushes of it, vines of it well up into the trees.
honeysuckle tree
honeysuckle 1
Seriously, go there as soon as you can.  Early morning and twilight will afford the strongest smell experience, plus it won’t be as hot.  And if you do go, let me know!
honeysuckle closeup

A Work in Progress

Every morning, when I get home from driving William to school, I get out of my car, start, walking toward the house, and then stop and stand staring like an idiot at my garden.  My neighbors probably think I’m crazy (actually, they already have plenty of other reasons to think that).
What am I doing?  Well, to be honest, I’m admiring it, because it’s pretty and I’m just a little proud of what I’ve accomplished in just one year.  But more than that, I’m analyzing it, thinking about what needs to be moved around, what I’ll add later in the season or next year, what’s too tall, what was a bad idea.
If I were a methodical gardener I would have made a plan before I started.  I didn’t.  In late winter I downloaded some kind of planning grid thingie and got bored after a few minutes.  If I were a methodical gardener, I would have properly amended my soil.  I didn’t.  Instead, I dig out lumps of clay and rock, throw in a handful of potting soil, and hope for the best.  Sometimes I don’t even bother with the potting soil.  The rocks should help with drainage, right?  If I were a methodical gardener, I would have investigated how big the plants would get before I planted them.  I would have put little tags next to them to say what they are.  I might even have kept a garden journal.  Instead, I’m like: “This is the pink-blue-purple side of the garden, so let’s put any pink, purple, or blue things we like over here wherever we can find room for them!”  People ask the name of a particular plant and I say, “It might be salvia.  Or maybe sage.  Who knows?”  I can look on google images if I ever really need to know, right?
What kind of gardener am I?  A lazy gardener, clearly, which is why I plant mostly perennials.  Some day my work will be done, right?  And a lucky one, judging by my lack of effort and the passable results.
The photos below are from what we call the “hot” garden, where I attempt to plant only things that are orange, yellow, and white.  There are also red roses here (about which more further down) but I don’t want any more red things.  Why the color scheme?  Because the first summer we were here, the nice gardening lady across the street gave me a bunch of lily bulbs and some other perennial thing, which I just haphazardly stuck over here because I had no plan whatsoever and they turned out to be yellow.  So.
morning garden
The lilies aren’t blooming yet but you can see where they are in the picture below.  Those other yellow things, which are really tall, will be right behind them, unless the shade from the roses kills them.
Let’s talk about the roses, shall we?  If you know anything at all about roses, then you can see that’s a climbing rose.  If you know anything about gardens, you’ll know that only an idiot would put a climbing rose in the middle of a flower bed.  I am happy to say I was not that idiot.  But I also don’t know much about roses, so I didn’t know that this was going to happen when I let it (it being basically a couple of thorny twigs when I started this) stay there.  It’s outgrown the trellis I put in place last year–in fact it is pulling the trellis out of the ground and leaning forward.  It stubbornly refuses to get blackspot like every other rose I’ve ever grown and instead is vigorous and healthy and growing like kudzu.  I want to get an arbor thing to cross the walkway in front of it, and maybe also attach a trellis to the porch overhang behind it.  But do you know how much arbors cost, y’all?
Below we have the mailbox garden.  Gotta have one of those, don’t we?  The daylilies were already there–Stella D’Oro, I believe (see, I do know something!).  There is also one lone gigantic lily that looks kind of stupid there all by itself, but I can’t kill healthy plants, so it will stay.  The red plant is a mandevilla which my neighbor gave me for my birthday.  The pot said it was good to plant by your mailbox and who am I to argue?  You might also notice a variety of herbs in this picture.  Yes, this is my herb garden and we used the herbs to cook all through the winter even.  The basil dried right there on the stalk.  More laziness that paid off!
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This side has mint.  All varieties of mint.  And yes, I am aware of what mint does, and it’s already doing it, but I don’t really care because it smells good.
Now here’s the “cool” side of the garden and I’m probably going to post too many pictures because this is my favorite part and I just can’t leave any of them out!
Please excuse the long grass at the edges because 1) My lawn mower is (still) broken and 2) I’m not finished yet.  There won’t ever be a clearly defined border at the edge because the eventual plan is for this side to take over the whole front yard, doing away with its crappy veneer of grass over clay a couple of feet every year, depending on my time, energy, and financial situation.
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My garden doesn’t look like the other gardens in this neighborhood.  That’s what John said, and I consider that a compliment, because who really needs another boring suburban garden, all symmetrical and defined by clumps of liriope with measured distances between them?  We are going for the wild look here.
If you want to read more of my gardening posts, visit these links:
In the Garden
In the Garden II

In the Garden Part II

Mima loved to garden.  There were flowerbeds everywhere–at the road, next to the carport, around the tree, right in front of the front porch, by the back porch.  She did all her own gardening right up until she had her first stroke.
As a child, I didn’t think much about gardening.  Houseplants were my mother’s thing.  But she knew the names of all the shrubs and flowers because Mima did, and so I grew up with an awareness of and appreciation for gardeners and growing things.
When we moved into our first house in 1995, I don’t remember what made me decide to start planting things, but I’ll bet Mima had something to do with it.  She probably started me off with a flat of pansies or something.  Her gardening was heavy on the annuals, with a nice side of irises and peonies.  She and I would go to Wal-Mart together and she would pay for the flowers for me.  She always had an extra bag of topsoil or mulch in the trunk of her car when I needed one.  When I wanted to plant about 50 daffodil bulbs, she came over and sat with the babies.  I am sure she was happy to find that I enjoyed gardening as much as she did.
But for some reason, I stopped.  You would think that if I managed to plant almost 30 rosebushes and an equal number of azalea bushes, as well as huge amounts of bulbs of all sorts, all while I had at least two kids at home, that I would have been able to accomplish even more as they grew older, and I had only one baby around at a time!  But that’s not what happened.  We moved in 2001, and over the next eight years I naturalized some crocuses, tried to keep the existing roses weeded, fought with poison ivy, and that’s about it.  Every now and then I would order some plants through the mail like I used to, and like as not they would end up dying before I could plant them.  I did set out some Autumn Joy Sedum that Mima gave me early on, but at some point my efforts ground to a halt.
The burned down house never felt like home.  It never felt permanent or safe, and I didn’t plant a thing there, or feel like doing it.  So that was two more years of no gardening.  I thought I had lost interest in it.
We moved into this house in September, too late to plant anything other than mums (which I did plant, although I’ve never had much luck).  And as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I didn’t do much more than pull up weeds throughout the following year.
But this year around my birthday something woke up inside me.  I took my birthday money and started buying plants.  I was almost scared to START gardening for fear I wouldn’t be able to keep it up.  But I made some changes based on my available time and energy that have enabled me to be successful.

  •  I only buy a few things to plant at a time
  • I don’t spend more than about an hour at a time gardening.  When I get tired, I stop.
  • In the summer, I waited until twilight when it was cooler to even start working.
  • I plant mostly perennials so theoretically I will have less and less to do every year!

So what did I plant?  Well, I wish I could remember . . . I didn’t write it down!  I didn’t draw a plan!  I wish I had.  I still plan to go out and make a diagram before it’s all gone so that I will know what’s where next Spring!  One thing’s for sure, I am going to have a lot of dividing to do as I planted things so close together they are covering each other up!
Short list of what perennials I know I put in for sure:  One peony bush, three azalea bushes, two kinds of creeping thyme, one dwarf nandina, one butterfly bush, Mexican heather, Autumn Joy sedum, purple salvia, dianthus, phlox, a couple of hostas, leftover church Easter lilies, and Black-eyed Susans.
So I will close with some of my favorite pictures.  And as far as annuals go, let me make a plug for zinnias.  Those things are freaking amazing!  I only wish they were perennials!  I will absolutely plant them again.



Climbing rosebush, already planted, which I trained to a trellis
Climbing rosebush, already planted, which I trained to a trellis

purples and pinks
purples and pinks