Category Archives: Gardening

I am an avid gardener. I have been a certified Master Gardener for 10 years, as well as an active member of our Native Plant Society. My posts will mostly be pictures of my flowers as they bloom, as well as my ramblings about chores to be done in the garden.

Where Has the Time Gone?

Unbelievably, it’s been 4 months since I posted to this blog!  My, how time does fly.  I’ve been through the spring wildflower season, most of the summer vegetable season, and now the gardens are winding down due to heat and lack of rain.  But there are still a number of hardy plants hanging in there for the pollinators to feast upon.

I’ve been moaning and groaning about not having many butterflies this year, when lo and behold they showed up last week!  Tiger Swallowtails, both black and yellow, and for the first time ever, Spicebush Swallowtails.  The Gulf Fritillaries have laid a bazillion eggs and now the Maypops are covered with caterpillars of all sizes.   The Swallowtails have deposited their eggs on the fennel.  I brought half of them in and put them in my butterfly hatchery to protect them from the birds.  Good thing, too, since all the rest were gone today.  And since they weren’t big enough yesterday for me  to think that any of them had formed a chrysalis, I’m assuming there are some baby birdies somewhere with a full tummy today.  (And did you know that it takes between 5,000 and 6,000 insects for a pair of birds to raise a brood to maturity.  My second batch of bluebirds just fledged, along with 10,000-12,000 insects they consumed.)


Once again, my natives seem to be the best lure for the butterflies.  They                                     mostly preferred the Liatris, which is also one of my favorites-beautiful                                              fuzzy lavender blooms on a five foot stalk.  With so many blooms per                                            stalk, they are bound to be a top choice-lots of food in one place.                                                      Kind of like grazing at the buffet.                                                                                                                   In this picture, a butterfly appears to be reflected in a mirror, but it is actually two butterflies, one with it back to the camera the other with it underside facing the camera.



DSC_0001Right up there with the Liatris in attracting the butterflies was the Joe Pye Weed.  I cringe when I call it ‘weed’, because that name may scare some people off from this beautiful flowering perennial.  I have two kinds-one is about 10 feet tall and the other is a dwarf, reaching only about 4 feet tall.  Each is topped off by clusters of pink blooms that are butterfly, bee, and moth magnets.  In this picture you can see three yellow and one black Tiger Swallowtail enjoying a meal.  Bumblebees, sweat bees, honey bees, moths-all kinds of critters rely on this plant.

Male spicebush on Phlox DSC_0257

The Phlox cultivar is very attractive to the Tiger and Spicebush Swallowtails.  I think this is the ‘Davidii’, but not sure.  I didn’t have to wait long to get pictures of the butterflies on the Phlox.  I bought a new phlox last week and put it in the ground Saturday, and noticed that the Spicebush butterfly was visiting the few remaining blooms today.  I pruned back the old bloom heads, and hope they will put out a new flush of blooms soon.


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The pink Phlox, Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’, is the best performing Phlox in the garden-no signs of powdery mildew, stays upright no matter how tall it gets, and is spreading a a nice rate.  The Swallowtails flit between this Phlox and the Liatris across the vegetable garden.  They are so accustomed to me being out there, I can get within a few inches and watch them probing with their long proboscis for nectar.  I need to get the video camera out there and make a nice video of the butterflies drinking nectar.



I have three kinds of coneflowers in the gardens, Purpurea, which is the species, and two cultivars-Smooth and Tennessee Coneflowers.  All are equally attractive when in bloom, but the flowers present quite differently-one kind has flat petals, another petals that curve upward and another with petals that curve backwards.  I’m loving some of the new cultivars that I see in bloom in the nurseries right now, but have to have some evidence that they haven’t hybridized the nectar out, making them unattractive to pollinators.  When I see pollinators on them in the nursery, I’ll spring for a few of those to add another dimension of color to the beds.  Perched her on top of a coneflower is the Spicebush Swallowtail, distinguished from the Black Swallowtail by the absence of orange spots on the upper side of the wings.

DSC_0267The Tall American Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum) has surely outdone itself this year.  They have been blooming for weeks, with no end in sight.  I bought this plant last year at the Native Plant Society sale at Stone Mountain.  There was only one, and they didn’t want to bother with making a sign for just one plant so I said “I’ll take it!”  And, boy, am I ever glad I did!  It’s blue is about the purest blue I have ever seen in the garden and the butterflies, bees, and flying critters love it.  Today I saw quite a few bumblebees on it, but some butterflies stopped by for a sip too.



DSC_0283DSC_0282                                     I didn’t see any Gulf Fritillaries today, but they left their calling cards.  Dozens of orangish caterpillars in all stages of development on the Maypops are soon going to start forming chrysalises assuring me of the continuation of these beautiful orange butterflies in my garden.  The Maypops have been a little lazy blooming this year, probably due to the drought, and I’ve been a lot lazy in removing the strays that come up all over the garden.  Glad now I left those strays, because they are hosting many caterpillars.  Unfortunately, the birds are also chowing down on these caterpillars, but I think enough will survive to provide butterflies for the garden.  I put two pictures here, one to show a large fritillary cat to make them easy for others to recognize, and the other is the bloom of the Maypop with a caterpillar in the background.

By next week, the six foot tall Boneset and the 12 foot tall Ironweed should be in full bloom, assuring the pollinators of a new smorgasbord to delight.   Everyday in the garden brings new delights, and I am always anxious to get out there and see what new plant is blooming, what new insect is in the garden, and what new veggie is ready to be picked.

Native plants in the landscape really draw in the pollinators.  Many of them will take nectar from both native and nonnative plants, but for many of them, there is a single type of plant that can host the caterpillar.  If you love Gulf Fritillaries, you’ll have to plant Maypop.  For Spicebush Swallowtails, you need a spicebush (duh).  The Monarchs will be migrating soon, and I’ve made sure to have plenty of milkweed planted just for them.  That’s the only host plant on which they will lay their eggs.  The Pipevine Swallowtail hosts on the Pipevine, Aristolochia.  I don’t have any cats on the pipevine yet, but there’s always hope.  It’s fairly recently planted.  Maybe next year!

Natives plants are a consuming passion for me.  I have planted hundreds of natives in the yard-serviceberry, grancy graybeard, Yellowwood, viburnum, stewartia, dogwoods, hollies, red and white buckeyes, hawthorns, oakleaf hydrangeas, sourwood, pawpaw, and beautyberry.  These trees and shrubs will provide nectar for insects and hummingbirds from spring til mid summer.  Then they will provide berries and seeds for the birds and other wildlife during the fall.

I plant all kinds of native flowering plants.  Some are just too pretty to live without, even if they are critical for the pollinators.  These are usually finished blooming long before the pollinators are active.  Some of my favorites, other than those mentioned above are Cardinal flower, Wild Bee Balm, Tickseed Coreopsis, New England Aster, Georgia Asters, Clethra, Flat topped Aster, Native Coral Honeysuckle,  Trumpet creeper vine, Thimbleweed, and penstemon.  There are tons of others, but a longer list would become tiresome for readers.  Please check out the GNPS webpage and facebook page.  The web address is  The West Georgia Chapter also has a facebook page and a web page at  You’ll find interesting articles, upcoming events and plant sales, as well as pictures of wildflowers.

If you can wade through the advertising, you’ll find this page helpful in deciding what to plant for the particular butterflies you want to host.  There are links on the page with lists of host plants, butterflies in your geographical area, and many other fun things to know about butterflies.


But don’t forget that there are many more efficient pollinators than butterflies, and they are quite pretty themselves, if you like bugs!

Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

I had the opportunity to take two field trips with some native plant friends.  Our trip yesterday was to tour the gardens of another native plant member.  He bought the lot next to his house, and had spent several years developing it into a showplace.  He’s getting ready to move back to Oklahoma, and some lucky person is going to buy a treasure.

About 3 years ago, he put in a retention pond with a recirculating pump.  He dug and lined three ‘streams’ through his yard.  He added gravel and large rocks along the streambeds, then started putting in shade loving plants.  It was the most amazing ‘manmade’ stream and pond I’ve ever seen.

DSC_1726 DSC_1762You can barely see the water flowing down the hill with all the huge ferns and other shade loving plants.


Greg lugged in every large stone, most of the moss covered logs, and tons of soil, slate chips, and mulch.  It has been a labor of love for 15 years.  While mostly native, he has put in some nonnatives such as hosta.  The ferns are so lush and big, it’s hard to believe they are real.  However, much of the tremendous growth is a result of weekly watering from the well he had dug just for watering his native gardens.

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Our second field trip was to a sanctuary in West Point to see the Shoal Lilies in bloom.  These are a species of Carolina Spider lilies, one of the most spectacular native wildflowers.  They have been in bloom for a couple of weeks and will continue to bloom for a short while.  Then the seeds will ripen by late June.  The owner invited  us to come back in June and collect some seeds for our restoration project at Buffalo Creek Trail.  The sight of these lilies was just breathtaking, and no pictures could ever do them justice.

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Hopefully, in a few years, our own Buffalo Creek will look like this!


What can I say?

The tree trimmers were out in full force last week.  On a whim, I walked down the street where they were shredding the tree limbs and asked where they were going to dump them.  The guy said he’d dump them anywhere I wanted them, if I wanted them.  I told him sure, and met them in the front yard.  We have an unofficial drive through the front woods to be able to get to the front of the house with the truck if necessary.

They got there and dumped a huge pile of chipped tree parts in the drivethrough.  So the next day they returned with another load looking like lost puppies.  They were so ‘pitiful’ looking for a place to dump the shreds.  So I said sure dump them beside the others.  Now I have two huge dump truck piles of shreds. 

My friend Frank just happens to know someone who has a goat farm, so I figured- hmmm, fresh green chippings, goat manure, brown leaves falling all around us.  Exactly the recipe for making great compost.  The bigger the pile, the hotter it gets, and the faster everything breaks down. 

So today Frank and I spent the day mucking out the goat pens collecting some really stinky, but wonderful goat poop.  We hauled two truckloads home, them started layering the shreds with the goat poo.  By tomorrow the pile will have a layer of fallen leaves.  We’ll let it cook for about a week, then turn it.

But we figured out that we didn’t have enough goat poo, so we have to make another trip to the goat farm.  Not my favorite gardening chore, but oh the rewards are so worth it!  By next summer, Frank and I will have a huge pile of soil amendments that will make other gardeners drool.

And yes, my neighbors think I’m a crazy little old lady, but what’s the point of getting old if you can’t be eccentric?  And no, the goat poo doesn’t smell because it’s covered with the tree shreds.  However, in the mornings my yard looks like a smoldering inferno because this stuff gets HOT!   Just Mother Nature’s way of making sure all the weed seeds are killed and all the insect pests are incinerated.  Bless her heart, don’t you just love her?

Work or Fun?

I pulled out my new electric tiller today and tackled a job I haven’t done in the garden in several years-double digging!  I dug as deep as the tiller would dig (and that little baby can really turn up some soil), tossed the loose soil to the side, then dug as deep as the tiller would dig a second time.  Then I put the first soil back in the hole.  It wasn’t too hot out there this morning, but I still came in the house without a dry stitch.  Of course, part of that was due to running under the sprinkle in the flower bed to cool off.

After I got it dug, I put in cabbage plants, then covered the plants with bird netting.  Hoping this will keep the cabbage moths from getting to them.  I’ll have to keep an eye out and spray them with BT if I see caterpillars.  Wouldn’t it be awful if they have already laid eggs and I just trapped them inside with my cabbages!  Later I’ll cover the plants with a frost blanket, and I should be harvesting cabbages til February!

Tomorrow, I’ll repeat the process for the spinach bed and another rutabaga bed.

Then Scott is helping me put in trellising for the thornless blackberries.  They have sprawled and rooted to the ground, so I clipped and dug the rooted plants and potted those up for the plant sale.

Tomorrow we’re also estimating the size of the greenhouse I want to build (since I already have the windows, cement blocks and bricks from various other projects).  It will probably require our dismantling and moving the arbor Scott and I built several years ago and transplanting the native wisteria.  That may cause me to wait for cooler weather.  I would sure hate to lose that beautiful plant.  We’ll also have to dig up the  bird feeder pole we cemented into the ground.  Not sure if I’ll put it back up or not.  I do love the birds when they feed, but sunflowers are so messy, and I’m not about to buy the preshelled seeds.  I already spend a fortune on those silly birds.  We’ll be digging out lots of yellow iris and some Phlox Davidii (which was supposed to be resistant to powdery mildew, but is absolutely not!)

I’ll be adding the first super to the brood box of my honeybees, so that’s a big job for another day.  Those silly bees are eating us out of house and home, but since I got them so late in the spring, I’m having to feed them to be sure they have enough food to get through the winter.  But they are doing a great job in the flower and veggie garden as they collect pollen and nectar.

Sounds like a good night’s sleep tonight will come in handy for tomorrow.


Just when I thought it was going to cool off so I could get back into the yard full time, it becomes an inferno again.  But there is a promise of rain this weekend.  I’m gonna take them at their word and use my rain barrel water to water my newly planted stuff.  Hope it rains to refill them.

This morning I planted some of my fall garden.  First things first, I always say, so the rutabagas went in right away.  Collards will follow, with lettuce in a couple of weeks. I put in some tomatoes I had rooted from my old plants, and they are taking off.  Hope to have time to harvest a second crop before the first frost.

Took me two days and part of this morning to get all the rescued plants in pots.  I have about 150 plants to grow out for the native plant society sales.  Fly poison, tiarella, rattlesnake plantain, Jack in the Pulpit, native azaleas, native magnolias, and lots of others.  We’ll be having a plant sale at our September workshop, so plan to join us.  Ernest Koone, who owns a  native plant nursery in Lagrange will be speaking about native plants to use in the home landscape.  Also learn how to make a fairy house, a bit of whimsy for your garden.

And on a sad note, someone ran over our black racer snake.  He will be missed, but his passing will be celebrated by the chipmunks who will now proceed to burrow underneath my entire yard.



I have had  real problems with squirrels eating my tomatoes.  Just as the tomatoes start to ripen, the squirrels grab them and take a bite or two.  Then they throw them down and grab another one.  They have gotten so bold, they actually sit on the fence railing and eat them while I’m in the garden. I do believe that squirrels can snicker!  Not one to be outdone by these rascally critters, I decided to squirrel proof my plants.  I wrapped bird netting around each section of garden with tomatoes planted there.  I pulled the netting up over the tops of the plants and connected them with twist ties.  Took me two hot, sweaty afternoons to get them all done.  Outsmarted all the squirrels, right?  Don’t know whether the squirrels were outsmarted or not, but I sure outsmarted myself, cause now I can’t even get to them without pulling down the netting!  Well, at least I can stand outside the barrier and watch the tomatoes grow and ripen.

Oh, well, tomorrow is another day, and I’m sure another brilliant idea like this will occur to me.


With Good Friends like these….

A friend invited me on a photo opportunity at the home of Gail Woody, a great friend from Master Gardeners.  We sat in her backyard enjoying the quiet, the hummingbirds, and the butterflies.  Her yard is a masterpiece with a stream and small pond, a pergola surrounded by trees and flowers.  The hummingbird feeders are the focus, with literally dozens of them hanging around her backyard.  The hummers were buzzing us and the other birds.  Such fun to watch. Gail’s invited some of us to come over in August to help with banding the birds so they can be tracked.  How do you catch a hummingbird, I wonder.  I’m not fast enough to chase one down!DSC_0368 DSC_0370 DSC_0371 DSC_0374 DSC_0378 DSC_0381 DSC_0386

And then there’s this….

What’s up with all the weeds?  My vegetable garden just sat there for three weeks with the dreary rain.  But not those weeds.  I save my potting soil bags for collecting weeds, and I filled four of them from part of just two flower beds.  Tomorrow I’m adding compost and fertilizer before I mulch the heck out of those beds.  Maybe the weeds will take a hint and go somewhere else.  Dr. George Sanko of Perimeter Gardens says gardens are all about sex and violence.  Well, sex produced those weeks, now I’m supplying the violence!

When Things Just Work Out

I love it when things just seem to work out, with everything falling into place. My native plant garden is doing just that. I walked out into the yard to tackle some planting this morning, and there were holes that had just appeared right beside each pot where I had planned to plant them. Isn’t that amazing?

I now have four kinds of native ferns, three kinds of native viburnum (what we used to call snowball bushes), PawPaw trees, Big Leaf and Umbrella Magnolia, Silverbells, Merrybells, Culver’s Root, Clethra, Virginia Sweetspire, and Devil’s Walking Stick planted. This rainy weather has made the ground so easy to work, that the planting is going great. I still have dozens of rescued plants in the nursery, but I’ll probably sell many of those at our Native Plant Society meeting.

Baking a pound cake then off to see Leslie and Bradley and the Braves tonight.

I am blessed with this life I’ve been given.

That’s What Friends Are For!

A friend gave me a native hibiscus on Monday of last week, and it rewarded me with its first bloom on Tuesday.  So I returned the favor by giving him two native magnolias-a big leaf and an umbrella magnolia.  It will take way more than a day for him to enjoy the blooms, but,  oh, are they worth  waiting for!