Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category


With all the rain we’ve had over the past three weeks, you’d think my house would be squeaky clean.
Alas, not so much.

Happy Monday!


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The love of gardening that is.

Any gardener will tell you that the honeymoon phase of gardening doesn’t last long.   Once the plants are in, there’s weeding, watering and nurturing to do, year in and out. Unless you have a cadre of gardeners to tend to your flowers and plants, you don gloves and sunscreen and spend a lot more time on hands and knees than you do standing back admiring your handiwork.

Speaking from a “few” (cough) decades of personal experience, there’s nothing romantic about gardening in Southern soil.  In fact, I would argue it’s not even soil; it’s just nasty, heavy, slick red and gray clay. Almost greasy when it’s wet and forms rock-hard clods or bone-dry silt when it dries, depending on what you did to it when it was wet. My garden beds have a voracious appetite for organic matter and they seem to devour it almost as fast as I can apply it. I hear-tell that Southern sandy soil is nearly as nasty and twice as hungry and thirsty.

I carefully applied a dozen bags of pine fines and mushroom compost around each perennial last week, and I’m happy to report that most of my transplant/refugee plants are taking off and growing like gangbusters.


After I finished with all those bags, I realized I need a lot more than that to get the beds topped off this year.  So I talked Mr. Official into getting a load of bulk compost over the weekend.  And by load, I mean 1 1/2 cubic yards.  That’s a lot of ummmm, “stuff” if you catch my drift.  And speaking of drift…

Oh my word.

As I pitch forkful after forkful of this steaming stuff, from big trailer to small trailer to garden beds, my mind conjures up all sorts of obscure adjectives.  Words you just don’t hear every day.







The list goes on.

I’m just glad plants can’t smell, because this would be an intolerable situation to grow in if they could.  And if you visit my garden in the next few weeks, I probably won’t encourage you to lean in close to sniff the flowers.  But it did put me in mind of the old poem penned by Frank Lebby Stanton, a Charleston SC native and longtime journalist for the Atlanta Constitution:

“This old world we’re livin’ in

            Is mighty hard to beat

We get a thorn with every rose

            But ain’t the roses sweet?”

Happy Monday,

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Our “Spring Break” trip (minus any actual Spring Break-ers) was a week of relaxed-pace recreating in Myrtle Beach.  I knew our vacation was off to a great start when I spied our condo’s dishes:


If you guessed Fiesta, you guessed correctly. I’m feeling very influential these days.  Or maybe I’m just in good company.  What’s not to love about these dishes?

The week provided several rounds of golf for Mr. Official, a couple hours of hot yoga and a nice 5-mile run for me, plus plenty of pool time.  Our winter whites have been banished for the season, replaced by a pink-brown color they call “tan” – I hear it’s the “in” color this summer.

The temperatures exceeded expectations, pegging out in the high 70s/low 80s most days.  We  ate our fill of local seafood each night and we drove Thunder Road:IMG_3395


…well, one of us did. Somebody had to take pics, and besides, I wasn’t sure I met the height requirements.


Because Mr. Official is an easy-going good sport, one night he agreed to forgo a seafood feast and dine on movie theater popcorn and Cokes while watching Jurassic Park in 3-D (in a nearly empty theater.. which was kinda weird.)

In between golf, yoga, and taking laps around the lazy river on innertubes, we also got in a day of antiquing, which netted two red fruit bowls and a turquoise salad bowl for my (ever-growing) collection.  I also acquired some wonderful additions to our landscape, courtesy of a plant sale at Brookgreen Gardens and a fabulous little nursery in Murrells Inlet:IMG_3426.

But the highlight of the trip was on Friday…it was a paparazzi moment for me and my camera when I spotted this gosling surrounded by a couple tough-looking bodyguards on high alert.  I managed to squeeze off a few shots before they shooed me away.


Technically, it was six goslings.


Oh, wait…you thought I spotted Ryan Gosling?  Silly goose.  Nope. But I think these Canadians are just as cute as he, and it was way easier to get a photo of ’em than THAT guy.

Happy Monday,

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3-candles-sm2My blog turns a whopping three years old today!  Looking back, it looks like I’ve averaged 175 posts a year, changed my header a dozen times, give or take, and changed my profile pic a few times, too.  But overall, I think I’ve remained pretty true to my name. Which means I’ve meandered between the various domestic pursuits of gardening, homemaking and cooking, and shared snippets of things that make my heart heavy and things that make me smile  (I hope they made you smile, too).

Bits of my faith, my family and my friends and my fitness routines.

Oh, and football.

Speaking of which, my young blog has now witnessed two UT football coach turnovers.  Ouch.

So what does 2013 hold for this little window into my little corner of the world?  Only time will tell but my goal is to continue sharing bits and pieces of our family.  It should be an interesting and poignant year as we see our last little bird out of our cozy nest.

Happy Saturday,

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Transplanting in July.

Our old house was once again empty as of June 30.  After our tenants moved out, I found I not only needed to touch up the painted walls inside, but a stroll through the back gardens showed that my left-behind plants were seriously suffering from neglect. And realistically, that was not surprising – not everyone loves gardening as much as I do, and even an avid gardener isn’t necessarily going to appreciate my plant choices, or understand all the quirks that come with gardening beneath greedy, thirsty maple trees in thin clay soil and very hard, high pH water.  It took me several years of trial-and-error to figure out what worked, and my plant ranks suffered many casualties along the way.

I reluctantly made the decision to move some of the plants while we were between renters and give the beds a fresh coat of mulch for the new tenants. Moving plants is always stressful on them, but conventional wisdom says the best time to transplant is in the spring or fall…either before the plant breaks dormancy or as it is drifting off for a long winter’s nap.

Obviously, July is neither spring nor fall.  In fact, it is quite possibly the worst possible time to uproot and move plants around – they need all their strength just to withstand the rigors of high heat and dry conditions that July is notorious for.  But it was a “now or never” window of opportunity: No matter what arrangements we made at lease signing, I wouldn’t have felt right expecting new tenants to welcome me and my trusty shovel in September, and at the rate the plants were declining, I wasn’t sure they could hold on that long even if I did.  As it turned out, we had it rented just two weeks after it was vacated.

And so, in the middle of the month that is in the middle of summer and in the midst of extreme heat and drought, I spent an overcast but extremely humid Saturday morning digging up dozens of plants: hydrangeas, peonies, hellebores, hostas, heucheras, a prized Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ and some pulmonarias and even a bag full of variegated Solomon’s seal roots (the plants had gone completely deciduous due to the extreme temperatures and dry spell.)

I tagged and bagged and hauled them all home, set them in the shade and began the process of putting them into new surroundings with as much rich, moist amended soil as I could muster.  Since I was digging and moving, I thought I’d bite the bullet and move three randomly planted peonies from this property, and create double borders along eastern fence, with hydrangeas on one side of the gate, and a double-row of peonies along the other.  The photo gallery shows the ugly truth about moving plants under these conditions.  These were taken yesterday, two weeks after the plants were moved. They will not win any beauty prizes this year, but if I can keep them hydrated and we have a typical fall and winter, I’m hopeful of their chances for survival.

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You may see them as lost causes, but when I look at them, I see the potential for them flourishing once again under the watchful eye of the one who hand-chose nearly all of them for her garden, once upon a time.

After all, I moved these plants earlier this year:

and see how they are growing and filling in, just a couple months later:

If a fellow gardener or homeowner asked me for advice, I would tell them to do as I say and not as I did, unless they were in similarly dire straits.  Even with a lot of TLC, I’m sure these plants are going to take a few years to fully recover from this ill-timed move and I may lose a few of them.  But fortunately for us, plants are resilient and forgiving, so take courage and transplant your plants, but preferably in months that have R’s in them.

Happy gardening,

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It’s hard to believe we’re already at the threshhold of “late summer” – WHERE has the time gone!  My garden was a tangled jungle this week, after a couple weeks of letting Mother Nature take care of things. (At least she watered.)

This week, I managed to get everything untangled and I tossed the rain-rotten tomatoes to the emus across the fence.  It nearly caused a food fight between the cows and emus…guess they ALL like tomatoes and not everyone was in a sharing mood.

Everything is coming along nicely, except the zucchini plant – it appears to be two zucchinis and done.  (I may be the only gardener who cannot seem to harvest more than a couple zucchinis off a plant…most people have them running out the wazoo.)

The yellow cheese peppers are putting on. Cheese peppers are intended to be dried and made into paprika but their squatty shape makes them good for stuffing, too.yellow cheese pepper

Not to be outdone, the purple jalapenos have put on a flush of new flowers and fruit – which is good, considering our heat wave did in the first wave of fruit.
purple jalapeno
Jimmy Nardello appears to be a frying pepper, and we’re going to invite him for dinner soon.

Jimmy Nardello pepper

Over in the pumpkin patch, I’ve got two of these cute ‘Cotton Candy’ white pumpkins growing like weeds

Cotton Candy pumpkin

And the ‘Sweet Dumpling’ squash are also coming along nicely.

sweet dumpling squash

Tomato-wise, by the time I snapped these pics I had harvested most of the ripe tomatoes, but I found several ‘Hazelfield Farm’ ‘maters waiting for me and the camera.  One is wedged in tight..it took some doing to ease it out without mangling the fruit or the plant:hazelfield farm tomato
Don’t tell her, but ‘Eva Ball Purple’ is umm, not purple.  But her fruit are pretty…the old-fashioned juicy kind of slicing tomato we love on a BLT.
eva ball purple tomato
Here’s this week’s haul. It’s not enough to make salsa, so later today I’ll roast all but a few of them, leaving some for sandwiches this weekend.

No pics this week, but the potatoes are ready to be forked up – I’m excited to see how much of a crop I got from the “potato tower” this year.

The lettuce has finally gone to head, so I shared the pulled-out plants with the emus. They liked it, but not as much as they do tomatoes.

I hope your garden is putting on a show for you, too!

Happy gardening!



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I usually take my weekly pics on Thursday evening but last Thursday I was watching it rain.  (Yay!!!!)  And for several other reasons, that meant I didn’t get a chance to take pictures until this morning.  Up before 6, I was shooting pictures and then hurrying to get Swimmer Girl on our church bus for a week-long mission campaign trip.

Then Mr. Official and I spent quality time at our old house, getting the landscaping shaped up so we can rent it again. (Another long story.)

So I’m just now sitting down and editing this week’s photos.

It’s a “that’s good, that’s bad” kind of story.  Our record-breaking temperatures have taken a toll on the “first fruits” and caused a few problems.

Like this pepper – it’s supposed to be orange

but it’s not supposed to have a soft rotten spot on the bottom.

The same for this tomato which looks perfect from up top,

but not so attractive when you flip it over.

Here’s my one okra (the rabbits continue to nosh.)  Mr. Official contends it’s poor soil also taking a toll, so I think I’ll plant a cover crop along this area, and look for okra to pickle at the farmers’ market.

The cucumbers

and squash are plugging along, although I’m on guard against beetle and borer problems with them.

The radishes never really took off – the spring temperatures were too high. 

But the onions and carrots are doing okay.

And there have been some bright spots – the Black Krims are almost ripe

And Jimmy Nardello

is a funny fellow

The Sugar Sweeties are proving prolific:

So how is your garden doing?  I’m afraid some of my earliest ripening tomatoes will suffer from blossom-end-rot;  a combination of clay soil and our strange spring and heatwave.  But we’ll keep plugging along – and enjoying the fruits of our labors!

Happy gardening,

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