Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's Sooooooo Cold...

Winters in SE Alabama are supposed to be mild. But every so often, we get a doozie. Remember the snowstorm in February...

Anyway, this December we've been on a roller coaster weather ride. One mild day followed by an overnight low of 16F. 16F!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (And then we wonder why everyone around us has a persistent hacking cough.)

The day after one such blistery cold night, I went to check on a few newly planted perennials and found a block of ice in one of my birdbaths. Too cool.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Trip to the Pocosin

Pocosins are densely vegetated, unspoiled forests. Derived from the Algonquin word for swamp on a hill, pocosins can be found along the southern Atlantic Coastal Plain. Perhaps their most important value is that of providing habitats for endangered species and species adapted to living in untouched areas. See

I had the opportunity to the Pike County Pocosin this afternoon. It is a 190 acre nature preserve tract with the Forever Wild Program.

Image taken from

I have a pretty vivid imagination. Combined with tales of legend, you can picture how my imagination can get carried away. Prior to the visit, I pictured exceptionally neat walking trails dotted with exotic floral species and small wildlife a safe distance away. Sounds fantastic (and a bit naive) right. What I actually got was a two-hour hike downhill through brush and bramble, dotted with Carolina Jessamine (if you don't remember these from a previous posting, they're the super poisonous vines I tossed from my garden). Let me interject that I had a fun, learning experience. But there were some really scary moments for a city girl like me.

Upon arrival, we came across a dead doe and her baby, entrails hanging out. For a second, I thought I was in an Alan Jacobson novel. Both had been mutilated for their tenderloins. Apparently it's the filet mignon of deer. Then as we read the warning postings, my group learned that hunting was allowed on the grounds. None of us were wearing orange. The leaders of our group however surmised that because it was the middle of the day, the game would not be out frolicking. And the hunters would likely wait for the full moon tonight which would draw the deer out. Not exactly scientific, but made enough sense for us to continue. Just in case, we made a racket along the way, which included shouting 'I'm not a deer!'.

Just as I had relaxed about entering a hunting zone improperly dressed, one member of our team remarked that she wished she'd brought a pistol to shoot snakes. Great. Eyes peeled on the ground for mocassins and ears tuned for rattlers, I did manage to see several springs (my first), a creek bed, dozens of oak varieties, tulip trees, wild blackberry, nandina, the original holly tree, reindeer moss, peat moss, prickly pear, a squirrel nest, an armadillo hole, snake holes, and deer tracks. It was stunning. If I were more of a country girl, this would be the ideal place for some quiet time, but the forest noises kept me somewhat on edge. Case in point, the cow somewhere in the distance mooing that I would have sworn was an ATV backfiring. (I'm still trying to figure out what the heck a cow was doing in the middle of a pocosin. Either that was one lost cow, or we were near to pastureland that backed up to the forest.)

After a few hours we made it out safely. Although my group probably believes otherwise, I am really grateful for the experience and did enjoy it. Will I do it again? I don't know. I'd have to be wearing an orange vest and knee-high goloshes, armed with a machete and a pistol.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rain Gardens

Like I friend of mine said, 'I installed a rain garden in my yard before I even know what a rain garden was'. Essentially, I had an area on the top of my driveway that collected and held water after it rained. One option was to install a French Drain which would have run about $500. That was a definite no-go. The other was to find plants whose roots love to get and stay wet (and tolerate shade) and create a new garden. Bingo! In my search, I acquired Elephant Ears, Black-Stemmed Elephant Ears, perennialized Ferns and Louisiana Iris, all from friends happy to get rid of them.

Subsequently I heard about the ACES' interest in installing a rain garden at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama (PMAL), where I also volunteer. I decided this would be a great opportunity to learn exactly what a rain garden is, what it does and how to correctly install one.

Very simply put, a rain garden is a depressed flower bed (about two feet in the ground), placed at least ten feet from a building structure, to collect rain water runoff, thereby:
  1. preventing the runoff from contaminating nearby water sources
  2. enabling the water to reabsorbed into the ground, which acts as a natural filtration system
  3. preventing erosion
It must be filled with native plants because these are pre-conditioned to deal with very wet and very dry conditions. The bed should be heavily composted (during) and mulched (immediately after) to provide nutrients and preserve moisture.

After an extensive calculation to determine the ideal spot and size, a 250 sq/ft rain garden was installed at the PMAL on a rainy and very cold morning. It is filled with Coreopsis, Agarista, Stokes' Aster and Echinacea. It needs some time to grow in, but should be promising in the spring.

Obviously I unknowingly skipped a few steps in my personal installation, particularly the two-feet excavation, but mine does just about the same thing. Bear in mind, this isn't anywhere close to 250 sq/ft. Of course, most of it has now died back with the frost. But I'm looking forward to enjoying it in spring.

Guess Who Came To Dinner

The other evening while inspecting my gardens, my daughter and I noticed the wierdest half moth / half hummingbird freak of nature drinking nectar from my Ryan's Pink Chrysanthemum plant. I scopped up my baby and raced inside for the camera. Luckily it was still there happily drinking away. I was able to snap a few pics before it flew away.

Later that night I scoured the Internet for this species. You'll never believe it, it was a five-spotted hawk moth (aka sphinx moth or hummingbird moth). If this still means nothing to you, remember those pesky tomato hornworms I was so busy killing earlier this year? Well the five-spotted hawk moth is the tomato hornworm all grown up. Fancy that!

I came across several websites praising the beauty of moths in general, and five-spotted hawk moths in particular. I learnt that moths are nighttime pollinators as butterflies are daytime pollinators. Pretty important huh. This tidbit later influenced my perception of the five-spotted hawkmoth...I suddenly found them more beautiful. Don't get me wrong, they're no ruby-throated hummingbird or monarch butterfly, but there's something to be said for a creature that can go either way. It had the markings and wing span of a moth but the stealth of a hummingbird. Who knew. But don't take my word for it, take an evening stroll around your own garden and keep your eyes out for one.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What's In A Name

At a fall landscape workshop sponsored by the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service (ACES) earlier this week, I learnt the gardener's definition of a weed. Forget what you've been told. It is simply this...any plant that grows where you don't want it to. Seen those red, ball-shaped, pointy weeds in open fields, near the roadsides and lawns the last few weeks? They're not weeds my friend. They're Spider Lilies and people pay good money for them. Here's a tip...when you see one next fall, dig up the bulb, transplant it into your garden and save $5. BTW, they make excellent cut flowers.

Red Spider Lily

Pumpkin By Candlelight

Here are photos of two carved pumpkins I created with my husband's drill and paddle bits. What can I say, necessity is the mother of invention. Not the most skilled job, but a lovely floral design all the same. Besides, candlelight makes everything look better. :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Carpenter Ant Invasion

A few days ago, we had in infestation of carpenter ants in the kids' bathroom. After much trial and error, we deduced that they were coming in from a gap between the toilet and the floor. My husband caulked it, I sprayed the house specifically for carpenter ants, and that seemed to work. At least we figured out how to keep them out of the house. Our next step however is destroying the nest outside. Wherever that is.

Since none of the pest control companies in our area thinks it's worth it for them to spray the wood mulched flower beds around the house, we're left to do it ourselves. We bought the treatment, a sprayer and read the instructions throughly. All we need now is time. I'm a little sad though that the treatment will also kill beneficial insects like bees and spiders, but that's the collateral damage for saving our wood frame house.

Our long-term plan is to replace the wood mulch with rubber mulch. A very long-term plan. Meanwhile, I figure monthly treatments during the active season, and buying pine bark mulch versus shredded mulch will have to suffice. (I never had this problem with pine bark mulch. Damned shredded mulch was on clearance!) C'est la vie.

Sweet Caroline

Joining Master Gardeners has given me access to a host of plants I may not otherwise become familiar with. Last week while working on a project, I was given Carolina Jessamine (aka Carolina Jasmine). It's a stuning evergreen vine that produces yellow tubular flowers in the spring. I thought perfect, this would be great to grow up my new birdhouse post.

As I always do, I googled the plant to determine the light and water requirements before planting. To my surprise, I learned that Carolina Jessamine is highly toxic and ingestion of this plant may result in death. I get that most plants are poisonous if ingested, but in the plant world there are degrees of poison. Indigestion, drooling and temporary confusion is something I would probably risk as side effects of enjoying a particular plant, but death was a new one. Probably not worth it.

So the new birdhouse post in the backyard was out. In fact, any area in the backyard where the kids play was out. My 2 1/2 year-old son is good about keeping things out of his mouth, but my 14 month old daughter...not so much. That left me with the front yard and the most practical place was the mail box post. I imagined this vine covering it like a mail box post in some country garden, and got to planting straightaway. But 'what if' scenarios plagued me. In the end, I dug it up, double bagged it and threw it away. I'm going to leave Carolina Jessamine for experienced Master Gardeners who also happen to be empty nesters. I'm sure some other beautiful, evergreen vine will come along.

For good measure, click on the link below to find a list of poisonous plants. Totally worth it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Backyard's Gonna Make It Afterall

I think my poor rabbit went to the big farm in the sky. It's been a while since I've seen him or evidence of him. When my sweet potato vines were left to grow several feet long, I knew something was wrong. Also, a few weeks ago, there was a weird smell in the garage. It lasted a few days and I have a sneaking suspicion if I could get past all the junk and equipment in there, I'd find a familiar skeleton. Shame. When my son asks for the rabbit, I just tell him he went home to his mama and will come for a visit later. So far I'm not doing too well keeping the woodland creatures alive in my future Certified Wildlife Backyard Habitat.

Some good news though, there is a forest (several acres of undeveloped land actually...does that consitute forest???) across the street from us and while eating lunch, the kids and I spotted a family of deer a few times. Too cool. At least until my son would shout 'look mama, the deer!!!' and they'd scamper away. We've also seen the babies cross over to several backyards on our street. While out for walks, they would race by trying to reach cover. A few scary moments while crossing the street, but thankfully, they're all ok. As far as I know anyway.

Also, my toad abodes are working. I have tons of American Tree Frogs living in our yard, and even in the rim of my rain barrell. They sing to us and sleep on leaves. It's such fun to spot one. Guess I'm not doing that badly afterall.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Bit of Misfortune. A Bit of Luck.

Upon another infestation of tomato horn worms, I dug the bushes up. It's such a shame, since I thought I'd gotten rid of them all. The bushes recovered and I even got to harvest a few more tomatoes. But I'd missed two applications of Neem treatment, and quick as that, they were back. Obviously Neem treatments need to be consistent during the growing season.

In other news, one of my birdhouses was severely damaged when it's post collapsed. It was a combination of termite damage (the post was untreated so this wasn't entirely unexpected, but sooner than I thought) and carpenter bees burrowing tunnels up and down the post. The thing nearly felt hollow when I picked it up and was filled with young bees buzzing inside. Couldn't get that curbside fast enough!!!

However, every difficulty presents an opportunity. In one of the areas where extra tomato bushes were planted, I created a new flowerbed. It's early yet and the plants still need to grow in, but I can't wait to see it next spring. Especially since it includes bare root Red Dragons which should be spectacular.

My Dad came for a visit, and built a birdhouse to replace the one I lost. Porch and all. We couldn't put the new birdhouse in the old location since we couldn't dig up the concrete without damaging existing plants, so we put it in an even better location. Can you say opportunity for a new flower bed!!!!!! Maybe in the springtime.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Also found a snake in one of my flower beds yesterday morning. Scary. My kids and I were running around playing and then this. Don't kow what type it is. Thank God no one was bitten.

Monday, August 30, 2010

2nd Neem Application

It's been about a week since I treated my tomoato bushes and rose bushes with Neem Oil. Typically, the treatments should be applied every two weeks in the growing season, but can be applied once a week in severe cases. I found a baby tomato horn worm this evening on one of my bushes and applied a second treatment.

Neem Oil is a summer oil which acts as an insecticide, fungicide and miticide. After picking off a bushel of worms, the tomato leaves are slowly growing back. But I'm unsure if this is a result of my labor or the effectiveness of the first treatment. I do however see a slight improvement on one of my rose bushes. The leaves are healthy and shiny and green, the blooms are robust and plentiful, and new growth and old growth are existing together for the first time ever. My rose bushes also got a second treatment. We'll see how the other six do in another week.

Woodland Creature Sightings

I guess my little rabbit friend forgave me as my kids and I spotted him behind one of my hydrangea bushes this afternoon. He's a brave little bugger as he happily posed for us for about 10 minutes. Long enough for me to get the camera and take tons of shots.

Right before that, we found a frog on the patio. This thrilled my one-year old daughter who tried to climb up to reach it. My two-year old son was intensely curious and studied it for a very long time. Then he asked 'squash it Mama?'. (I should mention that he helps me squash the bad bugs and catepillars that eat our plants.) Of course we didn't squash it and I explained to him that frogs eat those bad bugs, which is why we need them in the garden. He seemed happy with this answer and went back to look for the rabbit.

That inspired me to create a few toad abodes around the garden. [Stop reading here honey.] As I didn't have the opportunity to buy any yet, I half buried a few clay pots sideays in the spots I normally find them. That should do for now.

If I spot anything else, I'll be sure to let you know.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hare Today, Gone Tommorow

I'm currently dealing with an internal conundrum. This morning, my family and I found a rabbit hole/nest in our front yard behind some flowering bushes. After poking around a little, out hopped the cutest little rabbit ever. I've actually seen this little bugger around my flower beds before, especially early in the morning. (And I've recently had to chase it out of the garage so it wouldn't meet the same fate as an old toad and sprightly hummingbird who both got trapped in there. Ewwwwwwww.) Instinctively, I covered the rabbit hole as a means of protecting my home (as it was right against the wall), only to face constructive crisicism from my husband. 'What's the point of working toward the NWF recognize our home as a national wildlife backyard habitat if you go around destroying wildlife homes?' Point taken.

I'm all for celebrating little critters living, procreating and any other 'ings' in my yard, as long as they don't destroy the house in the process. Since I'm higher up on the food chain, I figure I have the right to call the shots on this. Maybe I'm overreacting due to my Dad's insistence on keeping the perimeter of my childhood home clear of any living thing, flora and fauna, because it's just too expensive to repair foundations. But then how much damage could a family of rabbits do, other than eat my produce and croton plants?

Anyway, to asuage my guilt, I reopened the rabbit hole and fluffed up the lint (yes lint) they used for bedding. Maybe my little buddy will come back and forgive me. When my Dad comes in a few weeks, I'll have him evaluate the situation and advise us how best to proceed.

More More More

A day later, I found another five. That makes the total 37!!!

After the rain storms, I did treat the bushes with Neem Oil and that seem to do to the trick. It's about time for a second treatment, but of course it's raining again. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This sucks!

Would you believe it...I found another 5 tomato horn worms today. They practically stripped my bushes on one side of the house. AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Rose Bush Results - Finally!

Ok, here's what my report from the Diagnostic Lab said verbatim:

We found two diseases on the sample you provided, blackspot and Botrytis blight.

Blackspot, caused by the fungus Diplocarpon rosae, was found on the foliage. This disease will cause the leaves to drop prematurely and heavy leaf shed will reduce flower production and vigor. If severe drought conditions further stress blackspot-damaged roses, the plant may die. To control blackspot on roses, start with regular fungicide applications. For effective season-long disease control, begin fungicide applications shortly after spring bud break and continue at a 7 to 14-day interval until the first hard frost. Also, collect and destroy all leaves on the ground. Prune diseased or weakened canes at bud swell and replace the soil mulch in late winter or early spring.

Botrytis blight, caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea, affects buds, flowers and peduncles. The disease usually starts in the flower bud, decreases the longevity of the flower, and may move down to the stems. Cankers may form as a result of Botrytis infection and are similar in appearance to those produced by other stem canker and dieback fungi. Sanitation practices such as the removal of spent blossoms as well as the collection of fallen leaves and petals from around the base of the plant should reduce the risk of Botrytis blight. Immediately prune out blighted blooms, canes, and buds. Fungicides used to control blackspot are also effective against Botrytis blight.

For more information about rose diseases see ANR-505 at This publication will also give you a list of fungicides labeled to control blackspot and Botrytis blight.

So I thought about it, and my decision is to treat my bushes since they hold sentimental value. And it gives me a reason to continue this blog. lol!
Here's a really cool fact...after my training session at MG school, I came home and told my husband that my roses had some sort of fungi. See, told you I paid attention. :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Hate Tomato Horn Worms!!!!

This year, I was a little distracted by installing new flower beds, and didn't spray my vegetable gardens as often as I should have. After being away for a few days, I went out to admire my backyard yesterday morning, and noticed a few tomato bushes looking less than stellar. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a rather large lime green catepillar moozeying along. It was a tomato horn worm. Just like mice, if there's one, there's more. So I broke out the garden gloves and tweezers, and went hunting.

From my 18 tomato bushes, I extracted (and smooshed) 27 tomato horn worms!!! There were babies, adolescents and morbidly obese adults. All disgusting and all happily eating away my hard labor. Do you know one even had the nerve to raise its head and observe what I was doing!?! Sick, sick, sick! Putting up with a cute little rabbit is one thing, but this is ridiculous.

After this horrid chore, I went to task spraying my bushes with Neem Oil. Of course there was a rain storm yesterday afternoon so that was in vain, but I tried.

I'll be back out there this evening equipped with garden gloves, tweezers and my handy dandy spray bottle. If those little buggers know what's good for them, they'll moozey on to the next house.

Auburn Master Gardening School 2010

I had a fantastic time on Tuesday at MG School. We learnt how to:
  • incorporate native plants into the landscape
  • identify plants by their scientific names, and the benefits thereof, primarily referencing the plant outside the home area
  • attract and maintain wildlife in the garden *my absolute favorite session*
  • identify plant fungus and appropriate treatment
  • install water gardens step-by-step
  • install a drip irrigation system
It was a very long day but well worth it. The presenters are all Auburn lecturers, but I didn't feel lectured at. Some presentations were hands on and informal enough that questions were addressed during the sessions rather than at the end.

One of the most interesting things that stood out in the Gardens for Wildlife session, is how to apply for your home to become a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Essentially, you must have 2-3 sources in each of the following sections:
  • Food
    • Providing a variety of fruits, nuts, seeds, nectar, pollen, and supplements like feeders and suet
  • Water
    • e.g. birdbaths, ponds, butterfly pudding area, stream, etc
  • Cover
    • protected areas from weather, predators e.g. bramble patch, rock pile wall, shrubs, etc
  • Shelter
    • safe places to raise young e.g. trees, nesting boxes, toad abodes, birdhouses, host plants, bat houses, etc
  • Go Green
    • mulching, less turf areas, native plant use, drip irrigation systems, rain barrels, use of composting, reduced use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc
You can learn more at

To do it right (i.e. not staging rock piles and erecting bird and bat houses all over the place) I have a few seasons to go. A few trees need to mature and a few more shrubs need to be planted, but this is definately a medium-term goal for me. I'm so excited.

Master Gardeners of Pike County are required to receive 20 hours of training each year, although as I understand it, some volunteer work counts toward this. In any event, last Tuesday's training counted for 6 hours. I didn't know this, nor had I planned to generate any 'real' hours this year (being unofficial and all), but now I'm considering going for the other 14. I'll have to discuss this with my two-year old and one-year old of course, so we'll see how it goes.

P.S. I didn't have to harass any Auburn agricultural professionals about my roses as I received my report from the Diagnostic Lab in record time. More on that later.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Utilize Your County Extension Office

For the last few months, I've been hearing references for County Extension Offices in the tri-state area. I briefly thought about contacting them regarding my roses, but I figured if Paul James was 'stumped' I probably would't have much luck with these folks either. (See very first post.) In an unrelated event, I saw an episode of HGTV's Curb Appeal: The Block and learnt that most states offer free compost to its residents. A few weeks ago, I began calling (nearly) every state agency in Alabama about this, when I stumbled across the number for my County Extension Office. Unfortunately they had no idea about the free compost. But since I had them on the line away, I figured I didn't have anything to lose and segued into a diatribe about my rosebush dead stem dilemma. That, they could handle.

This was most serendipitous. I was put in touch with Rachel Dykes in the Ozark office. She is a wealth of information and an excellent resource to have. And even though the County Extension Office is closely tied to Auburn University, they actually returned telephone calls and e-mails about my lowly rose bushes. Who would have thought.

Turns out, the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology to which Paul James referred me, is not the department that deals with stay-at-home moms' sickly plants. Rather, there is a Plant Diagnostic Lab where, for a small fee, plant, soil and bug samples can be sent for analysis. When Rachel suggested I send a variety of cuttings and an entire plant, I jumped at the opportunity. It helped that the plant is probably dead (since cutting it back a few weeks ago, I haven't seen any new growth), otherwise, I might have done that as a last resort. In a few weeks, I'll receive my report and will hopefully be on the right track to fixing whatever problem is hindering my roses.

The process, although straight forward, requires adhering to a few rules. Rather than bore you with an executive summary, I'll attach the guidelines and necessary form for submission as soon as I figure out how to attach files on In the meantime, here is the Alabama County Extension Service's website:

I have to say I'm really pumped that I'm finally making progress with my roses. But as for that free compost, no such luck. Not to worry though. I'm still on the hunt.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Watermelon Schwatermelon

I've given up on watermelons. For this year anyway. My southside garden receives too much sun for the poor things. That, and the rainspells caused them all to split on the vine. Same reason tomatoes split - too much heat followed by a deep watering causes the fruit to expand suddenly and split. Thing is, green tomatoes are edible, unripe watermelon is not. I couldn't leave them on the vines to putrefy, so I fed them to the birds. This happened one too many times and I pulled up the darn thing instead of wasting more water on it. Shame really. My vines were really healthy and were loaded with young watermelons.

There's a lesson here though. A north or east location would be more ideal for next year's vine. I'll let you know how that goes.

In other news, rabbits roam my garden at night, devoring sweet potato vines and bell pepper bushes. AND they've even eaten all the leaves off a potted croton plant in front. How dare they!?! At least they're also fertilizing my garden while they're at it. How's that for a mutually symbiotic relationship?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Master Gardening School 2010

So, the mighty Auburn University thought they could escape me and my incessant quest for an answer to my rosebush dead stem dilemma. Well, think again AU! I've registered for their annual Master Gardening School workshop next month and plan to take my question and samples and present them to any willing (and unwilling) ear. Don't you just love a determined mama?

I should mention that sometime in May I became an official 'unofficial member of the Pike County Master Gardeners Association'. Try saying that fast three times. What it means is that I attend the monthly meetings and have the option of volunteering hours with their various gardening projects, without paying the annual dues. I don't get a say and that really doesn't bother me. For now anyway. I was inducted (can I use that term if I'm unofficial?) by a local gardener whom I really respect, because I have an insatiable appetite for learning all I can about gardening. And the free plants after each meeting aren't bad either.

So here's to progress and answers and sticking it to AU. Cheers.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Working Hard in the Hot Alabama Sun

I haven't been blogging lately because, well, I've been gardening. In the hot Alabama sun no less. But I'm really happy with the results.

In addition to my rose beds, I have several other flower beds and an herb & vegetable garden which keep me busy. Thankfully, those are way more successful than my poor rose beds. Anyway, over the last few weeks, I've enjoyed watching pink hydrangea blooms, scores of Stella d' Oro daylilies, Big Time Happy daylilies, red and orange Canna lilies, Hibiscus, Phlox and my new favorite Coreopsis. In addition, I'm keeping our home and my neighbors well stocked with Early Girl, Husky Cherry and Roma tomatoes. I'm even experimenting with watermelon. Geek that I am, I'm photo journaling the growth of my first melon on a weekly basis. Good times.

In other garden news, my mother-in-law, handy go-to-17-year-old helper and I have installed a paver patio and playground area combo, and doubled the size of the vegetable garden. Thank God for sand and roto-tillers. They (especially the patio) are not perfect (or perfectly level) but it's hard to tell.

A few other trees have been planted on our enormous hillside, including flowering Crabapple, English Dogwood and Crape Myrtle. Hard to tell when my husband lets the grass grow too high, as they're only about eight inches tall. But I'm looking forward to photo journaling their progress too. lol!

Next up, a homemade arbor over my new patio area with (insert drum roll please) climbing roses. Maybe I'll have better luck with those.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bloomin' Bust

It seems I'm back at square one. While I'm enjoying large, beautiful blooms, the rose bush stems are still dying when I don't deadhead right away. Why not deadhead right away you say? Not that easy. Usually my two year old 'helps' me with my gardening. A sharp blade is just the type of thing I need to keep a precocious kid like him away from.

Even more disheartening, one of my miniature rosebushes is deader than a doornail, and the other one is hanging on by a thread. Once thriving and blooming without dead stems (the miniature rose bushes don't seem to be affected like the others), this phenomena occured two days after using Bayer Advanced All-In-One Rose and Flower Care.

This product promises insect and disease control and fertilization for six weeks. Sound too good to be true. I've used this on my other rose bushes in the past (I know, there seems to be a trend developing), and other flowering bushes which are doing quite well. So what's the problem? As Paul James would say, I'm stumped. On the bright side, my roses are free of insects, although they do suffer from black spot. One out the three, hmmmmm. Way to go Bayer!

I'm considering drastically pruning the roses back and essentially starting over. Not the best idea during the growing season, but I'm sick of looking at anorexic rose bushes after all the time and money I put into them. Perhaps I'll also e-mail bomb the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Auburn University until they decide to assist me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Recently, carpenter bees have infested our yard, and began attacking our fence and other wooden structures. For those of you unfamiliar with these pesky creatures, they drill into wood to lay their eggs. Since too many carpenter bees + too much wood = big money problem, I decided to follow a few that seem to have set up house (hard to believe I occassionally have this much time on my hands), scope out their nests and inform my husband who has a master plan to kill the eggs and fill the holes.

While following one such bee to one of my birdhouses, I was surprised to discover that a bird made a nest inside. AND there are four beautiful tiny eggs. (I'm a city girl at heart, so to come face-to-face with any bird egg not found in the dairy section at the grocery store is a wonderous experience.)

I raced inside and grabbed my camera. I know, I know, what I did next probably wasn't the smartest idea, but I just had to document it. Plus, I figure if I didn't touch anything, it would be fine. Because of the height, angle and my fear of getting too close, the pictures aren't the best, but they sure made my day.

Isn't it amazing how quickly bad experiences can segue into good ones through the beauty of our world. In my mind, this is no coincidence that today is Earth Day. I pray we all do our best to protect these little eggs, and their little eggs, and their little eggs, and their little eggs...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Photos Finally

May not look like much yet, but can't wait for summer when my babies are in full bloom.
Lantanas and irises were added to the area on the hill. The other photos shows the addition of two miniature rose bushes.
For those of you who've never dug up grass to create a flower bed (and to those of you who have), pray for rain. Pray-for-rain.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Point of View

I'm only now realizing that these scenes, so inspiring and attractive in person, seem insignificant in pictures?

Anyway, bought red rubber mulch to highlight the spot on the hill today. Soon as I can figure out how to install the border in the rock hard soil, I can mulch and upload [hopefully] a knock-out image.

The area on the north side has already been mulched and bordered. Also added two new miniature rose bushes, since I seem to have the most luck with them.

On to the pictures!


The good news is, spring is here. The bad news...unfortunately Auburn is not on board. That's ok though. I've been researching and talking with folks and suspect that the surrounding grass (and weeds) have been fighting with the rose bushes for water and nutrients. And so far, the roses haven been losing miserably.

This morning, my husband, a friend of ours and myself dug up everything surrounding the rose bushes, in order to mulch for water retention, and to effectively fertilize. I also cut back sickly looking limbs to make them look healthier and to encourage lateral growth.

Whether my new theory and efforts work, we'll just have to wait and see. But, I'm trying.

Friday, March 12, 2010

No News

Haven't heard back from Auburn University yet. Will follow-up with a call on Monday.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Today I e-mailed the Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology at Auburn University to ask if I could mail a few clippings of my rose buses to them, to see if they can determine the problem with my bushes.

As soon as I hear anything, you'll be the first to know.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Snow Day

If you watch the news, you must be aware of the winter storm that hit the southeast this weekend. In our SE Alabama town, we saw four inches of snow. Incredible! Too bad our kids were down with the flu, otherwise they would have been able to help Dad build the snowmen (some better than others honey).

It was quite picturesque seeing everything blanketed in white. Made my poor rose shrubs look more pathetic and sickly, but if you squint just right, you can make them disappear.

Needless to say the weather has prevented me from doing much in the gardens thus far. But not for long. I've got a feeling spring is just around the corner.

P.S. In other news, I'm experimenting with bulbs. I planted a few tulip bulbs in December and almost gave up hope. But seems like this cold weather was just the thing they needed for they decided to finally break the surface. Can't wait to have a tulip boquet on my mantle.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ground Zero

I wanted to include some before pics so you'll know what I'm working with.

The first vignette is a rose garden on the north side of my house. On the far right is a knock-out rose bush. The other three are various hybrids which I can't recall. The one on the far left produces a yellow bloom, which has a counterpart in another garden.

The second picture is of a smaller rose garden on the west side. The one on the left is the second yellow blooming rose bush. (I actually got these yellow roses for Valentine's Day two years ago.) The one on the right is some kind of hybrid. In front of this area is a small azalea bush which I think I'll transplant (again) and replace with some more roses.

The next two pictures are two miniature rose bushes in the front of my home facing east. As you will notice, the one on the left is about twice as tall as the other. It gets a few more hours of sunlight due to the slope of the roof.

So I'm no rose guru. Obviously. And my rose gardens are actually just a few rose bushes here and there. For now. But I do love them and would like to learn as much as I can in caring for them.

Sometime in November I visited a friend's new home and saw a very large rose garden focal point in her backyard. It was gorgeous. Apparently the previous owners spend about two hours each day in the yard doing whatever was necessary to keep it looking spectacular. Wish I knew where they live now and take a crash course. Anyway, that's kinda what I would like, on a smaller scale, in the designated areas in my yard. I'm also including a picture of my friend's backyard so you can see my inspiration.

Looking forward to spring!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Met Paul James

I met Paul James (only the greatest gardening guru ever) yesterday at the Greater Montgomery Home and Garden Show. Well, I saw him and attended his Q&A segment more than met him. But I got to ask him a question. Yay me!

Here's my problem...I'm trying to establish several rose gardens in my yard, but failing quite miserably. I have several varities - some engineered to withstand any condition, buy all the recommended fertilizers, soil amendments, they get the right amount of water and are planted in the right light, yet, if I don't deadhead a rose the nanosecond a petal turns, the entire branch dies. The tree itself is fine, but the branch is a goner. More often than not, I have more dead branches than healthy ones, with occassional healthy looking blooms. So what did my highly esteemed gardening hero answer? "I'm stumped." That's it? He's stumped? I traveled more than an hour for this? In my mind, Paul James was losing points big time.

He then went on the explain it doesn't sound fungal, viral or bacterial. It's probably pathological. He further recommended I send a few cutlings to the plant pathologist at Auburn to figure out what's going on. How dedicated am I to this task, when a very attractive alternative is to dig them up and replace them with any number of flowering bushes I do very well with? VERY! I love roses and damn it, I want to be surrounded with beautiful rose bushes.

So presents a terrific opportunity to blog about my rose gardening adventures this year. I'll show you pics of the before and after and keep you updated along the way. And hopefully by late summer, I'll adorn every horizontal surface in my home with rose arrangements (much to my husband's chagrin I'm sure).

Here's to everything Roses. Cheers!