Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Hampton Park hollyhock
Hampton Park hollyhock, Charleston, South Carolina
Success in growing hollyhocks has eluded me thus far. Maybe this year?

As I anticipate what the new year will bring, I host a mini-retrospective of photographs I made over the course of the year that ends today. 

Chinese fringe flower
Here is one of several Chinese fringe flowers I bought with an Abide-A-While  gift certificate a group of generous colleagues gave me almost ten years ago. Lately I've allowed the Loropetalum to sprawl. The effect late last January? Magnificent!
Star magnolia
A year or two ago I traveled to Carolinia Nursery in North Augusta, SC to find this Star Magnolia which I brought home and planted out front. I bought it as a reminder of the Star Magnolia I saw in Kyoto, Japan soon after the March 11, 2011 earthquake. 
Just one of several day lilies descended from ones I purchased from Roycroft Nursery in Georgetown, SC.
Rambling rose
This rambling rose I brought from eastern North Carolina where it thrived on a ditch bank.

Rambling rose
It must have been nearly twenty years ago that my daughter brought home a starter for this rambling rose after a visit to the site in central North Carolina where her father and his third wife were building a home. These roses bloom profusely each May. 

Quince growing in Camden County, North Carolina
Growing on the Eastern North Carolina farm that has been
in my family for generations, this quince is beginning to dwarf the woodshed.

This mockingbird often kept me company in the garden last winter. Will it return?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Lowcountry, Late Autumn

fallen leaves
Fallen leaves
With all the extra rain that descended on the Lowcountry during the summer of 2013, I wondered whether we would get a higher degree of fall color than usual this year. I'm no botanist, but I've observed more brightly colored leaves here this month than in any other November since moving to the area more than two decades ago.
Japanese maple and palm fronds
Yellow maple leaves
When I think of autumn in the Lowcountry, I think of Spanish moss dangling from live oaks and of the marsh with its spartina grass turned the color of ready-to-harvest wheat. In the wild, scarlet Virginia creeper and the bright yellow leaves of wild muscadine garland trees and anything else they manage to climb. Dogwoods always provide a bit of color before dropping their leaves. This year I'm noticing more maples and ornamental fruit trees displaying vibrant colors. And I'm loving it.

Mount Pleasant flora
Near creeks and rivers this is what November looks like in Mount Pleasant
Spanish moss dripping from live oak
A typical Lowcountry autumn scene: Live oak dripping with Spanish moss
Vibrant leaves
This year trees display more vibrant leaves than usual
Dried leaves
…but there are plenty of just plain brown leaves on the ground
Virginia creeper, bright red
Virginia creeper can be counted on to add brilliance

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Letter from Taiwan

Temple dragon in Taichung, Taiwan
This temple dragon near Taichung's Botanical Gardens faces a convenience store across the lane

In public spaces here in Taiwan I frequently see jungle geraniums used as shrubs, squared off as if they were boxwood. I have found vertical gardens in both commercial and park settings, living walls indoors and out. I have witnessed orchid foliage and roots attached to trees along a city street in Taichung and orchids in bloom holding on to temple garden trees above Sun Moon Lake.  In a Taipei park I discovered the name of a flowering perennial that blooms wild in my Lowcountry front yard late each August: zephyr lily. Also in Taipei, I attended a bonsai exhibition and was reminded of the tiny pine I'm growing in a styrofoam cup at home,  reminded that I need to be more proactive in its mapping out its growth. I've come across tree roots that look like a map of unexplored territory. I've visited a flower market, which turned out to be more like a series of connected plant nurseries rather than the florist mecca I imagined. I've enjoyed the perfume of plumeria blossoms. I've walked among treetops in the Xitou Forest Recreation Area and seen tree ferns that delighted the eye. And I'm not done yet. One day soon I'll visit Taichung's Botanical Garden. Perhaps as early as this afternoon.

Angel's Trumpet
Angel's Trumpet growing near an ancient red cypress tree in Xitou Forest Recreation Area
Why don't my angel's trumpets thrive like this?

Inside a vendor's tall at Taichung's Flower Market

Bougainvillea galore

Also at the Flower Market

Downtown Taichung
A segment of the Calligraphy Greenway in Taichung

Calla lily with spider at Xitou Forest Recreation Area
Calla lily with spider at Xitou

Changhua, Taiwan
A lovely tableau in Changhua

Hibiscus at Xitou Forest Recreation Area
Hibiscus at Xitou Forest Recreation Area

A back wall inside a Taichung shopping mall

Orchid attached to tree, Taichung, Taiwan
Orchid attached to tree

Plumeria blossom
Plumeria blossom

Outside of a shopping mall in Taichung

Xitou Forest Recreation Area
Xitou Forest Recreation Area

Tree fern at Xitou
Tree fern in Xitou

Zephyr lily
Zephyr Lily grow in a Taipei park

Tree roots at Shueili Snake Kiln in Taiwan
Amazing tree roots at Shueili Snake Kiln

Luxuriant hibiscus growing near Sun Moon Lake

At the Bonsai Exhibition in Taipei

Taipei Expo Park

Ornamental ginger at Syuanguang

The brand new Ikea in Taichung

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Homeplace Garden

Chesapeake Arboretum
A glimpse of the grounds

Stopping by Virginia's Chesapeake Arboretum with my ninety-two-year-old mother, I feel like I'm visiting my grandparents on the farm. Remember when people grew their own food? In the American South fig trees and pecan trees thrived in backyards. Veggies grew in garden rows. And cannas, hydrangeas, and azaleas provided flowers to be cut for indoor enjoyment. That's what this place is like. 

Caleb Williamson Farmhouse
The Caleb Williamson Farmhouse and its grounds are part of the Chesapeake Arboretum


Nature's Classroom

Hungry caterpillars


Japanese cedar
Japanese cedar

Sprawling fig tree
Sprawling fig tree

My mother sits on a bench shaded by the sprawling fig tree as I wander around the old homeplace. Bluejays call to one another from nearby trees. Occasionally one swoops in and devours some of the abundant ripe fruit. A gardener comes over and says we should help ourselves to some figs. I pick one for my mother and she finds it delicious. 
Lovely trio

Places like this one inspire me and reinforce my long ago decision to turn my suburban lot into a homeplace garden.

For more information about the Chesapeake Arboretum, visit their website: http://www.chesarbor.org.

Name that seed pod! Add a comment below.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Stumbling through Heather

Notice the purple tinge on the hillsides

In the Scottish Highlands heather tints the hillsides purple during the months of August and September. And here I am in the sultry South Carolina Lowcountry waxing nostalgic about late summer trips to Scotland. This year I won't be inhaling the crisp Highland air or the delicate scent of heather. You see, I finished the research for my novel Stumbling through Heather and, in fact, have completed the writing.

What most surprised me about heather was how sturdy it is. But then it has to be in order to survive in the harsh environment where it thrives. Heather, also known as ling, is a dwarf shrub with a life span of approximately thirty years. Cross-leaved heath and bell heather grow alongside ling on peaty moorlands. 

Beinn Eighe cloud cap, waterfall, and heather
This heather I photographed growing near the base of Beinn Eighe appears 
more rosy than purple.  Some heather flowers are more pinkish than purple,
others are more magenta.

In his book Introducing HeatherDavid Lambie states that a single large heather plant can produce as many as 150,000 seeds. No wonder certain hills turn purple when the heather blooms.

Wild heather
Wild heather (Calluna vulgaris) up close
This one is growing along a roadside two or three miles from Loch Ness.
During a stay in Lochcarron I observed domesticated heather growing in a resident's garden. It made me want to create a heather bed of my own. Unfortunately, the climate where I live doesn't suit true heathers. 

Mexican, or false, heather can be found in plant nurseries here, but it lacks the vigor of Calluna vulgaris. And where locally might I find the heather-scented air freshener I remember from my stay in Lochcarron?

Heather growing in the Scottish Highlands