For many jobs around here, you have to wait for the cool weather.  We had an ice storm last January and final clean up and redesign is starting up again now.   We just burned  a lot of brush and limbs that have been piled along our drive all year.  I have slowly been working on a new garden which had to be created because of the trees we lost during the ice storm.  It needed work anyway.  And Glenn is all for reducing the amount of grass he has to cut!

temporary site for silo

The largest Redbud behind the wall, to the left and out of the picture above, was taken down by the ice.  All three of the trees behind the wall were different sizes due to the amount of sun each got.  They just were not a team, so we removed them.

See the tinge of pink on the ends of the branches below?  The red buds are one of the first to bloom here, and at the point of the ice storm, they were on their way.

downed redbud

Surprisingly, with the three trees gone, we can see the live oak in the distance much better from the inside of the pool area.


To the far right of this image is a huge Nellie Stevens Holly, put in in 1997.  To the left of that, is the live oak, way further back.  It suffered ice damage too, but the branches are filling in.  It also was planted in 1997 and is a very young adult now.


I was kind of led to symmetry for this garden, which is not my favorite solution for design.  First, I realized that the large Nellie Stevens had to be matched on the other end of the forty foot wall.  Could have paid almost as much as I wanted for one; saw one for 350.00, but I settled for a 45.00 big bush.  They grow fairly quickly.  This was my biggest expense for my 103.00 garden.


Above is the 45.00 Nellie Stevens in the foreground with its huge mirror image in the background.  This bed is 8′ x 40″, the same size as my front and back porches.  This garden actually started out probably around March when at Lowe’s I found eight red barberry bushes, sleeping the winter as they do, in the “dead plant” area of the garden center for one dollar each.  Score, and the game began!   You can see them faintly on the left boundary of the garden, still surrounded by sod.  Almost killed them this summer putting too-fresh horse manure on them.  Lesson learned.


All along that nasty looking stuccoed wall (which I do not intend to do again), Nandina is being placed about two feet apart.  This stuff procreates like rabbits, so the plant material is coming from other places in the yard.  It will be nice silhouetted against the white, and in the winter it gets to be a beautiful red.  My symmetry is not perfect, nor do I want it, and this side of the garden has some yucca from the pool area.  On the other side in the same space is Confederate Rose, free from my friend Janet.


Two tiny heads of confederate rose are to the right of the taller plantings.  You can simply cut a branch from an existing plant, root it in water, changing the water every day and sturdy roots appear after about three weeks.  Easy.  This is a fast growing rose and has a very interesting habit.  Kind of thinly orchestrated.

This is what it will look like:

confederate rose



Mistakes were made.  By me.  Planting two little red bud seedlings together stupidly thinking they would merge into one made our biggest red bud vulnerable in the last ice storm.  And we lost it.  It was in an area of the acreage that I had not paid enough attention to, so it is way past time a little creativity is applied.

And as I look at the space, all next summer is defined for me.  Hate that.

The universe contributed to the project by leading me to Lowe’s and eight red barberry bushes, a little less than dormant, ready to burst, for one buck each.  First thought about starting a garden area for my daughter who has horses; with the stickers on the barberry bushes I was pretty sure they wouldn’t eat them.

But evidently the bushes can create some kind of environment for mold or something that is not good for horses, so why invite trouble?  I took them myself and started the “garden” repair (this area never has been a garden, just three trees spanning the back of the pool).  Above, you can barely see the little bushes within the straw looking centipede grass which most of us use around here.  It crawls along sand “real nice”.


We have both red and white barberry here, and the deer leave it alone.  It is all stickers during the winter.


That is a huge consideration.  The deer take over at night.  Barberry shapes itself nicely and puts out a branch where the natural “sphere” it is making needs one.  The new growth is a ruddy pink as you can see on the tag.  It will work well with the trees.  There will be a lot of pink in the spring as the red buds offer a pink flower.


Look at this grotesque wall!  It simply must have tile and my whole summer was played out for inside the wall on the deck.  Momentum is happening there after two years of work.  And look at the amount of sod that has to be dug out.

The picture above was taken from the point where a new Nellie Stephens holly will be planted to mirror the one at the end of the wall.   Can only find one currently, in a 50 gallon bucket and costing 250 dollars.  Although these will be uneven for some years, it will have to be.  We have nine of these giants around the place in all different stages of life.

The past few years, I have started laying tile on the wall outside perpendicular to this one.  All different shades of white with white grout.  Only work here at the end of the day when some thin set is left.  Same for white grout.  The finished work is slowly growing and no time to speak of has been spent.  My brilliant friend Judy says the wall looks like dividing continents.  She is right, always right.



The nandina above is a volunteer.  We have them a couple of other places, and they propagate and move easily.   A whole line of them against a white tiled wall would be nice.  And we have the same thing going on elsewhere, which is a good thing for a composition.


These palmettos are along the bottom face of the front porch.  Busy summer.


Generations of girls have loved this book.  As a child in the suburbs of St. Louis, I could not imagine such a place as it presented: old walls and secrets and lost spaces that had been forgotten.  Unused rooms in a house. Romantic like a heath would be, or a cliff, or a moor,  or the ocean (any one of them) for that matter.  Anything other than poured cement streets and little measured squares, one house per.


The aesthetic of Frances  Hodgson  Burnett‘s book, The Secret Garden,  is called back in old movies, black and white.  Jane Eyre, Heathcliff, you know.  Making woodcuts outside in the movie “Enchanted Cottage”.

Advanced now in finding waste for building (today is broken brick day), when I first bought this acreage, it was beyond me to construct a walled secret garden.  So I planted bushes for walls.

Much different now than it was when first planted, you have to live long enough to appreciate it.


I planted four Nellie Stevens holly bushes,  two on each side of the gate entry, on both the pool side and the garden side.  They were planted too close so their spreads come together and a tunnel could be made.


You can see in the picture above that I let the garden side hollies grow up before letting the pool side ones.  Used to trim them into cubes.  In the future when all four are the same height, I hope to trim all four tops into one cone.


I do have walls around my secret garden, but they don’t contain it.


1-secret garden 4

On a little relief of grass sits a cement bench featuring an edge made of pieces of plates.  My pink oleander is straining for the sun these days.  Changes will have to come.  Ornamental grasses circle its base.


A mound of azaleas on the right and elaeagnus, the only one in the area that I trim to this extent,  lead into the garden.  During September and October, the fragrance of the elaeagnus  is dazzling.  My mother called this “Russian olive” and it was in her garden.  Don’t remember it being as fragrant as it is here.

The white tile path has to be moved this winter as the bushes are overtaking it.  Always move the path, never the bushes!


A line of red barberry interfaces another of holly, and they are the walls for the secret garden.  At the top of the picture are the Nellie Stevens hollies.


And what year was that?  2004? 2005?  That was a difficult winter.

The ice storm continued for two nights, and my adolescent live oak tree about folded itself in half.  Living alone here then,  the damage was overwhelming.  I hauled and burned for weeks and FEMA picked up damage for months.  After they left, the county still picked up damage we all managed to haul to the road.

It was not until I figured out how to use some of the damage creatively that the work became easier to do.  In the pictures above, you can see that the gardens are circled by big oak branches.  I started doing that during the clean up.  And every year, I add more as the older wood disintegrates.   These pictures show just part of the gardens here.

The ice storm, or “Nature’s pruning” as some optimistic people call it, did a number on our woods.  Where the crowns of the trees had created a round and loopy line as they reached the sky, after the storm, it looked like Death Valley in an alternate universe.  There was no crown to speak of on any trees, and the tallest pines looked like Dr. Seuss designed them.  They had lost all their limbs save the very top ones, and those tops were round and poofy.

One thing this huge pruning did for our woods is that sun got into places it had not for a while.  It was maybe two years later that I noticed huge white flowers at the top of what I had thought to be bay trees.  Were they really magnolias?  This brings me around to my current topic, my new garden around the new bedroom addition.  Almost done with it now, and spending no money other than the 20 bucks spent on a pretty large Japanese maple,  I transplanted two magnolias from the woods to the new space yesterday.

Well I am confused between bay trees and magnolia trees.  Doing a little research, the names of these trees jump around in both varieties with a spectrum of hyphenated choices.  Google “magnolia” and you get a number of different names: swamp magnolia, swamp laurel, laurel magnolia, white bay, bay magnolia, sweetbay magnolia, loblolly- bay, holly-bay; it goes on and on.  It seems that both bay and magnolia have creamy white flowers.  Is anybody clear about these trees and their flowers?  Somebody is, but there is a lot of contradictory information on the net.

I also saw opposing opinions about whether deer like bay trees or magnolia trees.  It seems deer will eat the tender flowers of either, if hungry enough. Thinking that maybe I could deduce what we have here with the fact that deer do not eat what i know for sure to be a Little Gem Magnolia, this seems to be a specious task as well.

Above is one of my Little Gem Magnolias in a huge pot, during the ice storm and sometime after.  The tree is the perfect height for deer to eat it, but they do not.  Some entries on the web talk about deer not eating the trees, but rubbing up against them, which can do its own type of damage.  I see none of that here.

Back to the new garden.  Below, on the left with a shimmer,  is the first bay/magnolia transplanted yesterday.

And here is the second.

As one website advised, magnolias with their shallow root system like water that leaches from fallen leaves of their own.  So I raked up the fallen environment in the little magnolia (?) woods across the driveway, and imported them here.



Glenn takes a rest with our mouse after struggling with transplanting three huge Burning Bushes that have not burned for years.  They were in another garden where an oak is taking over and they were not getting enough sun.  Here the amount of sun should be enough to get good red leaves going in the fall, and also to camouflage our new outdoor shower.  Closer to the brick pathway are Loropetalum, very small, rescued from under bigger examples of the same bushes.  They spent the summer in pots and are now big enough to be transplanted.  Love doing things this way.

The Loropetalum are in a little crescent behind the cement planter that has Creeping Betty in it  among other things.

Other rescued plants are three Azaleas, two planted in the small space between the shower pathway and stairs, and the third to the left of the cement planter furthest away.

The removal of the three burning bushes has left a huge empty space in the garden in front of the studio.

Above is the area where the spindly and not red Burning Bushes were growing.  They overwhelmed the little path, and now it can be seen better, although more cleaning up needs to be done.  Ajuga is exploding here, and trying to grow over my mosaic tiled path stones.  After cleaning that up, I will find some shade loving things to replant.

Thinking about replacement, I found this good candidate.  Deer are my enemy and deer don’t like this.  Shade is needed and here we have it in abundance.  And this color is great.

  Aralia Sun King.


The adding of a new master bedroom to our 1939 farmhouse has created brand new areas for gardens.  That alone is exciting enough, but Glenn came home with something which could have been very lame—an old satellite dish.  And he wanted to make a water feature out of it.  I could imagine a huge thing with DISH painted along the edge, but what he came home with has possibilities.  Of course, the dish was free.  Who has dishes this size any more?

The dish is a bit over six feet in diameter, and the edge is three inches in depth.  It can hold water already as you can see the rain from last night contained.  There are two possible places to incorporate this into the blank yet-to-be gardens created by the new addition.  Below is the more sunny and public option, connecting with the central area of the yard, around which are the two other buildings.

The more private place to put the dish, which would be more shady,  is to the side of the front of the house to which the woods come up closer,  and is used less.  Come to think of it, our bed will look out to this garden and possibly we could get some bird activity going if we chose this side, with water and feeders.  The faint rectangular edges of two windows are visible through the house wrap.

The small tree left standing in this area was once at the edge of the woods.

The tile mess below is the floor of the old side porch which had to be knocked down to incorporate the new room.  There are two big chunks still here, and this one will be dug into the earth outside the new little deck and become the base for an outdoor shower.

Just got the plumbing for the new room and outdoor shower finished today!


If you could have seen this acreage years ago, you would not believe what has been accomplished.  The series of circular gardens were born out of our huge two night ice storm,  around 2004.

The damage was devastating.  It was the worst natural event that I was “lucky” enough to live through, even with Hurricane Hugo in our history.

As with my cancer problems, I turned the physical mess into art.  It was then that this series of circular gardens were born; for months damage was burned, FEMA picked up a lot, but some defined these gardens.  Removing the damage was turned into a creative effort, and it was then that work did not seem so awful.

For me, with cancer, and with other problems, it is all left to art.  Or sometimes running.  It is in these venues that problems begin to be understood, and it always takes physical involvement.  Maybe the problems just perspire away!  Finding huge fallen trees long and lean enough for me to haul was just what was needed to turn this huge problem into something i wanted to do.  And it was free!

There are six of these circles on this side of the house, and a long parenthesis-shaped garden along side the middle circles. There are spaces between them large enough for the lawn tractor to get through.

This is the front garden from the line of circles and the newest one in this area.  This is yesterday.  It has a getting-bigger-all-the-time snowball bush in the center, and it had two pretty fabulous snowballs this spring.  It is the only one of three that has survived.  The deer love this bush.

Behind the circle, you can see that there are three posts with blue bottles hanging on.  There used to be a cedar fence along that line, which we removed yesterday;  it was getting a little worn, and my husband found cutting around it less than fun.

We took the parts of the fence, and made a tee-pee over the snowball bush garden to hopefully keep the deer from getting in close enough to snack.  If they needed the food last winter, what would happen when we have a normal winter?  This winter, even my annuals did not die.

This is the same garden this morning, with a tee-pee like barrier for the deer.  I have tried this before, unsuccessfully, but this is bigger and stands a greater chance of fending off the deer.  On one side, for an experiment, one side was left more open, but at the base,  we put lots of cedar bits with lethal looking side branches, standing up.  This winter we will see which idea is more successful.

Below is a Yoshino cherry tree which has been battling the deer for several years now.  Today we will make a better, bigger barrier.  Poor thing has never bloomed.


This is the view out the study window, where my writing takes place.  You have already seen the gliders on my front porch, just out the french doors from here.  So I have three gliders within close eye shot, in case sitting and swinging is needed.  We use them but also they are sculpture to me.

This glider hangs from the oak under which I placed the house several years ago.  It is where phoning takes place since the tin roof on the house wrestles with connections.  This glider was traded for a cool aid pitcher and one other silly thing about four years ago.  It is my only swinger.

Here is a cat’s eye view of the glider.  Notice the little vignette of bricks under it.  This is a current interest, and we have little outcroppings of brick all over the acreage in pertinent places.  The glider is in very good shape, and of course its rust and discoloration are still intact.  As with all my metal outdoor furniture, older paint jobs peek out from current ones.  It is great to show the history of where the glider has been.  We are all the result of our histories.

We have a series of circular gardens working down the side of our house, and here you can see ginger lilies in the foreground.  In the middle of this garden is a palm that is putting up its first flower ever.   Also in the garden are nandina, regular and dwarf.  Spider worts are let go until they get too invasive, and then I leave only the ones that are nicely placed.  There is also a small sculpture here made from old window weights.

Wherever our centipede grass does not grow, we install brick.  Ajuga helps in this job.