Monday, May 25, 2015

Spring Is Here, Do You Know Where Your All-American Selection Winners Are?

Last summer I was able to hang out with some of the smartest plant nerds in the county at the All-American Select Summer Summit. The highlight for me was tromping through the North Carolina Arboretum. The quilt garden was a tribute to gardening and quilting - both cultural institutes in the south.

Vegetable garden ides.

French marigolds in front of purple basil. 

I found some great inspiration for container gardening:

The gardens incorporated these antique olive baskets.

The repetition of rectangular lines was a beautiful foil to the Smokey Mountain backdrop.

The simplicity of red cordyline in these wooden planters was dramatic.

If you are low on space, the Arboretum had a clever display for a vertical edible garden.

And some great use of recycled products with their container plantings.

Cuphea llavae remains one of my favorite full sun, hot & dry loving summer annuals. 

Smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) 

Can you spot the rain barrels? 

Agastache - a beautiful perennial for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. You can also used the leaves of agastache for flavoring drinks. Hardy to zone 6. 

A beautiful bed of Coreopsis. Coreopsis is a reliable perennial for sunny spots that blooms throughout the summer. 

Asclepias tuberosa - butterfly weed - another magnet for hummingbirds, monarch butterflies, and other beneficial insects.

These pitcher plants -Sarracenia - look like organ pipes just singing away in all their beauty! These delicate beauties are actually carnivores, attracting bugs with sap and scent into their delicate-looking throats to become a nutrient source for the plant.

Gate artwork by David Brewin and Joseph Miller

So why should you be checking out places that grow All-American Selections?
Here's a quick "why AAS plants are worth seeking out" information from their web page:

What is All-America Selections®?

All-America Selections is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties then introduces only the best garden performers as AAS Winners. 

Who determines an AAS Winner? 

Independent AAS Judges determine the AAS Winners by judging and scoring the entries. The Judges score each entry from 0 to 5 points, with 5 being the highest. Judges report their scores after the growing season for that variety. Judges are located in geographically diverse areas all over the U.S. and Canada. AAS uses an independent accounting firm to calculate the average score of each entry. Only the entry with the highest average score is considered for a possible AAS Award. The AAS Judges determine which, if any, new, never-before-sold entries have proven superior qualities to be introduced as AAS Winners.

What qualities do the Judges score? 

Judges look for significantly improved qualities such as earliness to bloom or harvest, disease or pest tolerance, novel colors or flavors, novel flower forms, total yield, length of flowering or harvest and overall performance. In the last ten years an entry needs to have at least two significantly improved qualities to be considered by Judges for an AAS Award.

Why is an AAS Winner important to the home gardener?

The AAS Winners offer gardeners reliable new varieties that have proven their superior garden performance in Trial Grounds across North America, thus, our tagline of "Tested Nationally and Proven Locally®". When you purchase an AAS Winner, you know that it has been put through its paces by an independent, neutral trialing organization and has been judged by experts in their field. The AAS Winner label is like a stamp of approval.

Rudbeckia Indian Summer was an All-American Selection winner 1995 and continues to be one of my favorite go-to summer annuals for color displays. 

Diane Blazek, the Executive Director of All-American Selections, led our adventure to the North Carolina Arboretum.

Bluebird building her nest in one of the bluebird houses onsite. 

Check out these container plantings:

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun was an All-American Selection in 2003

Sunday, May 17, 2015

P. Allen Smith and the Garden2Blog Reunion 2015

This past week I spent a delightful few days with a very talented group of garden bloggers who were hosted by P. Allen Smith and some of his sponsors. This short video clip is a preview of pictures and stories to come once my planting season is over and I have more time to write! Thank-you, Allen and your warm and friendly staff, and to American Grown Flowers, Aromatique, Bonnie Plants, Crescent Gardens, Jobes Organics (Easy Gardener), First Nature, Flexzilla, Little Rock Visitor's Bureau, Sakata Home Grown, Stargazer Barn,  and Trios Restaurant.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Truth About Plant Nerds (or Leave No Plant Behind!)

When I returned home from my momma's funeral, I was determined not to leave any of the beautiful plantings that were given to honor her. This meant a 5.5 hour drive in something that looked like a mobile terrarium. But I am not alone in my plant obsession. Let me know if you can relate to this fun list by Jimmy Turner. 

21 Ways to know if you're a HortiHolic!  by Jimmy Turner
1.You took a career in gardening for the free plant benefits!
2.You’ve crossed international lines with plants in your underwear or socks.
3.You’ve dug something up in a cemetery that wasn’t dead  (or you keep a shovel in your car)
4.Your yard is planted in drifts of one
5.You “liberated” a cutting, seed, flower or plant from a public garden, park or garden center without asking or paying
6.You’ve lied to your loved ones about how much you spent on a plant/plants
7.You’ve seriously considered not divorcing someone, moving to a better job, or upgrading to a better house because you couldn’t move all of your plants
8.You’ve pushed, prodded, elbowed, kneed, blocked or in any way been less than nice at a plant sale
9.You’re trying to grow a shade tree from a seed or a 4” pot
10.You save old blankets and coats to protect plants in your garden during winter that should never be considered hardy here in the first place
11.You’ve broken up with someone for hating yard work or their dog dug up one of your plants
12.You buy plants with no idea where they are going in your garden….
13.You’ve moved a plant in your yard more than 3 times  (Gardening is just musical chairs with plants)
14.You can’t experience a garden without browsing... Like a sheep, nibbling, smelling, touching, fondling.
15.You can remember plant names better than people’s names...
16.Your boss, spouse, family don’t understand that you love the green of plants more than the green of money
17.You have a picture of a plant in your purse or cell phone you show off to friends or you’re carrying around a pic/plant to have identified
18.If you’d rather have a truck load of compost than a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates...
19.If you walk around your yard and describe plants by the names of the people you got them from....
20.The sales people at your local nursery know you by first name
21. Newest one... You move completely on the other side of the globe to follow your dream!

Jimmy Turner
Director of Horticulture for the Royal Botanic Garden and Domain Trust, Sydney, Australia

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Danger Garden

In the summer of 2014 I was able to visit Danger Garden - aptly named as I was soon to find out. But I was entranced by the array of succulents and mostly xeriscape plantings that turned this home landscape into an eclectic oasis of sharp beauty! Loree Bohl's plant collection and plant knowledge is vast and is a fascinating example of design using a wide variety of foliage color, cool containers, and campy humor. She expertly exploits the use of color echo and grouping to create little vignettes of interest throughout the garden. Enjoy this little visit to Danger Garden! 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Grief Is A River

Grief is a river that now wanders through my life. Flowing from a white-capped mountain’s loss it can seem a gentle stream that belies swift currents building as the river takes its form.

Grief is a river fed from the streams of memories that lay hidden beneath the surface, feeding into the flow at its appointed time. Sometimes a trickle of laughter-filled reflections or at times a torrent of tender tears rush to fill that river that winds its way through my days and nights.
Grief is a river whose eddies hold moments both fearsome and restful, waterfalls of emotions, meandering miles of reflection.
Grief is a river that needs to flow. Holding the river back, I can create what seems a peaceful respite.  Then a storm rages, the banks overflow, and grief pours uncontrollably through unguarded recesses of my heart.  Grief is a river that needs to flow – to tumble and purify over the rocky places; to seep into dry, barren places where love was forgotten, where forgiveness is needed; sediment memories transforming to silt as the river moves its way down to the estuary.


Grief, though fed with ever-pouring tributaries of life’s history, is a river that has its destination. The river heads relentlessly toward release.

Grief is a river that marks and maps my life yet in its movement renews and changes the landscape of my heart.

Grief is a river that needs to flow.

 In memory of Ann Hutchison Peake