Friday, April 23, 2010


I planted four Japanese Snowball bushes in 2006 that I ordered from Greenwood Nursery. (Wow, their prices have really gone up since then.) It didn't take me four years to realize that the flat-headed "lacecap" flowers on my shrubs do not look like the fluffy white rounded snowball heads of the shrubs on the Greenwood Nursery website!

japanese snowball year 4

So I set out to find an explanation. I consulted the trusty Internet before contacting Greenwood Nursery, as I have called Greenwood with questions/problems in the past, and to be honest, they haven't established a good reputation with me for their customer service.

I did a google image search for "japanese snowball" and found shrubs with various flowers, but all sharing the same arrow-shaped leaf. Apparently these shrubs are all different varieties of the genus "Viburnum." With over 150 species, I decided to give up trying to conclusively identify my viburnum and resorted to emailing Greenwood to draw the issue to their attention. They have not responded to my query.

While it's not the plant I thought I was getting, it's still a lovely shrub. The Greenwood website claims the plant flowers Spring, Summer and Fall (which is one reason I was drawn to it), but they're fibbers, as it only blooms in the Spring. I have no idea how tall it will be at maturity, but it is currently 5'. I'm hoping it doesn't get much taller, as it fits into this setting very nicely. Perhaps it wouldn't mind a little pruning in the Fall.

japanese snowball year 4

Read this fantastic article from for a more in-depth discussion of viburnum.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Prairie Petite

Lilac is my favorite scent on earth. It's too bad for me that lilacs bloom only once a year, and for a very short amount of time.

When we moved into the house, I knew I wanted to plant lilac somewhere in the yard, but to be honest, I'm not really fond of the dull Summer foliage and oversized often leggy habit of the lilac bush. When I saw a "miniature" lilac in the Park's Seed catalogue, I was very excited, and despite the $30 price tag, ordered one for my purple and yellow perennial bed.

Here is Prairie Petite at the start of his 4th year. It took this little fellow a lot of energy to make those two blooms you see there, so don't laugh!

prairie petite lilac year 4

I don't think he's grown much since last year. This bush is supposed to stay under 4', but I didn't realize they meant this much under 4'!

prairie petite lilac year 3

He was a tiny little guy at year 2.

prairie petite lilac bush

But not as small as when I first planted him.

prairie petite lilac

Since he isn't taking up much room, I'll let him stick around a while longer!

Park's Seeds does not offer this plant at this time. I did find the same plant for sale at White Flower Farm if you are interested. I have never ordered from this site, but I have friends who reported good experiences with their plants.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nature's Diamonds

The roses are not yet blooming, but Mother Nature adorned them with an early gift a couple days ago - a strand of diamonds delicately strung around each tender leaf.

water beads on rose leaves

I was amazed how beautiful something so seemingly simple could be.

water beads on rose leaves


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring Surprises

The herb garden was covered under several feet of snow this Winter at least four times. I was surprised to find so much green after the snow melted. I expected a brown twiggy mess!

herb garden

The chives are from seeds I sowed two years ago. They finally look ready to eat!

I learned today that parsley is not an annual as I had previously thought, but a biennial. A biennial does not bloom until its second year and then dies. This parsley didn't bloom last year, so I guess it will push out some seed this year and then retire. Although it's a biennial, I didn't expect to see it thriving under all that snow!

parsley survived winter?

The chamomile was the big surprise. This is definitely an annual plant, but doesn't seem to know it. I sowed chamomile two years ago (with the chives), and it reseeded itself last spring. It did not bloom last year, so this is the same plant that survived countless hard freezes and of course a lot of snow.

chamomile survived winter?

I just never know what to expect from plants! It's like they've got a mind of their own ...


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sowing the Spring Veg

We broke ground in the vegetable garden two weekends ago. The main goal was to eradicate all the nasty weeds from the soil so the peas, lettuce and beets could take their place. We got most of the weeds dug out and the all the seeds sowed.

garden in spring

This bed is just full of a new stubborn weed that has made its way into our yard - probably via a bird dropping or an ambitious squirrel storing up naughty seeds for the Winter.

weedy garden bed

It forms a thick mat of white flowers, bolted into the ground by really strong roots. You have to dig it up with a shovel!

weed in the garden

It's not horribly ugly, but it certainly doesn't belong in my vegetable garden! I gave a half-hearted attempt at identifying this weed, but gave up pretty quickly. If you know what it is, please share. I always like to call plants by name as I'm chucking them into the compost!

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Monday, April 12, 2010


The first week of April brought unusually warm temperatures for the mountains of western North Carolina. This wasn't much of a shock since our Winter was "unusually" cold. I'm learning quickly that there is never anything "usual" about the weather here in Asheville!

Although it is a little early to think about hardening off the vegetable seedlings I sowed in early February, I thought I would bring the tomatoes out to stretch their legs in the warm sunshine.

tomato seedlings

I am growing Costoluto for the third year, because it's my favorite variety and has proven itself year after year. I'm also trying two new varieties; Cupid , my first grape tomato, and my first yellow variety, Jubilee.

I decided to retire my love for Marcellino this year after an awful mess of cracked fruit last Summer. I just can't handle another heartbreak like that!

Last year I used a seedling heat mat when sowing the veg to speed germination, then placed them under artificial grow lights. Something went wrong, because all the tomatoes were thin and spindly - poor little things. I did some research this year and corrected my mistake - you have to place the seedlings no less than 2" from the light source. I propped the seed tray up on a couple of boxes to get the plants closer to the light, and this year I have a healthy lot!

hairy tomato legs

At 8 weeks the stems of these plants are thicker than the ones I planted in the garden last year at 14 weeks!

Have you ever wondered why tomatoes have such hairy legs?

hairy tomato legs

I've looked all around the Internet and can't find a conclusive explanation. One source claims the hair secretes an antibiotic, while another claims the little hairs assist new root growth. If you have your own answer, please share it with me!

Now I just have to hold off until Mother's Day weekend to set these beauties in the ground. Blast mother nature for trying to trick me with this warm weather! I know there's another hard freeze around the corner, lady. You can't fool me!!

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Year 2 in the Tulip Patch

I planted red and yellow tulips in the front yard two Falls ago, and they bloomed beautifully last Spring. Most of the bulbs came back up this year too, but their colors have faded a bit. While they are still beautiful, I think they will get replaced this Fall.

tulip planting

Last year this pink tulip was bright red.

pink tulip

And these striped tulips were solid yellow.

yellow and red tulips

They are still lovely though!


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Wake Up Roses - Spring is Here!

We had four big snows this Winter, each one a little smaller than the next, but still enough to incite a panic attack in me about the safety and comfort of my poor roses.

The first snow buried the roses completely. Just looking at these photos still makes my stomach turn.

stupid roses under many feet of snow

When I woke up the next morning, I freaked out, grabbed a shovel and spent two hours meticulously digging out their 6' branches.

stupid roses had to be dug out

After the first snow, I gave up on digging them out, mostly because I was exasperated by the awful Winter and didn't want to step foot into another drift of freezing coldness. Besides, if the first snow didn't kill them, successive snows probably wouldn't either. By the end of Winter, the weight of all that snow left their branches bowing in reverence to mother nature, begging her to lay off the white stuff!

Thankfully mother nature recently completed her stay in rehab, and the weather has warmed up very quickly! A couple weeks ago I decided to give the roses a liberal pruning to celebrate the arrival of warmer days. They were just starting to bud out, so the timing was perfect.

pruned back knockout roses

I cut them down to about 3'. I have to admit that I was very nervous about pruning the shrubs back this far and contemplated each cut a little longer than probably necessary. In the end they were a twiggy mess, but in just one week they have budded out nicely.

pruned back knockout roses

I tried to abide by the rule of pruning 1/4" above an outward facing bud to promote proper branching, but when you're making over a thousand cuts, it's sometimes not possible to find the perfect outward facing bud. Thankfully knockout roses are pretty forgiving.

I do need to invest in a better set of pruning shears though, as I couldn't open my hand for two days after the prune-stravaganza!