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If you love to garden and love to travel, IRELAND should be near the top of your list.

The Wicklow Mountain region south of Dublin is called Ireland’s garden spot (with good reason). Powerscourt, the most visited garden in the country was voted number 3 on Nat. Geo’s list of the world’s top gardens.

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It is a garden on a grand scale–think Downton Abby with a shovel–

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Pebble paving, Italian terraces, lots of statues and fountains–

Mount Usher in the village of Ashford is very different.

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A wild river garden that’s over a hundred years old, it’s all about layered plantings, meandering paths, and HUGE trees, from around the world.

Check out the steps that rise from the tree roots. You have to go though the two trunks to climb–

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Yes–there is a traditional English style perennial border, but like so much of Mount Usher, it’s a surprise. You find it though a small arched opening in an enormous hedge wall.

I LOVE this garden!!


I’ll admit nurseries do have a lot of splendid plants. And I’ve dropped a TON of cash in them over the years.

But the summer flowers I love the most are home grown. All came from seed I purchased years ago. All continue to reseed with abandon in my garden, so lucky me, I’m never without.

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Woodland tobacco is at the top of the list. I love these upside down candelabras. Need I say that tobacco grows well in NC? Unlike the smoking cousin, these plants do well in part shade.

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This purple plume celosia is another can’t-live-without plant. It’s tall, with colorful foliage, splendid for cutting and looks beautiful in a large summer/fall vase.

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Tina James evening primrose opens fragrant lemon colored blossoms as the sun goes down. Can you say drama? Having this plant is like a having a slow-mo photography show right in your front yard. Kids and non-gardening neighbors are always amazed.

That’s my list. What about you? Any late summer flowers you can’t live without?


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What’s wrong with my heirloom tomato plant?

Well, it’s an heirloom for one. And that’s a big ONE.

While heirloom tomato are prized for their flavor, these open-pollinated plants are especially disease prone.

They get leaf diseases and wilts, and there’e no stopping either–so don’t go running off the plant chemical aisle at your local seed and feed.

Our rainy summer only made it worse.

I asked one of my favorite vendors at my favorite farmers market, WWFM in Morrisville, how they managed to have such a large and beautiful heirloom tomato crop when my plants always fall victims to disease.

The answer is hoop houses. The folks from Redbud Organic Farm in Alamance County also water with drip irrigation so the tomato foliage never gets wet.

And like most serious farmers, they have room to rotate their tomato crop–something home gardeners like me rarely have the space to do.

So should I give up on heirlooms? Never. The few Black Krim that I get from this unsightly plant are more than worth the time and space–truly sublime in fact.

Ugly plant, lovely fruit

Ugly plant, lovely fruit

But the bulk of my tomato crop will always be hybrids with lots of disease resistant and proven track records in the SOUTH.

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What about you??? What are your best and worst tomato plants of the season? (It’s never too late to start planning next Spring’s seed order.)


Coleus are great mixers. Who can’t use more. So when my little sister gave me these cuttings last month, I couldn’t wait to root them.

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The cuttings will keep in water for a few days. In fact, they’ll even sprout roots in water. But when it comes time to transition them to soil, I always have too many causalities. That’s why I like to root all my cuttings in professional growers medium. It should be moist, but not soggy. Pack it in pots and use a stick to make a deep hole for each cutting. Don’t crowd. The leaves shouldn’t touch.

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Rotting hormone speeds the process. Just remember, dump the power out and roll stems. Dipping stems in the container will contaminate your powder.

Note (in the photo below) that I’ve stripped off many lower leaves. Those spots on the stem are where new roots will grow.

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Next I’m going to knock off the excess power and put the stem in the pot. Press the soil around it well so there are no air pockets.

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Finally, I put my cuttings in pots to protect them, and put my pots in a shady place. These are under a large, open shrub. Don’t let them dry out and in a few weeks, voila–free plants!

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This is also a great method for rooting begonias, hydrangeas and other soft stems. Just remember to take more cuttings than you think you’ll need. Even the greenest thumbs lose some cuttings along the way.

So what’s up with your green thumb these days????


If I can just get up an hour early and get out in the garden at least once a week I’m a happier person.

Benefit # 2 is a happier garden. (It likes to be tended.)

Here are 4 chores I tackled and completed early on the morning of July 15th.
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I sprayed the weeds in the walk and drive way with a homemade mixture of 1/2 gallon white vinegar, 1 cup of Epson salts, and a little bit (1/8 of a cup) of blue dawn dish washing liquid. While this mix won’t kill poison ivy, it gets most grass and weeds, and it’s much safer than Roundup to use around our dog-child.

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I picked and watered the tomato plants which need almost daily care this time of year. The cherry and plum tomatoes will be slow roasted and frozen. As for the rest–‘mater sandwich anyone???

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I collected the seeds from my favorite blue larkspur by cutting the dried pods and dropping them head down into a paper sack. The sack will sit on a shady porch, air-drying the seed until fall when I’ll rake them in the garden for next year’s spring blooms.

july_coleus

Finally, I stuck some coleus cuttings my sister had shared. These colorful plants are easy to root and the perfect foil for fall flowers and leaves. More on the process in my next post.

So what’s going on in your garden???

A long-time gardener and a passionate beginner share the dirt on their NC gardens-

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