Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.


Carrying Plants Through the Winter in Water

Carrying Plants Through the Winter in Water

Yesterday, I talked about the elaborate preparations I made to carry plants through the winter inside my house when I was a young, energetic woman. Today, I’m going to admit to you that I either don’t carry plants through the winter in my house anymore, I just plant perennials, or I let the plants die a natural death outside and buy and plant new in the Spring.

 I have not been well as you know, and I just don’t have the energy to bring in and take care of plants all winter long! However, this year, I broke my own rules! I was feeling better as Fall began to bring cool weather, so I decided I had to try to save a couple of my beautiful annuals!  However, I also decided, that I’d only take cuttings of things that could root in, and survive in water! I’ve heard it’s not the best thing to do. They say plants rooted in water are never as strong as plants rooted in soil. But I know myself, I’m lazy, I’m tired. I’m not going to water my flowers regularly inside, so I need the built in insurance of having them already in water. So…how did they do? I figure they’ll be ready to plant outside in about a month, if the nighttime temperatures are regularly above 50 degrees. Remember, I’m in North Carolina, the sunny South! 

Sweet Potato Vine, Blackie, in a pot, Fall, 2012


Sweet Potato Vine, Blackie, rooted and
carried through the winter in water. 

 One of my favorite vines and fillers for container gardens are sweet potato vines. So, even though I’d planned to just let them go, as Fall got chillier and chillier, and the sweet potato vines held on, I just couldn’t stand to let that lusciousness die!  I love the burgundy colored, pointy leaved sweet potato vine, officially called “BlackieIpomoea batatas“.  So I cut about three vases full, and set them in windowsills for the long winter months! Don’t worry, I also love the looks of the chartreuse green “Margarita, Ipomoea batatas”.  They both thrive in full sun, even here in the hot, humid South! Furthermore, even though they are grown for their ornamental foliage, they also have lovely little lavender flowers that I personally love! So, I brought the lime green in also! 

Margarita Sweet Potato Vine
 after a long winter in water, March, 2013

However, you can
easily see that the
vines are struggling, 
getting paler and more dull by the day! “Come on  babies, just hang in there 4 more weeks! You can do it!”  (You do know you are
supposed to talk to your plants, right?)

Now, look at this beautiful 
pink mandevilla vine, growing on the railing of my wheelchair ramp last summer.
Now look closely at the picture of the four vases of plants on the tray on the left. See that leafless stalk sticking up back there in the back? Well, that’s all that’s left of the beautiful mandevilla vine! Think it will make it? Want to make me a bet as to whether or not it will grow again and flourish like this one last summer? We’ll see! I’ll let you know! 

Notice that there are four little plants in vases on the tray above. Two are sweet potato vines, one is the stalk of the mandevilla vine, now I’ve saved the best for last! The fourth 

Angel’s trumpet plant rooting
in water

plant, the one pictured on the right, was a cutting given to me by a good friend! It’s a very special plant that I am so excited to grow! It is an angel trumpet plant! It grows about five or six feet tall, is tropical, and is the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen! Hopefully, by the end of the summer, I’ll have a large enough plant to give cuttings away myself! One of the joys of gardening is having beautiful, growing things to share with your family and friends! Just look, look at this picture of a blooming, mature angel trumpet plant! Oh my gracious, I wish you could see it up close and personal. Come visit in late summer or early fall and I hope my plant will look like this! 

Angel’s Trumpet Plant
Angel’s Trumpet,pink

I have so many gardening posts I want to share with you! I want to show you all the trees and plants others have given to us, either as full grown plants right out of their own yards, or as cuttings for me to root. It’s absolutely amazing, and I recommend it highly as a feel good gesture on both sides! There are many other things as well, we will have fun together! 

Just a few more weeks until we can get out there and dig in the dirt! Alleluia!   Helen

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Gardening Interests, Habits, and Skills Change

Gardening Interests, Habits and Skills Change Over the Years
Yes, it’s March and Spring should only be a couple weeks away! I say should, because there’s a huge snow storm raging on the East Coast today, right next to us in Virginia they’re getting like five to ten or more inches of snow! That’s where all my family is, where I was born and raised, but here in North Carolina we’re only getting a few flurries!  Stuck inside, looking out, gardening is on my mind! Come on Spring!

When I was a young woman, before heart disease stole my breath and energy from me, when Fall came, I’d root any cuttings I wanted to take, repot things if necessary, bring them in and set my plants up in an ideal situation, as much as possible. I installed a huge tray of gravel, made of cookie sheets clipped together, like nine of them at least!  I’d set the flower pots on top of the gravel, voila, instant humidity for the winter house and great drainage for the plants! The cookie pans didn’t show by the way, and I put a thick piece of plastic under them to protect the tile floor from any leaks. Then my sweet husband installed grow lights for me, and even put them on a timer and a remote control! I fed or didn’t feed the plants based on the best research I could find. Pruned, rotated, did whatever my plants needed as I was a passionate gardener!  I used this set up for years, and felt so proud of myself! 

Of course, you know the story:  one child is born, second child born, parents get sick and need help, die, church involvement grows, kids grow, PTA and band boosters call!  We call it life. (I wouldn’t be so cavalier about the grief of my parents’ deaths, but it has been 33 years, and eventually you realize it’s part of life, but you miss them.) Plants, or our own interests, tend to take a back seat.

Suddenly, it seems, your kids are grown and independent; you retire, or have time to pursue you own passions again. Or in my case, you become disabled with a health condition, and after the initial shock and depression, you pick your head up and think, hmm…I can still do some of the things I love, with help! My help comes from my stellar husband Max, my daughters who are wonderful to me, and from friends and extended family whom I live and cherish for their support and help, although I hate needing it! See the wonderful wheelchair ramp Max built for me , and I use it everyday! Not being independent is a whole other post! However, as life changes, abilities change, and we have to adapt. The indoor garden was just too much to maintain and went by the wayside years ago! 

In 2003, we moved into the house where we live now, into a diverse neighborhood, diverse in ages, races, and faiths. I love it! Who can be bored with so many interesting people around! And lo and behold, there were gardeners here! Wow! Wise, experienced and skilled gardeners!  They lit a fire under me again!

 The most wonderful thing about the gardeners I found in my new neighborhood was that they shared! They shared their knowledge, “this is how you prune a cle-ma’-tis Helen”. They shared their plants, “here’s a cutting of a double red knock-out rose—take all you want!” They shared their philosophies, “gardening is a process…just let it unfold over the years…” Wow! I was in heaven! 

    I remember meeting a neighbor from a nearby street, one of my best friends now, but who, at the time, became named my “daylily buddy”! She had a yard full of the most gorgeous daylilies I had ever seen! She shared with me, and took me, wheelchair and all, to daylily shows and sales! Oh my gracious,  I fell in love with daylilies! Unfortunately, I was operating only on emotion… “oh, I love this color, oh look at these ruffles,  oh smell that fragrance!”  And I planted that way..with love and enthusiasm, not science or forethought! LOL  The bottom line is that I do not know the names of many of my daylilies, I just know I love them!  So, I am not the scientific gardener that I once was, oh I do a little research, but I am a happy gardener.  


Summer flowers still blooming in October

Look what’s still blooming in the Southern garden, where summer lasts a long time. Or, at least that’s usually what we’re saying about now, the end of September, beginning of October.

Single Pink Knockout Rose

But this year, we’ve actually had some nice fall weather in the last two weeks, with highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s.  I’m not complaining, I truly love this weather! It’s just that it seems unusual to me. Most Septembers are more about the heat than cool fall weather. Usually, we are still sweltering under 90-95 degree days with muggy nights in the 70’s. Nobody can yet imagine wearing a furry Halloween costume at that rate.(Excuse the tangent—been shopping costumes with grandchildren!)  It’s usually about the 3rd week in October before we get a cool down.  Well, this year has been different. Its been a cool down to fall-like weather since mid September! All that is to say, I wonder how these summer flowers are hanging on? With lows in the 50’s, almost 47, some nights, and highs barely out of the 60’s, Fall is here.Most annuals don’t like temperatures lower than 50 degrees, so I’m sure their days are limited.

Double Pink Coneflower, middle blooms pink as well
Double Pink Coneflower, before center “blooms”

Mandevilla Vine, pink

Impatiens, pink and white

Vinca, white and pink volunteers

Endless summer Hydrangea

Gardenia Shrubs, belonging to neighbor Laura, I am growing one from a cutting.

Sweet Potato vine, flowering

Sweet Potato Vine, Marguerita, chartreuse green

Knock Out Rose, double, grown from cutting from friend’s bush

Verbenia, Purple, “Homestead”, ground cover

Black-eyed Susan

I understand the mums, asters, liriope and sunflowers still blooming  along with the sedums, and the autumn clematis, obviously they ae fall flowers.  However the coneflowers, the mandevilla, impatiens, vinca, endless summer hydrangeas, gardenias, zinnias, sweet potato vines, knockout roses, verbena, and black eyed susans, …I would have thought they’d have gone dormant by now, or at least not be blooming! Not that I mean to be complaining, I love these beauties, and love that they are lasting longer than I expected! I am just observing their longevity, and enjoying the blessings they bring to my life. 

Daisy Mum, just beginning to bloom, October 1, 2012

Autumn asters


Sunflower belonging to my neighbor Dee
This was a volunteer, a gift from the birds?

Over the years, I have kept garden journals and scrapbooks. Why is it helpful to know what blooms when, and other facts about your flowers?  It can help you a lot– it helps you strategize for winter care, be prepared for Spring bloom, and to know when to divide, move, fertilize, or prune your plants.  We’ll explore all of these subjects at a later date. Right now, I’m watching what’s going dormant, what’s coming out, and deciding what I want and am energetic enough to bring inside in a pot or as cuttings to be rooted, and carried through the winter. The important thing is just to enjoy every  blossom while it lasts. Hope you have a great day today, maybe in your own garden! Helen


What’s still blooming on the first day in Fall?

What’s still blooming on the first day in Fall?

      It’s a beautiful Fall day, with a crystal clear blue sky above and green grass below!  The air is crisp and clean as only Fall can bring!  Sometimes, this time of year, I feel kind of sad as I walk though my garden, because all the pretty flowers are disappearing! I love to garden as much as anything! Digging in the dirt, even pulling weeds is the best therapy in the world as far as I’m concerned.  But a few days ago, on the very first day of Fall, 2012, I rolled around the garden in my power wheelchair, even my  neighbors’ gardens, and was surprised how much I found still blooming!  Since I am strictly an amateur gardener, and handicapped at that, my work is more love than skill. But I hope some of you will enjoy sharing these thoughts with me. I’m also sure you’ll hear more about the neighborhood as well, as many of us garden, and  boy, some have great gardens! 
       With this blog in mind,  I actually took my camera along  and  used it to share with you what I found!   Like this autumn aster, isn’t it      incredible! 

              The little purple flowers with yellow centers look just like the asters that grow in a mound, like mums.  However, these grow 5′ to 6′ tall! They’re perennial, and they spread, so you always have some to share!  I bought my first plant of these autumn asters from an award winning gardener who lives in Oxford, NC. She warned us that they could/would spread. They increase in a circular patch that gets bigger every year. This patch in my front garden is only about 3 years old, and it probably covers about a 5′ by 5′ area. It likes full sun, and average moisture. It blooms for 3 weeks or more.  As I sit here at the computer, this lavender cloud is right outside my window, what a lovely sight!
     Further out in my
front yard, are these darker lavender Mexican Petunias. These were a gift to me from my  neighbor Laura, who received them from another neighbor! These beauties actually bloom all summer and into the Fall. Actually, this picture is of Laura’s plants. Mine are tall, and bloom sporadically, but they are in too much shade. Laura’ face the East, Southeast, so get sun all day ! They are also where they get plenty of moisture., and they are beautiful! They’ve been blooming since May or June, and they are perennials!  I just love them.
   Moving around the side of the house, towards the back, is our huge canna lily garden! We do have some elsewhere as well, but here on our little 1/2 acre, is a twenty by ten foot garden of canna lilies! These red ones  are about six feet tall, similar to the asters!  They’ve been blooming all summer as well, since about June at least. The amount of light and moisture makes a lot of difference in the growth of cannas. Even though you see them along highways, they actually  do thrive better with moisture. I try to be sure mine get at least one inch of water per week.  However, even in drought, cannas do okay, and continue to bloom. They just grow taller and bloom more with adequate moisture. Canna’s also multiply and spread like wildfire! One canna in the Spring, will be surrounded by 5 in the Fall, and 10 when they return the following Spring! Therefore they are a great pass along plant as well. 
           Our whole neighborhood loves to share their plants, so you see canna lilies fairly often! We even have some growing on the north side of our house, and indeed,they are only half as tall, but just as lovely! In just a couple of weeks, when all the blooms are done, we will cut the cannas back to about 3 inches tall, cover them with mulch or pine tags, and let them sleep until Spring.  

       This delicate, frothy , sweet smelling vine covering my water barrel, and the banister of our deck, is a sweet autumn clematis, and one of my favorite things! There is no way you can continue frowning, or be sad, when you come in proximity to this joyful looking and smelling plant! It is a deciduous vine, , loses its leaves, and as a vine, covers anything it touches! But oh, come the end of August, early September, there is nothing more breathtaking here in North Carolina in my mind. It also gives me a good excuse to beg people to come over to visit–“come see, oh come see it and smell it! Its blooming! You’ve gotta come see!” LOL  anything to get the neighbors over!
    There were four or five or more other things actually still blooming, although the main flower season is undoubtedly coming to an end. But I think I’ll wait and have fun writing about some more, a second way to enjoy them, in the next blog post.  Hope you are having a great day and that maybe you are out in your own garden. Helen