Woodland Cottage’s Gardens on Tour

Looking through the woodland on a Summer's day

Looking through the woodland on a Summer’s day

I had the pleasure of opening my garden a couple of weeks ago to the Garden Bloggers Fling, which meets annually in cities around the country. We had an international group visit the garden. It was great fun. I’d like to share with you a marvelous article by Pam Penick, who has the blog Digging. I think she captured the garden here at Woodland Cottage very succinctly. Thanks, Pam, for a nice remembrance of your visit here! We love to welcome visitors! Here’s the link:







Posted under Blogs, Garden Tours, Garden Travel, Gardeners, Media, Southern Gardens, The Summer Garden, Water in the Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on July 9, 2017

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Greetings from Wilmington, NC

Loropetalum beginning to bloom in our front yard

Loropetalum beginning to bloom in our front yard

After what always seems like an eternity (in other words, getting through January), I made it down here to Steve’s in Wilmington.  I’ve been here a week and, already, I feel the relaxation and calm streaming into my body and the stress and tension slowly draining out.  The air is not all that much warmer down here–though I don’t sense the chill that emanates from the ground in Arlington at this time of year–yet the sun is much, much brighter, warmer, and intense.  It’s done wonders for my outlook!

We’ve had lots of rain.  That’s a good thing since there have been many years of drought and heat down here and the soil is practically all sand.  Great for digging (compared to the rocky clay in Arlington); not so great for holding moisture or nutrients.

With the rain and warmer sun, the plants are responding with bloom.

Carolina Jessamine around our front porch

Carolina Jessamine around our front porch

Camellia 'Taylor's Perfection'

Camellia 'Taylor's Perfection'

Cheerful Daffodils in the bright sunlight

Cheerful Daffodils in the bright sunlight

Carrying over from Winter, Tea Olives powerfully fill the garden with a deep, sweet fragrance

Carrying over from Winter, Tea Olives powerfully fill the garden with a deep, sweet fragrance

One of Wilmington’s crown jewels is the annual Azalea Festival.  This year, it’s happening April 10th-14th.  The entire town is filled with blooming Azaleas, gorgeous gardens (there’s a big fundraising tour) and glamorous belles–yes, in hoop skirts.  I was asked to write an article on a couple of the featured gardens for the April issue of Wrightsville Beach Magazine. Today, I met my charming contact and she took me by two of the gardens.  They are all that and some change, and I can’t wait for you to see them…but for that you’ll have to wait.  Meantime, I did snap some close-ups of flowers in these two gardens, and I’m sharing those here.





Variegated Winter Daphne

Variegated Winter Daphne...

And a lovely, canopied street here in Wilmington--appropriately called Live Oak Drive

And a lovely, canopied street here in Wilmington--appropriately called Live Oak Drive

Tomorrow, we are heading South for a week in the Low Country:  Charleston and Beaufort, SC, and Savannah, GA.  We can’t wait to get to our beloved Low Country and savor the gardens, history, architecture, and surprises along the way.  We want to explore the Sea Islands and see as many plantations and gardens as we can.

Photos by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Posted under Fragrance in the garden, Garden Tours, Garden Travel, Gardeners, Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, The Winter Garden, Travel


Ralph, my wise, old garden gnome.  He sees all.

Ralph, my wise, old garden gnome. He sees all.

I have an article due later this week on the subject of peanuts.  I’m looking forward to writing it, yet I haven’t gotten the urge or the inspiration to get started.  The deadline will get me moving, I know, because I have a deep-seated need to fulfill my obligations to the best of my ability.  I still see my mother staring at me, arms crossed, with tapping foot and pursed lips.  It will be on time.  The Miss Joan in my head will make sure of it.

Tonight, I’m avoiding the article on peanuts by writing in my blog.  How convenient!  I know I am not alone…often, my dear, brilliant attorney friend, Catherine, has writer’s block with the briefs she must file on time.  She’ll finish in time and turn them in; meantime, she knits, and writes blog posts, and brilliant articles for magazines.  I get that urge to avoid when the writing “don’t come easy”, as Ringo Starr sang.

I’ve been feeling a little melancholy lately, for various reasons.  Steve and I just came off a wonderful, Summer vacation to Savannah, Beaufort SC, and St. Augustine FL.  More on the trip in another post (with Steve’s great photos); let’s just say it was hard to come home.  I’m still having dreams of moss swaying lazily in live oak trees.

It’s the “off-season” for me, also, so my days aren’t as crazy and I have time to fill as I see fit.  It’s kind of a crack in the wheel of the year for me because everything is in that lull between the end of Summer and the start of Fall.  I don’t have to think too much about appointments and installations and garden maintenance and schedules and deadlines (other than the article deadline, that is)–everything seems to be hanging in suspended animation until a switch gets flicked and time says, “Okay. It’s time for Fall.”  I’m working on redecorating a bathroom, reading, and just staring into space thinking about all kinds of things.  One of those things is time.  As much as I love Fall, I’m sad to see the Summer go.

I felt propelled to my bookshelf today and pulled down “Every Day in Tuscany” by my penpal friend, Frances Mayes, my favorite.  I was thinking about time and, sure enough, she discusses it much in this book.  I’ve been reading all day and stopped many times to ponder.  So many thoughts about time came to me today.

It’s funny how clients are so different from one another in terms of “garden time” (thank goodness–it keeps my job interesting).  Some are patient (they get that a garden needs to grow and can take years to develop), and some are not (they want the end product NOW).  We gardeners know the answer, of course:  great gardens develop over time.  I was having dinner the other night with my dear friend, Crawford, who will be 90 next year, and we were talking about gardens and time.  I told him about my impatient clients.  He said, “What a shame that they miss out on the joy and pleasure of watching their gardens grow.”  Indeed.  But I didn’t let him off the hook, either.  I said, “You are just as guilty!  You cajoled, fertilized, watered, and just about put stretchers on your Pieris to get them to grow, remember?!  You complained for three years or so, and the fourth year they doubled in size.  How quickly you forget!”  He said, “Welllll–it was all that encouragement I gave them that made them grow!!”  We laughed.  Even in your 80s, you can learn lessons about time.

Remember, with plants:  “It sleeps, it creeps, it leaps.”  And that’s not just about English Ivy, either.  In my experience, it’s pretty much across the board, at least in the Southern climates where I live and garden.  Seems like the plants take forever to grow, then one day you notice suddenly that they’ve doubled and need pruning.  Astounding!  What a pleasure to be a gardener with a few years under my belt…now, I sit back and enjoy the process because I know the reward will come soon enough, at a seemingly increasing speed.

Steve was up this weekend, and after a delightful evening with a dear friend and her nephew on Friday night, we had a full Saturday night.  First, we were privileged to be invited to a 50th birthday surprise party for our friend, Stephanie.  What a cordial group of people, and when Steph walked in and heard the “SURPRISE!!!”, she started to cry.  The crowd burst into a lively version of “Happy Birthday”, and in the amount of time it took to sing the song, I could feel the honest and devoted love for Steph.  Her years devoted to cultivating these loving friendships all came to fruit in that one instant.  A moment in time, and a lesson for all of us.  It’s very easy for gardeners to see the metaphor here.

After our quick appearance at Steph’s party, we went out to Wolftrap (which is a local venue set in a national park here outside D.C.) to participate in a sing-along viewing of “The Sound of Music”.  So much fun and so many memories associated with the film.  On the way home, we discussed how the huge crowd joined together, joyfully, as one big unit, to celebrate the fun of this film.  For those three hours, we all had one thing in common:  our experience watching the film–not our differences.  It was a congenial,  civilized and laughter-filled evening I will remember.  Yes, some melancholy there, too, for me–I was seven years old when “The Sound of Music” was released in 1965 and much in my life has changed.  But “The Sound of Music” has remained the same, even as my own life is flying by.

This time of year, for me, is a time of thought:  “What’s next?”  The seasons are changing, days are shortening, nights are cooling. What will you plant in your garden this Fall?

Posted under Books, Garden Ornament, Gardeners, Random garden thoughts, Southern Gardens, The Fall Garden, The Summer Garden, Writers

Wilmington, NC, Garden Featured in Wilmington Star-News

Here’s a link to a wonderful article about Steve’s Wilmington, NC, garden, written by our friend, Katie Elzer-Peters for the Wilmington Star-News.  You can read the article here.  It gives you a peak into our garden down there. Enjoy!

Posted under Gardeners, Media, Southern Gardens

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on August 12, 2012

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A Moss Garden in Richmond, VA

In my last post, I wrote about moss paths.  I mentioned visiting a moss garden in Richmond, VA.  This evening, I was looking at past episodes of ‘A Gardener’s Diary’, hosted by Erica Glasener.

Mossy pathways at Woodland Cottage

Mossy pathways at Woodland Cottage

[A little aside here…this has always been my favorite garden show.  It used to be on HgTV (yes, big ‘H’, little ‘g’–they’ve let us gardeners down) at 7am Eastern, and I was up and on my stationary bike every morning at that time, ready to watch.  What a shame they took it off the air.  They need to put it back on!]

Anyway, the episode, ‘Mad About Moss’, is on Hulu.com currently, and Erica is touring the same Richmond garden I toured so many years ago, with the owner–but hurry, they will not be posted for long.  Here’s the link to the show.  Enjoy!  http://www.hulu.com/watch/315467

Posted under Gardeners, Media, Southern Gardens, The Spring Garden

‘Designer’s Favorite Plants’

Here is a link to an article I wrote in the May 2012 issue of Wrightsville Beach (NC) Magazine, titled ‘Designer’s Favorite Plants’.  Thanks to Marimar McNaughton for the opportunity to put together the article.  Enjoy!


Posted under Gardeners, Media, Southern Gardens

Nancy Goodwin’s Montrose Garden in Hillsborough, NC

I noticed Anne Raver wrote a piece in the New York Times recently about Nancy Goodwin and her garden in Hillsborough, NC, “Montrose”.  Here’s a link. Nancy wrote a book about her garden and her experiences there, Montrose: Life in a Garden.  It’s a lovely, informative read.

The garden at Montrose in late Summer

The garden at Montrose in early Fall

Steve and I visited there two Winters ago, and we had a personal tour through the garden with Nancy.  It was magical.  I wrote about it here.

The garden at Montrose in late Winter

The garden at Montrose in late Winter

Hillsborough, NC, is the American home, also, for Frances Mayes, (“Under the Tuscan Sun”) and her husband, Ed.  They’ve just completed a new cookbook, The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, which will be released next week, on March 13th.  Can’t wait!  Following the book’s release, they’ll start their book tour.

Posted under Garden Tours, Garden Travel, Gardeners, Media, Southern Gardens, Writers

Books for Snuggly Days

If you garden, Winter is a time of major dreaming. Dreaming about how our gardens will do this year, dreaming about maybe traveling to see some gardens, and, well…dreaming while sleeping.  It’s a great time for naps, snuggled up in your favorite old blankets and afghans.

Personally, my reading time is just before I sleep–at night or before a nap.  I relax and dig into whatever book I’m reading (though I might have two going at once), and reading lulls me to sleep.  Right before bedtime is the only time I have to read, during most of the year…having the extra time in the Winter is a real luxury and treat, and I do take advantage of it!

After a hectic holiday season and January, I finally finished up my long list of things to do and now I’m in Wilmington, NC, for a nice, long stay.  Ahhhhhh.  Even after being here for a week, I’m just now coming down off the craziness and beginning to relax.  Let the naps and reading begin!

I just finished reading The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough.  It tells about creative Americans who went to Paris between about 1830 and 1900.  You’ll recognize the names of many of the movers and shakers of American history.  If you love Paris, as I do, you’ll recognize so much of the city in Mr. McCullough’s words.  I learned so much from this book.

Of course, I’m reading garden books!  A book I’ve wanted to read for awhile is And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road by the wonderful blogger, Margaret Roach.  She is a former executive from the Martha Stewart empire and finally threw in the towel so she could do her own thing.  I confess that I just started this one, but I can tell I’m going to get sucked into it quickly.

Dominique Browning, former editor-in-chief of House & Garden magazine, left the fast lane, as well, but not by choice.  The magazine folded.  She wrote the wonderful book Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness about her post-job experiences.  I’ve read all her books, and this is my favorite.  Though I enjoyed her other books very much, I sensed an underlying anxiety that I don’t sense in this book.  What I see in this book is a letting go, and I can feel it happening as I read.  Gardening helped her find her way.  I really enjoy reading her blog, as well:  Slow Love Life.

One book that has really excited me this Winter is One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Home Place by Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown. I’d read over the years that Ms. Welty was a gardener, but who knew she was a capital “G” Gardener?  This book looks at the Welty garden in Jackson, Mississippi, which has been lovingly restored to the time Ms. Welty’s mother, Chestina Welty, was alive and tending it with her daughter.  I love the criss-cross of the history of the garden melded with Ms. Welty’s history.  I’ve maintained always that behind every garden and gardener is an interesting backstory, and the fact that Ms. Welty was a famous, Southern writer is not the main course here–her garden is.  This is a slant that we gardeners love.  It feels like a privilege to get a behind-the-scenes look at a very private part of this famous writer’s life.

Another book that just landed on the doorstep here in Wilmington is The Art of Creative Pruning: Inventive Ideas for Training and Shaping Trees and Shrubs by Jake Hobson.  I heard about this book here from the wonderful garden blog Garden Rant.  Okay–the photos in this book are plant porn, especially if you love your plants trimmed and controlled just so.  I’m not one of those people, but still…maybe I could try it, even a little?  This book is instructive, well-illustrated with examples and looks like a winner.  I’m looking forward to reading it, not just glancing.

I revisit two of my favorite books throughout the year (and years), not just Wintertime.  Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden and Mrs. Whaley Entertains were written by Emily Whaley, with William Baldwin.  Mrs. Whaley, who passed away a few years ago well into her eighties, had the most visited garden in the country.  She wrote these books in her eighties, and they are absolutely, wonderfully, cheekily delightful.  What a woman she was, and what a gardener.  The books describe not only her garden, but those of her childhood and old, old South Carolina family.  And we all get to listen to her life story, peppered with saucy opinions and comments.  She was Southern to the core.  These books are a quick read and great books in which to just get lost.  I love them.  (And I have a confession to make:  a few years ago, my talented Richmond friend, David Pippin, and I snuck into Mrs. Whaley’s garden on one of our Charleston trips.  We peeked quickly, then left in one piece.  Thank goodness!  We later found out she’d already died before we saw the garden.  How I wish we could have met her.)

As you can tell, my tastes go for essay-type books, whether they are garden or travel or cook books, which tend to be my favorites genres.  I like history, too.  But please:  don’t just give me the facts…tell me a story, too.  If an author does that, they’ve got me as a reader.

Steve and I are headed to our beloved Savannah, GA, tomorrow.  I don’t think I’ll have a lot of reading time (though some), but we will be trying to see every garden we can see.  First stop may be Boone Hall Plantation just North of Charleston, SC.  There was a freeze over the weekend, so some of the early bloomers may got zapped…I’ll keep you posted.

Photos by the author.  If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Blogs, Books, Garden Travel, Gardeners, Topiary, Travel, Writers