Romancing the Azalea

Here’s a link to my latest article for Wrightsville Beach Magazine, “Romancing the Azalea”, in celebration of the upcoming, annual Azalea Festival in Wilmington, NC.  Enjoy and Happy Spring!  (Hoping for a warm up soon!)

Posted under Garden Travel, Media, Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, Travel

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on April 3, 2013

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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.

Camellias...

Camellias...

Forsythia...

Forsythia...

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

Spring Continues to Dazzle

As in all gardens, each Spring day brings something new.  Here at Woodland Cottage, we are passing from early to mid-Spring.  Soon, we’ll be in what I like to call “full Spring”–when the Azaleas and Dogwoods are really kicking.  It occurs usually when the mid-season Azaleas come into bloom.  That will be soon.

We landscape designers have been hopping double-time this Spring!  I haven’t had much time to sit down and write to you–I apologize.  I hope these photos will make amends for my slacking off!

Happy the Buddha is glad it's Spring!

Happy the Buddha is glad it's Spring!

Epimedium rubrum next to the waterfall

Epimedium rubrum next to the waterfall

I love the new growth on Fatsia japonica.  I have several.

I love the new growth on Fatsia japonica. I have several.

This is my favorite Camellia japonica.  I’m not sure of the variety.  Does anyone know?  It is one of my latest blooming varieties…just finishing up now.

Camellia japonica, unknown variety

Camellia japonica, unknown variety

An old-fashioned favorite, Calycanthus floridus, is a native here.  I call it Sweetshrub; some call it Carolina Allspice.  My dear friend, Catherine, has it encircling her screened porch–heaven.  She calls it Spicebush.  Here it is, the dark brown/maroon flower in the foreground.  It has a sharp, spicy scent.

Calycanthus floridus, foreground

Calycanthus floridus, foreground

Chinese Snowball, Viburnum macrocephalum, just coming into bloom.

Chinese Snowball, Viburnum macrocephalum, just coming into bloom.

I have an unknown Variegated Pieris, Pieris japonica, with spectacular red growth in the Spring.  It fades to the variegated, green leaves over time.  With a background of Bloodgood Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, the pair is a real show-stopper.

Wow! Variegated Pieris, foreground, with Japanese Bloodgood Maple in the background.

Wow! Variegated Pieris, foreground, with Bloodgood Japanese Maple in the background.

Spring bursts forth on the back hillside...

Spring bursts forth on the back hillside...

...as Ralph, my wise old gnome, oversees it all with happiness.

...as Ralph, my wise old gnome, oversees it all with happiness.

Posted under Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden

Early Spring in Savannah

Forsyth Park, Savannah

Forsyth Park, Savannah

We just got back to Wilmington, NC, from four days in the Savannah, GA, area.  Lawsy, it was nice.  Most of the time, it was cloudy and cool, but Thursday the sun popped out and the temperature went up to 75F.  We threw on some shorts and a t-shirt and headed into the historic district for a nice walk.

Peeking into a lush courtyard...

Peeking into a lush courtyard...that's Fig Vine or Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) on the walls. I've seen it in the warmest parts of zone 7b, very protected, but it's probably best grown in zones 8 and higher, where it might still experience winter burn.

Rest easy, my Northern friends:  Spring is headed your way–it’s beginning already in the Deepest South.

Iris

Iris

Like most of the rest of the Deep South, Savannah had a freeze last weekend.  It happens most years–something in bloom gets fried.  This year, it was the Camellias and Tulip (or Saucer) and Star Magnolias, and even some of the early Azalea blooms.  Full bloom and frozen to mush.  That’ll be it for those Magnolias this year–darn–yet the Camellias still have lots of undamaged buds, and they will open as the warmth returns.

Frost damage, Tulip/Saucer Magnolia

Frost damage, Tulip/Saucer Magnolia

Frost damage, Azalea

Frost damage, Azalea

In South Carolina, the wild Carolina Jessamine is in bloom, climbing the trees everywhere you look.  Here in Wilmington it is just beginning.  Even in the mildest parts of the country, Spring is coming earlier this year.  The blooms are headed North soon!

Early Azaleas coming into bloom

Early Azaleas coming into bloom

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

Posted under Climate Change, Garden Travel, Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, The Winter Garden, Travel, Weather vagaries