Great Dixter, England

“It feels like walking into a Dr. Seuss book.” A friend pretty much summed up Great Dixter in those few words. Parts of the centuries-old home were listing in different directions, the flowers were dancing among each other, succulents and container plants were artfully, yet playfully, arranged and topiaries rose out of a meadow. Classic design features and familiar plants were not as expected. Great Dixter combines amazing plants and horticulture with whimsy – letting Nature laugh (which always makes a lady more beautiful.) 


I thought the most impressive features of Great Dixter were the many containers and succulents in the landscape and the meadows. Here are a few images from my visit.  More can be seen on my Pinterest garden visits boards.








Dream Vacation for Garden Geeks – in Carolina.

This weekend I am reading up on the gardens I will soon be visiting in England. The adventure starts with a week in Sissinghurst, staying at the Priest’s House on the grounds. We can actually wake up in the morning, pad over to the window, and look out onto the famous White Garden. This stay includes access to Sissinghust grounds before and after hours. From there we will take day trips to nearby historic gardens and charming villages.

But you can have a similar experience by only crossing one state line, not a whole ocean. In March 2011 I attended a retreat at the Inn at Middleton Place. This inn is LEED certified, with each room offering a view of the river. Stroll down a path through the trees and enjoy a delicious breakfast outdoors or in a dining room with a woodland view. Middleton Place is one of the most famous gardens in the world, featured in landscape history courses and advertised as ‘America’s oldest landscaped gardens.’ It has been under the same family stewardship for over 300 years. One resident was President of the First Continental Congress, another a signer of the Declaration of Independence, The live oaks and camellias are ancient by our standards and the gardens and statuary are wonderful. It is where the first Camellia japonicas were probably introduced by André Michaux in 1786 and probably one of the places John and William Bartram visited (when they weren’t back in Philly chatting with Ben Franklin.) Middleton Place is also stunningly beautiful and peaceful.

Back to my visit. On Sunday morning I jumped out of bed, grabbed a camera, jacket and notebook and wandered the gardens at Middleton Place for a few hours, having the entire garden to myself. The birds were waking up. It was an incredibly peaceful, inspiring morning. Many of these photos are from that early March morning. I would think it would be as memorable an experience to visit the garden at twilight in summer, or during an early summer morning. Oh, and visiting other historic gardens and charming villages? The Inn at Middleton Place is about 15 miles from Charleston and just down the road from Magnolia Plantation and Drayton Hall, both well worth visiting.

Grow Your Own Food – with Style!

What’s trendy in home landscapes right now? It’s not just outdoor living spaces that include kitchens, it’s growing the food to cook in those kitchens. Trendy, topical, healthy, slow food – oh girl, you have got to jump on board. No, no, no – I’m not talking renting a tiller and digging up a rectangle in your front yard for the corn crop (although you could if you want to – and if the neighborhood association will let you). Let me tell you how you can sneak kitchen delicacies into your landscape and raise the most local of local food without converting your backyard into an organic farm.

Herbs are about the easiest to grow plants and look great in the landscape. Two things that keep most herbs happy: plenty of sun and good drainage. Snipping some rosemary, oregano and basil from your container plantings as you are preparing dinner adds more than flavor to your kitchen – it adds class.

Plant a few veggies among your perennials and annuals. You may want to plant one cherry tomato and one slicing tomato. You don’t have to use a classic tomato cage – try a 4×4 post with a finial or strong, ornamental, metal support to support a tomato. Remember you will have to get to your tomato plant to harvest. Sun and air flow are important – it can’t be tucked behind mature shrubs. And don’t forget green peppers, which are attractive, glossy green plants that fit well into a landscape. If you do tuck a few edibles in your landscape, you do need to be careful with chemicals in your garden.

The green industry has been working hard to create vegetables that are colorful, interesting, flavorful – and grow well in containers. There are many, many vegetables now available as both plant and seeds bred to produce in containers and small spaces.  Look to your local nursery or Renee’s Garden ( for inspiration.

Look beyond the typical summer season to grow fresh vegetables. Cool season crops can keep the ground productive in spring and fall. Early spring can produce radishes and turnips. A few asparagus plants can provide a bit of asparagus, then tall, ferny foliage in the perennial border throughout the summer.

A tomato plant can provide a wonderful, flavorful summer harvest, but if you plant blueberries you can have an annual harvest for years. Blueberries have it all – delicate spring blooms and colorful fall foliage on a native plant that produces tasty fruit full of antioxidants and vitamins. Blueberries can be mid-size shrubs that produce best when there are three shrubs that include different varieties. I highly recommend planting three blueberries if you have the space, but there are many varieties of patio blueberries available now: blueberries that stay under 3’ tall and produce even if you have only one plant. These blueberries, like ‘Blue Suede’, which was bred in the South to produce lots of berries over an extended season, grow well in a container on a patio or deck.

OK, rosemary on your chicken and basil on your tomatoes are impressive, but what about lavender flavoring your sugar cookies, edible flowers decorating your plate, home-grown herbal tea (try a $3 pack of Hibiscus ‘Herbal Tea’ seeds from Renee’s Garden), or redbud blooms tossed into a salad? Who says you can’t have your flowers and eat them too?

Large Containers

Hey! – I wrote a guest blog on the Gardeners Confidence website about container gardening.

Mesmerized by Bonsai? Who isn’t?

To me a bonsai has everything wonderful wrapped up together: nature, gardening, history, art, mystery, even spirituality. One speciman reflects years of purpose, of direction that shaped and committment by someone to care for this tree or shrub, to make little adjustments and keep it happy. I truly appreciate the art and love to look at bonsai. If you also like bonsai, then it is well worth it to see the bonsai collection at the Monastery Greenhouse located at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit off Highway 212 in Conyers, Georgia ( But if you want to try to train a bonsai yourself, there are a few classes scheduled that can help you get started:

Bonsai 101 begins at 10:00 am on February 25th at Smith Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw. The affordable $15 fee includes admission into the gardens. Call 770-919-0248 or visit for more information.

Beginning Bonsai also starts at 10:00 am, but a few weeks later, on March 17th, at Hills & Dales Estate in LaGrange. Each participant will plant and prune a small outdoor bonsai to take home, learn training techniques and get book suggestions. They ask you to bring small pruners if you have them. $35 per person includes garden admission. Pre-registration is required. To register e-mail or call 706-882-3242.

Freshen and Protect your Plantings with Mulch

I’m so lucky to have a long asphalt drive under mature pines, because whenever the pine needles fall I can run out with my rake, scoop up fresh mulch and remulch the front beds. Extra mulch is piled up for later use (and becomes the favorite cat napping spot).

Weeding the ground and mulching your plants for winter has oh-so-many benefits. First, just the action of getting beside each plant long enough to weed (and it doesn’t take that much time) gives you the opportunity to notice what is going on with your plants. Are they ready to divide? In Georgia, now would be a fine time to divide perennials. Would cutting off the spent flowers make it more attractive? Would moving this plant to a different spot be wise?

Second, it looks good – really good. If you want your home looking great for a party or the holidays or, even more important, to make you happy, then a fresh layer of mulch is a quick fix. It unifies the landscape, makes a clear definition between lawn and beds and freshens the whole garden. That and a couple flats of annuals can work wonders.

But mulch can also keep your garden healthy. It’s like putting down the winter blanket for your plants, keeping soil temperatures constant for plant roots (which grow year-round in Georgia). Mulch also stops rain from splashing soil onto the plants, eroding soil, or creating that hard crust that can form on top of soil. It discourages weeds from growing and makes them easier to pull when they do grow.


My Spring Bulb Orders

OK, this was actually written on September 5th for my blog on the Georgia Gardening website, but it is not to late to order those bulbs! Yesterday I drove 1-1/2 hours each way to listen to 1-1/2 hours’ of talks as part of the national Daffodil Society annual meeting – and it was so inspiring and worth it! I have placed 2 of the 3 orders below and was waiting until I attended that meeting to place the third, so I will do that this morning. 

naturalized daffodils

I swear waiting for Hurricane Lee to arrive with much-needed rain for my garden is torture! So to distract myself from looking out the window every 30 seconds to see if it is raining yet I decided to place my orders for fall-planted bulbs. They will arrive to my garden when it is time to plant them, sometime in October. So instead of the typical ‘Fall Planted Bulbs’ discussion, today I’ll just chat about the bulbs I ordered and why and a few that I recommend that are already in my garden.

From Brent & Becky’s Bulbs: Brent Heath spoke at the Perennial Plant Association annual meeting in Atlanta this summer, so my order reflects the notes from his inspiring talk.  Daffodil ‘Monal’ is an early bloomer that takes the heat, and ‘Katie Heath’ performs well in the South, even in Dallas, TX. I definitely could use early bloomers in my garden. Although I have hundreds of daffodils, my garden seems to start blooming a week later than many others, so this year ‘February Gold’ is also on my list. When placing orders for daffodils, which are very long lived and deer-resistant, choose early, mid and late bloomers to create a long season of cheerful flowers each spring. I’ve chosen a few Ipheions, which Brent suggests scattering in the lawn, and Aliums, ornamental onions that come in many shapes and colors. Both are inexpensive, which makes it easy to try them out. I rarely order tulips, but ‘Lilac Wonder‘ is starred in my notes and too pretty to not order.

From Old House Gardens: This mail-order nursery specializes in heirloom bulbs and this year most the bulbs I chose date to the turn of the 17th Century. The exception is English bluebells, which date back to 1200. I also ordered Spanish bluebells and both like dry summers and shade – that I’ve got! The sternbergia looks like a big yellow crocus that blooms in fall and the sowbread cyclamen (which may not do well south of Athens) has leaves as pretty as its blooms.

From Lushlife Nurseries: I found out about this South Carolina nursery at the Garden Writers annual meeting last week. One of the few treasures in the garden surrounding my 50 year old house is a hymenocallis, a relative of amaryllis with large leaves and white blooms. When I received a small crinum bulb (also related to the amaryllis, rain lilies, and hymenocallis) last week from Lushlife Nurseries I had to find out more.  This blog post was a great intro. I couldn’t leave the Lushlife website ( without ordering ‘Bradley’. You can buy a bulb for yourself or send a gift box to a friend for a few dollars more, which is less expensive than most gifts and will bloom for decades! Expect this order to come quickly; there is no need to hold these bulbs for later planting.  I did receive my order quickly, with big, fat bulbs full of promise. Can’t wait to see them grow and bloom!

Favorites that I already have and heartily recommend you order:

From Old House Gardens: A Fall Planted Sampler. Just let them send you bulbs that will do well for your planting zone. It’s a great way to discover something new.

From Brent & Becky’s Bulbs: ‘Fragrant Rose’ daffodil, which is not only beautiful, but really does smell like a rose – a great conversation piece.

From your local garden center: Just about anything that inspires you, especially if the bulbs look fat and healthy and the photo inspires you. Indulge!

Ooh, I hear rumbling. Finally, the rains are coming!!!

The garden did get 1-1/2 inches of rain, much more than the 1/2″ that most of the county received. But the 10 day forecast only shows little chance of rain.

An Intro to my story

Hi, I’m Connie, and I have been gardening for decades. I am a landscape architect, a lifetime master gardener, a garden writer, a garden club member and spend almost every day in a botanical garden. I am also a gardener in the midst of change, emotion, travel and deep friendships. I am a gardener who is discovering that both gardens and people are constantly changing, each completely unique yet beautiful and with different strengths. I am discovering that both gardens and people respond very differently and quickly to care and neglect. I want to hold the hand of an uncertain gardener and tell them how to nurture their space and themselves, how gardening can bring joy and lessons, and how travel to other gardens can also bring joy and lessons.  And I want them to understand the many ways a garden can give back to its caregiver.

In 2010 I lost my father, then my husband instantly to heart attacks. Dad left me with his little red pickup. He often told me “It’s a good truck” and that it would be mine when he was finished with it. He also often said “I look good for 92, don’t I?” Even to strangers in elevators. And he did. I actually thought he would end up giving me his truck when he decided he shouldn’t drive anymore. I was one of four children who each found a different way to connect with our father. I connected with Dad through gardening. As I grew up in Northwest Arkansas I weeded the vegetable garden and strawberry patch under his direction, took care of the orchids when he traveled, helped him build new planting beds, munched on apples as I walked and talked with him in the orchard, and visited botanical gardens and nurseries with him.

Bruce left me with the land – the land he promised we would find and cultivate together when he proposed to me in 1999. We bought our home on 5 acres that had recently been timbered and had an abundance of nandina, English ivy, blackberries, and red tip photinia. But it also had topsoil, which is not that easy to find in Georgia and the most amazing pecan tree that spans over 80’. On the day Bruce died the tall phlox were in full bloom on land that had a dozen chickens, 5 vegetable patches, 13 grapevines, 4 hops vines, 5 blueberries, 5 blackberries and 3 fig trees. I stared at the vivid pink phlox in those first few days after losing Bruce, amazed that it stayed so bright, beautiful and fresh as my whole world exploded.

Bruce also left me with many great memories: of picking poke salet in the front yard together, burning brush as we cleared the meadow (he made sure we had a garden hose, I made sure we had a bag of marshmallows), conversations about each tree planted as we wandered the front yard, raising baby chicks and a pair of goats to maturity, the porch swing he gave me one Christmas,  harvesting wild elderberries on our property that he added his homemade wine, and discovering other gardens with him. And stories – stories he told of growing up as a sixth generation Arkansan, of the land given to his family for service in the Spanish-American war, and his childhood with sleeping porches, swimming holes, fried pies, and dinners from the garden and pasture. He promised me 50 years (the only promise he didn’t keep), but I am so grateful for the years we did have together that I cannot whine about not getting more.

So here I am, with the land and a truck and a love of gardening that both men shared with me.  They were my cheerleaders, my council, the men I most loved in my life – and the two people who most encouraged my garden writing.

2010 was eventful in other ways. I also earned my a Certificate in Native Plants through The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, a program requiring 80 total hours of classroom instruction, volunteer time and field trips. I was named the Georgia Green Industry Association’s 2010 Communicator of the Year and Employee of the Year at The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, where I am coordinator of public relations and special events and work closely with our amazing Board of Advisors. In late 2010
I received a Chanticleer Scholarship, awarded to botanical garden employees for professional development and assuring that I would attend the 2011 annual meetings of the American Public Gardens Association and Association of Garden Writers. I also turned 50, took my first cruise (which reignited my love of travel), and served as president of my garden club (hey! – I live in the town where garden clubs started).

My writing career started almost 20 years ago when one of my landscape design clients marched into the local newspaper office with my newsletter, announcing “You need a garden column and you need her to write it!” That was the spark that led to over 600 newspaper garden columns for Morris News Service, the Athens (Georgia) Banner-Herald and Northwest Arkansas Morning News (many under my maiden name of Connie Fugedy). A columnist for Georgia Gardening and Southern Distinction magazines, I have also been published in Conifer Quarterly, History, Lee, Museum Store, Country Journal, GEORGIA, Columbia County, Georgia Family and New South Gardener magazines.  As a Mark Twain fan, one of my biggest thrills was when I found out one of my columns was published in Hannibal, Missouri’s local newspaper.

I became a master gardener in Arkansas in 1990, went through the training again when I moved to Georgia and am now a Lifetime Master Gardener. I am also a registered landscape architect, receiving my degree from the University of Arkansas (I’ve already admitted my age, let’s not dwell on how many classes have graduated since mine).

I invite you to join me as we discover ways to make our gardens and us as gardeners thrive and bloom. Our gardens are expression of ourselves and continually changing wonders. Whether it is the latest variety, baby birds filling a nest, a tip that saves time or eliminates pests, a handful of blooms brought into our homes, or a perfect tomato picked from our garden, there are numerous joys and discoveries in our gardens for us to share.

Creating Glass Sculptures for the Garden

More Glass Garden Sculptures

Having fun creating eclectic garden ornaments. 

I had so much fun with Shirley learning how to create garden sculptures from flea market glassware (July 2011 issue of Georgia Gardening, pages 56-57), that I went shopping for more glass to create more sculptures and invited a friend over to join me. I had found some old Coke bottles in my father’s garage closet and then bought old-fashioned Coke glasses in the dollar store. Together they made a cute garden ornament that rests on a piece of rebar in the garden. Glasses and matching bowls from the garden store became mushrooms. A little glass swan became the finial on my friend’s tower sculpture. We debated over whether or not one wine glass was just too pretty to use, but cut glass catches the light so well in the garden. This is a fun project to do with friends – just remember not to move your sculpture for 24 hours after you have created it. Your friends will have to return to pick up their creations.

I have had one seal break and just cleaned and reglued it. Remember what Shirley told me: “These are not created as forever pieces. You are not creating these to put in your will, although a couple of friends have asked.”

A Half-Dozen Things You Can Do While Watering.

Watering brings out the impatient brat in me. And impatient waterers can underwater their plants. Luckily, watering only takes one hand that is holding the hose. Even though I only water plants in the ground once or  twice a week I must be doing something else at the same time. And I have found lots of things you can do:

  1. Weed. Carry around a lightweight tote to toss weeds into and pull a few as you water. You’ve got to be careful of which weeds you go after though. The really small weeds and fastest growing weeds come out of the ground roots and all, but my garden is clay and you know what dry clay is – yeah, a brick! Some weeds just won’t come up with a one-handed tug. Do what you can.
  2. A backrub – for the beagle. Your pet adores you and deserves more than food thrown into his dish as you are rushing out the door. My beagle so obviously loves outdoor time in the morning with me, so I do use some of that time to give him some attention.
  3. A phone call to a long-winded friend. OK, we all have one: that friend or relative we really should call, but we know that means 45 minutes on the phone and we really don’t have that time today. Aunt Maxine who was always so sweet to you when you were a kid, truly deserves your attention. Perfect multi-tasking!
  4. Wool-gathering. My husband used to enjoy burning brush, because as he tended the fire, he used the quiet time to organize thoughts and solve problems, what he called wool-gathering. Watering definitely does not tax the brain, so why not use it to think through a problem. I often organize an article or a blog post in my mind while watering.
  5. Catch up on podcasts or read a book. Put on a pair of headphones and learn something as you water. Great gardening podcasts I download through ITunes include Brent & Becky’s Bulbs’ Tete-a-Tete and Felder Rushing’s The Gestalt Gardener. I also listen to motivational podcasts (especially as I start my day), NPR shows like The Splendid Table, the Wall Street Journal or TED Talks.  The History of Rome is great and can turn anyone into a history buff. And then there are the books you don’t have time to read. Well, let someone else read a book to you while you are watering the hydrangeas.
  6. Don’t water. Ooh, that got your attention. I share my well water with my plants and when things get really dry I have to start making choices. I have generous friends with abundant crops and many ornamental plants that outrank those tomato plants so this weekend I decided to stop watering the vegetable garden. Que sera, sera.

As I am finishing this up, there are distant thunder rumbles and is showing big orange dots headed this way. Oh please, oh please…