Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Whenever DH has the time (which isn't often) and I feel the need to get off of the farm (also not often) , we take a short day trip. Usually the destination is Chapel Hill, where we get lunch on Franklin Street and visit Gimghoul Road, the UNC Arboretum and the NC Botanical Garden. I always see new plants and find garden inspiration there.

Normally I don't care for hosta flowers other than the big white flowers of Hosta plantaginea and its hybrids but this sweep of hosta at the UNC Arb was lovely. It looks like it could be Hosta ventricosa or a close relative to me, although the leaves don't look quite as shiny as the one I raised from seed.

The beautiful heart-shaped leaves of the tree made famous in part by its presence on the cover of Michael Dirr's 1998 edition of Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Katsuratree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). Dirr states that if he could use only one tree this would be his first tree. The habit is variable and it likes a rich moist well-drained soil. He writes "new leaves emerge a beautiful reddish purple and gradually change to bluish green in summer; fall color varies from yellow to apricot .... the senescing (fall coloring) leaves give off a delightful spicy cinnamon/ brown sugar odor, several students liken the odor to cotton candy". OK, I'm sold.

I love Balloon Flower but unfortunately the cutworms love it even more than I do. It has not yet prospered or flowered in my garden. The only other plant the cutworms eat are Cardinal Flowers just as they're starting to bloom, which is one of the reasons why the only Cardinal Flowers I have are wild ones that grow in ditches where fast water flows after a heavy rain.

'Madame Alfred Carriere' gets huge and I've read that she can be a shy bloomer,
but she looks very happy here at the entrance to the Medicinal Garden at the
NCBG. And the fragrance ~ divine!

The perfect way to grow Lady Banks rose ~ on a big STURDY pergola.
With benches underneath.

The big trunks covered in beautiful peeling cinammon-
colored bark will eventually crush lesser structures.

We need more structures for roses and other vines to climb on and one like this would be lovely.

I never tire of purple pansies and violas, especially not one like this one in
heavenly violet and deep rich plum. I wish I knew the cultivar name.

Iris florentina, commonly known as Orris Root, is a species that I have long intended to add to my garden. The pale gray-violet veining adds to its beauty and the flower has a unique fragrance. Historically the rhizome has been used in herbal medicine and today it's used as a base for perfume and in the manufacture of some gins. The rhizome is prepared by first drying (for up to 5 years), then it is ground up, mixed with water and distilled. The resulting "orris butter" has a fragrance different from that of the flower. It's variously described as smelling like violets, or having a woodsy scent, and tasting like raspberry. If you want to read more about the use of Orris Root in perfumes click here.

Check out the beautiful purple of this member of the Borage family, Alkanet.

This looks like another member of the Borage family. Not sure
if it's the same species but the deep bright blue is gorgeous.

I have Soapwort, treasured because it came from raingardener. Mine is
not as dark and bright as this one ~ it's more of a uniform soft pink.



This looks like a member of the mustard family --Rock Cress perhaps?

This Vitex Tree is why I have 2 in my garden. I love the color of the flowers, it's
an absolute bee magnet and it blooms twice during the growing season.

Often we take Old Greensboro Road out to Niche Gardens. Their display garden always inspires me.

This magnificent Cl. Old Blush is why I had to have one.

This amazing carpet of Mazus provided the motivation for me to try it in a damp spot under a rose and in a path in the garden next to the house. While I don't have a large patch like at Niche, it forms a pool of lavender under the Hansa rose in May and I'm pleased with the result.

Somehow white Japanese Roof Iris is just as beautiful and yet very different from the purple form.

And once again their garden proves that it's impossible to have too many columbines.
This bicolor has such an exquisite form, and I love the delicate pink color.

What local places do you visit for garden inspiration?


  1. Hi Sweetbay,

    There's so much inspiration here.

    Forgotton just how perfect roses with a 'weeping' habit are. Cl. Old Blush and Banksia are perfect.

  2. What a treasure of an arboretum you have nearby to visit!

  3. Dear Sweetbay ~ Thank you so much for this lovely inspirational tour. I want to get out into my gardens to putter, play and plant, but alas, more rain is expected.

    I love all the blooms but that soapwort grabbed my heart this post.

    Have a nice day ~ FlowerLady

  4. What a lovely place to visit. The vitex is beautiful...I tired it once but knew I was pushing the zone a wee bit and the poor thing didn't survive its first winter. Lovely photos - I enjoyed the tour!

  5. You're very fortunate to have such beautiful gardens to visit for inspiration--not to mention a husband willing to go along:) I love those masses of climbing roses, especially scrambling over all the different arbors. Wouldn't it be nice to have one of those gorgeous and sturdy arbors in our own gardens?

    By the way, you definitely know your breeds of cats, Sweetbay. Yes, our Toby is a Himalayan. He was somewhat of a rescue cat, so I didn't even know what he was until I took him to the vet!

  6. Wow, that Lady Banks is huge!! I didn't know about Orris Root...very interesting.
    I saw a weeping Katsura at a garden in Northern VA, at the edge of a pond, what a sight! I agree, wonderful tree to have in the garden.

  7. I have nothing to visit near by ... Thank you, for this beautiful walk. It makes me dream with open eyes ...

  8. What a wonderful feast on a snowy day. What gorgeous blooms. The roses are just magnificent! I have a Vitex tree that I have been growing in a pot because I was afraid that it was too cold here for it. I just love the blooms on them and cannot wait until mine blooms.The blue Borage is gorgeous. What a beautiful blue. Thank you for brightening my day.

  9. Beautiful! Thank you for the tour and especially for showing me how lovely hostas can be if they are happy (they aren't here). I love going to Filoli gardens, it is amazing in spring. I don't know if it provides inspiration because with its multi million dollar budget and hundreds of volunteers it is intimidating more than inspiring, but also breathtakingly beautiful.

  10. I usually visit your blog for garden inspiration! Thanks for sharing such wonderful pictures and information on the plants. Carla

  11. I have a few hostas planted here and there, but your first two photos showing what a sweep of them looks like convinces me I am doing it all wrong! I love to visit local gardens like Aldridge Gardens or the Birmingham Botanical Garden for inspiration, but I also get a lot of ideas from garden magazines and fellow bloggers like you! Your own garden really is one of my favorites.

  12. So glad you found my blog and I found yours! Niche Gardens is my favorite garden inspiration. It is always a treat to drive through the rolling countryside to get there and then once I do - watch out! I want to buy everything in sight. I particularly appreciate their focus on native plant, plus a few exotic non-invasives for fun.


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