Friday, April 15, 2011

English Dogwood

Bordering the back property line of our flat, long-neglected, wildflower and mushroom filled backyard runs an old, misshapen, fairly ugly chain link fence. Growing in, through and among the fencing are volunteer trees and brambles and rambling plants. The hubs began whacking back the growth last winter but gave out and gave up way before spring. Thankfully. Because two rambling plants turned out to be English Dogwood.

Regular readers may recall this discovery last year as well as a shout-out asking to help identify these flowers. Since we'd recently moved all my gardening books were packed up and I'd no way to ID these beauties. My "Twinnie," Carroll shot me an e-mail, telling me that these grew in her grandmother's house in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Her grandmother Bess called them English Dogwoods, and by cracky that's exactly what I have growing in my backyard.

These two English Dogwoods of ours are blooming this week like crazy. Each one is at least 10-12 feet high, cascading overhead, dancing on the wind and covered in white blooms. They are so beautiful and captivating. I've fallen in love with them and have given them names - Hattie and Bess, after Carroll's grandmother Bess in Hattiesburg.

The blossoms carry very little to no scent. There are no thorns. When the blooms fade the towering greenery provides a soft green background.

Wednesday morning Carroll sent me an e-mail. "FYI. Today is the anniversary of my grandmother, Mom Bess's death in 1968. Tell Bess and Hattie I am thinking about them today."

I did just that, and took these photos to share. Because I always photograph these beauties this time I tried to channel Georgia O'Keefe as much as possible.

My usual MO is to take closeups of the blossoms but I want to try to give you an idea of their overall beauty. Above is Bess, whose shape is really the best because the hubs never got far down the fence line with his whacking. If you look closely you can see Baylee meandering to the left.

A garden bench would be perfect beneath either or both. Delicate limbs support a gazillion white flowers overhead, texturing the ground beneath with dimpling, dancing sunlight. A perfect place for reading, journaling or pondering.

I found a delightful article about English Dogwoods on by Debbie M. Lord. If you have time and are interested in knowing more about these plants she offers terrific background on them and shares their wonderful history. "Whatever Happened to English Dogwoods?"

On this day the breeze was cool and blustery, and during the rare times of stilled wind the sun was warm on my face. Because this was Grandmother Bess's birthday and these plants are named in her honor the time spent with them felt sacred and special. I thought of Carroll, knowing how she would have loved to have been with me, sharing stories of Bess and her family, her childhood.

However, knowing Hattie and Bess are just outside, in the backyard, visible from my windows, lends a connection to my friend in joyous fashion. One simply cannot be wistful when Hattie and Bess are blooming their hearts out. I'm reminded instead of glorious walks in gardens, adventurous road trips and heartfelt conversations for hours.

Friendships are such gifts. I feel blessed to have found such wonderful women all over the county, the world, who teach me so much. Sharing plants, sharing stories connect women. There are the occasional man who enjoys the practice as well, so I should not generalize. However, my experience has been that women trading plants connect them on a cosmic, organic level.

English Dogwood is reported to be easy to grow in the South, and by the looks of these thick, green, wildly-blossoming examples I would say that's true. These look like they were planted and forgotten. Indeed, pruning is not necessary and I dare say would spoil the natural beauty of its dancing branches. I can personally attest to this plant growing in extremely poor soil, in mostly shady conditions, forgotten completely by whomever planted them. Likely, you could plant one and then just stand back, grab a glass of wine and watch it grow.

English Dogwood. My new favorite plant.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Searching for the proper plants for the proper spot is fun. Nurseries are some of my favorite places. There, I could spend hours just looking, touching, smelling and dreaming. Being surrounded by rich, vibrant life of green, growing things gives me a boost. The air is so clean and fragrant, so moist and alive. Colors pop, and there are surprises around every corner.

While not strolling through nurseries I am strolling through the yard. Looking, dreaming, wondering, planning. Spring has brought a plethora of wildflowers dappled everywhere in the backyard. Mostly wild garlic and these pretty little white and pink flowers. I'm thinking with the poor soil some of the native wildflowers, like these, should just be allowed to stay. They are so pretty.

They are also quite small and do not bloom all summer, but beds could be created and other wildflowers introduced that DO bloom all summer, or at various times. Why not let these little flowers live where they are obviously so happy?

Do you know what these wildflowers are?

Wild garlic is normally the bane of every yard master. But I'm not a yard master. They have their place. Don't they? Certainly, they have their place here in my blog.

More of the little white and pink wildflowers. So now I'm thinking wildflowers and perennials. Oh! I saw the most amazing native azaleas down the road and I MUST go talk to the owners of an incredible yard! I think I've found my muse!

There is such beauty in the small things. Hattie and Bess are beginning to bloom now and the Chinese Fringe tree is gorgeous! There's one pink azalea in the front yard that is stunning and clearly needs some friends. AND, I found a little surprise in my Boston Fern! Must show you that next! Stop and smell the flowers, however small!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gardeners Sustainable Living Project

Hattie's pollen

There's a new garden to plan. Instead of windswept banks on the shores of a wild river the new garden will be a still, Zen garden in the shade. There are a myriad of songbirds that flit along the creek that ambles behind the house. Our lot is flat with lots of trees. The earth is compacted with poor soil quality.

Current plans involve azaleas and ferns, hydrangeas and ferns and hostas, sweet woodruff and ferns. Oh, and did I mention ferns? I'm crazy about ferns. As well, a signature understory tree for the front yard like a Japanese red maple is in the mix.

The gardening goal here is the same as the gardening goal was for the river - plant natives, plant to attract birds and bees and butterflies, plant to enrich both earth and soul.

My blogging goals will be changing for now. Instead of chasing elusive pelicans and eagles I'll be concentrating on smaller, more simple miracles as new gardens are created. I'll need a lot of help and good advice. I do know that I want to garden responsibly. Thankfully, I've a plethora of gardening friends who are fantastic about sharing their expertise and other stuff. Case in point...

My blogger buddy, Jan, at Thanks for Today is having a fantastic Giveaway. The 2nd Annual Gardeners' Sustainable Living Project is underway. No special writing or photography skills needed; just share the links and share in the joy! My apologies to Jan for completely forgetting to write a post about it - call it a Senior Moment. They seem to be coming more often. You are invited to check it out by linking directly to her blog - just click the photo below OR here.


Related Posts with Thumbnails