If Duke Farms can live with dandelions, should I?

183B6D70-D1D0-40C1-98C6-54610F440B89I finally visited Duke Farms in Hillsborough. This is the former estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, which until not that many years ago was only open for tours. The foundation that runs the place has made some changes — her house has been torn down, and the focus is even more on sustainability and native plantings. Clearly that includes no (or perhaps minimal) pesticides, and their gardeners have not been charged with digging up dandelions or my other nemesis, hairy bitter cress.

Given that I filled the better part of a five-gallon bucket with dug-up dandelions yesterday and have another two giant recycling buckets full of hairy bitter cress just waiting for the monthly yard waste and brush collection, should I just learn to chill?

I hope to be back in a few months to see the meadow in bloom. But do not come here looking for a traditional garden with lots of flower beds.

Here are some other images from the day:

A ruin? The foundation of the mansion James Duke stopped building after his tobacco business was broken up.


Another ruin? The remains of the burned-out hay barn and what I think sums up Doris’ taste in sculptures:


The coach barn (first for horses, then for cars) … because every garage needs a clock tower.


No, this wasn’t the house.


The Durham bull, to pair with the one I saw on a bike trip through Durham


Can I have a piece of this hosta? I like variegated ones.


And some brilliantly colored orchids in the Orchid Range (Doris was big on orchids).








A glut of hostas

I feel like I turn around — and another clump of hostas has expanded!

I just dug out one giant clump of hostas and gave all of it away. But today I looked in one bed by the house and it looked like this:

hosta clump1 may 2016

Everything is a bit squished, and the ferns are getting to be too much.

And then it keeps going (the variegated clump in the first photo is also in this one):

hosta clump2 may 2016

I love the range of hostas we have, but it’s time to thin these out!

Oh did I say range of hostas? Here are some in another bed today. I love the lime-and-blue-green combo and hope it takes off (move the ferns!), and the giant blue seems very happy (did I move it there last year or the year before?)

hosta lime and blue

hosta giant blue


Mid-June in the garden

I’m looking out the window and seeing rabbits in a neighbor’s yard. Just don’t let me see the groundhog! We have at least two, and they have done enough damage in the raised beds.

Still, tomato plants are generally thriving, and I’m hopeful we’ll have some early ones in time for the Fourth of July. Zucchini and potato plants are shooting up. My favorite flower, rose campion, is blooming, as is another favorite, red-hot poker (a little late, I think, but then spring was late and started off cool). And I’m excited about this new red-yellow Rudbeckia that blooms much earlier than the traditional yellow black-eyed Susan. I’m guessing it comes from one of two places where I plucked a flower head and then planted it. I’m hoping it spreads like crazy.

Here’s a look at some of what’s blooming in the garden just a few days before the official start of summer:

Yellow and red Rudbeckia
What a beaut!

red hot pokers

Rose campions are in lots of places:

Rose campion

Rose campion and coreopsis

Rose campion, coreopsis and tiger day lilies

Day lilies above and below:

red daylily
Hope this spreads too

stella d'oro daylilies

The first of the many coneflowers to come:


A faded allium:


A new addition to the hosta collection:

hosta late may new kind

The hosta of my desire

hostasGiven that our property backs onto woodland and deer are a nuisance throughout the neighborhood, it’s strange that I would even be talking about hostas. After all, they are supposed to be deer candy.

But somehow the ones around us either don’t have a sweet tooth or — more likely — don’t want to venture up against the house, where the hostas are, figuring it’s easier to munch at the neighbors. We generally do pretty well with them. The most damage may come from having many that are in a spot that gets a decent amount of sun that end up with burned leaves.

We have the usual solid green-leaf variety (plenty of those!) and some that are green-and-white striped. Then there are some blues, a brighter green, one that’s more of a green-gray, at least early in the year. We have some with tiny leaves, and some that are oversized. In the last year or so, I got a tiny bit of a blue one with a lime-green stripe down the middle that my sisters are already eyeing once it gets big enough to divide. And there’s a green one that has a golden yellow trim that probably would be even more visible if I’d give it a shadier spot.

But this is the one I really want: a pale yellow variety with green in the middle. I spotted it on a trip that took us to northern Pennsylvania, and would it pop among the greens and blues!

yellow-green hosta

I figure I have a few choices: always travel with a trowel and sneak a piece of what catches my eye when no one is looking in the middle of the night, offer to divide the plant in exchange for a piece, or just ask everyone I know if they have it. Of all the options, No. 3 is clearly the best.

Consider yourself asked.

Going purple

The garden is starting its purple phase.

This is how part of one flower bed looks:

siberian irises and birdbath

We also have some pale blue-purple amsonia in the front that is starting to bloom. I really like the feathery foliage. It makes a nice contrast to the sturdier leaves of other plants nearby.

amsonia may 2013

These alliums (bulgaricum) are delicate, too. Wonder how many globes we’ll get this time.


Not everything is purple, of course. The hostas are busting out. We’ve got all kinds, and last fall I added some yellow/blue ones from a neighbor. I’m still amazed that the deer haven’t found them and demolished them. The plants in this first one definitely could use some dividing and sharing, and the second one isn’t far behind.

lots of hostas


Squash Control

We haven’t had rain for at least three weeks, and some plants are clearly struggling. But the heat and our occasional watering seems to have done wonders for others. I swear this pattypan squash was half the size before these last two days in the upper 90s! It weighed 1 1/2 pounds when we picked it tonight. Time to become more vigilant because there are lots of zucchini flowers that can easily turn into baseball bats.

This is what’s in store from the tomato plants (and there is plenty of green fruit now):

Here are some other pictures from before the lack of rain (all those 75% chance of thunderstorms that never materialized) became so obvious:

Our amazing deer-resistant (so far) hostas, in flower