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Secret of the Garden #4

There’s no secret here. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of growing or smelling fresh Rosemary, then you’ll know exactly what I mean. This plant is a good secret and one you’ll want to add to your garden.

Rosemary is one of the easiest and a hardy herb for the garden. It will even survive the hot Florida summers, not something many herbs can do. Although this herb is used for cooking, it also has many other uses. Those uses range from household, medicinal, cosmetic, decorative and aromatic. Here are a few examples.

Culinary; added to sugar to use us deserts, use the flowers in salads, garnish meats and vegetables during cooking and added to baked bread or butter. These are just a few, but I’m no cook, so I’m sure there is plenty more!

Household; boil to use with water as an antiseptic solutions, repels moths in linens, repels other insects, air freshener.

Medical; Pain reliver for migraines, menstrual cramps and arthritis Immunity booster (it contains anti-inflammatories, antioxidants and anti carcinogenic properties), added to tea it can help reduce coughs and phlegm, it can boost our abilities to concentrate & focus, helps heal brain damage from strokes, reduce pain as an anti-inflammatory, fend off infections, good for blood circulation, full of iron and vitamin B6, fights mood swings, regulate some hormones, fights indigestions IBS and some ulcers, helps prevent blood clots from developing, helps the liver in detoxifying the body.
(as with any herb please talk to your doctor before using!)

Cosmetic; fights premature aging, a natural astringent, mouthwash, a natural deodorant, acne treatment, eczema, itchy skin and scalp, stimulate hair growth, improve skin complexion, helps heal burns.

Decorative; Rosemary is used not only as a potted herb but will also make a beautiful hedge for a herb garden. It is easy to shape and often is used in creating topiaries. Cut the branches to use as a wreath or in centerpieces. It also grows in several form, including cascading, making it a nice addition to a container garden or on its own in a pot. Rosemary will also repel some insects.

Aromatic; use to mix in potpourri, use as an essential oil to ease stress, help focus, relieve headaches, relieve fatigue, energize, boost memory.

So, you can see for yourself that Rosemary is a secret weapon to add to you garden!

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Secret of the Garden #3

Foxglove ~~ Digitalis purpurea

Floxglove

I have to admit, Foxglove is one of my favorite flowers, and I often use it in the garden. It can grow wild or added to your gardens for color and interest. Bright colors and it’s upright stem full of bell-shaped flowers will attract bees and butterflies.

BUT the flowers, berries, leaves and stems are extremely poisonous.

This is the poison plant that would make Agatha Christie smile. It is common in most old-fashioned gardens, especially shade gardens. And it’s leaves can be mistaken for borage, an herb that is used in salads, teas or for medicinal purposes. Do you see where this could be a problem?

Used in the proper way, Foxglove can provide live saving medicines: digitalis is a heart medicine. But in unknowing or evil hands, Foxglove can kill.

The raw digitalis in Foxglove will have the opposite effect of working with an ailing heart. It will slow down the rate of the heartbeat, causing a person to become nauseated, weak, and dizzy. With too much, or over an extended time, Foxglove consumption will slow down the heart to the point of stopping it, causing death.

flowers of Foxglove

You can enjoy the beautiful flowers of Foxglove, if you remember the dangers of this plant. Do not ingest any part of the plant. Be cautious with animals and small children, be sure to keep them away from the plants. Teach them to enjoy the garden’s beauty without touching the tempting flowers.

If you ever think you have ingested any part of Foxglove, get immediate medical attention.

Posted in gardening, The Secret Garden, The Southern Garden

An Old Favorite

Does your hubby, son, or daughter have a favorite shirt or blanket. One that you know you could never throw out? No matter how thin and faded, no matter how many holes? Trust me, you don’t want to throw them out!

Sometimes it’s not only an article of cloth that can’t be thrown away. Some have plants that mean just as much to them. The plant might be tall and lanky or down to its last few spindly leaves, but they would never throw it away. Nor would they forgive you for doing it.

Plants are living, breathing things, and that alone will keep some from discarding the poor things. I’ve heard it more times than I can count; “I just can’t throw a plant away.”

And then there are the plants that hold a special place in the owner’s heart. Maybe it was a gift for a special occasion, like the birth of a child or an anniversary. Perhaps it was from a special holiday (Poinsettias and Lilies spring to mind).

Some plants are more about the reason we received them than the actual plant itself. A last gift from a special person, the sympathy gift over the loss of a loved one. Getting rid of these plants can seem like you’re getting rid of a tangible thread to the person.

So what do you do? With all this emotion tied to a plant, the guilt over its loss can be awful. First, you have to realize, plants have a life span. And just like humans, you can’t determine what that will be.

I suggest you baby these plants and enjoy them for as long as you can. Be sure to take care of them properly; water, fertilize, clean, trim and even repot as needed. Some may outgrow their space inside, maybe you can pot them into a larger pot and put them in the garden. Enjoy them for as long as you can, but don’t beat yourself up when the plant outlives itself. Remember the reason for the gift and then say goodbye. Perhaps a trip to the garden center will help to find a replacement plant to pot into the original container and hold a place of honor in your home.

Victoria LK Williams

Posted in gardening, The Secret Garden, The Southern Garden

Secret 2

The Secret Weapon

When I was growing up, both my mother and grandmother had this plant on the kitchen counter. They gave it, along with the housewarming gift, to anyone moving into their first home or apartment. They considered this plant essential to every home, and you could almost always find it in the kitchen.

I’m referring to the Aloe vera plant.

The primary reason my mom and grandma kept this plant in the kitchen wasn’t for its impressive looks, there are many better looking plants that will thrive in the indoors. No, they kept this plant in the kitchen because of its soothing, healing abilities in treating a burn, even as severe as a second-degree burn. Burn your hand on a hot pan, and a piece of the plant would be broken off, and they would apply the healing gel from the plant to the burn area. Scrap your skin and the aloe plant would come out as well.

Science proves the Aloe plant to be useful in other ways as well; used in a toothpaste for helping control cavity-causing bacteria, helping to heal wounds such as diabetes-induced foot ulcers. They can use the extracts from the plant as a natural antioxidant, an additive to creams for protection of skin damage after radiation therapy, and in acne creams. Although research isn’t conclusive at this point, the extracts are also being tested in the hopes of use against constipation, ultraviolet (UV) irradiation, depression, memory loss, and Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

All that potential from one plant! It’s always best to discuss the use of anything you add to your skin or wounds with a doctor. Doctors also recommend you test for an allergic reaction before using.

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Near Miss

Wow! There is nothing like the threat of an approaching hurricane to make you take stock of your garden.

This past weekend Hurricane Isaias quickly formed in the Atlantic ocean and headed for the Florida coast. There was no 4-5 day preparation with this storm. Luckily it broke apart before it could do much of anything, and passed us by, just offshore.

Even though we decided to not put up our hurricane shutters, there was still work to be done. And every time we have to do this, we moan about all the garden “stuff” my husband and I have added to our yard.

one of my many orchids

So, we start with the orchids. I had just repotted them together in large wood orchid baskets, so that cut the number down considerably, but there were still a couple dozen that had to be taken out of the trees and placed in a protected area. Then there was the shade sail (shade cloth) my husband put up over my fountain to protect more orchids and foliage plants from the summer sun.

Then we move to the decorative pieces. Wind chimes hang in the larger trees and had to be taken down and laid low into the bushes. The wind spinners were taken apart and placed in a corner, and we gathered the decorative statues and animals into the garage. The large umbrella that covers the table and chair was tied up and laid on the ground.

the backyard is the last to clean up; we want to keep the animals happen as long as we can.

The lawn furniture and cushions had to be stacked in a protected corner of the front porch, and finally the bird baths were emptied and turned upside down. I held out until the last possible moment before taking down the bird feeders. Which were also the first things to go back up. The bluejays sat outside my window, all but tapping on the glass for food when the winds died down.

The largest potted plants were laid on their side to keep the wind from snapping them in half, and they were also watered for extra weight.

And then we “hunker down” and wait for the storm to pass. Of course, with a storm that was stronger, there would be more work to do; put up the shutters, get gas for the generator, mow the lawn, and the list goes on.

Then, after the go ahead is given, we return everything to its rightful place until the next storm is approaching. And each time we promise ourself, we will get rid of the lawn art and make our life simpler.

But we don’t. Because the storms are for brief intervals, over quickly and with the promise of better days ahead. Creating the garden we love to be in takes time, effort and patience. And the knowledge that the storms will pass and better weather is just around the corner to enjoy.

Posted in gardening, The Secret Garden, The Southern Garden

Secret 1

The Garden holds many secrets; beneficial, beautiful and even deadly. Enter the door to the secrets if you dare!

The oleander plant is one of the south’s most beautiful shrubs. They can grow to 10′ tall and make the most beautiful hedge.

And the most deadly!

All parts of the Oleander plant are toxic. From the roots to the flowers. Even the sap can cause harm, starting with an irritating rash to something far worse. Inhaling the smoke from burning Oleander will also cause harm.

The Oleander plant contains not one, but two types of poisons; oleandrin and nerinne, both having powerful effects on the heart. Ingesting any part of the plant can cause diarrhea, vomiting, wrenching stomach pain, drowsiness, dizziness and an irregular heartbeat, leading to death.

Having treatment like having the stomach pumped with in 24 hours can increase the odds of your survival, but not always.

So remember, not all that is beautiful is perfect. Poison is definitely a flaw.

Victoria LK Williams

Posted in Uncategorized

Gardening and Writing

Did you know that I’m not only a gardener but also a writer? I write cozy mysteries; all set in South Florida and all with characters who love to garden!

Cover for a new series I’m starting!

I find I do most of my writing either in the garden or from my office looking out into my garden.

Looking out into my garden from my desk

The garden is the perfect place to plot. Often you are working on your own, doing tasks that allow your imagination to wander. That’s how it all started for me. I was tending a secluded garden and started wondering what if a crime were to take place in or around a beautiful garden?

My thought raced. There were so many weapons at hand: shovels, shears, poisonous plants, pesticides and small garden statuary. But my thoughts weren’t all dark. The garden is the perfect place for secret meetings, clues to be planted and maybe even a romance to bloom.

My current titles

If you would like to find out more about my mysteries or sign up for my newsletter, visit my website. Starting in August, the newsletter will feature an extra item called Garden Secrets. You will get a password from the newsletter to have access to these blog posts here in the Gossip from the Southern Gardener blog. Here is the link:
www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Rejuvenating Your Garden-The Final Steps

Cleaning out the overgrown shrubs, we left the Bamboo and Alocasia, adding flowers, containers and an old oil jar for a new look.

In the last few blog posts, I’ve been talking about rejuvenating an older garden. We’ve looked at some of the items you need to consider before pulling out the first plant. We’ve also talked about what changes in your landscape when you rejuvenate, or maybe a new landscape is a better fit for your needs.

Now all of your homework is done and you’ve decided to go ahead and give new life to an old landscape. So, let’s discuss some of the methods you can use to create the landscape you can love again.

  1. The easiest, most cost effective way to rejuvenate your garden is often the most over looked: CLEAN IT UP! It sounds so simple, but giving your beds the care they need will also improve the appearance. Trim and shape your shrubs, clean out the old plant debris, feed with proper fertilizer and make sure all the plants are getting the irrigation they should get to grow and thrive.
  2. Pick the oldest, overgrown, unattractive plants and start replacing. You can use the same plants, or take this opportunity to try something new.
  3. Add color and interest. Pick a plant with unusual texture, add a patch of annual color, add a flowering shrub where you had a non-flowering one.
  4. Change your bed line. Add a curve to a straight bed. Widen the bed to include a close-by tree (this will make mowing easier too),
  5. Create interest within the planting bed. A fountain, statuary, container filled with color, a chair to relax in. If your area is big enough, consider a pathway to allow you to meander through the greenery.
  6. Add hardscaping. This could be a section of gravel, a small seating area with pavers, a stone rockery or raised planting area, a concrete bench or a swing .
  7. Add landscape lighting. Focus on the larger plants, or an special plant you want to draw attention to. If you’ve created a pathway or added a seating area, add ground lighting.

Victoria LK Williams

Botanical Concepts

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Considerations before Rejuvenating

Considerations before Rejuvenating your landscape

We’ve been busy working our magic in the garden, but I haven’t forgotten about this subject that we started.

In the first part of this series, we asked why to rejuvenate your garden. Now we’re going to briefly go over a few consideration you need to think about before proceeding. You may find a few items overlap. That’s okay, it just proves how important each point is.

Ready? Alright then, here we go…

1. Before you can make any changes, it is going to be important to know WHY you’re making them. In other words—what are your landscape goals? Are you trying to refresh your old landscape? Or create an entirely different look? Does your landscape need to serve a more functional purpose?

This re-landscape was created for screening and hiding the view behind

2. What role do you want the plants in your landscape to achieve? Hide a view, provide shade, define your property line?

3. Is your current landscape meeting your landscape goals? Is the hedgerow along the property line still a thick, lush wall of greenery? Has the tree grown enough to provide you with cooling shade, or is it at the point where there is too much shade, and you can’t get anything to grow under it?

4. Has your purpose for the planting changed over the years? For example, the shorter shrubbery you planted may now need to be replaced with taller plants because a new building has gone up next door that you don’t want to see.

5. Has the growth of the plants or the needs of your yard usage changed the access to the area you want to do new plantings? Have the larger trees in the area grown so much that you will be adding new plants into a mass of roots from that tree?

6. Will making any changes to your landscape interfere with the relationship you have with your neighbor? Talking neighborly over the fence can quickly change if you remove a large tree that was the shading sitting area your neighbor enjoyed.

7. What is your landscape budget? Have you even made one? When you do, be sure to include all aspects of the renovations: plants, materials, and labor.

8. Do you plan on doing the work yourself or hiring a professional landscaper? You need to know what your physical limitations are—don’t forget, landscaping is physical labor!

New bed line, color and texture

It is essential, no critical, that you have at the very least, given these items some thought and planning. You may find that you need to do this work in phases. Be sure to ask for help from your local garden center when you’re ready to start any planting.

For more ideas, visit our GALLERY of pictures.

To purchase our Pocket Guide to Florida Landscaping and Gardening Journals visit our book gallery.

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Rejuvenate or Re-do?

In the next series of blogs, I am going to address a problem many homeowners eventually face. How do you deal with an older landscape?

26278876 – flowering azaleas

Down here in the south, things grow fast. There is no dormant, or cold period, to moderate the growth. Yes, there are changes to the pace of growth during different seasons, but few plants will actually drop their leaves and go dormant for 3-4 months of the year. Because of this, the average life span of the landscape is accelerated. In south Florida, it is safe to say this life span is 12-15 years for most foundation plantings, hedging, and mass planting. Trees grow larger at a much faster rate, often leaving only trunks to look at from the eaves of the home to the ground. Those graceful palm fronds are now above the roof line. This dramatically changes the look of the landscape from what it was when first planted.

This also puts the homeowner in the position of needing to relandscape. But do you rip everything out and start from scratch, or do you rejuvenate your existing landscape?

Before you make this decision, there are a few things you need to consider.

1. What are your landscape goals? Are you looking for a new look, or merely to improve on your existing landscape? Do you need to change a viewpoint, traffic pattern or maybe add a piece of hardscape?

2. Do you have a budget for the work to be done? Bear in mind that removal of some larger established plants will eat into that budget.

3. Does your existing landscape serve a purpose other than beautifying your home? Are you screening something from view, defining your property lines or trying to cut down on the noise from nearby traffic?

4. Does your landscape create “good neighbor vibes”?Do you and your neighbor both benefit from the existing plants? Take into consideration if relandscaping will cause a strain on your relationship with your neighbor.

5. How accessible is the area in question? This may be an essential factor if any equipment is necessary to do the job.

6. Is your current landscape achieving goals a new landscape may not be able to do until it is established? For instance; is a large tree providing shade that a new tree would take years to offer.

7. Are you looking to hire a professional landscaper or do the work yourself?

You should be able to answer these questions before you proceed with any further with your landscape plans. In the next post, I will discuss the pros and cons of rejuvenating your landscape ~vs. ~ completely re-landscaping your area.