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Creating a Garden Oasis in North Carolina

  • March 20, 2020
  • By Luanna

Contemplate the flowers and learn from them how to live.


In our strange new environment, navigating a worldwide pandemic, our lives are doused in stress, uncertainty, and concern. Now more than ever, I believe it is important that each of us find our own “oasis,” where we can temporarily escape the noise of our thoughts, a place where we can learn, grow and nurture ourselves.

IPrivate sanctuaries calm us in our own ways. For some, it’s a jigsaw puzzle and family at the dining table. For others, it may be baking a delectable recipe you haven’t had time to attempt before. Your place of renewal could be a brisk drive near the ocean with the windows down and the breeze cleansing your face with the fresh air. Or maybe it’s a virtual happy hour with old friends laughing over long-forgotten memories of youth while sipping your favorite cocktail.

For my friend, Janette, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, gardening is her oasis. We’ve been friends for over fifteen years, having met as neighbors in Southern California. Janette’s patio and garden was always the loveliest in our community. Colorful flowers were nourished by her touch. The branches of her tall trees gently rustled in the breeze. A small fountain serenaded its garden family. It was an oasis for us to enjoy with a glass of wine and girl talk.

Now that she has retired and moved to North Carolina, we stay in touch several days a week. I visited her in early February and on a sunny day, we walked around her gardens and discussed her love for nature and how it has helped calm and comfort her each and every day.

What is your oasis?

Spring has sprung, and your garden– with all of its colors and blooms — is absolutely stunning. How did your interest in gardening begin?

My interest in gardening began with the purchase of my townhome in Southern California. The builder installed a sidewalk in the front yard along with lots of dirt, so I needed to design and install the landscape for a postage-sized patio adjacent to a golf course. I worked with a landscape architect. Two river birch trees and a redbud tree served as the foundation plants for the rest of the garden design. A free-formed flagstone hardscape and seatwall shaped the beds. That small garden area became the canvas for my creative exploration in gardening.

You grew up in upstate New York, moved to Southern California for all of your adult career, and now you’re in North Carolina enjoying retirement. All the while, gardening has been a big pastime for you. How has the difference in climates changed your approach to gardening?

Moving to North Carolina was complete culture shock for me in many ways, including all things related to gardening and how plants grow. In Southern California, I did not need to know much of anything about horticulture. I could purchase fully grown, flowering plants at nurseries and was able to easily see how each plant complemented each other. The season for growing colorful flowers was a long one.

Fast forward to North Carolina. Everything I took for granted in California was no longer relevant. I had never experienced a lawn with grass before and my house was built on a hill, so preventing erosion and keeping the vast amounts of rain water away from my house foundation quickly became my obsession. Plants at the nurseries were not fully mature and would not be for at least three years. “Sleep, creep, leap,” was the landscaper’s mantra as I complained about the slow growth of every plant installed. I kept telling him I was too old to wait three years to enjoy every plant in my yard!

Since coming to North Carolina I have learned many things about how to garden successfully. My repertoire of gardening knowledge includes planting shrubs higher than ground level so their roots will not drown in the clay soil and removing all the roses from my rose bushes every June so the Japanese beetles will not have as many delightful specimens on which to feast.

My learning curve was a steep one; however, the rewards have been many. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing plants waking up from their dormancy in Spring. I especially enjoy seeing the peonies peeking their heads above ground to signal the start of the growing season in North Carolina. I have lived in my home for seven years, so I am now enjoying a good variety of plants that are “leaping.” Patience really is the mother of all virtues.

We’ve talked a lot about your garden being your personal oasis. What does it mean to you personally? What have the blooms taught you?

Since moving here I have learned patience, and most importantly, that there are some things over which I have no control. I tend to the conditions that promote growth and trust that everything else will fall into place. I believe that is how we should live our lives.

The Loblolly is a pine tree unique to the southern region of the United States. I have been both fascinated by and terrified of these very tall, spindly, pencil-thin trees that sway so menacingly in the breeze and during the severe storms in the Carolinas. As I watch this tree bend and sway gracefully when the wind blows against it, not resisting the flow of energy, I become aware that this is how we should be living our lives. The tree accepts the strong wind as a blessing and develops stronger roots as a result. The Loblolly tree reminds me that only through facing our own challenges and working through life’s struggles do we become stronger– perhaps a lesson worth remembering during these difficult days of physical distancing. I can feel my roots becoming stronger. Can you?

It’s lovely that you’ll be hosting your Garden Club for a tea party when you’re all able to socialize again. For an early summer event, what florals from your garden do you envision as a centerpiece? What menu have you planned?

I hope to be able to feature my favorite flowers: the peony, lily of the valley, and hydrangea. In place of the hydrangea I sometimes use the beautiful snowball viburnum. I also add a few ligustrum branches for greenery and loropetalum for red foliage.

I’m still in the menu-planning phase and am considering a mix of savory and sweet canopies. I’m not a sweet tea fan, so in keeping with the South, either a mint julep or a simple flavored ice tea would be best for the occasion. Of course, we will wear brightly colored, flamboyant hats and will surely toast to our reclaimed freedom!

By Luanna, March 20, 2020
About Me
Hi! I'm Luanna
I love to Eat, Drink, Work and Play. Welcome to my world!

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