We are hoping to add other gardening sections, but we are starting with roses and perennials.  We grow several different varieties of roses, but mostly old garden roses.  I've included roses that we have had success in growing, how to care for them, planting tips, etc.

If you want to see pictures of what a garden can look like without the use of a lot of chemicals, here  is a link to some photographs.

Our Growing Conditions    Humid Southeastern US.  You will need to make adjustments in the advice and even types of roses to grow, if you live in other regions.

Planting How we plant roses and perennials, given our soil and weather conditions.
Summer Care Feeding and spraying.
Perennials Which perennials are the easiest to grow.
Roses Which roses are the easiest to grow .
WCFRS Newsletters Wilmington Cape Fear Rose Society Newsletters
Organic Roses Tips on growing roses organically
Dogs What to do if your dogs mess with your garden.
HELP! A few tips collected over the years for gardeners...
Gardening 101 for Regency Writers Gardening information for writers who have selected the Regency period (early 19th century) in England, and need a little information to get them started

Our Growing Conditions

We are on the border of zone 7 and 8, but have a fairly mild climate as we live near Wilmington, NC and are approximately 50 miles inland from the coast.  We do not have to worry about wrapping up roses for the winter and most plants do fairly well if we give them a 2" blanket of mulch in the fall.  

If this helps you to figure out the temperature ranges...our Mexican Sage survives each winter, although it is protected with a thin line of trees behind it to give it some shelter from the wind.  If we move it to a more open location, we often have to replant it each spring.  So, we are right on the "climate border" for Mexican and some of the other less hardy sages.

We have very heavy clay soil, which is acidic.

We get rain in the winter, but it stops around April and the summers are hot and humid, but with very little rainfall.  The worst enemies of our plants are downy Mildew and Black Spot.  Given those conditions, here is what we finds works, and what does not.

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Planting

We've been given a lot of directions on planting, but here is what we do that seems to work for us.

1)  Buy plants from a source with a similar climate.  We used to try to mail order plants from northern nurseries, but most of those plants cannot survive here. Even varieties which should do well here, seem to struggle. Now we try to find southern nurseries and the plants do a lot better.  Local sources are even better.

2)  Dig a hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the container of the plant you are planting.  For roses, dig a hole 20 inches wide and 20 inches deep.  (Sometimes I get tired and dig a hole 20" wide and only 15" deep but as long as I add a lot of nice soil amendments, it does okay...)

3)  Mix the dirt as follows
        1/3 - 1/2 of the top dirt dug from the hole (move the bottom-most dirt aside)
        Several cups of Gypsum
        1-2 cups of Lime
        1/2 cup Epson Salts
        2-3 cups of Cotton Seed Meal ( Alfalfa Meal is better, but occasionally harder to get)
        Compost mixed with about 1 cup of sand so you can fill the hole.

        Add any other soil conditioners you need. Ones I like include: Kelp Meal, Bone Meal, Blood Meal, etc.  If you have a source for horse manure, marry them or at least get heavily involved so that you can get a constant supply.  If all else fails, pay the guy to deliver in the fall and spring...

        We frequently add sphagnum moss or soil conditioner, too.  Dig the hole, take the loose dirt and mix it with the above ingredients and put a mound of it in the hole.  Add water.  Place the plant (sans pot) on the mound in the hole, then fill in the rest of the hole with the remaining mixture.  If you need to add more water because it has all drained, do so.  It will help the soil fill any gaps so there are no air holes around the roots of the plant.

    Use the rest of the soil from the bottom of the hole to form a ridge around the hole so that it makes a basin to hold in water.  It also helps to keep the mulch from blowing away.

     Put a thick layer of mulch, such as pine needles, around the plant.  During the summer, we use grass clippings, which work very well, but you may need to intersperse lightly with nitrogen to avoid the decomposition of the clippings from "starving" the plant of nitrogen.

     Dry Locations:  If you are planting in a dry location where you can't, or won't, water much, add some of those polymer crystals to hold water.  They will help your plant to survive the long, hot summers.  You only need to use about 1/2 cup and it really helps the first year.  They gradually decompose in a few years so you don't have to worry about chemicals in the soil.

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Summer Care

We are lazy so we do as little as possible in the summer.

Spraying:  We spray the roses once a week with a mixture of 1TBsp vegetable oil and 1TBsp Baking Soda per gallon of water.  This seems to help black spot.  For powdery mildew, adding 1Tbsp of Clorox bleach seems to help.  Some weeks I forget, which is okay if I've at least done this during the spring.

Watering:  We water when it is very hot and if there has been no rain for a couple of weeks.  Other than that, the plants just have to make it on their own.

Feeding:  We feed plants occasionally with a liquid-soluble food and Epsom Salts.  

In the spring and in the middle of the summer, I give everything a cup of the following food mixture.  Roses really love this combination.  Again, you can vary the proportions and ingredients depending upon your circumstances, soil, etc.

Cotton Seed Meal (10 lbs)
Epsom Salts (1 cup)
Lime (1 cup)
Bone Meal (5 lbs)
Blood Meal (5 lbs)
Kelp Meal (5 lbs)

That's it.  Our garden can either take it, or leave it.

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Perennials

I've tried lots of "hardy" perennials, but the ones that do best here, do not seem to be the ones in the "hit lists" of the gardening magazines.  You can spend a lot of money finding this out.

Black-eyed Susans and Coneflowers just get powdery Mildew and look awful starting in July.  Asters barely grow at all and are prone to Mildew, too.  Coreopsis dies out after the second or third year.  We have tough conditions and my time in the garden is limited (the garden  is about 1 acre in size, and we both work, so...)

We've had to put our own list together of plants that survive year after year, can put up with humidity and drought, and don't need a lot of coddling.  We also have chickens who get into the yard and from there into the garden, so I'll mark the plants that can survive chickens scratching and rooting around.  That is no mean feat, and these plants deserve special mention.

If you are just starting out, grow Lantana, Daylilies and Daffodils.  They will take you from spring through the fall with very few problems.  They grow for almost everyone and under the worst conditions.  You can get away without feeding them or watering them and they just keep on blooming.  

Beginner's Tip:  For a quick border, stick a few Buddleia davidii (Butterfly Bush) at the back of a border or in the middle of an island border.  The 'Nanho Blue' is pretty for this.  Add a few Lantana and daylilies in front of the Buddleia, then place daffodils around the border's edge.  Starting in spring, something will be blooming until frost and you will have loads of butterflies.  To really spice it up, add some sage, such as Mexican Sage, Salvia mexicana (or Salvia leucantha), towards the middle or rear of the border.  The deep purple flowers really look wonderful with most forms of Lantana.  And, for a soft edging, add Lamb's Ears.

We will add photographs to the plants listed below, as we can.

Clematis - (Clematis) These vines grow anywhere and bloom like crazy during the summer.  They are very fetching growing through a rose bush, especially roses trained as pillar roses or climbing. 

Lantana - Everyone in the south should grow this.  It is easy and takes no special care.  Blooms from mid-summer through fall and looks great with sage.  There are many different colors, coming in various sizes.  Butterflies love them.

Mexican Sage - Blooms beautifully in the fall and is a great companion for Lantana.  Will over-winter if it is located in a somewhat protected area and if you mulch it.  Seems to do okay in almost any type of soil.

Lamb's Ear - Needs good drainage and old leaves need to be removed to keep them from matting down and killing the plants.  Try adding a little gypsom and/or sand when you plant them to make heavy clay soil lighter.  This is a good plant for a raised bed as they tend to have better drainage.  Planting in a small "hillock" also helps.

Daylilies - (Hemerocallis hybrids)  *Survives chickens.  Grows anywhere and under any conditions.  The best plant for beginners.  Excellent in any soil and can even be used as erosion control on steep banks.  Many, many colors available.  Orange and yellow varieties seem to be the most common, the cheapest, and the hardiest.

Asiatic Lilies - Bloom beautifully in June with no care at all.  They seem to come back every year and are not as fussy as Oriental Lilies, which die after 3 years here from a local soil bacteria problem.  We still plant Oriental Lilies, though, as they are beautiful for two or three years and have a lovely scent.

Daffodils  - *Survives chickens.  Grows anywhere and under any condition.  Another excellent plant for beginners.  Just plant them in the fall and be ready for lots of blooms in the spring.  May have difficulties if there is shade or root competition with trees.

Dahlias - Grow beautifully and can be left in the ground under a good layer of mulch.  Taller varieties will need staking.

Balloon Flower - A beautiful plant for the middle-to-front of the border.  Seems to survive almost any conditions and still bloom in June-July.

Foxgloves - (Digitalis purpurea) Treat as an annual and let it go to seed each year (at least let one plant go to seed).  If you dead-head, some plants may survive two years, but rarely three.

Hollyhocks - (Alcea) Great biennial.  May go to seed.  Some varieties will come back for two-three years.  Easy to collect the seeds and start new plants.  Be careful of placement because these can get really huge if they like the soil.  They do well in average soil but do not like root competition or too much shade.  There are some beautiful double and shorter varieties.

Verbena 'Homestead' (Verbena x hybrida)- Grows very well but tends to spread to go where it wants to go.  My original plot is now bare where I planted the verbena and the verbena itself has crawled its way to a new location a few feet away.  It seems to like it better there, so I'm leaving it. 'Homestead' is a purple variety and seems to do the best in clay soils.  The white, pink and red varieties never make it through the summer for me.  If you have sandy soil, the red varieties seem to do very well.

Mint - Most mints are easy to grow and will spread if the soil is not too bad.  If your soil is very heavy, add some gypsom when you plant.

Gaura - Beautiful plant which survives all hardships and blooms from mid-summer through fall.  Great to place around an "open" variety of rose,  as the airy flowers will surround the rose with a froth of delicate white or pink blooms.  They mix well with many of the older rose varieties, such as 'Old Blush' (before that rose gets too big in 5 or 6 years).

Hosta - Beautiful in a shady spot, but needs a little better soil and some water.  It blooms during the summer and smells heavenly.  I just add some sphagnum moss when I plant and mulch it.  This plant does not do well around chickens, however.  I just keep my plants in areas the chickens haven't found...yet.  It only takes chickens two or three days to completely strip and kill a hosta.

Rosemary - If you have an acidy, clay soil, you may need to add lime, sand and gypsum in higher proportions when you plant.  You may need to plant it in a little "hillock" so that it can drain, if the surrounding soil is thick clay (like our soil is).  This is a great plant for sunny areas, where you can't water frequently.  The weeping variety is wonderful over retaining walls or on hillsides.  It can take the place of heathers if you can't grow them (and we can't seem to grow them.)

Pansies and Violas - Okay, so these aren't perennials.  We have some lovely little violets in purple and white which grow quite readily in the worst clay areas, as weeds.  I dig them out of the "lawn" and move them to the garden as I like the way they look in the spring.  They self-sow readily, so it seems like they are perennials.  The store-bought varieties can be purchased in the fall and planted.  They will bloom all fall, sporadically during the winter, and beautifully in the spring.  The heat of summer will kill them, but they do look nice interspersed with daffodils.

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Dogs

Our Chocolate Lab, Roscoe, likes to garden with us.  Unfortunately, I do not always like the results.  He has dug up roses and eaten the rose bush and the soil it was in, leaving big holes behind.  It wouldn't be so bad if he at least left the plant behind, or some dirt to fill in the hole.

If you have similar problems, here are some tricks to try.  They worked with Roscoe, so maybe your dog will be similarly cooperative.

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1)  Eating Soil/digging:  Dogs will dig up bulbs and plants if you use blood or bone meal when you plant them.  If you do use Blood Meal or Bone Meal to fertilize or condition the soil when you plant, try mixing it with Lime.  The Lime will often mask the odor and make it less attractive to animals. 
     Or, give up on those two and use a combination of chemical fertilizers, Epson Salts, and Cotton Seed Meal. 
     Or, get a big bucket and mix Blood Meal, Bone Meal, Cotton Seed Meal, Epson Salts, Kelp, Lime, some compost and some roughage such as grass clippings.  Make it damp and let it sit for two weeks to cook.  Stir it a couple of times during this process.  After two weeks, you can use it to fertilize your plants and it will not seem as attractive to your dog as the fresh stuff would be.  You can change around the list of ingredients to suit your needs.

     Or, use the next suggestion.

2)  Digging up plants:  When planting, after putting the mulch down, collect up some fresh "dog doo" and place it around the plant.  I can guarantee they will not dig there, at least not until the "doo" starts to decay.  This also works when fertilizing.  Your dogs will leave everything alone if you "doo it".

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Books by Amy Corwin
The Dead Man's View