Sunday and Sunday November 22/23, 2008 Puttering in Helen’s Haven

To say my husband isn’t into gardening as much as I am would be an understatement.   At least he tolerates me and often times encourages me in the garden.  This encouragement is never expressed while in the garden, but rather when I trapped him into a conversation in the kitchen and he agrees to whatever I say so he can move on to a more interesting topic, to him at least.


We met through our environmental engineering circle 21 years ago.  He also has a second undergraduate degree in agronomy.  One would think he would have at least a superficial interest in gardening.   This degree was one of the reasons I was attracted to him.  What I didn’t realize at the time was his interest was more in plant breeding and it would appear seed collecting.  He is a seed collector.  If I allowed it, we would have every seed he collected in the 20 years of married life.  I have no idea where they all are.  Just as well, he hasn’t missed them.  See, he only collects seeds; there isn’t (near as I can tell) a purpose to saving them.


Getting to the point of this post, I only ask him for help when I really, really, really need it.  Early on when I realized I was alone in my garden forays, I established a chit system.  Realizing if I was to keep him encouraging me in the garden, or rather, not to have him complain about me in the garden, I would have to not rely on him.  As such, this system of establishing a lifetime chit system was born.  I’ve use chits at varies level, some mundane others major. 


Over the years, I’ve narrowed my focus and now only use him if I really need him.  For example, he helped me level a fountain that I found at the flea market at a great price only to find out it was all wicky-wacky and would require someone with patients (not me), mechanical skills (again, not me or at least compared to him), and determination (all me.)  This fountain now sits as the gem in Helen’s Haven Red Bed and is the star of the show.


On Thursday, my hort group, with the Raleigh Garden Club, went to Architectural Trees in Bahama, NC.  After I returned, I had a garden mishap.  When I realized what I did, all that occurred to me was that would need to ask my husband for help and that I would have to use a chit for something stupid. november-23-2008-0881

One of the gems I picked up at Arch Trees was a Buxus Sempervirons  ‘Aureo-Variagata’ Variaged Boxwood.  As I was rolling it to the planting area on the hand cart, I was thinking the last thing I needed right now is to hit a bump and the box would roll into the fountain.  Even before I could finish the thought, I hit a bump and the box rolled into the fountain. 


Already at 150 pounds or more, it was only getting heavier by the minute soaking up water like a straw, there was no way I could pull it out by myself.  I would have to use a chit.  Rats.  But I guess that’s what they’re there for.  The irony, and I love irony, was the box rolled into the very fountain that I used a chit to get installed.  Actually, looking back, the fountain probably took up 3 chits.  As they say, you get what you pay for. 

That evening, I tell my husband, “Honey, I had a garden mishap and I wanted to see if you will help me.”  “What kind of mishap?” he asks.  I show him, and he agrees it’s a mishap.  Better yet, he didn’t even take the cheap shots I set myself up for.   He just helped me pull it out, no questions asked.  A bonus.  I even offered to clean up the kitchen after dinner as a return favor.  He declined, another bonus.  


Each day, this weekend, started out so cold that I had to split puttering in Helen’s Haven over Saturday and Sunday.  It was a good couple of days in the garden.  Here’s some of the fun:

  • Planted my Arch Trees purchases including a Cedrus Deodara ‘Feeling Blue’ a dwarf weeper,  Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans’,  Juniperus communis ‘Gold Totem Pole’, and the box above.
  • These all went into the southern most side of my property along the Red Bed.  These are the beginning to a privacy hedgerow I’m creating.  I also added a cherry red double Knock Out® rose ‘Radiko’ pp#16,202 that I pulled out from another spot in the Red Bed, a Lindera glauca silver spicebush and a Rose of Sharon ‘Diane’ that were in my holding area waiting for a new home.  It’s a start.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  • Cut back Cannas and giner with knife acting as a machete
  • Pulled last of annuals
  • Pulled purple salvias
  • Popped and move a mugo pine to make room for dwarf Deodar
  • Cut red caster bean back, spread some seed in back and saved rest to give to friends or to add for next year.  As a side note, when I save seed all over the house, my husband doesn’t mind;-}
  • With all this planting going on and the filling out of existing plants, the path inside Helen’s Haven Red Bed needed redirecting.  Did this and leveled pavers
  • Water newly planted and transplanted plants
  • Popped some box and reset the curve at the front porch bed.
  • The fabulous Lavender I found in Charleston this past spring was not hardy.  Pulled after the killing frost.  Made note to get again.
  • Pruned roses
  • Pruned Miss Huff Lantana
  • Picked off the last of the leaves of the Burgmansia  angel trumpet.  I cut it back to shape it, but din’t cut all the way back.  I like the sticks for winter interest.  This year I may paint red or green to jazz them up some.
  • In order to reset the curve of the box, I needed to move some plants they would displace.  Popped Albelia ‘Conti” moved just 3 feet away.
  • Popped Vernocia ‘Georgia’ moved three feet the other way.
  • Cut back Ruellia brittoniana


That was enough fun for the weekend.  Things are looking good despite the loss of the lush seasons.  Luckily, I have a winter garden.  Still, it’s not dressed for winter.  I usually wait until after the first of the year to lay mulch.  There are three reasons for this.  The first is the most important – I wait until after the killing frost.  The other two reasons are aesthetic:  Waiting for all the leaves to fall from the trees and waiting for all the cut-back and die-back in the beds to occur.  If I cover with my mulch of choice, a composted leaf mulch, to early, I will harbor disease and critters and the leaves still falling will litter my pretty beds.


So I have to contend with a month of uglies before it will start looking rested.  If you haven’t guessed, I may be a wildlife gardener, but I’m also a tidy one.



  1. I got awfully tired reading about your accomplishments! My gosh! 🙂

    My husband is a great weed picker…he HATES weeds! He also LOVES to mulch…and mow with his John Deere! I handle the rest. He does love the garden, though. He spends a lot of time out there with me. We walk through the garden at least twice a day. He’s even starting to learn the names of perennials and what I do to take care of the garden. He likes to help trim the lavender and buddleia. If he had his way, we’d have nothing but buddleia, lavender and salvia in the garden! While he has degrees in forestry and wildlife, he mostly knows the native trees, not the ornamentals.

  2. Helen said

    If I had a John Deere, I would love riding it too…Nothing runs like a Deere – and they say advertising doesn’t work! The tradeoff for me and my husband’s disinterest in the garden is he likes to play with the kids. I don’t like to play. It seems like that is all kids like to do. So he’s in the garden…playing. When I deisgned our garden, the first must have on the list was for it to be child friendly. So I designed it not by a typical fashion with curvilinear beds flowing from room to room. Rather, I designed a “Great Room” a.k.a. The Soccer field. This was an easy choice for me. When I was doing my graduate work in London, my little townhome had this beautiful oval garden with grass in the middle surrounded by beds lined in box. I used that garden as my inspiration. Now, everyone has a happy place to be.

  3. P.S. Cameron, I with your hubby, give me lavendar, buddleia and salvias!

  4. tina said

    One would think agronomy would tie into gardening, but it really is totally different. Take him to a botanical garden and maybe he’ll come around. I hear that works and I am still waiting for the right opportunity to take my dear husband:)

  5. Helen said

    LOL, let me know if it works for you, Tina! I do drag him to some and he is good natured about it. For my Christmas present this year, I’m asking for a day in the garden. If he has to open his checkbook and hire me someone’s husband, that’s OK too!

  6. Helen — my blog tomorrow is about child-friendly plants! Our kids are grown and I miss those days. My son is quite the gardener when he’s not being an archaeologist. The other one is great with laying stone pathways and patios…he did a lot in our garden. Both are so proud of it, too!


  7. I look forward to reading it, Cameron!

    My blog tomorrow is about flowers that talk and they say the darnedest things…

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: