Sunday December 27, 2009 Puttering in Helen’s Haven

What a week in the garden.  It rained on Christmas, so I didn’t have to make up any excuses about being outside.

Nature put her breaks on me so I could focus on celebrating with my family.  Then lo and behold, the skies cleared, the temperature rose, and I was out playing in the garden once again.

The wintertime is a great time to clean up, gear up, and read up on gardening for the next season.  But in Helen’s Haven, the winter is a season we celebrate.  Helen’s Haven is a four season garden with plenty of interest in each season, especially the winter.

As I cut back The Red Bed, I evaluated what I wanted for the coming year.  The castor beans were a huge hit this year.  Bold, lush and red; the drama they brought can be matched by no other.  However, after the frost, when they needed to be removed for the season, it was like felling a forest.  I may have had a bit more than needed; especially considering the amount of work they were after the frost.  Castor beans will continue to grace The Red Bed, but in smaller numbers.

I have plenty of seed to share.  Let me know if I can send some to you!

Also in The Red Bed, the hedgerow I started last winter is taking shape.  Having planted daylilies there (divisions from clients and friends), they became a maintenance headache.  So, as much as my neighbors love them, I decided they needed to go.  I made an attempt to remove them, but I know I didn’t get them all and will be after them for quite a while.  I left one patch on purpose because I do love them.

But the goal for the south side is to have a nice tapestry hedge to attract wildlife.  The plantings included in the hedgerow are, a spice bush, camellia, variegated box, Rose of Sharon, Gold Totem Pole, Knock Out Rose, Japanese Black pine, Abelia ‘Little Richard’ and Forthysia.  These plantings are a continuation of the Southern Magnolia that anchors the Southwest corner of the house.

Fledging Hedgerow

Another area in The Red Bed that needed my attention was the Forsythia.  There were four big clumps that needed to be removed.  This is one of my favorite harbingers of spring; but it can get a little unruly.

The aster, banana, elephant ears, daisies, ruellia, salvias were cut back.  kk decided he had no room for the Invincibelle Spirit, so I planted it in The Office Border.

For some time now, I have considered putting in an edge along the back lawn area where it meets the twin beds.  Left over from a job were 15 Ever-edges.  Laying them out to see how they will look, there they sit until I can decide.  It’s looking like it will be a good investment to at least try.  There are enough to be able to tell if the look is something I want.  Cut edges just don’t last long enough.  Given the look of that back area, a crisp formal edge is necessary.  Whether I go with this edge or another, an edge will be addressed in 2010.

Added Christmas tree cuttings to the wildlife brush pile

Wildlife brush pile

Fresh Cut Christmas Trees Versus Artificial Trees

Christmas Tree Afterlife for Wildlife

Merry Christmas to All and to All Good Gardens

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum


  1. TC Conner said

    I’m sure you saved some seeds from the “mole bean plant.” Their tropical look can’t be beat here in the northeast. I’ve grown them in the past, but haven’t in a while because I’ve been disappointed by how they’ve not “done.” I don’t know what’s different but one time I grew them and they stretched to six, seven, and eight feet. I’ve not had them do that in years. Maybe if you sent some of your seeds?? ;~)

    • I am happy to send you some seed T.C. But I will warn (or thrill) you, these are from big stock. My got 15 feet! They were awesome, as I’m sure you saw in summer posts. Send me you mailing address.

      • TC Conner said

        I’m willin to take that risk Ms. Helen! Like I said, I’ve grown them here before but they’ve not lived up to my expectations when I last planted them. I’ll be sure to keep a record of how your seeds do here.

        (Check your email.)

    • P.S. T.C., I added images of the castor bean stock and your seeds sunning. Can’t wait to hear how they did for your next year. H.

      • TC Conner said

        Lovely Ms. Helen! Just lovely. You can’t beat that for a tropical plant here in the northeast!

  2. meghan said

    i loved those castor beans!! i’m so excited to see if they do well here in pinehurst. the color will be really nice and the size, well the size will fool people into thinking i’m a great gardener! 😉 i’m going to focus on a lot more foliage this year and berries for winter…and grasses and annuals for color. i’ve been on a perennial kick for a couple years now and i’m ready to get back to some no fail annuals. happy new year helen!

    • Hey Meghan, Did I give you some seed when you were here for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour this summer? If not, I will send you some if you email me your address. Also, I’m planning a scouting trip to Pinehurst this spring and would love to get input from you and to see your garden. H.

      • meghan said

        i did get some seeds during the tour and i can’t wait to see those puppies in the spring. 🙂 definitely get with me in the spring….although, my little sandy yard has yet to be transformed into a garden. slowly, but surely it is improving though. i tell you, the sandhills can be a challenging place for growing lush plants. i’ve learned to embrace the lantana and container gardens!!!

    • P.S. Meghan, I too am focusing more on grasses and other plants to give more impact in the spring and fall, especially berries just like you. We would share lists of what we hope to put in.

  3. Nell Jean said

    Your Red Bed description and Tapestry Hedge descriptions reminded me that I need a better plan for the north side where I once aspired to a Red Bed, changed that to a Tropical Bed and now believe Tapestry Hedge might be where I’m going. Things that looked promising died off and things I believed to be temporary caught hold and got going. Red Cascade Rose suddenly needs a really big corral to hold her!

    • Good luck Nell Jean on your north side. Not only was I looking for food and cover for wildlife, I was also looking for privacy. I may just have it some in about 5 years LOL. But it’s better this year than last and next year will be better still. H.

  4. Castor bean is also know as Mole bean. The name comes from the practice of placing castor beans in mole runs where the rodents will hopefully eat the seeds and die.

    • TC Conner said

      Do you know of anyone who’s had success with this Ms. Helen? It’d sure make a great blog post!

      • I don’t know of a specific example. However, I will say, knowing this, I added them to an area of my garden where I knew moles lived. I don’t have them anymore! In fact, I had voles there too, but they have also moved on. Not sure why since the roots are not poisonous.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by forest60, Gardening. Gardening said: Sunday December 27, 2009 Puttering in Helen's Haven « Gardening … […]

  6. TC Conner said

    Hmmm, you’re sure the roots aren’t poisonous?

  7. Flowers said

    Nice blog. Like the christmas Wreath. Hope you had a great Christmas. Have a wonderful Christmas.

  8. Diana Garmon said

    I am enjoying your postings. My day lillies are needing to be moved – moved
    some last year but, as you did, left a few. I live in the Indian Trail, NC
    (near Charlotte) area. I covered my elephant ears wtih lots of mulch. They
    lasted really well that way last year. I will need ot separate and thin them
    this yaar. Again, enjoy your postings.
    Diana Garmon, Master Gardener, Union County, NC

  9. Hey Diana, Thanks for your kind words. Most of my elephant ears are near the house offering protection. The Black Magic are exposed, but do fine if they get enough water – and I don’t water. Of course, I didn’t need to this year. You are lucky to be near Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. I love it there. I was just thinking how it looked int he winter. Thanks for stopping by. H.

  10. tina said

    Have a very happy New Year Helen.

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