Robin’s Egg blue garden bench

This area just outside the morning room with a Robin's Egg Blue garden bench.

This area just outside the morning room with a Robin’s Egg Blue garden bench.

My Robin’s Egg blue garden bench just outside my morning room door. I can see this decorated garden area just outside as I sit in my morning room. This is the first year for this area and it will mature over time as I add more plants of interest.

This is the only river birch you can plant close to foundations. It's called a Heritage river birch approved by the NC landscaping guide for sidewalks and home foundations...flowergardengirl.com

This is the only river birch you can plant close to foundations. It’s called a Heritage river birch approved by the NC landscaping guide for sidewalks and home foundations…flowergardengirl.com

Pink pansies and the American flag are the focus of a large craftsman style home at flowergardengirl.com

Pink pansies and the American flag are the focus of a large craftsman style home at flowergardengirl.com

My front porch is always the awe and love of passer bys as they wish they were sitting in my swing admiring the landscaping. I know this is bragging but I designed my home with porches being a big part of the lifestyle. It will be decorated in Autumn.

Two medium sized crepe myrtles at the home of flowergardengirl.com

Two medium sized crepe myrtles at the home of flowergardengirl.com

There are many crepe myrtles in my yard and these two little dark pink specimens are on the not-so-traveled side of my home.

Quilt flag and one of many I want to assemble. flowergardengirl.com

Quilt flag and one of many I want to assemble. flowergardengirl.com

Wishing you here for a cup of tea and something yummy to eat. Have a nice day.

Crepe Myrtles in another post!

Crepe Myrtles….Wafting Buscuit Breezes on an old Crepe Myrtle

Valentine Crepes

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2013 Announcement creating height for the container

Purple Sunset Fruit

2013 Announcement Creating Height for the Container Arrangement

‘Purple Sunset’ ornamental pomegranate

Here’s something exciting for one of Flowergardengirl’s picks as she chooses her 2013 container arrangements. Now hey, it looks pretty big below right? ….but you can buy it much smaller and cut the lower limbs for under planting. Deep burgundy fruit will appear all summer and beautiful birch yellow fall leaves appear in autumn. Orange flowers precede the fruit.

I’m going to plant this in a rather large container and give my front entry a rather Mediterranean feel. I planted ‘Firethorn’ pyracantha vines last season and I bet that is going to be a riot of good looking entertaining autumn appeal for 2013. I will underplant with something that really makes that deep purple fruit pop and just wondering what will bring out the orange flower…any suggestions? I might have some ;).

A special thank you to Kathleen Hennessy and Bailey Nursery for their kindness over the years in sending me plants. I did not receive this particular plant but will be writing about others received this season. In the coming weeks I’ll be showcasing some of their roses, wisteria, and other ornamentals. Very proud to do so as this company has shown me a great deal of professional etiquette over the years. I appreciate them very much. Visit their website @ www.firsteditionsplants.com

Ya’ll stay tuned for even a few 2014 introductions!

Purple Sunset Habit
First Editions Purple Sunset Pomegranate FINAL 2013

petunia container arrangement

Gardening with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome and coping with the madness

I am learning to garden with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome and coping with the madness of this affliction. I use to think nothing of gardening all day long happily hauling 50lb bags of soil or manure. I use only the best ingredients. Up until 4 months ago, I had 4 major clients that I loved doing their displays and home arrangements. I can no longer work for more than 15 minutes at the time. In fact, my brain is sick from this affliction and completing a thought can be impossible. I have cried a bucket of tears over this mess. I love to write….write about all sorts of things…..and now it’s very hard. My arms don’t want to cooperate and neither does my brain. Why? what happened?

If you had chicken pox as a kid then the virus lays dormant in your system until a particular stress causes it to reactivate when you are around 50ish. That’s when your resistance runs out from when you first had it. Getting the booster at 50 will lessen your second bout of this virus but I did not get the booster cause no one told me to.

Along came a real stressful time in my life 4 months ago and the chicken pox virus reactivated in the nerves of my face. If the virus activates in other parts of your body it’s called shingles but when it activates in the nerves of your face it’s called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome…RHS. RHS is extremely painful causing deep ear and jaw pain. It can cause sores around and in the ear or inside the mouth. I had sores in the mouth. The sores ran along the chew line and on the right side.

On August 8th, the worst pain you can imagine began way deep in my ear and jaw followed by total face paralysis on the right side. The full paralysis lasted two months. I was shopping and felt my tongue go numb and went straight to my dr. She said my blood pressure was sky high and sent me to the emergency room where they ran bloodwork, cat scan, and mri. Everything came out ok except I told the dr my face felt numb. He said I was just anxious but I insisted something was wrong so to appease me……he sent me home with antivirals and steroids in case I was coming down with Bells Palsy.

The next morning after the ER visit….I woke up with a paralyzed face and in so much pain I was vomiting. I called my family dr and she got me in asap. She said I was on the right meds for Bells Palsy and sent me home with pain meds.

After a week, I wasn’t getting better and a dear sweet neighbor who worked for a neurosurgeon became concerned that I wasn’t getting better so she called my husband to discuss me seeing a neurologist. I owe her a lot for paying attention to how I was doing and insisting to my husband to get me further treatment. She helped us get an appointment with the top neurologist in the area and that dr knew right away that I have Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. He also said I was not responding to the antiviral I was given so started me on another which did work after two refills.

Dr. Hill said…girl….you got a long road ahead of you but we will fight this together. He said you have a bad case and it’s going to take lots of steroids and antivirals to get you  through. It’s now been 4months and there have been some ugly complications which have greatly altered my life and that of my family—and especially my gardening career. I am weak, slow thinking, and pain has persisted along with vertigo.

RHS attacks the nerve in your face that runs down past your ear…..across your cheek…and up around your eye. RHS attacked every bit of mine. Nerves only heal at 1 mm a day so think of this as at least 2 years but I know of others in their 11th year still with permanent damage.  I will be on steroids, neurontin, topamax, and xanax for at least 2 years. Because of the nerve death I have a secondary complication that is very serious called Giant Cell Arteritis–GAC. GAC is death of the arteries in the afflicted area of the dead nerves. GAC caused decreased blood flow to my right eye and reduced the vision by 75%. They don’t think I’ll get that back. GAC also affects blood flow to your arms and legs. It’s a nightmare and just plain insane but my strong faith helps me meet each new day with hope and to God be the Glory.

GAC and RHS make you so tired, make you depressed, make you fight for life every day. The meds make you a crazy person. I am puffed up from the steroids something awful to the tune of 30 extra pounds. For 4 months, I have sat on my sofa and slept or roamed the internet looking at gardens. Thinking of how one gardens when they are recuperating from something that robs your energy. Not gardening is out of the question.

I know plenty of people who would help me garden but that would take the pleasure out for me. Honestly….I don’t know anyone who gardens like me. I’ve been told I’m an artist in the garden and that pleases me to no end.

So…..here I am…in the midst of being very sick…sleeping upwards of 16 hours a day…and using precious hours to plan gardening. Would you expect any less of me? My husband just rolls his eyes.

I have scaled back. The GAC and RHS make my arms and legs feel like jello after about 30 minutes of work…so I will really have to plan this wisely–and rest on my swing for long periods surveying the work as it grows….inch by inch. I have started a to-do list for my husband which starts in January. I will have him put down manure and compost in the planting areas—and the vegetable garden. He can do one area per month and that won’t aggravate him to death. He hates a long to-do list.

I am planting more variety this year……instead of planting whole flats of flowers…I will do smaller areas with a variety of six packs===a perennial or two here and there. I will have a raised bed vegetable garden out back. My yard is sloped so I’ll do hay bail gardening and make a big square or several small squares with three hay bails in the back and one in the front….cause that will make it even across the top. It will be fenced in with a screen door. Probably will have a top on it too. Last year the squirrels stole my tomatoes and took one bite just to be mean.

So….how does one garden while so sick? Well….you just plan and do what you can–and what you can’t……you just let it go……..just let it go……

The photo above is from the front garden display at June DeLugas Interiors in Clemmons, NC. I had to give up her gardens this year and that broke my heart. She was my very best client and is one of my greatest friends. Made me very sad.

Christel Colla's autumn pumpkin arrangement

Pumpkin Lemongrass Chrysanthemum Autumn Containers with Christel Colla

Pumpkin Lemongrass chrysanthemum autumn containers with Christel Colla! 

I’ve introduced you to Christel’s kitchen garden  and her husband’s collection of tin signs so let’s see what Christel is doing today. Looks like she’s made us some pumpkin Lemongrass chrysanthemum autumn containers.

She’s the most inspiring person always coming up with new garden designs or making some kind of outstanding container arrangement. Her talents go beyond the garden to music and card crafting. I’ve never seen a person be so obedient to God to develop all that God has given them and she’s so generous to share. Thank you Christel.

Her husband Johnny….cut out the tops and Christel scooped out the insides which makes them last longer. Christel lives in California and that day it was rather warm but the cooler days to come will extend the life…..the good part is the pumpkins can be easily peeled away at planting time and all goes right in the garden or divided for places in other containers. If you live in a frost free zone…the mums will continue to be green for quite some time.

She said the pumpkin scraping was labor intensive. She was so tired but this part can’t be skipped or you’ll have a rotten mess too quickly before the season is done. Good job my dear friend. You always go the extra mile and do it right.

Please leave a comment telling Christel how much you enjoyed her giving us step by step instructions. I enjoyed it so much that I just had to share.

Christel first used Lemongrass and planted that in the pumpkins.

Next up the autumn flower selections

Sitting on Christel’s porch is a gorgeous pot of ornamental peppers…fittingly..a nice companion autumn container arrangement with the pumpkins.

And isn’t it to die for…..

Christel’s husband..Johnny..cut the pumpkins for her. This is a hard task and he is using a hand held power saw. Pretty smart I’d say. Saved Christel an hour or more she said. She was grateful. Johnny helps her do a lot of things…both are lucky to have each other. Both are immensely talented in a lot of areas.

Thank you so much for letting me use your photos Christel. I love you for it.

Thought you might also like to see Christel’s kitchen garden from a few years past. I featured her in a magazine that is no longer around but these photos sure tell the story. Christel changes this with each year and season and her fruits have grown in so nicely. She does keep up her bird feeders every day. Hats off sweet friend. Always a pleasure.