October Sustainable Garden Maintenance Practices for the Southeast



I can’t believe it’s October already; but don’t we say that about every month from August on!

Our first hurricane of the season; Dorian. On the 5th of September, I buttoned down the Flower & Garden Show at the fair grounds and in the Bee Better Beaching Garden. As best I could, I removed all projectiles.

Gulf Fritillary at JoCo

Gulf Fritillary at JoCo

The JoCo symposium was a great success!!! Abby from our Forum volunteered with me at the booth. There were about 166 attending, and the vast majority were Master Gardeners. I understand they represented 30 of our 100 counties. That’s amazing!!! Sorry, no pics

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BugFest was a blast. LaJuana volunteering and she brought along a new Forum member, Tracycee and Lily was also in town, helping me throughout the day. During the day, I also gave a talk on raising monarch butterflies.


My daughter, Lily, was so inspired at BugFest, she wrote this piece for Odyssey, Growing up on a Dying Planet. Her observations from the children’s reaction (BugFest is a great event for children!) were spot on!

The schedule for the 2020 Forum is out! I hope you will consider joining, even from afar. The hand out will be mailed following the meeting if you live out of town. It would be a great way to make a donation to our worthy cause.

The Bee Better Naturally consultations have gotten very busy.. To schedule a consultation, click HERE.

The Raleigh Garden Club will be hosting a fundraiser for Bee Better Naturally in our teaching garden. They also held an event in the spring. The fall topic will be on pollinators. I’m working to make thing look nice. The summer and early fall has been crazy busy.

I recently completed a piece for Garden Gate Magazine on Little Known Pollinators. I believe it will be out in the January/February issue.

Leaf & Limb Tree Service & Care, one of Bee Better Naturally’s partners, will be filming me later in October for their newsletter. We have partnered with Leaf & Limb because we are like-minded thinkers when it comes to bettering our environment. To sign up for their Treecology newsletter, click HERE.

Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest entered a competition garden at the NC State Fair. The theme for our space is a Historic Garden. We choose The Elizabeth Lawerence Garden. In addition to that, Helen will be speaking during the fair at the Flower and Garden show about pollinator gardens. And if that wasn’t enough, Bee Better Naturally has a demonstration booth again this year. The theme for 2019 is Attracting Bluebirds.


How-To Harvest and Dry Herbs


OCTOBER The air of October is filled with fragrance. Off in a distance and next to the deck, designing with fall fragrance completes a fine design.  The fall finds us in the garden more; relaxing, playing, dining. What better way to enhance these moments than with fragrance?

Fall for me brings the beginning of the new gardening year, and October is fall’s most festive month. October gardening in North Carolina is the reward for all your hard work throughout the year. Now is the time to appreciate your landscape, but do some preparedness as well.

We continue to see blooms until the first frost–asters, coneflowers, helianthus, helenium, lantana, milkweeds, phlox, ruella, salvias, solidago, sedums, but summer annuals are starting to fade. I actually pulled my front petunia out in mid-September even though the pansies won’t be ready until the first of October. Sometimes you just have to do certain chores when the time is right.

Th Symphyotrichum ericoides, Heath Aster, started blooming in September and is in their full glory.

Deadhead: Deadhead flowers. Keep your flowers blooming longer by removing faded blossoms from your cannas, roses, daisies, and more. As for the seed plants, such as black-eyed Susans, phlox, and coneflower, leave the flower heads for the birds. Once the birds have picked them through, it’s time to deadhead, and you may see another flush of fresh flowers.

August through October, the goldfinch are enjoying all the seed of garden phlox. This is one of my favorite enjoyments in the garden where the plants bridge the birds. It brings me a tremendous source of entertainment. Deadheading really makes a difference for return blooms, particularly the phlox. They may have powdery mildew, but the fresh blooms keep your eyes where they should be!

Add a pre-emergent if you didn’t last month to keep the Poa annua germination in early spring.

Deadleaf: Many of my daylilies and iris have dying leaves. Feel free to trim back the dead foliage. The garden phlox can benefit from this, if you are so inclined.

Lawns: The first two weeks in September are the best times to re-seed cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, turf-type fescue. Also our southern gardens will benefit from a core aeration. I have Emerald Zoysia, a warm-season grass, so not much needs to be done now, if at all!

Pruning: Resist the urge to prune shrubs that seem overgrown after a long summer showing. It’s best to wait until late winter to prune, just before the next growing season begins. Punning now could stimulate new growth that would be too tender to survive an early deep freeze. You may also be cutting off next spring’s blooms, such as azalea and camellias.

As long as the ground isn’t frozen, it’s not too late to plant and transplant trees and shrubs.  It’s best to root-prune this month and transplant thirty days (or more) later. This gives woody ornamentals a chance to recuperate before being transported to their new location. Root pruning stimulates the growth of small feeder roots along the drip line where running occurred. These new roots will be dug as part of the transplant, allowing the tree or shrub to better adapt.

  • Water the soil well the day before root pruning.

  • Prune out from the trunk 10-12 inch diameter root ball for ever inch of trunk diameter. Thus, a 2-inch diameter root ball will be root pruned about 2 feet from the trunk.

  • Using a flat spade, begin cutting a trench about 24 inches deep. If you run into large roots, cut with loppers.

  • Continue cutting a circular trench around the tree trunk and water thoroughly.

There is still time to order your spring-blooming bulbs. I need to get mine in. I’ll likely order from Brent & Becky’s.

White rain lilies, Zephyranthes candida are in bloom! I have thousands! The BEE BETTER teaching garden looks like a winter wonderland. The ones in our garden are extra special. I bought an order of ten about 15 years ago from Scott Knutz, then owner of Old House Gardens, selling heirloom bulbs. That particular patch came from the gravesite of Elizabeth LawrenceNCSU’s first graduating female landscape architect and later garden writer.


Plant cool-season vegetables. The cooler fall temperatures bring back cool-season crops. It’s time to plant or seed spinach, radish, arugula, and collards. Also, cilantro and lettuce will once again thrive in your garden.

Consider trying some new varieties this year, or vary your usual choices. Why not add some red-leaf lettuce? Loose-leaf red lettuce packs a high nutritional value, including being an excellent source of beta carotene.

I only ever want to speak from experience; these are the fruits I grow in the Bee Better Teaching Garden.

Persimmon —  Diospyros kaki ‘Fuyu’

Pomegranate — Punica granatum ‘Nana’

Pomegranate — Punica granatum — Unknown variety, with medium height. Ready for picking.


As the berries in our area ripen, the birds are having a feast. Keep your birdbaths filled with fresh water, changing out at least ever four days to break the mosquito larvae cycle.

Don’t be so quick to tidy up.  The remains of the summer and fall garden give shelter, food, and cover for the wildlife while also adding winter interest to the garden beds Wait until spring before you put your garden to bed for the winter.

Did you know Our native mason and leafcutter bees use your hollowed stems as nesting sites? Feel free to tidy up, but don’t take everything away. This is your opportunity to re-define beautiful.

Waterwise:  With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze.  My garden at home, the Bee Better Teaching Garden was designed with waterwise principles. I have minimual watering to do, and what I do have, is a choice. My boxwood collection is contained and the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.

Mulch: Compost those leaves. Use your mower equipped with a mulching blade to chop fallen leaves on the grass. These leaves make a wonderful addition to the garden beds or compost pile.

Also, did you know, those leaves are a great source of insect food for ground-feeding birds such as towhees?

Water well before winter. If October and November are dry, give perennials a deep final soaking, so they go dormant in good conditions. They’ll be less subject to winter death with a drink before they sleep.

Pest control:   Watch out for canna leaf roller. Cannas are a great accent plant and attract hummingbirds to the garden. Plus, most canna cultivars are hardy in the Southeast and can overwinter in the ground. If you found your canna foliage riffled with holes, you probably have leaf roller. Canna leaf rollers are major pest in the Southeast, causing the beautiful foliage to be unsightly. 

I recently had a chat with Dough Tallamy about mosquito control. His advice was to have a bucket of water with a handful of hay. As the hay breaks down it ferments, producing CO2, thus attracting the adult female to lay her eggs. Keep the bucket fresh with Bt granular or a donut and these will all die.


Cut flowers. Remember those zinnias you seeded in August and September? Now you can enjoy in October, and be sure to cut some to enjoy inside!


Until soon,


How-To Harvest and Dry Herbs

Whether you use herbs fresh from the garden or line your pantry with cute jars filled with dried herbs, here’s the how-to on harvesting and drying.

Drying herbs

Harvesting Herbs
Cut sprigs or branches in the morning after the dew has evaporated and before the heat of the day.  The oils in herbs are what give aroma and flavor; and herb oils are at their highest concentration during the morning hours. Harvest herbs for drying just as the first flower buds begin to open.  This is when the oils in the leaves are most concentrated, yielding peak flavor that lasts once preserved. Using a sharp knife, pruning scissors, or clippers cut the branches for drying. Right after harvesting, wash gently in cool water and dry in the open air.

Harvesting Seed
Herbs grown for the seeds should be harvested when seed heads turn brown. Put the seed heads in paper lunch-sized bags for drying.  Add a few holes in the side of the bags for air circulation.  The seeds are ready when you can shake the seeds loose.  Store in airtight jars.

Drying Herbs
Drying in Bundles – In small bundles, tie together at the ends and hand upside-down in a warm, dry, well-vented location, out of direct sunlight.  Keep the bundles small and somewhat loose, so the air can circulate.  The attic, shed, or garage are good locations for this. Once the leaves feel crisp, usually in a week or less, strip leaves from the stems and store in airtight jars.

Drying on a Rack – Lay branches of herbs in a single layer on a drying rack. Before storing, make sure your herbs are completely dry.  It will take a few days.  When in doubt, leave it out to dry another day or two more.

Remember, crushing the leaves releases the flavors.  So to preserve the full flavor of your herbs, avoid crushing the leaves until you are ready to use them.

Naturally, Helen


September Sustainable Garden Management Practices for the Southeast

We are entering my favorite season!!! Even thought, I have poison ivy…again! It’s not the season’s fault! Ha!

SEPTEMBER September delights.  With the dog (and cat) days of summer behind us, September opens with cooler air and less humidity, creating a fresh scent and a sense of excitement.  The source of this excitement may be for no reason other than it is bearable to be outside once again.

Indeed, September, and throughout the fall, is an ideal time to plan and plant new garden beds to ready oneself for the next year. September is also an ideal time to enjoy what the month has to offer.

Thought you might be interested in learning how the dreaded Bradford pear had its beginning.

Be sure to check out one of the latest posts, Why Dead Wood is Good Wood!

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Here’s another: How-To Grow Privacy Fast!

How-to grow privacy fast

Our first online course, Raising Monarchs and Growing Milkweed has been a great success. We hope you want to sign up and learn how you can help raise monarchs.

The next course we will be taking online is about the Ruby-throated hummingbird.

We still have space in our Certification in Sustainable Gardening held in January and February 2020. We’d love to see you there!

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During the month of September, Bee Better Naturally will be exhibiting at a couple of events.

1) The Johnson Country Pollinator Symposium. This will be a great event. Well planned and great speakers. Several members of the Bee Better Naturally Forum will be in attendance. Not a Forum member? We are planning 2020 now. Look for posting soon. Here is our current year’s program. SOLD OUT!


2) BugFest. If you have never attended, you are missing out on a very fun event!!! I will also be giving a science talk on the monarch butterfly. Time TBD. Bee Better Naturally also offers this course online!

While I’m adding to the September newsletter, I finally see that the monarchs have arrived. (August 25, 2019) Finally. Just in time, yesterday, my tags for tagging newly emerged monarchs arrived.

Bee Better Naturally participated in this monarch reporting. We didn’t find any monarchs, at any stage, but we don’t tend to find them until later. The reporting was held July 27th - August 4th.

Monthly Garden Management

Lantana, salvias, helenium, helianthus, ruella, coneflowers, goldenrod, and various native milkweeds, plus the annuals are still going strong, but they are starting to look a little worse for wear unless you have them a haircut around the fourth of July. One of my favorites, Phlox  paniculata ‘Shortwood’, introduced by Stephanie Cohen, continues to bloom! And Phlox ‘Jenna’ is living up to the promise as a superior butterfly magnet! I will be gettin a lot more for 2020.

Deadhead Flowers: Keep your flowers blooming longer by removing faded blossoms from your cannas, roses, daisies, and more. As for the seed plants, such as black-eyed Susans, phlox, and coneflower, leave the flower heads for the birds. Once the birds have picked them through, it’s OK to deadhead with hopes of another flush of blooms.

Deadleaf: I have a love/hate relationship with daylilies. I love the flowers, both for beauty and edibility, but I don’t like the look of the untidy foliage. Some of my taller Hemerocallis spp. need the bottom leaves removed too.

Lawns: I’ve stopped carrying a long ago about how my lawn looks. After I switched from fescue to emerald zoysia, I’ve not have as many or any problems. While I still get some weeks, I no longer have to worrying about it struggling in the heat, getting a circle fungus, or watching it go dormant during the peak of summer. It’s not so much I don’t like the look of a grey lawn of drought-induced fescue , it’s watching the Bermuda wire grass thriving that I loath! Ugh!

Pruning: You can prune to shape plants if need be, but anytime past August or September is getting too late. New growth will emerge, and the new growth will be affected by the frost and cold weather.

Divide: August and September are a good time to divide iris. Don’t be afraid of this task; it’s super easy. When iris get crowded, they don’t bloom as well. Below is a good example of a crowded iris patch.

Using a garden fork or shovel, loosen the soil around the outside of the patch. Once loosened, take a hand fork or trowel to lightly left from the edge. They should release from soil with no struggle.

Gently pull clumps apart.

Discard rhizomes with no foliage, damaged, or soft.

Cut back the foliage into a fan shape to keep the iris from having to care for more growth than it needs to.

Replant at the surface of the ground. Lightly cover with soil, keeping the rhizome showing, and water in well.

Roses: Know your roses and when to cut back without fear of cutting next year’s blooms.

With modern roses, such as hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras, and miniature roses, you can deadhead without fear of cutting next year’s bloom. However, with many of the Old Garden Roses, such as Gallicas, Albas, Damasks, Centifolias, most species roses, timing is critical. For those once-blooming Old Garden Rosess, they bloom on new wood that’s been hardened over the winter.  These are prune when the bloom cycle is complete in the spring. After this spring pruning,  leave them alone until they’ve bloomed again the following spring. Of course, you can remove dead or diseased wood at any time.

September is the beginning of best time to plant trees and shrubs. In our area, Ecoregion 231, we can plant up to late winter, as long as the ground isn’t frozen. Wait until the true fall appears; you can feel a change in the air. Plant then and make sure they are watered on a regular basis for the type of plant they are.

Remember, too, September is a great time to plant shop! Common practice in the retail business, is to sell plants that are in bloom. No one wants to buy a goldenrod in spring; but when blooming in the fall, people are drawn to it. So to have a year-round garden, consider shopping in all seasons.

Select and pre-order your spring-blooming bulbs now while supplies are plentiful. Don’t put off today what will be gone tomorrow. The most unusual bulbs sell out fast. I can say this now because I’ve already put my in order.  Wink, wink! Try something fun such as the species tulip, Tulipa clusiana.

Harvest vegetables as needed. Most of what’s growing in your vegetable garden are annuals–tomatoes, beans, peppers, etc.  By September, they are looking a little wrung out. As plants end their production cycle, remove them from the garden; otherwise, they may attract insects and disease to the plants that are still productive.

August and September is the time to begin starting fall and winter crops such as cilranto, broccoli, lettuce, kale, and I just direct-seeded parsley.


I only every want to speak from experience; these are the fruits I grow in the Bee Better Teaching Garden. I simply won’t grow them, and if I did, I still wouldn’t spray. Joni Mitchell comes to mind.

The following plants are in fruit now:

Fig — Ficus ‘Brown Turkey’ The second crop is a bumper!

Muscadines —Vitis rotundifolia

Paw-paw — Asimina triloba Excellent crop this year!

Pomegranate — Punica granatum ‘Nana’ and

Pomegranate — Punica granatum — Unknown variety, with a medium height.

Strawberry needs
September (and August) is when the cell size of spring fruit strawberry buds is determined. The more favorable the growing conditions your strawberry’s receive now, the bigger the berries will be next year.

Ensure that your strawberries get an inch of water each week. If nature doesn’t provide this, then plan to supplement with water from the spigot, well, or rain harvester.

If you didn’t fertilizer your strawberries in August, do so in September. For plants that were planted this past spring, apply 4 to 6 ounces of ammonium nitrate (33% nitrogen) or 12 to 18 ounces of 10-10-10 per 25 feet of row.

For plants in their second year of growth, increase the application rate to 6 to 8 ounces of ammonium nitrate or 18 to 24 ounces of 10-10-10 per 25 feet of row.

Spread the fertilizer uniformly in a band over the row, about 14 inches wide. Apply when the foliage is dry. Brush fertilizer off the leaves to avoid leaf burn.

In cases where the strawberries aren’t planted in rows, but rather as a garden border, simply estimate the square footage and apply the equivalent amount of fertilizer. My strawberry is 2.5 feet wide by 10 feet long, which is equivalent to 25 feet of row.




In the absence of rain, be sure to keep your birdbaths, butterflybaths, and beebaths filled. It’s time to think about feeders. In the next month or two, as the temperature changes, you might want to add a feeder where it can be viewed from inside.

Feeding the hummingbirds
Hummingbirds feeders aren’t necessary if you have enough plants to feed these visitors, but they are a great way to ensure you have a consistent food source for the hummers, and you can place the feeder in a location that is easy to see from your favorite chair, either inside or out.

Making hummingbird nectar
Making sugar-water nectar to fill you feeder is easy to do. Boil 4 parts water with 1 part sugar. As soon as the sugar dissolves, you can reduce the heat. It doesn’t take long; less than a minute. Let sugar water mixture cool, and fill the feeder. Store any remaining nectar in the refrigerator for up to a week. When the temperatures are hot, greater than 86º F, change the nectar water daily.

Waterwise:  With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze.  My garden at home, the Bee Better Teaching Garden, was designed with waterwise principles. I have very little watering to do, and what I do have, is a choice. My boxwood collection is contained. But the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.

The late winter application of mulch is tuckering out by now. Now as the leaves begin to drop either from it being dry or just an early species dropping, leave it on the ground. Unless the is diseased in anyway, these leaves add good mulch protection.

Good Bugs: One of our Forum members sent this pic to us for identification. She asks, “What’s this on my milkweed? A great shot and good news: Lacewing eggs. Good bugs indeed!

The green lacewing larvae are a voracious feeder and can consume up to 200 aphids or other prey per week. In addition to aphids, it will eat mites and a wide variety of soft-bodied insects, including insect eggs, thrips, mealybugs, immature whiteflies, and small caterpillars—another reason to raise monarchs from eggs!

Pest control:
If you find fall webworms in your trees–hickory, walnut, birch, cherry, and crabapple, just leave them be. The two can co-exist.


The azalea caterpillar, Datana major, is found in found in our area from August through October on azaleas (Rhododendron spp.). Often, the caterpillars completely defoliate much of the plant before they are detected. While the caterpillar appears hairy, it is harmless to humans and can be picked off the bushes by hand.


Oak Worms, Anisota peigleri: Are you walking gingerly down the garden path to avoid stepping the rather large orange/yellow-stripped oak worms? You’re in good company; they are everywhere right now. Or maybe you are trying to avoid the massive quantiles of waste pellets. On a quiet day, the pellets can be heard clattering down through the leaves and hitting the ground below. ewwwww.

Why Dead Wood is Good Wood

We Americans tend to find broken things worthless. In our deposable society, if it’s chip, cracked, crushed, or tattered, we carry it to the trash. We even do so with our trees. Think about it; we have a tree that died. Now what? We call in the tree service to remove the tree. We may or may not grind the stump; this decision is most likely based on where it is. If the stump is easily accessed, then grinding is likely. Mind you, if it is easily accessed, it typically is in an unsightly place. Thurs, call in the grinder!!!

Photo by  Juli Leonard

Photo by Juli Leonard

What if you understood the purpose of dead wood? Would you be more likely to keep a snag?

Snags are nothing more than dead trees that are left upright to decay naturally. With the tops removed and ensuring the snag isn’t in harm's way of yours and neighboring property as it decomposes, leaving a partial tree trunk has many benefits. It has wildlife value, and thus, not at all worthless, but wondrous!

Nationwide dead trees provide vital habitat for greater than 1,000 species of wildlife. For the wildlife, every part of a dead tree, in all stages of decay, provide benefits. 

If your garden is a certified wildlife habitat, you know the process required reporting for food, water, shelter, and a place to raise their young. A snag provides all of these except a water source. Here are a few ways snags help our native wildlife: 

Many wildlife are cavity dwellers, so snags provide shelter and a place raise their young, making their homes in hollow cavities and crevice including bats, birds, raccoons, and squirrels. 

Deadwood becomes a food buffet for wildlife looking for a meal by attracting fungi, insects, lichens, and mosses. Hardwood trees, like maples and oaks, tend to make better nesting habitats. Softer wood, like pine, are better for food foraging. Snags also provide ideal hiding places when escaping predators. Additionally, tree holes, nooks, and crannies offer secret places for squirrels and other critters looking to store food. 

Many birds such as hawks and eagles like to sit in good vantage points. A snag with a center trunk in the open is an excellent location for hunting prey.


If you have read this far, I like to think this idea of keeping snags is something you’ll consider. Help Bee Better Naturally lead the charge! Despite the importance of snags to wildlife, homeowners typically want the dead tree removed. Indeed, most tree services recommend the removal of dead trees in an attempt to control pesticides and fungi, as well as aesthetic points of view. But remember, we at Bee Better are redefining BEAUTIFUL. Yes, a snag is beautiful while providing the example to share with visitors and friends. 


1) I’m often asked questions of note, like what about termites? Do you know termites naturally live in our ground? As long as the snag a stone’s throw away, or other measurable, reasonable distance from your home, termites and other pests won’t find their way into your home through a snag. 

2) Can a property have too many snags? Well, that depends on your property size. On Bee Better Naturally Teaching garden, we currently have one that is nearly finished its nitrogen cycle (slowing breaking away in chunks.) We have another snag of a western pine. Western pines are better suited to colder climates, like the mountains of NC, so we lost her. We still had one for 20 year. I loved the cones. And finally, in the near future, we hope to add four more snags from living loblolly pine trees. 

So you may be wondering when you should remove a snag. As mentioned above, make sure your dead wood isn’t resting on your one house; it becomes a bridge for too many pests. You also don’t want the snag to be in harm's way as it decays and falling on your home or your neighbor’s property. In both cases, you can consider moving the wood for its benefits laying down to use as a natural log.

Be the change. Be the example. Be the light. Leave a snag for your wildlife and better the environment.


Pollinator Plants for Shade


Pollinators will find what they need, no matter what; yes, even shade-loving plants have a pollinator.

The first thing to consider in selecting plants for shade is knowing the type of shade you have. Here’s is a Bee Better Naturally post that will help with this.

Remember, too, there is a lot of overlap. Don’t get too worried if your area is part sun or part shade. Measure the amount so you know for sure! Also, when is it shady. Morning sun is kinder than afternoon sun.

Here’s something to note for shade gardens. Have you ever noticed carpenter bees flying up against the windows of your house or hovering around dark holes in the lawn? Generally speaking, carpenter bees prefer to nest in shady areas. Find a location away from your home for nesting bees. Build a wood pile somewhere in a shady spot; it can even be in a less visible area. A wood pile is also shelter for a wide number of species including, snakes, lizards, chipmunks, and insects for birds to feed.

PARTIAL SUN / PARTIAL SHADE: These two terms are often interchangeable to mean 3-6 hours of sunlight each day. While the terms are interchangeable, there is a default understanding.

Partial shade typically refers to morning and early afternoon sun, while a plant listed as partial sun, relief from the intense late afternoon sun is needed. This shade could be from a structure or the shade from an old oak tree.


Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis


Jewelweed, Impatiens balsamina

Money plant, Lunaria annua

Toad Lily

Toad Lily


Campanula, Campanula americana

Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis

Blue mist flower, Conoclinium coelestinum 

Early meadow-rue, Thalictrum dioicum 

Joe-pye weed, Eutrochium purpureum

Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis

Downy skullcap, Scutellaria incana

Meadowsweet, Thalictrum dioicum 

Turk's Cap, Lilium superbum

Snakeroot, Ageratina altissima

Broadleaf goldenrod, Solidago flexicaulis

Toad Lily, Tricyrtis hirta

Lawn Violets, Viola spp.

Wild geranium, Geranium maculatum

Eastern Sweetshrub

Eastern Sweetshrub


Glossy abelia, Abelia grandiflora

Red chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia

Common sweetshrub, Calycanthus floridus

Summersweet, Clethra alnifolia

Cornelian cherry dogwood, Cornus mas

Red twig dogwood, Cornus sericea

Winter hazel, Corylopsis pauciflora

American Hazelnut, Corylus americana

Daphne, Daphne spp.

Paperbush, Edgeworthia chrysantha

Dwarf fothergilla, Fothergilla gardenii

Common Witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana

Oakleaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia

St. Johnswort, Hypericum calycinum

American holly, Ilex opaca

Virginia sweetspire, Itea virginica

Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia

Leucothoe, Leucothoe axillaris

Northern bayberry, Myrica pensylvanica

Mock orange, Philadelphus spp.

Rhododendron, Rhododendron spp.

Fragrant sumac, Rhus aromatica

Tree Peony, Paeonia suffruticosa

Viburnum, Mapleleaf, Viburnum acerifolium

Viburnum, Arrowwood, Viburnum dentatum

Blackhaw, Viburnum prunifolium

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood


Japanese maple, Acer palmatum

Red maple, Acer rubrum

Red buckeye, Aesculus pavia

Serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis

Pawpaw, Asimina triloba

Flowering dogwood, Cornus florida

Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis

White fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus

Carolina silverbell, Halesia tetraptera

Persimmion, Diospyros virginiana

Sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana

Sourwood, Oxydendrum arboreum

Staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina

Ground Covers

Bishop’s weed, Aegopodium podagraria

Plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

‘Tangerine Beauty’ Cross Vine

‘Tangerine Beauty’ Cross Vine


Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata 'Tangerine Beauty’

Trumpet vine, Campsis radicans

DAPPLED SUN: Dappled sunlight is my favorite kind of sun, if I had to choose. Dapple sun is similar to partial shade. The plants are getting partial sun as it makes it’s way through the branches of a deciduous tree. Woodland plants and under plantings, even for many mosses, prefer dappled sunlight more so than partial shade.

Bulbs--under deciduous trees, providing a shady spot when they are in bloom.

Crocus, Crocus vernus

Daffodil, Narcissus

FULL SHADE:  Full shade means less than 3 hours of direct sunlight each day, best if it’s morning light. But even in the absence of  direct sunlight, full shade can be a bright light. Plus, full shade likes a filtered  sunlight the remainder of the day. Every plant needs some sun; even those that thrive in full shade.

Virginia Bluebells,  Mertensia virgin

Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virgin


Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virginica


Coming soon!?!


Pigsqueak, Bergenia cordifolia

Hostas, Hosta plantaginea 

Lungwort 'Lewis Palmer’, Pulmonaria 'Lewis Palmer’

White Wood Asters, Eurybia divaricata

Sweet box,  Sarcococca hookeriana  var.  humilis

Sweet box, Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis


Sweet box, Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis


American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana

Mahonia, Mahonia japonica


Climbing hydrangea, Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris

Coral bells,  Heuchera  species and hybrids

Coral bells, Heuchera species and hybrids

Ground Covers

Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides

Bugleweed, Ajuga reptans

Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense

Astilbe, Astilbe species and cultivars

Lenten rose, Helleborus orientalis

Coral bells, Heuchera species and hybrids

Foamy bells, Heucherella hybrids

Russian arborvitae, Microbiota decussata

Mondo grass, Ophiopogon japonicus

Foam flower, Tiarella cordifolia


How-To Make a Hypertufa Trough

Hypertufa troughs are an earthy and natural container that goes with every garden style. Modeled after ancient stone troughs that were once used to hold water and feed for livestock in England and the Orient; later they were repurposed into planters.

The look of these troughs as containers became very popular. When there weren’t enough to go around, or as they became too pricey, people began to make their own.

Lasting Impressions hypertufa trough

A worthy container in their own right, hypertufa troughs should not be considered a poor substitute to the real thing—they are the perfect planter and will provide many years of good-looking service.

Beth Jimenez and Amelia Lane of Lasting Impressions in Raleigh share their recipe for making a hypertufa trough. Once you learn how easy they are to make, you’ll want to make a grouping of several containers.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Amelia Lane with Lasting Impressions.

•    One sheet of 2-inch-thick foam insulation board cut into two pieces 16×6-inches and two pieces 18×6-inches.
•    Serrated knife
•    Eight 3-¼ inch nails
•    Duct tape
•    Tape measure or ruler
•    Marker
•    QUIKRETE Portland cement (No.1124)
•    Perlite
•    Peat moss
•    ½-inch dowel approximately 6-inches long
•    Water
•    3/8-inch-thick plywood board (2×2 feet)
•    Wheel barrel
•    Hoe
•    Gallon container
•    Spray bottle
•    Rubber or latex gloves
•    Mask

Using the serrated knife, cut insulation into two 16×6-inch pieces and two 18×6-inch pieces. Assemble these four sections into a square or rectangle, depending on how you join the ends. Insert two nails through the insulation material–one near the top and one near the bottom–of each intersection.

Wrap tape around the mold to cover the nails, once near the top and once near the bottom, for added reinforcement.

Mark a line two inches from the bottom as a guide to the depth of the hypertufa; this will mark the thickness of the bottom of your trough.

Put on your mask and gloves and measure two gallons cement, two gallons perlite and four gallons peat moss. The amount will allow for some left over material to make trough feet. Mix the dry ingredients in your wheelbarrow with the hoe.

Add one-third cup of reinforced concrete fibers to give your hypertufa trough more strength. These can be found at a concrete building supply store or through Lasting Impressions’ website.

Slowly add water to the wheelbarrow. Start with about three gallons and mix it well with the dry materials. You should end up with a consistency like cookie dough or a graham cracker crust. It should be wet enough to adhere so it doesn’t crumble, but not too wet to ooze water.

Set the mold on the plywood board. Begin packing the bottom with the hypertufa mixture, using your previously marked line as a stopping point. Working a small area at a time, use your hands to firmly press the mixture into the bottom corners and up the sides, making sure to mash one section into another for seamless adhesion for a strong trough. Continue until the sides are covered by a 2-inch-thick layer. Spray water as needed to keep the mixture moist while you are working.

To aid in proper drainage, use a dowel to poke holes in the bottom of the trough. Insert the dowel through the hypertufa until it meets the plywood base. Repeat to make six evenly spaced holes. Leave the trough to dry in a protected area.

Your trough should dry in about 24 hours. After it’s dried and heather hard, carefully remove the tape and nails and pull the sides of the mold away from the trough.

The tough can be used as is, or, if you prefer a textured, aged look for your trough, gently score the exterior with a wire brush or screwdriver taking care to not poke holes in the sides as you work.

Store the trough in a shady area to cure for 28 days. The hypertufa trough gets stronger every day. Your container can be left out in freezing temperatures as long as it is off the ground.

A gathering of hypertufa troughs at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh

A gathering of hypertufa troughs at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh

Use any leftover mixture to create feet for your troughs. These feet will keep your trough off the ground.

Pot up your hypertufa trough with a selection of your favorite plants and enjoy for years to come. Place your hypertufa trough on porch steps, in a garden bed or border, or on the patio. It will work anywhere you choose.

If you prefer to be instructed by experts, Beth and Amelia of Lasting Impressions offer classes to make hypertufa troughs, and they also have troughs ready for sale.

Naturally, Helen


Certification in Sustainable Gardening by Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest


Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest

Bee Better Naturally is excited to announce to #Raleigh- area gardeners, Helen Yoest will be offering a seven-week sustainable gardening certification. This course will also be offered online within the year. Stay tuned!!!

To register, click HERE.

Certification in Sustainable Gardening—Seven-Week Course. We will be offering two classes. One on Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 and the other on Saturday afternoon 1:00 to 3:00.

Class size is limited, register early. 



Over an seven-week period in January and February we will cover 12 modules including The Big Picture, The Future, Waterwise, Mulches, Pesticides, Native vs. Exotic, Creating Wildlife Habitats, Butterfly Gardens, Native Bees, the European Honey Bee, Migratory and Resident birds, and a bonus section. 

Included in the course fee is a notebook for notes and several plant lists and insect control handouts.

Learn from not only an accomplished horticulturist but also a Master of Science environmental scientist!

For more information email Helen Yoest at HelenYoest@gmail.com

Our instructor, Helen Yoest has been a life-long environmental steward of the land and student as well as a retired environmental engineer. Her garden, The Bee Better Teaching Garden won the City of Raleigh’s Sustainable Garden Award in 2015.

Bee Better Naturally is a 100% Volunteer non-profit organization, 501(c)(3)


Module 0—Background—Video—Will Post Soon

Seven-week course: Every Saturday January and February except February 8th, from 9:30 until 11:30 or 1 until 3. Will ask the students what the majority prefers. 

or Thursday evenings in January and February except February 6th, from 6:30 until 8:30

Module 1—The Big Picture

The Big Picture—Helen Yoest’

The Big Picture—Helen Yoest’

1. What is Sustainable Gardening?

2. Right Plant, Right Place

3. Water Conversation

4. Bed Preparation/Maintenance 

5. Fertilizer

4. Mulch

Module 2—The Future

The Future

The Future

1. Climate Change

2. It All Starts with the Soil 

3. Why this Course isn’t Native Only

4. Plant Communities

Module 3—Waterwise Plus Plant Lists



1. Defined

2. Oasis Beds

3. Transitional Beds

4. Xeric Beds

Module 4—Mulches

1. Composting

2. Collected Leaves

Rescued pinestraw

3. Composted Leaf Mulch

4. Manures

5. Pinestraw

6. Green Mulches—Crop Covers

Module 5—Pesticides/Herbicides



1. Organic vs Chemicals

2. Neonics, Neonicotinoids

3. Parsley Example

4. Mushrooms for roundup cure

Module 6—Native vs Exotic 


1. What Matters

2. Where it Matters Most

3. Escaping Cultivation

4. The Future?!?

Module 7—Creating a Wildlife Habitat

Helen Yoest in her Wildlife Habitat

Helen Yoest in her Wildlife Habitat

1. General

3. Food

4. Water

5. Cover

6. Broods

Module 8—Butterfly Gardens Plus Plant Lists

Butterfly Garden

Butterfly Garden

Module 9—Bees—Native

Wildlife garden

Wildlife garden

Module 10—European Honey Bee Plus Plant List

  1. Honey Bee Facts

  2. Is bee keeping right for you?

Module 11—Birds

Bird Gardens

Bird Gardens

1. Migratory Birds 

2. Resident Birds

Module 12—Bonuses

1. Farming Mealworms 

2. Mosquito Control

3. Tick Control

4. Japanese Beetle Control

5. Fireflies

…more to come


To register, click HERE!

How-To Build a Bird Bubblier

Want to give a gift that keeps on giving? No, I’m not talking about sunchokes, Helianthus tuberosus. Instead, consider making a homemade bird bubbler that will be popular with resident and migratory birds and fulfill your wildlife requirements. Although a birdbath will do, moving water adds additional value.

Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest Bird Bubblier

Still Water Versus Moving Water

While birdbaths are useful, and the Bee Better Teaching Garden has several, a constant source of clean water is paramount for our birds. Did you know birds are three times more likely to die in winter from the lack of water than from the lack of berries and seed?

For our resident birds, still water, like that in a birdbath, works well if cleaned often. Resident birds are familiar with their turf—where the berries are, seeds, fruit, and water. However, what about the migratory birds? In unfamiliar territory, the sound of the bubbler will direct birds to the source. While resident birds are also attracted, the sound ensures migratory birds can find the water as well.

Moving water also stays cleaner. There are two main reasons for this. For one, the pump circulating the water aerates, helping to clean as it moves, and two, the reservoir tub capacity is significant, so debris falls to the bottom.

For this project, I used a 20-gallon capacity tub, but the container can be any size. Greater than 20-gallon capacity is helpful so re-filling isn’t required as often.

To clean the tub every year or two, empty the tub by diverting the pumped water away from the tub

Gather Materials

– Choose a site with electrical power. I put mine right off the back porch so I can sit and read or write while listening to the soothing sounds of bubbling water.

– I used a round, 20-gallon pond tub, found wherever pond supplies are sold. Pond liner material will also work.

– One or two stackable rocks, each drilled with a hole. The number of rocks will depend on how high you want the stone to be. Our stone had subtle undulating surfaces to create tiny pools where the birds could bathe.

– One 4-foot long, 3/4-inch exterior diameter, 1/2-inch interior diameter vinyl tube.

– One 3-inch diameter PVC pipe cut 1/2-inch shorter than the depth of the reservoir tub. While one standing pipe works, three or more is more stable.

– A galvanized woven 1/2-inch mesh, which is a thicker and more sturdier version of hardware cloth.

– Landscape cloth.

– Electrical cord rated for outside use.

– Submersible fountain pump rated to 120 gallons an hour.

Steps to Build the Bubbler

1. Excavate the soil to the shape of the tub. Dig deep enough so the tub is about one to two inches above the soil to keep rain from washing in debris.

2. Set the PVC pipe upright (vertical) in the tub.

3. Put the pump in the bottom of the tub. Attach the vinyl tube to the pump output port. This tube will be threaded into the rock to supply the bubbler’s water. You might need to place. You might have to place rocks on and around the pump to hold it in place when it is submerged in water. Just make sure you do not block the pump’s water intake.

4. Run an electrical cord rated for outside use from the pump to an exterior outlet.

5. Add the galvanized woven cloth over the bubbler area to give the desired shape of your tub, making sure to cover it so debris doesn’t fall in the tub.

6. Cut an opening in the galvanized woven cloth, in an area near the pipe, but not on top of the PVC pipe, allowing the pump to be inserted into the tub and maintained as needed without completely dismantling the bubbler.

7. Fill the tub with water.

8. Place the landscaping cloth over the mesh so debris doesn’t fall into the tub.

9. And now for the hardest part—drilling the 3/4-inch hole in the rock(s). The easiest way to do this is with a hammer drill and a new drill bit. We don’t have a hammer drill in our arsenal of cool tools, so our regular drill had to do. It can be done, but with much patience. Patience isn’t my forte, so I asked my hubby to help. I don’t ask for help often, so when I do ask, he knows I need it. So if you don’t have a hammer drill, or a regular drill with a willing partner to help, have it drilled professionally, or make new friends and ensure they own a hammer drill.

10. Place the large rock on top of the area, after you thread the vinyl tube through the bottom of the rock. This tube supplies the bubbling water.

11. Top dress the area with river rock or other materials to give the bubbler a natural look.

Now, with the sound of moving water, you will keep your resident birds happy and draw in the migratory birds as they are passing through.

Naturally, Helen


July Newsletter & Garden Sustainable Management Practices for the Southeast


Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest is still accepting membership for 2019. Our next Forum is Saturday, July 6th. Click here for details. The topic is on safely controlling Japanese beetles in your garden.

Bee Better Naturally will be offering several workshops for the Raleigh area. They are as follows:

Certification in Sustainable Gardening

Gardening for Hummingbirds

Pollinator Gardens

Forum membership registration for 2020 will start soon. Our tentative discussion topics are:





HOW-TO Grow Oyster Mushrooms

We are excited to announce our Certificate in Sustainable Gardening Program starting in January.

Click HERE to learn more.

This is an important message for those of us who raise monarch butterflies to adulthood. A recent study was released suggesting monarchs raised in captivity lost their ability to navigate south. It is VERY important to note, these eggs, larvae, and adults used in this study were purchased from a breeding house from elsewhere. The study does NOT address eggs and caterpillars collected from our own back gardens and raised in a protective chamber outside. The headline is sensationalized journalism. I wrote to the author the following:

I read your article, Monarch Butterflies Reared in Captivity Lack a Crucial Ability, with great interest. I must say, your title is misleading. Are you suggesting educators like myself are contributing to the problem of monarch migration because we raise monarch eggs or larvae in chambers two to five feet from the milkweed (Asclepias spp.)?

More data are needed. A story like this will spread like wildfire within the environmental, naturalists community when yes, shipping eggs, larvae, or adults from breeding houses may very well be a problem, yet the local educators rearing eggs or larvae laid on their own local milkweed isn’t. You story sensationalize it such that it will make a leap that it is!!! Please make a retraction, clarifying your article.

Saying Reared in Captivity also suggests those raising monarchs locally. Do you see my point?

Helen Yoest

Environmental Scientist, M.S.

However, given the results of this study, Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest recommends to ONLY raise butterflies from your own location and not purchased from a breeding house. Thank you..

Bee Better Teaching Garden released two adult butterflies yesterday! This is my middle child, Lily, age 19.

Bee Better Teaching Garden released two adult butterflies yesterday! This is my middle child, Lily, age 19.

The Bee Better Teaching Garden is peaking now. There always so much color from mid-June on. In early May, our garden was scouted for a tour group from VA. They wondered where the color was. Ha! I’ve been writing about this since 2001. May is our color of green. As hard as I’ve tried, May is green—mostly—at least for us. Come June, watch out; and July, fireworks on the ground!!! So we turned them down. We don’t want to disappoint. Now if it were in June, that would be different.

I’ve added an new category to this website to hold how-tos we have developed over the years. Here are three links we have up already:

How-To Make a Moss Dish

How-To Make Tweet Treats

How-To Make a Bird Bubblier

Thursday, June 27, 2019, I spoke at the Science Cafe for the NC Museum of Science Museum. It was a wonderful evening!

Thursday, June 27, 2019, I spoke at the Science Cafe for the NC Museum of Science Museum. It was a wonderful evening!

July Garden Management


July is your prize after many months of gardening — from fall prep to spring planning — and you now get to reap your rewards with fresh fruits, vegetables, and fragrant flowers.

It is a time of abundance.

July is not the best planting month for southeast gardens, but it’s a good time to plan and prepare. The weeds will not let you rest, but they might slow down to a manageable pace during the dog days of summer. Rainfall will best determine how much time you’ll spend weeding. Little rain, fewer weeds. More rain, more weeds.

What are the dog days? The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. So watch yourself!!!

As a side note, January and July are my two worse months. For January, it is too dark. For July, it is too hot. On this first day of July, I’m counting the days until August.

In the Bee Better Teaching Garden The first week in July is as busy as a week in spring or fall. July is when I do annual cutback, clearing paths for better passage, deadheading and deadleafing of every plant in the garden. The big job is to cut back the hardy mums. A haircut in by the Fourth of July keeps the mums stouter so when they bloom, they aren’t so floppy.

Volunteer sunflowers

Bee Balm, cleome, crinums, coreopsis, lantana, salvias, phlox, ruella, coneflowers, mountain mint, milkweeds, plus the annuals are blooming, especially the petunias and zinnias! Also in bloom are the gardenias, black-eyed Susans, and the crape mrytles are in their full glory. I’m particularly happy with the Phlox ‘Jenna’. I planted in in the fall and it is peaking now.

Deadhead flowers. Keep your flowers blooming longer by removing faded blossoms from your cannas, roses, daisies, and more. As for the seed plants, such as black-eyed Susans, phlox, and coneflower, leave the flower heads for the birds. Once the birds have picked them through, it’s time to deadhead; you will get another flush of flowers throughout the fall.

As I may have mentioned, I have thing for Oakleaf hydrangeas, Hydrangea quercifolia. The ones I have in my back 40 (feet) are the straight species, and have been there for 20 years. The newer varieties show nice shades of fading pink for a longer period of time. Mine go pink then brown rather quickly. I still love the color, especially since my garden accents are a rust color.

The Oakleaf hydrangea peeling bark gains some attention in the landscape as well. As the stems age, the outer bark rolls back to showcase the orange or cinnamon colored inner bark. I like that.

During the month of July, I send time doing an all-plant maintenance once over. I literally groom each plant whether it is dead-leafing, dead-heading, cutting back for a sturdier plant in the fall. This is also the time I thin plants, and share them with the Bee Better Forum members. 

In the Bee Better Teaching Garden The first week in July is as busy as a week in spring or fall. July is when I do annual cutback, clearing paths for better passage, deadheading and deadleafing of every plant in the garden. The big job is to cut back the hardy mums. A haircut in by the Fourth of July keeps the mums stouter so when they bloom, they aren’t so floppy.

One of the big efforts for the Bee Better Teaching Garden is pinching back by a 1/3 each stem of the Hardy Chrysanthemum x rubellum ‘Sheffield Pink’ or the affectionate name Sheffies for those of us who love this late fall bee pollinator. It makes a huge difference if not cut, getting too leggy. It is my Fourth of July tradition!

There is always weeding to do, even though I’m a reliable mulcher, crabgrass happens!

Cut back annuals: Cut back summer annuals so they don’t get leggy. A good time to do this is right before you go on vacation; this way, you’ll be gone as the plants get a fresh start. Petunias benefit from this kind of summer pinch. Cutting back from the ends of the stems encourages branching, resulting in a bushier plant.

Do those yellow leaves of the daylily make you see red? They do to me. Not only do I deadhead my daylilies, but I also deadleaf. I don’t like the look of yellow or decaying daylily leaves.

Divide irises: Did you have success with your new iris planted this year or in the fall? If not, it could be due to several factors: too much shade, too much fertilizer, too deep a planting, or crowding. July is a good time to correct any of these problems by lifting and relocating or repositioning to a more favorable location.

Plant the iris high with the rhizomes along the surface of the dirt. They can be covered finely and lightly with mulch, but not soil. Make sure you can either see the rhizomes or have the ability to brush away the mulch exposing the bulb.With the exception of Louisiana variety, irises need six- to eight-hours of sunlight to bloom and require good drainage. If you have a damp, partial sun location in your garden, plant a Louisiana iris.

Well, do I really need to say, July isn’t the ideal planting time? Guess who planted several things in the garden yesterday? My rule of thumb is that anything can be panted as long as it gets watered. So why was I planting perennials? I have a waterwise design, and I’m not a fan of paying for water.

Select and pre-order your spring-blooming bulbs now while supplies are plentiful. Don’t put off today what will be gone tomorrow. The most unusual bulbs sell out fast. Try something fun such as the species tulip, Tulipa clusiana.

I always like to try something new. After the 4th, I’ll open the Brent and Becky catalog to see what will tempt me this year.

I just received an email from Eden Brothers offering a 60% sale on spring planting bulbs!


2019 garlic harvest.JPG

Harvest summer edibles: Here is 2019 garlic harvest. Bulbs are a bit small, but we also had a LOT of rain.

Harvest tomatoes when they are ripe. There is nothing better than sinking your teeth into a ripe tomato, warmed from the summer sun.

Didn’t plant tomatoes? Visit your local farmers market for a selection of fresh, field-grown varieties.

Did you know you can plant a second (or first) crop of tomatoes now? Yes, you will have tomatoes through first frost!

In your home garden, keep an eye out for early blight. Blight is a fungal disease that will cause spots to develop on the foliage. The leaves begin to yellow and then drop. Pinch off foliage at first indication. If too severe, there are several fungicides that can be used to reduce the symptoms.

This from Craig LeHoullier:  “There are two types of common fungus, Alternaria (early blight) and Septoria cause leaf splotching, with brown spots or lesions, sometimes showing yellowing as well….it can splash up onto lower foliage – so mulching is important to delay this inevitable occurrence, especially where its really muggy and hot. Even with mulching, it does start low and move up the plant–removing blemished foliage slows the progression, and the plants continue with top growth to keep them going. I examine my plants and remove the blemished foliage every few days. Check this resource for common (and uncommon) tomato issues – it is really useful.”

We have a bumper crop of tomatoes right now. Loving them! Yet, I still haven’t had a BLT. I need to fix that soon!

Garlic and onions were harvested; too much rain caused my garlic to be small.

I only ever only want to speak from experience; these are the fruits I grow in the Bee Better Teaching Garden.

I finally have paw paws, Asimina triloba, the second year in a row. I guess I’m on a roll! They took their sweet ole time. My trees are nearly ten years old!

The blueberries are very small this year. I should probably give them some water, but the birds will get them anyway, and they will be fine for my feathered friends. P.S. I went out to water, and well, I think I lost half of my plants! I should have taken better care of them. Even as a native, they need water. Yikes!!!

The raspberries in the Bee Better Teaching Garden are ever-bearring. Although I don’t know for sure, I believe they are ‘Southland’. The first big flush was in late May. Throughout the rest of the summer, I’ll see a few here and there. After the blackberry and raspberry harvest, remove the old fruiting canes to make room for the new canes that will produce next year’s crop.

I like the taste of a real apple, thus so many in the grocery store are not satisfying to me. In the fall, I love going to the Farmers Market and trying all the different varieties.

We grow ‘Transcendence’ crabapple. It was one recommended by J.C. Raulston. Did you know the only difference between an apple and a crabapple is the size? There are lots of fruit in our front yard tree, and I’m already looking forward to my first bite of the season.

We are entering a very dry month. Make sure your birdbaths are full and replenished every 4-5 days.

Echinacea purpurea is a pretty pollinator in Southeast gardens. After it’s finished flowering, keep the seed heads for the birds to feed.

This is our first year with volunteer sunflowers. The native bees are very happy!

To learn more about the Mysteries of the Monarchclick HERE!


Waterwise:  With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze.  My garden at home, the Bee Better Teaching Garden, was designed with waterwise principles. I have very little watering to do, and what I do have, is a choice. My boxwood collection is contained. and the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.

This is true year round, and particularly true in July and August: Remember, waterwise means using water wisely. It is not xeriscaping! Water new plantings until they are established. At the BBTG, we recommend:

Annuals: Best planted after the last frost. Most annuals will last through first frost. Every day the first week, ever other day the next, and weekly after that in the absence of rain. Give them an inch.

Perennials: Best planted in the fall or spring. Every other day the first week, every third day the two next two weeks, and weekly after that in the absence of rain. Give them an inch.

Shrubs: Best planted in the fall. In the absence of an inch of rain, water deeply weekly for the first year. I bet you don’t do that. I’ve lost shrubs by forgetting this sage advice.

Trees: Best planted in the fall. In the absence of an inch of rain in any given week, water deeply weekly for two years. I bet you don’t do that either. It’s a good idea to begin some new routines!

Practice wise watering methods: July can be a month with limited rainfall. When nature stops providing regular rain, you may need to supplement. Here are some tips to help your garden during a dry season:

  • Chances are your container plants will need to be watered every day. Check by doing the finger test. If the top inch of soil is dry, it’s time to water. Water thoroughly. Small pots will dry out faster than larger pots, and containers in the sun will dry out faster than those in the shade.

  • Add mulch. A layer of mulch, three to four inches deep, will moderate soil temperature and reduce evaporation. Organic mulches include: composted leaves, shredded pine or hardwoods, and even nuggets. Mulches will also reduce weed production and keep the garden looking tidy.

  • First season plants — those fall and spring additions — will need more frequent watering than established ones. Water new additions two or three times per week until the plants are established. Established plants typically require watering once a week.

  • Conserve water by running (if you must) a sprinkler during cooler hours, typically in early morning. This will help reduce water loss due to evaporation. If possible, set up a drip irrigation system or a soaker hose to minimize waste. Watering in the morning hours also allows the water to dry on the foliage, minimizing fungal formation.

Manage pests: 

Bagworms: Do yourself a favor and never look into the “eye” of a bagworm. Bagworms have got to be the most disgusting looking pests ever — to me anyway.

Bagworms can be treated by removing them by hand and dropping into a bucket of soapy water. If the bagworm infestation isn’t within easy reach, they can be sprayed with Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt for short.

Bt is a microbial insecticide that’s commonly used to control various caterpillars such as the red-headed azalea caterpillar along with many other caterpillars, as well as those nasty bagworms. But remember, it will kill our moth and butterfly larvae, as well!

Mosquitoes: Are mosquitoes ruining your summer cookouts? Click here to learn more about safely controlling mosquitoes.

Mosquitoe dunks Short answer: yes. Mosquito Dunks and similar products containing the natural insecticide Bt really do live up to their promise. ... Bt is fatal when larvae eat it, but is harmless to humans and other animals, including fish and frogs. Dunks and Bits kill larvae in standing water like this drainage ditch.

Japanese Beetles: July is also the month of the Japanese Beetle. Popillia japonica. Japanese beetle, is an invasive plant pest that was first introduced to eastern North America from Japan in 1916. The adults are active flyers, but natural spread is slow and they are not able to travel long distances on their own. These beetles may move long distances as hitchhikers on plant material, in roots or soil, or even on cars, trains or planes.

Japanese beetle larvae feed on the roots of turf grass and other plants. Adults are heavy feeders, attacking the flowers, foliage and fruit of more than 250 plant species, including roses, blueberries and grapevines. Japanese beetle skeletonizing a leaf

Don’t be so quick to squish!

This from my Facebook friend, Lynette: “Be sure to check them FIRST to see if they have any tanchid fly eggs on their shoulders. If they do, let them go and the flies will hatch out and consume them from the inside — and produce more flies to dispatch more Japanese beetles. If you see those opaque white dots — one or two or three or more — let them go.”

As summer peaks, you probably can’t see much ground. Consider your plants as a green mulch.

During July, I perform a  full-plant-maintenance. A what? I go into each bed and begin an inspection of each plant. Does it need staking, dead-heading, dead-leafing, or pinching back for sturdier fall presence. These herbaceous materials, or biowaste added to the back 40 (ft.) sheet compost bed. Here, I lay a layer of green and then cover with a brown. Im my case, it happens to be some of the pinestraw I gathered from willing friends.


Learn about the mysteries of the monarch here.

Ready for Monarchs.JPG


We had a predator attack.

We had a predator attack.

Not sure what or how they got in. I got in my messiest garden gear and crawled from one end of the run to the other to see where the predator entered. I found nothing. The coop is fine to. as is the tunnel. Today, they are spending time in the coop until I can figure this out. Lost one of our girls. :(

You grew them, bring them inside.

The topic will be on controlling Japanese beetles without sprays.



 Believe it or not, I started the NC State Fair demonstration garden preparation. This year’s topic will be attracting bluebird.

Mysteries of the Monarch

If I were to give you a butterfly quiz, I’m quite sure you could pass. No pressure. Here we go. Which butterfly has drastically decreased in populations during the last decade? Unless you’ve had your head in the sand, you probably know about the decline of the monarch butterfly populations, as upwards of 90 percent.

It’s true and sad. There have been speculations as to why, with suggestions of drought to deforestation in Mexico where the majority of East Coast monarchs over-winter. The science is now pointing to the lack of milkweed (Asclepias spp.) in their summer breeding ground.

Asclepias syriaca , commonly called  common milkweed

Asclepias syriaca, commonly called common milkweed

Milkweed is the only host plant of the monarch butterfly. Many of us believed this loss of milkweed in farms was part of the problem all along; now there is science to back it up. With more and more Roundup-ready acres to meet the demand of corn chips and ethanol in gasoline, for example, we are loosing even more milkweed. Roundup kills weed competition, including milkweed, but not the main crop.


The lifecycle of the monarch is straight forward: Egg—Larvae—Chrystalis—Adult. Their migration, though, is fascinating and a mystery. The butterfly that leaves Mexico in the spring will not return in the fall; rather, returning will be their great, great, great grandchildren.

Monarch lifecycle

Monarch lifecycle

Monarchs leave Mexico in the spring to travel through the Corn Belt region, where there is massive agricultural. In the Triangle area, depending on weather conditions, we might see monarchs migrating in the spring, but more often, we see monarchs from mid-August and later, as they are returning to their winter sites. We may see them earlier, if they got off course.

Pentas lanceolata.  commonly called Pentas—Provide plenty of nectar-rich flowers.

Pentas lanceolata. commonly called Pentas—Provide plenty of nectar-rich flowers.

Adult monarchs emerging in the late fall, and thus preparing for their migration south, are in reproductive diapause. Dia what?  These monarchs won’t mate or lay eggs until the following spring. While in a state of diapause, these migrating monarchs live up to nine months to make the return, whereas the first, second, and third generations lived only two to four weeks!

Decreasing day length and temperatures, along with aging milkweed and nectar sources trigger a change in monarchs; this change signifies the beginning of the migratory generation. How they find their way back to their breeding grounds, both summer and winter, remains a mystery.

Upon arrival to their winter sites, (in the case of East Coast migrations), monarchs aggregate in oyamel fir trees on south-southwest facing mountain slopes in Mexico. These locations provide cool temperatures, water, and adequate shelter to protect the the monarchs from predators and allow them to conserve enough energy to survive winter.

One way you can help the monarch’s journey is to add abundant nectar-rich plants, particularly milkweed, and shelter for the returning monarchs.


Recently, there has been a controversy suggesting the tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, is causing harm to the fall migrating monarchs returning south.

Asclepias curassavica,  commonly known as tropical milkweed

Asclepias curassavica, commonly known as tropical milkweed

The controversy of this non-native milkweed stems from its ability to winter-over in hardiness zones 9-11.

More and more information finds the tropical milkweed that over-winters could cause harm to the monarch by delaying migration. In doing so, according to a study from UGA, the evergreen nature of tropical milkweed may increase the rate at which monarchs are infected by the parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE.) This research revealed the longer the monarch caterpillar remains a resident, the higher number of OE parasites found.

So what does this mean to you? If you live in a zone 7 or colder, tropical milkweed isn’t evergreen. If you live in a more temperate zone, 9 and higher where the tropical milkweed is an evergreen perennial, you may want to cut the plant to the ground by October, so the returning monarchs will continue on instead of staying put.

There are seventy native milkweeds to the US and Canada. So why do we need even to bother planting a non-native variety?  Well, in my garden, it’s what the monarchs seem to prefer.


When Water Falls, Wildlife Listen

I’ve long held the belief that as we age, we’d rather spend more time watching the birds at our feeders than to travel far and wide to see the world. While travel is a must in our youngish years, if for no other reason than to know the best is in our own backyard, but only if we make it so.


Paul English has proven this theory, and he and his wife are expanding their landscape to provide more than just beauty. They know by building a garden for the wildlife, the garden will provide one’s every need, without continuing to travel the world.

Creating a wildlife habitat has just four simple needs, and these needs are no different than what we humans require—food, shelter, a place to raise our young, and water. And the sound of moving water alerts the wildlife. For every living organism, these are the keys to a thriving life.

Although the original design of Paul English’s garden was Asian-inspired, there are aspects, particularly color, that go beyond what's found in an authentic Japanese garden. Click here for Paul English’s backstory. Still, there is no question of his love of the Orient; it shows at every turn. It might be best to describe Paul’s garden as Japanese-inspired, and going forward in other areas of this three plus acre property he shares with his wife Linda, Paul is gravitating more towards Nature-inspired! I like that.

Yes, Paul may be creating an entirely new garden style, but gardens are personal and progressive. A garden should reflect who we are at particular times of our lives. There is no reason to re-do; instead, it’s best to evolve. We can still appreciate a certain style, but grow in our commitment to do more. Paul wants to do more with pollinators and to do that, native plants will reign supreme.

While Paul’s love of the Orient is still deep within him, he is also a naturalist at the core. Now retired, and most of his major travel is behind him and Linda, it’s time to enhance their surroundings further.

The English is anything but!

To be sure, the English’s have the water need for a habitat. Although I somehow imagine, there will be more in his future, if only to include a birdbath within his plans to expand.

Unlike many of us, we are running out of room to add more gardens. Not for Paul. Over the nearly 40 years Paul has owned his home, he also acquired adjoining properties, totaling 3.5 acres. There are houses on some of this acreage, but there is still a lot of areas to work with, including 50-feet long curvilinear bed. This new pollinator bed is framed by grass that also favors wildlife by not being so fussy. Paul’s Nature-inspired journey is to focus on this area by adding in pollinator plants to benefit the birds, bees, and butterflies.

During my visit, Paul showed me some beginnings of what will be a healthy habitat start for birds, bees, and butterflies. Paul is poised to be a disciple of the Bee Better Naturally principals with first learning about sustainability and the rest then falls into place.

Paul mentioned to me the new area wasn’t irrigated; I let him know that is ideal. While all plants require watered until established, Paul would be able to create a garden in a natural style that didn’t depend on regular irrigation. The natives that will go into the new beds are use to our east coast conditions and can tolerate periods drought.

I look forward to future visits to see Paul’s progress as his new journey begins. I suspect the only traveling needed for Paul and Linda will be to walk the beds with the very best margarita I’ve ever tasted in hand.

Check out Paul’s website to see his garden in all season.

Paul English by this waterfall, a place that brings in the wildlife.

Paul English by this waterfall, a place that brings in the wildlife.


‘Color’ Commentary of the Kirsch Garden

On a summer afternoon in early June, I had the luxury of visiting the Kirsch’s garden in Portsmouth, Virginia. Sitting on the back deck with a view of the Elizabeth River, Mike, Carolyn, and I basked in the environment.

As three nature-lovers sipped (very) good wine, the conversation flowed and only silenced long enough as we witness the squirrel’s antics on their dedicated peanut station or to watch the birds flock feeders. I can think of no other way to enjoy the day; time together continued, in our same spots, with coffee in the morning.

Kirsch Garden
Green is a color too.JPG

Viewing the garden, it was clear color was the operative word. As the Ascitic lilies, Lilium auratum, were finishing their show, the daylilies, Hemerocallis spp., blossomed for the second act. Of course, daylilies aren’t lilies at all, but who cares if they are only a Lily-like doppelgänger? It’s about color! Also, if you didn’t know, the genius Hemerocallis comes from the Greek words ἡμέρα (hēmera) or day and καλός (kalos) or beautiful. As such, the Hemerocallis common name is daylily since each flower lasts a day, but what a day it is! And of course, we know they are beautiful.

The color continued with tropicals, mostly in containers; even the containers were wisely chosen to provide color. Colorful containers are an exciting way to give a pop of color in the garden, with hues lasting well-past the summer’s floral glory.

Throughout the back garden, there was only one area void of flowers and other plantings save a blanket of St. Augustine grass. The open designed is low so as not to disturb the view of the river. I understand. Mike mentioned he wanted to garden it, but Carolyn loved the unobstructed view. I wondered if there could be a compromise.

During my time there, we also visited Paul English’s garden in the neighboring town of Chesapeake. (Look for a story soon.) While there were many takeaways from Paul's garden, the one that spoke to me most was a recirculating in-ground reservoir of bubbling rocks. Well, they were actually big boulders. It occurred to me this bubblier would be an excellent addition to the Kirsch's turf area.

Even though Mike and Carolyn have a pond with a waterfall, filled with abundant flowers, their philosophy must be more is better, so why not? On a smaller scale, I built something similar off our back porch. The key for Mike and Carolyn will be to get the scale right. I can help with that if they ask.

I'm with Carolyn, though. The grass is a relaxing square of negative space that also adds to the theme of color. Let us not forget, green is a color too!


A visit to the Kirsch home and garden is about more than great conversation, color, and good wine. Food is holds center stage. Carolyn is an excellent cook, and given the rewards from the river with local seafood, the freshness only enhances the magic of the meal.


With more good wine, our bellies full of the best soft shell crabs ever served, along with fresh corn carved from the cob, and chilled cucumbers in vinegar, we were satiated. Even a BLT with tomatoes fresh from the garden can't compare. I didn’t count, but if I had to guess, I ate at least six maybe seven crabs. It was worth it.

There are glorious places to visit in this world. France, Spain, and Norway come to mind; but nothing compares to a visit with old friends and new conversation on the back porch of a home and garden sited along the Elizabeth River.


June Garden Sustainable Maintenance Practices for the Southeast

To a bee a flower is the fountain of life, and to the flower the bee is a messenger of love. Kahlil Gibran

January February March

January February March April May June

July August September

Welcome to June, friends! June is better since I made it through May, the season of green. That sounds strange, even for me. The weather during the first part of the month was some of the best I’ve experienced in my 30 years living in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the last week some of the hottest.

Each year, I strive to improve on a collection or a season, yet May remains green. No matter what I do, I don’t see sufficient color until June.  There’s always next year, I suppose.

Ah, but in June, color rushes in at a juggernaut speed.

June is a good month in the south; the humidity has not yet arrived (for the most part), the days are long and the kids are out of school, putting us on summer-time. Our routine has changed—a change that is welcome indeed! Summertime also brings garden-time, fresh-food time and, and al fresco dining time. Here are a few things to do in Southeast gardens in June.


If you want to learn how YOU can help the Monarch butterfly and grow milkweed, their only host plant, check out our first online mini course. Includes a download with ten of the most common native milkweeds we can grow. To learn more, click HERE!

Read More!


Salvias, Phlox, Ruella (perhaps too much so!), coneflowers, milkweeds, plus annuals are filling out especially the petunias!

‘Jacob Cline’ Bee Balm

‘Jacob Cline’ Bee Balm

Prune now, benefit later. Do you find it frustrating when all your  Bee Balm, Monarda didyma  ‘Jacob Cline’ bloom at once? By pruning some of your Monarda now, you will delay the bloom time of those plants. Deadhead regularly for continuous blooms. I also leave some seed heads for the finches to enjoy.

Deadhead flowers. Keep your flowers blooming longer by removing faded blossoms from your cannas, roses, daisies, and more. As for the seed plants, such as black-eyed Susans, phlox, and coneflower, leave the flower heads for the birds. Once the birds have picked them through, it’s time to deadhead.

Not so much grooming, but I’m clearly cutting back several plants to making stouter (less leggy) and delaying bloom times so they don’t all bloom at once. Bee balm is a good on to do this delay tactic with. Up to before the flower heads begin to form, cut back about half the plants (I do cut back the ones in the front of the group) to about half. As the back half finish their bloom, the front half will almost be ready.

Other plants we cutback up to the Fourth of July include, salvias, chrysanthemums, sunchokes, and others in the sunflower family. They tend to get too big, and a haircut in June helps the fall flowers look for stately and upright.


 Herbs. As an edible, don’t let your basil (Ocimum basilicum) go to seed or even flower. The stems become woody, and the leaves lose their flavor. Prune basil regularly. However, having said that, as a wildlife plant, let them go to flower! The bees love this!

Harvest lavender blooms before it gets too hot. The lavender flowers are at their peak when the bottom of the bloom is just opening; cut the stem down to the foliage. Gather the stems and tie them together. Suspend upside down in a hot, dry, dark location, such as an attic or a closet. Within 10 to 14 days, the lavender will be ready to use.

Select and pre-order your spring-blooming bulbs now while supplies are plentiful. Don’t put off today what will be gone tomorrow. The most unusual bulbs sell out fast. I can say this now because I’ve already put my in order. Try something fun such as the species tulip, Tulipa clusiana.

Harvest vegetables as needed. Most of what’s growing in your vegetable garden are annuals–tomatoes, beens, peppers, etc.  Soon, they’ll soon be looking a little wrung out. As plants end their production cycle, remove them from the garden; otherwise, they may attract insects and disease to the plants that are still productive.

I only every want to speak from experience; these are the fruits I grow in the Bee Better Teaching Garden.

The blueberries are in fruit, getting bigger each day. I’ll be lucky to get them before the birds do.

The raspberries are harvestable! I never have to compete with the birds for these, for some reason.

The blackberries are almost past! Figs are flushing out, and there are crabapples on the tree, as well as my first ‘Santa Rosa’ plum!


Mosquitoes are out, these are buggers one never gets use to.

Echinacea purpurea is a pretty pollinator in Southeast gardens. After it’s finished flowering, keep the seed heads for the birds to feed on.

Prune now, benefit later. Do you find it frustrating when all your Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ bloom at once? By pruning some of your Monarda now, you will delay the bloom time of those plants. Deadhead regularly for continuous blooms. I also leave some seed heads for the finches to enjoy.

Waterwise:  With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze.  My garden at home, the Bee Better Teaching Garden was designed with waterwise principles. I have very little watering to do, and what I do have is a choice. My boxwood collection is contained. But the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.

On the wild side. Milkweed is the only host plant for the Monarch butterfly. Asclepias tuberosa is one species of milkweed that is also a pretty addition to the garden; expect (and hope) it to be eaten to a nub. The female Monarch will lay her eggs here. Soon you will see tiny caterpillars that will slowly mature as they feed on the milkweed plant. The adults also enjoy the nectar.

As the foliage fills in, the mulch you laid in late winter should be barely visible. Be thankful, we have our summer heat-protecting mulch down, even if we can’t see it.

Pest Control
Good bug or bad bug? 


This is a black widow spider. Be careful when pulling out stored pots to make your season’s container gardens — there may be more lurking there than fond summer memories.

Click here to learn more about safely controlling mosquitoes.

Summer rose care. 

Japanese beetles will be here before you know it. One approach to keeping them off your roses is a technique referred to as “keeping them in the green.” This means cut your roses and bring them inside, because Japanese beetles are attracted to bright and happy colors

Roses can be propagated by layering as late as mid-August. Long, flexible canes are the easiest to propagate because they bend freely into place. Use a clean knife to remove two thorns near the top of the stem and bend it toward the ground. Make a couple of small cuts into the bark between where the thorns were. This is called wounding the cane. Hold the wounded area in good contact with the soil with landscape pins and cover with soil, leaving the growing tip of the stem uncovered. It’s also a good idea to put a brick or stone over the covered and wounded cane to give it extra hold.

Next spring, you should see new growth emerge. Once you see new leaves on the rooted stem, carefully remove the entire stem from the parent plant, and recut the stem just beneath the new root mass. Now you are ready to plant your new rose bush.


Cut flowers. Remember those zinnias you seeded in May? Seed more in June, July, and August. The will last through first frost. Be sure to cut some to enjoy inside.

Remember, if you are trying to figure out a horticulture word, you can reference the Bee Better Teaching Glossary. We have been adding to this for a decade now, and have quite the list. Bookmark it for easy reference!