Phillip Oliver is an Assistant Professor/Librarian at the University of North Alabama in Florence. He is also a Master Gardener, writer, blogger and photographer and presently serves on the Florence Beautification Board. He has been writing articles for Alabama Gardener since 2007. He chronicles the progress of his personal garden on his website "A Southern Garden" and on his blog "Dirt Therapy" at

Recent Blog Posts

May 02
Twilight Garden  

Apr 10
Spring Is Here  

Apr 01
Yoshino Cherry Trees are blooming  

Mar 06
March coming in like a lamb  

Feb 27
Cutting Back Ornamental Grasses  

Jan 08
The 2013 garden - a look back  

Dec 12
December Garden  

Dec 02
Morning Sunshine   (2 comments)




Twilight Garden
by Phillip Oliver - posted 05/02/14

This is such a busy time of year in the garden that I have to force myself to stop and take photos. I took these one evening last week right before dusk. I love how the chartreuse foliage pops in the fading light.

The Kousa dogwood "Wolf's Eyes" has just leafed out and seems to glow in the dark. It is one of my favorite small trees.  

Deutzia with hostas, underneath Sweet Olive (Osmanthus fortunei

Salvia "May Night" growing under "Buff Beauty" rose. I severely pruned "Buff Beauty" two years ago - I did not want to do it but there were so many dead branches underneath. It seems to be coming back nicely but I would not advise pruning it like this unless you just have to.

Spirea "Gold Mound" - a truly wonderful, carefree shrub.

Smoke Tree "Golden Spirit" (Cotinus coggygria) with Lespedeza "Gibraltar" (Lespedeza thunbergii 'Gibraltar') underneath.

Chinese Snowball (Viburnum macrocephalum)

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) growing between the patio steps.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Comments (0) | Leave a Comment | RSS | Print | Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter |

Spring Is Here
by Phillip Oliver - posted 04/10/14

I love this time of year when everything seems to pop out overnight. I've noticed a few losses from our tough winter - at least one rose bit the dust ("Felicia") and the rosemary also looks like a total loss. Some of the obviously tender plants like the Armandi clematis and Sweet Olive (Osmanthus fragrans) survived but there are lots of brown leaves. The jury is still out on the Confederate Jasmine (Trachelosperum jasminoides). I have cut it back severely but it looks like it is still alive. Ditto on the Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens).

But, on to the brighter spots in the garden -

The wickedly thorny Hardy Orange (Poncirus trifoliata) is covered with tiny white dainty blooms. In the fall, it will have lovely but inedible oranges. This results in seedlings popping up everywhere that have to be dealt with. I think it is worth it, it is definately a conversation piece. I'm going to try to get some potted up this year for the Master Gardener's plant sale.

One of my favorite shrubs is Kerria (Kerria japonica) or Easter Rose. I've grown this since my beginning days of gardening. It is always in bloom at Easter time. 

The same came be said for Viburnum 'Mohawk' (Viburnum x burkwoodii 'Mohawk'). It is always a dependable bloomer and though the blooms don't last as long as the Kerria, it makes up for that with its spicy fragrance.


Chinese Snowball (Viburnum macrocephalum) is covered with greenish blooms at the top of the shrub (I've never figured out the correct way to prune this) that will turn white over the next few weeks.

The camellias are not as profuse in bloom this year but a few are notable.

"Taylor's Perfection" has the most blooms. I just love the clear pink blooms even though they have a tendency to nod.

 Only two blooms so far on Camellia "Magnoliaflora" but it is still a very small shrub.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica), one of the most exquisite wildflowers.

Variegated Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum odoratum) has sweet smelling flowers but the foliage is the main attraction.

The reseeding Money Plant (Lunaria), another pretty blue wildflower.

Hosta "Dancing Queen" - I bought this last year from Harry Wallace's nursery. I was a big Abba fan back in the day.

I'm a sucker for chartreuse foliage - another favorite is Golden Creeping Jenny ( Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’)

Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) with cheery bright yellow flowers.

Chester does not seem to be amused by any of this.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Comments (0) | Leave a Comment | RSS | Print | Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter |

Yoshino Cherry Trees are blooming
by Phillip Oliver - posted 04/01/14

Yoshinos are blooming


The Yoshino Cherry trees are blooming and buzzing with bees.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Comments (0) | Leave a Comment | RSS | Print | Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter |

Jump to page:  1 2 3 >  Last »