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

Oct 07
Variegated Leaves  

Jul 07
Early morning wet garden  

Jul 02
Lily “Caravan” and “Silk Road”  

Jun 08

May 22
May roses  

Apr 01
The Garden is Waking Up  

Feb 27
Snow Day  

Aug 06
Read any good gardening books lately?  




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

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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

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March coming in like a lamb
by Phillip Oliver - posted 03/06/14

March coming in like a lamb


Saturday was such a beautiful day and one that made the promise of Spring a reality. The morning started off chilly as we headed out for our usual Saturday morning breakfast and errands (usually either Panerra or Bojangles, Panerra won out this week). By the time we got back home, the sun was out and the temperature was rising.

It eventually climbed to 70, a nice balmy day with some wind but a warm wind. It felt so good to outside! I cut back the monkey grass and picked a bouquet of daffodils. We have two large clumps of daffodils blooming in the side garden, on the south side of the house. I noticed that the daffodils on the north and west side had not opened yet.

Unfortunately another blast of cold air arrived on Sunday night and plunged us back down in the 20s. This is supposed to be short-lived though and it will eventually get warmer during the week.


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