Ruth, a recently retired English teacher, has lived most her adult life in San Jose, California, but relocated to Taylors, SC in May, 2011, to share her mother's golden years and to be near three sisters. Now she's excited to have a house with a yard 10 times the size of her property in California, and can't wait to get digging! Follow her blog to see how a recent transplant experiences gardening, both ornamental and vegetable, in the hot clay of South Carolina.

Recent Blog Posts

May 22
Blooms and Beds and Garden Buddies   (2 comments)

Apr 08
Cardinals, Crows and Thunder Snow.   (4 comments)

Jan 02
Minding the Future Garden as the Old Year Wanes   (3 comments)

Dec 30
Brimming Well of Winter and Goblets of Ice   (4 comments)

Dec 16
The Garden Green, Deep in December   (3 comments)

Nov 26
A Taste of Cold November   (3 comments)

Oct 28
In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the (Garden)..I’ll Be There   (4 comments)

Oct 11
Summer Garden Residents: The Original Earthlings   (4 comments)




Cardinals, Crows and Thunder Snow.
by Ruth Mason McElvain - posted 04/08/13

Yes, it's been awhile, a few curve balls well aimed at my gardening.  Early February and spring was just around the corner (or so I misconstrued), with misleading hyacinths and daffodils and paperwhites nosing up from the slumbering earth... enough to get a gardener's blood burning.  Can't plant yet, but there are numerous preps for an eager gardener to do. 

Eight beleagured rose bushes installed around my house last spring were also waking up, dreaming of roses and perfume,  feet crowded by encroaching grass, and that good goblet shaping needed.

Out front, my prized Yoshino cherry, a big selling point when I bought my house the summer of 2011, curiously bristles with crape myrtles planted under it, and they needed to be seriously curbed.

Window boxes, bedraggled and accusatory, were once glorious with lariope, chartreuse sweet potato vine, and loads of various pink impatiens.  Yes I confess neglect.


And, of course, there were the three new raised beds I wanted to add to the backyard veggie garden scheme, making last year's plan complete: two on the east side of my yard and another on the west.  In February, I regretted an overambious planting of greens.  Poor turnips, spurned by their own surfeit.  New spring crops spun in my brain.  And then: SURPRI-EEEZE. 

My brother kept telling me not to get lulled by 2012's uncommonly early spring.  February does have surprises.   THUNDERSNOW!  That's NOT what I planned for the new beds!

South Carolina was suddenly capricious and northern!

Ok, it was beautiful, cardinals and crows salient red and black against the white muffled ground.

The newly bolted mustard, let stay in memory of mustard carpeting whole California orchards with the brilliant yellow I loved for my forty California springs, were now crystal with snow. It made a gardener stand inside and stare out, thwarted and amazed.  And then a family-rampant flu, that followed the snow, truly punted my plans off the horizon for weeks, long after the snow vanished.


I did continue to browse garden books and compile planting charts.  You can't keep a gardener down long.


Not long and I could prune up the roses, circle them with compost, surround them with a good mulch.  They will need all the help they can get with the curves South Carolina heat throws to roses.

I started tomato seeds, here ready to thin.

The cherry blossomed in thanks for severely curbing the misplaced crapes, though hopefully not so much that we lose their magenta summer blooms.

And the window boxes may just revive, new tenants snuggling in....

promising cheerful pink and chartreuse waves to passersby, as the same pretty windowboxes did to me when I first spied my house.  An hour's attention will truly pay off, especially since I discovered my screens can raise for easy watering and feeding right from inside: creeping Jenny, bacopa, impatiens, ivy, sweet potato vines, caladium.  Yes glory to come.

Then out eyeing my beds, getting ready to sow the big summer crops soon, I enjoyed the mustard blossoms, the first blooms even before forsythia shrubs, full of bee music, fragrance, brilliant yellow, bright green, and life, flight, industry.

Just one more lesson from my garden: let a crop bolt--at least leave a fews plants to bloom, even though the mustard is not so edible after--for these kinds of sensory and habitat dividends.  Another bonus: seeds to come,  pods replacing the blooms, soon after the wise bees move out front to the cherry.  Yes, the gardener returns after winter's hiatus, new life ready to astonish, the ancient mandala to roll, the hallalujah chorus ringing in my ears.



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Christopher (Louisiana - Zone 8a) - 04/09/2013

We had some surprise late cold snaps here in North Louisiana, but you look like you had it much worse! Your garden looks like it is recovering nicely. Also, screens that slide up from the inside — that seems like a genius idea. I've spent enough time trying to get screens on and off windows that I never take them off anymore.
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Ruth Mason McElvain - 04/09/2013

You are so right Design Bloke. I had heard of double hung windows, but screens that raise, also, IS GENIUS. Great access! TY for commenting.
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HILDA RUTH PACE - 05/20/2013

Hello Ruth--I found your blog on our sister's facebook page. I just read every blog and she is right. Not only are you a wonderful writer, your gardening is fantastic! Flower gardening is my passion but your pictures and words make me want to plant something besides tomatoes, peppers and squash. I also make hot pepper vinegar. Would love to catch up with my once best friend. I live in Dewey, Az. with a garden zone of 7-8 and my daughter just gave me 2 hens for Mothers Day. Chickens go great with gardening. Hope to talk to you soon.
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Ruth Mason McElvain - 05/21/2013

OMGoodness! Hello, big sister! So nice to hear from you! I'm green about those dogs would make hens forget to lay barking at them, but yes I'd love a rolling coop I could move over my yard. Fresh brown organic eggs and sweet lil hen mutters. I even love a rooster crow..just a farmer's daughter.
Let's do talk more! Just now I was harvesting onions that went to flower..not good for the bulbs but the buds are delicious chopped and browned in butter..the crispy brown bits and chewy green ones stirred into mashed potatoes. Two thunderstorms have blown past us the last couple days and disappointed my thirsty garden wanting a good soak. Guess I'll drag the hose around in the dewy morning grumbling about South Carolina acting like California not raining when it looks like it just might!
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