Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Naturally Red and Green for Christmas...

Red chokeberry is in bloom for the Holidays. 
Aronia arbutifolia in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. Photo by Stefan Bloodworth.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Briggs Ave. Community Garden Wraps Up $10,000 Grant Project

Christmas came early this year for Durham's Briggs Avenue Community Garden with a September $10,000 grant from Keep Durham Beautiful and Lowe's Community Partners.
Volunteers inspect the pavilion after construction last week.
The roof remains to be added.
Photo by the Durham Co. Extension Master Gardeners.
Double height plots were constructed to assist owners
with mobility challenges.
Photo by the Durham Co. Extension Master Gardeners.
The Briggs Avenue Community Garden broke ground in 2010 as a Durham County NC Cooperative Extension health initiative to educate and provide real estate for fruit and vegetable gardening for Durham families. The Briggs Ave. Community Garden has been steadily expanding its public resources each year with financial support and sweat equity from hundreds of volunteers from over 40 Durham organizations, including the Durham Council of Garden Clubs. In four years, over 55 families have grown more than 50 types of fruits and vegetables and harvested 7,000 pounds of produce valued at $14,000.

The recent $10,000 grant was disbursed from Lowes Community Partners to Keep Durham Beautiful, for a third year of Lowe's supported community improvements administered by KDB. Local Lowe's employees, called "Lowes Heroes" worked with Durham County Cooperative Extension personnel, Extension Master Gardeners and community volunteers this fall in constructing various resources, including last week's erected pavilion. So far, the grant project has logged over 380 volunteer hours.

The grant full project list included:
  • Create a 400-square foot mortared brick patio with lighting, fans, seating and cooking stations for public use in demonstrations and community gatherings
  • Develop a vineyard with grapes and blueberries to teach vineyard cultivations and management for the community
  • Create accessible raised gardens beds for plot owners with limited mobility
Groups particularly vital to the success of the community garden include:  Briggs Ave. Community Gardeners, Durham Tech students and staff, Durham County General Services, NC North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Durham Co. Extension Master Gardener volunteers, Keep America Beautiful, Lowe's Home Improvement Heroes, Durham Garden Forum, and the Durham Council of Garden Clubs.

To volunteer for more construction projects at the Briggs Avenue Community Garden, please contact the Durham County Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteers at 919.560.0528 or

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas in a Williamsburg Wonderland

Looking for more Colonial and natural decorating ideas for Christmas? Owners of the Williamsburg, VA floral shop Seasons of Williamsburg have decked out their Colonial home and adjacent cottage with lots of greenery Durham residents can emulate!

Christmas is well remembered and cherished long after the last wreath has been hung and the final ornament placed on the tree in this circa-1810 house with a white picket fence, in a place that time has all but forgotten. The duo, owners of the shop Seasons of Williamsburg—renowned for its floral arrangements, decorative pieces, and estate antiques—commence the holiday season before Thanksgiving and don’t take down their home embellishments until Valentine’s Day.
Bedecked with holiday touches, the maine bedroom boasts
a period-style bed. A mantel trimmed with an evergreen garland,
 handmade stockings, and brass candlesticks
presides above a welcoming hearth.
Kent Harrell and Kendall Kerby’s colonial home and companion cottage keep the spirit of Christmas alive with an old-fashioned evergreen celebration. The trees are trimmed, the stockings are hung, and the table is set. With glasses raised high, come cheer the holiday festivities. In the main house, an antique cupboard painted Christmas red is the setting for a glass-globed candles, pewter plates, and Santa figurines.

The owner’s extensive decorating efforts conjure treasured memories of special people and events. “Every ornament—we have more than 1,100—reminds us of a friend or family member or a trip we took,” Kendall says. He opens a box and unwraps a blue glass ball painted with the image of a toy train. The bauble used to hang on his grandparents’ tree and now has a special place on his own. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Winter Gardens: Beauty, Quiet and Infinite Possibility

Reduced to a skeletal state, a garden in winter gives our imaginations an opportunity to explore those possibilities. It allows our eyes the chance to be a paintbrush devising new color schemes and filling in borders. On the other hand, we may choose to simply enjoy the bones of the pleached hedge, the peeling bark of the crape myrtle, remnants of bittersweet, and viburnum berries. Early morning walks reveal piles of oak leaves silver-plated with frost and holly trees standing boastful and defiant in a blaze of color.

When I travel in winter, I still want to see any garden on my route. I feel informed by it in a different kind of way—more understanding, more attached. Perhaps it is just like an acquaintance who has quietly let her guard down. And I know as the temperature warms and I return again, I will see the other, more boisterous side of her personality.

A winter garden is like a perfect black-and-white photo, an old movie, an X-ray. Every nuanced shade of gray is awakened in a season otherwise viewed as colorless, when all growth is stalled. But look again, and color schemes beg to be noticed. The herbaceous border left to remain, now in shades of blonde and silver gray, strands in contrast with old yews, creating a dramatic scene. While branches of various cornus are a rainbow of reds fading to yellow, the stark white bodies of birch trees make their own ghostly statement. The omnipresent, limitless, and ever-faithful sky, a constant in every garden, at times evokes a canopy of blue that can become a Matisse cutout, silhouetting shapely trees and the leafless framework of others. White fences and black iron gates add geometry and outlines that draw the eye in a more focused way. Trellises and arbors, now naked, give us graphic art with their shapes and patterns.

Just as in a well-decorated room, the garden also relies on its furniture and accessories. Benches of any kind still dutifully beckon us to come sit, enjoy the view, and contemplate the current state of affairs. Statues, urns, and other ornaments will knowingly and patiently look forward to being enveloped in green once again, but for the time being, they are the show. Pots, troughs, and planters, small and large, now empty, will dream of the return of summer’s abundance. Though all these things may be inanimate, they surely take on whatever we viewers project upon them.

The dormant state of a garden in winter metaphorically speaks to what gardening is all about—a process. The cycle of life, death, and rebirth is the story of any garden, ever changing. Winter is the great equalizer, whether it comes to a front-yard bed or acres of them.

We pine for those tiny sprouts, those early chartreuse buds and leaves. They give us hope and, like a trumpet, announce that the flower fashion show of spring will soon begin. We feel reborn as our senses emerge from hibernation, a protracted holding pattern. We are like school children who have just heard the last bell of the year. Ah, but without winter, we would not know these joys.                                       

2014 Poinsettia Project Brings 87 Plants to Veterans


Durham’s Heritage Garden Club has a standing annual project of putting poinsettias in the Durham VA Hospital Chapel at Thanksgiving. 
Several poinsettias are purchased in honor of specific veterans whose names are printed on a poster displayed in front of the chapel and near the entrance.
The plants are tended daily by the garden club members throughout the holiday season. 
After Christmas the poinsettias are given to VA patients to brighten their rooms!
Photos by Marcia Loudon, DCGC President.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Beekeeping School Offered at Duke Gardens Starting January

The Durham County Beekeepers Association will be offering a 10 week bee school every Monday starting January 19, 2015, at Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

Seminar Topics include: "Getting Started in Beekeeping," "Bee and Keeper Activity Timeline," "Equipment," "Products of the Hive," "Anatomy," "Genetics," "Communication," "Bee Health and Nutrition." 

On Sat., March 28 a field day will focus on hands-on learning in the hives and opportunity to take Practical and Written Exam for NC Certified Beekeeper certification. 

DCBA Instructors: Donna Devanney, Liz Lindsey, Serena Reavis, Matthew Yearout, Gayle Young, NC Apiary Inspectors, and more local subject experts.  

The cost is $50, which comes with a membership to DCBA and a copy of First Lessons in Beekeeping. All registration proceeds benefit the Durham County Beekeepers To register, please contact the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 919-684-3698.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Makeover: Heritage Garden Club Decks President's Front Door

The front door of Heritage Garden Club Co-President Jean Gurtner recently underwent a lush Christmas makeover. The makeover was part of a Club design project and the program portion for the annual Christmas Luncheon of the Heritage Garden Club.
Photos by DCGC President Marcia Loudon.

Members of the Heritage Garden Club spent a morning to cut greenery from Jean's yard to incorporate into the new garlands, wreaths, swags and front door topiaries. Used for the project were various pines, hollies, magnolias, green apples, pine cones an other assorted natural elements. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Durham Central Park's Mt. Merrill Dedication Celebration, Dec. 6

Construction site of Durham Central Park's Mt. Merrill.
Mt. Merrill in October.
Photos by DCGC President Marcia Loudon.
The Durham Council of Garden Clubs is one of several Durham organizations who proudly sponsored in 2014 the new construction of Durham Central Park's Mt. Merrill playscape. This Saturday, Dec. 6, the public is invited to a Dedication Celebration from 10 a.m. to noon. 

Mt. Merrill, named in memory of Merrill Davis, is phase II of Wanderland, the childrens’ play area at Durham Central Park, which began with the construction of The Leaf. With two slides, boulder outcroppings, and protective surfacing, Mt. Merrill will continue to make Durham Central Park the “coolest park in town” and a remarkable success story. Other scheduled activities include a children’s African drum circle, led by Braima Moiwai, interactive storytime, a make-and-take craft activity, and balloon twisting by Lena Balleena.

What is Mount Merrill?

Mount Merrill is an interactive children’s play area planned for the eastern side of the park, adjacent to the Leaf. It is a handicap accessible climbing mound that will offer the following features:
  1. 2 Slides—the Little Slide and the Big Slide
  2. Climbing Net
  3. Big Curving Benches
  4. Amphitheater Seating
  5. The Ramp Up
  6. A “Look-out!” Area
  7. Boulder Climb
  8. Sculptural Art
Fundraising Goal

The goal for the Mount Merrill fundraising campaign is $200,000. This figure includes the cost of construction as well as a maintenance fund to keep it in good shape. Durham Central Park already raised $150,000, including a successful May Kickstarter campaign. 

The late Merrill Davis with his wife.
In addition to major donors such as, Durham Lions Club, East West Partners, The Exchange Club of Greater Durham, PNC, and BIN Foundation, more than 550 individuals and businesses donated to Durham Central Park, Inc., to build Mt. Merrill. This has truly been a community effort to serve the children of Durham.

Why the Name?

The name honors the memory of a dear friend of the Park who died in a tragic car accident.  Merrill Davis was the always-helpful guy from our neighborhood nursery and garden store, Stone Brothers and Byrd.  Merrill was there seeding the first lawn at the Pavilion back when there were hardly any folks walking on it. His wedding in 2009 was one of the first weddings in the Pavilion.

Merrill was a tireless fundraiser for the Durham Exchange Club, whose focus is to benefit children in the Durham area. “Mt. Merrill” is the perfect name for an attraction that will draw children and families from throughout the community.


Mt. Merrill was designed by Tributary Land Design.

Durham Hosts Tree Pruning & Tree Care 101 Workshop, Dec. 13

Volunteers should register by December 10 for this free workshop!
A "Tree Pruning & Tree Care 101 Workshop" will be held Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, from 9:30 a.m. to noon at Long Meadow Park, 917 Liberty Street, Durham, NC 27701. The workshop is sponsored by Trees Across Durham.

This free tree pruning and tree care workshop will provide volunteers with hands-on experience while tending to the trees along the Goose Creek stream restoration project, which runs through Long Meadow Park near Eastway Elementary School. Participants will learn the basics of tree pruning and other tree care topics. Tools and gloves for the workshop will be provided, but participants are encouraged to bring their own if possible. Volunteers interested in helping should register by December 10 at

Workshop partners include Keep Durham Beautiful, City of Durham General Services Department Urban Forestry Division, Durham City-County Sustainability Office, and City of Durham Public Works Department Stormwater & GIS Services Division.

For additional information or to register for this workshop, contact Keep Durham Beautiful Coordinator Tania Dautlick at (919) 354-2729 or by email at tania@

Monday, December 1, 2014

December Calendar of Triangle Gardening Programs

North Carolina Botanical Gardens
100 Old Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, NC.
Birds and Squirrels at Your Feeder
Dec. 4,  noon-1 p.m.
Bring your lunch and join us for a free lecture! Join Haven, who specializes in animal behavior and ecology, for a discussion of the challenges and solutions to feeding (or not feeding) these animals at our feeders. Free, but pre-registration required.

A Poinsettia Open House will be held Dec. 7 at the JC Raulston Arboretum.
(Poinsettia trees are a Christmas favorite of floral designers.)
Family Gardening Series: 'Ready for Winter'
Dec. 13, 10-11:15 a.m.
Winter is coming and we need help putting the vegetable garden to bed! Learn about what happens to a garden in winter, what work needs to be done to be ready for spring, and enjoy planting some cold season veggies. We will also have the opportunity to sample garden treats.

Author Poetry Reading and Book Signing 'Mountain Gravity' Laurence Avery, Author and Poet
Dec. 14, 2-3 p.m.
Do yourself a favor and don't miss this reading by Laurence Avery from his first collection of poems Mountain Gravity. Avery, a very engaging speaker, had a decades long career as a teacher and scholar at UNC Chapel Hill where he served as chair of the English Department. He has published numerous articles and six books on British and American playwrights and has won numerous awards. His poems have been published in numerous literary reviews. The poems in Mountain Gravity touch the reader with historical stories of Cherokee Indians who lived in the North Carolina mountains, of contemporary Southern families maturing in a fast paced world but who ground themselves in nature, and of Carolina flora and fauna, beloved by Avery, adapting to rapidly changing habitats. “Avery is alert, direct, quietly witty and always thoughtful; it is in his poetic nature to appreciate and to celebrate, a difficult thing for many writers to do but from the first poem of Mountain Gravity to the last – where ‘monarch butterflies swirl and light, frantic, then calm’, he does it beautifully.” Michael McFee. Free, but pre-registration required.

Winter Solstice Concert: A Tuba Holiday Concert
Dec. 21, 3:30-5 p.m.
For its 2014 Winter Solstice concert, the Village Band Tuba/Euphonium ensemble will perform a selection of Pre-Christian and Christian winter carols, to include “Deck the Halls”, “Good King Wenceslas”, “The Holly and the Ivy”, “The Wassail Song”, “Carol of the Bells”, “Greensleeves”, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming, “Pat-A-Pan”, and others. Free, no registration required.
JC Raulston Arboretum
Ruby C. McSwain Education Center, JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh, NC.
Plantsmen's Tour: "Bark and Branches"
Dec. 2, 1–2:30 p.m.
Mark Weathington, Assistant Director and Curator of Collections
The winter season brings out the best when it comes to colorful and showy barked trees and shrubs. This tour will highlight some of our favorites at the JCRA.CostFree for members, $5.00 for nonmembers.
Holiday Wreath Workshop
Dec. 2, 4–6 p.m.
Christopher Todd Glenn, Programs and Education Coordinator
Decorate your home for the holidays with a designer wreath you made at the JC Raulston Arboretum. Hands-on instruction will be provided, and all participants will create a wreath of their own to take home. All materials needed for these workshops will be provided including a vast assortment of greens from the JCRA's plant collections for your wreath, however, participants are encouraged to bring items for their wreaths or to share. This workshop is open to adults and youths. Youths are welcome to participate with a caregiver. In this case, the registration fee covers both participants, but only one wreath will be made.
Cost: Small wreath: $40.00 for members, $50.00 for nonmembers; large wreath: $45.00 for members, $55.00 for nonmembers. Payment covers all supplies needed, however, participants are encouraged to bring items for their wreaths or to share. The small wreath is ideal for doors while the large wreath is ideal for large doors, fences, and walls. Advance registration is required. Please register online using our new registration e-store. Registration is limited to 15 people per session and is considered complete when payment is received.
Friends of the Arboretum Lecture:  "Plant Conservation in the 21st Century"
Dec. 4, 7:30–9 p.m.
Peter Raven, Ph.D., President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden
Peter H. Raven is one of the world's leading botanists and advocates of conservation and biodiversity. For four decades, he headed the Missouri Botanical Garden, an institution he nurtured into a world-class center for botanical research and education, and horticultural display. He retired as president in 2010 and assumed the role of president emeritus and consultant through 2014. The author of numerous books and reports, both popular and scientific, Peter co-wrote Biology of Plants, an internationally best-selling textbook, now in its sixth edition. He also co-authored Environment, a leading textbook on the environment.

Poinsettia Open House
Dec. 7, 1–5 p.m.

NC State Floriculture is part of a national poinsettia program that tests poinsettia cultivars to determine which ones are best for consumers and for producers. You will have a chance to see these cultivars yourself and vote for your favorites. Approximately one hundred different cultivars of poinsettias—including numerous new experimental cultivars—will be on display. Stop by to see the famous 9' tall poinsettia tree. Enjoy poinsettia gardens and decorated poinsettias. Help us decide which poinsettias are North Carolina's favorites by voting for your favorite poinsettias. Listen to Christmas carols from around the world played by the Joy Recorder Ensemble while viewing the poinsettias. They'll begin at 1 p.m. and play through 5 p.m. with three 15 minute breaks. Musical instruments include recorders plus a hand drum, tambourine, and a glockenspiel. Members include Carrie Joy Bylina (director), Ruey Li, Jean Lin, Jean Bernard Luc, Chia-Fei Wang, and Kuy-may Wu.

"Sustainable Suburbia: Harnessing Nature's Superpowers in Your Yard"
Dec. 11, 7:30–9 p.m.

Michelle Rose
Home gardeners can be on the front lines of environmental preservation and restoration. Learn how to increase biodiversity, improve soil fertility, provide for wildlife, conserve water, and energy as well as decrease stormwater runoff. Over time, nature will reward you with a beautiful and healthy landscape that will save you time, money, and energy while improving the environment beyond your property line.


Durham Garden Forum with take a global look at container gardening, Dec. 9.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St., Durham, NC.  Please call 919-668-1707 to register.
Holiday Greenery
Dec. 6, 1-3 p.m.
Make your own fragrant holiday display and bring nature indoors. Duke Gardens horticulturist Michelle Rawlins and plant records manager Beth Hall will each create several evergreen swags or mantelpieces to demonstrate tips and techniques for turning greenery, colorful stems, berries and pods into scented holiday displays for your home. Each participant will then produce his or her own holiday swag to hang on a door or display on a mantel or table.
All plant materials and ribbon will be supplied. Please bring a pair of hand pruners and any embellishments you would like to include.
Fee: $65; Gardens members $55.
Durham Garden Forum: Container Gardening Around the World
Dec. 9, 6:30-8 p.m.
On a whirlwind tour of container gardens, avid container gardener and Durham County Extension Master Gardener Leanna Murphy Dono will be certain to expand your ideas about what a container can be and how to combine plants for the best ornamental impact.

Holiday Celebration at the Gardens
Dec. 20, noon-4 p.m.
Join us for winter holiday fun featuring traditions from all over the world.
Activities will include:
• Peanut butter bird feeder
• Diwali (Hindu festival of light) rangoli patterns
• Chinese new year lanterns
• Paper snowflakes
• A menorah of your own