As winter continues and the days are a little darker and colder, we thought it would be a great time to brighten up everyone’s week by shining a light on two Summit team members who have extraordinary talent in gardening, Sherry J. and Kelly A.
Both Sherry and Kelly work out of our corporate office and are well known for spending their free time in the garden. They both started gardening at a young age and were introduced to gardening through family. We asked a few questions about their own gardens and advice they have for people interested in gardening. In this Q&A you will find insightful responses about flowers “Flowers are not only pretty but essential for attracting bees and butterflies for pollination,” and vegetables “If you want to start a vegetable garden, start small so you are not overwhelmed. Plant at least two of everything.”
Whether you are new to gardening, interested in vegetables, interested in flowers, or just exploring ideas, this Q&A with Sherry and Kelly will get you thinking about sunnier days and getting your hands dirty.
Gosh, hard question. I don’t remember a specific year. I have always loved flowers. Let’s say age 12.
Growing up we always had flowers. My mama and daddy always planted flowers in our yard and it looked so pretty. I also had to help my daddy with pruning bushes. We would go to my grandaddy Mincey’s farm and I had to help pick vegetables from his garden and shuck, silk and freeze corn every summer. I thought it was fun and amazing to dig up potatoes. To this day, I still can tomatoes, and I always go to the Raleigh Farmers Market in July and buy 5-6 dozen ears of silver queen corn (the best corn in my opinion) to freeze for the holidays and winter. My nephews say: “It’s not Christmas without some of Aunt Sherry’s delicious fresh corn”! My step-grandmother always had beautiful roses and plants and whenever we would leave her house, she would always cut me some roses to take home. I used to help water her house plants. For her African violets, she would tell me to “water from the bottom tray—not the top.” I have since learned it is OK to water from the top! I love roses, but they are not my personal choice of flowers to grow, because they require a lot of attention and are susceptible to fungus and spider mites.
I love planting anything, nurturing it and watching it grow and bloom into a beautiful flower or edible vegetable. When I am digging in the soil or weeding, I forget about everything. It is great therapy for me. Fresh vegetables are the best.
Flowers are easy, but Tomatoes by far are always challenging for me. You have to amend the soil, cut off the suckers, fertilize, try to avoid bottom rot, and watch out for those pesky horn worms! I have tried all kinds of tricks to make tomatoes flourish…. put a banana peel in the soil, use Epsom’s salt when watering (also good for flowers), and crushed eggshells, just to name a few.
Start with good soil. For most of us in this area, we have clay soil, so amending with compost and soil conditioner is a must. Create a plan. Make sure you plant the flower/bush in the location where it will thrive receiving the correct amount of sunlight or shade. Vegetables need sun. If you want to start a vegetable garden, start small so you are not overwhelmed. Plant at least two of every vegetable. Water at the base of the plant, so the leaves do not get wet. If you do not have enough space in your yard for a garden, just buy some big pots and plant some tomatoes and peppers.
When people say to me, “I cannot grow flowers” I respond “Yes you can grow Zinnias.” Buy a packet of seeds, throw them on the ground, barely cover with potting soil, pat down with your hands, water regularly and they will sprout quickly and bloom and thrive until frost. Easiest flower for ANYONE to grow and butterflies absolutely love them. A vegetable garden is more time consuming because you do need to amend the soil, weed often, and watch closely for bugs and aphids, but worth the effort of eating your own fresh vegetables!
Remember to water but not overwater. Fertilize. Go online and read what other gardeners have found that works, especially natural remedies without all the chemicals.
Time of year you get started (is it year around?) If so what tips do you have for year-round gardeners?
I usually wait until after April 15th to plant anything in the ground. If it’s still cool and a rainy Spring, I will wait a little longer. I have many year-round house plants. I still have a large corn plant that was given to me by the office (Alois Callemyn Land Surveyor) when my Daddy died in 1988. I usually have to cut it back at least every 2 years and guess what, it comes back with new shoots! I also have another house plant (arrowhead plant) that came from my aunt and I’ve had it since 2001 I have given numerous cuttings of it away over the years.
Types of plants/vegetables?
My garden has perennials and annuals. If you don’t want to plant annuals every year, choose perennials that will come back every year. Some excellent perennial choices that I have in my garden are as follows:
- Daffodils/narcissus for spring blooming. Deer resistant. Plant in the fall. Choose different varieties so you will have early, mid and late spring bloomers. I love the Quail Daffodils. They have very long lasting blooms and have 2-4 per stem. Very fragrant. Multiplies.
- Coneflower – Blooms in summer till frost. Butterflies and bees love them.
- Blackeyed Susan – summer, multiplies.
- Sedum – I have two kinds. Nice green foliage and blooms in late summer to fall.
- Yarrow – comes in a variety of colors. Mine is pink.
- Lavender – bees love
- Coneflower/echinacea – come in a variety of colors. Mine are in shades of pink. Bees love and in the fall when all is left is the seed pod, yellow finch birds like to eat them.
- Iris – bearded and Japanese. Multiplies and easy to divide and move to other areas of your yard.
- Daylilies – variety of colors. Go to a daylily hybridizers farm for the best choices. You can purchase many beautiful lilies there other than the standard yellow Stella D’Oro sold at the big box stores. Multiplies and easy to divide.
- Ajuga – a nice ground cover that multiplies with green and purple foliage that produces spikes of blue flowers in mid spring.
- Love in a Mist/Nigella – a dainty white/pink/lavender flower that blooms in spring/summer and self seeds or you can pop the dried seed pod and spread the seeds. It can be invasive, but in a good way and easy to pull up if you have too many seedlings popping up. Seed pods are great for flower arrangements.
- Hostas for those shady areas of your yard. They come in a variety of green/blue/ivory colors. Once established well, you can divide easily.
- Cleome Spider flower. Once you plant these, their seed pods burst and they reseed themselves. I usually keep some seeds and plant in other locations. Bi-colored in pink, lilac, rose and white.
- Lycoris Red Spider Lily (also called the Surprise Lily) because one day you don’t see anything and the next you do. It emerges quickly on a tall stem and has the most unusual shaped beautiful flower with long stamens resembling spider legs, hence the common name. Blooms in late summer/early fall.
- Tickseed/Coreopsis – summer
- Firewitch Dianthus – the name is so fitting because it produces very bright pink flowers on a blue-gray foliage that grows in a clump and spreads. Spring blooming, but sometimes blooms again late summer. Definitely an eye catcher.
- Hibiscus – summer – variety of colors.
- Dahlia – summer to frost. Variety of shapes and colors to choose from. I think the colors are actually more vibrant in September than middle of summer. One drawback is that Japanese beetles love this flower.>
- Pansies – fall and winter – one of my favorite flowers. Small but I love their faces.
- Clematis – a vine that needs a trellis to climb. Spring and summer bloomers in different colors. I also have one called Sweet Autumn that has small white fragrant flowers that blooms in late August early September.
- Yellow bell/Forsythia bush. When it starts blooming, you know spring is in the air!
- Butterfly bush – you can purchase purple, pink or white flowers – summer bloomer. As the name states, butterflies love it.
- Camelia bush – red, pinks and white colors and will provide you with flowers to brighten up the winter months.
- Peony bush – another southern favorite – blooms late spring.
- Sweet Betsy/Carolina Allspice bush – an old favorite of the South with small deep maroon flowers. I love the scent when it blooms in the spring and the wind is blowing. Very very fragrant.
- Beautyberry bush – produces purple berries along the stems in late summer. Unusual and eye catching.
Annual flowers that I plant each year usually include:
- Zinnias from seed packets
- Mexican sun flowers from seed packets (smaller than your normal yellow sunflower with a bright bright orange flower). Grows tall. I Love this plant and so do bees and butterflies.
- Red and purple salvia – a hummingbird favorite
- Vinca – loves lots of sun- no deadheading required
- Coleus – shade plant
- Shrimp plant – hummingbird favorite. You do not see this available at all garden centers, but our local Farm and Garden store on Hwy. 86 carries it.
Flowers are not only pretty but essential for attracting bees and butterflies for pollination.
Start with good soil. Amend with compost and soil conditioner. I always throw in some Black Kow composted manure too. For annuals in pots, replace with fresh potting soil each year. Remember to water but not overwater. Fertilize. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage new ones to form. Choose plants that bloom at different times, so you always have something to enjoy. Go online and read what other gardeners have found that works; especially natural remedies without all the harsh pesticides/herbicides, i.e. I have used rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad to get rid of mites. Straight Vinegar will kill weeds and grass in the cracks of your sidewalk or patio. Herbicides and pesticides may kill your problem but remember that it will also kill the beneficial insects needed like bees and lady bugs.
Plant some marigold flowers in your garden especially near tomatoes. Marigolds have a strong scent that helps deter unwanted pests.
Old enough to walk and pick up potatoes each year. We always had a huge vegetable garden otherwise would have been harder than it was to feed 6 kids. We would help dad in veg garden and help mom plant flowers all over. She is 86 and still loves to have flowers all over her property. We have all been digging up her flowers for years and taking them to our houses to grow which is so cool. They are established and do better than new plants.
I started with my Mom and Dad, but I did not really start doing it with my husband until 1985 and have done it ever since. We grow a huge garden every year and can so much food, I don’t think we will ever starve. Everyone loves my jam and salsa and so much more.
I love having fresh good-tasting food all year long. Spaghetti sauce made with peppers and tomatoes from our garden it’s amazing. I really try hard now to let anything go to waste. We don’t go out to eat a lot because I do love to cook with everything we have canned and have fresh healthy food.
The weather is always the biggest challenge. My husband is a super gardener so his plants always look awesome and produce so much food. We grow these huge tomatoes called oxhearts and they are a meaty tomato which you want for sauces. They are as big as your hand and delicious too.
Start small to not get overwhelmed. Whether it’s flowers or veggies pick a spot and get started.
Time of year you get started (is it year round)? If so, what tips do you have for year-round gardeners?
We start seeds in February/march and nurture them and plant usually in May when ground is warmer otherwise there is a chance of them not producing as much.
Types of plants/vegetables?
Indoor plants that I have the best luck with are philodendron and African violets and Christmas cactus, Arrowhead plants and snake plant and I have tons if ever anyone wants some just let me know for real.
Our garden has cucumbers, bush green beans, okra, purple hull peas and lots of peppers, jalapena, cayenne, banana hot and mild, bell pepper and then about 55 plus or minue tomato plants that grow until frost. Our tomatoes are huge plants with lots of fruit.
I agree with all that Sherry has above you have to have great soil to grow a good garden and def do not start huge it is crazy overwhelming. I actually stuck a half of a cherry tomato into some soil and had grape cherry tomatoes up until had a frost. Will be doing that again this year. Just have to keep deer away from it.