The Happy Cottage

Small Garden Inspiration

This blog was started in Jan. 2017 on a cold bright winter day in my 1945 cottage home in Durham, NC.  Photos of the Spring 2016 garden inspired me. Winter is after all, the perfect time for gardeners to daydream of Spring. Please join me for real world small garden inspiration interspersed with lifestyle.  

Visit the "Butterfly Compendium" to see a catalog of pollinators in the garden and host plant information.  View this and other favorites in the Featured Post section of the blog.

Gardening/lifestyle ethos at The Happy Cottage: support Mother Earth and yourself by being as natural as possible. Avoid the use of synthetic chemicals and weed instead of spray. Include host and nectar plants for pollinators. Favorite garden medium: organic mushroom compost. It's the soil that mushrooms were grown in. Full disclosure:  We do use biological mosquito dunks.

My gardening style has evolved over twenty years to include scent, food for pollinators, butterflies, birds and shelter for small creatures.  A multi-dimensional garden will bring you years of enjoyment!





Feed the finches with yellow

I stumbled on this photo of two goldfinches eating seed from the yellow pincushion flowers. The official name is scabiosa columbaria var.ochroleucra. They are perennials, but bloom all summer long and into early fall. These are great plants for sunny areas. Mine tolerate drought conditions and re-seed, but not invasively. They have a tap root so be patient when transplanting the seedlings. They will take awhile to establish themselves.

Winter Tea

In recent years my mother, sister and I have an afternoon tea at my house. It's a nice little respite in winter. We sit in the "garden" room enjoying our treats and watching the birds. The husband hides from this affair, but always partakes of the goodies later. That's okay, it's really meant for the girls. The key is to have tea during a cold period, so we usually experience this in Feb. Here's a couple of photos from last year's tea table. I've listed the 2015 menu with a link to a Food Network recipe for smoked salmon sandwiches. This is always on the menu for us. I love the tip about grating the egg whites from the boiled eggs. It produces an airy quality to the egg whites and l

Recycling your Christmas or Occasion cards

Once again I'm looking at clutter associated with the holidays. I love receiving Christmas cards , but what to do after the season? Reading Dear Heloise provided the answer. Give them to St. Jude's Ranch for Children. I've copied the following from St Jude's web site: Year-round, we happily accept used all-occasion greeting cards. Please review the following tips before sending in your cards. Only the card front can be used (please check to be sure the backside of the front of the card is clear of any handwriting, etc.) We can not accept Hallmark, Disney or American Greeting cards 5″ x 7″ size or smaller is preferred To mail large quantities in the least expensive way, use a USPS (United St

Color Changing Hydrangea

I don't know about you, but I'm not a color purist when it comes to hydrangeas. They are at their best when I have multiple color variations on one blossom. This also counts as another "Artful Combination" photo. The small vine with pink flowers is a sweet pea. Creeping jenny adds a nice chartreuse on the ground.

Merlin, The Hellebore

I'm always a sucker for a mythical plant name. This hybrid is part of the Gold Collection from the Heuger Nursery in Germany. Lucky me, I found it at a local nursery, Durham Garden Center . I planted this in late fall 2015. It bloomed thru early Feb. This plant is once again blooming earlier than my other hellebores which I've had for years. This plant is 12 - 16 inches tall. Blossoms are outward facing. Comparing the January photo to the March photos makes me realize why this was named "Merlin". Tip: Resist the urge to remove the old foliage on all hellebores until the buds are no longer protected by it. I cut mine back too early one year and we had a snow storm which damaged the

Paper Bush Edgeworthia

Add winter beauty to your garden and honey scent in early to mid-March with the Paper bush. The exposed branches are cinnamon colored. They appreciate some protection from the afternoon sun. Mine receives sun, but doesn't get the brunt of western sun exposure due to the old garage building. Here are two photos of the bush in Jan. 2017. You are rewarded with soft yellow blossoms when the buds open in March.

Corn Pudding with Winter Gouda "Winter Gouda Melkbus"

I'm a frequent shopper at Whole Foods Grocery. This weekend I stumbled upon a cheese that I had to try. This is a Gouda from the Netherlands with warming spices: pepper, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, and cardamom. Why not try this in corn pudding? I decided to add some interest to the classic ingredients by using sauteed shallots, a little tomato bisque and substituted cheddar with Winter Gouda. Try it with your favorite corn pudding recipe for warm depth of flavor. Yum! Click here for even more info. I've added this recipe per a reader request.

Sussex Cottage from Houzz

I'm experiencing garden envy and inspiration at the same time. What a magical place. I've visited the UK a few times. I'm always amazed at the beauty. Butterfly bushes even survive by train tracks. My favorite magazines: Click on the photo for a better view. Check out the tall purple plants. They are verbena bonariensis. I've had reasonable success with them here. Its best to offer them some wind protection. They add a nice architectural effect to your garden.

Looking pristine for a bit in 2017

I like decorating for the holidays, but I'm always glad to put it away. The house feels more open now. I'm ready for some yellow and my Spring green wreath. Being built in 1945 most of the rooms are small by today's standards. I still love it though. We all have our own style requirements.

Feeling inspired and cleaning up for 2017

Thanks to my husband for tackling the hall closet. I have collected way too much in the way of wrapping items, Christmas, Birthdays etc. Not just anyone can accomplish this. It took me years! :) I'm not showing you all of it. Now the vacuums and brooms can have a proper home.

Still Dreaming of Spring

May 2016- White Salvia, Heuchera Obsidian, Iris pallida Variegata and Beverly Sills iris. Unfortunately, I've only had the variegated iris bloom once in three years. I haven't given up on it as the foliage is a great accent. Spring of 2016 was so beautiful I hope it repeats itself in 2017. I'm ready to check out a beautiful nearly full moon tonight.

Hiding the cinder block wall with camellias

You have seen some of the better aspects of my garden in earlier posts. Here's one that's not so pretty, but I have a plan. I've planted two camellia sasanquas to hide the wall and provide a future privacy screen. This will require some patience, but one day...... Hope springs eternal. Click the images for descriptions.

Whimsical Garden Art

Garden Art adds such character to your landscape. It doesn't have to be expensive to have impact. I only advise this general rule of thumb, tuck the objet d'art into the plants. Especially, if you know deep inside this is like the velvet art piece mentioned on the PBS ad for Antiques Roadshow, "but oh, sooo soft". Enjoy your fun art characters! It's your space.

Spring Greens: Chervil, Chives and Beverly Sills Iris

View of the backyard from the house in April 2016. Beverly Sills Irises are in bloom. Garlic chives are also blooming. They were too pretty to snip at that point. What are the mid-height plants in the herb bed? Chervil. I used them like a winter cover crop last year. I left a few of the larger ones in place to have some green in the bed early. Good energy is naturally imbued in the herb bed. I requested a half moon design, my husband Ian built it and Merrill Davis of Stone Bros. and Byrd delivered and even helped load mushroom compost. We still miss Merrill's dry wit. His memory lives on.