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!





Waxing Crescent Moon

Occasionally, we all like to observe the night sky above us. The need to feel connection with the stars and planets is in us all. I recently found a great blog with information for novices as well as the more informed "astronomer": I subscribed a few days ago and learned that we don't always see the planet Venus. It waxes and wanes like the moon, but on a 1.6 year cycle: 2017-inferior-conjunction. Another fun tool for night viewing can be found on Just add your city's name in the search field. I don't claim to understand all of this, but I can always wal

Solomon's Seal for Dry Shade

Polygonatum odoratum variegatum, The botanical name describes two components of this beauty. The creamy highlights against the green foliage are wonderful. I confess that I have never experienced the scent while standing up. I have to get on my hands and knees. Perhaps, I'm not there when a breeze lifts the scent. These plants can tolerate dry shade and will slowly spread. Incredibly, they look good even in the summer heat. Make sure that they are in a shady area though. These have been in my backyard for nine years. I believe we started with three to five plants. The second photo shows the colony as well as the dry condition we are in already. Look closely and you will see sho

Spring Residents

I spotted one of our frogs on the first day of Spring. We have a small garden pond in the backyard which brings us much entertainment. Today, I was shocked to see a humming bird moth feeding on the creeping phlox out front. Normally, I don't notice them until the summer.

Hellebore with Epimedium

We have another week with roller coaster temperatures forecast, so I took a photo before things get cold hurt Here's an epimedium that has emerged by a hellebore. I'll consider dividing this plant in the future to extend the effect in the hellebore bed. I purchased this plant in Timonium, MD at a garden club sale while visiting my aunt and uncle a couple of years ago. The first Spring the epimedium did not emerge. It's looking happy in 2017 though. That's the kind of surprise I love!

Spring Equinox 2017

We've all been waiting for it! Now, I can start planting a few things in Durham, North Carolina. The lead photo is from the Facebook page of The Chalice Well Garden in Glastonbury, UK. I think it perfectly represents the beauty and promise of early Spring. I've visited three times over the years. I've taken the rest of the gallery photos today in the yard.

St. Patrick's Day Shamrock

We've had this shamrock for two years. We bought it in a pot at Whole Foods. It has suffered some from the cold snap, but will recover. Happy St. Patrick's day everyone!

Cold March day and the Birds

We are still experiencing unusual weather here, this time in the opposite direction- brrrrr. The cold brings out the big birds and I'm still seeing our winter dark eyed juncos. The juncos will migrate north in a couple of weeks. Our favorite brand of bird seed is Cole's. I All of the ingredients are natural. We use the Hot Meats suet and sunflower seed to keep out squirrels and raccoons. It really works. Don't worry, the squirrels eat at another station which has un-spiced food, Special Feeder blend. I will warn you, Cole's is expensive, but I feel good about it.

Surreal February Sky

This photo was taken late in the day on Feb. 25, 2017 while sitting on a picnic blanket. Warm front meeting a cold front: unsettling, but beautiful weather. We reached a high of 81 degrees in Durham, NC.

Succulent Vignette

Winter decided to pay us a visit this week, so I'm not doing much in the yard. What can I share with you? My succulent grouping: add whimsy and elements of earth. I'm not the greatest with indoor plants, but I'm having fun with these. Mine receive western sun only. They are doing well even in this low light condition. I water them only when the soil is completely dry. Ever notice that things happen in clusters? This must be my month to have succulents in my life. I acquired three as gifts in the last two weeks. Keep Durham Beautiful was giving succulents away in miniature white pots at a volunteer appreciation party at Full Stream Brewery. My neighbors Line and Terri held their a

Like Butterflies? Keep your wild violets.

I have wild violets throughout my garden beds. In Spring, the new ones produce blue or purple flowers. These act as good ground covers for suppressing weeds and provide beauty before the garden really kicks into action. Of course, I do need to remove some of them periodically, otherwise they will completely cover the garden. A few years ago I learned that wild violets are the only host plant for fritillaries. "Without violets there would be no Fritillaries." So give yourself and the butterflies a break. Leave some violets around your garden. Update 9 20 2018: Gulf Fritillaries use Passion Vine as a host plant, so perhaps the violets are not the only host plant, but they do support ma