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!





Need a quick B12 fix?

Did you know that three quarters cup of drained clams provides you with over 1000% of your daily B12 requirement? Here's an easy peasy pasta dish idea for you. I made this last night as I nurse my way out of a respiratory virus. I have no idea if this will help heal me, but I'm looking for easy comfort. Dinner for two: Olive oil, 2 tbsp. Garlic cloves, 2 thinly sliced Diced fire roasted canned tomatoes, 1/3 cup drained Fresh tarragon, 3 or so sprigs White whine 1/4 cup (oops, wine). See, I'm not very happy about being under the weather. Cooked spaghetti (You decide how much you want.) Boiled clams, 10 oz. can Salt and pepper to your taste Grated Parmesan amount (your choice) Snipped fre

After the Rain

We had three straight days of rain. When the rain broke I had to get outside. It's way too wet to work in the garden, so I took a few photos. Here are a couple of updates on the rain impact: Museum of Life and Science had to temporarily close some exhibits today. One is very popular, Hide Away Woods. My husband returned from paddling Falls Lake this afternoon. The water at the boat put-in was higher than after Hurricane Matthew. Looking into the pond. The Green Man from Arundel, UK and what I think is Goshenite stone. I found it in the back yard years ago. When the light is right it has a rainbow effect in part of it. Silver and green heuchera by the pond. Pine foam. Apparently, th

Refuge for the Rose Breasted Grosbeak

We had quite the treat today. A Rose Breasted Grosbeak paid our feeder a visit after three days of substantial rain. I mean no breaks in the rain for three days. We received 2.53 inches today alone. It stopped around 10:00 a.m. this morning. It's feast or famine with the rain here this Spring. The rain must have delayed the grosbeak on his migration path north or northwest. I have never seen one. It was an easy google look up: grosbeak (for sure), black and white with red. Of course one of the bully boy Blue Jays made sure that he didn't stay long when I first spotted him this morning. Fortunately he returned this afternoon and I have better photos now.

Eastern Black Swallowtail and Dill

One benefit of our mild winter is dill growing from seed in the herb bed. I let things go wild over the winter. In an earlier post, I mentioned using chervil which likes cool weather as a cover crop for the herb bed. It has protected the dill as well as the soil. I was pinching some dill for salmon dinner tonight, and discovered tiny caterpillars. I'm confident that these are future Eastern black swallowtails. I saw the female hovering over the dill in the herb bed about a week ago. I also have a lot of parsely, but I'm not seeing any caterpillars yet. I didn't know it until today, but chervil is also a host plant for black swallowtails.

April is Iris Season

One of the stalwarts for a southern garden in the Spring is the stately iris. This gallery includes my favorite bearded iris, Beverly Sills. The color and frills with deep peach beards (the fuzzy part of the flower) are so romantic. I've had these irises for over a decade. I do see signs of Iris borers each year. I rarely cut off foliage unless it is severely infected. No chemicals have been applied and they are still going strong. I was able to capture heightened color on this wonderful dark day for two of the photos. We are anticipating much needed rain.

Backyard Surprise

Yesterday, two neighbors saw a pheasant in their yard. Imagine my surprise this morning when my husband spotted him next door. We were enjoying a morning coffee when Ian spotted him. We are in an urban neighborhood with some wildlife: possums, raccoons, hawks, even coyotes at the park. I have never seen a pheasant here. We do have plenty of urban chickens in the neighborhood since the city allowed them. I hope our pheasant will find his way to a safer place. He's not very street smart. I did enjoy watching him intimidate the neighbor's cat, who has killed some of my birds on his neighborhood forays. The cat stays out of our yard now or at least I don't see him.

The Stone Spiral

There is a patch of yard in the back where grass won't grow. It gets intense sun in the summer and is very dry. It's hard to believe, but we are already dry in April. To overcome this unsightly area, we added an artistic feature and gave up on the grass. This project started as an abstract tree. We outlined an abstract tree shape in the ground and added cedar mulch in the barren center. This looked pretty good for the first couple of years as we had just enough grass surrounding the outline to highlight the tree shape. In Spring of 2017, we have officially lost the green outline. I've admired the spiral meditation paths that many people add to their garden design. Enter my husband, I

Plants for early pollinators

Our erratic weather pattern this year brought out tiger swallowtails, and hummingbird moths in March. Of course, we have bees too. I see them during any warm period here. What plants can these early emergers use to survive? I have observed bees on the paper bush, willow amsonia, clover (it bloomed early this year), and the hellebores. The humming bird moth used the blue creeping phlox. The butterflies didn't have any use for the paper bush. They alighted on it, but quickly flew away. I planted phlox divaricata last weekend which is listed as a nectar source for butterflies. Hopefully, this will help them in the future.

The Stumpery Border

Two years ago my husband and I started to expand the dry shade border in the hidden part of our backyard. The border is surrounded by pines and various types of ligustrum (privet). Ian removed a ligustrum from another area in the yard and saved the stump cuttings. The stumps had an artistic quality, so we kept some of them. I'm always looking for natural art in the yard. Last weekend we made two spontaneous purchases to add to this challenging area: Blue Moon phlox divicaria and Prelude pieris japonica. They look good now, but of course the challenge in the South is will they survive our late summer heat and dryness? The third photo is a view into the fern bed (see mushroom man). T

Dogwoods- Southern Beauties

I've added a gallery of dogwoods for your Spring pleasure. Double click the first one for a slideshow of each.