Sweetwater Creek State Park, Georgia


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"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us    
back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace."
~ May Sarton, poet and novelist

As the Covid pandemic was morphing in 2021 and everyone started learning better how to live with it in public places, Jim and I still found comfort and joy choosing to spend most of our time in our cozy home with three lovable Labrador retrievers and a pretty yard.

We suffer less from social isolation than many people because we just aren't social butterflies any more.

Gardening and nature have always been a refuge for me. During all the stress of the pandemic I found even more solace than usual in literally "playing in the dirt." I don't know that it has taught me much patience or grace, but it's definitely therapeutic to plan, plant, and maintain our landscape and enjoy watching it flourish. It brings me peace.

Home sweet home, c. July, 2021

We spent thousands of dollars on plants the first couple years we lived here (2017-18) because most of the back yard and part of the front were so barren. Most of the shrubs, trees, groundcovers, and perennials we planted have thrived and grown, some beyond our expectations. Others have not.

That's how it is with gardening! I choose to enjoy what has flourished, try to learn from the "failures," and move on.

I chose almost seventy photos from our yard to feature in this series of two entries, both dated August 17. They span the entire year. I'll start with plants that begin to bloom in early spring and continue somewhat chronologically through summer, fall, and winter. Some plants overlap two or three seasons.


We were fortunate to have some large Lorapetalum AKA Chinese fringe flower shrubs in our front yard when we bought this property. There are several on either side of the front yard and we've planted a couple more in the back yard.

View from my computer desk

The varieties we have get very tall and wide. They have beautiful dark pink or reddish purple flowers almost year-round (they peak in February) and they keep their pretty green and dark red leaves all year. All they require is some pruning and adequate rainwater. Easy peasy!

We planted this Okame cherry tree in the front garden island in 2018 and it has amazed us every year with two separate blooming periods when we expected only the one in early spring.

It is covered in beautiful pale pink blossoms for a week or two in February. Its leaves are nice green until August, when they drop and are replaced by more flowers and leaves in September! Then the leaves drop again for several months in the winter. We've done only a little shaping of the branches so far.

We also have two common forsythia shrubs in the back yard that have pretty yellow flowers in February. I don't have any new photos of those. Our Mathotinia camellia is supposed to bloom in February or March but we got only a couple flowers from the numerous buds this year. That shrub is a disappointment because it bloomed well the first three years.

In March our Spirit viburnum produces lots of pretty white-to-pink blooms:

This shrub is about six feet tall now and rebloomed unexpectedly in the fall this year. I appreciate that its leaves are evergreen. One large branch died so I'm hoping other branches/leaves will fill in the hole in a couple years. (Patience!)

Several varieties of daffodils and narcissus bloom in the front yard in March. Sometimes those come back again in the fall, too.

The back yard really comes alive in April with columbines, bearded iris, pink dogwood, snowflake virburnum, azaleas blooming.

We started off with a few columbine seeds from a neighbor and they quickly spread into a large patch that stays partially green throughout the year. I love all the pretty colors of the delicate flowers, from a range of blues, pinks, and purples:




There is a bed with seven different colors of bearded iris at one end of the columbine patch. All but one of the irises rebloom in the fall, although their main show is in the spring.

The first two photos below of my favorite iris are from this spring and the yellow ones are from October:



Our pink dogwood tree hasn't been the greatest success since we planted it four years ago, but at least it's mostly still alive (a few branches died) and it has some pretty pink flowers in April:

I think the main problem was planting it too far back in our yard, where it's under a canopy of tall trees and probably doesn't get enough sunlight. It's too big to move now.

Just in front of the pink dogwood are two very tall snowflake virburnum shrubs that have gotten way bigger than advertised! They are so tall they also block sunlight to the dogwood. They are very pretty shrubs/trees, though, with lots of white bracts of flowers in April and May:

L-R: pink GLTabor azalea, pink dogwood behind one snowflake viburnum,
shorter spirit viburnum, and taller snowflake viburnum

A few feet in front of the virburnums are three barberry shrubs that have also done quite well. They have a multitude of pastel-colored leaves in the spring and some very tiny yellow flowers:

The barberry leaves are mostly green in the summer, turning to reds and oranges in the fall. These deciduous shrubs drop their leaves in the winter.

Encore azaleas were very prominent in our front and back gardens in my original landscape designs. We planted about fifty of them the first two years, but they have not been successful in our yard. After a few attempts at getting refunds and replacing them with new Encores that also died, I now just leave the spots empty or replace them with something else.


Encores come in several dozen colors and sizes. They bloom at least twice a year, and come in early, mid-season, and late varieties. They retain their leaves in winter. They have a lot going for them, but I just couldn't figure out why they don't do well in our yard.

We have only about ten of them left, in various colors. Since their bloom cycles vary, we have some in bloom from April until the first hard frost in December.




Three years ago I planted eight George Lindsey Tabor azaleas and three Hilda Niblett azaleas in the treed area of the back yard. Both varieties prefer shade and bloom just once for a few weeks in the spring. They retain their leaves in the winter and grow a little faster than Encore azaleas.

The Tabors can grow fairly tall but they are under enough shade that they may not reach their full potential height where I planted them near the back fence. Tabors are my favorite "old fashioned" azaleas :

Hilda Nibletts are more like groundcover azaleas, keeping a low profile. I love the range of colors of the flowers on the same plant from pale pink to darker pink or coral:


The floral show continues in the next entry . . .

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Casey-Girl, Holly-Holly, & Dapper Don

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2021 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil