Category Archives: Horticulture

Growth, Renewal and Transformation, by Beverly Hicks Burch

“Nature often holds up a mirror so we can see more clearly the ongoing processes of growth, renewal and transformation in our lives.” ~ Unknown ~

oak leaf hydrangea B 2013

At first glance the picture above may not look like much. It may even look a little odd or foreign…kind of a “what is it?”.

But, in actuality, like a black swan, it is a thing of unexpected beauty. And, at the heart of that beauty is transformation…

How many time have you wished or wanted to transform or change yourself? We are a society of self-help junkies. Be it beauty, brains, weight, health, hobby, finances or whatever, you are just about guaranteed to find a book, website or guru that will help you take information and transform it into the goal of your dreams.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. When is improvement bad, right? Only when we try to fix what’s not broken…a hard lesson to learn…

There have been many transformations in my life. In who I am, what I like, what I feel or what I enjoy. I believe that is called growth… Some days, I wish I could just transform into someone totally different…or even transform “away”…as in disappear. I’m sure you’ve had those days, too. Some transformations have been difficult, some have been smooth, others enlightening, some sad, but all learning experiences and in the end worthwhile.

I love this time of the year because my beautiful little mountain is replete with wonderful Southern native oakleaf hydrangeas. When the flower heads first take shape on the shrub, they don’t look like much. In fact they may look a little odd and peculiar.  But, once the blooming starts, that flower head is transformed into a beautiful, snowy natural work of art. It is the natural progression and growth of the plant…

And, life is much like the oakleaf hydrangea…for without transformations in our lives, there would be no growth, no renewal, and certainly no hidden beauty found…

Oakleaf Hydrangea 6-4-2013 B

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Horticulture, Oak Leaf Hydrangea, Photography, Picture of the Day, Plants, Quote of the Day, Transformation

To Love Beauty is to See Light, by Beverly Hick Burch

“To love beauty is to see light.” ~ Victor Hugo ~

Clematis A

They (just who is they anyway?) say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think anyone would be hard press to find this gorgeous blossom anything less than beautiful.

I was really excited to see my Arctic Queen Clematis bloom for the first time this year. There were three big glorious blossoms about the same time. I had nursed it along in the nursery pot until we could get it in the ground last year. I’m hoping this lovely vine is just getting a jump start for the season and I’ll be seeing more of these blooms throughout the summer since the clematis is known for a long flowering season.

I love the large, double white blossoms of the Arctic Queen. They remind me of the dahlias my sweet next door neighbor, Herman Lovelady use to grow. Mr. Lovelady and his wife Lola were like a surrogate grandparents. I really mourned their passing and miss them to this day. They added beauty and love to my life for many years.

I discovered a long time ago I am sensitive to the aesthetics around me. That could be why I was a horticulture student…I love the beauty found around us in Nature. It could also explain why I was, and still am a little OCD (disability is a really good cure for OCD!). There is nothing as demoralizing as a dump! But, again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and one man’s beauty may be another man’s eye sore. Not too long ago I was struck by the beauty of the architecture of some old European buildings and antiques. The beauty of certain pieces music can bring me to tears.

Whatever our personal standard of beauty is, I think there is beauty we can all agree upon…laughter of a child, love we receive from those we hold dear, heroism, Nature, kindness, a moonlit night…

We may hear a lot of bad news and it’s easy to be discouraged by that news and the cruelty we see in others, but, we don’t have to look far to find a single beautiful thing.

The other day, I only had to look as far as my backyard. And, to see that beauty and appreciate it and love it, well, it is like seeing light…

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Artic Queen Clematis, Backyards, Flowers, Horticulture, Photography, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day, Vines

Without the Rain, There Would Be No Rainbows, by Beverly Hicks Burch

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbows.” ~ G. K. Chesterton ~

Formosa HD

southern indica ‘Formosa’

This past weekend we had rain. No, really…it rained. Sunday in particular.

Most people bemoan rain, but I adore a good rainy day. My Aunt LaRue was like that, too. She hated living in Florida, the state of perpetual heat and sunshine. She longed for the mountains of East Tennessee with cloudy, rainy days.

I mean, think about it. How often have you said, “Oh, it’s such a lovely searing hot and humid day. I think I’ll cozy up with a cup of hot tea and a good book.”?

Well, I’ve said that…let me count…a total of…never, no never! But, give me a goody rainy day and boy can I put me some chapters away.

I also don’t like to take the rain for granted. Some parts of the world live in constant drought conditions, and even here in the US different parts of the country go through cycles when we have drought conditions.

I can remember a few in my lifetime. Lake levels get low; water rationing kicks in, lawns start to dry up and everything is covered in a dusty coat of ick.

But, if the rain falls when it’s suppose to, then the aquifers are replenished and it makes the summer season a lot more tolerable.

Then, of course, there’s the rainbows. I don’t think I every saw as many rainbows as I did when I was in Hawaii. It was almost mandatory to see twin rainbows. This past Sunday we were graced with rainbows galore here in Alabama. Many were over churches which made some pretty spectacular pictures.

But, in the spring my personal favorite rainbow is the annual blooming of the azaleas.

I just couldn’t help but share one more picture of my azaleas I took after the rain on Sunday. I took the pictures on Monday morning and was amazed at the raindrops still being held captive on the azalea blossoms.

It reminded me of what Chesterton had said. Without the rain, I would not have my personal wonderful rainbow…my azaleas…funny how nature works out that way…in a cycle…

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Alabama, Aunt LaRue, Azaleas, G. K. Chesterton Quotes, Horticulture, Photography, Picture of the Day, Plants, Quote of the Day, Rain, southern indica 'Formosa'

Just Think, I’ll Have More Room for My Azaleas Now!, by Beverly Hicks Burch

“Just think, I’ll have more room for my azaleas now!” ~ Miss Maudie To Kill a Mockingbird ~

Azalea 2013 E

Azaleas are the quintessential Southern icon…well, along with the magnolia tree. Azaleas are to the South what tulips are to Holland. I don’t think I’ve ever met a Southerner who at least didn’t appreciate these wonderfully, colorful shrubs that put on a Technicolor display every spring. Even if that person doesn’t know the name of the of the shrub, they still enjoy the show.

And like any good Southern gal worth her salt, I resemble that description…

I don’t recall when I first fell in love with azaleas. It could have happened one fine spring. Or, it could have happed one day in a horticulture class. But, a love affair began…

At my first home, I had close to 40 or 50 azaleas…

When I moved, it was to a home that needed major restoration inside and out. A mother and three teenage daughters had lived in the house for 5 years. They were clueless to home repair. The back yard had been mowed once in those 5 years. Hand to God, that is true…the former owner told me that with her own lips.

So, before we could do anything, the amount of work it took on the yard, especially the back yard was almost equivalent to defoliating the rain forest…

And, then would could begin with the good stuff. Azaleas were on the top of my list. I guess I had 20 or 30 before I left that house.

Then, I moved to my current home. The house was a new build, I was just like Miss Maudie…I just had more room for azaleas!

So, I started the foundation of a great landscape that included azaleas…

But, there came a time when Tall & Handsome and I moved to accommodate his job. Not wanting to sell, we decided to lease the house out.

We’re still paying for that move…

Most of the inside damage has been repaired and even upgraded, but the outside is a horse of a different color…

The foundation of the wonderful landscape I started crumbled like an ancient civilization due to neglect…it laid in ruins…gone was the Bermuda lawn, the Japanese Maple tree, azaleas and other wonderful loved plants.

Yet, some remained, like today’s picture. It rained here Sunday, and our azaleas had bloomed. So yesterday morning I stepped out on the front porch to snapped some pictures before the blossoms begin to fade for the season. They are breathtaking…

I am personally partial to southern indica. (Mine are Formosa.) Most people think I’m fool hardy for growing them in this area, because, they insist, the azaleas are more suited for climates further south. Like Mobile for instance. The theory is a good cold snap could come along and blight the bloom trusses for a whole blooming season. Or, even kill the plant.

I grow them anyway. For me the payoff is worth it. The big beautiful blossom and the size of the plant alone is worth the risk.

Sometimes and I look out over the yard and get a little overwhelmed at the work still remaining to do…it’s like going backwards….

But, just think, I have room for more of my azaleas now!

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Alabama, Azaleas, Birmingham, Horticulture, Photography, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day, southern indica Formosa, The South

Like Stars that Cling to Fairies Wands, by Beverly Hicks Burch

“There is a Music of Immaculate love, That breathes within the virginal veins of Spring; And trillium blossoms, like stars that cling To Fairies wands…” ~ Madison Julius Cawein ~

backyard trillium april 2013

Immaculate love. You might be asking what is that exactly? Well, simply put it means love without stain or without blemish. You might go a step further and say it is unconditional love. Quite simply it is pure, perfect love.

In today’s world, it might be hard to imagine that kind of love. It’s so easy to be cynical and skeptical when we take a look around us and see what’s going on in the world. We see selfishness, cruelty, danger, bullies, arrogance and yes, even evil. For me pure evil is anyone that would harm an innocent child in any form or fashion. Over the last few years, here in the South it seems like even Mother Nature has turned her wrath upon us as we’ve been racked with one storm after another, one tornado after another, one hurricane after another. We’re not feeling much love coming our way when a F5 tornado is bearing down on us…

So, it would be easy to harden your heart…and erect walls around your heart for protection…

But, in doing so, what would you miss? Love, joy, wonder and those wonderful “ah ha” moments in life.

Tall & Handsome and I have gone through our fair share of trials over the years. It’s like my Aunt LaRue said to me on more than one occasion, “Honey, if you didn’t have bad luck, you wouldn’t have any luck at all.”

My health has declined as fast as a melting snowman on a hot day in July. T & H has seen his field of profession suffer through terrible downturns because of the economy and off-shoring of jobs. Personal finances have suffered like millions of others around the globe.

It is a tumultuous time for everyone in some form or fashion…

So, what sustains you? Gets you through?

Love…

And, yes, you can still find pure, simple love all around you.

There is nothing as sweet and pure and delightful as a child’s laugh. It delights me to hears my nieces’ laugh. A merry heart doeth good like medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22 Their laughter is like a big old dose of medicine for this smitten aunt. Any, laughter does my heart good…it is one of the things I love about T & H…we laugh…

I see love pure and simple when I look at my two Miniature Schnauzer, Watson and Baby Girl, and ask, “Do you want a biscuit?” If I ask, “Who wants a marshmallow?” well, the loving cup in overflowing. It is something we have discovered that delights our little rescued, damaged, and broken Baby Girl to the point of bravery and spastic delight. She would walk over hot coals for a marshmallow…

I’ve seen unconditional, pure, simple and lasting love between two people who have been married for over 60 years. They have been through tests and trials, seen history made and raised three daughters. Those three girls were raised during a time when most women were demanding equal rights yet, they were bewildered because they never had anything to be “delivered from”. They were raised to believe they could be anything that wanted to be. Those two people also raise the youngest special needs daughter for 50+ years at home with dedication and immaculate love. Why? Because, it is what you do. Those two people are my momma and daddy.

I see love in a man who chose to love a woman with so many health problems her medical history could be case study. Yet, he does not see her that way. He sees her as his “beautiful wife”. That is my T & H.

It is no secret I live to see the trillium bloom in the Spring. It is a privilege to see them in my own backyard. They usually grow in secluded forested areas, yet there they are in my own back yard. What a special gift! I can’t help but think: “Let the Heavens rejoice; let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.” Psalm 96:11-12 NIV

So when I look back and I examine all the little bright spot in life, I pretty soon begin to realize that they all come together and are like those wonderful trillium blossoms. Yes, they are all there like bright stars clinging to the end of a fairy’s wand sprinkling stardust of love, relief, calm and comfort in our lives…

I can hardly wait to find more trilliums and more stars at the end of the wand…

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

 

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Filed under Alabama, Birmingham AL, Central Alabama, Horticulture, Life, Love, Photography, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day, Tall & Handsome, Trilliums

Everything Holds Its Breath Except Spring, by Beverly Hicks Burch

“Everything holds its breath except spring. She burst through as strong as ever.” ~ B. M. Bower ~

varigated vinca 2013

I was wandering around in the backyard this weekend taking stock of all the many outdoor projects that need to be done to get the yard back into shape. My conclusion: It could take us a life time after the damage the former tenant did ( both indoors and out) while we were living out of state. It has made us reluctant to become landlords ever again.

As a former horticulture major, I took pains to ensure the yard had a wonderful beginning and foundation. I was looking at some pictures recently from those bygone days. Unfortunately, the yard was wrecked by the tenant and very little resembles those early pictures. At one time about 12 vehicles were parked at various locations around the yard without regard to lease constraints and damage it would do to the yard. Seriously…how do you totally eradicate a Japanese Maple?

It is going to take patience…and time…

One wonderful thing I have discovered has been the growth of native trilliums in the backyard! That is a definite advantage to living on a little mountain top in the Southeastern USA. You would expect to find these in a more secluded area, so I was thrilled to spot them a couple of years ago when we took possession of the house back.

It was warm this weekend…in the 70s! I wanted to see if we had trilliums yet…and we do. They are beginning to burst into life, along with some other early spring harbingers including today’s picture, variegated vinca vine.

But, as they say, “if you don’t like the weather in the South, what a minute and it will change…” (Kind of like life, isn’t it?) I think we’re all holding our breath because as I write we expect severe weather to arrive today and colder weather to return. There has even been rumblings of the “s” word (snow!) appearing on the scene before the end of the month! That gives me concern for all the awakening new life that graces us every spring.

I’ve felt like I’ve been holding my breath, waiting to exhale for a long time. Life has a way of dealing surprises and turmoil (much like the weather) to you, be it health, financial or in personal relationships. Sometimes I feel like I live waiting for that proverbial other shoe to drop…and sometimes when it does, it’s an anvil. I’ve even mentioned a time or two there are days I feel like Atlas trudging up a steep incline with the world on my back…

It may be the mountain girl in me…my ancestral roots, but, when I take time to  meander through Nature and experience the magnificent design we have been blessed with, I find myself no longer holding my breath…I can breathe…and I can exhale…

So, cold weather, snow…life…come on! I am stronger than you think, my Rock is my refugee…and, I can breathe…

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Alabama, Birmingham, Horticulture, Nature, Photography, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day, Spring, Vinca Vine

Forest Primeval, by Beverly Hicks Burch

"This is forest primeval” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow~

Sometime back I shared a photograph with you I had taken on a stroll down the path on the property at the back of my parent’s home. They own a few acres and Mom has a little path she has kept down just for that purpose…strolling and communing with Nature and God’s beauty.

I’ve walked that path many times, at different times of the year and under different conditions.

I took today’s picture of the day after a particularly damp period. It was like the floor of the forest were replete with blooming fungi. It was totally fascinating…and primeval…

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Alabama, Central Alabama, Horticulture, Mushrooms, Photography, Picture of the Day

Middle of the Bench, by Beverly Hicks Burch

“Love is what makes two people sit in the middle of a bench when there is plenty of room on both ends.” ~ Unknown~

anniversay roses C

In the short space of six weeks, between Thanksgiving and the beginning of January, there is ample reason for celebrating in our house. To be even more specific, from Dec. 24th until the beginning of January we celebrate Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, our wedding anniversary, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and my birthday!

Can you let out a really big, “Whew!!” after that whirlwind?

This year added into that mix was the fact that my mom had surgery and my back was out of sorts and totally non-functional and I had terrible gastrointestinal problems. I am barely beginning to mend now, but I have to admit I am mending and the dark circles are gradually fading from under my eyes.

Today’s picture is evidence of the TLC I had during that time. My T & H bent over backwards to take care of me and make each occasion as special as he could.  He shopped, cooked and presented me with the sweetest cards. He went out in pouring rain and came home with this dozen of beautiful red roses for our anniversary.

I can’t believe over a decade has passed since T & H and I first met and he was my Knight in Shining Armor…my Tall & Handsome southwestern cowboy. It’s even harder to believe we have already been married nine of those 12 years.

Someday I will share our story, but for now I will say that in finding T & H I found a man with one of the kindest, purest hearts of anyone I’ve known. He has encouraged me, we have enjoyed wonderful new experiences together and grown together. There is not a day that goes by in our house without laughter. In goods times and bad, we are together. He is my Jeff to my Mutt, my peanut butter to my jelly, my Richard to my Liz, my Ricky to my Lucy…

He is the reason I sit in the middle of the bench…

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

 

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Filed under Anniversaries, Holidays, Horticulture, Love, Roses, Tall & Handsome

Turning of the Sumac, by Beverly Hicks Burch

sumac

There’s nothing quite as spectacular as the sumac in the South as it begins to turn during the fall. By the time of its transformation it will we a glorious scarlet.

Many consider sumac a trash shrub that grows on the side of the road and sometimes creeps into the borders of our lawns. Although some Middle Eastern cultures use the fruit from the sumac “bobs” as spice in hummus, rice, meats and salads.

I don’t know about eating it…that’s right up there with kudzu as far as I’m concerned…but it’s certainly wonderful to look at in its autumn glory.

This little sumac tree is growing on the edge of my folks bluff.

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

 

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Filed under Alabama, Autumn, Fall, Fall Color, Horticulture, Photography, Picture of the Day, Sumac

Ageratum, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Blue Flower B

Blue Flower C

I love blue flowers, but they are not the most abundant flower to find in the grander scheme of gardening.

Years ago when I established some landscape design for my home I did quite a bit of research. I used my background as a horticulture student to do my digging and lead me where I wanted to go.

I was gardening for some definite purposes:

That was the foundation for my design and purpose and because of my health I usually have to depend on others to implement my plans. Tall & Handsome’s saying is, “Honey, you be the brains and I’ll be the brawn.”

Well, before we moved out of state for T & H’s work, the yard had a very good head start on a good landscape design. And, of course, I’ve shared the horrors of Big Jim the Terrible Tenant who had a six year reign of terror at the house.

To say the yard was grossly neglected is an understatement. At one time we counted almost 10 to 12 random vehicles parked in the yard Sanford and Son style…and this is not the type of neighborhood you do that in.

But, even in the “ashes” of ruin you can find surprises and renewal. Today’s pictures are an example of that. When we moved in 2004, these delicate little blue blossoms were not growing anywhere in my yard. Now? Well, there is an abundant little colony raising their cheerful little heads in the front and they have made their way into some of my pots.

Ageratum are generally considered annuals but a few are perennials. They tend to reseed themselves very well, profusely in fact, so you might have some to spread around and even share. In some places they can become invasive and may be considered a weed. I like to think of them as a wildflower. They are native to Central and South America and Mexico, but there are four that are native to the US.

They are known by the common names flossflower, bluemink, blueweed and Mexican paintbrush. They tolerate sun to part sun. Some of the more domesticated varieties may only grow to about 6 – 8 inches, the others vary in height from 12 inches up to 30 inches.

You can see by my photos that the two I have are very different. One looks more delicate, a lighter powdery blue with only green foliage. The other one is a deeper, purpley-red color. The stems and leaves have a red vein running through them and the flowers themselves seems surrounded by red calyx.

I’m just delighted that out of ashes of destruction something that appears so delicate rose like a Phoenix to surprise me with the unexpected.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~ Lao Tzu ~

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Filed under Ageratum, Alabama, Blueweed, Flossflower, Flowers, Gardening, Horticulture, Mexican Paintbrush, Photography, Picture of the Day, Plants, Tall & Handsome