Age creeps up on all of us, and to some of us in the winter of our lives, it no longer creeps, it sprints. Inevitably, we find ourselves slowing down, but that’s not all bad, if you look at it the right way. My energy level for gardening has diminished, but my appreciation for it has taken on a new life.

I used to have a little cloud of guilt always hovering over me for failing to attend to all of my garden chores; not oppressively, just always in the background and just enough to keep me from stopping to smell the roses, so to speak. And still, I never got everything done.

So lately, I have whittled my expectations down to what I can reasonably accomplish.  Actually, anything you do in the garden shouldn’t be a chore. Every single activity in the garden has its rewards. Not just to your garden, but to your physical and mental health. Even weeding? Yes, that too.   Mindless and repetitive, but a good time to just let your mind wander to make mental lists of things that really are chores. Like vacuuming. And laundry.

Remember I told you about Dahlias? Well, I probably didn’t tell you that Bugs Bunny, Peter Rabbit and their families decimated my back yard Dahlias. I managed to save a few and put them in pots on my front porch, but I’ve learned my lesson. Always in pots, and never where rabbits can get to them. Fences may work for deer, but not for rodents! Here is a survivor.

Although fenced, a large part of my property is left wild and untamed, and to me, it’s as important a part of my landscape as my tended beds. I feel that it’s the rent I pay to the creatures who live there for having encroached on their space to make mine.

I discovered something when I was harvesting some leaves of my Makrut lime for a curry I was making. This is a citrus grown for its leaves, used in Asian cooking, not for its fruit. But my tree had produced a lot of knobby, ping-pong sized fruit. Why not try them? I had no need for them just then, but they seemed to be ripe, so I put them in a baggie and froze them. Eureka!! The frozen zest was so easy to microplane off, and both the zest and the juice were as limey as a Persian lime! So I’ve tried freezing lemons as well and that works too. You need never be caught short without a lemon or a lime.

Makrut lime

At gardening get-togethers with friends, the main topic seems to be deer. The old reliable ‘deer won’t eat this’ no longer applies to so many plants. Even poisonous plants such as Angel Trumpets are being eaten to the ground. Curious, isn’t it, that its poisonous properties don’t affect the deer. The consensus is that the only reliable defense is a 6’ fence, and if it’s a see-through fence, with enough tall shrubbery growing on inside so that there’s no place for the deer to safely land.

My friend, Candace, from The Front Porch, told me she’d finally found a deer repellant that works. She saved the dog hair from grooming Beau, and pushed clumps of it into the branches of a favorite shrub which was continually decimated by deer, and they now leave it completely alone. Goodness knows I have dog hair to spare, so I’ll try it on some of my vulnerable plants in my front yard. If you have deer but not a dog, visit a groomer.  I’m sure they would be willing to share.

I’ve discovered a new plant, which Gary Baker at Baker’s Nursery, says will become my new favorite plant. I think he may be right. It’s called a Hardy Gardenia Azalea. It is an Azalea, but it’s evergreen with the beautiful and fragrant blossoms of a Gardenia.  It’s well behaved, too, at a maximum of about 2’ x 2’, and it blooms twice a year!! A great replacement for boxwood and it won’t need trimming. I planted three of them in spring, and they are living up to all the reviews.

A couple of new nurseries have opened in Northern Beaufort County, and I intend to try them both. Box store nurseries are convenient sources of bedding plants, but pretty slim pickings for specimen plants.  Small, independent nurseries seem to have a better selection of those, and we should shop local when we can.

Even with all the nurseries we have here, it’s worthwhile to gather a friend or two (one of you should have a car with a large trunk or a mini-van) and take a road trip to some great nurseries within a day’s round trip distance.  Hyam’s and Bide-a-Wee in Charleston, Nurseries Caroliniana in North Augusta, and Woodlanders in Aiken are just a few. Look up their websites online.

The Lowcountry Gardener, a small booklet published by The Beaufort Council of Garden Clubs, is the best $5.00 you’ll spend for your garden. It’s available at some of the nurseries, or you can find it at the Master Gardener Information Table at the Port Royal Farmers’ Market. It was written entirely by local Master Gardeners and is specific to Beaufort County. In case you didn’t know, the climate in Beaufort County is unique and many horticultural rules just don’t apply here.

I think I picked the right place to age when I moved to the Lowcountry. Time might fly, but everything else down here seems to be languid and serene. There always seems to be time to enjoy the delight of southern coastal living and when I’m out and about, chances are good that I’ll bump into someone I know.  You won’t find that in city living!

Enough musings. The weeds are calling . . .