I’m taking the chance to fully immerse myself in learning about gardening in the Carolinas as lockdown means I am staying put in the US a little longer than expected. I’d like to be getting my hands dirty on a community project or of course, back in the UK working on my own allotment, but having some time to sit and read for long periods is really therapeutic. I knew spending part of the year here meant I would need to learn so much more about the climate, soil and plants, what grows well, if the Queen City is a haven for gardeners and if the locals are into green living but I wasn’t expecting it to swiftly become a main focus for the year.
So firstly the best way to find out what grows well is to check out the neighbours gardens! It’s a quiet neighbourhood across the road which means I can wander and get a good look, and no, that’s not inviting myself into strangers rear gardens! Almost every home here has a fantastic space at the front of the house which is great to see, plus many spill out across the path to the grass verges. Occasionally I have found a perfectly designed verge, better than some gardens.
Currently in early April the temperature can vary between 19C to 30C and I’ve wondered how plants cope with such a big change of temp day to day, but survive they do, in fact the majority thrive. The humidity is currently low but by summer it will be hot and humid so what plants thrive here in Charlotte?
In the cooler months of spring walking around the suburbs is an absolute joy with the vibrant Azaleas, stunning Cornus and incredible Cercis (Redbuds) standing out amongst the huge trees and very many Fringe trees along the southern streets. The roads are lined with Magnolias although seemingly for a shorter blooming time than in the UK. The season is about 4 to 6 weeks earlier than back home, so I am already catching a glimpse of Bluebells as the Hellebores finish and there are some beautiful Viburnums in full bloom gracing the porches of pretty Southern homes.
Looking forward to the summer time, I expect to see plenty of Rudbeckia, Lobelia, Asters, Echinacea, Eucomis and my favourites - Peonies. Many familiar plants to the UK but many others which I am really excited to see, such as the Paw Paw tree. City parks are full of Lantana where butterflies thrive and Celosia planted with Zinnias make for a colourful combination. North Carolina is also known for its boggy areas by the coast, which is about 4 hours away from Charlotte but a trip there to discover wild Venus Fly Traps is definitely on the agenda…perhaps in 2021.
On the balcony at my apartment it’s all about quick and easy vegetables, salads plus a few heirloom seeds waiting to germinate in the Vegepod. It’s not my Rhino, but it is all coming alive with greenery and I am ready for the bees, butterflies and maybe even a Hummingbird to visit.
So as I tend to my seedlings on the balcony and pretty it up with some colourful annuals, Georgie from Rhino has visited my allotment back in the UK and taken some lovely photos and a relaxing video of my spring bulbs. Check them out on social media, it certainly made me smile!
Stay safe everyone and carry on gardening.
To read more about Ellen Mary, you can find her on social media and on her website - https://www.ellenmarygardening.co.uk/