“Surprise! Surprise!!”


I can just hear Gomer Pyle of the 1960’s tv series, The Any Griffin Show, saying “Surprise, Surprise!” as he enters the garden and spies these beautiful bright  pinkish/red flowers.  These beautiful autumn flowers (Lycoris radiata) seem to appear over night,

The Red Spider Lily blooms around the Autumn Equinox every year, telling you that cooler weather is on the way.  It’s surprising trait is that the flower comes up out of the ground by itself, no leaves of the plant are visible. All you see is the stem with the flower.  When the flower fades, the leaves start becoming visible.

There are several  legends about the Red Spider Lily or Lycoris Radiata.  They revolve around death of dear loved ones as they pass from the world of the living.  In Chinese culture it is called “Flower of the Other Shore” or ” Flower of Paradise”.  It is said that in the underworld, the Forgotten River separates the underworld and the living world.  When your dear one crosses to the other side all memories of their past life will disappear.  Growing on the shore are the Lilies.  The scent of these beautiful flowers will bring back all the beautiful memories for one last time.

Another legend says that when a relationship ends, a Red Spider Lily will grow along the Forgotten. River, proving that the love did exist and something beautiful will always remain at the other side of the shore.

These flowers have been growing in this spot at the entrance of the CORA Garden for more that 20 years.  Of course they have  multiplied, divided, and shared with friends for years.  This spot is where my late husband built the cedar garden statue that welcomes all to the garden.  It is also where his ashes were spread in 2001.  When I researched the lily, I was “surprised” that the legend perfectly describes the area where they are planted.

This has been one of my favorite flowers, not only for it’s beauty but for the magical way it grows. It is also a reminder of the memory of a wonderful life lived to the fullest.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

A point of Interest in the Garden

For  years I have been hearing about “permaculture”.  I would ask my gardener friends, “What is permaculture?”  Most like me… had no clue.  Others would attempt to describe the concept.  A few were very knowledgeable, but their explanations left me confused and perplexed.  Let me tell you how I got a little closer to learning about permaculture…..

Just recently I was in the process of expanding the garden’s growing space.  In one corner of the space was a tree stump that I had tried, unsuccessfully, to get ride of by burning.

Then I remembered … while volunteering with a Horticulture Therapy group at a nearby farm, one of our activities last fall was to build an herb spiral.  The idea was so unique!   We formed a mound of dirt 3 ft high with 5-6ft  diameter.  Then we arrange rocks in a spiral around and up the mound, creating a growing area for herbs.  I was so impressed,  I had to make one.

Ever since then the idea of an herb spiral has been “spirling” around in my mind.  Could this be the answer to my tree stump problem? I did a little more research.  The idea  of using this “odd shape garden space” to grow herbs was unique.

The benefits of a three dimensional bed were  starting to  pile up.  It would cover the stump.  So… I wouldn’t have to dig it up.  It would saved space.  It would provided a  variety of microclimates – some hot- some cool, some sunny- some shady, some dry – some moist.  It would be beautiful!  And as I later discovered the spiral arrangement of garden space uses many of the principles of permaculture.

I was convinced!  and determined!  So, on a cool morning in December my wonderful volunteers and I started to build our own Herb Spiral.

Step 1: collect a pile of rocks (You will need more than this, large ones for the bottom, small ones for wedging in open spaces )


Step 2: tie a string to  a bucket, mark a path of a spiral (The bucket is on the stump that I want to hide. As you rotate around the bucket, the string shortens, marking a spiral on the ground.)


Step 3: start positioning some rocks  (There was a lot of placing, moving, exchanging rocks; even toying with ideas of sticks and rocks.This is more time-consuming than it looks.  Everyday I would rearrange the rocks until finally satisfied.)


Step 4:Finally we were ready to plant.

Later in the spring the transplanted herbs begin to fill out.

Today it looks like this (views from several sides):




Click on herb spiral to learning more and build your own.

Posted in Herb spiral, making better use of garden space, permaculture, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Garden evaluate, reset, rejuvenate

For that last4 years I’ve been going about this business of  gardening thinking— “Wow!   we are doing a good job”.  The majority of what we have grown has been successful, we keep taking our produce to the pantry where everyone there is so appreciative and complementary.   I’ve tried my best not to let it go to my head.  I have taken (for the second time) Master Gardener classes to increase my knowledge about soil ph,  soil amendments, how to combat plant pests and disease, etc.

But in the last several days a new light has inspired my thinking and made me think I need to do something different.

Recently I attended a lecture by Doug Tallamy on the topic of  how “We” have not been the best stewards of this piece of dirt that God gave us.”  Doug explained, through scientific research, how nature has a cycle of life just like we do.  When that cycle is interrupted or changed,  it affects us all.

Five days later I started listening to  Barbara Kingsolver’s book of essays, Small Wonder.   She very gently points out the long history of how we have really mucked up  Adam and Eve’s promise to take care of God’s creation.

Together these two encounters have begun to change my outlook.  For starters, it has made me more observant.  When I look at a tree, I think about its beauty,  its role in the forest/landscape,  its usefulness to others besides myself (insects, birds, soil, etc.),  the sound it makes as one of its limbs falls to the earth.  It has also given me a desire to design the garden in such a way as to support nature rather than to just consume nature for my own benefit.


Softly. Slowly.                                                                                                                              She’s in no hurry.                                                                                                              Downward she floats, then spirals.                                                                                              Rays of sun surround her with their golden glow.                                                                 Many before her have made the journey, leaving with no regrets                                            to form a blanket of reds and golds to warm the earth ‘til spring.

 FAll 11/7/2016,  Carol Newnam


Posted in nature, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Bees are AMAZING!

In  1586 Geffrey Whitney wrote:

 “A work of arte; and yet no arte of man,

Can worke the worke, these litle creatures can.”

          img_0256I am just beginning to appreciate and understand these words written over 5 centuries ago.  If your thinking works anything like mine, you would probably tolerate a bee flying by, lighting on a flower, and walk away and not give it another thought.  In my childhood summers, running barefoot through the grass, I would be stung by the bees.  This led me to think “bees are bad”.

 My past experience with bee hives has been reading to my children and grandchildren The Big Honey Hunt by Janice and Stanley Berenstain.  But as a gardener I know it is important to have bees around.  Without bees to pollinate our vegetables, many plants will not set fruit.  If I use of pesticides on my plants it can be detrimental to bees.

For awhile I have been trying to get beekeepers to bring a hive to the garden to increase pollination.  This spring a fellow master gardener, John Rintoul, told me he had a new swarm and would bring me one.  I was delighted!   He has come weekly to care for the bees as they start their first season.

Just recently, John was generous enough to give a few of my volunteers a presentation on keeping bees. We kept interrupting him with our questions.  But here are a few things I learned:

  • Bees live and work in a utilitarian society
  • Each bee has its role and executes it without complaint
  • Bees need 60 pounds of honey in their hive to survive the winter
  • Bees will not sting you, unless you get in their way- like stepping on them with bare feet
  • There is such a thing as royal jelly that only the queen bee eats
  • Bees are attracted to the color blue.

I could go on and on with this list…but watch this video taken by one of my volunteers and edited my son-in-law .  It may be a little long (42 minutes), but it is great and worth the time!  http://www.unbrvi.com/beekeeper.html

If you are as impressed as I am with this new serge of interest in bees in our environment, there are some things you can do to help.  The easiest is to plant flowers that will attract  bees.  In my town we have a cooperative extension agent who has created a pollinator garden at a local shopping area – Chatham Mills.  Click on  “pollinator garden” to see all the flowers and pollinators working together.  Another very important action not to do is use pesticides containing neonicatinoids in  you garden.  In this link from Washington State Department of Agriculture you will find a list of articles to help educate your self on protecting bees.

And if you haven’t read The Big Honey Hunt, I highly recommend it.


Posted in bee keeping, Bee Keeping, garden poetry, garden projects for children, Geffrey Whitney, honey, pesticides and bees, polinator plants, The Big Honey Hunt | 2 Comments

Silent Visitors in the Garden

The weather is warming into real summer now.  Harvest is happening in earnest.  One can be lulled into thinking all is well.  All I have to do is walk around the garden and look a little closer.

While picking green beans, Suzanne – who really appreciates all kinds of wildlife, spotted a small brown anole.


And then we saw a green one.  Look close… he is on top of the bamboo pole to the left.


Then we see him do this…

He extends dewlap at the neck when he is threatened.   Maybe he thinks the little brown one is the enemy.   This guy is welcome to come any time and eat the “bad bugs”.  Learn more: http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/greenanole.htm

Later when checking on the tomato plants I find that something has snapped off the tip of the plant.IMG_1520

Close by I found the cut tip resting on a stem. ” Now what could have done this?”

As I search for an answer, I noticed FRASS on  other tomato leaves.  Frass is the discrete term used for insect excrement.  “Something big has been here.  Where is he?”


It took me a while to find the culprit.  A tomato hornworm!  Can you see it?   He is attached to the under side of the arching stem.


Here’s a better image from the internet.  This one is just as beautiful as the anole, but he is not welcome in the garden.Screen shot 2016-07-03 at 8.04.30 PM


Posted in anoles, good/ bad life in the garden, tomato hornworm, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Go away for a couple of days and…

This gallery contains 10 photos.

I just got back from a couple of days vacation.  I was anxious to see the garden.   I took my bags out of the car, put on my garden shoes, and headed off to the garden.  It is that time … Continue reading

Gallery | 3 Comments

Meet Another Garden Volunteer

Six months ago I told myself that  I would feature a garden volunteer on this site each month.  Six months ago I featured April and Phoebe.  This post will be  the second  post featuring a  volunteer.  I’ll try to do better….

Nick Roon started volunteering at the garden four years ago.  He was part of the original group that formed the garden in March 2013.  Since then he has been a faithful volunteer.



Nick and his wife, Susan, moved to Pittsboro nine years ago.  He is a former US Navy Veteran who served during the Korean Conflict.  After  25 years  as a  New Jersey Police officer  he supervised the Enforcement Section of the states Real Estate Commission for over 20 years.  He also spent over 5 years selling real estate. He is the proud father of 4 children and 12 grand children.

While living in New jersey on 15 acres  in the rural part of Warren County, he planted 5,000 Christmas Trees in his spare time.  He enjoys the rural atmosphere of Chatham county and Friends of CORA Garden are most fortunate to  have him helping us.

Thanks Nick!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Can I use my old seeds?

This gallery contains 9 photos.

As the time comes closer for putting seed in the ground, that is a question I am asking myself.  I have seeds left from last year. Being a person who never likes to throw anything away, I vacillate between “yes, plant them” and “if … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

The Edible Campus

If you have long wished to have a vegetable garden just right outside your front door, but never get around to it….Well, I have just the encouragement you need!

I just received a link to UNC-Chapel Hill’s newest project – The Ediblel Campus.  Just click on this  link:    https://shar.es/16DdKg     to read the article about how the grounds keepers and students are working together to create a new and different landscape.  A landscape where on your way to class you can see produce being grown and reach down and help yourself to a snack.

This is so inspiring!  This spring try sticking in a few lettuce plants with your petunias.



Posted in area gardens, UNC Edible Campus initiative | Leave a comment

Unseasonable Weather

This has been a crazy start for winter in Pittsboro, NC.  The weather has been warm and rainy, causing plants to think it is spring.  I took these photos the day after Christmas.

I know the weather will change, bringing the cold temperatures that we are accustomed to.  Frankly, I’m not complaining.  I’ll take a 70 degree day anytime. The big question is: “What will happen to all these early blooming plants?”  Only time will tell.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment