Visiting Helen’s Haven

Gardeners love visiting the Personal Edens of other gardeners. They provide insight into the style of the gardener, as well as the whims and impulses that make each of us unique.

Helen's Garden Art

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate to be invited to visit the Personal Eden of one of Raleigh’s most well-known garden writers, Helen Yoest. Helen calls her garden “Helen’s Haven”, and what an apt description. Not only is it a haven for Helen, her family and friends, but for birds, bees, chickens and other wildlife fortunate enough to enter. On a small city lot, she has created a living, breathing, blooming and buzzing environment, with just enough structure balanced with just enough exuberance. Art is everywhere – some in prominent spaces and some in hidden nooks. And honey bee hives are supplemented by bee boxes for mason bees and other pollinators. Outbuildings (oh how I love outbuildings!) provide shelter for chickens and people, and her small greenhouse is just perfect!  I made the rounds three or more times, and saw something new on each pass. (And I must admit, I may be stealing an idea or 3 or 4…)

Helen’s new non-profit project is a Go Fund Me called Bee Better https://www.gofundme.com/pyt2cc9g, and I hope to have my Personal Eden on the Bee Better Fall Pollinator Garden Tour. Stay tuned…

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Cold Day, Warm Memories of Italy

18 degrees this morning, and for North Carolina, that is stupid cold. I’ve been colder – I grew up in Massachusetts and went to college in Middlebury, Vermont – but after 23 years in the South, I’ve grown older and less inclined to take pride in braving the cold. So this morning I am turning my thoughts to a warmer time in a warmer clime – my trip to Italy in 2014, the most memorable of my garden travels. Of course the art and history were unparalleled; and the food! I could spend hours on the food. But today my focus is on the vibrant flora of the Amalfi Coast.

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Bougainvillea, Lantana, Cupressus, it is no accident that the words are Latin in origin. What better language to describe the plants that thrive in the Mediterranean climate? On the Amalfi Coast, the village of Positano is vertical, with every road winding and climbing. The lush plantings do the same, with cascades of plants tumbling down the hillside in a riot of pinks, yellows and oranges – hot colors in a hot climate. Lemon trees are ubiquitous, with their fruit hanging temptingly over the heads of astonished tourists. Scent is everywhere, stopping me in my tracks to locate the source.

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Cats roam free, oblivious to the foot traffic, wild but mellow, they allow you to pet them but remain aloof at the same time. This is their town, their region, their Personal Eden. They are proud, as they should be. Color is everywhere – in the buildings, the clothing, the food, and above all, the flora.

I took this trip with dear friends from my college days – a promise we made to each other at the naive age of 18 to meet in Italy to celebrate our 50th birthdays. So many promises like that are broken. I thank my friends Amy, Leily, Barbara and Ginny for keeping that promise. On a cold day like today, when my own soil is frozen and I am too cold to venture out into my own garden, I have my memories to keep me warm. Ciao, bellas!

Capri