A Beautiful Spot for Art in the Park

By Deborah Pilkington, EMGV

Located in Orchard Park near downtown Durham, (1000 S. Duke Street), our newest garden is a collaborative effort between Durham Parks and Recreation Mature Adults program and the Master Gardener program of Durham County.

DPR approached the program for help with designing and planting a garden that would be a visually appealing place for artists to sketch, paint or photograph. The garden design would also serve as inspiration for gardeners to re-create at home, and the steps in making the garden would be posted on the DPR blog. And of course it would attract and support pollinators.

Installing the Garden

First, the shape of the garden was determined using garden house, and cardboard was laid down to suppress weeds. The cardboard was wet down, then covered with mulch for the winter. Because DPR wished a garden that would change over time, most plants chosen were annuals, and to save money, many were started from seed.

Annuals include Gomphrena globosa of two varieties, ’Nana’ and ‘Fireworks’, Pelargonium ‘Vancouver Centennial’, Plectranthus scutellarioidesBasella rubra (Red Malabar spinach), grown on the trellis, Amaranthus tricolor splendens ‘Perfecta’, Zinnia elegans, and  and Cosmos bipinnatus Sonata™ mixture. Perennial plantings include Echinacea purpurea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’, Oenothera fructicosa, pink Muhlenbergia capillaris.

On a beautiful April day, edging was installed, soil brought in to elevate the garden, and a trellis and boulder installed. The majority of plants were installed after the last frost date had passed.

The Art Class

The garden was dedicated on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. The first art class, arranged by DPR, was an acrylic painting class for mature adults from Durham’s Walltown community, held on June 17.

Master Gardener volunteers in Durham County were on hand to answer questions the participants might have about the plants, and the participants did a beautiful job; some having never painted before. One poignant comment from a participant to another was, “We survived the pandemic, and look where we are today. Painting flowers.”

Keep an eye out for future updates on the art garden and to see how we transition the garden for the cool season to keep the inspiration flowing year round!

All photos by Deborah Pilkington

September: To Do in the Garden

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

Hey, look!  It’s September and for the moment it has cooled off and the relentless humidity has dropped below 185%.  How sweet is that?  Another drop or two of rain here in Durham would be nice, but this time of the year one must be careful what one wishes for. 

The Accidental Cottage Garden looks, well, pathetic.  I eschewed using city water for anything except the tomatoes and peppers and the rain barrels have been dry more than wet, so the perennials are parched.  The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) looks weird with new blooms and nearly ripe seed pods.  Looks like an “oops” late pregnancy sort of thing.  The purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are barely hanging on, but the goldfinches (Spinus tristis) are loving the seeds.  Gaillardia (Gaillardia pulchella) are really drought resistant.  They keep their spot in the garden colorful for months with absolutely no care whatsoever.  The spreading garden mum (Chrysanthemum “I-don’t-have-a-clue”) is reblooming as usual.  It, too, requires very little attention other than deadheading the first blooms.  All the other perennials have given up the ghost.  And the fescue lawn I planted in the backyard last Fall?  You can hear it crunch when you walk across it.  That does not bode well for a reemergence this Fall.

So, let’s make the totally unwarranted assumption that we will get some rain this month so that this to do list actually has some relevance.


If your fescue lawn looks like mine September is the time for rejuvenation (reseed/overseed).  Loosen the soil in bare areas (or till up the whole yard) before sowing seed.  A major key in sowing a successful lawn in the seed/soil contact—the more the better.  If your bare spots are larger than 1 square foot a light layer of wheat straw will help maintain moisture and keep the birds from finding all of your grass seed.

Apply lime and fertilizer per your SOIL TEST recommendations.  (I just know you got a FREE soil test this summer.

Resist the urge to fertilize any warm season lawns (Bermuda grass, Zoysia, centipede) now.  It will encourage too much new growth just when they should be getting ready for dormancy.

You may treat lawns for grubs up until the middle of the month.  After that the grubs will have “settled down for a long winter’s nap”.   


Still not allowed.  Wait until Thanksgiving.  Since you are going to do all your shopping online you will have time to prune on Black Friday.  You need to work off the extra slice of pumpkin pie anyway.  Otherwise, sharpen the equipment and hang up on the wall for now.


Look for the same usual suspects as you did in August (i.e.:  wooly adelgid on hemlock, spider mites on all coniferous evergreens, tea scale on euonymus and camellia and lace bugs on azaleas and pyracantha.  FYI:  azaleas grown in the sun will be more susceptible to lace bugs than those grown in shadier conditions.).

Perpetuate your perpetual rose program.

Keep an eye out for other insets and diseases.  They like Fall as much as homo sapiens do.


It is time to dig and divide spring flowering bulbs.  Daffodils in particular will be appreciative of the attention and reward you in the Spring.

It is, also, time to transplant peonies.  Oversize the new planting hole and the root ball and avoid planting too deeply.   Cut back any old stems.  Mulch well.


Go outside just to be outside.  Mulch your plant beds if your OCD/ADHD won’t let you kick back and relax.  Clean up and put up all the equipment you won’t need until next year.  Plant a fall garden.  Clean out the summer garden and dispose of the old plant material.  Take a kid or a dog or a kid and a dog to a park and enjoy their enjoyment.

Get vaccinated and wear your mask.  “The life you save may be your own.”  Think about it.

*Resources and Further Reading

Organic Lawn Care Guide

North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook – Starting Plants from Seed (Sexual Propagation)

Learn more about insects and how to control them from the North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook

NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox (find your perfect plant or figure out what that unknown weed is!)

Learn With Us, September 2021

Durham Garden Forum: Introduction to Growing Tea in North Carolina

Tuesday, September 217:00 – 8:30pm

with Christine Parks, owner Camellia Forest Tea Garden
and author of “Grow Your Own Tea”
Learn to make all types of tea – white, green, oolong, and black – with your thriving Camellia sinensis plants. Christine joins us to provide an overview of tea including history, key plant characteristics, as well as how to plant, grow and harvest tea. Via Zoom, contact durhamgardenforum@gmail.com for link. 

Bull City Gardener Live! classes are back at Briggs Avenue Community Garden after a short August break. Sign up today, space is limited. September’s topic is Fall Focus on Succession Planting and Pollinator Friendly Plants

As always, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, NC Botanical Gardens, and J.C. Raulston Arboretum all offer classes and lectures.

Triangle Gardener Magazine lists additional opportunities.

Promoting Diversity: It’s Not Just Good for the Garden

By Monica Mense, EMGV

Every once in a while, we get an opportunity to examine life on a deeper level. Sure, we enjoy growing our colorful gardens and amazing food, both to better our own lives and the broader environment. But as Master Gardeners we also share our passion for plants and support our community by helping all who ask us for gardening advice. Beginning in January of 2021, a team of Master Gardeners participated in a community-wide interactive journey that gave us the opportunity to learn more about environmental justice in Durham and how we can better serve our community.

The DEEP (Diversity & Equity in Environmental Programs) Collaborative is a local community of organizations who, with the help of Duke university’s educational resources, strives “to build the capacity of environmental organizations to understand the local and global context of environmental injustice in relation to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and ability.”

Our team attended four virtual workshops organized by the DEEP Collaborative over the course of six weeks. The workshops were expertly presented by Duke University’s Dr. Nicolette Cagle and facilitated by Lighthouse Strategy Consulting’s Paul James. We began by learning about racial equity. Simply put, an equitable system would give everyone what they needed to lead a full, healthy life. To promote genuine equity, we must commit to to: understanding diversity (simply expressed as our differences), recognizing and accepting differences, rejecting negative automatic associations and biased behaviors, and combating underlying systemic issues preventing equity. By embracing diversity, we can work better together, in our case to become better environmental stewards.

The second session taught us about the concept of environmental justice. The EPA defines this as, “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.” Environmental injustice happens when people are more negatively affected by environmental abuses because of their differences – the color of their skin, lack of money, and cultural differences to name just a few. Environmental injustice often comes about because those who will be harmed are not included in decision making.  

While we are all aware of practices of discrimination, the third week’s case studies were sobering. The destruction of homes and businesses in the Hayti community to build Hwy 147[1], and the practice of not planting trees in non-white, poor sections of Durham[2], for example.  We inhabitants of Earth have been made increasingly aware of the importance of trees. The Nature Conservancy discovered that 92% of low-income neighborhoods in the U.S. have less tree canopy and hotter than average temperatures than higher income neighborhoods[3]! Decisions have been made for neighborhoods without really understanding the needs of those neighbors that will be most affected.

The final workshop of the series brought it home to all of us. This workshop has inspired us to begin developing strategies to work with community partners to combat environmental injustice in Durham.  Moving forward, how can we practice racial equity in our language and actions in all of our communities, personal and business?  Our awareness has been raised. Now, how to act? We’re excited to share our progress with you as we work through this (admittedly long) process.  

One of the best ways to build a healthy garden is by embracing diversity. As more plants and animals live together there are more types of habitat and organisms can rely on each other. Different plants bloom in different seasons, and pollinators and birds find habitat as they stay a lifetime or just migrate through for a season. We’re excited to build on what we’ve learned about diversity as we find new ways to serve Durham County.  If the opportunity to examine life on a deeper level presents itself to you, jump in and grow!

[1]Bull City 150: Dismantling Hayti

[2]TreesDurham: Durham Tree Research

[3]Mapping Tree Inequality: Why Many People Don’t Benefit from Tree Cover by Rob McDonald

August: To Do in the Garden

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

Bye, bye July!  Me thinks it didst burn itself out…literally.  There have been hotter ones, like the year we had two weeks’ worth of triple digit ambient temperatures.  And can someone please explain why all of our rain has been falling on Raleigh?  Have you noticed?  The stuff comes screaming out of Greensboro across Alamance County and when it gets to Orange County it divides itself and some goes to Roxboro and some goes to Raleigh.  Durham and Chapel Hill get nada.  I hope it’s not politically motivated.

So, the Accidental Cottage Garden looks August sad.  The coreopsis (C. lanceolata.  The C. verticillata didn’t come back this year.) is just about done.  The rudbeckia (R. fuldgida) has already been cut down and the balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is next on that list.  The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is trying a second bloom with limited success.  A dark orange daylily (Hemerocallis x August Flame) is providing a grand display right next to a black-eyed Susan whose specific name I have yet to discern.  The only other bright spots right now are the blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella) and purple cone flower (Echinacea purpurea).  We had a fun time with the grandkids watching some black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) larvae devour the parsley plant before disappearing to become butterflies.

Wait! What?  You thought this was a gardening calendar column?  Really?!?  Well, excuuuuse me.  I’ll see can I get right to that.  (Ain’t much to do in August anyway.)


Scope out the lawn for grubs.  Treat ‘em if you find ‘em.  Otherwise, leave the sprayer hanging in the shed.  Late in the month you can prepare areas the need to be seeded with cool season grass (fescue, Kentucky bluegrass—not the kind with banjos and fiddles.  Save them for the IBMA in September.)


If you have strawberries hit them with a little nitrogen.  DO NOT fertilize trees or shrubbery again until December.


If you are a start-them-from-seed kind of person then by all means get to it.  Sow pansy seeds in flats to be set out in September.  Perennials like hollyhock (Alcea rosea), larkspur (Delphinium elatum and a host of other specific names) & Stokes’ aster (Stokesia laevis) seeds can be sown now to get a jump on healthy plants in the Spring.  Plant a Fall garden.  Root crops E.g., beets, turnips, rutabagas and radishes are good to plant now as are many salad greens E.g., Chinese cabbage, kale, lettuce, arugula & mustard.  Other fast-growing veggies that are fine to plant now are squash and cucumbers.  That should keep you in fresh produce until after Thanksgiving.


Fuhgeddaboudit.  No more pruning until the end of November.  You get a pass if a hurricane not associated with PNC Arena should pay a visit.


Same stuff as last month.  Look for spider mites on coniferous evergreens (juniper, arborvitae, Leyland cypress, etc.), lace bugs on azaleas and pyracantha and aphids on anything green.  Maintain your spray programs for roses, fruit trees and bunch grapes.  Look for worms on cruciferous vegetables (cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) and borers on squash.  Only spray when necessary and follow the directions on the label.


It is still okay to take cuttings of shrubbery.


Check over your landscape plan (I just know you have one.)  so you will be ready for the Fall planting season.  If (when?) the August thunderstorms skip your yard try not to run the well dry nor to seriously deplete Lake Michie or Little River Reservoir.  You could build a compost bin.  Dig Irish potatoes.  (I dig ‘em roasted with olive oil and tarragon.)  Stay cool and hydrated.  I had hoped not to be repeating this by now, but wear your mask and wash your hands.  The fat lady has not sung yet.  If we all do the right thing it will make life easier sooner.

Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

Organic Lawn Care Guide

North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook – Starting Plants from Seed (Sexual Propagation)

Learn more about insects and how to control them from the North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook

NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox (find your perfect plant or figure out what that unknown weed is!)