Archives for 2012

Merry Christmas




Merry Christmas from Miss Paws!

Miss Paws and Molly and I, along with The Boy and his dad, are home for Christmas, safely out of the rain and cold and hoping that travelers on the roads and in the skies will be safe this season, too.

We’re watching the weather, since the forecasters are already warning of possible tornadoes for the next couple of days. You can never tell, here in the southeast, when the clash of warm and cold fronts will stir up violent winds, a la The Wizard of Oz. Needless to say, we’re hoping for fair, calm skies (we don’t want Santa’s reindeer facing any harsh headwinds, after all).

Blessings to you and yours for the coming New Year!


Butterfly Amaryllis: Planting Bulbs And Watching Them Grow


A papileo amaryllis bulb-- commonly called the butterfly amaryllis.


I’d almost forgotten my order, placed weeks ago, for a single amaryllis bulb. I limited myself to only one, because the variety I wanted was pretty pricey–$18, plus shipping costs.

But I came home yesterday and found the cardboard box holding my new treasure sitting on my doorstep. That’s the bulb, pictured above. Doesn’t look like much, does it? Even to me, it hardly seems worth the same amount of money that would buy a nice dinner at a local restaurant.

Then I looked back at the website I’d ordered from, to remind myself what the bulb would look like when it flowered, and it made me catch my breath again. The directions that came with the bulb tell me to pot it up in a good quality potting soil; water it thoroughly just once, until growth begins: and to keep it in a warm, brightly lit room. In 2 or 3 months, I should see this:


By Jerry Richardson from Warsaw, Indiana, USA ( via WikiCommons


Oooo….aaahh…are you taken by its beauty, too? You can buy amaryllis pre-potted, from nurseries and all sorts of garden centers, but the variety I’m growing is a rare type called Papileo, and it’s commonly known as the butterfly amaryllis. Its nickname comes from the way the flowers open, much like the wings of a butterfly in flight. I’ll post more pictures when it blooms, so you can see the details.

For now, I’m tucking my bulb into the soil and coaxing it back to life with sunshine and a warm spot in the room, and a big drink of fresh water. I can’t wait to watch it grow. Gardening really is all about faith, isn’t it? You commit something you value to the ground–or God, if you’re a person of faith–and do your best. But your biggest task is to simply stand back and wait, and let something bigger than you do its good work (mother nature, in this case).

I’m so eager to see it develop, just as I’m eager to develop my writing career and my blog. Please visit me again, and we’ll see what we can grow together.



Back From The Beach; Ready To Write?

Image copyright M.R. Coulter

Can’t believe our beach vacation went by so fast. Recently I led a workshop at Kennesaw State University; a week later, we were packing for a trip. And now our week is up, we’re home, and the washing machine is chugging away, washing the sand out of our clothes.

At least our memories remain.

I felt sure I’d come home re-energized and ready to write. But the only thing I feel like doing is—well, nothing, to be quite honest. What’s up? I keep asking myself. Why am I dragging when it comes to firing up the computer and getting back to my middle-grade novel?

Ever have that problem, fellow writers? What do you do about it?


Acceptable Words: Prayers For Writers


Talk about timely–I opened my mailbox today to find a review copy of Acceptable Words: Prayers For Writers, by editors Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney. (I’m a member of LibraryThing, and they drew my name at random for this just-released book.)

What makes the book so well-timed is that I’m giving a workshop tomorrow for the Georgia Writers Association, and my topic is inspirational writing. (There’s still time to join us. The workshop is on Saturday, 9/8, from 10 a.m. to noon, in the KSU building at 3333 Busbee Parkway in Kennesaw, GA).

Part of the workshop will address the nuts and bolts of getting published: how to write a query letter; find a publisher who accepts unagented manuscripts; write a non-fiction book proposal; and so on. The other part will cover where to find inspiration.

I’ve got a handout for the class, listing places they might find inspiration to spark the creative fires. The last item on my list–but hardly the least important–was the single word, “pray.”

Prayer matters. It’s how we stay connected to our Source, who loves us, provides for us, and cares about our daily lives. Prayer also, I believe, helps us discover who we truly are, and that leads directly to writing the kind of things we should be writing.

Recently a GWA member asked me for an interview (I was glad to do it, and grateful for her interest). One of her questions was, “Do you write for the reader, or for yourself?” I answered that I try to keep the reader in mind. After all, I want to engage them with intriguing copy, so they’ll keep reading. But primarily I write for myself, trying to put down in ink the things that feel most true and right and good to me.

But I think now, after flipping through the book that just arrived, I should have added that I also write for God–that is, to be pleasing and acceptable in His sight. Isn’t that what the Psalmist desired, too, when he wrote, “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

I haven’t had time yet to sit and read through all of Acceptable Prayers, but I’m inclined, from what I’ve seen so far, to share it with the group tomorrow. We do need inspiration, not just for our writing, but for living our daily lives, which are usually a lot harder than penning a few words on paper, if you think about.

Here’s to writing, and reading, and finding inspiration, and praying. I’m excited to see what tomorrow’s workshop holds!


(and, of course, Miss Paws and Molly)


Blogging At The Good Seed

Amaryllis blossom at Barnsley Gardens Resort, in Adairsville, GA

It’s been way too long since I posted an update, but I have an excuse (really—a good one!). I’ve starting writing a garden blog called The Good Seed for the Home Depot Garden Club. (Click on the link, then look for the tab that says, “Bloggers.” We hope to have a more direct link soon, when the designers make some changes to the website.)

I’m excited about blogging for the Garden Club because I’m getting a chance to focus on some fun and interesting topics. Recently I talked to Laine Kirby Wood, who is managing the brand-new Canton Community Victory Garden in Canton, GA. Check out my article if you’re thinking about joining or starting a community garden in your area.

I also talked to landscape designer and gardening author Tara Dillard, and got her tips for planting to attract bees and other pollinators to your veggie garden. Did you know that you might be able to double your harvest, just by inviting these tiny gardeners (bees) to your garden? You’ll also “bee” helping these important little guys, because bees are currently disappearing from their hives. A mysterious syndrome called colony collapse disorder is affecting them–but there are a few things we can do to help.

I’d love to hear from you if there’s a gardening topic you’d like me to cover, or a gardener, farmer, or landscape designer you’d want me to interview. If you have an interesting garden, or a tip or idea  you’d like to share, let me know. We’ll explore it here or at The Good Seed.

So my apologies for not updating before now. It’s good to be back! Happy gardening!

Lynn, Molly, and Miss Paws



Go, Dog, Go! New Dog Gear

Remember those little books we had in kindergarten and first grade, when we were learning to read? They said things like, “See Spot run.”

Today, I’m saying, “Go, dog, go!”  We just added a new member to our family–meet Molly, aka Molly Cuddles. She’s on the right in the picture below, playing with Miss Paws, our resident canine-diva.

The unsinkable Molly Brown–well, our sweet Molly, anyway, on the right.

We adopted sweet Miss Molly from our local humane society over the weekend. She’d had a hard life, living in a mobile home with 5 other dogs. Finally the shelter got so full, the good folks who work there paid for her to be boarded at a local vet. Of course, there wasn’t much room there, either.

Last Saturday, they brought Molly and some other homeless pets to an event where I was speaking. We saw her and fell in love. She’s a “bassadore,” which is part Bassett hound, part black Labrador, and she’s all sweet and loving.

She’s not as tall as a regular Lab, and not as big–but she’s strong. Her coat is nice and glossy, and the vet has given her her shots and a clean bill of health.

Today I took Molly and Miss Paws on a short car ride. They did great. Miss P was seat belted in with a dog car harness I bought on Amazon. You can see the model here:  The Ruff Riders Roadie Canine Vehicle and Safety Training Harness. It’s not that she’s prone to hop around, but you never know when you might have to make a sudden stop, or when your dog sniffs out a dropped French fry between the seats and makes a dive for it, impairing your ability to brake or steer.

This adjustable harness goes around her chest and fastens behind her back. There’s a nice, long lead I can grab onto, to make sure she doesn’t take off as she enters and exits the car.

We found our Ruff Riders harness for sale on Amazon. Be sure to check out the Amazon Warehouse page for deals, or look on the right side of each product page (we saved about $10, by ordering through the warehouse).  I’m not sure, but I think these items may be distributed through Amazon’s warehouse after they’ve been returned.  At any rate, our harness appeared unused. It came without a box, but that was no problem. Miss Paws is comfortable and happy in it, and I feel better knowing she’s safe. The harness still allows her to move around, so she can look out the window and stand up or lie down.

Luckily, we’d recently found another car harness at our local Goodwill store–what a buy, for $5! We snagged it, even though we didn’t have the dog yet. It must’ve been fate! That’s the one Molly is using now, and it’s also a good, safe, snug fit.

And guess what else we got? Our dear friend Becky, from Florida, surprised me today with Doggles! Take a look at Miss P, who’s wearing them here:

The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades.

She rocks her shades, doesn’t she? I just love them (thank you again, Becky!). They provide UV protection and shield your dog’s eyes from the wind, if you own a convertible (like Becky, who just bought a gorgeous new one) or if you ride with the windows partly down. Becky found these on eBay at My Doggie’s Closet, which has tons of cute stuff. Molly tried on the doggles and liked them, too, but wouldn’t wear them long enough to have her picture made. Silly girl.

Finally, I also want to share a picture of Becky’s dog, Emily, modeling her stylish new Thunder Shirt. In case you don’t know what those are, they’re little tops that put gentle pressure on a doggie, and you put them on your pet during storms, to help keep them calm and relieve stress and anxiety. Take a look:

Here’s Emily, a little fashionata in her sweet pink Thunder Shirt. Mickey D is admiring her.

Becky reports that the Thunder Shirt isn’t the answer to all of little Emily’s bad-weather phobias and fears, but we’re hoping it helps. Hey–a lot of us feel like hiding when it’s raining and hailing. Can’t fault a girl for being smart enough to know that strong winds and dark clouds can spell trouble. That’s Emily’s brother, Mickey D, peeking out behind her.

Molly says she’s happy to meet our readers, and we hope you’ll enjoy hearing about her in the days to come. Miss Paws is a little jealous, but so far, they’re doing fine. Just like human siblings, they don’t always get along perfectly!


Lynn and Miss Paws

How to Make a Fairy Chair for Your Garden

Fairy chairs brighten a garden spot

Last summer, I made my first fairy chair, but the annual plants I used didn’t survive the winter temperatures. Not to worry–it’s warm again now, and I’ve just re-planted the chair with English daises, pansies, marigolds, yellow snapdragons, and even a pinch of ivy and pineapple mint.

I’ll have to replace the plants that prefer cool spring temperatures, like the pansies, but that’s no problem. I’ll enjoy them while they last, and add something like salvia or petunias in a couple of weeks.

Want to make your own fairy chair? It’s not hard. If you don’t have an old chair you can sacrifice to the elements, pick one up at a yard sale or flea market (you might even find one abandoned on someone’s curb, for the trash man!). Sand it, prime, and paint with the outdoor paint of your choice. Then cut a hole in the seat to insert either a pre-made wire basket, or staple in a large piece of chicken wire that you’ve formed to have a “pocket” for planting.

Add some spaghnum moss if you’re using the chicken wire. Many pre-made wire baskets already come with fiber liners. Then fill with a good quality potting mix and plant away.

Remember to use sun-loving plants if your chair is going in a sunny garden spot, or stick to shade-lovers if it’s going under the trees. Water often, as these planting baskets tend to dry out fast.

Hope your fairies enjoy it!


March Forth – A Spring Gardening Guide


Read about your spring garden in the March issue of Georgia EMC Magazine.

Hey, check out my new article for Georgia EMC Magazine!  It’s a guide to help you start your spring garden, and you’ll also find links to great places to buy seeds, plants, and supplies.  I’ve also listed some books to read for more info, and you’ll learn how to sign up to become a Georgia Master Gardener. (If you’re in another state, just Google for “master gardener certification.” Similar programs are available around the country.)

Next up: I’ll be giving a PowerPoint presentation about gardening with heirlooms at our newest library, the Dog River branch in Douglas County. That’s coming up on Saturday, March 10. I’ll be there from 11 am to 1 pm to sign books. Hope to see you there!



Bloomerang – A New Lilac for the South

Did you catch the pun in the title of this post? If you didn’t, go back and take another look. (It’s okay. I’ll wait right here.)

See it now?

There’s a new, re-blooming lilac on the market, but it’s not called ‘Boomerang’ – it’s ‘BLOOM-erang.’ Cute, yes?

I’m really excited about this plant, because lilacs typically don’t perform well in the South. It’s not that our weather is too hot; the problem is that we don’t get a long-enough period of winter chill for lilacs.

Jim, one of the plant-gurus at a home and garden store I frequent, showed me the plants last weekend, and he’s excited, too. These babies are supposed to bloom in spring and fall, giving us lilac-starved Southern gardeners a double dose of beautiful blossoms.

(Actually, Jim told me that ‘Bloomerang’ has been out for about 3 years now, but there are finally enough plants on the market to get to our area. So if you’re a Southerner gardener and you want one fo these, don’t hesitate–they’re probably going to sell out fast, once word gets around.)

Meanwhile, Jim tells me that the blueberry bushes are flying out of his store, too, at the rate of about 20 plants a week. Blueberries, he said, are great to grow, because you don’t just get the fruit. You also get pretty flowers in the springtime, and reddish foliage on the bushes in fall. Also, birds are attracted to the berries, in case you’re more interested in wildlife than picking.

I scooped up some bargains on pansies last weekend, so if you’re in the market for inexpensive color, be sure to check around at area garden centers. Pansies start to get leggy and floppy once warm weather arrives, and the way things are going, that won’t be long. But for the next couple of months, discounted pansies are a good buy and add beauty to porches and decks. Right now, I’m enjoying a basket of yellow pansies hanging in my back yard. They’re like a splash of sunshine against the bare, brown landscape.

Can’t wait till spring…it’s coming!

How to Grow Camellias (Even If You Mistake Them for Roses)


The first time I ever saw a camellia in someone’s garden, I thought I’d stumbled across a rose with unusual leaves. But once I started reading about these beautiful flowers, I realized I wasn’t the only one who’d made that mistake.

A German botanist named Engelbert Kaempfer is credited for writing one of the earliest descriptions of camellias. When he discovered them growing in Nagasaki in the 1690s, he called them  Japanese roses’. A half-century later, in 1745, English author and naturalist George Edwards published a book of birds he’d drawn in various natural settings. One of them, Edwards wrote, was perched on the branch of what he called a “Chinese rose,” a plant we now know as a Camellia japonica.

Although it’s only February, the camellias in my Douglasville garden are blooming, and if you’re in the South, maybe you’re already seeing yours open, too.  Depending on the variety, camellias bloom from now until May in Georgia, and some will flower more than once.

Although some camellia blooms look as lush and heavily petaled as roses, they’re not related. They’re members of the Theaceae, or tea, family, and they’re native to Japan and China. These evergreen plants have become very popular in the Southeast., where most of us value them as ornamentals for our garden, but the leaves of some species are still widely used in Asia for tea.

If you’d like to add camellias to your garden, you can transplant potted plants in the spring. A partly shaded spot, with moist, well-drained soil, is ideal. If your soil stays too wet, try growing them in raised beds, about 10 to 12 inches higher than ground level. Camellias love acidic soil, too, so try planting them under tall pine trees. Dogwoods and azaleas make great companion plants.

Give your camellias a good start by cultivating the soil 8 to 10 inches deep. Dig holes that are two to three times the width of the root ball, but no deeper than the root ball. Remove any sticks or rocks as you back-fill the hole, and press the dirt firmly around the plant’s roots. Water thoroughly to eliminate air pockets.

Some experts say that you don’t need to add organic matter to the back-fill, but you can add 2 or 3 bags of compost if you’re gardening in a low area. Just mix the compost with your soil to create a mound, to help keep the camellia’s shallow roots from standing in water. Finish by adding about 3 inches of mulch, such as pine straw or pine bark, to help prevent weeds.

Camellias aren’t heavy feeders, and while specialty fertilizers are available, an 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 formula is usually fine Apply a tablespoon of fertilizer per foot of plant height in spring, summer, and fall until the camellia is well-established. Then you can feed the same amount, but twice a year, in spring and summer. Water weekly the first year after transplanting.

As the years go by, remember that because camellias have shallow roots, they can succumb to drought quickly, so water as often as the soil around your plant feels dry.

After the flowers are finished, camellias can be pruned to remove dead wood and allow light and air into the plant’s interior. For all their beauty, these plants are susceptible to various diseases and pests, including mites, scale, die-back, and sooty mold. But don’t let that scare you away. Proper cultivation—that is, keeping the garden clean, and removing old leaf litter– goes a long way towards success.

Need more info? Click here for an article from the University of Georgia College of Agriculture:

To learn more about camellias, check out the American Camellia Society’s list of publications at: