My friend Leigh, the working artist, is always making something with wood, saws and hammers. I did a bit of that myself when I lived away from family. I nailed up the slats for a wood privacy fence after paying someone to install the fence posts. Using a Skilsaw, I built a walkway deck. I even installed a bolt lock.  Somewhere along the way, I lost my courage to tackle these kinds of projects.

Leigh avoids the whole issue of gotta-work-up-some-courage by building her projects around standard sizes at the lumber yard. For instance, for the potting bench she just built, she used a 2-foot by 4-foot piece of one-half inch exterior grade plywood and purchased pre-cut 4-foot pieces of trim so that she had to do minimal cutting to fit. When she did need to saw something, she used a sliding compound miter saw or a Japanese Dozuki (a flush cut hand saw).

To save money, she purchased pressure treated porch posts for $13 each at Lowes. This was more economical than buying turned table legs or repurposing table legs from thrift shop furniture. She turned the porch posts upside down rather than having to saw off the slots where the posts were to be affixed to a porch. The back ones were left whole and parts removed from the front legs were added to the back legs to provide a way for the shelves to fit in the spaces.

The two urn-shaped finials were purchased for $2 each at Eco Relics, a local architectural salvage company. Most of the time, their prices are unfavorably high but Leigh found their finials to be better quality and, obviously, a bargain.

Here’s what the pieces looked like before assembly:

Potting bench painted and ready to assemble
Potting bench painted and ready to assemble
Photo by Leigh


Porch posts installed upside down
Photo by Leigh


Right side up before finials are installed
Right side up before finials are installed
Photo by Leigh

The finished potting bench is approximately 6 feet tall, 4 feet wide, 2 feet deep and the table surface is 3-1/2 feet high.

Completed potting bench
Photo by Leigh



I first saw Lion’s Tail, or Lion’s Ear, probably ten or fifteen years ago in Southern Living Magazine. It’s a bush that grows in the 6-foot tall range and can be 1.5 to 3.5 feet wide with tubular orange flowers in tiered whorls.  At the time, I was trading seeds with little old ladies through the Georgia Market Bulletin. I managed to get a few seeds through a trade but the plant never looked as vibrant and showy as I remembered in the magazine. The flowers were pastel orange, at best. I never planted the seeds again but, all these years later, they continue to sprout from the spot where I had the one bush.

Over the years, I did a fair amount of online research trying to find seeds for the variety Southern Living had photographed. I got as far as figuring out that I needed to find seeds for the narrow-leafed version. However, every website offering these seeds was a dope-smoking site. I was certain my seed order would wind up on their desk the day of a drug bust and I’d wind up in jail so I never ordered the seeds. Yes, Myrtle, you can smoke this stuff or make tea with the leaves.

Imagine how my heart leapt for joy when I found the narrow-leafed version at Cunningham’s Holiday Herbal Celebration. I knew immediately it was the right kind and bought a healthy, one-foot shrub in a 4-inch pot. I wish the pot I selected had the identifying marker but it doesn’t and I didn’t notice it while at Cunningham’s.


Leonotis Leonorus
Leonotis Leonorus


Blooms of Leonotis Leonorus

Now, before you think Cunningham’s is in the dope peddling business, I should mention that this species of plant belongs to the mint family. Mint is an herb. Cunningham grows herbs.

In case you have not been able to get your hands on the kind with Really Orange Flowers, I think the name you should look for is Leonotis Leonorus. In this photo at Southern Living, you’ll notice the leaves are very narrow and the flowers orange.

The kind of Lion’s Tail you don’t want because the flowers are completely unspectacular and it tends to grow as a single stalk is Leonotis nepetifolia also known as Klip Dagga. The leaves can grow 4 inches wide and mine did. Here’s the only volunteer in my flower bed at the moment:

Lion's Tail Leonotis nepetifolia
Lion’s Tail
Leonotis nepetifolia

Leonotis nepetifolia is also the most potent for smoking, if you are so inclined. I don’t recommend such activities as I have somehow lost a few of my playing cards along the way even without smoking plants from the yard. This makes me certain that you will want to keep a full deck of cards on hand.

Last updated May 19, 2017


I heard from Linda Cunningham who said I seemed to have “confused” Catnip with Catmint which are two different plants. Well gee, I live in a confused state so this came as no surprise. Still, I had to prove to myself that I was confused by checking the label that was in her pot. Sure enough, Catnip. I’m always hopeful that, once in a while, I’m not confused.

Cunningham also said that cats get more excited about Catnip than Catmint and they will almost kill for Cat Thyme. Add this to the encyclopedic list of plants I have never heard about. She even had a personal story about Cat Thyme.  Seems she brought a Cat Thyme plant home one day, took it out of the car, sat it on the step going into her house and hurried in with the groceries. When she came back out, the plant was upside down and ruined. It had not survived the stray black cat that cruised the neighborhood.

My Catnip is not going to survive my cats, either:

Catnip after cat attack-1476
Catnip moments after my cats attacked it


Catnip the very next day
Catnip the very next day

My Larkspur, according to Cunningham, needs full sun to develop seeds for next year. In other words, if the rest of you get some Larkspur, don’t put it in the shade.  The plant will re-seed or can be collected for planting in late August.  She lets hers go to seed and any strays are moved into the sunny garden with some worm castings or light fertilizer.  In Florida, she said we get cold enough in early November for them to start growing, continuing to grow through the cool days of January and February, and begin blooming late March until May. The Larkspur I got from her came from her friend B. O’Toole in Madison. O’Toole has been growing them on her herb farm for years. Purchased seeds usually do not get to market early enough to get them planted and some are hybrids that do not self-seed.

She had a few words on Scented Geraniums that I want to pass along. They do not deter biting bugs. Yes, all that good information is wrongly out there but science has proven the theory invalid according to her friend Art Tucker, Ph.D., (Delaware St. University), who has spent his life researching herbs and why they smell like they do.


This month I have been to two garden club plant sales and I wanted to show you my haul. Or loot.

On April 6, 2013, I went to the Jacksonville Garden Club’s Blooms Galore & More sale in our historic Riverside neighborhood. I added these two to my Bromeliad Garden:


Plus this Angel Wing Begonia (on left) and a Toad Lily (on right). I had been patiently lusting after a Toad Lily so I was beside myself to find one for $3. I can’t wait to see what kind of bloom it will have. If it has spots I’ll be happy.

Angel Wing Begonia and Toad Lily
Angel Wing Begonia and Toad Lily

On April 27, 2013, I went to the Mandarin Garden Club’s Plant Sale & Garden Festival across the river. I try not to go over the Buckman Bridge any more than necessary ever since the first car went over the railing and into the drink. After the second car went over, I thought about walking the bridge but with my luck, I’d trip over a tin can and throw myself into the drink.

I wanted to arrive at 8 a.m. when the doors opened but it didn’t happen. Just as well since I wanted some of the BBQ. Fab-O BBQ! One of the vendors had an interesting cloth corn and baked potato bag. It seems you can cook baked potatoes in your microwave INSIDE the cloth bag and it will taste like a real baked potato rather than a microwaved potato. A word of caution: sweet potatoes might not be the tater to nuke in these bags. One of the Garden Club members admitted to setting her cloth bag and the inside of her microwave on fire with a sweet potato. Didn’t phase her a bit, she was going to get a new Baked Potato Bag before the day was over.

Here’s my plant loot from the Mandarin Garden Club, going counterclockwise from left to right:

Mandarin Garden Club Loot
Mandarin Garden Club Loot
  • Starting with the light green plant which is a Scented Geranium of the Peppermint variety. I had no idea there were several kinds of scented geraniums which proves that you should hit at least one of Linda Cunningham’s sales each year. I had earlier gotten a different scented geranium from her
  • Two Black and Blue Salvia
  • Blooming Larkspur that has not been hybridized according to Linda Cunningham
  • Juncus – the tall, dark green spikey thing. What can I say? It Caught My Eye.
  • Purple Passion Vine
  • Yellow ‘Lutia’ Passion Vine
  • Vicks plant that smells like Vicks VapoRub. Why would anyone want a plant smelling up their yard like Vicks VapoRub? I thought it was just the thing for me. People have been telling me for years that I ain’t right. A Vicks VapoRub plant removes all doubt.

I also picked up some Catmint at Cunningham’s booth. I’d heard that old line about cats liking the stuff and I wanted to see if it was true. If it was, my cats would be happy and they couldn’t crab about me not bringing them anything. So here’s what happened: first, I watered it because the soil was really dry. Set it on the edge of the porch. Whiskey checked it out immediately and with great interest. Big Foot, who was lying two feet away, suddenly got up and slapped the living daylights out of Whiskey and took over the plant, burying his face in it. I’ve never seen the likes. I checked on the poor plant a few hours later and this is what was left of it:

Catnip after cat attack-1476

Herb Planter

Herb planter with burnet, chives, oregano

My friend Cecelia gave me this ceramic herb planter. It has no drainage holes but she happened to have three plastic pots from previous purchases that happened to fit perfectly. Is that luck or what? With room for only three herb pots, it’s not really practical but it is pretty and you know how I’m a sucker for purty. I move it from one porch railing to another, depending on the location of the sun. In it, I have planted my newly acquired salad burnet which does taste like cucumber, a fresh crop of chives I grew from seed, and a few strands of oregano I grew from seed.

One of these days, I’m going to plow up an herb plot but for now I grow them in various containers strung all over the yard. I suppose my first order of gardening should be to group the herbs all in one area. I’ll put this on my list of gardening-things-to-do. Unfortunately, the list is already off the page.

You’ll find a wide variety of opinions on the herbs essential for cooking but there seems to be some agreement on these five: basil, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme. The essential list depends on you. Grow what you want to eat.