Serenity Garden

I began the garden in 2011. This part of the backyard had changed over the years with the removal of several pine trees and the construction of a swimming pool. Crab orchard stone stacked retaining wall and paving stones defined a walking path and sitting area, with steps down for a grade change. The elevation and slope of the area changed. I constructed a circular paved walking area with a central planting island and a site for a bench in 2011.

When our electrician Jay Norton installed landscape lighting, he christened the area the Serenity Garden. Plantings over the years have included perennials, podocarpus, osmanthus, aucuba , hydrangea, azaleas, and hostas.

My son Evan and I placed a large cast concrete urn on a short pedestal in the center of the circular planting bed. We have used various types of flowering and non-flowering plantings in the urn. Maples, pines, and an old, heirloom pear tree have provided partial shade to plant material in the garden.

Heirloom Pear tree before removal

This year the pear tree was in decline and the trunk had split; our tree surgeon removed it. Mary and I discussed some planning of the new garden and our son Will donated spare time to remove old bedding perennials, dead shrubs, plant new shrubs and prepare the new planting bed. He planted new shrubs: podocarpus, aucuba, camellias and osmanthus. Mary and I have removed some scraggly liriope. We are planting mondo grass to reduce the brown color that dominates from the use of pine mulch groundcover. Along the way Will moved a large azalea and relocated landscape lighting wiring that interfered with new shrub planting. Mary has ordered replacement landscape lighting as needed, and Evan and Will have installed them.

I have started referring to the project as Will Green’s Garden. I located a book in our collection, The Gardens of Williamsburg, for him to take home to enjoy.

Will Green plants violas.
Will planted violas, thirty ‘Baby Jade’ dwarf boxwoods and three dozen pre-chilled red tulip bulbs.
Planting finished and boxwoods trimmed.
Mary admires the garden redo.
Fallen bloom was too pretty still to toss into compost pile.

As of April 21, 2021, the Serenity Garden tulips have not emerged. These were pre-chilled bulbs that were planted very late. It was a risk, but “you win some and you lose some” in gardening. The Terrace Garden tulips were planted in the fall, however, and bloomed well around three weeks ago.

Mary with granddaughter Charlotte in the Terrace Garden

The azaleas and snapdragons have added color lately to the Serenity Garden.

Michael Green

April 21, 2021

Adventures With Multiple Myeloma, Part 2

In June 2020 I wrote a blog entry about the seven year staging of my health status.

In this entry I reviewed the status of my multiple myeloma and its remission and treatment. You may recall that I received a stem cell transplant in 2013 to counteract the disease in my bone marrow. The transplant helps the bone marrow improve the blood chemistry and combat cancerous elements found there. Because multiple myeloma is never cured, the best that can be done is to maintain remission even though cancer cells will continue to be produced. I have been receiving some form of chemotherapy for nearly nine years and have maintained very good partial remission (VGPR) since 2013. The major side effect is a compromised immune system which leaves me susceptible to infections such as colds and flu. To help me resist illness, I have had a series of five monthly immunoglobulin infusions in cooler weather months. Another side effect to the weak immune system has been an annoying tendency for skin cancers to occur and need treatment.

Recently, a stubborn squamous cell skin cancer required three weeks of radiation treatment after two surgical removals. During radiation I could not continue chemotherapy. After the necessary follow-up CT scan and meeting this week with my oncology team at Emory Winship Cancer Institute, I received a surprise. The levels of myeloma in my blood did not increase, even though I had been without chemotherapy for three months. My oncologist suggested that chemotherapy and immunoglobulin infusions be discontinued until further notice. Labs and office visits will continue every two months. The team will monitor my blood chemistry and will evaluate medication or treatment needs.

That was a great Thanksgiving blessing. For the first time in nearly nine years, I have no chemo prescription!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Michael Green

November 27, 2020

Goodbye to the “Big Oak”

Our “big oak” was a post oak that was about 150 years old. Macauley Properties wisely spared many trees in the neighborhood when our house was built in 1992. It was one of the trees that had sheltered the old home that had been on the property before the land was sold and developed into The Lakes of Enniskerry.

We have been keeping the tree maintained (pruning limbs, irrigating and fertilizing) for 28 years.  It has been under the care of a licensed arborist for ten years.

The tree declined with increasing age. Over the years the beautiful bend became very pronounced and three large decay areas in the trunk worsened.  With the loss of limbs, the old survivor began to appear rather sad. Even worse, it became a potential threat to our property.

Mary, our sons, and I came to the realization that the old friend and landmark in our neighborhood would have to be cut down.

Our HOA and the City of Milton arborist reviewed the permit requests and did inspections prior to approving the tree removal. We were very pleased that the city takes its tree protection very seriously.

The images below are of the tree and of the removal October 1, 2020.

Note the boot of the tree cutter in the lower left of the image for perspective.

Michael Green

0ctober 28, 2020

A Fragrant Delight: the Tea Olive

The tea olive is in a natural area of partial shade . It is near our Serenity Garden.
Tea olive shrubs grow well in zones 7-9.

Tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans) is a broadleaf evergreen that, true to its scientific name, produces tiny white blooms with an unmatched sweet citrusy fragrance.

The height of Osmanthus species can vary from 6 to 30 feet tall with a width similar in size to the height. The growth rate for tea olives is slow to moderate.

The tea olive is a deer resistant shrub and produces an oil that repels mosquitoes.

An added bonus: the honeybees from Will Green’s nearby beehive are enjoying it in great numbers.

The shrub pictured above grew over twenty years from a foot-high root transplant from the Canton, Georgia childhood home of Mary Donley Green.

Michael Green

October 9, 2020

Blackberry Lilies

Seasons Garden 2020

When I was an assistant principal at Parkview High School in Gwinnett County, a secretary named Jeanne Knox shared an interesting plant with me. I took the plant home to Lawrenceville, Georgia and transplanted it in our garden. That was thirty years ago. It made the move with us to Milton in 1992. The perennial has popped up just about everywhere in our gardens since then. I have never seen it in a plant nursery nor in any other gardens. It is the Blackberry Lily. Some of my readers may be familiar with it. Below are some images and further information.

Blackberry Lily blooming in the
Serenity Garden
Blackberry Lily Seed Pods
Seasons Garden
October 2020

Blackberry Lily Seed Pods
Serenity Garden October 2020

Iris domestica, known as Blackberry Lily or Leopard Lily is a perennial that is native to eastern Russia, China and Japan. The flower petals are speckled which has caused the plant to be known as Leopard Lily. The drying rhizomes are very similar in appearance to blackberries. The plant is hardy in zones 8-10 in the United States. The dried rhizome has long been used medicinally in Eastern Asia for a variety of ailments.

Michael Green

October 7, 2020

Red Banana

There are three stands of banana trees in the gardens. This stand has fruited first.

Red banana trees have flourished for years in our gardens. By the end of the growing season they are ten feet tall. Frost burns the leaves and the trees are cut down and composted. The trees return faithfully jn late spring and are a welcome food source for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Our neighbor Marta says that the red banana fruit is available in grocery stores in Puerto Rico. Having been used to store-bought bananas only, I have managed a small nibble which was pleasantly sweet. I survived that sample last year and may attempt more tasting with the new harvest.

The Seasons Garden has two healthy stands that provide a pleasing tropical look.

Michael Green August 9, 2020 (more…)

Staging Results

This is the Cliffs Notes version of “Michael’s Adventures With Multiple Myeloma.”

Multiple Myeloma is a blood cancer that affects the blood plasma and is incurable, but treatable with varying degrees of success.

August 2011 Diagnosed with MM

August 2011 Radiation Therapy

September 2011 Spinal Fusion

November 2011 Pulmonary Embolism

January 2012 Chemotherapy begins

April 2013 Stem Cell Transplant

The results of the seven year staging post-transplant were good. The bone marrow biopsy revealed less than 5% myeloma in the sample. My condition remains Very Good Partial Remission. My treatment is successful and will be modified in some ways. Oral at-home maintenance chemotherapy in low dosage will continue and not be changed. Multiple Myeloma blood chemistry labs will be every three months.

The results indicate success in treatment of the cancer as a chronic disease.

Thank you friends for your comments, prayers and continued encouragement.

Now I return my thoughts and plans to enjoying life, as usual. The family will be celebrating Father’s Day 2020 Sunday and I am looking forward to hearing giggles from granddaughter Charlotte Jayne Green.

Michael Green

June 18, 2020

Seasons Garden Late Spring 2020

Colorful blooms have filled the Seasons Garden. The gallery of images shows some of the vibrant display of perennials and other plants.

Evening Primrose or Eight o’ Clock blossoms unfurl visibly at dusk

Mary Donley Green shot this video in 2015. This predates the recent garden renovation. The eight o’ clocks are very reliable biennials that bloom every other year. The last gallery image shows the latest eight o’ clocks in the garden. Music: The Fray

Seven Year Staging

Being silly after a procedure, or amusing myself after a procedure in the time of a worldwide pandemic

May 18,2020 Bone Marrow Biopsy

I was at Emory University Hospital Winship Clinic Monday for the seven-year staging of my health status since the stem cell transplant. The staging examines the blood chemistry based on a bone marrow biopsy. I have one of these every Spring. As I am in very good partial remission from Multiple Myeloma, it is important to see how well the body continues to respond to the maintenance chemotherapy that I take.

The image is a selfie that captures the recovery period of this out-patient procedure. I was in a private room and not under the influence of heavy drugs. I promise. The nurse had administered lidocaine at the pelvic sample site. Some patients tolerate the extraction of the sample without anesthesia. I am fortunate to be one of those individuals. The image is of me, happy.

Bone marrow samples

I have been fascinated with dissection since a high school biology class where I enjoyed studying a fetal pig. The teacher must have inspired her group of students as I have never lost my curiosity about organisms and anatomy.

The medical staff and my oncology team are patient people, tolerating my questions and photography.

Samples of bone and marrow (shown above) are lab-tested and reviewed. The oncology team discusses the report with Mary and me June 16th.

May 19, 2020. Immunoglobulin infusion (IV-IG) at Emory Winship Johns Creek

I have been receiving six monthly immunoglobulin infusions for several years. The infusions help compromised immune systems, such as mine, weather the infections that are prevalent during the months of November through April. Obviously having the novel coronavirus pandemic affecting the world means that compromised immune systems need all the help they can get.

Michael Green

May 19, 2020