My Panther Branch acre became a native plant habitat overnight when a thunderstorm encouraged the invasive "native flora" to flourish. I grudgingly sacrificed my air-conditioned comfort for several sweaty hours of toil. Many bushels of compost fodder later, it seemed unthinkable for anyone to prepare an entire garden for a September garden tour - especially after such a blazing summer.
And yet, many hardy gardeners are preparing to open their inspiring gardens in just a couple of weeks.
This year, 11 wonderful landscapes are on the Fuquay-Varina Garden Tour sponsored by the Fuquay-Varina Garden Club.
You'll find American history juxtaposed with updated design ideas at the authentically reproduced Colonial Williamsburg Bracken House with its cottage plantings and courtyard with outdoor fireplace on Falcon Drive, and at the Historic Mineral Springs Inn on South Main Street.
On nearby East Vance Street, a patio garden and white picket fence greet visitors. On Angier Road, see a small in-town garden loaded with Southern charm, and, on Purfoy Road, a butterfly garden loaded with statuary.
Two homes in the upscale Smith Farms subdivision off Sunset Lake Road have very different approaches to backyard havens: one with a swimming pool and massive entertainment area, the other with raised garden beds and great DIY projects for inspiration.
Moving north on Sunset Lake Road to the Breckenridge neighborhood, luxurious architecture at three homes is showcased by fabulous foundation plantings and window boxes, and one includes a serene backyard retreat.
In the Cotton Farm neighborhood, the garden of Chip and Deb Ford is a plant lover's dream that includes a large-scale model train, gorgeous water features and eclectic memorabilia.
I know a few of these gardens very well, having written about them previously in this column. I'm looking forward to revisiting them as much as seeing others for the first time.
Luckily, the Garden Conservancy Open Days Tour falls on a different weekend this year. This tour benefits historic gardens in Raleigh (JC Raulston Arboretum), Hillsborough (Montrose Garden) and Charlotte (Elizabeth Lawrence Garden).
Of the four Wake County gardens, I've written about three of them and can honestly say I'd live in any one of them - providing the creators agreed to maintain them in perpetuity, of course.
Any snapshot taken at the Shuping Garden could instantly become a picture postcard. From the cloverleaf-shaped fountain lined with sky-blue tiles in the piazza, up the stairway past the Victorian-style greenhouse to the secret meditation garden, this landscape is a near perfect balance of line, shape, color and form.
Designer Jere Stevens' inspiring "Lakeside Paradise" on Lake Lochmere is a stunning example of one woman's handiwork resulting in a sumptuous wildlife-friendly paradise.
The Davies Garden mixes a stately Southern-style home with an English-style landscape. Formality in the front garden yields to a vigorous woodland setting with a creek and meandering paths in the rear garden.
In the Olde Raleigh neighborhood, an eclectic mix of rare and fragrant plants grace a Georgian-style home built on a former cattle pasture in a garden known as Twin Pines. Delightful!