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The hot-pink flowers of Fireworks gomphrenas have little, yellow tips that capture the essence of a celebratory explosion. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
August 21, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Last week, it was extremely hot in the trial gardens at the South Mississippi Branch Station in Poplarville while we were shooting new TV segments of Southern Gardening. While my crew and I were literally wilting in the heat and humidity, there was one group of plants that seemed to be taunting Mother Nature to bring it on.

That plant was gomphrena, and I'd hate to meet it in a dark alley.

In order to make Starkville a more walkable community, bike lanes and sidewalk additions were constructed downtown on August 15, 2017. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Jessica Smith)
August 15, 2017 - Filed Under: Health and Wellness, Community, Food and Health, Landscape Architecture

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Walking is an easy, enjoyable way for individuals to be more physically active and for communities to improve healthy living.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are many potential health benefits of physical activity: weight control, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, stronger bones and muscles, improved mental health and mood, and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Tropical hibiscus, such as this Cajun Creole Lady (top left), require consistent moisture. Although Cajun Peppermint Patty (top right) flowers bloom for just one day, the plants produce flowers from spring until fall. Tropical hibiscus, such as this Cajun Dixieland Delight (bottom left), produce flowers with spectacular colors and combinations. The dark green and glossy foliage of tropical hibiscus such as this Cajun Rum Runner (bottom right) provides a nice background for the colorful blooms.
August 14, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Lately I've been singing the praises of having hardy hibiscuses in your landscape. Who can resist the colorful flowers that are literally the size of a dinner plate?

But the tropical hibiscus deserves at least equal praise. Today, I want to tell you about the Cajun hibiscus series, because these plants produce some of the most beautiful, complex and mesmerizing color combinations. These flowers also can be huge, with some exceeding 9 inches in diameter.

August 11, 2017 - Filed Under: Commercial Horticulture, Flower Gardens, Landscape Architecture

VERONA, Miss. -- Mississippi State University experts are hosting a Mississippi Medallion Program Aug. 24 in Verona to demonstrate how these top-performing ornamental plants can be used in home gardens.

The event runs from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center. The presenter will be Geoff Denny, horticulture specialist with the MSU Extension Service.

August 9, 2017 - Filed Under: Food and Health, Food, Nutrition, SNAP-Ed, Herb Gardens, Vegetable Gardens, Youth Gardening

RAYMOND, Miss. -- The Mississippi State University Extension Service hired three regional registered dietitians to help in the fight against obesity and chronic disease in Mississippi.

Samantha Willcutt, Kaitlin DeWitt and Juaqula Madkin have joined the Extension Office of Nutrition Education. They oversee the Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, or SNAP-Ed, curriculum and delivery in their regions.

Meyer lemons, a cross between a lemon and an orange, are thin-skinned and sweet. They can be grown in Mississippi landscapes. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
August 7, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Although we’re in the middle of a blazing hot summer, I find my gardening thoughts wandering to the coming fall season. You may think you know why I'm looking forward to the cooler weather, but the main reason is that the citrus in my home grove will start to ripen.

While August is too early to think about harvesting fruit, it is time to start thinking about planting your own citrus. You can plant citrus in the ground or, my preferred method, in containers.

The combination of flower and foliage colors on Summerific Perfect Storm (left) is as dramatic as a summer thunderstorm. Although a compact-growing selection, the huge flowers can exceed 9 inches in diameter. The star of my late-summer garden is Summerific Cherry Cheesecake (right), which blooms for a month with 7- to 8-inch-diameter flowers. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
July 31, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

I think hardy hibiscus is one of those must-have summer plants that we can count on to brighten our gardens and landscapes after a long, hot summer. But these plants are a well-kept secret to many gardeners.

Hardy hibiscus is very different from tropical hibiscus.

Hardy hibiscus is winter-hardy, and the foliage is not as glossy as the tropical varieties. But a trait the two varieties share is their bright, beautiful, gaudy flowers. These enormous flowers add value to our late-summer landscapes.

Purslane such as this Mojave Mixed selection thrive in patio containers and hanging baskets that take advantage of its spreading and trailing growth characteristics. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
July 24, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Purslane has long been regarded as a garden weed, and it's no wonder: A single plant can produce more than 50,000 seeds. I've seen purslane growing in coarse gravel and cracks in concrete. If the area is moist, you can find purslane, and I have removed many as weeds.

But I’m having a change of heart. Purslane is one of the older plants I'm interested in adding back to my coastal Mississippi landscape and garden. It's a succulent that thrives in high summer temperatures, and that makes it a perfect flowering annual for our hot and humid summers.

Gardeners sometimes use heavy pruning to control crape myrtle size and shape, but these goals are better achieved by choosing the right plant to fit the space. This Bourbon Street Dwarf Crape Myrtle is an excellent choice for a small area. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
July 17, 2017 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Landscape and Garden Design

There is one plant that absolutely is the flower of the South: the crape myrtle. Who can resist the colorful flower clusters on display from early summer through late fall?

The spectacular flowers are actually large panicles, or branching clusters composed of many small flowers. These panicles can be more than 8 inches long, and colors range from white, to shades of pink and purple, to rich reds. There are even bicolor flowers like my favorite Pink Peppermint.

The Black and Bloom salvia is one of the first summer perennials to start blooming. This tough plant survives and thrives in hot summers. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
July 10, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Home gardeners in Mississippi need colorful plants that hold up to the hot conditions we have every year. One group of plants that is a great choice for summer color is salvia, which includes both perennial and annual top performers.

The annual Salvia Splendens, as the name suggests, can't be beat. It is commonly called scarlet salvia, but it comes in a variety of bright colors.

Christine Coker, a horticulture specialist with Mississippi State University, began sowing the seeds for her career in elementary school as a 4-H member. Now, she helps put food on Mississippians’ tables with her research and Extension projects.
July 5, 2017 - Filed Under: Commercial Horticulture, Women for Agriculture, Food, Flower Gardens, Vegetable Gardens

BEAUMONT, Miss. -- For 16 years, Christine Coker has been doing what she loves: putting food on people's tables.

"In college, I really liked the study of plants, but I knew I wasn't going to be the world's greatest botanist," she said. "What I really wanted to do was feed people."

Moss rose is a great summer selection with blooms that resemble tiny roses and succulent foliage that withstands the heat. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
July 3, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

I really like to the flowering annual purslane in our hot summer landscapes. It's a vigorous, low-growing plant that forms a colorful carpet with succulent foliage.

But I plan to write about that wonderful plant in the future. Today, I want to extoll the virtues of one of its cousins: moss rose.

Moss rose has fleshy, succulent foliage that helps it hold up to the summer heat. The 1-inch-long, cylindrical foliage is bright green and arranged in clusters on the stems.

Colleen Wilkins, owner of Sunnyside in Natchez, gathers ideas while visiting the Southern Heritage Garden at the Vicksburg National Military Park on June 13, 2017. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Bonnie Coblentz)
June 30, 2017 - Filed Under: Agri-tourism, Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

VICKSBURG, Miss. -- The Southern Gardener, Gary Bachman, would like to see Mississippi's historic bed and breakfast owners step up their game in the garden.

"What is your budget for your landscape and labor costs? Do you serve anything you grow and use your own flowers?" Bachman asked owners at a recent Mississippi State University Extension Service workshop. "I want to show you how, with minimal effort and minimal out-of-pocket expense, you can get a good return on investment from the landscape of your historic properties."

Ann Rice remains grounded after more than three decades in the Mississippi State University Extension Service Soil Testing Laboratory. Retirement will allow more time for her to spend in the garden on her family farm in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Linda Breazeale)
June 27, 2017 - Filed Under: Soil Testing

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- When Ann Rice leaves the Mississippi State University Extension Service Soil Testing Laboratory on June 30, she will conclude an educational 35-year career filled with unusual requests and interesting discoveries, some of which were about herself.

"When I didn’t have confidence in myself, others did," Rice said. "I never thought I could be a leader, but sometimes, I have had to step up and take the lead, like in the organic matter and plant tissue divisions."

The Kong coleus has massive foliage and thrives in shady areas of the landscape. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
June 26, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

With summer officially here and hot and humid weather firmly in place, many gardeners -- myself included -- like to look at a pretty landscape, but don't really want to get out and do much work in that same landscape.

So selecting plants that look good without much work pique my interest. One plant that doesn't disappoint me is Sun coleus.

Fall armyworms plague many Mississippi pastures, lawns and sports fields, but vigilance and prompt treatment can limit their damage. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Blake Layton)
June 23, 2017 - Filed Under: Insects-Crop Pests, Insects-Home Lawns, Turfgrass and Lawn Management

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Although 2016 brought unusually heavy infestations of and damage from fall armyworms, vigilance and prompt treatment can limit damage this year.

Blake Layton, entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said fall armyworms were a problem in commercial hayfields, home lawns, sports fields, golf courses and commercial landscapes last year.

New Guinea impatiens are strictly shade-loving plants that can complement their sun-loving cousins, the SunPatiens. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
June 19, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Summer officially begins this week, and there are so many great plants we can grow during this season. But I really miss one that we can't grow in the summer: annual impatiens.

I always have impatiens in my late-winter and early-spring landscape. I've tried to oversummer some -- in the same manner as we overwinter plants -- in the shady areas of my garden, but this experiment is always met with bitter disappointment.

But all is not lost because I can grow SunPatiens, one of my favorite summer-flowering plants.

Warren County Master Gardener Yolanda Horne checks on worms living in a plastic bin on June 13, 2017. The worms were part of an exhibit on composting at the Know Your Roots: Grow Your Business workshop in Vicksburg, Mississippi. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Bonnie Coblentz)
June 16, 2017 - Filed Under: Agri-tourism, Community, Master Gardener, Lawn and Garden

VICKSBURG, Miss. -- Mississippians from a wide variety of backgrounds spent a day thinking of new ways to use landscapes and gardens to bring more profit and better value to agricultural enterprises and historic homes.

Know Your Roots: Build Your Business brought 29 participants together for the daylong workshop June 13 at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center. Sandy Havard, Warren County agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, coordinated the event.

June 14, 2017 - Filed Under: Forages, Lawn and Garden, Natural Resources

NEWTON, Miss. -- The Mississippi State University Extension Service invites anyone interested in growing the state wildflower, Coreopsis, and other beauties to the July 13 Wildflower Field Day.

The event will be at the Coastal Plain Branch Experiment Station in Newton and will include morning seminars and an afternoon field tour. It is sponsored by Keep Mississippi Beautiful, which is providing lunch.

Topics include native seed production, backyard habitats and milkweed management. Speakers are MSU Extension Service specialists and an industry representative.

Containers can be planted at any time of year. This summer combination has tall Salvia Playin’ the Blues in the back, Gaura Karalee Petite Pink providing interest in the front, and Supertunia Bordeaux filling in all the extra space. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
June 12, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Once we get into the summer months, it can be hard to plant and be successful with in-ground landscape beds. But I've found that putting together container plantings gives me a way to add variety to my garden and landscape, even when it's really hot.

Once you start gardening in containers, you’ll find it's never too late in the season to try something new. You may even join me in doing most of your gardening in containers all year.

But let's just start with one container and see how it goes.

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