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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whenever I see Angelonias in a landscape, I'm reminded of my other favorite flowering annuals for the cool season: snapdragons.
Angelonia, a member of the snapdragon family, thrives in the full sun during the summer heat and humidity. This stamina is a requirement for our Mississippi gardens and landscapes and why I consider it one of the best plants for my hot summer garden.
In early April, my wife and I had the honor of being part of the 2017 Garden Clubs of Mississippi Spring Pilgrimage, as our little urban farm was one of the tour's stops. It was a treat to open our doors to allow more than 170 visitors to peek behind the curtain at how we garden.
It's all the rage to plant butterfly gardens in our home landscapes. This is especially true when we consider the Monarch butterfly, which is said to be under stress from disappearing habitats.
One of the best butterfly-attracting plants for the home landscape is butterfly weed, known botanically as Asclepias. Butterfly weed has a great trio of advantages: it is low maintenance, deer resistant, and attractive to Monarchs and other butterflies.
After being laid up for the last few weeks recovering from a knee replacement, I've really enjoyed finally getting out and picking up some heat-loving summer annual color. The first flat of bedding plants I put in the cart contained marigolds.
I know some gardeners may think marigolds are too easy, but that's exactly what I want from my summer landscape beds.
One of my favorite things to do in the spring and early summer is visit my local garden centers. At this time of year, the sheer number of flowering annuals can easily result in sensory overload.
I wander through the aisles and benches almost in a hypnotic trance, and I always leave with a vehicle full of colorful beauty. By the time I get home, the color high has started to wear off, and I have to decide where to plant the new arrivals.
One thing I dig about the summer season is the selection of annual color available for the garden and landscape.
I think most of my readers know I really like Supertunias. Besides their tremendous growth potential, I think what I like best are the flower shapes. There's something about a funnel-shaped flower that adds a little extra pizazz to the landscape.