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Conversation Piece Azalea (left) is an alternate-season azalea that displays gorgeous flowers in midspring and in the fall. Each plant produces multiple flower colors. (Submitted Photo/LSU AgCenter); The Patio Snacker (center) is a terrific producer in a tight space. The 3- to 5-foot vine is perfect for trellising and produces fruit that is perfectly crunchy and not bitter. (Submitted Photo/Ball Horticultural Company); and (right) Vermillionaire cuphea is a heat-loving plant that flowers from spring to fros
February 27, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

This is the awards season, and the horticulture community won’t be left out.

The Mississippi Medallion winners have been announced. This year’s Outstanding Performance in the Landscape winners are Vermillionaire cuphea, Conversation Piece azalea, Patio Snacker cucumber and Japanese persimmon.

Mississippi State University Extension specialists will be on hand to present seminars for home gardeners on how to create landscapes like this one. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
February 20, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

This past weekend was glorious and I appreciated puttering around my yard and landscape. It's not often that we can enjoy a Saturday and Sunday in February with temperatures in the mid-70s and bright sunny skies.

But I had to take a step back and remember that our last frost free date on the coast is about April 1, so I continued to transplant curly kale and Bright Lights Swiss chard in my EarthBoxes and harvested some fresh red and green romaine lettuce for salads.

Roses are a beautiful addition to home landscapes, and certain modern varieties offer reliable performance without requiring expert care. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
February 13, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

I had an opportunity to attend the Gulf District American Rose Society Mid-Winter Workshop in Gonzales, Louisiana, in early February. It was a fantastic event that allowed me to meet lots of new people and catch up with a few old garden friends.

I also learned that I have had the same experiences and developed the same misperceptions that many home gardeners have with garden roses.

These dwarf Firepower nandinas are mass planted on the Mississippi State University campus in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
February 6, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Except for a couple of cold nights, there's no doubt that I’ve been enjoying the mild winter we're having this year. It seems our landscape plants are also enjoying the moderate temperatures and flowering to show their approval.

But one thing I'm missing in the landscape is the variety of bronzy golds and reds our evergreen landscape shrubs display because of cold weather. Who doesn't appreciate the winter foliage of Japanese cleyera with its patina of rich burgundy? And what about my nandina, another great winter favorite?

While not all vegetables are suited for the home gardener to start from seed, tomatoes such as this heirloom variety can easily be grown from seed and transplanted outdoors. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
January 30, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

So far, it's been an interesting spring season in January for our gardens. New Year's weekend, more than 13 inches of rain fell in my Ocean Springs garden, followed a week later by freeze-magedden. By late January, we were in the middle of really nice, moderate weather.

So what plants do you think are showing up at garden centers? If you guessed vegetable transplants, you’re correct. Last week, I even saw large tomato plants full of flowers for sale in 6-inch containers.

Saucer magnolias bloom before the leaves emerge with huge, white, pink or bold-purple flowers that reach up to 10 inches across. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
January 23, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Saucer magnolias and other flowering, deciduous magnolias start to peek out of their buds every spring, usually in late February or early March. The rush of colorful pinks is always a welcome sight.

So, imagine my surprise when the saucer magnolia at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi exploded into bloom three weeks early in mid-January.

Nothing beats looking at displays of beautiful plants in the garden center, but an advantage of ordering from catalogs is getting exactly the variety you want and maybe even trying news ones. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
January 16, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

They seem to show up at my house every day, whether in sunny, rainy, warm or cold weather. They're relentless. I'm not referring to home-security sales folks; I'm talking about gardening catalogs.

These catalogs arrive in all shapes and sizes, in full color or black and white, and they all encourage us to make sure we're ready for spring. This spring marketing blitz is targeted at gardeners suffering from cabin fever. And the catalogs do succeed in us getting ready, maybe a little too ready if we succumb to their temptations.

Temperatures as low as 12 degrees in Tupelo and 23 degrees in Ocean Springs froze many plants this past weekend. These Quad Color Clerodendrons were scorched brown by the freeze. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
January 9, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Wasn't this past weekend’s cold something else? We've had some cold snaps already this winter but nothing like those low temps. That kind of cold brings our attention front and center to winter.

The previous warm weather had gotten many gardeners a little complacent, including me.

Herb plants make excellent gifts, as they can add beauty to indoor décor and good flavors to holiday meals. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
January 2, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Since the Christmas holiday season started last month, gardeners across Mississippi have been giving and receiving plants as gifts: poinsettias, begonias, cactuses and cyclamens -- oh my!

Oh my, indeed. Having plants inside during the winter adds beauty and a sense of charm and serenity. Herb plants also should be included as a gift choice, as they add good flavors to holiday meals.

Bright Lights Swiss chard is a cool-season plant that does double duty as a beautiful landscape attraction that is edible and tasty. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
December 26, 2016 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

As we prepare to head into a new year of gardening adventures, I've been thinking about a variety of landscape questions and quandaries that pop up from time to time.

A common question in the spring concerns starting plants from seed.

The Mississippi native yaupon holly can be seen popping out of woodland edges everywhere. Its distinctive berries have a translucent quality that imparts a gem-like appearance. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
December 19, 2016 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

The Christmas season is a time for decorating, as we put up wreaths, poinsettias and trees. But Mother Nature is always in on the plan, too. I love the timing that allows our landscape hollies to get into the decorating action with their bright and colorful berry displays.

The most prevalent holly berries we see right now in Mississippi are on our native yaupon holly.

The outer leaves of Pigeon Purple ornamental cabbage maintain a darker green with purplish veins, and new center leaves emerge with a purplish-red color. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
December 12, 2016 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Ornamental kale and cabbage are in a group of my favorite plants for the winter landscape, and I find them to be among the most reliable, as well. They are really easy to grow, and now that we’re getting cooler weather -- as in frost -- kale and cabbage are starting to show some great color.

Garden centers often lump ornamental kale and cabbage together, and it is true that they are the same species. However, there are a few differences that I think should be considered.

A quality garden tool is a good gift idea to encourage a gardening friend to grow vegetables and fruits. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
December 6, 2016 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

We're now officially in the Christmas season, and holiday shopping is in full swing. So, instead of an ugly sweater or a pair of reindeer socks, consider gifts that the special gardeners in your life could use in their landscape and garden.

So, here are what I consider some nice gifts for the gardener.

Using quick hoops is a good way to cover and protect vegetable crops from potential cold weather damage. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
November 28, 2016 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

We hit December this week, and it seems like we haven't really had a fall season yet. Hot summer weather really overstayed its welcome, infringing on the mild temperatures I know gardeners were expecting.

I've been writing about cool-season color replacing the summer color in my garden, and I recommend that my readers plant them, too. Now, however, I'm being stubborn with my heirloom tomatoes.

Red poinsettias are the traditional choice for many holiday gardeners, but other possibilities include these Jingle Bells poinsettias. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
November 21, 2016 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

I've noticed over the last couple of weeks that a few early-season poinsettias are showing up on garden center shelves. And while we're celebrating Thanksgiving this week, the appearance of the poinsettia means we are in the full swing of the Christmas season.

Traditionally, the red poinsettia is the first choice of many holiday gardeners.

Cool Wave pansies are more vigorous than standard pansy varieties and have a trailing growth habit that makes them ideal for filling landscape beds or spilling from hanging baskets. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
November 14, 2016 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Like many other home gardeners in Mississippi, I'm in the full swing of planting cool-season annual color. And like everyone else, I've been planting my favorites, which are Matrix pansies and Sorbet violas. You really can't go wrong with these easy-to-grow landscape plants.

But the last couple of years, I've been kicking the pansy planting up a notch, to borrow the catch phrase of a famous New Orleans chef. I've been using Cool Wave pansies more and more in some nontraditional settings.

Dianthus is a great choice for fall garden color. This bicolor Telstar Pink picottee selection is perfect for mass planting in the landscape. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
November 7, 2016 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Even though outside temperatures are still quite balmy, we are moving into winter. Maybe this year we will actually have a winter. That makes now the perfect time to start planting dianthus.

In fact, the perfect time to plant dianthus is when you plant your pansies. Dianthus and pansies are wonderful fall and winter companion plants.

Confederate Rose is an old-fashioned heirloom plant that is actually a hibiscus, not a rose. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
October 31, 2016 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Heirloom vegetables get their fair share of gardening attention, but many homeowners don't realize that some ornamental plants are considered heirlooms as well. We often call heirloom ornamentals "pass-along plants."

Kumquats perform well in Mississippi when given winter protection. Gardeners eat just the peel of this beautiful fruit. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
October 24, 2016 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

I like the changing of the seasons, as it means we get to plant a new set of color annuals like pansies, violas and dianthuses. The cooler weather draws us back out to enjoy gardening activities, many of which were put on hold in the heat of the summer.

The Sorbet series of violas, such as this Midnight Glow selection, resist stretching and stay compact through winter and even as temperatures rise in the spring. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
October 17, 2016 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

An important step in keeping year-round color in the garden and landscape is planting and transitioning the annual color plants.

Within the last month, I’ve planted my favorite fall French marigolds, also called Mari-mums. My Telstar dianthuses and snapdragons are also in and starting to show off. At the beginning of September, I pulled my Blue Daze evolvuluses from the front walk bed and replaced them with some beautiful, tight-budded mini chrysanthemums.

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