Southern Gardening from 2011
January is a good time to take a look at your landscape because views are not obstructed by much foliage. When we can get a really clear view of what lies beyond our own yards, we sometimes don’t like what we see.
Many times we see the neighbor’s house or some view we’re not interested in. These views are hidden in the summer but seem to stare back in the winter. You may notice some traffic noise that gets blocked out by summer foliage.
You could build a privacy fence or wall, but these can seem a little cold and stark. It may be time to plant a living screen.
The onslaught of gardening catalogs arriving at our homes is a sure sign of the impending spring and summer gardening seasons.
They have started to pile up at my house. Looking at the stack, I found myself daydreaming this weekend as the wintery blast came sweeping through Mississippi. How will our gardens look in a few short weeks? And how can we make this transformation a little easier?
Whoever said great looking gardens can be maintenance-free? A great looking garden is a lot of work, and with our busy lives, taking a few shortcuts can help us work more efficiently.
Shopping at the local garden center for potting mix for container plants can be confusing. A bag that simply says “garden soil” can have anything in it. While this may work for in-ground plants, plants in containers require a totally different kind of mix.
Bagged mixes for container plants are often called potting or container mixes. These mixes actually contain no soil at all. They are sold under a variety of trade names and are similar in their basic recipe.
Many landscapes look drab and dreary in January, and extremely cold temperatures across the state have presented gardeners with an even bigger challenge than usual this winter.
But I had an uplifting experience last week when I attended the Gulf States Horticultural Expo in Mobile. I came away having seen the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel and remembering that the warm days of spring will soon be upon us.
A lot of great foliage color develops in the cool temperatures of winter months. Japanese cleyera foliage develops a rich burgundy patina that complements its red petioles, and boxwood foliage becomes an orangey bronze. But my favorite colorful, red-tinged winter foliage has to be nandina.
I have been really impressed so far this winter with the performance of a new pansy called Plentifall.
The unique spreading and trailing growth habit of Plentifall pansies make them outstanding landscape plants. They are well-branched and vigorous growers. They can fill a landscape bed and provide pockets of color from fall all the way to late spring.
This winter’s irregular temperatures have been tough on landscape plants all across Mississippi and have given even positive gardeners a case of the winter blues. One sure-fire sign that spring is around the corner is the Gulf Coast Garden and Patio Show February 25, 26 and 27 at the Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.
Every year after several warm and sunny days in late February or early March, we begin to see just a little color peeking out of flower buds in our landscape. Then suddenly there is a rush of color, ranging from the faintest pinks to the boldest purples.
I get calls from people surprised to see these trees covered in gorgeous blooms. When I tell them the tree is a magnolia, some are astonished to learn there are magnolias other than the Southern Magnolia.
Several years ago, a group of hybrid impatiens was developed, offering bright flowers and interesting foliage in the hot summer sun. Sunpatiens’ superior performance in the landscape earned them the status of Mississippi Medallion winner for 2011.
(top) Compact lilac Sunpatiens are great in flowering combination containers. These outstanding, tight-branching plants require little pruning.
(bottom) Sunpatiens are hybrid impatiens that thrive through the hottest parts of summer. They flower from spring until fall’s first frosts. (Photos by Gary Bachman)
Some of the prettiest flowers you can grow in the garden or in containers are African daisies, and these beauties are starting to arrive at garden centers.
Known botanically as Osteospermum, African daisies are outstanding flowering plants. These plants are from South Africa and are relatively new to many home gardeners. African daisies have the familiar center disk of the daisy family, but theirs are dark metallic. The brightly colored petals come in various shades of white, pink, yellow, blue and purple.
St. Patrick’s Day triggers increased interest in bringing home from the garden center a three-leafed shamrock. In addition to the traditional green, more and more varieties are showing up with gorgeous purple to almost black foliage.
Don’t forget flowering annual vines this spring when you look for bedding plants at your favorite local garden center. These plants add interest and color as they spread across fences and arbors.
Annual vines are fascinating, as they complete their entire life cycle right before your eyes. In just one season, the seeds germinate, the plants grow and flower, and they set seed for the next generation before they die. This is a lot of living packed into one short season.
Early spring is a wonderful time, as the garden and landscape start to wake from the winter season. One of the many wonderful spring flowering plants is the Lenten rose, an old favorite that you may not often see.
If you’ve been reading this column and thinking I have a lot of favorite plants, you’re right. If you ask me for my favorites, my answer will depend on the season; some plants are more suitable than others at certain times of the year.
The new selections coming out each year make it even more difficult to have an absolute favorite flowering garden plant. But if there is one plant I have been the most impressed with over the last couple of years, it has to be Million Bells.
If you’re looking for a tough plant to keep right on blooming despite the heat of the summer, try gomphrena in your garden. This is one tough plant that likes really high temperatures. Sometimes called globe amaranth, legend has it that the original planting was at the gates of Hades.
It takes a special plant to be named a Mississippi Medallion winner, and the Mississippi native Virginia sweetspire was one of the plants that earned that honor this year.
The Mississippi Nursery and Landscape Association names Medallion winners based on their superior performance in gardens and landscapes across the state. In response to renewed interest in native plants, the association has begun choosing a Mississippi native each year for one of its awards.
Containers aren’t just for flowers; they can be used to grow fresh vegetables for aspiring gardeners who don’t have a traditional garden.
Container gardening isn’t just for flowers (top). Many vegetables can be grown in containers, such as these tomatoes in 3-gallon nursery containers.
A container is a great way to grow fresh produce in a small space. These mini bok choy (bottom) are thriving in window boxes. (Photos by Gary Bachman)
Many gardeners believe they can remember every plant in the garden, and I’ll admit I’ve told myself I could do just that. But even gardeners with great memories will one day say, “Now, what is that plant?”
Plant tags, or garden markers, can be both useful and stylish. They can denote different gardeners or different parts of the garden. They can be plain or fancy. Use your imagination and creativity when creating yours.
Gardeners interested in plants that can provide dependable color in the heat and drought of summer should consider adding the annual Zahara zinnia to the landscape. These flowers tolerate drought and are very resistant to the powdery mildew that plagues other zinnia varieties.
The selections in the Zahara series are well-branched and will grow up to 18 inches tall and wide. Its plentiful branches help support its abundant flowering. Their best performance is in the full sun with good fertility and cooler night temperatures.
One of the latest trends in landscaping is to plant vegetables that provide ornamental interest, and peppers get my vote as one of the best choices.
The overall impact and adaptability of ornamental peppers was recognized in 2010, when Purple Flash pepper was named a Mississippi Medallion winner. Purple Flash ornamental pepper is one of the showiest peppers available today. The purple and white variegated leaves are visible from across the garden. Closer inspection reveals the leaves opening up white with purple ribs. As the leaves mature, they gradually become darker purple.