Southern Gardening from 2014
Last month, I wrote about getting mom the perfect Mother’s Day rose. With Father’s Day just a couple of weeks away, it’s gift time again. I’ve always enjoyed getting flowers as a gift, and I think a lot of other dads appreciate them as well.
But what do dads really want for Father’s Day, besides a chance to barbeque and watch the finish of the U.S. Open? Tools! As Scotty from Star Trek always said, “You need the right tool for the right job.” Nowhere is this truer than in the garden.
Now that the truly hot days of summer have arrived, vitex is ready to show its colors. This is one of the few plants that make Mississippi gardeners and nongardeners alike stop and take notice.
Many people call with questions about the beautiful, blue flowering shrubs we have at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. Whenever I need to take a little break, the gorgeous purplish-blue flowers of the vitex right outside my window provide an ideal location.
Because Mississippi landscapes get so hot in the summer, one of my favorite go-to plants is the lantana. This is a great plant that thrives in the heat and humidity of summer, providing consistently bright colors and nonstop blooming through summer and into fall.
Lantana is available in a variety of sizes and colors. While many of the older lantana selections are large landscape plants, I really like the newer selections that have a smaller growth potential. Smaller plants open up an entirely new landscape option for lantana.
Most people I know like to celebrate our nation’s birthday with fireworks, and gardening and fireworks have something in common.
When the Chinese invented fireworks, they gave the individual shells the names of the showy flowers they resembled after exploding in the sky. One of the most common fireworks is an expanding circle of stars and is called a peony. Others have much larger expanding rings of stars and are called dahlia. When long trailing streaks are added, the firework becomes a chrysanthemum.
Some of the most familiar faces seen in Mississippi during the summer are found in our gardens.
Most gardeners across the state recognize the yellow petals and dark centers of Black-eyed Susans. If you have admired them from afar in the past, now is the time to bring some home. There are many selections that look great in the landscape.
When it’s hot in the summer months like it has been lately, I always look for low-maintenance plants that carry the color load. I imagine I’m not alone.
Plants that look good massing over a landscape bed are smart choices. My go-to plant for these conditions is the colorful sweet potato vine.
I’ve been growing ornamental sweet potato vine for about 20 years. The first selection I ever planted was Margarita, which has large, lime-green leaves. I like the vigorous growth, but to say this plant is unruly is an understatement.
Canna lilies are valued for their large, tropical foliage and showy, brilliantly colored flowers. They are an easy landscape plant that everyone should have in their gardens.
Many gardeners are familiar with the big cannas that have to be grown in the back of the planting bed. With their upright growth habit, cannas have an almost statuesque presence in the landscape. But the plant breeders have been at it again, developing selections that have dwarf characteristics.
Plants with tropical textures seem to attract the most interest in any landscape. Elephant ears just scream for attention wherever they grow. Most gardeners I know love elephant ears because they are easy-to-grow tropical plants that make a big impact.
Alocasia and Colocasia are the two species commonly found in our Mississippi landscapes. Today I want to concentrate on Colocasia, which is also called taro. It features big leaves and big texture, but it’s not all green.
Medical issues made it really tough on me this past year to do garden and landscape-related activities. At this point, I’m ready to start putting plants in the ground!
I know there are plenty of other gardeners in the same boat, and we all suffer from cabin fever that seems to set in earlier every year. So of course we are in the midst of the never-ending winter.
If you are looking for an easy landscape plant that is guaranteed to please, the daylily is the plant for you.
Daylilies come in just about any color, shape or size you could want for your landscape. The colors are a kaleidoscope of red, peach, white and yellow. Aside from the stunning array of colors, the flowers themselves are not boring. Shapes include vibrant double flowers, petite flowers, flowers with gold-edged ruffles and spidery blooms with long, linear petals.
Colorful caladiums at a popular theme park fascinated me on a recent trip to Florida. They were everywhere I looked.
Some caladiums neatly defined border edges or were mass planted in beds, but they were not all planted in the usual landscape places. The caladiums were planted in containers of every shape, size and color, and some were even in hanging baskets.
Some of the garden vegetables I miss in the summer are leafy greens.
High temperatures cause undesirable bitterness in the greens, and I don’t like high temperatures, either. But there is a way you can enjoy fresh-grown greens in the summer and not even leave the air conditioning: You can grow your own microgreens.
Growing microgreens is a fun way to add fresh flavors and a tender crunch to your dishes. I have been growing microgreens for about five years, and they are easy for the home gardener to grow.
I think hardy hibiscuses are must-have summer plants guaranteed to brighten our gardens and landscapes after a long, hot summer. But to many gardeners, the hardy hibiscus is a well-kept secret.
These plants are very different from tropical hibiscuses. The hardy hibiscus is winter hardy, and its foliage is not as glossy as the tropical hibiscus. Despite these differences, both varieties have bright, beautiful flowers.
A lot of people are interested in creating a tropical feeling around their homes, and growing bananas is an easy way to accomplish this goal.
If you think bananas can be grown only in coastal Mississippi, I want to try to change your mind. There are selections that are hardy for all landscapes in Mississippi.
My taste buds love hot peppers, but the rest of me really likes the increased use of peppers as ornamentals.
Each year there are more ornamental peppers being introduced to the landscape market. Most ornamental peppers pack heat and are edible. Besides the culinary heat, many of these hot peppers are colorful and have great potential for use in the landscape.
As I was browsing through the garden center this weekend, I saw the first display of pansies for the upcoming fall and winter season. I consider this a positive sign as we are all still sweltering with the summer heat.
Nature always gives us signals as seasons change. When summer starts to shift toward fall, the leaves begin to change colors. Another sure sign that fall is right around the corner is the arrival of colorful and beautiful fall mums in garden centers.
Now is the time to plan how and where to use these plants effectively around your home and landscape. A newer trend for growers is to mix colors in containers, so be ready for even more decisions.
After the heat we’ve had this summer, thank goodness fall officially arrives this week. Fall was always a favorite season for me growing up in Michigan because it meant cooler weather, going to the cider mill and, of course, the beautiful red and orange tree colors.
Living in Mississippi, I still like fall, but I miss the foliage colors. A few red maples scattered about will put on a fiery orange show some years, but it’s not the same as in the North. If you want fall foliage color in the South, here are a few of my favorite plants that should make you happy.
More than 30 years ago, an idea was sown that the gardening public in Mississippi needed a fall field day. What started then as a small demonstration garden has blossomed into the annual Fall Flower and Garden Fest at Mississippi State University’s Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station.
Probably every gardener enjoys the fall season with cooler weather and extra butterfly activity. If you’re one who can’t get enough of the butterflies, you should consider including one of my favorites, the butterfly bush, in your landscape.
Butterflies and even hummingbirds love the flowers of this plant, which is known botanically as Buddleia.