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Use color to bring interest to historic home settings
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."
Bachman showed a series of pictures of existing gardens and landscapes in historic homes that were welcoming guests, and then he showed the same scenes with the addition of flowers. Bachman, an MSU Extension horticulturist, is host of Southern Gardening, which is produced as radio and television segments, as well as a weekly newspaper series.
“I’m a big fan of patches of color,” he said. “They add so much interest to a landscape. You can go with a color theme and have nice splashes of color throughout.”
Gardeners can even bring spot color into the house.
“Put a cut flower in a vase beside the bed,” Bachman said. “Bring a single specimen in from the garden. It adds a very nice element to the bed and breakfast experience.”
The landscape of many historic homes is anchored by established trees and shrubs and highlighted by garden paths and structures. Bachman said using combination baskets and planters is an easy way to add color to these areas.
“Just put plants together. You can get ideas everywhere for this,” Bachman said. “I like to use the spiller, thriller, filler formula. Add one plant that is tall and striking, one that will cascade over the sides of the container and one that fills in the rest of the space.
“There are even some online tools you can use to select different plants and see how they will look together,” he said.
Bachman urged the use of containers, as these make it easy to insert areas of color into existing landscapes. These containers should be large.
“Don’t use those little pots you get the plants in at the garden center. Go big,” he said. “I use 10- to 25-gallon containers.”
MSU operates trial gardens for several plant breeders. Researchers grow new varieties at five locations across the state and document how the plants do under that area’s growing conditions.
“Visit these MSU trial gardens to gather information for your own gardens,” Bachman said. “MSU trial gardens experiment with the new plant varieties, and visitors can see them growing under actual landscape conditions.”
Colleen Wilkins owns Sunnyside, a historic bed and breakfast in Natchez. The house was built in 1850, and the landscape is almost 175 years old. For the past two years, she has been restoring the property inside and outside.
“Sunnyside was a pecan orchard known for its rose gardens,” Wilkins said. “I like to mix things. I have some small gardens right around the house where I have a lot of color, but in the orchard, I’m planting apple, pear and kumquat trees. These are are things I think will be useful to wildlife and to me.”
Wilkins said she is putting extensive effort into her landscape so she can bring the products indoors, but also because a good landscape adds value to a property.
“Curb appeal and first impressions on a webpage or social media are very important whether you have a big house or a small house,” she said. “I love to entertain outdoors, weather permitting, and having beautiful gardens makes that easy to do.”