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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
At the 43rd annual Ornamental Field Day this weekend at the South Mississippi Branch Experiment Station in Poplarville, one plant that drew a lot of attention was the exotic-looking King Tut papyrus.
This grass-like plant growing in Mississippi State University's trial garden can easily grow to 6 feet tall, and it has a striking presence in the landscape. King Tut is a member of the same papyrus family of plants that the ancient Egyptians used to make paper. Its dramatic appearance makes for a great conversation about its connection to the distant past.