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Southern Gardening

The prolific blooms of winter cassia make it a show-stopping plant. Blooms begin in November and are displayed in loose clusters. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
December 15, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

Some folks think winter can be boring in the garden and landscape. But just when temperatures start to drop, one of my favorite flowering plants decides to suddenly strut its stuff for all to see.

Wherever cassia is planted in the landscape, the tropical-looking flowers are sure to create winter interest.

The prolific winter blooms of winter cassia make it a show-stopping plant. The effect is heightened because the brightly colored blooms seem to appear out of nowhere. Winter cassia is also called Christmas Senna because it is commonly in full glory at this time.

Camellias in the landscape give a double treat. The flowers bloom from late fall to early spring, and then the petals fall to create a vibrant mulch. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
December 8, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

In December, many gardeners look forward to taking a little time off from working in the landscape, but cool weather is a good time to apply a layer of mulch.

However, gardeners get some free help with the job at this time of year. I’m always in awe of the job that Mother Nature does mulching the landscape.

Cool Wave pansies such as this Sunshine 'n Wine selection are much more vigorous than standard pansy varieties. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
December 1, 2014 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

I don’t keep it a secret that I think pansies are the perfect plants for cool-season annual beds. They are really easy plants to grow, and they provide great color during cold winters.

The Matrix pansy is always a great choice because of the way it displays flowers high above its foliage. But lately I’ve been admiring the unique trailing growth habit of Cool Wave pansies.

Poinsettias, which are known in their native Mexico as Flores de la Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, may be the perfect Christmas plant. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
November 24, 2014 - Filed Under: Cut Flowers and Houseplants

Although it seems like Christmas decorations have been in the stores since Labor Day, what really tells me it’s beginning to look like Christmas is when the poinsettias hit the garden centers.

Poinsettias may be the perfect plant for the Christmas season. In their native Mexico, the poinsettia’s bright red flowers of are known as Flores de la Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, as they bloom each year during the Christmas season.

Sonnet snapdragon plants grow up to 30 inches tall and offer colorful flower spikes in a kaleidoscope of shades that are great as cut flowers. They are thrilling in a cool-season combination container and have a soft cinnamon scent. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
November 17, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

The snapdragon is a longtime favorite flower of mine for the cool-season landscape.

Many home gardeners seem surprised when I tell them snapdragons are pretty tolerant of cold weather. We are lucky to be able to grow these great landscape plants in Mississippi from the cool, fall season to the rising temperatures of spring. Once planted and acclimated, snapdragons seem to say, “Bring on the cold weather.”

Beautiful purple flowers and tolerance for drought make Vitex an outstanding small tree to be grown in the full sun of Mississippi landscapes. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
November 10, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

Through the year, I get quite a few questions concerning landscape issues, plant care and plant identification. Answering questions and helping home gardeners find success in their gardening endeavors is fun.

I’ve gotten questions from as far away as California. I have to admit that some of the questions make me think I’m on a game show called “Stump Gary,” and I learn a thing or two researching the answers. This question and answer time feels kind of like two gardeners sharing landscape tips across the back fence.

Here are a couple of questions I’ve recently received:

Redbor kale, seen here with Butterfly Red Penta, is an outstanding variety with colors that intensify as temperatures get lower. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
November 3, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden

This weekend, the thermometer in my garden got down to the low 30s and left me wondering if I’ve seen the last of my tomatoes and peppers. But it also reminded me that it’s time to transition to plants that thrive in lower temperatures.

Ornamental kale is one of my favorites for the cool season. There are so many different colors and leaf textures to add landscape interest. Don’t plant a single type. Mix and match for increased visual interest.

2015 Mississippi Medallion winner Delta Jazz crape myrtle, developed by Mississippi State University, has leaves that emerge a raspberry-maroon and then turn mahogany-brown, accenting large clusters of pink flowers in late summer. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
October 27, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

Many Southerners (in general) and Mississippians (in particular) base their new plant selections on the annual recommendations from the Mississippi Medallion Selection Committee. The committee has just announced three winners for 2015: Delta Jazz crape myrtle, Suburban Nancy Gayle daylily and Top Pot scaevola.

Delta Jazz crape myrtle…

Give gardens the gift of organic matter in the fall to thank them for their beauty and bounty and prepare them for the next growing season. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
October 20, 2014 - Filed Under: Organic Fruit and Vegetables, Soil Health, Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

Gardens and landscapes work really hard to give us so much beauty and bounty, so sometimes it’s nice for gardeners to give something back to the earth.

Fall is a really good time to build up your garden soil for next year. Probably the best gift you can give your garden is to amend its soil with organic matter.

Cactus-flowers zinnias such as this Inca are very different from traditional zinnias. Each flower displays masses of thin, almost needle-like petals that come in a range of long-lasting flower colors. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
October 13, 2014 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

It’s not just people who are happy when temperatures finally start to decrease in the fall. Many summer-flowering annuals that look pretty worn out at Labor Day get a second wind and perk back up.

For this reason, late September and October give us some of the best annual color of the entire year.

Some of my favorite fall-flowering summer annuals are Zahara zinnias, which produce mounds of colorful flowers. The plants are robust and have excellent branching to support the many flowers. Plus, these plants have a natural resistance to powdery mildew.

Butterfly bushes such as this Flutterby Petite Tutti Frutti offer a long season of welcome to butterflies. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/ Gary Bachman)
October 6, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

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.

The annual Fall Flower and Garden Fest in Crystal Springs is one of the premier gardening events in the Southeast. Last year, about 5,000 people attended the two-day event. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
September 29, 2014 - Filed Under: Community, Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

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.

The foliage of Mahogany Splendor hibiscus is its main attraction, providing awesome color, height and excitement in the landscape. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
September 22, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

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.

The many warm colors of mums fit in almost any home color scheme. They have an immediate impact with their plentiful blooms. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
September 15, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

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.

re unusual in pansies. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
September 8, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

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.

Ghost peppers, which are more than 100 times hotter than a jalapeno, also stand out as attractive ornamental peppers. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
September 1, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Vegetable Gardens

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.

Thai Black banana is one of fastest growing landscape bananas, and it can reach more than 15 feet tall in Mississippi landscapes. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
August 25, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

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.

The pink flowers of hardy hibiscus Sultry Kiss can measure up to 11 inches wide and bloom on lobed, burgundy foliage. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
August 18, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

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.

Microgreens can be grown in plastic storage containers in front of a bright window. (Submitted Photo/Cindy Graf)
August 11, 2014 - Filed Under: Greens, Vegetable Gardens

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.

Caladiums are very versatile and tolerant of many growing styles, including these growing in a container in a sunny location. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
August 4, 2014 - Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

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.

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