Ornamental Grasses

This post, “Ornamental Grasses” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Grasses have become very popular in the last few years.  I was kind of late in getting on the “grass band wagon”.  The first grass I tried was Purple Fountain grass.  I placed it in two urns in front of an arbor.  I did not know how hardy it was here, so I was afraid to place it in the ground.  I have had it now for three years, and it is still doing well, so I am going to keep it in the containers.  I just cut it back last week, and already there is new growth showing.

The next was Strawberries and Cream.  I bought it to place in the white & green garden.  Unfortunately, after I bought two containers of it, I found out that it is very vigorous and can be very invasive here in the Deep South.  So, I decided that I better keep them in containers.  They seem to be happy in two large green pots.


My next purchase was Gulf Muhly Grass.  I had a hard time finding it locally but was finally successful in finding two small pots.  This grass took a little longer to get established than I thought it would.  I did get a few pink fluoresces this year.  It seems to just now to be starting to settle in, and I hope it will be getting bigger.


The last grass I tried was Mexican Hair grass.  It did just great last summer.  It moves in just the slightest breeze and gives some movement in the garden.  I cut it back and cleaned it out about two weeks ago, and already it is putting out a lot of new green growth.


This spring I am thinking about putting in some miscanthus  Cosmopolitan. I saw some at the fall garden show at the New Orleans Botanical Gardens, and it was just magnificent.  Of course, they had the room to grow extremely large swaths of it, but I think it would make a lovely show even on a smaller scale, esp. at the end of the growing season when so many plants are not at their best.

Another grass I thought I might give a try is Sea Oats.  My sister had a large container of this on her side patio.  It made a very striking display even into the winter. 

One aspect of gardening that I feel makes things so interesting and fun is the fact that there is always something new to try.  I enjoy hearing about other gardeners trying out a new garden style, new plants, or new techniques.  This, to me, is what keeps gardening fresh and inspiring.

Memorial Garden

This post, “Memorial Garden” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

It has been almost two years since my father passed away.  He was in fairly good health for a 93 year old until a just few months before his death.  He lived a long, happy life, and so while there was sadness at his passing, my family was able to accept it with peace.

Soon after his death in March, I decided to dedicate a section of my garden to him.  I chose the side garden because it is very quiet and enclosed.  This is the perfect place to be quiet and read or meditate.  Because it does not receive a great deal of sun, not many flowering plants do well there.  Also, because of the shade, I picked white and green as the colors I would use.  White and green are cool, soothing colors, and the white lightens the shade. 


One side wall of the garden is a tall stand of bamboo, and the other is the house.  The rear wall is a grouping of large forsythia, and in front is a row of azaleas about three feet high.  I have four green Adirondack chairs in the center under a small magnolia fiscata tree.  By the azaleas, is an area that receives the most sun, and that is the memorial garden for my dad.  I have planted three Iceberg roses, Shasta daisies, Easter lilies, paperwhites, and white amaryllises in front of a birdbath.  On the outside edges of the bed are containers of Strawberry and Cream grass.  In the fall I planted white pansies and violas.  In the summer I will put in white pentas.  The side with the bamboo has holly ferns, toad lilies and a white lacecap hydrangea.  When the summer comes, I will put in green and white caladiums there.  This spring the garden will be two years old.  During the winter, it is not at its best, but I can tell that come spring, it will be on its way to being the lush, full garden that I envisioned when I started it.


Even on hot summer days, it is nice to go sit in this side garden and relax.  I know my dad would have liked it.

Garden Maintenance

This post, “Garden Maintenance” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Because of Mardi Gras, I was off work for three extra days.  I was lucky that there was good weather, and I could work in the garden.  Nothing spectacular, just regular end-of-winter chores.  I cut back things that had been nipped by the recent freezes.  A few roses needed to be pruned so that also got accomplished. 

I was also able to transplant some tete-a-tete daffodils and paperwhites that were not getting enough sun anymore.  I have been meaning to do this for two years, but would forget by the time the foliage died back.  So, I finally decided to move them now.  I was very careful to not disturb the roots.  I know this is not the time you are supposed to move these bulbs, but they wouldn’t bloom this year anyway, so I figured what have I got to lose. 

There are quite a few plants actively growing (La irises, some daylilies, callas, etc), so I did lightly fertilize those.  I also fertilized the petunias and pansies.  With all the rain, this is the first time I had a chance to do this since early December.

I also noticed some aphids on the daylilies.  I just use a spray bottle with a dash of dishwashing liquid in the water and spritzed the plants.  I do not like to use harsh chemicals, and this works fine to get rid of the aphids.  Of course, it is not like I have a great many plants to treat.  Just about 20 to 25.

I also planted some Black Seeded Simpson lettuce seeds.  Down here we have to grow lettuce practically in the winter because of the heat.  I have grown this lettuce before, and it has been very successful.

It was great getting out into the sun and tidying up things.  I think the “just getting out” part was enough.  One more thing that I did do was to sit down and enjoy looking around the garden.  Too often I think we concentrate on everything that still needs to be done and not on what we have accomplished in our gardens.  We really should stop and make sure that we enjoy what we have worked so hard on.


This post, “Camellias” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

One flower that is important in Southern gardens is the Camellia.  It is one of the first flowers that I can recall from my childhood.  I remember my mother had a large one that had dark red peony type blossoms around Christmas time.  I also remember when it was common for ladies to pin one on their coats.  The appeal of Camellias must be that they bloom in the winter when everything else is dormant. 


We are lucky to have several of these special plants.  I have planted Debutant, a pale pink, which I love to float in a shallow bowl.  It is a refreshing change after Christmas’s red and green.  This year I bought what was supposed to be Yuletide, a dark single red sasanqua, but when it bloomed it was a single white.  At first I was very disappointed, but then I started to like this one and will plant it where I have a white section in the side garden.  I still want a Yuletide though I have learned to buy only when in bloom to be assured it is the what the label says it is.  There is also a large camellia that came with the house.  It seems to bloom for months.  I also have my neighbor’s tree with red flowers as borrowed landscape.  These also are nice to bring indoors and float in bowls.

The only problem I have with these plants is that they can be such slow growers esp. the japonicas.  My Debutant has crept along to its present height.  Therefore it is wise to buy as large a plant as you can afford.  There can also be a problem with sooty mold, though it has been years since we have had any problem with that.  These plants also like to have some shade, esp. afternoon, this far south.  The leaves can sun scald.  They also prefer moist but well-drained acidic soil.  For me, that means planting high for drainage and a lot of mulch to keep the moisture in during the summer.  I think they do well for me because they are planted under pine trees which give them the shade they need.

I am thinking about planting some Shishi Gashira camellia sasanquas in front of some lorepetulums in my side garden.  I think the colors would look good together, and this would give some more color to that bed in the fall.  However, I will not buy any unless I can see them in bloom.  I do not want to be disappointed again.

There are many types of camellia.  The sasanquas and japonicas are two of the most commonly grown ornamental type.  Camellia sinensis is the plant that gives us tea.  We all know how Southerners feel about their iced tea, so maybe that is one more reason to love our camellias.

Redbud Is Our Groundhog

This post, “Redbud Is Our Groundhog” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

While the rest of the country looks to the groundhog to tell if there will be six more weeks of winter, here, at our house, we look to the neighbor’s redbud tree.  This tree is the first redbud to bloom in the neighborhood, and it tells us that winter is over.

This morning, while taking a break from gardening and getting something to drink, I happened to glance out the kitchen window and something caught my eye.  It was the redbud tree in all its purplish-pink beauty being backlighted by the sun.  It was so striking.  I guess with all the cloudy, rainy weather we have been having lately, I didn’t notice it before today.  It was a surprise because there was not just a few flowers, but the entire tree was covered in blooms, almost as if it happened overnight.


Punxsutawney Phil may have told the rest of the nation that there will be six more weeks of winter, but here in Covington, Louisiana, Zelda’s redbud says that winter is over and spring is here.

Sunny Day = Work in Garden

This post, “Sunny Day=Work in Garden” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Today was our fourth sunny day in a row.  We haven’t had that many in over a month.  It was wonderful to get out in the garden and enjoy the warmth.  I was able to cut back more of the lirope and clean up the edge of the garden bed.  So far I’ve done about 75 feet.  I don’t even want to think how much is left.

I also started trimming back some Red Tip Photinia that has gotten too tall.  This is the third time I have done this, and already I can see where shoots are starting to come out inside the shrubs now that light is reaching into the interior.  I will have to have a magnolia limb above them trimmed back because it is casting too much shade over the Photinias causing them to get leggy.

I also started clearing out the south side of the property line in the front yard.  It used to have a row of large gardenia bushes when we moved in, but they gradually died.  Some oak trees grew there, and then I planted ferns.  It looked woodsy and made a nice property division.  Now, however, I find the whole side is looking overgrown.  The neighbor on the other side, who was a gardener, is now elderly and unable to keep up her side.  So I have decided to tackle this area to try and make it more presentable and extend some color over to that side of the yard.

Now that the cold weather has nipped the leaves off the fern fronds, I think it will be easier to deal with them. Today I cut back some oak and cherry seedlings that had sprung up in the last few years.  There are still some wild privet in there that has to be removed as well as some honeysuckle vine.  There are three medium oaks there now and that is enough shade.  I rooted several hydrangeas last year, and I am planning to place some in this area when I get it cleared out.  Also, some of my azaleas have had stems that rooted in place.  Last year I potted some up and will place those there, too.  I want some evergreen shrubs there to add to the shrubs on my neighbor’s side to make a more effective screen.

As I worked in the garden today, I did notice more signs that Mother Nature thinks spring is just around the corner.

2008-202-azalea-bud-reduced-v2-026.jpgFirst azalea bud ready to pop open

2008-202-azalea-new-leaves-reduced-v2-034.jpgNew azalea leaves showing.


This post, “Chores” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Yesterday was sunny and mild.  This allowed me to get out in the garden and do some clean up work.  Since all the rain we have been having lately made the ground soft, I was able to pull and dig up some more of the vicious green briers that have taken hold of the flower beds.  That stuff is amazing.  It is not affected by freezing temperatures, drought or deluge.

I also started cutting back the lirope that edges my beds.  This only has to be done about every five years or so.  We really do not get low enough temperatures that damage it and make it look scruffy.  So, it is trimmed back to keep it under control.  After trimming it back on one side of the yard, I then cleaned up the edges.  I leave about a five inch strip in front of the lirope as a mowing edge.

While I was doing all this, I also cleaned up into the bed about twelve inches.  I was able to pull out a few weeds and check up on things that were emerging or starting to take off.  The Woodland Phlox are starting to get started.  Several spring bulbs are also springing up.  In just a few short weeks, that bed should look nice. 

Now that the Crybaby Tree has lost all its leaves, a nest that a mockingbird made last year has been exposed.  I wonder if one will reuse it this year.

birds-nest-in-cry-baby-tree-p01-resized-to-12.jpgMockingbird nest in Crybaby tree from last year

If Only It Would Grow Here

This post, “If Only It Would Grow Here” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

What is it about humans that they always want what they cannot have?

As for me, I am for the most part very content and satisfied with my life, but there are plants that I want to have in my garden that just do not grow here.  The plant I most desire in my garden is the peony.  The large, double pink flowering ones, something like Bowl of Beauty.  I just drool over pictures of these plants in more northern gardens.  I am so jealous that my sister in northern Virginia can have them.  It just doesn’t get cold enough down here to grow them.  I have heard of a desperate New Orleans gardener who planted peonies, and then poured ice water on them every day in the winter to try and get them to grow and bloom.  I am desperate for peonies, but I am not that crazy.  I can accept reality.  So I grow double hibiscus instead.

Another plant that I lust after is the lilac.  Here, too, I see pictures of them in bloom, and I just ache for lilacs.  Large, pale purple, billowy, cone-shaped masses of flowers emitting a lovely fragrance.  I have often read in novels about lilacs blooming, and now I, too, want to experience this fragrant, gorgeous plant in my garden.  Alas, it is not to be.  Again, not enough cold for them to thrive and bloom.  So, here I grow vitex and crepemyrtle instead.

Something else I would love to grow is roses.  Oh, I can grow some roses here, but the heat and esp. the humidity causes many problems.  I want to grow the David Austins, the hybrid teas.  In other words, the ones that if planted here would have black spot in minutes and quickly succumb to our tropical heat waves that last 8 months of the year.  So, again, I grow the roses that do well here.  The Knockouts, Lady Banks, Mutabilis, Iceberg.

There are other plants I covet: lady’s mantle, astilbe, brunnera, campanula, delphiniums, lavender, lupines, and poppies.  Because I have to face facts, I know I can plant poppies and larkspurs in the fall, but they must be replanted every year.  They will not reseed, and since I am using more perennials this is disappointing.  However it  will give me a short time with them in the spring before the heat turns on.  The others I just have to be satisfied with pictures in magazines and books.

Even though I would love to be able to grow these plants, I don’t think I would change places with those that can.  When my sister came down in early March last year, she marveled at the blooming petunias in my garden.  Petunias are planted in the fall here.  She can’t grow camellias or gardinias like we can, and she misses that.  I like living in an area where it is possible to garden year round.

Which brings me back to my original question:  Why do we always want what we can’t have?  What are some of the plants you would love to grow but can’t?

Maidenhair Ferns

This post, “Maidenhair Ferns” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

More and more, I see signs of springtime edging closer and closer.  Today, when I came home from work, I took a quick tour of the garden.  With all the rain lately, I needed to check things out.  There were a few new things popping out – a small yellow and orange daffodil here, an amaryllis bud there. 

As I came back in the front door, I noticed all the new fronds on the maidenhair ferns.  They are in pots at the edge of the front porch.  I only take them in if it is going to freeze for several hours.  Then I just bring them onto the porch and cover them with plastic.  They seem to do just fine without any protection even when the temperatures drop to the low 30’s.  Of course it does warm up in the daytime.  Remember I am in zone 8b.  Even though they are sending out new fronds, I will not fertilize them until mid to late March. 

Well, today, they are showing off new foliage, and it did tend to cheer me up after all the rain and clouds, that have been around lately.  So, here is one more signal that spring, at least in Louisiana, is not too far away.  

2008-201-maid-fern-reduced-v2-004.jpgSouthern maidenhair fern

2008-201-varg-maid-fern-reduced-v2-007.jpgVariegated maidenhair fern

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