Another Early Evening Stroll

This post, “Another Early Evening Stroll” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


It rained early this morning about a half an inch, just enough to make it too wet to work in the garden.  So I decided to just walk around and check things out.  Even though it was a little wet, the sun came out about 4:30, and with a cool breeze, it made for a nice stroll.  There were several things to notice today, that weren’t there yesterday.  For example, the lawn is really starting to green up.  It won’t be long before it starts to really grow.

Next, the Mutabilis (Butterfly Rose) had two blooms. One pink and the other a pale peach.  This rose does change colors as it blooms.  This is a China rose and is very vigorous.  It does well in the South – the heat and humidity do not seem to bother it.  It just keeps on blooming.

2008-311-mutablis-reduced-v2-006.jpg   This rose can get to be 6 to 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide.  Since it blooms on new wood, I prune mine back early in the year to promote more flowers and to keep it in check.

Finally, I noticed the Bulbine had buds coming up.  This plant grew to about two feet wide last summer, but I lost almost half of it in the last cold snap.  So, I was surprised to see the buds popping up so soon.

2008-311-bulbine-bud-reduced-v2-007.jpg  It is hardy only to zone 9, and I am zone 8, so it is no surprise it was nipped.  This fast growing perennial will rebound, no doubt.

Well, I am hoping to do more than just walk around the garden tomorrow.  If we have good weather, I may be able to go outside and do some real work.


Enjoying the Garden

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

This afternoon when I came home from work, I just took a stroll around the garden.  One of my goals this year is to enjoy the garden more.  As I have written about before, too often people work in their gardens but do not sit back and enjoy what they have done.  We tend to see what needs to be done and not what has been done successfully.

One of the first sights to catch my eye was the oakleaf hydrangea’s leaf buds opening up.  They are such a pretty silver green.  With the Louisiana irises being back-lit by the sun as a background, they really stand out.

2008-310-oakleaf-hyd-leaf-bud-reduced-v3-004.jpgThis is my third oakleaf hydrangea.  The first two died – both from too much water.  I finally figured out to plant them very high in the ground, and this one has thrived.  I would like to plant more of this type.  This bush, while being deciduous, gives year round interest.  Hugh panicles of white flowers in the spring that gradually fade to pink by autumn, fall leaf color, and exfoliating bark in the winter make this shrub a winner in my book.

Another welcoming sign of warmer weather was the appearance of the first tree frog of the season.  I saw him on the variegated flax lily (Dianella) just above the soil line. 

2008-310-tree-frog-reduced-v2-001.jpg  I almost missed him since he was the same shade of green as the plant.  I guess it won’t be long before all his little friends start appearing.

I try and walk around the garden when I first come home from work or just before I leave for work.  This way I can’t stop and do anything because I am in my “good clothes.”  So I have learned to concentrate on the garden as a whole and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the garden.  What needs to be done can wait until later.

A Gardening Weekend

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


This weekend turned out to have gorgeous weather.  It was sunny, cool, and breezy, just the right conditions to work in the garden.  Saturday started out with putting together an arbor to replace the one that was ruined completely by a recent storm.  It was one of the metal ones that have to be put together.  I started out doing it by myself but was soon was joined by dear hubby.  After it was finally together, we were both surprised by how tall it was, much taller than the one it is replacing. 

 2008-308-pink-cl-rose-reduced-v2-012.jpg   The rose is just starting to bloom – only a few flowers have opened.  We put the arbor in place, but then I had trouble putting the climbing rose bush on it.  The rose is too short.  Talk about frustration.  I got it up as best I could and will just cut it back after it blooms so then I can train it on this new arbor.  And if this arbor gets crushed by big tree limbs, then I’ve had it.  The rose will be moved, and maybe I’ll try pegging it.

Next, I raked the back yard and hubby bagged the pine cones and needles.  There wasn’t too much to rake up, just neaten up a bit.  While I was raking, I noticed how many weeds are in the lawn.  We have never had a problem, but this year it is pretty bad.  I think it is because we now have more sun so they can grow.  Also, since Katrina, everyone around here seems to have a lot of weeds, some of which were never there before the storm.  I guess that is one way how things are spread around.  Too bad good plants didn’t blow in and land in our gardens.

Today, I planted a Midnight Flare azalea.  This was to replace one that died last year because of the lack of rain.  I have six of them around a Bradford pear (which is just getting ready to bloom).  Midnight Flare has a black red flower that is so unlike other azaleas. 

 2008-308-midnight-flare-reduced-v2-019.jpg   It looks great with the white flowers of the pear above and the dark red of the azalea below.  I can’t wait until these plants get just a little bigger, then the scene should be very striking.

I moved the bush Weeping Mary (buddleia lindleyana)  from the front of the border to the back because it was getting too big.  I placed some belladonna lilies where it was.  I had dug those up last week when I planted the daylilies my sister sent me.

Next, I helped my dear hubby fix the wooden arbor in the front garden.  It was knocked over in a recent wind storm and split into the two halves.  He put them back together with screws, and I had to listen to the “things aren’t made to last anymore” speech.  We got it back together, and I’ll reattach the white Lady Banks rose to it tomorrow.

Finally, I planted some lily bulbs I bought today.  I incorporated compost into the soil and planted them in three different areas in the back garden.  I did have to dig up some Society Garlic in the process and move that to a different area (which entailed amending that area).  So right now, I am a little tired, sore, and very happy that I was able to spend some time in the garden this weekend.

A Month on Blotanical

This post, “A Month on Blotanical” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 It has been a month since I signed up for Blotanical.  If you are not familiar with this, it is a wonderful place to find hundreds of garden blogs.  It was started by Stuart of Gardening Tips and Ideas.  The motto of Blotanical is “where garden blogs bloom.”

Since I have joined, I have found so many interesting gardeners.  I love reading blogs, but I am disappointed when I check my favorite ones and nothing has been posted recently.  Many of the blogs that I used to read were becoming less and less frequently updated.  Now, I have found so many new ones that I always have something new to read. 

One of the interesting things about Blotanical is that the blogs are world wide.  You can read about gardens from every continent.  I usually like reading about gardens that are in the Deep South because so many articles in gardening magazines and books are for cooler areas.  They list so many plants that just don’t do well here.  But with all the garden bloggers out there in the same climate as my garden, I am able to find out about new plants that would do well here.  It also has been fun to read the blogs of people who garden in an entirely different climate than I do.  I have gotten several ideas from them that I plan on using in my garden.  If you haven’t been to Blotanical check out my blogroll for the link.

This international garden blog directory has caused me to spend more time at the computer.  I am reading and commenting on so many more blogs now.  After only a month on Blotanical, I feel at home.

Winter Petunias

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


Petunias have been a favorite bedding plant for years.  Most gardeners plant them in the spring after the ground has warmed up.  In the Deep South, however, we plant them in the fall.  Even the Wave petunias can’t take our intense summer heat.  By May we are pulling them out and replacing with more heat tolerant plants.  That being said, you just can’t beat them for color from late September till May.  They may not have many flowers in the dead of winter, but by early February they are starting to put out blooms again.

Because I have a red front door, I try to pick up or at least coordinate that color with what is growing in the entry garden.  A few years back, I saw a house that had dark red petunias and deep purple petunias planted around crepemyrtle trees in the area between the sidewalk and the street.  It was a very striking combination.  So I decided to try that color too, figuring it would look good with the front door.  Also, since I have red flowers that come up in the spring, this combination would not clash as the season progressed, and these other plants put on their display of blooms.  It has worked out well for the last three winters.  Sometimes I have a little trouble finding the right reds and esp. the purples.  The best combination is a dark, almost maroon, red with the purple “Sugar Daddy” petunia.  This year I couldn’t find either one, but the dark red and dark purple I did find looks almost as good and gives a little change from last year.  The red petunias in the picture below are a deeper blue red not the tomato red that came out in the photo.


Now, my sister always plants the pastel petunias because she says they bloom longer in the spring than in the fall and winter.  She is right about that, and her garden is always so colorful and spring-like when Easter rolls around.  I would do that too except for that red front door.  Pale pink and pale lavender just wouldn’t look as good in my entry garden as it does in her garden.  I wish that the petunias would last longer than they do down here, but I guess having petunias blooming in February is a good trade off.

The Royalty of the Garden

This copyrighted  post, “The Royalty of the Garden” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

One of the signature plants of the South is the azalea.  Did you know that the azalea is called the Royalty of the Garden?  The American Azalea Society has a very informative web site about them.


Some have been in bloom now for about a week, while others are just starting to show a little color in the buds. When buying azaleas, I always buy when they are in bloom to ensure that the color is the one I want.  Even though they are only in bloom a short time, I feel their color should coordinate with house color and the rest of the garden.  Remember to keep in mind the ultimate size of these shrubs.  Some are only a foot tall, while others can grow to ten plus feet.  I have seen so many people plant the large ones near their houses, prune them yearly, get tired of pruning them, and then yank them out and replant with something else (usually a loropetlum that also grows too tall).

Since azaleas set their flower buds by late summer, it is important that they receive adequate water to make sure that the following spring there are many flowers.  A good layer of mulch will help keep the moisture around the plants.  Azaleas do need good drainage, and acidic soil, and they do very well under large pine trees.

I feel azaleas look their best when planted in blocks of color or in a sweep of a single color.  This sets off their billowy shapes better.  I also think that they look best in a natural, loose mounding form rather than clipped into boxes or balls.   One thing I have been seeing a little of lately in the older areas of town is the shaping of old, large azaleas into small trees.  This seems to work best with the leggy ones with sturdy trunks.  By pruning out the lower limbs and some of the interior branches something attractive is created.  So instead of scraggly, overgrown, untended azalea there is now a small specimen tree.

Two years ago I bought a yellow deciduous azalea that seems to be settling in nicely.  I am thinking about adding a few more because of the colors available.  The Encore azaleas that have come out in the past few years look interesting, but I have not seen them planted out in gardens, so I am unsure if I should use them in the garden or not. 

Evergreen or deciduous, once blooming or repeat blooming, large or small, azaleas are striking, beautiful shrubs that the South can’t do without.

My Sister’s Amaryllis

This post, “My Sister’s Amaryllis” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Recently I wrote about my sister in Northern Virginia who sent me the daylilies as a surprise.  Well, I have another generous sister who lives on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain about 35 miles south of me. Last year she gave me some of these amaryllis bulbs that I planted in the back yard.


I discovered they had just opened when I came home this afternoon from work.  They are an old-fashioned amaryllis.  I mean that they are small, not like the large flowered types that you buy today.  We both love these small, bright red flowers. They are perfect for placing in that small area that needs a punch of color.  I believe she got her original bulbs from an elderly neighbor.  She has given me some of these before which I planted in the entry garden, but those are hardly showing any buds, so it will be awhile before those bloom.

Over the years she has given me many, many plants to start my garden.  She really has a green thumb. She has worked for years improving her soil, so everything she plants grows like crazy.  Plants multiply for her unbelievably.  I am lucky because she shares her excess with me. She has been gardening a little longer than I have, so I have benefited not only from the plants, but also from her experience.  She is the one whom I go on plant buying trips with, has introduced me to all kinds of different plants, and the one who encourages me in my gardening.

Often gardening seems so solitary.  There are not many people around who are really enthusatic about gardens.  It is nice to have someone nearby who is a gardener, a friend, and especially a sister.

Fiddle Heads

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

A favorite shade garden plant is the Holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum).  I have them all over the garden.  I got my first ones from my dad.  He had them growing on the north side of his house which was very shady due to the high fence and house next door.  There was an edging made of bricks that surrounded the bed.  Because the bricks stayed damp most of the time, this is where the spores from the ferns would rest and begin to grow.  He would carefully peel off the small heart-shaped plants that would develop into the holly fern.  He would plant these and keep them well watered.  Soon they would begin to show the fronds and look like a regular holly fern.  He gave me many of his “babies” to put in my garden.


I was thinking of this the other day when I took this picture of the fiddle heads that just started showing with the warmer temperatures we have been having lately.  All of my ferns in my garden came from him.  I have a few ferns that I have found growing on a brick planter by the entry garden where I have several of these ferns.  I was happy to see that I must have the same growing conditions that he did.  I have potted them up just like my dad did.  Soon they will be large enough for me to give to my daughter. 

So just like the cycle of the seasons, I am continuing the propagation of these wonderful, evergreen ferns like my dad did, and maybe one day my daughter will do the same.

Green and White

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

Many plants at this time of year have that elegant combination of green and white. 

As I have written before, I do have one small area of green and white.  But as I strolled around the garden this weekend, I was struck by other areas of that combination.  The first area is the bed with calla lilies which are starting to bloom.  This past Saturday there were three open and two more should be opening in a few days.  I have always thought the white ones showed such a refined style.  They seem so cool, self-assured (if flowers can be self-assured) and sophisticated.


With the riot of spring color that is just starting, these statuesque flowers stand apart.

At the opposite end of the size spectrum, the summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum.) makes a dainty appearance.  Standing only about fifteen inches high, these small nodding half-inch bell-shaped flowers offer on a small scale the same elegance of a green and white combination.


While I have often thought of green and white as a cooling summer combination, I have only recently realized how great it is in the spring time.  When every thing seems to be reborn after winter, the green shows us the cycle of life is starting again.  The restful color of green signifies growth and nature’s abundance.  With the start of a new growing year, white seems to imply a freshness that comes with all the new life around us.

Busy, Busy, Busy

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

This was really a busy weekend, but not many of the things I had planned to do were accomplished.  I had to plant the daylilies my sister sent me, and I finished today.  I had  to find a place to put them and then amend the soil.  Luckily I have a lot of compost from the fall leaves.  I finally finished this afternoon.  Rain is predicted for tomorrow, so that should help them settle in better.  The tops looked good, still green and firm.  I have high hopes for them since they are planted in the back yard where there is now more sun.

Of course, planting the daylilies entailed moving some ruellia and belladonna lilies.  That meant finding a new home for them, and the amending the soil and everything that goes with planting perennials.  My shoulders are a little achy from so much shoveling.  A good long soak in hot water with epsom salts is on the agenda for tonight.

I did many little chores around the garden:  trimming plants, pulling some weeds, moving containers from protected areas to the garden, and raking up the spent Camellia blossoms.  I did not get to do all the tasks I wanted to do.  A few hours this weekend was spent on those pesky non-gardening things that life keeps demanding be done.  So instead of dividing my ferns, I went to have the oil changed in the car, grocery shopping, etc.  All of which takes longer than anticipated.  So I still have a list of things to do and will try to get to some of them after work this week. 


One thing I did get to do was sit for a while and just look at the garden.  This little Tete-a-tete daffodil showed up this week.  With the loropetlum in the background, this made a pretty sight.  I find scenes like this always refresh me.

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