Irish Gardens

“Irish Gardens”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


About this time of the year, when there is cold or rainy weather outside and gardening is next to impossible, I start gardening vicariously.  I do this by reading and looking at the photographs in some of my favorite books.  A book that doesn’t require reading to enjoy is Irish Gardens by Olga Fitzgerald with spectacular photography by Stephen Robson.  It is one of the Country Living Gardener books of which there is a series.  While the text is very interesting and informative, just gazing at the lovely pictures is a very pleasant way to pass an afternoon or evening.




The gardens of Ireland are famous for their beauty and distinctive character, and this book shows this quite well.  The warmth of the Gulf Stream, soft rain, and sunshine combine to make the creation of magical gardens in Ireland.  This book contains twenty of Ireland’s best gardens.  The photographs, drawings, and paintings show off these gardens in the best way, and demonstrates why Ireland deserves its reputation as “The Garden of Europe.”  Many of the gardens are newly planted or newly restored, and while many are great estates, the photos often show small vignettes which can inspire gardeners who live in more modest circumstances.


As a lover of all things Irish, perusing this book, always in the middle of winter, is one way that I cope with weather that keeps me indoors and away from my garden.  It enables me to dream of improving my garden when better weather arrives.   Everyone should have a garden book that does that.



“Lubbers”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


Every Christmas, my daughter gives me, as one of my presents, a gift card to a book store.  I use this to buy garden books since some of them can be pricey.  One of the books I bought is Garden Insects of  North America by Whitney Cranshaw.  At 656 pages you can be assured that this is a comprehensive book.  There are wonderful, close up photos, and the lay out and text is very user friendly.  I have called on this book many times since I bought it in 2007.



One of the insects I recently had to look up was a grasshopper.  Last year was the first year I had seen grasshoppers in the garden.  A few green ones and two or three black ones, which I quickly dispatched, were all that showed up.  This year has been different.  A few young green ones, but more of the black ones with yellow stripes.




The black ones turned out to be Eastern lubbers, and they can plow through plants like you wouldn’t believe.  These things are big – about four inches long and evil looking.  Dear Hubby captured and photographed this one, I wouldn’t touch one with a ten foot pole. 


Yesterday there was one in the entry garden that I noticed while I was watering.  I tried to hose it so that it would jump onto the lawn where I could take care of it, but I couldn’t get it out of the garden.  Later, I saw it in a more open area and tried to spray it , but I wasn’t quick enough and only lightly hit it with bug spray.


This morning, same thing while I was watering, but this time I was able to knock it out of the garden with a spray of water.  Unfortunately, I was unable to do anything but chase it down the driveway, and it finally got away.  At least, I was hoping that it wouldn’t return.


Then, this afternoon while I was trying to take a photo of the bleeding heart vine, I saw another one (maybe the same one that returned?).  This time, he made the fatal mistake of being in an exposed area, and I was able to take him out. 


I am really starting to be concerned about these grasshoppers.  From what I have read, the only thing is to spray them, and I do not like to use any kind of pesticides.  The female lays about three batches of fifty eggs, and considering I am seeing more this year, next year may be worse.  There is not too much damage, yet.  A section of ageratum and several leaves of amaryllis were eaten.  I guess I have to start being more vigilant and really check the garden to make sure no more are lurking about.

Summer Readings

“Check Those Containers”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


With all the hot weather we have been having lately, it is just about impossible to go out and work in the garden for any length of time.  Besides, now is not the time to be planting anything.  The risk of losing plants in hot, dry weather is just too great.  But, I have been rereading some of my garden books hoping to get some ideas of things to plant when the weather cools down.  Fall and early winter is the best time to plant shrubs and perennials in the South.


One of the best books for finding the right plant for any type of growing condition is The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists by Lois Trigg Chaplin.  This book has more than 200 lists of plants grouped by horticultural traits and also by uses.  It goes beyond the usual shade and sun listings.  It covers plants that are good for wet sites and dry sites, alkaline soil, clay soil, perennials that drape, shrubs that bloom four weeks or more, and annuals that take a pounding rain.  These are just a few of the categories.  These lists include trees, shrubs, annuals, roses, azaleas, perennials, vines, ferns, gournd covers, bulbs, ornamental grasses, and tropicals.  It also lists plants for certain areas like bulbs for the lower South, plants for Atlanta or Texas.  Any condition you have, this book has a list of plants that will do well there.



Another book I have been reviewing since all this hot weather set in is Tough Plants for Southern Gardens by Felder Rushing.  This book contains some of the toughest plants for Southern gardens.  Annuals, bulbs, perennials, shrubs, vines, and trees are covered.  This book is good for both experienced and novice gardeners.  Every section covered has a “Kinda Tricky” list with a “Best for Beginners” list for counterbalance.  Because of the South’s long growing season, our gardens need plants that can survive extreme heat, humidity, and sometimes drought.  This book lists them all.  Felder Rushing has also written Tough Plants for Northern Gardens, but, of course, I have not had to read that.



So, if you need to find a plant that will definitely do well in the South, check out these books.  Once cooler weather gets here, I may be able to finally use the information I’ve found in these books to buy some new plants for the garden.


Worth the Money

 “Worth the Money”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Earlier today, my daughter called and asked if I would go with her to run some errands.  Since I had nothing better to do, I agreed.  One of the places we went was the local Barnes and Nobles.  Of course, whenever I go to a book store, the first place I head to is the gardening section.  Usually there are the same books that I have seen before and have purchased, but today there were new books about gardening in the coastal south.  The one I picked to buy today was Ornamental Gardening in Acadiana and the Gulf States by Ann Justice.


This 285 page book is a question and answer type format.  Ann Justice is a gardening columnist and has the experience to answer questions about any plant used in ornamental gardening in Louisiana and neighboring Gulf Coast areas.  The Q & A’s are grouped into ten chapters covering perennials, bulbs, vines, annuals, roses, shrubs, lawns, groundcovers, maintenance, and landscaping.  One of the points that she covers that I think is so important is the time to transplant or divide plants.  So often, a gardening author will write everything there is to know about a plant, but when it comes to when you can move it or divide it, there is silence.  If there is no experienced gardener around for you to ask, you just take a guess.  But, if I am going to move a special plant because it is too big or unhappy where it is, I want to be sure it will survive.  Knowing when to do this is helpful.

One helpful piece of advice I have already learned from this book is about planting hostas down here.  A North Carolina grower found out that if hostas are planted with the crown high and some of the roots exposed and then mulched, the roots have greater exposure to winter cold.  This technique makes it possible to successfully grow these plants this far south.  I have some hostas that I transplanted last year that are not doing too well.  I think I will be trying this trick this fall.

General gardening books are helpful, but finding ones that are for your specific area are well worth the money.

Summer Readings

“Summer Readings”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


This is the time of year that Southern gardeners are tempted to stay in the air-conditioned house and only look out the windows at the garden.  Sometimes it is just too hot to try and work outdoors.  So like our northern friends who spend the winter looking at garden catalogs and books, we usually do that in the torrid summer.


I have been rereading several of my garden books trying to get ideas for next year.  There are three in particular that I have been concentrating on – Sunbelt Gardening, Heat-Zone Gardening, and Tough-As-Nails Flowers for the South.


Sunbelt Gardening by Tom Pease is subtitled Success in Hot-Weather Climates.  This book contains chapters on both southeastern and southwestern gardening as well as winter gardening.  The author, using his experience as a Texas gardener, lists plants that will do well in zones 7 – 10.  In hot climates, it is often not the cold hardiness of plants that concerns us but a plant’s ability to take our hot, humid, and often dry weather.  If you love plants, you will appreciate this book’s extensive list of perennials, shrubs, vines, grasses, bulbs, and annuals that can take the heat.


Another book that I have been looking through is Heat-Zone Gardening by Dr. H. Marc Cathey.  What is nice about this book is that it lists a plants heat zone and hardiness zone.  Only listing a plant’s hardiness zone can cause disappointment for many Southern gardeners.  For example, I live in zone 8, the same as parts of Oregon, but there is no way that I can grow all of the plants that those gardeners do.  Many of the plants that grow in the Northwest simply will not take the heat of our summers.  When you consider that many of the big box stores sell plants strictly by hardiness zone, you understand why they have peonies and lily of the valley for sale here in the spring.  This book is really good for new gardeners who are unfamiliar with plants that just won’t make it down here.


The last book, Tough-As-Nails Flowers for the South by Norman Winter, is for gardeners in zones 6-10.  This book, too, is a great reference for plants that thrive in our area.  The listed plants will give four seasons of flowers for your garden.  For each plant listed there is a color photo, growing requirements, landscape use, and, especially helpful, a toughness description.


So, in the heat of a summer afternoon, I sit inside an air-conditioned house, sipping ice tea, and planning how next summer my garden will have even more colorful flowers for me to look at through the windows.



A Favorite Garden Book

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

Since there was so much shade on our property when I first started gardening, I would buy books about gardening in shady areas.   I would try the different plants that I was assured would be successful in my garden.  Imagine my surprise when nearly everything died.  I thought it was me.  But then I started reading and finding out that the plants recommended by those books just weren’t meant for where I lived.  I do live in zone 8, but is the Gulf South zone 8 not the Northwest’s zone 8.

So after longing after lily of the valley, lilacs, and peonies, I finally decided that I would stick to regional garden books.  I do have a many of them which I will recommend in future entries. 

So now, the only books that I buy that do not have a regional point of view are landscaping books.  My absolute favorite is one I bought many years ago, and it is the Reader’s Digest Ideas for your Garden.

Don’t let the “Reader’s Digest” turn you off to this book.  I had the book about two weeks and had read the whole thing before I noticed the “Reader’s Digest” part.  This book is filled with fresh ideas.  There are a myriad of designs and plantings with not only photographs but with drawings.  The editor often shows multiple ideas for one garden or how to start a garden and add to it for years to come.  The pictures are inspiring and very informative – no shots too close that you can’t see the design, etc.  They show plants that just about everyone can grow or there are often suggestions for very hot or cold climates.

The book covers topics, such as, entry gardens, decorative boundaries, features that catch the eye, planting to please the senses, and many more that help to create a unified design.  The book also helps no matter the size of your garden.  The advice is practical and there are tips on how to make challenging tasks easier, save money, etc.

                                             Stock photo

I have recommended and given this book as a gift to experienced gardeners, and they all have told me that it has turned out to be their favorite gardening book too.

I would love to hear of other books that would be good for any section of the country as I am always looking to add to my garden library.