Rain and Japanese Magnolia

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

The rain is stopping me from working in the garden again this weekend. While it is a little disappointing that all the chores I want to do won’t get done, we need the rain. Last year we were so dry, and the garden showed it. Now, with the rain we have had in late January and early February, I am hoping the garden this summer will look better.

The rain coming down now is going to ruin the azalea flowers that are open. My azalea haven’t started blooming fully yet, so I still should get a nice show.

The Japanese magnolias are just about finished blooming, so yesterday I went out and snapped some photos of the flowers before we would get any heavy rain that would ruin the remaining ones.

 

 

 

These are such lovely flowers that I am always sorry to see them finish flowering. One consolation to this ending is that, for us, it is a sure sign that spring-like weather will be here to stay.

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First Forsythia

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

Sunny and cool days means that it is warm enough for the forsythia to start blooming. The first few flowers have just started showing.

 

 

It seems funny to see the forsythia, a harbinger of spring, blooming now when so many other plants that usually bloom later than forsythia are starting to show color. A few of the purple azaleas are already showing a few flowers.

 

 

All of this before any of the daffodils bloom. I have a feeling that with the milder than normal winter we have had, everything is going to burst into flower all at once instead of there being a progression of blooms. Spring just may come early and be bloomed out in just a week or two.

Belated Christmas Present

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

I think it was in early November. I succumbed once more to an amaryllis kit. I had said I would not buy any of these inexpensive bulbs because so often the flower does not turn out to be the one pictured on the box. Red ones instead of pink, orange instead of white. However, I just can’t seem to resist, so I purchased one that was labeled Minerva, an amaryllis I do not have.

In the past, I have waited until the beginning of December to plant these bulbs because I prefer to have the blooms after the holidays. Mid-January can seem rather bleak after all the Christmas decorations are put away, and why have an amaryllis blooming in December when there are so many holiday items competing with it for attention? This year I didn’t wait to plant the bulb since last year when I delayed the planting, the flower stalk on that year’s amaryllis was already up and never did develop.

So, in early November I planted my Minerva. It didn’t bloom in December. The bud showed but didn’t grow. It almost didn’t bloom in January. January is almost over and finally an open flower.

 

 

I figured this was late because I kept the bulb outside since our winter has been so mild. With the cooler than household temperature, that must have delayed the bulb from growing and flowering. I don’t mind the flower only showing up now because it certainly does cheer up the place since not too much is blooming right now. I never realized that it can be nice having a belated Christmas present from Mother Nature.

Spring Is Here?

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

For the last three years, I have posted about a sure sign of spring arriving here at my home near the Gulf Coast. That sign has been my neighbor’s redbud tree. Whenever it bursts into bloom, cold weather is over. We may still get some chilly weather, but no more freezes or near freezes. Last weekend while working in my back garden, I thought I saw a little purple-pink over in her yard, but I thought, no, it’s too early. A quick walk over confirmed the first show of color.

 

 

All this past week, we have been having mild weather and plants are waking up. I noticed last week in New Orleans where it is a tad warmer than we are, the Japanese Magnolias are in full bloom. Well, yesterday, the redbud was in full bloom. Just gorgeous.

 

 

Since it was a little overcast this weekend, it was nice to have these pretty flowers to brighten the landscape.

 

 

The mild weather was a blessing this weekend. After working all week inside, I just can’t wait to get outside in the garden. Several chores got done – planting some daylilies, cutting back the bamboo, etc. Checking out the garden showed that a few gladiolas are already sprouting, and other signs of life were all around. After weeks of cold weather, it looks like we will be welcoming an early spring.

Fall Flowers

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

The first of the true fall flowers have started showing up in our garden. Down here where we get very little fall color from our trees, fall flowers are eagerly awaited, and now the sasanqua camellias have started blooming. This type of camellia is fairly new to us. I planted the first one only about three years ago. Now, I wish I would have put in more.

The newest one is Cotton Candy which I bought just last year. It is a lovely pink.

 

 

Another lovely sasanqua and the first I planted is Setsugekka. I noticed the first bloom on this one just yesterday as I was backing out of the driveway just before dawn and the headlights caught the first flower. This sasanqus has a rather large white flower with a small pink edging.

 

 

Now that we have had our first real cold weather of the season, I think more of our fall flowering plants will be showing off their colorful blooms, and I look forward to sharing them with you.

Bud to Flower to Seed

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

With the garden winding down now that fall is here, there is the opportunity to study the remaining flowers that stand out because there is so little competition. One that caught my eye the other day was the Clemetis crispa flowers. Usually this vine doesn’t flower that much at this time of year, but I think that the cooler weather and moisture is encouraging it to make up for the paltry showing this summer.

One thing I like about this flower is how different the bud and open flower is. The slim bud reminds me of a chandelier drop.

 

 

The open flower is bell-shaped with curly edges. It reminds me of a little hat. Maybe something a fairy would wear in the garden.

 

 

The seed heads of clematis vines can be very interesting. This seed head in particular seems very appropriate for this time of year – Halloween.

 

 

The different each stages of this little flower amazes me.

It is nice to be able to take the time to carefully look at individual plants and flowers and to see the change from bud to flower to seed.

Butterfly Magnets

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

Butterflies. Everyone wants them in the garden. Gardening practices and plant selection can ensure that they visit often. With the drought we had this summer, we did not have many flowers to attract the butterflies until a few weeks ago. Rain and cooler temperatures brought out the flowers on what can only be described as a butterfly magnet – lantana. This plants flowers attracts all butterflies, but the one that seems to be around the most is my personal favorite, the Gulf Fliterary. And flit, this little orange butterfly does. It quickly moves from flower to flower. It particularly loves lantana. In fact, I first planted lantana to attract these little guys.

They like all lantana, but the Gold Mound I have planted in the circle garden seems to attract them the most.

 

 

Lantana thrives in hot dry weather and will grow in poor soils as is shown by how readily the common orange one shows up all over.

 

 

While many people dislike this one, I do have two volunteers growing in my garden. I keep them cut back (they do grow tall) and now that orange is a color I am starting to like more and more, they are fitting in well with a few orange flowering plants (canna and daylilies), and the butterflies do like the flowers.

Another lantana growing in my garden is a raspberry-pink colored one.

 

 

This one has been in my garden for ages, and unfortunately I don’t remember the name. All of the lantanas are perennial here on the Gulf Coast. They lose their leaves in the cold weather, but they return every spring. This one, however, is the last to come back. I don’t know if that is because of its location, or it is a characteristic of this color.

The pink is another one that can grow quite large. This I brought from my mother’s garden in the mid 70’s when I moved here. I believe this was the first lantana I noticed that was not the common old orange.

 

 

The last one to enter my garden was a white lantana I bought about two years ago. I have this growing in two large containers. In the spring, when I transplant my Iceberg roses, I am going to plant these white lantana just in front of those three roses. I think they will cover up the bare area at the base of the roses quite well.

 

 

Lantana does best in full sun, and mine are in raised beds which provides the good drainage they like. Older selections can get very tall (I keep mine trimmed back), but the newer selections stay under two feet tall. It is reported that with a good layer of mulch, these will survive in a zone 7.

Here in the Deep South where we do not really have fall leaf color, lantana helps give late year color interest. You can’t beat a plant that blooms so profusely in hot weather from spring until frost and attracts butterflies like a magnet.

Autumn Aromas

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

When early autumn arrives, that is usually the first time in months that there is an opportunity here in the Deep South to turn off the air conditioning, open the windows, and let cool air drift through the house. The very first cool front to come through is joyfully welcomed. This is especially nice at night. There is nothing like going to sleep with that initial cool, autumn air hanging over you.

What makes having the windows open at night so pleasant is not only the coolness but the aromas. In late September, the night blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) starts releasing it fragrance. What a wonderful way to drift off to sleep.

 

 

This plant is not used very much today which is a shame. Before air conditioning became common, this used to be planted outside of windows to perfume homes and especially bedrooms at nighttime. When my bushes started blooming, the aroma brought me back to my childhood and my maternal grandfather. One of my most vivid memories is visiting my grandparents’ rural home and going to sleep with the night blooming jasmine’s fragrance in the room. My grandfather always planted this outside the bedrooms. Since this shrub only blooms at night, and the fragrance is only released at night, it is perfect outside an opened bedroom window.

Another sweet-smelling plant that is blooming now that it is early autumn is the sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans). This blooms in the daytime with tiny, deliciously fragrant flowers. Don’t let the tiny flowers fool you, this plant’s aroma can travel. Often when I return home from work in the late afternoon, I can smell these flowers even though the plants are in the back garden.

 

 

When this plant blooms, I am reminded of my father. I remember that he brought home a fairly large sweet olive that he rescued from a construction site when I was quite small. He planted it in our side yard and was so proud of that tree. As a child, I would pick a small sprig of flowers and was amazed that such tiny flowers could have such a big fragrance. By the way, that tree is still alive at my parent’s home. It has been there about 55 years having outlived my father.

Both of these plants are extremely fragrant, but those fragrances are not overpowering or cloying. Having these glorious aromas and cool temperatures around are among the things I look forward to every autumn.

Falling Off the Face of the Earth

“Falling Off the Face of the Earth”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

I guess it seems like I have fallen off the face of the earth since I haven’t posted in so long. Let’s just say that life and work (don’t even talk to me about computer conversions) has gotten in the way of my blogging. Not that anything has really been happening in the garden, so you haven’t missed anything.

The brutally high temperatures are finally gone, and the extreme drought, thanks to Tropical Storm Lee is over. The summer plants are all just about toast now, but those that do well in autumn are starting to make a show. I can’t wait for even cooler weather so that I can work out in the garden every weekend.

There have been several signs that even with temperatures in the high 80’s, fall is beginning to settle in. Many plants that only shine in the fall are starting to change. The beauty berry bushes are now sporting their gorgeous magenta berries.

 

 

Sedum Autumn Joy is also showing its lovely, rosy, fall color. This is the second year this has been in my garden, and I am so pleased with it. I know many gardeners think of this as just a common plant, but it really has not been grown much down here, and I love it.

 

 

A week or so after Tropical Storm Lee passed through, the hurricane lilies (Lycoris radiata) began to show up. These are often called hurricane lilies around here because their bloom time coincides with the peak of hurricane season. I remember after Katrina these were blooming only a week later.

 

 

The Mexican Sage is just starting to bloom. It won’t be as thick and nice as previous years because I forgot to cut in back in early summer.

 

 

Finally, a new addition to the garden is starting to earn its keep. This spring I bought an ornamental grass that I first saw about three years ago but was not able to find it locally until this April. This miscanthus Cosmopolitan is a large grass that puts out the loveliest wheat-colored tassels. I was beginning to worry mine wouldn’t have any this year, but look what has finally showed up.

 

 

In a week or so when the tassels all come out fully, this grass should look fantastic. I can hardly wait to see it in full bloom. At least there is one bright spot after such a drought-filled summer.

It shouldn’t be too long before the other autumn flowers show up. It will be nice to have the confederate rose and others around in the cool weather. Then, maybe I will have something to share and there won’t be such a long time between posts.

Tropical Storm Benefits

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

Whenever a storm moves through, everyone tends to concentrate on the devastation, but often there are some benefits. We averted the forecasted deluge that was supposed to come from Tropical Storm Lee. We only had about nine inches of rain which was a lot, but it was needed. That nine inches of rain is more than fell in all of April, May, June, July, and August. Normally, we would have received over twenty inches total for those months.

All the plants have appreciated the moisture and have perked up. In fact, the hydrangeas that I cut back two weeks ago have put out new growth. Thank goodness our first freeze date is months away.

After Lee left, we have had absolutely gorgeous weather – breezy and cool. Lows in the 50’s at night, and highs in the 70’s. We hardly ever get weather like this in early September, much less after a tropical system moves through. Normally, after a hurricane or tropical storm the weather is still, hot, and humid.

The moisture we had this weekend was really needed. One plant that has done better with all the rain is my white mandevilla vine. My mother rooted this for me about three years ago, and every fall I dig it up and overwinter it in a smaller container. With the drought and extreme heat of this summer, it just didn’t bloom. Now, a few flowers have shown up, and there are buds all over.

 

 

It is amazing how plants that have been so dry respond so well to rain.

Now that southeastern Louisiana has moved from extreme drought to moderate drought, maybe more plants will start blooming.

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