A Serene Garden

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


It is only in recent years that I have become fond of Japanese style gardens.  Maybe it takes a bit of maturity or experience to realize that colorful gardens are not any prettier than gardens that are basically green with texture and contrasts.  Or maybe it is the hustle and bustle of today’s world that makes me appreciate the calmness and serenity of a Japanese Garden.  Saturday was the first time that we explored this type of garden that is set up in the New Orleans Botanical Garden.  With all the people at the garden show bustling about, this garden which was close by, remained quite, peaceful, and meditative. 

The entrance was a corridor of bamboo, which directed you into the heart of the garden.


Bamboo Jap Garden (redu)


As you enter the garden, you see a stone urn filled with water.


Jap Garden - Urn (redu)


Once in the open area, there are several vignettes as you look in the four directions.


Jp Gar Teahouse (redu)


Jp Gar Stone (redu)


Jp Gar Teahouse 2  (redu)


Finally, as you walk out of the area, surrounded by bamboo, you come upon a stone lantern which just reinforces the sparse atmosphere which is so calming.


Jap Garden - Lamp (redu)


While I know I will never have a Japanese garden area on my property, this particular garden has inspired me to make a small area simple and natural, a perfect place to meditate and relax.


Living Fence

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


I found a very interesting fence while touring the New Orleans Botanical Gardens Saturday.  It is a “living” fence, and would make a wonderful boundary especially if an unsightly area needed to be hidden. 


Living Fence (redu)


This “fence” was about twenty-five feet long and at least eight feet tall.  It consists of long troughs about twelve inches wide and nine inches deep.  At first I thought it was made of the extra large guttering, but then I saw the undersides.


Living Fence Underside (redu)


These troughs were planted with sedums, sweet potato vines, kalanchoes, etc.  Everything seemed to be thriving.


Living Fence 2 (redu)


I was thinking that something like this would be nice on a balcony or deck.  It wouldn’t have to be as tall as this one was.  For someone who was handy with tools, a fence like this should be fairly easy to make.  It wouldn’t have to have the same type of drainage this one does.  I wonder if guttering with holes in the bottom for drainage would work?  Anyway, I would love to look out my window and see this.


Living Fence 3 (redu)


In the Mood

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


More rain today, which meant no work in the garden.  This morning there were no puddles in the low spots on the lawn, but after the latest rainfall, the puddles are back.  The ground is really saturated now, so it will have to be several days of no rain before I can get back to working among the plants.  This is a little disappointing because after not being able to be in the garden with all the hot weather, and now that the weather has turned a little cooler, I am anxious to get out and do some real gardening.

With not being able to get outside, I did run a few errands.  Dear hubby needed some batteries, so while I was out, I stopped at Wal-mart.  They didn’t have the ones needed, so I stopped at Home Depot which didn’t have them either.  But, what they did have were gallon sized crotons on sale.  They were only $2.98 when Walmart had them for $10.00, and the grocery store had them for $12.00.  At such a price, I couldn’t resist these plants for a fall container.


Croton (redu)


I have always loved crotons for the fall.  I know they are summer tropicals, but, for me, the colors are perfect for autumn, and with our mild autumn will look good into Thanksgiving.  Since we don’t have the fall leaf color that other parts of the country enjoy, these plants will definitely give an autumnal feeling to the front porch.  I will either put these in one large container or two smaller ones, where I can then place a toffee twist carex to the side with a pot of colorful mums that can be easily replaced when the flowers finished blooming.  When the rain stops and I am finally able to plant these up, I’ll post a photo of my final decision.

Getting a little bit of cooler weather and these crotons, certainly has put me in the mood to start my fall planting.

Finding a Solution

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


When Hurricane Katrina came through in August of 2005, we were spared any real damage.  We were so fortunate that our house did not sustain any damage beyond a little bent guttering and a few cracked roofing shingles along the roof’s edge.  The garden and the trees were a different matter.  We lost about seven big trees which made many areas of the garden go from mostly shady to mostly sunny.  We were very upset to lose our wonderful, large trees, but I have had the attitude that this loss has just allowed me to plant something different.

One area that has now become a problem is the garden around the back patio.  Pre-Katrina this was filled with mostly holly ferns and hostas.  For the last three summers, these shade loving plants have done okay with a lot of watering.  At the end of last summer, I decided that a few holly ferns that were in the sunniest area had to come out.  They were turning brown from too much sun.  I moved them to the side garden under some live oak trees, and they are thriving.  Now, I have come to realize that more plants are just going to have to be moved, too.  More holly ferns and hostas are just not happy.  They are getting way too much afternoon sun.  Their foliage is turning a pale green, in the case of the hostas, or is turning yellow and brown, in the case of the holly ferns.  When it gets a little cooler in the fall, I will be moving them to shadier quarters.  Now, my problem is what do I replace them with?

Around this patio area, I want something that will be low growing and evergreen – about the size of the holly ferns.  With our mild winter temperatures, we are often outside year round, and I want this area to look good all the time.  I guess I am looking for some “bones” for this patio garden.  I started looking through my garden books, but nothing struck me as right.  So, this meant I needed more garden books.  Using gift cards, I found two books that have helped me start to make some decisions.

Southern Shade (redu)


Southern Sun (redu)


I bought Southern Sun and Southern Shade by Jo Kellam.  These two books have great ideas for plants.  For just about all of my gardening years, I have had to deal with too much shade, so the sun book gave me some good ideas for plants, and since there still are areas around the patio that are shady, the shade book helps too.

So far, I am thinking about using agapanthus as the evergreen plants to replace the holly ferns.  They are evergreen in this area, and will also not grow so high.  I have some in other areas of the garden, and they are getting a little crowded, so using them should work out well both in design and in the pocket book.  I am still trying to decide on the smaller filler plants to take the place of the hostas.  It seems more research is needed.

Containers in the Garden

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


I have never been one to have containers with multiple plants in them as has become so popular in the last few years.  You know, the thriller, the spiller, and the filler type containers.  Usually, I just have one tropical plant per container or maybe a few that also have volunteer impatiens surrounding a larger plant.  But, this year I decided to start a few containers for seasonal color since I am not planting as many annuals in the garden.  I figured a few spots of intense color should do the trick.

The combination that really got me started was Alabama Sunset coleus, Toffee Twist carex, and Bronze Sweet Caroline sweet potato vine.  I had bought all of these separately, but decided they would look good together, esp. when autumn arrives.  This color scheme should look really good then with all the other fall colors around.


Coleus, Toffee Twist, Sw. Caroline (redu)


Another combination I tried this year was the Cardoon and the Margarite sweet potato vine.  The cardoon should get very large, and I felt the chartreuse-colored leaves will fill up the space beneath the cardoon nicely as well as give a good color contrast.  Besides, the sweet potato vine was free; I dug some up from the front garden where it was getting too big.


Cardoon and Margarite (redu)


Next, comes the Red Sensation Cordyline and Pink Splash.  I bought the cordyline last fall, but never got around to planting it until a few weeks ago.  While it will eventually lose the lower leaves, right now they are still very close to the soil, so I figured I would need a low growing plant to fill in.  I choose the pink splash because that color complements the chocolate colored cordyline, and they will stay fairly low.


Red Cordyline and Pink Splash (redu)


Finally, I put together a Rex Begonia, Persian Shield, and a coleus.  The coleus is light green with purple stems and purple edging on the leaves which picks up the purple in the other two plants.  In this case, too, all of these plants were bought separately and a different times, and it was only after getting them all home together did the idea of their being a good combination occur to me.


Rex Begonia, Persian Shield, Coleus (redu)


Since I am not planting any annuals this year, I am hoping that these containers will do the same job as the annuals did before and give months of color around the garden.



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


When my friend and I went plant shopping on Saturday, it was easy to get in the mood to buy plants and be in a gardening mood as soon as we pulled up to the nurseries.  Most had lovely displays that make it hard to resist.  The first nursery we went to had such a charming look.






You see this and, of course, who could resist buying something to make your garden look so summery and fresh.  Speaking of making you want to buy, when we arrived at our next nursery and I saw these baskets, I almost wanted to buy a big fence so I could have the same look.  The owners had these large, spectacular combinations all along the hundred foot wrought iron fence about fifteen feet apart.






Finally, this bed of petunias was also a show stopper.  No wonder it was next to the street, anyone passing by would surely want to stop in a buy petunias.




One of the things that true nurseries have over places that only stock plants is the inspiration they give the home gardener.  They don’t just have shelves of plants, but displays that help you imagine how you could site plants to enhance your home and garden.

Garden Time

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


This week I have been off work and have had some garden time.  Because my daughter had gall bladder surgery Monday, yesterday was the first day I was able to spend the whole day working in the garden.  Just about every thing I have done has been maintenance type chores.  I have been cutting back many plants and shrubs that have become overgrown.  Yesterday, I worked for a long time on one of the beds in the back garden.  It had become so overgrown with ruellia and pineapple sage that everything else was being choked out.

It amazes me how plants can look so great together for a few years, and then, all of a sudden, they become thugs and take over.  The ruellia is a prime example.  I got some from my mother, and you can’t beat free when starting a garden, right?  Hers does bloom nicely, but mine never did bloom all that well.  But, being the eternal optimist, I kept thinking they’ll do better next year and kept them in the garden.  Last year I trimmed them back thinking that would make them bushier and maybe better bloomers, but no luck.  Still just a few blooms.

This spring, I am trying to put into the ground all those plants I have bought that are still hanging around in pots.  I have made some progress, and when I looked at this ruellia bed, I realized they were taking up too much valuable real estate.  So I started pulling some out, and before I knew it, I was so annoyed at these plants, they all came out.  I trimmed back the pineapple sage, taking out the woody stems and letting the new shoots take over.  This will be in the back of the bed, so a large stand of it will not be a problem.

I added some good soil to the bed and put in some daylilies and amaryllis seedlings that were growing in containers in one section.  I topped it off with chopped up leaves and then some pine straw.  After taking out all the ruellia, I found some lilies that I planted last spring had returned.  I don’t think I would have known they were there if I hadn’t cleaned out that bed.




I wish I could remember to take “before” pictures.  I always forget until it is too late, and everything is ripped out.  Anyway, here is the “after” picture.  The daylilies are to the front with the amaryllis to the back.  I think now that these plants can stretch out their roots, they will do very well here.

The question I have to ask myself, is why do I allow plants that aren’t doing well or looking good remain in the garden?  It is almost as if once a plant goes in, I just can’t bring myself to take it out if it is still alive.  When I first started gardening, I received a lot of free plants that were fine to fill up space then, but now that I know more about gardening and want other plants, I need to get rid of some of those plants or limit the space they take up.  Even the volunteers, that showed up and had a purpose for a time, need to be reevaluated.  I am getting better about this, but I think I need to become a little more ruthless and make some hard decisions otherwise I’ll end up with a garden of plants I don’t want.   I wonder if I am I the only gardener with this problem.

Good Color Combo

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


We continue to see more spring flowers showing up and in a few weeks, I am hoping that the garden will be in full flower.  The Vinca minor has started blooming under the magnolia tree.  They are about the only thing that seems to want to grow there in so much shade.  The lavender flowers are so pretty and reinforce the pastel spring theme which is just starting.






The cool season annuals that I planted last fall are really starting to bloom profusely now that we have had some warmer weather.  In looking at the flowers, I am realizing that purple goes with everything.  I really like the purple violas and the red petunias together.






The pastel yellow Baby Duck petunias and the blue Louisiana Phlox also make a nice combination.  Once again, purple mixes well with all colors.






Planning ahead in the fall certainly means more than just planting spring-flowering bulbs.  It also means thinking ahead to what the cool season annuals will look like when they finally start blooming, and I am glad my combinations seem to be working out.

Two Season Colors

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

It is not surprising that in springtime when we go shopping for plants to add to our garden that we pick flowers and foliage plants in bright, cheery, summery colors.  Colors, such as yellow, bright pink, and orange, all seem to say “summer”, and, after a long, often dreary winter, we seem to need those bright colors.  Think of tropical hibiscus and purslane that come in those sherbert colors.

But, some of those colors also transition into autumn.  Take the orange, for instance.  My sister’s tangerine lantana was perfect for the hot summer, but, now that it is fall, the color blends in with the cooler weather.  Think pumpkins, gourds, and squash.


Another example is Sweet Caroline ornamental sweet potatoe vine.  When it first shows up in the garden centers in the spring, it also seems perfect for a summer garden.  But, now it has a second life as a fall showstopper with its gorgeous bronze-colored leaves spilling out into the garden.


Finally, we come to coleus, that great summer annual that can also be a great transition into fall.  In the softer, more golden sunlight of autumn, many of the coleus just seem to glow.  The bright lemon yellow of summer takes on a more mellow tone.  Even the reds seem more burgundy than the bright red of spring.


So, next spring, when I am planning out my summer garden, I will make sure and take into account the colors of summer that can transition into fall.

Focal Point

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

When I first started gardening, I was living in an apartment with just a patio, so I started out with container plants.  I still have many plants in containers for various reasons.  For example, tender plants that must be protected from winter’s chill, plants that beautify the front porch or patio, and those I just haven’t been able to get around to planting in the ground.

But, I have been wanting that one, big focal point container.  The one that really draws the eye.  The one you see in magazines or garden books that just makes you stop and stare.  I haven’t come up with one yet that would fit in with my garden, but I did see one at the garden show that I would love to have.

I would need a very large area for this large container arrangement, but it does give me some ideas.  I liked the way it was planted underneath.  Using a shorter frame for a container, you could plant around the base and have the same effect.  I liked the way the ground plants anchor this tall frame and container into the area.  The crotons with the green trailing plants are great for fall color.  By using ivy as the trailing plants, you could then just have to change out the center plants as the seasons change it you wanted it to be seasonal, or with hardy plants it would be great year round.  I was even thinking that maybe a blooming hydrangea for spring would be nice, and when it stops blooming, just plant it in the garden.  With a large container, the possibilities are endless.

The more I look at the photo I took, the more I think I can duplicate this on a smaller scale, and then, just maybe, I will have that focal point container I’ve always wanted.

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