Entry Garden

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


When I started working on an entry garden, the large magnolia tree cast deep shade, and the grass was thinning out something awful.  There were also shallow roots from the tree creeping towards the edges of the little grass cover there was.  I decided enough was enough.  I used the drip line of the tree which corresponded with the thin grass line as the edge of the entry garden.  I made a corresponding shape across the sidewalk to match, and this was the beginnings of the garden. 


One of the difficulties of this garden is that it is in shade most of the day but does get intense sun for about four hours in the summer around noon time.  Deciding what plants can take shade and a short time in full sun was a problem.  Too much sun for most shade tolerant plants and not enough sun for sun loving plants to bloom.


I edged the outline with lirope.  This has helped slow down the rain from washing away soil, and now, the grass has thickened up considerably.  I added some soil, but because of the tree roots, I could not add that much.  I do what I call pocket gardening.  I dig a hole, add soil and then the plant.  This way I do not distrub the tree roots.  Every year I do add about an inch of amendments and gradually the soil is improving.



This is the left side which has the magnolia tree.  In the back I planted holly ferns because they will stay green all year.  In front of them I planted red amaryllises, again, because they have leaves through the early winter.  The big clump in the middle is pineapple sage – Golden Delicious.  Aztec grass, is also evergreen and helps give some color in the winter along with the cool season annuals.  Mystic Spires salvia, Lady in Red salvia, Limelight artemesia, ageratum, Ace of Spades and Marguerite sweet potato vines, and red ruellea “Rajun Cajun”  have all survived the winter.  This year I planted more Gingerland caladiums and, also, red wax begonias as the hot season annuals, and they have done well. In the past, begonias have not survived for me.  It may be that I over watered them before.



The right side repeats the same plants with the exception of the holly ferns.  Cleyera was already in the garden, so that is the evergreen background here instead of the ferns.  The Gingerland caladiums show up better in this photo than the other one does.  This side also has a red bleeding heart vine, coral bean tree, and celrodendron trichotomum in the back right of the photo.  Mexican Feather Grass is in a container on a stand.  I can’t decide if I want to plant it in the ground.  This grass gets so long, and I like the way it weeps down over the pot.


These two beds have filled out nicely, and I think after three years, I finally like what I see as I walk to the front door.


Hosta Blooms

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


Hostas are extremely popular for their lush, beautiful foliage.  The leaves come in various sizes, shapes, colors, and textures, all of which adds interest to the garden that flowers alone cannot do. 


But foliage isn’t the only selling point of hostas.  Their flowers, esp. on some of the newer varieties, can be wonderful, too.  Tall spikes of lavender, purple, or white appear in early summer.  Some are fragrant, and all seem to attract bees.  Mine have just started blooming, and the bumblebees are constantly buzzing around them.



The funnel-shaped flowers show up at a time when there are not many plants blooming.  The daylilies are almost finished, the Easter lilies are finished, and the hosta’s lily-like blooms begin.  While hostas grow in the shade, a few hours of sunlight will enhance flowering.  I usually cut off the spent bloom spikes because I am not interested in getting any hosta seeds.  I want all the plant’s energy to go in to making a bigger plant.  This photo shows one of my hostas that is growing with holly ferns, Marguerite sweet potatoe vine, and a Night-blooming Jasmine in the background.  I have found this to be a good mix for interest of color and leaf shape.


While a single hosta’s bloom may not be spectacular, several planted together can make a wonderful show.  Remember hostas aren’t just for foliage.

Pretty in Pink

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


On the north side of our property is the garden area where shades of pink, with a few purple accents, predominate.  This is where I first planted azaleas that were a pinky-purple shade.  To prevent color clashes when the azaleas were in bloom, I started planting other shrubs and perennials that would blend in with the azaleas, and before I knew it I had a pink garden.


 Here are a few that are blooming right now. 




This hydrangea is really white, but the last two years it has opened as a very pale pink that fades to white.  I have noticed this pink to white in other of my white-blooming plants, namely Iceberg rose and a white New Guinea impatiens.



This is Blushing Knockout Rose.  It has just started to put out another flush of blooms.  The Japanese Beetles chomped on it a bit about two weeks ago, but it is bouncing back quickly.  I have just started having problems with those beetles.  I am thinking I need to do something about them, but if the neighbors do not,  am I just wasting my time and money?




The Cashmere Bouquet (Clerodendrum bungei) is really starting to put on a show.  The top photo shows the buds just starting to open.  I love the dark rose color of the buds next to the lighter pink open flowers.


The pink Vitex tree is starting to bloom, but not enough flowers are open to make a good photo.  My big crinum is in that area too, and it also has bloom stalks that will be open any day now. 


So, whether it is pastel pink, pale pink, medium pink, hot pink, or cherry blossom pink, it has a place in this garden.

Orange in the Garden

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


Orange used to be way down on my list of favorite colors (except in October).  Orange flowers were definitely rarely if ever in my garden until the gift of some amaryllis which were a soft orange.  Since then more orange toned flowers have found their way into the landscape.



Hibiscus – This hibiscus I have had and overwintered for at least fifteen years.  I have rooted cuttings and they are now blooming in my sister’s and daughter’s gardens.



Daylily – This is one of the Oakes Daylilies that my sister sent me earlier in the year and is now blooming for the first time.



Lantana – This common lantana is a volunteer in the garden.




Rusty – not a flower but he does live in the garden.



Fragrance in the Garden

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

I have often thought of how important the senses are in gardening.  Sight, of course, comes to mind first.  All the pretty flowers, colorful foliage, and textures are a feast for our eyes.  Sound, too, is in our gardens with chirping birds, water features, and the wind rustling through the trees and the occasional wind chime.  The sense of touch is satisfied by fingering the different textures of plants and flowers.  Who can resist walking by lambs ears without stroking the leaves?

But, this morning, the sense of smell was the one that captured my attention.  As I was walking by the blooming Easter lilies, I caught a whiff of their wonderful fragrance.  Of course, it made me stop and lean over for a deeper whiff.  I guess I forgot how aromatic they are.

Some hints for intensifying scents in the garden are to place fragrant plants in a protected area away from winds, place aromatic foliage plants near a path or front of the border so the leaves can be easily rubbed, and place fragrant plants near doorways, open window, and sitting areas so that they can be enjoyed more.  Remember that some plants are fragrant at night, such as night blooming jessamine (cestrum nocturnum) or flowering tobacco.  There is no point in having those plants if you are never around when they are releasing their pleasant smell.

Fragrant flowers are fairly easy to incorporate into our gardens.  There are roses, lilies, nicotina, gardenias, etc.  Aromatic foliage plants that I particularly like are lemon verbena, lemon thyme, rosemary, curry, and pineapple sage.

Year round fragrance is a goal of mine.  In late winter there is sweet olive, winter honeysuckle, and sweet almond shrub.  These are followed by all the jasmines, esp. star jasmine and magnolias.  When spring is in full swing and in summer, too, there are innumerable flowers, vines, and shrubs scenting our gardens.  In the fall, there is sweet autumn clematis, Russian sage, autumn witch hazel to name a few.

Fragrance not only makes for a pleasant experience, but it creates atmosphere, and also conjures up memories.  I know I cannot smell gardenias without thinking of my daughter as a baby.

Whether subtle or intense, fragrance is important for making our gardens and gardening even more pleasurable.  Think about it.  What are some of your favorite plants that appeal to the sense of smell?

Striking Foliage

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


We often think of flowers when we think of color in the garden.  It is only after seeing a plant with striking foliage, that gardeners realize that leaves too can add to the landscape.  While different texture is important to garden design, colorful foliage is a great way to put that little extra in our gardens esp. where flowers may not grow because of shade.  It can also help transition from one blooming period to another.



This canna grows in front of red and yellow double hibiscus in my garden.  While the hibiscus blooms almost continuously, when there is a lull, this canna helps carry that area of the garden.  This canna also brings a certain architectural element to the garden.


Dark foliage plants are becoming more and more popular.  Ace of Spades and Blackie in the sweet potato vines are examples.  I grow Ace of Spades and Margarite vines together, and the contrast is striking. Those dark reds, purples, and maroons offer a change and a contrast to lighter and variegated foliage.  The ornamental millets, such as Jester or Purple Majesty, and purple fountain grass are great additions to a garden.  I have purple fountain grass growing in two containers by an arbor.  They seem to set off the arbor and the plants around them.



This Alocasia Metallica and some chartreuse hostas growing in a very large pot make a very stunning arrangement.  Even though there is no flowers around, just ferns, once this alocasia gets growing, this container is an eye-catcher from across the garden.


We no longer have to rely on just coleus and caladiums to give us great foliage color.  Plant breeders have given us many other choices.  Colorful foliage plants can be as effective as flowers in bringing color to a garden.  And, for all season color sometimes, they beat flowers.

Cool Colors

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

I have always preferred the “cool” colors on a color wheel.  The greens, blues, violets.  This is reflected in my garden.  I don’t know if it is in response to gardening in a hot, humid climate or not, but those colors all seem to make the summer garden seem cooler.  While I love flowers, foliage is just as important.  That is one of the reasons I love hostas and ferns.  This hosta is Blue Cadet.  The blue hostas are not known to do well in the hot, humid South, but this one has been successful for me.  It keeps its blue tinge pretty much all summer long.  I do keep it in the shady areas where it may get only a few hours of early morning sun, and it stays well-watered.

This bougainvillea was obtained from a neighbor who moved and couldn’t take this large plant with her.  It, too, is a “cool” color.  This is the best it has looked since I got it in late 2005.  It sits in front of an azalea border, and the green background really makes the fuchsia color pop.  This is a bright color, but still lends a cooling feeling to that area of the garden.

“Hot: colors are present in my garden, but they have been used more to complement a surrounding area rather than as a personal preference for those colors.  Even when reds or yellows are in the garden, I always have some blue or purple to tone them down.  I love to look at “hot” tropical gardens.  They can be very striking, but for my home garden, I’ll have to stick with the “cool” colors.


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



One of the nice things about going to a botanical garden is that it gives you many ideas for your own garden.  While most of us can not afford to do things on the grand scale that these gardens do, it does inspire you to try new combinations or placement of plants on a smaller scale.  At least I am thankful I do not have such a large area to tend.  I have enough to do just keeping up with my suburban garden.  Though to be honest, if money was not an issue, I think I would love to have the space (and the gardeners) to have something just like a botanical garden.


As you can see from the above picture, Saturday’s garden show at the N. O. Botanical Gardens allowed everyone to see how lovely the gardens are at this time of year.  Even with the crowds, we were able to stroll around the grounds and see everything without people obstructing the view.  While I will not be placing such a large statue in my garden, I am thinking about a smaller statue or a large pot for the center of my circle bed.  Instead of water sprays, I may try sky pencil hollies.  I am still mulling over some changes to that bed, but I think I may do something to give a similar feeling as this picture shows.




Because I am in a suburban area, and Louisiana is flat and doesn’t really have rocks or boulders, I have always felt that if I put in any kind of water feature, I would want to have a reflecting pool.   Something akin to the above photo since I am not wild about the ponds most landscapers put in because those ponds would look great in a rocky or mountainous area but not in flat Louisiana.   I have found all kinds of great ideas at the garden show, but, unfortunately, did not find the financing for them.


I did get inspired by the show, and today I was able to put in a full day in the garden.  I continued cleaning out the overgrown property line area and was able to do about another twelve feet.  In that section I  planted a white lace cap hydragea that I had rooted and about six pieces of varigated shell ginger that a friend gave me. 


I also planted the daylilies I bought at yesterday’s garden show – Vanilla Fluff and Misty Mayhaw.  I planted the pink salvia and the red million bells I bought over the Easter holidays, the clematis crispa I bought about a month ago, and Tropical Sunrise canna that my sister just gave me.


Today I realized, that every now and then, it is nice to take a tour of a large public garden for ideas and inspiration.

Garden Show

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

We had a great time at the Garden Show that was held in the Botanical Gardens at City Park.  The Rose Garden (pictured above) was gorgeous.  Even I was surprised at how many plants were in bloom.  New Orleans is only about 30 miles south of us, but it is a zone higher.  Their Louisiana Irises were in full bloom, and ours are just showing buds.  Lilies were blooming, and ours are hardly showing buds.  There were many more examples of their being ahead of the northshore when it comes to bloom times.

The picture below shows a spring flower bed in all its glory.  The timing of the show could not have been better.  All the visitors got a great view of what can be done in the fall to make spring spectacular.

This is a picture of a bed backing up one of the many beautiful statues that are in the Gardens.  Even with all the thunderstorms we had last night, the gardens were wonderful. 

I did restrain myself and didn’t buy too many plants like I did at the fall show.  I just bought two rex begonias and some daylilies.  I’ll show pictures of them and other sections of the Gardens on another post.  Right now it is off to take a hot shower and then do some reading in bed.  It has been a long day.


Finally Getting Things Planted-Part III

This post, “Finally Getting Things Planted-Part III” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


Today was the third day that I worked on putting the plants I have purchased in the ground.  I thought I would finish today, but instead of a trilogy this is turning out to be a series.

I decided that the winter honeysuckle and sweet almond shrub should go in by the property line on the southeast side of our lot.  The only problem with that was the amount of overgrown material that needed to be pulled out.  When we moved in, there was a row of large gardenia bushes.  These gradually died because of a lack of sun from growing trees (at least that is my hypothesis).  About seven years ago, I put in sword fern to fill in bare areas and give the area a more woodland look.  It did very well, but by two years ago it was doing too well.  It was taking over something awful.  Well, fast forward to this year and the cold weather we had really helped get rid of the excess.  As you can see from the picture below, there is a great deal of dead fern fronds.  (At least the leaves added to the soil.)  So I decided today was the day to start pulling it out to plant the shrubs.


2008-324-se-garden-before-reduc-v2-008.jpg  Before


I started pulling out the dead fern clumps, and most came up easily.  I also had to cut out some oak, maple, and cherry tree seedlings, blackberry vines, and briars.  It is amazing how much unwanted plants can grow in a year or two.  I cleared out about a fifteen foot area. 

Next came the digging of the planting holes.  We have hard clay that is filled with tree roots.  I have learned from planting shrubs before that a shovel just won’t make it.  I use a post hole digger.  That way I can cut through tree roots and can make a big enough hole with less effort. I did hit tree roots for every hole I dug.  This makes slow going.  I planted the Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) first, and then about four feet down I placed the Sweet Almond Bush (Aloysia virgata).  Finally, I dug up a white lacecap hydrangea that had rooted when a branch had been bent to the ground.  It had rooted last summer and now was too big to do well next to the mother plant.  I placed this about four feet down from the sweet almond shrub. 

 Already things are starting to look better.  I want the area to have a semi-wild, woodsy look.  The next door neighbor has some azaleas on her side which makes a nice backdrop for my side. There are some Beautyberry bushes here, and I am thinking of adding some more hydrangeas and maybe some holly ferns.  Parts of this  area do not get a great deal of sun, so I am going to have to figure out what should go into the rest of the area.


2008-324-se-garden-after-reduc-v2-026.jpg After


Even  thought I did not get to plant everything today, I do feel that I have accomplished a lot.  An overgrown area has started to be cleared out, plants are in the ground, and I have a better vision of what to do with the overgrown area on the property line.  So all that’s left is a soak in a warm Epsom salts bath to soothe my aching muscles.

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