Finally Getting Things Planted-Part 2

This post, “Finally Getting Things Planted-Part 2” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


Well, today was another fantastic day weather wise.  Cool, breezy, and sunny.  The perfect day to work in the garden.  More and more plants are popping up and showing blooms.  One of the daylilies I received from Oakes Daylilies already has a bloom, as does one of my January Wal-Mart purchases.  Also showing blooms are woodland phlox and a yellow native azalea.


I continued planting the container plants I had bought but never planted in the ground.  At the fall garden show in New Orleans, I bought a Turk’s Turban (Clerodendron indicum), and that was the first thing I planted today.  It went in at the side edge of the entry garden away from the walkway.  It gets rather large, but I may keep it trimmed into a small tree.  In late summer or early fall it puts out fragrant, white flowers that have bright red calyxes that last through the winter.

2008-322-harlequin-gloryb-reduced-v2-003.jpg Turk’s Turban finally planted in the garden next to red amaryllis.


Next on the list was a Coral Bean tree (Erythrina x bidwillii).  This, too, was purchased at the same garden show.  I also put this in the entry garden because it will have bright red seed pods.  Since my color scheme for that garden is red and purple, I figured I would try it there to repeat the red color.  This is a very small plant, but from my experience with a Crybaby Tree, I know it won’t be long before it is a small tree.

2008-322a-coral-bean-reduced-v2-001.jpg Coral Bean tree surrounded by guardian birds.


Another plant purchased at the fall show was Pinecone Ginger (Zingiber zerumbet).  This I planted in the back garden where it will be in partial shade.  It is totally dormant right now, but it should be starting to show growth soon.  My Hidden Ginger (Curcuma alismatifolia) is also dormant at this time, but I am sure it won’t be long before that, too, is up.  These gingers seem to be some of the last to show in the spring.  They are not like the other gingers I have.  The shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) wasn’t even nipped by the frost, the variegated shell ginger was frost damaged but has already sent up shoots, and the butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium) is about two feet high now.


The reason that I didn’t plant these when I bought them in September was that I was unsure if they would survive the winter.  Because the plants were small, and I didn’t know how severe our winter could be, I opted to keep them in their containers until springtime.


I did plan on planting more today, but for some reason there is a person in this house who likes to eat, so I had to go to the grocery.  With it being a holiday weekend, of course, it was very crowded, and everything took longer than usual.


So with still more to plant, it looks like this posting is going to end up being a trilogy.



Mother Nature Is Always Right

This post, “Mother Nature Is Always Right” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana


The one piece of gardening advice I have to give is don’t fight Mother Nature.  If a plant needs sun, don’t try to grow it anywhere else.  If it needs part shade, don’t try to grow it in the sun.  Good drainage?  Grow it where it will not sit in water.  Label says it grows five feet wide and ten feet tall?  Don’t place it where it can’t spread out.

Trying to plan what to plant in the shade can be a challenge.  As a gardener who has a great deal of shade from tall pine trees, a big magnolia and a two-story house, I have had to learn to deal with shade.  Deep shade, dry shade, wet shade, dappled shade.  I have them all.  I learned through trial and error what will or will not grow in shade.  And believe me, there has been a lot of error.

Shade doesn’t have to mean just green.    Impatiens will bloom in shade, and they last from spring until the first frost.  Caladiums, variegated or golden-hued hostas, and coleus will give shade colors that pop.  But, by no means, are these more common plants the only ones to look for in a shade garden.  Hellebores do well in dry shade.  I can even grow them in my zone 8 Coastal Southern garden.  I also use hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) which blooms summer into fall with pink flowers.

 There are also plants like variegated lirope or English ivy that I have growing on the north side of my house next to a large planting of bamboo.  They add color along with the variegated toad lily.  So don’t think of just flowers.  Persian shield, sedges, perilla, the spotted aspidistra, and acanthus also work well for me in shady areas.

I also use hanging baskets of begonias and plectranthus mona lavendar to add color.  In some areas, esp. the dry shade with tree roots, I set out potted plants of angel wing begonias, alocasia, and wax begonias.

One thing to keep in mind when planting in the shade is to first amend the soil.  I use a great deal of compost that I make myself.  I am lucky that I have a large oak tree that makes fantastic leaf mold.  That, along with the other material I compost, gives me a way to improve the soil.

So years ago, I gave up trying to fight Mother Nature, and now I make sure to place plants where they will be happy and will thrive.

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.

Circle Garden

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

A few years back, when we had more trees and less sun, I decided to make a new garden in one of the few sunny spots around.  So, in the early fall, I made a circle bed about ten feet across and filled it with all the plants that were doing poorly because of all the shade.  I put in daylilies, Louisiana Irises, Madonna lilies, a camellia, and a rose bush.  I was hoping that they would do better in new soil and sun, and I was not disappointed.  They all immediately began to grow and thrive.  I finally had some flowers besides impatients.

To make this bed, I dug up the grass, put in some amendments, layered garden soil on top of that and then worked it all in.  This was hard work because of the clay soil we naturally have. 

Then in the early winter, I added some daffodil bulbs, which did well.   The following spring I put in some dahlias.  Most of the plants were yellow, so I decided to make this garden mostly yellow.  Since then I have added a yellow native azalea, and more yellow daylilies like Custard Candy, Stella d’Oro and a yellow La. Iris.

I also have some other colors beside yellow to prevent monotony.  I plant some summer annuals that are white or a light pink, and there is also Plum Tree Daylily and Coral Nymph salvia.  In the winter, I always put in some sort of yellow annual – pansies or snapdragons.

 After about two years, I decided to add to outer half circles to the area.  I placed them about two and a half feet from the circle.  They are about two feet wide.  In the front half circle, I planted Stella d’oro and Happy Returns daylilies, some small amaryllis, sea holly, and Mexican Bush Sage.  The back circle was just finished when a friend dropped off about 18 large amaryllis bulbs.  They were red, but I had no other place to put them so into this bed they went.  Because very little is blooming when the amaryllis do, there is no clash of colors, and so this is where they have stayed.  About a week after the amaryllis were dropped off, my husband came home from a fishing trip, and his buddy had given him some La. Irises.   These too needed to be planted right away, so into the bed they went.  They are a soft violet and even though other flowers bloom when they do, there is no clash of colors here either.  Everything seems to blend nicely. 


Here is a picture of half the circle garden I took recently.  The pansies are giving some color, and the daffodils seem ready to open.  I’m thinking about adding another set of half rings this fall.  If I do, I know I will have to redo the entire garden to place the shorter plants to the outside.  We’ll see how ambitious I am when September rolls around.

A Room with a View

This post, “A Room with a View” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Another night and morning of high winds and rain prevented me from working in the garden today.  I am getting a little tired of the bad weather coming in for the weekend and stopping me from doing the spring garden chores that need to be done on the only days I can work for hours and not just for a short time.

However, today was not a total loss.  This afternoon I did pick up some of the limbs that had fallen during the night.  Also, there was time late this afternoon for checking on things that are starting to pop up out of the ground, like emerging daylilies, toad lilies, etc.

I also was able to take a good look around and come up with some ideas about how to improve the winter garden.  In the spring and summer, it is not hard to have a good-looking garden, but when plants are dormant it can be a challenge.

So, I have decided to start first by looking out of the windows that face the front and back gardens and seeing what needs to be done with the gardens around the house.  When everything is flushed out with growth, the views are fine, but when it is winter it can look a little bleak.  I have decided to put in more evergreens this year to make boundaries.  Also, I think a focal point of some sort needs to be seen from each view.  That probably means just moving some of the garden art that is around the yard to a more advantageous setting.  In addition, I see where there needs to be pockets of color all around, not just in the front yard or in the entry garden.  Not big plantings, just a few small areas, similar to the way you place color around an inside room to make it more inviting.  And, I am not just thinking about cool season annuals.  There are a lot of perennials I need think about using that will give some color to the garden.

Especially in the winter, when the rain and cold keeps us inside, I want to be able to open the curtains and see an attractive garden.

Since I am outside so often, more and more, I realize that gardeners must think about how an area will look during the cool season.  It is easy to create a lovely garden in the summer, but how it looks in the winter must also be envisioned.  For some time now, I have not been satisfied with how my garden looks in the cooler months. Here, in the South, we can use our gardens year round, and so this needs to be fixed.  Improving my cool season garden design is what I decided I am going to work on this year.

 2008-213-applebl-amarylreduced-v2-001.jpgApple Blossom amaryllis finally opened up.

Memorial Garden

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

It has been almost two years since my father passed away.  He was in fairly good health for a 93 year old until a just few months before his death.  He lived a long, happy life, and so while there was sadness at his passing, my family was able to accept it with peace.

Soon after his death in March, I decided to dedicate a section of my garden to him.  I chose the side garden because it is very quiet and enclosed.  This is the perfect place to be quiet and read or meditate.  Because it does not receive a great deal of sun, not many flowering plants do well there.  Also, because of the shade, I picked white and green as the colors I would use.  White and green are cool, soothing colors, and the white lightens the shade. 


One side wall of the garden is a tall stand of bamboo, and the other is the house.  The rear wall is a grouping of large forsythia, and in front is a row of azaleas about three feet high.  I have four green Adirondack chairs in the center under a small magnolia fiscata tree.  By the azaleas, is an area that receives the most sun, and that is the memorial garden for my dad.  I have planted three Iceberg roses, Shasta daisies, Easter lilies, paperwhites, and white amaryllises in front of a birdbath.  On the outside edges of the bed are containers of Strawberry and Cream grass.  In the fall I planted white pansies and violas.  In the summer I will put in white pentas.  The side with the bamboo has holly ferns, toad lilies and a white lacecap hydrangea.  When the summer comes, I will put in green and white caladiums there.  This spring the garden will be two years old.  During the winter, it is not at its best, but I can tell that come spring, it will be on its way to being the lush, full garden that I envisioned when I started it.


Even on hot summer days, it is nice to go sit in this side garden and relax.  I know my dad would have liked it.

A Different Perspective

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

So often when we garden, we only see the close up view and not the big picture.  I realized this one spring day about three years ago.  I walked across the street to talk to one of the neighbors, and I just happened to glance back at my property.  I was shocked at how great the side garden looked.  The azaleas were in bloom, the arbor looked perfect, and the flower beds were looking their spring-time best.   It was everything I wanted my garden to be.

I was also able to see where things were needed.  How the colors of one bed needed to be extended across to another one, and how one side of the house had more plantings than the other.  Another thing I had to reconsider was how some of the garden did not flow together; some of the beds were just too separate.

Since that time, whenever I step back to see how things are looking, I do not just look from 10 – 20 feet away, but now move across the street to see how things are shaping up.  Now that I have a digital camera, I will be taking pictures because many times pictures make us see things differently.

Sometimes it is a good idea to see our gardens as other people see them – from a distance.

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