Two Year Wait

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


When you get a new plant, don’t you hate having to wait for it to flower?  I know I tend to be impatient, but two years seems like a long time to wait for a vine to bloom.  Now, it is not all Mother Nature’s fault.  In the fall of 2007, my mother started rooting me a piece of her white mandevilla vine (Mandevilla sanderie).  She kept it through the winter, and gave it to me in early spring.  I waited to plant it until I thought the ground had warmed up enough in 2008 since this is a tender vine.  I also waited to plant it because I didn’t have a place to put it.  Sound familiar?

Well, in late spring of 2008, I planted it at the base of an arbor that has a young white Lady Banksia  rose growing on it.  The mandevilla vine started growing, and then wham!  Cut down when dear hubby was weed eating around the perimeter of the garden.  I don’t know how he did that since the vine was behind bricks, but nevertheless, the new vine was reduced to about three inches tall.  Thankfully, it didn’t die, but it took all summer for it to recover.  Since this is not winter hardy in our area, when the cold temperatures started in early December, I dug it up and put in in a container that could be protected when the freezes came.  By early spring, I had forgotten all about it until one day, I spied a vine growing at the base of a parlor palm tree.  Sure enough, there was the little vine starting to grow.  This time, I planted it in the garden where it would be safe from weedeaters and yard tools.  It settled in fine, and quickly blended in with all the other plants until now.


White Mandevilla Vine (redu)


My first flower.  Finally a bloom.  I know I will have to dig it up again this fall, but for now, I think it is on its way to blooming until the cold weather arrives.  This vine is supposed to come back from the roots in my zone 8, but I don’t want to take the chance of losing it.  I love white flowers, and this one is special because Mom took the trouble to root a cutting and give it to me.  Worth the two year wait.

Sweet Caroline

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


One potato, two potato, three potato, more.  Yes, I have found three more sweet potato vines for the garden.  Friday, I went to several nurseries about thirty miles from here to look for some new plants.  Even though the temperature was a killer, it was worth being out in the noon day sun finding some new plants.  Three of the plants I came home with were sweet potato vines.

I have had Margarite and Ace of Spades for years, growing them first in hanging baskets and then in the ground.  They have reliably returned every spring for the last five or six years.  Last year, I found a green and yellow version called Sweet Caroline Green Yellow which I have in a container, and it, too, has returned from winter dormancy.  When I found this one, my sister bought Sweet Caroline Bronze, and after seeing how well it looked in her garden, I was sorry I didn’t get one, too.  Not to worry though, my sweet sister Carolyn (who was almost called Caroline) rooted me two pieces this spring.  So, as of Friday, I had four varieties of sweet potato vine.

When I saw these new varieties, I quickly put them in my cart.  The Sweet Caroline series was developed by North Carolina State University (hence, the name).  One of the things I like about this series is that they are more compact growers than the older varieties like Margarite or Blackie.  The new ones I just had to have are two red ones and one black.  The first red is Sweet Caroline Sweetheart red.  As its name implies, it has the heart-shaped leaves like Ace of Spades or Margarite.  I think this one will look good besides those two.


Sw Caroline Sweetheart Red (redu)


The next red one is Sweet Caroline Red.  It has the more maple leaf shape.


Sw Caroline Red (redu)


Last, is Sweet Caroline Bewitched Purple.  It has leaves which are almost black and are slightly frilly.


Sw Caroline Bewitched (redu)


I know I am lucky because these are root hardy, with mulch, to zone 8b and so, once planted in the garden, will return year after year in my garden.  These are great foliage plants with unusual colors, leaf shapes, and look great in containers as well as in the garden.  They are great for filling in that big, empty spot we all seem to have somewhere, very economically.

Even though they go dormant in the winter, for nine months of the year, these vines really brighten up the garden, and I just can’t seem to get enough of these vines.  There is only one downside to the Sweet Caroline vines.  Every time I see one, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” starts playing in my head, and I can’t seem to get rid of it.

Showing Up Early

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


Several plants have been blooming earlier than usual.  I started remarking about this in February, and today, realized that it is continuing.  Last year, I specifically remember that my red bleeding heart vine (clerodendron thomsanaie var. delectum) did not start blooming until late summer.  I thought that was unusual, but my sister said the same thing about hers.  Well, for the last two weeks or so, this vine has been blooming; not profusely at first, but it is quickly picking up steam.


Red Bleeding Heart (redu)


Now, why would a plant do this?  It is hard to say why.  Maybe I started fertilizing sooner this year; the winter was a little milder than normal and it came back faster, the ground was warmer.  Maybe last year was the fluke?  It bloomed later and that was unusual, and this year’s blooms are right on time. Who knows?  I only know I am happy that it has started blooming so early.  I felt cheated last year when fall came, and the bleeding heart had just started blooming.  Are you finding plants blooming earlier, too?

Favorite Gardening Pastime

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


Saturday turned out to be a very productive day in the garden.  It was a little on the warm side, but several glasses of iced tea took care of that.  I finally made some headway into planting all the new purchases plus some of the other plants in containers that I have been meaning to place in the garden.  But first, there was my favorite pastime which is walking around the garden in the very early morning and just taking everything in.

The Clematis crispa has started blooming.  If you remember, this was the vine I inadvertently broke in late winter while planting a Caldwell Pink rose bush.  I was so upset, but it turned out to be no big deal as this favorite vine started putting out new sprouts in a few weeks.  Now, there are flowers.  This is only the second year that this clematis has been in the garden, and it is blooming much earlier than last year.  I guess being established does make a big difference.




Planted in front of this clematis is some gladiolus bulbs that are the same lavender color that should be opening in a few days.  Don’t think I planned this, though.  The glads were planted three years ago and keep returning.  It has turned out to be a lucky coincidence that the clematis and the gladiolus are similar colors.

Nearby this clematis is the oakleaf hydrangea.  This is one of my favorite shrubs because it has so much going for it – exfoliating bark, lovely flowers, and foliage that starts out a beautiful celadon green that moves from bright green to red as we go from spring to fall.




Also showing its first flower is Cat’s Whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus).  This is the first time I have planted this in the garden, and I am hoping that it will overwinter.  I have this placed in the “white” garden in front of the Easter lilies.




Finally, the last of the new flowers is the light yellow daylily that my sister shared from her garden last year.  This is a pass along plant since she received it from my mother, who got it from a neighbor years ago.  I love the bright yellow color, but what really floored me was the size.  It is huge!  The flower must be about ten inches across.  It is the biggest daylily I have ever seen.





After seeing all these beautiful flowering plants, you can understand why I was so enthusiastic about planting all my recent purchases.  I can’t wait for them to be as established and blooming as these.  So, even though it was a hot day, I did enjoy the hours I was outside, finding a home for the newly bought plants.

A Great Find

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


Two summers ago, I noticed a vine with pale pink flowers blooming at a house across the street from my mother’s house.  It had pale pink trumpet shaped flowers with a darker pink throat spilling over the fence by the hundreds.  It was so pretty, and I fell for that vine immediately.  Of course, no one knew the name of this particular vine.  The neighbor just bought it years before and, I guess, never paid attention to the name.  I just don’t understand people having plants and not knowing at least a common name, but that is a story for another day.  Back to this lovely vine.  I began searching the Internet and my garden books.  This is very hard when you don’t have any kind of name to start with, but eventually, after a while, I found it.  It was Pandorea jasminoids or pink bower vine or Pandora vine.

Now that I had a name, I began to search for this.  Whenever I went to any place that sold plants, I looked for it.  Every time I found it at a reputable online nursery, it was sold out.  I was still determined to find one.  This spring, it has started blooming at the neighbor’s house prettier than ever.  Well, someone must be looking out for me because Sunday while dear hubby was dragging me around to Wal-mart, Home Depot, PetSmart, and Lowes, I found a Pandora vine.




While hubby was off in another area of Lowes, I wandered around the plant area.  Suddenly, my eyes caught sight of familiar pink flowers nestled between a row of white jasmine and plumbago.  I caught my breath, I could hardly believe it, there was my long sought for vine at Lowes!  Not some exotic nursery, not even an unusual plant nursery, just plain old Lowes.  I quickly grabbed one container and checked the label which, of course, only had “Pandora Vine” on it, no botanical name for an accurate identification.  Without a second thought, I selected the best looking plant and went to the check out.  I didn’t even know how much it was nor did I care.  This long searched for vine was only $4.67 for a gallon size plant.  Again, I was shocked for the second time.  On-line they were $12 to $15 for a 2 inch pot, and you still had shipping to pay for.

Like I stated before, someone was looking out for me.  I found my pink flowered vine, and it was cheap, too.  See, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Pink bower vine is supposed to be hardy to zone 9, but I think I can get it to survive here since we are barely in zone 8.  I’ll have to get a trellis for it before I can plant it.  I was probably so excited to find this plant that I forgot all about getting a trellis for it when I bought it.  Looks like that will be a job for this weekend.

Ignorance Is Bliss

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

I have often wondered how “fussy” plants make it out in the wild.  You know, those plants that have to be treated with kid gloves – not too much water/ copious water, not too much sun/ full sun, not too much heat/cold.  Then there are the reportedly high maintenance plants that make it with no special treatment at all, unless, of course, you really want it to thrive in your garden.

Case in point, my neighbor’s clematis.  We all know the drill, plant at the right depth, leaves in the sun and roots in the shade, prune according to its type, watch out for wilt, etc.  Here in the Gulf South, many of the large flowering clematis do not survive long because of our heat and humidity.  My neighbor bought this clematis at one of the big box stores about five years ago.  It was one of those that was wrapped in a plastic bag and very inexpensive.  She planted it next to her mailbox and then just ignored it.  This is what she is rewarded with every year.


No fertilizer or extra water, no shading the roots, no special treatment, just benign neglect.  She cuts it down whenever she feels it looks straggly or unattractive.  This may be three times in a year.  Do you think I could do this and have it survive?  No way.  Maybe she is just lucky with this particular vine.  I think it must be because both she and the clematis never read what the experts say about caring for a clematis.

A Purple Cascade

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


The neighbor’s wisteria is blooming.  A sure sign of spring.

Mine is not blooming yet nor does it bloom as profusely – a little too much shade.  Theirs is growing up a huge pine tree which is really not such a good idea.  These rampant growers can strangle a tree by girdling it. 

While they may be invasive, come spring time they are spectacular when in bloom, and it is understandable why they are so popular.




The showy, sweet-smelling flowers is what sells this plant.  I remember when I was a child, our next door neighbors had a large pergola covered with wisteria.  When it was in bloom, with the delicious fragrance perfuming the air, that arbor was to me the most romantic and fairy tale-like place to be.  Every time I smell the wisteria blossoms, it brings back the memory of that pergola.

The reason that this plant is not welcomed in many areas is because it is such an easy to grow plant and when it escapes the landscape into the wild, it spreads very aggressively and chokes out native trees and shrubs.  When driving down the highway where there are still wooded areas, you can see large areas blanketed by the purple and white wisteria flowers.  While this is a very lovely sight, you have to wonder what plants this vine may be smothering.  There are two native wisteria vines that are better behaved and not considered invasive.  These are really a better choice in many areas.

I am trying to grow mine as a single trunk or tree form.  This is how my dad grew one years ago.  Since it doen’t require any support and is kept trimmed back, it doesn’t get out of hand.  I hope mine starts blooming soon because I just love those purple cascades of fragant flowers.

Unwanted Guests

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


What do you do when unwanted plants show up in your garden?  And, why is it that pretty, well-behaved plants don’t suddenly appear in the garden like the bad ones do?  I have written before of how I have started to clear out the area that adjoins a neighbor who is no longer able to garden.  Invasive plants, in particular, vines have been showing up to the point it is almost overwhelming.  I am talking about Virginia creeper, wild honeysuckle, and Japanese climbing fern.

It used to be that Virginia creeper was the only problem.  It is amazing to me how fast and long this vine can grow.  It has grown up to the top of 120 foot pine trees.  The vine can also creep along  just barely under the ground and can go for twenty, thirty feet, sometimes branching off several times.  I have been pulling this up now for months, and am still seeing new shoots where the vine has broken.  I have been fighting this particular vine since we moved here over thirty years ago.  I guess I’ll never beat it completely.

A new invasive here at our house is the wild honeysuckle which has become a problem only in the last three years.  What is frustrating about this one is that when you pull on it, the outside sheath pulls away from the stem and your hands slip.  You must use gloves to pull this out.  When it does break, that usually means some digging is required because wherever the stem touches the ground, it roots.  I remember as a child there was one of these vines growing on a fence in the back yard.  We would spend a lot of time picking the flowers and then pulling the stamen out the back of the flower and finally sipping the drop of nectar that was pulled out.  I thought this was the neatest plant.  Boy!  Has my opinion changed now.




The bad thing about Japanese climbing fern is that it smothers whatever it covers, and it tries to cover everything.  It is a shame this is such a pest because this one is a very pretty plant.  I have been trying to rid my garden of this plant for over ten years, and it still keeps coming back.

I don’t like to use chemicals in the garden, so I pretty much resort just to pulling these weeds out.  I didn’t plant any of these, they just showed up.  Even the ones which are native are unwelcome in my garden.  I wish these unwanted “guests” would take the hint and leave.


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

 About three weeks ago, I was working in the garden planting a small rose bush when disaster struck.  Have you ever inadvertently cut down, stepped on or otherwise destroyed a favorite plant?

 I was working in rather tight quarters while planting Caldwell Pink, a gift rosebush from Phillip of Dirt Therapy, and I was trying to be careful.  As I was just finishing up planting, my foot got caught on the Swamp clematis (Clematis Crispa) and broke off the only stem on the plant.  This is a plant I have had only since last spring after trying for over four years to find one. 

 One of the reasons this is so hard to find is that only one vendor here has it, and she usually only sells wholesale.  I just happened to find her at a March Garden show with only one left which I quickly scooped up. 

 As soon as I saw what had happened, I almost died.  I couldn’t believe what had happened.  I quickly grabbed the broken off stem and made a bee line for the potting soil to try and root another clematis.  I ran inside and found the seeds I had saved from early winter and quickly planted some.  I researched the Internet for info on growing clematis from seeds and couldn’t believe my eyes when I read it can take over a year to germinate seeds from this particular clematis.  No wonder it was so hard to find.


Swamp Clematis in better days.
Swamp Clematis in better days.


If the cuttings didn’t take or the seeds germinate, would this mean I had lost this beautiful flowering vine?  I have faithfully kept the cuttings moist and warm.  I have also looked after the seeds (just in case they would happen to want to germinate sooner).  Neither look too promising at this point, but I am not giving up hope.

Then, today, I went looking for the short remains of the original plant to see if there was any new growth which would let me know it was still alive.  I figured it would be too early or maybe the hard freeze we had a few days ago would knock it back, but I just had to check anyway.  Well, I was rewarded with this sight.




New, tiny leaves showing!  It’s not dead!  It’s alive!  I can’t express the relief I felt when I saw this favorite vine making a comeback.  I’m going to keep on tending the cuttings and seeds, but if they don’t make it, it seems I still will have the original plant.  Thank the good Lord.

A Sign

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

Even though some tropicals are still blooming and some tender perennials are still unaffected by the cold temperatures, there is no denying that the growing season is behind us.  The autumn clematis seed head is a confirmation of that.  Blooming in late summer/early autumn, this vine is one of the last plants to start flowering, so when it goes to seed that makes it definite that winter is on its way.




With living just north of the Gulf Coast, we still will have many mild days ahead as well as an occasional freezing one.  This seed head is just a sign that it is time to pull out the garden books, magazines, and catalogues and start planning for next year’s garden.

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