Finally Some Maturity

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


Finally, certain areas of the garden are starting to look like I envisioned they would when I started planting years ago.  Shrubs are getting to be a good size and herbaceous perennials are now filling out.  It seemed that for a long time the flower beds looked skimpy and spare.  When it looks like that, it is hard not to over plant to make up for the small size of the plants.  I used to fill in with annuals, but now, I find, I don’t have to do that.



Here is one area of the garden that is looking so much better this year.  The lorepetlums, azaleas, and roses finally have some size to them.  The agapanthus plants are huge, and the hydrangeas have grown to be substantial.  Daylilies, Mexican Bush Sage, and amaryllis are also now big enough to stand out.  Of course, certain plants will die back during the winter and return in the spring, but now there are enough that even in the winter there will be some interest.  Not like before when there seemed to be nothing come January.



Now that there is some height to this border, it makes a nice division from the neighbors next door.  The vitex tree, crybaby tree, cassia, and Japanese maple add the height, and the other shrubs add the screening.


Of course, some areas of the garden are looking better than others.  The areas that were planted first are looking the best, and this helps me be patient with those sections that are newer and not so lush.


It would seem that in the spring, with all the blooming shrubs and spring flowers, that the garden would look its best.  In early summer with daylilies, hydrangeas, and lilies in bloom, it also could be said to look its best.  I will admit that it does look good at those times, but now, that the plantings are starting to mature, I find that the height of summer is when it really does look its best.  There may not be as many flowers around, but there is a lot of lush growth, texture, and subtle color that makes the garden outstanding for me.  This is how I envisioned my garden would look when I started planting years ago.


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.

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.

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.

Cool Season Plans for Next Year

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

Since I am trying to design a garden with more perennials than annuals, I am always searching out for ones that will do well in this area and will give color or seasonal interest so that there is something interesting or blooming throughout the year.

As the gardening year goes by, we tend to wish that we had bought or put in certain plants earlier.  How many times have we seen something growing in another’s garden and wished we had thought to put that in, too.  Or, how many times do we see people buying seasonal plants that we know should have been planted months ago if they are to be enjoyed for any length of time.  We have to remember that it is not only in the fall that we have to think ahead for the spring.  Sometimes we have to plan in the spring for summer and fall.  That is why I am already starting to take notes about what I want to plant for late summer and fall blooms as well as spring bloomers.  My goal is to have year round interest.

I have paperwhite narcisus bulbs that can start to bloom as early as Christmas.  These blooms can last a long time in the garden.  I also have tete-a-tetes that have rebloomed reliably here.  I have planted summer snowflakes, but they have not done too well for me.  I think that they have not been getting enough sun, so I plan on moving them.  Next year I am planning on adding Chinese sacred lily.  That is supposed to do well in the lower South, even if you have clay soil.  Another bulb I am definitely going to plant next year is Spanish bluebells.  I have read how well they do, and I think that the blue color would complement the pansies I usually plant.

Another addition I want to make to the garden will be irises.  I have had success with some Louisiana Irises, and I want to add more.  They need to be planted in the fall, so I will be deciding which colors will be needed this spring when the others bloom.

One plant that I have been reading about and is supposed to do well for us in the cool season is the Cardoon.  The pictures of the silver green leaves that are lobed are very enticing.  This would really add seasonal interest when so many other plants are dormant.

I also would like to add more daylilies.  I am not sure which colors, so again, I will be paying attention to other gardens in bloom, magazine pictures, and garden book recommendations.

While I am a firm believer in enjoying the present, in the back of my mind, I will be making mental notes this spring and summer of what needs to be added.  That way I won’t be disappointed when next year rolls around.

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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