A Mild Winter Brings Head Start

“Mild Winter Brings Head Start”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Here along the Gulf Coast, our winters are never severe, but we do get some pretty cold weather. It may not last long, but many garden plants that are hardy here will freeze to the ground and come back when spring approaches. The last two winters had some very cold temperatures, and I did lose a few plants, also some plants which had never frozen back did. I was very surprised that in the last two years the agapanthus was knocked back almost completely since that had never happened before. But this year has been different. Oh, we have had cold weather which required heavy jackets or coats but only two episodes where the temperature dipped to about 27 for a short while.

While I did protect my tender container plants, everything in the garden was left on its own. Most will survive, but the tender summer plants don’t. Or so I thought. Imagine my surprise when I saw a coleus, yes a coleus, sprouting back. I could hardly believe my eyes. Coleus, that summer plant which melts at the first light frost, was coming back.



I have never had coleus survive even our mildest winters before this year. Another plant that survived this winter is the wax begonia. It is in a slightly protected area, so that helped, but it looks like I won’t have to buy any begonia this year.

Next, I noticed sprouts on the moonflower vine. This was planted in a hanging basket that was left to face the elements unprotected. In fact, I had purchased moonflower seeds to plant in this very basket last Sunday. Just as I began to take the basket down to clear out the old, dead vine, I saw sprouts.



Other plants that ALWAYS freeze back have not this year. Unfazed by the cold were the pink bower vine, white Justicia, Turk’s Turban, firespike, night blooming jasmine, and angel’s trumpet. Since the firespike always freezes back and takes a while to get back to blooming, it will be nice to have the blooms earlier. I know the hummingbirds will appreciate this too, since we have had two females spend the winter with us here. Look at these gorgeous red leaves.



Another survivor, the Angel Trumpet, was very small, but not only did it not freeze back; it now has new growth.



The only reason I can think of that would account for all these plants not being freeze damaged is that we have had a dry, cold winter with no warm ups. Usually, our temperatures fluctuate from cold to hot to cold, but not this year. So, the plants must have adjusted to the cold better than most years and combined with fewer actual freezes were able to make through this winter.

Seems like there will be a lot of plants in my garden this year that will have a head start on the growing season.


Cold Weather and Tender Plants

“Cold Weather and Tender Plants”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Our extra cold weather that was predicted for Sunday night/Monday morning, never materialized, but tonight’s cold temperature of 20 will probably arrive with no problem. We rarely get this cold around here, and, on the few occasions that we do, it is usually in mid-January, not December.

Well, this means good-bye to many of the tender plants. Of course, most will only die back to the ground and hopefully return in the spring. I would hate to lose the alocasia, Metallica. I have had this elephant ear for many years, and with last January being another unusually cold one, this elephant ear did not return until almost July. It usually is up by April at the latest. I am keeping my fingers crossed that come spring, this plant will once again send up shoots. It is disappointing to take a photo one day, and find the plant mush the next.



I know the gingers will die back, as will the night-blooming jasmine. Most of the really tender tropical plants are protected and should make out fine. They may die back also, but return when the weather warms up in late February or early March.

There really is nothing more I can do to protect the tender perennials or tropicals. Sunday afternoon was spent watering and covering up plants to try and help them survive the plunging temperatures. I do try to keep the attitude that if they don’t make it through the cold, it just gives me the opportunity to buy something new.

Summer Container

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

The garden is looking a little tired, and it will be nice when cooler temperatures arrive because the garden always perks up then. Until mid November when the cool season annuals go in, we still have to rely on our summer plants. One summer container that is still looking good after months of heat is the white mandevilla vine and angelonia.



The white mandevilla vine was a cutting rooted by my mother three years ago. This is supposed to survive zone 8 winters, just dying back to the ground, but I have never chanced that. Every winter, I dig it up and overwinter it. I wouldn’t do this ordinarily, but since my mother, who is getting on in years, rooted this for me, I want to keep it as long as I can. This is the best year ever for this vine, and I must remember next year to replant it in this large container.



This is the first year I have planted angelonia (Angelonia augustifolia ‘Serena’). I, at first, had planted it in the “white garden”, but it did not do well there. I don’t think it was getting enough sun. It was getting spindly and had few flowers. When I transplanted the plants to the container with the mandevilla vine, they really took off. The two plants I had bought as four inch pots went from being weak, lanky plants to full, flower-laden specimens. Angelonia are supposed to be perennial only in zones 10 and 11, but my mother’s have survived for years in her zone 9 garden, even surviving last year’s colder than normal winter. I am not putting too much hope in mine surviving here in zone 8, but maybe they will reseed. I do think they make a great pairing with the white mandevilla vine.

So, even though the garden is looking a little worn out by this time, this container is still making a very nice show as the heat still hangs on a little longer.

Lables Are Important

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

My memory is going. Case in point. A few years back, I either rooted or had a seed for a garden plant that I placed in a small four inch pot. I placed it in a small portable green house where it slowly grew. About two years ago, after I had forgotten what it was that I was trying to start a new plant of, I planted it in the garden. At first I thought it was Jewels of Opar, a plant from a favorite great aunt that I received via my mother. I swear the leaves looked just like that plant, but last year, the plant grew too big to be a Jewels of Opar. Then this year came about, and I thought the leaves looked a little like a hydrangea. Could this be a peegee hydrangea cutting I got some where? At this point I was berating myself for not labeling the cutting/seed. (I used to remember every little detail about gardening a few years ago.) It was driving me crazy trying to figure out what this plant was. I didn’t know if I should rip it out (maybe it was a weed that just grew in that pot) or keep it to see if anyone knew what it was.

Well, last weekend, I noticed flower buds. Aha! I was sure I would finally find out what this plant was. Then came the rains which prevented me from checking on the flower buds when I came home from work last week. Well, finally, yesterday I was able to get out in the garden and was shocked when I saw a flower opened.



Yes, it was a Blue Butterfly bush (Clerodendrun ugandense). I was so excited since my original plant did not return this spring. In fact, when I had a chance to replace my dead one earlier in the spring, I passed on it because I surmised that this was not hardy enough for our climate. In the past, it has died to the ground and was rather slow to return. I felt it was just not worth it.

This plant is root hardy to zone 8, but this little one never died completely back. It must be in a better location for survival than my other one. I love this plant for its lovely blue color but also for its flower shape. Those little blue butterflies all over the plant are so striking and, frankly, adorable. I lost a few plants to last winters unusual cold weather, but I am so fortunate to still have my blue butterfly bush.

Lesson learned – Label plant cuttings!

Black Magic

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

Black Magic.  What an evocative name for a plant.  I have had Black Magic elephant ears in my garden for several years now, but this year they were a little puzzling.  The leaves didn’t turn dark until just recently.  Normally the leaves are a dusty purple-black which makes such a nice contrast to the other foliage plants I have around them.  I don’t know if it is because of the unusually high summer temperatures we had or what, but the leaves were a dark green all summer.  This happened to all of my Black Magic plants which are planted in several different areas of the garden.  It is only in the last two to three weeks that this plant is starting to look like its old self.



While these are hardy in our area, the leaves will die back with the first freeze.  Fortunately, that first freeze date is a ways off, so I should be able to enjoy the dark leaves a bit longer.

A Nice Surprise

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


When it comes to my garden, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.  A new flower, especially one on a plant that has never bloomed before, really is something I look forward to seeing.  While prowling around with my camera this past weekend, I suddenly spied a new flower.



Mardi Gras flower (redu)


This is the first time I am seeing this flower.  It is on a ti plant that my mother gave me about two years ago, and this is the first flower it has ever produced.  The stems as well as the tiny flowers are such a pretty shade of pink. 

I was rather amazed to see this flowering at this time of year.  While, we have not had any real cold weather, we have had several chilly days and nights, and I would have expected this plant to flower in the warm summer, not in mid-November.  This certainly was a nice surprise.

Another Great Salvia

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


Today was the first cool day we have had in over a week.  During the workweek, we had record high temperatures into the low 90’s – ugh!  While today was cooler, it was very overcast with occasional light rain which meant no going out into the garden.  Yesterday after work, I was able to at least take a stroll around and water a few plants which were looking parched.

One plant that is doing very well is the Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha).  This perennial with its blue-green foliage and wonderful purple flowers has quickly become a mainstay in the garden.  I planted some last year and also took cuttings which I placed in the back garden.  This spring I bought two more plants to add to the side garden.  What turned out to be a serendipitous difference has only recently showed up.  The ones I planted last year have purple flowers while the ones planted this year have white ones.

The flowers are really rather small, it is the purple calyces that last the longest and are the most noticable on these plants.


Purple Mex Heather (redu)


I can’t decide if I like the all purple or the white and purple better.


Wh Mex Bush Sage (redu)


What I did find interesting was a bee on the salvia getting ready to spend the night.  It was just holding on to the underside of a flower.  Since it was early evening with the sun just about ready to set and I have found bumble bees under flowers or leaves early in the morning, I figured this little guy was getting ready for some shut-eye.  Unfortunately, just as I took the second photo, he must have felt the neighborhood was too busy for a good night’s sleep and flew off for new accommodations.


Bee on Mex Sage (redu)

Toad Lilies Are Showing Up

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


Toad lilies are in bloom.  The Tricyrtis hirta type toad lilies, that I have in several areas of the garden, started blooming about three weeks after the Tricyrtis formosana.  The hirta type is the first toad lilies I planted.  I had read about them in books, and finally found a plant at a nearby nursery.  From this one plant, I collected seeds, sowed them, and produced many more plants.


Toad Lily (redu)


Since my garden has an overabundance of shade, toad lilies are perfect for those areas.  They are dormant in the winter, but come springtime, they pop right up and all summer make a nice green ground cover.  But, it is in the fall when they really shine.  The orchid-like flowers add some color just when so many other plants are dying back.  I made sure to plant all the toad lilies at the front of the garden beds so that the flowers can be noticed.  Even though the flowers are small, there is an abundance of them all along the green plant stems.  I think this year, when they go to seed, I just might save some to sow in the spring and make more plants.  At this time of year you realize that a garden just can’t have too many toad lilies.

Doing Very Well

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


I wrote some weeks back about the Cat’s Whiskers I planted this spring.  Boy!  These plants have certainly grown from the small four-inch pots I bought.  The three plants that are in the white garden certainly have been putting out the flowers.


Cat's Whiskers (redu)


The have taken up the slack of less flower-producing plants.  I just don’t seem to have the flowers like other years.  As I have said before, I think the extreme heat we had in June affected a lot of my blooming plants.  We have had some unusual cool fronts come through, in fact, we are in the midst of one now.  I can see that with the cooler and dryer air that many plants are starting to bloom more.  Tonight, I noticed the Iceberg roses are starting to bloom again.

But, back to the Cat’s Whiskers, the plants must be three feet wide and three feet tall now.  These would be great as a temporary fill-in until shrubs or the like grow big enough to fill a space.  I particularly like going out in the early evening to look at these plants.  The white flowers almost look like candles hovering around that area of the garden when it is starting to get dark. 


Cat's Whiskers (redu)


All in all, since these are doing very well in the garden, I am very pleased with these plants and look forward to planting even more next year.

Cat’s Whiskers

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


This is the first year I have planted Cat’s Whiskers  (Orthosiphon aristatus), and it is known to be loved by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  You can now add me to that list.  This plant has turned out to be so great in the garden.  The three plants I put in the garden in early spring have  grown to about three feet high and almost as wide, but it is still a fairly open plant.  There are flowers on all the tips, and the more you dead head the faded flowers the more you get since it blooms on new growth.   Two stalks show up at every trimmed back area giving you so many new flowers.  My plant has white flowers, but it also comes in a  purple variety.  I chose the white because I wanted it in the “white” garden where they look great along side the white Iceberg roses.  Next year, I am going to try the purple in other areas of the garden.


Cat's Whiskers (redu)


You can see from the photo how the flower’s long stamens look like a cat’s whiskers.  The flowers are very unusual looking, aren’t they?

This is only hardy to zone 9, but it is supposed to be easy to propagate, which I may do to overwinter a few plants for next year.  I am also hoping that it will reseed, too.  I’ll have to be careful next spring so that I don’t inadvertently destroy any seedlings that might pop up.

I had seen this plant in nurseries before, but never wanted to grow it.  I am so glad that this year I took a chance on Cat’s Whiskers.  It has turned out to be one great blooming plant.

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