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

Winter here on the Gulf Coast is usually a series of ups and downs on the temperature scale. Below freezing one day and in the 80’s the next, and a few days later – freezing again. When temperatures fluctuate like that, plants can really be damaged or lost completely. Gardeners have to scurry around trying to protect plants when we get a cold spell following a warm period.

This year has been different. We have pretty much had consistently chilly to cold weather. Once cool weather settled in, we have had only two short warm-ups which means that plants have stayed on the dormant side. Many of the plants that flourish in our fall and winter gardens are really tender perennials which can succumb to freezing weather, and last night they were put to the test.

We had about eight hours of below freezing temps, and everything seemed to come through fine. While it only got down to 29 degrees, with that many hours, I was afraid I would lose a few of the more tender plants. But, so far, everything looks safe. Oh, some of the salvias have a few leaves burned and the coleus that was still trying to hang on are gone, but many plants that die back every winter are still up and look good. I believe this is the first year that the fire spike has not died back. Even my hydrangeas still have leaves hanging on.

However, I was really worried about the gerber daisies. The red ones I have in the entry garden are a little protected by the house, so I was only mildly concerned about them, but the yellow ones I planted this past summer are in the circle garden which is away from the house and in an open area. Since the forecast changed Friday afternoon to a colder and longer freeze, I did not have time to even cover them with mulch.

I was so happy this morning to see that they made it through the night with no problem. The red ones were fine.



And, so were the yellow.



Since the second week of January normally is our coldest period, I am thinking that we just might make it through this winter with lovely, dry, chilly weather and no plants lost. With no super cold weather in the near future, the plants may just be safe for this year.

Blue Skies

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

It has been a La Nina winter.

Here in the South, that means warmer temperatures and dry conditions. So far, we have had consistently chilly/cold weather with little to no rain. Even though we have not had the moisture, we have had the clouds dominate every time a cold front comes through. Days of grey skies.

After even a few days with little or no sunshine, blue skies are a welcome sight, and they finally have shown up.



Blue skies means sunshine for plants to grow and bloom, warmer temperatures for working out in the garden, and bright light which always lifts the spirits.

Looking forward to more blue skies in 2012.

Tropical Storm Benefits

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

Whenever a storm moves through, everyone tends to concentrate on the devastation, but often there are some benefits. We averted the forecasted deluge that was supposed to come from Tropical Storm Lee. We only had about nine inches of rain which was a lot, but it was needed. That nine inches of rain is more than fell in all of April, May, June, July, and August. Normally, we would have received over twenty inches total for those months.

All the plants have appreciated the moisture and have perked up. In fact, the hydrangeas that I cut back two weeks ago have put out new growth. Thank goodness our first freeze date is months away.

After Lee left, we have had absolutely gorgeous weather – breezy and cool. Lows in the 50’s at night, and highs in the 70’s. We hardly ever get weather like this in early September, much less after a tropical system moves through. Normally, after a hurricane or tropical storm the weather is still, hot, and humid.

The moisture we had this weekend was really needed. One plant that has done better with all the rain is my white mandevilla vine. My mother rooted this for me about three years ago, and every fall I dig it up and overwinter it in a smaller container. With the drought and extreme heat of this summer, it just didn’t bloom. Now, a few flowers have shown up, and there are buds all over.



It is amazing how plants that have been so dry respond so well to rain.

Now that southeastern Louisiana has moved from extreme drought to moderate drought, maybe more plants will start blooming.

End to Our Drought?

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

Looks like this long Labor Day weekend should bring an end to our drought with tropical weather forecasted to cover the Gulf Coast.



The weather center is predicting that we could get up to 15 to 20 inches of rain over the next three days. Of course, I would like the rain, but not that much.

It seems it is either feast or famine when it comes to rain around here. I’m just hoping my garden doesn’t float away.

St. Swithen’s Day Rain

“St. Swithen’s Day Rain”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Ten inches short on rain in 2010 and twelve inches short on rain so far for 2011 puts us in the extreme dry category. The drought is not over here, but it does seem to be abating. After less than two inches of rain for the months of April, May, and June, we have started to return to a normal pattern of rain showers. Halleluiah! The rain started on July 15th and hasn’t stopped. Now, I will admit that a few of those days had only a tiny amount of rain, but it was enough to keep the ground from drying out.

What does this have to do with St. Swithen’s Day? There is an old English proverb about the weather on St. Swithen’s Day (July 15) that dates from Elizabethan times which states

St. Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.

I know we need rain, but I don’t know about forty days of it. This morning we had a nice shower of over an inch which really helps not only with the garden but also with keeping the temperatures down. (I feel for the northern parts of the country which are not used to the heat that we live with June through September.) However, now we could use a few rainless days for things to dry out. (Never thought I’d say that!)


Rain-filled Container


This morning's rain


One very nice thing about this rain is the showing up of the Rain lilies. I discovered one yesterday and was so surprised to see it. They have not bloomed in such a long time that I forgot I had them in the garden. Since they need a soaking rain to start blooming and we haven’t had one of those in months, it is no wonder they haven’t bloomed before now.



The folklore about St. Swithen’s day and the rain we have had since that day reminds me of another old saying “Be careful what you wish for.”


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

After several weeks of cold weather, we have warmed up to 80 degrees today. It feels like September, not late November. But, this is not unusual for the Deep South. It is common to have the temperature go up and down during the fall and winter. This sometimes makes for a confused garden.

The impatiens, a tender perennial here, is still blooming.



Nearby the impatiens is a dwarf Bufford holly bush with berries that are just about completely red.



Sometimes, it can be a little disconcerting to see tropicals or tender plants blooming next to the more hardy winter plants. But, that is what I like about living and gardening in the South.

Cabin Fever

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



It is just about this time every year that I start to get cabin fever. I know cabin fever is associated more with winter, but here, during the hottest part of the summer, is when I get it. We have been having heat advisories or rain for the last five days. Today, we had both! Heat in the morning, rain in the afternoon. So, all this means is that, except for a few short forays into the garden very early in the morning just to look around, I spend my days indoors. Thanks goodness for flowers like this clematis; it certainly looks cool in the midst of summer’s heat.

I can’t wait for a little cooler weather so I can be outside again in the garden. There is still so much to do. There’s supposed to be a high chance of rain tomorrow, but I am hoping to get out and cut back the coleus plants and root some more cuttings. With this heat, that is about all I am able to do. At least I haven’t had to water anything in several days.

Funny, how we complained about all the cold weather this past winter, and now, it is the heat which has us wishing for autumn’s cooler temps.

Bonnie’s No Problem

“Bonnie’s No Problem”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Thank goodness, Tropical Storm Bonnie’s no problem for the Gulf Coast. We have been watching the weather forecasts about the latest tropical storm for the last few days and are so glad that Bonnie has proved to be nothing more than a rain event by the time it will get to us. I don’t mind that I picked up so many garden things in preparation for a storm that turned out to be nothing, and I am very glad that we won’t be picking up storm debris.

Even though they shut down the oil cleanup yesterday because of the forecast, some boats were already back out this afternoon skimming the oil. The winds also seemed to help push the oil from the coast.

Mother Nature didn’t pay any attention to the predictions of a storm. Here is a lovely hibiscus that opened up with no worry about being rained upon.



I’d rather look at this than hard rain and high winds, wouldn’t you?

Blue Skies

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

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see

Irving Berlin



Today marked the third day in a row that we had sunny, blue skies, something we haven’t seen around here a long time. It is amazing to me how even though it was too cold and windy to be outside for any length of time, just having the sun out and shining through the windows into the house raised everyone’s spirits, even the cat’s. Seeing blue sky through the pine trees after all the recent gray days was certainly a treat.



The above is a picture of this afternoon’s blue skies and a Bradford pear flower bud. After I downloaded the photo, I couldn’t believe that bud. Doesn’t it look like a camel’s head?

Rain and Cold

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

Dreary, dreary, dreary. That has been our weather lately. It has been rainy, damp, cold, and gray it seems for weeks now. It has been lightly raining for over 24 hours now. Yesterday, there was some frozen rain falling on the car as I drove home, and today it is supposed to be a wintry mix, but so far it is just rain. I was a little concerned last night about the weather since sleet and/or snow was predicted to start around midnight, and I have to leave for work about 6:15 AM. Don’t like driving on icy streets. But, so far it looks like that hasn’t happened.

Mardi Gras vacation starts today, and I will have three days off next week. Usually, this is the time to do a lot of gardening, but this year, it seems, it will be cold and damp. Too cold to do much in the way of gardening which is so disappointing. I know so many people have it much worse than we do (poor Northeast), and I don’t know how they are getting through this winter.

I just want one week of sun and cool (not cold) temperatures. Is that too much to ask for?

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