I usually write the Southern Gardening column about how the different seasons change the look of our landscapes and gardens, what seasonal plants look great and when it’s time to transition with new plants for the next season. Just like in the garden, a career has a season for everything, and there comes a point when you realize it’s time for a change.
Most gardeners start planning their flower and vegetable gardens after the first of the year. This makes sense, as cabin fever from the winter months is compounded by a case of gardening fever due to the appearance of garden catalogs.
At the end of each year, I like to look back at what were some of the better performers in my home landscape and in my travels with Southern Gardening. I obviously don’t have enough room here to mention all the great plants I’ve seen and grown in 2022, but I think these four were the cream of the crop.
One of the most common questions I get his time of year concerns how to have landscape color from plants that are not annuals, like pansies, violas and dianthuses. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned one such plant -- winter cassia -- that adds winter color to landscapes. Now, I want to suggest a Southeastern native shrub that is attractive and has a surprise use.
This fall and winter, I’ve been going back to look at some of my really, really favorite plants that I’ve talked about over the years as host of Southern Gardening with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. I’ve enjoyed hearing reports from garden centers that a particular Southern Gardening column created a run on plants I mentioned. One in particular brings back some fun memories: the blue butterfly plant.
My favorite definition of a horticulturist is paraphrased as “We make plants do what we want, when we want them to do it.” The holiday season is the perfect time to show off these skills, and a prime example is the poinsettia. This plant “blooms” in its native Mexico around Christmas. But using science and plant physiology, we have poinsettias colored up from late October through the Christmas holidays.
As we enter winter, many gardeners consider this a less interesting outdoor season compared to the warmer spring and summer seasons. To add color, we depend on cool-season annuals like dianthuses, pansies, violas, and the various kales and cabbages. Of course, we’re also entering camellia season, but that’s really about it.
Although it’s only mid-November, poinsettias will be arriving very soon at garden centers -- some may have already arrived -- for the holiday and Christmas season. In many people’s minds, the traditional poinsettia color is red. And let’s face it: A red poinsettia is beautiful. My favorite continues to be the traditional red. But red is not the only color available.
I’ve always enjoyed the fall season in the landscape and garden. I find the moderating temperatures refreshing, which helps me get my second wind when taking care of gardening chores. Many of our summer annuals seem to feel the same way about the reinvigorating fall weather. In fact, I think these summer annuals actually look their best in the fall. There is no better example of this than zinnias grown in the fall.
Now is the time to plant one of the great, classic cool-season annuals. While they have a dainty look, violas are tough plants that will perform through the fall, winter and into the spring landscape and garden seasons. Violas go by either of the botanical names Viola tricolor or Viola cornuta, but most gardeners I know call them by their common name, Johnny jump ups.
My wife, Katie, and I continued our travels in Florida after I was a keynote speaker for the Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Conference. We enjoyed collecting seashells on Cocoa Beach while watching the latest SpaceX launch. As children of the 60s who grew up watching the exploits of NASA, this was really cool!
Recently in my role as a Mississippi State University Extension specialist, I had the opportunity to promote horticulture and bring back great tips from friends in Florida. On Saturday, I co-hosted Better Lawns and Gardens on WFLA-Orlando with my great friend Teresa Watkins.
October is a great month to plant new shrubs in your home landscape. We’re passed the harsh summer heat, and the cooler fall weather is perfect for newly planted shrubs to produce new root growth. In fact, fall-planted shrubs get to grow through the moderate spring season
This year is almost like clockwork; we hit Oct. 1, and we’re suddenly enjoying night temperatures in the 50s and 60s all across Mississippi. This is a welcome change from previous years when it seemed that summer would never go away. For once, planting our cool-season annuals seems to be right on schedule.
As we move further into the fall season, I wonder if there is a more fitting and fun fruit than a pumpkin? Pumpkins have become a major part of any autumnal or Halloween decoration. And who can resist a fresh pumpkin pie? I know I can’t!
One of the sights I look forward to each year is goldenrod in full bloom. Beginning in late August and peaking about the third week of September, goldenrods seem to be along the roadsides of every highway and in in every natural area and field. The masses of bright yellow are gorgeous, and it’s hard for me to consider the goldenrod as a weed.
If you are a sports fan -- or even if aren’t but don’t want to let that secret out -- one way to show off your allegiance is in the garden. There may not be a better way to combine interests than through a creative display that can include blooms, foliage and even garden art.
September and October have many home gardeners wondering what to do with their landscapes for the next couple of months. Summer annuals are nearly worn out, and the weather is still too warm for winter color to be established. I have found fall mums to be an ideal bridge crop.
Over the weekend, we had a most welcome visitor return to my home garden and landscape after an absence of several months. Our first hummingbird of the fall season arrived, and this was an indicator of lots of activity in the next few weeks. I get excited to see the first fall hummingbirds because it means they’re going to start gathering all along the Gulf Coast in preparation for their fall migration.