Reflections on a Garden Year

Late blooming pentas.'Tis the time of year for reflection while we can still remember what was a success or failure, what was a wonderful surprise or what was a disappointment.

Then in January we can face forward confidently with a little background information to help us make every month and year in the garden more satisfying than the last. Isn’t that the goal after all, as Katharine White famously wrote in “Onward and Upward in the Garden”? A short list of standouts from the year just past would have to include “Knockout” roses, the new shrub rose and glamour girl of the rose community.

The colors are indeed “knockout,” breathtaking in their floriferous beauty Almost everything about them as promised in catalogues is true - that is, resistance to powdery mildew, blackspot, rust, Japanese beetles, leafhoppers, rose midge, drought, humidity and everything else the Lowcountry can throw at them, (except deer).

One caveat is that although claimed not to need deadheading they in fact do. Deer can be handled with faithful spraying, but deadheading must be accomplished by you know who. With a shrub this floriferous, that is not a small one-time job, but of course it makes all the difference.

Bright spray of California bush daisy.Even pentas, another bright, cheerful and prolific bloomer, must be kept deadheaded for continuous bloom. And continuous it will be, all the way up to and possibly through November.

And it will come back next year and start over again with just the least amount of effort on your part - a little fertilizer and sunshine when spring comes round again. Just pop off the little bloomed out heads with your finger tips - you can easily tell which ones.

Certain to satisfy over a long period when fall comes round - that sometimes empty season when annuals have run their course and perennials are looking more than a little spent - are two dependable favorites, Salvia leucan-tha and Helianthus, (excuse me, sunflower) angustifolia. The salvia is well known hereabouts, a tall back-of-the border plant with slightly pendulous lavender or darker purple bloom which persists a long time in the fall. A large group makes a splendid focal point in any size garden. When not in bloom it fades into the background, eventually going down for the winter. Yes, it sometimes requires staking if high winds and/or heavy rains are expected because of the weight of the flowering heads.

Hedge of multicolored “Profusion” zinnias.This is also true of the fall blooming sunflower mentioned above. It is not your typical, frequently photographed French sunflower standing at attention in a large field, but a plant of multiple stems, each bearing five or six blooms at once.

It is more fragile in appearance but extremely floriferous and long lasting – up to six weeks in the fall. Both these plants will reproduce themselves, but if the sunflower starts getting too land hungry, just pluck it out when little. It gives up very easily.

California bush daisy is an extremely long bloomer, pumping out its cheerful yellow flowers from spring throughout a long season. The photograph adjacent was taken on the first of November, at which point flowers showed no signs of declining. This is a semi-large shrub which is absolutely carefree. ‘Nuff said.

“Profusion” zinnias have been acclaimed and shown in this space before but without the noteworthy observation that this photo was also shot on the first of November at a location on Hilton Head Island. This is a praiseworthy performance indeed and calls for our attention.

Salvia leucantha leans into the autumn sun.For background color almost year round Duranta aurea is hard to beat. Its vivid chartreuse foliage is permanent and highlights any spot in the garden while blending and/or contrasting with all imaginable garden hues. It is an eyecatcher similar in color to the lime green potato vine, cultivar “Marguerite,” which is unfortunately very prone to deer depredation.

Coleus is well known, very reliable and some will say, all too common, a victim of its own success. But the outstanding color combinations that can be easily achieved are numberless. Easy care, long lasting, space filling – a busy gardener’s dream, although probably not a choice of those who prefer the thrill of the new or unique.

Since these few comprise the mere tip of the iceberg of dependable performers in Lowcountry gardens, if other gardeners wish to supplement and share with their own successes or even failures, it would be more than welcome to us all. A quick e-mail to would suffice.