Lowcountry homes: The accents of springThis past winter was an especially cold and dreary one for the Lowcountry, but take heart, because the payoff has finally arrived. Spring is here, the time to usher a sense of warmth and energy into your home by thinking about personal styles, 2011 trends and how you can revitalize your sanctuary with some fresh ideas and a little imagination.

Seasons change and trends come and go, but the basics of our personal style rarely shift. We all have our own ideas about what makes us feel safe, secure and healthy, and it’s important to remember that our home is our sanctuary — not a place to continually keep up with ever-changing trends, but a place where we can indulge in our personal style.

When planning for spring, the first rule is to identify your own style. There are three basic design principles: traditional, eclectic and contemporary. And within each style lies the chance for personal expression and individual choice.

Looking for a quick, tasty way to go green this spring? Start outside your window.

Grow your own edible container gardenMarch in the Lowcountry can be a magical month, as the life cycle begins again and our coastal landscape awakens. I love to watch this time of year as our marshes begin their gradual shift to green, our trees take on fresh chartreuse tones and our lawns begin to re-emerge after a long winter.

But green is more than just a color, of course — it means a gradual evolution in the way we live and do business. And one of the newest trends in our area’s evolving green industry is the “edible landscape.” That’s a fancy term for growing your own food, a practice that reconnects us Mother Earth, delights our children and is rich in health benefits.

The sun is shining and the ground it’s warming; it’s time to begin laying the groundwork for your spring garden. Here are four ways to get started.

Is there anything sweeter than March in the Lowcountry? The air fills with the sweet scents of wisteria, the land begins to send out lush new growth and the nurseries brim with fresh, colorful new offerings. But March is also a busy month, one filled with a long list of planning, planting and maintenance tasks. Knowing where to start in this seemingly overwhelming “to do list” can be a great help; here’s a quick primer to get you started:

How to Green your houseSo you're already doing your part to protect the planet by bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, using low-energy light bulbs and looking for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle every day. Here are even more tips and tricks to live so “green” you’d swear it was always St. Patrick’s Day — many of which will even put some green back in your wallet.

Let the light shine bright

Next time you’re dusting, give those light bulbs a good onceover — you can coax 50 percent more light out of your bulbs just by dusting them regularly. Turn off the light, let the bulb cool down and clean with a dust-grabbing dry cloth. (And, of course, when a standard light bulb burns out, replace with an Energy Starrated bulb.)

This vigorous hyacinth bean thrives in Bill Moss’ garden, one of seven featured on the garden tourSeasons come and go — and gardeners’ aspirations come and go with them — but nothing is more firmly implanted in a gardener’s psyche than the phrase, “Wait until next year!” Fortunately, the Lowcountry Master Gardeners Educational Garden Tour is here just in time to sustain and nourish that longing. The third annual tour will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 16.

The tour will feature seven exceptional local gardens from Moss Creek to Sea Pines; plants will be labeled and Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions at each. The tour gardens, which have all been cultivated by Master Gardeners, are those of Linda Muller, Moss Creek; Susan Robacker, Windmill Harbour; Vicki Reilly, Windmill Harbour; Nancy Hildebrand, Indigo Run; Bill Moss, Hilton Head Plantation; Sherry Wojtulewicz, Palmetto Dunes and Mim Jacob, Sea Pines.

Canna lilies, especially the bronze-leaved cultivar ‘Arizona,’ will take on a renewed vigor this fall.With a brutal summer finally winding down and the beginning of cooler weather on hand, it’s a good time for looking both forward and backward.

We’ve had great success with a number of plants this year, especially our pentas and angelonia.

Both want plenty of sun — especially angelonia, which will grow thin and wispy if deprived of it. But pentas, which can be bloom in colors ranging from pale pink to lavender to cerise, will outbloom and outlast everything else in your garden.

Fragrant, old-fashioned crinum lily.The odds and ends of August

Welcome to the Dog Days of summer, the steamy period of late July through August. It seems that ancient skywatchers associated the hottest days with the “Dog Star,” Sirius, the brightest star in the sky as well as brightest of the constellation Canis Major (big dog), because its rising and setting coincided with that of the sun. Ancient Romans thought the earth received heat from it, but not so—just another attempt to explain the mysteries of the universe. Rather, the heat of summer is a direct result of the earth’s tilt.

What does that mean to us? Do you really want to go into your garden on most days? Probably not, but you still want something pretty to look at. The hardy perennials and some really tough annuals are your best answer.

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July is looming, threatening even, with punishing weather that demands the utmost from both garden and gardener. It will be more comfortable if you have done your homework (and yard work) previously and have provided the hardiest perennial surviviors to see you through the next two to three months.

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Frequently it’s the little things in life that add surprise and pleasure to the daily routine, and nowhere is that more evident than in the garden.

Although most gardeners seek out the big, showy flowers that flaunt bright colors for a brief season, at the same time it’s the smaller reliable ones, the workhorses, that quietly provide the background and foundation for the splashier ones.

Sometimes these are groundcovers, which may have little bloom, but have an interesting form and texture. More often they will be small annuals with persistent long-term flowering — and maintaining extended bloom in the summertime extremes of a Lowcountry garden is much to be desired.

0410_garden“Oh, to be in England now that April’s there,” quoth Mr. Browning. Meanwhile, thoughts of April in Paris evoke romantic and nostalgic feelings.