What plants are good to fill in the spaces recently vacated by summer annuals?

Purple blooms of salvia leucantha.Though Shakespeare declares that only in June come perfect days, gardeners in the Lowcountry know better. We have not forgotten the crushing days of heat that afected both gardens and gardeners last June. But, October, November — and even into December — we are furnished with perfect days outdoors when brisk air, moderate temperatures, adequate rainfall and bright Carolina blue skies that stimulate and inspire our efforts.

While Northerners are putting their landscapes to bed for months under snow cover, Southern practitioners are busy planting winter annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees.

Mastering the Art of Fine Gardening

oct09_flowerWhat a refreshing idea! It is well known that gardens thrive in the spring and early summer, but what happens or can be expected in the fall in a Lowcountry garden? Those and related questions will be answered on Oct. 17 when the Lowcountry Master Gardener Association presents its second annual educational garden tour. The emphasis is on education and even the most experienced gardener can learn something.

Crinum lilyYes, the summer garden is history. It had more than a few moments of glory and at the same time, some disappointments. But the overall learning experience was valuable.

So in the interest of onward and upward in the garden, following are impressions of the winners, the losers, the ho-hum and the “teaching moment.”

First, the good news. Clear winners in the summer garden for long-lasting bloom, color, ease of culture and apparent indifference to our weather extremes were pentas, angelonia, torenia, scaevola, melampodium, coleus and caladiums. In the shrub category, hydrangeas are included.

All of these annuals performed beautifully all summer, blooming well through August. Salvia Victoria could be added to the list, although there is an extended period of non-bloom after cutting back the first vigorous flush, which was long-lasting and magnificent. Cannas were also reliable in that they will re-bloom several times just when you think they are finished. Journey’s End, Panache and Australia are in this category, as are others. All of them created a colorful focus in the summer garden.

Visit gardens and enclosures to learn what plants will attract butterflies to your yard

Bring on the beautiful butterfliesAs Jane Austen might phrase it, a summer garden must be full of butterflies to be complete. If only all desires could be so easily achieved, because there is scarcely a garden in the Lowcountry that does not already grow one or all three of the major butterfl y magnets: lantana, pentas and salvia.

Add coneflower, verbena, coreopsis, rudbeckia, butterfly bush and honeysuckle, (the Lonicera sempervirens variety), and a water source, and they will come.

Your garden can be colorful and pretty despite the searing Lowcountry heat

Massed variegated caladiumsAlthough our recent weather has been more capricious than usual, it’s probably safe to go out on the proverbial limb and predict that July will be hot. So we — and our gardens — had better be up to the challenge.

At this time of year, most gardeners really want plants that will stand up under 90-degreeplus heat, considerable humidity, searing sun, occasional high winds, too much and/or too little rainfall and the lassitude of the mid-summer gardener. In other words, what will miraculously bloom on and on and give us maximum color as we gaze out languidly from air-conditioned rooms while nursing a glass of something cold and frosty?

First, verbena seems to adore the sun. The most prolific and long-lasting display ever observed by this writer on Hilton Head Island flourished in full blazing sun all  day long. “Homestead Purple” is a good standard cultivar, although there are others. Gaura has also been seen thriving happily in containers on hot beachfront decks.

Start of summer can bring beautiful blooms to your garden

Multi-colored ToreniaHigh June is high bloom in the Lowcountry.

After a recent walk through local gardens during All Saints Garden Tour in late May, gardeners are eager to replicate a little of the charm in their own private spaces.

While the learning process in the garden never takes a vacation, spring planting will be showing the effects of good planning. Perennials will be displaying good results and annuals will be at their peak before the inevitable attrition of the hottest months takes its toll.

Lowcountry gardens open for tour May 16.

Dee Johnson with winning painting, “Poppies”Dee Johnson with her winning painting perfectly captures the essence of the All Saints Garden Tour — all things bright and beautiful.

The 22nd annual occasion of this popular island event occurs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 16, bringing delight to all visitors, whether gardeners or simply lovers of beauty. Dee’s original painting entitled “Poppies” will be sold at silent auction, the winner to be announced on May 16.

Tour chairwoman Elizabeth Loda and garden selection co-chairs, Rosalie Van Dam and Caroline McVitty are pleased to present for your pleasure and guidance eight special Lowcountry gardens, briefly as follows:

Savannah Garden Expo

A Spring ExtravaganzaTotaling the number of people who attend the ninth annual Savannah Garden Exposition each year is down-right difficult, said Kelly Carr, event director.

“I’ve heard the magic number is 3,000,” she said, adding that the event attracts tourists, locals and garden club members from all along the northeast coast. “It’s for everyone. We designed it that way, really.”

The three-day event will include complimentary arts and crafts activities for children, free lectures for all levels of green thumbs, open-air markets, garden picnics, wine tastings in private gardens, and auctions, to name a few activities. The event will take place from April 17-19 at the Roundhouse Railroad Museum. Tickets vary depending on the event, with proceeds benefiting the Historic Savannah Foundation and the Isaiah Davenport House Museum.

Athens Select touts sure bets for planting now.

Annual salvia ‘Victoria’Yes, there will be blooms for sure but the question is which, where and how many?

Many people who love to garden, do not, unfortunately like to plan ahead.

And most will succumb to the prettiest thing they see in the nursery with only the vaguest, if any, idea what or where they will plant it.

This approach leads to a less desirable effect than is hoped for, since a garden is not just a collection of plants but a work of art, a composition with all attendant joys and challenges and not to be undertaken carelessly. It also involves the extra dimension of time because it constantly evolves. However, along with the short lecture, help is at hand and may be found, where else but online at the Athens Select Web site.

Art expert to trace Asian influence on landscape design.

Idyllic Retreats - Chinese and Japanese GardensSea Pines Garden Club will sponsor a special treat for Hilton Head Island garden lovers when internationally recognized Asian art expert and filmmaker Paula Haller presents a lecture and slide show program titled “Chinese and Japanese Gardens: Idyllic Retreats.”

The unique event will take place at 10 a.m. March 23 at Coligny Theatre and will last one hour. Tickets are $10 and are available (while they last), at the following locations: The Greenery at both Bluffton and Hilton Head locations, Christie’s Hallmark at Bluffton and Hilton Head locations, Pretty Papers at Wexford and Burke’s Main Street Pharmacy. Further ticket information may be had from Diana Norlander at (843) 363-6580. Ticket availability is limited to seating capacity of Coligny Theatre.