“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
- Anais Nin
Although Nin may have been referring to something more elusive, to winter-weary Lowcountry gardeners it means that spring is about to put in its long anticipated appearance. Following a cruel and damaging winter, forsythia, spiraea, azaleas and cherry blossoms are the first garden plants to take the risk of blossoming.
Gardening is art, science and philosophy all wrapped together in one mysterious and sometimes unattainable enterprise. But that has never stopped anyone from pursuing it. A satisfying garden requires a basic knowledge of the science of horticulture in order to meet the physical demands of growing plants; sufficient knowledge of the primary principles of art to combine them harmoniously; plus your personal philosophy of what represents the ideal garden.
Get help identifying the horticultural and physical requirements of your plants through nurseries, catalogues, books and online. State or county extension agents and the Master Gardeners program are also useful. The book “Bulletproof Flowers for the South,” by Jim Wilson, features high-heat and humidity-resistant flowers. When searching these resources, be sure to seek information for your specific area and do not succumb to glossy catalogues from other regions.
Although New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken, why not resolve to become more familiar with botanical or horticultural designations of plants that we grow or wish to grow?
For starters, it’s useful for precise identification, for information about growth habit and habitat preference, and for bloom expectations.
Though written in Latin, it is often possible to tease out the meaning due to some similarity to the English equivalent. That’s not always true, but it helps advance your general gardening prowess just to try. At the risk of preaching to the choir, it is well known that the binomial system of naming plants and animals was devised by Swedish physician/botanist Carl Linnaeus and published in 1753 in “Species Plantarum.”
What plants are good to fill in the spaces recently vacated by summer annuals?
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
What 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.
Yes, 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
As 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
Although 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
High 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.