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.

Homes in the South require year-round maintenance

Lowcountry Home CareThe year-round warm and often humid weather, the sprawling live oaks with Spanish moss and surrounding fresh and salt waters that make the Lowcountry famous also provide the perfect setting for pests that threaten homes — from palmetto bugs and termites to mold and lawn fungus. Lowcountry homeowners must keep a watchful eye out for the unique problems that can affect all aspects of the home: lawns, foundation, siding, roofs and more. Here’s a peek at some of the typical home improvement issues affecting the lower part of the Palmetto State.

Outdoor kitchens a fast-rising Lowcountry trend

Planning an outdoor kitchen? Remember: Maintenance should play a significant role in the construction of your outdoor feast center, especially in the Lowcountry.From Frederick Law Olmsted’s manicured lawns to Alice Waters’ organic vegetable patch, the perfect American yard is constantly evolving. But, when it comes to entertaining, there is little doubt that the kitchen is the heart of a home. Why not merge the two and take your culinary adventures outside?

Advances in durable kitchen products coupled with inventive designs mean outdoor kitchens can be customized to fit individual preferences while being as functional as a cook’s most indispensible gadget. Imagine a pizza oven for your patio, or a bar that’ll let you mix martinis while watching a king-fisher at the end of the dock. But before you toss out your trusty charcoal kettle and rush into a sprawling outdoor cook station, here are some things to think about when planning your outdoor kitchen.

Have you been feeling a little cramped in your kitchen, but you don’t have the finances to knock down walls or build more storage space? Don’t worry. With a few simple changes, you will discover new space that you never knew existed.

The first task is to look inside your cabinets. If there are mugs, water bottles or plastic cups that seem to never be used, donate them. For Tupperware containers, pots and pans, stack them inside each other.

Incorporate playfulness, safety in Children’s BathroomsHave you been thinking about redecorating your child’s bathroom? If so, here are some easy ways to make the bathroom attractive, safe, clean – and entertaining.

When it comes to decorating the walls, paint them in one or two of your child’s favorite colors. This will make redecorating easy if your kids grow out of the original design or if you want to redecorate when they move out of the house.

Paint the walls in washable flat paint or exterior latex. That way the walls can be washed with bleach or antibacterial cleaning products without paint pealing.

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.

Spruce up your cabinetryWhat better way to welcome in summer than to incorporate a creative color palette into your living room, bathroom or home office? With Americans spending more time at home these days, many are investing in home upgrades. Take a cue from Mother Nature and bring in functional and affordable cabinetry in surprising colors.

Designers are reporting increased demand from consumers for cabinets with painted finishes, according to the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence. Cabinet manufacturers are expanding finish options beyond the traditional brown and reddish tones to include bright and relaxing hues that create a summer retreat within your own home.

Several cabinetry making companies are experimenting with surprising new colors, including a sunny, buttery yellow called Honeysuckle; a lagoon blue appropriately dubbed Oasis; a chameleon- like neutral, Portobello and Tidal Mist, which is reminiscent of foggy, ocean-front summer mornings. Other finishes include Moss — an
earthy green — and Crimson, which emulates the look of summer berries.

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.

Go green with recent trends in shower heads and faucets

Go green with recent trends in shower heads and faucetsShower heads and faucets can make a world of a difference in your everyday life and ecosystem.

Interest in eco-friendly designs is on the rise in 2009, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), with metering faucets on the market, as well as flowoptimized shower heads and other faucets that meet LEED requirements. Another key to efficiency is asking your design professional to consider “first hour rating” — the amount of water used in the busiest hour of the bathroom — when selecting shower heads.

“Bathrooms have the highest water usage of any room in the house,” said Molly Erin Mc-Cabe of NKBA. “To help minimize water consumption, choose water-saving faucets such as a sensor-activated faucet and low-flow shower heads.” Federal mandate is 2.5 gallons of water flow per minute, but there are some units with output of only 1.5 gallons per minute.