Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Planting Time is here!

 

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It’s here!
The calendar says it’s here, the excitement in the air says it’s here, the decorations and stores say it’s here. All over there are signs; all proclaiming fall has arrived.
Although it might still be in the high 80s, there is a definite change in the air. The evenings are a little bit cooler; which is great for plant growth. And because of that, the nurseries are starting to fill up.
Although the plants are still small, you can go to the nurseries now and find benches upon benches of beautiful flowers just waiting to be potted into your containers or into your planting beds.
For those coming down from the north to spend the winter here, it’s a welcome sign. They left fall colors and empty planting beds when they pulled out of their driveway. Now they can start over and plant beautiful flowers in the South. Or have someone like me do it.

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But, before you start planting, a couple of maintenance items need your attention first.
1. Put your pots into position. Make sure they have no cracks or chips. There’s nothing worse than getting a plant planted and finding out there’s a crack running down the side of the pot, and you need to start over. Now is a good time to decide if you want to add or subtract containers. Maybe you want to upgrade: take that old clay pot with a few too many chips and slimy algae growing up the side of it, and replace it with a pretty decorative ceramic. There’s a wide variety available from hand-painted to glazed.
2. Now your pots are in place. Is there was any soil left over from last year? Check it thoroughly for insects, turn it over to decide whether you can reuse it. Or could you add some fresh soil to what is left? Usually, you can get a couple years out of a good potting soil by just replenishing as needed. If the soil is no longer usable, get rid of it and put in fresh soil. You can add fertilizer to your soil or wetting agents to help the plants hold water. If you’re going to use a wetting agent, I advise caution. During the winter months, when it gets cooler, you don’t want the plants holding water.
3. I think it’s a good idea to have a plan before you go to the garden center. Know how many pots are being filled, the colors you want to use, and whether the location of the pots is in sun or shade.
4. If you’re detail oriented, figure out exactly what how many plants you need and what type of plants you want to put in your pots before you even walk out the door to the garden center. If you’re more impulsive, like me, or would rather be creative on the spot all you will need is to have an idea of how many plants your pots will support, and then let your imagination take over when you reach the nursery.
6. Don’t be afraid to combine colors and plants. But, a good idea is to keep plants that like to be kept wet together and plants prefer to be dry together. Mixing the two together is sure to lead to problems down the road.

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Okay, now you’re organized. You know how many pots you have to fill or garden space you have to plant in. You have an idea of the colors you want to use, the number of plants you’re going to need and the varieties of flowers you want to incorporate. Your first trip should also include purchasing any new pots, soil, and soil additives that you’re going to need to do the job. You’re ready to go.
Grab your keys, your cup of coffee, and your list.
Be sure to get an early start to the garden center. Don’t forget it’s still hot out there: you don’t want to be wandering around the garden center in the hot sun.
Happy planting!

Victoria LK Williams

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

The Lull before Seasons

Don’t you just hate waiting?

Waiting for the kids, waiting in line, waiting for your orders, waiting for your spouse. Waiting for the seasons to change!

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Up north, the summer is winding down and fall is working its way down from the artic. There is an anticipation of change; the weather, the leaves, the daylight; it’s clear there is a new season about to begin.

But down here in the south, we are waiting…for cool weather-you know below 90! For hurricane season to be over, for the tourist to start to arrive. And for the fall/winter plants to be ready.

Right now, the summer flowers are at, or past, their peak of perfection and starting to look a bit sad. It’s too hot to plant fall annuals-even if they were available. They won’t be ready for weeks.

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It would be easy to sit back and just wait for the planting season to arrive. Yet if you do, there is a good chance it will sneak up on you and then you’ll be scrambling to get your plants and beautify your garden for your winter guests.

So, why not use this lull between seasons to do some planning and preparations?

Brouse your way through the stack of gardening magazines you’ve accumulated, spend hours drooling over the pictures posted on Pinterest and let your imagination run. Take the time to make a diagram of your plantings. Start a list of the new plants you want to try. Look over pictures of your past plantings. (We just published a Container Garden Recipe book for keeping track of your container plantings-this would work great for planning and recording your results!)

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This is a great time to inventory your tools. Throw away the shovel with the crack in the handle, match up pairs of gloves, sharpen your shovels, trowels, and pruners. Order that new tool you wanted last year: you know, the one you went to buy it–only to find it was sold out.

Think about rearranging your outdoor living space. Move the chairs to a different location, create a new traffic flow with a different placement of your containers or add a pathway to a new statue or urn. Let your creative side go wild. Afterall there is still time to tame your design.

A word of warning: don’t be too anxious to plant your fall flowers. Just because the stores may be carrying Chrysanthemums, doesn’t mean it is the right time to plant them in your yard. Some plants will not do well in the high heat of late summer.

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So be patient- it won’t be long and you’ll be able to plant your annual impatiens!

Victoria LK Williams

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

An Old Favorite

Do you have a favorite tree?
I don’t mean in a general sense, “I like Hibiscus Trees.” No, is there a particular tree you would be lost without?
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Growing up, my grandparents had a beautiful Weeping Willow in the front corner of their yard. The branches wept to the ground, and this provided the perfect place for my cousins and me to gather. It was our own private little clubhouse. We were out of view (we thought) of the adults and could spend hours there. The shade from the branches kept us cool in the heat of the summer, and when the wind blew off the lake, the branches would sway and dance. My grandparents had a large yard with many trees and shrubs, but it is this tree I remember the most.
Today, I must admit my favorite tree isn’t all that attractive. It technically isn’t even a tree, but I would be lost without it. This old Wax Myrtle sits outside my office window. The branches are twisted and uneven from damage over the years by the tropical storms. We trimmed it and thinned it out after 2 consecutive Hurricanes (Jean & Frances) and to be honest, we weren’t sure it would survive. But it did. The trunks have thickened over the years and seem strong enough to take on the next storm. We constantly have to trim the sucker growth that threatens to make our tree back into a very large bush, but it’s worth it.
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My Wax Myrtle may not be as attractive as the Oak tree in the front yard, but it makes up for it with all the benefits it provides. This tree is home to so many animals, or at least it’s a resting spot. I can look out the window at any time and find a squirrel or two looking back at me. The birds love to rest in the branches, and their songs call my cats to sit on the desk and watch.
There have been a few surprises in this tree as well. The first night that I saw the mother possum hanging upside down looking in at me at 1:00am remains a vivid memory. And more than once, I’ve watched the baby raccoons climb up the twisted trunks to look around our yard. The lizards have their own travel path up and down the trunk, racing quickly along on their missions.

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The more practical side of the tree is the blessed shade it provides, blocking the late afternoon sun coming out of the west. And it is a perfect spot for my orchids to hang from. Come November and December, the tree becomes beautiful with the help of the orchids as they open their blooms to show their glory.

So, tell me, what is your favorite tree?
Is it part of your past, or a feature in your own yard?

Victoria LK Williams

The beautiful picture of the willow tree came from 123RF.com
Image ID : 20833543
Media Type : Photography
Copyright : Ralf Neumann
123RF.com

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Nature’s 4 Elements

The Four Elements-Are they in your Garden?

Earth, Wind, Water and Fire.

Those four elements you’ll find in the garden as well. Earth, of course, is your garden’s anchor. Whether it be in a container, in the ground or in a hanging basket; the earth element supports your plants. You can create the earth you plant in by mixing natural and artificial ingredients to make a blend which works best for you. Different plants may need different mixes, and you may even need to create mixes for different areas in your garden, such as a shady or wet area.

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Then there is something you really can’t add; you have to rely on nature to provide this. The wind. You do  enjoy the benefits of a cooling breeze, the sounds of your wind chimes as the wind pushes through them, or the results of pollination from the wind moving the pollen from one flower to the next.

The third element is water. This comes from the rain and gives life to your plants. It’s often an added element in the forms of a birdbath, fountain, or even a small pond. Adding this element can often give benefit to more than your plantings. If there is a source of water, you will find the wild life will also be attracted to your garden. From butterflies and birds, to small animals such as squirrels and rabbits; they will feel welcome in your garden.
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The fourth element is fire and it is a little bit harder to add. It’s making a big splash in today’s landscape garden, and there are many forms that you can bring it into your garden. Artificially, you can add fire by adding lighting landscape, hanging lanterns or using Tiki-Torches. One of the biggest trends in todays outdoor living space are firepits.
Fire Pits seems to bring with them a feeling of closeness and community. They become a gathering spot for friends and family to share, and catch up on the day’s activities with each other. They can be a place of laughter and good times or maybe a solitude spot for a bit of romance.

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You can go to the web and find all kinds of sources for fire pits; do-it-yourself or premade- your imagination is all that holds you back from creating a special location in your landscape than everyone will want to enjoy. Not all fire pits are equal. Some use traditional wood that you burn, or some of the new trends that I really like are propane gas pits. You have no mess and all you have to do is turn the switch on and off. Some bit think it’s a bit lazy, not quite the traditional approach, but it works.
And a new item that I’ve recently seen is Fire Glass. This is added to your container and produces no smoke, order or ash. It comes in a range of colors and sizes, which makes it attractive, even when not lit.

Your garden is an extension of your world; a small little microclimate, a place where you can use the four elements of Earth, Wind, Water and Fire to create a beautiful atmosphere just for you.
Do you have all these elements in your garden?

Victoria LK Williams

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

A little road trip.

Last weekend my husband and I decided it was time to get away for the day, so we jumped in the car and headed west. We headed for one of my favorite spots in Florida, Bok Towers. As we drove across State Road 60, it didn’t take long before we left civilization, so to speak. Once you reach a certain point on State Road 60, the only thing to wave at you as you drive by is the cows.

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As you get past seeing the same thing over and over, you begin to  notice little things. And one item I saw repeatedly gave me encouragement.
The Citrus growers are replanting.
I rejoiced as I saw this because our citrus industry has gone through so much in the last couple of decades. The land was sold for development and growth, groves aged and were not replenished. There were a series of hurricanes and deep freezes, and then, of course, the diseases. Citrus canker and Citrus Greening have taken their toll on the groves in our state.
Agriculture of any kind is difficult, but seems as if the citrus growers had taken one hit after another.

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But they persist, and to see new trees being planted right alongside the old existing groves is encouraging. It shows there is hope.
When we finally arrived at Bok Towers, we had another surprise in store. The garden had also gone through massive changes as well. Beautiful changes, and again it was because of nature. The azalea plants the tower was so well known had also suffered the ravages of age. Repeated hurricanes had knocked out the natural canopy that provided the shade the azaleas needed to survive and then a series of years of extremely cold winters took out the weaker plants. But in their place other plants were able to survive. And with the replenishment of the garden, the wildlife came back,
The one addition that I thought was encouraging was the children’s garden, once again showing that there’s hope for the future. If we encourage children to love and appreciate the gardens we are setting the next generation up to respect our earth.

 


As we walked to the gardens my husband, and I saw beautiful flowers; some native, some exotic. Some plants you had to search for, while others could easily be found right along the main walkways, making for an interesting day.
Anyone who says that the summertime in Florida it’s impossible to grow colorful flowers, well you’ve never walked the paths of Bok Tower.

“Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it”
~Edward W. Bok~

moth on flower
Victoria LK Williams

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Think Outside the Pot

Wait!
Don’t throw that out, it might be the perfect container for the Fairy Garden you’re making, or to be used as an unusual container for the garden.

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It’s time we start thinking outside the pot. Look for different sources for containers and don’t always take the easy route. Simply pulling the first pot off the shelf can lead to ho-hum gardens. Why do this, when there are many other objects that could work really well as containers.
I can remember as a child, my grandfather taking an old tire, painting in the bright color and cutting the top part open making it look like a flower. Ta-da, my grandmother had a new planter and she would fill it with colorful pansies. Or what about the old fountain? You know, the one with the burned-out motor? Drain it, and create a statement planter.

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Maybe for the generations before us, this practice wasn’t so much about looking for unusual containers as it was being responsible; recycling old items into new purposes. Perhaps it’s time we all started being responsible as well. With so many beautiful object available, if you use your imagination you could turn into a great planter.
Have you ever bought something you really liked, used it to serve its purpose for a short time and then you’re tired of? A perfect example is an old metal fire pit purchased before the propane firepits became so popular. Our customer uses the firepit for a year and decided they wanted to upgrade to the propane style. So, we cleaned up the old brass firepit and made a huge planter which now sits on a wrought iron stand and is focal point to their patio.

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And just because a pot is broken doesn’t mean it needs to be thrown out, either. You’ve seen the pictures of a play pot laying on its side in a landscape bed with annuals just filling out across the ground? Once the flowers grow, the pot becomes a beautiful addition to the garden.
If you’re using a different container in your interiors, a simple way to avoid leakage is to line the bottom with heavy florist foil that will hold water and soil in. Don’t be afraid to try something completely different: a wood box, an old water bucket, an unused fountain or bird bath.
It’s time to start looking at the items around you in a different light; try to imagine a new use for something before you throw it away. That beautiful broken teapot, belonging to your grandmother, can be perfect for the miniature garden, or to hold an African Violet.

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Those are a few tips & I hope they work for you…
remember; think outside the pot!

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Nature has the final say!

Gardners.
They’re is different as night and day.

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But there is one unifying factor that bonds us all together and that is the plants.
It always amazes me how gardeners seemed to be drawn to one another. It’s like some inner string is pulling us together to compare notes and admire each other’s work.
Above and beyond all of us enjoying time in the garden, each of us has their own flair of how we want our garden to be and how we go about achieving the look we want.

Some want to get right in there and work, placing each plant where it should go standing back and looking at it. Maybe moving a plant a couple inches, standing back to look again, until finally its time to plant. Then there are others that just randomly placed plants, letting them grow as nature would not so particular but still getting fantastic results.
And that’s the beauty of working with live plants. In all honesty the plants will, to a certain extant, do what they want to do. Regardless of how much time we take for placement and care we give them before planting. Nature has the final say.

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Yes it’s important to plant where they will have plenty of room and where they can grow to their full potential. But each plant will grow differently. They have their structure they will follow, giving them they growth patterns we recognize for each species of plant. But there will always be a stray branch that will come off to the right of the left. One side might flower heavier than the other. They might have a bare spot or a twisted stem.
Each plant is just like you and me; it has its own individual personality. The more you spend time in the garden, the more you will come to understand your plants. I know that sounds crazy, but they do have their own way of adapting to where there planted.
There are plants that have a unusually fast growing season and may have a smaller lifespan because it has but so much into that season. Other plants may grow differently if placed in a stressful environment.  A great example of that is the geranium planted in a heavier shade: most often their the flowers will be fewer but when they do flower, it will be huge. Some plants such as Croton, that naturally have lots of bright colors, when planted in heavy shade will revert to be a green plant and have no added color to their foliage. This is nature’s way of adapting to their environment.

Flowering plants under stress from heat will slow down their production. The  same happens with fruit and vegetables. They will concentrate their growth on foliage which will feed the flowers, roots, and fruit. When a plant is under stress, it will produce what it needs for survival.
Some plants, when under extreme stress, or at the point of failure will suddenly burst out into flowers. This is a way of pro-creation. They strive to produce seeds for the next generation of the plant to grow.
So you can see that no matter how hard and how particular you are about placing your plants, it comes down to nature. The plant will grow the best way it can to thrive and flourish in the environment you’ve planted it in.

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It’s your job to keep it growing, keep it healthy, and keep enjoying it. 

Victoria LK Williams