Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Rejuvenate or Re-do?

In the next series of blogs, I am going to address a problem many homeowners eventually face. How do you deal with an older landscape?

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Down here in the south, things grow fast. There is no dormant, or cold period, to moderate the growth. Yes, there are changes to the pace of growth during different seasons, but few plants will actually drop their leaves and go dormant for 3-4 months of the year. Because of this, the average life span of the landscape is accelerated. In south Florida, it is safe to say this life span is 12-15 years for most foundation plantings, hedging, and mass planting. Trees grow larger at a much faster rate, often leaving only trunks to look at from the eaves of the home to the ground. Those graceful palm fronds are now above the roof line. This dramatically changes the look of the landscape from what it was when first planted.

This also puts the homeowner in the position of needing to relandscape. But do you rip everything out and start from scratch, or do you rejuvenate your existing landscape?

Before you make this decision, there are a few things you need to consider.

1. What are your landscape goals? Are you looking for a new look, or merely to improve on your existing landscape? Do you need to change a viewpoint, traffic pattern or maybe add a piece of hardscape?

2. Do you have a budget for the work to be done? Bear in mind that removal of some larger established plants will eat into that budget.

3. Does your existing landscape serve a purpose other than beautifying your home? Are you screening something from view, defining your property lines or trying to cut down on the noise from nearby traffic?

4. Does your landscape create “good neighbor vibes”?Do you and your neighbor both benefit from the existing plants? Take into consideration if relandscaping will cause a strain on your relationship with your neighbor.

5. How accessible is the area in question? This may be an essential factor if any equipment is necessary to do the job.

6. Is your current landscape achieving goals a new landscape may not be able to do until it is established? For instance; is a large tree providing shade that a new tree would take years to offer.

7. Are you looking to hire a professional landscaper or do the work yourself?

You should be able to answer these questions before you proceed with any further with your landscape plans. In the next post, I will discuss the pros and cons of rejuvenating your landscape ~vs. ~ completely re-landscaping your area.


Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Container Gardening? Go Ahead, Ask Questions!

Container Gardening can be so much more than just putting pretty flowers in a container.

Using the same design aspect that you would use with in-ground landscaping, you can create vistas for your enjoyment while you are outside. With the placement of pots in the right place you can build framing for visual blockage of unwanted views, traffic pattern and flow, accent existing landscaping, and add interest to patio furniture arrangements.

Be sure to take into consideration the style of the area that you’re going to be placing these pots in. Is the color of the container going to be crucial? Will it be something to give it a little extra punch to the design area? You need to determine if you looking for containers that are highly decorative or more standard such as Clay.

Container gardening doesn’t stop with just putting your pots in the right location. Once you place the container, it’s crucial that you pick the correct plants to go in them. The most important factor to take into consideration when choosing your plants is the environment they are going to be planted in. Is it windy location? Does it receive full sun or partial sun? Are the plans going to be planted in an area that will be hard to maintain? If so you might want to use more durable plants.

An old fashioned Strawberry pot in a stunning red ceramic glaze

Another thing to consider the fact that you might have animals or children. This would mean you would want to watch for poisonous plants or thorny plants. Also, plants that are fragile may not handle the rough and tumble play of those same kids and their pets.

The plant materials that you use will play the most significant part of your container design. Add in the use of herbs and flowers for a charming accent or even to repel unwanted past such as mosquitoes The third thing that you would want to take into consideration is your decorating style. Are you a traditional stylist or a little bit more bohemian? What is the overall effect that you’re going for? Are you trying to be conservative and a little bit old-fashioned, or are you working for tropical effect with palms and exotic flowers?

A great combination for the shade!

It is essential that you should have a good understanding of the answers of all these questions before you even set foot into the nursery looking for plants. If you’re lost asked for help and if you don’t feel you’re getting the right help from the people in the store that you’re at, ask for professional to come out to your site and work up a plan that will best meet your needs. You have to live with the results of what you plant, and you want to be happy. So be sure to ask lots of questions and be willing to make changes if your ideas and plans don’t mix together.

But regardless if you are designing your own container gardens, or getting help from a professional gardener, the most important thing to remember is…

Enjoy your gardening experience!

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Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Something a little Different

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I thought for the next few blogs I would show you examples of container plantings for your garden that I’ve designed in the past and they have been successful. Now that we are in full swing of the fall season selections of plants is bountiful time to let your imagination run.
A couple of housekeeping tips before we begin…
1. Have a plan before you begin. Know what pots you’re going to fill in where you’re going to place those pots this will give you an idea of the number of plants you will need and the type. You will need to determine whether you are planting in the sun or shade, in a windy or protected area, and in height traffic area.
2. Plan for the fresh soil and fertilizer you may need to plant the plants successfully.
3. Have all of the work around the area where you were going to plant done ahead of time do not want to have to trample those beautiful, freshly planted pots in order to trim behind them.
Now you’re ready to begin.
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Some start with the plant’s, others with the containers. I am the container first person. For me finding the perfect container is the baseline for starting your garden. Often the container will tell you by its shape and color what type of flowers are going to look best planted in it. If you’re using your own existing pots, step one is done for you. If you are starting’s from scratch, take the time to wander through the garden center to look for the container that meets your needs. There are some gorgeous containers in all different types of materials available to plant in. And don’t be afraid to try the unusual. Your garden personality will reflect your taste.

Ready? Great! Below you will find 3 different planters designed for the shade garden.
danis1This planter is a bowl shape ceramic in an unusual color of a purple/brown mix. The plants used are Alocasia Poly (center) Fern (Boston type) and New Guinea Impatiens.

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This container is a whitewashed french clay. The planter receives no direct light, so I mixed foliage and bromeliads to give a lush, colorful appearance. Plants used are Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily), Anthurium, Guzmania Bromeliad, Neoregelia Bromeliad, and Ivy.

ctsg50This planter is a washed stone. Plants used are Hawaiian Ti Plant, Coleus, New Guinea Impatiens, trailing Licorice and old-fashioned Impatiens.

Victoria LK Williams

Botanical Concepts

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!)

3D cover Container Garden Reciepes, upright

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