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A tiny little secret…

20151117_115818One of my all-time favorite books is The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I read it as a child, and have re-read it many times as an adult. I have always been fascinated by the work and comradely that went into bringing that old garden back to life. The many other facets of the book thrilled me as I read, but it was the garden I remember the most. And then when the book became a movie-well, I fell in love all over again.
As a southern gardener, I may not be able to re-create the old English garden from the book, but I can create a garden that will bring joy, wonder, solace and contentment. I simply need to be a bit more creative.
The flowers of the tropics may not be the same, but I can use color, texture and scents to achieve my goals.

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Finding little corners tucked away from view, planting taller bushes and trees to create a special spot or boldly creating a niche out in the open to take in a special view, will all work towards creating your own secret garden. Don’t forget to include a few unusual plants and/or containers to finish off the plantings.
Adding a beautiful bench, a bistro set, or a couple of comfortable chairs will help claim the niche as your special spot. And the garden can be used year round down here, allowing you to enjoy it even longer. Don’t forget the evenings in the garden. Torches lit to guide your steps to the garden, a small fire-pit to relax around or fairy lights sprinkled into the branches overhead will all work towards a wonderful spot to enjoy the evening sounds.

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As you work in your garden, don’t forget to take the time to notice the results of all your efforts. Seeing a garden come together, plant by plant, can be as rewarding as opening a secret door, with a long-lost key, to find a beautiful garden.

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Bragging Time!

Spring Break

Spring Break…those two words put together can have different meanings to different groups of people.

To the young families struggling through a long winter stuck indoors, it can mean a week’s vacation to a warmer, family friendly destination. For young adults is often brings to mind endless beach parties and fun, fun times. To the many Grandparents out there, it could mean the visit from returning college students. To those living in these destination spots it could mean all the woes and traffic headaches that the tourist can bring.

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But to the Southern Gardener, well Spring Break means it’s time to show off! Winter annuals are at their peak about now, the days are warm, the nights a little cooler, winds have calmed down from those strong North-easterners and the rain has yet to become the summer’s downpours. And this means the flowers and gardens are looking their best.
There is a certain point when flowers are full and glorious, just before they become overgrown and weary. It can last for a week or several weeks. The experienced Gardner knows the best timing and methods of pruning and fertilizing to prolong this period and bask in the glow of all those compliments from the novice standing in awe over your skills.

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It doesn’t matter if you want to brag about your skills, or just stand back and let others enjoy the results of your hard work, this is the time when it all comes to celebrate the garden. If your containers are at your front entry or in a public area, expect your visitors to exclaim how beautiful your flowers are. Share your tips for a successful show, for they will be sure to ask not only how you did that, but what you used.

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(If you have a gardener, be sure that they have provided you with a list of the plants in your gardens!)

On the other hand if you would prefer to keep your garden a secret all to yourself, then by all means, do so. Be sure that you have created a garden that you can spend hours in, escaping the struggles (and tourist) of the day, and relax. I love to not only have color in this type of garden, but also plants that will please my sense of smell as well. A few well-placed herbs such as Rosemary or Lavender can do the job.

And remember, it’s Spring Break.
So pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea (or mimosa) and get out in your garden to enjoy it, not work it!

http://www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

 

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Garden Critters

Some Things Just Go Hand-In-Hand.
I’ve been providing horticultural services for over 30 years, and I can say with confidence that there are certain types of people who have a true love of plants. From the simple exotic Orchid to the complex landscape design, there are people out there who have made plants an important part of their life. Obviously, I am one of them.
New plantings in beds or containers are planned with meticulous attention to detail, parties and special events use plants and flowers as an intricate part of the decorating, often using plants from our gardens. New plants or flowers added to the interior bring a feeling of joy. There is a special feeling of contentment felt when we can spend a day working in the garden.

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Yet, there is something else I’ve noticed about plant lovers; most are also ANIMAL lovers!

There are days that I go from account to account, and I am tripping over dogs. Puppies looking for attention, adolescent dogs looking to play and mature dogs content to just say hello and then continue their nap. It’s hard to concentrate on the job instead of spending time with all these loving dogs! The only downfall to this part of my job is that when I got home, my dog was jealous of all those doggy smells on me. So it’s a quick shower before I could give him the love he deserves from me.

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And then there are those wonderful cats. They act indifferent to your presence, but they are right there to inspect your water bucket and tools. There are a few who will follow me from plant to plant, just to make sure I’m doing my job right. And there are a few that will try to steal the tie tape out of my tools, or play hide-&-seek in the plants. There is even one that jumps up to play in the water as I fill my bucket or water the plants. Funny, my cats do that too.

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Of course, other animals are also pets for us plant lovers. Birds, Guinea Pigs, Reptiles of many kinds, and even Pot-Bellied Pigs. I’ve seen all of these on my accounts, and each homeowner has a place in their heart for their special pet. And many include their pets in their gardening enjoyment.

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But I have to say that dogs and cats will always be my favorite!

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Testing the Winds

The wind and your landscape go hand in hand.

Without the wind, landscaping will not grow to its highest potential. The flowers need the wind for pollination. Cooling from the heat from sun’s rays beating down on the foliage of the plants happens as the wind passes over your plants. Blowing away the dust and pollutants that settle on the plants all the pores on the plants surface to be unobstructed. These are benefits of a strong wind you may not notice.
But the wind can also be a double-edged sword. As cooling as it can be in the summer, in the winter that same wind can be brutal. Personally, I think the wind can do more damage than anything else to the landscape.

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That’s why it’s so important the plants you pick are right for their location. For instance, the wind coming off the sea contains amounts of salt crystals in it. Even though you may not think your plants are in direct line of being hit by the salt from the waves, the wind can carry that salt just a few feet farther, dropping the salt on the plants. It goes without saying; the plants living in these conditions will need to be tough.
The wind can do more damage during cold weather than the drop in temperature. The air temperatures might not get down to freezing, but the constant wind and chill factor can quickly burn the leaves and damage plant cells. You might not see all the damage right away. The first sign of damage might be turning the foliage a reddish brown or distorted. Other damage may not show up until the air temperatures warm back up. Then you will see the leaves yellow and drop. One of the most tender plants in our area are the many varieties of Hibiscus.

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The wind can do heavy damage by drying the foliage out of the plant as well. Even though the soil may feel slightly damp, the constant blowing of a strong or warm wind blowing against the leaves will pull moisture out of the plant faster than the roots can pull it out of the ground. This why it is important to know what part of your landscape faces the strongest, potentially damaging winds. These are the areas where you’re going to want to plant sturdy plants. You might even want to plant hardy plants to buffer more delicate flowers or lacy ferns.
We can’t control the way the winds blow, nor the temperature of the wind. But we can plant smartly, using native plants where possible, and provide protection to the more delicate plants.

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The point is to enjoy our gardens.

Knowing the environmental factors of your space and using the proper plants will help you achieve this.

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Plant or Pot?

What comes first? This question is as old as the chicken and egg.

It should be a serious question when you’re doing container gardening. What do you believe is more important; the plant or the container?

The answer is different for everybody but for me it’s an easy answer.

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Let me explain…

The container you’re planting the plants into can often be the most expensive part of your gardening budget. You put a lot of time and thought into picking out the right container. From selecting the right location, to finding the exact color or style you want to use. You may also need to consider finding a container in your price bracket. Finally, you need to place the container in its permanent position, and if it’s a large container, that may take extra manpower.

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It could easily be a container you’ve had around the house. Perhaps one you’ve enjoyed for years and now want to highlight. Perhaps it was a gift and you want to give it a place of honor. Or maybe when you were at the local garden center you saw it in your heart cried out “I’ve got to have it”. In all those instances you selected the container before you had the plant. Once the container has been placed in the location that you want, you can begin your selection of plants.

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It’s hard to select the plants until you know where they will go and how much room you have for planting again. This supports my reasoning of the container being the more important piece of the equation. If your plant choice requires a lot of drainage, you need to know your container has substantial drainage holes.

And another reason the container is so important is because the container is the one piece it can be reused year after year. Once this becomes a stable foundation for your planting, you can enjoy your plants; changing the selection in the container every year or even every season. Changing the container every year could get to be a very expensive habit.

So, the next time you go to the garden center, head over to the container section first. Once you find the right container, then go have fun in the flower and plant area. Take your time picking out the plants that will be perfect for that container so you can enjoy them for as long as possible.

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It’s a cold start!

The start of 2018’s weather hasn’t been easy! Frigid temps, icy roads and record setting snowfall have made the celebrating the holiday season challenging for our northern friends and family.

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Even down here in the south, we are bracing for frosty weather. Heavy rains are beating against the windows as I write, to be followed by a cold front that threatens not only our comfort, but could also cause damage to our plants.

Many have gone to great lengths to get their gardens in tip-top condition for the holidays. We want our guest to enjoy the beautiful flowers of the south, and maybe even smirk a little because we can enjoy the tropics year-round.

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We can’t control the weather, but we can take steps to protect our gardens against the elements.

First off, don’t begrudge the rain. It’s helpful to keep the plants well-watered and strong against the beating winds. Be sure the pots are not sitting in water-you don’t want to create a situation where rotting can start.

Next, be thankful for a little wind. That will help keep the frost from settling on the leaves, flowers and fruit. But too strong of a frigid wind can burn the leaves, leaving behind brown tips and falling leaves. If you can move smaller pots out of the wind, do so. If not, try to cover them with a lightweight blanket or sheet. Try not to use plastic, it can often cause more damage than it protects by burning the plants as the sunlight magnifies through it.

Keeping the plants strong and in good health all year long will also help them recover quickly if they suffer from the cold. Remember, you may not see the damage until several days or even a week later.

After the cold has passed, don’t be in a big hurry to get out there and cut back the plants. Remember it’s only January, and there could be colder weather on the way. Instead, keep the falling debris cleared to make sure that bugs and disease do not have a place to hide, keep the plants watered and be patient. Often, you’ll notice new growth starting on within a week after a freeze. What you may think is dead can rejuvenate and become a beautiful plant again.

So, relax and view your garden from the windows until the cold passes. And be thankful we don’t have to deal with all that snow!!

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Merry Christmas!

If you’re like any other proud gardener, then you have included sprucing up your planting beds for the holidays. Flowers have been added to welcome those holiday guests as they arrive, fresh mulch has been laid and there isn’t a weed to be found!

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Now it’s time to sit back and relax. Enjoy the holiday festivities and glow in the praises of your hard work. Don’t hesitate to point out a creative design in you containers, or an unusual plant you found hidden away in the garden center. Go ahead and show off your hard work. Bring your holiday parties outside, gather around the pool or fire pit and toast in the New Year.

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This is a time to be with family and friends, and chances are they also harbor a love of plants. Let the conversation wind around the newest tool, plant or gardening method you’ve discovered. Compare notes on who has the best gardens, and make plans to visit in the new year.

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But don’t get too comfortable. This is the south, and nothing goes dormant for long down here. Soon you’ll be out there dead heading flowers, mowing the grass and plucking the weeds.

From our Garden to yours…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!