Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Flower Care in the Hot, Hot Summer

Down here in the South we have two summer seasons; hot and hotter.

Once May slips through we’re into summer. And there won’t be much of a break from the heat until October/November. As the summer months crawl along, the heat builds up, day after day. Sometimes we get an afternoon rain to give us relief, but the humidity just builds until there’s a good old-fashioned thunderstorm. Or even worse, a hurricane!
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It goes without saying the plants we planted for color and beauty during the winter months will not survive in this hot heat. Even in the shade, the sturdiest of plants will suffer.
That’s why it is important to pick summer annuals to replace your winter annuals. You can still achieve a beautiful garden by using the right plants.

Listed below are summer annuals I like to use.
Caladiums, Cassandra, Periwinkle, Purslane, Sedum, Pentas, Portulaca, Lantana, Bush Daisy, Blue Daze, Angelina, Coleus, Phlox, Dipladenia, Scaevola, Gomphrena, Zinnia, Sunpatiens, Mexican Heather, Gaura, Society Garlic, and some varieties of Begonias.

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Along with selecting the right plants, proper care is essential. You need to make sure that the plants are watered consistently and thoroughly, fertilized when needed and check for insects weekly. This also means removing debris from around the base of the plant, looking at the underside of the leaves for the critters and snapping off any problem areas. Because the plants grow so fast during the summer months, the insects thinks it’s a feeding frenzy for them. A healthy plant will tolerate an insect infestation much better than a week plant, and that’s why it’s important to make sure they’re watered and fertilized properly.
With all this heat and humidity it is also important to keep an eye out for disease, mold and fungus problems.

This is also when most landscapers do their hard cut-backs on the landscape plants. Often this looks severe, but the plants will flush back out over the summer months to their full lush beauty. In the meantime, the area where you had your winter annuals may now be exposed to the full brunt of the summer sun, with no shade from the surrounding shrubbery. You need to be aware of these changes when you decide what plants to plant.
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But don’t be afraid to continue to garden in the summer months. Switch out those old tired annuals and put in fresh flowers that will last the summer.

Then hop in the pool and enjoy your garden.
Go ahead, you earned it!

 

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http://www.VictoriaLKWilliams

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

A Good Day in the Garden

Any days a good day… 
                                         If you can get into the garden.

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And every day is a different day in your garden.

Sights, sounds, smells; they change by the day, by the hour, and by the minute. If you’re in your garden enjoying your time there, you’ll soon notice this. Some changes will be subtle, and some will be in-your-face. But you need to be aware of your garden’s activity to enjoy it. 

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I have a bird feeder in my garden (actually I have three) and I get a wide range of birds visiting. The same birds seem to visit, over and over, I could almost name them and tell you what time of day they will show up, demanding a meal. I have a couple rabbits who scurry in and out from the bushes when they think no one will notice them. And the squirrels rule the whole domain. Occasionally I have a falcon who appears, looking for meal, but he doesn’t stay long. Once he leaves, everybody else comes back out to play. The egrets come to visit; flocks of white, unusual looking birds with their long legs and equally long beaks, looking for bugs and worms.  A pair of Sand-hill Cranes may wander into the neighborhood. They meander in and out amongst the backyards, breaking the peace with their loud cry. Sometimes we’re even lucky enough to see the furry little chicks that come along with them.

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It seems like each animal has its own cycle to be in my garden, and they almost become complacent about sharing your garden. The last couple days I’ve been very surprised to look out my window and see a pair of ducks. I know there’s no water around my house, so I don’t know where they came from. They arrive every day right around three p.m., stay for bit, and then they go on their merry way. 
There’s also cycle butterflies and  colorful moths that come to the garden. Being lucky to live in South Florida, I get to see  the migration when the monarchs come in.
When the date palms produce seedpods, they become a hub of activity. The bumble bees arrive in swarms. Not only can you see them, but you can clearly hear the bees buzzing around the pods as they open, trying to get as much nectar as possible from the flowers before they turn into seeds.
If I happen to be in my garden when there’s a storm approaching you can even smell the rain coming. And on those many summer days when the heat and humidity are overwhelming, the heat will hold the smells from the gardenia, jasmine and honeysuckle, practically overwhelming you with their scents.

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Personally, I enjoy the approach of the storm clouds. They bring out different colors you might not notice in the full sun. The sky turns different shades as the clouds approach; the wind picks up and you can smell everything from dust to flowers.
So rain or shine, sunrise or dusk, I find it’s great to spend time in the garden. 

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Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

A Northern Spring VS A Southern Spring

A Northern Spring VS A Southern Spring
I was listening to the news last night, and I realized that spring in the south differs greatly from the spring in the north. Up north early spring can be anything from flooding in early and late snowfalls, with crocuses peaking through. When I lived in upstate New York, spring was always my favorite season. Spring seemed to start with the celebration of Easter, the daffodils blooming and hyacinths scenting the air. New life is everywhere, from the robins in their nest, to the bunnies coming out of their lairs.

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But, last night on the news I heard signs of spring in a different manner, the signs of spring in the Deep South. The first thing we had heard was at the riptides were bad because of the changing directions of the winds changing from winter to spring. This might be bad for the swimmers, but the surfers sure love it.

The next thing we found out about was the man-of-war are all on the beach. Their purple-blue but bodies can sting, and so do those long tendrils. With care, you can still enjoy a day at the beach, but plan on staying out of the ocean.
Next, we are reminded about that the sharks are migrating; this is definitely a spring time item. Huge shivers (groups) of them can be found offshore. All within swimming and snorkeling distance of the fun loving bathers enjoying a sunny day.

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And finally, we heard news that with the weather warming up that the alligators are getting frisky. This means the alligators are getting warmed up, moving around and getting ready for meeting season. Kayaks and fisherman need to take care on our river-ways.

Yes, spring in the south sounds a bit more dangerous than spring in the North!
Daffodils and tulips up north verses sharks and alligators in the south.
I guess I’m a southern girl at heart. I’ll take my sharks, man-of-war and alligators over cold flooding waters and the possibility of a late snowfall.

But I will admit I miss the glorious color and scents of the spring.

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Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Out with the Old

There’s something both heartbreaking and exhilarating about redoing a landscaping. It’s sad to tear out old plants that have reached their maturity and are declining, but it is also necessary for a new landscape to be installed.

When I’m called in to do a re-landscape, the first thing I look at are the bones of the landscaping. It took years for a palm tree to get to the height that balances with the house, or for an oak to provide a beautiful canopy to shade and offer cool sitting areas for the homeowner. As for the bougainvillea growing up and over the arch of your front entry; why would you want to remove something so gorgeous? But other plants just tore out after about 12 to 15 years down here in South. And rather than leave plants that are going downhill, having weak stems and are prone to insect and disease problems—we need to take them out.

It’s my job just determine what goes and what stays. Once a determination is made, I can begin the design. Bed lines are often changed to add new interest and to accommodate the growth of the larger plants remaining in the landscape. This is the opportunity to create a whole new look. Pathways can be added, vignettes of privacy can be snuck in and views that have matured over the years can be enhanced. This is also the perfect opportunity to incorporate some beautiful container plantings. I especially like to do this in areas where the roots are so thick that you can’t dig a new plant into.

Since the original landscape was installed, there have been many improvements on the plants available, hybrids have been created that will tolerate the southern heat better and new varieties have been introduced to the market. This is a perfect opportunity for the homeowner to take it vantage of these.

It’s rather like the old saying for a bride: something old something new and something borrowed. The old: the mature plants that will stay anchored landscape. The new: different varieties of plants now on the market. And the borrowed? Reusing some old standbys that helped create the foundation of a good landscape.

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Don’t be afraid to take out a shrub here there, or even an entire hedgerow. This is the south and things will grow quickly.

Before you know it your new landscape will look like it’s been there all along.

http://www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

 

Posted in The Southern Garden, Uncategorized

A Southern Rain

 Rain in the south is different from up north.
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Songs are written about the rain– there’s a country one out about rain, corn, and whiskey. Conversations are made about the rain; perfect strangers will think nothing of commenting to you in an elevator or on a sidewalk about the lack of rain or the overabundance of rain. Because down here that seems to be how it is. We get it either too much or not at all…
It’s sweltering hot and humid and we’re dying for the rain,  the lawns are turning crispy and folks are looking for cloud cover to just cool the temperature couple of degrees.
Or it’s raining so hard the parking lots are flooding. Backyard suddenly look like they are hosting a small lake, and roads look like they have rivers running down them.
If you pay attention, you can tell when the storm is going to hit.Yes, the sky gets dark and the wind picks up, but there’s other signs too. The birds and the squirrels are suddenly eating like crazy out of the bird feeders.  There’s a stillness just before the storm hits, not only with the movement of the wind, but with the sound of the animals. And then the first crack  of thunder breaks the silence. You run for cover.
It’s not uncommon to see rain coming down heavy across the street, and your yard is getting nothing-not a drop. And then, just like that, it’s over. Their lawns are wet and yours is still crispy.
But there’s a saying down here about the weather:
Wait 5 minutes and it will change.
Roads that were flooded are clear in a matter of hours. You can almost see the grass getting greener as it sucks up the water and overnight the difference is amazing.
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There’s a fern that grows on the Live Oaks called Resurrection Fern. When the rain comes the foliage turns into beautiful green within hours, but when it’s dry the fern is brown and dead-looking. The rain resurrects it once more to beautiful plant.  The trees are covered in green lush foliage from the fern growing up the branches and trunks. Everything has a new fresh look to it. The dust is going from the leaves,  the plants shimmer in the sunlight, the grass is green once again. For a few minutes the humidity is gone and you can almost feel a hint of coolness in the breeze. The birds come back out in full force, singing happily, the cricket start chirping and the squirrels are running from tree to tree to make sure that their nest are still intact.
So a Southerner may lament the lack of rain and then moan about a couple of days of steady rain. But to me there’s no better place to live than down here in South Florida. Because after all; just wait 5 minutes and the weather will change.
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Posted in The Southern Garden

The 1st blog from the Garden.

Why Gossip from the Southern Garden?

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Gossip can bring many things to mind; teenagers at the mall, neighbors talking over the fence, mothers stopping to talk with each other at the market…the list goes on.

But, to me, when you add the word “southern”, a whole new image comes to my mind. I’m envisioning Southern Belles in beautiful gowns, having sweet tea on the veranda, picnics and porch swings.

Add in the concept of “gardens”, and I visualize color, palm trees, sweet scents, vast lawns, draping Spanish Moss, Orchids, Hibiscus and other exotic, tropical plants.

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Now, I grew up in the north, so maybe I’ve romanticized the southern life a bit. I’ve lived in the south for 30+ years, and I know there is much more than that to the way of live down here. Hot, hot summers, and humidity that can make you wring out your clothes like a dish rag. And then there are the bugs-bigger than small mammals, reptiles that should only be allowed in a zoo, and of course those tropical storms.

Yet, with all that, the Southern Garden can be breath-taking. Full of big and small, delightful surprises.

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So, yes, I’ll take my romantic Southern Garden, flaws and all. Because I’m a Southern Gardner at heart.