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

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