Friday, August 31, 2018


Let's take a break from the heavy news of recent days and stroll around my garden. I think we could all use some r and r.  Late summer and early fall form a distinct season in the south as many of the perennials reach maturity and most shrubs are in full bloom. I am partial to ornamental grasses of which I have numerous examples scattered about my garden. At this time of the year most of them are shooting up eye-catching feathery blooms. As we walk about the garden in these last days of August, this is what we see:

A camellia, believe it or not! We think of camellias blooming in winter, and most of them do, but there are some cultivars that bloom in late summer. Here is a particularly attractive one, Daikagura variegated, a pink and white beauty. I always like to see it bloom because I know cooler weather is not far away.

Gardenia, "August Beauty." This bloom is just opening in the early morning light. Every southern garden and yard should have gardenia, for the aroma if nothing else.

Chinese dwarf indigo (Indigofera decora). This makes an elegant border perennial of about 18" tall. I have it along the central lawn. It has to be kept under control or can become invasive.

Zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus.') A crown of elegant feathers. This is app. 8'.

Japanese Pea Bush (Lespedeza thurnbergii). An excellent deciduous shrub for the south but under-appreciated and under-used. This one grows to 6-8' x 4' and is covered with tiny purple blooms from frost to frost. The palmetto is Louisiana Palmetto (Sabal minor "Louisiansis'). It is very cold hardy and easy to grow. Blue-green fronds. This one is app. 6'.

Althea, aka Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus). An old standard southern deciduous shrub, it comes in numerous colors. Give it full sun and it blooms prolifically.

Chinese abelia (Abelia chinensis). Anorther great shrub for the south, it thrives almost anywhere. It is strikingly aromatic, so plant near a public place and enjoy the sweet scent. Grows to app. 5'.

Abelia "Rose Creek" (Abelia x 'Rose Creek'). Another good choice as it thrives in spite of my neglect. This one is app. 4'. My three favorite families of shrubs are abelia, spirea, and viburnum. One cannot go wrong with these in a southern garden.

Rose pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana 'Rosea'). Pampas grass is ubiquitous in the lower south, for good reason, and most of the clumps have white plumes. Here is a pink variety. Pampas grass requires a lot of room and full sun. This one is getting too much shade from the cryptomeria in the background but still thrives.

As you see, I am fond of shrubs and also favor grasses, trees, perennials, palms, ground covers, and vines. However, I no longer keep any annual flower beds. My garden is in the spirit of a Japanese garden except I do not have a large water feature (no piped water). Annual flowers are too much work and too hard to keep in the summer. "Low maintenance" is my motto. It has to be in a garden of this size tended by an aging gardener. My vegetable plot turned into a free cafeteria for the wildlife so I closed it down. However, I left the blueberry bushes and apple trees as free snacks for the deer. I have learned they are partial to both (have you ever seen deer eat blueberries?---it is hilarious. They start in the middle of a branch and strip the berries all the way to the end leaving themselves with blue mouths). 

If you live in the south and are interested in gardening, I have a couple of books to recommend if you do not know them already. First and foremost is the bible of southern gardening, The Southern Living Garden Book. I carry it around with me to garden shows and sales. I do not buy anything unless I check the book first. It is incredibly detailed and easy to use. Next, I suggest Dirr's Trees and Shrubs for Warm Climates: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, by Michael A. Dirr, professor of horticulture at UGA. I have followed his advice on numerous choices and have never been disappointed. He knows what works best in our climate of long, hot and humid summers. One can find these books on Amazon for less than $10.

I am looking forward to the cooler days of autumn right around the corner. I need to catch up on many garden chores that I have been putting off with one excuse after another. The cool, dry, and sunny days of fall are perfect for gardening. The garden needs me, but I need the garden even more.