Saturday, October 27, 2018

Uncommon Gardening with Common Plants

Starting with Alyssum and ending with Zinnias, common flowers can be used to make an uncommonly beautiful garden. Wide swaths of ordinary annuals make spring and summer shows, as do common bulbs like daffodils and hyacinths.

Perennials are even more delightful because they persist without reseeding or replanting. Some perennials are root hardy in the Coastal South, zone 8b, that bloom year 'round in Florida and tropical locations.

Graptopetalum is an old fav that we called 'Ice Plant' as children, now known as Ghost Plant. My favorite combo, discovered in a garden online is Graptopetalum and Russelia equisetiformis. It works better as container plantings for me.

Chlorophyllum, usually seen in hanging baskets, makes a pretty ground cover.

Gardenias are not as hard to grow as many gardeners believe. They will split at about 5 degrees Fahrenheit in a cold winter but most years they are quite happy despite freezing weather. June is the primary bloom time, worth a long wait.

Loropetalum has almost replaced azaleas as a spring favorite. Rebloom in late summer is a plus. The trouble with Loropetalum is that it doesn't stop at being a shrub. Many of mine are now trees. They bloom earlier than azaleas and last much longer.

Azaleas are still the show pieces of early spring in the Gulf South, blooming under dogwoods to form a fairyland.

Camellias can be counted on to bloom in winters. Hard freezes take out open blossoms which are quickly replaced by the opening of tight buds not affected by frost.

Lantana is my summer star. Lantana montevidensis prefers cooler temps and blooms into the winter. Frost blackens Yellow Lantana but it returns in early spring. Lantana is a butterfly favorite where there are long swaths of it along border edges.

Purple Heart and Persian Shield are my favorite purples. They play well with others, except that Purple Heart is a stronger grower. Not invasive, just tends to crowd its companions unless they also have strong roots.

Gulf Muhly Grass is a fall show not to be missed. Cotton candy infloresences seen against the setting sun are stunning. Gulf Muhly is fading in my garden now that the seeds have dispersed. I divided one plant in the fall. There is some green visible. I am hopeful.

Pentas are sold in garden centers as summer annuals. If you don't like to keep cuttings over winter, that's the easy way. Cuttings will bloom  on a window sill all winter if they get some sun. Late season bouquets can be deadheaded and the stems kept in water until early spring and rooted for even more plants. Butterflies and I believe there can't be too many Pentas.

Shrimp Plant Justicia brandegeana and Justicia betonica -- the red and the white. The red is sure to bloom all summer and into the winter. The white blooms in late winter and seldom do I get blooms out in the garden. Both return reliably from roots.

Brugmansias and Daturas. Daturas do not reliably return from roots for me but are easily seed-grown. Brugs return from roots and are among the easiest of cuttings. They're worth the wait for summer bloom. Last summer white species Daturas planted under pink Brugmansias were one of my favorite combos. I stuck in purple and white Swirl Daturas and that was pleasing, too. Purple Daturas have black stems that look like lacquer, a nice touch.

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I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.