When the temperatures dive and I feel like hibernating inside, I start to dream about spring. I get excited when a warmer day is forecast and I want to inspect my plants to see if they have survived the winter. I keep a log of plants that I have planted in my garden and also keep a list of plants that I would like to purchase to try to grow.
There are plants that should be included in every southern garden. This list includes roses, azaleas, camellias, hydrangea and crepe myrtles. Southerners like them for their beautiful flowers as well as for the scent they give off.
There are other different looking plants that should be added to a southern garden for added interest. I like adding colorful plants which do not necessarily have notable flowers but have interesting leaves. Loropetalum shrubs have beautiful bronze colored leaves which they keep through the winter months. They have unusual flowers that look like fringe, thus the more common name “fringeflower.” I also like plants which have yellow or greenish-yellow leaves. I have found different varieties of Abelia to provide this yellow contrast in the landscape and most of these are also ever”yellow”, keeping their leaves through the cold season.
Using evergreen plants in the landscape provides some much-needed life when plants look so pitiful in the winter months. Of these, I have found arborvitae or junipers to be hardy and easy to grow. Not only do they give green color to a dead looking landscape, but they can provide a bit of interest with their conical or spherical shapes. Pencil post holly is another evergreen shrub that provides the green and upright growth that every dismal winter garden landscape needs.
I enjoy looking at hedges that provide privacy and serve as sound barriers. Commonly Leyland cypress and Cryptomeria are grown for this purpose but they grow so large that they are not suitable for every garden. I have found a dwarf variety of Cryptomeria that I planted as a backdrop to my mailbox. It’s size is just a little over 2 feet in height at two years of age.
I would like to grow a magnolia tree so I could cut some sprigs for the house during the Christmas season. I have been discouraged from trying to grow one because they typically grow so enormous. However, I recently discovered there is a dwarf variety called Little Gem that is currently on my list to find.
The fore mentioned plants are the base or bones to every southern garden. There are many beautiful shrubs and vines that should be included as well to give a garden more personality. The lovely Carolina Jessamine gives a pop of yellow during the early spring and looks great trailing over a fence or arbor. The invasiveness of the plant should not discourage one from trying this Carolina native plant. Forsythia shrubs are another common plant that provide a pop of yellow in the very earliest days of spring. Along with jonquils and crocuses, its blossoms are a signal that warm weather is just around the corner.
There are bulbs, perennials and herbs that keep coming back so are worth growing for their color throughout the spring and summer months. I like lilies and irises because they come back for many years as long as you keep dividing them. I have a rosemary plant that has been growing in my garden for about three years now. I tried Spanish lavender by my mailbox last year and is has proven to be very hardy so far through this winter and has tripled in size.
The secret is to keep trying different plants. Keep a record of successes and failures. Some do well in one spot but poorly somewhere else. New and improved, dwarf or hardier varieties are being produced all the time. Growing a garden is always interesting and rewarding because of all the beautiful and amazing plants there are to grow.