June 2009
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Rocket City Bugs Will Fire Up the Kids


Giant insects like this mantis, made of natural materials, will be on display at the Huntsville Botanical Garden through July 13.

Don’t miss the giant insects on display at the Huntsville Botanical Garden now through July 13. I saw them during the Master Gardeners conference in April and was thrilled the exhibit would be running long enough to tell you about it. Artist David Rogers creates the gigantic sculptures from natural materials like trees, twigs, green cut saplings, dry branches and other native forest materials. Artists and woodworkers will appreciate this. The exhibit includes three 25-foot long gigantic ants crawling through a meadow, an 18-foot tall praying mantis, a 17-foot long red cedar dragonfly, a 7-foot long assassin bug and other gargantuan insects. To add to the fun, the garden staff has added their own topiaries including ladybugs, crickets, snails, dragonflies and bees. Combine this exhibit with the great children’s garden and the butterfly house, and you’ve got a great summer outing with the kids.


With a little work, galvanized stock tanks can be transformed into large planters or even water gardens.


Galvanized Stock Tanks Make Big Planters

Big planters are expensive. If you want a really big one, you just about have to build it yourself. However, there is a nice, industrial-look alternative within budget and easy to get—a galvanized stock tank. To turn it into a planter, drill some drainage holes in the bottom. These were photographed on the deck of a young couple in Eugene, Oregon, who not only used two tanks as planters, but also made a large water garden from an even bigger round one. These planters contain bamboo, which is a nice way to grow this plant without having it take over.

Million Bells Turns to Thousand Bells in Summer

A popular plant marketed by Proven Winners the past few springs is Million Bells (Callibrachoa); it looks like a tiny petunia. It’s nice in hanging baskets or planters where it can cascade over the side. However, our heat and humidity can be hard on this plant, so if yours starts looking thin or haggard soon, give it a trim and keep it alive with occasional watering during dry weather. Continue cutting back any dead stems through summer. In late summer when the nights begin to cool down, you’ll see it bounce back to life. Give it a little liquid fertilizer and another trim, if needed, and it will reward you with lots of flowers through fall. In the warmest parts of the state, Million Bells makes it through winter, like a pansy, to bloom prolifically in early spring.

Now Is the Time to Learn Hydrangeas


Now is the time to start learning about hydrangeas, which begin to bloom as the weather warms.

As soon as the weather is dependably warm, hydrangeas start to bloom, beginning with the popular blue and pink French hydrangeas and ending with Tardiva, a cultivar of Pee Gee (Hydrangea paniculata) that blooms in August. If you like hydrangeas, now is the time to look and learn, because there are more types than most of us know. A good place to start is at Aldridge Gardens in Hoover. The garden is open year-round, but don’t miss a summer visit to see its greatest collection. Do you know about climbing hydrangea? It is a vine that climbs walls and fences, clinging to surfaces with holdfasts like ivy, but not as aggressive. It is best adapted to cooler parts of the state. How about Limelight hydrangea? A white hydrangea whose blooms start as lime green. There is also a big assortment of lacecap types, the old-fashioned types with flat flower heads with an open center. This month our native oakleaf hydrangeas are at their summer peak, which is followed by great fall color and beautiful flaking winter bark. Oakleaf never has a bad day. We take this plant for granted here because it’s in the woods and widely-planted, too, but elsewhere it is a special treat. In fact, the Snowflake variety has won several prestigious awards including recognition by the Royal Horticultural Society in England. So add a few hydrangeas to your shopping list, and if you don’t want to plant in the heat of summer, make a note for fall, the ideal time to plant.

Plant large pots of colorful flowers to add instant color to your beds and planters.


Instant Color Is Possible in Summer

If you’re hosting a get together at home and looking for a way to spruce your garden or planters almost instantly, look for big pots of color. When the weather gets hot, nurserymen often bring in full size annuals and perennials growing in large pots. These will be in full bloom. Once planted, they’ll look like they’ve been in place for a while. Another shortcut is to buy begonias, impatiens, lantana and other flowers in hanging baskets that are big and full. Simply take them out of the basket to plant in your beds or pots.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.