May 2010
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Expand Your Hydrangea Knowledge

If you like hydrangeas, this is a perfect month to add some unusual ones to your garden by shopping at Aldridge Gardens Spring Plant Sale on May 7, 8 and 9. Or, at least learn more about them. The garden, which features 175 species and cultivars of hydrangea planted throughout the property, is a gem of a resource. We’re lucky to have such an excellent place where you can see many different kinds of hydrangeas in one spot. During the sale at least 40 different varieties will be offered, including the well-known Snowflake, which was developed by Eddie Aldridge and his dad. Aldridge Gardens is at 3530 Lorna Road in Hoover. Now and June are especially good times to see hydrangeas in bloom, although you’ll have to visit again in July and August to see the later species in their glory. Many are pictured on the Aldridge gardens website,, under ‘attractions.’

Most hydrangeas do best with a little shade, but will also take sun provided they have enough water. Keep that in mind as you look around for a place to set a few. Every Southern garden should include a hydrangea or two, especially our native oakleaf, which has a feature for each season — showy bark, beautiful spring foliage, elegant blooms and nice fall color. Gardeners around the world are paying attention to this local beauty; it has won horticultural awards in Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York, and from The Garden Club of America and the Royal Horticultural Society in England.

Daylilies on the Move

Now is the time to move all those mixed up daylilies if you want to group them by color. Do it when they are in bloom. Daylilies are tough, they don’t mind. Just get plenty of roots and soil in the shovel and water after transplanting.

There is still time to set out tomato plants.


Plenty of Tomatoes Left

There is still time to set out tomato plants. They are still available in stores, especially the heat-tolerant ones like Solar Fire. The cherry types are really heat tolerant, too. Sweet 100, Tami-G and Juliet are three excellent bite-sized varieties with really sweet fruit. The vigorous vines outgrow many leaf spots and other diseases.

Plant for the Hummers Now


Hummingbirds love bee balm, pictured, as well as other easy-to-grow flowers.

You may have already done so, but if not, set out a few flowers for the hummingbirds. They’ll be buzzing through in large numbers in late summer. Hummingbirds love pineapple sage and almost all salvias, annual cypress and cardinal vines (Ipomea), bee balm, lantana, Turk’s cap and agastache. All of these are really easy to grow. In fact, you’d better watch bee balm or it can spread more than you’d like. Turks cap will reseed so put it where a lawn mower can keep seedlings in check.

My mother-in-law shared a recipe of one part sugar and four parts water to make syrup for hummingbird feeders. Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Let it cool before pouring. It will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days, too.

Give goldenrod a haircut this time of year to make them stronger for fall.


Taming Tall, Floppy Flowers

Some great fall-blooming flowers like mums, goldenrod and perennial sunflowers can get so tall and lanky they just flop over by the time they bloom in the fall. You can tame your plants by giving them a haircut this time of year. Cut back half their height. They will branch and get stronger. In July, cut them by about a third. By late summer, the buds begin to form, so don’t cut back too late or you will have a pretty green plant but no flowers this fall.

A Gardening Book Telling It Like It Is


Pamela Crawford’s gardening book will make you want to grow a container garden.

Garden designer and author Pamela Crawford set out to grow vegetables in containers and make them really pretty at the same time. She succeeded. You’ll learn from her straightforward tales of successes and bloopers in a book that will make you want to grow vegetables together with flowers in pretty pots. You can get her book at Home Depot, Lowes, Barnes & Noble, or order it online from Amazon. The Huntsville Botanical Garden has some of Pamela’s "side-planted containers" on display as you enter the garden. She uses these for flowers and herbs. You can learn more about those, too, at They are available via mail order from The Kinsman Company and retailers listed in the dealer locator on the website. There are several in Alabama.

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