March 2012
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?


This pot of lilies is in the garden of one of my neighbors where it blooms beautifully every year.

Beautiful Blue Borage

A little-known herb you might have to track down via mail order, borage has absolutely gorgeous blue flowers in spring. These attract bees and make wonderful little bouquets in your kitchen. The plant can reseed and become almost weedy, so you have to watch that, but, if you are a fan of blue flowers — as are many gardeners, take a look at borage. At one time it was an important herb for beekeepers because of its prolific nature to help the bees make more honey. The leaves have a delicate cucumber-like flavor that can be added to a salad, but only if you don’t mind leaves that are a little fuzzy. Young, tender leaves are the best. For adventuresome cooks who like to candy flowers, this is one that will please.

Why Not Lilies in a Pot?

Lilies need perfect drainage or they soon rot. The bulb just can’t take soggy soil. So, if you have heavy clay and a penchant for lilies, consider growing them in a large container. Yes, like other potted plants, they need watering, but the bulbs are a lot tougher than you might think. A little bulb fertilizer after they bloom and a spot where they can soak up good morning sun is all they need — short of occasional watering. It’s easy to plant up a pot like this to showcase while it is in bloom, then set aside with minimal maintenance the rest of the year. Most lily bulbs are relatively cold-hardy, too, so they are fine through winter.

Using one of the varieties of basil with small leaves  in a fresh dish solves the problem of browning created when they are cut.


The Little Leaf Basils

Today there is an assortment of basils available to cooks and gardeners offering a variety of flavors along with assorted plant sizes, leaf sizes and even colors. One of the negatives of cutting big basil leaves into strips when using them on a fresh dish is how quickly they bruise and turn brown. However, basil itself has a solution to that. Just use one of the varieties with tiny leaves: Boxwood, Pistou and Spicy Globe are three common ones with classic Italian basil flavor. These plants grow in a neat mound of many stems and tiny leaves. The

small leaves can be sprinkled whole into soups, salad, over fresh sliced tomatoes or any dish while saving you the grief of chopping big-leafed basil and watching it turn brown. To keep these little plants neat in the garden or a container, trim them often.

Marigolds Make Pretty Vegetable Companions


Add a little color to your garden with an assortment of marigolds.

Add a little color to your vegetable garden with assorted marigolds. They help attract pollinator insects and give you a few edible petals to sprinkle over salads and desserts, too. Plant marigolds deep, just like tomatoes, and they will grow roots along the buried stem to make big, strong plants. You can plant them at the end of rows, around the base of tomato cages or interspersed throughout the garden. Just make sure they can peek out to get sun because without it you won’t see many blossoms.

Great Beefsteaks

Beefsteak tomatoes


It’s a lot easier to build a tomato sandwich from one slice covering the entire piece of bread than to try to piece together smaller, round slices onto the square canvas. So grow some big tomatoes. They won’t be the first to ripen in the garden, but the big beefsteaks are worth the wait. There are many varieties capable of producing big, single slices: Atkinson, Beefsteak, Brandywine, Big Beef, Big Boy, German Johnson, German Queen, Goliath and Park’s Whopper are a few. Make sure your plants are adequately watered so the fruit can reach their full-size potential. When plants are thirsty, the fruit just won’t get as big. A steady water supply is important, too, so plants don’t go from thirsty to saturated overnight. That can bring on blossom end rot. If you prepare a rich, deep hole and set out the plants so they are 2/3 buried, the buried stem will give the plants a supply of deep roots to help the plant through dry weather. Water regularly and deeply. Once the plants are established, it’s better to give them a long, deep watering every third or fourth day so the water can seep deep into the soil. Roots will grow to where the soil is moist. Deep watering moves down where the soil is cooler and there is no evaporation. Water briefly (shallowly) and you lose it to the hot sun. Also, be sure to mulch around the base of your plants to help keep the soil cool and help prevent evaporation.

Is There Life After Football Coaching?

Former Georgia Bulldog Coach Vince Dooley thinks so. Dooley’s retirement passion includes gardening. On April 27, he and his wife, Barbara, will be at the Anniston Museum of Natural History to tell about and autograph their written story, Every Home Deserves a Garden. The event is a fundraiser to support the museum’s botanical garden project and includes a picnic-style lunch outdoors. Tickets are $100 per person or $50 for museum members. Tickets are advance-purchase only and seating is limited. Find out more at the museum website or call the office at (256) 237-6766.

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