July 2012
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?


Tame bamboo by growing it in a pot where it makes a durable plant.


This combo of small pepperomia, maidenhair fern, Rex begonia and bird’s nest fern make a big show in a shallow clay pot.

Trim Old Rose Blooms

Even tough landscape roses like Knockouts respond to a little mid-summer love. Clip off the old blooms and hips (seed pods) of all roses (except any you grow for their pretty red hips). Keep watered and fertilize late this month. You’ll see a nice flush of blooms again in a few weeks.

Fall Tomatoes

Sow seeds or set out transplants of tomatoes now for a fall crop. Remember to choose varieties that mature early like Early Girl so they will begin producing quickly as summer wanes. The soil is nice and warm now, so if you can’t find plants, try sowing seed directly in the garden. They should sprout quickly if you keep the seedbed watered.

Bamboo is Usually Best in a Pot

All you have to do is see a roadside where bamboo is growing wild to know this is a plant best confined to a pot, where its rambunctious runners are kept in check. In a pot, it is drought tolerant, handsome and perfectly upright to make a nice screen. There are many kinds of bamboo, but black bamboo has particularly handsome stems. Use a heavy pot to help keep bamboo stable in the wind.

These Can Bloom Again

Some plants with great summer blooms disappearing after a few weeks can actually be coaxed into blooming again. Two great Southern trees, Vitex and crape myrtle, respond dutifully to a little pruning after the flowers fade with another flush of flowers in a few weeks. The trick is cutting the faded blooms off early, as soon as the first ones finish and before they make seedpods. You’ll need a pole pruner to reach the upper branches, which substitutes for an upper body workout at the gym. Closer to the ground, the early blooming perennial salvias, rebooking daylilies like Stella d’ Oro and bee balm also respond to deadheading, another name for removing old blooms. Be sure to water and fertilize lightly to support the new growth.

Houseplant Arrangement

Summer is a good time to create a small outdoor arrangement from small houseplants for the patio or porch tabletop. Many foliage plants thrive in the bright light of a covered porch, but out of direct sunlight. You can buy lots of different types of plants in small 4 and 6-inch pots to combine in a larger basket or cachepot. When they outgrow their container, simply transplant them to larger individual pots to use as single houseplants around the house.

Making the Most of Nandina

Nandina is one of those plants folks either love or hate – there is little in-between. I’m a fan of nandina, a rugged shrub found in older landscapes around the South. Because it is tall and narrow, nandina is great for tight spaces. And because it is an evergreen, it makes a nice screen. Those two characteristics combine to block views in tight areas, an often-challenging situation unless you want a wooden fence. Left alone, nandina can grow 8 feet or taller. You can prune away all the lower growth to give it a bamboo-like quality, or you can prune the stems back at various heights to encourage the plant to grow full from top to bottom. In the spring enjoy the white flowers and in the fall enjoy the red berries.


Thin and upright, nandina is a great evergreen for tight places.


Keep your hummingbird feeders clean and full for the busiest time of year.


Hummingbird Feeders


Tree limbs become sculpture at the San Antonio Bontanical Garden.

It’s time to get out the hummingbird feeders if you haven’t already done so. When hummingbird migration begins in the fall you will see a lot more stopping for a drink as they fly south. My late mother-in-law, an avid bird watcher and Audubon member, taught me to make sugar syrup to fill the feeder. Here is her recipe: Boil 4 cups water. Stir in 1 cup sugar. Let cool and pour in feeders. The sugar syrup will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Tree or Sculpture?

Take inspiration from this sculpture at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. When I snapped this photo, I could not tell if it was a material sculpture or a real tree that was painted gray, and did not dare step into the flowerbed for a closer look. Either way, it looks like a fun way to use large fallen branches or a small tree for ornament, at least until the insects get into it. A coat of paint may protect it from carpenter bees.

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