November 2015
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

  A young collard leaf makes a great foil for a few flowers in a small vase.

Collards in Arrangements

Collard leaves are handsome for a flower arrangement and last a long time, too. Cut a leaf from the plant with as long of a stem as possible and simply put it in water like a flower stem. You can also create arrangements using multiple leaves. The waxy nature of the leaf keeps it from wilting quickly. If you change the water every couple of days to keep it clean, fresh leaves easily last a week or so. So this Thanksgiving, surprise your guests with more than one way to put collards on the table!

Apps for Invasive Plants

 Invasive Plants in Southern Forests is one of many apps helping to identify troublesome plants.  

I recently heard Dr. Nancy Loewenstein from Auburn University give a presentation on invasive species in Alabama. It’s quite alarming to see how these species have spread and, in some cases, choked out all growth to completely take over ecosystems. Such is the case with the popcorn tree, or Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera), in wetlands of Louisiana. Bradford pear is another that is rapidly becoming a pest as it crosses with callery pears; its seeds are spreading throughout the countryside and are capable of forming thorny, impenetrable thickets. Invasive plants cause millions of dollars’ worth of damage to lands in our state and elsewhere. Just think kudzu, honeysuckle and privet! They have long been out of control. However, by learning about others, you can help prevent a future problem on your land or on the roadsides. Learn which plants are potential problems at Check your app store regularly (search invasive plants) for updates on apps that help with invasive-plant identification in the field. A few even include reporting so you can help notify others of the locations of these plants.

Protecting Camellias

If your camellia blossoms have turned brown from petal blight, you can help reduce reoccurrence of the disease by cleaning up the soil at the base of the plants. Fungus spores are in the soil and mulch under the plants. Rake away old mulch and plant debris from below camellias and throw it away in a garbage bag. Then put down a layer of clean mulch around the plants. This helps reduce the source of re-infection when your plants bloom.Overwintering Half-hardy Herbs

If you have some precious herbs that aren’t reliably cold-hardy, you can increase their chances of survival by moving them to a protected spot. Lemon verbena is the one I usually go to extra trouble for because it is not easy to find the plants for sale in the spring. You can cover containers with a mound of pine straw or move them under a deck or other area where they are closer to the radiated heat from the house and out of the wind.

Espaliered Sasanqua Camellia

Training a shrub so that it hugs a wall is an old, artful technique that can be very handy in tight spaces. Smaller varieties of sasanqua camellia lend themselves well to this kind of training.

Tulip Planting Time

How do you get those lovely tulips pictured on the sales cards of packages to actually bloom again a second spring or maybe even a third? One way is to start with cultivars with the best chance of re-blooming. These include Parade, Golden Parade, Oxford, Golden Oxford, Jewel of Spring, Don Quixote and Red Riding Hood. There are also a few tulips that are native to warmer climates and adapt to our climate pretty well. These have the best chance of coming back. They are Tulipa bakeri, T. clusia, T. eichleri, T. bataliniiand T. saxatilis. It is also absolutely imperative that the bulbs have excellent drainage. Any chance of soggy soil in winter will keep them from coming back. Put a little bulb food in the planting hole and fertilize again after they bloom. Never cut back the foliage; let it stay until it naturally yellows and dies back in late spring.

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