September 2016
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Dahlias can be the highlight of a garden at this time of year.


Love Dahlias?

Would being in the midst of every imaginable color and type of dahlia and with gardeners who love to grow them sound like a good way to spend a weekend? If so, you might enjoy the American Dahlia Society Annual Meeting in Asheville, North Carolina, Sept. 15-18. The show and flower judging are Saturday at the Crowne Plaza Golf and Tennis Resort. Registration fee includes access to the exhibit and seminars. Optional tours are available at an extra charge for all day to Biltmore Estate or the Haywood College Dahlia Garden and the N.C. State Arboretum, the Bullington Gardens dahlia display in Hendersonville, and private garden. Make plans ASAP before Asheville gets booked out in the fall. For complete information and registration, visit


Grow Your Own Garlic

My email has been peppered with promotions from mail-order seed companies for all kinds of interesting garlic varieties. Descriptions vary from mild to strong, heirlooms from Italy and Spain, types with purple skins and some that are extra-long keeping in storage. There are two types of garlic – softneck, ones with flexible stems generally seen braided together, and hardneck, with a stiff stem. Softneck types are recommended for warmer climates. Tempted by their extra-large bulbs, I tried elephant garlic in the past, but I found it a little bitter for my taste. If you are a garlic lover, the only way to try these different varieties is to grow your own. September and early October are the times to plant them. The bulbs will form next spring for harvest in early summer.


Peeling Bark

By this time of year, you will have seen the sloughed-off bark of crape myrtle trees caught in the crotches of the trees or on the ground around their trunks. Don’t be alarmed. This is part of the normal shedding of barks these trees do in the summer. You can pick up the bark pieces and throw them in the compost pile or leave them in place like leaves. River birch and Chinese elm are two other trees commonly grown in Alabama that also shed their bark.


Feed and water pineapple sage to encourage more fall blooms.


Fall-blooming Perennials

Mums, pineapple sage and other late-blooming salvias will respond to a little fertilizer early this month with more healthy growth, branching and blooms in the fall. Make room for these plants if they are crowded by tired summer-bloomers like rudbeckia, herbaceous peonies (not woody tree peonies), Shasta daisies, daylilies and others whose blooms are faded and leaves browned. Trim back the old growth and make room for the fall bloomers.


Easy New Shrubs

One easy way to expand a planting of azalea, hydrangea or forsythia is to let them layer on the ground. This is nature’s way of propagation whereby long-reaching branches take root where they rest on the ground. You can assist this by making sure the bending branch is well-anchored to the ground. U-shaped pins fashioned from heavy-gauge coat hanger wire will do, or you can simply lay a brick or stone on the branch to keep it in contact with the ground. Rough the ground a little to be sure it is bare and cover the stem lightly with soil. In a year, it will have grown enough new roots that you can cut it from the mother plant and transplant where it is needed. You may speed rooting by gently scraping the surface of the bark from the underside of the stem and dusting with a rooting hormone, but it’s not absolutely necessary. If you’ve ever seen thickets of these plants on an old homestead, you know they are pretty good about doing this on their own.


Pruning Tropical Plants

Do you have any potted hibiscus you plan to overwinter in the garage or indoors? If so, now is a good time to prune it to a manageable size that will be easy to put on a hand truck and roll into a warmer location. These will drop leaves indoors in the winter, but they will respond to sunshine, water and fertilizer when you put them back out after the weather is reliably frost free and warm next spring.


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