June 2013
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?


Hosta makes a surprisingly good potted plant for shade.

Garden Art in Huntsville

This summer at the Huntsville Botanical Garden you can enjoy whimsical artwork made from "found" metal pieces such as shovels, rototiller blades, springs and tools. The pieces are welded into objects such as dogs, cats, flowers, time machines, Jack and the Beanstalk, and more, each with a little story. Roam the garden and enjoy the 30-plus pieces of this artwork by Wade Wharton through Friday, October 31.

Hosta as a Houseplant

Although hostas are typically grown in the ground, did you know they make a very nice, low-maintenance potted plant? Rugged, shade tolerant and drought resistant, these perennial plants work well in pots from the time when the leaves appear in spring until fall when the leaves die back. Hostas are quite cold tolerant, so you can just move the container to a spot in the garden out of sight for the winter and pull it back out in spring. I have had one in a pot for several years. The one pictured here was photographed on a screened porch, but containers like this may be placed anywhere in a shady spot of the garden.

Mandevilla vines are a quick way to add lots of color and height to a container planting.


Tropical Flowers Thrive Now

Now is the time to pick up great, full-sized, tropical plants in full bloom for your garden. Hibiscus; allamanda; mandevilla; plumeria tree; yesterday, today and tomorrow; plumbago and ixora are a few generally sold in three to five-gallon containers ready to provide instant color for your patio. The trick to most flowering tropicals is that they love sun, heat and humidity. Fertilize regularly, but don’t over feed them to the point where leaves appear at the expense of blooms. A little timed-release fertilizer mixed into the soil at planting time should last most of the summer, or feed with a liquid plant food every couple of weeks.

Flea Beetles

This time of year flea beetles are often found making lots of holes in eggplant leaves, which are easily identified by their shot-hole appearance. They also attack peppers and tomatoes, but eggplants are their first choice. These pests are called flea beetles because they resemble fleas - they’re black, tiny (one-sixteenth of an inch) and jump like fleas. If your plants are large, they can tolerate a good bit of damage to the leaves without affecting production, but the beetles can kill small plants. Often gardeners tend to ignore flea beetles, especially since they don’t attack the fruit. However, be aware that they do overwinter in the garden or nearby, because they are likely to return next year when they are most damaging to the small plants. During the cool season, they also attack mustard, turnips, spinach and cabbage. In this case, they are much more damaging because the edible part of the plant is affected. They are especially menacing to tiny potato sprouts. To kill flea beetles, look for an insecticide labeled for flea beetles on vegetables and spray the leaves including the underside thoroughly.

A tell-tale sign of flea beetles feeding is shot-hole damage to the leaves of eggplant, peppers and tomatoes in the summer garden.


Dragon Wing begonia has quickly become a summer favorite because it is beautiful and tough.

Begonias Never Quit


Impatiens continue to be summer favorites.

There has been so much breeding done with begonias over the last few years that gardeners have choices for sun, shade, baskets, edging and containers. Now is a good time to put together a large planting mixing the foliage and blooms of begonias with colorful tropicals in pots or in the ground. Begonias are great plants for summer in this area and chances are you can still easily find them for sale at your favorite garden center. Just read the tag carefully so you will know which type you are buying. Is it mounding or cascading? Tall or short? Does it need shade or will it grow in sun? Give your selection a good home, water and feed it regularly, and you will be pleased.

Impatiens Love Summer

Summer is a time when you may find lots of baskets of impatiens for sale. One popular new series Fanfare can tolerate two to three hours of sun without damage. Although impatiens need more water than many other flowers, they are forgiving if you miss a watering and let them wilt. Unless thirsty past their permanent-wilting point, they usually perk back up within a few hours. Chances are you’ve seen this! Just don’t make it a habit. Pick up a basket of impatiens for a quick spot of color in your garden or a container. You can slip big plants from their baskets into the ground for an instant landscape show.

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