March 2018
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

AL Master Gardener Conference May 3-5

Make plans now to attend the 2018 Alabama Master Gardeners Association conference May 3-5 at Birmingham Sheraton Hotel. You can check the Master Gardeners of Alabama website,, for event details and registration. Everyone is welcome, not just Master Gardeners. Even if you are just curious about gardening and want to learn more, this is a great way to get started and meet others who were once in the same place you are!


For Mother’s Day, take her to the Audubon Mountain Workshop in Mentone.


Audubon Mountain Workshop May 10-13

The next weekend brings the 42nd Annual Audubon Mountain Workshop to Alpine Camp in Mentone. This is one of our region’s largest events for learning and exploring the southern Appalachians. The Young Naturalists Program for children ages 5 -12 is a great reason to also bring the whole family. My mother-in-law provided fond memories for her grandchildren by taking them to this event.

If you are a teacher, there are scholarship opportunities.

The final Sunday of this event always falls on Mother’s Day. If your mother loves nature, this could be a great way to spend the weekend together.

For more information, visit and link to Mountain Workshop under the events menu.


There is Still Time for Onion Plants

Onion planting season is coming to a close, but there is still time to set out transplants early this month. Bonnie Plants transplants are available at many of your local Quality Co-op stores and other places where Bonnie is sold.

Set the transplants shallowly, 1 inch deep, in loose soil for the biggest bulbs. If set too deep, the soil will restrict bulb expansion. If your soil is heavy clay, amend with lots of organic matter and a little sand; a raised bed is ideal over heavy clay.



Do you get frustrated with cilantro because it bolts so easily in the spring? Try several sowings in a shady spot. Plant every couple of weeks and harvest the young leaves before the plant has a chance to flower. It is one way to extend the cilantro season as long as possible.

This fall, buy transplants to place in the garden. They will tolerate frost, but not a hard freeze.

If placed in a cold frame, greenhouse or under a frost cover, the plants will grow on mild winter days and yield throughout the cool season.



Many new native azalea hybrids are bred and grown right here in Alabama.

Flowering Shrubs

My husband and I have noticed more landscapes relying solely on evergreens these days. Evergreens are nice for their green foliage year-round, but there can be much more.

Many deciduous flowering shrubs are spectacular in bloom and have a fine-stem structure when leafless in the winter. In addition, some of these provide nectar, pollen or habitat for pollinators.

When considering something new for your garden, check these showy bloomers: wigela, spireas, buddleia, forsythia, snowball viburnum, oakleaf hydrangea, deutzia, ninebark, red buckeye, native azaleas, clethra, Chinese abelia and fothergilla. Harder-to-find, old-fashioned shrubs such as kerria, sweet shrub and pearlbush are a treat, too.

The idea is to punctuate your garden with color in each season. It’s just one little thing a gardener can do to make a home a lovelier place.


Climbing Roses

It’s rose planting time! In just a few weeks, the first roses start blooming, including some of our best, old climbers. Now is a good time to buy as garden centers have their largest selection at this time of year.

A few tried-and-true climbing roses for our area include Don Juan, Old Blush, Climbing Pinkie, New Dawn, Buff Beauty, Veilchenblau, American Beauty, American Pillar and Dortmund. Give these a sturdy fence or arbor on which to climb. Some such as Climbing Pinkie, Don Juan, Dortmund, New Dawn and Old Blush will bloom again in summer and fall if you snip the blooms after they start to fade and keep the plant watered and fed.

Of course, it will also need full sun to build energy for multiple blooms.


A rolling platform makes it easy to move containerized plants.


Container Help

I love plant containers. They let me put color where I want it.

However, moving them is not always easy. But, with a few boards, nails and heavy-duty casters, you can create sturdy, portable platforms for containerized plants and move them about on the patio, deck, driveway or any hard surface. This is a good use for scraps of composite decking, too! The ones pictured are cut from plywood, but they can be made from any sturdy lumber.

The important thing is to waterproof the wood so it lasts longer. A paint or stain on raw wood is more attractive, too.


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