By Glenn DiNella
I’m not really certain how gardeners in the rest of the world view the southeastern United States, but I think they picture our landscape as a springtime confectionery wonderland of azaleas, saucer magnolias, hydrangeas and gardenias.
Truth be told, we Southerners might be guilty of perpetuating that stereotype. We get bitten by the gardening bug in spring and run to the nearest nursery to load up on the plants we covet blooming in our neighbors’ yards—azaleas, saucer magnolias, hydrangeas, you get the picture. Even large nurseries, such as Lowe’s, have limited space, so they stock up on the plants people search for.
If you do your plant shopping only in spring, you might be left with a landscape void of color the rest of the year, but with a little planning you can have blooms in all four seasons. Daffodils, such as these, are beautiful in spring, but the time to plant them is fall, so it takes a little forethought to add these cheery spring bloomers. You can’t run out to the nursery in spring and find the bulbs for sale.
Consider adding some plants that bring winter blooms. Nothing brightens the cold, dreary days of winter like a camellia, winter honeysuckle shrub, or Lenten roses (hellebores).
While summer can be a trying time to plant, it is possible. I don’t recommend spring or summer planting of balled and burlapped trees and shrubs (also called b and b) because they don’t have extensive root systems to help get them through the hot, dry months. Those plants are grown in fields, dug up (severing most of their roots), wrapped in burlap, and shipped to nurseries. Plant them in fall or winter, when they need less water. Plants grown in containers have all their roots intact, so their success rate is better—even when planted in spring and summer—if you give them plenty of water.
Another tip for creating a succession of blooms is: Shop for trees, shrubs and perennials that bloom for an extended period. I call those plants “long bloomers.” Oleander is one of my favorite shrubs because it seems to bloom from spring until mid-fall. It’s not particularly cold hardy, so it isn’t a good plant for you gardeners in the upper area of the Southeast. It’s very popular in coastal areas of the South, so I planted this one in my Birmingham garden beside a windmill palm to remind me of summer vacations at the beach.
Daylily is another great long bloomer that brightens your summer garden long after the azalea blooms fade. Although each bloom only lasts a day, daylilies keep producing new blooms each day. You can help them continue blooming by cutting off the spent blooms (“deadheading”).
The same goes for roses. After roses bloom, their natural inclination is to reproduce by forming rose hips with seeds inside. Cutting off the spent blooms encourages the plant to produce more blooms in an effort to reproduce.
One great way to create a succession of blooms is to plant annuals. You get six months of blooms or showy foliage by changing them out in spring and fall with plants that can take the summer heat (such as begonias, geraniums, and impatiens) and plants that can handle the cold (such as snapdragons, pansies, and dusty miller). Because they can produce flowers for such an extended period, you get a lot of predictable flower power for your money. Annuals burn up lots of energy continuously producing flowers, so remember to fertilize them periodically.
Discover strategies to keep a garden blooming spring through fall (and sometimes even winter!).Learn More