I FEEL LIKE we are having another good ole predictably unpredictable March in Mississippi. We were watching a really fast and comforting recovery from our cold blast in December. All the normal signs of spring were happening although a little earlier this year. The Forsythia bloomed, the redbuds came and went, Azaleas gave us a great show. I’ve seen Carolina Jessamine blooming in the woods along with Dogwoods and Wisteria looks like its ready to take over the planet again. The next week we saw Japanese Magnolias bloom and drop their skirts, Grancy Greybeards are dancing now and the Daffodils are wrapping it up. The progression was normal it just all seemed a little earlier by the calendar. We’ve already dealt with the yellow clouds of pine pollen, I was glad to get that part over with but it did surprise me when it started coating everything. I love when that ends but next comes the Oak pollen and their stringy brown tassels. They are male pollen structures that hang in the trees releasing pollen into the wind to fertilize the female flowers.
When the pollen is released the “Oak Tree worms” as I call them fall down heavily just in time for a couple of spring rains to push them down hills and drains forming a solid mat of drainage blocking mess. I try to keep everything blown off pretty regularly during that part or the buildup of those things can be a real job when it comes time to clean out your gutters and down spouts. Normally the next step is the mosquito families all return from vacation and they show up hungry! With our little cool snap this past week they were, at least held off for one or two more blissful weeks. It’s so weird how just one day of temps in the 70’s the mosquitos come over for a free meal, the frogs start their songs, the birds get all chirpy,fooling me into thinking that it’s go time. Then we get that 35 degree reminder that it’s not our turn yet. I have been mostly pleased with the recovery from our earlier cold snap. I’m pretty worried about the yews and the sasanqua shi-shi, I thought they were indestructible. I see buds beginning to form so I’ve not given up hope but I also see a lot of dead branches in my Yews, I’m still not sure how this will all work out in the end.
In the meantime I have applied the pre-emerge to keep some pesky weeds from springing forth from the gloom, I have hammered the tree fertilizer spikes into the ground under my big oak trees, a trick my father lived by, it makes a huge difference in the health of the trees, they are going to be around long after I’m gone so I help them out every other year or so. Over a month of Sundays (literally) I created a bed that stretches from one end of my driveway to the other under the Live Oaks, about 300 feet long and 15 feet wide. I found a place that I could take as much Asiatic Jasmine that I wanted. I scooped it up with a skid steer, put it on a trailer and held my breath hauling it home, nervously watching my rear view mirror as the giant pile threatened to jump off the trailer all the way home. I made it without loosing any but I imagine that people were scooting past me as quickly as they could before they became involved in my shenanigans.
WHEN I GOT the pile home I used my gas powered trimmers and cut the Jasmine into little sod sized pieces and laid them out like sod but I left a little space between the squares since I know how quickly it will fill in. I did the same thing to the other side of my driveway years ago so I remembered how sore I was for the few days after last time so I just couldn’t make myself get around to doing that again. Every time Mimi would ask me when I planned to balance out the driveway by doing the other side I would use the excuse that some real pretty St. Augustine was still looking great under the trees and that I sure hated to mess up a good thing. Over time my luck ran out while the shade created by the trees and the roots surfacing made the St. Augustine look thin and mangey, then I saw the stink eye, time get it done. I brought home 12 yards of soil and 4 pallets of the good stuff like Mushroom compost, Black Cow Manure and our great soil that we grow our bedding plants in and tilled it all up, shaped the bed and laid out the jasmine squares, no more stink eye.
I get alot of really cool letters and emails from readers. I got a request last week after I mentioned keeping some color running through your garden year around to talk about those steps. I got a request in the same week to write one in early April that will go along with a fantastic event that is coming to Jackson soon, I am honored to have been asked. Senate bill 2137 was was signed into law which makes every April Mississippi Native Plant Month.
The Garden Club Of Jackson successfully had the governor issue a proclamation in April of 2022. The goal of this nationwide movement is to raise awareness of the importance of natives and how we can all help the world by incorporating them into our gardens. 150 ladies from the Garden Club Of America will be Jackson for a meeting about the initiative. I am proud to be a part of this movement and it will open up a world of plants that can help in the quest for adding something different to your garden and will help in the quest to having something blooming more frequently throughout the seasons. I guess I’ll write about that next week or so.
I’LL TAKE THE request about more blooms throughout the year first.
Blooming plants rely on day length, temperatures and the amount of sunlight that they receive. The winter months are easy enough to cover your garden with lots of colorful blooms. Starting in October the annual bedding plants that can be planted in the full sun are Pansies, Snapdragons, Dianthus, Larkspur, Ornamental Cabbage, Foxgloves and lots more. Those plants will bloom through April or until it gets too hot, whichever comes first. The transition time in March when the temptation starts, and in April is the trickier part. The plants that will eventually take the Mississippi heat don’t necessarily do well during the earlier, cooler months. That is why I preach about planting your pots up first with the first, less heat tolerant plants to show up at the garden centers. Save the ground planting for as long as you can stand it so you can put in the right plants the first and hopefully last time until fall planting rolls around.
The appropriate plants for the early pots are Petunias, Lobularia (a cross between Lobelia and allysum), Calibrachoa (million bells), Verbena, Creeping Jenny,Lamium, golden Thyme and so many more. Along with that kind of earlier color that will take a cool snap are trees and bushes that show color are Forsythias, Japanese Magnolias, Grancy Greybeards (you should see the giant one blooming in the front beds at garden Works), Snowball Viburnums, Lorepetulam, Spirea, Red Bud and Quince. Buckeyes are budded and oak leaf Hydrangas are close behind.
As we see temperatures begin to stabilize in April, when the nights are consecutively in the 60’s, we can move into the Arsenal of heat tolerant bedding plants. Of course perrenials can be planted pretty much whenever you can find the available. The annuals that will perform well for you in the heat are Vinca (Periwinkle), upright and the cascading kind, Lantana, Coleus, Zinnia, portulaca (moss Rose), Dragon Wing Begonia, Angelonia, Sweet Potatoe, Cuban Gold Duranta and any of the tropical plants that show up around heat-thirty. I love using Hibiscus, bougainvilleas, Fire Cracker plant, Mandevilla Vines, Passion Fruit vines, Dipladenia and canna Lillie’s in our pots and in the ground. I always find the best Caladium bulbs that I can find and plant huge swaths of them in every nook and cranny left available.
These plants will get you through the summer months with your help. Deadheading, fertilization and proper watering is all they ask. I hope this general list of some of mine and Mimis favorite colorful plants will help the reader that requested more info on the matter and maybe even you make sense of it all when you walk into the full bedding plant areas at our great local garden centers here in the Northside. Remember the big box stores all buy the same thing throughout the whole country, they couldn’t care less if the plants they bring in do well in Jackson or Timbuktu, much less about the timing of the seasonal plants in the south.
You might be surprised to find out that as far as plants go they are much more expensive than most of us garden centers or you’re buying off of a bargain rack where they’ve carelessly let the plants get passed the point of sellable so they make them “available” to anyone who cares to help them clean up what most reputable garden centers would have thrown away before anyone sees them. They have junked up our industry and create more plastics waste than I care to think about, it’s really not a disposable industry like they’ve made it look.
Once you give a real plant nursery a try and your plants that you’ve spent your hard earned money on survive and thrive the first time you plant them you’ll never be fooled again. Keep watching that weather, getting your beds prepped and your plans made because she is right around the corner!