Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Kids & Containers

One necessity of Southern life that one must love about residing in Mississippi is how fast summer arrives. It seems that only yesterday we were in the frozen tundra of our ridiculous January, but now the leaves are that vibrant green that only appears this time of year, magnolias are blooming and the fresh, smell of cut grass is floating through my open backdoor (along with the dust from my ever efficient lawn crew). Oh, and the activity in Little Red Park across the street has picked up immensely...meaning school is out and summer is here. 

I have to hand it to my ever creative and always artistic southern mother for always having an activity for Maggie and me in the summer, well multiple activities. Growing up in the Delta, the number of organized summer activities were limited, so summers at our house were always spent creating something, cooking something, and living outside (normally building forts or secret hideaways for bikes). Looking back, I'd bet that our summer activities were the seed that planted my love of cooking, the outdoors, and utilizing my (luckily) inherited creative genetics. 

 Farmers Market Helpers

This post if for the creative moms in the Delta (or anywhere for that matter) looking to fill up the hours of the summer, creatively sans t.v's, computers, and I-pads. I'm not a mom, yet, but had the joy of doing a container design workshop at the Downtown Greenwood Farmers Market this past Saturday. As it turns out my most engaged audience members were the ones that were less than 4' tall. It got me thinking how great container gardening is for kids and why they would be so instantly drawn to it. Is there any better way to have kids engage in the outdoors or introduce them to the importance of our landscapes? I think not, and here's why: 

1. Size. Kids are small, containers are small, the plants that go in containers are small...pretty simple observation. Containers are the absolute perfect size for kids as they are the right height, the plants are manageable to work with if you have small hands, and the holes that need to be dug can be created with a small hand spade. It is as if you have a miniature, manageable landscape for even the youngest ones. 

2. Responsibility. Containers are a great way to introduce kids to responsibility when it comes to maintaining a watering schedule to keep the plants alive. (Consider this a precursor to the goldfish....) The reward in the responsibility is the beautiful plants that everyone can enjoy. 

3. Education. Container gardening is a great educational tool for a variety of topics, whether it be plant life cycle (seed, growth, bloom), butterfly, bird or bee habitat, vegetable production, etc. 

Juncus, Mexican Heather, Nirvana Vinca
4. Entertainment. As I've mentioned before, I find the most beautiful thing about our landscapes is that they are dynamic and ever changing. The same goes with mini-landscapes that are containers. Flowers bloom, butterflies appear, fruit ripens, bees come for pollen...through the lens of a young eye (or that of an older, but not much older landscape designer) could there be anything more wholesomely entertaining? 

5. Beneficial. The layers of benefits of a kid managed container garden run pretty deep. As the mom you have the benefit of filled containers on your patio, entertainment for your kid, and fresh herbs and/or flowers for your table. As the environment, you benefit from containers that nourish wildlife (such as bees and butterflies) that struggle to find viable food options. As the kid, you are learning about our outdoor environment and responsibility while having the entertainment of watching your container grow and develop. 

Here are some great themed container ideas to do with your kids. Plant now and enjoy the benefits throughout the summer. 

Vegetable Container

If the vegetable can be grown in your area in the ground, more than likely, it can be grown in a container. Often vegetables require larger containers for adequate room for growth and air circulation. Trailing vegetables, such as cucumbers and peas will require some form of support structure such as a trellis or cage. Tomatoes will require a support structure as well. Cherry tomatoes are a great vegetable for kids to try because they're production rates are incredibly high and are, again, small in size. Better Homes and Gardens has some great tips for vegetables here

Herb Container

herb container
Herbs are great for containers for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because herbs are manageable in size so don't require a lot of "fuss" while residing in a container.  Herbs come in a variety of shapes sizes giving an instant pop of color and texture to the container. They are fantastic on a patio as they have a wonderful fragrance. This herb container has the traditional thyme, oregano and basil. The purple is a Thai Basil I added for a pop of color, but cannot wait to work it in to some recipes. I snuck a banana pepper plant in with the mix just to see what happens. Notice I did not incorporate Rosemary, as it does much better in the ground in the Delta.  Herbs and vegetables are great for kids because they can run out and harvest and use their harvest for cooking. For a more in-depth look at herbs for containers check out the Better Homes and Gardens site

Herb side note: pinch the flowers and blooms off of all herb plants to encourage better flavor development in the leaves. 

Salad Container

This is one of my favorite ideas I've read about for a container, although I've never tried it. A salad container garden incorporates different varieties of lettuce that you can harvest for your salad. Now, lettuce is a cool season plant that grows best in the fall or early spring, so don't try this one right now. Salad greens are great because you can plant once, but harvest multiple times as lettuce will regenerate its leaves. 

Butterfly Container

A butterfly container is one that provides food and habitat for butterflies...at all stages of life from caterpillar to beautiful butterfly. I learned about a butterfly container on accident growing up as I watched my mother wage a war against a  pesky caterpillar eating all her parsley one summer...turns out it was the Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar... so, if you're planning on accommodating all stages of the butterfly life cycle...plan on having some caterpillars munching on some host plants as well as mature butterflies visiting blooming nectar plants. It is just as important to have food sources for the caterpillars as it is the actual butterfly when it comes to a butterfly garden or container. Here are some great options for butterfly containers.  

Pollinator Container

You'be probably heard the buzz (or lack there of) on how our pollinator insects are struggling to carry out their pollination duties due to lack of plant diversity. Pollinators are an integral part of our ecosystem as so many of our food crops require pollination for production. You can play your part in helping these pollinators by planting a pollinator container. Here are some great Southeaster plants for a pollinator garden. Now most of our pollinator group consists of bees, so it may be best to have this container at a safe viewing distance to watch the bees but not have them in the middle of all your backyard activity or right by your backdoor. 

Cut Flower Container

Fresh cut flowers are one of the great luxuries in life, yet they are hard to come by in a small town. A cut flower container is a two for one deal...beautiful flowers outside and inside...as long as you don't cut all the flowers at once. Some great annuals for cut flowers include: Annual Phlox, Calendula, Cosmos, Lisianthus, Larkspur, Pincushion Flower, Snapdragon, Stock, Sunflowers and Zinnias. Some great perennials include: Alstroemeria, Delphenium, Calla, Blazing Star, Coneflower, Dahlia, Gerber, Hollyhock, Lily, Allium, and Pinks. Don't forget about our great southern bulbs such as iris, daffodils and tulip. Plant the perennials and bulbs one time and reap rewards year after year. 

Generally Beautiful Container

Last but not least, how about just a great container of plants, colors and textures you love... or, I guess, that your kid loves. You can't beat the wonderful combinations for which containers allow. Whether it be bright colors, contrasting textures, or varying heights container combinations are endless. Just remember if you go general to use the container rule of thumb: thriller (height), filler (mid-height), and spiller (something to spill over and soften the edges of the container). 

general "beautiful" container with a diverse mix of colors and textures

A few general things to remember about containers: 

1. Check the light source and make sure you select the right plants for the right amount of light. Don't try to grow shade plants in full sun and vice versa. 
2. If watering is going to be an issue (lots of summer vacations planned) choose more drought tolerant varieties of plants. 
3. Choose a creative container for your plants, especially if you are working with your kids on one. Just about anything can become a container as long as there is adequate drainage. 

Containers are fantastic landscape features throughout the year, but especially during the blooming/growing summer months whether you have kids or no kids. But if you're looking for an added activity to fight that early summer boredom, why not counter it with a kids' container garden in a theme that benefits both you and your littlest gardener. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Case of the Instant Landscape

We have heard them all before, even quoted one from a classic, cult 90's movie, the case of cases... someone's got "a case of the Mondays", "a case of the blues", and a "case of.... the instant landscape?" More than likely you have never heard of this, quoted it or used it on that dreaded day after Sunday. It really only comes around this time of year, not weekly. I'd like to think this particular case is a side effect of a fever that strikes this time of year...spring fever.

I, by no means, am any epidemiologist but after suffering through the coldest winter we have had in years, I predict that the spring fever is likely to run rampant this year and there will be hundreds of cases of instant landscape to go along with it. Spring is here, it is beautiful...we want our landscape beautiful, now....

I would be lying if I said I had never experienced it. Here is what I would love my instant landscape to look like.... 


After one day of planting: 

Yeah right ... especially as my hydrangeas look like this right now... 

"It looks like we had a storm, and the limbs from your trees got stuck in the flower bed upright..." 

Here's how it strikes. The first warm day hits, the ground thaws and that itch to go dig in the dirt comes right along. You run to the garden center, snatch up some plants, throw them in the ground...then pause to realize that those tiny 1' shrubs look nothing like you've imagined. Your heart sinks and that is when the case of sudden landscape takes hold of your spirit. You had envisioned a garden that you've read about in Traditional Home, only to look and see some wiry, tiny shrubs that in no way resemble the landscape of your dreams.

So instead of running back to the garden center to fill in the blank spaces with more plants, pause, take a deep breath and realize that plants grow. More than likely your budget does not allow for the size plants needed to create an instant landscape...if it does, call me... because I will happily come create your instant landscape. But to the everyday gardener in small town Mississippi, we get what we can find. 

In order to prevent the case of instant landscape here are five simple things to remember:

1. Plants grow. Often times the plant you purchase at the nursery will triple or quadruple in size by the time it reaches maturity. That's the beauty of our landscapes and plants....they grow and evolve over time. 

No photos are involved in this section for the protection of those parties that may have suffered instant landscape. 

2. Dive, Come Alive, Thrive. The first year your plants are going to dive, meaning they are going to work on establishing their root base. The second year your plants are going to come alive, meaning they will be working on the leaves, blooms and the above ground features (leaves, stems, blooms, etc.) The third year your plants are going to thrive, meaning they will really start to grow, add height, and mass...not rapidly, but enough for you to start to notice. 

3. Develop a plan. That first spring day, instead of grabbing a shovel and digging, simply walk outside and begin thinking what you would like to see where? Make note of the site conditions...space, light, moisture. This can be a simple, simple sketch as noted below. Also, make note of a budget for your plan. By the time you purchase plants, soil amendment, and mulch, the landscape price tag can become quite steep. I'm not even saying you have to stick to a plan or your budget, but at least formulate some thoughts on with what and where you will be working....

   a simple site plan of current conditions                                                    simple sketch of new material

4. Always read the tag. You would never buy clothes without reading the tag (size, material, washing requirements) so why would you buy a plant without reading its tag? When checking the tag always look for mature size, light requirement, moisture requirement and spacing...and match these conditions to the notes you took in step 3. By placing the right plant in the right place you will have little to no maintenance throughout the years of the plants' growth. Years from that spring fever planting rampage, you will be wanting to look out on a well placed plants that have brought your vision to life, not digging and removing the side effects of some over zealous planting.

5. Make the investment. If patience is just not your thing, consider buying larger size plants. Landscapes are an investment, so go ahead and invest a larger up front sum that will reap faster rewards. Sure you will spend a bit more in the beginning, but you will start gaining the satisfaction of having your vision come to life much sooner.

A Quick Explanation of Plant Size: 


Plants come in standard sizes, starting with pots that are measured in inches for smaller perennials and annuals. Landscape shrubs come in standard, gallon sizes: 1 gallon, 3 gallon, 5 gallon, 7 gallon, and 10 gallon, 15 gallon, and sometimes 25 gallon. Once over 25 gallons, they come in b+b (ball and burlap) or by inch stem caliper.

4" pot= pint (0.5 quart)
5-6" pot = quart (0.25 gallon)
7-8" pot= 1 gallon
8.5" pot = 2 gallon
10" pot = 3 gallon
12" pot = 5 gallon
14" pot= 7 gallon
16" pot= 10 gallon
18" pot = 15 gallon
24" pot = 25 gal
30" pot= 30 gal


Now the plant height will vary according to the container size, but the larger the container, the taller the plant because larger containers can support larger root balls.

Although I wish there were a shot to cure instant landscape; one that allows us to click our fingers and transfer images from a magazine into our own landscapes, there just is not. The case of the instant landscape can really only be cured with some patience, which is about as disgusting as that pink, liquid antibiotic we would take as children. However, the best option is to take preventative measures...take a deep breath, take some notes, make some plans (back in January and February when you are pining for spring temperatures), and start saving pennies so that you will be ready to jump into your landscape when April 3 hits and it is 78 degrees. And as in the case of any case...seek professional help should the symptoms of instant landscape continue into the Summer months...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Which Switch is Which?

Early spring is upon us! It seems we have been chomping at the bit for a few weeks now, but with daylight savings time taking place Sunday...we can taste the warmer days. I have been so excited in anticipation of spring that I made a bit of an identification blunder. Yet, my lesson was re-learned and I thought this an opportune moment to share.  

There are 2 types of bright yellow blooms that grace us with their presence this time of year....Forsythia and Winter Jasmine. Both grow of soft, switch like stems. While Forsythia is a sure sign that spring is on the way, Winter Jasmine is a late winter bloomer and really gave me the slip in my premature spring fever. 

Here's how to tell the difference between the two...  

Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

Winter Jasmine is the first to bloom in "normal" winter season...aka when it stays cold, as it has this year. I don't see this plant often in Greenwood, so the yellow bloom on a walk one morning tricked me into thinking it was a yellow Forsythia bloom foreshadowing spring. A native to China, Winter Jasmine can reach 4' in height by 7' in width if left unsupported. It grows in a tangle of green (first year) stems and does well as a bank cover or billowing over a wall or slope. Winter Jasmine has a 3 leafleted leaf that appears after the bloom. It is a fast grower, tolerant of sun and shade, but blooms best in the sun. Use it for erosion control as it roots where the stems touch the soil. Winter Jasmine blooms a few blossoms at a time over the course of 6-8 weeks. 

 the tangle of green stems with a few open blooms

typical growth habit of Winter Jasmine 
(ignore the leaves and Natty Light can...this photo was taken in the Delta) 

Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)

The literal golden child of the spring landscape, Forsythia has been growing in Southern gardens for so long that people assume it is a native. Forsythia begins blooming in late February and will be seen blooming through April. Warmer winter temps can force it bloom sooner in some circumstances. Instead of growing in a somewhat tangle, Forsythia has graceful arching, light tannish brown branches that can reach 7-10' high. Unlike Winter Jasmine, Forsythia goes all in on the blooms, blooming all at once. This is what makes the display so magnificent in the spring. 

My favorite use of Forsythia is seen across the park from my house where my neighbor uses it as part of a shrub border to divide the yard from the street. The row of Forsythia lines the front of an evergreen holly hedge. The dark green of the hedge offsets the bright yellow glow of Forsythia and makes for quite a show...on both sides... 

Forsythia hedge seen from the front yard 
with an evergreen holly border behind

Forsythia hedge seen from the road, peeping out behind the holly

Forsythia is one of those plants that needs it's space to be allowed to showcase its natural growth habit. Part of the beauty of this plant is the graceful, arching branches that soften any landscape bed. Even when it's not blooming, the soft green leaves on the arching branches add impact to the landscape. That's why it takes my breath away to see it shaped like a boxwood.... 

There are several selections of Forsythia available in the trade, in all heights, growth habits and even leaf variegation. Make sure to select the right variety for your landscape so that you don't have to force it into a mold with pruning.

Both Forsythia and Winter Jasmine are great plants for any Southern landscape. They are easy to grow, tolerant of most conditions and provide a beautiful show during a time when there is not much to see in the landscape. Forsythia is a sure sign that spring is right around the corner, but Winter Jasmine offers a glow during the winter months when we need a light in the landscape. Despite their awesome yellow color, neither flower is fragrant. Both plant blooms on old wood, so wait until after it blooms to prune. And by prune, get in there and cut individual branches to preserve the shape...and please don't shear it into a box or ball... 

Enjoy the golden displays of both plants this time of year, plant either in your yard now for enjoyment next year but whatever you do, don't automatically assume that one yellow bloom means Spring is here... know which switch is which. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

If St. Valentine had been a Landscape Designer...

A few weeks ago I was approached by a local garden club to speak to their club on Thursday, February 13, aka the day before Valentine's Day (or simply, yesterday.) After hearing a friend speak to them on the work taking place in the Baptist Town Neighborhood in Greenwood, the club decided they would like to plant a tree in the neighborhood on the day of my presentation, which is the day before Mississippi's Arbor Day (2nd Friday in February) So, when I asked the president what they would like me to speak on, the response was simply "trees." 

Now the subject of trees is a great one, yet an expansive one. You could pick one aspect of a tree, such as fall color and speak on the topic for hours. I, being the only one that would listen to a fall color topic for hours, but that is beside the point. Since Mississippi's Arbor Day is aligning with Valentine's Day, the only logical thing to speak on was love...the love of trees.  

There are a lot of elements I love about landscapes. In fact, I love everything about them : the diversity of landscapes, the dynamic changes that occur throughout the seasons, the symbiotic relationships of all landscape components, etc, etc, etc. That is why I have chosen this field. Yet, it's something about tress that I love the most. I am beyond fascinated with them...enthralled may be the better word. After all, I did graduate from a university where the largest tradition revolves around trees. A tradition with such a long history, when we lost the dear Toomer's Oaks it made national news. 

I love everything about trees from the tiniest bark detail to the branching pattern of a giant white oak.  I love the shade they give, the character they provide and the sense of place they create. I love that a morning after a few too many bourbons another LA friend of mine and I spent a good portion of the morning debating whether a Sweetbay Magnolia was evergreen or deciduous. Turns out, it's both... a semi-evergreen. To me, it seems that trees are what anchor us to the planet. I could ramble on but decided to simplify this love affair into a top ten list in order to not completely plant geek out. 

Had St. Valentine been a landscape designer...I think he would probably agree on these... 

Reason Number One: 

I love the diversity of tree species. There is a diversity in every aspect...from the shape and growth pattern, to the purpose, to the function to whether or not they hold their leaves in the winter or not. I love that there is a tree out there for whatever need you have in your landscape. That's why I always start with trees in the design process. 

Reason Number Two: 
Trees are living components of history. Although most don't live to be 500 years old like the Angel Oak seen in this photo, many of the large, hardwood varieties can live to be 100 years, if not 100, at least 40-50 years old. If they could talk, could you imagine the stories they could tell? 

Reason Number Three: 

Trees are huge. Trees are small. If you need a 50' tree or a 10' tree...there is a size suitable for you. 

Reason Number Four: 

I mean, enough said, right? Starting in the spring, the flowering varieties showcase a brilliance of spring colors. Once the summer arrives, millions of shades of green fill the canopies. Best of all is the fall color, though. The radiant reds and yellows and oranges are one of the greatest spectacles of nature. Winter has a haunting beautiful color as well with the various shades of grays, whites, and browns that take center stage when no leaves or blooms are present. 

Reason Number Five: 

Trees can be used for a multitude of functions in the landscape...as seen in the list above. Smaller, flowering varieties such as Japanese Magnolias and Crepe Myrtles make excellent accents to landscapes. Large hardwood varieties provide shade for homes, patios and playgrounds. Evergreen trees make amazing screens. The same variety used throughout an overall landscape, such as neighborhood or streetscape provides instant character and a sense of place. 

They function in almost every aspect of our everyday, non-landscape life as well. Can you imagine a world without wood and wood products...seems like such a silly concept, but take a moment and think about what all comes from trees that we use everyday. Heck, we even bring them inside during the holidays for our Christmas centerpieces. 

Reason Number Six: 
I've referenced grade school twice now this year, but remember all the diagrams of the greenhouse gas effect we had to learn? Remember how the tree is at the center of the diagram taking in the CO2 and producing the oxygen? Not only that, but trees are instrumental in storm-water management as they help absorb water and stabilize the soil. Look real close at the bottom photo, this is the owl who resides in the hickories of Gamwyn Park...although it thinks of Beau, mom's Chihuahua as the next appetizer, it relies on the neighborhood trees for a home. Trees do more for the environment than we could ever really grasp. 

Reason Number Seven: 
Beauty is found in trees at all scales...the tiniest bark, woodgrain or leaf detail contributes to the overall character  of the tree. Without the smallest of details, these giant trees would lack in any detail at all. 

Reason Number Eight: 
Trees are the landmarks to so many places, regions and spaces. From the Palms of sunny Florida to the White Ashes of Michigan and the Redwoods of California. Trees announce your sense of arrival to a different place often times better than signs do. Even tree sculptures are used as icons of place (as seen by the NCMA's silver tree to the left.) 

Reason Number Nine: 
Trees provide instant impact. Just take a look at the before and after of this neighborhood. Not only do they create the instant, aesthetic impact, but automatically create a hospitable environment. Trees also impact property values by increasing them.  

Reason Number Ten: 
I think reason ten may be my favorite as the growth habit of trees is what fascinates me the most. In spite of all the beauty and grandeur they demonstrate above ground, it's the root system that is the most fascinating. These roots spread out to the dripline (extent of the branches) of the tree. This is often an overlooked fact. Never drive or compact this area during any type of construction as your tree will not make it. (Ask First Baptist Church in Ridgeland, MS about this...) I've seen so many trees die right after construction is finished because heavy machinery crunched the delicate root zone... but i digress. The roots obtain all the nutrients for these pillars of nature. At the same time they can buckle sidewalks or produce mysterious "knees." What we see above ground is only a tiny part of the tree's entire make-up. 

Here's where diversity comes back to play again. Even though all trees have an overall root system, the growth habit and patterns of trees is incredibly divers from species to species. From the Longleaf Pine that remains a bush for the first several years of growing to the Bald Cypress that can grow on land or in water. Take a moment to think about all the many different types of environments in which trees can grow. 

Before running out and planting a tree in honor of Mississippi's Arbor Day, take a moment and ask yourself a few questions. Just as there is a right plant for the right place, there is a right tree for the right place. Look into the species that you are wanting to plant. If you're wanting a giant shade tree, I'd steer away from a Crepe Myrtle. If you're wanting a low maintenance tree, I'd steer away from a Water Oak as the leaves are narrow and hard to rake. Take inventory of the area in which you are placing it. Lighting conditions? View sheds? Etc, etc, etc. Always check the mature size and make sure it has enough room to reach this size. 

These instructions are a bit intense and totally created for contractors. All one really needs to remember when planting a tree is to dig the hole twice the width of the rootball (that mass of roots and soil on the bottom of the tree), and ensure that the small flare (basal flare) at the bottom of the trunk is not covered with your backfill soil...so only dig as deep as the rootball. Also, be sure that if the tree is container grown, break up this rootball. I only recommend staking the tree if the trunk is not completely perpendicular to the soil line. 

I'm sure when the garden club "powers at be" established Mississippi's Arbor Day they didn't realize the chance of Arbor Day and Valentine's Day coinciding...or maybe they did, which would have been pretty cool. I find it a wonderful coincidence that the two coincide this year. And although you may not share my enthusiasm for these species, give them some love this year. Maybe plant one for someone you love or give some seeds or saplings to some Valentines? That tree you plant could very well be still standing decades from February 14, 2014. What better way to show some love? 

I know he wasn't, but had that St. Valentine been a landscape designer...he would have loved on some trees as well...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Blooms, Blossoms, Bosoms & Education

2014 symposium poster by Brantley Snipes Landscape + Design 

Garden Clubs. In the South, they are one of our many societal institutions; institutions that have been in place since the days when people actually spent time in their garden. (I use the word institution not lightly, as southern institutions are the "norms" in our culture.)  Ladies would gather over finger sandwiches and compare notes on blooms, blossoms, and well, sometimes their neighbor's new bosoms... if chardonnay was added to the mix at 11 am then so be it...the meeting then becomes THE social afternoon of the month.  

Decades later, the tradition remains strong in the Delta...finger sandwiches, cheese straws and the occasional chardonnay still accompany the meetings. The recipes may vary, but the staples remain. A southern lady, more than likely, is a part of a garden club, whether or not she knows what type of shrub is in her front yard. Not only that, but she has been since the days of "Pretty Planters" in grade school...minus the brief hiatus throughout college where the sorority takes precedent over the garden club. 

Yet, despite their notorious social nature, a Delta garden club can take on more and can accomplish more than some of our most dedicated SEC football players. I mean that with 100% truth. My dad and I joke that if you could channel all the hostessing efforts of a garden club meeting into science research...one could, in fact, find a cure for one of our deadliest world epidemics. When these ladies set their minds to something, come hell or high water it will happen, it will be beautiful, and it will be done better than the previous year or the neighboring town's efforts on the same event. When a garden club in the Delta hosts something...make it a point to be there... 

That being said, make it a point to be at the Greenville Higher Education Center, what we refer to as The GHEC on April 3. This is the date of the Greenville Garden Club's Horticulture Symposium, which is held every other year. This free event is open to the public and features a different landscape professional each time. Not only will there be a speaker, but the event will feature garden and interior vendors. The symposium takes what garden clubs do best, hostessing and community outreach, and compiles them into an educational lunch. 

This year's speaker is Carol Reese of the University of Tennessee. Carol works to keep the horticulture industry up to date, and attuned to the needs of an increasingly savvy gardening clientele. She writes a weekly gardening and nature column for the Jackson Sun, has served as the Q&A columnist for Horticulture Magazine, and contributes to many other gardening magazines.

Although I am a member of The Greenwood Garden Club, I am the first born of an active member of The Greenville Garden Club and had the great honor of creating their poster this year. 

If you intend to be in the Delta on April 3, mark your calendars for this event! Not only will there be a speaker, but the event will feature garden and interior vendors. Although you have to bring your own finger sandwich, you won't have to bring your imagination, as you will be treated with the most gracious Southern hospitality in the most gracious of settings...and hey, you may learn something in the process...even if you're already in a garden club. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Closer Look at Winter Color...

a sweetgum grove of winter shades 

It's  January, the month where everyone seems to have self diagnosed themselves with Seasonal Affective Disorder; we're all just SAD. It's no wonder we are because for every month leading up to January, we have experienced such visual sensations in the landscape that we cannot help but feel a bit more invigorated. There has been the bright blooms of spring, summer greens, and a decadence of yellows and reds in the fall. Yet, come January and our fall landscape colors are now brown leaves crunching below our winter boots, the glorious lights of the holidays have faded and we simply seem to be holding our breath for Spring.

Despite its reputation as a hum drum, dull month January actually offers a wide palette of shades, tints and hues of all colors....you just have to look a bit closer. In fact, set amidst the browns and grays of winter, January's colors are quite vibrant, quite spectacular, and quite invigorating.

a january blue sky 

"Good luck with that." I heard my dad voice as I announced we were off to photograph the colors of January.  It was the weekend following the polar vortex, which took everyone's SAD to the next level by a touch of frost bite and bipolar disorder. This particular Saturday offered a day of temps in the 50's and a sky so blue that the lyrics to The Allman Brother's Blue Sky come alive. I decided to get outside and challenge myself and see if we (the Pegs and I) could discover a sample complete of every color on the color wheel....a ROY G. BIV sample if you will.

If you recall the color lessons of elementary school, ROY G. BIV stands for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet. Variances in these hues (original color) are value (brightness), tints (white added) shades (black added), and saturation (color's intensity).

shades and tints demonstrated on this fence post

So without further adieu, here are the hues of January, brought to you by Carroll County. 


berries of a sumac

a lingering red maple leaf 


an oak stump 

some fungi 

some orange moss


a yellow bamboo leaf 

yellow/green moss


green lichen

green honeysuckle leaf 

green and white fungi

green needles on a bed of leaves

eastern red cedar

blue lichen

blue lichen

Indigo: (a bit of a stretch, but again...a different shade)

a leaf with indigo variegation


purple branch with peg's purple boots


purple leaves

purple leaves

Each season offers us different variations in hues in/on/around different parts of our plants. Although winter doesn't offer the brightness or intensity of leaves and blooms on plant material, it portrays the softer tints and shades of plant components that often get overlooked. Winter allows the overlooked parts of plants to shine, the bark, berries, and smaller details that are overshadowed by the bold a beautiful flowers and leaves. 

More than likely, you're not going to have stumps, lichen or a few colorful leaves scattered about your landscape during the winter...but if you do, fantastic. If not, look a bit closer to what our most common landscape plants can offer during the winter months.

 berries of a nandina

Our most common landscape plants can offer some of the greatest visual treats in the winter. Consider the red berries of Hollies (Ilex) and Nandinas (Nandina domestica) or the bluish black ones of Ligustrums (Ligustrum japonicum, not Ligustrum sinense) or Indian hawthorns (Rhapiolepis indica)


indian hawthorn

Set a midst a deep evergreen backdrop, these berries have a chance to add a much needed color pop in the winter. 

gold brown foliage of a miscanthus spp. 

Continue to look past our evergreens and bright berries to the features of deciduous and perennial plants. The golden brown foliage of our ornamental grasses glistens in the winter sun. The bark of our beloved Crepe Myrtles and Oakleaf Hydrangeas offers not only deep red and brown color, but varying textures as well. 

When it comes to our landscape designs, it's critical for one to not forget about the potential the winter has for visual interest in  our landscapes. Just because the intensity may be less, doesn't mean that winter lacks in color in our landscapes. Color is a major component of our landscapes and should be closely looked at throughout all seasons of design. 

mass of nandinas

When it comes to winter color, the components of color are often smaller (berries, bark, leaves) and should be massed to create an impact. 

Hang in there, although there's another mini-vortex with no chance of snow...which is a redeeming feature of winter, there is still beauty to be found in your landscape....just look a bit closer!