Southern Gardening TV for December 14, 2014 – Christmas Tree Farms

While growing up in Michigan, one of my favorite Christmas memories was going out to the farm to pick out the tree to bring home. Down here in Mississippi, many families have a similar tradition. 

Posted in Southern Gardening TV | 1 Comment

Southern Gardening TV for December 7, 2014 – Puff the Magic Snapdragon

Everyone knows my friend, Gary Bachman, the Southern Gardener. I’m his secret little Bloom buddy, Puff the Magic Snapdragon. Today, Gary agreed to let me tell you about some of my fellow snapdragon friends 

Posted in Southern Gardening TV | Leave a comment

Southern Gardening for December 1, 2014 – Cool Wave pansies bring cheer to winter gardens

http://msucares.com/news/print/sgnews/sg14/sg20141201.html

I don’t keep it a secret that I think pansies are the perfect plants for cool-season annual beds. They are really easy plants to grow, and they provide great color during cold winters.

The Matrix pansy is always a great choice because of the way it displays flowers high above its foliage. But lately I’ve been admiring the unique trailing growth habit of Cool Wave pansies.

Cool Wave pansies are much more vigorous than the standard pansy varieties. These plants are well branched and can fill a landscape bed or hanging basket with good color from fall all the way to next spring. The Wave in the name may sound familiar to those who grow petunias in the summer. Cool Wave pansies were developed by the same folks who brought the popular Wave petunias to many of our gardens.

There is quite a selection of attractive Cool Wave pansy colors to go along with traditional white, yellow and purple. There is Violet Wing, with its happy duo of white and elegant, velvety, deep purple; Frost, with its abundance of white flowers lightly shaded lavender-blue; Blueberry Swirl, with plentiful yellow-faced flowers surrounded by baby blue; and my favorite, Sunshine ‘n Wine, a bright, sunny yellow with mellow burgundy wings and accented flowers. All these flowers have whisker lines radiating from their centers, resembling delicate artist brushstrokes.

Cool Wave pansies are well suited for growing in combination containers as the spiller plant. Try combining them with Ruby Streaks or Red Giant mustard as the thriller and Montego dwarf snapdragon or Telstar dianthus for colorful fillers.

I am particularly impressed with pansies’ cold tolerance in the garden and landscape. The Cool Wave trailing pansies are hardy through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Zone 5, so they are well adapted for all of Mississippi. During really cold weather, these plants will appear to freeze, but when temperatures moderate, the plants will have only minor damage.

The most visible effect of extreme cold weather will be some purpling of the foliage. Although any flowers open during these very low temperatures will be goners, the flowering will return very quickly with warmer weather.

The fall and winter months can be dry, and it is important to maintain consistent moisture for pansies. Many gardeners don’t realize that all pansies are heavy feeders and will stop flowering if nutrition gets too low. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks to maintain good plant growth.

Cool Wave trailing pansies need to be grown in at least six hours of full sun each day for the best flowering and growth.

Choose a color you like and plant them today to enjoy until spring.

Posted in Southern Gardening Columns | Leave a comment

Southern Gardening TV for November 30, 2014 – Cool Color

It’s the cool season, and there are still options to add color and interest to your landscape. Let’s take a look at some of my fall favorites.

Posted in Southern Gardening TV | Leave a comment

Southern Gardening for November 24, 2014 – Pretty poinsettias make ideal Christmas accent

http://msucares.com/news/print/sgnews/sg14/sg20141124.html

Although it seems like Christmas decorations have been in the stores since Labor Day, what really tells me it’s beginning to look like Christmas is when the poinsettias hit the garden centers.

Poinsettias may be the perfect plant for the Christmas season. In their native Mexico, the poinsettia’s bright red flowers of are known as Flores de la Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, as they bloom each year during the Christmas season.

Poinsettias, which are known in their native Mexico as Flores de la Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, may be the perfect Christmas plant. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
Poinsettias, which are known in their native Mexico as Flores de la Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, may be the perfect Christmas plant. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
Garden centers carry a wide variety of poinsettia colors and styles to match nearly any decor. Colors range from traditional red to whites, pinks, maroon and more. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
Garden centers carry a wide variety of poinsettia colors and styles to match nearly any decor. Colors range from traditional red to whites, pinks, maroon and more. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)

Poinsettias come in colors to fit almost any decoration scheme. There is the traditional bright red, but I really like the whites, pinks and marbled bicolors, too. There’s even maroon available to help celebrate the football success of the Mississippi State University Bulldogs. There are rose-flowered selections, and if that’s not enough, growers even paint them and add sparkles.

More growers and florists use poinsettias in combination containers. For many years, Southern Gardening has promoted combining the poinsettia with Mississippi Medallion winner Diamond Frost euphorbia. Both plants are in the euphorbia family and have similar care requirements. The contrasting poinsettia colors and the white Diamond Frost are really attractive.

One question I get every year involves the poinsettia’s “flowers,” which are actually modified leaves called bracts. The true flowers are yellow-green, bead-like structures called cyathia. Your poinsettia will last longer if you select a plant with unopened or partially opening cyathia. You can even carefully remove these structures for longer lasting color.

When poinsettia shopping, don’t be tempted to grab the first plants you see. Take your time to find that perfect plant. Poinsettias are fragile, and the stems are brittle. Even with careful handling at the greenhouse, stems can be broken when the sleeves are put on, and the damage may not be readily noticeable.

Pay attention when removing the paper or plastic sleeves that can hide damage. Never try to slide the shipping sleeves off because you could damage the plant. Always carefully tear or cut the sleeve off.

One of the most widely reported urban legends at this time of year is that poinsettias are poisonous to our pets. This is not the case.

According to Animal Poison Control at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, if your pet chews on or eats some poinsettia leaves, it will induce only GI tract irritation. No ornamentals or houseplants are meant to be eaten by our animals, so try to keep the poinsettia out of your pet’s reach.

Some humans, myself included, may be sensitive to the milky, latex sap in the poinsettia, which can cause a skin rash or contact dermatitis. To prevent this problem, always wash your hands thoroughly after handling a poinsettia.

To help keep your poinsettia looking good long after the Christmas holidays, make sure it gets at least six hours of indirect sunlight a day, and keep it at a comfortable room temperature. If you’re comfortable, your poinsettias will be, too.

Don’t let the leaves or bracts touch the window glass as the cold outside will transfer through the glass and hurt the plant. Poinsettias look great by the front door when guests arrive, but to keep them looking good, avoid the sudden temperature changes from drafts as the door is opened.

Be sure to brighten your Christmas celebrations with several of your favorite poinsettias.

Posted in Southern Gardening Columns | Leave a comment

Southern Gardening TV for November 24, 2014 – Pansies

If there’s one bedding plant that just can’t be beat in our cool season landscape, it has to be the pansy. As a group, pansies are great for outstanding performance.

Posted in Southern Gardening TV | Leave a comment

Southern Gardening for November 17, 2014 – Snapdragons meet winter challenges

http://msucares.com/news/print/sgnews/sg14/sg20141117.html

The snapdragon is a longtime favorite flower of mine for the cool-season landscape.

Many home gardeners seem surprised when I tell them snapdragons are pretty tolerant of cold weather. We are lucky to be able to grow these great landscape plants in Mississippi from the cool, fall season to the rising temperatures of spring. Once planted and acclimated, snapdragons seem to say, “Bring on the cold weather.”

An old standby is the Sonnet snapdragon. With colorful flower spikes available in a kaleidoscope of colors, it is easy to see why Sonnet snapdragons are so popular. Flower colors include orange, scarlet, pink, white and yellow. These plants, which will grow up to 30 inches tall with numerous flower spikes, are thrilling in a cool-season combination container. They are also great for cut flowers and have a soft cinnamon scent.

This is an image of Sonnet snapdragons in various colors.
Sonnet snapdragon plants grow up to 30 inches tall and offer colorful flower spikes in a kaleidoscope of shades that are great as cut flowers. They are thrilling in a cool-season combination container and have a soft cinnamon scent. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)

If you don’t want to have big and tall snapdragons, there are nice dwarf-growing types. One of the best is the Montego series. Montego snapdragons will grow to only 10 inches tall and wide. Like their big cousins, they are available in a variety of colors that would be gorgeous lining the front edge of a flower bed, including red, yellow, white, pink and bicolor.

 

This is an image of a bicolored Montego snapdragon.
Montego snapdragons will grow to only 10 inches tall and wide. They are available in a variety of colors, including this bicolor, and they are gorgeous lining the front edge of a flower bed. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)

These plants are ideal for planting in the full sun to partial shade. The individual flowers are aligned neatly and tightly bundled on the many stems. The flowers are big for the size of the plant, so it’s good that the Montego snapdragons have strong and sturdy stems. The flower heads will stay compact and not stretch in the warmer weather next spring.

Another good dwarf snapdragon is the Snapshot series. These plants will be a little shorter than the Montego, reaching 6 to 10 inches tall, but they will spread up to 14 inches. There are plenty of flowers with soft, pastel colors, as well as bicolors and a mixture.

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least write a little about the Twinny compact snapdragons. I like these plants because of their double flowers that are sometimes called butterfly blooms. Twinny Peach was an All-America Selection in 2010 and has gorgeous flowers of distinct shades of peach, yellow and light orange. The Yellow Shades selection has flowers that are a beautiful combination of orangey-yellows.

Snapdragons require only a little bit of care to keep them looking good. Deadheading will keep them blooming and looking tidy. These plants are tolerant of low temperatures, but to prepare for extremely cold nights, cover them with a sheet or box until the cold spell passes.

Plant them in a well-drained landscape bed or container. Snapdragons need consistent moisture but don’t like wet feet. When planting, put a teaspoon of slow-release fertilizer in the hole first to keep the plants well fed. When warmer weather arrives in the spring, feed them again for a great colorful display.

Posted in Southern Gardening Columns | Leave a comment