The Southern Fall!

Just because we live in the south doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate fall too.

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The thermometer may be saying 85° but in our hearts it says Fall! October is almost on the calendar and that means autumn and whether we admit it or not we really could use some of that cooler weather.

So maybe we can’t snuggle up in nice warm sweaters or put on some nice boots. A fire in the fireplace might be a bit over the top right now, but we can create little oasis of fall with some simple decorations using natural materials. Even though in my last blog I complained about the use of Mums, they do have a purpose for short-term usage especially for creating fall arrangements and vistas. Other Seasonal Plants are often brought into the garden centers at this time, such as Ornamental Kale, too. Adding in a few pumpkins & gourds, some corn stocks maybe even a discreet scarecrow or two and you’re on your way. A local feed store will be able to provide you with bales of hay and adding a few for broom sticks of cinnamon to your front entry; and you got a fall welcoming.

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You can easily add in some creepy Crawley type of decorations to give it a Halloween feel or just keep it simple and fall-ish. Even if you don’t go with Mums, using summer annuals in that shades of fall colors will give you the same feeling. If you use a few ornamental grasses, they can give you the feeling of a field of wheat. Add in some preserve fall leaves around your display, and don’t for get to add some lighting to finish it off. Lanterns, strings of yellow or orange lights and of course the traditional Jack-o-Lanterns would be perfect to light up the front gardens and paths.

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Even if you can’t physically lower the temperature, by putting together this little fall display, you’ve created a feeling of coolness. You have created an ambience that says “fall is here and I want to celebrate.” So get creative, bringing together your flowering colors of oranges, reds, and yellows.

Have some fun with fall with your fall decorating, it doesn’t matter if you’re from the north or the south!

Sleep? Not Me!

Originally posted on Pen In Hand:

It’s happened again!

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I’ve  caught myself staring off into space, not really paying attention to what’s going on around me as I formed the thoughts of the next scene of my book. I’m oblivious to what people are saying and doing. I’m sure every author has gone through this: that constant state of thinking ahead of what you want to write. Sometimes the make-believe world gets in the way the real world.

Have your ever had one of those nights where you just keep thinking of something over and over and over until finally nothing is going to solve the sleeplessness but to get out of bed, sit in front of the computer and write down what’s going on in your mind? And isn’t it amazing how once you’ve written that last word and click enter, you’re ready to go back to sleep with no problems? Your mind has released…

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Don’t Add to the Crime Wave!

THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW!

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If not a law, than at least a warning in big bold red letters for everyone to see. There’s nothing more irritating than going to garden center and seeing novelist who loves gardening, but may not have the experience to pick the right plants, searching the benches looking and choosing a plant that is wrong for them. As a professional in the landscape business, it infuriates me to see garden centers selling plants that are really not meant for the climate you live in or are being sold out of season.

Everyone likes try new plants and colorful plants just called you to try. But it does the gardener an injustice when you try to sell them plants that are out of season or out of the climate zone that they should thrive in, without explaining to them what they’re getting into.

Seasonal plants should be displayed as seasonal plants! With the explanation to the consumer that they are not hardy plants and might need some extra care. Down here in the South a perfect example are potted Chrysanthemums.

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Oh, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve bought a Mum or two out of season, and who can blame me? Their bright colors just screams fall is on its way. If you happen to live in the north you know that this is perennial fall plant. But, I know what I’m doing and I realize these plants are not able thrive in heat of South Florida for long without blooming out. One of the biggest complaints I hear from customers is that they bought a Mum and it only lasted a few weeks, at the most. I honestly think if people knew ahead of time that these flowering plants had a short term flowering cycle in a hot climate, they wouldn’t be so upset. They would still buy them because they are beautiful and enjoyable, but their expectations would be lower and they would be treated more as a florist type of plants, then a gardening plant.

So, you’ve heard my personal rant and I hope that somebody out there will take note and at least put up a sign in front of those benches of Chrysanthemums, warning the poor southern consumer that they are short-term plant and enjoy them while you can.

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Gardening should be an enjoyable experience. Whether you’re in the South or the north and part of that experience is picking out the right plants for your garden. As a consumer, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t know the type of plant that you are interested in. Most employees working in a garden center love to talk gardening and would be happy to answer your questions.

So, the calendar says that fall is here, even if the weather hasn’t cooled down. Go ahead and grab a big pot of Mums and put by your front door. Here are couple of hints for its care: try and keep it out of the hot afternoon sun, keep it well watered and be prepared to replace it a few times over the fall season.

Enjoy that Mum, and know that the cooler weather is just around the corner!

Happy Labor Day!

There’s excitement in the air!

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It’s Labor Day weekend; traditionally a lazy weekend to close-out the summer and relax. Because after this weekend we will be getting ready to plan ahead for the fall!  Most of us know that after this weekend things will change.

But for the Southern Gardner, it is more than just a lazy weekend. There’s a little bit of excitement and expectation, because we know that there’s a new season of planting about to begin.

I caught a glimpse of this for myself yesterday as I was driving by the local greenhouses. Inside, the workers were busy preparing containers and benches for their fall crops. They were planting geraniums and other fall annuals! Planting those little tiny cuttings into carefully prepared grow-pots,  that within a few weeks will turn into the beautiful blooms of the fall.

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And as I saw the workers filling the pots with soil and gently placing each cutting into it’s the center of the pot I knew that it was time to start planning for my coming season. Gardens need to be planned, pots need to be chosen, and colors need to be selected. Yes, it’s an exciting time. Now is the time to change your ideas from last year to add something new, something interesting, something unexpected to your garden. Down here in the South, winter gardening is exciting because you know that you’re the only place that many of your friends may see with color for months; because while we are enjoying the bright colors of inpatients and geraniums and pansies, they’re looking at endless white banks of snow.

So although we may not be planting in the ground for another six weeks (that’s about how long it’ll take for those little tiny cuttings to be ready) we can be planning and getting excited about what we can introduce to our gardens this season. Are you going to just plant flowers this year? Maybe you are going to incorporate some herbs or a few vegetables to make your containers into sustainable gardens and not just a beautiful garden.

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Is this the year that you add a statue or fountain? Is there an unusual piece of artwork you have your eye on for that empty courtyard wall? Make your yard and an extension of your living area and enjoy every piece of land you have to the fullest.

After all, many of us moved south for the weather and to be outside to enjoy it!

Gardening ABC’s

The ABC’s of Gardening.

Teaching a novice to have a successful experience in gardening can be as easy as teaching a child  their ABC’s. Regardless of whether the gardening experience will be for a few houseplants, a container garden, a large courtyard garden or even your entire landscape; these three principles apply to all. And if you follow them you have a successful gardening experience. Let me explain more…

Custom-Letters-A A is Anticipation.

When you walk into your garden, look around you before you do anything. Anticipate what your garden needs are.

Do you have some wilting plants? Watering is an issue here.

Are the leaves yellow and pale? Maybe you need to consider a fertilizer application.

Do you see webbing or curling leaves? It could be a have an insect problem that needs your attention.

Looking around your garden before you start can give you an idea of what jobs lies head of you. This can also help you be prepared and have all of the essential tools that you’ll need to get your job done completely and correctly.

bB it’s for Balance.

There has to be a balance between what you want the plant to do and what the plant is physically capable of doing. You need to know what your plant’s needs are; does it need highlight, low water, or good air circulation. Placing plants in a location that doesn’t provide what they need, is the surest avenue for poor growing results.

CC is for Consistency.

It is important to be consistent on your maintenance methods when you’re dealing with plants. A good example is this; if you water to your houseplants every Saturday afternoon, then you should do it each and every Saturday afternoon. It might even be a good idea to keep log of you gardening activities, to be clear on what you have done and still need to do.

The plants will adapt to the way they are treated, but if there’s too much time between maintenance the plants get confused and they don’t know whether they should be stressed out or whether they are in a normal pattern. Consistency should also be for your fertilizing methods, your cleaning process, and your pruning techniques. Waiting until a plant is in need of something may not be the best way to be consistent in your gardening habits.

Be proactive; anticipate, balance, and be consistent for a successful gardening experience!

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Of course there are a lot more steps to a successful garden, but if you can start with these three basic steps, then you will enjoy your time with the plants and gardening all that much more.

Enjoy the Tree’s Gift

 

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” 
by Warren Buffett

The wisest people tell you to save and invest in your future and that’s really good advice. But there’s another way to invest in your future as well. That is to plant a tree that’s going to give you shade in the years to come. That small tree planted may look small in your landscape at first, compared to what your ultimate goal is, but before long with proper care; that tree will grow into a substantial part of your landscape that will give you years of benefits.

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There’s nothing more rewarding than on a hot summer day to be able to sit under a shade tree and feel the difference of 4 or 5° and get away from the glare of the sun! Children seem to instinctively know to play in the shade. They build treehouses that serve as clubhouses, swing on swings, or just lay on a blanket to play with their toys. Some trees, like an old Weeping Willow can become anything from an old fort to an enchanted kingdom. All it takes is a imaginative child, and there will be hours of entertainment on a summer’s day.

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As an adult, I love to layout the blankets and read under an old shade tree.  And without a doubt, there’s something romantic and old fashioned about having a picnic under shade tree. Can you picture it?: a checkered blanket, wicker basket overflowing with food and an open bottle of wine.

But the properly chosen shade tree can also be an investment for you and can improve the property value. Placed in the right location, pruned and fertilized to encourage optimum growth; your investment is sure to pay off. With the maturity, the shade from that tree can even help lower your air conditioning bills.

There’s one other benefit that I personally enjoy is the fact that the tree becomes a home for many birds and animals that need it’s protection from the elements. There’s nothing more enjoyable than sitting out in your backyard under the shade tree listening to the birds chirp and feeling at peace.

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So, when the sun feels too overwhelming, grab that book, a chair and a tall ice tea.  Make your way across the lawn, and settle yourself under the protective, shady canopy your tree provides, just for you.