Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
June, 2004
Regional Report

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Although marginally hardy, this sweetly fragrant crinum lily can survive colder winters if grown in a protected spot.

Plants Don't Read Books

Take time to enjoy the serendipity that gardening can bring, particularly those times when a plant thrives with less-than-perfect conditions. Far from suggesting that you consistently try to grow plants in the wrong place or out of your hardiness zone, I would encourage you to experiment. Failures will come, but so will delightful successes. Plants are amazingly adaptable, so provide a little extra care and see what happens.

Of Tender Bulbs
What has inspired me recently is the appearance once again of the glorious and highly scented blooms of some crinum lilies. Someone gave them to my mother years ago. She was told they were only marginally hardy in our area. Bulb books report them to be hardy to Zone 7. We're definitely in Zone 6, with an occasional winter that dips to Zone 5.

Through a process of deduction, my best guess is that the crinum we have is the "milk-and-wine lily," or Crinum herberti. The flowers have wine-red stripes on a white base. Each 3-foot flower stalk bears over a dozen blooms. This crinum is often found in old gardens in the South and is one of the hardiest forms.

My mother chose a protected spot against the house, and my theory is that the location has been the key to its success. One of these years, boldness will spur me to try a few of the bulbs in a less-sheltered area.

These crinums are just one summer-blooming bulb that has beat the odds of survival. All the gardening books tell us to dig up gladiolas in the fall. Through sloth, we have left ours in the ground (with plenty of weeds for winter mulch), only to have them reappear year after year. Bulb experts Brent and Becky Heath, writing in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's book on summer-blooming bulbs, noticed that they have had many supposedly tender, summer-blooming bulbs survive outdoors in winter in their Zone 7 garden. Don't try this with all your tender bulbs, but it is worth a try with a few of the hardier types.

And Strawberries
Since a great many pesticides are found on commercially grown strawberries, we like to grow our own. Three years ago, I diligently prepared a bed, then planted both a highly recommended June-bearing variety and a day-neutral, everbearing type. The first year the everbearing ones were carefully tended, with flower buds removed until July. Large quantities were harvested after that until frost.

The second year, due to family illness, the weeds won out. Much later than planned this third spring, weeds were removed. The bed hasn't had any straw for winter protection since the first winter. The result? We've had a nice spring harvest of berries from the everbearing variety and hardly anything from the June variety.

Having grown day-neutral strawberries at various times over the years, I would strongly recommended them, rather than standard everbearing varieties, for harvests throughout the growing season. If you want a concentrated harvest to make into jam or for freezing, only then add some June-bearing types. And as to the gardening books telling you to rip out the everbearing plants after the first year, ignore their advice and, instead, fertilize and tend them until production obviously drops.

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