Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
September, 2004
Regional Report

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A palm is a good choice for a year-round focal point in your landscape.

Winter Garden Interest

Sometimes it's hard for the casual observer to gauge the traditional seasons in our region. But when the garden does have a winter lull, there are some plants you can count on.

Focal Points
Every garden area needs a focal point to guide the eye into it and to be a constant through the year. If it shines in winter, so much the better. To create a sense of place and an instant focal point, select a palm, a golden raintree, an ornamental grass, or a traditional evergreen like wax myrtle.

Meaningful placement is the essence of interesting focal points. In the corner where house meets wall, a solo spot in the lawn, draped over a piece of architecture like a pergola or arbor -- the site itself calls for a centerpiece. The space outside a window where the swing set used to catch your eye can be transformed into a wild island bed as a focal point for the entire backyard. By selecting a plant that has interesting architecture itself, or reveals its beauty with age, or bursts forth as autumn arrives, you get double duty from it.

Annual Flowers
Many traditional spring flowers deliver during the winter in warm areas. Plant a rainbow of petunias, candytuft, snapdragons, and geraniums, remembering that actively growing plants need regular water and fertilizer all through the season (except for the very coldest weeks in places like Houston). They'll flower when they can, and add texture and foliage color when they can't.

Pansies and violas are more heat resistant and available than ever before. No longer sold as bare-root bunches (I have planted many that way!), their thunderstorm recovery rate and ability to roll with the punches of our winters is terrific.

Herbs, Too
Autumn is the time to plant parsley, cilantro, dill, fennel, chives, and garlic for the best crops and almost constant good looks all winter. Hosting swallowtails if you're lucky, the parsley grows easily from seed. Plant plenty so you get some and so do the larvae. Alternate parsley and pansies for a nifty combination.

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