Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
November, 2006
Regional Report

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Purple crape myrtle in this entry garden is a welcoming sight for visitors.

Front Garden Options

Show your colors right out in front of the house by making more of the public areas of your landscape. Many sidewalks have planting squares left open, or a driveway redesign may create space for a signature street tree.

When covenants do not limit the choices, good sense should. Huge oaks and tri-trunked birches will soon overwhelm such small spaces, as will dense shrubs such as camellia. If the ultimate size or form of the chosen species eliminates it, consider another cultivar or relative. For example, Camellia japonica is not usually appropriate, but C. sasanqua may be perfect, its upright tree form ideal for a shady street. Crape myrtle varieties range in size from small shrubs to huge trees; there is more than one for every situation, color preference, and size.

Companionable Plants
Once the street tree is selected, many gardeners decide to grow a living mulch at its base. Not only is such a ground cover attractive, its presence holds down the weeds and often dissuades litterers. Asiatic jasmine, though, is not for small spaces, nor is perennial vinca. These two as well as other vigorous vines will demand regular pruning to control their spread. Besides that time-waster, any fertilizer you provide for the tree will spur on even more vining, and thus more maintenance. Look for small, clumping ground covers to fill the space beneath your tree, to set it off and not compete with its good looks.

When to Plant
There are few hard and fast rules in gardening, but this one is worth remembering: Plant trees and shrubs between November and February. While it is possible to violate this dictum and still have plants survive, it's often a miracle. Our long, humid growing seasons demand healthy roots and ample irrigation for most plants to grow their best. Trees and shrubs, especially, need time to initiate new roots after transplanting before they must support new growth. By planting in winter, transplant shock is lessened, and new growth is more likely to take off and grow.

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