Category Archives: Tree/Shrubs

Don’t Stress If A Plant Is An Ugly Duckling – Imperfection Can Be Beautiful Too!

Oak treeI have a tiny oak tree out back that used to be on its way to attaining an impressive size – until Hurricane Ivan hit and toppled a huge hickory tree onto it, effectively topping it.

I know I should have taken it down when the tree company came to clear out the downed hickory, but I couldn’t do it. I liked that little oak, and over time it’s become my crazy tiny oak tree up in my rock outcrop – a hurricane survivor.

I was working up around that oak this morning, cutting a few dead branches out of it and wondering at its tenacity. Below it, also improbably growing in the rock outcrop, is a shrub called Thujopsis dolobrata – a prized specimen I planted years ago.Thujopsis dolobrata

Unfortunately the Thujopsis started dying last summer, a victim to the previous fall’s drought. I watched anxiously as branch after branch eventually turned brown and died.

Unbelievably, about a third rallied and is still alive. I cut out the dead and now have half a shrub under my dwarfed oak tree. What a pair of misfits in the garden!

My imperfect garden might not be to everyone’s taste; but I’d rather have a little imperfection than everything being “just so”.  A friend in the horticulture profession said it well:

Imperfect Leaf“Plants are living things like humans. They need water and sun and some need food and each grow in different ways. That yellow leaf at the bottom of the dracaena doesn’t mean that there is something wrong or that the plant is dying – it’s just a natural part of the life cycle. People need to understand that imperfect is beautiful.”

My physically imperfect tree and shrub were caused by events out of my control – a hurricane and a drought. Other imperfections are simply part of a plant’s life cycle, yellowing leaves, and damage caused by insects or animals.

While it’s important to maintain a healthy landscape, it’s also important to know when to relax and appreciate that some imperfection is normal and not always cause for immediate alarm.

With proper watering, fertilizing, pruning and general maintenance, your plants will be better prepared to weather anything nature throws at them – and you will too.

By Kris Blevons





Native Azaleas and Hybrid Aromi Deciduous Azaleas Add Blooms, Scent, and Structure to the Garden

Spring Garden

March garden scene…

March and April are the months in the south that finally drive winter out for good, after the usual roller coaster rides with temperatures rising then falling, and multiple cycles of freezing and thawing.

Though our last average frost isn’t until mid-April, this year the fat buds of cherry trees and crabapples, spiraea, forsythia, and many more have burst into fragrant, beautiful bloom, and neighborhoods are awash in color.

Snowball Viburnum buds

Snowball viburnums blooming in March




Favorite shrubs of mine that add to the spring symphony are our native deciduous azaleas and the hybrids that have come along in recent years.

We have a selection available now, and, as they’re considered by many to be some of our most beautiful flowering shrubs, you might like to add one or more to your garden this year.


Hummingbird Moth on Deciduous Azalea

Hummingbird moth…

Large, fragrant, honeysuckle like blooms open gradually, offering nectar to swallowtail butterflies and hummingbird moths. It’s a delight to catch these pollinators “working” the blossoms!






A mistake many people make when deciding where to put their deciduous azalea is placing it in too much shade.


They do need some sun to bloom well, so be sure to think about how much shade mature trees cast in your landscape when considering your placement.Hybrid Deciduous Azalea

Once you’ve decided on your spot, don’t make the next mistake many people do when planting a new shrub, especially deciduous azaleas which are shallow rooted, by planting too deeply. Plant the rootball slightly high, water well, and mulch with pinestraw.




Once your shrub is planted, don’t neglect water. Though they need a well draining soil, they also need even moisture, so be mindful of this especially through the first two summers and possible dry spells.

Though they can grow up to 12’ in height, I do very minimal pruning on my deciduous azaleas, because they’re in a rocky area and haven’t quite gotten that big.

If you wish to prune yours, it’s best to prune early blooming varieties right after they bloom, since the following year’s flower buds form in June. With judicious pruning you can achieve a smaller shrub at around 6’.

Native Azalea R. canescens bloom





Do you think you have just the right spot for at least one of these beauties? I hope you do. You’ll be creating  your own magnificent symphony of color and scent for neighbors, pollinators, (and you!) to appreciate and enjoy.

By Kris Blevons


Privet – Pull Seedlings Now!

Privet Seedling

They’re easy to pull at this size…

Every time I take a walk through my garden in February I’m on the lookout for tiny Chinese  privet seedlings that appear in my natural areas. More than likely these invasive shrubs are in your neighborhood and can easily muscle out more desirable plantings if you’re not careful.

Look HERE at a comprehensive post from Mississippi State on controlling this noxious invasive and resolve to keep it out of your landscape!

Unfortunately, privet is just one of the invasive plants  that lurk just beyond my property line. We’ve learned to spot the tiny seedlings in the late winter and early spring, before they get large, and pull them then to keep it in check since we can’t completely get rid of them from the surrounding areas.  Birds eat the seeds and drop them indiscriminately, so it’s a never ending battle.

Running bamboo, kudzu  (That scourge of the south!),  and Chinese wisteria, Wisteria sinensis,  are also all along the edge of my property, and we monitor them religiously since they’ll take advantage of any little opening. I can tell you from long experience that running bamboo’s worst month here in Birmingham is May, when shoots appear daily, and are cut down just as quickly.

Of course,  knowledge is power. You know now not to let privet gain a foothold; so monitor your landscape like I do mine, and let all your beautiful and desirable plantings take center stage instead!

By Kris Blevons

First Shrubbery Shipment of the Spring Has Arrived!

Last week our first spring shipment arrived, this from a local grower in Shelby County. We can always count on them to supply us with healthy plants, all of which are chosen for our area.

Chinese fringe tree in Weesie Smith's garden

Chinese fringe tree in Weesie Smith’s Birmingham garden…

This shipment has treasures that you might not notice on first glance. Because of our space limitations we carry small quantities of plants we think are worthy of your purchase. These include our native fringe tree, Chionathus virginicus, a beautiful understory tree that everyone comments on when it blooms in April.

The common name comes from the clouds of white, fringe-like blooms that hang from its branches, and many believe it rivals dogwood trees for beauty.  Its size is variable, ranging from 12′-20′ and as wide, and the perfect spot would be in full to partial sun. This would also make a wonderful remembrance gift.

Osmanthus fragrans - tea olive

Osmanthus fragrans…tea olive

Osmanthus fragrans, the fragrant tea olive, is a large shrub that is unassuming until its sweet fragrance gives it away in the late fall, though there are also some flowers in the spring too. It’s very drought tolerant, but it does need a protected spot as it is as the edge of its cold hardiness here in Birmingham.  Most importantly, plant it where you’ll be able to enjoy its unbelievable fragrance!

Tea olive blooms...

Tea olive blooms…

If your landscape has room for any native deciduous azaleas, we also have these gorgeous harbingers of spring. Unlike the usual azaleas you might be familiar with, these bloom before they leaf out and the blooms seem to float in midair.

Native Azalea R. canescens

Native Azalea R. canescens

One of the most beautiful is the Florida flame azalea, and we have a selection of it, Rhododendron austrinum, “Escatawpa’. It’s a vigorous grower with fragrant yellow to orange blooms.

In addition, we have the soft pink flowering and very fragrant native azalea, Rhododendron canescens, also known as the Piedmont or Honeysuckle azalea. Perhaps you’ve seen large specimens up to 10′ tall  blooming in gardens here in  the early spring and not known what it was.

Another,  Rhododendron ‘Spring Sensation’, is one bred for heat and humidity tolerance and large blooms.  All native azaleas do well here if given filtered shade, though they need enough sun to set buds, so don’t site them in deep shade. Keep an eye on them their first summer, supplementing water if we go through dry spells, and enjoy the beautiful show each spring.

Virginia sweetspire and hellebores

Virginia sweetspire and hellebores

A native deciduous shrub (meaning it loses its leaves in the winter) available now that does well in the garden and in containers is our native Virginia sweetspire, Itea virginica. We have a selection called ‘Henry’s Garnet’, grown for its profuse and fragrant blooms, beautiful red fall foliage, and tolerance of dry or damp soils once established. It’s truly a wonderl in any garden, adding beauty in each season.

Spiraea is a deciduous shrub that many ask about when it’s in bloom. Its claim to fame has to be all the tiny blooms creating a beautiful show along arching stems. Selections we have now are ‘Renaissance’, and a dwarf selection, ‘Tor’.

An old fashioned shrub, pearlbush, ‘Exochorda’, gets its name by the round pearl like buds that open to  white flowers. The selection we have is called ‘Blizzard’, and for good reason; it’s reputed to have a blizzard of large, frilly, white flowers at its height of bloom. Spiraea and pearlbush are known primarily for their spring interest, and they are worth waiting for each year!

Fatsia 'Spider's Web'

Fatsia ‘Spider’s Web’

We have fatsia too, but not the plain green leaf fatsia you might be familiar with. This one is called ‘Spider’s Web’, and it has mottled leaves that reputedly become even more mottled with age. Plan to place this in a protected, shady spot, or utilize its tropical leaves in a summer container

Finally, a few more plants you might be interested in include bay laurel, Laurel nobilis,  for edible bay leaves if you’re a cook, and a deciduous vine called Schizophragma. Its common name of climbing hydrangea (though it’s not a true hydrangea) describes its hydrangea-like blooms. The selection we have is ‘Rose Sensation’.

Another vine of note we have now is Confederate Jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides.  The selection we carry is a more cold hardy variety called ‘Madison’.  These shiny green leaved vines with fragrant white blooms are a staple in southern gardens. Keep in mind that even though it’s listed as an evergreen vine, it can get knocked back by particularly hard winters.

Finally, we’ve gotten in a few evergreens and a pretty Deutzia called ‘Nikko’, a small mounding deciduous spring bloomer.

Of course, this is just the beginning, as the nursery will begin to fill quickly with the approach of spring. Stop in. There may be a treasure waiting just for you!

By Kris Blevons


Boxwood Blight In Alabama – What You Need To Know

You may not have heard of boxwood blight, but it is a disease of boxwoods you do need to be aware of that seems to be making some inroads into Alabama. According to an update from Auburn University, diseased boxwoods have been identified in the Birmingham metro area and in the historic district of Huntsville.

Dave Bradford of Bradford Horticulture also told me his observations about boxwood blight in a recent email:

Early on, spots will appear with a darker circle around them on the leaf
There will be defoliation of the leaves
On limbs that are not dead, look for lesions along the green stem
It is easily confused with other more common Boxwood diseases
If any one finds these specific signs, they should check the info. sheet (in the link above) and collect a sample for the Plant Diagnostic Lab at the BBG
There are also good notes for Homeowners, Landscape Professionals, Nurseries, and Garden Centers.
Sprays are not very effective long term.  Even If this disease doesn’t 
kill the Boxwood, it will become so unsightly that it will need to be removed from the landscape.

The  information  below was copied from the Plant Diagnostic Laboratory at Auburn University in the  link above and  refers to residential and commercial landscapes. For more information please refer to the link for the complete report.

Commercial and Residential Landscapes – Boxwood blight is most likely to be introduced into the landscape on diseased plant material. Localized spread from diseased plants within or to adjacent landscapes may also occur via rain or irrigation splash, contaminated clothing or shoes, hoses, or tools.

• Plant disease-resistant boxwood but be aware that these cultivars may harbor the pathogen without displaying symptoms. See Table 1 for list of disease-resistant boxwood.

• Purchase boxwood that originate from states where the disease is not found.

• Inspect boxwood at time of purchase for symptoms of boxwood blight

• Monitor newly established boxwood plantings for blight symptoms for 60 to 90 days.

• Remove diseased plants and bag them from disposal.

• Surface rather than overhead water established boxwood.

• Should suspicious symptoms appear on boxwood, submit a sample for diagnosis to the Plant Diagnostic Laboratory.

• Remove, bag and, discard leaf litter from soil surface from beds where diseased boxwood have been removed.

Do not reestablish boxwood into landscape beds where disease plants were removed and replace with selections of Dwarf Yaupon, Japanese (little leaf), or dwarf inkberry holly.

• Clean tools with a surface disinfectant like isopropyl alcohol after trimming or removing diseased boxwood.

• Clean tools between landscapes.

• For highly valued boxwood, apply protective fungicide listed in Table 2 when plants are vulnerable to attack and weather favors disease spread.

I hope you find this information helpful. We’ll do our part by  continuing to monitor any new developments about boxwood blight in Alabama and will pass along information as it becomes available from Auburn University Extension Service and other experts in the horticultural industry.

A Winter Walk Through A Southern Garden – One Year to the Next

At first glance, it doesn't look like much is going on...

At first glance, it doesn’t look like much is going on…

The garden looked hunkered down and frozen the other day, and well it should, since 10 degrees was a mite chilly for Birmingham, Alabama.

While gardeners in northern climes take the winter off, perusing catalogues and dreaming of a new garden season still months away, usually we in the south, like it or not, don’t have any real down time. I seem to spend much of mine walking through the garden and simply observing and thinking about what needs doing, and, when the temperatures drop down below freezing, I’m more than happy to stay inside.

Mahonia 'Charity', adding it's winter color...

Mahonia ‘Charity’, adding it’s winter color…

For example, I’ve been thinking on and off for over a year now about moving one of the shrub roses from the front bed to the side of the driveway but haven’t quite gotten past the thinking stage yet. I’ve become much more relaxed about things; everything will get done in its own time. Don’t sweat the small stuff, right?
Here’s a bit from a post written last winter with some additional notes about what differences a year can make.


The mahonia, a year later, January, 2015

The mahonia, a year later, January, 2015

I see the Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ shrub that’s planted in a very shady spot is blooming. The birds love the blue/purple berries that follow the bright yellow flowers, and we don’t see the pretty fruit  for long. I cut it back quite hard last spring because it was getting leggy. It’s fuller as a result this year, and next year will have even more blooms. (A note: This year, 2015, there are more blooms, and they’re bigger too!)

Chamaecyparis obtusa selections are wonderful for the south...

Chamaecyparis obtusa selections are wonderful for the south…

Groundcovers... Veronica 'Georgia Blue' and a dianthus...

Groundcovers… Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’ and a dianthus…

Candytuft, catmint, poppies...

Candytuft, catmint, poppies…



Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Golden Mop’ calls attention to itself out front with some yellow brightness of its own, anchoring the end of the front bed. It has loved this hot, sunny spot, and I appreciate being able to clip it for my holiday decorations. What a beautiful workhorse in the garden! I purchased it (and most of my shrubs and trees) in small pots and have let them grow into their spaces.
More subtle things are happening out front too. The early blooming evergreen groundcover Iberis, or candytuft, is showing its buds, and some are even opening. They evidently don’t look at a calendar or gardening book to tell them when they’re supposed to be blooming! (Update for 2015: definitely not as pretty as last year, but there’s still a smattering of bloom here and there.)

The veronica ‘Georgia Blue’, a white pass-along dianthus, and poppies seem happy, as does the catmint, ‘Walker’s Low’.  The beautiful veronica will be covered with tiny blue flowers in late January into February, just as the poppies begin to fatten up and the violas begin to show more color. If you haven’t planted poppies, pansies, violas, the ‘Georgia Blue’ veronica or candytuft yet, it’s not too late to find a few spots for some. They’ll add some extra and welcome color in your yard this spring.









This bed will look much different in future  weeks and months,  but now, in the midst of winter, things are quiet…I must remember this is the season for patience.

daylily foliage...

daylily foliage…

Some daylilys, though, are pushing out new green growth in this warm south facing bed; winter barely keeps them down. A large prostrate rosemary, another that loves this hot spot, is blooming pretty purply blue flowers that the bees adore. (This Rosemary really took a hit during the second snow event of 2014 – I ended up pulling it out early in the summer since it looked absolutely awful.)





Spiraea 'Ogon'

Spiraea ‘Ogon’


My route has taken me again to the back, where the Spiraea ‘Ogon’ is holding on to its few remaining willowy leaves, and, looking closely, I can see all the little buds along the stem. These will result in pretty white blooms in beautiful contrast with chartreuse new growth this spring. (this year – no leaves, hoping it blooms as well as last year.)






I walk down another level and there’s one of many small Alabama crotons, looking a bit bedraggled, still with a few silver backed orange leaves. The crotons love this part of my garden – thankfully, since it’s on a rocky slope with great drainage that they prefer.image







sun shining through a miscanthus...

sun shining through a miscanthus…

Farther on, the plumes of a miscanthus show off in the afternoon light. This year, 2015, it looks so sad  I won’t hesitate cutting it back next month. This will also keep all those seeds from wanting to sprout here and there. My Midwestern soul loves grasses… but not everywhere!

I notice this year that the pieris is fat and full of buds – the cold doesn’t seem to have affected it at all, at least I hope it hasn’t. It may be in a favorable microclimate – warmed by the rock outcrop just behind it, and the water below.

The Japanese pieris is full of buds...

The Japanese pieris is full of buds…





epimedium spreads slowly...

epimedium spreads slowly…

I make my way across the water and toward the rocks where an epimedium resides in the shelter and shade of a large elm.

I’ll be trimming it’s tattered winter foliage soon in anticipation of the dainty orange flowers that will appear early spring. There is no procrastinating with epimedium; if I wait too long to clean up those tattered leaves, I risk cutting the delicate stems the flowers arise on. These small lessons are often learned by doing the wrong thing at least once. I love all the different epimediums I’ve amassed over the years. They are slow growing, tough shade groundcovers – some evergreen, some not, and all very beautiful, even without flowers!

(Unfortunately the summer of 2014 a woodchuck created some serious mayhem in the garden, eating all the buds of the epimedium and the blue woodland phlox as well. It was so disappointing! I’m hoping this spring is better.)

Edgeworthia chrysantha...

Edgeworthia chrysantha…

One shrub I never prune but let have it’s way, and that always blooms in the winter is the Edgeworthia chrysantha, or paper bush. I see the beautiful buds that have been getting larger all fall; soon they’ll begin to open and their incredible scent will fill the garden. It’s a true gem, holding interest in all the seasons, from it’s long lasting pretty buds to fragrant blooms, interesting bark, and big, bold leaves.

January, 2015

January, 2015







Native cardamine...

Native cardamine…



I need to end this post soon…Oh, but here, coming up through fallen leaves, is the Cardamine diphylla. I have this native in many spots under the shade of large trees. It will sport pretty white blooms on tall stems in late spring, but it’s  the winter when the foliage is at it’s prettiest. By summer it will have retreated below ground once again. This winter it’s spread even more,  and the pretty green foliage really stands out against the brown leaves beneath it.




Carex 'Evergold'

Carex ‘Evergold’

Parney's clusterberry cotoneaster...the cedar wax wings will devour these berries in another few weeks!

Parney’s clusterberry cotoneaster…the cedar wax wings will devour these berries in another few weeks!


Carex is another favorite, and here is Carex  ‘Evergold’, spilling from a planter. Look how bright is is in the shade of a Cotoneaster lacteus‘Parney’s Clusterberry.











Oh so fragrant...daphne odora

Oh so fragrant…daphne odora


Finally, the daphne odora’s pink buds are getting larger, and soon they’ll open, adding their incredible scent to the whole back garden. This is one that I leave well alone – it needs perfect drainage, and on this slope it seems to be happy. Too much coddling and they are prone to up and dying. So far I’ve been lucky with this one.

The light is beginning to fade and there’s a definite chill in the air; it’s time to go in. There will certainly be more ups and downs with our  weather this winter – that’s a given.  Finally, though,  temperatures will gradually begin to  rise as we make our way toward spring, and each day there will be more to see.  I’m ready.




Miniature Conifers – Just Right For Miniature Gardening and More

It has been quite some time since we’ve had dwarf shrubs and tiny pots of conifers available, and, with the rise in popularity of miniature and container gardening, I decided it was time to see what might be worth getting in for fall miniature gardening projects. Truthfully, these aren’t just for that purpose but can also be used in containers, and all of them are suitable for the garden too.Miniature Garden with Dwarf Evergreens

With this in mind I placed the order with a very reputable grower in the Northwest. And, even though they’re from quite a distance both in miles and climate, I’m hoping these selections will work here as well. I worked with the salesperson to find the best possible plants for the Southeast, and these cultivars are interesting and not too expensive if you’d like to give some a try.

The day finally came when they arrived, and each one was unpacked and watered, then placed in flats and set into the nursery. I found time the other day to put together a couple of miniature gardens as examples of what can be done with these diminutive offerings. The small evergreens really add a sense of reality to a miniature landscape.

Miniature conifers. Front-Back L-R: Ulmus parviflora 'Hokkaido';Cotoneaster microphyllus 'Thymifolius'; Ilex cremate 'JerseyJewel'; Juniperus communis 'Miniature'; Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Thowell'Here also are pictures of a couple of groupings I pulled together to give you an idea of what is available as of October, 2014. In the first picture, left-right and front-back, they’re as follows:

Ulmus parviflora ‘Hokkaido’: This tiny dwarf Chinese or lacebark elm should only grow 1″-2″ a year. It’s much sought after for bonsai, trough, and miniature gardens, and its bark exfoliates with age. It may grow to just 1′ tall over a period of 5 years.

Cotoneaster microphyllus ‘Thymifolius’: Thyme leaf cotoneaster. This tiny version has red berries just like its larger relative, and it’s branches can be trained upright to form “trees” in a miniature garden.

Ilex crenata  ‘Jersey Jewel’:  A holly with unique structural form, this one is also good for rock gardens.

Juniperus communis ‘Miniature’: A slow-growing ( 2″-4″ a year) bluish-green juniper with a narrow growth habit. Also good for rock gardens in part shade. Mature height is 3′  and 1′ wide.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Thoweii’: A narrow upright specimen, it will grow roughly 3″-6″ a year. It matures into a fairly narrow tree. Errant branches can be pruned to maintain the spire-like shape.

Miniature conifers. Front-Back L-R; Juniperus pfitzeriana 'Golden Joy'; Juniperus horizontalis'GoldStrike'; Taxus cuspidata' 'NanaAurescens'; Chmaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Lutea'; Juniperus communist 'Gold Cone'; Cryptomeria japonica 'Twinkle Toes'Interesting choices, right? Here’s another grouping, again L-R and front-back:

Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Golden Joy’: This juniper has a spreading habit and will get larger, increasing in size by 3″-6″ a year. Still, an interesting choice for a container until it outgrows it; then find a place for it in the landscape.

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Gold Strike’: Vivid yellow foliage on this spreading juniper makes quite a statement in a container. This one will need protection from our hot summer sun; give it some shade, especially in the afternoon. It’s a slow-growing, spreading dwarf juniper with a mature height of roughly 6″ and ultimate width 6″ in 10 years.

Taxus cuspidata ‘Nana Aurescens’: The new growth of this dwarf spreading (3′-4′) selection of Japanese yew is golden, hence the name ‘Aurescens’. Growth rate is estimated at 3″-6″ a year and ultimate height is 2′. Best grown in part shade, where foliage color will be a bit more chartreuse. Please be sure you have really good drainage if you try to grow this yew since it won’t tolerate wet, poorly drained soil.

Left: Juniperis communis 'Miniature' Right: Ulmus parviflora 'Hokkaido'

Left: Juniperis communis ‘Miniature’ Right: Ulmus parviflora ‘Hokkaido’

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Lutea’: New growth on this golden dwarf Hinoki  cypress  is a vibrant yellow, and the growth rate is 3″-5″ a year. It’s a beautiful specimen for containers or the small garden, rarely growing larger than 3′, with an upright, irregular, pyramidal habit.

Juniperus communis ‘Gold Cone’: Eventually this juniper will reach a height of 3′-5′ but has a narrow growth habit of only 1′-2′.

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Twinkle Toes’: A selection with very tight, congested foliage, it has a conical shape and irregular habit. An interesting specimen at its mature height of 2′-3′.

I don’t know about you but more than a few of these are now on my “want to grow” list, whether it’s in a miniature garden,  a pretty pot, or placed in a special spot in the landscape. Best of all, the pots are really small, so there’s no major hole digging to do!

We will have these in stock until they sell out; so, if you’re interested, come in and take a look soon. If you miss out on this selection, next spring will be your next chance!

Fall Container Planting…(There’s More Than Just Pansies Out There!)

Fall Planter With Chamaecyparis 'Crippsii'The temperatures are hopefully trending downward, and you’re thinking about redoing your summer plantings. There seem to be so many choices; it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at the garden shop, even though you probably thought you had it all figured out before you left home!

I’ve seen the slightly dazed look  on folks’ faces as they peruse the tables upon tables of pansies, violas, snapdragons, various herbs and ornamental greens. Invariably they turn to us with a bewildered look and say, “I have (insert number of pots here) and need to fill them. Can you help me?!”

Assuming you have at least a half days worth of sun for flowers, the usual pansies and violas will work just fine all on their own if you really don’t want to do a whole lot of thinking; but there’s so much more out there to play with! From the simplest addition of beautiful green curly parsley (It adds such great color and texture to a planting.) to a more complex mix of greens, grasses and herbs, there’s no limit to fun combinations.

Close up - fall planterThe large planter here is one of a pair, used at the top of stairs leading onto a wide open porch. I took my color cues from the red brick and cream color of the house in choosing my plants, using predominantly yellow with the evergreen Chamaecyparis ‘Crippsii’, yellow variegated  Acorus ‘Ogon’, golden creeping Jenny to trail, and Matrix ‘Lemon’ pansies. To this I added ornamental red mustard, and a chard with red stems called ‘Charlotte’. These will add big, bold leaves, beautiful foliage color, and added height.

Next, more flowers  with a trailing white pansy called Cool Wave White,  a few orange violas and a trailing rosemary  –  the brown grass trailing off to one side and tucked in the back as well is Carex ‘Toffee’. When the sun shines on this grass it glows!

Fall Planter - Cham 'Crippsii''These planters are quite large and can support this variety of plants. In smaller planters, a smaller shrub, some curly parsley, pansies and a trailing plant might be sufficient. Remember, more is always better in planters and windowboxes to give them a lush overflowing feel.These planters will make a definite statement as they grow out.

  • Tips For Maintaining Your Fall/Winter Planters:
  • – As always, keep faded blooms deadheaded.

– Don’t overwater.  As the weather cools in the fall and winter, it’s best to let planters go a bit drier.

– If plants like ornamental cabbage and parsley do get dry between watering, you’ll have some yellow leaves. Groom these and other plants regularly, removing any yellowing leaves that you see. Remember, they’re not going to turn green again!

– Watch the weather and be prepared to cover your planters if freezing temperatures are forecast. Prior to covering, water them thoroughly. Uncover them as soon as the temperatures are above freezing.

Some Interesting Choices To Use With Pansies And Violas In  Winter Planters:

  • Chamaecyparis obtusa – various selections;  they make excellent evergreen accents.
  • Cupressus ‘Carolina Sapphire’ – beautiful blue evergreen, good in the landscape also.
  • Rosemary – large evergreen herb, upright or trailing varieties.
  • Juniper – ‘Blue Point’
  • Thuja – ‘Golden Globe’ arborvitae, nice, rounded form.
  • Heuchera & Heucherella selections – evergreen perennials, interesting as a foliage element – airy blooms in spring.
  • Acorus – adds another texture to plantings; grasslike variegated leaves add color as well.
  • Ornamental Kale – ‘Redbor’ and ‘Winterbor’ are two very upright growing forms of kale,  but there are many others. ‘Red Russian’ and ‘Lacinato’ are also edible. In a normal to mild winter they’ll last til spring. As heat returns, they’ll “bolt”, or bloom, adding yellow flowers.
  • Ornamental Mustard – These add a bold leaf and a darker color to compositions.
  • Chard – another beautiful and edible addition to containers or garden beds.
  • Curly Parsley – Adds texture in winter plantings; also a beautiful shade of deep, clean green.
  • Golden Creeping Jenny – A useful trailing element, it may get knocked back in a freeze but adds color until then and will come back as temperatures moderate.
  • Muehlenbeckia, Angel Vine – tough as nails trailer. Will lose it’s leaves in a freeze but normally reappears in the spring. Protect it and it will be green through the winter in Birmingham.
  • Sweet Alyssum – not available for long in fall, but a nice addition to planters until it succumbs to freezing temperatures.
  • Poppies – available through the fall; worth trying if you haven’t. They hunker down through the winter but will fill out in the spring, adding their bright, papery blooms to liven any planting. Take care to not overwater under cool winter conditions.














More Container Gardens…Foliage, Flowers and Pizazz!

The last post highlighted a few shade planters, and I hope this one will give you ideas for your hot, sunny spots. Even with large planters maintaining a set watering schedule is important when plantings are sited in full sun.  If your plantings wilt as a result of being too dry between watering over and over, eventually they’ll become so stressed they won’t recover. So, if you’ll be leaving for any extended period, ask a neighbor or friend to check your plantings and water regularly.

This planting is easy to hand water since it needs to be dry...

This planting is easy to hand water since it needs to be dry…

The first planting is a classic “Thriller, Filler, Spiller” combination, designed for a tall urn, using a silver foliage plant called cardoon. It will get very large, creating a dramatic centerpiece while the  mounding, succulent echevarias fill the middle with their pinky gray rosettes. The beautiful heat tolerant trailing dichondra creates a waterfall of shimmery silver over the edge. This is the most drought tolerant of the plantings shown here but still needs attention – even succulents need water!

Planted Container for SummerThe next uses a red fountain grass for height in a tall planter with the addition of white Profusion zinnias and white euphorbia as fillers. Spilling out are blue daze and potato vine. This planting will bloom continuously with regular water and periodic deadheading or clipping back of the zinnias. Late in the summer the grass will begin to bloom for an end of the season finale.

Wheelbarrow - Planted For Summer


This wheelbarrow is a fun and bright mix of flowers and herbs and will provide a riot of color through the hottest months. This type of whimsical container calls for a jumble of color,  and here it’s provided by zinnias, vinca, fanflower, rudbeckia, ornamental oregano, purple basil, and thyme. It would be perfect in the middle of a cottage kitchen garden! It will be necessary to deadhead the zinnias as they fade, cut back the fan flower periodically, pinch the vinca if necessary, and harvest the basil and thyme. Watering daily will be a must, since it’s planted very intensively with many plants.

Urn - Chamaecyparis and Summer AnnualsMany of you have pots that have shrubs in them that live year round, and just need some color added each season. In this example, the Chamaecyparis adds yellow foliage and is complimented through the summer with yellow million bells, white narrow leaf zinnias,  silver dichondra and some euphorbia. The million bells and zinnias will be cut back when they get too leggy (There’s no need to deadhead each individual bloom on these.) and it will be watered daily, since the Chamaecyparis has been in this planter for a few years and it’s roots are filling the planter quite extensively.

Planted Container for Summer - AlocasiaThe final planting uses a dramatic, and very large Alocasia – this speaks for itself, though it has supporting players as well, including dracaena, epescia, nepenthes, and alternanthera. It’s quite a combo.

I hope this and the previous posts will give you the confidence to try new plants and combinations, to be braver about cutting plants back (Yes,  they do need it every now and then!) and the understanding that these types of intensive plantings need regular water whether you’re home or not to keep them looking their best. 

Spring 2014 – New Shrubs to Peruse

Bert and Jay unloading...

Bert and Jay unloading…

blueberry bush blooms after a rainstorm

blueberry bush blooms after a rainstorm

March brings the beginning of the spring planting season, and new arrivals will be coming in almost daily from now through  June. It’s an intensely busy time, and, after this past winter, we understand everyone is more than ready to plant something…anything!

The first spring deliveries bring  shipments of select shrubs. Because of space limitations we get them in first; it’s amazing how much room a blueberry bush or a Lady Banks rose  in a 5 gallon pot can take up…especially noticeable when our entire operation is on 1/3 of an acre  (Including the parking lot). Some shrubs in these  first shipments are one time orders only, so don’t hesitate if you see something you like.

Chamaecyparis 'Golden Mop'

Chamaecyparis ‘Golden Mop’




If you’re looking for a focal point in the garden, we have a chamaecyparis in now named ‘Golden Mop’. Shown here is a picture of one in my  garden.  If you’ve looked at pictures of some of our outdoor Christmas  decorations using live greenery,  you might be able to spot the  bright golden foliage lighting up those holiday arrangements.  In March, the perennial groundcover Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’ makes a pretty skirt underneath it. We have some of it in stock now as well.

Rosemary looking a little rough after this past winter...

Rosemary looking a little rough after this past winter…

Do you need some new rosemary plants in your garden after this frigid winter?  I do. With this in mind, we have tried to get in as many as we can. These first shipments will include large pots of upright rosemary to replace those so many of us lost. Remember to place your rosemary where it will receive at least 4 hours of good sun and won’t be in soil that stays wet for any great length of time. I’ve had a large one out by my mailbox for a number of years now (Inexplicably, it was the one that survived this winter.) that rarely gets much attention and is enormous.

This tea olive is right at nose level from my deck...

This tea olive is right at nose level from my deck…

A couple more favorites of mine that we have now until they’re sold out are the wonderfully fragrant tea olives, Osmanthus fragrans. Their small white flowers aren’t noticeable until the elusive scent wafts through the garden in the late summer through fall and again sporadically through the winter. Plant these in a protected area in sun to light shade, ideally near entranceways or seating areas where the scent can be fully appreciated.

On afternoon walks in the fall their scent is unmistakeable in my neighborhood!  According to this link by UGA (Click on publications and search for osmanthus fragrans.), they will grow to a size of 10-15 feet at a fairly quick rate. I started with a one gallon pot 9 years ago, and it’s easily at its mature height now.  This is the only winter mine exhibited cold damaged leaves and bare stems; with spring, some fertilizer, and new growth they should be fine.

Sarcococca in my garden with Dicentra cucullaria peeking out from underneath...

Sarcococca in my garden with Dicentra cucullaria peeking out from underneath…

One last shrub I’d like to mention is one you may not be familiar with; it’s an excellent for shade areas called Sweet Box, Sarcococca confusa. It will gradually spread in woodland areas and has clusters of fragrant white flowers in the spring, followed by round black fruit later in the season. It’s a very nice evergreen shrub and useful as a filler or background plant. If you have a woodland garden, it’s a must!

These are just a few of the new arrivals; others  include confederate jasmine, figs (Yum!!), Virginia sweetspire, Red Drift roses,  bay laurel and more.  If you’re in the area, please stop by and take a look!