May is a great month for gardeners. Spring is in full force, and everything is blooming. Here in the South, it was such glorious days.
I have never seen my garden so beautiful. Last year was a bummer. Early in the season, my husband was so sick I had no time for gardening. After he passed on, I was so depressed and could not get going. So this season, I made up for what I lost last year, and it shows.
I packed the front bed with plants, just what I did in my garden in New York. I have orchestrated the planting so that I have color in the garden continuously. I usually forget to take photos of my garden, but this year I took some to plan where to put more spring bulbs for next season.
The season started with spring bulbs and violas. Pansy loves the cold weather. I tried tulips years ago, but they don’t do too well in the South, and the squirrels had a field day that only a few were left in the ground by springtime.
So I skipped planting tulips last fall. For next year, I’ll try tulip again. I ordered different red tulips for next year already. We’ll see if I can get the squirrels off my flower bed. But I planted Royal Navy hyacinth along the edge of the beds. I had pink hyacinth last year, but they were not as impressive as the blues. The Royal Navy hyacinth was fantastic the year before last, so I switched back to blue, and they did terrific again this year. I also have patches of daffodils this year, both in front and in the back of the house. I also had Siberian irises, showing their blue color.
After all the spring flowers faded, I let the leaves turned yellow and started trimming them. I have Kalmia (mountain laurel) I planted between my two Bow Bells roses. It was at the boundary of my property, but somehow, it was not doing well there, so I moved it to where it is now. It sent a gorgeous white flower this Spring. I am constantly moving plants if they didn’t do well in the original spot I planted them in. After I find the right site for them, I leave them alone.
Next came the next show.
The roses and perennials started showing their color. I planted five new roses in front in addition to what was there already. Cramoisi Superieur (left photo), which is an old garden rose, started the rose season. It is a no-maintenance rose and much, much better than Knock Out roses and fragrant too. It bloomed profusely every year throughout the season. After it finished blooming, I had the HOA landscaper trimmed it with their hedge clipper, ready for the next bloom cycle – every five weeks. I don’t prune this rose like my other roses. It is just too much work. I asked the landscaper last year to trim it, and it made no difference, so now, I let them do it. After Cramoisi Superieur, there is Dublin Bay, a climber on the post.
Then the other roses started blooming. I have Sedona (top left photo), Opening Night (top right photo), Rosarium Uetersen (bottom left photo), Moonstone (bottom right photo). I also have Full Sail, Scentimental, Othello, Bow Bells (photo above- pink roses behind the big pagoda), and some minis that I planted from some flowers I received after my husband died. Bow Bells and Cramoisi Superieur were planted almost ten years ago and have performed very well every year. I’m surprised the minis came back. Usually, these minis from the florist don’t do well in the garden, but I just put them in the ground and hoped for the best. I also have a few roses in pots that I rotate: Caldwell Pink, Alfred Sisley, Miracle on the Hudson, Firefighter, Veterans Honor, Benjamin Britten, Rock & Roll, and a lot more.
I also have some annuals, but mostly perennials on my front bed trying to vie for attention. The daylily, echinacea, echinops, gaillardia, gaura, phlox, pineapple sage, salvia, scabiosa, and shasta daisy are all starting to put on their color parade. I edged the bed with variegated liriope, which will soon give me purple flowers. Their yellow and green leaves are such a delight in the garden for year-round color.
I had a small plot, but I squeezed too many plants there to fend off weeds. I also have arborvitae, a Norfolk Island Pine, a dogwood tree, and a couple of camellia plants in pots. This is just the front bed. Wait till you see what is in the back. Just bear in mind, I live in a townhouse where ground space is minimal, but it did not stop me from putting all the plants that I love in that tiny space.
Please note that most new plantings are red, white, and blue because I want this to be my “Never Forget Garden” in commemoration of the centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 2021 and also a tribute to my late husband, who served in the U.S. Navy. Bless our men and women who sacrificed their lives to give us the freedom we have today!
Now that you have designed your garden, the next step is what kind of plant to grow. Now is the time to look around and see what is available and what grows in your area. In addition to pleasing design, the planting can be carried out with beautiful and out-of-the-ordinary plants, and a garden of exceptional beauty will be the result. To such plant groups belong the azaleas, and gardens in which they are used mainly are immediately lifted out of the commonplace. Azaleas take the places of good evergreen or deciduous shrubs. In Spring, they fill the garden with such beauty that is unsurpassed.
Eastern Asia has contributed certain shrubs to America’s gardens that are among the finest grown from any source of origin. These Asiatic plant emigrants have fitted into our soil and climate and have grown like natives.
Their habit of growth, branches, leaves, and flowers have fitted into the American landscape. They are distinctly at home. In later years, many of these plants have come directly from the East, but in earlier days, most migrated westward through Europe. Among them, none are lovelier than the azalea.
Have you watched a golf tournament where the background is rows and rows of Azalea plants? It’s pretty breathtaking. I went to a party years ago, and the host’s backyard was edged in azalea plants that must have been planted years ago because it was about five to six feet tall. At this time of the year, azalea plants run supreme in the south. Here in Charleston, they are everywhere.
The above picture is the azalea plant that I planted about eight years ago. I bought this purple-flowered one locally. It seems it is the popular azalea that you see blooming all over Charleston this time of the year. It came in pink and white also, but I like this color best. It is planted in a shady spot, and this year, it is just gorgeous. My neighbors said the same thing. I also have two Exbury Azaleas, which I brought from New York when we moved to Charleston. They are smaller plants but they bloom on and off all year. I have two other azaleas which are double and planted in a raised bed, but they are just starting to form buds. They almost look like roses. These last two got more sun. In fact, azaleas need more sun to produce the most profuse flowers, but some need more sun than others.
Azaleas are easy plants to grow with less maintenance. All species require acid, organically rich soil, and prefer light shade. They are prized for their brilliant spring display of blossoms and for their deep green foliage, which often turns yellow to crimson in the fall. Despite their physical differences, azaleas and rhododendrons belong to the same genus and require the same growing conditions.
Rose Class: Noisette
Date of Introduction: Before 1817
This Blush Noisette just bloomed in time for Easter. This is the first rose to bloom for me this season. I just cut three stems and put them in a simple white vase, and it looks so lovely, and it gives a pleasant sweet fragrance.
‘Blush Noisette’ is an original American Rose. It belongs to a group called Noisette Roses, whose origin began in Charleston, South Carolina. It is very disease resistant and always looking healthy. It is not winter hardy. I planted two on each end of my neighbor’s garage, and they are doing quite well without maintenance at all. I gave them Epsom salt in the fall and a handful of fertilizer in the spring, and that’s all the food they get. They only got watered by rain the last three years since my garden hose won’t reach them. I pruned them early in the season and again after the first flush. Sometime in the late summer, I prune them once more to control their growth. It is a great rose, and for those looking for a low-maintenance rose, this is your best choice. It is fragrant and floriferous!
The origin of Noisette Rose is debatable since some rose historians said it originated in Charleston, SC, where Philippe Noisette transmitted the plants to Paris. Others said it was John Champney, also of Charleston, SC, who raised the original variety called ‘Champney Rose’ or ‘Champney’s Pink Cluster’ from the seed of the ‘White Musk Rose’ or ‘Rosa Moschata’, fertilized by the ‘Old Blush China. He later sent cuttings to William Prince, a New York nurseryman. From there, an immense number were propagated and sent to England and France. The old ‘Blush Noisette Rose’ was raised a few years after by Philippe Noisette from the seed of the ‘Champney Rose,’ and this was sent to his brother, Louis Noisette of Paris, under the name of Noisette Rose.
‘Blush Noisette’ is more double than ‘Champney Pink’ and more dwarf and compact growth, the flowers in very large dense panicles. The old ‘Champney’s Pink Cluster’, not as full, but it has rapid growth and great for pillars and trellises.
Spring has sprung, and it is a great time to plan and design your garden. If you have an existing bed, maybe it is time to redesign it.
What can you do this spring to improve your garden? This spring, I’ve been busy doing just that.
With all the garden catalogs arriving in the mail non-stop lately, plus the home and garden magazines you may have been subscribing to, there are plenty of garden design ideas to get you motivated to plan your garden. Do you want a formal garden or an informal garden like a cottage garden? If you have a big yard, you can do both, as shown in the picture above.
Before you plan and design a garden, there are few things you have to consider. You have to know why you want a garden. We garden for various reasons. Hundreds of years ago, people wanted a garden for food and medicine. Gardening for pleasure did not come until later, when man had satisfied his basic needs. Nowadays, people garden because they want beauty to surround them. Flowers make us feel good. There is a trend to grow your own vegetables because people want to make sure they are getting vegetables devoid of artificially synthesized chemical fertilizers.
We have to ask a few questions before we start digging. How much work do you want to put into the garden? How big do you want your garden to be? How much sun do you get in a day? How shady is your yard? What kind of plants are you thinking of growing? Do you need these items in your garden besides flowers: vegetables, containers, pergola, arbor, a sitting area, lawn space, play area for your kids? Do you need a compost pile, and where do you want to hide it? Will you use part of the garden for grilling or dining? Do you like to use the garden as a place to sit alone, read, relax or meditate? These are the things you have to consider in planning and designing your garden.
If you like roses as I do, you need at least four hours of sunlight to grow better roses. Knock Out Roses will grow in dappled shade but will perform much better with plenty of sunlight. Do you want to incorporate perennials with your roses? For a cottage look, plan on planting perennials with roses. There are plenty of plant companions that you can try. I love white alyssum as edging for my roses in my front yard. Variegated liriope is another good edging plant. It defines the line between the rose bed and the lawn. Alyssum has a sweet fragrance and repels bugs. Roses fare better when planted with other plants than being isolated in a special rose bed. They are less susceptible to diseases.
Armed with catalogs, gardening magazines, and some gardening books, you should be able to find something you like. Check the blooming time and the condition where the plants will be happy. Check the color combination. If you can get hold of “ Color Echoes” by Pamela J. Harper, she wrote about harmonizing color in the garden. Once you know what you want in your garden, you can start ordering your plants or go to your nearest nursery or box stores and buy your plants.
Since I now live in a townhouse and have a small yard, my gardening approach is much different from when I live in NY, where I have a big canvas for my plants. In NY, I had both formal and informal beds in my backyard. Now, I have a cottage look where my plants intermingle with one another. My roses share the spot with other plants. I chose my plants for their fragrance and good company for my roses. Annuals make a big splash in the garden and bloom their hearts out in one season. If you want an instant and carefree garden, plant plenty of annuals. It can get expensive unless you start from seed indoors way before the last frost date.
Container gardening is another venue to venture into. Use your imagination. There are plenty of containers now in the market, and you can go to town with them. Treat it like you are making a floral arrangement.
For the Waterwise gardener, there is the Xeriscape Gardening. There is plenty of native plants, and you can save plenty of water bills in the process. High Country Gardens specialize in native plants, and their catalog and website provide plenty of choices.
There is one area which some people consider too hard to garden – the shady spot in your yard. There are more plants now that are suited for the shady nook of your yard, and some have colorful leaves that can enliven your shady spots. Besides azaleas and rhododendrons, there are coleus, impatiens, caladiums, hostas, heuchera, and begonias to choose from. They all come in various shades of leaves and flower forms.
Once you have figured out the plant requirements and what you want your garden for, it is time to prepare the soil. The soil is the most important aspect of designing a garden. For roses, you need a sandy loam. Take a soil sample and have a pH test done. After you find the right spot in your yard to start a garden, dig the sod out and add plenty of compost to the bed before you begin planting. I know some gardeners in England don’t use fertilizer in their garden, but plenty of compost, and they have the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen.
Gardening is good exercise, and the beauty it creates is good for our well-being. It gives beauty and pleasure to everyone