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How do I protect my container plants now that its freezing?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 @ 08:11 AM  posted by rreed

Do you recognize the very important holiday garden tool? If no, read on.

Q:  Julie, now that temperatures have dipped below freezing at night, I’m afraid I’m going to loose my ligustrum and gardenia that I have planted in containers on my patio? Should I wrap the plants at night?  - Seeking warmth in Marietta

A:  Dear Warmth,

Ah, the season for wrapping has begun – and I’m not talking about those holiday gifts.  Yes, wrapping does help – but what you wrap it the key.  Your first thought may be to wrap the plant, when actually you should wrap the pot.

Many gardeners don’t realize that frozen roots can kill a plant faster than frozen shoots and leaves.  Container soil temperature is about 20 degrees F colder than ground soil temperature.  If it is dipping down to 32 at night and warming up into the 40′s during the day, you have nothing to worry about.  Continue fretting over what you’re going to buy your mom (who has everything) for Christmas.  However, if night temps are well below freezing and day temps don’t climb much higher, and it stays low for several days, its time to wrap your pot – or move it into the garage.

Bubble wrap does surprisingly well and is a perfect insulator.  If you’re throwing a party and can’t stand the sight of plastic wrapped pots on the patio, wrap the bubble wrap with burlap or toss on an old tree skirt.  No joke – the size is just right, and the hole and convenient ties make last minute spruce ups a snap.  Now, if dressing yourself for the holidays could be so easy….

Your friend in gardening,




Plan to plant paperwhites soon

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 @ 03:11 PM  posted by rreed

Don’t you just love this glorious fall weather?  Aside from raking leaves (remember don’t bag them – leaves make free mulch), cutting back perennials, and replacing summer color with cool-season annuals, there is one other activity you should schedule in the month of November:  planting paperwhites.

Try mixing a variety of white containers with clear vases.

A member of the daffodil family, paperwhites, make glorious holiday decorations and thoughtful gifts for giving.  Everyone loves the sight of these creamy white flowers which sit atop stems of green. They’re even gorgeous while still in bud.  Known for their heady fragrance, you may want to enjoy yours outside, near a door on on a patio, if you’re sensitive to smells (though this one is fresh and clean – though potent).

Its easy to force paperwhites.  All you need is a container – with or without a hole, enough bulbs to fit shoulder to shoulder in your pot, and rocks, pebbles, glass beads or  potting soil.

Timing is EVERYTHING.  Your’s truly starts her paperwhites 4 weeks prior to needing them open.  Traditionally, I’ve planted my paperwhites on Thanksgiving day – a good activity to do while you’re waiting for the big bird to roast.  For years now, I’ve enjoyed freshly opened paperwhites on Christmas morn, and they continue to look great right through New Year’s.  If you’re hosting several parties, consider planting several pots each week.  That way, you’ll have something in bloom non-stop.

Because terra cotta pots have a hole, use potting soil rather than pebbles for forcing paperwhites.

To plant a pot without a hole, fill container within two inches of the rim with rocks, pebbles, or glass beads.  Position bulbs pointed side up, so that they touch, and dress with a few more rocks to secure.  Fill with water to the top of the rocks and when roots appear, move to a sunny window.

To plant a pot with a hole, fill container within two inches of the rim with potting soil. Position bulbs pointed side up, so that they touch, and add a little more soil to secure.  Dress the top of the soil with decorative moss if you like, and water well.  Once shoots start to emerge, place in a sunny window.

Tips and tricks:

To keep foliage standing tall, rotate the pot.  Paperwhites grow towards the sun.

It has been proven that by watering your paperwhites with a little clear holiday cheer – like cheap vodka, they will stay short and not flop over (unlike some guests).


Leaf it to me

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 @ 06:10 AM  posted by rreed

Okay Julie fans,

There’s no Q and A this week – just some sound garden advice that will save you a little money and hopefully get you off your rumpus so you’ll get outside and enjoy this glorious fall weather.

Rake a little each day so that leaves don't get too heavy, making this job a true chore.

Now, just for a moment, leave your computer and look out the window….. See those leaves that are beginning to fall?  That’s what we call fall gold – not because of the color, but because of what it can do for your soil.  Your first step is it do just that:  Step outside and start raking.

Don’t DARE bag those leaves and put them on the curb for your city to come pick up!  Instead, gather them into a large heap, scoop them into a large garbage can and grind with a string trimmer.  I love my Leaf Grabbers!  Now, dump them into any flower bed that needs mulching – really piling them on, as they’ll breakdown and form the richest soil you’ve ever had.  Got a compost bin?  Add them in there too.  If you do just fifteen minutes a day, you’ll see how much you can accomplish.  Got a place you can “hide” your pile?  Do it.  Come spring, you’ll be glad you did. I do this every year and saves hundreds on mulch – and each year, my soil gets even better!

Your friend in gardening,



Dividing perennials

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 @ 06:10 AM  posted by rreed

Dear Julie,

Aren’t I supposed to be dividing my perennials right now?  I read somewhere that fall was the time to do it.  -Give Me the Go Ahead in Gainesville

Though a little scary at first, cut right through the center of the clump with a sharp shovel.

Dear Gainesville,

I can’t give you the go ahead until I know a little more about what kind of perennials you have and how old they are.  Generally speaking, fall IS the time to divide both spring- and summer- blooming perennials, but if your perennials flower in the fall (like the ‘Clara Curtis’ chrysanthemums we talked about last week), then wait until early spring.  There is one other category:  fleshy rooted perennials such as poppies and peonies.  They are best divided in the fall.

My next question I need to know is how old your clump?  Again, generally speaking, you really don’t need to divide your perennials unless the clump is about 3 years old.  That said, I personally have a clump of ‘Becky’ daisies in my garden that were planted this year that I think would benefit from division – they grew like crazy and look crowded.  Sometimes, you just have to break the rules and use common sense.

Another way to decide if its time to divide is to evaluate flowering:  If flowers have been more sparse than in years past, division could help just be the kick in the pants your little bloomers need.

To divide, slice your clump in half with a sharp pointed shovel.  Continue to break apart until clumps are about fist size.  Space new plants depending on what you have, and replant immediately.  Share leftovers with friends or those you think could use a little extra curb appeal of their own.

There’s one last question:  You live in Gainesville.  If you’re in Gainsville, Georgia, near the mountains, you may opt to wait until early spring to do all of your dividing as winter can be hard on certain plants.  BUT, if you live in Gainesville, Florida, get to digging sister!

Your friend in gardening,



Mums the word

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 @ 06:10 AM  posted by rreed

Buy mums while still in bud for the longest lasting display.

Dear Julie,

I love fall mums, but hate to waste money planting them if they won’t come back.  Are they annuals or perennials?   -Curious in Claxton

Dear Curious,

The lion’s share of mums that you buy from your local garden center will come back year after year if you plant them in the ground (which categorizes them as perennials), but with prices being so cheap, you shouldn’t feel bad about composting your display once you start decorating for Christmas.  At $5 to $25 per pot (and that’s for a HUGE container) you are not going to break the bank if you treat them like annuals (and enjoy them for just one season) – unless of course your mum display rivals the ones at Bellingrath Gardens near Mobile, Alabama.

If you’d prefer, you may plant one of the old-fashion type mums which reliably return year after year, but have a much looser form.  Some of my personal “pink” favorites include ‘Clara Curtis’, apricot hued ‘Hillside Pink Sheffield’, ‘Country Girl‘, and ‘Ryans Pink’, which is very similar to ‘Country Girl’, and equally charming. All of these blend beautifully with sedums, grasses, salvias, and still-linging coleus.

Your friend in gardening,



Five Reasons Fall is the Best Time to Plant

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 @ 07:09 AM  posted by rreed

Dear Julie,

I’ve heard that fall is a good time to plant, but I’m afraid my new landscape will freeze and die in a few months.  -Concerned in Concord


Dear Concerned,

You shouldn’t be!  Last week we entered the first week of fall – the absolute best season of the year for planting all containerized plants.  Why?  The reasons are numerous, but I’ll fill you in on the biggies.

  1. For starters, it’s easier not only on you, but also the plant.  Temps above 90 degrees can stress both plant and planter.
  2. You’ll water less.  Note, this does not say “won’t have to water, but water less.”  Much moisture is lost to evaporation during the summer months.
  3. The air is cooler, yet the soil is still warm.  This means that your plant can settle in, channeling most of its energy to creating new, strong roots, which means you’ll have a jump start on spring.
  4. Though the top of the shrub may be dormant, the roots are actively growing.  Come spring, all your shrub has to do is produce pretty flowers or new leaves.  A shrub planted in spring has to produce new roots, new flowers, and new leaves – a lot to ask of your newly installed plant.
  5. Though freezing temps are ahead, there’s very little to worry about.  Fall-planted shrubs have had time to go dormant. Many seasoned gardeners report that their shrubs, such as camellias, azaleas, and roses, flower even better following a particularly brisk winter.  The key is to keep your plants watered and don’t apply high nitrogen fertilizer when planting. Dry cold can kill a plant faster than Roundup and new lush growth won’t have time to harden off before cold temps set in.  The new foliage will turn black after the first hard freeze.  If this happens, just prune it off.  Your plant will be fine.

Your friend in gardening,



Fall Front Planter Fix-Up

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 @ 07:09 AM  posted by rreed

Dear Julie,
I have two boxwoods planted in terra cotta pots flanking my front door. What can I plant for fall this year to fill the voids when I rip out the sweet potato vine?
- Ready in Richland

Dear Ready,
I can’t wait for cooler days myself and I often like to welcome the changing season with a change of color scheme too. There are so many annuals to choose from for fall now, your choices will far exceed the ubiquitous mum, classic kale, or tried-and-true pansy.

Because you are planting around the base of boxwoods, you need to look for an annual that trails or cascades. Many of the new verbenas fill the bill and look great even after a light frost. Superbena Burgundy is a good choice. Petunias aren’t just for summer anymore and often flower better when weather cools. The ‘Wave’, ‘Supertunia’, ‘Cascadia’ and ‘Surfinia’ series are some of the most popular petunias because most don’t need deadheading.

There’s another little plant out that looks a lot like a petunia, but it isn’t – known as calibrachoa, it goes by trade names like Superbells. My personal favorite is one called ‘Tequila Sunrise’. Nemesia and Diascia hybrids would also pair nicely with box as well.

Was your heart set on pansies? Well, try these: Plentifall. These floriferous fellows will not disappoint. They trail and fill, spilling over the edges of pots, making them perfect for your pots or hanging baskets and they even do a great job when planted in the ground.

Your friend in gardening,


When do I plant spring bulbs?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 @ 07:09 AM  posted by rreed

Dear Julie,

I’m still sweating up a storm, but see spring bulbs showing up at the big box retailers?  Is it time to plant already?  -Prefer football to planting, Pell City, AL


Dear Prefer,

Go ahead and enjoy your football.  Seeing you call the Crimson Tide and Auburn Tiger state home, it would be against your cultural religion to be double-digging beds on an October Saturday afternoon.  Tailgate ‘til your heart’s content:  In most parts of the South, by the time you know which bowl game your team is headed for, it will be about time to plant.  For those of you outside this region, translation:  Late November / early December.


So why have we heard for years that October is the time to plant Spring bulbs?  Well, in many parts of the country it is time to start planting.  But, in the South, more botanical gardens and professional growers are confessing that they aren’t getting their bulbs in the ground until December – and not only are they coming up just fine, the later planting date seems preferable!  Southern bulb expert Becky Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester , Virginia, confirms these actions.   I’m a huge fan of Dig, Drop, Done – a new program that smartly educates women about how easy bulbs are to grow and how much wow you can get with really such little effort.  Half the fun, before you begin, is figuring out which woman is most like you.  


Your best bet?  Daffodils.  Plant tulips if you like, but treat MOST of them as annuals.  It’s just too dang hot here for the lion’s share to come back year after year.  My personal daffodil favorites include the Division 7 – or Jonquilla types.  With up to five blooms per stem, you’ll get a lot of show for your money, and they’re fragrant too!


Try ‘Curlew”, which is creamy yellow, maturing to white; showy gold and orange ‘Kedron,’ or ‘Avalanche’, also called ‘Seventeen Sisters’.  All can be ordered from brentandbeckysbulbs.com or by calling 1-877-661-2852.


Your friend in gardening,



Tips on Planting Fall Veggies

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 @ 06:09 AM  posted by rreed

Dear Julie,
What are some fall veggies that I can plant right now? -Vegan in Asheville, NC

Dear Vegan,

Though I salute your lifestyle, I could never give up cheese (especially a good Wensleydale). Fall greens are a great way for you to get that calcium that you are lacking by forgoing dairy, and September is the month to plant your little patchouli heart out.

Depending on how much space you have, raised beds or containers make the job easier. Right now Gardeners Supply has a killer deal on 3’ x 3’ raised beds: They’re selling for less than $30 each! Fill with a good quality organic soil, water well, and sow directly into the soil.

Sow True Seed in your area offer great seeds and garlic start for Fall and Winter gardens. Up until the end of the month, sow kale, cabbages, collards, lettuces, radishes, turnips, bok choy, Swiss chard, carrots, and peas. If you scurry, you can get a few beets and parsnip in, but that needs to be done in the next week.

Try not to plant everything at once. Instead, sow every two weeks. By the end of the month – and even now – you can start cole crops like collards, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussell sprouts from transplants purchased from your favorite garden center.

Your friend in gardening,


Julie’s Top 10 Heat Tolerant Plants

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 @ 08:08 PM  posted by admin

Dear Julie,

I’ve had it with the heat! It seems like everything I planted this year bit the dust around the Fourth of July. Here it is, late August, and time to start thinking about planting for fall. BUT, before I can move on, my restless mind wants to know – what should I plant next year? – Need to Know in Knoxville

Dear Need to Know,

I can promise you this – next summer ain’t gonna get any cooler. You didn’t say exactly what bit the dust, but I can guarantee this – the plants you see on this list can hold their own. This summer, my hands-down winner was:

1. Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia


I’m going to admit something – I use to hate petunias. I thought they were tacky, unfashionably old-fashioned (there’s hip, cool old-fashioned you know) and sticky. About ten years ago petunias got a makeover and have just gotten better over time. My new fav is Vista Bubblegum. I’ve seen it in designer gardens, trailer parks, town squares, and lifestyle centers (that’s a fancy retail strip mall). Each time it has looked FANTASTIC!

Kudos to Proven Winners for bringing this great plant to market. They have several others that get my thumbs up approval too:

2. Artist® Blue Ageratum – this reddish purple is a knockout when combined with yellows
3. Lo & Behold® ‘Blue Chip’ Buddleia – still my favorite butterfly bush
4. Senorita Rosalita® Cleome – best cleome to date
5. Graceful Grasses® King Tut® Cyperus – the perfect upright accent
6. Diamond Frost® Euphorbia – goes with EVERYTHING
7. Dolce® Blackcurrant Heuchera – this perennial is pretty alone or combined with other plants
8. Illusion® Midnight Lace Ipomoea – deliciously dark and lacey
9. Luscious® Citrus Blend™ Lantana – brillant red, orange, and yellow – the hotter the better
10. Snow Princess® Lobularia – this fragrant pot-filler just keeps on going! Trim if necessary and boost with fertilizer.

Your friend in gardening,