A few days ago I mentioned that I've fallen in love with ornamentals for reasons beyond color. Another one of those new plant qualities I'm interested in is: low maintenance. Yes, hard work and consistent labor in your garden can pay off and give you a yard that is the talk of the town... but honestly, who has the time? Or the energy for that matter. This may come as a shock to most, but low maintenance doesn't just mean yews and oak trees. You can get a colorful, low maintenance garden by following three simple rules: plant natives, plant long-lived perennials, and plant them in the right spot!   

Natives are plants that originate from your area. These guys are well suited for your yard because well, they were growing here all on their own, long before you ever existed. They are adapted to your climate and need minimal to no inputs for success in your garden.

Perennials are plants that keep coming back year after year (versus annuals that only last one growth season). However, you will find that some perennials tend to "burn out", get scraggly and die out in the center while still expanding outwards. That's where the LONG-LIVED part comes in - these perennials go above and beyond, coming back again and again, just as strong as the year before.

Placement is key when designing a low-maintenance garden. Sure, black-eyed Susan's are stunning but unless you have a spot with full sun and excellent drainage, you are going to have to put a lot of effort into keeping that plant happy. Effort = high maintenance. I know it's hard to give up the plants you really "want" but imagine how much money, time and energy you will save by not having to water, fertilize and replace plants every year.

Here are some of my new favorite plants for the low-maintenance southern garden:
  • Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve' a perennial flourishes on infertile soil and blooms from summer to frost. Low maintenance.

  • Sanguisorba officinalis - Herbaceous perennial that blooms from May to June and is known for its ornamental seed heads. But this plant isn't just pretty to look at, it has an extensive root system great for erosion control, it leaves are edible, great in salads and soups, and it is very low maintenance... just don't let it get too dry.

  • Veronicastrum virginicum a long-lived, slow growing perennial that blooms from May to August. Tends to grow in tight clumps and are very low maintenance.

  • Baptisia australis - one of the most durable (once established) and long-lived natives. Blooms from May to June with showy flowers that attract butterflies. Tolerates all soils from clay to shallow and rocky, rabbit resistant, fixes nitrogen and is a great option for erosion control. Not easily moved once established.

  • Cirsium rivulare 'atropurpureum' is the ornamental thistle, not to be confused with the garden thistle that so many hate. This thistle produces elegant long leafless stems each topped with a magenta thistle head. Due to its height, it's prone to lodging so plant with sturdier grasses for support

Remember: low-maintenance DOES NOT mean maintenance free!

Photos complements of Pinterest


Flower, Pick

So I have a bit of a fetish... with flowers. My love affair started at a young age, when on walks with my parents I'd escape from their view to pick every flower in sight from neighboring yards. I'd repeat to myself: "Flower, pick! Flower pick!" with every new specimen I plucked from the earth (roots and all). No flower was safe. As I grew older, my parents found a way to control my impulse flower picking by investing me in our own garden - every spring I would accompany my dad to Home Depot where I got to select flowers for our yard, some of my favorites being snap dragons, pansies and morning glories.

As I've aged and gained a little gardening insight, my tastes have shifted slightly. My favorite flowers from childhood where chosen primarily based on color - I loved the multi-colored snapdragons fading from soft yellows to pale oranges then to pink. I loved the bold patterns of pansies for a pop of color in early spring and the bright blues and purples of the morning glories that engulfed our deck and mailbox in the summer. While I am still passionate about color, certain plants have sparked my interest for new reasons, the first being scent. There is nothing I love more than an aromatic garden. And when scent is combined with beautiful blooms, you really can't lose - this brings my to a new love of mine (an old love for many others): Roses

There is something so elegant, so antique about roses in the garden that has only just recently peaked my interest. Growing up I always associated roses as red, long-stemmed, tired/dated and unoriginal. I suppose I still think of stereotypical red rose arrangements that way, but roses in the garden have a much more wild, laid-back splendor to them, especially the climbing varieties. Here are some of my favorite climbers for the Tennessee gardener:
  • The Sombreuil is a great white climber. It has beautiful large milky flowers with a honey-like smell - great for cut flowers. Does extremely well in the hot and humid climates, zones 7 and above - perfect for our Tennessee climate.

  • My next favorite comes from David Austin. A Shropshire Lad has tightly cupped flowers that open out into beautiful rosettes with age, packed full of petals. The flowers are large and with gorgeous color - the soft salmon color is of the middle fading to a pale peach as the petals age. The fragrance is fantastic, very fruity like many tea roses. In zones 6 or above (ahem... Tennessee) it can be grown as a climber, reaching heights of 8 feet. Too much heat, however, encourages green growth costing it's owner a repeat flowering.

  • And last but not least, another David Austin beauty -Snow Goose. A repeat flowering rambler growing to 8 to 10 feet in height. It bears large amounts of small, white pompon-like flowers. These flowers boast tons of narrow petals, giving it their pompon-like appearance. To me, they resemble a more full, daintier star magnolia flower. They have relatively thornless stems and straight and are easy to train across a wall, fence or trellis. Very disease-free and reliable.

Gardens hold some of my fondest memories from childhood and are probably why I gravitated towards plant sciences in college. My parents cultivated my love of plants and the outdoors from an early age and for that, I am forever thankful.

Photo Credit: Pinterest


Sunday Stroll

One of my favorite things of all time is walking around the city, identifying plants and snapping photos with the hubby. James Agee Park is one of our favorite stops because it's located just a couple blocks down from our apartment, has well maintained plantings (something is always in bloom) and is frequented by tons of dogs (since we can't get one, I've become obsessed with other peoples dogs). This weekend, irises were in bloom!


Tasty Blooms

Bee Balm
With spring in full bloom I feel it's only appropriate to post about some of my favorite edible flowers in the garden/wild. Flowers are a great way to spice up a spring dish - each with their own unique flavor and style. Eating flowers is nothing new - but did you know all of these flowers were edible?
  1. Arugula - Eruca vesicaria - a spicy and nutty flavor with hints of pepper. Eat fresh in a salad or on a sandwich
  2. Basil - Ocimum basilicum - varies by variety but tends to taste similar to the leaves only softer. Eat fresh in a salad, sprinkle over pasta or as a garnish with grilled fish and vegetables
  3. Bee Balm - Monarda didyma, and other species - spicy flowers with hints of mint and citrus. Replace any call for oregano with bee balm flowers; petals are great in fruit salads as well
  4. Garden Chives - Allium schoenoprasum - mild onion flavor great in cheeses and used fresh in salads or soups
  5. Clover - Trifolium species - soft sweet flavor that is excellent sauteed for a wild granola recipes. Raw flowers can be hard to digest
  6. Dandelion - Taraxacum officianalis - only eat the petals. Young buds sauteed in butter taste similar to mushrooms. Young flowers are honey-like but get bitter with age. Flowers can be battered and fried to make a delicious dandelion fritter
  7. Gladiolas - Gladiola spp - remove anthers before consuming. Flowers have a soft lettuce flavor and are great fresh in salads or as decorative containers for sweet or savory sauces
  8. Impatiens - Impatiens wallerana - almost tasteless, good fresh for adding interest to a dish or floated in a spring cocktail
  9. Lavender - Lavendula species -  floral and perfume-like. Great for making lavender honey sorbets, cheeses and savory dishes that call for rosemary, just simply swap the two. A fresh sprig is a great garnish for champagne. Remember, a little goes a long way; too much lavender can make any dish bitter
  10. Lilac - Syringa vulgaris - strong lemony-sweet flavor to slightly bitter, varying greatly from plant to plant. Great as a garnish for cakes, sorbets and of course candied
  11. Marigold - Tagetes tenuifolia - citrus flavor with a hint of bitterness. Can be substituted for saffron and the petals are great in salads
  12. Pansy - Viola x wittrockiana -  sweet to soft grass-like flavor, petals are very mild in flavor. Can be candied, used in fruit salads and green salads and are a beautiful garnish for desserts, sorbets and soups
  13. Sunflower - Helianthus annus - when the buds are forming, pluck and steam. tastes similar to artichoke.
  14. Violet - Viola species - sweet and nectar-like. For uses, see pansy
A word of caution: when on the hunt for unusual edibles make sure you know exactly what you're about to consume. If you have any doubt when it comes to identifying an edible flower or have severe pollen allergies, better to be safe than sorry - leave it be. Do not eat flowers from garden centers, nurseries or florists. These flowers are NOT considered food crops and may be sprayed with large amounts of pesticide. Never collect flowers by the roadside due to possible contaminates.

Photo Credit:
US Forest Service
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