Middle South

April, 2010
Regional Report

Shows & Events

Garden Fest: Building Community, Growing Vegetables
The South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson University will hold its second annual Garden Fest on Saturday, April 17, at the Fran Hanson Discovery Center parking area, from 10 am to 1 pm. Learn how to grow vegetables, make compost, and when all else fails, find locally grown food. Clemson University horticulture experts and community groups, such as Master Gardeners, will be on hand sharing advice and tips. For more information, visit the Web site at www.clemson.edu/scbg.

Favorite or New Plant

Baptisia
The 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year is Baptisia australis, a spring-blooming wonder that offers stunning violet-blue, lupine-like flowers in erect racemes atop an attractive mound of trifoliate, bluish-green foliage. Those who've seen baptisia flower will agree it has the allure of a superstar, but the plant wasn't honored for beauty and charm alone. Criteria for award-winners include adaptability to various climates, multi-season interest, resistance to pests and diseases, low maintenance, easy propagation, and ready availability at nurseries and garden centers.

Baptisia lives up to these standards and offers other stellar qualities. Native to eastern and midwestern states, it is a host plant for several indigenous butterflies, including the Wild Indigo Duskywing. And like other members of the legume family, baptisia fixes nitrogen with the help of bacteria that form nodules along its roots, enabling it to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a usable nutrient. Once established, baptisia requires no supplemental fertilizer.

This desirable perennial is drought tolerant, too. As it grows baptisia forms a deep taproot, making it impossible to transplant or divide, but enabling it to survive prolonged periods of hot and dry weather. The plant needs little coddling in the landscape: provide full sun, well-drained soil and a bit of mulch. Be patient, as small plants will grow slowly at first, requiring time to fulfill their ultimate potential.

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