Coastal and Tropical South

July, 2011
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Nun's Orchid
Each time the sky gets a bit gray or, heaven help us, rain falls, you see them in the neighborhood: gardeners playing catch-up. Among the chores delayed by dry weather is digging and dividing the spring blooming perennials. Yes, the traditional rule of gardening says to divide in the season opposite bloom, but in these parts we take a good day whenever we can get it. So long as the plant has finished its blooms for the current season, we work them when the weather is right. One of the plants I have seen getting passed along lately is nun's orchid, or Phaius tankervilliae. It blooms in early spring with crazy, loose clusters of orchids that are oddly thin and amazingly mesmerizing. The plant grows fast to form a dense clump of great, papery green leaves shaped like swords that divide and transplant easily to build the stand. With a rich soil and plenty of water in a bright shade site, this orchid lives, blooms, and multiplies happily for years. It can also be grown as a container plant, in case you want to share one with a friend further north.

Tool or Gardening Product

Watering Tools
This year, I have rediscovered two of my favorite devices to make watering less onerous -- quick connectors and square pattern sprinklers. Quick connects are useful if you want to change nozzles or sprinklers on a hose frequently or need to move a hose from one water spigot to another regularly. Two parts are involved, a female and male that clip together much quicker than you can unscrew a hose. Plastic sets are less expensive and fairly durable, but brass quick connects last for years. The little square sprinkler does spray water into the air and so loses some to evaporation; I had long since replaced it with simple drippers. But both the plants and the birds in the garden appreciate its modest spray. Set one up anywhere, even in a group of containers, to clean leaves and deter insects. Do yourself a favor and these use these handy, often overlooked, tools to expand the ways you water.

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