In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
January, 2006
Regional Report

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2003

A streetside clump of ruellia welcomes the eye and the visitor to this home in New Orleans.

First Impressions

Make a positive statement with your choice of "dooryard" plants, the ones you and your visitors see just before stepping indoors. A set of steps going up to a porch, or a pair of columns framing the door offer perfect spots for color and texture. Start a fragrant vine up the supports to highlight the entrance. Plant an exotic tree or perennial next to the steps to soften the transition between garden and house. Either treatment sends a clear message that this home is as special as its owners.

Set the Scene
January is a fine time to plant shrubs and trees, and to dig and divide perennials as they emerge. It's a fine time to consider the plants framing the doorway to your home. Overgrown shrubs, trees that are too tall, and browned perennials simply do not make a positive impression.

The dooryard garden can reflect your mood and the seasons when your design includes a plant of interest in each season. Or the same space can stand a constant sentinel, setting the tone all year long. A large pot on the porch by the front door with an evergreen shrub like nandina or arborvitae will keep its good looks year-round. But make space for annual flowers to change with the seasons, and a handful of daffodils or narcissus to brighten up the early spring. Whoever comes to call can see right away that you have the welcome mat spread out for them.

Don't Forget the Back Door
Perhaps you don't use the front door at all but travel in and out through the back entrance. That's the place for a looser, less formal design. Reliable, clumping perennials like ruellia, four o'clocks, elephant ears, and even cashmere bouquet (Clerodendrum bungei) can be wonderful back-dooryard plants if given a limited space to fill. Since they are a bit bullyish for most flowerbeds, let a clump take the space created by the corner of the house, walkway, and steps. Because they are so aggressive, you can easily cut them back when they spill over the space, and give a cutting to a friend, for their dooryard.


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