In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
April, 2007
Regional Report

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Bottlebrush shines against a brick wall all summer.

Flower Queens

Gardenia and hydrangea, oleander and bottlebrush -- four plants most of us have in our gardens. We want them to do more than poke along, we want them to be healthy and floriferous. So let's look at what these prima donnas need to thrive.

Organic Matter
Now's a fine time to replenish the organic matter in the soil around each of these shrubs. While oleander will grow in pure sand, along with dollar weed and gaillardia, it also thrives in a well-prepared garden bed. The others, gardenia in particular, will decline in soil that becomes too compacted, too alkaline, or bereft of nutrients. Lay a half-inch-thick blanket of compost or compost/manure around each shrub out to its drip line. Work it into the soil to a depth of at least an inch and water in well.

Location, Location, Location
If you are able to water the site, use oleander and bottlebrush for nonstop color for months in the sun. In very dry areas that cannot be irrigated, a spot that is sheltered from late afternoon sun will help them survive and improve the flower colors. Morning sun and dappled shade in the afternoon will allow hydrangeas to grow without daily wilting caused by heat stress. But these deciduous shrubs and the evergreen gardenia will need well-drained soil and water during dry spells.

Nice Pairing
Gardenias are still all white and make a perfect foil for hydrangeas and other shrubs like Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow in your garden design. Hydrangeas have found homes in all parts of our regions, often alongside the gardenias. Huge, blue mophead flowers bloom in early summer in bold contrast to the dainty white cape jasmine. Newer hydrangea varieties that rebloom, such as 'Endless Summer' and 'Blushing Bride' keep the sweet scene going on until fall. Remember to deadhead the rebloomers as soon as the flowers begin to fade so new buds can form. Bottlebrush and oleander respond well to deadheading of individual flowers, but can also be lightly sheared between flower flushes to encourage more blooms.


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