In the Garden:
Middle South
December, 2011
Regional Report

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My very favorite plant, a Japanese flowering apricot named 'Peggy Clark' (Prunus mume), is a winter bloomer with a spicy fragrance.

Favorite Plants, From My Garden to Yours

Everyone has their favorites: a favorite meal, a best-loved sweater, even a book they read time and again. Gardeners, of course, have favorite plants, and I'm no exception.

Now that holiday shopping for loved-ones is behind me, I want to gift my readers with something special too. So, I'm giving you a list of favorite plants, from my garden to yours. They're all plants that have performed well in the Middle South, and even more importantly, they're the ones I would recommend to my very best friends.

My sincere best wishes to you for the holidays. I hope this list will give you an idea or two, as well as an extra measure of success in the New Year.

Southern Classics
Daylilies (Hemerocallis) I adore the old-fashioned, fragrant lemon lilies (H. liloasphodelus) that grow so easily and bloom with abundance in early summer, but if you favor newer hybrids, especially ones that rebloom, I'm also a fan of 'Persian Market', which features deep coral pink blooms with a yellow throat and light fragrance, and 'Chorus Line', with pale pink flowers, a chartreuse throat and strong fragrance.

Hostas (Hosta) I like 'Sum and Substance', a large cultivar with chartreuse leaves; 'Francis Williams', with puckered blue-green leaves and an irregular yellow edge; 'Stained Glass', a sun-tolerant cultivar with golden leaves surrounded by a wide green edge; and the classic 'Great Expectations', featuring corrugated blue leaves highlighted by wide, creamy variegation.

Roses (Rosa) I prefer the ease of the highly touted Earth Kind roses, especially 'Carefree Beauty', 'Marie Daly', and 'The Fairy'. Favorites of other types include the climbers 'Don Juan' and 'New Dawn' (very vigorous), the hybrid tea 'Mr. Lincoln', the English rose 'Graham Thomas', and the antique rose 'Souvenir de la Malmaison'. I've recently planted the shade-tolerant 'Darlow's Enigma', which was highly recommended, but I can't yet testify to its success.

Azaleas (Rhododendron) Among the evergreen types, I like the Southern Indica hybrid 'George Lindley Taber', which has good vigor and sun tolerance. However, I much prefer deciduous natives such as the flame azalea (R. calendulaceum) and the pinxsterbloom azalea (R. periclymenoides).

Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia) In my opinion, the best is 'Natchez', a 30 foot-tall, white-flowering cultivar that features exfoliating cinnamon-brown bark in spring and orange-red leaves in autumn. For a smaller tree, I like the 20 foot-tall 'Centennial Spirit' with dark red blooms; or 'Tonto', at 10 feet-tall with bright pink blooms.

Below are my favorites in other categories. A few selections fall into more than one group -- those are ones worth mentioning twice! For descriptive and cultural information refer to the Southern Living Garden Book or any other plant encyclopedia.

Awesome Annuals:
Million Bells petunia (Petunia x hybrida)
Sun coleus (Coleus x hybridus)
Texas sage 'Coral Nymph' or 'Lady in Red' (Salvia coccinea)
Gomphrena 'Fireworks' (Gomphrena)
Celosia 'Flamingo' (Celosia spicata)

Fabulous Foliage:
Ornamental Sweet potatoes 'Marguerite' or 'Ace of Spades' (Ipomoea batatas)
Lamb's ears 'Helen Von Stein' (Stachys bryzantina)
Castor bean (Ricinus communis)
Canna 'Bengal Tiger', 'Tropicanna', or 'Black Knight' (Canna x hybrida)
Gardenia 'Variegated Double' (Gardenia augusta)

Ornamental Grasses:
Fescue 'Elijah Blue' (Festuca glauca)
Miscanthus'Zebrinus' (Miscanthus sinensis)
Pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
Dwarf fountain 'Hameln' (Pennisetum alopecuroides)
Purple fountain 'Princess' (Pennisetum purpureum)

Long-Blooming Sun Perennials:
Salvia 'Indigo Spires' or 'Mystic Spires' (Salvia x hybrida)
Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri)
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum)
Sunset hyssop (Agastache rupestris)

Shade Perennials:
Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida)
Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis)
Toad lily (Tricyrtis)
Hardy ground orchid (Bletilla striata)
Dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata)

Native Plants:
Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
Flame or pinxsterbloom azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum or R. periclymenoides)
Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina)
Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla)

Fragrant Plants:
Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)
Tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans)
Viburnum 'Mohawk' (Viburnum burkwoodii)
Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha)
Japanese flowering apricot (Prunus mume)

Flowering Shrubs:
Doublefile viburnum (Viburnum tometosum), or any other species of viburnum
Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), or any other species of hydrangea
Virginia sweetspire 'Henry's Garnet' (Itea virginica)
Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha)
Sasanqua camellia (Camellia sasanqua)

Flowering Trees:
Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)
Japanese Flowering Apricot 'Peggy Clark' (Prunus mume)
Kousa dogwood 'Milky Way' (Cornus kousa)
Redbud 'Forest Pansy' (Cercis canadensis)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora)

Evergreen Trees:
Dwarf magnolia 'Little Gem' or 'Teddy Bear' (Magnolia grandiflora)
Holly 'Mary Nell' (Ilex x hybridus)
Cryptomeria 'Yoshino' (Cryptomeria japonica)
Arborvitae 'Emerald' (Thuja occidentalis)
Hinoki false cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa)

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