In the Garden:
Lower South
February, 2012
Regional Report

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These roses are part of a southern plant trial to determine whether they can thrive without pesticide sprays or special pampering

Choosing the Best Plants for Your Landscape and Garden

Spring may not have arrived yet on the calendar, but any gardener can tell you that something inside them is telling them that it is already here! For those of you who have not been officially diagnosed yet, the condition is called "spring fever." It can attack southern gardeners anytime from early January to March. If it has not hit by March you'd better check for a pulse!

Spring fever brings an irresistible urge to go out and dig in the soil, to peruse seed catalogs, and to attend any and every local gardening lecture or plant sale. One of the strongest side effects of "the fever" as we gardeners call it is irresistible desire to purchase plants.

Now all this is fine, and as far as fevers go I can't think of a better one to catch. The problem comes when we are enticed to purchase things that don't do well in our soil and climate. I'm not sure what it is that drives us to stretch hardiness zones, heat zones, and soil pH regions, but we do.

We gardeners are eternal optimists. If we see it in a catalog, in a container at a local garden center, or even online, we think we can grow it in our landscape and have no problem visualizing the beautiful plant in that perfect spot. But alas, wishes and reality are not one in the same!

The good news is that there are many plants that thrive where you live in the Lower South. Choosing wisely helps ensure beautiful and bountiful results.

Think of perennials and woody ornamental plants as an investment in your landscape, not to mention the value of your home. It makes sense to invest wisely and choose the top performers, whether they be roses, shrubs, woody vines, fruit plants or shade trees. Likewise choosing the best vegetable species and cultivars helps insure a bountiful harvest.

The All-America Selections (http://www.all-americaselections.org/) is a great place to start for the latest vegetable and flower winners. These award winners have been tested in various areas of the county and possess wide adaptability.

Even closer to home, and for a wider range of plants, we can look to the many test gardens across the South that are continually evaluating garden and landscape plants to determine their adaptability to the region. They evaluate dozens of different species and cultivars annually to find the best of the best. We will do well to utilize their findings when selecting our plants.

The following listing of some of our southern plant trial programs is a good place to start. Their web sites list the top performers and often announce field days for seeing the latest and greatest plants.

Arkansas Select Plants http://www.arhomeandgarden.org/landscaping/ArkansasSelect/
Oklahoma Proven Plants http://oklahomaproven.okstate.edu/
University of Georgia at Athens Trial Gardens http://ugatrial.hort.uga.edu/
Louisiana Super Plants http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/our_offices/research_stations/Hammond/Features/super_plants/
Mississippi Medallion Plants http://msnla.org/msnla/
JC Raulston Arboretum Annual Trail Reports http://www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum/publications/annuals_trial_reports/annuals_trial_reports.html
East Texas Bedding Plant Pack & Garden Trials http://flowers.tamu.edu/
Texas Superstar Plants http://texassuperstar.com/

Check out some of the superior performing plants from these great trial programs before you venture out in search of plants. You be glad you did!


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