Coastal and Tropical South

March, 2009
Regional Report

Make More Plants

Sharing the wealth from your garden is a win-win situation. Community groups are often looking for great plants propagated by local gardeners. Whether you started the plants from seed or have extra plants after dividing, consider giving away extras plants.

Get Glads

Every flower garden deserves at least a few gladiolas to add some "spike" to the scene and deliver great cut flowers for your vase. Plant a dozen weekly this month for a succession of blooms that will last well into late spring. Gladiola bulbs are really called corms and should go into the soil no deeper than twice their height. Don't forget to stake each glad at planting time. They need the support of a slim bamboo cane, and if you plunge it into the soil after the leaves are up, you'll damage the roots.

Sweet Scents

Everyone has a story about smells -- roses may make you feel romantic, dirty socks bring back high school gym class. So, you've heard of aromatherapy, the practice of using fragrances to set a mood, evoke emotions and improve your attitude. Why not plant your own aromatherapy? Quickly now, hot weather is approaching! For me, the best in bloom now is sweet olive, a small evergreen tree that has hundreds of tiny cream-colored, incredibly fragrant flowers. When the day's stress builds, I just breathe deep.

Bradford Pear Treework

Bradford pear trees go quickly from a burst of hundreds of white flowers to a canopy of bright green leaves, and that's the time to shape them up. Use pruning shears to remove any errant branches that grow away from the cone shape or columnar form (depending on variety). If one side has grown thicker than the other, thin its branches to balance the stress on the trunk and main branches. Bradfords can topple in a storm, but annual pruning can help keep the tree stable.

Smart Shrub Planting

If your garden tends to stay quite dry, or if you are installing a new bed in very sandy soil, new shrubs may have trouble getting going. The enemy is transplant shock, which can set back the shrub's growth or cause its demise. Water the site for the new plant the day before you'll be digging it. Then after you dig the hole, fill it with water. Once the water drains away, plant the shrub and water once more. The first year is most crucial to root development. Unless the shrubs are very drought tolerant, water regularly in dry spells. Do consider soaker hoses or reservoirs for new plantings in dry or windy areas.

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