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February 12
Now’s the Time to Plant Trees

Tree Selection Planting Care 1

February 10
Color in the Winter Landscape

We have had a real winter here in central Alabama including a snow and ice storm.  The evergreen shrub backbone of my garden looks good.  But after all these gray, drab days, I have realized I need to do something to punch up the color factor in my winter garden.

Kerry Smith, one of the leaders of Alabama Extension’s Home Grounds team, shared some ideas with me on how to pump up the volume in my winter garden with plants such as ferns, sedges, groundcovers and even several flowers.

Some of the plants she suggested:

  • Tassel fern-Polystichum polyblepharum
  • Christmas fern-Polystichum acrostichoides
  • Sweet Flag-Acorus calamus
  • Lenten rose-Helleborus x hybridus
  • Pachysandra-Pachysandra terminalis
  • Native gingers—Asarum spp.

Each of these as well as several others that Kerry discusses in this week’s Backyard Wisdom will provide evergreen color during the winter.  Some offer variegated foliages while others other winter accent in textures, ranging from lacy to bold.

Learn more about ensuring color in the winter garden by listening to the podcast.

(gc)CarexVariegatedBBG01 (gc)FernChristmas02

(gc)Helleb.Purp.Nice (gc)Pachys.termClose

February 05
Rainy February Wednesday

Spring is coming.  I know it.  My star magnolia is starting to bloom.  It’s my garden harbinger of spring—always the first bloom in my central Alabama garden.

photo 2

photo 3 

photo 1

February 03
If Flowers are Restaurants to Bees, Then What Are Bees to Flowers?

Honey Bee cucumber Joseph LaForest UGA bugwood On Friday, February 7, eXtension’s Fire Ant Community of Practice launches its 2014 webinar series, All Bugs Good and Bad. Webinars will be held the first Friday of each month at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The first webinar will highlight pollinators, which are good bugs.

If Flowers are Restaurants to Bees, then What Are Bees to Flowers?” will be Friday, Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. Learn how bees help flowers and help feed the world.  Find out what you can do to help encourage these valuable pollinators.  This webinar will be presented by Dr. John Skinner, an entomology professor at the University of Tennessee. 

Dani Carroll, a regional Extension agent with Alabama Extension, will be the webinar moderator.  She and I talked recently on Backyard Wisdom about the upcoming webinar and pollinators in general.  You can listen to our conversation here.

Click here to login as a guest and participate in the live event on Friday.  If you can’t listen to the webinar live, you will find the recorded webinar here by around Feb. 10. 

For more webinars in this series, see All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series. The webinars are sponsored by eXtension and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  They are coordinated by the Imported Fire Ant eXtension Community of Practice, Urban IPM, Bee Health, Invasive Species, Gardens, Lawns and Landscapes, & Disasters.

Photo of honey bee visiting a cucumber flower by Joseph LaForest, University of Georgia,
January 22
Not So Wordless Wednesday: Seeds and Seed Starting

This week’s Backyard Wisdom podcast is on how to start seeds and grow your own transplants.  You can listen here.  In honor of that, just a few photos of seeds, seed packets and seed starting.


seed packets

Seeds USDA Jack Dykinga



Top photo: Maggie Lawrence

Second photo: USDA-ARS Photo Gallery, Jack Dykinga

Bottom two photos:  Doug Chapman, Alabama Extension regional agent

January 17
Great Resource for Gardeners

As 2014 begins, many of us have bold plans for making changes in our gardens and landscapes.  Some of us want to add more natives while others of us are looking ways to reduce irrigation demands.  Alabama Extension has a great resource to help you throughout the year.

Alabama Smart Yards is packed with vital information that will help you create and implement a successful landscape plan. The 10 chapters include everything you need to get started and also feature instructions on how to recycle lawn waste and reduce stormwater runoff. Charts of plant and flower care, as well as lists of local resources, round out this highly informative guide.

alabama smart yards What’s Covered

I encourage you to check Alabama Smart Yards out.  It’s a favorite reference of mine, and I think it will be one of yours too.

January 15
Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

The 15th of the month is a special day for garden bloggers.  It’s known as Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  I haven’t participated in the past, but I have added it to my 2014 list for enhancing my blog.  We have had quite the Arctic blast at my house in central Alabama so blooms in my actual garden are hard to come by.  Even the rosemary blooms look awfully scraggly.

So for my first installment of 2014, I am sharing a couple of images from my office.  A sweet friend gave me a florist cyclamen in January 2013, and it has bloomed nonstop for the entire year.

cyclamen photo 1

I think this may be my favorite of all the pictures I am sharing with you today.  A photo that shows the promise of more lovely blooms in the future!

photo 2

January 13
Winter: Challenging Time for Houseplants

hoya The weather outside has been frightful as the polar vortex has blasted much of the country with record cold weather. But the weather inside isn’t necessarily delightful, particularly for our houseplants.

Dr. Dave Williams, an Auburn University horticulture professor and frequent guest of Backyard Wisdom, calls the climate inside most of our homes a “virtual desert”. That can be a recipe for disaster for many houseplants that are often tropical in origin living in high humidity ecosystems.

Low moisture is not the only challenge houseplants face during the winter. Dave says houseplants must battle both poor light conditions as well. Winter days are shorter meaning less sunlight available to plants. Plus, we often place houseplants in locations where they may look good as décor rather than where they will do best.


To get some ideas on how to give your houseplants a boost during the winter, listen to our conversation here.

You will also find some excellent resource on houseplants from selecting and caring for them to propagating them at the University of Illinois Extension’s Houseplant website.

Top photo: Wax plant, Hoya carnosa    Bottom photo: Florist’s Cyclamen, Cyclamen persicum
January 09
Garden Chores for January

 DSC_0238 The incredibly frigid weather of the first week in January has probably kept even the most intrepid Alabama gardeners indoors. But, more seasonable weather is headed our way with highs in the 40s and 50s forecast for much of the next two weeks.

That kind of weather is perfect for taking on some of the garden chores that need to be done this month.

Fruits and Nuts

  • Set out apple, peach and pear trees and grape vines.
  • Start grafting pecan trees and prune dormant trees.


  • Soil test before setting up a fertility program.


  • Visit nurseries and garden centers to select varieties.
  • Start planting.

Annuals and Perennials

  • Plant hardy annuals.


  • Late planting of Dutch bulbs will still flower if planted now.
  • Lilies of all types except Madonna can be planted.
  • Check stored bulbs and throw out rotten ones. DSC_0273
  • Make indoor plantings of amaryllis, callas and gloxinias.


  • Plant shrubs, bushes and trees such as broadleaf, narrowleaf and deciduous.
  • Graft camellia bushes in South Alabama.
  • Spray all deciduous shrubbery with a dormant spray to control diseases and insects.
  • Spray when weather is on warming trend.

Vegetable seed

  • Plant hardy vegetables, root crops, roots and tubers in southern-most areas.
  • Plant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli in cold frames.

Vegetable Plants

  • Set out cabbage plants.


  • Prune winter-damaged limbs.
  • Give houseplants a bath in lukewarm water to remove dust.
December 04
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Underused Trees in the Landscape

Sourwood bugwood Richard Webb

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) Photo by Richard Webb at


Fringe tree or Grancy Greybeard Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)

Learn more about these and other underused trees in the Southern landscape by listening to my podcast with my colleague Tony Glover here. Tony is a regular guest on Backyard Wisdom.

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