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Maine  gardeners can have their dinner plate dahlias–I’ll take my Southern Salvias any day. 

What other plant can you walk away from for months, come back from your travels and find it blooming like this?

Salvia Van Houttei may be my all time favorite.  It’s tall, about 4 feet, and I love the rich burgundy flower color that fits so perfect with changing leaves.    

A warning–it’s tender.  But salvias root so easily from cuttings, that I always have a few plants to set out in spring. 

Lady in Red is another favorite tender salvia.  These are easy from seed (my sister grew them) and bloom all summer.  The plants in the photo were sheered back in July and just look at them now–

Salvias love our Southern fall weather.  Cooler temperatures make their blossoms glow.   And plants  will keep flowering  till frost with no help from me at all.  Can’t say that about dahlias.    You should grow salvias!


White blooms on my Cherry Tree--very cool

If I could grow only one small tree, it would be the Autumn Flowering Cherry–Prunus subhirtella “Autumnalis”.  In bloom right now, it has a big flush of white  to light pink flowers  in the spring, another round of blossoms in the fall and often puts out  a few blooms to lift my spirits right after Christmas.  (These are the best of all)

A great tree for the edge of the woods

My tree is about 20 years old, and about 12 feet tall.  It’s planted in the edge of the woods–I’m sure it would enjoy more sun–still the shape is nice.   This is a great flowering tree!

Only two questions come to mind about Prunus Autumnalis–why you don’t see this wonderful plant more often, and why I only have one.   

Which brings me to another fall favorite–Camellia sasanqua (Wm Lanier Hunt).  I’ve raved about this favorite shrub before, so I’ll let my  photos do the talking this time.

Typical blooming branch--Mr. Hunt

 If I could grow only one shrub, Wm Hunt would be it. 

Wm Lanier Hunt

Favorite fall border plant?  Salvia Van Houttei–the original garnet red one.  This is a wonderful color and a big, bold plant for the season.   It’s tender in our climate (zone 7b) so I dig it up and carry it over indoors.  Worth the trouble?  You bet.  Wouldn’t be without it. 

Best salvia, year after year after year

Remember the old (and true) saying–All gardens are beautiful in the spring

 Plan for a garden that shines in other seasons–like fall–a great time to garden in NC.


It’s 90 in the shade and I guess that means I should feel fortunate.  Yesterday at this time it was 96.   

As if the heat and drought weren't bad enough--the beatle invasion has begun

In the front beds over-sexed  Japanese Beatles are mobbing  the rose blooms. The hollyhocks  have  a terrible orange disease  called rust–I will hack them down tonight.   

But no worries. 

Fight back with tough plants like this melampodium. Even people who don't like me, love me after I give them a start of my heirloom variety.

My garden is still pretty–rich with  tried and true heat lovers– annuals like cleome, penta, melampodium and two perennials no southern garden should  be without–Canna and Salvia.  As the temperature climbs,  I love these two plants more and more.  Here’s why:

Salvias  don’t just take the heat–they dig  it.  Many of my favorite salvias  don’t really coming into their glory until our “second season” –late August into fall. 

If you ever see Salvia Van Houttei blooming at my house in September, you will carry it over all winter in your dinning room like I do.  This is a splendid plant!  There’s a wonderful garnet red that goes well with cool colors and lovely orange that looks splendid next to my most favorite of all salvias–the one I call Richard Faun. 

Richard gave me this wonderful plant decades ago and since then my friend Susan and I have passed it on to almost everyone we know.  It blooms all summer.  It blooms all  fall too.  It comes back every year and multiplies well.  There’s always plenty to give away but it’s never a pest.   The hummingbirds love it. The blue is stunning.  And the flowers look good in a vase.   

Richards Big Blue Salvia just keeps on keepin' on. Nothing seems to bother this big, beautiful plant.

I think the proper  name is Salvia guaranitica (Giant Blue Sage)  but Susan and I like to call it Richard’s Blue  Salvia.  It reminds us of  the very talented and  generous gardener who gave us many of our first plants and early advice. 

Nice that gardens  can go on even after the gardener passes away. Hats off to Richard.    Spreading a beautiful, blue, trouble-free plant is a pretty good way to be remembered. 

There are hundreds of  Salvia varieties and Big Bloomers in Sanford (my favorite perennial  nursery) has more than any place I know.  I often take a July trip with my little sis to set our gardens up for fall.  It’s well worth the effort and the 20 or 30 dollars.  A few happy salvias call fill a lot of hollyhock holes. 

The second plant you should grow is Canna.  The big leaves are stunning, lush and  colorful.  And these plants never wilt.   No lie.  I have gardened through two of the worst droughts in NC history without a dead or wilted canna in sight. 

Contrast works! Chocolate Cherry Cannas rub shoulders with my varrigated Wigellia

Ok–cannas do have flowers but I confess I cut them off.  For me flowers spoil the effect of lovely back-lit leaves– A perfect foil for my other flowers.  

They can get leaf rollers.  Be sure to clean up good and you’re home free. 

My two favorite cannas are Bengal Tiger and Chocolate Cherry.  They make everything around them look great. 

Canna Bengal Tiger makes a statement. This time of year it gets more comments than any of the flowers.

Any other tried and true heat lovers out there?  Will trade some of Richard’s Blue Salvia for what’s looking good at your house.  (In the fall of course, this is no time to be digging things up.  Too hot-not enouigh rain and my little castle doesn’t have a staff.  Stay cool.

A long-time gardener and a passionate beginner share the dirt on their NC gardens-

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