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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for October

October heralds in the first full month of fall, with cooler temperatures and of course "falling" leaves. So after doing all the weeding during summer, we now have the task of raking leaves. One good thing about these leaves is that they make good soil in a compost pile. So as with most unpleasant things, there is a happy ending. We also celebrate Columbus Day on October 9th, however, I believe there are a few States that are trying to cancel this holiday. There may have been other countries who made their way to the Americas before Columbus, but he was the first to initiate permanent colonization of the New World. Let's give credit where credit is due. So let's raise our flags ina salute to Christopher Columbus this month.

Besides the Lantana which I speak to later, the absolute work horses in my gardens are: dianthus, dusty miller, and Mexican heather. All are drought resistant and with some mulching, are perennials. Just before a hard freeze, cut them back,water and mulch with pine straw. Next spring, up pops the shoots from under the mulch. Amazing. All of these plants are available on the open market, Home Depot, Lowes, and other box stores. Of course, nurseries are another great source. Once these plants are established, add in the reseeding of the Pacific Giant Zinnias, and voila, the beds are practically filled with flowers. If you have bought any plants recently, the old "six packs" are hard to find. And the pots, which may have only 2 plants, are about $4.50. Inflation has hit the flower and plant market too. What is a gardener to do? Root plants taken from cuttings in the spring, and get up flower seed now and in the spring.

Seeding the flower beds is an easy task but one has to be mindful of timing. As the Bible states, there is a time and season for all things and I might add sowing seed. If you desire poppies in the spring, one must throw out the seed now and no later than November.

Just clear away any mulch in the area, scratch the dirt, and deposit the seed. Do not cover with mulch, and do water the area. I would place this area on a plan of the bed so you do not over plant. Zinnias, Cosmos, Cleome may be planted in late March or after any late freeze date.

PLANT OF THE MONTH- LANTANA (lantana camara)

I know this sounds silly, but I have always had a prejudice against lantana. However, this last year I planted a few clumps in my garden at the farm because I could not find anything better to fill in some holes in the sunniest part of the flower bed. Well after the 100 degrees endless days of this summer, my prejudice turned into admiration for this perennial. Although I do have a sprinkler system, some begonias and vinca did not get sufficient amounts of water. However, the lantan thrived, filled in and did yeoman's work in carrying the beds through the heat. Plus the butterflies were all over the bright yellow blooms. I do prefer the solid colors rather than the variegated . It is a spreading, shrubby woody stemmed plant with masses of yellow, pink, purple or orange flowers. I have found that the purple colored lantana are beautiful, they are spotty bloomers. Thankfully the plant is very low maintenance and drought resistant. I have used stems of Lantana in flower arrangements and find that they will last for days. Most times they are the last blooms to fade. Another attribute which I can tout is that the plant can easily be rooted.



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