There’s just something magical about traditional southern gardens. I love how timeless they look without the fuss of formal English or French gardens. The rolling billows of a blooming hydrangea manage to look elegant yet relaxed, like a gussied up southern belle who has kicked off her heels at the end of a long hot night. I think the best gardens look a little undone, but always ready for company. Steeped in tradition with formal lines and colours, but relaxed enough to have lazy blooms and wandering vines. It looks put together without trying too hard. This year, my spring is devoted to crafting a garden inspired by the romantic southern garden. Stay tuned for my classic garden picks and tips on how to find free plants.
In a southern garden, one must always start with hydrangea. Endless summer varieties are perfect for northern climates. I love them potted along a driveway, in a planter flanking a front door, or sprawling raucously along a front porch. Look for tailored looking planters to complement the looser blossoms. I prefer them in a very pale blush or the lovely coastal blue. Blue blossoms can be achieved by altering the ph of your soil so that it is acidic. Mix in coffee grounds every year before the plants bloom to ensure blue petals, and don’t forget because they won’t turn blue once they’ve already flowered. Hydrangeas can be poisonous to pets and children if eaten in large quantities, so for my peace of mind I’ll stick to planting them in the front yard where they can be easily displayed and add instant curb appeal.
Free Plant Tip:
As an added bonus, hydrangeas are supposedly rather easy to propagate. I love a plant that either fills in quickly or can be spread around the garden year after year.
Another southern staple that adds instant romance to a yard is the magnolia. Whether it’s Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper and Magnolia Farms or Steel Magnolias, I can’t seem to think of the south without including the magnolia blossom. The vibrant pink saucer magnolia tree is at the top of my list. According to the arbor day foundation website, these trees are hardy to zone 4. Hooray for southern spring elegance!
Free Plant Tip:
You can get 10 “free” flowering trees from Arbor day foundation after a $10 donation. Not bad. They will be shipped to you as saplings. It won’t instantly transform a barren yard, but it could be a cool project for you and your kids, or a way to look to the future. Also, having that member discount will come in handy when you order a new magnolia tree for your yard. National Arbor Day falls on the last Friday in April, but many states celebrate their own Arbor Days based on the best local planting dates.
Crafting that perfect sitting porch
Climbing roses in white or blush, bright peony from your cutting garden, traditional potted boxwood, and hanging ferns add instant lushness to a front porch. Blue and white flowering plants are a classic look that works well with a traditional haint blue front porch, and a pop of pink keeps it modern. Add easy to care for greenery like boxwood and ferns for a layered look without the fuss and maintenance.
The Long Hot Summer
When it comes to the sticky sweltering dog days of summer, whipping up a batch of cocktails or sweet tea is never far from my mind. Lemonade, sweet tea, mojitos, or mint juleps and lots and lots of ice in a tall glass keep me from melting away entirely. As July rolls around you’ll be glad you dragged that lemon tree home in your car. Keep it planted in a pot close to your kitchen and add a pot of fresh mint. Potted lemon trees will brighten your day come winter as long as you have a sunny spot for them, and perennial mint will stay hardy and happy year after year. My grandmother-in-law keeps mint planted by her front door. My husband, Jake, has memories of munching on the fresh leaves as a kid, and it’s always a pleasure catching the scent as you walk up the path.