Houston is a unique year round southern garden
Houston is a unique style of the southern garden because of our location to the Gulf coast. Our climate is a mixture of the hot humid south and the tropics of Mexico. This gives us rich year round possibilities for gardening. Even in the Carolinas were gardening might be 9 months out of the year, Houston is 12 months out of year gardening with freeze possibilities only lasting from January 15-February 15th. Once you address the problems of compacted soils and poor drainage, Houston can truly inspire the year round southern garden. Were else can you have your favorite beverage on the porch during Thanksgiving or Christmas in shorts?
Designing the Southern Garden
I find it so interesting how the pace of life, hobbies and interests, home styles and the way we use our homes vary in different parts of the country. As hot and miserable as Houston can be in the summer months, there are opportunities for outdoor living just about every month of the year. The key to creating a landscape design in your garden is to plan for hot humid weather so you can enjoy the garden year round. Deck and patio areas for entertaining need to have shade. Patio covers, awnings or large trees can extend the use of patios through June. If there is no way around having a full sun patio due to the orientation of your house, create multiple outdoor rooms for sitting. Use lawn areas in the shade to enjoy a hot summer beverage. With careful planning and landscape design to accommodate 100 degree weather your garden can be a place of retreat even in the heat of the summer.
Plants for the Southern Garden
In creating your southern garden landscape design, decide if want to create a formal patio with azalea hedges, camellias and flowering crepe myrtles or an informal woodland garden of pines, ornamental red buds, azalea specimens, ferns with drifts of caladiums and begonias. Be sure you have excellent drainage systems and irrigation systems as well as proper bed preparation as southern garden plants require lots of feeding, healthy soils and excellent drainage. Add in tropical flavor were you feel it is appropriate or to your liking. Maybe your traditional garden has all azalea, boxwood, camellia and holly trees with color plants comprising the tropical portion. In creating the year round color garden the traditional southern garden plants bloom in Houston starting with azaleas and spireas around February, spring includes red buds, star jasmines and Carolina jasmines and camellias. As summer continues to heat us around June, tropical plants can really help to provide variety and color through the hot summer months: Bottle brush, plumbago, Ruessellia, Katie Ruellia, bulbine, salvias, knock out and nearly wild roses. Below are some must have southern garden plants as well as exotic tropicals for Houston.
Houston Southern Plantings
Trees: Live Oak, Shummard Red Oak, Nealy Stevens Holly, Japanese Blueberry Tree, Tuscarora Crepe Myrtle, Japanese Maple, Bottle Brush, Angel Trumpet, Japanese Yew, Saucer Magnolia
Shrubs: Camelia, Azalea, Viburnum, Philodendron, Gingers, Boxwoods, nearly wild roses, knock out roses.
Perennials and Flowering Plants: Buddlea, Russelia, Angelonia, Coleus, Mealy Sage, Plumbago, Bottle Brush, Salvia Coccinea, Cross Vine, Star Jasmine
Groundcovers: holly fern, foxtail fern, Mondo Grass, Asian Jasmine, Ardisia, Agapanthus, Bulbine, Ajuga
Seasonal Color: snap dragons, pansies, petunias, geraniums, begonias, caladiums, cyclamen, pentas
Tropicals: Meditteranean Fan Palm, Canary Palm, Medjool Palm, Bottle brush, Pineapple guava, Philodendrons, Gingers, Ixora, plumbago, asparagus fern, lantana, Australian Tree Fern, Angel Trumpet, Bamboo, Foxtail Fern, Leopard Plant.
Accent Plants: Saw Palmetto, Flax, Agave, Yucca, Bird of Paradise, Dianella, Century Plant, Crinum Lily, Crotons.
Your southern garden is about creating a link to the horticultural past will creating use of spaces for today spiced with the tropics. In addition to creating stunning southern beauty, the Houston tropics can add fun and visual coolness during the hot summer months. In creating your southern garden be sure to include year round colors, textures, and scents from both the southern garden traditions and the hot tropics.