Seasons change and so should things in the garden

Autumn arrived, and with it the cooler air for which Lowcountry gardeners have been waiting. Time to fling open windows and doors and get to where they want to be: outside in the garden.

And it's time to pull those burned-out summer annuals. But before we rush to the garden centers for our fall flowers, let's take an hour or so to give a good look at our houseplants. How did they fare after those long, hot days in an air-conditioned dry environment, or, maybe they were outside trying to coexist with temps in the 90s and little rain?

There will be more warm weather that winter annuals don't like, but tropical plants do, and there's no better time to take a look at the good buys available at our garden centers. Give them time to get to know you by caring for them outdoors while you decide where to place them indoors by mid-October.


Hilton Head Plantation Avid Gardeners invited Margie Fox owner of Garden Gate in Bluffton to give the first program of the season. (Garden Gate is having an open house from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday)

Fox brought both houseplants and outdoor plants in containers to the meeting. Included were croton plants (Codiaeum variegatum pictum) in vibrant fall colors of yellow, bronze, red and pink; and devil's backbone (Pedilanthus tithymaloides smallii). Croton colors stay vibrant indoors without direct sun. Devil's backbone needs a bit of sun to bring out the variegation of its creamy white and pink leaves.

Outstanding plants that Fox brought for planting outdoors were the Crown of Gold Tree (Cassia) and the swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), both flowering now. Invited by Fox to ask garden questions of general interest, Avid Gardeners members responded with enthusiasm.

Question. I've an autumn wisteria that has never bloomed. What could be the cause? (Mary Ann Snyder)

Answer. It's likely putting all its energy into growth. You have a happy, healthy plant.

Q. Does pruning interfere with flowering? (Eileen Creek)

A. There is no definite time to prune. Aggressive pruning should be done in the spring. Prune shrubs so that you get sun into the plant. I hate those landscapers who whack off the tops so you see only a little poop of green. I wouldn't do anything now.

Q. Is there a time frame for pruning evergreens? (Joe Flood)

A. Do not prune beyond the end of May.


May River Orchids in Bluffton has an open house on second Tuesdays and third Saturdays of the month. It's here where Lee Bredeson of Orchid University holds an Orchid Seminar. Call ahead for a reservation at 843-757-2439. Bredeson has been growing orchids since 1998.

There have been many trips to Ecuador, where growing "in nature" there are 30,000 orchid species. Some can be found growing on trees that are covered with ice; a collector's dream. Recently, Bredeson's question to himself was: Why not create fragrant orchids? This, he has successfully done. At a recent orchid seminar, Bredeson brought several orchid varieties and answered many questions from his rapt audience.

Q. What did you do to achieve the huge flowers on that Phalaenopsis? (Jean Caplan)

A. I use a growth hormone called Keikipro. It's use can stimulate the orchid plant to flower four or more times in one year.

Q. How often do you water your orchid plant? (Beverly Spector)

A. Most orchids die from over watering. Once a week, place the plant in the sink and soak in as pure water as is possible. To determine whether or not the plant is dry, use a bamboo skewer to push through the plant. If when you pull out the skewer, it's dry; it's time. Water orchids in the a.m. There should never be water in the center of the crown. If orchids are outside; tip the pots.

Q. When do you transplant your orchids? (Polly Martin)

A. When they develop aerial roots.