Crape myrtle is a Southern classic, beloved for its endless show. Summer flowers, fall color and beautiful winter bark earn this beauty a place in every Southern yard. Flower colors vary, including ruby red, pastel lavender and snowy white. New varieties also offer wine-red foliage. Look for semi-dwarf varieties to find ones that qualify as small tree size. Examples include ‘Acoma’ (white, to 10 feet), ‘Delta Jazz’ (ruby red, to 10 feet), ‘Rhapsody in Pink’ (pink, to 12 feet), ‘Zuni’ (lavender, 6 to 10 feet) and Early Bird Lavender (6 feet). Semi-dwarf size: 6 to 12 feet tall by 3 to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 7-10.
If you’re looking for an ornamental grass that delivers fall interest, check out Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha). Large, foot-long seedhead plumes soar above leaves in late summer, donning a pink tinge that matures to tan. Seedheads dry well and make a nice addition to dried arrangements, or let them age naturally in the garden where they’ll add interest all winter long. Korean feather reed grass likes moist soil and tolerates heavy clay soil. Cut plants to the ground in early spring. Leaves grow 36 inches tall and 20 to 24 inches wide. Seedheads stand 12 inches above leaves. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
‘Sweet Summer Love’ clematis is the hot weather cousin to sweet autumn clematis, a classic fall bloomer that opens sweetly scented flowers. ‘Sweet Summer Love’ clematis unfurls flowers all summer long—from July through September—that exude a sweet fragrance. On hot humid days, the scent hangs deliciously in the air. Blossoms start a cranberry hue and shift to purple as they age. Best of all, ‘Sweet Summer Love’ won’t invade your garden with unwanted seedlings (like its cousin, sweet autumn clematis). Plants benefit from a hard pruning (cut stems to 6 inches tall) in late winter. Vines grow 10 to 15 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide—a great choice for an entry arch or trellis. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
Says self-proclaimed “thrift-store junkie” Sarah Norton Ramberg of Sadie Seasongoods, “I loved the idea of repurposing something dining-related, in this case, a cheese dome. It makes for nice synergy in a decorative way.” This cloche turned ice rink is a fun spin on a holiday centerpiece and has a charming vintage feel, to boot.
Ramberg’s thrifty tip? “Shop for holiday decor year-round at thrift stores and garage sales. That way, you just spend a little here and there over the course of a year, and by the time the winter holidays arrive, you won't have to spend a dime on decor. It can all go towards gifts!”
A leaf rake comes in handy for moving leaves, pine cones, fallen fruit and other tree-related items. Look for an ergonomic design that makes the task an easy extension of natural body movements. Choose a wide head with springy tines to make quick work of cleaning large areas. For raking leaves from around shrubs, select a rake with a small head and shorter handle. Use a lawn rake with thin tines to gather grass clippings or clean up the lawn after winter. A bow rake is handy for soil prep in vegetable gardens and new beds, as well as raking gravel areas. A small hand rake earns its keep if you have planting beds beneath trees. Its widely spaced tines let you remove leaves without damaging plants.
As winter approaches and your potted plants start to migrate indoors, consider adorning them with these adorable pine cone snails. To create the body you will need to cut the snail shape out of the fabric of your choice. Think of the shape as an "s"with a short top curve and an extra long bottom curve to create your snail's head and tail. Cut two pieces, sew them together and stuff them. Stitch a pine cone to your snail's back to create the shell and thread a bit of string through the head to create antennae.
Individual blossoms on the flower spike of gas plant appear to have eyelashes, thanks to long, curling stamens. Gas plant offers a long flower season, from late spring through midsummer, and you can find varieties with blooms in shades of lavender, pink and red. Once flowers fade, seedpods form that linger into early winter and make a nice addition to autumn arrangements. Site this perennial where you want it (full sun is best), because it doesn’t transplant easily. Small seedlings tend to form around the mother plant, and those can be moved with little fuss. Deer- and rabbit-resistant plants grow 28 to 32 inches tall by 18 to 24 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 3-7. Good vase companions for gas plant: bearded iris, peony, bee balm and lady’s mantle.
Romance blooms when ‘The President’ opens its deep purple blossoms. Expect the first flush of flowers in late spring to early summer, followed by a second blooming with smaller flowers in early autumn. Clematis with classic flower forms like ‘The President’ grow best in full sun to part shade. Prune in late winter or early spring, cutting vines back to 6 to 9 inches tall. Place cuts just above a pair of strong buds. Clematis grows well on a pergola, but flowers may unfurl across the top of the structure, out of sight. Instead, try planting clematis on an arch or fence so you can see the blooms. Deer- and rabbit-resistant plants grow 8 to 12 feet tall by 3 to 4 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
This classic clematis traces its history to the 1850s, when it made its way to the United States from England. One of the most popular clematis, ‘Jackmanii’ is beloved for its deep purple blooms that blanket the plant from early summer into fall. To prune, in late winter or early spring cut all stems back to the previous year’s woody stem, which should be just above the base of the plant. Pruning this way helps avoid a situation later where the base of the plant becomes one bare stem with a tangle of vines above it. Vines grow 4 to 12 feet tall by 3 to 4 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4 to 10.
A native plant, trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) is a fast-growing beauty that scales an arch or pergola in a season. It’s famous for trumpet blooms that unfurl in bold orange shades, although you can also find varieties with yellow or red flowers. Blooms are a magnet for hummingbirds and other pollinators. Trumpet vine stems can wander underground, invading planting beds and disrupting patios. It’s best planted not too close to buildings, but makes a perfect choice for training on a yard or garden entry arch or pergola. Prune vines hard in early spring. Plants grow 20 to 30 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4 to 9. Use caution planting trumpet vine in Zone 6 or warmer, where mild winters allow rampant (some say invasive) growth.
Greenhouse-grown hydrangeas often hold their blooms for weeks indoors. Don't let your potted hydrangea completely dry out, and keep it in a cool, bright room, out of direct sun. After the last frost in spring, move your hydrangea outdoors to a shady spot for a week or two. Then gradually give it some morning sun, to help ease its transition. Finally, plant it in a location that gets morning sun (unless you have a variety that's labeled with different sun or shade requirements). Hydrangeas should be kept watered and mulched as the weather warms up. it may take them a year or two to start blooming again at the normal time of year. Gardeners in cold winter regions sometimes lose their flower buds to late cold snaps.
Primroses (Primulas) bloom in early spring or late winter. Their sweet flowers last for a few weeks indoors, and after they fade, most gardeners toss them in the compost bin. The Victorians loved primroses, growing the plants in greenhouses and conservatories. They've never really gone out of favor, although it’s not easy to coax them back into bloom. For best results, keep their soil slightly moist, grow them in a cool room, and add humidity to the air by sitting them atop some gravel in a tray filled with a little water. To stimulate more blooms, move your primrose outside when the weather is reliably warm. Bring it back indoors before frost, let it go dormant for a month or two and cross your fingers--or just buy new plants to enjoy. ‘Sweet 16’ is a large-flowered variety that blooms in white and shades of pink.