Looking for a Great Low Growing Shrub?

Do you have one of those spots in front of your windows that needs a low growing evergreen shrub? Do you wish you had some beautiful color along the sidewalk to your front door? My friend, let me introduce a relatively new azalea that may be a great choice for you. Hardy Gardenia Azalea, Rhododendron x ‘Hardy Gardenia’. You may already have it in your yard or have seen in on campus. This beautiful white azalea is one of my favorites for a number of reasons.

  • It needs no pruning. The max growth is 3-4 feet high. Nice, I like a plant thats knows its limits!
  • It blooms, and I mean really blooms! This plant has white double flowers in the spring that are gorgeous. That is high on the “WOW factor.”
  • It has little to no problems. Are you saying “low maintenance” yet?
  • The book says sun only, but I have them in full sun on campus and others in semi shade. In both locations they look great. Most plant growers are growing these in full sun in their nurseries, but they acclimate well to semi shade.
  • It sometimes blooms again in the late summer or early fall, and no, it is not an Encore azalea.
  • Planted in groupings, it is a snow of white flowers. The flower resembles a gardenia, but it is an azalea.


Let me know how you like it!

As always, we are planting to grow.


P.S. Don’t forget about the free pruning class on Saturday, May 18th. We will meet on the Quad at 9:30 on the morning. I will have free parking passes for all who come. When you arrive, pick up a parking pass and put it in your vehicle. I am looking forward to a fun morning.

Creating an Awesome Yard on a Budget

photo by Jenny Hardgrave

This has taken me awhile to figure out.  In fact, I could honestly say that understanding a better way to create an awesome looking yard has taken years and years.  Do you want to save some time? Then learn from my mistakes and leapfrog me.

In short, I think a lot of us have the order of operations wrong in how we’re creating a beautiful yard.  Oh, and I’m drinking a little more of that iced tea this morning.  Iced tea and lemonade to be exact. (Just google it – you won’t believe me).

Devise –> Focus –> Sustain

That’s it.  That is my new magical formula.  Let me explain it out.

“Devise” is what I like to call the various ideas, thought, places like Houzz and Pinstagram (I love mashing them together like this). See what you like and would like in your yard.

Your “Focus” is the one area that you really want to fix up now in the yard… your front flower bed, your back door, your mailbox, your one spot, your whatever-gets-you-some-attention-and-is-useful-to-your-focus, one place. Just one.

Your “Sustain” is the ability to enjoy it because you or someone else can maintain it without destroying it.  It is having the confidence to build a low maintenance and fabulous, relaxing yard.

So what I’ve come to learn boils down to something like this:

  • Engage and devise the ideas I want and like
  • Invest in the yard in phases, focus on the focal point, the one place
  • Relax in the yard knowing the pieces will come together, let it be sustainable (clean, and low maintenance).

What doesn’t work well is:

  • Doing a little bit here and there with no rhyme or reason

Where we seem to get it wrong is by trying to push for over the top beauty, then budgeting. This keeps most people from taking action. Instead they’re out looking for that one plant that wows them, which is fun, but it keeps us in the state of discontent with the yard.

Make sense?

That’s my big giant lesson for this week.


Join me on May 18th at 9:30am in the Quad at the Ole Miss campus as we focus on “Clearing the Clutter” on pruning.

Always planting to grow,


P.S. What is working for you on moles? Email me your best solutions.

Pruning Like a Pro

​Save the date! On Saturday, May 18th meet me on the Ole Miss campus for a free azalea pruning class. We will meet between the Library and Paris Yates Chapel (A.K.A The Quad) at 9:30am and you will be pruning like a pro in 10 minutes. Bring a clean pair of hand pruners, a friend, and join me for a fun time of pruning on campus. Don’t be the person who misses it. No shearing allowed. I look forward to seeing you on Saturday, May 18th.

Always planting to grow,


P.S. Thanks for the newsletter ideas you have been sending me. It sounds like everyone is busy in the yard this spring. Keep the ideas coming.

What To Do Next…

1. Have you put down your weed control for shrub beds and lawn?  It is time.  ​I use Preen or Snapshot for my shrub beds and non-lawn areas.  Although not 100%, these work pretty good and have saved me a lot of time weeding.   Read and follow the label. Also, don’t use weed fabric. Over time mulch will decompose and turn into great compost and weed seeds start germinating on top of the weed fabric.

2. Put down your weed control (pre-emergent) on your lawn.  If you miss this now, this summer you’ll most likely see an unwelcome friend,  Mr. Crabgrass.   I use a professional to put this down and I have a relative small yard.  It is the best $65 dollars spent.  For those that like to do it yourself, Dimension and Treflan are there for you.  Read and follow the label.  If your yard is mostly a mix of everything, but mostly weeds, you can skip this step.

3.  If you are in North Mississippi, start getting your shrub and small tree fertilizer ready.  In south Mississippi you can apply now.  I will be putting out 13-13-13 on most of my plants that need fertilizer.  Not all plants need feeding, but if you notice nutrient deficiencies in your plants, spring is a great time to feed plants.   I don’t feed large healthy specimen trees like Oaks because they don’t need it.

4. Before you add your favorite mulch (pine straw or hardwood mulch), remove the old leaves gather up in the shrub beds. Then add your Preen or Snapshot to the shrub beds. Make sure you do not pile up any mulches on the trunks of the shrubs or trees.  Mulch piled up on the trunks can cause a slow decline and death in those beautiful plants you planted.

5. Have FUN!  Spring is the time to reconnect and enjoy the yard.

Planting to Grow,


P.S. Many azaleas are blooming or getting ready to bloom.  Several of you have asked if we can talk about tree pruning when we do the azalea pruning class soon.  I will be happy to review how to prune your small trees, including Crape Myrtles during this time.  Stay tuned for the date we will meet on the Ole Miss campus.



Is Your Lawn Ready for Spring?

If you were fortunate enough to join us for the Brown Thumb to Green Thumb Boot Camp, you heard David Jumper from the Ole Miss Golf Course  speak about how to control weeds in your Bermuda and Zoysia lawns.  What great information he shared with us.  The key to having a weed free lawn is to have a healthy lawn.  A healthy Bermuda or Zoysia lawn will push out weeds so don’t underestimate the value of mowing correctly, watering and fertilizing the lawn (first lawn fertilizer is in May, not March).

If you have just a few weeds or maybe that one strange unknown weed, pull it up. If your yard is full of weeds you might consider treating your lawn or letting someone treat if for you. March is the time of year I spray to control summer weeds like crabgrass.  This treatment is called a pre-emergent weed control. The goal is to stop the weeds from growing in the yard before they germinate.  Because spraying the lawn myself can be a little tricky and I don’t want to invest in the equipment, I let a professional treat my lawn in the spring.

Do it-yourself lawn sprayers are available as well as the all the supplies.  Let me caution you about using combination chemicals that have fertilizer and weed control together.  Do not use them! Now is not the time to fertilize your lawn.  If you put out a product with fertilizer now, your winter weeds will love you for it and will grow.  March is the time to get the pre-emergent weed control out, not fertilizer.  Make sure you know what type of lawn you have, what type of weeds you have or want to prevent.  You will want to prevent crabgrass.

If you want to know what chemical to use check out this link about Mississippi weed control.  Always read and follow the labels.  You can also check in with your local Garden Center.  I am finding fewer and fewer people want to take on spraying the lawn themselves.  That is one of the great parts about attending the Boot Camp. You get to meet the professionals I use to take care of headaches and make the lawn beautiful.  Let me know how your lawn is looking this spring.

Planting to Grow,


P.S. I am going to be doing a free pruning class on campus in April or May after the azaleas finish blooming. Thanks to all of you for responding and letting me know you would like to attend!   Stay tuned for date and time.


Pruning Ornamental Grass

​Here is a pruning method that is helping Ole Miss create beautiful ornamental grass.

If you you have not pruned your ornamental grasses, there is still time.  At Ole Miss we trim our grasses from January up until the end of March.  There are some easy and not so easy ways to prune ornamental grass such as Pampas grass, Miscanthus grass and Muhly grasses.

For all grasses I use power shears or hedge trimmers.

For an easy and neat clean up, tie a piece of twine or rope tightly around bundle of brown leaf blades prior to pruning.  This will help in two ways. One, it allows you easy access to the plant to make your cuts, and two, once you made your cut you simply pick up the bundle of grass and place it in your wheel barrel and to the compost pile.

I like to trim Pampas grass about 12 to 24” high,   Miscanthus grass 12-18” high, and  Muhly grass is recommended to be pruned at 6” high.

Always planting to grow,


P.S. Would you be interested in a free azalea pruning class in April on the Ole Miss campus?  If you are, let me know.  I want to see if there is enough interest to do this.


OUCH!  That’s the calm reaction we get to stepping on a sweetgum ball.  These unwelcome balls fall off during the early spring time providing a challenge to our patio, driveway and yard.  Is there anything you can do to eliminate these pesky sweetgum balls?  According to Walter Reeves, author of multi garden books, he says it is possible to eliminate the balls each year, but it is not an easy task.  He explains that chemical ethepon (Florel) releases ethylene gas when it is sprayed onto tree branches while the sweetgum flowers are present in the spring.  If the Ethylene gas, a strong plant hormone, is applied to the tree’s flowers, the gas will cause the flowers to fall off.  This process eliminates the sweetgum ball from forming.  As Walter says, “The tree will be neutered for the year.”  This process is not easy, timing is critical, and it must be completed each spring.  It is not a “one and done” process.  For most,  this process is very impractical and difficult. Instead, consider planting a new tree to take the place of the Sweetgum tree.  There are varieties of Sweetgum trees on the market that are fruitless sweetgums.   If you do want to spray your trees, Reeves recommends ​Monterey Florel Fruit Tree & Shrub Growth Regulator​.  Another option is Snipper, which is an injectable product that de-balls a sweetgum. Reeves  also believes that hiring a certified arborist might be the best way to do this.

For me personally, I look for simple ways to eliminate the problem for the long term, therefore I don’t spray Sweetgum trees.  At my house I had over 30 Sweetgum trees that provided a great screen between myself and my neighbor. I didn’t want to lose that buffer.  Every couple of years I remove a Sweetgum tree or two and it has really helped to slow down the “balls” in the yard.   As I take out a Sweetgum, I look to promote a new tree or plant a different variety of tree I like for this area.  I have used Maples, Magnolias and Yoshiono Cherry trees to date.

Let me know what you are planting to grow today,


P. S. It is time to be pruning your roses if you have not already.  Click here to learn more.


Learning to Have a Yard You are Proud of

WOW! The Brown Thumb to Green Thumb Boot Camp on Saturday was a tremendous day.  What a great group who attended and received Certified Green Thumbs! It was amazing how much we all learned and experienced in the boot camp training session. We had some wonderful speakers who talked about trees, landscape design, and how to prune correctly.

We had a master gardener as well as first time homeowners who found solutions for their specific yard challenges.  You don’t need to feel alone or frustrated when developing solutions that work for the yard.  Don’t be held back, get outside and make your yard a masterpiece that you can be proud of!

Make plans to join us for our next Brown Thumb to Green Thumb Boot Camp!

Planting to grow,


Are Deer Eating Your Plants?

If you don’t have deer issues consider yourself very blessed.  Most current deer population reports agree that there are approximately  30 million deer in the United States and 2 million in the Magnolia state.  This is a far change from almost a 100 years ago when deer  were considered to be on the extinct list.  White tail deer population almost doubles every year as female deer give birth to twins each year.  With fewer predators to control the deer, there has been a surge of deer population across the United States.  Today, suburban environments find deer to be somewhat of a challenge to manage in the landscape.

According to Rhonda Massingham Hart, author of Deerproofing Your Yard & Garden, deer have two things on their minds – survival and reproduction.  A single adult deer consumes between 6 and 10 pounds of green vegetation each day.  Deer damage to commercial crops is estimated in the millions of dollars. Car collisions with deer claims are well over $1.2 billion each year.

Understanding the deer will help you win the this battle.  ​ According to Hart, the deer’s sense of smell  is their first line of defense  – eight times bigger than our human nose and three times larger than man’s best friend, the dog.  Deer use these large and super sensitive noses to find food and sense predators.  This is important information.  Deer also rely on hearing, which is far greater than humans.  Eye-sight is important for deer, they have a 310-degree field of vision.  Deer trust their nose and it is the primary source of information.

Are deer out to destroy your yard on purpose?  No, but they have a huge drive to survive.  Deer have a simple checklist according to Hart, “1. Don’t get eaten, 2. Eat, 3. Rest, 4. Dominate other deer.”  Deer have been known to eat over 500 different plants.  If they can afford to be picky eaters, they will.  They have their favorites as you probably know this.  ​Deer seem to love  to eat Azaleas, Camellias, Hosta, Daylilies, Dogwoods, English ivy, Roses, Hydrangeas, Pansies, Phlox, Tulips, Impatiens, Dahlias and I am sure you could  name a few more.  Deer don’t seem to like Mahonia, Cotoneaster, Japanese boxwood, Reeve’s spirea, Rosemary, Yaupon holly, Yew, Yucca, Dusty Miller,  Lantana, Daisies, Salvia, Thyme, Yarrow, Zinnia, Muhley grass, and Maiden grass.

Deer are creatures of habit.  If you can prevent deer damage before it starts, it is easier than interrupting an established habit.  A tall fence works extremely well.  Not all deterrents work in every location and to make matters challenging, deer get use to preventative measures after a while and ignore them.   Keeping a deer off balance by attacking their feeling of security helps protect those delightful tulips.  Deer are afraid of anything new, but over time the new becomes old and they are no longer afraid.  This is why you can see deer eating while the yard pets mingle around them.  The trick is to change up the methods, before they adapt.  Changing, rotating and attacking the deer’s 5 senses works best.  ​The best defense against deer that I have ever seen is a chain link fence.  Yes, deer can jump fences, but they are usually looking for easy grazing and most of the time they will wander down and around the fence line to the property next door before jumping a fence.  Here are a few simple tactics I have used with success.  Foul smells – deer rely heavily on their nose to find food and to sense danger.  Jam their “radar” (nose) with smells that make them uncomfortable in your yard.  A deer feels uncomfortable when they cannot sense danger in the wind and will not tolerate it long.  I have used bars of soap, Irish Spring,  and Milorganite Fertilizer to accomplish this.  Both of these work for a while and then deer will tolerate them, so rotate them along with other methods. I have read that several people use this method by hanging the bars of soap in the lower tree limbs, 2-4’ off the ground.  I never do this because I don’t want to see the soap hanging in a tree.  I cut the bars into quarters and place about 4’ apart on the pine straw or barely under the pine straw.  I have gotten good results doing this.  After about 3 to 4 weeks I use Milorganite fertilizer sprinkled around the shrub beds, just like I am fertilizing the plants.  I have found good success in a product called All Season Deer Repellent stakes. It seems to work well for about 2-4 months, but then the deer tolerate it too.  These stakes are easy to put out around the plants, but I have found that I need a few more than the package says in areas where the deer population is heavy.

Let me know what you are doing to keep deer off your plants.

Planting to grow,


P.S.  A great book for understanding deer and how to deer proof your yard is Deerproofing Your Yard & Garden by Rhonda Massingham Hart.  You can find it at Off Square Books.

Turn Your Brown Thumbs Green at Boot Camp!

I invite you to join me on March 2nd, 9:00 to 3:00pm for Boot Camp!

This engaging and empowering event is designed to give you the tools you need to get started and the ability to landscape with confidence. Easy systematic ways to implement effective landscape solutions will be taught at this amazing event. You will be able to develop a clear approach to create a spectacular yard while following a simple guide to the “Best of the Best” that I use to create multi-national award-winning results in Mississippi’s finest front yard, Ole Miss.

To sign up for Boot Camp please click the Buy Now button below.
Please be sure to include your email address at checkout.
Price is $60.00

I hope to see you on March 2nd!
Planting to Grow,