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Q.  Fall is finally upon us, and thankfully so. As I spend more time outdoors, enjoying the almost perfect weather, I have noticed that the leaves are beginning to fall.  How can I put these leaves to use in my landscape or garden?

A.  Have you thought about starting a compost bin? Composting is fast becoming a growing trend for homeowners, and thankfully so. Alabama produces around 2.6 million tons of solid waste every year.  Roughly 20 percent of that amount is made up of lawn and garden wastes – grass clippings, leaves, tree and/or shrub prunings, home garden refuse, and kitchen wastes.  The massive amount of solid waste produced in our state is creating disposal problems in landfills, and as a result, many disposal facilities have been forced to close.  While composting is not the only answer to this problem, it is an extremely important step in the right direction.

Composting is simply the acceleration of the natural process of decomposition.  A process that could take years to occur in nature is compressed into a period of months, and in some cases, even weeks in the yard or garden.  The key to successful composting is maintaining the proper balance of all components involved.

  • Water – 40 to 60 percent is the ideal moisture content range of the compost pile.  When squeezed, the compost should be moist, but not dripping wet.  Too much moisture results in a slowing of the decomposition process.
  • Carbon and Nitrogen – the ratio of carbon (plant residues) to nitrogen (manures, kitchen scraps, fertilizers) is very important.  The optimum ratio of carbon to nitrogen is about 30:1.  Too little nitrogen results in reduced microorganism numbers, causing a slowdown in the decomposition process.  Too much nitrogen rapidly increases microorganism growth, therefore speeding up decomposition, but can result in oxygen depletion and foul odors.
  • Temperature – as decomposition occurs, heat is generated.  In moderation, heat is beneficial because it destroys many disease organisms and weed seed.  However, temperatures above 140°F create an unsuitable environment for the microorganisms, and they begin to die.  Overheating can be prevented by turning the pile when temperatures begin to exceed recommended levels.

Beginning your compost pile is not difficult – it simply requires following a few fairly easy, but very important steps.  A successful compost pile is constructed of alternating layers of yard wastes, a source of nitrogen (if required), and soil or finished compost, which provides an inoculation of beneficial microorganisms.  You should start with a 6 inch base layer, consisting of coarse material, such as twigs or small branches.  Then add a 6 to 8 inch layer of leaves or grass clippings.  One note – other materials, such as wood chips, can be used in the place of leaves or grass clippings, but require the addition of fertilizer or manure to maintain the proper carbon to nitrogen ratio.  The final layer should consist of 1 to 2 inches of soil or finished compost.  Continue this layering pattern, omitting the base of coarse material, until the desired size is reached.  To achieve the proper internal temperature, a compost pile should be 3 to 4 feet tall.  The width of the pile can vary, but should be a size that can be easily managed, generally 3 to 4 feet.

While my comments are just a basic overview of the composting process,   I hope that I have made things a little less confusing and a lot less intimidating.  For more detailed information and answers to commonly asked composting questions, please check out the following links.  Happy gardening!



The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!


Garden Talk: Fall and Winter Gardening: Getting Ready for the Change!

Sept. 21, 2018          Sallie Lee

Question: Give some suggestions now that [hopefully] our weather is moving toward “real” fall about what we can do in our gardens and yards. Is this a good time to plant things?  What about fertilizing my Bermuda grass lawn?  I don’t want to stop garden activities especially now that fall is here – how about some options?

Answer:  It’s that time of year when many of us are ready to put away shorts and tank tops in favor of long sleeves and blue jeans. In this area of Alabama, in addition to the return of Football season (War Eagle!), it’s also time for yards and gardens to receive a little end of season attention.  Work these activities into your pre-game warmup or post game cool down, so both your body and yard will benefit!

What goes with football?  Or any other activity such as gardening or yard work in which muscles are utilized? Backs and shoulders in particular need protecting; muscles need to be warmed up and stretched out just as athletes do preparing for competition!

What activities are going to benefit our gardens and our bodies?  Raking leaves for use in compost or as mulch not only means we get for free what nature has so generously provided us, but we burn approximately 150 calories an hour. Depending on how many leaves are raked, once the task is completed we have exercised, cleaned up our lawns, and added a carbon source to the compost pile.  Soil amendment for flower beds and veggie gardens, right from our own back yard!

Why not plant cool-season annuals in colors of your favorite team? Either in-ground or  containers, mums (chrysanthemums), sage, aster, ornamental kale, pansies and verbena are available in a range of colors and growth habits.  So remove the tired, sad plants to your compost pile and let them become ingredients in next spring’s garden soil!  Nature loves to recycle; we can do the same by putting leaves from our trees into our flower beds and gardens instead of purchasing the same material in bags from a retail store!

Want to make changes to your landscape by moving, removing, or adding plants?  After the first kickoff of the season, start planning to plant!  Many plant sales occur during September and October, perfect for those wanting to purchase and install trees, shrubs  and bulbs that will flower next spring.  Cooler days make establishing root systems easier on plants, but keep in mind they’ll still need water to survive.  And while you’re digging holes, “dig” that about 100 calories per 15 minutes are burned off, helping to keep those game day snacks from inflating our midriffs!

Got weeds?  If you’re a gardener of any sort, you know weeds are part of life in the garden or yard.  Hand weeding is worth about 240 calories burned an hour, is the most environmentally friendly form of weeding, and makes us appreciate the tenacity of unwelcome plants.  Using a pre-emergent herbicide helps prevent cool season weeds from popping up, but it has to be applied early enough to suppress them, and we don’t get to work off those cheese Doritos!

Weeding, composting, mulching, planting, transplanting – all timely activities to embrace between ball games.  However, fertilizing our lawns is not recommended for our area unless you want bigger, healthier weeds! As our warm-season turf grasses go dormant, we can mow one last time, compost the clippings, and winterize the lawnmower. But back off “feeding” your warm season turf grass at this point.

Pruning is also good exercise, so save the calories burned with that activity until after football season is over.  While we’re trying to get back in shape after watching all those games, and get our landscapes in shape for the spring, work off about 170 calories an hour starting in mid- to- late February if plants bloom in spring.  For plants that bloom early, like forsythia (Yellow bells) and some azaleas, prune them right after they stop flowering.

Stretch to check any materials, including pesticides, stored on shelves.  Be sure they are in weather –and – child- proof containers, preferably in locked cabinets or rooms. One of those situations where an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, chemicals used to treat lawn and garden pests need to be handled with the respect they deserve.

Enjoy the fall and winter seasons, whether burning calories working in your yard or consuming a few watching football games.  Balance the watching and working, both your body and your yard will be in better shape!

Courtesy http://www.greenphillyblog.com/philly/set-your-leaves-to-the-curb-starting-monday-philly/

“Garden Talk is written by Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Sallie at leesall@auburn.edu or call 205-879-6964 x11. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!

2018 4-H Summer Day Camps

All Marion County 4-H Events are open to all youth in Marion County Ages 9-18 years old. Alabama 4-H and Auburn University require that all youth be at least 9 years old as of January 1st, 2018 in order to participate in any 4-H Events.


2 Day RiverKids Event Cost: $5

JUNE 6: 8:30am-11:30am Meet at the Extension Office. Lunch Provided.

JUNE 7: 9:00am-12:00pm RiverKids Float (Location Disclosed June 6th)

2 Day RiverKids Event Cost: $5

JUNE 14: 8:30am-11:30am Meet at the Extension Office. Lunch Provided.

JUNE 15: 9:00am-11:30am RiverKids Float (Location Disclosed June 14th)

2 Day RiverKids Event Cost: $5

JUNE 21: 8:30am-11:30am Meet at the Extension Office. Lunch Provided.

JUNE 22: 9:00am-1:00pm RiverKids Float (Location Disclosed June 21st)

REQUIRED FORMS: http://offices.aces.edu/marion/wp-content/uploads/sites/56/2018/05/Summer-Day-Camp-Forms-1.pdf

FLYER: http://offices.aces.edu/marion/wp-content/uploads/sites/56/2018/05/2018-Summer-Day-Camp-Flyer-1.pdf


JULY 9th: Painting/Art Day Camp Cost: $5 (Spaces are first come, first serve)

8:30am-12:30pm Supplies and Lunch Provided.

Come enjoy a day of painting with Mandi Sexton and the 4-H Agent.

JULY 11th: Archery/Wildlife Day Camp Cost: $5  (Spaces are first come, first

11:30am-3:00pm Supplies and Lunch Provided.

Come try Archery with the Hamilton Parks and Recreation staff and learn about wildlife conservation with Matt Brock , Wildlife Biologist

JULY 12th: Cooking Day Camp Cost: $5   (Spaces are first come, first serve)

8:30am-12:30pm Supplies, Lunch, and Snacks Provided.

Come cook your own lunch and snack with Susan Hill, Food Safety Regional Extension Agent

JULY 13th: Cupcake Decorating Day Camp Cost: $5  (Spaces are first come, first serve)

8:30am-12:30pm Supplies and Lunch Provided.

Learn cake/cupcake decorating basics and take home your own baked treats!

**The Alabama Cooperative Extension system encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact Rebecca Danley at (205)921-3551 in advance of your participation or visit. **

REQUIRED FORMS: http://offices.aces.edu/marion/wp-content/uploads/sites/56/2018/05/Summer-Day-Camp-Forms.pdf

FLYER: http://offices.aces.edu/marion/wp-content/uploads/sites/56/2018/05/2018-Summer-Day-Camp-Flyer.pdf

Call or email the 4-H Agent with any questions. Spaces will be filled on a first paid, first served basis. (205)921-3551 or rgd0007@aces.edu



2018 4-H County Round-Up

Project Ideas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vkfstHOKKE

Photos from the 2017 County Round-Up Event: https://www.facebook.com/pg/marioncountyal4h/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1698085383818391


County Round-Up Event Schedule May 17th, 2018

8:30am – 9:00am            Registration (Bevill State Community College Community Building)

9:00am – 9:15am            General Assembly/Set up Exhibits

9:15am – 11:30pm          Competitions/Outdoor Games

11:40pm-12:40pm          Lunch

12:50pm – 1:30pm         Awards in the Bevill Community Center (Parents are welcome to attend)

1:30pm                              Bus Dismissal

County Round-Up is a reward for active 4-H members! It’s also a celebration of what 4-Her’s have learned and the skills they have developed throughout the 4-H Year! The Marion County 4-H Round-Up is a great place for each Marion County 4-H member to “show off” their talents. Junior winners are selected in each event and will advance to the Regional Competition in June at Bevill State Community College in Sumiton, AL. Senior winners are selected in each event and will advance to State Competitive Events Day in July at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana, AL.

Youth attending 4-H Round-Up MUST compete in at least ONE competition, and may compete in up to TWO competitions. Youth MUST sign up for their County Round-Up Competition with their 4-H Teacher/Sponsor/School Secretary by April 13th (they will have the sign up sheet after your scheduled March 4-H Meeting). Spaces will fill up quickly so register ASAP!

Required Field Trip Form MUST be returned to your child’s SCHOOL (not the Extension office) by April 27th in order to attend County Round-Up. (this form doesn’t apply to Winfield Students): http://offices.aces.edu/marion/wp-content/uploads/sites/56/2018/04/2018-Marion-County-Schools-field-trip-parent-permissions-form.pdf

All youth are expected to follow the 4-H Rules found below for their selected competition. Please call or email the Extension Office if you would like the rules printed and delivered to your school (205)921-3551 or rgd0007@aces.edu.

**Please click on the name of the competition below to view the rules.**


  • Chef 4-H (Individual Event) This Event will be held May 15th at 5:30pm at the Extension Office. Youth still get to come to Round-Up on the 17th and the winners will be announced then.
  • Freestyle Demonstration (Individual Event or Team of 2)
  • Poultry Que (Individual Event)



Questions? Ask your teacher or call the 4-H Agent, Rebecca Danley

Garden Talk: Chinese Fringe Flower in Bloom!

By: Sallie Lee

Question:  I saw a plant in my neighbor’s yard, a shrub really, with these gorgeous fringy looking blooms in a wonderful deep pink color!  It is a knockout, no offense to the roses by that name, full and lush despite the yo-yo weather we’ve experienced since January.

What is it, where does it like to grow, does it come in other colors, and where do I find it?  I’ve got a mostly sunny back yard that would be a vision with these plants grouped around it.  And does it attract any wildlife or pests?

I’ve included a photo for help identifying it.

Answer:  You are yearning after a Loropetalum, or Chinese Fringe tree/shrub, based on the attached photo.  Not native to North America but well-behaved in our southern region, this evergreen offering from China and Japan is also lightly fragrant, adding to its other charms!

If its blooms remind you of another late winter/early spring blooming shrub, you’d be in good company as Loropetalum is in the witch-hazel family.  This is a tough, relatively pest free and drought tolerant (once established) plant, growing best in acid-to-neutral soil, in sun to partial shade.  Reaching around 6’ tall in about three years if favorably sited, dwarf versions are suitable for containers, and a low-growing form (‘Hillier’) spreads out as a suitable ground cover. Loropetalum’s versatility includes the shrub form used as hedge, in mixed borders, or as a single specimen plant.  Limbed up (lower branches removed), Chinese fringe becomes a nice small tree!

A new variation on standard Chinese fringe  is a burgundy-leaved, pink-flowered form, including such suggestive names as ‘Fire Dance’, ‘Pipa’s Red’, ‘Razzleberri’, and ‘Sizzling Pink’.  As with any foliage that leaps from green to a significant color, be cautious when adding to yard, flower bed, or landscape.  In many cases, “a little goes a long way” with non-standard colors and designs.

If pruning is necessary, do it in early spring as soon as blooming stops.  However if following ‘right plant in right place’ advice, pruning should be limited to damaged or dead branches or twigs. Fertilize lightly using a slow-release product labelled for azaleas and rhododendrons, follow with a layer of organic mulch around roots to conserve moisture and control weeds.

When the ‘fringy’ flowers are gone, the shrub remains a pleasant addition to the landscape or garden sporting small, oval leaves.  A few cultivars develop fall color ranging from orange-red to red, but the majority continue with standard green or purplish leaves throughout winter.

Pest problems, as mentioned earlier, are few although root rot can create issues in poorly drained soil. Soil that is too alkaline can result in leaves turning yellow (chlorotic) as well. Site the plant in an appropriate location, allow roots to establish over a 12 – 24 month period, and plan to enjoy your Loropetalum(s).  This plant will provide years of beauty in your landscape, even though it doesn’t achieve the 35’ height of a 100 year old specimen in another southern state!

Loropetalum hedge in bloom, courtesy Clemson University

 Garden Talk is written by Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Sallie at leesall@auburn.edu or call 205-879-6964 x11. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!

Unusual Annuals

  Angelonia Angelmist-ballseed.com

By: Kerry Stober

Q: What are some less common annual plants I can use in my garden this year?

We all know the old standby annuals people use in home gardens in Alabama in the spring and summer. I’m talking about zinnias, petunias, marigolds, impatiens, etc. We see these in planters at shopping centers and in garden beds around homes every year. Don’t get me wrong, they are great plants! These flowers perform well and reduce maintenance needs in many situations.

But if you are a plant nerd like the people here in extension, you may find yourself looking for some unusual plants each year for added variety and fun! There are several trial gardens in the southeast whose main purpose is to try new varieties of plants each year (some common and some less so) and determine how will these plants will perform in our environment. These trials are a great resource if you are hunting for new ideas for your home. Many of these plants are available from seed catalogs and now is a great time to start these seeds. Many seed packets will recommend starting your seeds two weeks before the last expected frost in your area. Many plants are also only available as seedlings or in small containers. You can buy these from local nurseries or home improvement stores in your area. The following chart lists several of the top performing, less common annuals and perennial varieties from trial gardens of the southeast in recent years:

Plant/Variety Annual or Perennial Light Requirements
Coleus ‘Flame Thrower’ (several colors) Annual Sun/Shade
Angelonia Angelwings/Angelmist (several colors) Annual Full Sun
Cleome ‘Señorita Mi Amor’ Annual Full Sun
Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ Annual Full Sun
Gomphrena globosa ‘Las Vegas Mix’ Annual Partial–Full Sun
Helianthus ‘Autumn Gold’ Tender Perennial Full Sun
Cosmos ‘Chocamocha’ Annual Full Sun
Scaevola ‘Whirlwind Blue’ Annual (Tropical perennial) Partial-Full Sun
Torenia ‘Clown Burgandy’ Annual Shade-Partial Sun
Lysimachia ‘Outback Sunset’ Annual Partial Shade


Many of the plants in the chart above are great in both the landscape or in a container. Most will bloom from late spring throughout the summer, so they are sure to add color and interest to your garden! Though replanting every year may seem a little labor intensive, annual flowers are a great way to experiment in your garden. Because they are so short lived, you can try new color schemes or designs each time! When selecting your annuals, be sure to consider the environment in the landscape where you will be planting them or placing containers in order to get the best performance and longest bloom times out of your new plants.

Garden Talk is written by Kerry Stober of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Kerry at KDS0010@aces.edu or call 205-879-6964 x19. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!

Facts to Know About Dogwood Trees

by Lisa C. Murphy

Loved for early spring blooms, dogwood trees are featured in many Alabama landscapes and celebrated in festival throughout the South.

Dogwood trees sport white or pink flowers.  The true petals are not the four showy blossoms.  The tightly packed cluster in the center form the real blooms.  What appears to be petals are actually bracts, which is a type of leaf.

Flower color of the native dogwood is a creamy white.  A naturally occurring variety of the native dogwood has pink blooms.  Many cultivated varieties are available in nurseries and landscape centers.  Dogwood trees often appear in brilliant shades ranging from soft pink, to deeper cherry reds.  As a result, these showy bracts can attract pollinating insects to the flowers.

There are 17 species of dogwood native to North America.  Gardeners are most familiar with the flowering dogwood.  Another common species is the Kousa Dogwood or Chinese Dogwood.  It thrives in either full sun or shade and is much tougher than the flowering dogwood.

Dogwood trees are often a preferred choice for planting because they are low maintenance.  Depending on the species planted, you might have a short, stout bush or a 25 foot tall tree.  If carefully treated, a mature dogwood tree species may reach up to 30 feet in height as a result.

Since Dogwoods grow in nature as understory trees, they prefer afternoon shade to shield them from blazing sunlight.  Dogwoods are pretty versatile as a small tree. It can be planted where larger-maturing trees would be a nuisance or a hazard.  However, dogwoods still need room to grow.  Plant dogwood trees at least 25 feet from structures to give the roots plenty of room to grow.

In the Southeast, the dogwood typically begins blooming in early March in the southern portion of Alabama and two to three weeks later in northern areas of the state.  The bloom duration can last from two to four weeks.

Dogwood braches droop as the tree grows, and may need pruning to clear pedestrian or vehicle traffic.  Pruning dogwoods can help shape them and improve their health.  Prune if needed any time after blooming.  Since dogwoods bloom in early spring before May, wait until after they bloom to prune.

Dogwoods have been used medicinally for generations.  Since the bark is a rich source of bitter-tasting tannins, dogwood leaves often treated pain, fevers, backaches, dizziness, or weakness.  Dogwood bark was one of many barks used as a fever medicine before quinine came into general use.  Tea made from the bark was used to treat pain or fever.

Blooming by Easter, the tree and its flowers have inspired legends of their part in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Legend says that the bracts of the dogwood are set in the shape of a cross and bear nail marks of the Crucifixion, while the red leaves in autumn point to Jesus’ blood on Calvary.

To learn more about dogwoods, contact the Marion County Extension Office at 205-921-3551 or see Alabama Extension’s Selection and Care of Dogwoods Publication at http://www.aces.edu

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!

Watching the Temperatures Change

Watching the Temperatures Change

I like winter.  Maybe it is because I was born in Michigan where winter comes early and stays late, or it is because I am warm-natured.  I do not know why, but I like winter.  Now that I went out on the limb with my inclination towards winter, let me qualify.  Few of us, myself included, like the single digit temperatures and 20mph winds we had earlier this month.  Most of my Northern friends were also miserable as they endured temperatures in the negative teens and wind chills in the negative thirties, forties, or fifties.  Those conditions are not only miserable; they are deadly.  What I want my Alabama friends to understand is that the miserable times come with the storms, and the pleasant times are in between.

Early in December, we received a freak snowstorm in the State.  Snow fell from the Gulf Coast to the Tennessee line.  At my little cabin in the Talladega woods, I received three or four inches of the early wet stuff.  It was beautiful.  My Buster dog and I had an enjoyable few days as we hiked alone through the mountains.  It was a wet snow, and the flakes were large.  This is typical of early and late season snows.  In Buffalo, NY where I lived in the nineties, this snow would occur in October and April.  This is a dangerous snow.  The weight of the moisture content in the snow broke many limbs out of my large pines, and snapped my ten-foot saplings in two.  On Columbus Day 2005, a snow like this hit Buffalo while the trees still had their colorful leaves attached.  Branches and trees came crashing to the ground; causing Western New York to shut down.  Disaster Relief chainsaw crews from around the nation converged on Buffalo as the city had to dig out of the snow and cut up a hurricane-style tree mess.

Since that December 2017, snow melted, Birmingham has enjoyed the typical winter weather and the fluctuations of mercury within the thermometer.  Many nights we had a couple of extra quilts on our bed only to wake to a cold house wanting for need of a fire.  However, a few nights we opened the windows and enjoyed a cool not cold 50-degree night.  Last week in mid-January, God blessed us with another snow.  Temperatures were colder than the first snow, so this snow was a powder.  Again, the wind was blowing, so that part of the storm smarted, but the snow was so light and dry, I went outside and swept our porch and sidewalks clean.  At the cabin, we ended up with about 1½ to 2” of snow.  Sure, it was an inconvenience for a few days, but everything closed; leave your car parked and enjoy the long weekend.  Think about it, we received the snow on Tuesday and Wednesday, by Saturday, all of the snow was gone and we had highs in the 60s.  Yesterday we hit 72 at the cabin!  Even in Philadelphia, at the NFC Championship game, they had a balmy 47-degree temperature at kickoff.

This is why I like winter the weather changes.  Even in the northern states, the temperature fluctuates.  As we were experiencing the snow of last week, my relatives in Michigan were looking at grass.  As the coldest part of winter, approaches on Groundhog’s Day try not to complain.  Go with the flow.  What is here today will probably be gone tomorrow.  Do not let the sensationalism of television news worry you to a tizzy.  Embrace the change, remember, this summer we will have ‘weeks’ of daytime temperatures in the high 90s with lows in the mid-70s with no change in sight.

Garden Talk is written by Andrew J. Baril of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, C. Beaty Hanna Horticulture & Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.  This column includes research-based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities.  Email questions to ajb0012@auburn.edu, or call 205 879-6964. Learn more about what is going on in Jefferson County by visiting the ACES website, www.aces.edu/Jefferson or checking us on Facebook and Twitter.  The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator.  Everyone is welcome!

Garden Trends for 2018


Photo Credit: Kerry Stober

By: Kerry Stober

Question: Are there any new ideas or plants that work well in Alabama you would recommend in my garden this year?

Gardening is one of the oldest and most popular hobbies around the world. There are multitudes of ways you can adapt gardening to your tastes and space available, which is what makes it so fun and accessible! After reviewing the predicted gardening trends from several sources, I have compiled a small review of these ideas, plants, and trends that we may see more in Alabama this year.

As far as the 2018 color palette is concerned, purple is predicted to be the most fashionable this year. Thankfully there are hundreds of purple flowering plant varieties available if you want to incorporate it into your garden. Moreover, there are many plants with purple foliage you can utilize to add a pop of color amidst the usual green. Also this year we will see more woodland greens, eggshell blues, redwood browns, and neutral tans; all of which work perfectly for a southern garden. Some newer purple plant options include:

Plant Variety Hardiness Bloom Time
Phlox ‘Running with Scissors’ Zones 4-8 Early Spring
Clematis ‘Chloe’ Zones 4-9 Continual May-Oct.
Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Cape Cod’ Zones 4-9 Spring through summer
Lavandula angustifolia ‘Lavance Deep Purple’ Zones 5-8 Late spring-Summer
Perovskia antriplicifolia ‘Perovskia Blue Steel’ Zones 4-9 Summer-Late summer
Salvia VIBE ‘Ignition Purple’ Zones 7-11 Spring through summer


Also try planting some of the flowering herb varieties of rosemary, Russian sage, or bee balm for a pop of purple or light blue. Herbs are multi-purpose plants and they go great with the next trending theme!

Another trend continuing from previous years is the “Grow Your Own” movement of homeowners becoming more sustainable by growing their own herbs, vegetables, and fruits. A fun part of growing your own edible plants in the garden is trying new foods you may not be able to buy in the local produce section. Now is a great time to browse seed or plant catalogs in search of “new to you” varieties of vegetables and herbs. Try unusual colors of tomatoes (‘Midnight Snack’ hybrid is a large dark purple) or carrots (‘Purplesnax’ hybrid has purple skin and an orange center), seedless melons (try Mini Piccolo), or a new spicy pepper (try Orange Pepperoncini). You may just find a fresh favorite!

Containers and indoor potted plants are making a huge comeback this year. Novel styles of hanging planters and colorful pots with unusual shapes and textures are very popular. Indoor plants provide several benefits to the homeowner including stress relief, controlling humidity, cleaning air, and promoting better sleep. Containers are also great for patios and seating areas outside. Make a lush and private area outside your home to entertain, creating walls or screens by placing taller potted plants like boxwoods, cannas, dracaena, fountain grass, or elephant ears. Planting for privacy and security is also becoming very popular. Using vines or thorny varieties on property or yard borders can be utilized to prevent trespassing. Also planting these types of vegetation under windows or around vulnerable entry points can be useful. Taller full plantings can provide privacy screens for easily visible windows or outdoor entertaining areas.

When considering using plants for all of the purposes we have discussed, try to keep pollinators in mind. Plants often have a pollinator logo on their label that lets you know that it is a plant which attracts these insects. Fragrant flowers are a great way to create a monarch butterfly waystation, and flowers that have longer bloom seasons are great resources for bees. For monarchs some of the suggested plants include: milkweeds, butterfly weed, zinnias, marigold, cosmos, and goldenrod. For bees you may want to try a regional pollinator seed mix that is specific to the southeast.

I hope these popular gardening trends are easy to incorporate into your landscape or home!

Garden Talk is written by Kerry Stober of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Kerry at KDS0010@aces.edu or call 205-879-6964 x19. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!