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Trees and shrubs

While the last few leaves cling stubbornly to the trees, now is the time to consider the architecture of your garden. Often called the bones of the garden, the trees and shrubs - or lack of them - in your yard define your landscape.

Is it an open space with tropical accents of tall palms and low sagos? Is it a Carolina vision of giant azaleas mulched in pine needles nearly budding in preparation of bursting forth in the shade of long-leaf pines? Whatever it is - is it enough? Is it too much? What direction could you nudge your garden during the coming year?

Winter is the gardener's time to dream, to plan and to design. You can find a great deal of information online.

The National Arbor Day Foundation offers information on 200 trees, along with photos on its site: Cross reference that with Clemson University's extensive information on what grows well in South Carolina at this site:


If you garden for color, your chief concern may be what seeds to plant now so that your garden will be unique among its neighbors.

Last year, one of my greatest hopes for the season reminded me that patience is the gardener's greatest personality trait. Having been given some seeds, I set out to grow some thunbergia vines, which were supposed to produce tiny, Black-Eyed-Susan- like flowers in sunny spots.

After planting the carefully nurtured vine seedlings in several locations, I waited. And waited, and waited and finally gave up in September.

In late October, when the heat of the Carolina sun finally abated, they bloomed and continued to bloom through the rollercoaster ride of temperature adjustments that followed. They looked great next to the geraniums and petunias that snapped back into bloom after a broiling summer.

The point is, it's good to have a variety of plants going if you are interested in trying something new from seed this year. Over the next few weeks, you can sow seeds indoors in seed-starting mix. Be prepared to provide the seedlings strong light for six to 10 weeks after the seeds have germinated.

But don't give up on your summer favorites either; the cosmos and verbena for the sun, the impatiens and torenia for the shade. You'll need to have something reliable in case your trial flowers disregard the seed package information on bloom time and decide to remind you that we all garden at nature's discretion.

Take a break

Winter is the time to peruse seed catalogs, make a list of things you'd like to do and even plan a vacation to visit display gardens for inspiration.

For those of you looking for landscape inspiration and tiring of the do's and don'ts, take a break and go have a giggle at this site: I know there will be lots of debate about the before and after photos for some of the foundation beds, but you must admit someone goofed on the driveways.