When I was a child spending summers with my grandmother in rural Virginia, I paid little attention to the dozens of nandinas that lined her huge U-shaped driveway.
Now, I fondly recall their white spring flowers, lime green summer foliage and red winter berries.
For years, I've touted the perfection of nandinas for any yard style or growing condition.
As my gardening friend Les Parks at Smithfield Gardens in southeastern Virginia says, "If you can't grow a nandina, you can't grow anything."
Typically, nandinas are the standard Nandina domestica, nicknamed heavenly bamboo, because they produce suckers that quickly turn into tons of baby plants.
Nandinas, which survive almost all cold hardy and heat zones, are no-nonsense plants because they thrive in all growing conditions - sun or shade, wet or dry soil. They know no real pest or disease problems. They can be used as stand-alone specimen plants, as hedges with eye-catching seasonal interest or as shoreline and bank erosion controllers. Standard nandinas are best pruned in late winter or early spring to keep them vigorous; otherwise, they get too tall and leggy and bare at the bottom stems.
Today, there are dozens of new varieties of nandinas - some with flowers and berries, some with just fancy foliage. The newest one is Blush Pink Nandina from the Southern Living Plant Collection, which bears no flowers or berries, just exotic foliage that changes colors. Learn more about the Blush Pink nandina at www.southernlivingplants.com.NEW GARDENIA
Check out the new Crown Jewel, a low-growing, spreading to prostrate gardenia with double, fragrant flowers. Repeat summer blooms follow a May flush of flowers; fall brings another heavy crop of color. Light pruning after the first bloom stimulates even more blossoms because it blooms on both old and new wood.
The plant grows about 6 inches per year, reaching 2 to 2.5 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide, making it ideal for small garden beds. Gardenias need well-drained moist soil and full sun to partial shade; a bit of afternoon shade is great, especially on hot summer days. Gardenias like acidic soil, so organic compost or light applications of
an azalea fertilizer is
Kathy Van Mullekom is gardening columnist for the Daily Press, Newport News, Va.; email her at email@example.com.