A year’s worth of garden tips from local New Orleans growers

With 12 months’ worth of garden columns behind me in 2015, I tucked away a number of useful hints from local experts — people who grow favorites right here in our climate. Here are a few of the best tips I heard. Happy gardening in the new year!

SAVE THAT AMARYLLIS: From Allen Owings of the LSU AgCenter: Amaryllis received as holiday gifts don’t have to go into the trash with the gift wrapping. “Early spring is the time to take the bulb out of its pot and plant it in a garden bed with its apex just above ground level.”

WAIT TO PRUNE: From Lee Rouse, also of the LSU AgCenter, who teaches classes at the New Orleans Botanical Garden: “Spring flowering shrubs like azaleas and gardenias shouldn’t be pruned (in the winter because) you’ll be cutting off the buds. You need to wait until after they have bloomed.”

WHEN TO CUT: From Don Hanson, an expert in rooting roses from cuttings: “The best time to take cuttings here is November through March. I like them about 8 or 9 inches long, about the thickness of a pencil.”

MAKE YOUR BED!: From Jordan Bantuelle of the Urban Farmstead: Raised vegetable beds are important because “there is a lot of concern about the high quantity of arsenic and lead in the soil in an urban environment and the possibility of plants taking up those elements. But it’s also important to start with good soil and filling a raised bed with the right soil ensures quality.”

BRING THE BIRDS: From Cathy DiSalvo of the Crescent City Birding Club: “If you’re serious about attracting the widest variety of birds to your yard, then you also want to plant native species because resident birds have adapted to them for food and shelter.”

WHICH WISTERIA?: From Jenks Farmer, author of “Deep Rooted Wisdom”: “There are some native wisterias that are an alternative (to the highly evasive Asian variety). I like Kentucky wisteria because it isn’t nearly as aggressive and doesn’t grow as big as the Asian wisteria.”

NO. 1 GARDENIA: From Tom Wolfe, owner of Urban Roots on Tchoupitoulas: “If you have room for it, nothing beats August Beauty (gardenia).”

COLD FACTS ABOUT PALMS: From John Benton of Bayou Tree Service: When choosing a palm tree, “cold hardiness is one of the most important factors to consider.” Another is mature size. “We have had to transplant palms when they get tall enough that their fronds start rubbing on the roofs of houses.”

PLAN AHEAD: From Gregg Porter, lawyer turned landscape designer, who collaborated with Jeannie McKeough on her old Metairie garden: “To keep things looking good and flowers in bloom year-round, you really have to plan ahead. (Don’t) just go to a big box store and see what looks good.”

CUT TO THE CHASE: From Megan McHugh of Pistil & Stamen: In the summer, “you don’t have to rely on zinnias alone (for cut flowers). There are cosmos and sunflowers, too. In the winter months, that’s when bulbs like ranunculus and daffodils can be cut.”

BETTER THAN FLOWERS?: From Meg McNutt of the Pelican Greenhouse in City Park: “Succulents make beautiful bouquets and corsages for weddings as an alternative to flowers. When the event is over, you can take your succulents and plant them. That way you always have a living reminder of the big day.”

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