Southern Gardening: Garden enjoyment up as pandemic remains


The Summerific Summer Storm hibiscus has been excellent this year. After a bountiful set of blooms this spring, it is blooming again in late summer.

The Summerific Summer Storm hibiscus has been excellent this year. After a bountiful set of blooms this spring, it is blooming again in late summer. Photo by: Gary Bachman/MSU Extension


Gary Bachman



I've been thinking about the whole COVID-19 pandemic experience we've endured for the last several months -- like social distancing and face masks -- and the activities we look forward to enjoying once again.


Consider all the summer vacations that weren't taken, wonderful cuisine at outstanding restaurants that wasn't eaten, and gatherings with friends that were missed. Katie and I had to cancel our 45th anniversary trip, where we planned to stay with friends at the Sunnyside B&B in Natchez.


I think about our local businesses forced to shut down or operate at reduced capacity for a time while mega mart corporations were allowed to operate and take appropriate COVID precautions. My wife and I have supported our local restaurants throughout with take-out and limited dine-in opportunities with proper precautions.



Today, I wonder how many will fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. But this column is not all about doom and gloom.


One consequence of the pandemic has been a surge of interest in gardening. Since many people have been at home, lots of folks have developed a deeper enjoyment of the yard and garden. And why not? The landscape and garden are places of constant change and wonder.


It was fortunate that our Mississippi independent garden centers were deemed essential and were able to stay open and help many people. I periodically visited the garden centers throughout the shelter-in-place time, and I was heartened by the number of home gardeners I saw out buying plants.


This spring, I received lots of questions about starting plants from seeds. Seeds are little miracles for those who have never gardened before. A tiny seed contains all the genetic information needed for the growth and development of an entire plant. I love the phrase from Chaucer, "mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow."


One plant that has given me much enjoyment this spring and summer is my Summerific Summer Storm hibiscus.


This plant is a favorite, with deep-maroon leaves and huge and plentiful flowers, some of which are 9 inches across. The flowers are gorgeous, with red-center eyes and white petals streaked with red.


I was happy to enjoy 25 flower buds this spring, but to my surprise, the plant started a second bloom cycle. After the plant flowered for several days, I counted the new buds and found 55 about to open over the next couple of weeks. I think my hibiscus has enjoyed the extra attention I have given it during the pandemic.


Who knows what our futures are going to look like? I think everyone should continue working in and enjoying their garden and landscape. The garden and landscape are the perfect place to social distance. You get some fresh air and vitamin D, and you don't have to wear a mask.


We'll get through this. Garden on.


Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi and hosts Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at [email protected]




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