By Brent Gray
In winter, garden features such as bark come into their own. If showy bark is missing in your landscape choose from the following suggestions and add some winter interest to your yard. Some are easily found at your local nursery, others may take an online search to locate a source.
There are several crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) selections that have just downright showy bark. Look for Natchez, Tuskegee, Miami, Apalachee and Biloxi. Try to find the Japanese crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia fauriei) cultivars Townhouse and Fantasy for spectacular trunk coloration and exfoliating bark.
River birches (Betula nigra) are known for their light, peeling bark. Heritage is an impressive selection of this tree that is suited to Mississippi. Other plants with exceptional bark are Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia), paperbark maple (Acer- griseum), ninebark (Physocarpus spp.), oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), Cornelaincherry dogwood (Cornus mas), Japanese cornel dogwood (Cornus officinalis) and beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis).
For north Mississippi (Zone 7) we can choose from several other dogwood species that offer bright red or yellow stemmed selections, including tatarian dogwood (Cornus alba), bloodtwig dogwood (Cornus sanguine), and redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea). A tree that should be used more in the landscape is our Native American hornbeam or muslcewood (Carpinus caroliniana). Older branches and the trunk of this small tree develop a slate gray, smooth, irregularly fluted appearance that resembles a muscular, flexed human bicep or thigh. This tree grows muscles in your garden right alongside you as you work in your landscape!
All these can be planted during the dormant season.
Temperatures look good for cool season vegetables from now until next year with lowest anticipated temperatures in the mid-twenties in north Mississippi. This means you can grow and harvest greens and other crops without worrying about covers. Be sure to irrigate since there is little rain in the forecast.
Observe the roots of the cabbage, broccoli and other cool season plants you are removing from the garden after harvest. Do the roots have knobs or nodules on them? This may be a sign of nematode feeding. Is the plant easy to pull up? Plants gown in containers or raised beds with manmade soil should be easy to remove.
Plants grown in soil should need the soil loosened by shovel or digging fork. Plants easily pulled out may indicate a plow pan or other soil problem.. Easily pulled plants should still have white roots. If the roots are tan or brown this indicates a disease problem possibly caused by poor drainage.
Enjoy the catalogues coming in. Blue tomatoes will be much more available in 2015. Contact your garden center now if you would like them to have plants of anything new next Spring.
Lelia Kelly, David Nagel