I’m a veteran of 19 years now in Charlotte, and I can testify to the merits of our climate. I grew up in Wisconsin, but I can’t imagine going through another midwestern winter without a very, very good reason (and a pair of battery-heated long johns).
One sure way to get in touch with the region is by gardening. You can dig up your Back 40, or you can start modestly by plunking something in a pot.
I don’t claim to be a gifted gardener, but my wife and I do dabble. I have learned that the hot Charlotte summers tend to cook plants unless you choose wisely.
I put out a plea to Robin Glover, the Curator of Gardens at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens (thanks also to Jim Hoffman at Stowe). Robin is kind enough to send along her 10 best plants to grow in the Carolinas:
1. Aesculus pavia Red Buckeye-This small tree has showy red flowers for two months.2. Baptisia australis Blue False Indigo-True blue flowers, followed by interesting seedpods make this a garden show-stopper.3. Hedychium coronarium Ginger Lily-Just one of these plants will generate perfume for your whole garden in fall.4. Iris sibirica Siberian Iris-Robin is a huge iris fan and this one, adaptable to wet or dry, sun or light shade, is one of her favorites.5. Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary-This evergreen has blue flowers in winter, a wonderful scent, and you can cook with it. Try a little rubbed on pork!6. Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ Southern Magnolia-The southern magnolia has the same great lemony fragrance and evergreen leaves, but it comes in a smaller size.7. Hibiscus ‘Lord Baltimore’ Rose Mallow-Huge red flowers make this showy plant look tropical, but it is winter hardy8. Hydrangea quercifolia Oakleaf Hydrangea-With large white flower spikes in summer and good fall color, this rivals any hydrangea.9. Muhlenbergia capillaris Purple Muhly Grass- A garden guest favorite, thin bluish foliage, followed by purple plumes in late summer are spectacular!10. Spiraea japonica ‘Neon Flash’ Japanese Spirea-Holding true to its name this plant offers bright pink flowers all summer long.
With that, I offer my ever-blooming thanks to Robin and Jim.
The Stowe staffers tell us Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden also sells many of these plants in The Garden Store and its gardeners are ready to offer advice when you visit.
I’d love to hear what plans you have the most success with this year. If you do a little planting, I bet you’ll be paying more attention to the environment, as well.