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Laceleaf Japanese Maple and Iris in the author’s yard.

Sustainable Gardening Simplifies Planting 

Master Gardeners Plant Sale May 6

By Dee Boggus, Pickens Master Gardener

(See list of plants for May 6 plant sale at the bottom of this article. Sale is from 8 a.m. to noon at the Veterans Memorial Park.)

            I am happy that the Pickens County Master Gardeners adopted a sustainable gardening theme this year. My dad was always an advocate of the “work smart, not hard” school of thought and I have tried to follow his footprints. 

            One of the best advantages of gardening sustainably is that the method requires less effort and money. Of course, there are multiple aspects to sustainable gardening, but I am going to suggest how to successfully use herbaceous perennials (non-woody plants that retain a presence for multiple years) in your landscape.

            After the first few years in my current location, I finally completed the installation of what I call the “bones” of my landscape; the evergreen shrubs and trees that constitute the main presence of a winter garden. 

            My next step was to fill in between the “bones” of these plants with deciduous trees, shrubs, and flowers. At the time my budget demanded installing smaller and younger stock (which inherently enhances a plant’s ability to adapt and grow into the new environment.) Win, win! 

            Later, in an attempt to add color to my garden, I quickly learned that I disliked buying and installing annual flowers that had to be replaced every year. I began searching for herbaceous perennials that caught my eye, without much regard for the horticulture requirements of the plant. Big mistake! 

            Important things like light requirements, planting zone recommendations, and water and soil texture conditions must all take precedence to a “I think this plant looks cool” mentality.

            As I became more successful at choosing and planting, I discovered another issue. Herbaceous perennials (for the most part) do not have the long blooming season that annual plants often do. I disliked the fact that my garden might have no blooms or color for weeks at a time. I solved this problem by visiting different plant nurseries to purchase stock that was blooming during those times. After a few more years, I was able to fill those monotonous weeks with vibrant color.                          Currently blooming are my false indigo plants (Baptisia australis) in blue, white, and yellow and my blanket flowers (Gaillardia pulchella) in bright yellows, oranges, and reds. Both are super easy to care for and very dependable.

            I learned how to sustainably garden over time by installing herbaceous perennials, thereby saving on the work and cost of annual planting. 

            Of course, I also extracted double duty from my trees and shrubs, carefully screening them for foliage and bloom colors, textures, and growth habits in order to complement my perennials.              One of my favorite shrubs right now is mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius). A beautiful specimen tree right now is the laceleaf Japanese maple (Acer palmatum). I highly recommend both. Hopefully this missive will help guide your garden creation, making fewer mistakes than I did along the way. 

            Pickens Master Gardeners are offering gardening opportunities free to the public this year! Our 2023 4-H and MG Sustainable Plant Sale is scheduled for Saturday, May 6, 2023 from 8:00 PM to noon at the Veterans Memorial Park, off 599 Veterans Memorial Blvd. in Jasper, GA. This is an event where you can purchase acclimatized, sustainable, and pollinator friendly plants grown by Master Gardeners. Come learn about sustainable gardening. For more information, visit our website at and click on the Pickens MG link or search “Facebook Pickens County Master Gardener Program” or “Facebook Pickens County Extension Office”. If you have questions call 706-253-8840 or email

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