Gardenias are as southern as sweet tea. Their pleasant sweet aroma is so intoxicating and adds quite the dimension to any garden. However, this gem is only hardy to zones 7 to 9. Don’t know what hardiness zone you are in? Well, here is a nifty tool to give you exactly that information. Gardenias are actually a member of the coffee family, Rubiaceae, and they are native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and Southern Asia. The genus was named by Carl Linnaeus after Dr. Alexander Garden, who was a Scottish-American naturalist.

Close-up of its gorgeous, milky white fragrant blooms - Photo credit: Southern Living Plants

Close-up of its gorgeous, milky white fragrant blooms – Photo credit: Southern Living Plants

Recently, I’ve fallen in love with a new gardenia called Jubilation™ from the Southern Living Plant Collection. It’s an improvement on the southern classic by only getting 3 to 4 feet tall and wide as well as blooming when other gardenias have stopped. Jubilation will bloom heaviest in the spring with re-blooming in the summer and fall. It would prefer to be planted in full sun to partial shade. Full sun is considered to be 6 plus hours of UV light and part shade is considered to be 4 to 6 hours. It is important to know what type of light your garden is getting so that your plants are successful where they are living. If not, it could cause additional work down the road.

Spring or Fall are the best times to plant shrubs because it is hard to keep them constantly moist in the summer with the heat and humidity. When planting gardenias, you will want to make sure that your garden soil is a bit acidic (pH of 7 or lower – 5 to 6 preferred). Many garden centers will do a pH test on your soil – make sure to call and ask some of your favorites. Local extensions also sometimes provide this service. If neither is available, your soil may be test with an inexpensive pH test kit available at garden centers and sometime hardware stores. It is very simple to use by reading the directions on the packaging. If your soil is not acid enough, lime can be applied to lower your soil pH. Using mulch will help tremendously because as it breaks down it will add acidity to improve the soil.

I hope you can smell it through the computer screen!! Photo Credit - Southern Living Plants

I hope you can smell it through the computer screen!! Photo Credit – Southern Living Plants

When planting your gardenia, you will want to make sure your hole is twice as wide as the container. At the bottom of the hole, place some high-acid granulated fertilizer and mix with the dirt. Then place your gardenia in the hole, back filling all the dirt. Making sure the entire root ball is planted. Then in the spring, go ahead and pull back the mulch and sprinkle a little of the high-acid fertilizer around the base of the plant and mix it into the soil. By fertilizing every spring it will make your gardenia bloom at top performance.

This evergreen loves well-drained soil and will grow moderately to fast. If pruning is necessary, make sure to do so after it has bloomed in the spring; if done later in the season flower buds make be removed and next year’s flower performance may not be as strong. The birds and butterflies will love you for planting this beauty in your garden and so will your nose!

Here’s to adding more fragrance to every garden,


Want to turn a strawberry jar into something that can be used for entertaining? Then when you’re guests ask you where you got this fabulous piece – you can let them know that you made it yourself! Here’s what you will need for this DIY project:

– An Iron Table Top

– A Large Strawberry Jar (24″ tall x 22″ wide)

– 2 bags of Pine Bark (1.5 lb)

– 2 bags of Potting Soil (1.5 lb)

– 9 – 4″ plants including 2 Thyme, 2 Trailing Rosemary, 5 Decorative plants including 2 Supertunia Vista Bubblegum Petunia and 3 Creeping Jenny (feel free to substitute)

– 4 wooden folding chairs

– 36″ round piece of glass (optional)


First take your pine bark and put it into the bottom of the strawberry jar. Doing this ensures proper drainage and reduces the cost of the project because you are able to buy less potting soil. After you have filled the strawberry jar up part way, add your potting soil. You want to make sure to select a potting soil (instead of compost) with a time-released fertilizer, which will really help your plants perform. Feeding the soil into the side cups is an important step for planting.

Carmen & Lacey adding pine bark first to the bottom of the container.

Carmen & Lacey adding pine bark first to the bottom of the container.

The next easy step is to get the herbs and flowers planted. Start with the plants that you will be putting in the side cups. For ours, we have selected Thyme, Trailing Rosemary (Rosemarinus officianalis ‘Prostratus’), and Supertunia Vista Bubblegum Petunia. By selecting herbs, it will add a beautiful fragrance while you are enjoying outdoor meals with family and friends. Before planting the herbs, ripe off half of the root ball to make sure they are small enough to fit into the side cups. Don’t be afraid to do this – herbs are resilient and will recuperate quickly. To not overcrowd and give your plants plenty of space to grow, using 4″ plants will be just right for this project.

Simply go all the way around your strawberry jar until every side cup is planted rotating between the herbs and flowering plants. Make sure each cup is filled to the top with soil. After a week of watering, double-check that the soil level is the same as when it was first planted as it tends to escape. If not, add more soil to the side cups to ensure a healthy home for your plants.

Rotate your herbs and flowering plants when filling side cups.

Rotate your herbs and flowering plants when filling side cups.

When planting the top of your strawberry jar, make sure the soil is about 2″ below the rim. Take your Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’) and plant it in the top. This is a great trailing plant and won’t grow very high; making it the perfect plant for this project. Three plants are plenty to fill the top planting because it will fill in very quickly.

Three Creeping Jenny will work great for this project.

After everything is planted, give your container garden a good drink of water. Now it is time to enjoy your beautiful container garden as a table. Place four, inexpensive folding chairs around it, add the iron table top and its time to have a garden party! If you would like, add a 36″ round piece of glass to the top of your table when entertaining for a finished look and remove it when guests have gone home.

Your beautiful finished project – a gorgeous, patio table with an container garden as the base.

Invite some friends over for a garden cocktail party and show off your new work of art. Enjoy!


Here’s a video to show the simplicity of the project!