Garden Book Review Week continues with Proven Plants Southern Gardens

Erica Glasener's Proven Plants Southern Gardens

Doesn’t that picture just draw you in?

Our second review of the week is Erica Glasener’s , Proven Plants Southern Gardens. If you live in the south, and yes, much of Oklahoma is considered the middle or central south, this is a good book. It is especially good if you’re a transplant. Erica, who was the host of A Gardener’s Diary for fourteen years on HGTV (goodness, I hate writing that acronym), lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and is an expert in southern gardening.

I got to know Erica when we were in Raleigh for GWA in 2009. I found her passion for southern gardening to be refreshing. We talked roses, and discovered we love many of the same varieties.

Proven Plants Southern Gardens begins with a brief explanation of the basics, soil, exposure, and planning before you dig that hole (something I could definitely heed). Erica is a big proponent of compost. Yea! If you garden in the lean and mean soil of the south, you need compost and lots of it. She also discusses drought, something all southerners face nearly every summer, with drought sometimes continuing for years. After suggesting many drought-friendly plants, she explains the best ways to water both new and mature plantings. I wish she’d been given more room to explore different types of irrigation systems since they are vital in our climate. I do like that she focused upon cisterns and rain barrels. They are becoming almost essential in cities where water is strictly rationed during the summer.

Much of the book is a listing of those plants which perform best in the south starting with annuals. Although trees and shrubs make up the backbone of the garden, I believe she began with annuals because they are the newbie gardener’s illicit drug. I like annuals, but let’s face it, when we started gardening we either wanted to eat something in particular, or we liked pretty flowers, or both. Annual displays draw neophyte gardeners into nurseries like bears to honeybee trees.

I dig her plant choices. If you’re a new gardener to this region, this book would make an extremely good resource. She also lists all plants by common name first with the botanical name beneath. In the south, where the passalong plant is king, this is a good idea. Most gardeners in my region know their plants by common names. It’s important to learn the botanical name too, but again, let’s pull those newbies into our obsession, ‘er, I mean hobby.

I wish the publisher had used a bolder color than gray for the botanical names. They are difficult to see.

For an experienced gardener, this book is useful to quickly find a plant for a particular area. Also, I saw plants which aren’t commonly grown in my region, but I think need to be better utilized.

Erica and I are posing in the Plant Delights Nursery garden.

Kudos to the rose section because Erica didn’t write about Hybrid Teas. Most Hybrid Teas do not perform well in the south unless they are plied with chemicals, and none of us need more chemicals in our lives.

Can I get an Amen?

Instead, Erica focused on easy roses including my personal favorite, ‘Carefree Beauty’, along with newer disease resistant cultivars. Plant some of the ones she suggested, and I guarantee you’ll fall in love with roses again.

I’m also glad she discusses bulbs, those which like our southern heat. We need to plant more of these lovelies like the hardy crinums (not all crinums are hardy in my neck of the woods). Milk and wine lily, C. herbertii, is one. She also mentions one of my favorite crocus, ‘Snow Bunting’ also beloved by Elizabeth Lawrence. I wrote about it earlier this week. Summer snowflake, Leucojum aestivum, is easy to grow in the south. Leslie of Growing a Garden in Davis gave me bulbs, and I’m so grateful for these white beauties.

Southern maidenhair fern, Adiantum capillus veneris

Reviewing Erica’s book also gives me a chance to focus on natives in honor of Gail at Clay and Limestone’s Wildflower Wednesday. One of the best natives in my garden is also mentioned in Erica’s book, the southern maidenhair fern, Adiantum capillus veneris. Although not truly a wildflower, sorry Gail, this native fern is one of the best plants in my shade garden. I can place it anywhere, and it just takes off. It has a totally different look than traditional ferns, and its stems are black or chocolate brown which make such a nice contrast with the intense green foliage. As Erica writes, “This lacy-leaved beauty adds elegance to the woodland.”

So, if you’re new to gardening in our part of the world, Erica’s book will help you immensely. If you want to add some proven performers to your garden repertoire, this book is also for you.


  1. I love the maidenhair fern! 🙂 I’m hoping mine returns this year… You are fortunate to be able to visit Plant Delights.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      SG, I was so fortunate to be able to go. I hope your fern returns with abundant flair this spring. Mine are definitely still hunkered down.

  2. very cool… that cover is gorgeous. i love the simple colors…

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey DG! How ya doin’? I do love the cover too. Each section has a photo like that.

  3. Dear Dee, Yes the cover illustration is gorgeous and sure would make me pick up the book, even though I am in the Northeast. Lovely review! I especially like reading about the bulbs.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Me too Carol. I don’t think we emphasis bulbs enough in the south, and although it is a regional guide, a lot of the plants can be grown much further north.

  4. Jean says:

    Thanks for the review Dee. I was wondering about the book and now I’d like to take a look at it. I’m glad you’re encouraging the newbie gardeners!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Jean, you would like it very much. I do my best. I wish I’d had someone to encourage me all those years ago.

  5. Cute pic of you and Erica. This is on my wish list to read. Great review, Dee. H.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thanks. It was great meeting and getting to know her.

  6. Regional gardening books are so valuable. I started my website over 8 years ago because I couldn’t find a good book on cold climate gardening.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank goodness you did Kathy. What would the northern gardeners do without your knowledge?

  7. Gail says:

    Dee, This would have been a perfect book for me when I was transplanted here in the Middle South 30+ yrs ago. I am sure she would have saved me headache and plant loss-heartbreak! I consider our native plants~ ferns, shrubs, annuals and perennials as wild flowers! Really, I do. Especially since they are in my wildflower books! gail

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Me too Gail. I’ve learned as I went since most books didn’t address out local climate and soil.

Comments are closed.