the show

Garden Psychology

encore date: September 1, 2012

original air date: July 21, 2012

Billy Lee Myers, Jr. LMFT analyzes how gardening reflects and affects our well-being. On tour, see what jump-started Kati & David Timmons’ garden progression. Daphne Richards explores how annual color impacts our mood. Pick of the Week is annual sweet potato vine. Trisha Shirey picks the best cucumbers and how to grow them.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Kati and David Timmons

In this no-lawn makeover, Kati and David Timmons didn’t have a grand scheme when they tackled their typical older tract lot. Their garden’s personality, and its raised beds front and back, emerged one plant, one shared shovel, and one rock at a time.

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Question of the Week

Exactly what are annuals and how do they affect our mood?

Botanically, an annual may be just that: a plant that lives for a year and then dies, annually, due to the nature of its life cycle. These plants may or may not actually live an entire year: they die as soon as they flower and produce seed, thus ensuring the next generation.

But horticulturally, an annual is a plant that is used for seasonal interest, and these “annuals” wouldn’t NECESSARILY die each year, IF they were grown in their native habitat.

Winter annuals prefer cool temperatures and can’t handle our summer heat, so we plant them in the fall or winter and enjoy them until they’re killed by warmer temperatures. And summer annuals are the opposite: thriving in our heat but dying almost as soon as cooler weather arrives.

After a cold and cloudy winter, a quick burst of color from a container of cosmos, marigolds, cleomes, or zinnias in the spring are just what the doctor ordered to chase away the winter blahs. And in autumn, we may find our spirits lifted by fall rains, shorter days, and cooler nights, which signal the end of the overbearing heat. So a bed of pansies, snapdragons, larkspur, and calendula helps to wash away the energy-zapping heat-stress.

And fragrance, of course, is mood-lifting. The scent of dianthus, sweet peas, daffodils, and hyacinths in the garden can work wonders on frayed nerves.

There should be a place in every yard for a garden, and not just for vegetables. A garden is place where you can dig in the soil regularly and rotate plants according to your mood and the season, as opposed to a landscape, where plants may be shaped and maintained, but the overall look is static and changes aren’t too drastic. Annuals help US transition when the climate does, and ensure that our garden is always interesting, in every season.

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Plant of the Week

Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet Potato Vine

Ipomoea batatas

Although edible, the sweet potato vine is generally grown as an ornamental. These perennial (or often annual) vines are a wonderful addition to any garden. They look absolutely gorgeous spilling over a tall container. You can also allow the vines to cover the ground and fill in large areas. They thrive in our heat and can take the full sun, but they also do well in light shade or bright filtered light.

  • Soil: Most soil types, as long as well-draining, or well-draining container soil.
  • Light: Sun, shade, filtered light, heavy shade but less vigorous. In full sun, it will need more water.
  • Size: Trailing to several feet unless cut back. Cuttings are easy to root.
  • Flowers: None. These plants are grown for their foliar attention. Two very common cultivars are 'Marguerite', which is chartreuse green, and 'Blackie', which is deep purple. The very intense colors of these plants make them a perfect mood-lifter in the summer heat.
  • Water: Sweet potato vines require very little water once established (except in full sun).
  • Hardiness: They are listed as hardy to USDA Zone 8b, or 15 degrees F, so in a hard winter, they might freeze and die. Replant again in spring. Certain cultivars may be even more frost tender, so be sure to protect them from the cold, whenever possible.
  • Deer: Supposedly resistant.