Blooms galore decorate the Mobile Botanical Gardens right now.

By Steve Bender
Credit: Steve Bender

I always say the best thing about gardening in the South is that it doesn't end with winter. Choose the right plants and you can have something blooming in your yard every month. A recent road trip to the Mobile Botanical Gardens proved me right again.

There I discovered the spectacular plant shown above, the aptly named firespike (Odentonema tubaeforme). Native to Central America, this shrub forms a multi-stemmed mound about 5 to 6 feet tall. Stunning, footlong spikes of fiery red blooms crown its glossy green foliage in late summer and fall. It isn't hardy north of USDA Zone 9, so you can treat it as an annual or grow it in a pot you take inside for winter. It likes sun and well-drained soil.

Lime Zinger
Credit: Steve Bender

Late season color doesn't have to come just from flowers, though. How about this wonderful combination—a pot of ‘Lime Zinger' elephant's ear (Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger') and repeat-blooming azaleas? The foliage absolutely glows. ‘Lime Zinger' is hardy in USDA Zones 8-10 and can be overwintered indoors. Give it light shade and lots of water.

Credit: Steve Bender

In a previous post, I urged faithful readers who hadn't done so already to add fall-blooming sasanqua camellias (Camellia sasanqua) to their gardens. A stroll around Mobile Botanical Gardens shows you why. Hundreds of pink, red, and white sasanquas adorn the landscape, like those above. Unlike winter- and spring-blooming common camellias (Camellia japonica), sasanquas don't drop intact flowers. Instead, old flowers shatter into showers of individual petals that paint the ground beneath them.

Celosia's flame-like blooms are a real showstopper. This easy-to-grow annual, also known as Cockscomb, shows off with either upright plumes or bright twists that bloom in summer and fall. Learn more.
| Credit: Steve Bender

I admit I've never been a big fan of plume celosia (Celosia argentea), mainly because this sun-loving annual always dies on me in summer. Obviously, the folks at Mobile Botanical Gardens know something I don't, because the plant above looks very happy. I like how they combined it with the purple princess flower (Tibouchina urvilleana).

Grumpy Gardener Book Cake
Credit: Steve Bender

As many of you know, I have a fabulous new book out called (surprise!) The Grumpy Gardener. As a reward for letting its members bask in the light of my presence, Mobile Botanical Gardens presented me with this cake designed after the book's cover. I loved it—and then realized what a fool I was for not making all the books edible. You'd eat them and then have to buy more! Marketing Department—you're on notice.

WATCH: Grumpy's Best Reader Questions

Thanks for your hospitality, Mobile Botanical Gardens! The Gardens are located at 5151 Museum Drive in Mobile. Visitors enjoy 100 acres featuring extensive collections of azaleas, camellias, Japanese maples, and ferns, a butterfly and pollinator garden, an herb garden, and a restored longleaf pine forest.

For more info, call (251) 342-0555 and go to