Garden Gnome: Go tropical for lush gardens that thrive in Augusta's hot summers

So, round about now those zone-seven plants look like something the cat should bury. It’s time to accept it: Augusta’s summers are tropical hot.


And that’s not a bad thing, just ask Joe Levert.

“I don’t want to baby things,” Joe said of why he went with the tropical plants that fill his gardens. “I was going for the outskirts-of-Miami look. I think I made it.”

From the huge, heart-shape leaves of the tropical fig plant to the towering palm that comes from the lower Rio Grande Valley, Joe has a remarkable variety of plants.

Joe estimated he has 16 to 20 species of palms and about 10 species of cycads. The trick to raising them in the Augusta area is selecting those that can take cold down to the single digits.

“Why people don’t have them, I don’t understand. They do just fine here.”

He has at least half a dozen varieties of ginger lilies, including the fabulous curcuma Australasica. Think long leaves of ginger plant with a center flower that resembles a pink pineapple. Joe also has one that has a white flower with light green leaves edged in white. And he has another that blooms in the spring before the leaves emerge. The leaves are beautiful, too, with a red stripe running down the center.

While the gingers and some of the other plants do die back in the winter, the palms and cycads provide year-around beauty and interest. In addition to the foliage, the palm trunks also provide architectural interests throughout the year.