Tips from the “Gardener Guy™" 7

Paul James’ Ideas for Spring Planting

Paul James is the television host of “In the Garden” which airs Saturday mornings on KJRH. Many of us know this hometown boy as “The Gardener Guy®” from the HGTV show called Gardening by the Yard which aired for 19 seasons. Scenes for his show were often filmed in his own backyard as well as Southwood Landscape and Garden Center in Tulsa. Now, James is the marketing manager at Southwood, so who better to ask what’s new in home gardening?

“Most of what I know about gardening comes from digging the dirt for 40 years,” said James who holds a master-gardener certification and studied botany, plant physiology and pathology in college. “March is a great month for planting ornamentals including trees, shrubs and perennials. But this year, consider trying something different to keep the landscape interesting even if it means moving or removing a plant that’s been in the same spot for years to make room for something new.” James says that he gets bored with the same look year and year and moving plants is actually quite simple.

“There are a lot of plants that I wish more people would try. I’m a huge fan of evergreen conifers and I think they’re extremely underused,” said James. “They have a way of making an otherwise dull deciduous landscape come alive in the dead of winter.” A number of dwarf varieties are available the easily fit into a small garden or even that perfect spot in a large garden.

James recommends the Chamaecyparis obtuse dwarf such as “Verdoni.” It’s a Hinoki Cypress that only grows about three inches a year and has beautiful, yellow-tipped foliage fans. Among deciduous conifers, James recommends two ginkgoes including a dwarf called “Mariken” that only grows to three feet tall and “Jade Butterflies” which grows to 12 feet.

If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, James recommends “Vitex,” also known as the Chaste tree. “It is the most powerful bee and butterfly magnet I’ve ever seen,” says James. “Some varieties can grow to 25 feet tall but dwarf versions are available.” Another butterfly and honey-bee attractor is the Tupelo tree which is also known as the “Black Gum.” It can grow anywhere, including in standing water, and has beautiful spring and fall color. Bees are attracted to its greenish-white flowers and birds love its fleshy fruit which is oblong in shape and a bluish-purple color. As James says, “Tupelo honey, anyone?”

March is also the time to plant cool-season edibles including asparagus, onions, potatoes, salad greens and herbs – but wait one more month to plant basil to avoid freezing. James recommends watering well after planting and adding a fresh layer of bark mulch. “Mulch is like the icing on the cake. It’s the finishing touch that enhances the look of the garden. It also helps retain soil moisture, stabilize soil temperatures and suppress weeds,” says James.

When asked about plants that bunnies won’t eat, James said, “Honestly, there are no truly effective ways to keep rabbits and squirrels from damaging plants, other than products made by Remington or Winchester.” It’s that funny and sardonic wit that television and gardening fans love about Paul James.

“I had to fight back the tears when a coworker told me that he became interested in gardening from watching me on TV,” said James. The same is true for many avid gardeners who watched James on HGTV and currently watch him on KRJH. His ease and humor on camera makes gardening that much more fun.

James continues to make public appearances at Home and Garden shows and Master Gardener Conventions across the county. He also participates in a satellite media tour for Fiesta Floats, the company that designs and builds floats for the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena – an event he hosted on HGTV for years.

When James is in Tulsa he’s at Southwood managing marketing and communications. “The collective knowledge and the passion of the people that work at Southwood blows me away,” said James. Southwood has three locations with the retail garden center located at 91st and Lewis. They also have a production facility at 108th and Delaware where the grow most of the plants they sell and a farm in Jenks where they grow vegetables and pumpkins.

Southwood supports the Linnaeus Teaching Garden in Tulsa, state and local master gardeners, and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. Southwood also holds an annual food drive event called Plant a Row for the Hungry in which they trade Southwood Grown tomatoes for donated nonperishable food items. This year’s event will be held at Southwood, Saturday, March 25.

For more information about Southwood and James, visit