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The bright side: a small 'Jackson garden is designed to display its owners' favorite vivid colors all year long.

"I think if you start with good dirt, you're going to do better with everything," explains Primos, who took her own advice to heart when she reworked her landscape years ago to include more flowers. "When I redid these beds, Iliad a man from the Delta bring truckloads of gin trash, and I incorporated them into the soil. I think my plants just love the dirt here now."

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To a novice, it might seem odd that something called "trash" would have any positive impact on a garden, but gardeners lucky enough to have access to this byproduct of the cotton ginning process have known for generations that the composted material is rich in plant-loving nutrients. Perhaps Primos picked up the tip from her grandmother, a lifelong gardener, but wherever the idea came from, the Jackson yard she shares with her husband Don is now reaping the rewards.

A decade ago, after 10 years in their Meadowbrook Highlands neighborhood home, Primos found herself ready for a colorful garden change. The house had peacefully coexisted with a conventional Southern landscape for all those years, but it was time for something new. A group of river birch trees that had been planted too close to the house was ripped up, and that left the homeowners with a lot of work to do. "I said, 'I'm going to start doing some flower gardening--more so than just azalea bushes," Primos recalls. "And boy, it's taken on a whole life of its own."

Her vision was to boost the yard's sizzle factor with more perennials, more flowers--"to get rid of the stale landscaping and to learn more at the same time," she says. So with help from a host of gardener friends, Primos made a plan for transforming her yard. There wasn't a luxury of space to work with, since "it's not much bigger than a zero lot line," she says, so choosing the right plants for each space was critical.

Some of Primos' most noticeable additions are her beloved orange Carefree Celebration roses. A cousin of the ubiquitous Knock Out varieties, these coral-toned beauties have a "more substantial bloom," says Primos, and put out color "from spring until first frost." She first discovered the plants at a garden store on the Gulf Coast and then bought dozens more from the grower. "They're all over my front and back yards," she says.

Of course, keeping such a gorgeous specimen healthy isn't always easy, but Primos says the results are worth the effort. "I do a lot of fish emulsion and mushroom compost, and I use specially mixed rose soil," she says. "A lot of people's roses got a bad fungus last year, so I have really tried to boost mine so that doesn't happen."

Visiting a garden center is like "going to a candy store" for this homeowner, so it's no wonder that the colors found throughout the yard feel like they've been pulled from Willy Wonka. In addition to Primos' preferred orange hue, she has peppered the space with plenty of purples, vibrant pinks, bright whites, and sparse touches of soft yellow. The sensory explosion begins as visitors approach the front door, flanked by beds of annuals that capture the colors of whatever season is in bloom. Out back, the patio is centered by a round brick planter that features pretty tulips, pansies, and daffodils in springtime, along with spiky orange bulbine. Sun-loving perennials follow the movement of the brick steps and spill over terracotta containers.

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The new flower-friendly landscape is ever changing, as Primos discovers new plants to incorporate or shuffles specimens from season to season. She and Don love to sit and enjoy the blooms, and they also welcome friends to share the bounty. "I'm always telling my neighbors to come up and look at my clematis or cut a few roses," she says. "There are several other beautiful yards in our neighborhood, and in spring it's a fun place to walk and see everybody's yards."

This spring, even more visitors will be able to enjoy the Primoses' garden, as it will be featured on the Garden Club of Jackson's 2014 tour, set for April 24-25. "We're really looking forward to that," she says.

Whether she's hosting a large wedding party or spending a quiet morning on the patio, Primos is content with the new direction she's taken her once conventional garden space.

"I'm not the best or the most experienced gardener, but I sure have had a lot of fun," says Primos. "I've always loved flowers, so I'm having a good time."

by kelli bozeman | photography by hays collins
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Author:bozeman, kelli
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 2014
Words:784
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