Top 5 Southern Plantings

Designer James Farmer shares his favorites for your landscape and homegrown arrangements
A large blue pool leads the covered brick porch the pool house, which features a weathered metal roof
Containers of traditional Southern plantings soften the hardscaping at a barn-turned-pool house

There’s more to a beautiful home than what exists inside its walls. James Farmer, the interior designer who transformed a 174-year-old home for a young family of four in Oak Bowery, Alabama, shares his Southern garden stalwarts and what they bring to the table both outdoors and indoors. Try these five Southern plantings at your home.


Often referred to as cast iron plant because of its tough nature, aspidistra’s lush, sword-shaped leaves add sculptural appeal when sparsely arranged in a tall, slender vessel. Because they are malleable, they easily roll up to line the inside of a clear vase.


When properly pruned, boxwoods add structure to a garden and make enchanting sentries for guarding gates. When pruning, save a few sprigs to use as filler in a colorful bouquet.


A trio of ferns is truly terrific! Holly, Southern wood, and autumn varieties provide rhythm and texture almost year-round. Use them to soften a home’s foundation, skirt a tree, or drift amidst anchor plantings.

Back view of McCurdy Plantation, owned today by the Martin in Oak Bowery, Alabama, showing off some of James Farmer's favorite Southern plantings.
Architect Norman Askins designed an 800-square-foot addition for McCurdy Plantation that seamlessly integrates with the original home—with the help of Southern plantings including boxwood, ferns, and (around the base of the tree) aspidistra.


From the purest white to the most radiant red and every shade of pink in between, this sister of the more common Camellia japonica looks just as lovely on the bush as it does on the table. Float a single blossom in a “Charleston camellia bowl” for an easy, elegant presentation on a table, or arrange them alongside pineapples, citrus, and nandina berries as a lively display on a buffet. Read more about the sasanqua Camellia, also known as the ‘Yuletide’ camellia.


The more the merrier when it comes to these cloudlike clusters. Plant groupings of macrophylla varieties, such as ‘Nikko Blue’ and ‘Merritt Blue,’ with panicle hydrangeas like ‘Limelight’ and ‘Little Lamb’ for a showstopping hedge. Read more about hydrangea varieties for every garden.

By Margaret Zainey Roux | Photography by Emily Followill

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