We have enjoyed learning as we write our blogs. This year we've been inspired by our research and want to offer a view into our private spaces and share our garden inspirations. Gwen was influenced by her son, Dan, a graduate of Penn State Ag School, to incorporate succulents for the first time. Using succulents created worry-free and deer resistant containers. His wife's (Paige) blog gave both of us guidance on pruning our shrubs. Holly experimented with beautiful colors and vegetables in her containers. Gwen's own garden success in reducing mulch and watering inspired her to write the flowering ground covers blog.
PS: For the first time, Gwen tried succulents in pots for water-wise care. She has always enjoyed the traditional riot of colors from geraniums, petunias, impatiens and begonias. Inspired by pottery from a trip to Spain, Gwen purchased large blue pots from Costco and Lowe's. The calming palette of gray, green and orange planted in blue containers creates a back yard oasis and compliments the outdoor cushions.
PS: With less time for maintenance and desire to minimize long-term costs, Gwen took her own landscape design advice by replacing plantings of annuals with perennials, and mulch with flowering ground covers. Another time and cost-saving measure was to replace mulch with massed plantings of flowering thyme, sedum, hens & chicks, creeping baby's breathe, geranium, carex and campanula.
PS: We followed the advice of our guest blogger, Paige and were rewarded with full and happy hydrangeas.
To keep the deer, chipmunks, and groundhogs away, we planted vegetable container gardens. Gwen used rosemary and basil to deter chipmunks from taking bites out of her tomatoes. Holly planted beets, green beans, lettuce and tomatoes on her deck, keeping hungry critters from chowing her veggies and herbs.
Holly's yard yields armfuls of daisies. Gwen started a cutting garden last year taking advantage of a huge Bluestone Perennial sale. She enjoys sharing the bounty of flowers with her family and friends. Next month we will share advice for planting your own cutting garden.
Our gardens have had many blunders, but each and every lesson is part of the journey. The changing seasons give us joy, favorite times to anticipate, and time to reflect and plan. We enjoy the ups and downs, blooms and bugs, fungus and fragrance and sharing these experiences with you. We hope our garden pics inspire you to read our blogs and to try your own flowering ground covers and water-wise planters. Please comment with your favorite ground covers and planters.
Plants that bask as the temperatures skyrocket are prized for their reliability. These are plants that thrive in the heat and are often low maintenance because they don’t require much water. The good news is that you can still plant these in July as long as you provide ample water for them to take root.
Courtesy Fine Gardening
Name: Panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata )
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
Size: 12 to 20 feet tall and wide
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil
The lush panicle hydrangea is a surprisingly drought-hardy stunner. It peaks at the height of summer with magnificent 6- to 15-inch-long white blooms that cover arching limbs. They change from greenish white to pinkish red. In fall, the leaves drop, leaving bare branches weighted with large dried blooms into winter. Varieties worth considering include ‘Limelight’ and ‘Little Lamb’.
Name: Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa )
Zones: 5 to 9
Size: Up to 8 feet tall and 15 feet wide
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained, slightly acidic soil
The beautiful blossoms of flowering quince are sure to get your heart pumping. Bare branches are covered with cottony blooms on ‘Jet Trail’ or kissed with a vibrant lipstick red on ‘Texas Scarlet’. As the flowers fade in spring, the foliage begins to appear (inset). Typically, the bare branches are a stunning gold or red in fall, when they occasionally rebloom again. The likeliness of a second bloom is increased by a dry spell in late summer followed by plenty of fall rain.
Name: Winterberry (Ilex verticillata )
Zones: 5 to 8
Size: Up to 15 feet tall and wide
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained, acidic soil
We’re not sure who the bigger fan of winterberry is: us or the fat mockingbird that spends the winter trying to eat every vibrant berry from the leafless stems. The fruit begins to ripen in late summer when the leaves are still lush. Winterberry holds onto the branches through the fall—even after the foliage changes color and drops. The straight species of this plant is spectacular, but if you’re short on space, ‘Red Sprite’ is a snazzy smaller option at 3 to 5 feet tall and wide.
Name: ‘Anthony Waterer’ spirea (Spiraea × bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’, syn. Spiraea japonica* ‘Anthony Waterer’)
Zones: 4 to 9
Size: Up to 5 feet tall and wide
Conditions: Full sun; fertile, well-drained soil
‘Anthony Waterer’ is attractive en masse and shines when peppered in a border. No wonder it’s popular. New growth is bronze to red but matures to green. Pink blooms cover the shrub late spring to early summer. Remove spent blooms before they turn brown to increase the chance of a second show of flowers.
Name: Callicarpa americana
Zones: 5 to 9
Size: Up to 6 feet tall and wide
Conditions: Prefers partial shade; fertile, well-drained soil
This gem-studded shrub is native to North America. The small berries are attached in dramatic clusters up and down the stems. The fruit turns an exotic lavender-purple (or bright white in the case of ‘Lactea’) and persists through fall—or until the birds eat them. Arching branches are bare in winter but come alive in spring with bright green leaves. In late spring to summer, delicate pink blooms appear, followed by the showy fruit.
(credit Arbor Day Foundation )
Japanese Tree Lilac
Name: Syringa reticulata subsp. reticulata
Size: 20-30’ tall, 15-25’ wide
Conditions: Full Sun. Prefers moist, well-drained soil, but tolerates dry sites. Intolerant of poor drainage. Attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and pollinators.
Name: Juniperus virginiana
Size: All sizes as a shrub or tree
Conditions: Likes full sun and a more neutral soil amended with commercially ground limestone. Aromatic tree with reddish wood. Trees are good for windbreaks and city landscapes for hedges, screens or as a specimen tree.
Bur, Northern Red, Chinkapin
Zone: 60-80’ tall 30-45’ wide
Conditions: Full Sun. Some oaks tolerate the heat and serve as a lovely shade tree specimen. Give these beauties plenty of room to grow. In the fall enjoy their brilliant fall colors and feel good about the value they offer wildlife.
Name: Kentucky Coffeetree
Name: Gymnocladus dioicus
Size: 60–75' tall, 40–50' wide
Conditions: Full Sun. Drought-resistant. Tolerant of pollution. Adaptable to a variety of soils. With its reputation as a tough species, the Kentucky coffeetree is an excellent choice for parks, golf courses and other large areas. It is also widely used as an ornamental or street tree.
The tree’s picturesque profile stands out in all seasons and can be attributed to a unique growth habit of coarse, ascending branches that often form a narrow crown. Tree expert Michael Dirr points out that there are “certainly no two exactly alike.”
Name: Catalpa speciosa
Size: 40-60’ tall, 20-40’ wide
Conditions: Full Sun to Partial Shade. This is a tree that demands your attention. White, showy flowers. Giant heart-shaped leaves. Dangling bean-like seed pods. Twisting trunk and branches. How could you not stop to take it in? And with all of these unique features, the northern catalpa is popular with children, who sometimes refer to them as “String Bean Trees.” While not ideal for every location, this unique and hardy tree is a fast grower that finds a home in parks and yards throughout the country.
Snowcap Shasta Daisy
Size: 14” Tall, 12” Wide
Conditions: Give them a sunny spot . Remove flowers as they fade to promote further bloom and give them space. Attracts butterflies and makes an ideal cut flower.
Blue Jean baby or Denim ‘n Lace
Size: 30” tall, 36”wide
Conditions: Airy, aromatic and a bee magnet, this plant comes in several heights and stays gorgeous all summer long. It is deer resistant, too. Full Sun and good drainage.
Size: tall or short, ground cover
Conditions: Sedums are a well-known perennial for their distinctive fleshy foliage and come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Star-shaped flowers are usually in clusters or sprays that often change color throughout their bloom time. Enjoys full sun, but will tolerate some shade.
You may already have some of these heat-loving plants in your yard. If you have plants that aren’t holding up on hot days, try moving them to some shade. And replace them with reliable plants from this list of summer sizzlers.
Watering plants seems simple and uncomplicated. However there are some myths that mislead even the more experienced gardener. A sustainable landscape calls for installing the right plant in the right spot. Making a plant feel at home improves plant health and reduces the need to overuse a valuable natural resource: water.
When choosing plants, first evaluate your existing conditions and read plant labels. If plants like wet feet, you’ll want to put these in areas that tend to have damp soils like near streams, springs or water features and fountains. If you have dry shade, then look for plants that like those conditions. However, if you’ve inherited an existing landscape or experience drought, unusual heat or drying winds, additional irrigation or hand watering may be necessary. Whether you're taking care of an established garden or installing new plants, you’ll benefit from these guidelines and myth debunking tips.
While the general rule of thumb is about an inch or two of water each week with deep, infrequent watering as opposed to the more frequent shallow watering, this really depends on a number of factors. First, consider your soil. Sandy soil is going to hold less water than heavier clay soil. Therefore, it’s going to dry out faster while the clay-like soil will hold moisture longer (and is more susceptible to overwatering). For clay soils (Western PA,) avoid daily light sprinklings, which encourage roots to grow near the soil surface where they're vulnerable to drying out. Apply water slowly so it's absorbed by the soil rather than running off — a soaker hose is ideal. Another advantage of a soaker hose is that you don’t have to stand and direct the spray.
This is why amending the soil with compost is so important. Healthier soil drains better but allows for some water retention too. Applying mulch is also a good idea, reducing watering needs. Weather conditions determine when to water garden plants as well. If it is hot, windy, and/or dry you’ll have to water more often. Of course, in rainy conditions, little watering is needed. Plants, too, dictate when and how often to water. When a plant is first installed, it requires regular watering until it acclimates to it’s new home. (Read on to later in this blog)
Different plants have different watering needs.
Be sure to read water recommendations and growing conditions on labels or reputable website sources. If plants like wet feet and they are planted in a dry soil, they will need more irrigation. Some plants like hydrangea, astilbe and hosta are sensitive to heat and may need more water during hot and windy weather. Vegetables, bedding plants and many perennials have more shallow roots systems and also require more frequent watering, some daily–especially in temps over 85 F. (29 C.). Most container plants need watering on a daily basis in hot, dry conditions — sometimes twice or even three times a day.
The best way to water most plants is by applying enough to moisten the plant's entire root system, and then letting the soil dry out slightly before watering again.
When to Water:
Time of day is key. The most suitable time for watering is morning, which reduces evaporation. But late afternoon is okay as well provided you keep the foliage from getting wet, which can lead to fungal issues.
Wilting is a sign that the leaves aren't getting enough moisture, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the soil is dry. Anything that damages plant roots can cause wilting.
Plant roots need a fairly constant supply of both air and water. Too little water and the roots die from lack of moisture. Too much water and the spaces between soil particles remain filled with water, suffocating roots. Both situations reduce a plant's ability to deliver enough water to stems and leaves, resulting in wilting. A good example of this is an outdoor pot with inadequate drainage holes -- after a week of heavy rain, the plant’s roots become waterlogged. Root diseases, physical damage (such as disturbing roots while you're hoeing) and soil-borne insects can also harm roots to the point that they can't fully hydrate the plant.
Damage to stems can also cause wilting. Some diseases and insects (especially borers) prevent water distribution throughout the plant, causing some or all of it to wilt.
The only way to tell if lack of water is causing wilting is to check soil moisture.
How To Water
The myth that water droplets act like tiny magnifying glasses and burn plant leaves has no basis in fact.
There are good reasons to avoid watering your garden on a sunny afternoon, but causing scorched leaves isn't one of them. Anyone who has watched the sun come out after a summer shower knows that the water quickly evaporates. Try to avoid watering on sunny afternoons to minimize the amount of moisture lost to evaporation, but don't worry about leaf scorch.
Overhead watering isn't the most efficient from a water conservation standpoint, but there are times when it's called for. It's usually best to apply water directly to the soil around plants rather than watering with a sprinkler. Less water is lost to evaporation, especially on hot, sunny days. Foliage stays dry, minimizing disease problems.
But there are times when an overhead shower is called for.
During dry, windy weather, a fine layer of dust can build up on leaves, reducing the plants' ability to photosynthesize efficiently. Another case is if plants are infested with insects, such as aphids and spider mites. Simply hosing them off plants can keep them in check. Gardeners who want to avoid spraying chemicals prefer this method. Finally, heat-stressed plants that have wilted even though their roots are moist can benefit from a cooling shower — the effect won't last long on a sunny day but it may provide some relief.
Even drought tolerant plants need watering.
Many young plants have perished because these drought tolerant plants didn't get sufficient water at installation time and during their first season of growth. When you set out a new container-grown plant, the roots are confined to the shape of the pot. The plants need a consistent supply of water during their first growing season, until their roots grow out into the surrounding soil. Water them as you would your annual flowers in their first season. During their second and subsequent growing seasons, drought-tolerant plants may need supplemental water only during extended dry spells. Note, however, that just because a plant is drought-tolerant doesn't mean it won’t fare better with a regular supply of moisture.
Watering in Newly Installed Plants
(Courtesy Penn State Extension—Advice for PA residents)
Newly installed landscape plants have a unique set of needs. Unlike established flowers, shrubs and trees, new plants experience an adjustment when transferred from container to the ground. To help plants get a good start in your garden, follow these tips from the Penn State Cooperative Extension. If you live in another region, check out your state extension’s planting guidelines.
Soak the plants immediately after planting and check regularly to prevent drying out. Less frequent but deep watering encourages perennials to root deeply. Perennials that are said to tolerate drought are drought tolerant only after they have become established. The addition of mulch will help to reduce the need for frequent watering.
Shrubs and Trees
Water the plant weekly during the first year, except during weeks when it rains enough to wet the top six inches of soil. When you water, be sure to soak the soil by allowing a hose to trickle slowly at the base of the plant and at the edges of the backfill soil. Move the hose around a tree or shrub bed to assure uniform water application. Avoid shallow, frequent watering because it will encourage the growth of shallow surface roots, which will be vulnerable to drying out. Be careful not to overwater. Frequent saturation of the surrounding soil in poor drainage areas could smother the root system. Water only when the soil under the surface is dry to the touch. Continue to monitor new trees for drought stress into their third season. They may suffer from insufficient water even when other established plants in the landscape are thriving.
Water is a precious natural resource that we don’t want to waste. And unless it comes from the sky, it isn’t free. Start by finding out what your plant needs to grow and thrive. Keep an envelope with the original plant tags, or make notes in your journal. After planting the new specimen in the ideal spot, soak it thoroughly and check soil moisture regularly to help it adjust to it’s new home. And follow our guidelines for optimal watering. Your thirsty plants will thank you.
Are you trying to:
Your solution may be planting a flowering ground cover. So what exactly is a ground cover? It is a plant that forms interconnected mats by creeping or clumping. Ground cover crowds out weeds and forms a continuous expanse of foliage.
Too often the only ground cover seen in landscapes are ivy, vinca and pachysandra. Ivy and vinca are considered invasive species because they are spreading into forests and wildlife areas and choking out native plants that support local insects and wildlife. They are hard to control and, if possible, should be removed and replaced with ground covers that support pollinators and stay within bounds. Pachysandra is a wonderful ground cover for deep shade and in hard-to-grow areas like around the base of trees. As an alternative to pachysandra, we’ve put together a list of hardy and alternative ground covers for your landscape.
The plants are divided into four categories: stepables, sun, sun and shade, shade. Stepables tolerate moderate foot traffic and are effective solutions for lawns, and spaces between stepping stones or along paths.
Most yards have a variety of growing conditions and you won’t be disappointed by the options listed here. Be sure to read the growing requirements before selecting from the abundance of available ground covers. By planting the right plant in the right spot, your new ground cover will establish healthy roots and grow happily. For example, some ground covers for stepping prefer dry feet. If these ground covers are planted in a soggy area, they will experience root rot, disease and fail to thrive.
Before planting any creeping or clumping plant, particularly those that claim to be fast growing, refer to the USDA list of Introduced, Invasive, and Noxious Plants. What is desirable in one state may be considered a nuisance in another.
Pictures and plant descriptions courtesy of Blue Stone Perennials.
Foot Tolerant Groundcovers
Thymus Silver Posie
Most of the perennial thyme plants offer beautiful matted groundcovers. This one is particularly suited as a focal point. For lawns, choose a solid green leaved variety like Thymus Elfin.
Silver Posie is suitable for both ornamental and culinary use. This Thyme is a bit more upright than Creeping Thyme with fragrant gray-green foliage edged in creamy white. Foliage will develop a warm burgundy cast in cooler weather. Harvesting will generate more culinary leaves. Blooms lavender pink, making this a nice dual purpose ground cover.
Laurentia Fluviatilis - Blue Star Creeper
Blue Star Creeper is an adorable little plant that makes a dense, spreading low mat of round, green foliage and equally tiny light blue flowers in spring. Perfect between and around stepping stones. Will need to be contained if spreading is not desired.
Corsican Pearl Wort, Irish Moss
Lush deep green moss-like carpet of foliage 1" tall. Tiny translucent star-shaped white flowers add to its beauty in spring. Irish Moss is just the ground cover you need for rock gardens and planting between stepping stones or pavers.
Ground Covers for Sunny Spots
Cerastium tomentosum 'Silver Carpet'
Snow In Summer, Starry Grasswort
Silvery-gray foliage is covered with cheerful white flowers in late spring to early summer. The combination of flowers and foliage bring a refreshing feeling to the garden. Cerastium Silver Carpet cascades over hillsides and walls nicely.
Gypsophila repens Filou Rose
Creeping Baby's Breath
Long-blooming pink Baby's Breath well-branched with dense blue-green foliage spreading to 2 feet across. Larger five-petaled, fragrant blooms resemble Cerastium but in a bright rose pink. Loads of flowers. Great spilling over the edges of hillsides, walls or rocks.
Sun and Shade
Most of the perennial geraniums (or better known as cranesbill) make excellent long- blooming ground covers. Their blooms are delicate and rise above the mounded foliage. Some have leaves that smell lemony when crushed by an accidental stepping or weed whacker nip. The low-growing varieties (under 12”) recover nicely from a stray ball or wandering pet. They are not considered a ‘stepable’.
Cranesbill, Perennial Geranium
Fragrant, apple-scented foliage and flowers. Thick clusters of five-petaled, pink flowers in late spring. Showy stamens dance with the slightest breeze. Dense ground cover. Geranium Macrorrhizum's foliage displays red and bronze tints in fall. Clusters of crimson-red, berrylike seedheads remain after the flower petals fall away. Tolerates sun and dry conditions.
If you have a bed that includes sun and shade, and you want to include a plant that will offer continuity and grow in both conditions, consider lamium. This is a versatile ground cover resistant to deer and rabbit browsing too! There are many varieties and colors. Below is one that will brighten any garden space.
Lamium maculatum Golden Anniversary
Spotted Dead Nettle
Golden yellow edges on dark green leaves with a white central stripe. Scalloped and bright colored foliage of Golden Anniversary combine to provide interesting texture and light. Lavender flowers appear in Spring and continue on and off until Fall. Stunning planted among Hosta and Ferns.
Campanula is another long-blooming ground cover that blooms in partly shady or sunny locations to offer continuity in a foundation planting that has both conditions.
Half-trailing, prostrate growth, able to cling to dry walls. Large rock gardens or sandy banks permit the 2' stems to trail. Starry blue flowers of Campanula Poscharskyana highlight your garden in summer.
Sweet Woodruff, Galium odorata
Dainty white flower clusters are held above foliage shaped like miniature parasols. Good ground cover for shade, even where only moss will grow. Especially tolerant of acidic soil under evergreens. Fresh foliage has little scent, but when dried you will enjoy a refreshing scent of new mown hay. Dry foliage in bundles or make into a garland.
Phlox divaricata Plum Perfect
Wild Sweet William, Woodland Phlox
Plum-purple flowers with a darker violet eye. A real charmer for shade. Perfect for naturalizing with Tiarella and Lamium. Trouble-free and more humidity tolerant than most Woodland Phlox. Longer stems make for fragrant cut flowers. This Phlox is 'Plum Perfect' as a stunning late spring groundcover. Does best in fertile, moist, well-drained soil.
Brunnera macrophylla Jack Frost
Siberian Bugloss, False Forget-Me-Not
2012 Perennial Plant Association's Plant of the Year. Prized for its large, highly frosted and veined heart-shaped leaves. Brunnera Jack Frost produces a truly spectacular display in the shade, even more so when in bloom with its bright blue Forget-me-not flowers in spring. Will multiply politely. Brunnera are ideal for a woodland setting, a semi-shaded border or along a pond edge. Has the biggest leaves of the ground covers on this list. New cultivars add wonderful choices of this versatile garden performer. Lovely naturalizing carefree habit. Tolerates moist, well-drained soil in partial shade.
Hopefully, this blog has inspired you to think beyond the most common ground covers. As you can see from the photos, a ground cover doesn't have to be boring. Our examples are real head-turners and will get noticed on their own merit. With their many unique textures, foliage and flowers, a new ground cover can be a low-maintenance multitasker in your flower bed or rock garden.
Don’t let summer travel plans prevent you from decorating your porch, patio and balcony with colorful annual containers and hanging baskets. With some planning and creative watering solutions, you can maintain your potted flowers throughout the summer. Unlike plants in the ground, containers have limited soil volume and less capacity to hold water, so they dry out quickly and need daily watering. By choosing plants that are drought tolerant and using creative planting and watering techniques your pots can survive a weekend away, a business trip or a short summer vacation.
Before you head to the garden center this spring, consider which pots will most likely suffer from a few days without water. It is usually those that are in the sun or exposed to wind. Planters in the shade and protected areas don’t always require daily watering because of less water evaporation than pots exposed to radiant heat and sun. Make a list of plants that are drought tolerant and shop with purpose. There are edible, succulent, annual, shrub and perennial plants that are drought tolerant. When choosing vacation proof plants, choose ones with less fuss, deadheading and those that thrive on less water. When planning pots, place them together in your basket to visualize what they will look like together in a container. Make sure to consider existing color, texture, and height. Vacation proof plants include:
Vacation Proof Strategies
Despite using drought tolerant plants, long, hot, dry spells and dry winds will desiccate and stress the hardiest plants. If you will be away for more than four days or weather forecasts seem unfavorable, there are strategies to reduce the stress on your plants. Prior to leaving:
To summarize, no matter where you live, you’ve most likely returned from at least one trip to shriveled up impatiens and Gerber daisies in your outdoor containers. And that’s a drag! There are steps we can all take to preserve the beauty of our container plants while we are away for brief periods. Select the right potting soil and amend with polymers if your pots get all day sun. Avoid clay pots. Purchase drought-resistant plants and place in large pots. And use the pointers provided for preventing containers from drying out while you travel. Container gardening offers the chance to paint a different palette every year. Since it’s a view you’ll have all summer, use these pointers to extend their beauty. Enjoy the view!
Planting annual beds in the spring is the highlight of a gardener’s year. After a cold and brown winter, it is a relief to experience the April green-up, and also the pastel showy blossoms of flowering trees. Annual planting is the gardener’s reward for patiently awaiting winter’s end. You take the steps to create a landscape design, scour plant material at greenhouses, and create gardens with meticulous care. After all of your efforts are complete, you awaken to discover that ...your precious flower bed became a snack!
Spring is not only your favorite time of year… it’s also a deer’s favorite time as well! After eating nothing but twigs and dead grasses all winter, there’s nothing they love more than getting a mouthful of your tender and tasty flowers! The answer? Deer resistant plant material and deer spray.
Why are they “deer resistant”?
Certain annuals naturally repel critters because their textures are unpleasant in a deer’s mouth. Other plants have a bad smell or taste - and can even be poisonous.
I’m at the store and found a plant I love… will deer eat it?
It’s always a good idea to visit a greenhouse with a plan. When you encounter a new cultivar you really love, get some information from the plant marker. Besides light requirements and spacing suggestions, the label may indicate if the plant is deer-resistant. If it doesn’t say, here are some ways to see if a plant will be ignored by hungry deer:
Fun fact…. Hosta and Hydrangea are two of deer's best-loved foods. These perennials will draw deer in and keep them coming back. If you have deer, either replace these plants with resistant annuals, perennials and shrubbery, or spray repellent to protect them.
Annuals to Avoid
Annuals to Plant
Partial Shade and Full Shade
Partial Shade to Full Sun
The knowledgeable gardener can certainly take measures to prevent deer browsing and enjoy colorful and beautiful gardens by combining deer deterrent sprays and using select plants in the landscape. Replacing plants and shrubs which deer prefer with those they will ignore will take time, money and effort. But the result will be a sustainable garden minus the frustration with local wildlife.
Our Guest Contributor: Paige Alcorn
Penn State Ag School graduate majoring in turf grass and horticulture.
Clausen, Ruth Rogers, and Alan Detrick. 50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants: the Prettiest Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, and Shrubs That Deer Don't Eat. Timber Press, 2011.
“Deer Resistant Plants.” Cornell Cooperative Extension, 2019, warren.cce.cornell.edu/home-page/gardening-landscape/deer-resistant-plants.
Moore-Gough, Cheryl, and Robert E. Gough. “Growing Annual Flowers.” MontGuide, 2010, missoulaeduplace.org/images/horticulture/Publications/Flowers/Growing_Annual_Flowers.pdf.
While reading, enjoy some Moonlight inspired music:
Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)
Moondance (Van Morrison)
Shame on the Moon (Bob Seager)
Blue Moon (Frank Sinatra)
Fly me to the Moon (Frank Sinatra)
On Moonlight Bay (Doris Day)
Moonlight (Grace VanderWaal)
“Well it’s a marvelous night for a moon dance….” Listen to Van Morrison’s famous hit, ‘Moondance’, and let it inspire you as we explore ways to create our very own moonlit garden. Photos of moonlit gardens contain billowy beds filled with white, silver and multiple textures. While the pictures are pretty, how many gardeners have transformed that inspiration into action? After a long day of work, relaxing in a comfortable, aesthetic space soothes the soul and calms the mind. Keep reading for inspiration to create a moonlit garden.
To extend the life of your garden into the dusk and evening hours, there are several design elements to consider: color, texture, garden features, and scent.
As shadows fall at dusk, light is reflected off of white, silver and pale yellow plants. Conversely, garden plants with deep, saturated colors like deep purple, reds, and dark green fade into the shadows by early evening. If you have a bright, sunny yard, saturated colors don’t wash out. Keep these bold exclamation points. To reflect evening light, use white pots and trellises, silver accents, and water. Tuck white flowers and silver leaved plants into your garden, pots, and beds to add a pop of evening interest. Repeat groupings of white and silver plants throughout. While white shrub and perennial flowers offer an elegant touch, the blooms can often be unsightly when they die. Think of a magnolia, white azalea or rhododendron when the flowers die…their brown flowers hang on for days. It is not a bad choice to select these types of shrubs; you just need to balance them with other longer blooming plants for staggered bloom times. Attractive examples of long blooming white shrubs and perennials are hydrangea paniculata, hydrangea annabelle, Astilbes, Coneflowers, Cerastium, Daisies and the leaves of ornamental grasses.
You don’t need flowers to add a reflective quality to your landscape. Bulbs, leaves and water also offer evening interest. Plants with white or gray foliage reflect light and pop in the shadows. Some plants to consider include Caladium, Lamium, Brunerria, Ferns, and gray evergreens like spruce and junipers. All of these offer wonderful texture.
Water is a multi-dimensional feature in a garden. Water that moves stimulates our senses with the soothing, ambient sounds of nature. Water also reflects the light and color of the nearby plants. Strategically placed lights and even mirrors add accents to plant material and highlight special elements such as white or silver pots and trellises. A ‘moon light’ is when a light is placed in a tree and shines down on the garden to create the effect of the moon in your landscape….something to consider if the moonlight doesn’t make it to your oasis.
Make sure not to overlook plants that come to life at night by either blooming at dusk or offering a lovely scent like Gardenia Augusta (annual), Evening Primrose (perennial), Angel’s Trumpet (annual), Polianthes tuberosa (tender bulb), Nicotiana (annual), Four O’Clocks (annual), Casa Blanca Lily (hardy bulb), Jasmine floridium (tender), and moonflower. Shrubs that bloom white and smell lovely are lilacs, Korean Spice Viburnum, and Daphne. Tuck these plants close to your seating area or entrance so you don’t miss the scent.
Incorporating a moonlit garden into your outdoor space is easy. Make your dreams of an inviting evening spot a reality by recognizing color, texture, garden features, and scent. Then strategically place these elements where they will reflect the moonlight, extending the time you can enjoy your lovely garden. Whether you enjoy stretching your bare toes in the grass, gazing at the constellations in the night sky, or enjoying an intimate dance with your partner, a moonlit garden is full of sweet possibilities.
Garden Advice for the Covid 19 Quarantine: The therapeutic relief of the outdoors soothes our minds, bodies and souls.
Cardinal enjoying a bath in my waterfall.
Mandatory self isolation may not bother introverts, but for the rest of us, we are wrestling with feeling claustrophobic, scared, anxious, worried and exhausted. That is OK. We are all feeling stressed. While toilet paper, homeschooling and video conferencing jokes abound, the humor only offers temporary relief. We have no control of the virus (outside of our small orbit) or the outcome, but we can control how we spend our time and manage our response to these unpredictable times.
In a spirit of positivity, I thought….If someone offered me the opportunity to self isolate in my garden for a few weeks, I’d say, “sure!” I have enjoyed daily walks and taking a more relaxed approach to my mornings, and in time, these pleasures will come to an end. So what better place to vary a routine than by spending time in a garden?
The therapeutic relief of the outdoors soothes our minds, bodies and souls. While the stress of quarantine, isolation, joblessness, loss of business, and worry about the health of our loved ones can be paralyzing, now is the time to benefit from the gift of our gardens...even if you only have a balcony or plot in a community garden. The mark of a gardener is a person who does not see a finished landscape, but sees a series of tasks to tackle. While attending to the chores of the garden, you are also cultivating your mental health.
Rain or shine, pull on your boots, and take advantage of this time to:
Keeping focused on what May and June will look like in my garden.
You may have noticed that arts organizations, museums, and zoos are now offering virtual tours as an option while they’ve had to temporarily close. Likewise, you can still take advantage of public gardens by taking a virtual tour. These tours can also serve as inspiration for your own gardens. Take special note of plant or color combinations you might like to introduce into your home landscape.
Take A Virtual Garden Tour
Monet's Garden in Giverny, France
Chicago’s Botanical Garden
Waddesdon Manor in Waddesdon, England
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
Kew Gardens in Richmond, England
Hidcote Manor Gardens
Birmingham Botanic Gardens
United States Botanic Garden
Fortunately, air and soil temperatures are on the rise, and we can get a start on our list of springtime garden chores. Awakening the senses with the fresh air and warm sun on our skin...activating our muscles to rake and dig...greeting and checking in with our neighbors...and feeling accomplished with the results of our labor. One day at a time. Be safe and well, gardening friends.
It’s March and the drab winter has worn out its welcome. If you’ve taken advantage of the occasional warmer days to inspect your garden, it is tempting to start pruning what looks like dead stalks on your hydrangeas.
A successful gardener must always have a specific goal in mind with each project or task in the garden. Before hacking the old hydrangea growing in the corner, first determine your goals for the hydrangea. Are you pruning to give the hydrangea a more desirable shape, or to get that wild beast under control? Or maybe you are pruning to achieve more lovely, large flowers. Perhaps you are pruning for all of these reasons. Let’s explore the ins and outs of successful pruning, or “pruning with a purpose.”
Before dusting off those pruners, get to know your shrub....
Before getting started, know what type of hydrangea you are growing. The type of hydrangea will determine how you begin to prune. The leaves, flowers, and growth habits are the key to identifying the type of hydrangea residing in your landscape. Common hydrangeas belong to four different species but there are five common types, each with slightly different pruning requirements.
Identify Your Hydrangea
Hydrangea Anatomy Matters
Your hydrangea’s stems matter. In order to achieve a full, thriving plant after pruning we need to know what to cut and where to cut. A good rule of thumb when pruning is to remove no more than ⅓ of the total plant. Cutting excessively can severely wound the plant, even to the point of death. Always remove thin, weak, and dead branches. Suckers should be removed as well.
Where to prune is based on old wood and new wood. Old wood is stem growth that is older than a year. New wood is stem growth from this growing season. Old wood is hard, brown, and rigid. New wood will be more succulent and green, and may be bendable and less stiff. How you handle this wood determines what type of hydrangea you own, and your pruning goals.
Nodes are the point at which buds form. Nodes give rise to leaves, stems, and flowers. These are the growing points on your shrub. When pruning, you want to cut at a 45 degree angle, just above a node. This creates a healthy place for the plant to recover from the cut.
Hydrangea Anatomy Matters
To Keep or Cut?
Panicle and Smooth Hydrangea
Cut these in winter or in early spring, because you will get flowers on this new growth in the summer. You can prune up to 50% of the total plant, but the more you cut, the larger the flowers will be. This can lead to flowers that flop to the ground. So be wary of cutting these to the ground. It is useful to use the thinning technique with these, because the new growth is what matters!
Oakleaf, Bigleaf, and Climbing Hydrangea
Cut these in the summer, after the flowering has stopped. Use the heading method when trying to get better flowering. These hydrangeas are most likely to keep their natural shape, and need less reshaping as an aggressive pruning.
Pruning to Decrease Size
Reducing the size of a hydrangea can reduce flower production for the year. The cost of flowers for the year results in a healthier and attractively shaped bush. The first step is to remove dead and decaying plant tissue that is on the ground. The next step is to cut all suckers from around the plant that may be popping up through the soil. The ‘thinning’ technique should be used. This means the location of the pruning is important: the cut should be made where the stem originates, rather than cutting the tips of the stem. This will keep the plant’s natural shape, and less new growth will arise from them as well. At points where the hydrangea is getting too large, cut all the way to the base of the stem. Remember! Don’t cut away more than a third of the plant. You should focus on trimming the top and inner parts of the plant. This allows light and airflow to reach the inner parts of the plant. Thinning the center and top develops healthy buds and prevents disease. Warning: Cutting wood (whether old or new) can affect the amount of flowers for this season.
Pruning to Enhance Shape
The key to enhancing a shrub’s shape is to stick with the plant’s natural growing habit. This makes a happy, healthy, thriving shrub. Maybe you tried pruning in the past, and the result was a mounded, irregular, lopsided hydrangea with no defining feature. The ideal hydrangea shape (except the climbing type) is a round shape with semi arching branches. Start by thinning the shrub. Place cuts at the base of the stems. Prune just above a node on the shrub. Look at which direction the node is facing. This is the direction the branch will grow. Do you want a branch to grow in this direction? It’s something to think about. Try and prune large, thick stems while keeping smaller, thinner stems. If you have oakleaf or bigleaf hydrangeas, this may result in loss of flowers for the season. The remaining stems act like a skeleton to reshape the shrub. Prune for your desired shape while trying to maintain the natural habit. If the shrub is too tall, focus on removing the larger, central stems. And always remember the 1/3 rule. Prune the top and thin the center. This will keep a shrub healthy and happy.
Hydrangeas are treasured flowering shrubs, admired for their pretty foliage, delicate flowers, and variety of bloom color. They are not particularly difficult to grow. But knowing when and how to prune them has stumped even the seasoned gardener. If you don’t already know the type in your yard, start there; then place a plant tag near your hydrangea. Or note the type in your garden journal. Hoping your hydrangeas provide you with armfuls of glorious bouquets!
Our guest writer for this blog is Paige Alcorn. Look for her contribution next month on deer resistant annuals.
My name is Paige Alcorn and this spring I will graduate from Penn State with a turf grass science major accompanied by a horticulture minor. I love learning about different ideas and tricks on maintaining beautiful turf grass and plant material. At Penn State you can find me growing flowers, vegetables, and herbs in the greenhouses with Gwen’s son, Dan. I am an avid horseback rider, and have won the Quarter Horse Congress show in 2009 and 2018. I have also rescued an off the track thoroughbred, and produced him to the Preliminary level of United States Eventing.
I have experience as a crew member at a minor league baseball stadium, interning at high end golf courses, as well as working with my professor on a preliminary herbicide study. I volunteered on the turf management teams at the PGA Women’s Championship Tournament and the 3M Open PGA Tournament during the summer of 2019. Through my 2019 internship with Land O’ Lakes Inc.
Ready, set, grow…..At the end of a long winter, who isn’t chomping at the bit to add beautiful and fun perennials to their garden. Once you have structure in your garden (garden design blog) splurging on fun and interesting plants will add seasonal color and texture to your landscape. Prevent a hodge-podge look by first creating a solid plan for your landscape. When perusing this list consider the following before making your purchase:
Below are some of our favorites with links to their websites for more pics and growing information.
Bluestone Perennials Catalog Description:
Shorter bicolor spikes bear many flowers even in its first season. Mango-colored wands capped with luscious deep red-orange rise above narrow, grass-like foliage. Hummingbirds can’t stay away from the vibrant blossoms. Kniphofia Poco™ Sunset with its long bloom time can be enjoyed from July into fall. Red Hot Poker is a gorgeous sight in the late summer perennial border. Kniphofia is a good companion plant for daylilies. Enjoy a tropical sunset of vibrant color when planted in drifts.
Bluestone Perennials Catalog Description:
Multiple awards winner with jaw-dropping color! The three elegant falls stamped with a sizable ink blue-violet blaze surround cool icy blue-blushed ruffled upright petals. Dwarf Bearded Iris bloom with the first whisper of spring’s warmth – perfectly formed in miniature. An excellent choice for the rock garden or borders. Bearded Iris require minimum care and readily multiply. Dwarf varieties are great edgers.
Bluestone Perennials Catalog Description:
A ray of sunshine anywhere it is planted! Its wide creeping carpet of golden yellow leaves contrasts beautifully with blue or purple flowering neighbors. Great between stepping stones or in a rock garden or trough. Evergreen in southern gardens. Divides easily. Veronica Sunshine is primarily grown for his stunning cheery foliage but will sometimes briefly bloom with clusters of pearl-white flowers in spring. This creeping Speedwell with its petite foliage closely resembles Baby’s Tears. A lovely mat-forming, ground-hugging perennial.
Proven Winners Catalog Description:
The word "serendipity" means an unexpected occurrence, and what a fitting name for this sport of the popular 'Millenium'! The sport shares all of the qualities that made 'Millenium' great, but with attractive blue foliage. Globe-like, rosy-purple flowers match the parent and are produced profusely in mid to late summer. When crushed, the leaves will emit a smell of onion. Long-blooming and drought tolerant.
Brunnera macrophylla 'Queen of Hearts'
Proven Winners Catalog Description:
This stunning foliage perennial will be the queen of the shade (and your heart). Compared to its companion plant 'Jack of Diamonds', 'Queen of Hearts' has more heart-shaped leaves and more pronounced silver overlay with narrower bands of dark green veining. From mid to late spring, baby blue, forget-me-not type blossoms are held in clusters above the foliage.
Brunneras are classic perennials that are treasured for their shade tolerance and lovely blooms. They make a fantastic groundcover, though the variegated forms may be slower to spread than the species. Try growing them in containers too so they will be close at hand when you want to snip a few blooms for a spring bouquet.
Proven Winners Catalog Description:
If you love 'Pure Joy' for its fantastic can't-be-beat habit and short stature, you'll love 'Bundle of Joy'. This is a white flowering sport of 'Pure Joy', the same exemplary performance, as well as an explosion of blooms that cover the dome-like habit. Plant with other late season interest plants like PRAIRIE WIND® Grasses, SUMMERIFIC® Hibiscus, hardy garden mums, asters, and Black-Eyed Susans. Try a few in containers and at the front of the border.
Proven Winners Catalog Description:
Last year, we introduced three new Salvia nemorosa whose claim to fame was fantastic rebloom throughout the summer. New for 19-20 comes a brand new color to the series, 'White Profusion'! Just like its counterparts, this Salvia will reflush with flowers if sheared back and will do so many times. A full, round habit that's unbothered by deer and rabbits make it a perfect choice for the early summer garden.
Salvia is a staple item for every sunny garden. It asks little more than sunshine and a little drink every once in a while in return for producing a bountiful mass of colorful flower spires from late spring into early summer. It forms a uniform, rounded clump of aromatic, rugose green foliage that looks nice all season long and is ignored by rabbits and deer.
Proven Winners Catalog Description:
Join the craze with this new collection of single Coneflowers for Proven Winners. These varieties are produced clonally from tissue culture, so all plants will be uniform in color and habit. These varieties were selected for their excellent basal branching, flower performance, large flower size, and horizontally held petals. Enjoy these as late summer interest for your garden. These are perfect varieties as pollinator magnets and during late fall to winter, the seed heads will serve as food for birds. Two varieties are available the first year. Stayed tuned for more colors in the future!
Tangerine orange flowers are produced with dark cones. Near the cones, there is a faint reddish halo. Earlier to bloom.
One clump or two? The color of Delftware pottery, bicolor lilac-blue and white 1 ½” teacup-shaped blossoms sweetly brighten a pathway or a rock garden. Abundant larger flowers belie its smaller stature. Carpathian Bellflowers form low cushion-shaped mounds of attractive dark green, toothed foliage.
Bluestone Perennial Catalog Description:
Add a red flower to your garden and eyes are drawn right to it. Regal velvet red flowers smother the foliage from the ground up from June into August and again in September! Compact habit and great rebloom. Clematis Nubia™ is ideal for a small garden balcony, deck garden or patio. Clematis supply vertical interest. Every perennial garden should have at least one of these incredible vines. From the Boulevard® Series renowned for its easy care, bushy long-blooming compact habit.
Of course, your favorite nurseries and catalogs will also feature new, outstanding cultivars to consider. Do yourself and the new plants a favor by carefully researching ideal location, light and water requirements, and neighboring plants. Strong-performing perennials are a gift that keeps on giving!
Thank you for finding us! Holly and I have collaborated to bring you informative, fun, and seasonal garden inspiration blogs. Friend me on Facebook to stay updated. Please visit us often, especially on the 1st and 15th of the month when we plan to update our blogs--Gwen
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Gwen Wisniewski: Landscape and Garden Designer. Contact me. Let me help you integrate these garden inspirations. Choose the links below to find out more about my landscape design service or to make an appointment.