It’s the fourth day of the month so that means it’s time once again for You Can Grow That!, a celebration of gardens and plants and the joy they bring to our lives. Garden bloggers from across the country highlight plants they … Continue reading
Including some perennials and grasses with interesting seed heads is an easy way to add another layer of color and interest to your autumn garden. And by choosing perennials and grasses native to your region, you’ll also be helping to feed … Continue reading
Have you ever planted a plant in your garden and then not liked it? A few years ago I planted Gaura lindheimeri ’Siskiyou Pink’ and was totally underwhelmed. The little pale pink flowers were floppy and simply got lost among all the stronger colors and larger flowers in my perennial garden.
Then, one winter weekend, we had to quickly dig up all the plants in the garden where Siskiyou Pink was planted to make room for a new septic tank, and I decided to throw it away, rather than try to overwinter it in a container.
To be honest, I’d basically written off Gaura’s as not being garden-worthy.
A Frenzy of Whirling Butterflies
All that changed this spring when I bought some Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’ for containers for one of my garden design clients.
I was looking for something fun and whimsical to add to the containers so I grabbed some Whirling Butterflies on a whim.
Well, it turns out Whirling Butterflies was a little too whimsical for my client so I brought it home and added it to one of my containers. Boy, oh boy – was her loss my gain!
It has been blooming non stop since mid-May with no signs of slowing down. The spent flowers basically fall right off. Every once in a while I’ll run my fingers through it to give them a little help falling off, but that’s it.
I’ve seen Gaura lindheimeri’s common name listed as both butterfly blossom and bee blossom and I have to say, at least in my garden, it’s a major attraction for the bees. When a bee lands on a flower, it literally dances in mid-air as the weight of the bee makes the flower look like it’s on springs. It’s great fun to watch.
While I’m still not sure I’ll plant Gaura lindheimeri again in my garden, I’ll definitely use it again in containers. If you’re thinking about adding some whimsy and whirl to your garden, here’s the low-down on Whirling Butterflies.
♦ Thrives in full sun to part shade and is not fussy about soil
♦ Grows to about 24″ tall and 18″ wide
♦ Considered deer and rabbit resistant
♦ Hardy in zones 5 – 9
♦ If you do decide to use Gaura lindheimeri in your garden, I’d recommend planting it in multiples to make a statement. If you only have room for one plant, consider using it in a container.
♦ The flowers are floppy so it will appreciate support from its neighbors, especially those in front. Giving Gaura lindheimeri some support will also help the flowers to float and flit above the foliage and really let it shine.
♦ Since it moves so easily, from a gentle breeze or a bee alighting on a blossom, it would be best planted in an area where you can easily enjoy all the whirling, swirling, twisting and turning.
I was teaching a garden design class last week and several of the students were totally new to gardening in Connecticut. A few had moved here to Connecticut from overseas and a few had recently purchased their first house and were starting their first gardens. They all wanted to know which perennials would be easiest to grow and would flower for a long time.
So, for any newbie gardener, whether you garden in Connecticut or someplace a bit farther afield, here are 5 perennials that are easy to grow and will make you feel like a gardening success.
All of these perennials will look best in your garden if you plant them in groups of three or more.
Baptisia australis (False indigo)
◊ Baptisia australis is a North American native that, when mature, it really the size of a small bush.
◊ Plant in full sun and well-draining soil.
◊ False indigo has a long taproot which means it is drought tolerant once established but it also means it doesn’t like to be moved.
◊ Flowers in late Spring.
◊ Insect and deer resistant.
◊ Baptisia grows to about 36″ tall. Plant them in the back of a mixed border.
◊ Leave the spent flowers on the plant so the seedpods can develop. They eventually turn black and give the plant a whole new look.
◊ There are several new cultivars with flowers that are white, smoky purple, orange or yellow. Personally I love the violet flowers of the species but it’s nice to know there are options available.
◊ Hardy in zones 3 – 9.
Coreopsis verticillata (Tickseed)
◊ Plant in full sun to partial shade. You’ll get more flowers with more sun.
◊ Coreopsis prefer well-drained soil although some do tolerate dry, lean soil. They don’t like to have wet feet, especially in the winter.
◊ Flowers from early summer through fall. You can find coreopsis with flowers that are yellow, white, pink, peach, red, …
◊ There are many varieties and cultivars available but most grow to about 18″ – 24″ tall. Plant coreopsis in the front or middle of a flower border.
◊ They attract butterflies and bees and are deer resistant.
◊ Hardy in zones 3 – 8 (hardiness may vary depending on the cultivar).
Echinacea purpurea (Purple cone flower)
◊ Drought tolerant once established (after the first year or two).
◊ Plant in full sun in a spot with well-draining soil. Wet or soggy soil can kill cone flowers.
◊ Flowers from mid-summer through fall.
◊ There are many, many, many cultivars of coneflowers available with a rainbow of flower colors – from white to magenta to green to orange. Many of these new cultivars can be finicky to grow. Do yourself a favor and stick with the species (Echinacea purpurea), it will be much easier to grow.
◊ Purple cone flower grows to about 30″ tall. Plant in the middle of a mixed border.
◊ Leave the spent flowers on the plant through the fall and winter. You’ll be amazed at the birds to visit to fee on the seeds.
◊ Hardy in zones 4 – 8.
◊ Violet blue flowers from May – October and red fall foliage make ‘Rozanne’ a great plant for adding several seasons of interest to your garden.
◊ Plant in full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil.
◊ ‘Rozanne’ grows to 18″ and 30″ wide. She is ideal for the front of your border.
◊ I find deer leave ‘Rozanne’ alone in my garden but they do seem to like some of my other perennial geraniums, so keep that in mind.
◊ Hardy in zones 5 – 8.
Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan)
◊ Bright yellow flowers from late summer into fall.
◊ This North American native perennial is another bee and butterfly favorite.
◊ Use black-eyed Susan in the middle of your border since she generally grows to about 36″ tall.
◊ Grow in full sun and well-draining soil.
◊ Not reliably deer-resistant but the rabbits do seem to leave it alone.
◊ Hardy in zones 3 – 8.
Which perennials top your ‘easy-to-grow’ list?
It can be difficult to find flowering groundcovers for deep shade. In my Connecticut garden (zone 6b), I’ve found one of the easiest to grow groundcovers for shade is Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum).
If you’ve got room in your garden for a low-maintenance shade lovers, here are a few things you should know about sweet woodruff:
◊ Lacy white flowers cover the shiny green foliage in May
◊ Grows to about 10″ x 18″
◊ Thrives in partial to deep shade
◊ Tolerates all but the driest of soils. If the soil is too dry, or your planting site gets too much sun, sweet woodruff may go dormant for a while. It will come back once the conditions are more to its liking.
◊ Quickly spreads by both running roots and self-seeding to form a tight mass of delicate green leaves that crowd out weeds. If sweet woodruff becomes to prolific, it can be maintained by mowing it.
◊ Hardy from zones 4 – 8
◊ You won’t find Galium odoratum on many deer-resistant plants lists but the deer don’t seem to bother it in my garden.
Uses for Sweet Woodruff
Both the leaves and flowers are highly fragrant – hence its common name, sweet woodruff. The leaves become even more fragrant when dried so they are a good choice for homemade sachets. The leaves are also used to flavor May wine , a punch used to celebrate May Day.
Use sweet woodruff as a groundcover in woodland setting planted under dogwoods and other spring-flowering trees and shrubs or any other shady spot were you need a groundcover to spread and naturalize.
My new botanical obsession has got to be Tiarella. I’m a little late to the tiarella (a.k.a. foam flower) party, having really just discovered them last year.
That’s when, in my search for shade-tolerant ground covers, I planted both T. cordifolia ‘Running Tapestry’ and T. cordifolia ‘Black Snowflake’ in shady spots in my garden.
Outta My Way
My obsession reached a new high last week while attending a Garden Writers Association meeting in Boston. Attendees were treated to an incredible amount of swag, including a Droll Yankees birdfeeder, SmartPot 15-gallon container and even some EcoLawn grass seeds.
While I’m thrilled with all my goodies, I have to admit my heart skipped a beat when I saw a box of foamflowers from Plants Noveau suddenly appear in the back of the room. Right away, I was doing the math — one box probably held about 20 plants and there were over 60 people at the seminar. While I’m all for sharing, I was not leaving there without a free Tiarella!
I leaned over to my friend and fellow garden blogger, Joene Hendry, motioned to the tiarellas and told her I was going to grab myself one as soon as the lecture ended. Did she want one? Sure, she said, but I could tell from her response she hadn’t been bitten by tiarella-mania like I had.
As I was plotting how many steps it would take to get to the box and who the most likely GWA members were that I would have to elbow out-of-the-way, in walks Angela Treadwell-Palmer with more boxes of tiarella. Hallelujah!
Foamflower Fast Facts
♦ Tiarella cordifolia is native to the eastern US and is hardy in zones 3 – 8.
♦ Tiarellas prefer rich, well-drained soil and a site with full to partial shade. T. cordifolia ‘Stephanie Cohen’ is supposed to be more tolerant of dry soil than other tiarellas. That’s great news for those us with lots of dry shade.
♦ Tiarella cordifolia’s have heart-shaped leaves and many cultivars have leaves with interesting markings or that are deeply lobed and cut. They are an easy way to add texture to a shady spot.
♦ White frothy flower spikes cover tiarella for weeks and weeks in the spring.They are a good source of nectar for early pollinators.
♦ Since foamflowers are considered deer resistant, they are a carefree substitute for hostas. Combine them with other shade stalwarts such as heuchera, Solomon seal and ferns.
♦ Many tiarellas, for example T. cordifolia ‘Octoraro‘, spread by runners, making them exceptional ground covers. Others, like ‘Stephanie Cohen’ are considered clumpers. They are best used in an area where you want them to stay put.
Here’s a look at a few other tiarellas to add color and texture to your shade garden…
Are you growing any tiarellas in your garden? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences with them.