Tag Archives: Perennials

Beauty in Autumn


Chrysanthemum “Duchess of Edinburgh”

Under an impossibly blue, brilliant sky, golden leaves rain down on the garden bellow. The cool temperatures suit these fall bloomers. They offer the last gift of color for us and nourishment to pollinators before the leaves start to come down for a last hurrah!



Asters are classic fall bloomers.  Don’t you love them? A full 250 cultivars have been classified, covering a wide spectrum of colors, native and perennial.  These are a perennial variety I have enjoyed for decades.  I buy Asters, Chrysanthemums and other fall bloomers to plant in spring, I then almost forget them. Always makes me happy when I see them burst out just when I thought the garden was done!



Sold as an annual, Melampodium reseeds itself every year. I collect and scatter its seeds were I want them in other parts of the garden. Also a drought resistant plant and best of all, deer have do not go after them! Very tidy and showy mounds full of blooms! at this time of the year it is like a basket of sunshine.


Tall Sedum and annual Browallia

I grow this tall Sedum sp. in my pots and add a variety of annuals each year in the spring. Deer love them and always eat them in the garden. They do well in pots and awaken every spring even more energized than the year before! Their succulent foliage is very attractive in early spring and drought resistant which makes them a great plant if you don’t want to water all that much! The late blooms at times appear alive as pollinators flock to enjoy their nectar!

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables


Recommended Plant and Seed Catalogs

2015 catalogues1

Happy New Year to all of you frustrated gardeners and faithful readers! I know that, at this time of the year, the only thing that keeps me dreaming and excited about the upcoming gardening season is the steady influx of wonderful seed, plant and garden supply catalogs.  A good catalog is that which encompasses several criteria: selection, great photos and most important, detailed information and growing tips. I usually save them through out  the growing season as they are a great guide to each individual variety, specifying germination times and date of maturity this can vary quite substantially within each cultivar. Having said all that here is a few of my best picks.

  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Beautifully illustrated all organic and non GMO seeds.  Specializes in heirloom varieties. A real treat!
  • Jung Seeds and Plants.   Very nice selection  of hard to find small fruit shrubs.  Has been around for over one hundred years.
  • Johnny’s Selected Seeds I would call this a book!  Vegetables, plants and garden supplies.  A lot of hybrids but also organic and non GMO seed.
  • Burpee We all know their seeds, covers everything from seed to supplies. Many amazing hybrids and they have a strict non-GMO policy.
  • Bluestone Perennials If you are a perennial garden  enthusiast, This is one catalogue you must have. Plants are listed alphabetically and I really like their easy to understand plant symbols with planting information and requirements.
  • Select Seeds Rare antique and heirlooms variety of perennial and annual flowers.  Many showy varieties you will not find in the nursery trade.
  • Pinetree Garden Seeds and Accessories Organic non-GMO vegetable seeds, flowers and all kinds of accessories.  Most notable a line of botanical cosmetics, teas, spices and soap making  supplies.

“Seeds have the power to preserve species, to enhance cultural as well as genetic diversity, to counter economic monopoly and to check the advance of conformity on all its many fronts.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

Gardening in the Midst of a Drought.

It has been very dry in the last couple of months and therefore the challenge is to keep our plants alive.  The little rain we did have was not enough to really penetrate the soil before most of it evaporated.  Many clients and friends have called asking  how to handle the watering. My recommendations always are:

Water your most valuable plants first, newly planted trees and shrubs need a weekly watering of at least 1 gallon per square foot of root zone per week.  Perennials that are yet to be established are next in importance and last in the list of priority are annuals and grass.  Grass tends to go dormant during hot dry spells, it looks yellow and brittle but rarely dies outright.  It is up to you if you want to sacrifice larger beds of annuals, in lieu of random pots by your door and back patio.

Water each plant with a hose without a sprayer directly at the root of the plant, a slow drip works best, or lay soaker hoses around your border.  Investing in soaker hoses in spring, then laying the mulch directly over the hose saves on time and water as you can deliver water were needed and the mulch prevents moisture from evaporating and helps keep the soil moist longer.

Water in the morning or evening The benefit of watering before it gets too warm is that the plant has the chance to hydrate before the sun is too hot and therefore more able to withstand hot sun.  When watering in the evening I try to avoid getting the foliage wet to avoid decease.

It is certainly a challenge to survive this weather without loosing some of our valuable plants,  if I do not get to the garden for anything else, watering is probably the most important chore to keep up.  Good luck!

Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”  Albert Szent-Gyorgyi quotes (Hungarian Biochemist, 1937 Nobel Prize for Medicine, 18931986)


Sedum album 'Coral Carpet'

Even on a wet rainy day Sedum or Stonecrop, planted in between informal steps, offers a bright splash to my day.  I could not get anything to grow in between these steps except weeds.  Then I found this dense miniature of a plant which has exceeded my expectations.  It grows so tight that weeds have a hard time getting their own space.

There are some 600 species of Sedums grown around North America, they range from perennial, annual, evergreen or deciduous, creeping or tall species.  I am absolutely in love with the creeping variety of Sedums.  The real low varieties are ideal for filling spaces in between walks, on the front of the border along walkways, around pools and ponds, or even next to foundations.  All prefer sunny locations, well drained soil, tolerate dry poor sites and thrive on neglect.  Is that a perfect plant or what?  The low spreading varieties benefit from a stone edge if keeping it contained is an issue.

The leaves, colors, and even the shape of the plant vary so much from species,that it is a bit challenging to identify them all. One unifying characteristic is that they are always succulent.  Leaves are fleshy, sometimes rounded or flat oval forms to minute beaded pearls.  Most attach directly to the stem and can be golden, red, purple or tricolor.  Read more here. All are fast growing and easy to propagate by from seed, division or leaf and stem cuttings.

Sedum spurium 'Voodoo'

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”

— Thomas Jefferson

May in the Garden

May in the garden is a month full of hope and possibilities.  In the perennial garden, plants are regaling us with their beautiful fresh leaves.  I love the new leaves of hostas and ferns as they unfurl all perfect and bright. Sometimes, a surprise ‘volunteer’ appears in the most unexpected places.  Perennials like Aquilegea or Columbine, Brunnera macrophylla and Tannacitum or Feverfew (technically and herb) will seed themselves in the fall,  I prefer to have plants in colonies so, when the seedling is a good size, I lift it and transplant it to a more desirable location.

May is also a great time for dividing large clumps of perennials that are too large for their space. The technique involves lifting the entire clump and, depending on the size, dividing by half and even 4 sections and then planting each section individually.  Grasses, Hostas, Irises and the majority of clumping perennials that bloom later in the season can be divided this way.

A clump of Pulmonaria lifted from the ground

...and after dividing it in three sections.

After days on end in the garden, edging and mulching, weeding and dividing, the best thing of the start of the gardening season is shopping for new plants.  I always advise my clients to go shopping armed with a good list of plants for specific sites and plants suitable for your environment.  How many times do we end up buying plants on impulse, because they happen to be in bloom or were recommended by a salesperson who does not have accurate facts about your individual garden’s need?  When I end up scurrying about trying to find a place for a plant, that is when I remember I should have stuck with my list.

Gardening is a kind of disease.  It infects you, you cannot escape it.  When you go visiting, your eyes rove about the garden; you interrupt the serious cocktail drinking because of an irresistible impulse to get up and pull a weed.  ~Lewis Gannit

More Deer Proof Favorites

We have had an impressive amount of snow in Western Pennsylvania.  I heard in the news that we had snow everyday since December 28th until just a couple of days ago.  Everything is covered with a thick blanket, which allows us to see deer tracks coming to the bird feeders from all points of the yard.  I have been thinking of how important is to make careful selections in what plants to add to the garden this coming spring.  Based on plants that remained untouched in the past season,  my search continues.  My quest now is to add some of the same species but in different varieties.

Ligularia sp. or ‘Bigleaf Goldenray’.  There are about 10 species of Ligularia that are commonly cultivated.  In our area of Western Pennsylvania, I have come across only four different varieties.  This is a striking plant, with huge kidney, triangular or elliptical leaves that form an attractive clump sometimes two or three feet in diameter.  Give this plant plenty of space and fertile moist conditions in part shade.  Most bloom in late summer with showy yellow daisylike  flowers held high in sprays or spikes.  Propagation by division in spring.

Brunnera sp. or ‘Siberian Bugloss’. This is an elegant spring-flowering shade loving perennial with beautiful foliage.  Leaves are broad and heart shaped, available in many variegated combinations of white and gold as well as the rich silver with green veins of  ‘Jack Frost’. Generally pest free, it thrives in sun as long as it is not dry.  Its typical forget-me-not sprays of blue flowers open in mid to late spring.

Pulmonaria sp. or ‘Lungwort’.   Another favorite in my shade garden.  I am still searching for more varieties.  Popular ground cover plant.  Very striking foliage, usually covered with spots, and lance like leaves that form a thick covering.  Blooms in early spring in a profusion of of upright stems with shades of violet, pink and purple.

All of these shade loving perennials have proven to be pest resistant in my garden.  My strategy now is to collect as many varieties as I can fit into my shady beds.  Since all of these plants sport bold large leaves and clumping habit, I find them companions such as Ferns, Astilbes, and Irises to offset their shape and create an interesting overall design.

“A garden is never so good as it will be next year” Thomas Cooper

Perennials in fall

It is sad to see the perennials turn yellow and enter dormancy.  I keep looking outside knowing that the cleanup must begin.  Hostas, Ferns and Peonies are all yellowing.  I would like to collect the foliage before it turns completely brown and add all of it to my compost pile. While the leaves are still green, the nitrogen and water content are higher and will help balance the carbon rich compost pile. The large leaves of Hostas and stems of Peonies may need to be cut into smaller pieces, in fact, I believe that the pile benefits from all materials being chopped a bit.  I keep adding to the pile and turning.  If it is dry, a good watering helps move things along.  Oh, just think of the wonderful composted soil I will collect in the spring!  Black gold!

We still have a window for planting trees and shrubs. There is time until the hard frost sets in, for the roots to develop into the soil before they enter dormancy. It is important to cover each planting with a generous amount of mulch and give it a couple of deep waterings a week until frost.

“Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn”.  ~Elizabeth Lawrence