America’s garden designer, P. Allen Smith presents to the Order of St. John.
Although the summer solstice falls on June 21, I think of Memorial Day as the introduction of summer in my zone 8A garden.
During summer our indoor activities such as dining and entertaining move outdoors so it just makes sense to have an area set up to enjoy them. In just a few easy steps a patio, porch or secluded spot in the garden can become an extension of your home’s interior spaces.
One of the easiest ways to give an outdoor room plenty of indoor charm is to add several “fool-the-eye” interior elements such as rugs, cushions, and other interior accessories. With today’s weather resistant fabrics and finishes you can create a stylish scene in no time by following a few simple tips.
Define the Space with an Outdoor Rug
An outdoor rug will give your setting an instant indoor feel, plus the edges of the rug create the illusion of four walls. Furnishings arranged around the rug further re-enforce this illusion.
Caring for an outdoor rug is usually quite easy since they are often made of durable natural fibers or synthetic materials. You can spray off the rug with a hose or use a brush broom to clean it. To prevent mildew, hang the rug over a chair or railing to dry after a rain, even if it is made from mildew resistant material. This will allow air to circulate on both sides, which speeds up the drying time. If the rug can’t be picked up, just roll back the edges.
Too often outdoor furnishings fail to rise to the same level of comfort and style as interior rooms. Break the “white plastic chair syndrome” by finding outdoor furniture that serves as a better reflection of your home’s décor. Garage sales, antique stores and home improvement centers offer a wide variety of options.
It’s easy to give your garden furniture new life with a coat of paint. First evaluate the material you are working with – is it man made or natural? Then pick an appropriate paint that can withstand the weather. Once the paint is dry coat it with a water seal to give it a longer life. Metal furnishings can be sandblasted and taken to a powder coating shop where a virtually indestructible layer of paint is applied. Wooden pieces should be given protection during the cold, wet months and may require touch ups from time to time.
When choosing colors for your setting, the basic rules apply – vibrant reds, oranges and yellow draw the eye, while cooler hues such as soft blues, pinks and purples increase the sense of space. Furniture in bright colors is best placed in areas where you want to make a deliberate statement such as eye-catching red chairs against a dark green hedge. In a muted green, the same set will blend in with its surroundings.
Fabric stores are stocking more and more indoor-outdoor fabric that’s brighter than ever before. What’s great about using this type of fabric is that it has been tested for years in marine environments so you know you’re getting a product that can really take the elements.
Consider using cushion covers that you can slip over the existing lawn furnishing cushions. You can throw these in the wash when needed and they make it easy to change the look of your garden room from year to year. If you’re not a seamstress, but want to try making pillow covers cut out an “envelope” of fabric that can be wrapped around the pillow. Use self-adhesive Velcro to affix the envelope tabs together.
Colorful tablecloths are an even easier way to add bold splashes of color. Again, if you aren’t into sewing use pinking shears to trim the edges of the fabric to create a clean line.
Pergola or Cabana
The “must have” accessory for gardeners with a little extra room is a covered place to create an outdoor space. Fabric cabanas and pergolas are popping up everywhere. I was impressed with the price range – anywhere from $150 to the thousands of dollars depending on the size and style you choose. As added bonus these structures can be outfitted with mosquito netting to block out these little pests.
An outdoor setting is tailor made for delighting the senses so when choosing accessories for your garden room go for items that will heighten the experience. Dramatic lighting is a must. String up lights and set out candles. Battery operated LED lighting is a fun new option that takes away the need for outdoor electricity and you can get LED tea candles; they look like the real thing, but won’t extinguish when the wind blows. Don’t forget plants. Fragrant flowers and soft, fuzzy foliage will add to the ambiance. A table top water fountain, wind chimes or music will create soft sounds to block out street noises.
As the weather warms and you start spending more time outdoors rethink the place where you live and look for opportunities to set the stage, if you will, and push the boundaries of your home past the walls of your house and out into the landscape beyond.
For more information about garden rooms, check out the video below!
Whether you’re saying “I do” in spring, summer or fall, there are a bounty of blooms that are easy to grow for use in arrangements and bouquets. Here are a few of my favorite, garden stems for these three seasons.
Daffodils – If you’ve been to my farm, you know daffodils are one of my favorites. Plant the bulbs in the late fall and you’ll enjoy vases full of the yellow charmers as soon as the temperatures begin to warm.
Peonies – Peonies are one of the hardiest and most resilient plants in the garden. What’s more their prime time for blooming starts in mid-May and runs through June – perfect for the wedding season. If you plan to cut peonies from the garden, I suggest selecting half-opened blooms, simply because they will last longer.
Tulips – You can find a tulip in just about any shade and there are a variety of bloom shapes too. Plant bulbs in fall. Check the bloom time for the variety to make sure it will be in flower at the time of your ceremony.
Contrast the cup shape of tulips with the soft curves of calla lilies. I think yellow calla lilies paired with pale yellow to cream tulips would be lovely.
Hydrangeas – Because hydrangeas are so full you only need a few stems to create a lush bouquet. It’s important to know Hydrangeas do have a tendency to lose their vitality, so you’ll want to keep them in a cool place and give them plenty of water after they are cut. If possible, cut them the morning of the wedding to ensure the freshest bouquet.
Lilies – Lilies will come back year after year and be prolific producers of open full blooms. White Oriental lilies make for an elegant and fragrant bouquet. For the best color selection choose an Asiatic variety. Be sure to remove lily stamens to keep the pollen from getting on clothes.
Zinnias – Plant zinnias and you’ll enjoy a bounty of wildflower-like beauty from early summer until the first frost. I like cutting these and loosely arranging a mason jar for an effortless look. For a bouquet, I suggest tying with natural raffia.
For casual, but colorful flowers mix red, yellow and orange with pink and green zinnias.
Sunflowers – An iconic symbol of the close of summer and start of fall, cut a few sunflower stalks and loosely assemble with ribbon for a tied bouquet or simply enjoy their beauty in tall metal or glass vase.
Cockscomb – With a vase life of 5-10 days, cockscomb’s modern look makes for a hardy bouquet. Mix with other seasonal selections from your florist or market, such as button mums, for a fall display.
Dahlias – One of the most cheerful blooms in the garden, you’ll want to plant your dahlias around the same time you put tomatoes in the ground. You can expect to have cut flowers from late summer until the first frost.
Any of these blooms would be lovely for a monochromatic arrangement or bouquet. All three offer varieties that produce different bloom forms so you can pick flowers in the same color family, but with different shapes.
If you are interested in any of these varieties to grow yourself, you can find several here!
I live in the country, but work in town and find I have less and less time for my flower beds. I need some advice on how to make them more maintenance free, but still have some color and beauty.
I can certainly sympathize with your plight of not having enough time to spend in your flower garden. I love to garden and find it very relaxing, but there are times when it is just plain work.
My first suggestion would be to determine the amount of time you have to spend in your garden and then consider the size of your garden. Keep the design simple. Maybe reducing the manicured portion and enlarging the natural portion would alleviate some of the problem. Later on down the road if you find that you have extra time on your hands to spend in the garden you can always expand.
To make your flower beds easy to maintain, evaluate how your plantings work with their surroundings. A garden that works with rather than against the environmental conditions will save you time and effort. Group plants with similar cultural requirements together and in the right spot. For instance, combine drought tolerant plants in areas that stay dry and group plants that enjoy moist soil or ‘wet feet’ in a wetter area.
If you’re spending a considerable amount of time watering, consider putting in some drip irrigation lines and irrigate each zone separately.
While both perennial and annual flowers are beautiful, they can be heavy maintenance, especially if deadheading is required to keep them blooming or they spread aggressively. Be selective in your choice of plant material as some require much less care than others. And do the research; make sure the ones you choose are not prone to disease or insects. Consider using some of the smaller or dwarf flowering shrubs as they require less maintenance and flower beautifully. As an added bonus, look for those that are fragrant as well. At heights of 12, 18 or 24 inches, they integrate beautifully in flower beds.
Other ideas include installing a mowing strip such as a brick edge to your beds so you can mow close and eliminate line trimming. Use landscape fabric and mulch to help retain moisture and control weeds. Replenish your mulch once every year. Use ground covers as ‘living mulch’ to fill in bare spots. When you are ready to plant it the area simply pull out the ground cover. And keep your tools handy and organized. Wasting time searching for the right tool means less time spent enjoying your flowers.
There are a couple pieces of equipment I keep on hand to make garden tasks a little easier, too. The Garden Scoot, Bypass Loppers, Double Cut Hand Pruners, and a weeder and trowel set are a few things I can’t do without!
These universal principles have become the set of tools I use to create gardens that embody all the key elements of the world’s greatest landscapes but are scaled to each individual’s site, taste and budget. When woven into the plan of the garden, they are unifying components that magically transform the space into a place of enchantment and beauty. Read more
The next time you’re at the local garden center, step over to the dark side… and by dark side, I mean the area where they keep the shade loving plants.
Shade plants have it all figured out. They’re loving life out of the rays of the scorching sun. Who can blame them? When it’s hotter than a Billy goat in a pepper patch, I like to spend my time in shady spots too. Read more
This year promises to be a winning one for gardeners. Trend watchers are indicating we’ll see some exciting developments such as low-maintenance designs, bold color and, after years of focusing on hardscape, plants are back in the spotlight. Everyone is talking about the amazing varieties we have to choose from at garden centers this year: plants that produce big color with minimal care, multi-talented annuals, perennials and shrubs suited for any space including containers and vivid foliage that offers color all season long. It’s shaping up to be a fantastic year for adding beauty to our living spaces.
Here are 12 plants that I grow and love that are on trend in 2016.
Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® Sutera
I can count on large elegant clear white blooms all season in the garden with Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® Sutera. Stunning flowers that do well in full sun to part shade, it is one of my favorites to place in flower beds.
- Large, pure white flowers on strongly trailing stems
- No deadheading required for season-long bloom
- Works great as a spiller in containers or as a groundcover in landscapes
- Do not let plants dry out because it takes about two weeks for the flowers to reappear
- Fertilize regularly for best performance
- Full sun to part shade
Superbena® Royale Red Verbena
Beautiful and heat tolerant, the pure red flowers of Superbena® Royale Red Verbena grow all season whether they are in the flower beds or garden containers. Their saturated color is a stand out along borders and pathways.
- Clusters of pure red flowers bloom spring to fall without deadheading
- A perfect companion for Superbells® and Supertunia® in hanging baskets and containers; also great in landscapes
- Vigorous, heat tolerant verbena that is resistant to powdery mildew
- Tolerates drier soils with lower fertility
- Benefits from a haircut to encourage fuller growth with more flowers
- Full sun to part shade
‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’ Ipomoea
‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’ Ipomoea is a champ for brilliant deeply-lobed, chartreuse green foliage which serves as a canvas for different color combinations—whether in flower beds or garden containers.
- Versatile trailing foliage plant for hanging baskets and containers
- Heat tolerant and vigorous grower
- Deeply lobed, chartreuse foliage
- This sweet potato vine has minimal potato set, a bonus for planting in containers
- Full sun to part shade
- Protect from early and late season frosts in Northern climates
Dark Knight™ Lobularia
I prefer the fragrant deep purple flowers of Dark Knight® Lobularia on Moss Mountain because they don’t quit in the heat like some alyssums. Pretty in colorful combinations, they stand out along pathway borders.
- Fragrant, deep purple flowers bloom all season and don’t quit in the heat like some varieties of alyssum
- Continuous bloomer with no deadheading required
- Plays well with others in containers, hanging baskets and landscapes
- Requires consistent moisture to thrive in containers
- Seriously, this is the first plant you’ll plant in the spring, and the last you will remove in late fall – we’re talking blooms from April through December.
- Early and late snow and frosts are not an issue
- Full sun to part shade
SUPERTUNIA® BORDEAUX™ Petunia
Always striking with light purple flowers with dramatic deep purple veining and throat, Supertunia® Bordeaux Petunias are regulars in my containers and hanging baskets. They are also beautiful among green foliage in full sun to light shade.
- Striking light purple flowers with dramatic deep purple veining and throat, with dark green foliage
- Blooms spring to fall without deadheading
- A Petunia that grows anywhere from landscapes to containers and hanging baskets
- Fertilize regularly for best performance
- I’ve not found a petunia with a better habit for hanging baskets and container combinations – it grows well with all plants
- Supertunias can handle light frost, so you can start them early and depend on them long into fall
- Full sun to light shade
‘Cat’s Meow’ Nepeta
‘Cat’s Meow’ Nepeta with sky blue flowers atop silvery-green foliage adds charm reminiscent of an English garden, but also stylish enough for a contemporary look. One of my favorites for being deer and rabbit resistant while attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.
- Lower maintenance, naturally compact selection that won’t need trimming to stay neat looking
- Sky blue flowers appear on the silvery-green foliage from early summer into early fall
- Shearing plants back by half after the first round of bloom encourages strong rebloom
- Deer and rabbit resistant; attracts hummingbirds and butterflies
- Full sun, lean and drier soils are best
Luscious® Berry Blend™ Lantana
With playful clusters of fuchsia, orange and yellow flowers, Luscious® Berry Blend™ Lantanas are perfect in my flower beds because they attract butterflies and hummingbirds. These sun-lovers bloom all growing season and stand up to tough conditions.
- Tough-as-nails annual is extremely heat and drought tolerant, tolerates poor soils; protect from frost
- Large clusters of fuchsia, orange and yellow flowers on mounded plants
- Blooms all season without deadheading
- Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, not preferred by deer
- In the South, it’s nearly a small shrub – great for large urns and patio containers
- Full sun
Low growing with dark green foliage dusted heavily with tiny golden yellow blossoms, Golddust® Mecardonia provides the perfect contrast of height and size in the garden—a sun-lover that thrives best in the midsummer heat.
- Easy to grow annual for the edge of the border or garden path
- Very low growing, dark green foliage is dusted heavily with tiny golden yellow blossoms
- Blooms from spring through fall without deadheading – might even surprise you with more flowers the following spring after a mild winter
- Thrives in the heat
- Full sun
Colorblaze® Keystone Kopper® Solenostemon
No others compare to the rich orange- bronze foliage of Colorblaze® Keystone Kopper® Solenostemon (coleus) in a fall garden—making it a traditional favorite with little maintenance in large containers and the landscape.
- Richly saturated orange-bronze foliage that won’t fade like “lesser” coleus
- Bred to bloom very late or not at all, making the plant last into fall with little maintenance
- Wonderful in large containers and landscapes
- Heat tolerant and less preferred by deer
- Full sun to shade
Lo & Behold® ‘Lilac Chip’ Buddleia
Lo & Behold® ‘Lilac Chip’ Buddleia is my small space alternative that packs a lot of blooms and always produce beautiful clusters of fragrant, soft lavender-pink flowers, which are butterfly magnets.
- Award winning, seedless butterfly bush that won’t sow its seed around the garden
- Soft lavender-pink flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds from midsummer to frost without deadheading
- Dwarf, compact habit grows only 1 ½-2′ tall x 2-2 ½’ wide
- Perfectly sized for containers and small-scale urban landscapes
- Full sun
Prairie Winds® ‘Cheyenne Sky’ Panicum
My garden essential for low maintenance and drought resistance—Prairie Winds® ‘Cheyenne Sky’ Panicum creates movement and continuity throughout gardens with beautiful tones of blue-green and wine red.
- Smaller scale, native ornamental grass forms a dense, vase-shaped clump up to 3′ tall
- Blue-green foliage begins to turn wine red in early summer; turns nearly all-red by fall
- Matching wine red flower panicles appear in late summer
- A hardy perennial alternative to annual purple fountain grass
- Best grown in landscapes or very large containers due to its strong root system
- Very easy to grow in any soil and full sun
Sunny Anniversary® Abelia
Fragrant and magnificent, Sunny Anniversary® Abelia is one of my favorite deer-resistant flowering shrubs for the landscape and container combinations. Sprinkled with creamy yellow and pink blooms, it brings not only a whimsical element to the garden but also hummingbirds, butterflies and especially me.
- Fragrant flowering shrub with light yellow flowers splashed with pink and orange
- Large, plentiful blooms appear on arching stems from midsummer through early fall
- Mid-sized shrub, 3-4′ tall, used for landscapes, foundation plantings and containers
- Deer-resistant, attracts butterflies
- Full sun to part shade
As the brilliant colors of fall fade Mother Nature begins to reveal the quiet beauty of the winter garden. Colorful barks, evergreen foliage, bright berries and subtle blooms reveal themselves to add interest to an otherwise stark landscape.
You would be amazed at the number of plants available to brighten your garden this winter. Here is a list of a few of my favorites.
You may be surprised to know that quite a few plants bloom during winter, especially if you live in a mild climate. Here are just a few.
|Pansies and Violas|
|I like to plant large drifts of these cheerful flowers throughout my garden. They are the perfect companions to spring flowering bulbs and will bloom continuously through the winter in zones 7 and above. For best performance, plant violas and pansies in full sun, although violas will tolerate shade.|
|White, teardrop shaped blooms adorn these little woodland beauties in late winter or very early spring. I like the variety ‘John Gray’ because of its extra-large flowers. Hardy in zones 3 – 8, plant these bulbs in early fall in partial to full shade areas. Snowdrops prefer rich, well-drained soil.|
|Often emerging through crusts of snow, this iris is the first to bloom in my garden. I like ‘Cantab’ because of its sky blue flowers. Plant these beauties in large drifts of 20 or more and you will be well rewarded with their beautiful blooms in late winter/early spring. Plant in full sun. Grows to about 6 inches tall.|
|One of my fondest memories is the ring of purple crocus that encircled the big oak tree on my grandmother’s front lawn. It was the only contribution that my grandfather made to their garden. The delicate cup shaped blooms would emerge in late winter and serve as a gentle reminder that spring was eminent. Plant spring blooming crocus in the fall in full sun to partial shade. Hardy in zones 3 – 8.|
|Traditionally considered the belle of the Southern garden, new cultivars of this shrub have been created that are more cold tolerant. Some varieties of this evergreen shrub bloom in very early spring. Plant camellias in partial shade in an area that is protected from drying winds. They thrive in humus rich, well-drained soil. Hardy in zones 7 – 8.|
|Winter Honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima|
|This shrub is the old fashioned and unimproved variety. How refreshing! Of course this says nothing about its incredible fragrance that fills the garden as early as January! Cold hardy to zone 5, plant winter honeysuckle in full sun to partial shade. Grows 8 to 10 tall and up to 8 feet wide.|
|Winter Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum|
|This is a plant with subtle beauty when used as a focal point or single specimen, but when used collectively as a group it is a cold knock out. Late in January the plants are covered in tiny lemon yellow blooms. Hardy in zones 7 – 9. Winter jasmine thrives in full sun with average soil. Grows to 15 feet in warm climates, in the North it tops out at 3 to 8 feet.|
During the growing season evergreens often act as background support to the more colorful plants but during the winter these quiet elements move to the forefront often providing the only color in the garden. There are many to choose from but here are a few of my favorites.
Cedrus atlantica glauca
|Great for creating a privacy screen, the plant’s silver-green leaves, cinnamon colored, whip-like stems and interesting berries make this shrub a favorite in my garden. Best if grown in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Hardy in zones 7 – 11.|
|My garden would not be complete without boxwoods. I use them to create living walls, punctuate entries and as focal points. Their bright green foliage pops against the gray winter landscape. Hardy from zone 6 to 9, plant these workhorse shrubs in full sun to partial shade in fertile, well-drained soil. Can grow up to 5 feet and 4 feet wide depending on variety.|
|Yew, Taxus baccata|
|An excellent shrub for creating the walls of your garden rooms. Yews are a favorite in English gardens. Hardy from zone 4 to 7. Plant in full to partial shade, well-drained soil. Will not tolerate wet feet. ‘Hick’s Yew’, a favorite of mine, grows to 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. All parts of the plant are poisonous.|
|Blue Atlantic Cedar, Cedrus atlantica glauca|
|An attractive tree in any season, its blue green foliage really stands out during winter. This tree makes an excellent focal point in gardens where the space is available. Hardy from zone 3 to 9. Plant in full sun, well-drained soil. A slower grower, the Blue Atlantic Cedar will eventually reach 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide.|
Often hidden behind a veil of green during the spring and summer, shrubs and trees with unusual bark really stand out once the leaves have fallen.
|Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea|
|After the leaves fall in autumn, the red stems and twigs take center stage. The color ranges from dark coral to Chinese red. This is a shrub that can take very cold conditions. It seems the colder it gets, the "redder" the stems look, but maybe it’s because of their contrast with snow! Cold hardy from zone 2 to 8. Tolerates most soil types. Grows 8 to 10 feet tall.|
|Paper Bark Maple, Acer griseum|
|This tree is slow growing and will reach a height of 30 feet tall with an equally wide canopy. The old bark peels off in strips, revealing cinnamon brown color underneath. Hardy in zones 4 – 8. Plant in full sun and fertile, moist but well-drained soil.|
|London Plane Tree, Platanus x hispanica|
|Last year I saw this tree planted in a friend’s garden. I was spellbound by the beautiful bark – a tapestry of brown, gray and cream. This tree can grow up to 100 feet, so site it in a place where it has plenty of room. It prefers full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Hardy in zones 5 – 8.|
|In a garden in Georgia I planted a small grove of birch with spectacular results. The peeled and papery bark is a beautiful texture in the garden. Cold tolerance depends on species. The Paper birch, B. papyrifera, is cold tolerant to zone 2. Plant in full sun to light shade in moist but well drained soil. Mature plant size depends on variety and species.|
I consider berries the flowers of winter. Not only do they add color to the garden but provide food for birds as well.
|Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa|
|This plant is much more garden friendly than its unruly cousin the red chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia. Deep purple almost black berries form in late summer and persist through January. A particularly nice cultivar is ‘Autumn Magic’, which has brilliant fall color and larger, longer lasting berries. Black chokeberries are very adaptable. They can be planted in full sun or partial shade. The plant prefers moist areas but will grow in dry soils as well. Hardy in zones 4 through 9.|
|Rosa rugosa species|
|This roses produce lovely, orange-red rose hips. It is extremely cold tolerant and is hardy from zones 2 – 9. Plant in full sun in a spot where it will get plenty of air circulation. R. rugosa can get up to 8 feet wide and 8 feet tall.|
|American Holly ‘Carolina No. 2’, Ilex opaca|
|I have always considered the American holly one of the most noble trees in the southeastern forest. If you have ever examined a fully ripened holly berry closely you find they are such as intense shade of red that they almost appear to glow. Native to North America, this holly is hardy in zones 5 – 9. Plant in full sun or shade in well-drained soil. Can reach up 50 feet tall with a 30 foot spread. Requires a male pollinator within 300 feet to bear fruit.|
|Possumhaw, Ilex decidua|
|There is nothing like this plant’s scarlet berries to break the gray pall of winter. A well-berried tree can easily be the center of attention in any landscape. The cultivar ‘Warren Red’ produces especially lustrous and long lasting berries. Plant in full sun to partial shade with alkaline soil. Possum haw can grow up to 20 feet tall. It is hardy in zones 5 – 9. One thing to keep in mind that the plant requires a male pollinator within 300 feet to bear fruit.|
|There are not enough good things to be said about crabapples. My ‘Narragansett’ crabapples are beautiful in every season. In the late fall and winter they produce small clusters of light red fruit. I think the birds appreciate them even more than I do. Crabapples thrive in full sun but will tolerate light shade. Plant in consistently moist, well-drained moderately fertile soil. Most varieties are hardy in zones 5 – 8 but there are one or two that can survive in zone 4. Mature plant size depends on variety.|
Evergreen groundcovers should also be considered for your winter garden. These plants can add a carpet of color, pattern and texture to otherwise bare spots in your flowerbeds.
Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’
|Liriope muscari, ‘Silver Dragon’|
|I like liriope because of its grass like foliage and dense habit. ‘Silver Dragon’ has attractive green foliage with white and silver variegation. Liriope will thrive under any light condition. It is drought tolerant but prefers to be sheltered from cold, drying winds. Hardy in zones 6 – 10. You can expect this plant to reach about 12 inches tall.|
|Creeping Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’, Veronica peduncularis|
|This plant has delicate green foliage that turns slightly purple in winter. The true wonder of this plant appears in late February when it becomes covered with clear blue flowers. Expect creeping Veronica to reach a mature height of about 4 inches with a 2 foot spread. Plant in full sun to partial shade in consistently moist but well-drained soil. Hardy in zones 4 – 8.|
|Wintercreeper, Euonymus fortunei|
|Wintercreeper is one of my favorite groundcovers. I particularly like the variety ‘Coloratus’, which turns a nice burgundy color in the fall. This plant grows up to 2 feet tall. Performs best in full sun and tolerates any well-drained soil. Hardy in zones 5 – 9|
|English Ivy, Hedera helix|
|One of the best groundcovers for shady areas has to be English ivy. There are several varieties to choose from. I often rely on the green and white variegated varieties such as ‘Anne Marie’ and ‘Baltica’ to bring interest and color to a garden. English ivy will tolerate full sun in cooler climates but should be planted in partial shade in zones 7 and above. It is important to plant English ivy in an area that has good drainage.|
Because English ivy is a potential hazard for native plants I only use it in controlled environments in areas where it is not a problem and recommend that it is not allowed to run rampant. Always check with your local Cooperative Extension before planting it or go to the National Park Service’s web site at http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/. They have a nice map that shows which states are troubled by this plant.
One topic I am frequently asked about is how to use color in the garden. It is easy to get bogged down in all the rules and theories. Not to mention apply these to living plants. I always like to remind everyone that asks that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Don’t be timid about planting your favorite colors and trying new color combinations because your garden is all about you – if you don’t like what you ended up with you can always change it.
Spring flowering bulbs are some of the best plants for testing color in the garden because they are so easy to grow and when it comes to color choices, the sky is the limit. Tulips, iris, daffodils, and hyacinths are available in just about every color imaginable. This broad palette makes it easy to design spring flowering bulb plantings in contrasting or harmonious combinations.
You remember the color wheel, right? The contrasting a.k.a. complementary colors on the wheel are red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple. When paired together these colors make a bold, dramatic statement. To smooth out the edges mix in neighboring ‘cousin colors’ like yellow-orange and violet with yellow and purple. By using contrasting colors with their neighboring ‘cousin colors’ we create a more delicate, harmonious composition.
When creating a contrasting color combination it’s a good idea to allow one color to dominate. For instance, if choose orange contrasted with purple plant more orange than purple or vice versa. You can soften the planting by filling in with a few of the color cousins like lavender and peach.
Good to Know: Contrasting Color Ratio
- Dominant Color – 50%
- Secondary Color – 25%
- Cousin Color 1 – 15%
- Cousin Color 2 – 10%
Some of the most memorable gardens I have seen have been developed around a single color family. It’s also one of the easiest color combinations to pull off. Just blend a single color and it’s cousin colors. A mix of red, red-orange, orange and yellow-orange is a beautiful warm color arrangement. The proportion of the harmonizing colors in the composition is based on your preferences.
I have recently moved to a smaller home and down one side and along the back of the property the soil stays soggy and wet. Right now everything is dead and overgrown and I want to clear it all out. What plants will tolerate “wet feet?” I haven’t got much time to spend in the garden, so I am looking for something low maintenance.
You would be surprised at the number of plants that you can grow in areas with poor drainage. Some of these will actually grow in standing water. I regularly add pots of cannas, yellow flag iris and calla lilies to the garden pool in my fountain garden.
If you are looking for low maintenance I suggest you try a combination of trees and shrubs with a few perennials mixed in to add bloom and texture.
Here is a shortlist of plants that will tolerate “wet feet.”
Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) – This deciduous holly produces bright red berries in winter. It can be either a small tree or large shrub. Zones 5 – 9. 20′ tall x 15′ wide.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) – Also known as a Swamp maple, this tree has brilliant fall foliage. I have 2 ‘Red Sunset’ planted at the front entrance to my garden. Zones 3 – 9. Height and width vary with cultivar.
River Birch (Betula nigra) – This tree has interesting bark and brilliant yellow fall foliage. Zones 4 – 9. 60′ tall x 40′ wide.
Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) – A vigorous grower, give this tree plenty of room mature. Attractive, mottled bark. Zones 5 – 8. 80′ tall x 70′ wide.
Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) – Perhaps the best known water-tolerant tree. Graceful weeping branches. Zones 6 – 9. 40′ tall x 40′ wide. Roots tend to be invasive.
Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) – This is one of my favorite accent shrubs. Candle like blooms appear in midsummer. Thrives in all but the most poorly drained soils. Zones 5 – 9. 10′ tall x 15′ wide.
Florida Anise (Illicium floridanum) – In late spring and early summer, this native American shrub produces fragrant star-shaped flowers. Moist but well-drained soil. Zones 7 – 9. 8′ tall x 8′ wide.
Redtwig Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) – This is a great shrub because of its bright red stems. I like to use it in my winter container designs. Tolerates wet soils. Zones 2 – 8. 6′ tall x 12′ wide.
Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) – The sweet scent produced by the flowers on this shrub makes it a must-have for any fragrant garden. Moist but well-drained soil. Zones 3 – 9. 8′ tall x 8′ wide.
Astilbe (Astilbe simplicifolia) – One of my favorite astilbes is ‘Sprite’ because of its unique airy, shell-pink flowers and dark, bronze-green foliage. Prefers moist, humus-rich roil. Zones 4 – 8.
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – I like this plant because the bees and the hummingbirds find it so attractive. Blooms for an extended period. My favorite is ‘Marshall’s Delight’ because of its clear pink flowers and resistance to powdery mildew. Zones 4 – 9.
Calla Lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) – The flowers produced by these summer bulbs remind me of fabric from the 1940s. I grow ‘Green Goddess’ in 1-gallon black nursery pots in my garden pool. Zones 8 – 10.
Canna – Another great plant for growing in standing water. ‘Black Knight’ always has a place in my summer garden because of its deep red foliage. It looks great when planted with purple fountain grass. Zones 8 – 11.
Elephant’s Ear (Colocasia esculenta) – These fun summer bulbs are an easy and quick way to add height and texture to your garden. ‘Black Magic’ is a deep purple, almost black variety. Tolerates fairly wet soils. Zones 8 – 11
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) – I was surprised and delighted to find this native American flower growing in the English garden of Arley. Prefers moist but well-drained soils. Grows up to 7′ tall. Zones 3 – 9.
Iris – Many iris are tolerant of soggy soil conditions. Japanese iris, Siberian iris, and yellow flag iris are a few that I grow in my garden.
Mint (Mentha) – Mint is a rampant grower that easily runs out of control. This is what also makes it perfect for soggy areas of the garden where nothing else will survive. To limit its spread it can be grown in containers with the bottoms cut out and buried in the ground.
Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) – This fern does particularly well in poorly drained areas. Will tolerate full sun as long as ample moisture is available. Its regal stature, growing to 6′ tall, makes it a winner for the garden. Zones 4 – 9.
Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) – I have an area in my garden where the irrigation system floods on a regular basis. The spiderwort loves it there. One of my favorites is ‘Innocence’. It’s pure white flowers light up shady areas from summer until fall. Zones 5 – 9.