Monday, February 27, 2023

Poppy Anemones For The Spring Garden


Poppy Anemones at Duke Gardens in Durham, NC

Windflowers (Anemone coronaria) are native to the Mediterranean region (USDA hardiness zones 7-10). Sometimes called “poppy anemones”, they are in the buttercup plant family (Ranunculaceae). These upright perennials grow from tuberous rhizomes. Their frilly foliage is medium green and is not edible to most critters, including deer. 

Solitary, showy, poppy-like, single flowers, each with 6-8 petals, measure 1.5 to 2.5 inches across. Flowers bloom in mid- to late-spring on stems rising to 10-12 inches high. Flowers are blue, red or white with black centers. Plants go dormant after flowering.

In southern locales, plant these tuberous rhizomes in early spring about 2-3 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart in an organic-rich, sandy, medium moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. In a fall planted bed, spread a 3-inch mulch layer for winter protection which is removed in late winter. Alternatively, plant tubers in pots in fall for overwintering in frost free cool spot such as an unheated greenhouse, sunporch or cold frame; set out the pots in early spring. Spring-planted windflowers bloom in late May-June. In wintery climes (Zones 3-6), they must be dug up in early fall for winter storage. 

Consider windflowers are short-lived and are best treated as annuals. Each spring dig them after flowering, plant summer flowering annuals, and purchase new rhizomes for next spring.

Also called “lilies of the field”, they are not commonly sold at garden centers. Numerous online  bulb emporiums offer them for sale in their fall and winter catalogs. Popular cultivar groups include ‘De Caen’ (mix of single flowers) and ‘St. Brigid’ (mix of double--petalled flowers). Personal favorites include ‘Fokker’ (bright blue ray petals/black dome center) and ‘Sylphide’ (violet pink petals with black dome center). Poppy anemones make excellent cut flowers.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Crapemyrtle Varieties You Should Be Growing

Crape myrtles come in a variety of size sand flower colors. Many (not all) show off an ornamental patchwork bark. Before heading to the garden center decide what flower color you want. Shop the internet or find a variety that grows (matures) to the correct height for the garden space and is winter hardy in your plant zone. Plant crape myrtles almost any time of year with spring / summer being best and fall / winter the worse seasons. 

There are over 125 varieties listed on the internet. Here is 50+ of the best:

Lagerstroemia 'Burgundy Cotton'

Miniature/Weeping: less than 3
feet tall

  • Baton Rouge (red)
  • Mardi Gras (purple)
  • Pixie White (white)
  • Pokomoke (deep pink)

Dwarf: 3 – 5 feet tall

  • Centennial (purple)
  • Dazzle® series (GAMAD I-VII)
  • Petite Series (6) Pink Ruffles (pink)
  • Tightwad (Whit V) (red)
  • Velma’s Royal Delight (purple)
  • Victor (dark red)

Intermediate: 5 – 10 feet tall

  • Acoma (white)
  • Cheyenne (red)
  • Hopi (pink)
  • Red Rooster (PIILAG III) (rich red)
  • Siren Red (Whit VII) (red)
  • Tonto (red)
  • Zuni (purple)

Medium: 10 – 20 feet tall

  • Apalachee (lavender)
  • Black Diamond series (9)
  • Burgundy Cotton (Whit VI) (white)
  • Catawba (purple)
  • Centennial Spirit (red)
  • Comanche (pink)
  • Dynamite (Whit II) (true red)
  • Lipan (lavender)
  • Osage (pink)
  • Pink Velour (Whit III) (pink)
  • Powhatan (purple)
  • Raspberry Sundae (Whit I) (red/white)
  • Regal Red (red)
  • Seminole (pink)
  • Sioux (pink)
  • Tuskegee (pink)
  • Yuma (lavender)

Tall: more than 20 feet tall

  • Arapaho (red)
  • Biloxi (pink)
  • Byers Hardy Lavender (lavender)
  • Byers Standard Red (red)
  • Kiowa (white)
  • Miami (pink)
  • Muskogee (lavender)
  • Natchez (white)
  • Potomac (pink)
  • Red Rocket (Whit IV) (true red)
  • Sarah’s Favorite (white)
  • Townhouse (white)
  • Tuscarora (pink)
  • Watermelon Red (red)
  • Wichita (lavender)

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Select A Shade Tree For Your Yard

Why not plant the best! The average person will likely a dozen or less trees. Many homeowners choose to buy a fast-growing tree. But, in the long run, in 25-30 years, you will likely pay the price for the fast growth. The speedy trees are generally weak-wooded and branches can break in ice and storms packing high winds. They become hazard trees. Don’t plant a fast growing tree within 50 feet of your home. Below ground their roots will grow into sewer and water lines. All trees listed are hardy in USDA hardiness zones 5-9.

Moderate growing trees (50 feet and higher):

Hybrid Freeman Maples (Acer freemanii)

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) 'Red Sunset', 'October Glory'

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) 'Green Mountain'

Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra)

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) (select male clones only)

Thornless Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis)

Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica) 'Espresso'

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) 'Happidaze', 'Slender Silhouette'

Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera

Black gum, tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) 'Green Gable', 'Wildfire', 'Red Rage'

London Planetree (Platanus x acerfolia) 'Columbia' 

Shingle Oak (Quercus imbricaria)

Willow oak (Quercus phellos)

English Oak (Quercus robur)

American Elm (Ulmus americana) 'Washington', 'Princeton', 'Jefferson'

Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata) 'Murashino', 'Green Vase'

Medium Sized Shade Trees (35-50 feet) 

Trident maple (Acer buergerianum)

River birch (Betula nigra) -'Heritage', 'Duraheat' 

European Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)

Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea)

Crape myrtle (tree forms) (Lagerstroemia x)*

Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)**

Live oak (Quercus virginiana)*

Japanese pagoda tree (Styphnolobium japonica)

Basswood, American linden (Tilia americana

Little leaf Linden (Tilia cordata

Lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia) 'Athena', 'Bosque', 'Allee'

*hardy in Southern U.S. (zones 7-10)

Editor's note: all ash species (Fraxinus spp.) have been delisted because of tree's susceptibility to Emerald Ash Borer.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Fall Apple and Pear Harvest

Apples Ready For harvest
Apples (Malus spp.) and pears (Pyrus communis) are plentiful in home orchards this fall. Several late apples such as Winesap, Stayman, Rome, Fuji, Cameo, and Granny Smith are harvested in late September. Pears do not ripen on the tree, so late varieties should be pulled from the tree when outdoor temperatures under 25°F are predicted.

Apples can be stored for 4-6 months if harvested before they are fully ripe. The ideal apple storage temperatures are 31-33 °F with a relative humidity of 90 percent. Stored apples are best packaged in closed plastic bags to retard moisture loss. Modern day frost-free refrigerator is not an ideal spot to store temperate (non-citrus) fruits because humidity levels are too low. A storm cellar or unheated garage is adequate at temperatures between 37-45 °F. 

Asian pears are ready to eat when harvested off the tree; fruits can be held refrigerated in plastic bags for several months.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Ten Popular Native Vines

Pipevine (
Aristolochia macrophylla) grows 20-30 feet long and produce Dutchman pipe-shaped bronze flowers in summer. Butterflies, particularly the Pipevine Swallowtail, flock to the fragrant flowers.

Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) is fast growing evergreen vine that grows up to 20 feet long. Fragrant, tubular, orange-red flowers appear in late spring. It has tendril branches that terminate in adhesive disks that easily attach to walls. ‘Tangerine Beauty’ is a popular cultivar.

Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans) is an extremely vigorous fast-growing woody vine up to 40 feet long with trumpet-shaped flowers that should be supported on sturdy arbors or fences. Choose from yellow, orange, or red blooms. Warning: this vine suckers profusely and grows too aggressively.

Texas or Scarlet Clematis (Clematis texensis) blooms from mid-summer to fall and tops out at 6-10 feet length. This sparsely leafed vine is often trained to intertwine through nearby shrubs. Cultivars: ‘Gravetye Beauty’ (red flowers) and ‘Duchess of Albany’ (pink flowered).

Leatherleaf clematis (Clematis glaucophylla) produces lavender to purple urn-shaped flowers with curling white tips. Vines grow 6-10 feet long is native to portions of Tennessee. Treat this vine as a deciduous perennial and allow it to ramble over small to mid-sized shrubs.

Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is a vigorous vine, up to 20 feet that add a dash of yellow blooms to walls and sturdy arbors in very early spring. Train it as a 3-5 feet tall mound shrub or attach one on your mailbox post. Favorite cultivar: ‘Margarita’.

Coral Honeysuckle, Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is a 12-15 foot in sun or partial shade. Red or yellow trumpet like flowers appear early spring into mid-summer. Evergreen leaves are circular. Favorite cultivars: ‘Major Wheeler’ (orange-red flowers) and ‘John Clayton’ (yellow flowers).

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) grows 6-8 feet long and is frequently seen growing up trees. Its deciduous foliage turn beet red in the fall. Blue-black berries form in late summer and quickly consumed by birds. Warning: aggressive grower and seeds freely.

American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) grows a lot less aggressive compared to its Asian counterparts in in sun or partial shade. Train it up a 15-20 foot pole or tree trunk; blooms are blue or purple in mid-spring. Favorite cultivar: ‘Amethyst Falls’ (lavender purple).

Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata) is a hardy fast grower vine, up 12 feet in length that climbs by tendrils. Its unique 2-3 inch wide flowers are white with purple filaments. Grows in full sun to partial shade, dies back in winter, and restarts in spring. Warning: roots may spread aggressively and become weedy.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Six Ornamental Grasses For Small Gardens

Panicum 'Northwind'
Maiden grass, Eulalia grass (Miscanthus sinensis), are beautiful in the early autumn landscape. Several cultivars are very invasive in U.S. landscapes. My Fair Maiden™ (6 – 8 ft. tall x 4 ft. wide), ‘Rigoletto’, ‘Morning Light’, ‘Bandwidth, and ‘Zebrinus’ ('Variegata’) produce very low amounts of sterile seed and are rated less invasive.

(Panicum virgatum) is a U.S. native prairie grass that is an exceptional performer. ‘Northwind’ switch grass grows 4 -5 ft. tall and 2.5 ft. wide and is tightly constricted at its base; airy panicles of feathery flowers in late summer. ‘Shenandoah’ forms a small 3 feet tall clump; summer foliage is dark purple cast on its tips dark, black-purple foliage in fall. ‘Cheyenne Sky’ emerges with blue-green leaves in late spring, forming a tidy and well-behaved mound. In late summer deep wine-red leaf tips and airy sprays of dark-red flowers.

Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutifora 'Karl Foerster' has a strong upright habit and blooms with showy flowers that ripen to tawny seed heads that decorate the plant through the fall and winter months. Other cultivars are: ‘Overdam’ and ‘Avalanche’.

Pink Muhlygrass

(Muhlenbergia capillaries) produce a loose, airy inflorescence that is nothing less than spectacular pink clouds in early fall. Muhlygrass typically grows to 3 ft. tall x 3 ft. wide when in flower (USDA hardiness zones 6-10). Pink Muhly is the most popular form; ‘White Cloud’ sports white flowers and grows more upright than pink form.

Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) are popular native warm season grasses. 'Standing Ovation' keeps a tight, upright habit through the four seasons.  The sturdy, spiky stems start out bluish-green and mature in the fall with brilliant color array of orange, red, yellow and purplish-brown. Colors do not or flop have a tendency to lodge in late as many varieties do.

Prairie dropseed
(Sporobolus heterolepis) is a warm season, clump-forming grass. Fine-textured, hairy, long green leaves (to 20 in. long and 1/16 in. wide) typically form an arching foliage mound to 15 in. tall and 18 in. wide. Foliage takes on a golden with orange hues in fall, and light bronze in winter. Open, branching flower panicles appear on slender stems which rise well above the foliage clump in late summer to 30-36 in. tall. Flowers have pink and brown tints, with a unique coriander fragrance in fall.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

2022 Perennial Plant Of The Year - Little Bluestem

The Perennial Plant Association is pleased to promote Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium and cultivars) as the 2022 Perennial Plant of the Year®. The wider selection of Schizachyrium scoparium and cultivars allows the perennial expert in any region to select and promote the cultivars that do best in his or her location!

PPA Board members selected top performers in their regions and shared appealing details about each one. Highlights of each selection are below:

Central region - Richard Hawke of the Chicago Botanic Garden selects Schizachyrium scoparium 'Jazz' for the Central region. Richard notes, "The striking silvery blue leaves of 'Jazz' are most comparable to 'The Blues’, but at 36 inches tall and 30 inches wide, 'Jazz' is a foot shorter than 'The Blues' and has sturdier stems.

Southern region - Shannon Currey of Hoffman Nursery selects Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues' for the Southern region. Shannon comments, "In the South, our humidity, high nighttime temps, and wet springs can slow down some Little Bluestem. ‘The Blues’ is a strong, vigorous grower and has fantastic color. Blues, pinks, purples in the summer followed by reds and oranges in the fall. In the right conditions, it stands out for us."

Canadian region - Tony Post of Brookdale Treeland Nurseries - Valleybrook Farm, choses Schizachyrium scoparium 'Standing Ovation' for the Canadian region. Tony says, “This selection adds excellent texture to the summer garden. Burgundy highlights add late season interest. Seed heads are attractive, particularly when backlit."

Western region - For the Western region, Nanci Hollerith Allen of MarkWatch Plants notes that Schizachyrium scoparium can be a tricky plant unless you have reasonably dry, well-drained soil. She shares two recommended cultivars for the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountain region: 'The Blues' and 'Standing Ovation'.

Great Lakes region - Patty Steinhauser of Stonehouse Nursery chooses Schizachyrium scoparium 'Carousel' for the Great Lakes region. Patty says, "This uniquely mounded selection forms a wide clump of blue-green foliage that emerges nearly horizontal and matures into strong, upright stems that remain standing through inclement weather and winter. It takes on pink, copper and orange-red tones in fall topped with tiny seed tufts."

Mid-Atlantic region - Taylor Pilker of Cavano’s Perennials suggests 'The Blues', 'Standing Ovation', and 'Jazz'. Taylor likes ‘Blue Heaven’ because “it is taller and has good autumn color with a wide range of shades of burgundy and pink."

Information source: Perennial Plant Association website