It’s been a rainy day– so much so that Halloween activities were rescheduled to Nov. 1 due to the predicted downpours and wind gusts. As I stepped outdoors on Halloween morning, it was already wet and windy, but autumn’s brilliance still shown through the dark skies.
Two years in, the new tree additions in the back yard are beginning to make their presence known. No more is this true than in autumn. Shades of gold, red, purple, and orange are just what this otherwise barren landscape needed. Don’t get me wrong. I love all the green shades that spring and summer provide, but when autumn arrives, I crave fall color.
Some of the new additions are still staked, while others grow within low cages designed to keep out bark-nibbling critters. There’s plenty of room for more, but it’s hard to choose what should be planted next. So for now, I’ll just enjoy the burst of color and admire how it’s all falling into place.
While I was preparing to write this post, an email popped into my inbox from Bluestone Perennials with autumn tips for cutting back perennials- the very subject I was going to tackle. Bluestone Perennials is a family owned and operated mail order/online store based in Northeast Ohio. They carry wonderful perennials, shrubs, grasses, and groundcovers. I rarely order plants online, but when I do, it’s from Bluestone. Check out their tips for cutting back your perennial beds. I couldn’t have written this information better myself. Thank you Bluestone!
Cutting Your Garden Back for Winter
Leaves beginning to fall signal that it’s time to get your garden ready for its winter nap. Most of your perennials will die back to the ground (herbaceous plants). They will overwinter at or below the soil line, so you’ll want to get rid of the old foliage to make way for the new growth come spring.
The number one nemesis to perennials is being smothered over the winter and rotting. You’ll want to get the old spent foliage out of the way, and remove any reason for autumn’s leaves to drift in and be trapped around the base of your plants. Here are a few things to consider:
• Look around and see if any flowers would add winter interest to your garden, like upright Sedum, Baptisia, Ornamental Grasses, Achillea and Astilbe. If you like their look, just wait and cut them back in the spring. It is also a good time to make wonderful dried bouquets for indoors – and they will last all winter!
• In most cases you’ll be cutting back the plants to 4-6” in height. In a windswept spot you can leave them taller to help trap insulating snow.
• You don’t want to cut back plants that regenerate on last year’s growth, like shrubs and evergreen plants. There are some woody perennials that fall into that category too, like Perovskia, Lavender, and Iberis.
• You’ll find gloves, hand pruners and hedge shears handy to have. As you cut down the spent foliage be careful not to crack or split into the crown of the plant. A lot of flower stems are very brittle and will snap right off, but if they are woody like an Echinacea, you’ll need to snip them back to prevent accidental damage. If in doubt, grab your shears and have at it.
• This is also a good time to pull out any dead annuals from the border so there is no question in the spring whether a dead looking clump is really dead or is actually a valuable perennial, not yet awake. Most perennials will show signs of life at the crown early in the spring, and with the annual tops gone the fall before, spring cleanup can be delayed quite a while. No plants need to be lost to an overzealous worker!
Once your garden is cut back, most leaves will blow in and back out of your borders. On one of the last days before winter tightens her grip do one final quick rake to remove any leaves that stuck around. Then put away your tools and start daydreaming of spring.
William Boonstra, Second Generation Owner & Grower
It’s time to say goodbye to my summer annuals despite the temperate weather. In central Indiana, weather turns on a dime and procrastinating will only lead to a very chilly or wet time-consuming task. It’s hard to say goodbye after all the hard work that has gone into designing and caring for the containers. On a recent Sunday morning, I took a close look at the patio containers near the pool deck. I thought it would be fun to build the composition through video. So many times, I photograph individual pots and details never giving a sense of scale or composition. Though my video techniques are lacking finesse, I think you’ll get the idea of what the small poolside patio was like this season.
Click on the thumbnails below to find out more details. I’m starting to document my work with annuals more closely so I can reference the silhouettes and plant growing habits for future projects. Up to now, annuals were not a big deal to me, but as my role at the garden center advances, I am beginning to understand and appreciate their function in the landscape a bit more.
Question: Do annuals play a big role in your garden?
White Annuals > White Annuals
Remember that? I was too young to comprehend what this show was about when I watched it as a child. But that catchy theme song and opening footage? I’ll never forget! It’s what I’m reminded of every time I mention a favorite Heuchera of mine- ‘Purple Petticoats’.
I stumbled across this plant last year– a remnant of a promo we did at Sundown Gardens earlier that season. By September, four quart-sized plants remained unnoticed by customers seduced by more ample gallon-sized containers. Tending to them day after day, I noticed the subtle color changes throughout the season. The foliage was fancier than the other Heucheras and I became a bit obsessed with them. I took them home and planted them about this same time last year. Still in a tight grip of a horrible drought, I had little hope they would make it, but almost as soon as I planted them, they began to thrive. By late autumn the coloration had intensified and the foliage had become a lovely deep purple.
So, I guess I have a little Petticoat Junction of my own now. It’s on the sunnier side of the tracks, just beyond the “Shady Rest Hotel” where the edge of the shade garden meets the full sun area. ‘Purple Petticoats’ resides in the sun area. Yes, I said sun. Recent breeding trials with the native species Heuchera villosa have created plants that are able to tolerate more heat and humidity. In addition, they have increased sun tolerance and many do quite well in full sun situations. Hail to the V!
Please enjoy some images from the Junction. Note the color differences throughout the season. For an encore, I’ve attached a little real-time video. The backlight effect is caused by sun shining through a neighboring tree’s leaves.
Other Heuchera villosa hybrids include: ‘Caramel’, ‘Circus’, ‘Brownies’, ‘Citronelle’, ‘Autumn Leaves’, ‘Pistache’, ‘Tiramasu’, and ‘Frosted Violet’.
It’s been quite some time since my last post. I’m still here. Just tired, and on plant overload, the side effect of working at a garden center and nursery. I’d like to say that working in the nursery business has changed my gardening perspective, but it hasn’t really. Perhaps it’s a bit more refined though. No matter what new plants or colors come in, I’m still attracted to the classics, or good ‘ole standbys if you will. This goes for annuals too.
When I started working at Sundown Gardens, I was giddy with excitement about all the annuals I would have at my disposal for my own containers. Little did I know that customers would show up to the store with their empty containers in tow wanting custom potting jobs. I never expected that it would become part of my job(s) either. The orders span the gamut. Some containers are manageable, others require a big truck and crew to deliver and place on site. I love doing it, but even with an overabundance of annuals and perennials to choose from, it’s never easy. I try very hard to create something unique for each customer. I often wonder how those designs hold up after they’ve gone home to their rightful owners.
Speaking of home, this potting business has given me cause to scrutinize my own container designs more carefully. The patio and front porch have become a laboratory or sorts, where I experiment with foliage and bloom combinations and put light levels to the test. There are so many choices to pick from that I impose constraints to keep myself in check. This season, I chose the color white for all the pots near the pool. In the end, I weave many of the classics into the mix. If you can master composition with these, then everything else is icing on the cake. In years past, I have relied heavily on coleus. This year I used none. I traded them in for Scented Geranium, Licorice Plants, Alocasia, Abutilon, and Plectranthus. For blooms, I am relying heavily on Mandavilla Vine, Calibrachoa, Dahlias and of course, Marigolds (Vanilla Marigold shown above). Here’s a peak at my palette this year with an emphasis on the foliage accents.
I love the maple-leaf shaped foliage with creamy white edges of this Abutilon. I keep the moisture level of this plant very consistent. It receives direct sun in the morning hours and is completely shaded by noon. Many of my pots are not combos, but single plants nestled against other pots. This creates a more pronounced effect.
Nephrolepis exaltata Boston Fern ‘Tiger Fern’
I love Boston Ferns and forewent the classic solid green for a variegated variety call ‘Tiger Fern.’ Situated in bright shade, they receive no direct sunlight. Since they are in a shady area, its easy to keep the soil evenly moist. The chartruese highlights really brighten this otherwise dark spot.
Alocasia macrorrhiza ‘odora’
Commonly known as Elephant Ears, this tall tropical is the main attraction in a large pot. Positioned in the center, the large leaves are dramatic and arch out gracefully over the white Scavoila tutu that outlines the rim. Scale is so important when designing plantings. You can create instant drama by combining bold large plants against smaller delicate ones.
Coryline terminalis ‘Miss Andrea’
In shades of cream, purple, red and green, I found this Cordyline hard to resist. It has a nice relationship to the creamy shades of the other plants, yet refuses to completely blend in. You need at least one plant with this temperment in your collection.
Dahlia ‘XXL Mayo’
This is one of the bloomers set amongst the many accent plants. Extra extra large blooms and deep dark green foliage make this classic a showstopper. As its name suggests, the off white tone resembles the creamy condiment mayonnaise. This Dahlia receives direct sun till about 1PM. Very sturdy 24” tall stems. Has been blooming constantly since early May.
Pelargonium graveolens variegata ‘Mint Scented Rose Geranium’
Love this! A very textural plant that rarely blooms. I was lucky enough to see a few flowers earlier this season. The deeply cut leaves add much visual interest to my collection of plants. Scented geraniums were widely grown in the Victorian era and used for perfume and potpourri. They were occasionally used for cooking too. I’ve noticed scented/fragrant plants making a bit of a comeback.
Helichrysum petiolare Petite Licorice
I’m a big fan of licorice plants and found this silver petite variety very charming. I used it with bright white SunPatiens (the full sun version of Impatiens). Avoid overwatering licorice plants as it makes the foliage quite unattractive. Proven Winners offers a wide selection in a variety of colors.
Plectranthus aurea marginata
This is a beauty! Don’t let the delicate scalloped edges and velvety texture of this plant fool you. It’s as rugged as it is beautiful. I think it goes head-to-head with any coleus. My Plectranthus recieve sun till 1PM and shade the rest of the day. The chartreuse edges echo the Lemon Licorice hues from the neigboring pot. Very easy to grow.
Sun Parasol® White Mandevilla
A very common tropical sold all over the US in spring. I fell in love with the white one and made it the centerpiece of my annual container scheme. A true vine that will climb terllises or flow out of hanging baskets. The foliage is deep dark green and glossy. This plant (like most tropicals) requires regular watering and does not like to go dry. The intesity of the yellow center makes the white petals appear extremely bright white.
I hope everyone is enjoying their summer in the garden. I will post more on my annuals and container designs in future posts.
June is a wonderful time at Sutherland. So many beautiful blooms and fragrances. This is indeed the month where working in the garden is such a pleasure. As I review the photos for this post, I can’t help but see a distinct color palette. I guess its just the designer in me. Here’s to a wonderful spring and an even better summer. Cheers.
Astilbe ‘Rhythm and Blues’
Azalea ‘Weston’s Pink and Sweet’
Gaura ‘Stratosphere Pink Picotee’
Hosta ‘Blue River’
Moonlight Chinese Hydrangea Vine
Pink Annabelle Hydrangea ‘Bella Anna®’
Thalictrum inchangense ‘Evening Star’
Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a Meme created by May Dreams Gardens. Gardeners post images of what’s blooming in their garden on the 15th day of every month. All are welcome to participate.
Please enjoy an except from Thomas Mickey’s new book titled America’s Romance with the English Garden. You could win a copy by simply leaving a comment in the comments sections of this post.
About the book
The book tells the story of how late nineteenth century mass-produced garden catalogs and national garden advertising sold the homeowner the romantic English garden as a garden icon.
Advice from the Nineteenth Century Garden Catalogs:
Teach Children How to Garden
The B. N. Strong, a Connecticut seed company, discussed in its 1852 catalog how important it was to teach children how to garden: “Children are frequently led into mischief in the absence of other means of occupying themselves. How different would it be if they were taught to turn their attention to the neatness and productiveness of a garden.”
In 1859, the Bloomington Nursery in Illinois wrote in its catalog, “Thousands of our children pine for the want of nature’s health-giving luxury, fruit, without doubt the best stomach regulator the world affords. So, too, with their attachments and their sense of the beautiful in nature they dwindle for want of some of their most proper objects – homes and trees, and plants and flowers, and the exercise enjoyed in their cultivation.”
The Charles T. Starr catalog of 1882 discussed how improved society would be if more children gardened. Starr said, “Would that I could induce everyone who reads this to love and cultivate flowers, if not for their commercial value, at least for their ennobling and refining influence; for this is one of the few pleasures that improve alike the mind and the heart, and make every true lover of these beautiful creations of Infinite Love, wiser and purer and nobler. It teaches industry, patience, faith, and hope. Would that every American child could be brought up under such an atmosphere, and through life be guided by their teachings.”
Seed company owners and nurserymen, like others concerned for the moral well-being in the society, felt when children worked in the garden, they grew up to become productive citizens. Joseph Harris, from Rochester, in his 1882 catalog wrote about how to start a children’s garden: “The children each have a separate plot. They start many of the plants in boxes in the house. Make it convenient for the children. Do not ask them to make bricks without straw. Let them have all the seeds they want. If they get healthy recreation and some knowledge of vegetable growth—if they grow up to love flowers and take an interest in the garden—if they have something to think about besides dolls and dresses and dancing parties, we can well afford to let them waste a little seed and a little land. In fact, it is far from being a waste. It will pay ten times over.”
In 1885, Dreer also recommended giving children a decent plot of soil in the garden and adequate tools. He wrote, “Given rickety tools that have long been mustered out of service, a piece of ground that even sand burrs would blush to be seen upon, and the relics of last season’s purchase of seeds, what wonder is it that children regard gardening as unprofitable.
“A few simple tools well made, a plot of ground on which the sun shines and which is ordinarily fertile, seeds that will grow, and plants that are thriving, added to an occasional spurring of the little workers to the fulfilling of their task, will enable them to reap in due season an ample reward.”
-This is an excerpt from the new book America’s Romance with the English Garden (Ohio University Press).
How to Win your own copy
Book Give-away Rules: To be eligible to participate in this Book Give-away for a copy of Thomas Mickey’s book America’s Romance With the English Garden, you must comment on this guest blog entry between 8:00 a.m. (EST) Monday, June 3, and 5:00 p.m. (EST) Friday, June 7. LIMIT one entry per person. The name of the winner will be drawn from the list of those who comment. The winner will be contacted on Monday, June 10 to obtain a shipping address, and will receive a free, signed copy of the book. Open to US residents only.
I’m honored to be selected among the blogs that will be promoting fellow blogger and author Thomas Mickey’s new book titled America’s Romance with the English Garden.
The book tells the story of how late nineteenth century mass-produced garden catalogs and national garden advertising sold the homeowner the romantic English garden as a garden icon. At a time when people bought Quaker Oats, and not just oatmeal, and Ivory, not just hand soap, homeowners wanted the English garden with its signature lawn.
Here’s how the giveaway works:
To be eligible to participate in this Book Give-away for a copy of Thomas Mickey’s book America’s Romance With the English Garden, you must comment on this guest blog entry between 8:00 a.m. (EST) Monday, June 3, and 5:00 p.m. (EST) Friday, June 7. LIMIT one entry per person. The name of the winner will be drawn from the list of those who comment. The winner will be contacted on Monday, June 10 to obtain a shipping address, and will receive a free, signed copy of the book. Open to US residents only.
In May, two things are certain in Indiana, The Indianapolis 500 and the blooming of our state flower, the Peony. As a child, our family planted acres of tomatoes on our farm while listening to the race on a portable radio. Though we were only 35 miles away, it seemed as though we were in another universe listening to the AM broadcast. As if it weren’t exciting enough, the carefully choreographed start of the race always brought chills. Jim Nabors singing “Back Home Again in Indiana,” the “Gentleman start your engines!” from Mari Hulman George, followed by the unusual but instantly familiar sound of the cars revving their engines. It always lived up to its billing, “The greatest spectacle in racing.”
In our yard, a very different spectacle also coincided with the month of May– the blooming of the Peonies. My mom had very few perennials around the house when I was growing up. As a youngster, I found these magical ‘reappearing’ plants exquisite. It was recently that I learned our farmhouse had many established perennials when my parents purchased it in 1965. My dad found them a nuisance when mowing the lawn and “removed” nearly all of them. Only 5 were spared the fatal slash of the whirling metal blades: Yellow Bearded Iris, Tiger Lilies (probably Lilium lancifolium), a Hosta similar to H. Lancifolia, Lilly of the Valley (Convallaria majelis) and Peonies (Paeonia Festiva Maxima). This quintet taunted my inner gardener for decades, and despite a stolen moment of fascination and appreciation, my attention was often redirected back to farm work.
Today, I revel in the splendor of perennials and nothing warms my heart more than Peonies in spring. This year their display is especially glorious. I even got a bloom from the plant I accidently sprayed with Roundup three years ago. I love that it refused to die– just like my intrigue and fascination of perennials.