April 2010

Everyday Gardeners

pick of the crop: get ready for Earth Day

Here are some reading selections to get you ready for Earth Day.

The Chicago Tribune points out that one way to celebrate Earth Day is by eating leftovers.

The Chronicle Herald in Nova Scotia urges everyone to go for a bike ride, take a walk, or learn to garden for Earth Day.

And what better way to celebrate Mother Earth, than to plant a garden for kids.

In this English class, all the world’s a garden.

Sometimes the Earth can provide it’s own solutions, as when earthworms become a big help in the garden.

In an item not related to Earth Day, it looks like pruning in the wrong place could turn out to be a felony.

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Justin W. Hancock

New Varieties + Old Favorites

Serena White Angelonia

Serena White Angelonia

I’m fresh back from a business trip to California where I had the pleasure in participating in the California Spring Trials. Plant breeders from around the world show off their hot new plants along the California coast.

It’s an amazing experience to get a sneak peek at what’s new (they’re showing off their 2011 plants so garden centers can decide what plants to carry next year). More on these new plants in future blog posts.

Another thing that was nice about the trials is that many companies also showed off their best sellers, such as  Serena White angelonia, shown here. It’s a wonderfully versatile plant, holding up to heat and drought like a champ. It combines beautifully with just about everything, including the Wave series of petunias. (I grew it last year with the new-for-2010 Easy Wave Burgundy Star and Snow Princess sweet alyssum. It was magical in my window boxes!)

What are some of your favorite “old standby” plants for the garden??

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James A. Baggett

Fool for Phlox

It wasn’t until midmorning that garden photographer Richard Felber and I were finally able to take a break from photographing phlox. The last of the morning mist had burned off, and the sun was high and strong in the clear Vermont sky. This was a few years ago and we were in the village of East Hardwick, producing a story on the annual Phlox Festival at Perennial Pleasures Nursery. Judith Kane, co-owner of the nursery and a cheeky British ex-pat, offered to make Richard and me breakfast. All morning she’d been hard at work in the kitchen, baking scones to serve with her famous afternoon tea to visitors eager to witness some 30 different varieties of Phlox paniculata in full regalia. Glad to be off our feet, my friend Richard and I relaxed on a private patio of a three-story 1840s brick farmhouse surrounded by fragrant stands of garden phlox, sipping strong coffee. With unflagging hospitality, Judith served us a delightful omelet and fresh scones with clotted cream and blackberry jam…and big, beautiful chunks of ripe red tomatoes drizzled in fig vinegar. I felt downright civilized—and intoxicated with the very best of the season. That vintage garden print (above) reminds me of that morning among the phlox. One of my favorite phlox, ‘Peppermint Twist’, looks great in my front hell strip and the neighborhood kids love to search for it every summer. After all, it does look downright confectionary.

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Everyday Gardeners

tulip get-together

Garden manager Sandra Gerdes has some eye-popping tulip-and-other-stuff combinations going right now in the Better Homes and Gardens® Test Garden in Des Moines. What’s great about these is each has an “I could do this” quality. Let’s look at just a few of them.

Ballade tulip and narcissus

Ballade tulip and narcissus

Here, she’s staged the pink and white tulip ‘Ballade’ in front of a clump of ‘Geranium’ daffodils. The pink of the tulips jumps while their white petal tips and yellow centers blend with the colors of the narcissus.

Bleeding heart and tulips

Bleeding heart and tulips

This spectacular grouping catches everyone’s eye. ‘Gold Heart’ bleeding hearts pair with ‘Apricot Impression’ tulips for a blaze of color.

Tulips and hosta

Tulips and hosta

‘Apricot Impression’ figures heavily in this combination too. This time the tulips – just a foot or so away from the previous pairing – join up with their ‘Pink Impression’ cousins and the new-grown foliage of an early hosta.

Tulip and brunnera

Tulip and brunnera

This ‘Fringed Elegance’ tulip keeps complementary company with ‘Jack Frost’ brunnera. The tulip’s long, springy stem holds the lemon-sorbet blossom above the blue of the brunnera, waving at garden visitors to “look at me.”

Tulip and ajuga

Tulip and ajuga

One of the Better Homes and Gardens garden editors’ new spring favorites is this ‘Henry Hudson’ tulip. Here, Sandra has paired the tulip that holds orange-red blossoms only inches above its leaves with the low-growing groundcover ajuga.

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James A. Baggett

Bluebells Up Close

My neglected backyard is blanketed in blue right now. Despite all the drifts of native Solomon’s seal and woodland phlox and sweet violets, hundreds of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) have survived and thrive beneath a handful of mature bur oaks and a proud white pine. The landscape seems carpeted with these sweet spring ephemerals that Thomas Jefferson called “blue funnel flowers.” These native perennials, in the words of my friend Marty Ross, bear “tightly bunched packages of purple buds tucked among extraordinarily soft, pale green leaves as broad as paddles. The buds soften to pink on lengthening stems and open to a silvery sky blue, dangling and dancing as though they could really ring.” I love to gather them by the fistful and fill old pickle jars with the pretty blue blossoms. With a stiff drink of water they actually seem to raise up their trumpet blossoms for closer inspection.

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Everyday Gardeners

Polar Joy to the World!

Cold-climate rose fans, take heart. Bailey Nurseries has a welcome surprise for you: an ever-blooming tree rose that can stand up to harsh winters in Zones 4 and 5.

First Editions Polar Joy is the newest innovation to come from Bailey’s award-winning rose breeding program and was developed specifically for Northern gardeners. “We’ve tested these roses through three Minnesota winters and they perform beautifully year after year,” says Pat Bailey, VP of sales and marketing for Bailey. “They’re as easy to grow as any other tree or shrub.”

Polar Joy offers soft pink blossoms all summer long atop a 3–6-foot stems. It can be used as a vertical accent among low-growing companions, and it is adaptable to being planted in the ground or in a container.

Jonathan Pedersen, marketing manager for Bailey, says upright plants such as Polar Joy are a sign of things to come. “As landscape space in a typical homeowner’s yard decreases, you’re going to see more and more vertical plants coming to market,” he says.

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