March 2011

Denny Schrock

whack ‘em back!

bloomingbuddlejaEarly spring is a great time to prune summer blooming shrubs. Butterfly bush often becomes lank and rangy unless pruned severely, and in Zone 5, it often suffers winter dieback. Solve both problems at once by whacking the entire shrub back to 6 inches above ground line. The photo below shows what a properly pruned butterfly bush will look like after pruning. Don’t worry. It will grow back and bloom beautifully by mid-summer. In fact, it will be more compact and tidy than an unpruned shrub.

Butterfly bush pruned back to ground level

Butterfly bush pruned back to ground level

You can treat most other summer or fall blooming shrubs the same way. They form flower buds on new growth, so you won’t be sacrificing any blooms. (However, DON’T prune early spring bloomers such as forsythia or lilac now. Wait until they finish flowering to cut them back.) Other examples of shrubs that take well to severe early spring pruning are pink flowered spireas (not the spring-blooming white forms), potentilla, hardy hibiscus, beautyberry, and crape myrtle (in Zones where they suffer winter dieback, and never develop into trees.)

Shrubs grown primarily for attractive stems, such as red-twig dogwood, or colorful foliage, such as purple smoke bush also respond well to severe pruning. Note that pruning the smoke bush will remove it’s smoky plumes, so don’t prune your smoke bush if you want the smoky effect that they provide. The severely pruned shrubs will regrow with renewed vigor and more brilliant color.

So pull out the pruning saw, and start whacking!


Justin W. Hancock

A Touch of Spring

Hellebores (Helleborus) are one of the first perennials to bloom every spring. They’re beloved by gardeners because they’re easy-growing plants that thrive in shade and deer and rabbits don’t eat them. Plus they make a gorgeous spring display! HelleboreWe thought this combo of chartreuse varieties is a perfect way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!

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Katie Ketelsen

Wordless Wednesday 03.16.11

Wordless Wednesday–where we let images taken from gardeners within the BHG.com Share My Gallery–say it all.


Heuchera ‘Havana’

Heuchera ‘Havana’ posted by reader sboltz3

Blooming Mums

Blooming Mums posted by reader LindaNascar

Top of tulip

Honeysuckle bloom posted by reader ChristaAnnBurns

Show us what you have blooming in your garden by uploading your photos today!


Justin W. Hancock

One “Phloxy Lady”

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I had the opportunity to see some cool new plants on my recent trip to Costa Farms — as well as some favorites, such as this delightful annual phlox. This variety is ‘Phloxy Lady Pink’, and there’s a lot to be said for it: A nice, compact habit, loads of blooms, and great heat/drought tolerance (this species is native to Texas, so hot and dry isn’t a problem!).

Grow ‘Phloxy Lady’ and other varieties in full sun in well-drained soil. Don’t let them stay wet too long — that’s a surefire way to make these gorgeous plants sulk. Its compact habit makes this particular variety especially good in containers, too!

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Justin W. Hancock

Gardening Fun Miami Style

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Last week I had the pleasure of traveling to Costa Farms, one of the coolest companies in the horticultural industry. They trucked me down, along with seven other editors (BHG field editor Helen Yoest, fab bloggers Chris Tidrick and Bren Haas, garden writer Judy Lowe, Apartment Therapy editor Aaron Able, Martha Stewart garden editor Stacey Hirvela, and Southern Living garden editor Steve Bender) for a social media summit.

We tweeted like crazy and talked a lot about the future of our industry. In between that “work,” though, we had plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful facilities at Costa Farms — including their trial gardens (above), where they grow new and recent plant varieties. In addition to being downright gorgeous, these trial gardens are a testing ground to see which plant varieties live up to their marketing hype.

It was fun to see some of their great plant designs (how to incorporate Black Velvet petunia into the landscape, for example), and also how the different varieties stack up against one another.

The Costa Farms trial gardens are open to the public, and they’re definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.

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James A. Baggett

Little Hostas

While in Buffalo last summer for their awesome annual Garden Walk I was lucky enough to visit the lovely garden of Michael and Kathy Guest Shadrack tucked into 13 wooded acres, including a recent garden devoted to nothing but miniature hostas (those that measure six inches of less in height. As I’ve said, they’re the horticultural equivalent of a litter of Jack Russell terrier puppies. That’s Michael and me in his garden, above. At the time I was—and still am—head-over-heels for diminutive hostas as we’d just published a story in Country Gardens on mini hostas with Marsha Ansevics at her Flying Frog Hosta Farm in Indianola, Iowa. And I was excited to share my enthusiasm with Michael, who told me he had just completed a book on the subject for Timber Press. So I’m especially eager to let you know that Michael’s book, The Book of Little Hostas: 200 Small, Very Small, and Mini Varieties, has officially hit the bookstores. Look for our review of it in the Summer 2011 issue of Country Gardens (on sale May 17th).

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