Gardening

James A. Baggett

My Recipe for Tomato Bliss

Written on October 1, 2013 at 11:11 am , by

Don’t know about you, but I’m still deep in what I like to call Tomato Bliss. Enjoy it while it lasts because it comes but once a year: fresh-picked tomatoes all day, every day. It seems to commence the first week of August and proceeds all the way to the first hard frost. I wait all year for its sweet juice to drip down my unshaven chin. This year’s crop includes pretty little Yellow Pear Heirloom Cherries, dusky-pink Native American Cherokee Purple, extra-large Mortgage Lifter from West Virginia, and the prolific Mr. Stripey, a good-sized yellow striped heirloom with radiating lines of crimson from the stem. All of them go into a single pot. My beloved apple-green Le Creuset Dutch oven, but any large oven-safe saucepan will do. Cut every last one of your ripest tomatoes into reasonable pieces and add  them to a pot that’s been prepared with a generous amount of good olive oil. You want a depth of at least an inch or two of tomato bliss. Now add four fresh bay leaves. I’ve been pillaging the healthy Proven Winners’ Sicilian Sunshine Sweet Bay Laurel that’s still thriving, despite a season of intense drought, in a container in my front yard. Add three smushed cloves of garlic and a healthy dose of kosher salt. Place the whole thing uncovered in a 375° oven for an hour, stirring and mashing up the goodness every once in a while. This roasted tomato sauce becomes a fragrant and downright delicious caramelized nectar that’s the very essence of tomato goodness. Toss it with pasta. Use it to smother grilled fish or chicken. Sop it up with crusty bread. Add cream and puree it into a decadent soup. Trust me. It’s that easy, go ahead. Put that pile of tomatoes to work and join me in my tomato bliss.

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Whitney Curtis

Heart Strings in the Garden

Written on September 26, 2013 at 5:30 am , by

I was lucky enough to spend a few days earlier this week at the Garden Blogging Conference in Atlanta, GA with some talented garden writers and bloggers. Chatting with my fellow green thumbs, I was struck by the heritage of gardening and the consistency with which we shared, “Well, my mom was a big gardener” or “My father’s family had a farm” or “My grandmother grew the most amazing roses.” It was neat to hear how everyone came to the same hobby, with fond memories and heart strings firmly attached.

transplanting plants

transplanting plants

We’ve grown our backyard garden from just a few special plants – special deliveries traveling in trash bags, fed-ex packages with overnight delivery, and birthday trips to the big box stores. I think that’s what makes this hobby such a heartfelt and emotional one, I could recount a memory or a story with every plant I plant.

transplanting plants

Today, BHG readers, I’d love to hear your stories! Why do you garden? Who are your gardening mentors? Do you have stories and heart strings attached to the plants in your garden? Surely you’ll share a story or two with us? We’d love to hear!

inheriting plants

Photos by Whitney of The Curtis Casa

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Shawna Coronado

2 Great Perennials To Plant In A Shady Side Yard Garden

Written on September 24, 2013 at 7:00 am , by

Side Yard Ferns in Shawna Coronado perennial garden

Fall is the best time to plant perennials in many locations across the country. Why not rebuild that barren side yard garden bed that has been plaguing you this fall? Several years ago I had a rather desolate area on the side of my home (see photo right)  that I converted into a flagstone walking path surrounded by shade perennials.

Side yards often come with adverse conditions. In my case, I have an oak tree planted on the side of my house that gives shade to cool our home, but is located in such a way as to prevent most light from making an appearance in the side garden. This isShady Side Yard Demolition common in side yards and I have a solution: a quiet path combined with shade plants.

Flagstone can be a large investment, however, it is also possible to make a path from old bark or mulch. I placed lots of organic matter in the soil then planted it up with a mixture of ferns, hostas, and other part-shade to shade loving perennials.

2 Awesome Perennials For Shade

Ferns

Dependent upon the variety of fern, you can plant a native to your region, which can be a beneficial home for small mammals like lizards and songbirds. I have often seen frogs and turtles hide in ferns as well. In the photo at top you see Lady Ferns which can grow up to 3 feet tall in my garden. They were given to me as pass-along plants by my mother-in-law and I love them. Squirrels often romp at the base of the oak tree in the ferns. In a dry year the plants will fall to the ground in drought, but will recover in the spring and sprout new fronds reliably. Ferns typically like a rich soil and shady conditions, so they do very well here. Lady Fern, Cinnamon Fern, and New York Fern are some of the easiest to grow.

Hostas

While not native plants, I find hostas to be great hummingbird and pollinator attractors. Hosta leaves can be amazingly colorful as well and do a lot to brighten up a dull space. Hostas prefer rich, well drained, and moist soil. This area of my garden can be rather dry. Therefore, I plant the hostas, then mulch well in anticipation of drier conditions. I planted several varieties along the walk way including Hosta ‘Honeybells’, ‘Guacamole’, and ‘Halcyon’ – all favorite’s within my garden.

Try one of these plants out in your side yard for an easy solution to shady conditions. Plant before the first frost and water well until established.

Side Yard Perennial Plant Garden of Shawna Coronado


BHG Guest Blogger

Tried-and-True Plants for the Southeast

Written on September 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm , by

The following is a guest blog post from Helen Yoest.

The Southeast and autumn are like shrimp and grits, the two just go together so well. After a long hot summer, fall is the perfect time to venture back outside. The air is drier, cooling the Southern garden even if the thermometer still registers temps in the 80s.

Let’s head out to garden to visit with some tried and true friends, ones that will give you reason to enjoy the season.

Threadleaf Bluestar, Amsonia hubrichtii

Standing near the mailbox is my old friend, Threadleaf Bluestar, some people call him Hubricht’s Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii). This amsonia is native to the Southeast and is a tough plant with three long seasons of interest. The spring is the time this herbaceous perennial begins to send up stalks of narrow thread-like foliage topped with sweet blue star-like flowers giving rise to its commonnames.

During the summer, Threadleaf Bluestar takes the form of a soothing mound of soft green leaves. The fine texture is enough to desire the plant in its summer garb, and if you know what’s coming, you’ll find yourself looking at it for what it will be once autumn arrives. As the weather cools, this amsonia will turn bright gold. Flashy, fresh, and a little bit frisky.

Grows to 2-4 feet high. Prefers full sun to light shade; regular to moderate water.

Perennial in zones 4-10. You can remember the botanical Latin name by thinking, (I) Am So N (to) Ya.

 

Tatarian aster, Aster tataricus

 

In the back garden, near the Love Shack,  is Aster (Aster tataricus), some call him Tatarian Aster. He’s leaning against the birdhouse post. This aster is one tall drink of water. Reaching 6 feet tall, with little to no staking required, this late fall blooming herbaceous perennial radiates with scores of cornflower-blue daisy-like flowers and sunny yellow centers.

Grows up to 6 feet high. Prefers full sun; moderate water. Perennial in zones 3-9. You can remember the botanical Latin name by thinking A STAR. Indeed, I think this plant is a star since I named my son after it, Michael Aster.

 

Rain Lily, Zephyranthes candida
 

Mingling in the front garden near the fountain are the rain lilies (Zephyranthes candida). They visit on and off all summer through fall but come out in great numbers after a rain, hence their common name.

I first got interested in white rain lilies when I learned about a ceremony in 2007 of the Southern Garden History Society honoring Elizabeth Lawrence, the first women Landscape Architect from North Carolina State University and revered garden writer. Members made a pilgrimage to Lawrence’s unadorned grave in a colonial churchyard outside Annapolis where they planted white rain lilies donated by Old House Gardens – Heirloom Bulbs. Rain lilies were some of Miss Lawrence’s favorite little bulbs. Then and there I purchased my first few of these  pass-along plants, and now I have hundreds growing in my garden, Helen’s Haven http://gardeningwithconfidence.com/blog/about-helens-haven/  sharing with other gardening friends who visit in late summer.

Grows grass-like floppy foliage about 8 to 10 inches long topped with perky flowers 3 to 4 inches tall. Prefers full sun to part shade; moderate to moist soil. Perennial, semi-evergreen in zones 7-10. You can remember the common name by thinking, RAIN LILIES ;~\

Ginger, Hedychium ‘Elizabeth’
 

Ginger, Hedychium ‘Elizabeth’ shows up in the fall and steals the show. You can put her next to anyone, even some of your favorite friends like the colocasias, but ginger will be the one getting all the attention. It’s her nature to want you to feel tropical, as if you were stranded on a desert island.

Grows 6-8 feet tall. Prefers full sun to part shade; moderate water. Perennial, in zones 7b-11. You can remember the common name by thinking, of Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. Tall, beautiful, (although I’m more the Mary Ann type) and in this case, like Gilligan’s Ginger, with an orange top. And like the Ginger character, this perennial will have your lips moving even when you aren’t saying anything.

Red Spider Lilies, Lycoris radiata
 

A crazy plant if there ever was one, the red spider lily, Lycoris radiata, sends up stalks, seemingly out of nowhere, because there’s no foliage until after the flower blooms. Then you have a nice tuff of green to carry you though the winter, only to die back in the heat of summer.

This beauty hails from the Orient but has a strong connections to North Carolina. It was first introduced to the United States by Captain William Roberts, who brought a few dried bulbs back with him to his New Bern home after he sailed on Commodore Matthew Perry’s famous mission to open up Japan’s trade routes in 1854.

Grows 18-24 inches tall. Prefers full sun to part shade; moderate to moist soil. Perennial, semi-evergreen in zones 7-10. You can remember this plant by its other common name, NAKKID LADIES. This name was given because the stalks rise in the absence of leaves.
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Helen Yoest is an award winning garden writer and author of Gardening with Confidence:  Fifty Ways to Add Style for Personal Creativity and Plants with Benefits:  An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies in Your Garden. Helen is also author of the popular blog, Gardening with Confidence®.

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BHG Guest Blogger

Tried-and-True Plants for the Midwest

Written on September 23, 2013 at 6:00 am , by

The following is a guest blog post from Kathleen Hennessy.

When I walk through my yard, there are certain plants that just stand out every year. Season after season they put a smile on my face, delivering beautiful color with minimal care. These easy to grow and easy to love plants are what define tried and true for me.

First Editions® Tiger Eyes Sumac


When people force me to choose just one favorite shrub, I always say Tiger Eyes Sumac. The leaves of this unique plant are simply stunning. In the spring, they start out a bright chartreuse green then change to a glowing yellow. As beautiful as Tiger Eyes is in the summer, its amazing fall color really grabs your attention. The leaves become a wonderful combination of yellow, orange and scarlet. Throughout the entire growing season this plant literally glows in the garden.

Tiger Eyes grows to about six feet in height and width. Planted in groups it makes an excellent back boarder. Planted alone, it’s a great feature plant in a large container or in the garden. The beautiful colors won’t fade in bright light and this sumac is slower to sucker. It is recommended for Zones 4-8.

Coneflowers


If you’re looking for bulletproof blooms, you want to go native. Coneflowers, or Echinacea, are native to Midwest prairies and can tolerate our cold winters and scorching summers.

The flowers of this tough perennial come in a variety of colors, brightening the garden from summer through fall. Best of all, they attract birds and butterflies.

In the past few years, several new varieties have hit the market. But, if we’re talking tried-and-true, I stick with the old standbys. ‘Magnus,’ ‘Prairie Splendor,’ and ‘White Swan’ have performed year after year in my garden.

Newer varieties like ‘PowWow Wild Berry’ and ‘Hot Papaya’ deliver amazing color and great bloom power. PowWow’s compact shape and Hot Papaya’s double blooms make them garden standouts.

See top coneflower varieties from the Better Homes and Gardens’ Test Garden.  

 

Hydrangea Paniculata


Here in the Midwest, your Hydrangea success really depends on picking the right varieties. If you’re looking for a variety that is tried and true, you’re looking for a Hydrangea paniculata.

Paniculata varieties are hardy, easy to grow and produce spectacular cone shaped blooms that are beautiful outside in the garden or inside in a vase.

One of my favorites is First Editions® Vanilla Strawberry. The enormous, bright white blooms turn a soft pink, then become a beautiful strawberry-red as the nights get cooler. The blooms hold their color longer than many other varieties.

Vanilla Strawberry prefers full sun and grows to about six or seven feet. It is recommended for Zones 4-8. Learn more about growing Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea here.

If you’re looking for a smaller Hydrangea paniculata, try Little Lime. This shrub grows only to about three to five feet, making it perfect for a smaller garden space or even a container. The blooms start out a lime green, then turn creamy white. As the flowers age, they take on a slightly pinkish color. Recommended for full sun or partial shade, Little Lime is hardy to Zone 3.
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Kathleen Hennessy has been writing on gardening and DIY topics for more than 15 years. You can read more about her Zone 3 and Zone 4 gardening challenges in her blog at 29minutegardener.com, or follow her on Twitter @29mingardener.

 

 

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BHG Guest Blogger

Complete Your Halloween Haunt with Black Plants

Written on September 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm , by

The following is a guest blog post from Leslie Halleck.

With Halloween just around the corner, I find myself giddy with anticipation. I’ll admit that Halloween is my favorite holiday when it comes to decorating. As the designated “scary house” of the neighborhood, I feel it’s my duty to deliver not only on the sweets when the kids arrive, but also to max out the “creepy” factor. In addition to all the standard decorations that go into creating a house of haunt, I also like to create plant combinations that reflect the season. There’s nothing better than adding plants with black foliage to porch containers to complete the look and feel with some style.

Plant varieties with black foliage are hot right now, but plants with true black foliage are far and few between. One of the newest arrivals is the BLACK DIAMOND™ series of dwarf crapemyrtles. When I first spotted these beauties I knew I had to have at least one, and that they’d be perfect for Halloween container specimens. The plants sport spectacular black foliage that offers up a striking contrast to the five available flower colors. BLACK DIAMOND™  Pure White is my favorite; the bright white flowers against the dark black foliage are stunning. If you’re using the “thriller, filler & spiller” method of container design, these are definitely your thriller (which just happens to work perfectly with our Halloween theme, no?). When mature, these semi-dwarf shrubs reach a maximum of 10- to 12’ feet tall, but can be kept to a container size by tip pruning. Make sure you place them in a full sun location to keep plants in bloom and foliage color strong.

For an architectural modern look, Aeonium arboreum ’Zwartkop’, also known as black rose, is the perfect filler for a Halloween themed container. Aeonium is a striking succulent which forms clumps of tall gray stems that hold shiny rosettes of almost black leaves. These rosettes are often called flowers because of their shape. Another fantastic fall filler for your Halloween doorstep is Petunia ‘Black Velvet’. I adore this variety because the flowers are as black as can be with a velvety sheen to them. Don’t forget about black pansies or violas! ‘Black Devil’ offers up coal-black blooms with a tiny yellow center. They make for the perfect tabletop centerpiece when planted or displayed inside pumpkins.


A good container combination always benefits from a plant that trails over the edge…also known as your “spiller”. ‘Black Heart’ Sweet Potato vine is a vigorous creeping vine with beautiful heart shaped leaves. Foliage color is a deep burgundy to almost black. This annual is easy as can be to grow and can work in a full sun to part sun environment. It will also tolerate dry spells if you forget to water, which is a bonus if you live in a hot climate.  All of these black beauties create a striking contrast with combined with silver foliage plants such as dusty miller or Centaurea cineraria ‘Colchester White’.

Happy Halloween!

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Leslie is a dedicated horticulturist and gardener with more than 20 years of green industry experience.  She earned her M.S. in Horticulture at Michigan State University and her B.S. in Biology/Botany from the University of North Texas. Leslie is also a Certified Professional Horticulturist (CPH). She currently runs her own consulting company, Halleck Horticultural. You can read her growLively garden blog at www.lesliehalleck.com

 

 

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