BHG Guest Blogger

Tried-and-True Plants for the Southeast

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

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

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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Whitney Curtis

5 Easy Indoor Plants

Since it’s National Indoor Plant Week this week, I thought I’d show you a few easy indoor plants to inspire you to add some greenery to your home. I have a bunch of indoor plants around my house, they really do add depth and life to any room – and they purify the air too! Below are my top five picks for indoor plants, as well as light and water requirements. And here are a few more houseplant suggestions.

 

Maidenhair Fern

Light:  Low light
Watering:  High humidity and consistent moisture (I water mine daily!)
More info on Maidenhair fern here.

national indoor plant week

Philodendron “Orange Prince”

Light:  Low light
Watering:  Moderately moist soil, water once or twice a week

philodendron national indoor plant week

Pachira Aquatica (aka The Money Tree!)

Light:  Bright light, no direct sun
Watering:  Moist soil, high humidity

pachira aquatica money plant national indoor plant week

 

Aphelandra (aka Zebra Plant)

Light:  Bright light, no direct sun
Watering:  High humidity, moist soil (Don’t let the soil dry out!)
More houseplants with fantastic foliage here.

aphelandra national indoor plant week

Bromeliad

Light:  Medium light
Watering:  Moist soil, but tolerant if you forget every now and then. (You can water into the stem where the leaves form a little cup at the base, above the soil. It’s actually a good idea to keep some water in that “cup.”)

bromeliad national indoor plant week

 

 


Shawna Coronado

3 Ways To Frost Proof Your Garden

Fall Raised Bed Frost Cover Greenhouse Shawna Coronado

Fall is almost upon us, so it is time to start planning for how you are going to extend those garden crops for as long as possible through the frost season (see the before picture on the right). Helping your vegetables survive through fall means a longer growing season and money saved in the bank. There are two types of frosts to be aware of. Advective Frosts are plant killers; very coldFall Raised Bed Shawna Coronado temperatures that drop below plant hardiness levels. Radiation Frosts are survivable for your plants if they are covered and generally represent the frosts most likely to occur in early fall.

Below are three super-easy ways to help save your crops from a radiation type of frost. Advective frosts are tough to fight and you might need more powerful protection tools. All the below concepts involve covering the crop and trapping the heat of the soil beneath the covering. These coverings work as long as they do not get wet. A wet cover makes the temperatures surrounding the plant cooler.

1. Blanket and Sheet Covers

These are the simplest to use. Simply toss a lightweight blanket or sheet over the area of garden you are trying to protect. I have been known to use all the blankets in my house and ask my neighbors for theirs, but have had regular success in saving the garden for many weeks if there is only a one or two night frost situation; the covers help the plants survive those two nights in order to enjoy the Indian Summer later in the fall. Be sure to remove the blanket in the morning so the plants receive sunlight and warmth during the day.

2. Floating Row Crop Covers

Floating covers keep frost and insects off the plants, but allow daylight to provide enough light for growth. Depending on the plant, you can leave the row cover up all day without a problem. Do not forget to water the plants that are beneath the floating row covers.

3. Plastic and Garden Covers

Plastic covers work, particularly if you have a supportive frame to cover the planting bed. If you like, you can add lights at night to increase warmth within the protective frame. In the top photo you see the miniature greenhouse garden cover I have placed over my raised beds from Greenland Gardener. The garden cover is easy to assemble – it took me less than 15 minutes to put this together and place it properly. Unfold, assemble support pole, place in position, tighten Velcro (see photo below), tie the poles together at the top, place over beds, and DONE!

Fall Raised Bed Frost Cover Greenland Gardener Greenhouse

Fall Raised Bed Frost Cover Greenhouse Velcro

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them. They worked well and I am happy about that.


BHG Guest Blogger

Boost Your Indoor Space: Add Houseplants

The following is a guest blog post from Justin Hancock.


Looking for an easy way to make your life better? Grow houseplants! Seriously: Having houseplants can improve your quality of life. There’s a wealth of scientific studies out there showing just how good houseplants are for us on a fundamental level.

For example, a study from the University of Michigan found that having a plant in your home office can make you more productive. Turns out having plants in our indoor spaces improves concentration and memory.

 

Other research shows plants help us relax, making them perfect picks for bedrooms. And when you add in the fact that plants filter indoor air pollution (like dangerous VOCs found in paint, carpet, cabinets, etc.), it seems like an even better idea to keep a houseplant or two nearby.

If you’ve never had a houseplant, now’s the perfect time to get one. It’s National Indoor Plant Week, a time to celebrate the benefits of having plants around us indoors.

 

So what are some of the best houseplants? Three of the most stylish, easy-care varieties are: snake plant, zeezee plant, and ponytail palm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Justin Hancock: A hardcore gardener and professional horticulturist (and former Better Homes and Gardens staffer), Justin lives in Miami and works for Costa Farms, the country’s largest grower of houseplants. He surrounds himself with plants at home and in the office, making him a happy, well-adjusted person. His garden writing has appeared on websites, print, television, and video.

 

 

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