Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

crape myrtle

The following is a guest blog post from Briana Johnson, Marketing Communications Specialist for Garden Debut® and Greenleaf Nursery.


When shopping for my first home, I had grand illusions of the gardening space I’d have available. I vastly underestimated the cost and maintenance associated with a landscape that rivaled the local botanical gardens. Thankfully, I came to my senses before I purchased and made a realistic choice in terms of lot size. My small in-town neighborhood lot isn’t quite the ultimate of small space gardening that an apartment balcony or a townhouse patio constrains you to, but even suburban gardeners have small space gardening dilemmas.

My first dilemma was porch height. I purchased my house for its beautifully large, covered front porch. I’d again had grand illusions of a gorgeous, raised, wrap-around porch, and while my porch is large, it is a scant 6 inches from the ground to the threshold. When it came to selecting plants for the mixed beds in front of said porch, I knew a 6 to 8 foot shrub would debilitate my views from the porch swing, so I set a 3 to 4 foot height limit on my plant selections.

New plant breeding, such as that done by crapemyrtle enthusiast Dow Whiting, is often aimed at introducing smaller more compact versions of a garden favorite. Dow’s four varieties of Princess Crapemyrtles, introduced by the Garden Debut® collection, range in size from 18 to 48 inches tall by 30 to 36 inches wide, fitting perfectly within my range of selections. Not to mention they offer another feature every gardener loves: an extended bloom season from midsummer to fall that is improved by deadheading spent flowers.

The largest of the collection, Princess Holly Ann™, produces cherry red clusters of flowers and matures at 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Princess Zoey™ has two-toned blooms that emerge cherry red with splashes of hot pink, and it also grows to 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide. These two crapemyrtles are perfect choices for the back row of a mixed garden bed and can be under-planted with a variety of small shrubs and perennials.

The two smaller varieties also work well as a mid-level mixed garden bed selection. Mounding Princess Kylie™ has brilliant magenta flowers and grows 3 feet tall and wide, and tiny Princess Lyla™ matures at 18 to 24 inches tall and wide with light pink flowers. Their mounded shapes also look great in a cluster of mixed containers around a porch or patio sitting area where the delicate flowers can be observed closely.

I’ve found that with new breeding programs and new introductions each year from collections such as Garden Debut®, gardeners can expect solutions to a variety of gardening dilemmas, not just space limitations. Visit www.gardendebut.com to view the collection or call 1 (877) 663-5053 for questions.


Briana Johnson is the Marketing Communications Specialist for Garden Debut® and Greenleaf Nursery in Park Hill, Oklahoma. She is a first-time homeowner and amateur gardener with big ideas for her new landscape.

Briana relies on Great New Plants™ and Trusted Selections™ from the Garden Debut® collection to create a home where she can connect, share, enjoy and inspire. Discuss new and exciting features about these plants with Briana each day by following Garden Debut® on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


By the time the autumnal equinox rolls around most of my landscape looks bedraggled, awaiting the first hard freeze to put it out of its misery. But several sections are just now coming into their full glory. One that I like a lot, partly because it looks more like summer than fall to me, is the purple and gold border shown below. ‘Sunshine Daydream’ perennial sunflower (Helianthus multiflorus ‘Sunshine Daydream’) combines with ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’), Sunshine Blue bluebeard (Caryopteris incana ‘Jason’), leadplant (Amorpha canescens), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), and zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’) to create a welcoming entry to the yard. If you look closely, you may be able to see that the zebra grass and Russian sage do double duty, screening the front yard utility boxes, too.

Purple and gold corner garden

front walk border

The walkway leading from the driveway to the front door is lined with texture-rich perennials that provide plenty of interest this time of year (see photo at left). Starting at the rear of the photo, maidengrass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’), narrowleaf ironweed (Vernonia lettermannii), dwarf crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica),’Walker’s Low’ catmint (Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’) and bluestar amsonia (Amsonia hubrichtii) make a delightful combination. The feathery foliage of the maidengrass, the narrowleaf ironweed and the blue star amsonia create wonderful wispy repetition in the border. ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint blooms almost all summer long with fragrant blue blooms on silvery foliage. The dwarf crepe myrtles burst into color through summer’s heat. As cool fall weather arrives, their foliage transitions to glowing shades of yellow, orange, and maroon. (And, yes, they are root hardy here in Zone 5. It helps that they’re planted in a favorable microclimate, tucked between the concrete walkway and a southeast-facing brick wall. I cut them back to the ground each spring, and by late summer they’re loaded with pink and purple blooms.)

Yet another corner with an excellent early fall display is the backyard shrub border shown below. The focal point in this grouping is the seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides). It’s just starting to bloom now. As its white flowers fade, the sepals will turn pink, providing extended color well into fall. Tiger Eyes sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’) brings a splash of gold to the combination. As fall progresses, the yellow leaves will take on orange and scarlet tones. In front of Tiger Eyes, purple flame grass (Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’) glows with silvery seedheads. It’s just beginning to develop its fiery orange fall foliage. ‘Cranberry Crush’ hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Cranberry Crush’) is pushing out its last few blooms while taking on deeper red leaf color with the onset of cool autumn weather.

Which late-season combinations do you have in your yard? Show us or tell us about some of your favorite pairings.

fall shrub border

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!

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