Written on September 24, 2013 at 7:00 am , by Shawna Coronado
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 is 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
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.
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.
Written on September 23, 2013 at 6:00 am , by BHG Guest Blogger
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.
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.
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.
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.
Written on September 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm , by BHG Guest Blogger
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’.
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
Written on September 17, 2013 at 6:10 am , by 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 cold 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!
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.
Categories: Better Gardener, Gardening, Products | Tags: advective, blankets, crop cover, floating row, floating row crop cover, frost, frosts, garden, Gardening, greenhouse, ground cover, killing frost, plastic, radiation, Shawna Coronado, Soil
Written on September 3, 2013 at 7:14 am , by Shawna Coronado
This year I expanded my front patio to include sedum lined tiles, more space for seating, and a cocktail herb garden. This spot is a delicious smelling niche that has become the focus of outdoor room entertaining in my front garden. Many of my friends and family discover birds and other pollinators like bees and butterflies flitting all around the herbs while we are out on the front patio spending time together.
Inspired by Amy Stewart’s latest book, The Drunken Botanist, this garden design was intended to be a relaxing place that bathes you in delightful scents as you sip herbal cocktails and watch the wildlife. Pollinators love the plants that surround the patio. I planted basil, thyme, and plants from The Drunken Botanist plant collection such as, the “Old Tom Gin Garden” and the “Old Havana Rum Garden”. Sitting out front has become an amazing experience because of the bees and butterflies that dance through the herb garden as much as for the delicious herbal cocktails.
Bird watching is a part of this experience as well. We have a wonderful little hummingbird that flies in and out of the hostas and herbs. She loves the sage flowers, bee balm, cat mint, and my little red hummingbird feeder. I keep it stocked up with nectar just for her so she can entertain us with her antics.
Building an herbal garden with the goal of attracting the birds and bees and a few dozen cocktail aficionados could be just the fantastic late summer project you need to end your summer with a garden bang. Plan the lay-out, amend the soil, and then toss in a few perennial herbs such as lemon thyme, tricolor sage, and lavender. You can enjoy the herbs this fall and be surprised by new growth in the early spring for the first outdoor garden cocktail parties of the season.
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.
Categories: Birds & Wildlife, Gardening, Get the Look, Plants, Products | Tags: Bee Balm, cat mint, cocktail, design, feeder, Flowers, garden, Gardening, herb, herbal, Herbs, hummingbird, hummingbirds, lavender, lemon thyme, pollinators, sage, sedum, The Drunken Botanist, tricolor sage, wildlife
Written on August 20, 2013 at 5:52 am , by Shawna Coronado
Outdoor garden rooms are all the rage right now and having a unique spot in the garden to call my own sounded pretty appealing. My goal: Transform my haphazard back potting patio into a better looking space that serves the dual purpose of both being an outdoor room and a storage area for my container planting supplies.
My home exterior is an odd mixture of suburban siding and 1970′s design – I’m always trying to switch it about or update it. We resided the house a few years ago, which was a tremendous change for the exterior image of the garden and home itself, but the back patio really needed some help. It’s an odd shaped deck enclosed by fencing and used as a storage place for the garbage cans and a landing spot for anything and everything [see above].
Removing the extra fencing was the first step, then the garbage cans and old seating. After that I decided what my goal was for an outdoor garden potting bench room — I wanted a functional area I could store my containers, layer my bagged potting soil, sit and entertain friends, and enjoy a beautiful view.
TOP 3 MUST HAVES FOR AN OUTDOOR GARDEN POTTING BENCH ROOM
1. Potting Bench – My husband built my bench – he had no plan, just used 4×4′s, wood planks, galvanized nails, and his amazing engineering-based imagination.
2. Seating - The two bright orange Adirondack chairs came from Freecycle.org. A local family in the community gave them to me unpainted and covered in moss. I bleached the chairs, sanded them, then painted them with brightly colored exterior paint.
3. A View – By removing the deck fencing I opened up the view significantly. Then I built a colorful outdoor fireplace photo and chandelier wall as a centerpiece for the deck (here is the how to do – LINK). A container tower acts as a median view between the garden room and the garden itself.
Transforming your deck or patio into a garden potting bench area that also serves as an outdoor garden room is a great way to combine two needs into your outdoor design plan. Building a room with a view and reusing older things to help with the transformation is a terrific way to make the garden more green and sustainable as well. Build a patio room in your garden this summer that is functional, fun, and a nice place to spend time.