Written on March 25, 2011 at 6:46 am , by Justin W. Hancock
Looking for a quick way to add a little curb appeal to your yard? Try a parking-strip garden!
The little stretch of lawn between the street and the sidewalk may be a great place to add color (and it’s one less area you have to mow).
First off, check for local restrictions before planting; some communities don’t allow parking-strip gardens without permission from the municipality. Others may have restrictions on how tall/wide plants in a parking strip can grow.
To keep your parking strip usable for guests who may park on the street in front of your home, consider running mulch or flagstone pathways through your garden to give them a way to walk through.
Need inspiration? Check out this stunning example, which features:
- Supertunia Vista Bubblegum petunias
- Snow Princess sweet alyssum
- ‘Redbor’ kale
- ‘Perfume Deep Purple’ nicotiana
- Variegated iris
Written on September 16, 2010 at 6:27 am , by Justin W. Hancock
This beauty of a container comes from the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden. It’s a lot of fun, eh? And pretty simple! It contains variegated cassava (Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’) and a couple of kinds of coleus. I think it’s a great example of how you create a really dramatic container planing with just a few plants.
Written on September 13, 2010 at 7:56 am , by Justin W. Hancock
Many of my gardening friends tell me they like the idea of an evergreen for winter interest, but they don’t want to lose all the space a full-size pine tree would take up.
They’re in luck — and so are you, if you find yourself in a similar predicament. Instead of pursuing big trees, consider weeping forms. For example, I just snapped a picture of a weeping limber pine (Pinus flexilis ‘Glauca Pendula’) from the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden. It only grows about knee high and is spreading about 4 feet wide. It forms a stunning groundcover that looks good in all seasons.
If you look hard enough you can find weeping varieties of most of your favorite evergreen trees, including white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’), blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Glauca Prostrata’), and hemlock (Tsuga canadensis ‘Pendula’). Look for them at your local garden center or nursery as a quick and easy way to add four-season color to your landscape.
Written on September 10, 2010 at 6:58 am , by Justin W. Hancock
The other day I took a picture of beautyberry from the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden. Here’s another great shrub with fun fall fruits: Coralberry (Symphoricarpos). Native to areas of the North American Midwest, it features clusters of pink fruits in fall. It’s a tough plant that tolerates a wide range of conditions (though it does tend to produce suckers and want to form small thickets). It attracts birds and is great for use in fall flower arrangements!
Written on September 7, 2010 at 7:34 am , by Justin W. Hancock
If you’re looking for an easy-care ornamental grass for summer, autumn, and winter interest, look no further than switchgrass.
It’s a versatile grass that thrives in full sun or part shade, and doesn’t seem to care too much about the soil it’s in. Switchgrass thrives in clay, doesn’t mind being wet from time to time, and looks great during drought.
There’s a lovely selection of switchgrasses to choose from. Some have lovely silvery-blue foliage in spring and summer; others turn burgundy or gold in autumn. Some stay short (around 3-4 feet) while others grow quite tall (‘Thundercloud’ can reach 8 feet in height!).
Switchgrasses attract birds and their fluffly, cloud-like seedheads are great for using in fresh or dried flower arrangements.
Switchgrass is hardy in Zones 5-9, though I’ve also seen it thrive in Zone 4 when given some winter mulch.
Written on August 28, 2010 at 8:48 am , by Justin W. Hancock
You’ve probably never heard of Spring Meadow Nursery, a great company in beautiful Western Michigan, but I bet you’ve heard of some of their plants: ‘Limelight’ hydrangea, Sugar Tip rose of Sharon, Pinky Winky hydrangea, Blue Chiffon rose of Sharon (shown here), Incrediball hydrangea, Bloomerang lilac, Quick Fire hydrangea, and Summer Wine ninebark are a few of the shrubby garden superstars they’re responsible for introducing.
I went on a tour of their nursery over the weekend and I’ve come home even more excited about using flowering shrubs in the garden. Want more color in your landscape? These plants make it easy! Try growing a sun-loving Limelight hydrangea as a small tree next to your deck, creating a hedge of rose of Sharon for privacy, or including a flowering quince in your cutting garden.
Incorporate compact shrubs in your perennial beds so you have winter structure and an extra season of interest. Amethyst coral berry (Symphoricarpos), for example offers pinky-purple fruits in fall; Arctic Sun redtwig dogwood bears bold reddish stems in winter; and Snow Day Surprise pearlbush (Exochorda) bursts into bloom in early spring. All dwarf (5 feet tall or less) so they’ll fit right in among purple coneflower, Joe Pye weed, and hollyhock.
I know a lot of garders who like to separate their plants — perennials go in this bed, shrubs over there, and the like. But don’t be afraid to mix and match to create wonderful combinations!
BTW: If you have a great perennial/shrub combo, I’d love to see it! Post it here!