All posts by Katherine Tracey

Winter Prep for Tender Succulents

sucpotfall500_72As we advance into autumn, your succulent planters may look so beautiful that  you may want to wait until the last minute to protect your plants.

deconstruct1_succulent500It usually happens sometime in mid October in southeastern MA,  when a cloudless night will allow temperatures to drop into the low 30’s and a light frost nips unprotected tender plantings (yep, that’s what happened here). If a frost catches you by surprise, your plants may only have suffered slight foliage damage which can easily be trimmed off.

deconstruct2_succulent500Small containers can simply be moved inside, but you’re probably not going to want to move a big heavy pot. The only thing to do to preserve your plants in this case is to dismantle your planting. Carefully pry loose the root balls to get at the plants. (Thanks  Peter Tracey for acting as our model!)

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Have a wheelbarrow nearby to transfer your unearthed roots.

deconstruct6_ssucculent500Prepare a very well drained planting medium suitable for succulents. We use a barky perennial mix with added perlite and coarse sand. It is important that your plants don’t spend the winter in soil which stays moist all the time. Try to transplant into pots that are just big enough to contain the root ball. (This will help keep the pots on the dry side and will not take up much space.)

deconstruct_succulents.onPlace your pots near the sunniest windows in your home. The days are getting shorter and low light levels may can cause your plants to stretch towards the window. Rotate your pots to compensate.  We water only when the pots are dry, and wait until late winter or early spring to fertilize.

See the Rehabbing Succulents Post for spring care.

Tips for Wintering Over Tender Plants

Echeveria 'Afterglow' with Aptenia cordata ,Foxtail Asparagus and Phormium 'Sundowner' in a 14" pot.

Echeveria ‘Afterglow’ with Aptenia cordata ,Foxtail Asparagus and Phormium ‘Sundowner’ in a 14″ pot.

Very soon, a frosty night will be threatening. If you haven’t already, now is the time to think about which tender plants you want to preserve for next year. You may have limited space and if you have collected a lot of plants, you will want to prioritize your selections. Here are links to recent blog posts on wintering over tender plants.

Wintering Over I: Taking Cuttings

Wintering Over Tender Perennials Indoors 

Wintering Over Roots of Tender Perennials

Wintering Over Succulents

September Container Report: 3 months later

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sept_gray.urn500When planning container combos to display throughout our gardens and nursery, I want each planter to showcase unusual selections and color combos, have a beautiful rhythm, be easy to care for and still look terrific at the end of the season! Of course with our unpredictable summer weather (some years too wet, others too dry) some combinations hold up better than  others. Above are my five favorite ensembles, and below are the dozen pots shown in the early summer “Before Shots” blog post , ( the end of September shot is right beside it).

ba_sept_tall_cylTall Cylinder Pot…The Verbena bonariensis, Tradescantia and Lantana exploded! The Melianthus held its own, but the Lemon Coral Sedum lost its battle with the Pale Puma Tradescantia, and the Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’ has wimped out. Note that the Lantana montevidensis has never needed deadheading and shows no signs of stopping flower production.

ba_septhydpotThe California Hydrangea Pot has aged gracefully. While the Ornamental Oregano ‘Kent Beauty’ had a great showing all through July into August, it finally allowed the Gold Wings’ Tradescantia to take over spilling, while the slower growing Abutilon ‘Pink Charm’ is now dazzling into fall.

basept15_ironurnThe Cast Iron Urns have retained a subtle beauty all season. (The purple cast to the September shot demonstrates how the end of day light is changing. ) A super easy combo that required only an occasional cutting back of the Pelargonium sidoides flowering stems, the plant selections of Beschorneria, Cuphea hyssopifolia aurea  Tradescantia Pale Puma’ and variegated Ivy held its scale well for the past 3 months.

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Hummer’s Pot. Perhaps the least impressive pot at the beginning of the season but with real staying power as the plants aged beautifully. The Cuphea ‘David Verity’ has only asked to be watered regularly, and has never needed deadheading, the Helichrysum ‘Limelight’ did need a cut back once this summer, and the Oxalis ‘Zinfandel’ continues to shine with its dark foliage and tiny yellow flowers. Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’ is working well here. Hummingbirds loved visiting, and this is still an impressive planting for autumn.

basept_whitepotThe white form of Lantana montevidensis began to overwhelm the other plants in the White Bean Pot , even after being cut back several times….Oh well, too much of a good thing has its drawbacks.

ba_septcastironCharcoal Urn... I wasn’t surprised that this combination of Phormium and Succulents would be easy care and would age well. It needed only occasional watering, and cutting back the Silver Falls Dichondra when it dripped onto the pathway.

basept15_spiderwreathCan you notice any difference in the Living Wreath of Mini Spider Plants (left–June, right–late September)? This is the perfect vertical garden for a shady door, needing only twice a week watering, even during the hot dry summer we just experienced.

basept_abutilonpotThis ensemble spoke quietly at first but became more memorable as the summer continued. The Abutilon ‘Pink Charm’ became more floriferous, the Heuchera ‘Beaujolais’ is taking on fall appropriate tawny tones, and I just adore the little Rosary Vine, Ceropegia woodii, dangling over the sides, with its peculiar pink and charcoal gray flowers.

basept_begoniaamorphoThis shady pot grouping was an experimental mix of similarly colored foliage…the tall Amorophophallis konjac(Voodoo Lily) never put out a spathe, but looked okay until early September when it very quickly began to go dormant. I was left with a nice full pot of Begonia ‘Wild Pony’ and little B. bowerae.

basept_zenThe Zen Bowl of succulents hardly needed any care so we didn’t pay attention until it became overwhelmed with Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’ in early August, which completely smothered  its shorter neighbors. A harsh cut back helped, but it was a little too late for the buried plants to put on much growth.  We’ve had such a warm September that the succulents have yet to take on their fall tones…will try to get another image now that we are starting to get cooler nights.

basept15_martiniThe Succulent Martini Pot was the hit of the summer…we sold this combination of plants over and over again. Notice how the rosy red flowers of little Crassula schmidtii add that perfect zing.

basept15_seashellOur classic Seashell Pot with Succulents has aged beautifully,wouldn’t you agree? The September image shows how different the end of the day light is three months later.

Which combination ideas might you borrow for your containers next year?

Previous years results: 

September shots 2014

September shots 2013

September shots 2012

Not Just Fall Color: Enkianthus campanulatus

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Enkianthus fall foliage

Redvein Enkianthus is about to betray its quiet charms any day now, with a display of technicolor fall foliage in shades of gold, orange, fiery red through purple. In mid to late spring it delights in a more soft-spoken way, bearing dainty clusters of white or red bells, depending on the cultivar. E. ‘Lipstick’ has white bells delicately edged in brick red, ‘Red Bells’ are colored, as the name suggests, coral red, and ‘Showy Lantern’. A slow growing shrub at first, it is often listed at growing from 6-8′ tall and 4-5′ wide, but with age it can easily reach 15′ or more with a wider reach. In fact, Enkianthus campanulatus can be pruned to from a lovely small tree. It is a perfect candidate for the partially shaded garden, both large and small.

Enkianthus campanulatus

Enkianthus campanulatus

Enkianthus 'Lipstick'

Enkianthus ‘Lipstick’

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Enkianthus c. ‘Red Bells’

Enkianthus c. 'Showy Lantern'

Enkianthus c. ‘Showy Lantern’

Grow Redvein Enkianthus in full sun or partial shade. It enjoys an enriched, well drained, acidic soil that stays evenly moist, although we have found it to be quite forgiving of dry spells, once established. It is deer resistant, but please note that deer will eat almost anything if hungry enough. Perfectly hardy in zones 5-8, with some reporting success growing it in zone 4B.

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5 Fall Bloomers for Shady Gardens

Actaea simplex 'Hillside Black Beauty'

Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’

What’s black (dark chocolate) and white (ivory) and smells like grape jelly? Answer: Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, formerly categorized as Cimicifuga and commonly known as Fairy Candles (yes!) Bugbane (eee-uugh!), or Cohosh. This selection originated years ago at Fred and Maryann McGourty’s famous Hillside Gardens in CT. Select this plant for its brown/black foliage which is attractive all season. In September, fragrant  ivory flowers on 5-6′ stems emit a smell reminiscent of my childhood… Welch’s grape jelly. Actaea like a soil that has even moisture, and will need supplemental watering in dry spells. Hardy in zones 5-8.

Tricyrtis 'White Towers'

Tricyrtis hirta ‘White Towers’

Toad lilies  have their charms….exquisite, up close and personal blossoms, sometimes lavender, sometimes purple spotted…Tricyrtis ‘White Towers’  has pure white blossoms which lack spots, but are accented with lavender tinted stamens. The upright somewhat arching stems grow 18-20″ tall, and plants spread by stolons. Toad lilies like an evenly moist soil as well, and are hardy in zones 4-8.

Hosta 'One Man's Treasure'

Hosta ‘One Man’s Treasure’

More attention should be paid to Hosta with showy flowers, especially when they bloom at the end of the summer. Hosta ‘One Man’s Treasure’ is a small to medium Hosta with simple dark green leaves that have distinctive reddish purple petioles. In late September  clusters of showy dark lavender flowers are produced.  Hardy in zones 3-8.

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Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’

Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ , commonly known as Spikenard, has bold compound leaves which are bright yellow when grown in a lot of sun, and  more of a chartreuse if given more shade. At first this plant seems unimposing, but give this Aralia a few years and it will be super sized…a good 5-6′ tall and wide. White starbursts of flowers form in September on dark stems followed by black fruit. Hardy in zones 4-9.

Begonia grandis 'Heron's Pirouette'

Begonia grandis ‘Heron’s Pirouette’

Pretty enough to be grown as a container specimen, yet Begonia grandis perpetuates for us in well drained soil, especially in pockets at the top of our retaining wall. Plants are propagated by dividing little bulbils which form underground as well as along the stems.  The attractive ovate leaves are under-sided in a ruby red ,  and from August to October sprays of  dainty pale pink flowers are born on 18″ upright then decumbent stems. Please note that in the spring, plants don’t show signs of like until late May here in New England, so mark the planting spot to prevent plants from accidentally being dug up. Hardy in zones 6-10.

 

Magnolia macrophylla ashei

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Magnolia macrophylla ashei foliage

There is no other way to say it: Ashe’s Big Leaf Magnolia is boldly beautiful. Folks often grow Magnolias for their early spring bloom, but you will want to seek out Magnolia macrophylla ashei for its large green foliage (up to 2+’ in length) which is undersided in a lovely shade of  silvery celadon. (Floral designers take note: the foliage is gorgeous when cut and dried for winter arrangements.)  Early summer flowers are sweetly fragrant with white petals  accented with a red brush stroke and are large as well, up to 1′ across.

Magniolia macrophylla ashei, a Southeastern US native,  forms a large shrub or small tree. It’s tropical appearance belies its hardiness as it is easily grown in zones 6-9 (with reports of it also growing in zone 5 with protection). The form ashei is a smaller tree than the straight species, and is often seen as a multistmemed shrub but can be pruned to form a small tree, growing to 15′ tall in its northern most range, and up to 25′ tall in milder climates. Big Leaf Magnolia prefers a sunny or partially shaded place in a border with rich evenly moist soil that has good drainage. Very windy spots are not recommended, as the gorgeous foliage will get damaged. Another positive note…Big Leaf Magnolia is deer resistant.

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The August Pause

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Yucca ‘Color Guard, with Crambe maritima foliage and aging Acanthus hungaricus

Gladiolus 'Ruby'

Gladiolus ‘Ruby’

hardy for us in zone 6A….Eucomis 'Oakhurst'

hardy for us in zone 6A….Eucomis ‘Oakhurst’

As July ends, and August begins, I always feel as if the perennial garden is pausing, waiting for a turn in the weather (less heat and more rain). Still, there are little gems and surprises, like the just beginning to bloom hardy Gladiolus ‘Ruby’, and (surprise!) the truly hardy pineapple lily, Eucomis ‘Oakhurst’. I can attest that all 3 Eucomis planted in the garden last year survived last winter’s extremes, although not a one broke ground until early June.

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Glaucium flavum…loving the dry gravelly spot where we planted it.

Allium 'Millenium' to the right, with 'All Summer Beauty' behind it.

Allium ‘Millenium’ to the right, with ‘All Summer Beauty’ behind it.

Wishing we had planted more Glaucium flavum (Horned Poppy). This apricot yellow form, planted in a well drained soil near our garage, has proven reliably perennial for 3 years now, and looks fresh in the early August heat.

“Must have” summer blooming Allium selections ‘Millennium’ and ‘All Summer Beauty‘ don’t mind the heat and are resistant to garden pests. These clump forming plants are great accents for the front of the border. Notice the difference in color: Allium ‘Millennium’ is  in the foreground, with the paler ‘All Summer Beauty’ in the near distance.

We planted Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ last year in this new bed, and now in his second season he is getting some oomph. He should provide us with blooms later this month or in September, perhaps , and give more height and contrast to the green Hakonechloa macra.

Aralia 'Sun King' with the all green Japanese Forest Grass.

Aralia ‘Sun King’ with the all green Japanese Forest Grass.

The Begonia theater

The Begonia Theater

As for potted plants, we decided to show off our Begonia collection which is thoroughly enjoying the heat and humidity. Stewartia ‘Ballet’ , in the background, has finished blooming, so we staged a scene for more interest in this shady nook.

Despite the humidity, most of our succulents are doing quite well, thank you. Our stock plants looked so happy we staged them just outside the greenhouse on a long bench,and I’d say they are  putting on a flower show of their own.

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The Succulent Theater

What special plants are showing off in your mid summer garden? If you want to share images with us and our friends, why not post them on our Facebook page?

 

 

 

 

3 Unique Hydrangea

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Hydrangea serrata ‘Kiyosumi’

More subtle and nuanced than the big mop heads, the species H. serrata hails from the higher elevations of Japan and Korea and is considered more reliably cold hardy than most H. macrophylla. What caught my eye about this particular selection H. ‘Kiyosumi’ , even before the blossoms developed, was the attractive brick red tint to the new foliage. The 4-6″ lace caps are composed of tiny rose tinted fertile flowers, accented with a skirt of larger florets colored white to pale pink with a rim of brick red. This compact selection grows 4′ x 4′, and is hardy to -10F without stem dieback. H. serrata ‘Kiyosumi’ does bloom on old wood, and I can vouch that it survived the winter of 2014-15 quite admirably.

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Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’

An old favorite for the shade garden is the double form of Oakleaf Hydrangea, H. ‘Snowflake’. The bold oak leaf shaped foliage is handsome all season, but in early summer it bears long (10-15″) panicles of exquisite double white to celadon green florets which age beautiful to shades of pale green and rusty rose. It’s grace and beauty never ceases to draw compliments.

Like all H. quercifolia, ‘Snowflake’ blooms on old wood, so care should be taken when pruning so you are not sacrificing too many potential blossoms. H. quercifolia ‘Snowflake’ grows 7-8′ tall and wide, but the weight of the blossoms gives it an arching habit. Although this particular form can be grown in full sun if it has evenly moist soil, it has always been happier in our  cooler, shady border. It is hardy in zones 5-8.

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Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Zebra’

I was recently alerted about the new Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Zebra’ from my gardening friend Barbara Smith, who suggested it as a great Hydrangea for cut flowers. (Didn’t need much convincing; I bought 3). This new patented selection is a sport of the all white cultivar H. ‘Schneeball’ (German for Snowball) and is distinguished not only for its 3.5-5″ trusses but for its very dark green foliage and almost black stems. I hear the flowers age to a wonderful pale green. Plants form compact shrubs 3-4′ tall and wide.  I suspect that this form will only bloom on old wood, so I am trialing one in a protected area and the others in a more open spot in the garden. The literature says it is hardy to zone 5, but we’ll see if that means bud hardy, won’t we?

The Other Hardy Hens & Chicks

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Jovibarba heuffelii with small Sempervivum, Echeveria & Orostachys in the background.

The most familiar hens and chicks are in the genus Sempervivum. I’d like to introduce you to the  less familiar with same common name which are classified in the genera Jovibarba, Orostachys and Rosularia.  All are members of the Crassulacea family.

A rosette of Sempervivum flowering

A rosette of Sempervivum flowering, but with a number of offsets surviving.

Like Sempervivum, all are monocarpic, which means when the main rosette erupts into flower, it will set seed and cease to exist. (You can see why it is a good thing that many offsets of new plantlets have been freely produced.)

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Jovibarba hirta ssp arenaria

The genus Jovibarba is sometimes classified as a sub genus of Sempervivum.  Jovibarba is distinguished by blossoms bearing pale green to yellow 6 petaled flowers compared to Sempervivum’s 10-12 petaled pink blossoms. There are only 3 species in the genus: globifera, hueffeli and hirta. J. globifera and hirta freely produce stoloniferous offsets but  J. heuffelii’s “chicks” are tightly attached to the crown, and need to be severed to propagate more babies. J. hirta ssp arenaria  forms dozens of delightful miniature rosettes (1/4-3/4”) of pale gray green leaves covered with tiny hairs. Cool temperatures bring out red foliage highlights. Grow in a lean soil with sharp drainage in hardiness zones 5-9.

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Orostachys spinosus

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Orostachys minutum

Orostochys is a slightly bigger genus…it includes the more popular O. iwarenge (Dunce caps) as well as several others that are garden worthy subjects. The mature rosette of O. spinosus gives the appearance of a silver sunflower with an array of silver quilled foliage surrounding a center of congested tiny tight leaves. It is hardy to zone 4-9, but requires very well drained soil. O. minutum (also listed as O. spinosum minutum) is quite petite as the specific name suggests, producing clusters of 1/2-1” rosettes of blue gray foliage. It  would make an excellent alpine trough plant.

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Rosularia muratdaghensis

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Rosularia serpentinica

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Rosularia chrysantha

The genus Rosularia includes about 35 species. We have grown R. muratdaghensis, R. serpentinica, and R. chrysantha. Both R. muratdaghenis and serpentinica form tight mounding rosettes of gray green foliage, accented with red tones in cooler temperatures. R. chrysantha has a mat forming habit,with rosettes of soft velvety green leaves. All 3 species demand lean soil with excellent drainage and are are hardy in zones 5-9.

The before shots…containers 2015

In early summer, I take “before” images of my containers and then “after” shots in September to document how well the compositions fared over the season.  The plant selection for each arrangement is based on great foliage and unique forms. Flowering plants must be long blooming but without the constant need of deadheading.  Here are a dozen “before” pics.

For sunny and partial sunny areas….

Tall Cylinder Pot: Melianthus major, Verbena bonariensis, Heuchera 'Southern Comfort', Sedim 'Lemon Coral', Lantana montevdensis and Tradesantia 'Pale Puma'

Tall Cylinder Pot..Melianthus major, Coprosma, Verbena bonariensis, Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’, Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’, Lantana montevdensis and Tradesantia ‘Pale Puma’

California Hydrangea Pot: Unknown Hydrange, Origanum 'Kent Beauty', Oxalis triangularis, Abutilon 'Pink Charm'

California Hydrangea Pot: Lovely, but unknown Hydrangea, Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’, Oxalis triangularis, Abutilon ‘Pink Charm’

Not flower bud hardy for us outdoors in zone 6A, but love the coloring of this dwarf hydrangea we purchased on a trip to CA a couple of years ago.

Closeup of the Hydrangea, which influenced color selection. This hydrangea, purchased on a trip to CA a couple of years ago, (don’t think it’s ‘Pistachio’), is not flower bud hardy for us outdoors in zone 6A, but makes a great container specimen.

Cast Iron Urn: The friendly agave relative, Beschorneria 'Flamingo Glow' with Cuphea hyssopifolia aura, Pelargonium sidoides, Variegated Ivy and Tradescantia 'Pale Puma'

Cast Iron Urn, starring the friendly agave relative, Beschorneria ‘Flamingo Glow’ with Cuphea hyssopifolia aurea, Pelargonium sidoides, Variegated Ivy and Tradescantia ‘Pale Puma’

Detail, showing Cuphea hyssopifolia aura and Pelargonium sidoides

Detail, showing Cuphea and Pelargonium sidoides

Hummer's Pot: hummingbird magnet Cuphea 'David Verity' with Heuchera'Southern Comfort, Oxalis 'Zinfandel', Coleus 'Tapestry' and Helichrysim 'Limelight'

Hummer’s Pot: Hummingbird magnet Cuphea ‘David Verity’ with Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’, Oxalis ‘Zinfandel’, Coleus and  Helichrysum ‘Limelight’

White Bean Pot: Gaura 'So White, Pelargonium sidoides, Heuchera 'Obsidian'and Dicondra 'Silver Falls'

White Bean Pot: Gaura ‘So White’, Pelargonium sidoides, Heuchera ‘Obsidian’, Lantana montevidensis alba and Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’

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Charcoal Urn: Pink Stripe Phormium, with a variety of succulents and Dicondra ‘Silver Falls’

And for more shady spots…

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A living wreath  (sort of a vertical container) for shade: Mini Spider Plant (Chlorophytum ‘Bonnie’ )

 

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Abutilon ‘Pink Charm, again, with Heuchera ‘Beaujolais, Pilea microphylla variegata, Fuchsia ‘Madame Daishu’ and the barely seen Ceropegia woodii (String of Hearts Vine)

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Amorphophallis konjac with big Begonia ‘Wild Pony’ and petite Begonia bowerae. 

And of course: Succulents…I’ll try not to bore you with too many!

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A new succulent combination for the 32″ black zen bowl…(there are too many plants to list).

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Succulent Martini anyone?

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Fan favorite Succulent Clam Shell.

Which container planting can you see in your garden?

PS…Check back in September to see which containers till look fabulous.