Category Archives: Featured

containers 2018… the after shots

Abutilon ‘Dwarf Red ‘picking up with the flower production now that the temps are a bit cooler.

The summer of 2018 presented many challenges to gardeners here in the northeast. Some folks had mind-numbing amounts of rainfall. We had the heat and HUMIDITY but missed most of the storms until September, when we began to catch up with the precipitation….a good thing for the trees and shrubs,  but after a summer of high humidity, the succulents which s often end with a grand tra-la, began to falter.  On the other hand, containers that loved tropical conditions thrived, and I wish I had planted more.

I present to you the before and after pictures:

Brown terra cotta bowl, June and then October…a number of succulents like the yellow and copper Sedum melted with the humidity and late season wetness.

The turquoise jar held up admirably, with Echeveria ‘Afterglow’. The after picture was taken in mid-September.

We never caught them in action, but think some birds decided to have a go at pecking on the succulents’ foliage and breaking off strands from the Rhipsalis which trails over this gray cylinder pot.

Still looking as good as it did in June, this urn with Beschorneria and tender succulents put on a little more growth.

Shade Pot 1. The white form of Begonia boliviensis continues to send our flowers with the Blue Rabbit’s Foot Fern and trailing Alternanthera ‘Gails Choice’ is still holding up well in early October.

Time of day and time of year affect lighting so much. This was a fairly successful shade planter with Begonia ‘Concorde’ filling in nicely, and the golden-leaved piggyback plant Tolmeia ‘Cool Gold’ adding color contrast. The Maidenhair fern fronds had a tendency to brown out.

Happy happy tropicals such as the dark red Caladium and Black Elephant Ears aren’t ready to quit. Trailing over the pot is variegated Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon)

 

How did your containers perform this season?  Did you try a combination that worked well all summer and is still showing off now?

Thoughts on Fall Plantings

Late May in the mixed border with Allium, Baptisia and Symphytum

One of the first lessons of garden making is to plan and act now for future results. Garden making asks us to be patient; it may be months, (sometimes years) before we see the desired results. Planting in autumn requires an added measure of trust. Unlike in spring when we are rewarded with an explosion of top growth, fall planted trees, shrubs and perennials focus on growth below ground.

“Plant a spring garden in the fall.”  I remember receiving this advice from a seasoned gardener when I first fell in love with plants. Embarking on a new planting project may take some motivation after a hot dry summer. Still, there are solid arguments why you should consider establishing most hardy plants at the end of the growing season.  The most compelling reason is how little time we actually have to accomplish plantings once spring does arrive. 

Late April snowfall tormenting poor Epimedium

In recent years, it seems like our autumn weather lingers, with a killing frost not causing harm until almost Thanksgiving. Winter gets a late start, but then tends to hang around longer and longer, which means spring is late too. Just like a hangover, March rolls in, often tormenting us with one snow, wind or ice storm after another.  April is a tease, with signs of early plant growth stalled by frosty nights. Gardeners can only commiserate.  By the time the soil becomes workable and is warm enough for root growth, it is already May, and there is so much to do in May! Beds and borders need spring cleanups and fertilization, plus the container, vegetable and cut flower gardens need to be planned and planted as well.  Even with careful planning, everything always seems to happen at once.

Reasons to plant in the fall.

Fall blooming Vernonia lettermanii with Yucca ‘Color Guard’ and Crambe maritima in foreground

1. Warm soil temperatures allow for root growth and plants are well established once spring actually arrives.

2.  Rainfall tends to be more reliable and cooler temperatures mean there is far less time devoted to watering chores. Also since foliage is dying back or dropping  altogether, there is less top growth that needs sustaining.

3.  This is the best time to dig and divide most spring and early summer blooming plants. All species of Iris, for example are much happier if divided in early fall, as they set roots quickly in the warm autumn soil.

4. You may consider planting more late season plants! When plant shopping, gardeners are always attracted to plants that are in showy bloom. Folks who do their plant shopping primarily in spring tend to have gardens with lots of early bloomers. The opposite also rings true. Our own garden is heavy on late summer and fall interest plants, because many of our beds get planted then (out of necessity…we have so little time in the spring).

Important Gardening Tip:

If you live in an area which gets extreme winter temperature fluctuations, (most of us do in northern climates) it is a good idea to use a protective winter mulch on newly planted beds (and established beds as well). Sterile hay, evergreen boughs or shredded leaves placed over the earth after the ground freezes helps protect the soil from repeated thaws and frost heaving. Remove the mulch once the weather promises reliable springtime temperatures.

 

Containers 2018…the before shots

May I present to you the “before” shots of our 2018 containers? My goal each year is to create easy care combinations, showcasing some unique specimens, which will continue to look gorgeous right up until frost. Since I love succulents, and they are so super easy, drought tolerant, and look outrageous into the fall, you’ll notice more than a  few combinations.  Above is a 28” wide brown terra cotta bowl with a succulent array , including Aeonium ‘Blushing Beauty’, Senecio cylindricus, Senecio Mini Blue, Sedum “Firestorm’, Sedum mackinoi ‘Ogon’, Sedum pachyphytum, and a peach flowering painted Echeveria hybrid. This container and the next were planted on Memorial Day, and have already knit together nicely.  Many of the other planters were put together this past week.

The tall cylinder pot has a 24” opening and stands 44” tall. It showcases a few really choice succulents that I’ve been growing on for several years. The ingredients in this planter are: Aeonium urbicum, Senecio barbertonicus, Euphorbia turicalli, Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’Echeveria’ and ‘Hummel’s Sunset’, plus Echeveria ’Chocolate Prince’ and ‘Blue Prince’, Sedum ‘Firestorm’ and trailing over the side is Rice Plant, Rhipsalis teres v. capilliformis.a closeup of the forms and textures.

This 8” terra-cotta pot ensemble picks us some of the colors in the other planters. We’re enjoying this unknown Echeveria pulidonis hybrid with erect stems bearing peach colored flowers, and the flower color is fun with the golden Sedum adolphii and the tiny creeper Sedum album ‘Athoum’.

We’ve been growing on these false agave ‘Beschorneria ‘Pink Flamingo’ plants for several years now and they are quite impressive in size. Underplantings include Echeveria agavoides, Sedum mackinoi ‘Ogon’ and ‘String of Pearls’ Senecio rowleyensis. The iron urns are about 15″ across and are in an area which gets half day sun.

A client who lives by the sea brought in these cast stone rectangles and wanted a planting that is easy to care for and that could tolerate lots of wind and sun. We’re glad she likes these sea and sky colored succulents.

To have interesting shade planters, you really do need to seek out unique foliage plants. Here I’ve used Phlebodium pseudoaureum (Blue Rabbit’s Foot Fern) with the white form of Begonia boliviensis and purple trailing  Alternanthera ‘Gails Choice’ plus the mini spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum ‘Bonnie’ which will eventually cascade down this urn as well.

Another shade container, planted once again with Maidenhair Fern Adiantum pedatum, plus Begonia ‘Concorde’ adds dark foliage contrast and pink flowers, and the new trailing perennial piggyback plant, Tolmeia menziesii ‘Cool Gold’. This container has an 18” opening and gets dappled light.

In a dark corner, and paired with a yellow orchid, chartreuse colored Hosta ‘Designer Genes’ is the focal point, its wine red petioles adding contrast. I like the way the rising flower stock has an interesting foliar accent.  Ming Fern,  Asparagus macawonii, is used to give an airy feel, and golden Piggyback Plant will spill over the sides of the pot. 

Imperial Blue Plumbago is a gorgeous color that is sometimes hard to play with. To be on the safe side, it’s paired with white Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ and the chartreuse form of licorice plant, Helichrysum ‘Limelight’.

Coprosma ‘Pink Splendor’ is a tender evergreen shrub with pastel variegation. Here it is paired with chenille plant, Acalypha pendula and a trailing flowering maple, Abutilon megapotamicum, in a 10” wide tall tom pot. This container would enjoy a spot in full sun or part day shade.

White Begonia boliviensis steals the show in this 15” terra cotta rolled rim pot, but this container wouldn’t be as much fun without Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ and the teal/silver trailer Pilea glauca. Phormium ‘Sundowner’ adds a vertical thrust. For sun or part shade.

This impressive 38” zen cast stone bowl has always been planted with succulents, due to it’s shallow depth and ease of care (it’s in a spot a distance away from a water source). The problem is, this area has become more and more shady, (only about 3-4 hours of good sunlight). This selection of succulents is thought to be more tolerate of some shade….we’ll see how they fared at summer’s end.

Peachy-pink and lime green Phormium ‘Jester’ adds the vertical in this succulent combo, which includes  a golden leaved Portulacaria we found at The Ruth Bancroft Garden a few years ago, plus ‘Echeveria ‘Blue Prince’, Crassula ‘Hummell’s Sunset’, Sedum ‘Limeglow’ and  Sedeveria ‘Blue Elf’ and Sedeveria ‘Jetbeads.

The color of this 18” ceramic container reminds me of the ocean on a clear sunny day. Succulents contribute to that under the sea feeling….the large growing Echeveria ‘Afterglow’, with the tall Senecio cylindricus, Pachyphytum ‘Blue Haze’ , Crassula ovata undulata, and a mystery x Graptosedum hybrid.

I’ll be taking photos again of these containers in late September and we can compare these early shots with “After Pics”. Stay posted.

 

Papyrus Ensemble for Part Shade

Looking to do something a bit dramatic but very easy care in a partially shaded container? This container ensemble, planted in an 18″ wide pot,  features the compact growing Papyrus, ‘Prince Tut’, standing  30-40″ tall, as well as a dwarf variegated form Cyperus albostriatus variegatus ,  trailing Callisia congestifolia variegata and Ornamental Oregano, Origanum rotundifolum ‘Kent Beauty’. The Oregano will come forth into bloom early, and then allow the Callisia to take over in an exuberant way.

Average soil mix is fine here. Although Papyrus will grow in standing water, they adapt quite well to not wet conditions. The Callisia may began to overwhelm her neighbors, but a quick trip here and there will keep her in check.

Buy as an ensemble online.

Fields of Gold

Have you ever wandered through a reclaimed woodland and come upon an abandoned homestead? Perhaps all that is left is a stone foundation and a few time-tested plants, such as a peony, century plant or Solomon’s Seal which manage to survive for decades without human care. And have you ever wondered, what will become of the plants that you’ve tended to all these years, once you are no longer around?

Back in my high school days, I came upon this open field of daffodils while exploring the woodlands off the road that I lived on. There may well have been a no trespassing sign, but all I can remember was being as enchanted as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I  had no idea whose property I was on, nor who was responsible for this field of gold.

Guess what? That field is still there. And fortunately, you won’t be trespassing if you visit today. In 2005, this 32 acre parcel was donated to our local land preservation group, Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust, aka DNRT, by its last private owner, William Parsons. Thank you Mr. Parsons, and thank you DNRT!              

Now, it wasn’t Mr Parsons who planted all those narcissi; it was a gentlemen by the name of Raymond Pettey. The story I‘ve since been told is that Mr Pettey decided to plant the daffodils during the 1940’s as a cut flower crop, when the supply of spring flowers from Holland was cut off due to World War II. Once the war ended there wasn’t much of a demand for locally sourced cut flowers. The daffodils remained and multiplied.

The daffodil field property is now known as the Parsons Reserve and the fields and trails are maintained by DNRT. The main entrance to the property is on Horseneck Rd. in Russell’s Mills Village. The Reserve is open to the public, but a modest $2.00 donation during daffodil season is requested to help offset the cost of maintaining the trails and fields . There are things to consider before you visit. Parking is very limited, and more and more people make a pilgrimage each spring. There is a slight hill to climb, and it takes about 8-10 minutes on foot before you reach the fields. As you would expect, you  are not allowed to pick bouquets. Visit DNRT’s webpage for more detailed information of this and other properties, and of course, support their efforts if you can by becoming a member.

When is peak time? I was able to capture these images early in the morning last April 15th (2017). Our prolonged 2018 winter has meant we’re having a late start to spring, and my guess is that the daffodils will probably be at least a week late this season.

Thank you Mr. Pettey. You probably had no idea that your fields of gold would delight and inspire so many years later.

 

Holding winter at bay, the Danish Way

Haveselskabets Have, Horticultural Society Garden

Ordinarily, December isn’t the month you’d consider for visiting gardens, but the curious gardener welcomes any opportunity to observe new plants and planting schemes, even in winter. Earlier this month, Chris and I had the good fortune, along with dear friends Elin, Lasse, Nicole and Marc, to visit Copenhagen, and we had to make time for checking out the various public gardens.

at the University Botanical Garden

Melianthus major, a zone 8 plant

red and white berried Mountain Ash (Sorbus)

There were many surprises: most importantly, the climate.This Scandinavian country has milder winters than we have here in Massachusetts, with the average low of 32F, or 0C.  Yes, this means they can grow zone 8b plants like Melianthus. Summers are cool, with average temperatures of 67F (17C).  Temperatures like this allow for plants which dislike summer heat, such as Mountain Ash (Sorbus) to flourish. Being at a higher latitude means that winter day length is short, and the reverse is true in summer. This has a big effect on plant growth, and there are far less dramatic day to day temperature fluctuations due to the maritime climate.

yellow fruited crabapples and benches

formal gardens at Rosenborg Castle

Danes are eager to be outdoors year round, no doubt to absorb as much natural light as possible, and design their gardens and landscapes to have strong winter interest. Evergreens, fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, grasses and seed heads add structure, color and form. One thing that struck us was the balance of formal and naturalistic plantings working together. Trees are routinely pollarded. Boxwood is commonly sheared into geometric forms. Clipped plantings are mixed with billowing shrubs, masses of grasses and herbaceous plants. While I would not feel at home in a rigidly formal garden this blending of treatments was fun and unexpected.

clipped yews with naturalistic yucca

The Maiden statue, with water feature

Garden structures and hardscape play an important role in Danish gardens. Planting beds tend to have squared off geometry rather than wavy lines. Sculpture plus a strong role. Outdoor seating its always considered, in both open or intimate settings. In this often overcast climate, brick buildings are often stained in shades of orange or gold to brighten the otherwise neutral grays and browns of winter.

orange stained brick, with yellow fall foliage

in the window at Tage Andersen, a florist shop

Seasonal containers included plantings of Christmas Rose, (Helleborus niger), Heath, (Erica), Boxwood (Buxus) and Ivy (Hedera), accented with cut branches of Winterberry and Evergreens. Popup street vendors were selling potted winter interest plants including Skimmia, Hellebores, forced hyacinth, and Amaryllis along with branches and boughs of holly. A particularly magical floral shop Tage-Anderssen, had exquisite window displays, showcasing carefully crafted centerpieces using plant based materials.

Chris Tracey, having a “hygge” moment outside the succulent greenhouse

Danish interior design is world renown, celebrating geometry and simple lines. But what this gardener couldn’t help to notice were the many plant based accents, in the form of cut flowers, forced bulbs or potted succulents, used to soften and add warmth to living spaces. During the short days of winter, the Danes decorate interior spaces with white lights and candles, a particularly “hygge” thing to do.

winter solstice greetings!

As we head approach the solstice, with weeks of colder weather before us, I’ll hold onto my Danish experience. Today I brought in cut  branches of holly and boxwood, and will illuminate the darkness with candles and strings of lights, to drive the cold winter away.

End of the Season Containers

It’s been over 3 months since I posted the “Before” Container Shots. We’re now into October, and luckily the weather has been mild, with a few chilly nights. All in all, the containers depicted in the early summer post are looking as good if not better.  My goal each year is to come up with combos that are easy care and will look fabulous until frost.  Here are this year’s end of the season shots.zenbowl_detailazen_bowlt_9302017oct72Succulents rule! The Aeonium noticeably is more green than bronzy, and  this space where the 36″ Zen Bowl is located is getting more and more shade…perhaps now only getting 3-4 hours of afternoon sun…it’s getting limited for succulents. I think we’ll have to reconsider what type of plants to use here next year.aaeoniumpot_9302017_72The Aeonium ‘Cyclops’ in the drum pot, with Sedeveria ‘Harry Butterfield’ and String of Pearls spilling over the sides, is still looking pretty awesome. I will be sad when we have to dismantle this container.cylinderpot2017The Cylinder Pot in front of the garage is pretty much doing a repeat performance of last year. The big Kalanchoe beharensis started to overwhelm his neighbors, and was trimmed back several times.white_pots17_72The larger white pot with Cuphea ‘David Verity’, Digiplexis ‘Illumination’ and Ruellia b. ‘Purple Showers’ needed watering attention, but is still blooming away. Not missing a step,  the smaller pot continues to look good with Heuchera ‘Cherry Cola’, Phormium and Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’.xgreekurnThe Grecian Urn on the pedestal was one of the shade ensembles, with Begonia ‘Art Hodes’, Cyperus ‘Starburst‘, Oxalis, and Callisia congesta variegata, which needed to be cut back more than once. I know, I know, I put way too many ingredients in this pot.silverfernpot17_72Here’s another shade planter, mixing hardy and tender plants. Maidenhair Fern, Black Mondo Grass and hardy Begonia grandis, are paired with tender Sansevieria ‘Moonshine’ and Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’. This planter was in dappled shade all day, and notice how well the Dichondra grew!
papyrus (1 of 1)Papyrus + Papyrus  + Callisia = … To begin with, I selected too small a pot in June, so what did I do?  In mid summer, I lifted the plants that had filled the pot and moved them into a much bigger container. When the Ornamental Oregano had done her thing, then the Callisia was very happy to take over the pot.ironurn17 (1 of 1)One of the iron urns is getting more shade than in previous years… probably just 4 hours of good sun, and then it’s in dappled light. Here is what it looks like now… the Beschorneria and Golden Ivy seem happy still.whitebegonia_72Someone bought the head pot…so I can’t show how it fared, but instead here is another shady planter. Never took the “before” picture, but I thought this green trough was successful. The white form of Begonia boliviensis seemed happier this year than in the past, and is paired with trailing Pilea glauca, Pilea microphylla variegata, Ornamental Oregano, and  Blue Rabbit’s Foot Fern, which is now pretty much hidden.brownterrabowl17 (1 of 1)Last but not least, the brown terra cotta bowl wants to show off even more now that it is autumn. Assorted succulent foliage looked great all summer. Now, in October, the  Euphorbia tirucalli (Sticks on Fire) is beginning to deepen in color and Senecio ‘Blazing Glory’, bursting forth with orange red blossoms, is ending the season with a bang.

What easy care combinations worked best for you this summer? Have you been using succulents in your container plantings?

Generous Fall Asters

Symphyotrichum (Aster) ‘Vasterival’

Some might consider the term “generous” a euphemism for invasive…but I have my own take on certain vigorous spreaders and self sowers. I say, sometimes a plant with ground covering capabilities is a good thing…it won’t be long before you have a nice swath of color plus the plant’s vigor keeps weeds at bay. Here are 5 Asters that command attention and are easy peasy.

( A little botany note: The taxonomists have reclassified Aster  into several distinct genera in recent years. For example, the genus Aster encompasses species that are specific to Eastern Asia, while the term Symphyotricum includes Asters native to N. America and parts of Europe.)

One plant that really draws comments in our September garden is  Symphyotrichum x ‘Vasterival’, a hybrid of unknown origins. 3/4″ daisies in a  sweet shade of pink/lavender are born in loose sprays on tall dark tinted stems. You could  pinch plants back in early July to control height, or let them do  their thing, and have stems that can reach 5′. ‘Vasterival’ is a perfect plant for that “garden gone wild” look. Plants spread by stoloniferous roots.

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Symphyotrichum x ‘Mary’s White’

Another Symphyotrichum selection that has proven quite vigorous is ‘Mary’s White’, which was selected by British nurserywoman Beth Chatto and named for her daughter. 1″ white daisies are carried on sturdy 3-4′ stems during September into early October.

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Aster ageratoides ‘Ezo Muraskai’

The Asian Aster ageratoides ‘Ezo Murasaki’ is the boss in a bed where we once had  plants with meek dispositions. We  let ‘Ezo Murasaki’ fulfill its ground covering mission, and moved its less vigorous neighbors. Yellow centered violet 1″ daisies are born in  clusters on 18″ stems from late September into November.

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Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’

Some Asters self sow nicely.  Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’, commonly called Smooth Aster, is one we allow to seed about and establish informally in beds where a little autumn color will be welcomed. Quarter sized flowers have lavender blue petals with yellow centers open up in stages in loose sprays. ‘Bluebird’ grows 3-4′ tall, but bows gracefully around its neighbors.

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Symphyotrichum ericoides with Elscholtzia and Kolwitzia

Another promiscuous seeder is the Calico Aster Symphyotrichum ericoides. Height can vary, but most often  plants are in the 18-24″ range. Don’t you think this Aster picked the best spot to establish itself, here between the Chinese Mint Shrub, Elscholtzia stantonii alba, on the left, and the golden leaved Kolwitzia on the right?

 

Fern Crazy

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A stand of hay scented fern, Dennstaetdtia punctilobula

Talk about being survivors…ferns are one of the oldest group of plants on the planet, dating back 3 million years. Despite their adaptive capabilities, they are still one of the most overlooked perennials. Alas, gardeners are easily distracted by blossoms, small or huge, subtle or bold, and forget about the steadfast display of handsome foliage.

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the lovely Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum

Consider these reasons why you should make room for more ferns . 1. They are the ultimate foliage plant. 2. Ferns are plants that don’t mind benign neglect. 3. They look gorgeous unfurling with new growth in early spring and provide a refreshing, deer resistant oasis in the shade all summer long. 4. Some ferns turn colors of bronze or gold in the fall before they are knocked down by frost while others provide a persistent green though the winter. 5. There are ferns for various soil conditions… yes, some tolerate drier soils although most appreciate some amount of moisture. Learn which ones will thrive in your soil conditions and you’ll have few problems.

fernparts

Ferns 101. Some basic fern terminology. When reading descriptions you may get confused by the botanical terms, so here are the basics:

Ferns erupt as fiddleheads or croziers from rhizomes, which is the name given to the fleshy underground stem.  Foliage either ascends from the rhizome (Dryopteris, Polystichum ) or creeps from this underground stem (Adiantum, Dennstaedtia).

The frond refers to the entire leaf structure including the stipe (the leaf stalk or petiole which rises from the rhizome)  and the blade which includes the pinna (leaflets) that are patterned along on either sides the rachis (upper stem ). Each pinna has its own rachis. Some of the pinna are very simple (undivided) and some are divided in multiple segments or pinnules.

Athyrium x 'Ghost'

Athyrium x ‘Ghost’

The most commonly cultivated ferns are in the genera Adiantum, Athyrium, Dryopteris and Polystichum. A stand of Maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum when provided with a moisture retentive soil is a vision to behold all summer. Its delicate green leaflets are set off by almost black stems. I am trying it in a shady container this season.

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A fancy selection of Japanese panted fErn, Athyrium niponicum pictum ‘Applecourt’

Athyrium is a huge genus with over 180 species and hybrids, including the cultivar ‘Applecourt’, pictured above.  Many are familiar with the Japanese Painted Fern, Athyrium niponicum pictum. Although it can be forgiving of drier soil, an even source of moisture  will provide a steady supply of new fronds all summer providing a more luxurious show. The selection ‘Regal Red’ has an especially striking red color contrast, ‘Pearly White’ adds a silver glow to the shade garden, and ‘Godzilla’, a new hybrid, is reported to reach epic proportions, growing to 3’ tall and up to 6’ across in the right conditions.

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This is the first year we are growing Athyrium otophorum, aka Eared Lady Fern, and I am delighted with how well it is doing. A continuous succession of lime green fronds with contrasting burgundy stipes have added a freshness to the garden, and she looks great near golden leaved plants. I would be neglectful not to mention the hybrid Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (a cross between lady fern, A. flelix-femina and painted fern A. niponicum pictum). This fern is a true garden survivor, standing 2’ tall and holding its own next to a vigorous Hosta ‘Komodo Dragon’ .

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Dixie Wood Fern, Dryopteris x australis

Dryopteris, or Wood Fern, generally enjoys a moist rich soil, but I have grown D. erythrosora (Autumn Fern) in average to dry conditions and it hasn’t disappointed. D. erythrosora ‘Brilliance’ provides a bronzy copper color with its new emerging foliage.  D. x australis aka Dixie Wood Fern can grow to an impressive 4-5’ tall but needs consistent moisture to achieve that stature. Dryopteris tokyoensis, another fern that is very easy to keep happy, produces erect fronds 2-3’ , forming a lovely vase shape.

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Japanese Tassel Fern, Polystichum polyblepharum

Many species in the genus Polystichum have leathery leaves and tend to be evergreen. P. acrostichoides, commonly called Christmas Fern sends forth 1-2’ arching forest green fronds from multiple crowns. Another unfussy fern, tolerating dryish soil although it would love to unfurl in rich moist loam is P. polyblepherum  aka Japanese Tassel Fern. It boasts lustrous dark green 1-2’ arching evergreen fronds. Korean Rock Fern, P. tsus-simense is a diminutive semi-evergreen species for rocky crevices, and it tolerates drier soil that has been amended with rich humus.

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Don’t have any room for ferns in your shade bed? Why not try them in shady planters? Last year’s hit was Autumn Fern with Heuchera and Black Mondo Grass. Above is a just planted shot of a cast stone urn with Maidenhair Fern, Begonia grandis and silvery Sansevieria and Dichondra, as seen above.

If you are interested to discover more, let me direct you to a few resources: The American Fern Society, as well as my bible for ferns, John Mickel’s Ferns for American Gardens .  A handy pocket guide for casual identifying is the Peterson Field Guide: Ferns. 

Here is our current fern listing. Have any suggestions on special ferns to try?

Task: Deer Resistant July Color

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Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Golden Arrow, with Eucomis ‘Oakhurst’ in the background

I’m working on a garden plan for a client’s summer cottage, and she wants the peak color period to happen during July.  She needs a no fuss garden that is deer resistant. The beds are in full sun as well as in morning sun /afternoon shade. There was one one request: no day lilies (plus the deer love them!).  Works for me, and since it happens to be mid July as I take on this project, a walk about the garden gives me plenty of plant subjects to consider.  Interestingly,  many of these plants have become garden favorites, as I have already done individual plant portraits of many in this blog ( links provided).

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Kalimeris incisa ‘Blue Star’

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Allium ‘Millenium’

First there is the understated but charming Kalimeris integrifolia ‘Blue Star’.  From late June through August, starry light blue daisies atop 2′ plants welcome butterflies and bees.  Nearby Calamintha nepeta is beginning to be abuzz with pollinators, its delicate small white tinted blue lipped blossoms  begin in July and carry on into fall. Allium ‘Millennium’ is beginning to delight with lavender purple orbs on 15″ stems. Acanthus hungaricus which took a few years to establish but is thriving in well drained sunny spots for us, adds a commanding presence.  Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Golden Arrow’ which seems to have happier looking foliage when it gets some mid day shade, is aglow with lemon lime colored leaves and ruby pink spires.

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Acanthus hungaricus

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Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’

Grown for striking purple foliage as much as for it’s handsome pineapple lilies is Eucomis ‘Oakhurst‘. Then there is  Leucosceptrum japonicum ‘Golden Angel’  which has formed a handsome 3′ x 3′ specimen…..it’s citrus yellow foliage is brightening up a partially shaded spot. It won’t bloom until early fall, but I really appreciate this plant more for its foliage than its flowers. Also in our beds which receive both sun and shade is the amazing Aralia ‘Sun King’, with its bold yellow foliage. Later in the season it gets white “sputnik-like”  flowers followed by black seed heads.

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Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’

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Stewartia pseudocamellia

Summer blooming shrubs play an important role in the easy care garden, and the first plants I consider are Hydrangeas. Now in our zone 6A garden, surprise freezes torment us in mid spring, and we often discover that  H. macrophylla hybrids’ buds get whacked by the cold. Oak leaf Hydrangea forms have been much more reliable, and we love the double flowered Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake as a backdrop plant in our shadier beds.  Of course the magnificent Stewartia pseudocamellia var koreana was in glorious bloom for the 4th of July but there is still a succession of flower buds as we now enter the 3rd week of the month.

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Clethra barbinervis

One very special plant that few people seem to be growing is the Japanese Clethra, C. barbinervis. This species forms a large shrub, or can be pruned to 1 or several leaders to form a small tree. Panicles of white fragrant flowers are born during July and August. Fall color varies with shades of yellow and orange. A nice surprise is the exfoliating bark which is best appreciated when plants are grown with a tree like form.

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Salvia guaranitica ‘Argentine Skies’

Of course there are the annuals and tender perennials that really begin to show off now that warm days are here to stay. I couldn’t be without Salvia guaranitica in its various forms: ‘Black and Blue’,  purple flowering ‘Amistad’ , ‘Argentine Skies’ and a species form that we acquired years ago as ‘Kobalt’. In fact both ‘Kobalt’ and ‘Argentine Skies’ have been wintering over for us in well drained soil here in our zone 6 garden.

What are your top 5 deer resistant plants for the July garden?