Japanese Clethra is waiting to be discovered. It is a plant for all seasons, boasting fragrant mid summer blossoms, yellow-orange to red fall foliage, and exfoliating bark in winter. If left unpruned it will grow as a multistemmed shrub or small tree, but we prefer to see it trained to a single leader, with lower limbs removed, so that the showy bark can be better appreciated.
We were smitten when our young plant came into bloom in July. Trios of sweetly scented white, 4-6″, twisting racemes will drip from the branches into August. The ovate serrated foliage, in a shade of dark green, really sets off the white blossoms. Fall color is also striking, ranging form yellow orange to deep red. Although Clethra barbinervis is fast growing, it seems to reach an ultimate height of 15-20′. It prefers a well drained, neutral or slightly acidic soil with adequate moisture. Clethra barbinervis grows well in partial shade, although it will tolerate and bloom abundantly in full sun, if watering needs are met. It can be cultivated in zones 5-8.
First, we fell in love with the foliage. The new foliar growth is a delicious shade of caramel pink, gradually becoming lime green as the summer progresses. As the July heat intensifies, 4-6″ panicles of white pearly buds burst into creamy Astilbe like plumes. Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’ is a compact growing False Spirea, growing only to 48″, unlike the species which can reach 8′ or more. ‘Sem’ will give you moderate height without obscuring your view. Yes this form will sucker and form a thicket…but that is why you should use this shrub as a low hedge, or for filling a space that you don’t want to fuss over.
Here are the other pertinent facts: Sorbaria ‘Sem’ grows in full sun or part shade, is deer resistant and is hardy to minus 35 degrees F. Pretty and tough, don’t you think?
This easy care combination, which will be very happy in a spot that receives 4-6 hours of sun, includes Fuchsia ‘Gartenmeister’ complimented by multihued Calibrachoa ‘Tequila Sunrise’, Helichrysum ‘Limelight’ for light contrast, and Coleus ‘Dipt in Wine’ which picks up the colors of the other 3 candidates.
The Fuchsia and Calibrachoa (Million Bells) will lure hummingbirds and bloom endlessly. Should the Helichrysum (Licorice Plant) or Calibrachoa exceed their bounds with vigorous growth, just clip back. Plant this grouping in a good quality potting mix amended with compost or PlantTone, and Osmocote. In addition to fertilizer in the mix, we always recommend liquid feeding your containers every 1-2 weeks with a balanced plant food, such as Dyna Gro.
This has been one of our favorite species “Geraniums” since we first offered it in 1997. Pelargonium sidoides is native to South Africa, and herbalists may be aware of it’s medicinal qualities for colds and bronchitis. We grow P. sidoides because it is superbly ornamental.
P. sidoides has attractive aromatic silvery gray foliage, and wiry branches with wispy clusters of dark wine colored blossoms, which are continuously produced all season. It does best in full sun, and forms tidy mounds 6-10″ tall with a spread of about 12-15″ in a season. It seems to perform admirably in both cool and hot summers, and, although only winter hardy to 20 degrees F, will easily winter over on a sunny window sill.
The best selection of Woodland Phlox, in our opinion, is this lovely cultivar introduced by Bill Cullina, of Coastal Maine Botanical Garden. Abundant deep sky blue flowers on 12″ stems perfume the May garden, and when planted en masse create ethereal drifts. It makes an excellent companion for woodland poppies and late blooming narcissus
‘Blue Moon’ grows best in light shade in a rich humusy soil that is moist yet well drained, forming clumps 2-3′ across. After the blossoms fade, cut back the spent flowering stems for a neater appearance. It is hardy in zone 4-8.
Here on High Hill Road, much of the winter is spent searching for sources of the most promising new plants available in the horticultural market. We’re always optimistic, but we hold all newcomers to the standards set by great plants introduced in the past. Clematis macropetala ‘Lagoon’ introduced in 1958 by George Jackman and Son, has been on the market 52 years. Wow! This is comparable to the career of BB King and just as blue, but “the thrill is not gone”.
We planted Clematis m. ‘Lagoon’ at the base of a mop-headed silver leaved Capulin Cherry, Prunus salicifolia. That “bad-hair-day” cherry’s branches bowed down and insisted on giving ‘Lagoon’ a ride. As early as April, this vigorous clematis beguiles nursery visitors with blue blossoms as it adorns the branches of its silvery companion. “What is that blue flowering tree out near the parking area?” we are asked. You won’t need a tree to enjoy this 6 to 10′ vine, as it would do equally well climbing a trellis or arbor.
Clematis macropetala ‘Lagoon?’ needs little pruning. If it does get too rambunctious where it is planted, it can be pruned back in late June or July, after it has finished flowering, since it blooms early on old wood. Clematis like a slightly alkaline soil, so scratching in a handful of dolomitic limestone will keep it happy if your soils tend to be acidic. It is very hardy, growing well in USDA hardiness zones 3-8.
Gardeners in northern climates have been disappointed by Hydrangea macrophylla in the past….lots of healthy foliage, but few or no blossoms. This recent introduction of Mophead Hydrangea truly blooms on both old and new wood, and is being marketed as ‘Forever and Ever Red Sensation’ ( Tra-la-la…those clever marketers read a lot of fairy tales).
What you really need to know is that this vigorous selection produces lots of blooms on new growth, making it a great candidate for colder zone 5 and 6 gardens. In hot climates the large trusses of blossoms will be in softer shades of rosy pink when grown in neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Colder temperatures will cause the flower color to deeper red shades. If your garden soil happens to be more acidic, ‘Red Sensation’ will change color and thus need a new name, as it will take on bluer tones. The flowers age to smoky violet. Stems and fall foliage color have a dark burgundy cast.
‘Red Sensation’ grow 2-3′ tall and 3-4’wide, and require full sun or partial shade. Hydrangea macrophylla appreciate a moist, rich and fertile soil. May we suggest combining ‘Red Sensation’ with the always attractive Periscaria ‘Golden Arrow’?
What has spring time blue flowers, grows 4-6″ tall, spreads by creeping runners, thrives in partial shade or shade in moist or drier soil? Meehania cordata, commonly known as Meehan’s Mint! This versatile and underused Northeast native is a good substitute groundcover for Lamium and Ajuga. It blooms in May and June with violet blue lipped tubular blossoms and would make a lovely underplanting for golden leaved Hosta and Hakonechloa (Japanese Forest Grass).
Although it is especially vigorous in moist soil, and would be a good choice for carpeting along a pond or stream, it will also grow well but more slowly in drier spots. It is hardy in zones 5-8 and would be a welcomed addition to a wildflower garden.