Archive for 2011

Small Trees for the Sunny Garden

Icon Written by Wayne on June 1, 2011 – 12:01 am

When we purchased the property we had approximately an acre of open east facing hillside for sunny gardening. The rest was shade on three sides by very large Red Oaks and a rather boring under story of a, elm/ash/maple mix. We knew our sunny gardening was going to be very limited,

So what was the first thing we did after moving in? We started planting trees! Sounds crazy but what would a garden be without trees? We did not plant just any old trees thought after all, we did not need or want anymore shade. At least not more then was absolutely necessary.

To add color and four season interest, our first addition was a beautiful Concolor Fir ‘Abies concolor’, with its striking shades of blue and green. This was quickly followed by the graceful White Pine ‘Pinus strobus’ and a majestic Douglas Fir ‘Pseudotsuga menziesii. Many other more demur conifers quickly followed. We might have made a few plants mad but the birds and other wildlife loved us.

We next planted several slow growing small to medium size trees such as the striking Chionanthus virginicus ‘Fringe Tree’ and Cladrastis lutea ‘Yellowwood,’ an interesting medium sized tree with an oval crown. As our focal point we choose the Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Halka’ Thornless Honeylocust with its numerous small leaflets, round wide-spreading growth, and open crown provides only light shade while adding form and texture.

For our final selections we choose several mid-size flowering fruit bearing trees again for their multi-seasonal color and fruit. Our first choice was Malus Hybrid ‘Donald Wyman’
crabapple with its abundance of white flowers followed by shinny bright red fruit. Next we added Prunus armeniaca ‘Sungold’ apricot for its early spring masses of white or pink flowers covering the bare trees.

You just have to have a few trees in the sunny border garden. In our case we need the color and height that only trees provide. These are ones that worked for us but feel free to experiment just do not be afraid to add shade to the sunny border.

Tips of the Month

Here are a few other trees you may wish to consider:

  • Pyrus calleryana ‘Callery Pear’ grand white flowers in early spring offer outstanding beauty.
  • Prunus incisa ‘Snow Cloud’ Cherry is a three-season wonder with myriad pink flowers in spring, gorgeous foliage all summer, and black fruits in fall as foliage turns yellow.
  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Ogon’ Gold Dawn Redwood’s golden foligae really brigthens up the garden.
  • Zelkova serrata ‘Green Vase’ Japanese Zelkova is a underused specimen tree.
  • Pyrus ussuriensis ‘McDermand’ Ussurian Pear develops into a dense, round-headed small to medium sized tree with an excellent spring floral display.

Flower of the Month


Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Rotundiloba’

Sweetgum has long been recognized as a superb deciduous shade tree for its rapid growth, handsome foliage, and excellent fall color. Fall color varies annually but is always outstanding, often including yellow, red, and purple all on the same tree. Easily grown in any moisture-retentive soil, Rotundiloba withstands stress and urban pollution.

Web Site of the Month

Forest Farm

They are a nursery for the home gardener offering an extensive collection of rare and unusual shade trees, flowering trees and shrubs, conifers and evergreens. We have always found this on-line site to be very helpful and informative.

Posted in  

Let’s Eat the Flowers

Icon Written by Wayne on May 1, 2011 – 12:01 am

Many flowers have traditionally been used in many types of cooking. Native American used flowers as food and passed this information on to early settlers. Our ancestors regularly used flowers to flavor vinegars for cooking, marinades, or dressings for salad.

Today, there is a renewed interest in edible flowers. My grandmother regularly fried squash flowers, for me, in light flour batter, under the mistaken idea that it was one of my favorite foods. What we really liked her to do was to freeze mint leaves in ice cubes to suck on during the hot Summer months.

When my son had his herb garden in Nebraska, he introduced us to the flowers of the borage plant. Nothing goes better with sliced tomatoes then a few bright blue borage flowers. They have a sharp clean snappy taste, somewhat like a cucumber, very refreshing. To this day we always have a few borage plants in the garden.

Some flowers can be stuffed or used in stir-fry dishes. Edible flowers can be added to teas for a light refreshing drink. Still others can be crushed and added to cheese spreads, butters, and ice cream.

We suggest you give it a try but do not eat just any old flower, some like the foxglove can kill you. Here are a few that are safe to use:

  • Rose
  • Nasturtium
  • Marigold
  • Pansy
  • Sage
  • Borage
  • Chives

Even edible flowers can cause indigestion or allergic reactions if eaten, so use caution at first.

Tips of the Month

Here is a recipe for dandelion blossoms which my mother made for my dad. These can be sprinkled over a pasta dish or added to a veggie omelet. You can also eat them as a snack.

Fried Dandelion Blooms

1 cup of flour
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
1/2 teaspoon each of thyme, marjoram, sage, paprika
2 dozen large, fresh dandelion blossoms, freshly rinsed and still damp
Cooking oil

Mix flour and all seasonings together in a shallow bowl. Coat the bottom of a fry pan with oil and heat to a medium temperature. It is ready when a bit of flour sizzles up when dropped in. Coat the damp dandelions in the flour mixture, and fry in the oil until golden brown. Turn them as necessary to brown all sides. Remove blossoms from pan and set to drain on paper towels. These taste best when served fresh and hot.

Flower of the Month


Borago officinalis

Borage is a decorative annual with coarse, hairy leaves and stems and beautiful sky-blue flowers in a star shape. The plant grows about 2 to 3 feet tall. Borage is easily grown from seed and will sow itself. This plant does best in dry, sunny places. Pick blossoms as they open. Use leaves fresh anytime; they are seldom dried. Bees are attracted to the borage plant. Use sprays of borage flowers and leaves are used to give a cool, cucumber-like flavor to summer drinks. Flowers are excellent eaten raw with tomatoes.

Web Site of the Month

The American Association of Poison Control Centers

They work to support the nation’s 60 poison centers in the valuable work they do. America’s poison centers are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you. The Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 serves as a key medical information resource and helps reduce costly emergency room visits

Posted in  

Hosta Care

Icon Written by Wayne on April 1, 2011 – 12:01 am

Hostas are an excellent perennial plant for shade gardens. Originally from Asia, hostas, are a herbaceous perennial primarily grown for its attractive foliage. These shade perennials thrive in low light and only get better with age as the clumps get larger and the variegated leaves become wider and the coloring becomes more intense, especially in the gold-toned cultivars. While they are easy to grow, there are a few things the home gardener can do to help them along.

While hostas can get along without fertilizing, we like to feed our established plants a balanced fertilizer in the Spring before the leaves have fully emerged. After the leaves have emerged, we recommend using a balanced water soluble fertilizer every month or so. If you use granular fertilizer after the leaves have emerged, try to ensure that none of the granules stick in the foliage as this will burn the leaves. Generally, a good overhead watering will wash the fertilizer off the leaves.

Hostas will tolerate a fairly wide range of soils. However, they prefer a well drained humus soil, the more organic material the better. We like to add compost to the beds every two years as we have a very heavy clay soil.

Spacing hostas does not really matter, we usually just let the plants size determine spacing. As a general rule, smaller varieties need to be planted closer together than the larger varieties. We like to plant our hostas as close together as possible to create a groundcover look. If you are more interested in a specimen garden, you will want to increase these spacings so that the individual plants can be seen.

While we have many clumps in our home gardens that have been undisturbed since 1989, most of our hostas have been divided and transplanted many times. This is primarily for aesthetic purposes but, if a hosta is not doing well in one location, it sometimes helps to move it. It is said that hostas should only be moved in the Spring but, we have found that they thrive no matter what the calendar says.

We divide clumps every two or three years to increase our stock. Try to salvage as much of the root system as practical. After the clump is dug, we wash the roots so that we can see where to divide. Most hostas have a basal plate of hard tissue between the foliage and the roots. Try to cut through only this basal plate area and avoid cutting off roots. We generally transplant immediately after division.

Hostas, in normal conditions can go for several weeks without water. Obviously, dwarf and small hostas with their shallower roots will need more frequent water than larger varieties. In addition, newly planted hostas, regardless of size, need fairly frequent watering until their root systems become established.

All that said, just remember, hostas are a very easy plant to grow and are very forgiving. This is why we have over 400 varieties growing everywhere, that and the fact that they look very good!

Tips of the Month

Hostas need a period of dormancy, brought on by colder weather and perhaps decreased light. While we prefer to leave the foliage undisturbed until late in the winter we know of a lot of homegardeners that remove the foliage as soon as it dies back. At that time, while the ground is still frozen, we rake off all of last season’s decayed leaves, etc. In climates involving a frequent freeze/thaw cycle we recommend covering the hosta with a couple of inches of compost. Then in mid or late March before the leaves start to emerge, we gently rake off the compost.

Flower of the Month


Hosta hybrid Paul’s Glory

It is mutation from H. ‘Perry’s True Blue’ has brilliant gold leaves with a wide blue edge. The dark golden leaves brighten to a white gold as the season progresses. These spectacular clumps are topped with light lavender flowers on 24″ scape in late spring. This is one of those rare hostas that stands out in any garden.

Web Site of the Month

Naylor Creek Nursery in Chimacum, Washington

It is one of our favorite sources of specimen hostas in all colors and sizes. We have been buying from them for several seasons and have always been happy with our orders. The plants have always arrived in excellent shape in the time frame that we specified. We look forward to receiving their yearly Plant List which offers many new introductions from some of the best hybridizers in the country. While they specialize in hostas, they do offer several other select shade garden perennials.

Posted in  

Hostas Sun or Shade

Icon Written by Wayne on March 1, 2011 – 12:01 am

With good reason, hostas are one of the most popular plants for the homegardener. After all growing hostas, is easy, and they provide fabulous, foolproof foliage that thrives in in almost any situation.

Hostas are shade plants, right? Not necessarily. Hostas are considered shade-tolerant plants, but shade might not be their ideal growing condition. Hostas grow best in an exposure with morning sun and afternoon shade.

Some cultivars will tolerate some afternoon sun, although plants grown in full afternoon sun probably will show signs of burning on leaves in the summer months. Many hostas are more vigorous and display their most vibrant colors if given at least some sun. Yellow colored hostas without at least a couple of hours of full sun will fade to green.

Keep in mind, the heat experienced in a full sun location can vary from area to area and even during different times of the day. Full sun in the morning hours will not be as intense as full sun at noon. So if your site is extremely hot or dry, you will need to keep any hostas sitting in full sun well watered.

Similarly, no hosta is going to thrive in deep shade. They all need some sunlight to photosynthesize. The shade tolerant varieties seem to do best in an exposure of morning sun and late afternoon shade.

Blue hostas require the most protection from the sun. This is because the blue color is actually a waxy coating on the leaves. The leaves themselves are a shade of green. The waxy coating gives them a blue tint. In full, hot sun, this waxy coating melts and exposes the green leaf underneath.

Unfortunately, only trial and error can tell you which hostas with variegation can tolerate full sun without burning. The thicker the leaves, the more tolerant they will be of full sun. Another problem with variegated hostas is that they have minimal amounts of chlorophyll. In full sun, the chlorophyll levels can increase and cause the leaves to pick up a green cast and look less variegated.

You can follow the rules and choose the recommended plants and still not have success. The only real gage for how sun tolerant a plant is, is how it is performing. If your Hosta plants are not doing as well try moving them to a new location.

Tips of the Month

Some simple things to remember about sunlight and growing hostas:

  • The most important thing to remember is hosta are shade tolerant, not shade dependent.
  • The more white a hosta has the more sun it needs to maintain vigor.
  • A lot of the yellow/gold hosta have brighter colors in the sun.
  • Blue leaved plants do better in deeper shade since the blue color is from a waxy coating on the leaves.
  • No matter where you place the hosta, remember to water until it is established.
  • All morning sunshine is welcome, then semi or full shade during the afternoon. 7. Hostas expire a lot of water via their leaves. The hot afternoon sun will tax their ability to supply sufficient water to the leaf. The heat will deteriorate the Hosta leaves from the edges inwards
  • Some hostas will burn quite easily so that only 1-2 hours of early morning sun is the maximum that can be tolerated.
  • Hostas that have yellow centers, or are all yellow must have 1-2 hours of direct sun.
  • Generally, dark green and blue Hostas will do better in more shade.
  • Flower of the Month


    Hosta Hybrid ‘Inniswood’

    Named for Inniswood Gardens in Westerville, Ohio, Inniswood ( ) is a version of ‘Sun Glow with rounded gold corrugated foliage and a wide, deep green edge has become a hosta world favorite. The fast growing 4 foot wide clump is topped with medium lavender flowers on 30 inch scapes in late spring.

    Web Site of the Month

    White Oak Nursery

    Since 1984 White Oak Nursery has been a family owned and operated business specializing in raising hostas. In 2003 we expanded their product line to include daylilies. They grow their plants on twelve acres in Woodford County, Illinois. Their objective is to satisfy their customers by providing a wide selection of varieties at reasonable prices.

Posted in  

Small Perennial Plants for the Shade Garden

Icon Written by Wayne on February 1, 2011 – 12:01 am

Deciding the actual plants to use in a small garden is more than a personal preference. You need to consider the cultural environment, amount of sunlight, soil conditions, moisture, maintenance, and surrounding plants. Since this is a small space garden, maintenance will be less intensive. Also some consideration should be given to how to achieve a good visual effect.

That said, we feel the main problem when selecting plants for a small sized garden is how to pick out just a few from a long list of plants. Since your space is limited, every plant counts. Here are a few plants we recommend be incorporated into your small garden.

  • 21Asarum europaeum Snakeroot, Wood Ginger is originally a native of Canada, this little creeper gives off a strong scent of ginger from its large fleshy tubers. Though it can be situated in borders, it comes into its own as a ground-core plant in moist and shady parts of the garden. The flowers are a deep red but even more important are the silky leaves that cover the soil throughout the year, even in winter.
  • 166Acorus gramineus ‘Minimus Aureus’ Dwarf Golden Sweet Flag is 2-3 inches tall but brilliant gold in color. This little plant makes a stunning groundcover in moist, partly shaded locations, handling full sun just fine with enough moisture. With foliage resembling tiny golden iris.
  • 46Epimedium youngianum ‘Baby Doll Pink’ Barrenwort grows in clumps only 9 inches tall. In the woodland garden, the flowers appear in early spring on this deciduous clumper. Each cluster of “baby doll pink” flowers hangs like tiny bells above the woodland floor, with each new developing cluster of flowers.
  • 280Heuchera hybrid ‘Marmalade’ Coral Bells stands out with its rich, shiny, undulating foliage ranging in color from umber to deep sienna. Showy in all seasons, this vigorous plant has heavy substance standing up to inclement weather. Numerous, narrow spires of red-brown flowers.
  • 69Pulmonaria rubra ‘David Ward’ Lungwort is a terrific lungwort with mint-green leaves and ruffled, bold white edges. Beautiful salmon flowers nestle in the variegated leaves. Neat habit. What a plant! A stunner in the half-shadegarden. A must for the Pulmonaria collector.

  • 50Tiarella hybrid ‘Spring Symphony’ Foam Flower is one of the best clumping tiarella that we have seen. The jagged, fuzzy green leaves are each highlighted by a black central blotch. In May, the compact clumps are topped with light pink bottlebrush-like flowers, darker toward the tips.

The list could go on and on as there are just so many excellent plants out there with more being developed yearly. We intentionally did not mention hostas or primroses as these are subjects unto themselves. In Fact, we were not going to include any epimediums, since so much is happening with them in recent years, but no garden should be without a few of these fine plants. We hope to cover these developments in a future Yard Talk.

Tips of the Month

The following are some general guidelines to follow in selecting plants.

  • Choose plants that have a desirable flower color and foliage.
  • Know the potential size of the plant in order to fit proportionally within the garden.
  • Select plants that bloom throughout the growing season.
  • Determine the amount of sunlight in the garden area and select plants that will thrive with that amount of light.
  • Select plants that will grow well in the soil condition of the garden area.
  • Look for healthy plants that appear vigorous.
  • Choose plants that all have the same water requirements.
  • Avoid plants that attract insects or disease problems in your area.
  • Keep in mind that some flower colors may not compliment other flower colors.
  • Flowers of red, pink, blue, and purple are “cool” colors and will soften a garden. Flowers of orange and yellow are “hot” colors and will brighten a garden.

Flower of the Month


Arisaema candidissimum

Cobra Lily emerges in very late spring with 1 foot tall stalks of pink pitchers which are dramatically striped with translucent, white vertical veins. Alongside the flower, emerge two giant three-lobed leaves, which can reach 2 feet in width. A. candidissimum offsets freely in a well-drained site in the garden.

Web Site of the Month

Pine Forest Gardens

Found in Atlanta, Georgia, is truly a great source for quality hostas. While their selection is somewhat limited, they have most of the top quality specimen hostas. Their web site has excellent quick loading graphics which makes viewing and selection easy.

Posted in  

Ordering Plants On-Line

Icon Written by Wayne on January 1, 2011 – 12:01 am

Online nurseries offer an easy and efficient way to buy plants and they even deliver! When you buy plants online, you get to compare prices, find the best variety, research growing conditions, and learn about the plant’s cultural requirements all from the comfort of your home.

Buying plants online is one of the easiest ways to find best and newest perennials, normally hard or impossible to find locally. Local nurseries have limited space for displaying plants, they often only carry a small selection of plants that are hardy, easy to care for, and which sell quickly. The newest plants from hybridizers like Terra Nova Nursery often take years, if ever, to become available locally.

When buying plants online, you can choose your plants from large reputable nurseries that carry many varieties or from nurseries that specialize in rare, hard-to-find plants. When you are browsing the different nurseries online, be sure to remember the common and botanical name of the plants that interest you, so you can compare shipping sizes and prices between retailers.

Many of the nurseries who sell plants from internet websites have years of gardening experience. You can benefit from their knowledge, they can both answer your questions and offer gardening tips. Whether you are an experienced gardener or a beginner, buying plants online can be a fun experience.

Most of the plants that you buy online will be shipped to your home at the correct planting time, all you have to do is have the planting site ready and waiting. If you have any problems with your order, all you have to do is contact the nursery. Actually, we have found on line nurseries easier to work with then local stores.

We actually buy very few plants locally, mostly as fill in plantings. It is unfortunately true that most local retailers just do not have the resources or expertise necessary to compete in todays ever changing plant world. We are always looking for the newest and best for the limited space we have. On line ordering just puts the world at your finger tips.

Tips of the Month

While most online nurseries are just as good if no better in handling your order in a safe and secure manner here are a few tips.

  • Shop at only secure web sites.
  • Research the site not just the plants.
  • Read all the sites ordering policies and procedures.
  • Never give out your social security number.
  • Disclose only the bare facts necessary.
  • Check the websites address, do not fall for Phishing Messages.
  • Always print off your orders.
  • Pay attention to the shipping information.
  • Read the sites cancelation, return, and complaint policies.

Flower of the Month


Asclepias incarnata ‘Ice Balle’

White Swamp Milkweed has a common name that belies its beauty, this Swamp Milkweed has a showy white flower that serves as a canvas allowing butterflies to really stand out. And attract butterflies it will! ‘Ice Ballet’ may grow a bit taller than the unselected species, perhaps to 4-5 feet, and will be happiest in full sun and wet soils.

Web Site of the Month

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

They are a not-for-profit organization founded in 1827. Under the leadership of Jane Pepper, PHS provides great events, activities and publications for novice gardeners, experienced horticulturists, and flower lovers of all ages. Their Mission: The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society motivates people to improve the quality of life and create a sense of community through horticulture. Their Green Scenes Magazine is an excellent publication. Their Yearly Gold Medal Plant awards to often underused but exceptional plants is very useful to the discriminating gardener.

Posted in