Posts Tagged ‘Landscape’

The Polmonaria

Icon Written by Geoff on September 1, 2000 – 7:14 pm

There are more than twelve species of Pulmonaria which are a member of the Borage family. Polmonaria, also called lungworts, Bethlehem sage, and cowslip are a nice group of plants for the semi shady garden. The leaves are simple, large, hairy, and green with a few species spotted. They like moist soil but, do very well in average garden soil. Most are fast growers and some species are evergreen although most are deciduous. 

Polmonaria flower in early spring, soon after the snow disappears. Stems arise from the top of the plant that may still have green leaves after winter. Most plants have funnel shaped flowers with somewhat flaring mouths. Flower colors can be red, blue, white or violet. Some species have pink flower buds and come out as reddish – violet turning blue as they age. Flowers close at night and open again in the morning. 

New leaves begin to grow after the first flowers open. Roots are white and thickly fibrous. Pulmonaria should be planted in a somewhat shady area, they do very well under maple trees. They do not like hot, intense heat and light of the summer sun. Polmonaria are not good in hot, humid climates because they will go dormant. Even here, though, these hardy plants begin to grow again in late summer or early fall, when the temperature is cooler. They will suffer from mildew under these conditions. 

Pulmonaria are a valuable shade to partial shade plant with early spring flowers and attractive rosettes of basal leaves. In their native environments, the lungworts grow on a wide range of soils from acid to alkaline, dry to wet, sunny to shady, along streams and in mountains. 

Lungworts make great ground covers when grown well. Working well with solomon seal, astilbe, epimedium, or hostas. Here are some good Polmonaria to start with: 

P. angustifolia Azurea: Lance-shaped green leaves and wonderful blue flowers. 

P. angustifolia Blaues Meer: Lance-shaped green leaves with dark blue flowers. 

P. longifolia Little Blue: Masses of small blue flowers, tall-lanced shaped spotted leaves. 

P. longifolia ssp. cevennensis: Leaves to 26″ with spotting of silver; cobalt-blue flowers 

P. longifolia Bertram Anderson: Violet-blue spring blooms, narrow spotted leaves. 

P. longifolia Roy Davidson: Green foliage spotted with silver blotches; sky blue flowers. 

P. mollis Somibor: Large green leaves with white blotches; flowers of purplish-pink. 

P. officinalis Blue Mist: Sky blue flowers above lightly spotted leaves. One of first to bloom. 

P. rubra Redstart: Medium green leaves with coral red flowers; vigorous. 

P. rubra David Ward: Leaves of mint-green edged in white with coral flowers. 

P. saccharata Barfields Pink: Velvety deep green leaves; pink flowers with white stripes. 

P. saccharata Janet Fisk: Nice white marbling on leaf; pink flowers turn blue as they age. 

P. saccharata Mrs. Kittle: Dark green leaves with silver marbled effect; rose-pink flowers. 

P. saccharata Mrs Moon: Green leaf with silver spots; pink flowers fade to blue. 

P. saccharata Sissinghurst White: Pure white flowers with green highly spotted leaves. 

P. saccharata Margery Fish: Bright green leaf with silver-gray overlay; red-violet flowers. 

P. x Apple Frost: A silver applique over apple green leaves; rose colored flowers. 

P. x Berries and Cream: Foliage is undulating and silvery; raspberry pink flowers. 

P. x British Sterling: Green margin around shiny silver center on leaves; dark blue flowers. 

P. x Cotton: Cool leaves that are entirely silvered and wonderful blue flowers. 

P. x DeVroomen’s Pride: Near white foliage, green edge; blue flowers fade to pink. 

P. x Excalibur: Silver leaves edged in dark green; rose to wine colored flowers. 

P. x Majesty: Wonderful new introduction–leaves are silver-gray with a very narrow green margin. Blue-pink flowers. 

P. x Paul Aden: A vigorous grower with nicely spotted leaves; pink and blue flowers. 

P. x Milky Way: Huge lance-shaped heavily spotted leaves and blue blooms that fade to wine-pink. 

P. x Purple Haze: Light foggy purple flowers cover a tight mound of well-spotted foliage. 

P. x Raspberry Splash: Dusky raspberry-rose flowers with strongly marked, pointed leaves. 

P. x Spilled Milk: Very compact with extremely silvered leaves; pink flowers. 

P. x Victorian Brooch: Attractive oval silver spotted leaves, upright and outfacing gorgeous magenta-coral flowers with ruby-red calyces. 

P. x White Wings: Pure white flowers, very vigorous with spotted leaves; mildew resistant.

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Use of Wildflowers in the Home Landscape

Icon Written by Geoff on August 1, 2000 – 7:25 pm

Wildflower Gardening is increasing in popularity as gardeners have discovered just how versatile our native plants can be. Wildflowers are finding their way into the home landscape. They are being used increasingly in those hard to mow areas such as septic fields and detention basins. Some homeowners are turning to wildflowers in place of lawns or to reduce lawn areas as a means of reducing maintenance costs. 

Successful wildflower gardening requires careful planning. Site selection is the first and most important decision you must make. Most wildflowers like full sun, at least eight hours. This usually means not a north facing slope. During germination and seedling development you will want a site that can be easily watered. Avoid sites that have a history of heavy weed growth. If you must plant close to open fields, it is best to have a five – ten foot mowed buffer zone to keep weeds and woody plants from migrating into your wildflower garden. You will also want to avoid sites that are barren, if weeds will not grow probably neither will flowers. Damp, heavily compacted, or poorly drained soils usually make poor locations. Also, moist areas accumulate a lot of weed seeds as water drains through them. Since many wildflowers and grasses benefit from periodic burning, you want an area where this can be done safely. 

Site preparation can take up to one year using a combination of cultivation and herbicide applications to eliminate existing growth, roots, and weed seeds. Begin by mowing the area to remove as much growth as possible. Apply three applications of Roundup throughout the season beginning in early spring into fall. This allows you to kill any late germinating seeds. In the following spring we apply a final treatment of Roundup, wait 7-10 days and lightly till the soil. Do not cultivate any deeper than one inch as this will only bring additional weed seeds to the top. Plant the area immediately. 

We recommend using nothing less then 97% pure seeds. Also, avoid those packaged seeds found on most seed racks. We suggest purchasing your seeds from nurseries such as The Prairie Nursery or Wildseed Farms, both offer mixes that cover almost all growing conditions. Select a variety of wildflowers including some of our native grasses. You want to have a variety, not only for color but, to maintain bio-diversity. A good all purpose wildflower mix is one containing the following seeds or plants: 

– New England Wood Aster, Milkweed, Branched Coneflower, Culver’s Root, Wild Senna, Prairie Blazingstar, Black-eyed Susan, Joe Pye Weed, Boneset, Wild Iris, Pale Indian Plantain, Tall Coreopsis, Sawtooth Sunflower, Ox-eye Sunflower, Bergamot, Purple Coneflower, Goldenrod, Angelica, Great Blue Lobelia, Ironweed, Prairie Dock. 

Prairie Grasses 
– Big Bluestem, Bluejoint Grass, Canada Wild Rye. 

Provide plants that occupy different parts of the soil to insure that the wildflowers will squeeze out competing weeds. If the area is small, consider using plants instead of seeding. An important point to remember is that wildflower seeds are not hybridized like modern garden seeds to germinate quickly. 

Once the site is selected, prepared, and the seed chosen, it is time for planting. Unless the area is very big, hand broadcasting works best. Mix the wildflowers seeds into a carrier medium such as damp sawdust or peat–one bushel of carrier per thousand square feet of planting areas. Once thoroughly mixed, divide the blend in half and broadcast first one direction and then the other. Lightly rake and then roll the planted area. Most wildflower seeds need good soil contact to germinate. 

Lightly mulching the area with weed free straw will help keep the areas moist and increase germination. Avoid the temptation to use hay as it contains many weed seeds. The straw should be chopped and blown into the area for best results. 

Water every other day for the first few months after planting and then only during periods of drought. Over watering can be harmful as it promotes diseases. 

Wildflowers and grasses grow slowly so, for the first year or two, some weeding, either mechanical or chemical will be required. Since most weeds will grow faster than wildflowers, periodic mowing at six inches monthly will help control weeds the first year. Use a rotary mower or weedeater depending on the size of the area. Pulling weeds by hand is not recommended as you can easily harm the tender wildflower plants. If weeds continue to be a problem the second season, the area can be mowed again in late spring. 

Most wildflower areas will benefit from periodic burning. We recommend that whenever possible, a regular schedule of burning be carried out. Large wildflower areas should be divided into sections and rotationally burned annually. This method insures bio-diversity, protects over wintering insects, and often easier to control during burning. 

Wildfowers have a place in the garden but, do not expect to buy a packet of seeds at the corner drugstore, sprinkle them around, and magically have a field of flowers. It just does not work this way. With a little planning and some up-front work, you can have something that will last for years with little maintenance. The butterflies and birds will love you too.

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The Daylily

Icon Written by Geoff on July 1, 2000 – 6:55 pm

Daylilies are extremely long living almost pest-free perennials native to the Orient. They are very drought tolerant and will grow in almost any soil. These perennials require little cultivation since their foliage shade out most weeds. Although they will benefit from being lifted and divided, this is not essential. Some, in fact, grow so vigorously that they can be hard to get rid of. 

My first exposure to daylilies was as a youngster traveling North to our summer cabin. This was in the days before the super highway system and we had to travel the “back roads.” These country roads would be lined with bright orange flowers during the summer months. I soon learned that these were daylilies that had escaped cultivation from the gardens of the early pioneer setters. Nothing was left of the early farms but their flowers and an occasional apple tree. 

Today daylilies come in all color except blue . Flowers range in size from two to ten inches, held high on a slender stalk one to four feet in the air. The typical dayliliy bloom has six petals although more doubles or multi-petalled varieties are becoming available. Each flower lasts but one day but is soon replaced by another. A mature plant will have several flower stalks with many flowers opening at once. Once flowering begins, it will continue for several months. With the many varieties now available, it is possible to have blooming daylilies from late spring through autumn. 

Most of our daylilies are diploid with 22 chromosomes although we are seeing more polyploid. Tetraploid, those with 44 chromosomes, has a number if advantages over species daylilies: 

  1. Flowers are much bigger.
  2. More intense colors and brightness.
  3. Flower stalks are longer and stronger.
  4. Flowers and leaves are sturdier.
  5. Increased vigor.

There are a great many new polyploid varieties today to choose from. Every year exciting new tetraploids are being introduced. There are more than 35,000 named varietiesregistered with the American Hemerocallis Society . 

The roots of the daylily vary by species, some are long and slender while others are large and tuber like. No matter the shape, daylily roots are a combination of fine hairy and fleshy finger like growths. They prefer light loamy soil in full sun although, they will grow almost anywhere. A good mulching and a light fertilizer application can be beneficial. Daylilies are drought tolerant but thrive with frequent watering. 

Daylily foliage is grass like in shades of light green. This fan like growth is usually two feet in height with the plants forming clumps. The occasional division of these clumps will improve blooming. Applying too much fertilizer will increase foliage size at the expense of blooming. A good description of the parts of a daylily can be found at The Friends of the Daylily Web Site. 

We consider daylilies one of the easiest perennials to grow. Many gardeners plant daylilies and forget them. They just sit back and enjoy the summer blooms. This is an excellent plant for around out buildings, along lanes, or bordering railroad tracks.

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An Old Rose for Our Gardens

Icon Written by Geoff on July 1, 1999 – 7:44 pm

Last month we discussed the Modern Roses, the Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Grandifloras, and the English Rose. This month we look at the historical roses of the Old World. Old Roses, generally considered to be those bred before 1867, have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Our intent is to give you a brief look at the various varieties of Old Roses as a landscape plant. Many excellent books have been written on the lore of the Old World Rose. There is also a wealth of information available on the Internet such as The Old Rose at We suggest taking the time to study the history and beauty of the Old Rose.

  • Gallica Rose – A usually short stocky shrub rose, blooms are in shades of red, open flowering, with the stamens exposed, and held on upright stems. Alba Rose – These are large vigorous growing plants with clusters of white to pink medium size fragrant flowers.
  • Centifolia Rose – This four to five foot large leafy shrub rose carries medium size white to rosy-red flowers on nodding canes.
  • Centifolia Mossy Rose – A rose considered the sport of the Centifolia Rose that bear on their stems’ green to reddish-brown growths that resemble moss.
  • Damask Rose – A rose with large upright arching canes holding large few-clustered white to deep pink blooms.
  • Canina Rose – This rose is a healthy, hardy tall growing plant with single pink or white flowers produce coral-red hips.
  • Foetida Rose – A big arching rose, best know for its shades of yellow blooms.
  • Boursault Rose – Boursaults are large pink and red flowering, often climbing, and usually show excellent fall color.
  • Agathe Rose – A small flowering compact leafy shrub rose, blooming in shades of pink.
  • Hemispherica Rose – A somewhat difficult rose to grow, known for its yellow flowers which are sometimes double.
  • Setigera Rose – Tough, hardy climbing rose which produced many early American climbers.
  • Turbinata Rose – Very small group of roses known for their large foliage and intense rose-pink blooms.
  • Rubigirosa Rose – This rose is best known for it’s open leafy apple scented foliage, blossoms are single pink to white with orange red hips.
  • Wichurainana Rose – A rambling climbing rose generally flowering in clusters of single white to red blooms.
  • Sepervirens Rose – Another climbing variety, flowers are usually carried in large clusters.
  • Multifloria Rose – Large rambling hardy plant with small single fragrant blooms.
  • Damask Perpetual Rose – This was one of the earliest re-bloomers with double flowers born on medium size canes, very vigorous and fragrant.
  • Pimpinellifolia Rose – A medium size rose with small flowers blooming in a wide range of colors, very hardy.
  • China Rose – This continuous blooming rose is best known for its deep red colors, an open bushy shrub rose that can be hard to grow in colder areas.
  • Bourban Rose – This is the rose that most often comes to mind when thinking of Old Roses, Large fragrant flowers, a re-bloomer that is very hardy.
  • Hybrid Perpetual Rose – Another hardy re-blooming rose with large flat flowers in a wide range of colors born on arching canes.
  • Tea Rose – Named for the scent of their open blossoms they are only marginally hardy and are best known for the crosses they have made.
  • Pernetiana Rose – A glossy leaved marginally hardy rose best known for its blooms in shades of yellows.
  • Rugosa Rose – Another glossy green leafed shrub rose which is extremely vigorous, often grown for its bright red hips.
  • Noisette Rose – A rose known for large clusters of medium size flowers born on long leafy canes, sometimes climbing.
  • Polyantha Rose – A very fragrant shrub rose with smallish blooms in shades of white born in clusters.

We are sure we have probably overlooked some Old Roses as they have been around a long time. We would suggest looking at Yesterday’s Roses at, White Rabbit Roses at, and The Roseraie at Bayfield at for further cultural and historic information. They also contain some very good pictures. I hope that our brief discussion will want you at least to look at the various varieties of Old Roses available to the home gardener.

A Rose for My Garden

Icon Written by Geoff on June 1, 1999 – 7:51 pm

This month’s Yard Talk is on a subject we have been trying to avoid, Rose Gardening. We have been avoiding this subject not because of any dislike for roses, as we have many in our gardens, but because it is such a bold topic. We probably receive more questions on roses than any other plant. The number one question we receive is, “What variety of rose should we grow in our gardens?” Closely followed by, “How does the various varieties differ?” Trying to answer these is really kind of mind boggling, but here goes knowing we will leave out some. 

Roses are generally broken down into two groups Modern Roses and Old Roses. Old Roses are those that existed before 1867 when the first Hybrid Tea “La France” was bred, and Modern after this event. Old Roses are usually once blooming, disease resistant, and require less maintenance than Modern Roses. The following are some Old Roses:

  • Gallica Roses
  • Alba Roses
  • Damask Roses
  • Centifolia Roses
  • Tea Roses
  • Damask Perpetual Roses
  • Noisette Roses
  • Hybrid China Roses
  • Hybrid Perpetual Roses
  • Rugosa Roses
  • Mossy Remontant Roses
  • Polyantha Roses
  • Pernetiana Roses
  • Old Hybrid Tea Roses
  • Hemispherica Roses
  • Setigera Roses
  • Pimpinellifolia Roses
  • Sempervirens Roses
  • Bourban Roses
  • Boursault Roses
  • China Roses
  • Agathe Roses
  • Foetida Roses
  • Multiflora Roses
  • Turbinata Roses
  • Rubiginosa Roses
  • Wichuraiana Roses

For additional information on many of these Old Roses we recommend visiting Yesterday’s Roses at

Hybrid Tea Roses were the first Modern Roses and easily the most popular today. As a group, they have high pointed flower buds, are excellent repeat bloomers, and have one flower per stem. They come in a variety of clear and blended colors that are excellent for cutting. This is the rose most often found in the Floral Shops and what usually comes to mind when roses are mentioned. They are also the hardest of the Modern roses to grow, subject to many garden pests and diseases, and are only hardy to Zone 5 with protection. 

The next Modern Rose to find their way into the garden was the Floribundas, a cross between the Hybrid Tea Rose and the Polyanthas Rose. Floribundas are a hardy, bushy rose, which usually produces clusters of flowers. The blooms are clear or blended colors like the Hybrid Tea although generally smaller in size. They are at their best when planted in mass. Although they are more hardy then the Hybrid Teas they still require protection in Zone 5

The Grandiflora Rose is a cross between Floribundas and Hybrid Tea Roses. They are more hardy then either of their parents, much taller, with the flowers being much larger, and born in clusters. Like their parents, the blooms are available in a wide range of clear and blended colors. Their hardiness makes them the best suited for the novice gardener, particularly in the northern regions. 

The newest of the Modern roses is the English Rose. These are often referred to as the “David Austin Roses” after the English hybridizer who first bred them in 1969. He has tried to combine the form of the Old Rose with their many petalled cupped shaped blooms with the continuous flowering of the Modern Rose. He also wanted to introduce a wider range of colors, while maintaining the fragrance of the Old Rose. The English Rose is a very hardy rose and not as prone to as many pests or diseases as the other Modern Roses, we have seen it growing above Zone 4

As you can see the varieties of roses available is mind boggling and we have not even touched on climbing, miniatures, or tree roses. The Old Roses and the David Austin Roses are really popular now. Of course how can one beat the beauty of the Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, and the Grandiflora Roses? There are even roses now available which will tolerate the shade garden, for more on this visit Donna’s Roses in Shade at What are our favorite roses? My wife likes the Hybrid Teas, particularly Candy Stripe and Flaming Peace while I like the Floribundas such as Pure Poetry and Impatiens. Whatever variety you choose, you are selecting not only something beautiful but something of historical significance .

Plants for the Sunny Garden

Icon Written by Geoff on March 1, 1998 – 7:12 pm

This month’s issue of Yard Talk is, as we promised, devoted to “Plants for the Sunny Garden.” Our selections are based on our experiences growing in hardiness Zone 5, with heavy clay soil amended yearly with compost, and growing in direct sunlight. We are purposely leaving out several large plant groups such as roses, iris, and day lilies which will be covered in later issues. Our focus will be on those plants that out perform all others and provide a base on which to create a truly spectacular sunny garden. With that out of the way, we would like to present the following: 

1. Echinacea-Coneflower– Vibrant showy flowers with raised centers, long blooming, drought tolerant, great fresh cut, and naturalize well. Recommended varietiespapurea Mangus and White Swan.

2. Rudbeckia-Black-Eyed Susan– You can never have too many of these in your sunny garden, colorful, long blooming, usually vibrant yellow with a dark eye.Recommended varietiesfilgida Goldstrummaximatriloba, and our favorite locuniata Herbstonne.

3. Coreopsis– Tickseed-Mostly yellow daisy like flowers from June until first frost, an excellent cut flower, and attractive to butterflies. Recommended varietiestripteris and the ever popular verticillota Moonbeam.

4. Phlox-Garden Phlox– Showy summer blooming, variety of colors although, our favorite is white. Recommended varietiespanuculata DavidMt. Fuji, and Nora Leigh.

5. Aster-New England Aster– Daisy like flowers in late summer and fall, durable, and easy to grow. Recommended varietiesSingle Apricot KoranVenus Daisy, andBecky’s Daisy.

6. Boltonia-False Aster– Masses of small usually white late season flowers, attractive to butterflies, and easily grown. Recommended varietiesSnowbank Sorry we fell in love with this one and had no desire to try others.

7. Eupatorium-Joe Pye Weed– Wish they had called it something besides a weed, every garden should have this, if for no other reason, than the masses of butterflies it attracts. Its billowy flowers are usually hard to see because of all the butterflies. It provides an excellent backdrop for other perennial. Recommended varietiesfistulosum orrugosum that has an exciting chocolate colored foliage.

8. Sedium-Ice Plant– A very large succulent group, attractive foliage, easy to grow, drought tolerant, and with a showy flower head that is attractive to butterflies.Recommended varietiesAutumn JoyFrosty Morn, and Rosy Glow.

9. Monarda-Bee Balm– Colorful, aromatic sun loving plant that really has been improved upon in the past few years with some new mildew resistant varieties. Recommended varietiesCambridge ScarletMarshall’s Delight, and Jacob Cline. The last two are particularly mildew resistant

There are some excellent groups that we had to leave out such as Delphiniums, because, frankly, we have not been able to consistently grow them successfully. We look for showy, vigorous growing plants that consistently, year after year, out perform all others. As you can tell, we also like them to be attractive to butterflies. For those of you, like us, who think that butterflies are a part of gardening, there is an excellent newsletter published four times a year called Butterfly Gardener’s Quarterly. We understand this newsletter costs less then $15.00 and is put out by Claire Hugen Dole. You can get more information by writing P O Box 30931, Seattle, Washington. 98103.

In next month’s Yard Talk we will talk about “Annuals in the Perennial Garden”, “Growing Moss in the Shade under Trees,” and provide you with some useful fertilizing tips.

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