allium

Each summer I wonder why I didn't put more Allium bulbs in the garden the previous Autumn.  There are hundreds of plants in the allium family including onions, shallots, leeks, chives and garlic.  Pictured (above) is an ornamental allium at the beginning stage of blooming.   By the end of July it will be triple in size.  I love the look of them in our garden, as well as their sturdiness.   

The three foot stalk will get batted around in the wind and not collapse.  Allium are deer resistant and unlike some bulb plants the bunnies and other creatures leave them alone.  This is a big positive because it can be so discouraging to put in something new (i.e tulip and gladiolus) and find the squirrels have dug up the bulbs or deer chomp off the flowers as soon as they bloom.  They thrive on sunshine, look elegant and take up just the tiniest bit of garden space.  Basically, they are perfect.                             

Some ornamental alliums grow in clumps, similar to chives.  If you want a variety of allium, look for potted plants which are available throughout summer in addition to bulbs.

 

Having a clump of plain ole chives in our garden (above) makes me smile.  They are first to arrive on the scene in warm weather and one of the last to leave.  We use about a tenth of the clump; chopped up for potato salad, scrambled eggs, and marinades.  Every spring I think I'm going to remove the whole plant but I don't.  They are like nice neighbors.     

 

astilbe

Astilbe were a great discovery after I had been gardening for a few years.  Initially, I didn't understand where to plant them or what to plant them near.  Now, I can't get enough of them.  They add delicious color under trees and near the house if there is limited sunshine.  They compliment the greens of ferns and hostas, and give a pretty burst of color beginning the middle of summer. 

Plant Astilbe anytime between Spring and early Autumn. 

They tolerate part-sun to shade and are quite pest resistant and easy to grow.   

The best part is running your hand across their soft tops.         

The feathery plumes come in a wide variety of colors.  And honestly the foliage is as gorgeous as the bloom.       

'                                                                                                                       'Rock and Roll' Astilbe

'                                                                                                                       'Rock and Roll' Astilbe

                                                                                                                         'Mortgomery' Astible

                                                                                                                         'Mortgomery' Astible

                                                                                                                  'Little Vision in Red' Astilbe

                                                                                                                  'Little Vision in Red' Astilbe

     

Bee Balm

Spend a few minutes around this plant and you will see why it is named Bee Balm.  Bees hover around the blooms, attracted to their smell and color, gathering nectar for energy and cross pollination.  

These pictures were taken on a hill overlooking the St. Croix River, near Sandstone, MN.  The plant is a native wildflower so it's everywhere!  Bee Balm is a prolific grower, prefers well drained soil and open areas to spread.  I recommend planting it in a mostly sunny spot toward the back of your yard, away from areas where people congregate and children play because of the volume of bees it attracts.

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Coneflowers

                                                                                                     Brooke (2) with 'Hot Summer' Echinacea

                                                                                                     Brooke (2) with 'Hot Summer' Echinacea

'How do I attract Butterflies to my garden?' is a question I often get at work.  It happens to be one of my favorite topics.  It's easy to do once you incorporate all the key elements.  For starters, you need some brightly colored blooms. 

Butterflies are particularly attracted to purple, pink, orange, red and yellow.  Coneflowers come in all these colors.  

Echinacea are commonly referred to as Coneflowers.  They are native meadow perennials that require a sunny area of your landscaping or garden.  If you have well-drained soil that is perfect; if not, just add some sand, Perlite or Vermiculite to lighten the dirt.  The flower color choices are extensive if you go to a good garden center.  

From day one of gardening this has been my favorite flowers.  It is an excellent addition to a butterfly garden because of their vibrant colors, light fragrance and the shape provides butterflies a place to set and drink nectar.
 

'Marmalade' Echinacea

'Marmalade' Echinacea

'Southern Belle' Echinacea

'Southern Belle' Echinacea

Most Coneflowers bloom from mid-June through September.  Removing the spent blooms will promote new flowers.  The 'Southern Belle' (pictured above) will max around 3 feet tall with a bloom that is deep magenta.         

'Double Scoop Raspberry' Echinachea  

'Double Scoop Raspberry' Echinachea

 

Coneflowers grow in clumps and best suited in the middle or back of a garden because of their height.  Read the tag instructions on spacing, typically one or two feet apart.  I hope you are inspired to seek out some of the newer varieties and add them to your garden. 

 

 

foxglove

It's obvious why hummingbirds thrive on foxglove and other tubular flowers, seemingly designed to be perfect together.   

Foxglove (digitalis) are classified as biennial, meaning from seed they need two years to bloom.  Some reseed while others die off after their second season.  They prefer rich, well-drained soil and light shade. 

They are gorgeous but not a plant we put in our gardens.  They can be poisonous to dogs, cats and even humans and while our grandchildren and dog do not eat plants, it's a danger we can eliminate around the house.  You can read more about digitalis here. 

I think I envision foxglove best on a countryside drive.....where there are hundreds of them blooming in the middle of June.  In a convertible, top down and sunshine.  Perhaps one day.

  

grasses (ornamental)

Shade Tolerant Varieties: Blue Fescue, Little Bluestem, Blue Oatgrass, Switchgrass, Maidengrass

 

hollyhock

Total sun-lovers
Stunning jewel tones
Many varieties reach 9 feet tall
Tend to be a short-lived perennial, lasting two to three years

                                                                                                                'Spotlight Blacknight' Alcea

                                                                                                                'Spotlight Blacknight' Alcea

                                                                                                                     'Queeny Purple' Alcea

                                                                                                                     'Queeny Purple' Alcea

'Queen Purple' is one of the shorter Hollyhocks available topping out at 30 inches.  Ruffled and fancy.

 

 

hosta

For me, Hosta plants are an odd combination of simplicity and versatility.  They are useful in landscaping and gardens yet rather fussy about where they grow best.  What appears to be a simple looking plant comes in a lot of variations.

Some plant foliage comes with a lighter color (white, yellow, light green) toward the middle of the leaves and some with the lighter color around the leaf edges.  There are plants that have a blue cast and some that are nearly gold in color.  The shape and size of the leaf varies significantly, some narrow, some concave, some heart-shaped.

See what I mean?  All that variety is part of their charm.  You can't have just one kind.  

They typically prefer shade to partial-shade.  However, they are not just for shade.  If you want to place Hostas in partial-sun areas look for those with solid green leaves or leaves with white edges.  And the thicker the leaf the better.  It only took frying the edges of a few Hostas for me to realize direct sunlight doesn't really work for them. 

The most success I've had with Hosta are situating them under trees so they get good light but never hot, hot mid-day sun.  Also try not to water them in intense direct sun because you can actually burn holes in the leaves.  Mulch and consistent watering are essential.

 

The 'Earth Angel' Hosta (pictured below) has wide fancy leaves.  It will get about 30 inches wide and high.  The white flower arrives mid-June.  To pour energy back into the plant (rather than the bloom), it's perfectly fine to cut the flower off any time during the growing season.  

Earth Angel Hosta

Earth Angel Hosta


iris


It's early summer and Iris in our garden are lush - just swaying gracefully while I watch them from the front porch.  I've found them to be an extremely easy plant to grow - no staking needed - with big results.  Granted, the blooms only last a couple weeks but the tall leaves are quite pretty all summer.  Deer stay away from our Iris and they like the sandy soil where we live.  In early October, I'll cut back the healthy green foliage to about 4 inches, then after the first frost cover them with mulch. 

Bearded Siberian Iris

Bearded Siberian Iris

Aren't those ruffled petals phenomenal? 

 

Peony

They remind me of my grandmother Nana's yard.  She had peony plants alongside the detached garage and the blooms were giant and weighty.  It would be wonderful to have a picture of her sitting next to those plants, all a soft white that would have matched her beautiful wavy white hair.  Nana had the warmest smile. 

Peonia 'Festiva Maxima'

Peonia 'Festiva Maxima'

I recall being told that peony plants should be planted far away from the house because of the ants.  Ants are attracted to something sweet in the blooms and were thought to be required to get the bloom to open.  Current articles say the ants do not force the bloom to open - they just like the flowers.  Ants shouldn't be of concern as they are harmless and will return to the ground when they are good and ready.  Please do not apply pesticide as some websites recommend because the ant activity does not negatively affect the plant.       

Peonies require full sun and a dormant period.  The blooms will last a bit longer if you use a heavy-duty cage to support the stems and keep the flowers off the ground. 

Learning about the type of organic-rich soil peonies prefer and the correct way to set a full plant or bare root is essential to their success.  There is a fantastic video to get you started.  Click here to watch 'Peonies 101' with Kathleen Gagan and Martha Stewart. 

The next few shots were taken in Conni Straits backyard, a friend that has mad gardening skills. 

 

The peonies you plant will take time to fully establish but they will be around for several generations.  

 

 

sedum

To be honest it has taken many years for me to warm up to having sedum and other succulents in the garden.  We've used tall sedum in landscaping but I didn't think they were all that pretty in the flower beds until recently.  Now I appreciate how they bring a completely different look to the overall scheme of perennial plantings.  These are planted next to rocks toward the end of the driveway.  They tolerate being dumped on by the snowplows in winter, the copious amounts of salt and sand needed to keep Minnesota streets ice-free, and they are virtually maintenance free.  Yup.  They have definitely become a new favorite.

Stonecrop 'Lidakense' Sedum

Stonecrop 'Lidakense' Sedum

Additional notes: I tried to divide a couple sedum plants but they look so oddly shaped that I won't be doing that again.  It seems best to just let them be and when they get larger than desired see if a neighbor wants the plant or move it to a different location. 

 

Yarrow

Yarrow belongs in everyone's yard!

With virtually zero effort on our part this plant displays showy blooms through most of summer.    It just needs a good 6+ hours of sunshine.  It's referred to as Yarrow Achillea.  The plant stays compact for the most part (again, remove spent blooms to keep it in a great shape) and if there is one caution it is to give it lots of room for growth.  It grows to 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide.  Unlike some perennials, it will be full and lovely by it's second season in your garden.  Also a great accent plant in landscaping next to tall grasses.   

"Apple Blossom' Achillea

"Apple Blossom' Achillea

Did I mention that Yarrow is deer resistant too?