Tag Archives: salvia

In Appreciation Of Pollinator Gardens…Large and Small

This summer’s “Better Late Than Never” pollinator garden is coming along and, as in years past, will get even more colorful as the end of summer approaches. I’m happy to see that private and public gardens and gardening for wildlife is a growing trend across the country.

I recently returned from a trip back to my home state of Wisconsin, where I  visited a couple of county parks my late father helped make possible many years ago near the beginning of this movement in public gardening. My mother, sister, and I are certain he’d have been very pleased with the progress of this prairie reclamation in the middle of southern Wisconsin farm land.

At Dorothy Carnes County Park & Rose Lake State Natural Area we watched as dozens and dozens of purple martins flew back and forth to houses set up for them, butterflies soared through prairie plantings, and a group of special needs children returned from a morning hike.

 

 

The next day we visited Korth County Park  on Rock Lake and hiked down to a bench overlooking the water. Visitors can hike or bike along paths skirting the lake, and both parks have shelters used for picnicking. I feel so lucky to have visited these lovely and well maintained public spaces.

Our pollinator garden is tiny in comparison but there’s so much life in it too. This year I had trouble finding the peach porterweed that the butterflies adore, but a few weeks ago noticed that a number of them had reseeded from the previous summer’s garden. These volunteer surprises make this garden extra special.

Other “volunteers” this year are red gomphrena, rudbeckias with huge blooms, many zinnias, celosia, sunflowers, cosmos, hyacinth bean and moonflower vines on the arbor, cleome where the compost bin had been, and a lone dill plant. It’s truly an old fashioned cottage garden for the pollinators and the enjoyment of anyone who stops to look!

 

 

We also added a few new plants this year. Verbena ‘Lollipop’ and pentas for butterflies, cigar plant, pineapple  and Mexican sage for hummingbirds, African blue basil and purslane for the honeybees,  and red ruellia too.

The Mexican sunflowers, tithonia, are also slowly getting larger and will add their bright orange blooms that the butterflies love as the summer wanes. The annual milkweed is in bloom now too.

Perennials that return are always welcome in the garden!  The butterfly weed, purple coneflower, and salvia greggii are old friends.

A woman approached me the other day as I was watering to say thank you and said she’s created a pollinator garden of her own after following the progress of this small space in the middle of Crestline Village.

Talking with her and others has been so gratifying. I hope my Dad is watching from wherever he is and smiling at our efforts to create a beautiful space for community and nature too. If you’re in Crestline Village, I hope you’ll take time to stop and appreciate this little slice of pollinator heaven!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

Want More Butterflies? Plant Butterfly Weed!

imageButterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, is the pretty orange flower, shown in the picture on the right  in my very hot and sunny front border. It’s right at home with other butterfly attractors including salvias,  trailing white lantana, purple and red gomphrena, zinnias, mexican heather, other heat loving annuals and, shown in the picture with the butterfly weed, a yellow hypericum shrub. It also is happy with other perennials.  To be successful in atracting butterflies, you need to have sources of nectar, sources for them to lay their eggs on,  and plants for the caterpillars to feed on…monarch butterflies like to lay their eggs on this asclepias, so it’s a very good butterfly plant to have!

Butterfly weed in my friend Carole Barton's garden...

Butterfly weed in my friend Carole Barton’s garden…

It’s the flowering star right now in my garden and in my friend and wholesale grower  Carole Barton’s garden also. Her very impressive stand of it in the picture to the left must be heaven for butterflies!  Even for those folks opposed to orange flowers, I hope you will try to find a spot for this one anyway…in addition to attracting butterflies it also is a magnet for other beneficial insects including lady beetles and bees.

Since it has a long tap root, take care in transplanting this perennial butterfly weed. It can be difficult to find, but we have these plants available now, if there’s a sunny spot in your garden and you’d like to try it for yourself.  The long tap root also makes it tolerant of drought once established – a huge plus in my book!  It will benefit from deadheading (cutting off the old blooms) after it’s through flowering – if you don’t get this done it may reseed, which might not be a bad thing depending on where you want it! It also reappears quite late in the spring – I worry each and every year that I’ve lost it and then, happy surprise, it reappears…

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Perennial To-Dos For A Great Garden…

Perennial chrysanthemums benefit from being cut back once or twice or they tend to get lanky with fewer blooms.

Perennial chrysanthemums benefit from being cut back once or twice or they tend to get lanky with fewer blooms.

May and June are key months to keep an eye on your perennials as they’re coming up and (hopefully) growing like gangbusters.  A few tasks to do now involve some summer perennials and many of your late blooming fall plants. Of course, the  following tips are not something you have to do, but are only suggestions gleaned from my gardening experiences through the years. Remember, gardening is not one-size-fits-all!

Do you have summer phlox in your garden? Now is the perfect time to selectively thin your clumps, especially if they’re large. (If they are outgrowing their space or haven’t been blooming well, divide them this fall.)

To thin your summer phlox, simply reach into the clump and pull out the smallest stems. This effectively allows better air circulation – which in turn leads to a healthier clump less prone to mildew problems. At the same time, cut back by half some of the remaining stems. A longer bloom period will be the result…

Perennial sunflower - just about to be cut back in late May.

Perennial sunflower – just about to be cut back in late May.

Asters in front of Texas sage in late May after their first cut-back. Hedge shears do a great job quickly!

Asters in front of Texas sage in late May after their first cut-back. Hedge shears do a great job quickly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more blooms on your late blooming perennial sunflowers, salvias, asters, Joe pye weed and chrysanthemums,  now is the perfect time to get in the garden and cut them back – if you have large areas, use a hedge clipper and cut them back by half. (Hedge clippers – the old fashioned manual ones –  work best on asters and perennial mums.) When you cut a stem, it will respond by creating two stems, so you’ll have a fuller, shorter plant with more flowers later.

Perennial sunflower getting cut back. It will create two stems here - more blooms!

Perennial sunflower getting cut back. It will create two stems here – more blooms!

Now you don’t have to do this, (I’m not the garden police!) and, if you don’t, they’ll just be taller and bloom earlier in the fall, growing to their full height in your garden.
I do like cutting mine back now though. I also make a second cut-back on half the clumps about a month later. This effectively “staggers” the bloom time – those not cut back this second time will bloom first, and be a bit taller, and the plants that are cut back the second time will bloom a bit later.  More blooms, longer! It’s a win win!

Late blooming Salvia madrensis - forsythia sage...cut back at least 3 times during the growing season.

Late blooming Salvia madrensis – forsythia sage…cut back at least 3 times during the growing season. Shown here just beginning to bloom – this will turn into a mass of yellow salvia blooms…

Many southern gardeners say “Don’t cut late blooming perennials back after July 4th”.

Rule breaker that I am, I have cut perennial mums, asters and sunflowers back as late as mid-July and had no ill-effect. But I like extending my blooms well into fall – it’s one of my favorite times of the year!

Perennial sunflower - 'Marc's Apollo' beginning to bloom in mid-September...

Perennial sunflower – ‘Marc’s Apollo’ beginning to bloom in mid-September…

 

 

 

Above all, enjoy your garden – after all, that’s what you planted it for, right? Hopefully by following these tips you’ll be able to enjoy it even longer!

***One of my absolute favorite reference books on perennial gardening is The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by my friend, Tracy DiSabato-Aust. If you enjoy perennials and gardening, this is a must have!!!

 

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Perennials – Plant Some Now!

Mexican sage, Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara'

First things first…what is a perennial? Well, a perennial is any plant that will be with you for the long haul – some will disappear completely during the coldest months of the year and reappear with the first warm days of late winter.

Herbaceous perennials have a specific bloom period when they offer their largest show, then continue to grace the garden with their foliage the rest of the season. Or, their foliage will be the show through the summer and their bloom time will be in fall.

French hollyhock - Malva sylvestris

French hollyhock – Malva sylvestris

However and whenever they bloom though, please understand that for the majority of their life you’ll be looking at the shape, texture and color of their leaves. When you’re deciding where to place them this is one of the most important things to remember!

Perennial salvia leans over a carpet of thrift (Creeping phlox) in this border...

Perennial salvia leans over a carpet of thrift (Creeping phlox) in this border…

Used well, perennials are a wonderful addition to a landscape filled with trees, shrubs and annuals. They add their period of bloom and, when grown well, should get larger with each season. (We’ll talk about dividing your perennials in another post.)

However, perennials are not no-maintenance plants. Some, like Japanese aster, thread leaf coreopsis, catmint and dianthus need shearing back after bloom. Others, such as daisies, coneflowers and rudbeckias appreciate general dead-heading (Cutting off individual blooms.) to keep them blooming longer. When they’ve finally played out the entire stems need to be cut to the ground. Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, benefits from deadheading blooms if you don’t want it to reseed. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on it, so deadhead below the bloom only.

Still others benefit from being cut back by at least half early in the season to control height, or this can be done with half the plant to create a staggered bloom time. Many late season bloomers fall into this category. These include many of the tall salvias, perennial sunflowers, tall rudbeckias, pink muhly grass and joe pye weed (Eupatorium). These late blooming perennials are quite beautiful in combination with perennials grasses.

Summer phlox is one that benefits from up to half its stems being cut back early in the season. This promotes good air circulation, which in turn helps to prevent mildew problems on the leaves.

when the ligularia on the left and the iris aren't in bloom, it's the foliage contrasts that will capture your attention...

when the ligularia on the left and the iris aren’t in bloom, it’s the foliage contrasts that will capture your attention…

 

 

 

None of these tasks is difficult, and, if they’re done a little at a time, your plants will look well tended and cared for.

If you’re in the Birmingham area, please stop in and take a look at the perennials in stock now. The selection of plants is excellent!

Some favorites for part sun to full sun:

Iris – Japanese, Siberian, Louisiana, German  and our native copper iris
Coreopsis ‘Full Moon’, and many others
Summer Phlox – Phlox paniculata  ‘David’, ‘Franz Schubert’,  Common Purple (mildew resistant)
Daisies – Leucanthemum (formerly Chrysanthemum sp.) ‘Becky’ daisy
Japanese aster – Kalimeris pinnatifida
Day lilies (many) – Hemerocallis                                                                                                     Rudbeckia fulgida – Black-Eyed-Susan  Rudbeckia ‘Herbstonne’
Echinacea  – purple coneflowers ‘Magnus’, ‘Pow Wow White’, many others
Salvias – Salvia leucantha – Mexican sage, ‘Indigo Spires’, ‘Mystic Spires’                                          Dianthus – many…the old standby is ‘Bath’s Pink’                                                                            Creeping phlox or thrift – Phlox subulata

Favorites for light shade to full shade:
Hostas (of course!)
Woodland phlox  –  Phlox divaricata
Solomon’s seal (green or variegated) – Polygonatum sp.
Japanese painted fern -Athyrium nipponicum
Autumn fern – Dryopteris erythrosoris
Tassel fern – polystichum polyblepharum
Indian pinks – Spigelia marilandica
Heuchera
Tiarella
Heucherella
Aspidistra – cast iron plant
Carex (many)

Don’t let the latin names intimidate you!  They are just the best way of knowing for sure what you are asking for. Common names, though easy to remember,  can bring on even more confusion when there’s more than one plant with the same name…at any rate, try a few perennials in your garden soon – you’ll be hooked in no time!

 

 

This is just the beginning of the perennials that are out there. Ask us for advice if you need help choosing – we’re happy to advise you on the right choices for your garden. And, if you’re adventurous, try one even if you’re not sure if your spot is exactly right – plants don’t always follow the rules!

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