In the city, tough plants go into the ground – Advice from a horticultural expert!

Meet Tom Smarr.  He’s the superintendent of horticulture for the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in Boston.  We  sat down a few weeks ago to talk about city gardening and he gave some great information and advice.  Highlights are below.  The full interview is on the Expert Advice tab… Check it out!
“In the city, gardening gets a little tougher because you have so many more challenges.  You have the passerby pedestrian, you have people in general, plus animals, vehicles, bicycles, and more.  Every square inch of the city has so much more impact on it than out in the suburbs, or in the country.  Out in the country, you may walk a similar pathway but it’s only you.  But in the city, it’s you and 5,000 people following behind you!”  So what are Tom’s recommendations for city gardeners?
Getting Started:
“Designing a garden plot is like decorating indoors.  A garden is like a room.  It has a floor and walls.”  What colors and textures do you like?  Unsure?  Go to a flower show or a greenhouse or garden center.  See what plants and flowers attract you.  Tom suggests three books that provide design and plant guidance and inspiration:
• Small Garden by John Brookes
•  The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy Sabato-Aust
•  Designing with Plants by Piet Oudolf
Selecting Plants that Grow:
“In the city, tough plants go into the ground.  And tough means beautiful and hardy.  When you choose your garden plants, consider sunlight, moisture, bloom color and height.”  
“Know your exposure.  Notice how much sun and shade are in different areas of your garden.“
•Full Sun                 6 hours or more of direct sunlight (in summer)
•Part-sun               2 to 6 hours of direct sunlight
•Part-shade          1-2 hours of direct sunlight
•Light shade         Dappled sunlight, or shade below open sky
Tom suggests these plants for each sun level:
1. Full sun: 
•Black-Eye Susan’s (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’)
•Dwarf New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’)
•Husker Red Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’)
•Daylilies (Hemerocallis cultivars)
•Blue Licorice Giant Hyssop (Agastache scrophulariifolia ‘Blue Licorice’)
•Blue Ice Amsonia 
All of these are medium to tall plants that would grow great in a perennial boarder or meadow style with ornamental grasses.  These provide a season of blooms and foliage interest and hardy in urban garden conditions.

2. Medium sun:

•Heavy Metal and Shenandoah Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) plus  Little Blue Stem (Schizachryium scoparium ‘The Blues’) are two great grasses that durable and have nice solid color. 
•Snow Flurry (Symphyotrichum ericoides) is a low, groundcover type aster.
•Sheffield Pink Florist Daisy (Chrysanthemum x morifolium ‘Sheffield Pink’) is a hardy blooming chrysanthemum along with many other cultivars provide different colors in the garden for autumn. 
All of these will do fine in full sun to medium light and mixed with plants in the full sun category.
•A favorite shrub is Dwarf Witch-alder (Fothergilla gardenia) an early spring flowers with vibrant autumn foliage.  
3. Part Shade to Shade:
•Pachysandra is typically a dependable groundcover as is Liriope spicata that is a grass-like blooming plant. 
•Tom’s favorites are Hydrangeas that provide good summer color and mounding shrubs.  Popular cultivars are mop head types like ‘Blushing Bride’ and ‘Endless Summer’ or a lacecap variety like ‘Blue Billow’. 
•He also likes Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) as it has unique flowers and leaves.
•Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides) is a groundcover that does well in shady conditions like many other woodland favorites seen at Garden in the Woods in Framingham. 
You can follow many of these plants found on the Greenway and more through the Greenway Conservancy’s blog:

One response to “In the city, tough plants go into the ground – Advice from a horticultural expert!

  1. Pingback: Plants for Each Sun Level «

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