Category Archives: Buying Flowers and Plants

Selecting Plants That Grow – Encore Expert Advice

Tom Smarr1ENCORE!  Tom Smarr, now Director of Horticulture at the High Line in New York City, offers timeless advice on selecting plants that will grow.  This 2011 blog deserved an encore post!
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“In the city, tough plants go into the ground. 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.”   – Tom Smarr                               

Determine Your Sunlight Levels:
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
Here are some of Tom’s favorite plants by sun level:
1. Full sun:  Black-Eye Susan (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 are 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 are durable and have nice solid color.
Snow Flurry (Symphyotrichum ericoides) is a low growing, 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 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.
Tom admits that plants for shady sites can be tough as little or no light reaches the ground.  He recommends trying some of the groundcovers in Part Shade and thinking uniquely about the location for garden ornaments.

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This Wednesday, May 15th – Plant Something!

This WednesdGetting Ready to Gardenay, May 15th, people all over the Commonwealth will get busy planting something beautiful in every city and town. Come join in!

It’s all part of Plant Something MA, a joint project of the Massachusetts Flower Growers Association and the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association. The goal is to have a public planting across the state and encourage residents to plant something – anything!

As Lady Bird Johnson once said,
“Where flowers bloom so does hope.”

So get yourself to a local garden center, find some fabulous flowers and then get out your gardening gloves!Daffodils in Rain Boots  My plan is to use an old pair of rain boots as my containers and put in calla lilies and ivy.  My inspiration comes from a fun planting (pictured right) I saw at the 2012 Boston Flower Show.

I’ll post pictures of what I plant.  If you plant, please send your photos so we can all see what you did!

Final Days to Plant Bulbs for Spring Blooms

Yellow Daffodils SpoutingHello Everyone!
If it’s color you crave during those early Spring days in March and April, then don’t delay.
It’s time to buy those daffodil, tulip, crocus, iris and other bulbs and get them into the ground before it freezes!
Here in Boston the soil is still moist and pliable but we’re fast approach consistent nights of below freezing temperatures.  The best time to plant bulbs is after the first frost.  That is happening soon – if it hasn’t happened already where you are.

So, what bulbs should you choose?  Think about color and texture.  Most bulbs come with a photo or are in a bin with a picture of of the bulb in full bloom. Choose the ones that appeal to you.  Remember, smaller bulbs produce flowers that bloom earlier in the spring, and the  flowers are small, like the crocus.  Larger bulbs, such as tulips, bloom later and produce larger blooms. Make sure the bulbs feel firm,  are clean, and not spotted or moldy.

Be prepared.  Planting bulbs takes time.  I just read about the Bulb Bopper.  It’s a device to help with the planting.  I haven’t used it but, if you’re planting more than 30 bulbs, it might be worth a try.

Begin by digging the hole.  For large bulbs, the norm is eight inches deep and six inches apart.  For smaller bulbs, six inches deep and three inches apart with pointed ends up.  When you buy your bulbs, check with the garden expert to confirm these measures.
Here are easy steps to follow:

  • Dig a hole for the bulb
  • Add fertilizer (MiracleGro or similar)
  • Place the bulb in the hole
  • Replace the soil
  • Add water
  • Cover bulbs with 2 – 3 inches of mulch for protection
  • Check soil every four or five days and water if dry.  Don’t water daily.  This will rot the bulb.

Planting bulbs is usually the final planting activity before winter comes.  It’s the last chance to get your hands in the soil and plant for the new season.
Get out there and do it!  You’ll be glad you did!

American Garden Award Winners Announced!

Hi Everyone.  Just had to share these hearty beauties with you!
The 2012 American Garden Award just announced the flower winners of their annual contest.  Each year six flower varieties are chosen by their breeders for their great garden performance.   The varieties are planted and put on display at participating gardens and the public votes for their favorite.   These are the winners and should be contenders for your garden next year. My favorite, by the way, is #2.
And the three winners are:
Grand Prize Winner
Begonia boliviensis ‘Santa Cruz™ Sunset’ from Ernst Benary of America
Begonia Santa Cruz™ Sunset lights up your garden with an abundance of scarlet/orange blooms. Its elegant softly cascading form is perfect for hanging baskets, urns or mass plantings in your garden. Surprisingly heat, drought and rain tolerant, this summer beauty thrives in any location from full sun to shade.

Second Place Winner (My Favorite!)
Gazania  ‘Big Kiss™ White Flame’ F1
from Syngenta Flowers

Gazania Big Kiss™ White Flame has huge white and rose striped flowers that cover full, bushy plants. This carefree, heat loving and drought tolerant annual loves the sun and thrives in tough conditions, all summer long. Extra large flowers and plants make high impact displays in garden beds or containers.

Third Place Winner
Petunia ‘Surfinia® Deep Red’
from Suntory Flowers

‘Finally, the true deep red petunia gardeners have been searching for! For 20 years, Surfinia® has been the best-selling vegetative petunia series in the world, offering superior garden performance with no pinching or pruning needed. Enjoy ‘Surfinia® Deep Red’ in container gardens or in the landscape from spring through fall.

Rose of Sharon – A Late Summer Bloomer

Rose of Sharon blooms through a wooden fenceRose of Sharon in 'SconsetIt’s early September and so many of the bright spring and summer flowers have faded into memory. 
Thank heaven for the Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus).  This hearty shrub offers late summer color.  Blooms can be pink, purple, white, blue, red, even lavender, depending on the variety.  If your garden space has lost its color pizzazz by mid-August, consider planting a Rose of Sharon this fall or next spring.  The shrub is easy to grow and low maintenance.  Best of all, it will provide great color and texture in the waning days of summer.

Petunia Thief On the Loose in Boston

Container Garden with Yellow PetuniasAn alert to all city gardeners:
The Back Bay flower thief has struck again!
Last year, three gorgeous dahlias were plucked from our  street-side tree garden.
This past Friday night, an entire clump of yellow petunias was lifted straight out of our side-street container.
My husband is threatening to install a close-circuit camera!
I must admit this post does sound a bit like the game of Clue…. “He was in the alleyContainer with Missing Petunias with the dahlias from the garden!”  Wish it was all just a game.

In the larger scheme of things, flower theft is small potatoes.  We made a quick trip to Mahoney’s in Brighton to find replacements.  There I learned that flower theft was on the rise all over the city!  The young man at the register told me that I was the 11th or 12th person to come to the Garden Center over the past several days with the same lament.  Misery loves company.
Container with Purple PetuniasAnd yellow petunias?  Very hard to find, just in case you were interested.  Luckily, there were plenty of healthy and hearty Proven Winner purple and white petunias for sale.  Did some serious rearranging in all my containers.  Kept the tall, white “Crystal Peak White” False Dragonhead Physostegia (sometimes called Obediant Plant), removed the Shasta daisies and nestled the new petunias with the existing English ivy.  All the plants seems happy in their warm, sunny space. Fingers are crossed that the flower thief has retired for the season.  Here’s wishing that your flowers are blooming and staying where you planted them!  Enjoy!

City Garden Planting #2 – Daisies, Petunias and More

Daisies, petunias and garden supplies on the stoopChoosing plants for my garden is a creative and exciting process.  Visiting a garden center, discovering healthy plants with great colors and textures, arranging them together until they look just right…  that’s fun for me.  It’s a good thing I like this process since I have to do it at least three to four times between April and September.   City life is hard on plants.  
Last week I had to do something quick.  All of the impatiens in my tree garden and containers were wilted, leggy and needed to be replaced. 
I drove to Allandale Farm in BrooklineAllandale Farm Logo to purchase plants to add new color and variety.  If you don’t know Allandale, it’s Boston’s last working farm and worth the trip.  You can get fresh produce in the main building and usually they have a terrific assortment of flowers that thrive in city environments – vibrant pots of dahlias, daisies, impatiens, petunias and more.   Unfortunately, the flower selection this day was slim.  White Shasta Daisies and Yellow Petunias in Black Container It took some looking but I found six pots of lively white and yellow Shasta daisies and two hanging planters of yellow, purple and red petunias.   I thought I could easily break up the petunias and plant the flowers in the containers and tree garden.  Overall, the daisies look great and are doing fine.  The petunias… well, they are more of a mixed bag.   About half of the transplanted petunias are doing well.  The other half are struggling to thrive in one container and the street side tree garden.  Ugh.  I thought they looked hearty.  My bad.  My counsel would be to buy potted petunias.   Using flowers from a hanging planter as a shortcut might seem like a good, money saving idea but I don’t recommend it.  More replanting this weekend.   Need to get my pictures off to the Mayor Menino Garden Contest by July 13th!  Will visit Wilson Farm in Lexington to scope out their plant selections.  Really want dahlias.  More on Wilson Farm and my plant choices next time.  Enjoy!