Category Archives: Sunlight

5 Tips for Flower Garden Success – Expert Advice from Perennial Garden’s Ellen Abdow

Ornate container with pansies, pussywillows and ivyHello Gardeners!
Before you plant your Spring window boxes, containers or street-side tree gardens, please read this!  Ellen Abdow, the talented owner of Perennial Gardens, is offering her 5 top tips for a successful flower garden.  Ellen Abdow - Close Up
As a featured speaker at two City Garden Ideas workshops, she famously introduced the phrase ‘Thriller, filler and spiller,’ the three flower components for a winning container, to the audience.  Watch Ellen in this YouTube video from the 2012 CGI workshop.
Here are her 5 top tips:
Tip 1. Look, listen and learn from all the gardeners that have come before you and the gardens all around you.  Indulge in some good books.   I always buy The Well Tended Perennial Gardenthe ones with the most pictures. (Janine likes The Well-Tended Perennial Garden).  Subscribe to magazines and gardening blogs to learn about the latest trends and tricks of the trade. Go on garden tours in the city, attend the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days garden tours.  See what you like in other peoples gardens, copy, and make it your own. Mass Horticultural Society, New England Wildflower Society and the Arnold Arboretum all have excellent lectures and courses throughout the year jam packed with great information.
Tip 2. Be honest: Make an accurate evaluation of sun vs. shade, and plant what’s best geared for those light conditions. There are so many interesting cultivars of plants for any light conditions. Read the labels, ask your local garden center for advice and guidance, and plant accordingly.
Tip 3. Food and water: Proper soil and nutrition grows healthy plants. Build OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa solid foundation and plants will grow easily. Take the time to evaluate your soil and add organic matter to create nutrient rich growing environments. Invest in good potting soil for hanging baskets and potted plants that drains quickly found at your local garden center. Water regularly, not too much, and not too little. Ask for expert advice, and use it!
Tip 4. Change your mind: If you don’t like the way your planting looks, PG - Container and shrubschange it out. Try something new. A garden is never finished. Be willing to take chances. Have fun, relax, and grow what makes your heart go pitter patter.
Tip 5. Use every inch of space you have: Stuff every centimeter of your space with plants. Mount shelves on the walls, hang baskets off the railings, try vertical gardening. You can grow almost anything in a pot, just remember that a plant in a container is totally dependent on you for water and food.Perennial Garden Truck

Ellen started her business in 1993 and she and her team actively design and install gardens in Boston and out in the suburbs.  To learn more about Ellen and Perennial Gardens, visit www.perennialgardens.net.
By the way, that’s my tree garden 🙂 in front of the Perennial Garden truck.  Happy planting!

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Staying Power and Story of the Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckias)

So sorry I’ve been MIA. Back now with much to share!
Let’s start with a lovely and tough city beauty – the Black-Eyed Susan. 
Black-eyed Susan's poking through a black iron fenceFor the past several weeks I’ve been noticing the abundance and health of this perky perennial in gardens all over the neighborhoood. With so many colorful flowers past their peak, these bright yellow and sometimes purple flowers with the dark centers are finally getting attention!  I did a bit of research on these wildflower stunners and found out they are long-lived, low maintenance plants with a tolerance for clay soils. They prefer full sun but tolerate partial shade.  When they are planted in large groups, butterflies love them.  One article I read said they are considered bioremediators.  It seems that their roots and foliage tie up toxins from the soil and air.  What a great benefit for a city flower! 
Now here’s the back story on Black Eyed Susan.  According to the American Meadow website, the name first appears in an Old English romantic poem by John Gay.  It begins:
All in the downs, the fleet was moored,

Banners waving in the wind.
When Black-Eyed Susan came aboard,
and eyed the burly men.
“Tell me ye sailors, tell me true
Does my Sweet William sail with you?”

To read the whole poem and more, click here.
You may have heard of Sweet William. It’s the name for another flowering plant.  It appears that if you “seed wild Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) with common Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), they’ll bloom beautifully at exactly the same time.”  Now that’s romantic!  Great flower, great story. 
Til next time… keep your garden watered!

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!

Sunlight Chart – Know Your Garden Exposure


Hello Everyone!
Knowing how much sunlight your garden gets will help you choose plants and flowers that will thrive in your space.
Check the chart below and see where your garden space fits in.  Always check the labels on the plants and flowers that catch your eye.  The labels will say clearly what level of sunlight suits them best.  Enjoy! 

•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