Tag Archives: Gardening Basics

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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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!

Boston Flower Show Opens This Week!

ImageIt’s almost time for the Boston Flower & Garden Show!  I must admit I get so excited when the show opens.  It’s like going to Oz.  First it’s that lovely, earthy smell of mulch as you walk through the doors.  Then the vivid carpets of color from flowers in full bloom bunched close, overflowing from pots, arranged neatly.  Somewhere close by water is splashing from a fountain or wFountain and Urn of Succulentsaterfall.   And the people are abuzz – walking, talking, oohing, aahhing and yes, shopping.  The show always delivers inspiration and gets me all jazzed with new ideas for my own garden.
The Bost564on Flower Show returns to the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston this week!  It opens to the winter-weary public on Wednesday, March 13 and runs through Sunday, March 17, 2013.
This year’s theme is ‘Seeds of Change’ and will showcase new plants, methods and materials to increase the beauty, bounty and the ecological friendliness of gardens and outdoor spaces.
Since I’m a member of the Garden Writers of America, I plan to visit the show on March 12th during the Media tour.  I’ll write a ‘first look’ blog post with photos later that day.  Just for City Garden Ideas readers like you!
Tickets to the show are $20 for adults and $10 for children.  To buy tickets, click here.

Create a Container Garden – New Video!

Hello Everyone: 
At the May 5th City Garden Ideas workshop, Ellen Abdow, the owner of Perennial Gardens, created a container garden before our eyes.  
Now you can see it too… Click to watch and be inspired:  http://youtu.be/snZwENQ7u1o.   

Remember Thriller/Filler/Spiller:

Ellen chose a fiberglass pot and these plants to create the container garden:

  •  a purple calla lily in the center as her tall “thriller”
  • begonias and impatiens to provide a bushy middle as the “filler”
  • and healthy ivy to trail down the pot as her “spiller.”

Ellen generously offered the container garden as a raffle item at the end of the workshop.  Congratulations to Liz K. who won the container and provided the picture above. 

Enjoy your garden!

Awesome Gardening Event This Saturday!

Garden Supplies on StairsHello All: 
Come join us this Saturday, May 5th for two hours of gardening inspiration!  

We’ll meet at 10am at 66 Marlborough Street in Boston.  There will be a bunch of new and avid gardeners gathered in the auditorium of the First Church in Boston.  

Come hear Ellen Abdow, the talented owner of Perennial Gardens.  She’ll share her insights and experiences about planting in urban environments.  She’ll also create a fabulous container garden in front of our eyes!  A demonstration not to be missed! 

Tom SmarrTom Smarr from The Garden Concierge will inspire us with the basics – tools, soil and plants for every season.  He’ll also talk about the hottest trend in gardening these days – vertical gardening.  Here in the city we have plenty of walls – alleys, roof decks, patios.  Perhaps “going vertical” is something new to try…

Don’t miss this opportunity to be inspired!  Come discover the secrets to maintaining a beautiful and hardy flower garden – in whatever space you have!  

Cost is $25.  Tickets available at the door. 
For more information, go to http://citygardening.eventbrite.com.  Or email me at janine@citygardenideas.com.  Hope to see you on Saturday!

Gardening Experts Speak May 5th in Boston!

Come get great advice and a dose of inspiration to make this year’s flower garden your best yet!
Join us Saturday, May 5th from 10am to noon for a lively, information-rich workshop called “Gardening Experts Speak! Tips for a Successful City Garden.” 
This second annual City Garden Ideas event will be held in the auditorium of First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough Street, at the corner of Berkeley and Marlborough. 
Our featured speakers are talented, professional horticulturalists: Ellen Abdow, owner of Perennial Gardens, and Tom Smarr, The Garden Concierge and former Superintendent of Horticulture at the Rose Kennedy Greenway.  What can you expect?  Plenty! 
Ellen will create a beautiful container garden right before your eyes.  She’ll share gardening wisdom and offer insights into the hottest trends. Tom will offer up gardening basics on tools, soil, sun and choosing plants that thrive in every season.  He’ll also talk about vertical gardening.  That’s when blooms go up and up. 
Register at http://citygardening.eventbrite.com.  The cost is just $25!  There will be plenty of time for questions and answers, loads of handouts and door prizes!  This event is not to be missed!
If you have questions, call 617-267-6500 or email me at janine@citygardenideas.com.  Hope to see you there!