March 22, 2012

Perennial Containers

Last summer I bought a BIG 30-inch pot for a tree sapling we were growing on the mostly-shady back porch. The tree died when we went away for a week in July (Oops... it was only to be expected after that kind of neglect)... and looking for a quick bit of color I turned to evergreen perennials to fill the container and ended up with a lovely combination with year-round interest.

Perennials make a cost-efficient choice for containers that will keep season after season. Just make sure when picking your perennial container combos that you pick plants that are hardy to at least 1 zone colder than the zone you are in since roots in a pot gets colder than roots in the ground (i.e. Raleigh is zone 7 so I made sure these were hardy to at least zone 6). While I love my annuals in the sun, shade containers are a place where perennials really steal the show for interest.

This container features the Tassel Fern, Polystichum polyblepharum
 with its unique fuzzy stems, and a personal favorite for the shade, Coral Bells, Heuchera 'Palace Purple' which shoot up delicate bell-shaped blooms in the mid spring, with a punch of Periwinkle Vine, Vinca minor, for a trailing effect.

March 17, 2012

Plant Spotlight: Thalia Daffodil

The Daffodils are in bloom in North Carolina! Daffodils, or Narcissus, provide some of the most reliable late-winter / early-spring blooms in the south. There are TONS of varieties out there, and I have at least 10 different type scattered around the garden, but my favorite by far is Narcissus 'Thalia'.

This beautiful bulb has 2-3 almost pure white flowers per stalk that have a wonderful delicate fragrance. They naturalize well in our southern soils and do better than most at flowering even as the bulbs get crowded.  A great Narcissus to try if you are tired of the old yellow varieties!

March 14, 2012

Landscaping Makes "Cents"

On the fence about your landscaping? Check out this article from a local garden center on how landscaping can increase your resale value and tips to keep it up:

Our Front Landscape

March 8, 2012

Getting the Border Ready for Spring

The first week of March usually marks the start of the spring scramble in this house. All the dreams of garden projects we wanted to get done by spring are now facing a reality of being put off for next year, as we ready the garden for spring. Id already cleaned up the perennials and the roses, and all that was left to tackle was the butterfly bush. Its been a warm winter here as in much of the country, and the shrub still had as much foliage as it did in late fall....until I channeled my inner Edward Scissorhands and gave it a good pruning... from around 8 feet to just under 1 foot.

Butterfly bushes are some of the most commonly used landscape shrubs in our area, and rightly so because of their beautiful blooms that keep coming all summer. But with any widely-used plant, some people buy them without learning how to correctly care for them. The key to keeping your butterfly bush full and healthy year to year is to cut it back with some sharp bypass loppers to about 1 foot in the spring when new growth emerges. 

Now, you do not have to cut a butterfly bush back in the South, as the stems stay alive year round here, but be warned: they will grow to almost 20 feet in this area if not pruned! That and the pruning increases flowering dramatically, and gives the bush a cleaner shape. The most common mistake with this shrub is to cut it back too early (in the fall or early winter) leaving its hollow stems vulnerable to frost damage. Even in the early spring I make sure to make my cuts at least 1/2 inch above a growing point (i.e. a new leaf) in case temperatures drop.

And now all there is to do is throw down some all-purpose fertilizer (I prefer organic products and love the "good stuff" in Espoma's Plantone to give the border a boost in the spring) and just wait for summer blooms!

March 1, 2012

Crocus for Early Spring Color

Crocus are a reliable early spring blooming blub for our area that is usually the first to bloom in our garden. We have the tiny bulbs scattered throughout the garden in bunches: some in the far back amongst the roots of a big tulip poplar, among the perennials in the border, and even a few under a tree in our front yard.

We have several varieties in the garden, but only one that is bold colored and vigorous enough to form a patch big enough to be seen from our back windows. This is the star of the show, Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant'. This variety is super care free, cheap to buy, and will grow almost anywhere! Id recommend this Crocus variety for anyone looking for an early spring show.