Friday, February 27, 2009

2009 Perennial Plant of the Year

The Perennial Plant Association has named the 2009 Perennial of the Year and it is Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola' .

Each year the Plant of the Year is chosen by a vote from the Perennial Plant Association members. Members nominate plants for Plant of the Year based on the following criteria:

  • Suitable for a wide range of climatic conditions
  • Low maintenance
  • Pest and disease resistant
  • Readily available in the year of release
  • Multiple season of ornamental interest
  • Easily propagated by asexual or seed propagation

Otherwise known as Japanese Forest Grass, this plant grows in Zones 5 through 9 in full sun to part shade. It will take full sun in the north and requires at least part shade in the hotter south. It prefers moist hummus-rich, well drained soils and will not do well in heavy clay. It grows to 18” in height to 3’ wide.


The bright variegated color should succeed in brightening up dark shady places. I think broader leaved plants such as hostas or fatsias would make a nice contrast to the Japanese Forest Grass, as well as brightly colored oriental lilys or even impatiens. Alliums would be fascinating poking out of this stuff!


It makes a nice plant to view up close and personal and its weeping habit would certainly draw the eye down to the horizontal surface of any water feature or patio.


Isn’t it a beauty?!


I can’t wait to try it in my own garden this year!

This week, I'm hooked on perennials. To see what others are hooked on this Friday, go visit Hooked on Houses.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Foreground | Midground | Background

Garden design is about spatial design and the experience of space. Mainly, it’s about perception and how we perceive the space we are in. There are three elements of composition that directly impact how we view space. They are the foreground, the midground and the background. How we manipulate these three things or not will directly effect one’s experience of the space.

The foreground is the place to put plants that can be viewed up close and personal, such as small or delicate plants or flowers.

041107033_christmas_fern_anemonella thalictroides

The foreground can also direct the eye toward what is in the midground and beyond.


Fine Gardening

Lovely or scented flowers should be placed adjacent to walks, patios or grass areas where they can be enjoyed by people.

Hearst Castle

Sculpture, works of art or other objects of interest are best placed in the midground.


Fine Gardening


Fine Gardening

Sculpture3 Fine Gardening

The background should serve as a backdrop for those elements in the mid and foreground areas.




Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Design Workshop: Pets in the Garden

This month, Gardening Gone Wild's Design Workshop topic is “Pets in the Garden.” During the past year or so, I have had many visitors to my garden. First, there are the regular inhabitants, our pets. This is Blitzen, our dachshund, right where she likes to be – right in the middle of my garden! She’s entitled though as she once caught a mole!
And this is Stormy, our cat. She’s lounging on our porch.
Here are the imports:
I’ve got 12 koi and I’ve never had a problem with birds, racoons or other predators bothering this pond and for that, I am very thankful!
I also have occasional visitors to my garden who are predators! Each Spring, these guests arrive and stay through late October.
The Osprey or Sea Hawks arrive in early Spring around March/April and get to work right away reinforcing their nest. All summer long we have been lucky to spy on the pair raising up their family of two to three chicks. They are expert fishermen. Sometimes the parent will catch a fish and perch in a tall pine to feast on it. We enjoy watching them from our porch. They are very noisy. The chicks are constantly squawking for their parents, who oddly enough sound like chicks! They peep!
Sadly, my neighborhood association elected to cut down their nesting tree last fall as it had been struck by lightning and a neighbor was fearful that it would fall on her house. I’m hoping they’ll come back this Spring and find a new tall pine tree to build in. If you are interested, visit The Dennis Puleston Osprey Fund to watch their Osprey Cam and see the birds in action. It is not filming at this time because the birds are away for winter, but there is footage on the site from seasons past.
We also have seen Red Foxes in our yard.

The Red Fox is an animal that lives on the edge. Our yard is adjacent to a heavily forested area where there is an edge delineated between the wooded area and our yard. Although we only cut a few trees down when we built our home, most of the good ones had already been knocked down by a hurricane.
We’ve heard from our next door neighbors that they have seen Coyotes. Thankfully, we haven’t seen them in our yard … yet!

Our next guest has visited our yard every Spring for the past three years!

It’s an Alligator Snapping Turtle. It lives in the little stream that flows through the back of my yard and comes up each Spring to lay its eggs. Ours is a good two feet in length! I am always alerted to the turtle’s arrival by our barking dachshund. And yes, once I discover this beast in my yard, the dog must go inside! It is not fun herding a snapping turtle away from the koi pond!
Little box turtles also travel through on occasion and they are always welcome.
Perhaps the most plentiful “pet” in our yard is this …
It’s a Carolina Anole and they are all over my garden. They have the ability to change colors from green to brown and so forth. Every now and then I find their eggs at the base of a plant I’m transplanting or digging around. We like to put them in a terrarium and wait for the little lizard to hatch! Then we release it back into the yard. They have been the source of much fun and amusement for my children and their friends throughout the years.
One summer my youngest son found this in our yard …
It’s an exotic-looking moth, and big too. I know I’ve mentioned this website before, but if you ever want to identify the bug in your yard go to What's that Bug? It’s a great website that will allow you to I.D. any kind of insect you can imagine.

I found this little guy last summer. He is an Eastern Glass Lizard. Although legless, he is not a snake!
Finally, like many others, we have tons of bluejays, cardinals and other birds, as well as squirrels and of course, deer. Once the deer ate some of my daylilys that I inadvertently planted near the woods. I don’t mind this as I feel that we are fortunate to live in a wooded environment where we can enjoy them. That said, I do try to plant plants in my garden that I know the deer won’t eat. And those plants that I value such as my prize daylilys, and know that the deer will eat, I plant very close to the house in an area where I believe the deer won’t attempt to go. So far, I have had very little damage from deer, except for my sweet potato vine. They do love the sweet potato vine! But my attitude is so what -- it grows almost as quickly as kudzu! How does the saying go? Pruning promotes growth!
I strongly believe in designing with nature. If you don’t want animals and deer in your yard eating your plants, than you have three choices. First, don’t choose to live in their habitat or environment. Why people move to the country and then put up electric wires to keep the deer out is beyond me. Second, you can build a fence to keep them out. Third, choose to plant those plants that the deer won’t eat! There are many sources on the Internet that will list those plants to avoid using. Here is one site from the University of West Virginia: Resistance of Ornamentals to Deer Damage.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – February 15

On the 15th of each month May Dreams Gardens hosts “Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.” She and other Garden Bloggers want to know what’s blooming in our gardens. This should be very interesting as these Bloggers come from around the world. With this post, I’m jumping in! Here is what is blooming in my yard in mid-February in south eastern North Carolina (Zone 8).

This is a Prunus sp. ‘Okame’ or Okame Cherry. It is a small 1-1/2-inch caliper tree and is blooming a month early this year!

Okame Cherry

Here is a close up of its blossoms:

Cherry Blossom

Can you believe I also saw a honey bee working these flowers in February?! In my part of the world, the Okame Cherrys bloom first, usually in mid-March. After they finish blooming, the Prunus yedoensis (Yoshino Cherrys) bloom, usually around early April. Finally, in early May, the Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’ (Kwanzan Cherrys) bloom. This is perfect and gives us two solid months of flowering cherrys!

When I think of flowering cherry trees I always recall the Cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. They are spectacular!

Did you know that there are roughly 3750 cherry trees planted around the Tidal Basin? Most are Yoshino cherrys. Their peak bloom time varies depending on the year. To see a history of peak bloom times for these trees go Here. In 1912, the trees were given to the United States as a gift of friendship by the people of Japan. First Lady Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first two cherry trees on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin. These two original trees are still standing today near the John Paul Jones statue at the south end of 17th Street. If you ever get the opportunity to visit Washington, DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival, do it! It truly is a spectacular sight to see in our nation’s capitol.

Going back to my garden, which seems quite dull next to those Washington, DC cherry trees, I also have Narcissus sp. or daffodils in bloom.


Dutch Master daffodil2

The one on the left looks to me like a large yellow – most likely a ‘Dutch Master.’ The other one, I have no idea about as it was given to me. I also have ‘Ice Follies’ and ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ in other parts of my yard that are not in bloom yet. The Sir Winston Churchill’s are late-blooming with a double flower. I grow them for their wonderful fragrance! Although I have broken my rule here, I normally always plant massings of daffodils in with evergreen Liriope muscari. I normally use either ‘Big Blue’ or ‘Evergreen Giant’ liriope. The leaves of the daffodils are very similar in form and size to the liriope and this adds a wonderful seasonal dimension to the masses of liriope.

So, there you have it. Not a lot of action yet. However, Spring really is just around the corner!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

When we think of Valentine’s Day, the image of the red rose comes to mind.

Photo by donelligiacomo

Did you know?

    • The rose is the favorite flower of 85% of Americans.
    • In 1986, then President Ronald Reagan signed legislation making the rose the official National Flower of the United States.
    • George Washington bred roses at his home.
    • A fossilized rose, which was 35 million years old, was found in Florissant, Colorado.
    • Over 900 acres of greenhouse roses are harvested in the United States every year. 60% of these are grown in California.
    • Florists sell millions of roses each year in the United States. The two biggest days for sales are Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Christmas is the third highest day for rose sales.
    • Columbus’ crew picked a rose branch out of the ocean on October 11, 1492. This signaled the presence of land. The very next day, Columbus discovered America.
    • Rose hips contain more Vitamin C than any other fruit or vegetable.
    • Ancient Romans believed that white roses grew where the tears of Venus fell when she was mourning Adonis.
    • Shakespeare referred to roses over fifty times in his works.
    • Mythology says that roses grew thorns when Cupid accidentally shot an arrow into a rose garden.
    • The oldest rose in the world has flourished for over 1,000 years on the wall of Hildeshiem Cathedral in Germany. *

*From: All you need to know about growing beautiful roses in your garden

Most people, when asked to name a flower, will name a rose first. Ever wonder what the color of a rose means? This information from ProFlowers Florapedia will tell you.

Red Roses


Red roses are the traditional symbol for love and romance, and a time-honored way to say "I love you." The red rose has long symbolized beauty and perfection. A bouquet of red roses is the perfect way to express your deep feelings for someone special.
Read More – Meaning of Red Roses

Pink Roses


As a symbol of grace and elegance, the pink rose is often given as an expression of admiration. Pink roses can also convey appreciation as well as joyfulness. Pink rose bouquets often impart a gentler meaning than their red counterparts.
Read More – Meaning of Pink Roses

Yellow Roses


The bright, sunny color of yellow roses evokes a feeling of warmth and happiness. The warm feelings associated with the yellow rose are often akin to those shared with a true friend. As such, the yellow rose is an ideal symbol for joy and friendship.
Read More – Meaning of Yellow Roses

White Roses


White roses represent innocence and purity and are traditionally associated with marriages and new beginnings. The white rose is also a symbol of honor and reverence, and white rose arrangements are often used as an expression of remembrance.
Read More – Meaning of White Roses

Orange Roses


With their blazing energy, orange roses are the embodiment of desire and enthusiasm. Orange roses often symbolize passion and excitement and are an expression of fervent romance. A bouquet of orange roses will send a meaningful message.
Read More – Meaning of Orange Roses

Lavender Roses


The unique beauty of the lavender rose has captured many hearts and imaginations. With their fantastical appearance, lavender roses are a perfect symbol of enchantment. The lavender rose is also traditionally used to express feelings of love at first sight.
Read More – Meaning of Lavender Roses

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Plants as Engineer

Plants have so many uses. We have already seen how plants can have architectural uses. They are also used for medicinal purposes.

And for recreational ones …

Another very important use for plants is in an engineering capacity.


We use plants all the time for their strength and their power to hold the earth down.


Plugs of grasses at the sea have the power to create huge sand dunes out of small ridges in the sand blown from the wind.

We use plants to hold down the side slopes of an ordinary ditch.


Or to keep a steep slope from eroding away.

Plants act as windbreaks.


They can provide shade and shelter from the sun on a hot day.


In more ways than one.