Category Archives: flowers

A Fall-Blooming Culinary Herb: Pineapple Sage

Currently, my pineapple sage plants (Salvia elegans) are blooming in my garden, their bright scarlet flowers are attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Members of the salvia or sage family, pineapple sage plants are herbaceous, tender perennial herbs. I have two pineapple sage plants, which I bought last year as tiny babies, and I often use their leaves and flowers in the kitchen. Continue reading

Deer-Proof Bulbs for Spring Flowers

snowdrop blossoms in the woodsFall is the time to purchase spring-blooming bulbs in the Washington DC metro area. There is a wide variety of choices but if you have a severe deer problem, you may want to plant deer-proof bulbs. I know, you say, there is no such thing as “deer-proof” but with bulbs there are a few that are actually poisonous. I spoke with Brent Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, VA, who explained the difference between deer-proof and deer-resistant. Continue reading

Heirloom Flowers: Four O’Clocks

yellow four o’clocks in my garden, 8:30 pm

A few years ago my family visited Monticello in the summer. I was struck by how large Thomas Jefferson’s four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) were compared to mine. I also liked the fact that it was a plant he grew and could still be grown today as an heirloom. Continue reading

Free Local Gardening Newsletter, Complete with Giveaway

Enter your e-mail here to subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, an e-newsletter about gardening in the DC metropolitan area. This free monthly communication lists recently published gardening books, articles, and tips specific to this immediate area. Each issue also features the opportunity to win a free plant or gardening product. For the upcoming May 2020 Pegplant’s Post, one lucky subscriber will receive Heartbreaker, one of the newest varieties in the Hollywood Hibiscus line.

Heartbreaker has orange petals with yellow-gold veining and a white center. He will only get about 3 to 4 feet tall, perfect for containers. He is one of the most recent stars to be introduced in the Hollywood line of tropical hibiscus plants, along with other stars such as Bombshell, Chatty Cathy, and Disco Diva. This award-winning collection grown by J. Berry Nursery features plants that bloom all summer long, unfazed by DC’s hot and humid summers.  Their large, colorful flowers attract pollinators and add a splash of color to the deck, patio, or poolside. My plants always put a smile on my face, they practically cover the foliage with such happy blossoms. The Hollywood Hibiscus line is known for compact, tropical hibiscus plants that produce many flowers per plant, in a wide range of flower colors.  If you are not already a Pegplant’s Post subscriber, type in your e-mail now at pegplant.com for a chance to win one Heartbreaker in a 2-gallon plastic container.

Now That You Have Seeds, Order Bulbs for Summer Blooms!

Many gardeners focus on obtaining seed in the spring to start their garden. Now that summer is around the corner, don’t forget to order summer-blooming bulbs such as alliums, cannas, crinums, dahlias, lilies, gladiolus, and iris. For interesting foliage, try caladiums, colocasias, and alocasias. Below is a list of companies that sell bulbs in alphabetical order. For other companies that primarily sell seeds and may also sell bulbs, click on the “Seed Companies” tab on pegplant.com. Continue reading

Early Spring Bloomers: Dwarf Irises

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Harmony

It is the end of January and already I can see the spiky green emerging from the mass of dead, brown leaves. Dwarf irises are one of my earliest bloomers in my zone 7 Virginia garden. These irises are only 4-5 inches tall and bloom solitary flowers. Mine have been in my garden for a long time, nothing bothers them. Usually they bloom in early March. This year we have had such a mild winter, I think I will see flowers in February.

J.S. Dijt

J.S. Dijt

Also known as netted iris, dwarf irises (Iris reticulata) are very small bulbs, covered with a fibrous netting. There are many cultivars; flower colors range from light to dark blue or light to dark purple. Preferring full sun and well-drained soil, they thrive in rock gardens, on steps and terraces, in containers, and can be forced to bloom indoors in pots. The flowers can be cut for small desk top vases, bringing early spring cheer to the office or home.

They are available to plant in the fall, along with other bulbs, at local garden centers or through bulb companies. Because they are so small though, buy at least a handful. Plant with roots pointing down, spike pointing up, three inches deep and three inches apart. Hardy to zone 5, they die back in the summer and come back in the spring every year. In my garden, ‘J.S. Dijt’ and ‘Harmony’ have thrived for years with no pests or diseases.

Subscribe Now to Pegplant’s Post for a Chance to Win David Austin English Rose

One of David Austin’s English roses in the landscape. Photo courtesy of David Austin Roses.

Enter your e-mail here to subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, an e-newsletter about gardening in the Washington DC metropolitan area. This free monthly communication lists 50 to 100 local gardening events, recently published gardening books, and articles and tips specific to this immediate area. Each issue also features the opportunity to win a free plant or gardening product. For the upcoming February 2020 Pegplant’s Post, one lucky subscriber will win a bare root English rose, courtesy of David Austin Roses.

A David Austin English rose needs no introduction. David Austin is one of the greatest rosarians and rose breeders in the world and the first to create a horticultural brand. In the early 1950s, David Austin began to create a more beautiful rose by combining the fragrance of old roses with the color range and repeat flowering habits of the modern roses. In 1961, he released his first commercial English rose, ‘Constance Spry’. Since then he has released more than 200 English roses. English roses are fragrant with many petals, creating a lush, full flower. The plants are disease resistant and bloom all season long.  The David Austin representative will work with the winner to determine the correct time for shipping and planting and to answer any questions about roses.

Visit the Philadelphia Flower Show on Opening Day!

This year the theme for the annual Philadelphia Flower Show is Riviera Holiday. In the past I have written articles about the show and the local nurseries and private organizations that host chartered bus trips. Taking a luxury bus is a great way to attend, no need to worry about traffic and parking. This year, there is a new trip so you can attend the first day, Saturday, February 29 (the show runs until March 8).

Teri Speight, owner of garden website Cottage In the Court, has reserved a bus departing from the lower parking lot of the District Heights Municipal Building, District Heights, MD. The bus departs at 8:00 am and returns by 9:00 pm. A native Washingtonian, Teri is a garden blogger, garden visionary, and a great garden speaker. For more information, contact Teri directly. The reservations deadline is Tuesday, January 14, 2020. Call at (301) 785-7507 or e-mail at teri@cottageinthecourt.com.

Each year the Philadelphia Flower show has a different theme and this year Riviera Holiday is inspired by the world’s exotic Mediterranean gardens. What a great break this will be from our cold, dreary winter! According to the flower show’s website, “groves of citrus trees lead the way providing a lush dramatic promenade to the sunshine drenched landscape ahead. Breathe in fragrant waves of lavender inspired by the terraced gardens of Monaco. Drifts of purple and white spiked salvias, specimen succulents, and an intoxicating variety of scented geraniums, roses, rosemary, and sage create a stunning mosaic that is at once picturesque and charming.”

Who could resist?

Local Resources for Gardeners Interested in Culinary Herbs

According to the Herb Society of America, herbs are “plants (trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, biennials, or annuals) valued historically, presently, or potentially for their flavor, fragrance, medicinal qualities, insecticidal qualities, economic or industrial use, or in the case of dyes, for the coloring material they provide.” I am particularly interested in “plants valued for their flavor,” i.e., culinary herbs. This is a work-in-progress guide to culinary herbs resources in the Washington DC metropolitan area.

The following are the local public herb gardens, sources for buying herbs, societies, magazines, and books. The asterisk indicates that the locations listed also offer herb events, classes, and workshops. This is not all inclusive, there are other groups and businesses such as master gardeners and nurseries that provide herbal presentations. These are listed on my local monthly events tab on pegplant.com.

Public Herb Gardens

National Herb Garden, U.S. National Arboretum, Washington DC*

National Library of Medicine’s Herb Garden, Bethesda, Maryland

Green Spring Gardens (Potomac Unit donated the Doris Frost Herb Garden in 1995), Alexandria, Virginia*

Meadowlark Botanical Garden’s Herb Garden, Vienna, Virginia*

U.S. Botanic Garden and the Bartholdi Park, Washington DC*

The Bishops Garden at the National Cathedral, Washington DC.

The Franciscan Monastery’s garden, Washington DC (annual plant and herb sale in April)

The Green Farmacy Garden, Fulton, MD*

Plant and Seed Sources

See pegplant.com for a list of nurseries and a list of seed sources. Most local nurseries sell herbs in the spring. Two nurseries that specialize in herbs are Debaggio’s Herb Farm and Nursery in Chantilly, VA, which is only open from spring to mid-summer; and Willow Oak Flower and Herb Garden* in Severn, MD.

The Potomac Unit of the Herb Society of America sells herbs at the Friends of the National Arboretum plant sale at the U.S. National Arboretum in DC, in April.

The Franciscan Monastery has an herb and plant sale in April.

The Baltimore Herb Festival is in May at the Leakin Park, Baltimore, MD.

Blooming Hill Lavender Farm specializes in lavender and has an annual lavender festival in June as well as other herb-related events throughout the year, Purceville, VA.*

Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD.*

Societies

The Herb Society of America, Ohio. The website has many resources and a library of webinars.

The Potomac Unit of the Herb Society of America is the local unit for the Washington DC metro area. There is a membership form on the website or come to a meeting as a guest.

Magazines

The Essential Herbal magazine (a website, blog, magazine).

Herb Companion was bought by Mother Earth Living which keeps the content on their website. Herb Quarterly, can subscribe or buy at Barnes & Noble.

Culinary Herb Books, chronological order

Botanical Baking: Contemporary Baking and Cake Decorating with Edible Flowers and Herbs by Juliet Sear, 2019

The Herbalist’s Healing Kitchen: Using the Power of Food to Cook Your Way to Better Health by Devon Young, 2019

The Kitchen Herb Garden: Growing and Preparing Essential Herbs by Rosalind Creasy, 2019

Grow Your Own Herbs: The 40 Best Culinary Varieties for Home Gardens by Susan Belsinger and Arthur O. Tucker, 2019

Beyond Rosemary, Basil and Thyme: Unusual, Interesting and Uncommon Herbs to Enjoy by Theresa Mieseler, 2019

The Herbal Kitchen: Bringing Lasting Health to You and Your Family with 50 Easy-to-Find Common Herbs and Over 250 Recipes by Kami McBride, 2019

A Taste for Herbs: Your Guide to Seasoning, Mixes and Blends from the Herb Lover’s Garden by Sue Goetz, 2019

Herbal Handbook for the Homesteaders: Farmed and Foraged Herbal Remedies and Recipes by Abby Artemisia, 2019

The Art of Edible Flowers: Recipes and Ideas for Floral Salads, Drinks, Desserts and More by Rebecca Sullivan, 2018

The Herbalist’s Kitchen: Cooking and Healing with Herbs by Pat Crocker, 2018

The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion: The Ultimate Guide to Growing, Preserving and Using Herbs by Amy K. Fewell, 2018

The Art of Cooking with Lavender by Nancy Baggett, 2016

The Culinary Herbal: Growing and Preserving 97 Flavorful Herbs by Susan Belsinger and Arthur O. Tucker, 2016

Homegrown Herb Garden: A Guide to Growing and Culinary Uses by Lisa Baker Morgan and Ann McCormick, 2015

Cooking with Flowers: Sweet and Savory Recipes with Rose Petals, Lilacs, Lavender and Other Edible Flowers by Miche Bacher and Miana Jun, 2013

Edible Flowers: 25 Recipes and an A-Z Pictorial Directory of Culinary Flora by Kathy Brown, 2012

Eat Your Roses: … Pansies, Lavender and 49 other Delicious Edible Flowers by Denise Schreiber, 2011

Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking with Herbs by Herb Society of America, edited by Katherine K. Schlosser, 2007

The Edible Flower Garden by Kathy Brown, 1999

Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy, 1999

Edible Flowers: Desserts and Drinks by Cathy Wilkinson Barash, 1997

Living with Herbs: A Treasury of Useful Plants for the Home and Garden by Jo Ann Gardner 1997

Edible Flowers: From Garden to Palate by Cathy Wilkinson Barash, paperback 1995; hardback 1993

Herbal Treasures: Inspiring Month-by-Month Projects for Gardening, Cooking and Crafts by Phyllis Shaudys, 1990

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, edited by Claire Kowalchik and William H. Hylton, 1987

The Pleasure of Herbs: A Month-by-Month Guide to Growing, Using and Enjoying Herbs by Phyllis Shaudys, 1986

Best Helenium Plants for the Mid-Atlantic Area

Kanaria, top rated, with good powdery mildew resistance and a pollinator favorite

The Mt. Cuba Center has just published Helenium for the Mid-Atlantic Region, a 16-page report detailing the results of a 3-year trial of 44 taxa of Helenium plants. A member of the Aster family, the genus Helenium has summer to fall-blooming perennials with daisy-like flowers about 2 inches across. The flowers are in various colors of yellow, orange, and red, with raised yellow to brown centers, making them look like buttons.

The flowers are beautiful, but the plants are not commonly found in American gardens. Part of this may be because its common name “sneezeweed” leads people to erroneously assume the flowers cause allergies. In fact, the flowers are pollinated by insects, not wind. Sneezeweed is finely ground plant parts that are inhaled, like tobacco snuff. Part of the unpopularity may also be the plant’s tendency to flop over, exhibit powdery mildew, and/or contract a disease called aster yellows. Although they require full to partial sun, they are not drought tolerant and native plants are found growing in wet areas.

When asked why this genus was chosen for the trial garden, Sam Hoadley, Mt. Cuba Center’s Horticultural Research Manager, answered: “Helenium really is a genus that is native to the Americas, and there are several species native to the eastern United States. They are really not well represented in American horticulture. I think, outside of the native plant communities that will work with Helenium autumnale and Helenium flexuosum, we felt that this [trial] represents a fairly diverse group of plants and deserves a second look in American horticulture after it’s been so popular in Europe to see how these plants perform there. We also knew that they have significant benefits for bees and wasps, anecdotally. We really wanted to see how these plants would perform and what benefits or attraction they would have for these pollinators when brought back to the United States.”

Zimbelstern, second top rated, pollinator favorite, excellent powdery mildew resistance

Heleniums are popular in European gardens where extensive breeding has been done in Germany and the Netherlands. German breeders Karl Foerster, Gustav Deutschmann, Peter zur Linden and Dutch breeders Inez Arnold and Bonne Ruys have cultivated many Heleniums for exquisite flower colors, shorter forms, and increased resistance to drought. Karl Foerster in particular created more than 70 cultivars drawing on two native American species: H. bigelovii, which is found in Southern Oregon, California, and Arizona; and H. autumnale, which is found across the country. These plus a third species that is found in the eastern United States, H. flexuosum, were included in the trial.

“They really contribute some great late-season interest,” said Sam. “They are in bloom when gardens are in a lull, right at the end of summer and the beginning of fall, bridging a gap in the garden. There’s been a lot of Helenium breeding so that size, stature, and habit of the plant are becoming more and more diverse. For that reason, you are able to incorporate it into more garden designs.”

H. autumnale, a native species that is most visited by bees and wasps

In the trial at the Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, forty-four taxa including three species were grown in full sun on clay-loam soil. By the beginning of the third or final year, only one-third of the original 220 plants remained. Plants were given minimal care although staff did try to prevent the flop with the Chelsea Chop and several staking methods on some plants to see which would work. Plants were watered during the first year for establishment and during any extremely dry periods. They were not sprayed with fungicides. Many plants succumbed to dry soil, powdery mildew, aster yellows, and possibly poor winter hardiness.

The downloadable report has three tables:  performance summary ratings and plants characteristics, plants that did not complete the trial, and best Heleniums for bees and wasps. Plants are rated on a scale of five (excellent) to 1 (very poor) and include a variety of criteria. None received a five but the top rated, Kanaria, is 4.3, followed by Flammenspiel and Zimbelstern at 4.2, Can Can at 4.1, H. flexuosum at 4.0, and H. autumnale at 3.9. The Mt. Cuba Center’s Pollinator Watch Team observed the plants and found that bees and wasps preferred H. autumnale followed by Zimbelstern, Kanaria, Can Can, and Tijuana Brass.

Can Can, one of top 4 rated, excellent powdery mildew resistance, and a pollinator favorite

Since 2002, the Mt. Cuba Center trial garden has been evaluating native plants and their related cultivars for their horticultural and ecological value. See their website for past reports on phlox, monarda, baptisia, coreopsis, heuchera, echinacea, and asters.

All photos courtesy of Mt. Cuba Center.