Tag Archives: deer resistant

Petite Jenny’s Lavender-Rose Flowers Sway Like a Calder Mobile

Last year I received a small green plant that just sat in my garden all year long. It really did not grow much, it did not bloom, it just took up 6 inches of space. I assumed it was on its way to the pearly gates. This year, it has bloomed so well I would not mind having a few more! Lychnis ‘Petite Jenny’ has leaves at the base (a basal rosette) with inch-wide lavender-rose, tufted blossoms atop 12-inch wiry stems. Petite Jenny started blooming in April in my Virginia garden and should bloom all summer long. Because the flowers sit atop the thin stems, the blossoms sway in the breeze, much like a Calder mobile.

Now that it is flowering (its alive!), I realized I was fortunate to plant mine next to a ninebark called ‘Summer Wine’ (Physocarpus opulifolius). Summer Wine is a small bush with dark, red/purple foliage that complements Petite Jenny’s lavender-rose flowers and also provides a dark backdrop to make it easier to see the flowers.

Hardy to zone 5, Petite Jenny prefers full sun to part shade and more moist than dry soil. It is deer resistant and the flowers can be cut for arrangements. There is a “Jenny” that is a larger plant; Petite Jenny is a dwarf form with sterile blossoms (sterile blossoms have a longer blooming period). Petite Jenny is a Blooms of Bressingham introduction. If this great perennial is not available at your local independent garden center, contact http://www.musthaveperennials.com

Best Baptisia Plants for the Mid-Atlantic Gardens

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Baptisia ‘Lemon Meringue’ photo courtesy of Proven Winners

Baptisia, also called false indigo, is an herbaceous perennial shrub that performs well in our hot and humid summers. Recent breeding efforts have expanded the range of flower colors requiring a new look into an old favorite. I myself have falling in love with two top performers according to Mt. Cuba Center’s 15-page report, Baptisia for the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Mt. Cuba Center’s Trial Garden, managed by George Coombs, research horticulturist, evaluates native plants and their related cultivars. From 2012 to 2015, staff evaluated 46 selections of Baptisia including representatives from 11 species to determine which performs best in the mid-Atlantic region. Over 60 percent of the plants tested receive 4 or 5 stars. Among those, 10 superior cultivars outperformed the rest. Fortunately for me my two recent Baptisia additions to my garden are included in the ten.

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Pea-like flowers, photo courtesy of Proven Winners

This year I acquired two Lemon Meringue and two Dutch Chocolate plants. They are small now so a photo won’t give you the full flavor of their beautiful flowers but I was able to borrow Proven Winners‘ photos of what my plants should look like when they grow up. Baptisia plants die back every fall and comes back in the spring. By summer, the plants will have grown to their mature height of about 3 x 3 feet each year. However, they do not like to be moved so give them plenty of space when you do plant them. Chances are the nursery plants will be young thus small but they will grow into full bushes once established in the garden. In May, pea-like flowers bloom on tall spikes, similar to lupines. In the fall, pods appear, which can be used for dried flower arrangements. Baptisia plants are deer resistant, heat and humidity tolerant, and drought tolerant once established. These natives make great additions to the garden and the new cultivars increases the color selection.

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Baptisia ‘Dutch Chocolate’, photo courtesy of Proven Winners

 

Saturdays In the Garden with Prince William County Master Gardeners

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Tweety in the Woodland Garden

This month I attended “Saturday in the Garden” at the Teaching Garden. Hosted by the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Prince William County staff and Master Gardener volunteers, this month’s event was “Lessons from the Deer Resistant Garden, Woodland Garden, and the Four Seasons of Interest Garden.” For me it was a 45-minute ride from my house in Fairfax County to Prince William County but easy to find. The program was free and outside in the garden, from 9:00 am to noon. Set on the grounds of the St. Benedict Monastery, the Teaching Garden is quite large, in full sun with the exception of the woodland garden and home to deer, critters, and ticks.

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Solomon’s Seal in Woodland Garden

About twenty of us sat in chairs under tents while Nancy Berlin, coordinator of the Prince William County Master Gardeners, presented the speakers, all Master Gardener volunteers, and agenda. We received a handout listing each garden’s inventory of plants and characteristics. There were three presenters for three garden beds who first talked for a few minutes under the tent and then guided us to the beds. We also visited the Cook’s Garden and had the opportunity to buy plants culled from the gardens. The Master Gardeners gave everyone water bottles, milkweed plants, and a variety of seeds.

Harriet Carter started us off in the Woodland Garden, which was heavily shaded and vulnerable to deer. This garden demonstrates alternatives to growing grass in tree-shaded areas of one’s yard and is low maintenance with drifts of mostly native plants. Although it is basically dry shade, the volunteers have rain barrels and soaker hoses to use during extended times of drought. At this time of year, June, there were no flowers but Harriet showed us large photos of the spring blossoms for each plant. Harriet pointed out hellebores, witch hazels, bluebells, woodland phlox, toad lilies (“which deer do not eat”), Solomon’s seal (“the foliage make a good groundcover”), wood poppies, and epimediums. Harriet has the lead on this particular garden and you could tell it is a labor of love. She is trying to develop a glen of ferns, is learning that the yellow twig dogwood needs more sun, and just planted a summer blooming rose campion for a little bit of color. She also pointed out the garden’s “mascot,” a statue of a girl with small birds on her arms, named Tweety.

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Bear’s Breeches in the Four Seasons of Interest Garden

Jean Bennett gave us a tour of the Four Seasons of Interest Garden, which was one of the original gardens started by Sister Pat, a nun who also was a Master Gardener. This bed was created to show year round beauty and blooms from late March through mid-November. She said that in the winter they have colored bark from the yellow and red twig dogwood and flowers from witch hazels and hellebores. In early spring they have daffodils (they sell the daffodil bulbs in the fall), followed by iris and then dianthus, gaillardia, spiderwort, and red hot poker plants in the summer. One of the more unusual plants is the bear’s breeches. With its large coarse leaves, it is easy to see why deer don’t like them.  Jean recommended the sweet pepper bush as a nice native shrub to have at home. The threadleaf coreopsis and daylilies were just starting to bloom. The only ornamental grass in the garden was a red switch grass (“a great grass to grow in Virginia”). Currently its green blades are tipped with red but by fall the leaves will turn burgundy color.

Leslie Paulson showed us the Deer Resistant Garden although she cautioned that the only truly deer-resistant plant is the one the deer do not eat today. Leslie suggested using textured, thorny, fragrant, waxy, and/or poisonous plants. The younger the plant the more likely the deer will eat it and the younger the deer the more extensive their palate so they will try a wider variety of plants.

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Sumac in the Deer Resistant Garden

Leslie showed us a beautiful sumac bush, only a few feet high. Sumac is a large shrub or small tree, very common on Virginian roadsides. It is more noticeable in the fall when the leaves change color but trained as a shrub in the garden, sumac adds elegance with its lacy leaves. Leslie recommended growing lion’s tail next to it because its tall orange flowering structures make a great combination. There was blue flowering nepeta which is in the mint family so deer do not like it (“the white flowering one behaves itself a lot better than the purple one”) and alliums (“all alliums are poisonous to deer”). There was a large area covered with fuzzy lamb’s ears, a low growing native type and a taller type with large flowers that bees love. Yarrow was blooming and two ornamental grasses, pink muhly grass and red switch grass, will provide color in the fall.

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Squash and Nasturtiums in the Cook’s Garden

Harriet gave us the tour of the Cook’s Garden which was fenced to keep out the groundhogs, rabbits, and deer. They use their own compost but are starting to experiment with cover crops such as alfalfa, buckwheat, and crimson clover to add nutrients back to the soil. To control small bugs they hand pick and put them in a jar with soapy water which they call the “bad bug swimming pool.” We saw potatoes blooming and tomatoes with basil planted nearby as a companion plant. There were Brussel sprouts under a row cover to keep bugs out, onions protruding out of the ground, and squash plants with nasturtiums nearby as a companion plants. Next to each squash plant was a plastic container with drainage holes submerged in the soil. Harriet explained that the squash leaves will cover the ground so filling the bucket with water will ensure that the water reaches the roots.  A large bushy cilantro plant was flowering in the corner, attracting pollinators. We then walked to another area that was netted on all four sides, much like a rectangular box, which contained sweet potatoes.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and highly recommend this monthly event. I plan to go back at different times of the year to see how the plants change and to view the rest including the Zen, white, children’s, fairy, fragrance, mailbox, lavender, bee/butterfly/hummingbird, rock, shrub, and native plant sections. The gardens are open to the public every day but volunteers recommend that the public check in with the Monastery office before entering.

Saturday in the Garden is held once a month from April through October, 9:00 a.m. to noon, in the Teaching Garden, St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA 20136. The program is free but registration is requested to ensure adequate handouts and weather cancellation notifications. Call (703) 792-7747 or e-mail master_gardener@pwcgov.org to register; visit the link below for more information http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/vce/Pages/Saturday-in-the-Garden.aspx

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Hardy Geraniums

geraniumEight years ago I wrote an article for Chesapeake Home magazine about hardy geraniums. I interviewed Faye Brawner, then president of the International Geranium Society and author of Geranium: The Complete Encyclopedia (Schiffer, 2003). She recommended Geranium macrorrhizum as a “workhorse.” Fortunately, I spied this workhorse shortly afterwards at a plant sale so I brought it home to see how well it would do in my Virginia garden.

Today this plant thrives under a linden tree (morning sun and afternoon shade) and blooms every spring with purple/pink flowers. Geranium macrorrhizum, or big root geranium, serves as a weed-suppressing, foot-high groundcover, untouched by deer and rabbits. In the fall, the green palmate leaves turn reddish bronze but most of the plant remains above ground during the winter. In early spring the leaves green up again and the flowers bloom from April to May. Although the flowers bloom high above the plant, they are reminiscent of apple blossoms, small and five petals. However, these flowers have very long stamens that protrude, resulting in a long fruit pod that resembles a crane’s beak. Hardy geraniums are often sold as “cranesbills.”Geranium macrorrhizum

I also interviewed Robin Parer who owns Geraniaceae.com, an online nursery devoted to geraniums. Robin suggested many other hardy geraniums which I am now trying in my garden. Hardy geraniums, she explained, are the species Geranium, and are cousins to the species Pelargonium, which are the bedding geraniums with the summer flowers. So far the hardy geraniums are proving to be ideal perennials and I am looking forward to reading her new book, The Plant Lover’s Guide to Hardy Geraniums (Timber Press, 2016).

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is the 15th of the month, check out this link for other articles: http://www.maydreamsgardens.com

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Deer-Resistant ‘Dream Catcher’ Shrub

Dream Catcher flowersYears ago I lived in Maryland in a new townhouse development with stringent homeowner association rules. No fences were allowed and if that weren’t bad enough, the back of the property led into a forested area. Deer were rampant; they thought nothing of coming right up to the back door. When I told the local nursery folks, they suggested beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis). Sure enough, beauty bush was deer resistant but it provided color and interest just once in the spring when it bloomed small pink flowers. For the rest of the summer, it was just a green bush.

When we moved to our Northern Virginia home a dozen years ago, there was an old beauty bush next to the neighbor’s property. The bush has bloomed faithfully every spring and is really a small tree, about 7 feet tall with several narrow trunks. The neighbor’s house existed during the civil war, I think the beauty bush is that old. I would have never bought a beauty bush again but a few years ago Proven Winners sent me a new cultivar called ‘Dream Catcher’.

Dream Catcher is a find, it is worth buying regardless if you have a deer problem or not.  In the spring, the new leaves unfurl a bright lime green color.  In April and May, the bush is covered with small, pink buds and pale pink flowers with yellow centers. By summer the flowers disappear and the bush remains chartreuse. It really lights up a shady area. In the fall, the leaves turn orange bronze, providing three-season interest.

My bushes are about 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. I don’t do anything to them other than prune lightly after flowering to keep the height manageable. No disease, no pest, no fertilizer. They are hardy to zone 4, can tolerate poor soil, and seems to live in a range of light from full sun to morning sun-afternoon shade to light shade. Here in Virginia in zone 7, they do best with a little shade to maintain the chartreuse color during the hot summers. I nominate Dream Catcher for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day; it is a eye-catching, dream shrub for the landscape.

Dream Catcher

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Gaura lindheimeri

gaura (2)This past August and September has seen little rain in Northern Virginia, which is highly unusual. I am forced to water with my hose or watering can, which I don’t particularly enjoy.  Except for the veggies and the new kids on the block, my other garden residents better be tough enough to make it without my constant attention. Yesterday, while watering a new kid on the block, a Proven Winners hydrangea given to me to trial, I noticed that one of my veterans has bloomed consistently during this dry period. Gaura or Gaura lindheimeri is an herbaceous perennial native to Texas and Louisiana, which explains its heat and humidity tolerance. Gaura grows to about 4 feet tall but really is a clump of leaves at ground level from which many wire-thin stems sway back and forth while butterflies try to land on the small, white flowers. Drought and deer resistant, gaura has bloomed every year for me in full sun with no pests or diseases. I have heard that gaura self-seeds but in my garden I consider myself lucky to find one new seedling in the spring. My plants are so old I don’t even know where I got them but they are easy to find in local nurseries and now there is a wider variety from which to choose — shorter stems or variations of flower colors. Gaura is my nomination for September’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day!gaura

Blessed with Native Aster ‘Lady in Black’

Lady in Black aster at Derwood, September 2014

Lady in Black aster at Derwood, September 2014

I love participating in giveaways for gardening items and plants. Recently, I won a flat of fifty asters from New Moon Nursery, a New Jersey-based, wholesale company that specializes in Eastern native plants. The gift was actually a flat of any plant they had in stock and I specifically asked for Aster lateriflorus ‘Lady in Black’. I first saw Lady in Black last fall at the Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens at the Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood, Maryland. I was struck by mass of pretty small flowers and the colorful foliage. Also known as calico aster, this particular type of aster grows to 3 feet, has purple black leaves, and blooms small, daisy-like white and purple pink flowers in September and October. Drought tolerant when established, Lady in Black is a low maintenance, native plant known for attracting butterflies but not attracting rabbits and deer.

Fifty asters in flat, September 2015

Fifty asters in flat, September 2015

I was excited to get the asters but fifty plants! What was I going to do? I barely had the space for five let alone fifty! And even if I had the space, it was too hot and dry to plant in the ground, the small roots would shrivel up in no time.  These plants were in a 50-cell, deep plug tray which means that each plant was only about 2 inches in diameter with a 4-inch depth. Planting them in the ground now during the current drought and high temperatures would only kill them. Yet leaving them in the flat all winter long would also kill them. For now, I put the flat in a place in the garden that received morning sun and afternoon shade to reduce the heat and stress and watered every few days. Later in the month, when the heat diminishes, I will plant all fifty in my melon patch, which is a new bed in full sun, but vacant now as melon season has passed. The little asters will live in the melon patch over the winter in a holding pattern (alive but not growing) while their roots dig down for moisture and insulation. In May, I will transplant most of them into small plastic containers and plant the ones I want to keep elsewhere in my own garden. So friends and family, next year I will be sharing about 40 native aster plants, lovely perennials with beautiful fall flowers!