Baptisia ‘Lemon Meringue’ flowers up close
Baptisia, also called false indigo, is a shrub that does well in our hot and humid summers. Recent breeding efforts have expanded the range of flower colors creating a new look for an old favorite. I myself have been taken by 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 different 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.
I have two Lemon Meringue and two Dutch Chocolate plants. I purchase them three years ago as small plants. Last month they were heavy with yellow or chocolate brown flowers. Although they look like shrubs, these plants are herbaceous perennials. They die back in the fall and come back in the early spring. By summer, the plants grow to their mature height of about 3 feet high and wide, each year. Mine had pea-like flowers on tall spikes, similar to lupines, in April. In the fall, the flowers produce dark brown pods that 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. I am thinking of adding more!
Lemon Meringue and Dutch Chocolate
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is an old herb once thought to treat fevers but actually is helpful in preventing migraine headaches. I first saw the plant blooming at a demonstration garden a few years ago and liked the small, daisy-like flowers, similar to chamomile. I sowed seed late last summer and transplanted the seedlings in the ground before frost. They weathered the mild winter in my zone 7 Virginia garden but remained small. When the temperature increased in early spring, the plants grew up very fast and started blooming as early as . The plants are several feet tall now in full sun, oblivious to our current dry spell. I do not use feverfew medicinally but as a summer flowering perennial. Because they are small white flowers, they are great by themselves in a vase or as a filler with other flowers.
I read that the plant has a strong and bitter smell but I don’t notice it. I have also read that feverfew has mosquito repelling qualities but there are still the same number of mosquitoes in my garden. However, I have noticed that nothing goes near it, no deer and no rabbits.
My variety is Heirloom Double White Wonder from Renees Garden but there are other cultivars on the market such as Aureum, White Bonnet, Golden Ball, Crown White, and Ultra Double White. You may not find this in your local nursery as a plant; you may have to purchase seed but the seed germinates easily. Feverfew is known to be a short-lived perennial but it will be a summer-long success in my garden this year.
The 15th of the month is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day where garden bloggers post photos of plants that are blooming in their area across the country.
Years ago I was given a border pink named Heart’s Desire. A border pink is a group of Dianthus perennials that are used for border edging or rock gardens. They are small plants with gray green, grass-like leaves. They prefer full sun and are drought tolerant once established. Dianthus flowers range from pink to red, have the same ruffled look as a carnation, with the same clove fragrance as a carnation. But a Dianthus is a much smaller plant, a mound of foliage less than a foot wide with inch-wide blossoms on 6-inch stems. Heart’s Desire, a Blooms of Bressingham introduction, is bubblegum pink with a red halo.
Dianthus flowers are edible but fortunately deer don’t eat them. For my family, I pull apart the petals to add color to green or fruit salads and lemonade or fruit drinks. I also cut the flowers for small vases in the office. This plant is a performer — it has thrived on a sunny terrace in my Virginia garden with no maintenance and no fertilizer for many years. Heart’s Desire blooms all summer long and the leaves stay above ground during the winter.
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
Last fall, a friend gave me the root of her bleeding heart plant she called Fred. Unfortunately it was some time before I could get the root from her that by the time I did, it was very dry and hard. I soaked it in a tub of water for a day before I planted it. It was so desiccated, I did not think it would make it through the winter. But this spring I was pleasantly surprised by a tuft of foliage peeking through the soil. Fred is alive! Since March, Fred has produced beautiful fern-like leaves and nodding racemes of pendulous blossoms. Each blossom looks like an earring or a puffy locket on a chain and is actually comprised of two outer rose-colored petals and the two inner white petals. If you turn the flower upside down and pull the rose petals apart you will see the lady in a bath. Lady-in-a-bath is another moniker for bleeding heart.
Bleeding heart is an herbaceous perennial that prefers a woodsy environment with moist soil that is high in organic matter. Some shade is best, can be morning sun and afternoon shade or dappled light. With such delicate foliage, you would think that rabbits would decimate bleeding hearts but both rabbits and deer do not seem interested in this perennial. However, by June the leaves do get yellow and ratty and eventually the plant goes dormant as summer’s heat arrives. In order to prevent a gap in the garden, other herbaceous perennials such as hardy geraniums or hostas can grow to fill in the gap during the summer or annuals can be planted in its place.
Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is the 15th of each month.
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.
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.
Baptisia ‘Dutch Chocolate’, photo courtesy of Proven Winners
Posted in flowers, plants
Tagged Baptisia, deer resistant, Dutch Chocolate, herbaceous, Lemon Meringue, Mt. Cuba Center, native, perennial, Proven Winners, shrub, trial
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!
It’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! An interesting perennial to grow for spring flowers is Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in Snow’. This member of the aster family is very easy to grow, tolerates poor soil, dry times, and full sun or partial shade. From April to June, I can cut the flowers and bring them to work where colleagues gasp, “ooh, aah!” (just kidding, but they do garner attention). The 2-inch flowers have a spiky, thistle-like appearance; purple centers are surrounded by white petals, like spokes on a wagon wheel. The species, often called mountain bluet, produces solid blue flowers while Amethyst in Snow is the first bicolor cultivar and the contrast between purple and white is striking.
My plants are five years old and so far, no problems despite full sun and poor soil. Over time they have spread enough that I can share divisions with friends or plant in other places in the garden. Hardy to zone 3, the plants are about a foot tall and you can tell by the silvery, woolly leaves that they are drought resistant; their leaves will not lose moisture fast. The butterflies love the flowers and supposedly the deer are not interested but in my Northern Virginia garden I don’t have enough deer to know if this is true or not. Grow Amethyst in Snow for a drought-tolerant, spring blooming, cut flower perennial.
Posted in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, plants
Tagged Amethyst, blue flowers, bluet, Centaurea montana, Centaurea montana 'Amethyst in Snow', Garden Bloggers Bloom day, mountain bluet, perennial, spring blooms, spring flowers