Tag Archives: Proven Winners

In a Vase on Monday: Salvia and Persian Carpet Zinnias

Persian carpet zinnias (Zinnia haageana) are one of my favorite annuals. Their yellow, orange, red, and burgundy colors appear in different patterns on each flower. These flowers provide a great contrast to the purple salvia ‘Rockin’ Playin’ the Blues’, a new Proven Winners introduction. #inavaseonMonday

Best Baptisia Plants for the Mid-Atlantic Gardens


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


A Day in the Life of a Garden Writer: The Hunt Country Gardens and Growers Tour

Ladew Topiary GardensAs a member of the Garden Writers Association, now known as GWA: the Association for Garden Communicators, I attended a GWA-hosted regional meeting this past Friday called Hunt Country Gardens & Growers Tour. GWA is a non-profit, membership-based organization for people involved in garden communications.  Membership has many benefits including a newsletter, an annual symposium, and regional meetings. The GWA divides itself into 7 regions and Virginia is in region IV. This particular regional meeting was in Maryland, Region II, but only a short drive for me.  Members, spouses, and non-members can attend any regional meeting; one does not have to restrict oneself to one’s region.

I registered online a few weeks ago for the one-day event. We were to meet in Hunt Country (as in fox hunts) at Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton and then drive to Manor View Farm, then Cavano’s Perennials, and then a GWA Connect meeting at a local restaurant (an informal get together). All of these places were very close to each other. A week before the event, Kirk Brown, the GWA president, e-mailed the most recent news and tips for the trip and a list of fellow attendees. Kirk said that Manor View Farm and Cavano’s Perennials were offering their plants to us at their wholesale prices and he received plants for us to trial from Proven Winners. I packed my trunk with boxes and bags, a small cooler of water, and a large thermos of coffee and left the house at 6:00 am Friday morning.

I arrived at Ladew at 7:45 am and was welcomed by Kirk (who actually lives in Pennsylvania but was rooming in a local hotel). Over the next 15 minutes about 30 of us gathered in the café, where Ladew staff had laid out trays of pastries and coffee. Several people had come from other states; some drove for the day; some were staying overnight in hotels. I looked forward to meeting as many of my colleagues as I could. At my table, I met Joshua Taylor (Joshua Taylor Photography) who lives in Arlington and we were joined by Teresa Speight (Cottage in the Court) whom I had already met from previous functions. I recognized a few other people: Susan Harris (dcGardens.com; gardenrant.com), Kathy Jentz (Washington Gardener), John Boggan (DC Tropics), and Kate Copsey (katecopsey.com).ladew hedge

Kirk briefed us on the latest happenings at the association. GWA is being managed by a new association management company, Kellen. In only a few months, staff at Kellen have made tremendous improvements. Kirk described the myriad upcoming events and encouraged us to use hashtag #meetGWA, #whyGWA, and #growGWA during our day (if you search for us on Facebook you may find quite a few photos). Kate stood up and encouraged everyone to attend the GWA’s 68th Annual Convention and Expo in September, in Atlanta.

Emily Emerick, the Ladew executive director, gave us the background on Mr. Ladew’s estate. She introduced Barbara Barnoff, who is in charge of visitor services/volunteers, and the staff horticulturists. Staff had already packed a bag of information on Ladew for us to take, which included a guest pass for a subsequent visit and another pass to one of their summer concerts. From there we were led on a tour of the gardens. This was a terrific opportunity to take beautiful photos of plants, statues, small gardens, and the famous topiary. For those of us who blog, it also was a great opportunity to “stock up” on photos for future articles and tweets. Some of us followed the horticulturists and talked plants, while others walked around taking photos. The day was perfect, cool and overcast. I met Eva Monheim, Oak Leaf Productions, and Rick Ray, a retired horticultural professor.

Afterwards, we caught up with Kirk at his car in the parking lot. Prior to the event, Mark Osgersby, who works in the Proven Winners’ Marketing and Public Relations Department, had shipped boxes of plants to Kirk’s house for him to distribute to us. We were able to pick from three of Proven Winners’ new introductions: Spirea ‘Double Play Blue Kazoo’, OSO EASY double red landscape rose, and rose of Sharon ‘Purple Pillar’. Thank you Mark and Proven Winners staff!!provenwinners

After loading our cars with the plants, we drove to Manor View Farms, which was only a few minutes away. Manor View Farms is a wholesale nursery consisting of a 5-acre horticultural distribution center supplying plant material and hard goods to the landscape trade; 85 acres of tree and shrub production, all under drip irritation; and 3 acres of about 16 greenhouses devoted to propagation.  The owner Alan Jones, his son Collin Jones, and Brian Mitchell guided us around the field of trees and shrubs on a flat-bed wagon. We sat on bales of hay (I am sure this photo is on Facebook!). Alan said that currently the most popular items are crepe myrtles, southern magnolias, knock out roses, and hydrangeas. However, a plant’s popularity can change from year to year so by the time a plant is mature enough to be sold its popularity may have waned. He also described how the company collaborates with the University of Maryland on a few projects, such as determining the amount of water truly needed to irrigate plants. Alan, a well-known propagator, described their new introductions: Quercus palustris ‘Green Pillar’, Thuja x ‘Steeplechase’, and Chionanthus virginicus ‘White Knight’. I was surprised and impressed that the company isn’t just a wholesale nursery, it is very involved in horticultural research, collaboration, and innovation.caryopteris The hay ride took us to the propagation greenhouses where we got off to see rows of small containers, each with a single cutting, under misting beds. I was able to chat with Susan Harris about her new venture, goodgardeningvideos.org, and I met a fellow Virginian, Marianne Willburn (Small Town Gardener).

We gathered in a large garage for sandwiches and drinks. I met a new GWA member Rebecca Ann Cole and discovered we had a lot in common. We talked about balancing time with social media and family and Claire Jones (Claire Jones Landscapes) told me about “tweetpi.” Ruth Rogers Clausen, a well-known author of gardening books, distributed brochures about the new Delaware Botanic Gardens and Carolyn Mullet passed out a postcard about her garden tours (Carex Garden Design and Garden Tours).

After several people bought shrubs and packed them into their cars, we drove to Cavano’s Perennials, only a few minutes away.

Cavano’s Perennials, also wholesale, specializes in container production, everything from annuals, to perennials, ferns, herbs, and grasses. They have over a thousand plants and about 50 employees. There were many large greenhouses, some with shade cloth, and many plants in pots on the ground in full sun. The owners, Ferenc Kiss and Taylor Pilker, welcomed us and explained the history of the company and the current operations. They treated us to their plants at wholesale prices and we could either pick what we wanted and put them on a cart or complete an order form and have staff bring the plants to us. I had already perused through their catalog (great resource) and selected Baptisia ‘Dutch Chocolate’ and ‘Lemon Meringue’ and an orange mint. Some people were really loading up, like a kid in a candy store, and pushing a cart from greenhouse to greenhouse. The variety was tremendous.geranium

I had a delightful horticultural conversation with Taylor who described the importance of root health, which determines the plant’s success when transplanted into the landscape. He also said that Cavano’s was one of the first to become neonicotinoid-free because of the public’s concern for pollinators. My impression was that this organization was very responsive and strived to employ the latest theories, techniques, and practices.

After I put my plants in my trunk, I met Liz Ball, a well-known garden writer and speaker, Sabine Stezenbach (Town and Gardens), Debra Balcerzak-Wilson, and Lori Zimmerman. Debra and Lori just started to sell a new fertilizer line called Natural Start by Greenview, part of the Lebanon Seaboard Corporation, and they brought samples for all of us.

In the late afternoon, after every one toured the place and bought their plants, Kirk started the trunk show. He literally opened the trunk of his car, distributed raffle tickets, and called out the numbers. I think every person received something—additional Proven Winner plants, donated plants, a donated poster, or a donated book. We were about to leave for our next destination when a staff person drove a flatbed to the parking lot loaded with herbs. Ferenc told us to help ourselves–we were so surprised and thankful! It was very generous of Cavano’s to give so many free herbs.

By now the cars were so weighed down with plants, we inched along and slowly drove out of Cavano’s, making sure plants did not tip over. Some participants drove home and some at a local Italian restaurant, about 10 minutes away. Kirk had already reserved a private room. At my table, I sat with Ferenc, Carolyn, Claire, Kirk, Wendy Brister (Harvey’s Gardens), and Sabine. We had a very interesting conversation; I learned about garden tours, beekeeping, and native plants. I was surprised to learn that Kirk had organized the entire day himself. He must have volunteered a tremendous amount of time to create such as well-organized and informative day. The regional meeting was a blast and I truly enjoyed the opportunity to see gardens and nurseries, make new friends, learn more about horticulture, and obtain new plants for my garden. Thank you Kirk for a memorable regional meeting!

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


Still Blooming in December: Bidens ‘Campfire Fireburst’

Bidens Campfire FireburstOne of the advantages of being a garden communicator is that you have the opportunity to learn about new plants before they are introduced to the retail market. Often wholesale nurseries will send plants to garden communicators which in my mind is a good thing because if they had not sent me the plant, I might not have otherwise paid attention to it or even known about it.

This year, Proven Winners sent me an annual, Bidens ‘Campfire Fireburst’.  I had not grown or even heard of Bidens before. This is partly my fault. I tend not to purchase annuals especially plants (as oppose to seeds) because they are short-lived. Usually by October’s frost, they die so I find it hard to spend money on a plant that will only last a few months.

However, Bidens seems to be lasting even longer than a summer annual which increases its value tremendously. When I received it in the beginning of the growing season, I placed it in the garden in front of the house, which is on the southern side in full sun. Throughout the summer it bloomed and survived our mid Atlantic heat and humidity. I only watered a few times to get it established, I did not fertilize nor did I deadhead, trim, or stake.

Bidens was left to fend for itself but it thrived all summer long, blooming continuously. In the fall, its orange yellow flowers blended well with the mums and other Halloween decorations and now that it is December it is the only thing left blooming that I can cut and bring in to the office. I am amazed that it is still blooming in December. According to the Proven Winners web site, Bidens is hardy to zone 9 but we have had 30 degree nights where I have had to scrape the ice off the car in the morning.

Bidens ‘Campfire Fireburst’ will be available at retail garden centers in 2016. Recently there has been an increase in breeding efforts with this species so you may see a wider range of color combinations from yellow, gold, orange, and red, including bicolor and white and even lavender. The flowers are a small, simple, and daisy-shape on wiry stems. The foliage also is small, fern like and pretty in a parsley kind of way. Although I had placed mine in the garden bed next to a blue fescue, I think they are best used in a window box or hanging basket to be able to see the flowers up close. Bidens are heat and drought tolerant and provide an unusually long stretch of color, well into winter in my Virginia garden.

In My Virginian Garden: A July Update

I have not posted in a while partly because the garden is in full swing, I am so busy harvesting, and partly because we have been making changes here at the homestead that necessitate me being outside instead of inside at the computer. We had a few trees thinned and one chopped down entirely which has increased the sunlight, putting a few plants in shock, but great for some other plants that needed extra sun. I am now able to extend my front garden where the old crab apple tree was, which will be a fall project. We also had the deck power washed which traumatized the container plants that had to be put out on the lawn for now, including the tomatoes in the earthboxes, and greatly moved the soil around many plants. So I have spent much time moving, tending, nursing, and healing the garden but in the end I will have more light (always needed for edibles) and more garden beds.

Black Beauty Eggplant Flower

Black Beauty Eggplant Flower

So far, I have had great success with melons, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, peppers, and the herbs of course. The puzzler of the year are the eggplants, which I grew successfully last year in a different place but this year, no fruit. Lots of flowers, and everything else nearby is flowering and fruiting, but no eggplant. I read that they are self fertile and I should brush the flowers with a paintbrush, which I just started to do, but still nothing. These are Black Beauty eggplants so maybe next year I will try a different type. I have about six plants among basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and squash, with plenty of bees,  and they are the only plants that do not bear fruit.

On the bright side, I am enjoying the Burpee celery plant,’Peppermint Stick’. I would have never grown a celery plant unless Burpee sent it to me but it has turned out to be really easy to grow and very tasty, much more so than what you get in a store. The stalks are more pungent and the leaves are so big they could be used to garnish as well. I am sold, will grow celery from now on!

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in ground

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in ground

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in bowl

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in bowl

Another success is Renee’s Garden’s Gourmet Tuscan Melon plant. These I started from seed and grew in the large Smart Pots so they could get pampered with the richest soil and plenty of water. I have several melons so far. I have not eaten them yet but just having them is a success for me. We have been fortunate to have had quite a lot of rain in the early summer which I think is responsible for so many melons — it certainly has given me a bumper crop of cucumbers.

Renee's Garden's Gourmet Tuscan Melon

Renee’s Garden’s Gourmet Tuscan Melon

Another surprise was the Jericho lettuce, also from Renee’s Garden. It was partly shaded by a tree limb, which we cut down and since the sunlight has increased, these lettuce plants have been growing and doing well. Lettuce in July is a rare treat, will harvest these soon!

For fun, I planted Proven Winners’ Superbells calibrachoa ‘Holy Moly’, which is a flowering annual, in a large container with Burpee’s ‘Sweet Savour’ pepper. I really like the combination: Holy Moly lends itself to yellows, red and oranges but also plays off blue because it can been seen as an orange color (at first I could not decide if the container should be red, green, or blue). In early summer, the Sweet Savour peppers were yellow, but now at the end of July, the peppers have turned red and orange. They are small, perfect for a container, and although look like hot peppers are actually sweet.

Close Up of Proven Winners' Holy Moly

Close Up of Proven Winners’ Holy Moly

Burpee's Sweet Savour peppers in late July

Burpee’s Sweet Savour peppers in late July

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Flowering Quince

Double Take Orange Storm Flowering Quince

Double Take Orange Storm Flowering Quince

For Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, try planting Double Take Orange Storm, which is a type of quince shrub marketed by Proven Winners (Chaenomeles speciosa). It is has large, orange double flowers but no fruit. I have had mine for five years and it blooms reliably in the spring, can tolerate our Virginia heat, and can take full sun or morning sun and afternoon shade. It is supposed to be deer resistant but I do not have enough deer to testify to that. The way the flowers appear before a lot of foliage and so close to the stem make it a great cut flower for oriental type flower arrangements or for forcing earlier in the spring.

Double Take Orange Storm Quince (2)