Bee Friendly and Save the Hives

The bees are welcome in my garden and we are fortunate to have three feral (wild) bee hives located within three miles of our home. How do we know?

A friend of ours, Ronnie Bouchon, is a beekeeper of managed hives. He created and supports a website called Save the Hives in an effort to help protect feral bee hives. The site includes a map of hive locations. Our neighbors registered their hives for the Feral Bee Project and that's how we discovered the homes of our visiting bees. You can check the map to see if there are hives located in your area. The Save the Hives site includes information about how to "beeline" to find the location of hives. If you have located a feral hive, you can also register it on the site.

A guest column, Let's Hear It for the Bees, in the New York Times provides a fascinating story about how the bees know when flowers produce nectar:
Flowers of a given species all produce nectar at about the same time each day, as this increases the chances of cross-pollination. The trick works because pollinators, which in most cases means the honeybee, concentrate foraging on a particular species into a narrow time-window. In effect the honeybee has a daily diary that can include as many as nine appointments — say, 10:00 a.m., lilac; 11:30 a.m., peonies; and so on. The bees’ time-keeping is accurate to about 20 minutes.
Here are a few of the plants in my garden that are loved by bees (and butterflies):

oakleaf holly

Of course, there are many more nectar plants than what I am growing. Gardeners who grow vegetables and fruit are providing nectar for the bees. There are also food sources among the wild flowering native plants, weeds and clover, too.

Gardeners love to have colorful blooms in spring, summer and fall. We have a great reason to go buy more nectar plants - we need to provide bees, both managed and feral, with blooms during these seasons, too!

Photo and story by Freda Cameron

A New Volunteer in the Garden

No, I don't have any human volunteers to help me pull weeds. But, I have an interesting volunteer plant that I've been watching since June of 2008.

I posted a photo of this patch of leaves on a garden forum last summer trying to determine whether or not is was a weed. Most felt that it was a weed. However, I thought the leaves resembled verbascum, so I left it alone and have been watching over it ever since.

The verbascum 'Southern Charm' that grows in my garden is not supposed to seed. Therefore, I began to question whether or not my mystery plant was verbascum. Still, I was patient and waited.

Last week, the plant suddenly started growing. Soon, it took the form of two plants in my butterfly garden. Both are salvia nemorosa varieties 'Caradonna' and 'Marcus' - both have purple blooms. I posted a question on a salvia forum to ask how to tell which one was the parent. Before a person could answer my question, the plant sprouted a bloom overnight.

From the green stem color, I was able to determine that 'Marcus' is the parent as the 'Caradonna' has dark, almost black stems (and grows twice as high). There are now several of these welcome 'Marcus' offspring sprouting up in my butterfly garden. These plants are loved by butterflies and by hummingbirds.

Salvia nemorosa 'Marcus' is a short 12" high salvia that will bloom off and on through the summer with deadheading. It is blooming early this year, probably due to the 90°F temperatures that we've been having over the last week. This salvia is rated for zones 4-8 and is deer and rabbit resistant as well as drought-tolerant.

It took a year of watching and waiting, but now I'm glad that I didn't pull out this mystery plant. Time reveals so much.

When you're weeding a garden, how do you tell the difference between a weed and a wanted plant? I've always heard that if you see the same seedling all over your garden, it's probably a weed. If you see a seedling that's unique to one section of the garden, it MAY be a welcome plant.

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Have No Sphere? Grow Alliums

I've admired alliums for years, but have deliberated on how to use them in the garden. There are different colors, heights and bloom sizes. One allium, appropriately named 'Globe Master' has blooms that are ten inches across!

A cottage gardener friend successfully inspired me with her plantings of alliums and irises. Last fall, I planted allium aflatunense 'Purple Sensation' (zones 4-10) with iris x hollandica 'Rosario' (zones 4-9) in several groupings around my garden. This is the first bloom season and I must say that I've totally fallen for this combination of Dutch irises with alliums! Of course, my plantings need a few more years to mature and fill in the space that I've allotted, but I'm already convinced that I must have more alliums.

I have planted several groupings outside the fence since both the Dutch iris and alliums are deer resistant. I have sown annual seeds along the areas with the intention of hiding the fading foliage of these bulbs when the annuals bloom later.

'Purple Sensation' is a wonderful purple (see smaller photo of same allium that was taken in dim light versus the bright sunlight in the photo with the iris) with blooms that are four inches across.

Inside the cottage garden, I have planted the irises and alliums with my Knock Out® Roses. To hide the bulb foliage when it begins to fade, I had the idea that a mass planting of hardy geranium 'Rozanne' (perennial) would do the trick.

Well, the rabbits feasted on the geraniums over the winter, so I have only three tiny little plants left out of nine. The plants are tiny (they were large last year) because the rabbits ate them down to the ground. What I don't understand is why the rabbits haven't touched my geranium 'Brookside' that are planted along another path in the cottage garden. Of course, the rabbits know that 'Rozanne' is more expensive than 'Brookside' and they have exquisite taste when it comes to plants.

On our Sunday walk through Sarah P. Duke Gardens, there were even more alliums and combinations to inspire me. I'll be watching the performance of my 'Purple Sensation' and start putting together a wish list for planting additional alliums this fall.

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Heat Wave in April

The last frost was April 17. Yesterday, the temperature went above 90°F as it will today, tomorrow and Tuesday. It seems like the spring planting season gets cut shorter each year as the window of reasonable temperatures for planting lasts less than two weeks before it is too hot. I'm glad that I took advantage of last fall to plant a few perennials. I may begin adjusting my planting schedule for hardy perennials to be planted in the fall and tender perennials and annuals in the spring.

The newly planted suffered terribly yesterday so I did something that I don't like to do - I watered the garden at night so that the ground would stay moist for several hours. There are so many annual seeds that I direct sowed in the garden and the soil needs to stay moist for the seeds.

I walked around the garden several times between 7:30 am and 8:30 am in an attempt to take some garden photos. As you can see, the sun was already too bright and harsh! I have several plant combinations that I want to share with you, but it's difficult to capture the true color of the plants in the bright light. The cottage garden and front deer resistant garden run east to west on the south side of the house, so the light is strong from morning until sunset.

The established, flowering plants are at least happy with all this heat. The Knock Out® Roses, cottage pinks, allium, more Dutch irises and the Spanish lavender started to bloom. The Encore® Azaleas and Lady Banks roses are in full bloom. At least they are happy with the heat!

Story and photo by Freda Cameron

Deer in Your Garden? Meet the Lamiaceae Family

The reliably deer resistant plants in my garden are all from the same family tree. Well, not an actual tree, but they are classified in botany as belonging to the Lamiaceae family. A few of the relatives of the mint family may surprise you since they are great flowering plants for the garden. A few other relatives, you will know as being mints (and can run rampant). You'll recognize some well-behaved herbs as well as foliage plants.

Understanding a bit about plant families can help you select the plants that will survive a deer onslaught. The Lamiaceae family of plants has never even been sampled by the deer herd on my property. As with all other authors of this subject, I must say that there is always the possibility that your deer will be desperate enough to learn to like any plant.

TAMU Image Gallery for Plant Family: Lamiaceae

In my deer resistant garden, I am growing the following plants from the family Lamiaceae:

Agastache (hyssop)
Caryopteris (blue mist shrub; also classified as Verbenaceae)
Lavandula (lavender)
Mentha (mint - in pots only!)
Monarda (bee balm)
Ocimum (basil)
Origanum (marjoram, oregano)
Perovskia (Russian sage)
Phlomis (Jerusalem sage)
Physostegia (Obedient plant - 'Miss Manners')
Rosmarinus (rosemary)
Salvia (sage - herbs and flowers)
Scutellaria (flower, skullcap)
Stachys (betony, lamb's ear)
Thymus (thyme)
Vitex (chaste tree)

There are a few other good plant families for deer resistant gardens, such as Verbenaceae that includes verbena and lantana. The deer did, however, pick quite a few lantana flowers last fall, much to my surprise as they left it alone all summer and all years in the past.

The Buddleja (buddleia, butterfly bush) is another reliable, deer resistant family of summer flowering shrubs.

The Asteraceae (aster) family of plants can be hit-or-miss with deer. I am growing the following with some success (noted), but you may have some nibbling of these with your deer herd:

Achillea (yarrow - no problems)
Ageratum (floss flower - some nibbles, nothing significant)
Aster (eaten by rabbits, gave up)
Chrysanthemum (mums - haven't sufficiently tested, but on my list)
Coreopsis (tickseed - no deer problems, but I wonder about rabbits?)
Echinacea (sampled, no serious damage, but protect from rabbits)
Echinops (didn't eat while in bloom, but ate foliage down after bloom; plants returned this year)
Gaillardia (blanket flower - a nip here and there, but got masses of blooms)
Helianthus (severe munching of swamp sunflower)
Osteospermum (annual, no damage)
Rudbeckia ('Goldsturm', no deer problems, but rabbits love these)

Most of my deer resistant testing has been with perennials, ornamental grasses, shrubs and trees. For the summer, I have sown great quantities of annual seeds (larkspur, poppies, strawflowers, cleome, nicotiana, tagetes, flax, zinnias, etc.) to test. Snapdragons have been reliably deer resistant. I have just planted Angelonia to test.

I will always report my results here on my blog and you can check past stories by selecting my deer resistance topic on the sidebar.

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Let the Blooms Begin

I've been spending my days outside in the garden and not paying attention to anything else. I've been pulling weeds, planting perennials, potting annuals and sowing seeds. I finally took time this morning to stop and see what's blooming.

First of all, let me give an update on Cinnamon Bunny, that hungry baby rabbit that lives in my garden along with a few other critters. She's been making herself at home in the cottage garden. I learned that I should spray the repellent at the bottom of the plants (where baby bunny noses sniff), not just the tops.

The two Rosa banksiae 'Lutea' (Lady Banks Roses) are blooming quite beautifully right now. One is trained to go over the gable garden gate and the other is by the main cottage garden gate. I keep these in check with pruning the nearly thornless stems. The pale yellow blooms (no fragrance) are abundant this year. Both were planted in the fall of 2005. Lady Banks is suitable for zones 6a-11.

The Encore® Azaleas are just starting the spring bloom. In a few days, they should be in full bloom. In spring, they bloom a few weeks later than other varieties, but will repeat the blooms again in the fall. I've been very happy with the performance, although two of the azaleas with bi-color blooms reverted to the solid magenta color.

My oldest plantings of iris x hollandica (Dutch iris) are in full bloom. I'm still waiting on the Dutch iris 'Telestar' and 'Rosario', planted in fall 2008, to bloom. It won't be long and I'm excited to see how the colors work in the garden with plantings of allium 'Purple Sensation'.

For those who wonder if you can grow lilacs in the south, I'm pleased to introduce you to the petite S. patula 'Miss Kim' ('Miss Kim' lilac). In full disclosure, it has been a real struggle for her to get to this glorious point of bloom as she is rated for zones 3a-7b (I'm in 7b but it can feel like zone 8).

The last two years, we've had April frosts that killed off the buds. Prior to that, she was planted in my cottage garden, where it was too hot in the summer and she dropped her leaves in the drought.

'Miss Kim' is now happily residing between the waterfall garden and butterfly garden (east location) where she is being watched over by an osmanthus fragrans (fragrant tea olive) that is also beginning to bloom right now. The two fragrances work well together. A burgundy loropetalum chinense (probably 'Ruby') is also blooming along with these two sweeties. The burgundy foliage and magenta blooms of the loropetalum and the lilac blooms are a nice color combination.

Over the next few days and weeks, the garden will launch into more and more blooms that will lead up to the peak bloom of my garden in mid-July.

The Six Plants That I Can't Live Without

Steve Bender, also known as The Grumpy Gardener at Southern Living Magazine, challenged me to name the six greatest plants in my garden. It's difficult to limit oneself to only six plants. Nine other garden bloggers are participating in this challenge. Every gardener has reasons for their favorite plants - it may be love or it may be logical.

The six plants that I can't live without in my zone 7b, North Carolina garden:

Agastache (hyssop, hummingbird mint)

Until I built a house and garden in full sun and deer country, I knew nothing about perennial agastache. I have an assortment of colors (apricot, orange, bicolor pink/orange, rose, blue and purple) and sizes. These perennials are drought-tolerant, deer resistant, rabbit resistant and among the biggest bloomers in my garden. The blooms can go on for months in the summer until frost. Suitability to zones depends upon the variety, but quite a few selections are available for zones 5-10 or 6-9. Full sun, lean soil, and good drainage make these plants great low-maintenance plants. They play well with salvias, echinacea, ornamental grasses and buddleia.

Nepeta x faassenii (catmint)

Nepeta is one of those perennials that seems rather ordinary, but it works so well in many situations, that it is one of my favorites. She's tough and she's beautiful!

Throughout my garden, I've used nepeta extensively. It was the first perennial that I found to be truly deer and rabbit proof. However, I've come to love it for so many reasons other than pest free attributes.

The lavender-blue blooms of the 'Six Hills Giant' or 'Walkers Low' Nepeta work well with almost every color combination. The color also works well to provide a break between clashing colors in a garden. The grey-green foliage has a spicy fragrance and mounds beautifully all summer long if sheared between blooms. The easiest way to shear nepeta is using cordless trimmers.

To those who like garden design, you'd say that I may be over-using nepeta, but I like it that much! Nepeta is a favorite for honey bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, so I get no complaints!

Zones 3-8
Full sun
Deer resistant
Rabbit resistant
Japanese Beetle resistant
Drought tolerant
Long bloom season
Easy care (cut back at the end of winter and again after each bloom)
Easy to divide (divide by shovel)

iris x hollandica (Dutch Iris)

These energy-saving bulbs shine like bright lights in my spring garden. Planting is the only effort that I've exerted for these perennial bulbs. Since then, I just enjoy them in the garden or cut them for floral arrangements. The Dutch irises planted in the fall of 2005 will need to be divided this year, but that's easy work. The height is 18-22 inches (in bloom) and the Dutch iris bulbs are rated for zones 5-8. I've had no trouble with deer eating the Dutch irises, but the rabbits went after the foliage this winter.

Buddleia (butterfly bush)

Whenever I'm searching for the "right plant" for a place in the garden, my husband suggests another buddleia! Another plant that I've probably over-used because it's deer and rabbit resistant, I have yellow, light and dark blue, pink and deep pink. 'Royal Red' is a big performer in our version of an inferno strip along the guest parking area. 'Adonis Blue™' has a smaller form factor and is used in a mix of perennials and annuals. 'Pink Delight' is in use for some privacy screening in our fragrance garden.

Butterfly bushes come in different varieties, sizes and colors. Zones vary according to the type, but most will work in zones 5-9. They are appropriately named as the butterflies are very fond of these blooming shrubs. I cut mine back in the late winter. Last year, I had to cut several back after severe winds and rain started to uproot a few. I found out that a nice trim twice in the flowering season made them so much more beautiful and I had fresh blooms up until frost.

Osmanthus fragrans (fragrant tea olive)

For a great evergreen shrub, it makes scents to plant osmanthus fragrans. Osmanthus fragrans is an evergreen shrub for zones 7-9. In spring and again in autumn, this shrub is highly fragrant. For weeks at a time, our osmanthus will bloom heavily. We have at least twelve of these shrubs! Needless to say, we have a fondness for this shrub. We planted osmanthus at a previous house as well.

Osmanthus fragrans can grow 10-20 feet high and 8-12 feet wide. With a medium growth rate, it is easy to keep these shrubs pruned, if necessary to fit the space. While they are drought tolerant, they also do well during periods of heavy rain. We use them as accent shrubs, privacy screening and for the fragrance. This is a deer resistant shrub that has received no nibbles in the winter, but the deer may rub their antlers on this (or any other) shrub in the fall.

Knock Out® Roses

I hate house work and the self-cleaning Knock Out® Roses don't require much care on my part. But, they attract a lot of attention! With seven of the 'Radrazz' growing inside my cottage garden (fenced and away from deer), the blooms keep on coming from late April until November. The flat cup cherry red rose blooms are a medium size. This rose is hardy in zones 5-9.

These roses were planted by our landscaper when we built the house. He selected the roses while I was busy with the final stages of house-building. This was my introduction to the Knock Out® Roses and I've been very happy with the performance and beauty of these roses. I grow clematis on the fence with the roses. Lavender, and a mix of perennials (hardy geranium, allium, heuchera) and annuals (ageratum, petunias) are other companions for the roses.

That wraps up my list of six plants. Can you name six plants that you can't live without?

Story and photos by Freda Cameron. Thanks to Steve Bender for organizing today's blog topic.


Visit these other garden blogs to find out the six favorites of gardeners in different zones around the country:

Meems at Hoe & Shovel in Florida
Pam Penick at Digging in Texas
Frances at Fairegarden in Tennessee
Carolyn Choi at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago in Illinois
Judy Lowe, Christian Science Monitor, at Diggin' It in Massachusetts
Jim Long at Jim Long's Garden in Missouri
Helen Yoest at Gardening with Confidence™ in North Carolina
Fresh Dirt at Sunset Magazine in California
Steve Bender, the Grumpy Gardener at Southern Living in Alabama


Deer Resistant Spanish Bluebells

Got deer and want spring flowers? Try planting hyacinthoides hispanica (Spanish Bluebells).

While some deer herds may develop a taste for these, I've never had a problem with any nibbles on the bluebells by deer or rabbits since the first bloom season in spring 2006. I planted my bluebells in autumn of 2005 and they've been multiplying ever since.

While I have the blue color, there are also white and pink colors available. The blue works well with any other color in my garden. I like them at the feet of shrubs, under trees, and out in the full sun gardens. These bulbs can be planted in dry shade, too. When I think about it, I am growing bluebells in just about every location in my garden! They are planted underneath a sweet bay magnolia and a curly willow tree in the fragrance garden; along the stream in the water fall garden; and among daffodils and nepeta in the butterfly and outer gardens. These flowers never disappointment me.

The tiny bulbs are easy to plant. I tend to use the trench method, meaning that I dig a section and then place the bulbs 4 inches deep and about 5 per square foot. I find this easier than trying to plant the small bulbs by digging individual holes. The only problem with dividing them in the fall is to remember where they are planted!

Bluebell bulbs, planted in the fall, can be grown in zones 3-8 and the bloom time will vary by zone. Mine bloom in mid-April while cooler zones will see blooms in May. The 15" high stalks of blooms aren't wimpy. They stand bold and straight in the garden and foliage isn't unattractive. The bluebells seem to bloom for several weeks and I leave the foliage until it yellows. By then, the rest of the garden has filled in and the dying foliage isn't that noticeable.

Once you've got a garden full of Spanish bluebells, you'll start using them as cut flowers in your spring bouquets!

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Garden Critters Day

Yes, I know. You are expecting to see blooms from the garden. Shall I dare to be different?

During my camera stalking of hummingbirds, I photographed three garden critters on my patio without moving my tripod. I was stationed inside the house in the garden room.

The baby bunny slipped underneath the garden gate from the cottage garden onto the patio. After this photo shoot, I checked out all the bunny-pleasing plants in the cottage garden and they were unharmed. The bunny repellant is protecting the plants, but the bunny still visits. She looks so sweet, doesn't she? I think I'll name her Cinnamon Bunny.

The frog was watching the waterfall from his soft spot on the edge of the patio. He looks big here because I zoomed in on him. However, he's really only about three inches high. I don't live in Michigan, so I'll name him Carolina J. Frog. He sings quite loudly, but I've not seen him wearing a top hat or dancing!

Between the bunny and the frog, the male hummingbird was perched a few feet above the patio on a branch of Lady Banks Rose. This is already his favorite perch. He's claiming the hanging basket, the planter and window feeder as his territory. I think he's reigning over the waterfall garden, so how about Lord Banks as a name?

Is it the sound of the waterfall that attracts the little critters? Is it the morning sun? Is it the flowers? Why did three tiny little critters gather together on the same morning? Whatever draws them to the waterfall garden, they are a joy to watch!

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Hummingbird Play

The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have definitely returned! There are at least two males and one female in our Chapel Hill garden this morning. The hummers are enjoying the lantana, scabiosa, impatiens and begonia today. The three feeders are attracting them, too.

It's great to watch their antics this morning. There is a branch of Lady Banksia Rose that is just below the hanging basket. One male has decided to make that branch his perch this morning!

Hummingbirds are difficult to photo with their constant motion, but I caught a fairly good shot of one of the males by the hanging basket of begonia. I have set up my camera, a Canon SX10 IS, on a tripod inside the house in the garden room. I'm trying different settings with the zoom and ISO to try to get clear shots of a moving target, though a window on a rainy day!

First Hummingbird in the Garden!

Today, I saw our first hummingbird of 2009! Last year, I recorded the first one on April 9 here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Our visitors are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

We took down our birdseed feeders and replaced them with hummingbird feeders several weeks ago. Last week, I created a hanging basket of annual begonia and fuschia for a natural hanging feeder, too. Beneath the hanging basket is a planter filled with impatiens.

When I shop for plants, I try to keep these tiny little birds in mind. They love the cobalt blue salvia guaranitica 'Black & Blue' along with other salvia varieties such as red salvia greggii. The tall blooms of 'Black & Blue' make it easy for the hummingbirds to skim across the garden from flower to flower.

My garden is filled with monarda (bee balm) which is another hummingbird favorite. I added the red 'Jacob Cline' last fall and it has rapidly expanded in the moist area in the butterfly garden. 'Raspberry Wine' was added in the cottage garden and front outer gardens. I've had 'Blue Stocking' for several years and it is a purple-blue color that works well with other color combinations. Monarda needs room to expand quickly. Buying a few plants will give you as much of a color as you want and it is deer and rabbit resistant.

Agastache, buddleia and nepeta are other perennials that the hummingbirds visit in my garden. I tend to select deer resistant plants for the outer gardens. There are so many other nectar flowers that can be used for hummingbirds that plant retail nurseries often have lists available. Besides flower nectar, hummingbirds catch insects, too!

Hummingbirds are great little visitors for a garden, so please keep them in mind when planting gardens and containers this year.

Story and photo by Freda Cameron

Container Garden: Purple, Purple and More Purple

Too much of a good thing? I decided to go with a purple color scheme for my three large containers that are in full sun along the garden paths.

I chose purple because it won't be washed out in the sunshine. Purple works well with any other color growing in my garden. In other words, I consider purple to be neutral as it looks good with white, silver, pink, red, yellow and orange.

The stone in our house foundation, porch and fence corners has purple tones. Putting white or yellow against the stone doesn't work. Our flagstone (used on the main path and porch/patio floors) is actually called Pennsylvania Bluestone Lilac Heather. The paint on our house is a sage green/gray and purple looks good against that color, too.

One pot is outside the cottage garden fence at the entrance gate. There is a coordinating pot at the beginning, and another at the end, of the grit path beside the Knock Out® Roses 'Radrazz'.

The plants that I used in all three containers grow well in full sun. The two containers inside the fence are 16 inches and the one outside is 20 inches.

Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'
(Purple fountain grass, zones 8-11)
1 plant

Strobilanthes dyerianus
(Persian shield, zones 9-11)
1 plant

Tanacetum ptarmiciflorum
(Silver Lace Bush, zones 8-10)
1 plant

Lantana montevidensis
(Purple trailing lantana, zones 9-11)
1 plant in 16" containers, 2 in 20" container

Ageratum houstonianum 'Tycoon® Purple'
(Floss flower, zones 9-11)
used as many as needed for filler in each container

Petunia grandiflora
(Petunia, not hardy)
3 plants for each of the 16" containers; none in the 20"

These plants like the same conditions. There is a balance of foliage plants and blooming flowers. The pennisetum will grow tall in the middle, while the trailing lantana will spill over the edges. The ageratum will fill out the middle. I still have to watch for the danger of frost, but since these annuals are planted in containers, we can move them inside the garage for protection.

Newly planted container gardens look sparse for a few weeks. It won't be long before these annuals fill out to make a stronger statement. Annuals need regular feeding to ensure robust growth.

For the container outside the fence, I chose deer resistant annuals. I repeated the same plants inside the fence because the view is of all three containers. All annuals were chosen to perform well from spring until the first frost in the autumn.

Story, design and photos by Freda Cameron

Spring for Fall Flowers

When it's autumn, think of planting for spring. When it's spring, think of planting for autumn.

For spring and early summer blooms, I planted fall bulbs of Allium aflatunenense (Ornamental onion) and iris x hollandica (Dutch iris). I also sowed seeds of Delphinium ajacis (Larkspur) and Papaver laciniatum (Feathered poppy). Now, spring is the time to plant perennials and annuals for more fall flowers.

Last fall, I took notice of the absence of blooms in my garden and added a few perennials and annuals for instant gratification. I made notes of places where I want to have color for fall 2009. There are the usual fall flowers of asters and mums, but I have special conditions in some areas that require plants that are deer resistant and suitable for moist soil.

Two fall blooming perennials that are outstanding performers in my garden can be divided now to spread the glory around the garden:

Hedychium coronarium (Butterfly ginger) zones 7b-10
Helianthus angustifolius 'First Light' (Swamp sunflower) zones 5-9a

The fragrance of the ginger is wonderful, so I'd like to come up with a way to grow it in a slightly submerged pot in my water feature. The swamp sunflower is supposed to be deer resistant, but the deer in my garden were hungry enough in September to eat the blooms. I am now contemplating whether I can make an attractive water feature arrangement of these two perennials by using creeping jenny to cover the edges of the pot.

These two perennials are on my wish list, but are difficult to find locally.

Anemone japonica 'Margarette' (Windflower) zones 5-8 deer resistant
Chelone glabra (Turtlehead) zones 5-8 (native plant) deer resistant

I want to use these two as companions in my rain garden. It may take awhile to establish both and get a good-sized display. Since they are supposed to spread well once established, I don't want to purchase too many as they are both expensive compared to more common perennials.

Back on dry land, I intend to increase the sedum (Stonecrop) in my cottage garden. Last fall, I added three:

Sedum 'Purple Emperor' zones 3-7
Sedum telephium 'Beka'
Sedum 'Green Expectations'

These three sedum are looking so great right now that I'd like to add Sedum spectabile 'Neon' and 'Matrona' to the cottage garden. I've found, from experience, that deer eat sedum blooms, so these have to be inside the fence.

For annuals, I have zinnia seeds to sow in the cottage garden. Coleus (foliage) and impatiens will provide color into fall as well. Among my reliable perennials, agastache and salvia greggii are great fall bloomers. My Encore® Azaleas and Knock Out® Roses will bloom in the fall, too.

Gardeners have to think ahead for seasons of color. What are you planning to grow for fall flowers?

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Have You Hugged Your Plants Today?

Hello old friend, it's good to see you wake up from your winter nap. I've missed you during the long winter months.

I'm so happy to see my perennials emerge in the garden each spring, what would happen if I showed them more affection? What about those new additions to the garden? They don't know me. They don't know how much hope I have for them.

Besides all of the good care that we gardeners provide, shall we let our plants know how much we love them? They can't read our minds, so maybe we should be better communicators. Maybe that will make our plants happy. After all, we know Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus... and plants are from Earth.

Prince Charles talks to his plants and, according to him, they respond. The Prince of Wales believes in treating nature with respect and lets his plants know it!

The RHS is now conducting a study to see whether there may be something to his idea of talking to plants. They are holding auditions for voices that are suitable for recording verses from Shakespeare. They will test for results before, during and after the recordings are played to the plants.

For the study, the RHS will attach MP3 headphones to the pots at root level. Hmm... headphones wrapped around a pot is an embrace. If talking makes a plant happy, what about adding a hug, too?

Story and photo by Freda Cameron

Cute, But Not the Easter Bunny!

Why are some garden pests so darn cute? When this baby bunny ventured out from under the shrub cover, I didn't chase her away. No, I grabbed my camera to take photos of this cute little critter.

I guess I'm a soft touch in spite of the battle over rabbit damage in my cottage garden all winter. The rabbit that was digging a shallow burrow in the cottage garden must have moved over to the waterfall garden for a safe place to have babies. I don't know how many "kits" were born as only one ventured out while I was watching.

Since I started using a rabbit repellant (I Must Garden), I've not had any damage to the treated perennials. I'm now on my second purchase of the repellant, trying to spray whenever foliage grows another 2 inches or so. I don't like the expense of using repellants, but I don't want to lose what is already growing in my garden.

After years of researching deer resistant perennials, I am now moving on to research rabbit resistant perennials. You'd think that bunnies and deer would hate the same plants. No, the bunnies aren't as choosy as hungry deer.

The razor-sharp rabbit teeth make a clean cut on a plant. Deer are like cows and have no upper teeth, so they make a ragged cut as they rip leaves and flowers off of plants.

So far, the rabbits have been munching on these perennials:

Dutch irises

I've been spraying the garden phlox foliage as it emerges, so they haven't gotten to those plants. I've started spraying the rudbeckia and echinacea, too. During my seed buying spree (before rabbits were a problem), I bought packets of zinnias and cosmos. Well, those are on the bunny's menu! I will sow the seeds anyway and do my best to protect them this year. I just won't repeat the planting of bunny food again unless I use containers that are out of reach. The cleome and ageratum are on the rabbit resistant list. The larkspur will be okay. I don't know about the poppies, but they've not touched the foliage so far.

Deer and rabbit resistant plants in my garden:

asclepias (milkweed)
delosperma cooperii (ice plant)
perennial verbena
perennial heliotrope
perennial ageratum
ornamental grasses and sedges (acorus, carex, miscanthus, muhly)
herbs (bronze fennel, rosemary, lavender, thyme, oregano)

Story and photo by Freda Cameron

Gardening - Is it Work or Play?

Gardeners love to get out and work in their gardens. But, if it is so much fun, is it really work? Read the gardening blogs about all the chores and there are no complaints! We can work all day in our gardens, come in with aching backs and be happy. What makes gardening so enjoyable and rewarding?

It seems as though gardening is a journey rather than a destination. We strive to grow beautiful gardens, but we really don't want the garden to ever be finished! Even if the garden looks perfect to all visitors, we'll still get out there and start moving plants around. We can't help it. The activity of gardening is irresistible.

We may complain about weeds, weather, pests and poor-performing plants, but we do our best to solve the problems and keep on gardening.

We claim to have enough plants, yet we give in to the urge to "go look" at nurseries and come back with a carload of new plants.

We love to look at each other's gardens for inspiration, too. Show us some garden eye candy and we thrill over each other's successes. That's why we love forums, blogs, magazines, garden tours and even retail plant catalogs. We're always looking for new ideas so we can do more work in our gardens.

The rewards are numerous, but most of all - we beam with happiness over each bloom.

Happy Spring and Good Gardening!

Freda Cameron

No Fooling - It Is Spring

Mother Nature isn't playing any tricks on us for April Fool's Day. A visit to Coker Arboretum on the UNC Campus proves that spring has arrived!

In the Arboretum, the white blooms of both dogwoods and viburnum brighten up the shady pathways. The redbuds are beautiful and some of the camellias are in bloom, too.

The Arboretum labels most plants and so I noticed that the Burkwood Viburnum family has changed. This is one of my favorite viburnums for a spring show of white flowers. Besides the floral display, I love the fragrance of this viburnum. Suitable for zones 5-8, this shrub grows up to ten feet high and eight feet wide. Around here, it used mostly in part shade, but it can take a bit of sun with afternoon shade.

Under the canopy of trees, the hellebores are planted en masse and still in bloom.

Among other forest floor plants is the southeastern native, Little Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum).

Little Sweet Betsy is one of the first trilliums to bloom and one of the largest. It can grow up to 15 inches high. It loves limestone soils and the population of this trillium can explode to the thousands under the right forest conditions.

One of the brightest blooms in the garden is from the Golden Ragwort, an eastern US native perennial. This native blooms profusely on thin, but sturdy stems. This ragwort is in the aster family and sometimes called Groundsel.

Other native flowers in bloom include Fern-leaf Scorpion-weed. That's a scary name for such a pretty, lavender-blue flower! This native is a reseeding biennial that grows 1-2 feet high.

The spring color display is just starting. Over the next few weeks, the gardens and woods of Chapel Hill will be full of beautiful spring blooms!

Story and photos by Freda Cameron
Powered by Blogger.

Popular Posts