Hardy Geranium

In the shadow of roses and scampering along the path, hardy geranium 'Rozanne' is proving to be a great performer in the garden.

My plants had a difficult start as they were nibbled so badly by rabbits that only three survived. This year, with the help of a repellent with natural ingredients, the rabbits have stayed away and the geraniums are glorious.

There is another hardy geranium in the cottage garden. 'Brookside' is edging the path beneath my azaleas. Both work well for edging the paths, but 'Rozanne' is gaining ground as my favorite.

Hardy geranium (cranesbill) 'Rozanne' is rated for full to part sun in zones 5-8 and is from Blooms of Bressingham®.

The ground-covering foliage habit is perfect for hiding the fading foliage of alliums and Dutch irises. Daylilies and coneflowers also make their way through the geraniums with no problem. The mounding habit of the perennial is covered by a lovely display of dainty blooms. The flowers should repeat until frost.

I'd love to have additional plants, but with the wonderful 36 inch width, it only takes a few 'Rozanne' geraniums to edge a path!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

A Deer Miss

When I came home at 10:00 pm last night, there was a herd of deer sleeping in the meadow above the flower garden. They didn't bother to get up when I drove the car down the long driveway—with headlights beaming on their sleepy little heads.

The deer must be well fed and lazy this year as they have literally given up on taking the time to even LOOK in my garden! In doing so, the deer (so far) have missed out on a luscious yellow lilly.

Of course, I didn't plant this deer candy in my deer resistant garden. There's nothing deer resistant about the lily. It was a gift from an anonymous bird who kindly planted the seeds a year ago. My feathered friend didn't provide a gift tag, and I haven't tried to identify the lily.

I'm not going to try to incorporate this lily into my garden plans. The bird did a fine job of planting the lily in the "hot colors" butterfly garden —with gaillardia, monarda 'Jacob Cline', crocosmia 'Lucifer' and an osmanthus fragrans. It's a pretty good design for a bird!

I don't want to get too attached to these beautiful flowers. As sure as I do, the deer will return—and, they won't miss the chance to nibble the lilies to nothing!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.

Buying Online: Perfectly Packaged Plants

Ordering plants online can be confusing and sometimes the results are very disappointing. There are always those nagging questions. What is the price of the plants? How large are the plants? Will they be healthy? How are they shipped? I'm happy to report my wonderful experience with Lazy S'S Farm Nursery in Virginia.

I had a list of plants that I had coveted, but couldn't find locally. My web search led me to Lazy S'S Farm online store. I checked the Dave's Garden Watchdog list and they are ranked in the Top 5 for perennials.

With their huge selection of plants, I had no problem finding everything on my wish list. (By the way, you can save a wish list on their website and come back later to purchase.) The prices, based upon the description of the plants and shipping methods, was reasonable. I got out my credit card and placed an order.

A few days later, I decided to add a few more plants to the same order. Easy to do.

On April 8, my box of plants arrived on my covered front porch. Opening the box was surprising—in a good way. The health and size of the plants exceeded my expectations!

Look at the packaging—stakes to support the foliage; plastic covering the soil meant moisture was retained and no soil dumped out; no damage at all.

I followed the instructions to let my plants adjust in a sheltered place and gradually move them to the sunshine and then plant in the garden after danger of frost had passed (April 15). Of course, we had no significant rain in April and early May, so I had to be diligent about giving the plants a deep, thorough watering until established.

Now that all of the perennials have been in my garden for over a month, I'm still thrilled with the plants. Each is growing well, still healthy.

Would I order from Lazy S'S Farm Nursery again? Absolutely! I have no hesitation in giving a recommendation as this was my best online plant ordering experience—ever.

No free products or discounts were received from the vendor, nor was the nursery notified in advance of my review.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Meadow Madness

Flowers are randomly mixed and mingled with abandon to give the illusion of a wildflower meadow garden. There's no design per se, but there's a method to my meadow madness. Most of my perennials peak in midsummer and continue to bloom through fall. Until then, I have filled the garden gaps with early blooming favorites.

Perennials that bloom in May and June in my garden include achillea, creeping heliotrope, salvia greggii, Japanese irises, nepeta and gaillardia.

The delightful, new Agastache 'Cotton Candy' from Terra Nova Nurseries is an early blooming variety. The deep pink blooms began in April in my garden, planted in full sun and well-drained soil. This perennial agastache is rated for zones 6-9 and should continue blooming into late summer or fall. Planted as a small plug last September, it is already proving to be a hardy and beautiful performer.
Verbena bonariensis and rose campion, both perennials here, may be self-sowing annuals in colder zones. These two tall plants are easy to use between other perennials and may rebloom with deadheading. The verbena blooms almost nonstop for me, so I rarely have to deadhead it.

Annuals for simultaneous May blooms include cornflowers, larkspur, nigella and poppies—all grown from seed sown in November. These are all easy to weave among the perennials. When the annuals have faded, seeds can be collected or left to reseed. To clean up the garden, the foliage of the larkspur, cornflowers, nigella and poppies can be pulled.

Cornflower 'Blue Boy' (left). I am also growing 'Red Ball' and 'Snowman'. The cornflowers, also known as bachelor's buttons (Centaurea cyanus) may be considered invasive in some areas, so check your state's agricultural information before planting.
Larkspur 'Gailee Blue' and 'Lilac Spire' (shown left) are my favorites, but I added Blue Spire' and 'White King' this year. Can't have too many!
Nigella damascena 'Miss Jekyll Blue' is proving to be a great addition this year. I'm using this annual in several different settings and combinations.
Poppy 'Laurens Grape' (left) was difficult to find. I'm also growing an unknown white poppy in this meadow garden.
Verbena bonariensis (perennial or annual) is a favorite with butterflies, bees and Goldfinches.
As for deer and rabbit resistance—all of these annuals and perennials are unprotected in my outer gardens. I've had no problem with damage, but your results may vary depending upon the availability of food and the size of the animal population. If Goldfinches visit your garden, they will be delighted if you grow the verbena and cornflowers as they love to eat the seeds!

Hidden among all of these flowers are more agastache as well as salvia, Russian sage, leucanthemum, caryopteris, bee balm, liatris, milkweed and sedum. The blooms from these perennials will get all the attention as the summer progresses.

With the results that I've gotten with this new strategy, my meadow madness added another season of peak color without sacrificing space!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons. Agastache 'Cotton Candy' was provided as a trial plant by Terra Nova Nurseries.

Achillea 'Pomegranate'

There's a new yarrow in my garden. Seeing the color on the photo tag, I just had to try Achillea 'Pomegranate'. I purchased a gallon pot at a local nursery and planted in late April 2010. The perennial was so large, I easily divided it into three hardy plants. In less than a month there are large, deep red blooms!

Achillea 'Pomegranate' is planted with rose campion. Fortunately, the two are a well-matched monochrome pair!

Yarrows have proven to be drought, deer and rabbit resistant in my garden. This Blooms of Bressingham® variety, rated for zones 4-8, is supposed to be able to withstand the heat and humidity better than some of the other yarrow varieties. Full sun and well-drained soil are best.

I love this yarrow and have high hopes for a good performance—all summer!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Just Being There. That's All.

Just being in a village in France was the reason for our vacation. We shopped the market. Had espresso on the balcony each morning. A pair of doves visited us daily. We washed clothes and hung them to dry on the lines outside our windows. We walked and hiked—a lot. Simple. Wonderful. The Old Town of Antibes.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.

She's Back! Rose Campion Returns

Rose campion must have a fan club! Each week, my blog receives multiple searches for this self-sowing garden plant. To please her many admirers, rose campion has returned for an encore performance.

Rose campion, also known as lychnis coronaria in certain garden circles, joined my zone 7 garden in 2007. The original mother plants have returned and are now about one foot in width. The kids are randomly sprinkled along the garden slopes below the mothers.

The slender silver foliage of rose provides a nice contrast with the foliage colors and shapes of neighboring plants. In one location, rose campion has taken up residence beside autumn sage (with a similar bloom color) and lamb's ear (with silver foliage). This accidental trio gives rose campion an interesting camouflage cover—making her look like stalks of blooms on the lamb's ear.

Rose campion is a short-lived perennial for zones 3-9, but with the self-sowing tendencies, she seems to be an easy plant to keep around for years. The seedlings may not bloom the first year. I have moved a few of the young around the garden as they are very shallow rooted and easy to transplant.

These drought-tolerant plants thrive in dry conditions and aren't bothered by any four-legged critters nor pests. Too much water or too much humidity may turn the foliage to a bit of mush, but cutting them back to the basal foliage in midsummer will help. (If you want the plants to self-sow, leave a few of the flowers.)

Rose campion is such an easy, pleasing plant—go ahead and try a few in your garden, too!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. .

Bronze Fennel for Butterfly Gardens

The fronds of bronze fennel look like thick, dark clouds looming behind the spring-flowering perennials. Through the summer, the fennel grows tall, strong and stately—topped with lacy yellow flowers. Bronze fennel is not only ornamental, but serves a purpose in the life cycle of certain butterflies.

Suitable for zones 4-9, bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum') is easily grown from seed.

So easy to grow, that I highly recommend cutting off the flowers before they set seed. I didn't deadhead my three large fennel plants last year and have THOUSANDS of seedlings around the plants!

The tap root is very, very long. I removed a mature fennel last fall and part of the taproot is still in the garden because I would have upset a mass planting of coreopsis to continue digging. I now grow the fennel at the outside edges of my main gardens so that I don't have the seeds or the roots around my best perennials.

Now that I've given you the bad news, there is a very good reason to grow bronze fennel.

The fluffy and fragrant herb is a host plant for the caterpillars that become Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies. The caterpillars feed on the fennel until time for the metamorphosis. Currently, my fennel is literally covered with the caterpillars—a very good sign that there will be many butterflies to come. The caterpillars show up all summer long and into fall.

But, wait—there's more!

This year, I noticed little needle-shaped green sticks all over the fennel, too. On closer inspection, I found dozens of praying mantis nymphs. With a little research, I have learned that the eggs are laid in the fall and hatch in the spring. These little creatures will prey on other insects and even hummingbirds. Still, they are beneficial insects to have in the garden.

Bronze fennel will always have a place in my butterfly garden. But, I will be more diligent about deadheading this year!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.

Lovely Flowers for Narrow Spaces

There is a narrow strip of ground between the path and the cottage garden fence—right beside the front gate to our home. Lavender had overgrown the space after four years, so I had to come up with a better plan this time.

I decided to use Love-in-a-Mist (nigella damascena) mixed with poppies for spring color. The nigella is a stunning performer! I have several varieties of nigella in my garden, but this one is 'Miss Jekyll Blue'.

Seeds sown in late fall produced a dainty display of frilly foliage through the winter. The upright nigella foliage is over two feet in height while the width perfectly fits the narrow garden space.

The nigella is covered with beautiful buds—more buds than I've ever seen on such small plants! The pale green buds pop open with the loveliest blooms. The blooms transition from a pale blue that deepens to a cobalt blue.

Plant the seeds in autumn in a partial to full sun location. I sowed my seeds in a mix of compost and garden soil, but a few stray nigella seeds are blooming happily in the gravel garden path. So far, nigella has been deer and rabbit resistant, but your results may vary.

Once growing in your garden, nigella is a self-sowing annual, so if the seed pods are left on the plant, there will be many more seedlings for next year. Or, you can let the seed pods dry on the plant and collect the seeds to sow where you choose.

Nigella is so lovely—from bud to bloom through seed pod—that I will definitely use it more extensively as a filler between my perennials and let it seed along my garden fence for a repeat performance.

Pale yellow and pink California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) are intertwined with the blue nigella flowers. The foliage of the two annuals is similar; seeds were sown at the same time and the annuals blooms together. Perfect spring-blooming partners for narrow spaces.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.


Antibes is a lovely village. Our apartment is fabulous and we enjoyed a baguette and made espresso for breakfast.

In France, there is so much to say about fresh food.

This morning, we went to the Provincal Market where we bought spices, veggies, etc to make dinner. We bought a bouquet of dried lavender and lavender soap for the apartment. We then walked for an hour along the coast to Cap d'Antibes. We had lunch at La Roche by the beach at La Garoupe. We dined there on our trip two years ago.

After a walk out on a point in the bay, we walked back. After two hours of walking, we think we deserve to eat well!

Enjoy your weekend--the weather here is lovely. I wish I could post photos from today!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

It's a Peony...No, It's a Poppy!

If there's no space or good place for a real peony in your garden, then try a poppy with huge flowers that look like a peony bloom! Poppies can be sown from seeds and enjoyed for years. After the blooms finish, you can leave the seed heads to self-sow or collect the seeds to plant in different locations. Pull out the poppy plant and you have space for summer annuals, too.

Papaver paeoniflorum 'Venus' (Paeony Flowered Poppy) was sown from seed in October 2008. It bloomed in May 2009 and self-sowed to return in May 2010. My seeds were purchased from Diane's Seeds for just a few dollars. Now, that's a rewarding plant investment!

Not only is the peony flowered poppy easy to grow and maintain—it is deer, rabbit and pest resistant. The poppies can grow anywhere from 30 to 48 inches high, but the base is narrow, allowing the plants to fill space between perennials. Once the foliage looks ragged, it's very easy to pull the plants without disturbing the surrounding perennials.

Last spring, I left only one peony poppy plant to reseed in the cottage garden. I have a nice display of seven poppies this year—around the blue-purple blooms nepeta, allium christophii, scabiosa and perennial heliotrope. I could never have created the design as well as Mother Nature!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Drought-tolerant Plants without Spring Rain

Yarrow, nepeta, verbena and bronze fennel can handle the drought

I can only guess at the last time we had significant rainfall. It seems as though every chance for even a sprinkle has passed us by for weeks. The folks in neighboring Tennessee had devastating floods while we had very few drops of rain—extreme swings in the weather.

With every year, I try to take note of these weather swings to cull out plants that can't handle it. My garden is too large to deal with plants that require too much attention to thrive. I moisten the soil for the seeds that I've sown this spring and hand-water newly planted perennials. Otherwise, the plants must be water-wise.

That said, the garden looks pretty good. Most of my dividing and rearranging was done in the fall, giving the roots time to establish over the wet winter. Since I don't have drip irrigation in 95 per cent of the outer gardens, the selected plants are drought tolerant.

Established Knock Out® Roses are spectacular with minimal water

Drought-tolerant perennials and annuals are still perky throughout the gardens

Throughout the gardens, the perennials—achillea, agastache, coreopsis, heliotrope, lavender, nepeta, russian sage, salvia, sedum, stachys and verbena are happily flourishing in dry conditions.

Trees and shrubs—such as buddleia, crepe myrtle, hollies and vitex—are going without water.

Annuals—sown from seeds last year—are handling the drought well, too. Cornflowers, larkspur, nigella, poppies and rose campion are blooming and full of buds.

Of course, rain is desperately needed. The soil is far too dry. Although I'm not yet seeing the signs of drooping leaves, the plants cannot continue forever without water. We can only hope for rain. Thank goodness for the drought-tolerant plants that are holding up the garden.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Bloom Time Line: Spring Bulbs

When do plants bloom? That's always an important question when designing a garden. By noting bloom times, it is easier to match up companions for the future.

When selecting bulbs to bloom in mid-April, I shopped for bloom times in May or June—based on zone 5 bulb sellers.

All of my bulbs were planted in late autumn for spring bloom. The bulbs that have been in my garden for several years bloomed a few days earlier than new bulbs. Bloom time was also earlier for bulbs in all day full sun— versus bulbs in sun for half of the day.

Below is a recap of the dates for spring blooming bulbs in my zone 7b garden in North Carolina. Of course, warmer zones will have earlier blooms and cooler zones will have later blooms. Bloom times also differ by variety, so I'm not including daffodils in my recap.

April 15 - Dutch iris (iris x hollandica)
Blooms finished on most varieties by May 7.

April 15 - Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica)
Blooms ended around April 30.

April 15 - allium aflatunenense 'Purple Sensation'
Blooms were fading by May 7, but the green orbs will be interesting for another week.

April 22 - Star of Persia (allium christophii)
Still in bloom on May 7 and the green orbs will be left for interest.

Every bulb included has proven to be deer resistant. The Dutch iris foliage was nibbled by rabbits early on. The irises recovered so I consider all of these blooms to be rabbit resistant. Your results with wildlife may be different.

These perennial bulbs multiply every year, so it's important to mark the location in the spring if you need to divide the bulbs in the fall.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.

Have I Told You Lately That I Love Catmint?

Catmint (nepeta) may have been the first perennial that I found to be totally deer and rabbit resistant. Even better, nepeta x faassenii 'Six Hills Giant' is a great companion to almost all of the plants, shrubs and trees in my sunny garden.

Favorite Companions for Nepeta include:
Agastache ('Golden Jubilee' foliage)
Allium ('Purple Sensation')
Dutch irises
Ice plant
Roses (Knock Out® 'Radrazz')
Salvia greggii ('Dark Dancer', 'Autumn Sage')
Salvia ('Caradonna', 'May Night')
Yarrow ('Moonshine', 'Coronado Gold')
Verbena (verbena bonariensis, 'Homestead Purple')

Gardeners in zones 3-8 can grow catmint in full sun to part shade. Give both 'Six Hills Giant' and 'Walkers Low' at least three feet of width and allow for three feet in height when in bloom. There are many other varieties of nepeta for those who want to explore other sizes and colors.

Is there a downside to growing nepeta?

I don't have a cat to know if they love to roll on it. I may have too much of a good thing when it's time to trim the nepeta as it takes me several days. I trim it after the first bloom in order to get more flowers. When the season ends, I cut it back either in fall or wait until spring. The foliage mounds are much neater over the winter if cut back in the fall.

Outside of making the rounds to trim it—the nepeta can be ignored until time to divide it. 'Six Hills Giant' matures quickly and I divide the clumps (by shovel) every two years in the spring. 'Walkers Low' is slower to mature and I haven't divided the original clumps in three years.

As I am able to divide the 'Walkers Low', I will complete an edging along a garden path. I'm using creeping thyme as a placeholder until I finish the edge with nepeta.

With airy blue-purple blooms and lacy foliage, catmint is a also great filler for bouquets. I prefer to use 'Six Hills Giant' for bouquets since I can cut very long stems.

Although I can't really prove it, I am convinced that nepeta helps to repel gnats, houseflies and mosquitoes since we don't have any of those insects here, but can walk down the road and experience the bites. Good insects, such as bees and butterflies, love the nectar of the nepeta.

Nepeta is a versatile perennial as an accent, companion or edger. If you have the space, I highly recommend adding nepeta to your garden.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Build a Bouquet of Flowers

There are now enough perennials in my garden that I've overcome my reluctance to cut the blooms to use indoors. Creating a colorful bouquet brings a sense of satisfaction. Doing so is even more fun when giving the bouquet to someone else. I carried this bouquet to a dear neighbor who hosted a neighborhood gathering.

All flowers used in my bouquet are perennials from my zone 7, full sun, deer resistant garden. None of these plants are protected with deer fences or repellents. However, the rabbits will occasionally nibble Dutch iris foliage or the chives.
False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
Dutch Iris (iris x hollandica)
Catmint (Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant')
Flowering Onion (Allium aflatunenense 'Purple Sensation')
Culinary Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Stick Verbena (verbena bonariensis)
Yarrow (probably achillea 'Moonshine')
Yellow Flag Iris (iris pseudocorus)

When cutting the bouquet, I carried the vase out to the garden with a few inches of water to keep the stems as fresh as possible. I clean my pruners to make sure there is no soil or bacteria on the blades. By creating this arrangement as I went around the garden, it was easy to cut as many flowers as I needed for a full bouquet.

I didn't grow these flowers with the idea of a bouquet—the bi-color Dutch irises provided the key to the color scheme and everything else just fell into place.

(Note: The Dutch irises are not as blue as shown in the photo. They are deep violet which two different cameras and several settings could not accurately reflect without washing out the other flower colors.)

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.
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