January 24, 2018

Adding Chartreuse to the Garden

Flowers are the reason I garden, but I've slowly come to appreciate the season-long color provided by foliage in shades of chartreuse, purple, blue, and silver.  In this post I'll share some of the ways I've used chartreuse in my garden.  Above you'll see (L-R) an unknown chartreuse hosta from my grandmother's garden, frothy Lady's Mantle in bloom, and an 'Ogon' spirea in my east backyard garden.

A true blue Siberian iris ('June to Remember') and mauve allium (probably 'Gladiator') look well against yellow-green foliage and flowers.

This is a different view of the same area from earlier in the season.  I really love the way soft mauve and pink play off chartreuse.

Fern-like 'Ogon' spirea at the base combines well with a 'Comtesse de Bouchaud' clematis up top.

Deeper pink, like this 'Maggie Daley' astilbe, really pops against a yellow-green background.

Add a little orange, maroon, and steel-blue to the chartreuse and pink and you have an especially vibrant color scheme.  The photo above includes 'Dusseldorf Pride' armeria, 'Elke' hardy geranium, 'Evergold' carex, 'Eola Sapphire' hosta, 'Dickson's Gold' campanula, 'Firestorm' geum and 'Chocoholic' cimicifuga.

Later in the season, this western backyard bed gets by with just the chartreuse, steel-blue and maroon foliage.  In addition to the plants listed for the previous photo, you can see a 'Diane's Gold' brunnera at bottom left.  I love brunnera, and this cultivar has deeper blue spring flowers in addition to the green-gold leaves.

I've been impressed with the months-long bloom season of this 'Blue Haze' euphorbia.  I need to get more of these plants.

Finally, a lacy 'Sutherland Gold' elderberry shrub (Sambucus) at left adds pop to this scene with a young 'Shasta' doublefile viburnum at right center and some 'Early Emperor' allium at center.
Does chartreuse clash with any colors?  It would be great with deep violet and crimson red.  Salmon pink or white would go well with yellow-green.  This color brightens dark corners and shines in sunny borders.  It's a good thing there are so many chartreuse options available to gardeners these days.

January 17, 2018

Hummingbird Mint: Agastache 'Ava'

Three Agastache 'Ava' (aka hummingbird mint or hyssop) plants live in my main sunny backyard bed next to Russian sage (Peroskvia), Lilium rubrum and a 'Royal Purple' smoke bush (Cotinus).  These plants add beautiful color to my late summer and fall garden, when flowers are fewer.

I haven't caught a good photo of the hummingbirds visiting my hummingbird mint plants, but they came every day.  Sometimes several times.  They also visited the butterfly bushes, Russian sage and catmint, but Agastache 'Ava' was always their first stop.

Ava emerges in spring as a low mound of grey-green leaves (top center above) and grows to a mature size of 2 feet wide and 4-5 feet tall.  Our growing season is short and my plants are only 2 years old, so they're still maturing.  Ava's square stems and aromatic leaves mark it as a member of the mint family.  It grows in zones 5-10, unlike many agastaches that are less hardy, and Ava is touted as being resistant to deer and rabbits.

Long lasting colored calyxes (the darker pink part at the base of the flowers above) are what make Ava really special among agastaches.  Even after the lighter pink flowers drop, the calyxes remain colorful until hard frost.

In the photo above, the Russian sage has finished blooming and peony leaves are starting to turn yellow for fall while Ava still shows color at top right.  From August through October, Ava's lavender-pink flowers were a welcome presence in my garden.

Ava grows best in lean soil, low water and full sun.  My plants get a little floppy because they get too much water and the soil is too rich, so I set plant hoops around the base to hold them up.  Ava will rot and die in waterlogged soil, but my plants are fine in the well-drained soil of a mounded bed.

Ava is available from several online sources.  I ordered mine from High Country Gardens and was pleased with the baby plants that arrived in good condition.  If you're looking for a tall, sturdy, low maintenance plant to add interest to your end-of-season garden, Ava is a great choice.

January 3, 2018

Great Garden Expectations for 2018

The new year has begun with the garden buried in crusty snow.  This is not my favorite part of the year, but we're getting closer to the growing season and many new additions to the garden.

Late Winter

Last fall I planted a dozen new Lenton Roses to make a total of about forty hellebores in the garden.  Not all of the baby plants will bloom this year, but overall I expect more flowers than last year.  I'm especially excited to watch the vigorous 'Madame Lemmonier' and 'Molly's White' get going over the next few years, as well as several selections from the Wedding Series of hellebores.  'Golden Lotus' hellebore is shown above.

I bought a grow light setup to start annual seeds and dahlias, and I plan to put it in a bathtub where no one can trip over it.  Annual seeds have already been ordered and delivered and are waiting for the right time to be planted.  Cosmos 'Cranberry Double Click' is shown above.


Bulbs big ('Mount Everest' allium), medium ('Apricot Impression' and 'Black Hero' tulips) and small (Oxalis adenophylla) made it into the ground in the fall, so their blooms will add to the bulbs that have naturalized over the years in the garden.  I planted a 'Banana Daiquiri' geum in fall, and while I don't expect it to be as showy and long-blooming as 'Totally Tangerine,' I'm looking forward to seeing its soft yellow blooms.  Two new 'Popcorn' viburnums (compact versions of the Japanese snowball bush) will eventually provide stems for cutting.  Maybe the baby 'Yankee Doodle' and 'Charles Joly' lilacs I planted last year will give me a few dark blooms, but maybe not until the next spring.


Annual peony poppies are my excitement for early summer:  'Violetta Blush,' 'Purple Passion,' 'Pale Rose,' and 'Double Black.'  I'll add the 'black' poppies to white garden and call it the black and white garden this year.  I've also bought seeds for 'The Bride' guara, Eryngium 'Silver Ghost,' honeywort, and 'Purity' and 'Cosmic Orange' cosmos.  All of those should be good for cutting if my seed-starting plan works out.  Above is the Oriental poppy 'Medallion.'

I'm also looking forward to the first good display of blooms from several  peonies.  'Armani' is brand new, and last year I only saw a flower or two from 'Black Mulberry' and 'Cytherea.'   Most of my peonies haven't yet reached maturity, so each year they bloom better.  Above is 'General McMahon.'

Later in summer, I'm looking forward to seeing blooms from newly planted 'LaVerne Friemann' aka 'Miss Feya,' which B&D Lilies touts as the best lily variety ever.  I plan to order the 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year, 'Millenium' allium, and I already planted the similar 'August Confections' allium.  These rhizomatous alliums bloom in August when there are fewer flowers in my garden, and are not known to make a nuisance of themselves with reseeding.  Above is Lillium rubrum.


It has taken me a while to get excited about sedums, but I'm slowly finding places for them.  'LemonJade' (a yellow-flowering 'Autumn Joy'), dark-leaved 'Thunderhead,' and 'Blue Pearl' were planted in fall.  I also added magenta 'Alert' and 'Wood's Pink' asters to the lavender and violet asters I'm already growing.  Yesterday I ordered a selection of dahlias from Swan Island:  Karma Choc, Center Court, Bluetiful, Cutie Patootie, Lauren Michelle, Appleblossom, Innocence and Cafe au Lait.  It's been a few years since I grew dahlias, but they will add some needed interest to my fall garden.  Above is Dahlia 'Giggles' with a napping bee.

Thank goodness the garden is never finished.  There's always something new and exciting for the next season.  I just have to make it through the next couple of dark, cold months and can then enjoy being out in the garden once again.  Above are 'Caradonna' salvia, 'Ambassador' allium, 'Moulin Rouge' astrantia and 'Totally Tangerine' geum.