"Gardening gives one back a sense of proportion about everything--except itself."
~ May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep, 1968
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As summer ends, let us prepare to enjoy our fall-flowering perennials. If
your garden does not contain fall-flowering perennials let me give you some suggestions.
MY favorite family of tall fall-flowering perennials is the sedum family--and
for several reasons. They are low maintenance all year, drought resistant, and
they are so strong they will grow anywhere in your sunny garden.
I love the tall growing varieties and their unique foliage and flowers. If
you are looking for special traits, you will find what you need, as this family
has over 400 members and each is unique. I love the fleshy foliage--often up
to 1/8 of an inch thick-- and they belong to the succulent plant family, which
loves the heat and will tolerate hot and dry weather.The leaves are oval, 1 to
2 inches long, with a rounded tip. They grow opposite each other on strong stems
that will mature to up to 3 feet tall.
If you cut back the plant in half on the
4th of July, your plant will stay shorter and mature at 18 to 24 inches tall.
This pruning also encourages the plant to bush out, and most years the plant will
almost double in size. Pruning also gives the plant a spreading shape like a
mushroom cap, rather than upright and tall with minimal character. The plant
will make more flowers when pruned; the flowers will be smaller but the plant
will not fall over with the weight of the flower, a real plus for this plant.
When you prune the sedums in July, save these cuttings and plant them in your
garden using a bit of rooting powder to help develop roots and watch them grow.
I do not know of any other plant that propagates that quickly and easily in the
garden. Remove the bottom 2 sets of leaves, dip in rooting powder and push into
the ground in groups of 3 to 5 cuttings. Keep moist all the time and in 2 weeks
you will have new plants.
Sedum is very hardy and will tolerate winter weather with temperatures -30
to -40 degrees. They love a well-drained soil and if you can add plenty of organic
matter like compost or animal manure they will reward you with many strong stems
covered with beautiful five-petal star shipped flowers.
The flowers on the sedums develop during August and last well into mid-October.
During the summer months, they require half the amount of water that most of
your perennials need--a real plus for busy gardeners.
I fertilize sedum in the spring only, with a good organic fertilizer such
as Flower–tone or Dr. Earth flower fertilizer with Pro biotic. That's all
they will need for the rest of the year. In the fall, cut back plants to the
ground when they are finished flowering. In the spring, you can split the plant
in two or more clumps to divide and make new plants from them. One other thing
to consider is that the flowers will attract butterflies and bees to your garden
in the fall.
Here are my favorite varieties:
• The number one selling tall-growing sedum
is called 'Autumn Joy,' with pale green foliage and large clusters of dark pink
star shaped flowers 2 to 4 inches in diameter. The flower will mature to a red-brown
color and last on the plant well into the spring if the plant is not cut back.
• I also love the 'Atropurpureum,' with purple red leaves all year and red flowers
in the fall.
• I also planted 'Frosty Morn' because of the variegated green and
white edged foliage and pink flowers.
• One last one I love is 'Mediovarigatum,'
with variegated green and yellow edged foliage and pink flowers.
I love variegated foliage because the foliage gives the garden color all year,
even before the flowers arrive in August. The purple-red foliage is a real bonus
to the garden and it just jumps out at you. Look for these sedum this fall and
bring color to the garden all year. Enjoy!
If you were to visit a nursery and ask for the best needle evergreen plant
that they have, most would say the yew family of plants. Let me tell you why
the yews are so good for your home landscaping. First is the winter hardiness
of the plant, to -20 to -30 degree temperatures, in all types of exposures from
shade to full sun. Next is the resistance to most insects and disease problems.
The color of the foliage all year long is lustrous dark green top of the needle
and lighter on the underside. The yew family also grows compact and the new growth
develops slowly to medium making the plant easy to control in your yard. Some
of the varieties even have small red fruit that develops during the fall and
feeds birds during the winter. In addition, the many varieties in the family
grow differently, giving us many different shapes, heights and width to choose
The yew family of plants has a rich history and mention of the plant dates
back to the 1100s. In England, Scotland and Wales, yew trees are documentated
to be greater than 4000 years old. A recent discovery in Llangermyw, Wales, shows
that a churchyard yew tree, having a circumference of 47 feet, is 4000 plus years
If you grew up on the legend of Robin Hood as I did, you might remember that
Robin was chased into the woods of Sherwood Forest by the Sheriff of Nottingham. This
legendary English outlaw, known for "robbing the rich and giving to the
poor," made his bow from the yew trees that grew in the forest. If you have
a large yew plant in your yard, carefully bend the branches and see how flexible
they are. Mythology or not, Robin Hood is still in Sherwood Forest in my mind.
The Yew's foliage is called a needle and is much like the foliage of the pine
tree. Each needle grows 1/2 to 1 inch long and about 1/8 wide. This short needle
is pointed on the tip and has a raised midrib on both the bottom and top. The
top of the needle is dark green and glossy, while the bottom is paler green with
a blue band of color running the length of the needle. This blue green band is
more noticeable during the spring and summer months.
The new growth is almost kelly green when young but quickly darkens with the
heat of summer. During the winter the needles will darken, sometime turning reddish
if you have a cold winter. The growing habit of the yew family is spreading or
upright-spreading and most plants are multi-stemmed. The new growth makes the
plant look very soft and it is soft to touch. On a windy day, this new growth
moves like waves at the seashore.
Here are my favorite varieties of the yew plant and their uses in the landscape.
The Taxus 'Densiformis' is a spreading variety; it will spread twice as wide
as it will grow tall. It grows 1 to 5 feet tall, depending on how you prune and
what you want from the plant. It makes a wonderful evergreen hedge--1 to 3 feet
tall and just as wide. Space plants on three-foot centers when planting and prune
in May, after the new growth has formed, to control the size of the plant. Fertilize
every spring with Holly Tone fertilizer to help keep plants thick and beautiful.
The 'Hatfieldii' yew is spreading, but more upright growing and almost pyramidal
in shape. It will grow to 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide, but you can prune it
easily to keep plants 5 or 6 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide--making a great privacy
hedge. This is a great plant to place on each side of your front steps to hide
and soften them as long as you prune yearly to control size.
The 'Hicksii' yew is more upright growing than it is spreading and, like the
'Hatfieldii' yew, it will make a wonderful tall hedge--up to 20 feet tall. The
'Hicksii' yew, with pruning, can also be kept at almost any height but it will
grow narrower than the 'Hatfieldii' yew.
Yews love the sun but do very well in partial shade. Plant them in a well-drained
soil, rich in organic matter, and keep them away from wet areas, as the roots
will rot easily. All yews look wonderful as individual plants, in groupings on
the side of a hill (to hold it in place), as a short hedge for an herb garden
or a tall privacy hedge. The last thing you need to know is that deer love them,
so check the neighborhood before planting.
Traditionally, the temperatures cool down now, rainfall increases, and so
does the morning due on our garden plants. The garden soil is still warm and
if you have energy left from this hot summer, let's begin to think about dividing
Here are a few perennials that you can divide now and share or swap with friends
and family. Most large nurseries that sell large potted perennials are doing
this right now, while they have the time. Spring is just too busy for them and
potting perennials now will give them bigger and stronger plants in the spring.
Divided plants get a chance to make big roots before winter arrives and in
your garden the plants will be ready when spring arrives next year. All you will
need is compost or animal manure, Soil Moist to help hold moisture around the
new roots and a fertilizer like Bio-Tone or Plant Thrive that contains mycorrhizae.
Bleeding heart, a wonderful spring-flowering perennial, has to be divided
now! Because the plant develops and flowers early in your garden, you will forget
to do it then. By now the foliage is turning yellow and beginning to fall apart.
Cut all the foliage to the ground and put it in your compost pile.
Carefully dig around the plant with pitchfork or shovel to loosen the soil
and pull the roots out of the ground. Shake some of the soil off the roots so
you can examine the plant better. You will notice that the plant has developed
several buds underground and just above the roots. If you want a nice plant that
will flower for you in the spring divide the roots and bud clusters into sections
that contain 3 to 5 buds! Pull apart or cut with clean sharp knife.
I always dust the area where the plant came apart with rose or garden dust
to prevent insects or disease on the exposed area. Condition the plants' new
home with suggested products and set plants at same depth they were before you
pulled them out of the ground, then water well. Water the plants 2 times a week
until Columbus Day and place compost 2 inches deep over plants to help protect
plants during the winter.
Bleeding heart plants do best when planted in a shady garden, but will also
tolerate morning sunshine. Soils should be well drained and be free of clay soils.
Bleeding hearts will flower by Mother's Day and make a wonderful gift for Mom.
Peonies, a classic garden perennial, also need to be dividend now, because
the plants grow so quickly and the flowers that develop are so fragile in the
spring. Just like the bleeding heart, cut back to the ground and dig up so you
can clearly see the roots.
Peonies will have large thick roots that will grow deep into the ground and
will be more work to divide. Shake off the soil and you will see, on the top
of these woody roots, 1/2 inch hard, pointed buds that are brown in color. As you would for
the bleeding heart, cut roots carefully so each piece has 3 to 5 buds on each
piece you make. This 3 to 5 bud count will almost guarantee you flowers in the
Now, the most important thing to remember after conditioning the soil is to
make sure the roots are planted very shallowly into the ground. The top of the
bud should be no deeper than one knuckle of your finger below the surface of
the soil. When planted too deep the plant will not flower!
Peonies do best in a sunny location but will also do well with a bit of shade
in the morning. The flower of the peony is very large and plants will do best
in sheltered areas, away from wind. Try to place peony cages around plants in
April to help hold the many large flowers the plants will make if you get heavy
Divide the peony plants every 4 to 5 years to control size, but dividing is
not necessary to keep the plants happy--they can go untouched for 10 years or
more. Non-flowering plants are your signal to divide them and raise them closer
to the surface of the soil. Enjoy!
Join Paul Parent for a garden tour of the Emerald Isle!
Tour includes the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara National Park, Brigit's Garden, Muckross Gardens, Bantry House & Gardens, Kilravok Garden, Garnish Island, Annes Grove Garden, Lakemount Gardens, Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre, Heywood Gardens, Powerscourt Gardens, Dublin Castle, Dillion Gardens and much more.
Click here for details.
This Week's Question:
You've seen those fuzzy brown kiwi fruits - and may have even tried one. They are named after an animal - the kiwi. What is a kiwi and where is it from?
This Week's Prize:
Espoma Organic Potting Mix
- Contains Myco-toneŽ mycorrhizae
- For all indoor and outdoor containers.
- In 4, 8, 16 qt., 1 and 2 cu. ft. bags.
Last Week's Question:
To what plant family does the onion belong?
Last Week's Prize:
Last Week's Answer:
Onions are in the Alliaceae Family (ed. note: They were once included in Liliaceae - the lily family - but have been given their own family.)
One winner per question - we choose winners from the list of those who answer correctly. Winners must be newsletter subscribers. We'll ship you your prize, so be sure to put your address in the form in case you win!
What you need:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh carrot,shredded
- 1/3 cup fresh onion, shredded
- 1/3 cup fresh zucchini, seeded and shredded
- 1/4 cup fresh green pepper, shredded
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
- 6 cups shaped pasta (fusilli, campanella, gemelli or conchiglie), cooked and drained
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/3 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Step by Step:
- Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add shredded carrot, onion, zucchini and green pepper; sauté until soft and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add minced garlic; sauté for an additional 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
- Add chopped tomatoes; cook until thoroughly heated (about 2-5 minutes), stirring occasionally.
- Add cooked pasta and basil, cheese, salt and pepper; toss ingredients gently to combine.
Yield: 6 servings