Low-maintenance Perennials

Friday, September 16th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Trim foliage on grape vines to allow more sun to reach the fruit and ripen the grapes.
    • If your bearded iris blooms were sparse this year or the plants are more than four years old, now is the time to divide and replant them. Mix some bone meal into the soil, and plant the rhizomes just beneath the soil surface.
    • Lilac bushes will bloom better next spring if you cut back on the watering now.
    • Keep apples picked up from under the trees to help control the spread of coddling moths which make wormy apples.
    • Cover newly planted vegetable starts to protect them from birds. Spray cabbage and broccoli plants with BT to control cabbage worms which make holes in the leaves.

Low-maintenance Perennials

Perennials give us some of the best flowers in the garden. These hardy plants come back year after year getting bigger and better each time. Most perennials take a lot of dead-heading to keep them looking nice throughout their blooming time, but there are a few that are easier to care for. Cut them down when they are done flowering and that’s all the maintenance they need.

Sedum Autumn Joy is a well-known favorite that attracts butterflies. The leaves grow close to the ground, then once a year it sends up shoots topped with soft pink flowers, similar to yarrow. As the days get shorter, the flowers turn a rich rusty red.

Moonbeam Coreopsis produces star-like blossoms of pale yellow with finely textured foliage that is good-looking all season. It blooms from July through October and spreads 18-24” wide.

Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’, grows into a large clump with 3’ tall golden, black-centered, daisy flowers bloom from August to October.  Seed heads are attractive to birds in the fall and winter.

Stella D’oro Daylily has bright, golden-yellow flowers that bloom throughout the summer above fresh green leaves. It is compact, growing only 16 inches tall, and is good for containers and flower borders.

Purple Dome New England Aster is a compact aster with dark green foliage and profuse bloom of dark purple daisy flowers which can entirely cover the plant in September and October. 

Santa Barbara Daisy, Erigeron karvinskianus, is a low-growing perennial that is covered with little white daisy flowers all summer long. It is tolerate drought once established, and can be used as a border plant or to hang over a wall.

Peonies are easy to grow and give you magnificent flowers in May-June. They come in pink, white and red and live for many years, growing into a larger clump with more flowers each year.

For shady areas, Hostas can’t be beat. With their beautiful foliage in different combinations of blue, green, white and yellow, they will fill the shady bed with their colorful leaves. Hostas also bloom in the summer with spikes of lavender to white, lily-like flowers, which can be quite showy.

Heucheras, or Coral Bells, are one of the most diverse and colorful shade perennials.  Plant them as a groundcover, or intersperse some between other plants. Their round leaves come in many colors from bright green to purples to near black, and they send up delicate spikes of white or coral flowers in the summer.

Helleborus is an iron clad deer-proof plant that tolerates dry shade once established. It blooms very early, in late winter with cup-like, greenish-white flowers. Some varieties have pinkish flowers, but their broad leaves are good-looking all year.

Dicentra, or Bleeding Heart, is one of the easiest perennials to grow in the shade. The pretty little pink flowers in the spring resemble pink and white hearts, and when they are done, the plant turns yellow and dies back. Clean up dead foliage and forget about them until next year.

Fall is a good time to plant perennials. They will get established over the winter and bloom beautifully for you next year.

Enjoying the Flower Garden

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Gaura is a carefree perennial which has been nicknames “Whirling Butterflies.” It comes with white or pink flowers or with variegated foliage.
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool-season crops now. Transplant them to the garden next month and they will be producing for you this fall.
    • Remove suckers on rose bushes. These vigorous canes emerge from below the bud union and should be cut off as far down as possible.
    • Fuchsias will bloom all summer if you remove faded flowers and seed pods and fertilize every ten days with a liquid fertilizer like Miracle Gro.
    • Fountains create the sound of moving water that is restful and cooling on the patio or in the garden. They recirculate water so only an occasional “topping off” is necessary.

Edible Flowers back in Vogue

Many of the plants we now grow for their flowers were once grown for their flavors as well. Today, the ancient art of cooking with flowers is enjoying a revival, and many restaurant chefs and innovative home cooks are garnishing their entrees with flower blossoms for a touch of elegance.

Daylilies are one of the many flowers that have been used in cooking. Natives of the Orient, daylilies are a common staple in Chinese households. These colorful flowering perennials are also very popular garden plants today. The blossoms come in yellow, orange, red and many shades in between. Each blossom lasts only a day, but the plants bloom so profusely that they are attractive for a long time.

Long before daylilies reached Western gardens, they were grown in the fields of central China and valued for their delicate flavor. The buds were eaten as a spring tonic, and extra buds were dried for use during the winter.

Pick daylily flowers in the afternoon. (You’ll not be missing much bloom because they will be faded by the next day.) Wash in cool water and pat them dry. Use them in soups and stir fries or add them to the salad.

Other common edible flowers include nasturtiums, Johnny-Jump-Ups, borage, chive blossoms, calendulas, dianthus, hollyhock, marigold and sunflowers. Nasturtiums are among the most delicious edible flowers, with a mildly spicy flavor. Johnny-Jump-Ups make lovely garnishes and decorations and have a faint wintergreen taste that is pleasant to the palate.

The dainty star-shaped, sky-blue flowers of borage add a cool cucumbery flavor to the salad. Chive blossoms, in lavender-pink, have a subtle onion flavor that goes well with salads, eggs and potatoes. The bright yellow and orange flowers of calendulas, which prefer the cooler days of spring and fall, are also edible. Pull out the flower petals and add them to salads, rice dishes, eggs and cheese for a tangy, slightly bitter flavor.

Dianthus have a mild clove flavor that is used as a garnish for fruit salads and cold drinks. Hollyhock petals are used in salads for a mild, sweet flavor. Marigolds lend a spicy, citrusy flavor to salads and sunflower petals have a bittersweet flavor.

Do be cautious about eating flowers. Allergic reactions are always possible with any new food, so sample sparingly the first time you try any edible flower. It is possible that people who suffer from hay fever will have a bad reaction from the pollen, so it may be best to skip the edible flowers.

For best flavor, use flowers at their peak. Flowers that are faded or wilted will taste bitter. Perk up your summer salads and hot dishes with some edible flowers.