Category Archives: Landscape and Garden Design

Native Flowering Perennials Your Garden Needs

Why not let the flowers in the Native Plant Garden for Pollinators at Greenburgh Nature Center be your inspiration? Here are close-ups of native plants selected for their ability to attract butterflies and bees, that are blooming now, and that will come back year after year. 

 

Cathy Ludden, designer of the Pollinator Garden, points out the benefits of natives like Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop), 

What are ‘native’ plants and why are they important? Cathy asks those questions in the introduction to her booklet, “Plant This, Not That.” “Native plants are the species that were here before European settlers arrived,” she writes. “They are critically important because they are the first link in the food chain. Insects native to our region co-evolved over millions of years with native plants. They cannot eat non-native plants. Monarch butterflies are a good example. They must lay their eggs on native milkweed plants or the larvae will die. In recent generations, as gardeners have favored non-native plants, insects have struggled to find food. Our native birds depend almost entirely on insects to feed their young. Songbird populations in our area are crashing and many species are disappearing. Loss of insect populations is one of the primary reasons.

“Increasing the number of native plants in our gardens increases food sources for insects and enables songbirds to feed their young. There’s another problem with non-native plants. Because our insects can’t eat them, these plants have no natural controls. As a result, they may become invasive and overwhelm native plant populations. As you drive along our highways and see trees smothered by vines, you witness the result. The same thing is happening in our woods, parks, and neighborhoods.”

This post introduces outstanding natives that are now blooming in the Native Garden for Pollinators at Greenburgh Nature Center in Scarsdale. These plants may be purchased in local and online nurseries and are easily incorporated into your garden. “Substituting natives for non-natives—or just adding more native species to existing plantings—will increase food sources for the insects necessary to sustain our native bird populations,” Cathy writes. “In addition, you may find yourself using less water, less fertilizer, and maybe even less labor to enjoy a beautiful garden.”

A mix of native meadow grasses and flowers like this will add a wow factor to any garden.

 

Ruellia humilis (wild petunia)

This plant can be a wonderful addition to anyone’s garden, even shade gardens. It blooms in the heat of summer if given a little extra water and it reseeds readily. And it provides food for the Buckeye and several other butterfly species.

 

Coreopsis verticillata Zagreb (threadleaf tickseed)

You probably already know coreopsis. This showy threadleaf variety is a full-sun perennial that’s easily grown in dry to medium, well-drained soil, but it’s known for thriving in poor, sandy, and rocky soils. And the plants can be sheared in mid- to late summer to promote a fall rebloom of gorgeous yellow.

 

Penstemon digitalis (beardtongue) growing above Zizia aurea (golden Alexander)

Penstemon digitalis has white to pink tubular flowers and may reach 3′ in height. It prefers medium to dry medium soils and can adapt to many light conditions: full sun to part shade. It is very easy to grow from seed. Its flowers attract long-tongued bees, including honeybees, bumblebees, Miner bees, Mason bees, and hummingbirds.

Zizia aurea a native that could find its place in almost every garden. It is fairly easy to grow and, although short-lived, will self-seed and persist in many sun/soil situations. It’s an important plant to a number of short-tongued insects that are able to easily reach the nectar in the small yellow flowers. Caterpillars feed on its leaves. Golden Alexanders have a long bloom time, giving the garden/prairie some well-deserved early color for several weeks in late spring to early summer when many other plants have not yet flowered. Also called Golden Zizia, Golden Alexanders will tolerate a lot of shade but prefer full sun or light shade.

 

Penstemon digitalis and Panicum vergatum (switchgrass)

Switchgrass was an important component of the prairies which once covered large areas of the country, especially the Midwest. It will grow in both wet and dry soils and can be found in prairies, open woods, stream banks, and along railroad tracks. Yet its interesting columnar form that reaches 3′ tall, 6′ tall when in bloom could be an interesting addition to your garden, especially in midsummer when it’s topped by finely-textured, pink-tinged, branched flower panicles that hover over the foliage like an airy cloud. The seeds are a food source for birds in winter.

 

Asclepius tuberosa (butterfly weed)

Aptly named, this bushy perennial, which can be grown from seed or root cuttings, attracts Monarch and Queen butterflies. It’s also prized for its large clusters of showy flowers, ranging from yellow-orange to bright orange. The dark green foliage provides backdrop for the flower heads.

 

Anemone virginiana (thimbleweed)

Wow. Just about ready to bloom, this perennial’s erect, multiple stems, which rise 2 to 3 feet, will soon be topped by beautiful greenish-white flowers with a center that resembles a sewing thimble. Anemone virginiana grow in full sun to part shade, even in dry, rocky soil, can be easily divided, don’t require much water, are poisonous to deer, and tolerate drought and deep shade. What else could you ask from a plant?

The Garden Club member who took these photos and researched the captions is now inspired to pull out half of her hostas and plant Anemone virginiana and the other plants featured in this post.

How about you?

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Greenburgh Nature Center is located at 99 Dromore Road, Scarsdale, NY 10583, just off Central Avenue above Ashford Avenue.

 

 

Filed under Conservation, Garden History and Design, Landscape and Garden Design

Cultivating a Beautiful Rose Garden

The Garden Club of Irvington has been restoring and maintaining the Rose Garden at Lyndhurst for more than 50 years. Club members, led most recently by Rose Garden Chairman Lou Zapata, plant, weed, prune, fertilize and generally care for a wide variety of roses throughout the year to maintain healthy plants and robust bloomers.

A Little History

We are fortunate to have as an active member a longtime rosarian and expert in growing roses. Josyane Colwell has been deeply involved in the Lyndhurst Rose Garden since joining the Garden Club in 1982. She grew up on a family farm in southern France with her grandparents, who cultivated roses for the perfume industry in Grasse. As a child, she learned every aspect of growing roses—and is not reserved in sharing that knowledge.

Josayne was featured in a 1986 cover story in the Rivertowns Enterprise about Rose Pruning Day at Lyndhurst, which is usually a public event at the end of March. We hope to be able to sponsor it again next year.

In addition to sun and water, roses need expert care to nurture new growth (the “baby shoots,” as Josyane calls them) and to help the plants survive the weather, pests and disease.

Here is some of Josyane’s advice:

Pruning

The pruning season begins in late March/early April with the removal of dead wood from the winter, and the removal of old, weak or dying branches and crossing branches, particularly those that are crowding the center of the bush. Shaping of the plant allows for strong growth, good air circulation and an aesthetic appearance during the blooming season. Cuts are made at an angle just above an emerging bud. The cutting of large canes requires sealing the exposed surface with a sealant such as Elmer’s glue to prevent future rot and disease.

Clean lopping shears or a folding saw are essential for the removal of larger canes in order not to damage the plant.

Deadheading

Cut at an angle with sharp, clean pruners.

Deadheading, the removal of spent blooms, should continue throughout the summer and early fall to encourage repeat bloomers to send out new buds and shoots.

This is also the time for heavy pruning to reshape and rejuvenate the plants so they can harden up before winter. When deadheading, never cut straight across; always cut on an angle, which prevents water from resting on the stems and causing them to rot. The cut should be just above the second branch of five (not three) leaves down from the spent bloom. Pruning shears should always be sharp and clean so as not to damage the cane and spread disease.

When the plant is pruned and deadheaded, healthy “baby shoots” emerge and bloom all season.

Climbing Roses

The pruning of climbing roses on a trellis or other structure is always a challenge, but can offer a wonderful display for a long time. In the early 1980s Josyane and her Rose Garden co-chair, Natalia Schell, could barely walk under the overgrown trellises. They spent hours almost every day removing the dead and diseased canes and tying back and training the younger canes to encourage growth and blooms on the outside of the trellises. The taller Natalia, from Russian aristocratic blood, held the ladder while the more diminutive Josyane from the farm pruned and tied from above. This French-speaking pair found great joy together in restoring the beauty of the rose trellises. Because many climbers re-bloom, this process continued throughout the summers as well. However, the length of bloom is worth the effort.

Trellises with climbing roses enhance every tier of the Rose Garden at Lyndhurst.

Maintenance

Fertilizing in the springtime will encourage healthy growth and beautiful blooms. On the farm they used manure to feed the plants. Most nurseries carry manure or can recommend an appropriate fertilizer. Turning the soil in early spring is also encouraged to allow moisture to reach the roots more easily.

Black spot, left, is a fungus that occurs in extreme heat and moisture and where there isn’t sufficient air circulation. Rose-related diseases such as black spot should be dealt with by a professional. However, gardeners can help stem its spread by removing yellow leaves with black spots, both on the plant and on the soil.

The Results

If you follow these simple tips from a seasoned rosarian, you can achieve results as stunning as these!

 

Filed under Garden History and Design, Horticulture, Landscape and Garden Design, NY and CT Public Garden Tours, Rivertowns Westchester NY, Tarrytown NY

It’s Time to Plan Your Spring Garden!

Jan Johnsen signs books at the O’Hara Nature Center in Irvington.

Noted local landscape designer and author Jan Johnsen delivered wheelbarrows of great advice at our January 2000 public event. She introduced her new book, Gardentopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces.

Points she made included:

• A sheltered corner always lures visitors.
• Hide and reveal: There’s a mystery to what you can’t see, like what’s around that corner.
• The same for sun and shade: what’s in the shade is mysteriously and partially hidden.
• Use lightweight pieces; people like to move the furniture.
• Rounded forms are satisfying, especially when placed in front of straight edges, like pruned hedges.
• Hard-soft contrast is always interesting.
• Embrace the moss.
• Punctuate the garden with exclamation points like pillars, poles, tuteurs, and tall shrubs like Sky Pencil holly.

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Filed under Landscape and Garden Design