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great plants

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Buttercup Winterhazel – An Early Spring Fragrant tree

February 17, 2017

Winterhazel from American NurserymanMagazine


What blooms earlier than forsythia, has a delicate fragrance and is an easy-to-care for compact delight ? It is also hardy to USDA Zones 6-9 and native to Japan and Taiwan.

Buttercup winterhazel (Corylopsis pauciflora)
Toward mid April (depending where you live), the bare branches of buttercup winterhazel hang with inch-long clusters of soft yellow flowers that appear as little lanterns.

The fragrance is noticeable, making it perfect near a sitting spot. It was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993.

This is a different species of winterhazel – Corylopsis glabrescens ‘Longwood Chimes’ has exceptional fragrance.

Winterhazel (pauciflora)is good in a small city garden or as a woodland underplanting in open shade.
It glows in front of evergreens and is a perfect pairing with purple Rhododendron mucronulatum since they flower at the exact same time.

And winterhazels look wonderful with snowdrops and hellebores!

Portland Nursery photo

As the flowers fade, the leaves unfurl to 3 inches long, bright green with red edges before darkening to rich green. In fall they turn a gold-bronze.

This species is compact and is the ideal choice for a small garden. Plant in spring, in well-drained, acid soil, in a spot with light or dappled shade. It will tolerate full sun with regular watering in the summer. It needs little pruning.

Branches of Corylopsis pauciflora are best collected in February for flowers in early March, up to two weeks before their normal bloom season.

C. pauciflora can be hard to find, but well stocked nurseries will carry it. Look for it in Spring!

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‘Sparkler’ Carex – a great plant

January 5, 2017

Sparkler Carex


What is deer resistant, grows in part to full shade, has varigated leaves, likes wet soil, has no serious pests and will naturalize and spread?

Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’ – photo by Laura McKillop

Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’


‘Sparkler’ Carex or sedge thrives in moist, organically rich soils so it is perfect for rain gardens or heavy soil. It is considered to be winter hardy to USDA Zone 7 (hardy to 10 degrees). It can be grown as an annual is colder regions.
‘Sparkler’ is clump-forming and has whorl-like clusters of grass-like, variegated leaves at the end of each 12″ – 24″ tall stem. This makes it look like a mini palm of narrow leaves with broad white margins. Tony Avent describes Carex Sparkler as “a grove of miniature variegated palm trees.”


photo taken by Laura McKillop in the conservatory at Longwood Gardens

In southern locations where plants are reliably winter hardy, you can grown them in a mass in a shady spot..in colder areas you can grow them in planters to light up a shady corner. It is also great for cut flower arrangements.

This Japanese import looks lovely among ferns in the woodland garden or along a border. Tell your garden center to order it now for next spring!

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Hip Hip Hooray for Rose Hips

November 20, 2016

rose hips photo by Jan Johnsen

Allow your roses to form hips. Did you know that, like many plants that produce fruit, the formation of rose hips is a signal to the rose to go dormant for the season?

from Monrovia – Japanese rose

Rose hips provide wonderful color in the garden and are a good source of vitamin C for birds in the fall and winter. They are one of the highest plant sources of Vitamin C. ‘Cherry Pie’ Rose makes great rose hips:

Oso Easy Cherry Pie Rose -from May Dreams Garden Blog

You can eat them too. Rose hips are used for jam, jelly, syrup, soup, beverages, pies, bread, and wine. They can also be eaten raw if care is used to avoid the hairs inside the fruit. The redder they are, the softer and sweeter.

source: live by the sun blog

for more info on roses go to Chris Van Cleave – click here.

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Cottage Garden Primer

July 30, 2016

I once worked with a lovely client ( now a dear friend!) who wanted a cottage-style flower garden.

Now there are cottage gardens and then there are cottage gardens…know what I mean?

In Great Britain, it seems everyone has the most magnificent flower garden, each more spectacular than the next…

their lushness sets a standard of perfection for cottage gardens that makes me want to say to someone here in the Northeast U.S., ‘Would you like to consider an ornamental grass garden instead?”

Designed and installed by Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

Designed and installed by Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

But of course, the call of a cottage garden, filled with a profusion of flowers and smelling of roses, peonies and lilacs, makes one dizzy with anticipation.

All you need in my part of the world is a deer fence, deep fertile soil, constant watering and someone to tend it lovingly… a tall order indeed.

But it can be done. And that is what we did – installed a deer fence, brought in great topsoil and carefully amended it and added irrigation. My client followed through and tended it with a loving hand and added wonderful flowers whenever she saw the need.

The result? A sumptuous garden filled with a riot of colors, lurid with intoxicating scents.

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I planned the garden to be a 10 foot wide curved plant bed bordering a level lawn. The only problem – there was no level lawn.

The rear property sloped steeply downhill and in order to make it level I needed to bring in soil and retain it with a wall. This is a big proposition in any situation but here it was especially dicey because I didn’t want to disturb the roots of the native hemlock trees growing near where the wall was to be located.

To accomplish this, I used the stacking, concrete units that are part of a wall system called Alpenstein. This is a great solution because no footings are required and Alpenstein allows you to plant within each unit!

It is a versatile, plantable wall system. Once planted with vines and spreading groundcovers, an Alpenstein wall blends with the natural setting.

Designed and installed by Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

Designed and installed by Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

After the site was perfect, I set about planting perennial and annual flowers. Perennials come back every year and form the backbone of the cottage garden. For that I set out large drifts or groups of medium tall, durable flowers in the mid-zone of the bed to add height and variety.

These included ‘Sunny Border Blue’ Speedwell (Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’), the PPA Plant of the Year 1993, and ‘Caesar’s Brother’ Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica ‘Caesar’s Brother’), a reliable and graceful flower with pansy blue coloring….

Veronica photo from Bluestone Perennials

Veronica photo from Bluestone Perennials

Additionally, I planted the graceful Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis gracillimus) and other ‘foolproof” perennials like dwarf Gayfeather, (Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’), the tall ‘Magnus’ Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’).

Below is the list of the dependable flower varieities I used for this garden. No unusual cultivars here – just a cottage garden full of faithful staples that work together in cozy harmony..

Copy of a030


My Flower List for This Cottage Garden

Jan Johnsen

Perennials

Botanical Name Common Name
Artemesia ‘Silver King’ ‘Silver King’ Wormwood
Astilbe chinensis pumila Dwarf Chinese Astilbe
Coreopsis vert. ‘Moonbeam’ ‘Moonbeam’ Coreopsis
Dianthus ‘Bath’s Pink’ ‘Bath’s Pink’ Dianthus
Echinacea purp. ‘Magnus’ Magnus Coneflower
Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ ‘Palace Purple’ Coralbells
Iris sibirica ‘Caesar’s Brother’ ‘Caesar’s Brother’ Siberian Iris
Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’ Dwarf Gayfeather
Lilium orientale ‘Stargazer’ ‘Stargazer’ Oriental Lily
Peonies Peonies
Persicaria ‘Donald Lowndes’ Don. Lowndes Fleeceflower
Phlox pan. ‘Bright Eyes’ ‘Bright Eyes’ Garden Phlox
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ ‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum
Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ Dwarf Black eyed Susan
Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’ ‘Sunny Border Blue’ Speedwell

Annuals

Botanical Name Common Name
Senecio cineraria Dusty Miller
Cosmos sulphureus Cosmos ‘Klondyke mix’
Ageratum ‘Blue Hawaii’ Blue Hawaii Ageratum
Catharanthus roseus Annual Vinca
Heliotropium arb..Marine ‘Marine’ Heliotrope
Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’ Salvia ‘Victoria Blue’
Salvia ‘Sparkler Purple’ ‘Sparkler Purple’ annual Salvia
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‘Purple Smoke’ – The best Baptisia

June 13, 2016

purple smoke baptisia
This year I am planting Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’.
A deer resistant, native, drought tolerant, purple, long lived perennial! Wow!

Baptisia-Carolina-Moonlight purple smoke

Photo – Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden – Puple Smoke Baptisia and Carolina Moonlight Baptisia

It is a hybrid of B. australis and B. alba and is a vigorous grower. Discovered by Rob Gardener of the North Carolina Botanical Gardens, it has charcoal-gray stems and is purple.

Baptisia is a native perennial that has a long taproot, loves sunny sites with lean or poor soil. Average to dry soil is best. Its deep tap root allows it to survive long dry periods, making it a challenge to move once it is established.

Purple Smoke from Bluestone Perennials

Purple Smoke from Bluestone Perennials

The flowers resemble lupines and are smoky violet. Numerous flowers open first at the base of the flower stalk in May and ascend upwards, topping out at 4.5′ tall. It has fine textured, blue-green foliage.

The flower spikes rise above the foliage for easy viewing. I love its unique flower color and strong vertical form. A Niche Gardens introduction.

Steve Foltz, director of horticulture at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, says ‘Purple Smoke’

“is one of the best—if not the best—Baptisia on the market.”