Important to Bees

Plants and flowers that are used by bees are becoming more important as environmental pressure threatens many bee colonies. These plants will help you be part of human activity in the landscape that is beneficial to other species that inhabit our world. Environmental responsibility starts at home.

See also: Herbaceous PerennialsNative Plants
The garden industry's persistent habit of passing off magenta flowers as red is an old and nefarious trick. Happily, there are a number of truly red-flowered plants. Monarda 'Jacob Cline' is a winner.

bee balm Jacob Cline

Monarda 'Jacob Cline'

Bee Balm 'Jacob Cline' (Monarda didyma) rivals cardinal flower as one of the truest and deepest red flowers of summer . Difficult to photograph accurately, 'Jacob Cline' is the best of the bee balm clan, relatively mildew-resistant and as smoldery as the deepest, darkest red rose.

Continue reading ‘Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ – Bee Balm’

See also: Herbaceous Perennials, Native Plants
It's December, which means time to write. One of the first essays I wrote on the subject of perennial gardening was this brief introduction to purple coneflower. Landscape architects and native plant specialists may gravitate to the less often seen pale coneflower (Echinacea pallida), but it says something about a plant when it is instantly recognizable from coast to coast. From childhood onward we know purple coneflower in the American landscape.

purple coneflower summer garden

Echinacea purpurea

One of the things I noticed this past year about purple coneflower in our own gardens is how little I thought about it when it came to fertilizing, pruning, watering, staking, and on and on. So many of our garden plants seem to exist to give us something to do. Once established, purple coneflower is reliable for both us and the goldfinches, and all we have to do is show up.

See also: Native PlantsGarden Roses
Prairie rose (Rosa setigera) is a species rose native to North America. Blooming in late spring to early summer, Rosa setigera bears single form roses with pink petals and yellow stamens.

Rosa setigera - prairie rose

Rosa setigera - Prairie rose. Native species rose that bees cannot get enough of. Healthy and superior garden rose for wet soils. Click for larger.

Rosa setigera's native habitat is thickets and clearings. Like swamp rose (Rosa palustris), prairie rose can handle wet soils.

Continue reading ‘Rosa setigera – Prairie Rose’

See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Husker Red is a selected cultivar of Penstemon digitalis, an adaptable and easy to grow garden perennial native to the eastern half of North America. Many gardeners don't think about penstemon in the garden and perhaps they should.

Husker Red penstemon is native, drought tolerant, reliably perennial, and is attractive to bees and hummingbirds.

penstemon husker red

Husker Red penstemon is native, tough, and attractive to bees and hummingbirds.

Husker Red penstemon grows well in poor soil. Gardeners starting out in a new garden with soil that has yet to reach the tilth that years of composting will eventually bring can be immediately successful in gardening should they choose to plant Husker Red penstemon.

Continue reading ‘Penstemon Husker Red’

Baptisia australis (blue false indigo), like all of the false indigo, is easy to grow, drought tolerant, hardy across a huge swath of the U.S., and attractive to bees and butterflies. More, it is a native perennial.

I cannot fathom how many photographs I have taken of blue false indigo. It is a favorite plant and somehow the images never measure up. Today, my children Flynne and Ian were behind me, clamoring for a picture of a bee, never mind the Baptisia.

Finally, I took a good photograph of blue false indigo by taking a picture of a bee for my children.

blue false indigo

Blue false indigo in detail + bee. Click for larger.

Continue reading ‘Baptisia australis – Blue False Indigo’

See also: Native Plants
There is no finer large shade tree for the American garden than Liriodendron tulipifera. Native to vast tracts of eastern North America, Liriodendron tulipifera is the largest growing hardwood east of the Mississippi River.

Tulip tree gets big, so you need space in the garden to accommodate it.

Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip tree in flower. Click for larger.

Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip tree in flower plus leaf detail. Click for larger.

Known widely as tulip poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera is also called tulip tree, yellow poplar, and my favorite, fiddle tree. Liriodendron tulipifera is not a true poplar, but part of the magnolia family. The 'tulip' refers not to the flowers, but to the shape of the leaves, which are said to resemble tulips (I don't see it).

Continue reading ‘Tulip Poplar – Liriodendron tulipifera’

See also: Herbaceous Perennials
I waited an entire year to photograph foxglove Emerson (Digitalis purpurea 'Emerson'). I've grown Emerson for some time, but never photographed it well. Emerson is arguably the finest of the biennial foxgloves.

Introduced by the peerless garden nursery Goodness Grows, Emerson foxglove has elegant blooms held on stately, strong stems that can get upwards of 4 feet tall by the time all is said and done. The flowers open creamy yellow, but mature to white. It is one of the all-time greats.

Digitalis purpurea Emerson

The finest of the foxgloves, Emerson is stately, tall, and there is nothing like it in the evening shade garden. American columbine is in the background.  Click for larger.

Emerson is a cultivar of Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove). Comments below regarding the growth and culture of Emerson generally apply to all Digitalis purpurea varieties.

Foxglove is a biennial that blooms for 4-6 weeks from mid-spring to very early summer. It is the one plant in the garden I replant every year. Buy and plant young foxglove in fall if you can. It will flower the next spring as a two year old plant. If you choose to plant from seed, a basal clump will form the first year and the foxglove will flower the second year. Do not worry about winter.

Continue reading ‘Foxglove ‘Emerson’ – Digitalis purpurea’

It's April in Georgia, so upcoming garden musings may be a little azalea- and dogwood-centric. Without further ado, the subject at hand is the Korean azalea Poukhanense (Rhododendron yedoense 'Poukhanense').

Korean azalea Poukhanense is hardy to Zone 4, so northern gardeners who dream of azaleas in their gardens should take a good look.

korean azalea Poukhanense

Korean azalea Poukhanense has delicate flowers, but it is a tough garden plant. Click for larger.

Regarding hardiness in northern climates, Poukhanense azalea will be deciduous. Even in southern gardens I notice some leaf drop during winter, although down here I would still resolutely consider Poukhanense evergreen. Foliage may turn a beautiful reddish-orange in the fall.

Flowers are of the softest lilac, appearing shell pink in the golden light of late afternoon. Blooms are classic funnel shape, and Korean azalea Poukhanense blooms in April in the south and May at its northern reaches.

Continue reading ‘Korean Azalea Poukhanense’

See also: Native Plants
Native across wide parts of the eastern and midwestern United States & found in moist environments, blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) is drought tolerant.

Blackhaw viburnum is an excellent choice as a specimen tree, but is most used as a hedge, screen or large shrub in the background of the garden. Blackhaw viburnum, also known as sweet haw, stag bush, or simply blackhaw, deserves strong consideration for the native garden.

blackhaw viburnum

Blackhaw viburnum is often grown as a shrub or small tree. Click for larger.

A deciduous shrub that rather slowly matures to around 10'-12' tall/wide, blackhaw virbunum may also be trained as a small tree, as seen in the photograph directly above.

Guides suggest that blackhaw viburnum blooms May-June, but in Georgia, April blooming in the garden is more typical. Hardy in USDA zones 3-9, blackhaw viburnum is a tough customer, and has no problems with disease or insects to speak of.  Viburnum prunifolium is adaptable to full sun and part shade. In hot climates, partial shade can be as little as a couple of hours of sun during the day, as well as dappled sunlight for a longer period. Continue reading ‘Blackhaw Viburnum’

See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Known as tall ironweed or giant ironweed, perennial Vernonia gigantea is big, purple, and native. A member of the aster family, ironweed can grow seven feet and taller in a season before finally blooming late July to September.

giant ironweed

Vernonia gigantea - a native ironweed that is a solid late season perennial.

Ironweed in the landscape
Being honest, I have whacked ironweed back harshly on more than one occasion, a half-hearted effort at getting rid of it. It's so big and a bit coarse. Surrounded by more genteel plants one might think the last thing needed is a great big purple plant. Thankfully ironweed bears its name for a reason (it is tough), and I am unfailingly grateful for it when September arrives.

Continue reading ‘Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) Native. Purple. Tall.’