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Archive for January, 2010

Three’s Company – Garden Design Made Easy

Garden Design can be overwhelming if not frustrating.  What you sketch out on graph paper may not end up the way you envision it in the garden.

Hosta, Hydrangea & Aruncus

Hosta, Hydrangea & Aruncus

When it comes to garden design, start simple and think in 3’s. I often start with 3 plants that vary in size, shape and color yet match their growing environment.  Once you have something you like – you simply add to it.

Perennials & shrubs vary in color (both foliage & flower), texture and type or form.   With various combination of these features, there are countless opportunities to combine plants in the landscape.


RIGHT. Enjoy season long  foliage color with slug-proof Hosta First Frost as a foreground planting. The round bold flowers of  Hydrangea make for a pleasing yet contrasting  combination. The fine-textured flowers of Aruncus completes this handsome 3-some.

Tiarella & Hostas

Tiarella & Hostas

LEFT. A small leaf gold Hosta is in front, a white edged medium sized Hosta in the center with Tiarella in the background.  Note how the white variegation of the Hosta compliments the white flowers of the Tiarella.

When it comes to garden design, think of  your garden as a small series of rooms or vignettes and  in 3’s as a starting point.  This way beginning garden design is less daunting.

For more inspiring garden combinations, visit our Garden Collections on

Top 4 Reasons to Grow Hellebores!

Reason #1 – They are 99.9% deer proof!

Helleborus Brushstrokes

Helleborus Brushstrokes

This group of plants quickly became my favorite flowering shade plant about 15 years ago. During my 10 years of living in heavily deer-infested South Carolina, I learned that deer will not touch Hellebores. I had over 2,000 mature Hellebore plants in my garden and you could SEE the deer hoof-prints where they walked right past them without a single munch! Of course, the Hydrangeas & Hostas next to the Hellebores were not so lucky. But, I can’t say they’re 100% deer proof because I’m sure there is some mutated deer somewhere in the country that will take a taste test.

Reason #2Hellebores are highly drought proof

Hellebores are the perfect shade plant for under mature oak trees. They can tolerate long periods of drought with little to no water. The heavy roots of the oak trees don’t seem to dissuade the Hellebores or hurt their growth in any way.

Helleborus London Fog

Helleborus London Fog

Reason #3 – They bloom in winter when little else is in bloom

Most Hellebores begin blooming in February or March across the country. Their beautiful pink, yellow, black, green, and spotted flowers make wonderful combinations with bright yellow-flowered Daffodils and white Snowdrops.

Reason #4 – Flowers can be used as cut flowers for 10 days

Helleborus as Cut Flowers

Helleborus as Cut Flowers

Few people realize that Hellebore flowers can be cut and floated in a shallow dish of water where they will last up to 10 days. I’ve visited friends’ homes where they used a stunning array of Hellebore flowers floating in shallow crystal dishes for table centerpieces. Perfect conversation starter at dinner!

Red Hot Dicentra Blooms All Summer

Burning Hearts Dicentra

Burning Hearts Bleeding Heart

Dicentra Burning hearts09

Red flowers & Blue foliage are stunning!

Dicentra Burning Hearts is one of the BEST FLOWERING SHADE PERENNIALS to make its way on the market in recent years.

I’ve  seen a few different Dicentra in my day  (my father patented Dicentra Luxuriant way back when)  and this is one of the best one ever.

So many of you ask.….what flowers  all summer in the shade? How about Spring-Fall?  Give it was it loves, consistent moisture and good, well-drained soil  along with protection from the hot afternoon sun and you are on the way.

This attractive fern-leaf Bleeding Heart is a cross between D. peregrina, D. formosa, and D. eximia from Japanese breeder Akira Shiozaki. D. peregrina has intensely beautiful blue foliage but difficult to grow so he crossed it with eximia from North America.  So what does this all mean? Where other Dicentra Burning Hearts08 (17)Dicentras melt down or go summer dormant, Burning Hearts continues to grow robustly even in the HEAT of  summer looking mighty fine and blooming its lovely heart-shaped head off until fall.

Dicentra Burning Hearts is a must have perennial that will add some sizzle to your shade garden.

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