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Archive for February, 2011

8 Easy Flowering Shrubs for Your Garden

A few hard working flowering shrubs in the garden add structure & height while bridging the season with interesting foliage.  Plant in groupings or singly depending on the desired result or select  flowering shrubs  that bloom at different times for  continued bloom from spring-fall.

Butterfly Bush is a long flowering & fast growing flowering shrub


Gardening has never been so easy with drought tolerant Butterfly Bush. A wide variety of colors  and heights await your garden design. Plants grow fast and appreciate full sun and well drained soil. Cut back this deciduous shrub in the spring.


Blue Mist Shrub or Bluebeard is a low growing shrub with  low water needs and beautiful blue flowers growing around 3-4 feet tall. Plant in full sun and well drained soil.  Cut back this deciduous shrub in the spring.


(Weeping Redbud) This small tree or large shrub has showstopping bright pink flowers in spring, giving way to heart-shaped leaves.  Grows in full sun to part shade. Remove dead wood during or after flowering. Fertilize after flowering.


Hydrangea boasts foliage & flowering appeal and is regarded as one of the most popular shrubs for the home gardener. Versatile, they thrive in a range of soils from sun to shade.

Knock Out Roses

Perhaps one of the best landscape rose on the market today – hands down.  Knock Out Roses bloom  5+ months and even flower well in part shade. Trim back 1/3 in the spring and fertilize with Osmocote.

Lilac Bloomerang has fragrant flowers spring-fall


This hardy shrub is commonly called lilac. Lilacs produce early spring, fragrant flowers. There is nothing like a fresh bouquet of lilacs to rejuvenate the spirit.   A deciduous shrub, prune after blooming.


There are tons of varieties on what is commonly called Snowball Bush. White flowers in spring, Nice green color all season long. Foliage turns red/orange in fall and sometimes berries.  Very easy to grow and widely adaptable to a range of soils.


Weigela is yet another foolproof shrub that thrives under adverse conditions, yet remains beautiful all season long.  The star performance is in spring.  Easy to grow.

With the array of sizes, shapes, flowers and forms, flowering shrubs are a natural fit in almost any setting large or small.

Related Articles:

Tips on Shrub Pruning

5 Month Blooming Hedge Plant – Endless Summer Hydrangea

12 Best Shade Loving Plants for Your Garden

Use light colored plants such as Brunnera & Hosta to brighten up dark areas in the shade garden

For a low maintenance shade garden, select plants that are more widely adaptable to various degrees of light and soil conditions and are easy to grow and maintain.  Here’s a list of our top 12 favorites:


Add a zesty flower color you won’t find in other shade plants.  Visions is not only more drought tolerant than other varieties (It still needs plenty of water) it is the most fragrant of all Astilbes.


You’ll get beauty in flowers and 3 seasons of interest with shimming silver foliage of Jack Frost Brunnera – our hands down favorite and recent 2012 Perennial Plant of the Year Winner.  Brunnera competes fairly well with tree roots and is highly deer proof.

An array of Heuchera help line a pathway where light transitions from sun to shade. Some sun during the day help to bring out the luster in their foliage


Heucheras are one of the most diverse and colorful shade perennials.  Plant as a groundcover, intersperse between other plants.  (One of my favorite combination is Heuchera Southern Comfort with a blue hosta – oh, la, la!)


The Arnold Schwarzenegger of all shade plants. Easy to grow in tough situations where other shade plants fail.

Hostas & Ferns create a cool and calming effect in my shade garden

Hostas grow well under a wide range of trees & shrubs and tolerate a variety of soils. They will grow bigger with amended soil & good drainage. There is nothing like a combination of sizes, colors and shapes for a WOW effect.


An iron clad deer-proof plant that tolerates dry shade once established. Stunning late winter blooms. A super groundcover offering  a year round carpet of evergreen foliage.  You’ll won’t want to miss the all new Winter Thriller Hellebores.


Their elegant and fine texture of ferns pair well with Heucheras, Brunnera & Hostas. They need consistent moisture to do well and is a must have for any shade garden.


This much-loved flowering shrub is a favorite for many gardeners. Hydrangeas add a much needed height to the shade garden while providing year round beauty.

Ornamental Grasses

Carex & Hakonechloa our the favorites providing season long interesting. Both deer proof and tolerant of moisture.


The fuzzy silver spotted leaves of Pulmonaria are not appealing to deer while

Pulmonaria Raspberry Splash fuzzy silver spotted leaves deer don't like but stay handsome spring-fall

brightening up dark spots. Not for the dry garden.

Tiarella (Foamflower)

This little known gem is gaining in popularity.  Foamflower has exaggerated leaves that remain colorful spring-winter. Its slow running habit makes an ideal groundcover.

Shade gardening can be just as beautiful as a sunny perennial garden and often with much care and you’ll get to appreciate the best thing about shade – a perfect place to unwind after a long hectic day.

Need more inspiration?  Check out our Shade Perennial Garden Collections

7 Expert Tips for Shade Garden Success

White flowering Annabelle Hydrangea and gold Hostas inject light & energy in a shaded north facing location.

Over the years of gardening, I have found shade gardening required less time and maintenance than my sunny perennial borders. It also became a tranquil place to relax and unwind after a hectic day.

Here are a few shade gardening tips that are quick and easy to do while making your shade retreat a place you want to spend time in.

1) Consider the Grand Design. You can create the illusion of space by installing a gently curved pathway. Create shade by installing a pergola or umbrellas if you have open sunny areas.

2) Most shade loving plants benefit from some sun (preferably morning which is less harsh)  Light colored foliage plants brighten up shaded areas and look colorful all season. Gold Hostas and moneywort gradually transition from gold to bright yellow. Black leaf plants such as Heuchera Obsidian really depend on some sunlight to bring out the deepest black leaves possible.

3)  How to add light to deep shade

Don’t hesitate to limb up lower branches of trees and shrubs. Those tired and overgrown shrubs will not only have a fresh new look but more oxygen circulates creating a healthier environment.

4 )  Plant Selection & Foliage

Hosta, Hellebore & Fern combine well with their different textures and shapes. The combination of blues & greens are calming in a shade garden

The less sun available, the less energy there is for plants to produce a lot of  flowers that you would normally get in a sunny perennial garden.  You can create a beautiful setting with the right mix of foliage color, shaped & textures.  Blue and green foliage create a calming and comforting feeling in a shade garden.

5 ) Tough Areas

If you are having a hard time getting anything to compete with tree roots, grow your favorite shade plants in containers.  Sink pots in the ground between roots or add height with taller pots.

6)  Berm or Terrace

For problematic areas, consider a berm or terrace. Make sure you don’t cover more than a third of tree roots.  A raised bed will be easier to maintain and bring in plants closer to you for your enjoyment.

7) Shade Garden Success

If you are just starting out, select plants that are more WIDELY ADAPTABLE to various degrees of light and soil conditions.

Enjoy season long bursts of foliage color in the shade

I once had a shade garden that included hundreds of shade plants, but there were a handful that were able to tough it out better than others.  It was an easy care shade border that was beautiful 3 seasons of the year and a terrific place to unwind after a hectic day.  As the plants got bigger, they filled in nicely covering bare spots and reducing maintenance.

For gardening inspiration, check out these shade garden collections.

Our next article will feature 12 Best Shade Loving Plants for Your Garden.

Proven Garden Plant Combinations for Early Spring-Early Summer

L-R Salvia May Night, Dianthus Firewitch, Viola Etain

I have been putting garden plant combinations together for 25 years. I like to say I come from the school of  “trowel and error” learning a lot along the way.  Here is one of my favorite early spring to early summer perennial combination for a sunny to part shaded spot. Since we get a ton of questions on this subject, we thought we’d share our  gardening ideas with you as frequently as we can on our blog.

This spring-early summer perennial combination includes electrifying blue spikes of Salvia May Night with fragrant pink flowering Dianthus Firewitch and early spring flowering, vanilla scented Viola Etain.

Here are a few other ideas:

Salvia with Pink Knock Out Roses

Dianthus with blue foliage Festuca

Violas at a base of your favorite shrub

What are some of your favorite spring-summer plant combinations?

Turn that Hard to Mow Bank into a Gorgeous Slope with Erosion Controlling Groundcovers

Low grow Sedums have low water needs yet thrive on steep banks

Driving thru older neighborhoods, you’ll often see homes several feet higher than the sidewalk with a bank gradually sloping down to street level.  This is a a challenging site to grow plants.

Water runs off quickly rather than soaking in often leading to erosion.  A steep slope may need to be reworked by terracing or creating a retaining wall. For gradual slopes, planting groundcovers is a cost effective solution for dealing with these problem areas while stabilizing the soil, reducing maintenance while turning a negative eyesore into a gorgeous front yard.

The key to making this work is using  groundcovers that are quick to form a  solid, soil-holding mass. You’ll want to space them a bit closer together when planting and make sure you water well the first year so their roots can become established in their new environment.  A strategic placement of large boulders buried about 1/3 of the way into the soil adds interest and breaks up the flat plane of view.

Ajuga tenacious roots cling like honey to a biscuit in sun or shade

Ajugas fast spreading tenacious roots cling like honey to a biscuit

A favorite and adaptable groundcover is Ajuga Chocolate Chip with persistent, fast spreading roots.  Ajuga is tenacious, spreading by means of runners, or ground-level stems that root and form new plants.  It also chokes out weeds along the way.  Excellent for sunny or shady spots on a slope.

Creeping Sedums are some of the most versatile plants that take hold effortless in dry soil and one of my personal favorites.  They easily root along a stem making this an ideal choice for very steep banks and sunny slopes without any need for supplemental irrigation.  Their only requirement is good drainage. Since they come in an array of colorful foliage colors, plant an array of varieties (such as Sedum Flaming Carpet)  for a truly gorgeous garden display from spring-winter.

Phlox subulata forms shallow roots and their horizontal stems root easily thus its common name creeping phlox.  Their evergreen foliage remains attractive throughout the year and their spring blooms are nothing short of beautiful.

Daylilies form a dense mat and  are ideal for erosion control as the roots trap run off water which it then uses  during dryer spells.  A short growing reblooming daylily as as Happy Returns or Going Bananas would be a good

Plant fast spreading Aegopodium where you can allow it to roam


Other groundcover considerations

Aegopodium or Bishops Weed

Creeping Thyme

Flowering Vines such as Honeysuckle (Lonicera)

Ornamental Grasses such as Elymus, Festuca, and Panicum

Plumbago (Ceratostigma)




There is nothing more satisfying than taking a tough garden spot and turning it from a liability to an asset with easy to grow erosion controlling groundcovers.

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