Garden Wisdom

"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.."  -Alfred Austin



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Jeff, Gardener in Chief

Contrary to popular opinion, some people in the Hamptons enjoy getting their hands dirty. I'm a self-taught gardener in East Hampton, NY that enjoys sharing my gardening experiences and inspiration with others. Hope you enjoy my blog and galleries.

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Entries in native plants (5)


Happy July 4th! Plant Something American

I'm addicted to imported species as much as anyone, but I do like to include native American plants as often as possible.  Many provide the same splendid color as the most popular plants originating from Europe and Asia.  I'm not a stickler for planting only the wild form and do include many cultivars and hybrids.  On this patriotic holiday, consider the following red, white and blue plants for your garden.

Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'

'Raspberry Wine' beebalm (monarda didyma) also known as bergamot

I planted the cultivar 'Raspberry Wine' many years ago in a mixed perennial bed by a front fence.  It's blooming now.  I chose this variety for its color and resistance to mildew. The flowers look quite exotic and the leaves have a mint fragrance.

Vegetation normally declines after blooming so I cut them down to clean foliage.  New leaves will fill in, but it usually won't bloom again. They do spread by rhizomes, but can be easily pulled out of unwanted areas.  To help prevent powdery mildew, keep the soil moist and thin out some of the stalks in May to create better air circulation.  It likes full sun, but can take some shade.  I divide them about every three years for better bloom production.

(Patriotic factoid: American colonists made tea from wild bergamot leaves.  It was said that this native tea stood in for the black tea destroyed during the Boston Tea Party.)

Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet'

Virginia Sweetspire 'Henry's Garnet' (Itea virginica)

This is a wonderful deciduous shrub for a woodland setting, but also does well as a foundation planting.  It grows in partial shade and full sun, but blooms better with some direct sun. Moist soil is best.  It has beautiful white, fragrant drooping racemes that started blooming a few weeks ago and are just now fading.  Blooming stems make great additions to summer bouquets. 

This cultivar has superior fall color to the species.  Its fall foliage ranges from yellow to orange to garnet red.


Agastache "Blue Fortune" with 'Hyperion' daylilies

Agastache x hybrida 'Blue Fortune'

A true melting pot of cultures, 'Blue Fortune' is a hybrid of the native American blue giant hyssop (agastache foeniculum) and the Korean mint (agastache rugosa).  I have several other varieties of agastache, but this is a true performer with a very long bloom period, starting in July.  It likes full sun and can handle some dry conditions once established.  The blooms are butterfly and bee magnets.  Sometimes the bumblebees look drunk hanging upside down from the blooms at end of a day.  The fall seed heads are a favorite snack of finches.  
From the picture, you can see a previous season's planting of agastache and 'Hyperion' daylilies.  They added a nice contrasting color to the yellow and remained blooming after the daylilies were done.  Unfortunately, this particular pairing will not be repeating this year as the voles decided they liked the agastache roots better than the blooms.  I'll replant some agastache this fall in the daylily bed for next year. 



American Beauties


Recently I learned, contrary to local belief, oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) are not native to the Northeast.  Interestingly, this shrub was listed in a favorite book: Native Plants of the Northeast by Donald J. Leopold.  The author does reveal in his introduction that he included a few plants, like the oakleaf hydrangea, that grow naturally just outside the Northeast but adapt well to our Northern range. Its natural range is actually the Southeast.  As you can tell, it's adapted well in my Hamptons garden.

'Snow Queen' with Ostrich ferns

I have planted several groupings of the fullsize varieties  ('Snow Queen' and 'Alice') plus the smaller 'Pee Wee' variety placed in tighter spaces.  The largest are pruned lightly and now stand about 8 feet tall.

 'Pee Wee' with ferns and astilbe

The Pee Wees are about 4 feet high.  I do prune these a bit every year or so to keep them within the allotted areas. However, they bloom on old wood so too much pruning will reduce the following year's bloom count.

'Pee Wee' flanking a birdbath

All varieties bloom better with some sun. Without sun, you'll get mostly leaves.

The fall color is beautiful as the leaves turn a purple/maroon color and the blooms turn pinkish.  The bare branches with their peeling bark adds architecture to the winter garden as well.

This all-American shrub deserves a place in your garden.

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