Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs Now

Matin’s Garden Notes

Tulips and daffodils are very well known and popular flowering bulbs they offer a welcome addition to any garden.

Alliums (onion relatives) are quite a diverse group that range from the giant purple allium to the small rock garden allium molly. They range in height from 3 feet to only 6-8 inches. Most bloom quite late.

Bulb sfor the woodland setting are all very early bloomers so they are finished by the time the leaves come out on the trees. Siberian squill, chionadoxa and crocus are good subjects for under trees.  The long term success of bulbs on the north side of the house or where the shade is year -round is not good. There is just not enough sun power to grow new bulbs every year.

It’s great fun to pot up some bulbs for winter blooms, in the house. Tulips, all types of daffodils, and hyacinths are good subjects for this effort. Plant the bulbs in pots with 5-10 bulbs per pot, water well and keep they will get normal winter outdoor temperature. A bulkhead is a perfect place for this. Alternatively, set them on the ground in a protected location and cover with about a foot of  loose straw. You can start bringing them into the heat of the house starting about 12 weeks. There is nothing more cheerful than spring blooms on your windowsill in the dead of winter.

Looking for Fall Color in your Garden

Want to have the best Fall color in your neighborhood, think about planting a few of these fall flowers, Asters, Black-eyed Susans, Chrysanthemums, Common Bugleweed, Coral Bells, Dahlias, False Aster, Goldenrod, Japanese Anemone, Knotweed, Monkshood, Ornamental Cabbage, Osteospermum, Purpletop Vervain, Sedum, Strawflower, Toad Lily, Willow Blue-star, Wood Spurge. A lot of these make beautiful Fall color flower pots or even a small garden around the mailbox post.

Here’s a list of Fall Shrubs, Burning Bush, Camellia, Crape Myrtle, Doublefile Viburnum, Fothergilla, Japanese Barberry, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Smoke Bush, Staghorn Sumac, Virginia Sweetspire, Witch Hazel. Add any of these as a backdrop in your favorite garden.

Fall Trees with the sun shining on them are one of my favorite Autumn Scenes. Here’s a list of Fall Trees. American Persimmon, Bald Cypress, Bigleaf Maple, Copper Beech, Freeman Red Maple, Ginkgo, Honeylocust, Japanese Maple, Japanese Zelkova,Katsura, Pin Oak, Shagbark Hickory, Sweet Gum, Tall Stewartia, Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn.

Don’t forget to check your Zone before purchasing


By Carrie Haycraft

There are easy ways to get started with composting.

Composting is breaking down waste,by worms or cultures, into a fertilizer-type substance to use in your yard or garden, providing a substainable cycle of growth. Compost waste is made up of two parts, commonly called green and brown. Green has more nitrogen and is made of wet materials. Brown has more carbon and is made of dry materials. The proper mix,roughly half green and half brown by weight, is essential to get compost to break down quickly,without odors, and yield a correctly balance mix of fertilizer for the garden when the compost process is complete.

Making Your Own

The first step is to identify an outside area, ensuring that it is a spot with good drainage and without direct sunlight. You can use chicken wire, scrap wood, wooden pallets, brick or concrete blocks to construct your bin. The bottom layer should include heavier brown materials like leaves or hay.The next layer is a green and brown mix, followed by a the last layer of soil and water (about one inch thick, with enough water to make it moist) It will need to be turned one or two times per week and should be kept moist. While making your own compost bin or pile is the most cost-efficient, it can be the most labor intensive of the options and needs to be maintained to unwanted critters out.

Green Items include, fruit and peels, vegetables, egg shells, manure, frsh plant clippings, coffee  grounds.

Brown Items include, newspaper and cardboard, paper towels and napkins, hay or straw, tea bags, dried plant clippings,corn cobs.

Items to EXCLUDE, pet waste, meat and bone scraps,mayonnaise,salad dressing, colored or glossy paper,dairy products.

Room with a View: Outdoor Furniture

Written by Dawn Keable   

Remember when your mother used to send you outside and insist you stay there? That didn’t happen too much at my house. The request was there, but the end result wasn’t quite what she was looking for. Why? Because I was a reader. And, as all good readers know, you need a cozy indoor nook to stretch out with a book. Outdoor options were slim at best.  

 It was the ’70s and the outdoor seating choices at our house ranged from a scratchy foldable chair made of thick woven-nylon strips, a chaise lounge constructed of thin yellow and white plastic tubing that would heat and stretch as the temperature rose, if you didn’t fall out trying to get on it in the first place, or a rough wool blanket spread on the ground.

 I went with the most comfy choice —my bed. I would have dragged it outside with me if I could have. Apparently, I was onto something.

The New Face of Backyard Furniture  
Roughly 30 years later, innovations in style, design, and comfort have changed the face of backyard living for the better. Gone are the days where a simple charcoal grill, wooden picnic table, pink flamingos, and kiddie pool were the yard accessories of choice. No one knows this better than third-generation
North Kingstown furniture retailer, Keith McKay, who, during the past five years, has noticed a real push on patio furniture. “People look at the deck as an extension of their living room,” said McKay.

 As a result, the industry has risen to the occasion, featuring not only the standards you’d expect like gliders, hammocks, and classic adirondacks, but comfy cushioned chairs, with materials that don’t retain water, ornate dining room sets that can seat up to 10, firepits, high-quality outdoor rugs, and lamps tough enough to withstand the elements and dressy enough to winter inside the house.  

 And for readers? According to Jackie Hirschhaut of the American Home Furnishings Alliance, the largest association of home furnishing companies in the world, this year brings a greater depth of products for sitting, relaxing, and conversation. On deck, literally, are complete seating groups that include sofas and sections, with expanded options like rocking and reclining features.

Decisions, Decisions
With all of the choices out there, how do you decide what to buy? First, you need to figure out the main function of the room, whether it be an outdoor family room, a second kitchen, or something in between. If you’re completely overwhelmed, there are designers that can step in to help. Once you’ve determined the purpose of your space, the rest is easy.   

 Your decisions from here on go back to the basics — personal taste. It’s that simple; Pick what you like. And luckily, whether your style be contemporary, casual, or eclectic, there truly is something out there for everyone. Hirschhaut notes that a “continued sophistication of design, product assortment, finishes, and materials create a seamless connection between the indoors and out.

Environmentally Friendly Furniture
 What better way to celebrate the great outdoors than to actively work towards preserving it? According to McKay, one of the biggest trends in outdoor furniture that he’s seen is recycled products. Envirowood, made from recycled plastic bottles and containers, mimics the look of real wood with an authentic grain texture and color. But unlike real wood, it is rot-, decay-, and insect-proof, requires no maintenance, and no trees are used in the process.

Other trends that McKay has noted on the local front include the continued growth of all-weather furniture, like products constructed from teak and wicker that can withstand the elements and still look brand new for years to come. Bright colors, like reds and oranges, will also make a noticeable appearance in 2007, and after surviving yet another dark, hueless New England winter, why not add some color to your world?

Buy Quality and It Will Last
Speaking of harsh conditions, one of the most basic tips to make your investment last is simply to cover it up. In addition, the American Home Furnishings Alliance offers up a detailed guide, broken down by material, on how to clean and care for all aspects of your outdoor furniture from umbrellas to tabletops. 

 But the single most important thing that McKay says anyone should remember when purchasing outdoor furniture is something that your mother has probably told you a million times. “Buy quality,” he said.

Once you find furniture that you love, you’ll be drawn outside to use it for seasons to come. And that’s something that will surely make mom prou

Tips On Caring For Your Outdoor Furniture
With a few simple steps, you can keep your outdoor furniture looking fresh and new for many years. The American Home Furnishings Alliance offers the following care and maintenance tips:

Aluminum frames
Clean with mild soap and water. For non-textured surfaces, apply an automotive wax every few months. On textured finishes, periodically apply baby or mineral oil. Occasionally spray oil lubricant on chair swivels or glides.

Tempered-glass tabletops
Clean regularly with a soft cloth, a mild detergent, and warm water. Buff dry with a clean, lint-free cloth. Commercial glass cleaners also may be used.

Outdoor wicker
Vacuum gently or brush with a soft bristle brush. Hose off every few weeks and clean periodically with mild detergent and water. Rinse thoroughly and air dry.

Vinyl straps
Wash with mild detergent and warm water, using a soft sponge or cloth. Rinse thoroughly. To remove scuff marks, apply toothpaste or gentle abrasive and rub gently with a dry cloth. To remove mildew, use a solution of warm water, mild detergent, and bleach (no more than one-quarter cup to 3 gallons of water). Apply vinyl protectant to the straps after cleaning.

Sling furniture
Wash with mild soap and water. Rinse thoroughly and air dry.

Vacuum as needed to remove organic material and prevent decay. Clean by sponging with mild detergent and warm water. Rinse thoroughly. Air dry. If mildew occurs, use a solution of one-cup bleach and a squirt of detergent per gallon of water. Scrub with a sponge or soft brush. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and air dry. Always test an inconspicuous spot first to make sure the color won’t fade. Bleach may not be suitable for some fabrics.

Wrought iron and steel
Clean with warm, soapy water. To maintain the gloss on non-textured surfaces, apply automotive wax. On textured finishes, periodically apply mineral or baby oil. If rust develops, clean area by sanding lightly, then wipe thoroughly and apply touch-up paint (usually provided by the manufacturer).

Clean with mild detergent and water. Rinse well. Some manufacturers recommend an occasional application of oil. Teak and jarrah can stay outdoors year-round. Pine, oak, and cedar should be stored for the winter. Painted woods require painting every year or so.

Wash covers with mild soap and water, using a long-handled brush. Spray silicone on the joints of wire frames. Use wax or furniture polish on wooden umbrellas.


Taking it Outside: Why you should be thinking about an outdoor kitchen

Written by Scott Shackleton   

Outdoor kitchens and bars have been a very popular West Coast phenomenon, which are catching on in New England. Now that summer is well under way, friends and families are getting together in the backyard or patio to enjoy their repasts in the comfortable weather. Often a charcoal Weber or free-standing propane-fueled grill will sear the meats and vegetables while the remainder of the food preparation is handled indoors or on a separate table. The outdoor kitchen consolidates these activities into one area, utilizing drop-in stain-less steel grills, side-burners, sinks, refrigerators, and storage units built into brick, stone, or concrete board cabinets.

One can incorporate a raised bar top with seating for easy food and drink service, making it the focal point of any outdoor gathering. This configuration enables the cook to interact with his or her guests rather than standing alone at the grill. Or, one can keep it simple with a built-in natural gas or propane grill alongside some counter space and perhaps some stainless steel drawers to house tongs, knives, and spices.

Not only does this backyard addition provide a comfortable efficient preparation area, it can add value to your home. For this reason, and to ensure you get the most enjoyment from your investment, it is wise to consult an expert to plan the kitchen island.

Things to consider in designing your outdoor kitchen include:

  • Fuel source – Natural gas, propane, or charcoal? Propane is probably the most prevalent choice for outdoor kitchens, but natural gas ensures one never runs out of fuel mid-party.  Charcoal built-in grills are available but choices are fairly limited.
  • Countertop – Granite, tile, concrete, or brick? Granite provides the most even and heat-resistant surface just as it does indoors. It also resists the elements better than tile or brick.
  • Vertical surfaces – Rock, brick, tile, or synthetic coating. It’s generally best to stick with the theme of your home. Rhode Island’s own Dryvit Systems manufactures an incredible variety of quality synthetic surfaces.
  • Electricity – Do you want to include a refrigerator, kegerator, or blender? What about extra outlets for a rotisserie or stereo? Under bar lighting can provide an exotic ambiance for after-dark entertainment.
  • Sink – This can provide a wonderful, complete kitchen experience, but piping water to the structure and drainage from the sink basin must be considered.
  • Space – Ensure you account for movement behind the grill area in addition to any bar seating in front. Don’t build your island right next to your pool, unless of course you’re building in pool-side bar service.

The outdoor kitchen can really create a relaxed environment for outdoor entertainment as well as giving your home that “WOW” factor, whatever your budget. And don’t let the New England winters dissuade you: I’ll be searing rib-eyes on my Newport deck in February, just like I’ve done every year I’ve lived here.

Hedges and Screens

Martin’s Garden Notes

Creating a separation from neighbors is a goal for many gardeners. This is not really antisocial but just an effort to have your own outdoor space This can be accomplished in several ways. Often the request is for evergreens that completely hide the neighborhood year round. This may certainly be desirable in a space that you see all the time, but if the space is used primarily in the summertime, shrubs and trees that bloom in the spring and summer when you are enjoying the garden may be good choices. Hydrangeas, Chaste Tree, Rose of Sharon, and Sourwood come to mind as very attractive summer bloomers. Try Forsythia, and Weigela, and many sorts of Viburnum for spreading plants that grow 8-12 feet tall.

If evergreens are the best for the space, remember that Spruce, Fir, and Pines generally grow 20 feet wide and 50 feet tall. Arborvitae will only get 8-10 feet wide and up to 20 feet tall. Some particularly narrow evergreens are Dragon Lady Holly, and Emerald Green Arborvitae. Screens in shady places can be achieved with Yew, Hooy, Rhododendron, and Mountain Laurel.

If yours is an urban yard and space is at a premium, fences can be the most efficient way to create privacy. Fences are particularly effective in showing off the garden which can include many shrubs,small trees and perennials.

Trends in Patio Furniture

Written by Kathryn M. D’Imperio   

The long-awaited warm weather is finally here, perfect for barbecuing, relaxing, and sipping cocktails in the summer breeze. Just think of all the outdoor parties you can enjoy, not to mention bonfires and meteor showers. With all these wonderful thoughts in mind, now is the perfect time to start thinking about your patio or your deck and how you can spruce up your outdoor living space for summer entertaining, relaxation, and fun. An attractive deck or patio encourages you to spend more time outside enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, and moonlight. Consider these tips from deck and patio experts as inspiration for your own outdoor social settings. 

Creating the Perfect Deck for Entertaining

If you don’t have a deck yet or if you’re planning to build one sometime soon, you are fortunate in that you can plan every specification of your deck to meet your needs. You can create your own blueprint, consider a single platform versus a multi-tier style, choose the type of wood or composite material, and pick the color of stain or materials. Adding a deck to your home greatly enhances the social nature of your outdoor living space, giving you more room to relax, socialize, and enjoy the views. 

“We’ve completed a number of decks, some of which blur the boundaries between inside and outside,” says Joseph Cracco of Modern Yankee Builders. “Right off, I’d say that’s one of the biggest trends we’re seeing … that our clients want to blur that line so that the inside of their house has more of a connection with their yard. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing a wall to a bank of windows and putting in a window seat. Other times, it’s with a screen porch, which … well, isn’t your father’s screen porch anymore.”

Cracco says some of the latest enhancements to today’s decks include “dedicated areas of the deck or outdoor living areas for different activities — cooking/grilling, sitting/socializing, hot tubbing, etc.” He says level changes in the deck, such as changes in walking surface or integration of structures, create a better flow for the outdoor living space. The average deck designed for ultimate enjoyment may include “an area for shade (an awning, tent, pergola, or the like), privacy from neighbors (dense bushes, privacy screens, etc.), nicer furniture, space heaters to extend the season, and similarly, the integration of fire pits.”  

Patio Plants, Trees, and Flowers for Your Outdoor Living Spaces

With so many flowers, plants, shrubs, and trees available at your local garden centers, it can become overwhelming to narrow down the selection and choose something that’s right for your living space. Shade versus sun, potted versus planted, color, size, shape — there are so many factors to consider. Thankfully a good landscaper can make the decision process a snap.

“For an outdoor living space you want something that flowers in the summer,” says Robert Langille, founder of Landscaping Concepts. “I always use a lot of summer color —hydrangeas, happy return daylilies. Make sure they are ever-blooming. The endless summer hydrangea flowers all summer long. You’re out there from Memorial Day through June, July, and August. That’s why I try to pick things that flower in the summertime.” 

Langille recommends Summersweet, a shrub that flowers in the summertime and boasts fragrant white flowers and nice foliage. For a shade tree, he says a Honey Locust tree gives nice, filtered shade but drops a lot of leaves. He loves the idea of a pergola to break up the sun.

“It’s a structure that any carpenter can build,” he says. “It definitely adds value and it really puts some panache on your patio, by having a pergola that allows you to grow some grapes or clematis or wisteria vine. They flower in the summertime and also are fragrant.”

To add even more aesthetic impact or to soften up a corner, Langille recommends large urns with cannas, a tropical flowering plant that does even better as the summer gets hotter. If you find yourself short for space in your outdoor living area, he says a sitting wall can solve the problem. These walls are typically made of the same pavers as your patio and come to the height of a normal chair. A nice vertical element is achieved with this type of outdoor enhancement.

Finally, for the true gardener at heart, a container garden may be in store. Consider some of your favorite veggies and fruits for a decorative yet functional addition to your deck or patio setting.

“With such great interest in growing your own food today, I’d suggest vegetables and herbs that can easily be grown in containers on a deck,” says Adam W. Latham, ASLA, sole practitioner landscape architect with the Howland & Higgins Co. “A mix of a few herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, thyme, and rosemary in a large pot will supply plenty for home cooking needs. Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and cucumbers can be made more ornamental by selecting varieties with interesting colors and shapes of fruit and leaves,” Latham says. On a trellis, climbing annual vines such as scarlet runner bean and hyacinth bean can supply beautiful flowers and edible pods. For a more exotic flare, potted figs or lemons can be grown on a sunny deck in the summer and overwintered indoors.” 

Patio Sets and Deck Furniture Trends

Pergolas can provide shade, privacy, and an attractive way to showcase climbing vines.  Photo courtesy of Joseph C. Cracco, Modern Yankee Builders, Inc.
Tables, chairs, and loungers designed specifically for the outdoor elements greatly enhance the look and feel of your patio or deck. The right set of furniture makes your outside setting so much more inviting and just about guarantees you will be spending more time enjoying all that Mother Nature has to offer. Patio furniture allows you to relax, get lost in conversation, and enjoy a wonderful meal al fresco. 

“We manufacture high-density polyethylene outdoor furniture; it is quite the trend right now,” says Andy Boyce, vice president of sales at Seaside Casual Furniture. “High-density polyethylene outdoor furniture is really the number one growth category in the industry, not just regionally, but nationally. It looks like wood but there’s no maintenance. We have 13 different colors and several fabrics that we offer.”

Gerry Auclair, president of Custom Craft, Inc., says that teak furniture, wicker, and poly furniture are very popular now. His company offers more than 150 fabrics in their line of custom outdoor cushions, pads, and related accessories. “The 100% solution-dyed acrylic fabrics named ‘Sunbrella’ and ‘Outdura’ are the most popular fabrics,” he says. “These fabrics are very durable, water-resistant, mildew-resistant, and are excellent in color fastness.”

Auclair explains that customers looking to spruce up their existing patio furniture have countless options when it comes to the hundreds of fabrics available in a diverse array of colors and weaves. He says coordinating toss pillows and umbrellas are a great way to accessorize your deck or patio area.  “As a cushion manufacturer, the first way to enhance your patio is with new cushions,” Auclair says. “Even old furniture can look great with new cushions.”

Additional Accents for Your Deck

Outdoor entertaining is a favorite summer pastime for people of all ages. Countless options exist for sprucing up your deck and patio areas with everything from outdoor televisions and sound systems to fountains, fire pits, and the perfect mood lighting. 

“Don’t forget the lighting!” says Sam Brusco of Brusco Design & Renovation. “Lights built into your deck are not only decorative, but they keep you safe. Most people put floodlights on the side of their house to light the deck. Although this is surely enough to light up your deck (and probably your whole backyard), you should consider a lantern or some other attractive light fixture instead, and save the search light for another spot on your house. Too much light (and the bugs attracted by it) usually ruins a party or a romantic evening.

“You will also need separate lighting for your stairs. Even if you go with the 500-watt mega-light, your steps will be dark. There’s no fun in falling flat on your face. So, involve a licensed electrician in the planning and construction of your deck. You’ll enjoy your deck more and you’ll enjoy it in safety.”

While the weather keeps getting warmer, give some serious thought to the different ways you can enhance your deck or patio area. Remember, a comfortable and functional outdoor living space pays happy, healthy dividends for a lifetime to come.

Gardening in the Shade

Martin’s Garden Notes

There are plenty of options now for gardens in the shade. Often interesting foliage plants like Hostas are excellent for providing structure for your shade garden.  Astilbe, with plumes of white, pink or red or Pulmonaria offering speckled foliage and pink, white or blue blooms inn early spring add color. Old fashioned Bleeding Heart blooms beautifuly in early spring while the dwarf forms bloom all summer.

Groundcovers are effective in the shade including pachysandra, and myrtle. Be cautious with ivy as it is quite agressive and hard to control when established. One Pachysandra discovered by a nursery in Connecticut is called Green Sheen is slower growing with glossy foliage. Introducing scattered groups of other perennials like hostas in a bed of groundcover adds interest to the space.

Several perennials bloom late in the season in the shade including Toad Lily with speckled blooms in October. European Ginger, Ferns, Andrmeda and Japanese Holly also work well.

All these add up to interesting possibilities for your shady garden. 

A New Use for an Old Adage

Written by Lynn Merrill

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue — every bride has probably heard this saying. There’s a reason it resists getting passé. When those items are combined, they bring together a pleasing and meaningful composite both to the psyche and to the eye. But the adage is not just for brides anymore. Experiment in the garden, and you’ll find that the old adage is a winning formula for gardeners, too.

There is a touch of history when bringing something old into your garden. Old is defined as tried and true plants that have been mainstays of gardens since Shakespeare’s time. “A rose is just a rose” becomes a link with the past, as well as a connection to the future. There are a number of “old” roses that can add a wonderful dimension to your garden. Roses evoke an element of romance, especially those introduced before the first hybrid tea rose was developed in 1867. These have survived because of their own toughness, without human interventions such as the use of pesticides. Old roses have a variety of different shapes and sizes. While they come in fewer colors, they have something that’s missing in the newer roses — their strong fragrance!

The majority of the old roses existed before the yellow rose from China, so colors are limited. Old roses bloom all at once in late spring, with no need to deadhead — a plus. The spent blooms make attractive rosehips that feed wildlife. They are undemanding and pleasant in every other way. Old roses have a gracefulness, charm, and delicacy rarely found in modern plants. These vintage charmers should have a place in the modern garden. The one drawback is they are not usually found in your local nursery. Instead, most are sold through websites by small growers. 

“Something new” conjures up thoughts of going out to your local nursery to see just what is on the shelves for the 2011 season. It has always puzzled me how the nurserymen/women come up with the names of new varieties. Take these, for example:

  • Pretty Petticoat Penstemon, Cassian Fountain Grass, Double Trouble
  • Helenium, Mr. Goodbud Sedum, Just Plum Happy Daylily, Freckle
  • Face Candy Lily, and Bonbini Lily to name a few.

Hybridizers are always coming up with new varieties to impress gardeners. If you find you like a certain plant in your garden, it may have a new strain at the nursery this year. Let’s say you like the way hollyhocks look and grow in your garden. Well, there is now a new one called Mars Magic that is truly a perennial plant. This “something new” has brilliant red flowers.

For your shade garden, you may wish to try the Uvularia. It’s a North American native that brings a bright yellow hanging flower from emerging green plants. It’s easy to grow and a long lived perennial for under trees or the edge of woodlands. Or you could always try a Thunder and Lightning Knautia. It produces rich ruby red double flowers above light green and cream foliage. If you like a more familiar-sounding plant, how about the Geranium Striatum? It’s a hardy geranium with lots of salmon flowers with rosy ink highlights. It makes a neat mound in a container or can serve as a ground cover. It’s always a treat to try something new so that your garden never becomes static or tiresomely commonplace.     

Something borrowed may require further explanation. Gardeners everywhere love to share a particular favorite plant in their gardens with friends, relatives, and special people. They know those people will give that shared plant tender loving care. The borrowing comes into play when the first gardener’s favorite plant is spent or no longer appears, and the friend with whom she shared the plant returns the favor. It’s a custom that revolves around taking cuttings, separating offshoots, dividing root systems, and other methods of division and propagation. As far as gift giving is concerned, these are the treasures that remind us of the gift giver each time the plant reappears.

My own experience involves a dear friend who had shared with me a slip of her “chocolate soldier” begonia. It had a beautiful red flower — unusual for a begonia, I thought. The same year her husband passed away, she lost her begonia. At that time, mine had tripled in size and I was able to return to her an offspring of her own plant. There is a certain reward in returning a borrowed gift. Information about the proper way of “sharing” through division can be found if you Google that particular plant or research it at your local library.

Something blue! Gardeners could talk about blue flowers until they were blue in the face! The problem with blue flowers is that they are limited in selection, especially the “true blues.” For a flower to be truly blue, it should not have any hint of pink or purple in it. There are many common terms used to describe blue flowers, such as baby blue, light blue, powder blue, sky blue, flax blue, forget-me-not-blue, gentian blue, and cornflower blue. So there are many tones and hues of blues. One of my favorite blues is the Amsonia tabernaemontana, a hardy herbaceous perennial. It comes in several varieties and shades of blue — some almost ice blue, while there is also a navy blue. This is a plant that is non-demanding and will return year after year as beautiful as the first year.

While the Amsonia is less formal in a garden, the Lily of the Nile or Agapanthus is anything but informal. It is usually found in containers because of its distinctive, showy appearance. It requires large containers with good drainage to support the development of its fleshy tuberous roots. The genus name is Greek for “love flower.”

Some of the first blue flowers to appear in spring are the muscari or grape hyacinths. Scilla bifolia var. taurica is a deeper blue. Then there is Delphinium ‘Summer Skies’ which tends to be more blue-violet. Another blue that is close to a true blue is Plumbago auriculata (cape leadwort). It has the distinct feature of leaving beautiful dark pods in the fall that make a soothing clicking sound in the wind. Still another blue flower is the hydrangea, most popular

in the PeeGee variety. Echinops exaltus (Russian globe thistle), Eryngium alpinum ‘Blue Star’ (Sea Holly), and Allium beesianum all have a common round shape and similar blue color.

A list of blue flowers would not be complete without including Salvia ‘Black and Blue’ or Gentiana andrewsii. The salvia is the darkest of blues, while the gentian is closer to a true blue. Blue flowers should be incorporated in every garden because the color plays off other colors, especially yellows and reds. Try some combinations with blue flowers and you’ll see for yourself.

Versatile Lilacs

Martin’s Garden Notes

lilacs are shrubs that offer a lot of diversity. We are all familiar with the Old Fashion Lilac with it’s wonderful fragrance. Related varieties include all of the ” french hybrids” which were derived from our old fasioned favorite. Most offer the nice fragrance and a wide range of colors. Powderly mildue, common on these lilacs, can be unsightly but will cause no permanant harm to the plants. Spraying in early summer will make it less of a problem.

We have recently started to grow a selection of ‘hyacinthaflora’ types that offer great scent and a blooming period that is a little in advance of the old fasioned and the French Hybrids.

Following up these lilacs are several small leafed forms that bloom later to extend the season. Miss Kimm a lavender blue is a fovorite because it flowers freely, has nice scent and blooms after old fashioned types. A nice dwarf, the korean lilac (Syringa palabaiana ) often blooms twice.

Most lilacs can be pruned by removing a fwe older limbs to the ground every year just after bloom. This will generate new healthy shoots to keep the plant productive and contained.