Hydrangea is a valuable genus of some 100 species of shrubs and vines grown for their large and spectacular flower heads. Beloved for centuries, they’re vigorous, of easy care, and attractive at virtually every stage of growth. In addition, they are at their showy best in summer and fall – a time when many woody plants are resting.
Most Hydrangeas are not fussy as long as they receive their preferred amount of sunlight (generally full sun to part shade) and are planted in moist, well-drained loamy soil. They will thrive in coastal areas since they can tolerate high winds and salt. Hydrangeas do need water if it doesn’t rain but are otherwise undemanding. Click here for the complete guide on growing Hydrangeas.
In recent years breakthroughs in breeding have produced exciting new varieties that bloom on old and new wood. ‘Blushing Bride’ and Endless Summer® are among these exceptional long bloomers. They flower on old wood starting late spring and then on new growth in midsummer. In warm climates, such as Zones 4-5, since bloom on new wood is reliable, even after a severe winter. Regular deadheading of these varieties helps encourage rebloom. For tips on pruning all varieties of Hydrangea, click here.
In addition to extended blooming periods, some of the newer varieties also display amazing color combinations. Vanilla Strawberry™ has red stems with large, creamy white flower heads that turn strawberry red to burgundy. As new flower heads keep coming, all three color stages appear together. Unlike varieties of Hydrangea macrophylla that produce blue flowers in acid soils or pink in alkaline soils, this beauty — voted Top Plant for 2010 by the American Nursery and Landscape Association — will remain pink and white regardless of pH.
In addition to creating a beautiful garden display, Hydrangea blooms make exceptional dried flowers. Mopheads and Lacecaps are the most widely grown varieties, and of these, is is the mophead that makes the best candidate for drying.
Both mature blooms and freshly opened flowers can be dried, each with a different technique. Late in the season (August to October, depending on the variety) cut blossoms that are starting to fade a bit, but before they turn brown, and include about 12in of the stem with them. Just strip off the leaves and dry the stems in a vase, either with or without water, away from direct sun. If you dry them in water, only use a few inches in the vase and let the water evaporated without replenishing. The stems can also be hung upside down in a cool, dry place out of direct sun.
Fresh, newly opened blooms can be dried in silica gel. Place about an inch of the gel in the bottom of a large container. Hold the blossoms upside down on the gel (make sure they have no moisture on them), and carefully sift gel over them until they are covered. Place a cover on the container. After four days, gently pour all the silica onto newspaper (you can save the gel for future use). The blooms are now ready to use in an arrangement.
Visitors to the display gardens at the farm will see Alliums highlighted in many attractive plant combinations. Oriental Poppies make a particularly dramatic partner; others that we favor include Achillea, Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle), Bearded Iris, Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’, Slavia ‘May Night’, and Stachys ‘Big Ears’.
Because the leaves of larger Alliums tend to fade away just as their distinctive flower heads are at their peak, we often plant the bulbs behind or among perennials in the first or second row of a border. The Alliums’ slender stems rise above the fresh foliage of the perennials, and their flower heads appear to be floating.
Alliums prefer full sun and need good drainage, especially in the winter; given the right spot, they will provide years of pleasure. Another plus: both deer and rodents find them distasteful.
Now is the best time to choose Oriental Poppies to glorify your garden borders next summer. After their blossoms fade, the hairy, sold green foliage goes dormant, so plan to fill the gap with annuals such as Cosmos or Nicotiana, or with tropicals such as Daylilies or Shasta Daisies, Yarrow, and other cottage-garden stalwarts.
Georgia O’Keeffe celebrated fiery orange-red Oriental Poppies in one of her famous paintings. Since then, a breeding bonanza has made other enticing colors as well. Intensely saturated hues, including brilliant oranges and reds, are still popular for their powerful impact, but new varieties also offer subtle effects with pastel blooms in pinks and soft salmon, warm whites, or vibrant shades of plum and purplish pink.
This easy-care, long-lived perennial looks equally at home in cottage gardens or perennial borders. Plant your Poppies in full sun and well-drained soil as soon as possible after they arrive. They will thrive in the coldest climates but don’t hold up well in the heat and humidity of the deep south.
After one of the coldest Aprils since the late 1880s, spring finally broke through in early May (along with a few days in the upper 80s that felt like high summer). The temperature swings notwithstanding, our gardening season is, at last, underway in earnest, and there is no shortage of projects to keep us occupied.
The most fun is a major revision to our display gardens in Morris, CT. Last fall we cleared a large border that, for many years, featured flowering shrubs such as Hydrangea and Viburnum. These were lovely specimens all, and we came to know them well. This border’s next incarnation is as home to an extensive Rose trial and display garden that we expect to be in place for at least 10 years. We will be testing for color, height, fragrance, bloom time, hardiness, disease resistance, and, above all, visitors’ enthusiasm. The species and cultivars will be many and varied, including traditional favorites as basis for comparison for nearly countless new introductions and discoveries. The garden also will incorporate a changing palette of our favorite “companion plants” whose appearance and cultural requirements encourage cohabitation with Roses (and whose presence will support the garden’s overall health). The potential combinations are nearly infinite, a glorious opportunity for self-expression, which we trust you will enjoy and emulate. Our head gardener Cheryl Whalen is shepherding this exciting project, with support from our product development team, and we’re thrilled also to have the assistance of noted landscape architect/designer Julie Moir Messervy and her team at JMMDS (Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio).
Elsewhere on the property, the spring punch list is less picturesque but almost as entertaining. As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, we’re installing a sizable solar array, which we anticipate will provide roughly 80% of the nursery’s power needs. We’re excited to be taking a big step towards reducing our carbon footprint, and as old, inefficient infrastructure around the nursery is replaced with more efficient technology, we’ll continue to progress in that direction.
Then there’s the “off-site” work, which, although not immediately visible to visitors, is critical to keeping the array of products we offer to you fresh and interesting. This spring the team has already been in England, the Netherlands, California, and all over the Eastern seaboard researching new plant introductions and bringing home ideas for the catalogs of spring 2019 and beyond. We suppose that all businesses operate in both today and tomorrow, but because of the long lead times in the plant trade, we are especially cognizant of simultaneously working on long-term plans while carefully watching tonight’s weather. Such is the nursery business!
Refer a Friend
Across the decades, our customers have introduced us to a great number of their friends – fellow gardeners and flower lovers who have become valued customers in their own right. To encourage you to introduce your friends to us, we’re pleased to suggest our new Refer a Friend program. When you welcome a friend to White Flower Farm, he or she will receive a $5 coupon for use online, by phone, or via mail order. If your friend makes a purchase, you’ll receive your own $5 coupon, which is our way of saying thank you. Referring is easy. Simply click here and fill in a few blanks. You’re welcome to refer as many friends as you like. There is no limit to the number of coupons you can earn.
Join Us for the 13th Annual Great Tomato Celebration
Our greenhouses are spilling over with more than 100 varieties of Tomato seedlings, including heirlooms and top-rated modern hybrids (all non-GMO), plus fruit and vegetable plants, and a variety of growing supplies for this year’s kitchen garden. We hope you’ll join us Friday, May 18, through Sunday, May 20, when we put everything outdoors for sale at our 13th Annual Great Tomato Celebration. The three-day event is held rain or shine on the hillside adjacent to the White Flower Farm store in Morris, CT. Our staff will be on hand to answer your questions. On Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m., our nursery manager and expert Tomato-grower Barb Pierson will give free talks on Top Tips for Growing Tomatoes and Veggies. A catering truck will be on the premises, with breakfast and lunch fare available for sale. Bring your shopping lists, your questions, and your appetite. We look forward to seeing you.
As you dig into the gardening season at your house, keep in mind we’re here to answer questions, assist you in finding the plants and supplies you need, and to help you create your best garden ever.
Hostas are popular shade plants for good reason. They are easy to grow and have minimal maintenance requirements. They are the perfect ground cover for shady gardens, providing a verdant background for colorful bloomers such as Impatiens, Begonias, Astilbes, Foxgloves, and Coral Bells (Heuchera). They also combine well with Ferns, providing a pleasing textural contrast.
Hostas come in a wide range of sizes that makes them suitable for gardens large and small. The diminutive miniatures grow only a few inches tall and wide while some large leaf varieties top out at about 4′ tall. Some of these large varieties form spreading mounds 8′ or more across.
Leaf colors range from all shades of green to blue-gray to golden yellow and creamy white. Foliage may be solid, mottled, or variegated. Many varieties sport a margin in a contrasting color. While most Hostas are grown primarily for their foliage, many produce lovely summer blooms as well. Flowers range from lavender to white. Those that are hybridized from Hosta plantaginea are often highly fragrant.
All Hostas perform best in rich, organic, well-drained and slightly acid soil. Incorporating compost or aged manure into the soil prior to planting is recommended. If granular fertilizer is used after the first year in your garden, be sure it does not contact the leaves or it may cause burning. A topdressing with compost in the spring is usually sufficient.
Hostas will appreciate regular watering, particularly during their first year while their roots establish. A good rule of thumb is to provide about an inch of water each week. To help minimize moisture loss and moderate the soil temperature, cover the soil around Hostas with organic mulch. Eventually the leaves may form a solid ground covering and mulching will be unnecessary.
Creative gardeners like to display their old favorites in new ways. Perking up spring borders with bulbs and converting a section of sunny lawn into a field of Lavender are just a few ideas. Nevertheless, containers offer the broadest design opportunities for every plant type – from annuals, bulbs, and perennials to shrubs and trees.
Flank an entrance with a matching pair of flowering shrubs or evergreens; plant a magnificent urn for a garden focal point; train vines on tuteurs set in big tubs.
Window boxes, Strawberry pots, and hanging baskets offer versatile solutions that can change with each season.
For spontaneous garden whimsy, plant colorful annuals in oddball containers: a rusted coalscuttle, wheelbarrow, rubber boot, doll cradle, colander, old tool tote – whatever strikes your fancy. Remember, though, that containers look best in groups of similar materials. (To allow for drainage, it’s best that each container have at least one hole in the bottom.)
Growing requirements for plants potted in containers are typically the same as for those planted in the ground, except that container plants will need more frequent watering and feeding. Use a moistened potting mix and give the pot a good soaking after planting, then let the soil dry to the touch before watering again. With shrubs, slower growing species are the best choice for containers; allow enough space to fit the root ball comfortably. Check our Growing Guides for information on the requirements for individual plants.
Look for more inspirations in the Gardening Help section of our website. Enjoy!
It was a heck of a winter here in the Northeast, and we use the past tense hesitantly because we’re now in the midst of one of the cruelest and coldest Aprils any of us can remember. The calendar says April, but it feels more like February. But even if the temperatures remain significantly below normal for this time of year, and even if our gardens are still being glazed by sleet and occasional snow, spring finally seems to be making a stand. At least that’s what some of our favorite, most reliable perennials are telling us.
These quiet stars of the early spring garden won’t upstage the colorful blossoms of Crocus, Daffodils, Hyacinths and Tulips, but they’re among the first perennials to emerge and they go on to give the some of the longest performances of any herbaceous garden plants, finishing only with the arrival of hard frost. The sight of these stalwarts never fails to stir our hearts. They soldier through the most brutal winters, and as the first signs of spring begin to appear, they bring color, anticipation and even hope to a new season. A handful of these plants are past winners of the Perennial Plant of the Year award, and they’re among the most garden worthy plants we know. Below, we show each of them breaking ground in early spring, then, in a second shot, you’ll see the same plants at the peak of their development later in the season. The “spring” photos were all taken in mid-April in a Zone 6a Connecticut garden amid the snow, sleet and chill of this late spring. The plants, as you’ll see, were unfazed. Roused by the strengthening sunlight and longer days, their presence keeps insisting that spring has arrived, even if Old Man Winter hasn’t quite gotten the message.
Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ (False Forget-Me-Not)
Prompt in its early spring arrival, the heart-shaped foliage of this shade garden favorite is a delight to behold. The green leaves, veiled and veined in silver, first appear as tiny as teardrops, and they gradually gain in size. Sprays of small blue flowers resembling Forget-Me-Nots arrive on slender stems in May and June, but it’s the foliage that counts. It continues looking beautiful straight through until autumn’s hard frost.
Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle)
A fuss-free beauty for the edge of part-shade borders, this tough but lovely plant is utterly distinctive in color and foliage. Pleated buds open into broad, kidney-shaped leaves with scalloped edges. The soft green color of the leaves blends beautifully with purples, blues, and pinks, and the the frothy chartreuse flower clusters that emerge in June and July energize and enliven any border’s edge.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
This essential, drought-tolerant perennial for hot, sunny gardens is simply unstoppable. The thick, blue-green succulent foliage breaks ground at the first signs of spring then rises on stems to 18-24”. Greenish-white flower clusters cap the mounding plants in summer, and the flowers open rosy pink in August. Toward fall, they deepen to wine, and they can be left on the plant to dry and catch snowflakes in winter.
Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint)
This Lavender-lookalike is one of the great garden plants. Starting early, it sends up masses of gray-green leaves, which appear in tidy mounds that are perfect for edging a border or walkway. As the weather warms, plants produce flower spikes with the lavender-blue blossoms. Adding to the pleasures this plant provides is the tangy scent of its leaves, which stirs the senses at the start of the gardening season. To help plants maintain a neat habit, shear them back by two-thirds after the first bloom. Plants will continue flowering until frost.
Geranium ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’
This Scented Geranium at first seems too pedestrian to belong on many must-have lists, but when you see the way it performs in your garden, you’ll want more. A superb ground cover for sun to part-shade, this rugged, carefree grower produces a mound of deeply dissected green leaves that look fabulous all season long. Spring brings a sprinkling of 1” pastel pink blossoms, but we love it best for the beautiful, aromatic foliage that blazes orange and red in the fall. These plants spread efficiently but are not invasive, they tolerate dry shade, and they smother weeds in the bargain.
Iris pallida ‘Variegata’
Like rays of sun emerging from the soil in spring, the yellow-variegated blades of this exceptional Iris show themselves early. The warm golden color is welcome in the spring garden, but so too is the foliage form, which creates lovely contrast amid a variety of bulbs. Lavender-blue blooms appear in June, and they carry a scent that is one of the great perfumes of spring. As the season progresses, the yellow variegation in the foliage shades to cream, like shifting light in the garden.
Phlox ‘Blue Paradise’
The first leaves of this favorite Phlox emerge green suffused with deep maroon in a colorful celebration of the start of spring. By summer, stunning flowers open in shades of blue and purple that change with the light of day. In the morning and evening hours, the flowers are deep blue. At midday, they change to purple. This favorite of Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. It’s beautiful planted with Ornamental Grasses or amid the feathery foliage of Amsonia hubrichtii.
Paths serve many functions in a landscape, both practical and esthetic. A paved one can lead guests, mud-free, to the front door, or allow you to fetch the mail every day. A gravel path might provide access to a storage shed or garage year-round to fetch the lawnmower and snow shovels. A grass or mulch pathway could lead to the vegetable garden, or invite you to explore the far end of the backyard among shrubs and ferns. Paths should be treated as important design elements, allowing you to link different parts of your landscape or simply draw your eye to various focal points. Sometimes it helps to imagine yourself as a designer, not just a gardener!
Here are some ways to meet the challenge of creating successful pathways that are functional as well as pleasing to the eye.
Start with long-blooming perennials and those with handsome foliage. For a long walkway, plan to repeat some of the elements to impart a sense of unity.
Vary foliage texture for the most interesting display. Start with your favorite varieties and then look for contrast — narrow and broad-leaved or feathery and ferny leaves. For a full to partial sun location, consider the scalloped, sage green leaves of Lady’s Mantle and deeply cut foliage of hardy Geraniums. For the shade, Hostas provide handsome leaf coloration with varying shapes and sizes.
Consider compact shrubs for plenty of easy-care color. For partial or full sun, a number of Hydrangea varieties stay relatively short (3-4ft) and provide lush, showy flower heads. For full sun, there’s a whole new generation of Butterfly Bushes that mature 3-5ft tall with long-lasting, fragrant blooms.
Add romance by letting some plants grow over the path’s edge. Imagine a tumble of colorful perennial blooms such as Dianthus, Nepeta, or Coreopsis. Or the blade-like foliage of Ornamental Grasses that catch the slightest breeze and provide a sense of movement.
Using the path in the evening? White flowers remain visible for a long time after sunset, and reflect the tiniest bit of light. Hardy perennials such as white Astilbes, Gypsophila, and Leucanthemum will look clean and crisp during the day and glow at twilight.
Consider adding some annuals to a walkway, especially in the shade. Coleus, Begonias, and Impatiens provide long-lasting color and form tucked between perennials along a path.
For a simple, elegant display, a hedge-like planting of fragrant Lavender will transport you to Provence as you stroll along your sunny pathway. Plants are deer-resistant and stay attractive long after the spent blooms have been clipped off.
These ideas are just the starting points for successful pathway plantings.
Enjoying a beautiful garden is easy, but the maintenance can be cumbersome. For some of us, other commitments – jobs, children, spouses – make it difficult to spend every daylight hour in the garden. There are many factors to consider when planning a garden and no two gardens are alike. Each come with their own set of specific needs or requirements that can make it difficult to balance beautiful plants with little maintenance. Your garden might have a great deal of shade, drought conditions, deer in the yard, a small space, or a limited time to tend plants. You might want to attract pollinators, plant natives, or reduce the amount of weeding you’re doing. Whatever the aim or circumstances, the key is choosing the right plants for your garden solution.
If you live where drought is a frequent fact of life, it’s possible to have a lovely garden. Your plant palette is more colorful than you might expect. Even the most drought-tolerant plants do need some supplemental water to become established, however.
One of our favorites to combat drought is Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’. There are four species of Liriope (commonly called Lilyturf), all Asian natives, and are evergreen perennials that spread to form deep carpets of grasslike leaves. Plants here are happy in practically any light conditions, including dense shade, and will tolerate prolonged dry spells without a whimper (they require afternoon shade in the South and West and falter in desert regions). If the foliage looks tattered by winter’s end, it can be mowed to the ground before new growth starts.
If you have a shady spot in your garden or on your patio, these plants will suit nicely. They will perform beautifully in part shade (which we casually define as 3-4 hours of sun per day) to full shade (spots that receive no direct sun at all).
The old-fashioned Bleeding Heart has been a garden favorite for years. It bears long arching racemes of heart-shaped pink flowers. Bloom time starts here in early May and lasts several weeks, subsiding with the arrival of summer heat. Plants often go dormant in mid-summer. Interplant with Ferns and Hostas to fill the breach. If moisture is reliable, they will grow in full sun here in Litchfield. Long-lived and reliable year after year.
All gardeners know they are never alone in the garden. Insects, birds, earthworms, fungi, deer, voles, and many other creatures may visit or live among the plants and in the soil. By including native plants in your landscape, you can supply local wildlife, such as butterflies, with the food and habitat they need for survival. Native plants are well adapted to local conditions and will often thrive with less care than a non-native plant. One of our favorite native plants is Asclepias Gay Butterflies Mixture.
Of the 200 species in the genus Asclepias, the best known are North American wildflowers. They have small, curiously shaped blooms that appear in dense clusters. These plants provide nourishment for Monarch butterflies through all their life stages, and are essential for their survival.
If deer treat your garden like a buffet provided just for them, there’s an easy solution. Grow plants that aren’t choice items on their menu. Deer will ignore many colorful and attractive plants, and it is possible to create a lovely garden that provides a long season of bloom with varied foliage forms and colors using deer-resistant plants.
Create a serene oasis in shade with perennials that are as graceful as they are rugged, and, just as important to many gardeners, unpalatable to deer. The Tough as Nails Deer Resistant Garden for Shade features a trio of Astilbes with starry pink, red, and white spires and feathery leaves. Their easy-care companions include Lady Ferns, golden Japanese Forest Grass, and Lamium ‘Pink Pewter,’ a vigorous (but not aggressive), mat-forming ground cover with silver-gray leaves and pretty clear pink flowers.
There are many solutions available for each and every garden and attaining a beautiful yard is not out of reach regardless of the needs your yard may require.
This year it seems as if winter just won’t loosen its hold on us. As soon as it begins to warm here in New England, there is yet another snowstorm on the horizon. However, we don’t let the cold snowy days stop us from dreaming of spring. Even as the first green shoots of Daffodils begin to triumph over winter, you can decorate and celebrate the arrival of a new season inside.
Now is the perfect time to change up your indoor decor for the new season. Even though the first day of spring has passed, more cheerful days are ahead. Our colorful Indoor wreaths help bring the garden inside by providing an array of flowers and textures that mimic what is to come in our own yards. These wreaths evoke the colorful spring days that await us.
Whatever the weather outside, our beautiful fresh bouquets will make your home bright and cheery. We love adding bouquets to help freshen up our indoor decor with spectacular blooms and fragrance. We work with specialty growers to provide long-lasting bouquets. These are shipped in bud stage to allow you maximum enjoyment upon arrival.
You can also try sprucing up your indoor pots and containers to showcase the essence of spring. We love the idea of gardening indoors so we use pottery and containers for herbs and small plants. These are perfect for windowsills and small spaces.
Plant stands and trays are a wonderful way to elevate houseplants and add interest to your indoor decor. These also help protect furniture while adding style.
We hope these decorating ideas have you thinking of spring as much as we are!
With so many varieties of Tomatoes available, it can be hard to decide which kinds to grow. To simplify your choices, first decide where you’ll be growing your Tomatoes and how you plan to use your crop.
If you don’t have a lot of outdoor space, try container gardening. Look for descriptive terms like “compact,” “dwarf,” “patio” or “determinate” for best success. Whether in containers or a garden, always choose a location in full sun, which means a minimum of 6 hours of direct sun per day.
Select large-fruited Tomatoes such as beefsteaks for slicing, paste varieties (sometimes also called plum Tomatoes) for sauce or juice, cherries for salads and snacks, and heirlooms for their unique flavors and historic appeal. The following terms also will help you choose the right varieties for your purposes:
“Determinate” means the plants stop growing at a certain height, rather than continuing to grow all summer. Their fruits ripen all at once so you’ll have a single harvest (which is terrific for things like making sauce or canning), rather than the ongoing or more staggered harvest provided by Indeterminate varieties. Determinate varieties grow well in containers because they are more compact and need less staking.
“Indeterminate” Tomatoes are a good choice for planting out in gardens because they produce higher yields and continue growing as long as the weather is warm and sunny. Their vines will sprawl over the ground unless you stake or cage them; or you can cover the ground with mulch to keep the fruits from touching the soil. A few of our favorite varieties are the snack-size cherry ‘Sungold’ and heirloom ‘Black Prince’.
“Ripens XXX days from transplant” means fruits will ripen and be ready for picking in roughly the number of days that are given in place of the XXXs above. The countdown starts on the date you plant a particular Tomato in the ground or in a container. Early varieties ripen about 60 days from transplant; late varieties may take 80-90 days.
Remember to include a few herb plants on your shopping list – they are perfect companions for both fresh and cooked Tomatoes. One of our favorite summer salads is the classic Caprese, which features fresh sliced Tomatoes alternating with slices of Mozzarella cheese and topped with fresh Basil leaves and good olive oil.