Category Archives: Garden Design

Long-Season Hummingbird Garden

Invite Hummingbirds to the Garden

Hummingbirds are enchanting visitors to any garden. Small, fast, and as aerially sophisticated as helicopters, they zip around, feeding at nectar-rich blossoms. By planting the natural food sources they prefer, you’re sure to welcome these delightful little birds to your garden. Hummingbird feeders are another great way to entice them to your yard, and they’ll begin to investigate these as a possible new food source. Below are some of our favorite perennial plants and products, all of which will entice these remarkable flyers.

Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’

Hummingbirds are drawn to the brilliantly colored, bright magenta-red blossoms of Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine.’ These plants bloom long and hard and show excellent resistance to powdery mildew. A member of the Mint family, this vigorous Bee Balm will spread. Divide plants in spring and share with friends. A White Flower Farm introduction in 1992.

Asclepias ‘Cinderella’

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. Asclepias ‘Cinderella’ is a genuine star with unusually dense clusters of pale pink flowers that open from dark pink buds. The vanilla-scented flowers last well in winter and attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’

Agastache is a genus of about 30 aromatic species native to central and eastern Asia, Mexico, and the United States. Careful breeding and selection have given us newcomers that offer exceptional garden performance and a long season of bloom. Robust Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ produces a mass of soft powder-blue flower spikes from July onwards, making it a magnet for butterflies and admiring visitors alike.

Lonicera ‘Major Wheeler’

Bring on the hummingbirds! Lonicera ‘Major Wheeler’ produces a blanket of tubular, reddish orange flowers (coral shades on the West Coast) from late spring through summer. Later, the red berries attract goldfinches and robins. It’s a selection of our native species, Lonicera sempervirens, and plants are both carefree and noninvasive.

Hand-Painted Hummingbird Feeder

In addition to enchanting us with their aerial acrobatics, hummingbirds can be a beneficial presence in the garden. A great way to encourage them to take up residence or visit often is to utilize hummingbird feeders. Our Hand-Painted Hummingbird Feeder is made in Mexico from recycled green glass that’s hand-blown in the shape of a blossom then painted by artists. Each brightly colored, beautifully constructed nectar feeder is secured by a metal stand that pushes easily into the ground.

 

Summer Garden To-Do List

During the hot and hazy mid-summer, the list of garden chores is whittled down to a few: watering, deadheading, watering, weeding, and watering.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to water, it’s a great idea to invest in a timer. Whether you prefer a simple mechanical timer or a more elaborate digital one, you can set the timer before you leave for work in the morning, so you water in the coolest part of the day. That wastes less water through evaporation. The theory is that water will evaporate, much like dew, and be less likely to cause fungal problems than night-time watering. We try to drag the sprinkler and hose into position the evening before.

Haws Watering Can

Most plants need an inch or two a week of water. In the garden, it’s better to deliver a single deep soaking than dribble a little water every day. Deep watering encourages roots to drive deep, making the plants less susceptible to wilting. Plants in containers may need watering daily – even twice a day. Check the soil first, though – overwatering is the biggest cause of death for container plants. The soil should be allowed to dry out a bit between waterings, although not so much that plants wilt.

Weeding in the garden utilizing our Tub Trug, Perfect Garden Gloves and Garden Hat.

Most gardeners wouldn’t rank weeding as their most pleasurable task, but because it’s something that must be done, it’s best to make it as easy as possible. There is an array of top quality tools designed to help eradicate weeds of various types in a variety of locations. An Easy-Glide Garden Hoe works beautifully in borders and the Tight Spots Weeding Tool dislodges weeds that find their way into crevices and cracks. In addition to having the right tools and supplies (like a good Trug to haul away weeds), our advice is to weed after it rains or after a good watering. The roots of most weeds yield more easily when the ground is moist.

Shaped like a small harpoon, this remarkable tool is designed to help gardeners remove weeds from around the bases of perennials and shrubs without damaging those valuable garden plants.

Although deadheading can be a tedious task, it is one that is necessary and will reward you in the end. This will help keep your garden looking fresh and tidy. However,  another important benefit of deadheading is to help produce blooms for the rest of the growing season. The process of deadheading includes removing spent flowers, either with hand pruners or the tips of your fingers by pinching off the tips of the plant. By doing this, taking care to remove the ovaries,  you are helping redirect energy back into the plant. This will help to encourage another flush of flowers in many perennials. Leaving you with a longer period of time to enjoy the flowers and blossoms in your garden.

 

Best Long-Bloomers for Seasons of Color

By mid- to late summer, many plants have finished their showy season while others are still going strong. These long-lasting late bloomers can serve as “anchors” for a summer garden that looks exuberant well into August and September. Some of these plants include native species such as Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Monarda, and Coreopsis. They’re used to thriving despite the heat and sometimes drought.

Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’

Many of our favorite long-blooming perennials are not fussy about their growing culture. Just plant them in good loamy soil. Full sun is often preferred but some do well in partial shade. Most blooming plants appreciate a little water during dry spells. Plan to water during cooler times of the day.

Rose Easy Elegance® Coral Cove

Roses and Hydrangeas are at their best through summer and into fall. Check the growing requirements for specific Roses, but generally, the long-blooming varieties are not finicky. Our Landscape Roses combine long bloom periods with carefree growing habits.

Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer®

Among the many choices for great Hydrangeas, you’ll find some that bloom in partial shade as well as full sun. New varieties that flower on both old and new wood, such as Endless Summer®, produce blossoms for up to four months.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’

Rudbeckia, Echinacea, and Geraniums (our favorites is ‘Rozanne’) will flower for weeks without assistance. Coreopsis and Salvia tend to rebloom more reliably if they are sheared back hard after the first full flush of flowers. Deadheading Lilies will help to keep them tidy. Enjoy your abundant blooms by cutting them for arrangements.

Fall-Blooming Bulbs

Magazines and TV talk shows exhort us to live in the moment, and gardening is a way to encourage that practice — to stop and smell the Roses. But Gardening is also very much about anticipation, eagerly looking ahead to the first ripe Tomato or the blooming of a favorite Perennial.

Crocus ‘Albus’

We find it’s easy to extend that sense of anticipation far beyond the summer growing season with Fall-blooming bulbs such as Crocus, Colchicums, Sternbergia, and Lycoris. These charmers provide a delightful way to bring the gardening year to a close.

Lycoris radiata

Like bulbs that flower in spring, most fall-flowering bulbs need a sunny or partly sunny site (although Lycoris radiata prefers partial shade in warm climates) and moderately fertile, well-drained soil. To improve drainage, incorporate organic matter into the soil and to boost fertility, apply bulb fertilizer on top of the ground after planting. Sternbergia often benefits from a bit of limestone worked into the soil.

Sternbergia lutea

Plant fall-flowering bulbs as soon as possible after you receive them because they need to establish their root systems. Plant Crocuses 2-3 in deep and 3in apart. Colchicum bulbs are larger; plant them 4-6in deep and 10-12in apart. Plant Sternbergia bulbs 6in deep and 4in apart. Set the bulbs of Lycoris so that the neck sits just below the soil surface and space them 5in apart.

Colchicum ‘Waterlily’

As long as the soil is well-drained, pests and diseases are rarely a problem with these bulbs. Deer and voles do not bother them. Fall-flowering Colchicums and Crocuses usually bloom about 3-6 weeks after planting. Lycoris requires more time to settle in; it may not bloom until the following year, but the wait is well worthwhile.

New Plants and Bulbs for Fall

Among the great pleasures of the nursery business is discovering new and unfamiliar plant varieties. These can be plants that are new to the market and or simply new to us. Choosing which of these plants to offer, and which our customers might find appealing and useful, is a very satisfying part of our job. Over the years, we’ve learned that “new” doesn’t always mean “better.” For that reason, we trial plants in our gardens extensively to make sure that every variety we offer lives up to grower’s claims, and meets our expectations and yours. Highlighted below you’ll find a handful of the new perennials and bulbs we’re offerings for the fall season.  Several are brand new to the trade, others are treasured varieties we are pleased to have discovered.

Named after the Italian for “my love,” this exquisite Jonquil is easy to fall for.

Jonquilla Daffodils like hot, baking summer sun and are well adapted to growing in the Deep South. They also thrive in cooler parts of the country. These Daffodils naturalize well, creating beautiful sweeps of color. Narcissus ‘Amore Mio’ features round, pristine white petals that surround a gently ruffled white corona, subtly suffused with just the hint of blush. The light perfume ensures you’ll never forget her. A favorite of our Dutch Daffodil breeder.

Pastel shades of yellow and blue combine in this springtime confection.

Iris are among the best-known and best-loved garden plants. Say the word “Iris,” and visions of brilliant June flowers come to mind. The chosen habitats of Iris range from standing water to formal borders, and there is scarcely a shade or combination of colors that can’t be found. We love Iris ‘Easter Candy’ for the beautiful play on colors. The soft yellow standards rise above a watery cascade of pale blue falls that are each set apart by a central stripe of darker blue. These plants also offer multiple stems with heavy bloom.

Aster novae-angliae ‘Vibrant Dome’

We count Asters among the great garden plants because many hold off blooming until late summer and fall when most flowers are spent. Let the raspberry-pink Daisy-like blooms of ‘Vibrant Dome’ introduce some hot summer color to your fall plantings. A sport of ‘Purple Dome,’ the plant was discovered by landscape designer Bobbie Schwartz in her garden, and it exhibits the same compact form and prolific blooming habit of its famous parent.

Tulip ‘Flames Mystery’

Fosteriana Tulip varieties are good choices for bedding, forcing, and perennializing. Tulips are happy in any good, well-drained garden soil. Eye-catching in both form and color, the fiery flowers of ‘Flames Mystery’ have pointed, twisting red petals with yellow bases. Combine their intensity with clouds of blue Forget-me-nots (Myosotis) for a showstopping display.

Allium giganteum

The genus Allium (the Latin means “garlic”) offers colorful, distinctive, and long-lasting forms that are standouts in the early summer garden. Tuck them among clumps of summer-flowering perennials where the Alliums’ withering foliage will be hidden by the expanding perennials. The bright, 5″ lilac flowers on 3–4′ stems appear in late June and grow quickly to a colossal size. The intriguing flowers of Allium giganteum start green, coloring first on top of the ball, then slowly becoming lilac. As they mature, they revert to green again, from the top down. This rugged Himalayan survived a midsummer tornado in 1989 without staking.

Plant Clematis for Extravagant Blooms

There’s a Clematis for virtually every garden situation: choose the taller varieties to cover an arbor or a trellis, and grow the shorter and non-climbing types through shrub roses and small trees. You can also select Clematis varieties with different bloom times for flowers in virtually every season except winter. Flowering periods begin in early spring with the compact alpinas and macropetalas, then progress through early summer with the large-flowering hybrids, and continue through late summer with the texensis and viticella varieties to a flourishing finish with the exuberant Sweet Autumn Clematis (C. terniflora, also known as C. paniculata).

We’re particularly fond of Clematis paniculata that grows on an old stone wellhead at the nursery (shown in photo) that’s over 10 years old.

The vining Clematis climb upward on supports to create aerial floral displays. Try pairing two varieties with blossoms similar in form but different in color to play off against each other, or combine with Climbing Roses for a glorious contrast of color and form. Clematis also partner wonderfully with other vines, shrubs, and small trees, adding a second season to spring bloomers such as Lilacs or Crabapples.

Clematis Rosemoor™ Gardini™ climbing our Cedar Tuteur

Because a Clematis climbs by twining its stems and leaf petioles around any narrow support, it is equally happy on trellising made of lathe, wire, bamboo, or rustic twigs. If you want the Clematis to grow up through a Rose, shrub, or small tree, plat it about a foot away from the base. With large trees, choose a vigorous variety and attach black nylon netting on the trunk for something it can cling to.

Dawn and Dusk Rose & Clematis Collection

Non-climbing Clematis species have a more upright, clump-forming habit and can be supported by pushing twiggy branches into the soil near the plant’s crown in early spring or by placing grow-through supports (such as those for Peonies) around the crown. Or, just let them ramble informally through neighboring plants like Shrub roses or along the ground or stone walls.

Clematis Sapphire Indigo™ provides continuous bloom in the border, carpeting the ground around the feet of perennials.

In general, Clematis need at least six hours of sun; some varieties are adapted to partial shade, and all benefit from afternoon shade in the South. Plant the crown of bareroot Clematis fully 3-4in  below soil level. They require shade at their roots — apply a 2in mulch (keep mulch about 4in from the crown) or underplant with annuals or shallow-rooted perennials. A neutral soil is preferable, and provide about one inch of water weekly. Clematis is a heavy feeder; apply a low nitrogen fertilizer such as a 5-10-10 in spring, when the buds are about 2 inches long. Then, add a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer every 4-6 weeks throughout the growing season.

Clematis ‘American Beauty’

The main reason for pruning is to increase flowering, but not all clematis are pruned in the same way. They are divided into three major pruning groups depending on their bloom season; our Gardening Help section explains these specifics. However, dead or damaged stems may be removed at any time. Early in the first spring after planting, prune the stems of all Clematis varieties down to the lowest pair of healthy buds. Thereafter, prune to control size and shape or to encourage more profuse bloom. Older vines that are only flowering on a small area at the tops of the stems can be rejuvenated by cutting them back severely, to about 18in. Wait until after the first flush of bloom to perform the surgery. Gardening with Clematis can become a rewarding addiction — you can’t stop with just one variety or one type.

Allium Poppy Collection

Alliums and Poppies for Show Stopping Color

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’.

Achillea Allium Collection
Achillea Allium Collection

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.

Allium Collection Garden Globes
Allium Collection Garden Globes

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.

Poppy 'Hearbeat'
Poppy ‘Hearbeat’

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.

Poppy 'Doubloon'
Poppy ‘Doubloon’

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.

Poppy 'Royal Wedding'
Poppy ‘Royal Wedding’

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.

Allium Globemaster

Down on the Farm: Spring Has Sprung (At Last)

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).

Our greenhouses are loaded with annuals and perennials.

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.

Corps de Ballet Tulip Mix

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.

From all of us at the farm, Happy Spring!

Starter Shade Collection

Bold Hostas Brighten Your Shade Garden

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.

Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears'
Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ reaches about 8″ in height.

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.

Hosta 'Cathedral Windows'
The large, rounded leaves of ‘Cathedral Windows’ show-off the patterned bright golden centers with dark green borders.

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.

Hosta 'Aphrodite'
Hosta ‘Aphrodite’ has large, pure white, intensely fragrant flowers that open in late summer on 2′ stems.

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.

Emerald Isle
Choosing a collection of Hostas makes designing a long-term carefree garden easy. Our Emerlad Isle Collection has 20 plants containing 4 excellent varieties, 5 plants of each.

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.

Vintage Charm Planter

New Ways to Feature Your Favorite Plants

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.

Brown Acanthus Urn
Afternoon Tea Annual Collection featured in our Brown Acanthus Urn

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.

Clematis Rosemoor™ Gardini™ climbing our Cedar Tuteur
Clematis Rosemoor™ Gardini™ climbing our Cedar Tuteur

Window boxes, Strawberry pots, and hanging baskets offer versatile solutions that can change with each season.

Mara des Bois in Hanging Basket
Strawberry ‘Mara des Bois’ in a hanging basket

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.)

Tremont Square Pots
Tremont Square Pots

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!