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.
Spring has not quite sprung in our neck of the woods (Sunday’s temperature is expected to drop again into the 30s), but the itch to begin gardening is transforming life at the farm. Our garden crew once again is working outdoors, clearing the grounds of fallen leaves and twigs, and preparing for new plantings. As we wait patiently for the emergence of Daffodils and other early spring flowers, the surest sign of spring’s arrival for now is that the White Flower Farm Store has flung open its doors for the season.
New this year are plenty of plant discoveries, hard-to-find varieties, and an exciting collection of garden accessories, tools, supplies, and gift items, including several special gift sets that are ideal for Mother’s Day.
Outdoors, the store’s display areas are filling up with tree specimens, evergreens including Rhododendrons, Junipers and Chamaecyparis varieties, and a wide variety of flowering shrubs. Among the trees, we’re thrilled to be offering beautifully formed ornamental favorites from Japanese Maples and Stewartias to spring flowering Cherries and Dogwoods.
Annuals and perennials both new and classic have begun to populate the yard. Richly colored Anemones and cheerful Pansies are blooming beautifully, waiting to be planted in containers, window boxes, and garden beds.
The gleaming green leaves of Hellebores, some in bloom, and early flowering English Daisies are all ready to be transplanted into the spring garden.
Inside the store, it’s plain to see the staff has outdone itself. Amid a broad selection of Dahlia tubers, Lily bulbs, and premium houseplants, you’ll find an exciting selection of accessories – from hoses and decoratively patterned kneelers to professional-grade garden tools to our new English Garden Apron and Gauntlet Gloves, Linnea’s Lights candles and diffusers, Mooni Wander Lights, soap sets and Lavender gifts, stunning and colorful Murano glass birdbaths, and Peter Rabbit miniature garden ornaments. Additionally, look for favorites such as Renee’s seed packets and mixes, small plants for terrariums and mini pots, laminated field guides, and stationery and cards.
The store calendar is filled with a variety of special events for the season including the popular Annual Mother’s Day Make & Take Container Event, our annual Great Tomato Celebration, a book signing with author Tovah Martin, and more. For the complete calendar, click here.
We hope you’ll visit the store often and stroll the display gardens in every season. Bring your garden questions and challenges, and show us cell phone photos of your dream gardens or of problem areas in your yard or garden. Our terrific staff, led by store manager Tom Bodnar and team leader and hard goods and visual merchandizer Mary Valente, would be delighted to help and make suggestions.
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.