Friday, August 10, 2012

Native Perennials

Native plants have become very attractive to gardeners over the last several years, and with good reason. Most provide food, nectar and shelter for wildlife, including butterflies, songbirds and hummingbirds. Many perennials are deer resistant. Native plants don't tend to be invasive, needing little care in the garden. There are thousands of species from which to choose. I asked Jan in our perennial department to name ten of her favorites. They are listed below. For additional information, go to The National Fish and Wildlife Service's list of plants for the mid-Atlantic area.

10 Favorite Native Herbaceous Perennials

Asclepias tuberosa, also known as butterfly weed, is an absolute must-have for the natives gardener. Butterfly weed is the preferred nectar-producing plant for Monarch butterflies. Asclepias thrives in sunny areas of the garden.


Aster novae angliea, commonly called New England Aster, is a staple in the fall-blooming natives garden. Blooms abound through autumn, particularly in the northeastern United States.

 Baptisia australis, or False indigo, is an attractive plant with sometimes hard -to- find blue flowers. It is a robust plant that blooms in mid-summer, made even more interesting as seed pods appear in the fall. The pods rattle as breezes pass through the garden. Baptisia grows best in a sunny, well-drained garden.

Eupatorium pupureum, or Joe Pye Weed is this blogger's favorite native plant. Blooming in mid-summer, it is a butterfly magnet, particularly for Swallowtails. Growing naturally at the forest's edge, Joe Pye Weed is a beautiful roadside plant along most of the eastern United States.

Lobelia cardinalis, nicknamed Cardinal Flower, is a wonderful shade-loving plant that thrives in a wooded area. Lobelia flowers are bright red and tubular, providing nectar for the Ruby-throated hummingbird in the mid-Atlantic region.

Monarda didyma, also known as Bee Balm, is considered an herb as well as a perennial. It attracts birds, butterflies and hummingbirds. Bergamot tea is made from the leaves of the Monarda. While not invasive, Bee Balm is a robust plant that will demand lots of space. It does best in full sun in an area with good air circulation.

Mertensia, commonly called Virginia Blue Bells, is a spring bloomer with delicate, blue flowers. The state flower of Virgina, Mertensia grows well in a well-drained shady location.

Osmunda cinnamonea, aptly nick-named Cinnamon Fern, has large, beautiful fronds. Newly emerging fronds start out light green, then brown as spores appear. Like most ferns, the Cinnamon variety does well in moist, shady areas.

Rudbeckia fulgida, known as Black-eyed Susan, is a summer bloomer and a favorite in mid-Atlantic gardens. Often growing in fields and meadows, Black-eyed Susans thrive in full sun; they are wonderful companions to many native grasses.

With a botanical name like Schizachyrium scoparium, its easy to see why we need common names like Little Blue Stem to talk about plants. The stems are blue in the spring, transitioning to a beautiful mahogany color in the fall.

Valley View Farms is a great source for many native plants; they can be found in our perennial area and our tree and shrub department. The aforementioned Mid-Atlantic Native Plant List is also a good, (downloadable) resource to use to avoid planting invasive species.
Enjoy the garden and the beautiful and functional native plants found in our wild spaces and cultivated gardens.

Thank you to Ball Floraplant for providing most of the images appearing in this post.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Billy's Gardening Lessons

Our plant department gets together for an 'after the big season' party every year at Billy's house. Billy owns Valley View Farms with his son Andy.
One of the highlights of the party is Billy's garden tour.

Billy is serious about tomatoes. He takes a well- deserved vacation in late June, but always returns for a garden visit halfway through to check on his plants. Believe me, no one else is allowed to water, feed or otherwise take care of them. Billy shares his harvest beginning in July, bringing bucket after bucket of beautiful, ripe, Celebrity tomatoes for many of us at the store.

But I digress; let's get back to the tour. Our plant department is made up of novice and experienced gardeners. Like most people in the garden center business, we are able to share our challenges and successes with customers and each other. No one shares his expertise more than Billy. He shows us how his tomatoes need extra support because of his plants heavy fruit production.

 He shows us how the different varieties grow in the garden. This year, he planted Mortgage Lifters, Plum Crimsons and his favorite, Celebrity. Billy patiently explains how he sanitizes all of his tomato cages every year to keep his plants free from overwintering diseases.

 Best of all, he tackles question after question of the hows and whys of vegetable gardening from his staff.  It's wholesome stuff taught from the best classroom imaginable--- his vegetable garden.

Thank you, Billy, for inspiring all of us to be better gardeners.

By the way, Billy grows a pretty good crop of peppers too!