Goodbye Euphorbia :-( Hello Sedge!

A little over 2 years ago I obtained a sprig of Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Robbiae’ from a clients house we were doing work at.  Despite reading about its invasive tendencies I dDSC_0007ecided to give it a try due to its incredible beauty as a dense shady groundcover.  I told myself, “Surely I can keep it in check by regular maintenance”.  Big mistake!  Not only did it quickly spread by masses of runners, but after 2 years I started noticing the plant popping up 10 to 15 feet away from the mother plant.  This told me that itDSC_0006 also spreads readily by seed.  This was the turning point for me.  I knew if I didn’t eradicate the plant soon it would begin to spread into my nearby woods quickly out competing current native species inhabiting it.  I had to say goodbye to my Euphorbia.

The good news is there are plenty of beautiful native ground covers that enjoy similar growing conditions.  The plant I chose to replace this invasive nonnative is a sedge DSC_0013known as Carex pensylvanica.  At first glance it looks like a type of grass but sedges are in fact their own separate thing.  Come next spring the plugs I have installed will begin to fill out to 12″ wide and about 6 to 8″ tall.  It’s a great ground cover to intermix with other plants.  In the photo shown I have both Aruncus dioicus (Goats beard) and Meehania Cordata (Meehan’s mint) in the same area.  I will post photos next year to show its progress.

There are tons of great varieties of native sedge currently in propagation.  A few of our favorites are:
–  Carex pensylvanica
–  Carex woodii
–  Carex Texensis  (More tolerant of sun)
–  Carex Appalachica  (Thinner more delicate leaf)
–  Carex leavenworthii

All of these Sedges do a great job of creating a shady ground cover that can also be used to substitute traditional non native lawns.  The above varieties tend to max out at 6 to 8″ if left unmowed.  IMG_2805
Mowing once a year in winter is a good idea to keep them healthy and full.  Sedges typically spread by runners rather than seed so planting plugs is the preferred method.  If you need help obtaining native sedge for your yard just let us know.

Final thoughts:  No matter how beautiful the non-native plant may be, if it’s invasive, it’s not worth it!  I will be battling seedlings of the Euphorbia for years to come.  Lesson well learned.

Happy gardening!

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Bee Balm – July’s Plant of the Month

Bee Balm (Monarda), which is a member of the mint family, is possibly the best perennial available when it comes to pollinators.  The flowers are quite showy and come in shades of pinks, reds, and purples.  The most common Bee Balm seen in gardens are cultivars of the species Monarda didyma.  I know we normally preach selecting straight natives when possible, but Monarda didyma is one of the exceptions.  The straight species will become covered with powdery mildew in our climate.  Some great cultivars have been developed with a resistance to this disease.  A couple of our favorites are Jacob Cline & Rasberry Wine.

Jacob ClineJacob Cline

Rasberry Wine
rasberry wine

 

The great thing about these cultivars is that they appear to benefit our native insects just as much as the straight species.  I have a large section of it in a meadow area of my yard and it is covered in many species of bees, butterflies, moths, and humming birds.  I’ve also noticed quit a few gold finches hanging out on the flowers as well.

Another species of Monarda we love is Monarda punctata.Monarda_punctata  It has a much different look from its relative didyma.  The flowers almost appear to be silvery extensions of the leaves.  While the smell is similar to all Monarda I feel it has a bit more of a minty aroma.  This one is great in mass plantings where the silvery purple flowers can really show off.  Planting the straight species is fine with this one.Monarda_punctata_10684_500

One word of caution:  All species of Monarda tend to spread rapidly from year to year. Make sure you plant it in an area that can handle its self sowing nature.  Fortunately the plant is easy to pull up if it does begin to make a nuisance of itself.

Check out Sandy’s Plants if you are interested in purchasing some Bee Balm.  They have many varieties including the ones mentioned here.

Thanks for reading!

Plant  by Design LLC
www.plantbydesign.com

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Native Hydrangeas – June’s Plant of the Month

More than likely when you think of hydrangeas an image of a large pink or blue puff ball comes to mind.  The ever so popular Endless Summer Hydrangea!  enldess summerThey do have their appeal.  They bloom for many months and provide excellent color even in the heat of the summer (as long as they are receiving afternoon shade).  However, the Endless Summer is not a native hydrangea.  Some of the prettiest hydrangeas are native and they often take a back seat to non-native varieties simply because of marketing.  Fortunately, the native varieties are readily available at most garden centers.

 

There are two main native hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia & Hydrangea arborescens) and both are fantastic.  For this post however, we are just going to focus on Hydrangea quericifolia also known as oakleaf hydrangea.  While this unique looking hydrangea can take a wide arrquercifoliaay of site conditions one of its best features is the ability to survive in dry shade.  It does really well in areas under trees where most plants suffer from lack of water and sun.  The leaves on this hydrangea look similar to an Oak leaf hence the name.  The flowers bloom in large conical masses and are most often a whitish color that fades to pink as the flower ages.  There are all types of cultivars that allow for planting of these great shrubs in just about any sized location.  Two of our favorites are ‘Snow Queen’ which gets about 4-5′ tall and wide and ‘Alice’ which can reach heights of 10′!  Dwarf varieties are also available though harder to come by.  A final draw to this plant is the incredible fall color.  Shades of oranges and deep reds will provide a truly breath taking site in your garden. quercifolia fall color

So we hope next time you are at your local garden center and thinking about purchasing some hydrangeas you will walk past the blue puff balls and instead give the underused oakleaf hydrangea a try.  We know you’ll love it as much as we do!

Thanks for reading!

Plant by Design LLC
www.plantbydesign.com

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Native Azaleas – May’s Plant of the Month

Evergreen azaleas are the most common shrubs found throughout much of the East Coast.  You can’t walk down a street in Richmond, VA without seeing masses of azaleas in almost every yard.  They bloom profusely in spring and then fade to the background as just another green shrub that needs occasional pruning.  These azaleas are so commonly used that many people would be surprised to learn that they are in fact not native.  What may be more surprising is that there are gorgeous native azaleas that are rarely sold in nurseries.  Why is this?  The only answer I can think of is that non native azaleas are evergreen while native ones are mostly all deciduous.  I’m about to go on a bit of a rant and then I promise I will get to the point of this blog post which is describing native azaleas in all their glory.

Okay, so for some reason over the years the idea of having a deciduous shrub in a landscape has become a negative thing.  It’s as if plants that lose their leaves are inferior to evergreens.  While design wise it makes sense to have evergreen shrubs on the foundation of a house, it’s not necessary most other ares in the landscape.  I would like to propose the idea that evergreen shrubs are in fact inferior to deciduous shrubs from most design and aesthetic standpoints.  As I said, evergreens definitely have their place in design, but when looking for seasonal interest they just don’t compare.  The primary example of this is fall color.  Most deciduous plants have incredible fall color.  Many also have fruits/berries that cling to the stems of the shrubs after the leaves have fallen.  Some plants such as redtwig dogwood and itea have colorful architectural stems that give great winter interest and would be unnoticed if the leaves remained.  Finally, one of the best features is getting to see the new growth take form in early spring.  Some plants such as buckeyes, native azaleas, and sumacs really put on a show.  Deciduous shrubs make walking through your yard an exciting adventure each season of the year.

Now on to Native Azaleas!

Like their non-native relatives, native azaleas prefer to be an under-story plant.  This means they want some protection from hot afternoon sun.  They also need good drainage.  If you have clay soil consider planting them up a few inches out of the ground and mounding dirt around them to help keep their roots from sitting in water.

There are many different types of Native Azaleas but I would like to showcase just a few for this post:

Rhododendron Canescens (Piedmont Azalea):

This is a large growing Azalea that can reach heights of 15′.  It is great as a specimenCanescens or used in mass as a border or screen.  The lite pink flowers smell incredible and will bloom for 2 weeks to a month depending on weather conditions.  Their blooms typically open up in early to mid April.  This is a great option for a large shrub that will make all the neighbors jealous!

 

 

 

 

Rhododendron Calendulaceum (Flame Azalea):

ThiRhododendron calendulaceums Azalea gets its name from the vibrant orange/red flowers that cover it in early to mid spring (May-June).  It can reach heights of 12′ and is also perfect as a specimen or screen.  Unlike Canescens, Flame Azalea is not fragrant.  However, what it lacks in the olfactory department it more than makes up for in the visual!

 

 

 

Rhododendron Atlanticum (Coastal Azalea)

R_MarydelNeed a smaller growing azalea?  This is the one for you.  Most reach a height of 2-4′.  They have fragrant white to pink blooms and work great as a foundation plant intermixed with other evergreens.  One cultivar we like a lot is ‘Marydel’.  It has medium pink flowers and gets about 4′ tall.

 

 

 

Beautiful right?  Spring is the true highlight of native azaleas but fall isn’t far behind either.  On most species the leaves turn a vibrant orange/red before dropping and revealing a beautiful branch structure that provides great winter interest.

If you live in the Richmond, VA area and would like to purchase native azaleas we recommend Colesville Nursery in Ashland.  They are the only nursery around that carries a large amount of native azaleas.  They also have a great assortment of other native plants as well.
www.colesvillenursery.com

Thanks for reading!

Plant by Design LLC
www.plantbydesign.com

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