Bold Subtlety: The White Garden

At a time of year when loud, colorful fireworks are happening all over the gardens as much as across patriotic night skies, it’s fair to wonder about the attraction of a single garden dedicated to white-flowering plants. After so many showy Peonies and Tall Bearded Iris, and now Roses galore, why focus on a subtle grouping of paler flowers? Here at White Flower Farm, it comes as no surprise that white flowers have an important story to tell. There is no better place to illustrate this than our White Garden.

The White Garden has been a feature at the farm since the 1940s, when nursery founders William Harris and Jane Grant created a 12-foot by 80-foot perennial border in front of a stone terrace and began filling it with nothing but white flowers. Inspired by the British moon garden, they considered the display to be the epitome of horticultural sophistication. It was so prominent in their minds, in fact, that their first idea for a nursery was to showcase only white-flowering perennials and shrubs — an idea that “lasted about a minute,” they later admitted. The simple yet sophisticated White Garden is nonetheless memorialized in the nursery’s name.

Beyond Color

As you approach the White Garden, the general impression of whites and greens invites further acquaintance. If you look more intently, individual plants begin to stand out for characteristics other than color. It is line, shape, form, texture, and value (light and dark) that begin to set them apart. At the front of the border, dense spikes of Summer Snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia Archangel™ White) create a well-defined corner. Green stalks of Salvia (S. nemorosa ‘White Profusion’), having dropped most of their snowy flowers, add further linear interest, as do the icicle-like racemes of Speedwell (Veronica ‘White Wands’). Set midway into the border, a stout specimen of Smooth Hydrangea (H. arborescens ‘Haas’ Halo’) punctuates the pools of perennials at its feet, encouraging visitors to pause and enjoy this first section of the garden.

If you linger, you notice the starlike blossoms of Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana alata) borne on tall, wiry stalks, hovering over the other plants like a small meteor shower.

Moving farther down the border and looking back, you’ll see another handsome vignette that borrows a distant, earthen urn for a focal point. A procession of diverse forms and textures unfolds. Spidery flowers of Cleome (C. hassleriana ‘White Queen’) explode in the foreground like miniature fireworks. Beneath them, fuzzy blooms of Ageratum (A. houstonianum ‘White Bouquet’) and the cascading stems of Salvia (S. verticillata ‘White Rain’) soften the edge of the bed. Bright white blossoms of Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum suberbum Amazing Daisies® Daisy May®) pop out against a backdrop of dark green Hydrangea foliage.

In addition to playing with multiple design elements, the White Garden demonstrates the harmonious way in which annuals, perennials, and shrubs can combine in a single space. The simplified color palette makes it easier to see how different plants can work together.

Dramatic Nuances

Juxtapositions of white-flowering plants lead to another interesting discovery, for there is a great diversity of color within the world of white. The pure white of Cleomes contrasts significantly with the lemon-cream flowers of Mullein (Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’) on bold, spear-like stalks. Similarly, the terminal inflorescences of Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), shown in the background of the photo above, have the appearance of brown butter. Petal-packed bombs of Zinnia (Z. elegans ‘Oklahoma White’) glisten like buttermilk, while small flowers of Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) gleam like pearls.

White flowers do something else. They help you see nuances of green like never before. Clean white starbursts of Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris ‘Only the Lonely’) and milky blossoms of Floribunda Rose (Rosa ‘Iceberg’) direct your eyes to the supporting foliage — glowing like the zest of fresh limes, on the one hand, and subdued and darker on the other. While the fascinating white flower heads of Gas Plant (Dictamnus albus) are past, their yellow-green seedpods and glossy forest leaves help other white blooms stand out.

Quiet Fireworks

Toward the end of the border, a large Rose bush (Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’) lends some stability to the sea of stems in front of it. There, visitors may spy a single white blossom aglow with light, like a quiet firework in a sky of dark foliage. Perhaps it can serve as a symbol of the White Garden’s bold subtlety.

The White Garden has one other claim to fame. No other garden on the property shines as brightly on a moonlit night.

Over the Rainbow: The Wide World of Iris

A breadth of colors is likely to explain why certain plants are called Iris, a term deriving from the Greek word for “rainbow.” (The ancient Greek goddess of the rainbow was also given this moniker.) With the profusion of colors found in cultivated varieties of Tall Bearded Iris alone, it is not difficult to explain the association between these flowering plants and the spectacular spectrum that stretches across the sky.

Beyond color variety, however, there is an even larger world in which Iris demonstrate an array of shapes, forms, habits, and idiosyncrasies. Follow along as we explore this diversity, with the hope it may inspire a greater appreciation of a remarkable genus.

Understanding Iris

To set the stage for the genus Iris, which comprises almost 300 species, it helps to step back to view it within the wider context of its botanical family. The Iris family (Iridaceae) includes 64 other genera also known as “Irids” — brothers and sisters, if you will, of our beloved Iris. The family tree contains well-known siblings like Crocus, Freesia, and Gladiolus, plus a plethora of lesser-known relations, from Aristea to Zygotritonia. With such an extensive family, it may be easier to understand why Iris species manifest such a variety of characteristics.

The American Iris Society, the world’s registrar for Iris, upholds some essential classifications to help make sense of this broad genus. One of the simplest groupings depends upon the structure of the plants’ underground parts where nutrients are stored. Some of the most well-known Iris grow from rhizomes — modified stems that grow horizontally in the soil and send out roots and shoots from nodes. Examples of rhizomatous Iris include the flamboyant Tall Bearded Iris (Iris germanica) and flat-flowered Siberian Iris (I. sibirica). Other Iris come from bulbs, just as Tulips and Daffodils do. Some bulbous species are Dwarf Iris (I. reticulata) and Dutch Iris (I. hollandica). A final category includes plants with fleshy roots, such as Juno Iris, a subgenus comprising multiple species.

A more technical classification method, which can make identifying Iris varieties easier at a glance, is based on floral structure — specifically, whether a fuzzy “beard” is present on the flowers’ lower petals, called “falls.” Bearded Iris and Beardless Iris both have their own unique types. A couple of other categories are of special interest to botanists (and will not be highlighted here). Perhaps of more relevance to gardeners are the informal groups organized around Iris characteristics of horticultural value, such as reblooming, unusual foliage, and historical status.

Flight of Floral Forms

Iris flowers are not just extraordinary for their range of colors. They are also structurally stunning — from showy Tall Bearded Iris flowers with their billowing standards (upright petals), lavish falls, and textured beards to the distinctly prostrate, beardless blossoms of Siberian Iris and Japanese Iris (I. ensata). To create a sequence of bloom in the garden, pair the June-flowering Tall Beaded Iris and Siberian Iris with Japanese Iris, which blossom slightly later. The examples below illustrate the possibility of a prolonged period of bloom with a procession of varying shapes and forms.

Iris germanica ‘Champagne Elegance’

The muted shades of bicolored Tall Bearded Iris ‘Champagne Elegance’ invite us to focus a bit more on the graceful cadence and delicate ruffles of the ivory standards and palest orange falls. This prolific bloomer carries 7–10 buds per stem. It is also a favorite example of Reblooming Iris, a type that may, in favorable conditions, send forth a second round of flowers in late summer.

Iris chrysographes black-flowered

Iris chrysographes black-flowered, a kind of Siberian Iris, is stunning for its deep reddish violet blooms that appear as dark as night. It is also called the “Gold-Marked Iris” (literal meaning of chrysographes) for the fine pattern of golden tracery at the top of the falls. With a trio of standards much smaller in ratio to the falls, as well as three prominent “style arms” among the standards, this beardless blossom has quite a contrasting countenance to that of its relation above.

Iris ensata ‘Loyalty’

The luxuriant purple flowers of Japanese Iris ‘Loyalty’ measure almost 8” across. Unlike the former two blooms, this one is noteworthy for the six equally sized petals that cascade in unison from the base of three modest, upright style arms. ‘Loyalty’ adds individual flair with bright yellow striping that emanates from the petal throats, accentuating the detailed, blue-violet veining across the petals themselves.

Beyond Blooms

While the flowers alone point to great diversity within the Iris genus, there are other characteristics that set it apart. Two of them include growth habit and leaf color.

Iris cristata ‘Eco Bluebird’

This dwarf variety of Crested Iris (Iris cristata), ‘Eco Bluebird,’ is praiseworthy for more than just its lilac-blue flowers that bloom in mid-spring and are attractive to hummingbirds. Reaching only 6-8” tall, it makes a perfect ground cover in a wide range of soil conditions.

Iris pallida ‘Variegata Aurea’

Iris pallida ‘Variegata Aurea,’ a variegated variety of Sweet Iris, is a favorite for lavender blooms that happen to possess the unforgettable scent of grapes. But this plant could also be grown simply for its foliage. The golden striped leaves beautifully echo the yellows of companion plants and appear to be aglow when backlit by sunshine.

No matter why you decide to plant Iris in your garden, one thing is certain. There are manifold reasons to add members of this genus to your collection of plants. Indeed, the infinite variation of Iris may be the pot of gold at the rainbow’s end.

A Passion for Peonies & Their Companions

The afternoon sun is dappling the gardens at White Flower Farm, and visitors on this day in late May might find themselves drawn to a quiet corner where two giant Lilacs stand watch over their precious compatriots – a plethora of Peonies. In a partially shaded bed at the southeast corner of the gardens, visitors would be greeted by a diversity of Peonies: Tree Peonies, Herbaceous Peonies, and Intersectional or Itoh Peonies (a hybrid between the former two types). The wide-ranging selection means there will be a long season of bloom, from the earliest Tree varieties in mid- to late May to the hybrids and finally their Herbaceous cousins in early to mid-June. On this afternoon, lucky strollers are in time to catch the spectacular first act of this seasonal flower show: the blossoming of the Tree Peonies. These woody shrubs produce huge, silky flowers, and mature plants may carry as many as 50 of these exquisite blooms. But there is more afoot – literally. At the base of each Peony, it’s easy to spy other botanical happenings.

The pearly white blooms of Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Ezra Pound,’ nearing the end of their exhibition, are mirrored by Trillium grandiflorum ‘Flore Pleno’ growing in shady recesses around the taller plant. The bright white, double flowers of the Trillium echo the showy Peony blossoms above, offering a pleasantly harmonious portrait.

A bit farther down the garden path, there is a second, well-planned vignette. This time the palette has transitioned to delicate shades of pink. The blossoms of Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Seidai,’ another spectacular Tree Peony, sweetly frame sprays of Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis).

Nearby, the rosy tinges of Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash,’ a colorful variety of Lungwort, continue the pink theme while the plant’s silver-spotted leaves add extra interest.

Groundcovers with exceptional leaf color provide another clever way to hide the bare patches of earth around Peonies while creating visually striking color combinations. Two such companion plants are Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) and Coral Bells (Heuchera). The minty-chartreuse leaves of the former are a perfect complement for Peonies with deep magenta flowers, such as this variety of Rock’s Tree Peony, Paeonia rockii ‘Zi Lian.’ For a different flavor, pair with the rusty-leaved Heuchera ‘Mahogany,’ which accentuates the gold-and-red centers of this Peony’s flowers.

The journey is not yet complete. Just around the bend, a mauve-pink flower catches the eye. Next to it are the remains of what must have been a lovely sight – a stem of spent Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica). Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Leda’ was probably only in bud at the time those familiar, blue-and-lavender bells were in bloom. Still, the present scene is no less charming.

As this particular garden walk comes to an end, there is a last treasure to behold: the weighty double flowers of a purple-red Tree Peony, Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Rimpo.’ In the foreground, stems of a white variety of Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) produce a dynamic contrast with the velvety dark Peony blossoms. A background of False Forget-me-not, Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost,’ completes the picture by adding frosted green leaves and frothy, sky-blue flowers to the mix.

No matter which or how many Peonies are in bloom when you visit the garden (in-person or virtually), companion plants go a long way toward adding season-long, and even year-round, interest to a single genus planting that otherwise hinges upon peak flowering time. Whether you catch Peonies’ emerging reddish stems, their finely cut foliage and ball-shaped buds, or their magnificent blooms, this garden promises to open your eyes to exciting combinations that are always fresh.

Lilies — Radiant Stars All Summer Long

Lilies are truly the stars of the summer garden, spangling their luminous, astral-shaped flowers across beds and borders. Whether planted in sun or part-shade, Lilies add reliable interest and characteristic grace to gardens during the hotter months of the year. Their diverse colors and forms, coupled with exquisite fragrances, make them a stellar selection for every garden.

We offer an array of Lilies including Asiatic, Oriental, and Species types plus many interdivisional hybrids. Planting various kinds guarantees a succession of spectacular blooms throughout the summer. Enjoy them outdoors as colorful highlights in your borders or bring cuttings indoors to fill vases and urns galore.

Scroll below for a selection of our individual Lilies and multicolored mixes, presented here in order of blossom time to help you create a pageant of blooms throughout the summer months.

June to July:
Lilies for Early Summer Sparkle

Start the summer with Asiatic Lilies, which are the earliest of our Lily varieties to come into bloom. Colors range from the softest pastels to fiery reds and oranges that practically ignite when the sun hits them. Seldom reaching above 3’ tall, the sturdy plants never need staking and are perfect for flower arrangements because of their straight stems and heavy bud count. When sited in a sunny, well-drained garden bed, these Lilies will put on a glorious show for years.

Asiatic Lily (Strawberries & Cream Lilium Mix)

This mix of pink and white Asiatic Lily hybrids offers a refreshing color palette at the onset of warm days in the garden.

Longiflorum-Asiatic Hybrid Lily (Lilium ‘Eyeliner’)

The stunning white blossoms of this cross between an Asiatic Lily and the Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum) are delicately outlined in purple-black.

Asiatic Lily (Tropical Tones Lily Quintet)

With bright hues ranging from sunny yellow to deep reddish-orange, this sultry mix of five compact Asiatic Lilies gestures toward the hotter days to come.

July to August:
Lilies for Midsummer Magic

Orienpet and Oriental Lilies grace the garden when summer is at its peak. Orienpets, a cross between Oriental and Trumpet Lilies, bloom about two weeks earlier than Oriental Lilies. Both types are notable for their large flowers, heady perfumes, and strong stems of varying heights.

Orienpet Lily (Lilium ‘Silk Road’)

This Orienpet Lily features intoxicatingly fragrant 8” flowers, which are borne on spires up to 2′ across for longer than you thought possible.

Orienpet Lily (Lilium ‘Conca d’Or’)

The creamy yellow blossoms of this Orienpet, with centers of pure gold, mimic the sunshine that floods the midsummer garden.

Oriental Lily (Lilium ‘Stargazer’)

A bright star of the garden as well as the florist’s trade, ‘Stargazer’ has upward-facing, crimson and pink blooms edged with pure white.

August to September:
Lilies to Make Summer Linger

Oriental and Species Lilies continue the vibrant show, extending the feel of summer into early fall. These late-blooming varieties sport gracefully recurved, pendent flowers that are as fascinating for their form as for their color and fragrance. The plants are exceptionally vigorous, too, with trusses of blossoms growing on stems from 4’ to 7’ tall. Plant some and let your summer display go out with a bang.

Oriental Lily (Lilium ‘Black Beauty’)

This variety of Oriental Lily can produce 20 to 50 flowers on a dizzyingly tall plant. The deep crimson flowers, with white edges and central green stars, are stunning following the summer-long progression of brightly colored blooms.

Species Lily (Lilium speciosum ‘Uchida’)

Introduced from Japan, this Species Lily dangles spotted, pink-and-white blossoms that are delightfully spicy in fragrance.

Species Lily (Lilium speciosum rubrum)

This is the last of the Lilies in our list to flower and, to our noses at least, is also among the most fragrant. Our gardens would not be complete without it.

 

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Fragrant Shrubs Add Beauty & Perfume to the Garden

Experienced gardeners can tell the season by the scents that fill the air. Spring brings the transporting perfume of Lilacs and the unmistakable sweet spicy vanilla fragrance of Viburnum carlesii. Late spring introduces the citrus scent of Philadelphus (Mock Orange) and the delicate fragrance of select Clematis vines. Sultry summer broadcasts the perfumes of Roses, Clethra (Sweet Pepperbush), and a scented Buddleia (Butterfly Bush). Fill your garden with fragrant shrubs and vines and enjoy a range of heavenly, natural scents from spring to fall. Scroll below to find some of our favorites, and visit our website for more.

Clematis ‘Sweet Summer Love’  is fragrant, free-flowering, and easy to grow. The hardy, disease-resistant vines produce masses of small blooms that change color from reddish-purple to purple then a paler violet. The flower show begins early, generally in midsummer, and continues into autumn. Mature vines reach 10-15’ high and produce hundreds of flowers in a single season, smothering trellises, fences, arbors, deck railings, or stone walls. The lovely fragrance combines notes of almond, cherry and vanilla. ‘Sweet Summer Love’ is a winner of multiple prizes including the Green Thumb Award from the National Garden Bureau.

Viburnum carlesii is one of the most gloriously fragrant shrubs known to man. The dense flower heads, which measure up to 3″ across, produce white flowers from blush pink buds, and the perfume, which is a sweet, rich, spicy vanilla, carries a considerable distance across a lawn or garden. Plant one or two where you take your springtime strolls.

Beautiful and carefree Buddleia Lo & Behold Ruby Chip combines a tidy growing habit with jewel-tone ruby-pink flower spikes to create a decorative pollinator magnet for smaller gardens or the edge of larger borders. The fragrant flowers don’t need to be deadheaded, and they appear over a long season on a deer-resistant, drought-tolerant plant.

Rose ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ bears pink semidouble blooms from June to October, and they  emerge on almost thornless stems. The sweet fragrance of these flowers befits an heirloom Bourbon. This winner of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit is a perfect candidate to adorn a fence, trellis, or tuteur.

The lightly scented 2–3″ pink flowers of Clematis montana ‘Mayleen’ cascade over trellises and walls with abandon in early summer. Bronze and green foliage creates the perfect backdrop for the spectacular show. Winner of the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

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5 Top Houseplants for Great Gifting

Still looking to find that perfect gift for a friend or family member? Consider foliage or flowering plants. Either choice is an ideal gift for plant lovers, and these favorites will delight non-gardeners, too. No green thumb is required to grow any of the plants and bulbs you see here. The gift of a foliage houseplant adds natural beauty and living green to any interior. These long-lasting, low-maintenance plants also help purify the air in a home or office. If flowers are more to your recipient’s liking, our exclusive indoor Bulb Gardens and premium-grade Amaryllis bulbs arrive ready to begin growing, and they’ll brighten winter with a spectacular flower show. The bulbs need only strong light (such as a south-facing window) and occasional water to get them growing. Your recipient will have the joy of watching beautiful flowers bloom over several weeks during the winter months.

Scroll below to find 5 fabulous gifts handpicked for just about anyone on your list. The only hard part may be choosing which ones to give.


Snake Plant ‘Moonshine’ 

Snake Plant ‘Moonshine,’ an updated spin on the undemanding traditional indoor warrior, features glowing silver leaves overlaid with horizontal green accents. Known for tolerating neglect, ‘Moonshine’ (Sansevieria trifasciata) takes indirect light and forgetful care in stride. Snake Plants rarely bloom, but when they do, numerous dainty flowers in shades of white or cream appear on tall stalks.

Scindapsus ‘Silver Satin’

Forest-green leaves glazed and generously dotted with silver give this Silver Satin Pothos its distinctive look. As carefree as any houseplant could be, it asks only for occasional water (and not too much). The trailing plants look marvelous in hanging planters or cascading from shelves and tables.

Begonia ‘Escargot’

A bold spiral resembling a snail shell patterns each leaf of easy-care Rex Begonia ‘Escargot.’ Rendered in rich bands of pewter, chocolate, and green, it creates an effect that will draw your eye from across the room. Pale pink flowers are an added pleasure. It makes a stunning houseplant.

Amaryllis ‘Cherry Nymph’

The Nymph series of Amaryllis produces huge, almost fully double flowers whose rich texture and colors set new standards of beauty for this elegant genus. The large, red blooms of longtime favorite ‘Cherry Nymph’ have a shimmering, iridescent quality, and the plant’s thick, strong stems hold them high. We offer ‘Cherry Nymph’ in a variety of presentations – from bareroot bulb (for DIY potting or displaying in glass) to a bulb with a glass  hurricane or vase (shown above), to bulbs pre-potted in baskets or nursery pots. Set the Amaryllis in a room with bright light, give it occasional water, and watch the glorious flower show unfold.

Tiny Trumpets Bulb Collection

The blossoms of miniature Daffodil ‘Jetfire’ have sunny yellow petals and an extended orange corona. They’re a perfect partner for the blue flower spikes of aromatic Muscari armeniacum. We love this simple, fragrant harbinger of spring. It’s a lovely gift that provides a spirited preview of spring.

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Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden

You can attract a variety of butterflies to your garden by offering some of the blossoms they love best and by incorporating accessories that provide support. The plants highlighted here all produce nectar-rich flowers that are vital sources of food for pollinators, and all offer beauty and color for human admirers. Asclepias (Milkweed), Buddleia (Butterfly Bush), Liatris, and Lantana are among the best plants for butterflies.

1. Liatris ligulistylis

In our gardens, Liatris ligulistylis is a butterfly magnet during its long run of summer bloom (July to September) and a feeding station for goldfinches come fall. It is particularly popular with Monarch butterflies, and you can always spot the plant in the garden because it’s where you see a lot of orange-and-black wings fluttering.

2. Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’

A compact selection of the prairie native that’s commonly called Blazing Star, Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’ is a butterfly favorite. These plants thrive in full sun or partial shade and well-drained, even dry, soil, but they struggle in the desert Southwest. Best planted in groups, they will create a lot of pollinator traffic at the edge of the border.

3. Phlox paniculata Candy Store® Coral Crème Drop

Phlox is an important genus of valuable garden plants that includes reliable and colorful species that bloom both early and late, in sun and shade, and in a range of rich colors that is equaled by few other genera. The hardy Candy Store® series was developed in the Netherlands where it was bred specifically for a compact habit, attractive leaf and flower coloration, and good disease resistance. Coral Crème Drop offers rosy coral petals highlighted with white and a deep-pink eye. Its long-blooming and sweetly fragrant flower clusters are closely packed on compact, well-branched plants.

4. Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’

Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’ is a vigorous grower that produces showy, dense heads of lavender-pink flowers that are adored by butterflies. This variety has proven to be extraordinarily mildew resistant, and it blooms all summer into fall. ‘Jeana’ was included in an extensive Phlox trial at Mt. Cuba Center, where she was deemed “without a doubt, the best-performing phlox,” and the one that attracted more butterflies than any other variety.

5. Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’

Echinacea Magnus

Butterflies love Echinacea (commonly called Coneflower), a North American genus in the Daisy family  that features big, bright flowers that appear in late June and keep coming into September. The popular Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ variety features petals that are an especially vibrant carmine-rose shade and are held almost horizontally, which makes for a more open face than the shuttlecock shape of the species. Butterflies and other pollinators feed at the large cones, and in autumn, the seed heads attract birds including goldfinches.

6. Buddleia davidii Buzz™ Ivory

Buddleia Buzz Ivory

Sized perfectly for large pots or smaller spaces in the garden, compact Buddleia davidii Buzz™ Ivory produces lovely panicles of white blossoms that attract a wide variety of pollinators. Deadhead this 4′ Butterfly Bush to keep the blossoms coming from summer to fall.

7. Asclepias tuberosa Gay Butterflies Mix

Asclepias tuberosa Gay Butterflies Mix

Asclepias, commonly called Milkweed, is the essential plant for Monarch butterflies, providing nourishment through all their life stages. Our Asclepias Gay Butterflies Mix not only feeds Monarchs and other beneficial insects, it offers boldly colored, ornamental blooms in shades of fiery red, orange, and yellow in June and July. We sell it as a collection of 3 plants to provide a sampling of the full color range.

8. Zinnia ‘Zowie! Yellow Flame’

Zinnia 'Zowie! Yellow Flame'

Nothing ignites a bed or mixed border like a mass planting of Zinnia ‘Zowie! Yellow Flame.’ Its brilliant, yellow-tipped petals start off magenta-pink then turn to scarlet-rose around a dramatic red-and-yellow cone. An annual in cooler climates such as ours, the plant is a hit with gardeners and pollinators alike. Deadhead the spent blossoms regularly, and the flowers will keep coming over a long season.

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Stars of the Late-Season Garden

As summer draws to a close and blossoms begin to fade, it’s important to rely on plants that bring late-season interest to borders and beds. Among the autumn and winter stars of the garden are perennial favorites including fall-blooming Anemones, Asters, Ornamental Grasses, Perovskia (Russian Sage), Rudbeckias, Sedums, and Symphyotrichums, and shrubs including Aronia (Chokeberry), Itea (Sweetspire), Oakleaf Hydrangea, and Viburnum. Every garden needs a sampling of these easy-care plants to maximize the season of bloom or foliage interest and to carry the garden and landscape into autumn and beyond. A number of these plants also provide essential food for pollinators, who need nourishment and support as the season nears its end. Below are a few of our favorites.

Symphyotrichum 'Purple Dome'
Symphyotrichum ‘Purple Dome’

The first true dwarf among the New England Asters, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’ offers perfect 1″ flowers of bright purple in such profusion that they completely cover the compact plant for a full month starting in mid-September. Plants are sturdy enough never to need support and they make a delightful mass of rich color. Late in the season, the seeds provide a high-energy food source for chickadees, titmice, and wrens. Try them with Japanese Anemones.

Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'
Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’

One of the best and most beloved garden plants of all time is the Black-eyed Susan, a glorious and traditional highlight of summer. While the native plant Rudbeckia fulgida is enchanting, sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ improves upon an already good thing by providing more and bigger flowers in a consistent bright golden yellow on upright plants that reach 40″. It blooms prodigiously from late July to early October.

Aronia Low Scape® Mound
Aronia Low Scape® Mound

From the UConn breeding program run by Mark Brand and Bryan Connolly comes Aronia melanocarpa Low Scape® Mound, an improved, low-growing form of our native Chokeberry. It welcomes spring with a profusion of white flowers that turn to nearly black fruit. The berries are a favorite of birds, including mockingbirds, warblers, and vireos. The glossy green foliage provides a lovely backdrop for the blooms before changing to red and orange for fall.

Symphyotrichum 'Purple Dome'
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (‘Herbstfreude’) is one of the highlights of the late-season garden. Its leaves are blue green, thick, and succulent. Its flowers, which begin to open in August on 18–24″ stems, start rosy pink, deepen to salmon, then to rust, and finally turn rich brown in an evolution that takes place over many weeks. The blooms are long lasting in a vase and are superb dried, whether brought indoors or left standing in the garden to catch light snowfalls.

Ornamental Grass "Karl Foerster'
Ornamental Grass “Karl Foerster’

As an exclamation point in a border, Feather Reed Grass is one of our favorites because of its upright habit and good manners. Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ forms neat clumps of foliage 18–24″ tall. In June, the toasty brown, feathery flower spikes rise up to 5′ or more. By August they are narrow shafts of a buff color. Despite their delicate and graceful appearance they hold their shape through the winter.

Perovskia 'Blue Jean Baby'
Perovskia ‘Blue Jean Baby’

A hardy, compact Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Jean Baby’ is a great choice for anyone whose garden is too small for the original. Stems of silver-green foliage with small purple flowers erupt in a lilac haze in midsummer, and the color lasts until fall.

Viburnum trilobum 'Wentworth'
Viburnum trilobum ‘Wentworth’

‘Wentworth’ is an outstanding native Viburnum trilobum that has three seasons of interest. In late spring, it produces abundant heads of white flowers. The flowers are followed by clusters of ¼” berries that turn bright glistening red as they ripen in late summer, attracting thrushes and cardinals among other species. Finally, in autumn, the 3-lobed foliage takes on stunning shades of burgundy. ‘Wentworth’ has an upright habit that makes it useful as a screen or an informal hedge.

5 Tools for Bulb Planting

We’ve spent decades testing tools and supplies for planting bulbs each fall and we keep coming back to a few favorites. Using the right tools and supplies makes the planting easier, and more importantly, ensures that you get the desired result come spring.

1. Bulb Planter for Naturalizing

Bulb Planter for Naturalizing

This planter for naturalizing features rugged steel construction, a red finish for high visibility, and a lifetime guarantee on its performance and durability. It’s specially designed with a bend in the blade to offer better leverage for planting bulbs in unprepared, even inhospitable ground—in the lawn, in a meadow, in the woods. At the business end is a notched, 2½″ wide blade that slices easily through compacted and rocky soils.

2. Essential Garden Spade

Essential Garden Spade

This Essential Garden Spade should be kept within easy reach of every gardener. It has a comfortable Ash wood “D” handle that invites a sturdy grip. The hand-forged stainless steel blade is topped with boot protectors to increase leverage. We use our shovel to dig holes for new plants, move small trees and shrubs, create new beds, and turn over the soil in our vegetable garden.

3. Daffodil Fertilizer

Daffodil Fertilizer

Exclusive. We developed our own Daffodil Fertilizer, a slow-release 5-10-20 formula with trace elements, that gives the Daffodils a continual supply of nutrients while they are growing, from the time they initiate root growth in fall until the foliage matures in June. Daffodils and other bulbs like the extra potassium. It’s easy to scatter the granules on top of the ground in fall after planting your bulbs or to apply a light dressing (1/4 cup per 10 sq ft) as new growth begins to push through the soil in spring

4. Bulb Trowel, 18″ Long

Bulb Trowel 18"

This 18″ durable trowel is ideal for planting large numbers of small bulbs because it’s designed to stab, not scoop. Jab the trowel straight down and pull the handle toward you to create a slot. The sharply pointed, stainless-steel blade slices effortlessly through sod or garden soil.

5. Ultra-Cushion Knee Pads

Ultra-Cushion Knee Pads

Take good care of your knee joints and your clothing, too. These deluxe knee pads are made of shock-absorbing EVA foam that’s surrounded by 2 layers of memory foam. They fasten securely with flexible, adjustable hook and loop straps that won’t grip your legs too tightly. The blue exterior is made of waterproof, durable neoprene that dries fast and can be wiped clean.

SHOP ALL GARDENING TOOLS

 

Roses & a Few Favorite Friends

Plants are like people in the sense that they thrive in communities, and they tend to shine brighter in the company of good friends. This June, our Rose Garden at the farm provided a glorious illustration of the power of harmonious relationships. In a long, meandering border planted with roughly 70 Roses, each variety is enhanced by its proximity to perennials that provide complementary or contrasting color, form, and texture. As the garden hit its peak in June, it offered visitors a textbook example of how to plant Roses and their preferred companions for best effect. While the peak has now passed, the garden will continue to provide rolling waves of bloom, thanks to the perennials that keep company with all the Roses. If you happen to live nearby or are in range to make a visit, we hope you’ll come by and take a stroll. In the meantime, we thought it might be helpful to showcase some of the perennials that do such a great deal to bring magic to the Rose Garden. We hope they inspire you to plant some of your own.

The red spires of Lupine ‘Red Rum,’ the lavender-blue spikes of a Nepeta, and stands of dark purple Salvia ‘Caradonna’ provide contrasting colors amid the white blossoms of Rose Easy Spirit™.
The golden blossoms of Rose Easy Elegance® Yellow Submarine are enhanced by the blue flowers of a Campanula, which have the charming habit of intermingling with their neighbors.
Rose Easy on the Eyes™ finds flattering company amid mounds of Baptisia australis (rear), red-leaved Penstemon ‘Dark Towers,’ lavender-blue Nepeta Junior Walker™ (left), and the felted gray foliage of Stachys byzantina ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy’ (Lamb’s Ears).
The airy, creamy plumes of Aruncus dioicus (Goatsbeard) form a lovely backdrop for two pink-flowering Roses, while an Iris creates a dreamy pool of lavender-blue.

Click through to the Rose Companions section of our website to find more perennials that serve as excellent companions for Roses, and consider adding some to your garden.

SHOP ALL ROSES