plants, glorious plants

Here are some more of the plants I’m hoping to include in our gardens. Always moar plants!

Baby's Breath photo Babys Breath_zpsvqlyt1lr.jpg

Baby’s Breath is one of those background plants that isn’t super impressive on its own, but adds a lot when planted in combination with other things. Most varieties grow as an annual here in zone 5.

Impatiens photo Impatiens_zpsufgynv85.jpg

Impatiens, AKA Busy Lizzie, attracts pollinators and pollen-seekers and has a lovely bloom that can resemble violets.

Candytuft photo Candytuft_zpss344rpu7.jpg

I had success growing Candytuft in our garden downstate, and I hope to have the same success here. It has an attractive dark green foliage and bright white blossoms and, at least in my experience, grows easily without any particular attention.

Gaillardia photo Gaillardia_zps6fse0c5v.jpg

Also known as Blanket Flower, Gaillardia is a type of sunflower, but much smaller than what we usually picture here in North America. It is not only a showy flower, but the foliage is used as food by lepidoptera caterpillars.

Canterbury Bells photo Canterbury Bells_zpscs5pxif6.jpg

Canterbury Bells is also known as Bellflower – for reasons pretty obvious as you look at the blossoms. It is another favorite of pollinators!

Columbine photo Columbine_zps0tdpsf15.jpg

Columbine is another lepidoptera caterpillar food source, as well as for some bees. This is another one that I haven’t grown before but am looking forward to!


even more plants

I’m still putting together my list of plants I’d like to include in our gardens.

Borage photo Borage_zpsfuofti3e.jpg

I grew Borage in the front garden at our home downstate, and it was so easy to grow, I almost couldn’t believe it. I just threw down seeds and – voila – I had a lovely patch of Borage. It has a lovely fuzzy texture, and the rather delicate blossoms are a beautiful purple color fading to white toward the center. In that zone 6 garden, it self-seeded and came back every year. I’ll have to see if that holds true here in zone 5. It also has a pretty long blooming season, which of course I love. I never tried it then, but apparently the blossoms have a honey-esque taste! It’s also supposed to be a good companion plant for spinach, tomatoes, and strawberries, which I’m going to keep in mind as I continue planning.

Iris photo iris_zpsr764vxuz.jpg

So many gardens contain Iris and for good reason. It’s a lovely bloom and even the foliage looks elegant. Of course there are a zillion variations to choose from, and I’ll likely go with whatever comes my way. I already have one passed along from my mom last fall!

Coreopsis photo Coreopsis_zps7zaryzhy.jpg

Coreopsis is a plant that I happened to start growing downstate because I found a few of them on clearance at the home improvement store. They turned out to be awesome! Some butterflies eat the foliage, and the flowers attract them as well. Speaking of which, they usually have a TON of blossoms which is really striking against the somewhat delicate-looking foliage.

Marigold photo Marigold_zpsvqem9jqf.jpg

For classic annuals, you can’t miss with Marigolds. They also self-seeded in my garden downstate, though I don’t think they probably will here in zone 5. It’s easy to save the seeds, though! These flowers are awesome companion plants and theoretically discourage mosquitoes from hanging around. Given my allergic reaction to mosquito bites, I’ll try whatever I can do keep them away.

Russian Sage photo Russian Sage_zps6d9o5zrh.jpg

Russian Sage is another plant I was introduced to by purchasing a clearance-aisle not-in-great-shape plant. I really dig the way it grows – it gets tall-ish, but doesn’t tend to droop over and isn’t a thick plant, so it provides a nice backdrop for other plants without making the area seem too crowded. It also blooms well into October and attracts bees and birds.

Penstemon photo Penstemon_zpskeoqbrri.jpg

I didn’t grow Penstemon very much – I think I got some on sale somewhere – but I did like it a lot and would like to grow it again. Theoretically it is attractive to hummingbirds!

Verbena photo Verbena_zpsa6t7ohry.jpg

Verbena is another classic that I think will fit in well in my cottage garden. It also attracts butterflies and has beautiful blossoms.

Yarrow photo Yarrow_zpsujriafdb.jpg

Finally for this post, we have Yarrow. Yet another plant I started growing downstate because I found some on clearance, I found that I loved the fern-y foliage and tiny clustered blooms. It attracts both pollinators and predatory insects (who will eat other, less desirable insects).


catalog mania

I’ve used Catalog Choice to get rid of almost all our catalog subscriptions. We hardly use paper catalogs anymore since we shop online so much. The big exception here is garden catalogs. Last night we had a quiet night in catching up on DVR and I looked through a few catalogs that I’ve received in the past few weeks.

garden catalogs

Okay, so maybe more than just a few. I have so many seeds left from last year that I don’t really need to order anything this year, but it’s still fun to peruse, and I added a bunch of things to my wish list on Folia. My wish list is stuff that I can imagine wanting to grow sooner or later – Folia is a great tool for keeping track of that stuff that I would otherwise forget by the time I was ready to do anything about it. Meanwhile, I’m keeping myself on these mailing lists. There’s just something about being able to flip through and see all the awesome possibilities.



I went to our local Lowe’s this weekend and found some total steals on perennials. I actually ended up going to both the local Lowe’s stores and getting different things at each. They had gallon perennials on clearance for $1 each, and groundcover for $1.50 a six-pack. I picked up over $200 worth of plants for $25! What a deal! Some of them aren’t looking spectacular, but they’re all healthy enough that they’ll survive and thrive in future years if not this season.

I found a few things that work with my front-yard color scheme, including Munstead English Lavender. I was planning to add lavender to this area anyway (I ordered some which will arrive in the fall), so that worked out well.

front yard

Munstead English Lavender

I also found some Butterfly Blue Pincushion Flower, which will hopefully grow somewhat quickly and add some height interest.

front yard

butterfly blue pincushion flower

Finally for the front yard, I found some Periwinkle Vinca. Not the most exciting plant ever, but it goes with my plan and should thrive and fill in relatively quickly.

front yard

The shrubs I planted between our house and the neighbor’s driveway have not thrived (probably due to the neighbor’s child ripping them out of the ground repeatedly), so I found another option: ornamental grass. I picked up some Adagio Grass and Maiden Grass and put them in. I am not completely giving up on the shrubs until next year – I hold out the tiniest shred of hope that something underground will survive and sprout in the spring. We shall see. The grasses should hopefully fill in over time, and as you can see, the grapes that sprouted there (one good thing the neighbors have done for us is leave bits of them there) are growing like crazygonuts.

between house and neighbor's driveway

between house and neighbor's driveway

I also found some plants for the bed beside the driveway: Petite Delight Bee Balm, Petite Wonder Bee Balm, and Red Fox Speedwell.

petite delight bee balm

petite wonder bee balm

red fox speedwell

I also found some groundcover for the corridor between the garage and the (other) neighbor’s fence. It’s Moneywort, which has a striking light green foliage and will theoretically flower in yellow.

between fence and garage


I feel really good about getting such great deals! Even if I lose a percentage of these plants, I still come out ahead money-wise, and hopefully I’ll learn more about a bunch of new-to-me types of plants and gain experience, too. If anyone has any tips or advice about any of these plants, I’m all ears!

More photos on Flickr.


front yard plans: black plants

Now that it’s the new year and the hope of spring is on the way, it’s time for me to really start figuring out what our front yard re-landscaping project will look like. This past year we undertook the Summer of Smother, during which we covered the entire front lawn in newspaper and mulch so that this spring we can till and start all over with a blank slate. (I’m actually hoping to hire someone to do the actual tilling since it’s not the easiest task and I am a major wuss.)

With the help of my awesome sistrah, I’ve created a basic layout for the yard – the plan for what shape the beds will eventually take. I recognize that the whole thing is way too much to do in one year, so my next step is to figure out a general idea of what plants I want where and then decide what portion to tackle this year. I’ll fill in the majority of the space with thyme and/or other herbs and then remove what I need to when I’m ready in future years. I’ll still be putting in a veggie garden in the back yard beds, so I need to be realistic about how much I can accomplish altogether.

My general color scheme for the front landscaping is black/purple/white/silver. Our house is off-white brick with a black roof, and we hope to eventually paint the trim and shutters black to give the exterior a more cohesive look (right now the shutters and trim are an icky rust color which we definitely do not want love). I’ve read that keeping a limited color palette will give the garden a more professional look, so here’s hoping.

So, for black plants, here are a few thoughts.

I do want to include edibles where I can, though for the front yard I’d like to stick primarily to perennials so that will limit the edible options substantially. I love blackberries, though the plant would only fit into the color scheme when the fruit is ripe.
Ebony King Blackberry
This Ebony King Blackberry is thornless, which is a bonus (though perhaps since our front yard is unfenced, thorns would be helpful to keep critters from stealing the fruit?).

With the whole colony collapse disorder thing resulting in fewer bees hanging around, I’d like to include plenty of plants that attract pollinators.
Black Knight Butterfly Bush
This Black Knight Butterfly Bush would definitely do that and while, again, the foliage wouldn’t fit into my color scheme, I think it would be worth it.

With a name like Dark Lord Geranium, how could I not include this one?
Dark Lord Geranium
I mean, seriously, a plant with purple-highlighted foliage that also has purple blooms AND is a Star Wars reference? No question.

We don’t have too many spaces out front where we need a lot of height, but there is the awkward little side area that runs next to our neighbor’s driveway and is right outside our bedroom window. I think a screen of this Black Bamboo would be perfect:
Black Bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra
It would provide some privacy as it got taller, and would also help define the boundary between the neighbor’s property and ours. The only hitch is that it is theoretically for zone 7-10, and we’re zone 6. I’m not sure how big an issue that might be.

I’m really seeking some plants with lots of beautiful foliage, now we’re cooking:
Black Elephant Ear, Taro, Colocasia
This Black Elephant Ear is great! I love the large leaves and the way the veins are slightly lighter in color. I could see this taking a significant role in the new front yard.

I do also want some flowering plants, and this Black Barlow Columbine is striking:
Black Barlow Columbine
It supposedly attracts hummingbirds, which would be neat to see.

These are just a few of the plants I’m considering. If anyone out there has experience with any of these particular plants or has any other suggestions, I’m all ears.