Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Arrivals from Gardens in the Wood

Water beading on Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle).  You can see why alchemists thought water collected from this plant had extra purity and magical properties. Photo by RayMorris1

I've been adding an awful lot of perennials to the garden this spring, and the arrival of a couple of boxes of plants from Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek (GITWOGC) concludes this spring's buying spree.

(I have still some seeds to sow, but those are all annuals, though some of them - like Cosmos - will hopefully return from year to year through self-sowing.)

Here are the plants I ordered from GITWOGC:

- Alchemilla mollis, Lady's Mantle, hoping to use this as a groundcover in a morning-sun, afternoon-shade sort of spot. This plant has a really interesting history in terms of the magical properties ascribed to the water that collects on Alchemilla's leaves after a rain or from the morning dew. Some sources say the root and young leaves are edible, but I have not tried it myself. The plant, which is actually in the Rose family, is supposed to self-sow vigorously.

- Aquilegia canadensis and Aquilegia vulgaris, Columbines - A. canadensis is a North American native, whereas A. vulgaris is native to Europe. Both are supposed to self sow.

- Dianthus barbatus "Heart Attack" - Despite its name, the "Heart Attack" variety of Sweet William reportedly lives longer than most Dianthus varieties. Many Dianthus are known for behaving like biennials, but some online reviewers report "Heart Attack" living for more than 15 years.

Helianthus microcephalus, Small-headed Sunflower, "Lemon Queen". This is a perennial sunflower and native to the Southeast, including Tennessee. Photo by Sericea.

- Helianthus microcephalus, Small-headed Sunflower, "Lemon Queen" - It doesn't look like much at the moment, but this plant is supposed to grow 5-8 feet tall and have flowers from late summer to early autumn. I believe the birds are supposed to enjoy the seeds quite a bit. Hopefully the bees and butterflies will like the flowers too. The Small-headed Sunflower is native to Tennessee and is reportedly drought tolerant.

- Penstemon digitalis "Husker's Red" - Native to much of the U.S. (including Tennessee), "Husker's Red" is supposed to be a good plant for attracting bees, butterflies and birds. Although it is drought tolerant, I believe it prefers a well-drained soil, so I'm not sure how it will perform on our heavy clay, but it is supposed to self-sow prolifically so hopefully I will have volunteers even if I lose the original plants.

- Penstemon strictus -Various online sources call this one of the easiest penstemons to grow. Supposedly it is very drought tolerant and also able to draw a crowd of bees and hummingbirds.

- Sedum tectractinum, Chinese Stonecrop - So I've been going a little nuts lately with adding sedums to the garden, but this one sounded too good to pass up. I've got a sunny, bare, windy area by one of the corners of the house. I'll probably plant some seeds there for zinnias and cosmos soon, but I'd also love to have more tough perennials holding down the fort there. Sedum tectractinum sounds like it should fit the bill. Hardy to at least zone 5 (maybe as far as zone 3) and evergreen with a groundcover habit growing to only 4-inches tall and spreading to more than 12-inches in diameter. A drought-tolerant full sun groundcover that can be easily propagated through division in springtime? Sounds too good to be true.

- Verbascum phoeniceum. Mullein, "Violetta" - I'm totally enamored with the photos of the flowers that I've seen on this plant online. Hardy to zone 5 and drought resistant, Verbascums have a reputation for self-sowing vigorously.

Vernonia noveboracensis, Ironweed, another native plant that is supposedly beloved by bees and butterflies. Photo by Gordilly.

- Vernonia noveboracensis, Ironweed - Here's another plant that is native to much of the Eastern U.S., including Tennessee. Hardy to zone 4 and tolerant of full sun, drought, heat and humidity? That's the reputation of this plant that is supposed to be long-lived and tough as a weed. Still, it's got its tender side too -- Ironweed is reportedly a magnet for bees and butterflies.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Starting New Beds - The Smothering Approach

I hired a landscaper to create this new garden bed in the front lawn. He sprayed the grass with RoundUp, dug a border around the bed and put down a lot of pine straw. He still has had to spray subsequently with RoundUp a couple more times to take care of grass that would not die. (That's the greatest irony, right? The grass won't grow where I want it - notice the bare spots outside the bed. But it invades where it's not wanted.) The plants here include daffodils, moss phlox (Phlox subulata), Hypericum (the little shrubs leafing out uphill from the daffodils), one Appalachian Redbud and three Eastern Red Cedars (not cedars actually, but Juniperus virginiana)

I don't have any imminent plans to start new garden beds (I'm still busy trying to figure out the best solutions for the beds I've already got), but I also have big dreams of a lawnless yard filled with trees and beds of flowers and vegetables. does one go about transforming a lawn into garden beds?

I researched this question a few weeks ago and came upon a number of sites that suggest the easiest and best approach is to smother your yard under a combination of newspaper, cardboard, soil and/or mulch.

Here are some of the sources I consulted:

- Washington State University

- Restoring the Landscape with Native Plants

- A Way to Garden

What do you think of this method? Have you tried it? Or do you have some other method of starting new garden beds?

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Walk Around Garden of Aaron - Mid-April 2013

I took these photos yesterday in the garden. It is an exciting time with lots of flowers, new growth and bright prospects for the year ahead.

To give you an idea of what these plants have had to deal with so far this year, temps have fluctuated all over the map. A couple of weeks ago, highs were in the 40s. Yesterday, the high almost hit 90. Strong winds (25-40 mph yesterday) have been the norm. We've had a decent amount of rain in the form of strong thunderstorms and downpours, including one last night.

Just another Tennessee spring! :)

Generally speaking, the plants that I put in last autumn who had a chance to settle in over the winter seem much more confident and settled than the ones I just planted this spring, but many of the springtime transplants have done surprisingly well (much better than the previous two years). So either my technique is getting better, I bought healthier plants or I chose plants that are better suited for this environment and cited them better. I like to think it's a combination of all three factors! 

Hope you enjoy the pics:

This is Sweet Woodruff. If you remember from a month ago (mid-March), the plant was much smaller and really tattered looking. I solicited input on whether to prune out the old foliage. Some gardeners did, others did not. I decided to see what happened if I let the old foliage alone. Just a month later, the new foliage has pretty much obscured any sign of the old foliage, which I imagine has decayed and thereby hopefully helped to give some nutrients to the plant. I'm happy to see how quickly the fresh foliage dominated without any intervention on my part, because it makes me think Sweet Woodruff could make a good evergreen large-scale groundcover as long as I don't mind 1-2 months of not-so-pretty old foliage (which I don't mind at all). Cycle of life and all that. Sweet Woodruff also looks like it's getting ready to flower soon, which should be exciting. I've heard the flowers are fragrant and attract beneficial insects!!

Beautiful new foliage emerging on the Vitex agnus-castus, situated in a windy full-sun spot. 

Some large shrubs that were here when we arrived. I'm not really sure what these are. Euonymous maybe? Although the color is a little garish, I have to say that these are real workhorses. I didn't water them much last summer in the awful 100+ heat and drought and they seem to have leafed out stronger than ever this year.  They're semi-evergreen in Middle Tennesee. Their leaves turn purple, but they don't really drop their foliage into the new leaves are almost ready to appear.

A cheerful gathering of little violas

It's definitely the time for Ajuga to shine! This variegated one is spreading amid a group of Sweet Alyssum seedlings. This is my first year seeing Ajuga send up flower stalks. I like the flowers, but have not noticed any bees or other beneficials visiting them.
Ajuga genevensis in bloom, full sun, Western exposure, growing amidst Love-in-a-Mist and Sweet Alyssum seedlings
Another Ajuga genevensis, this one with Northern / NW exposure. So far, Ajuga seems to be able to suceed with any exposure, but it will be interesting to see how the ones with Western and NW exposure (all of which I planted last autumn) handle the Tennessee summer

A large clump of Ajuga Black Scallop covered in flower spikes (Eastern exposure)

This is some sort of unidentified dogwood that I added last autumn. Really kicking myself for losing the tag. Anyway, I tried to site it in a spot where it's a little protected from the wind. Right now it gets morning shade and afternoon sun. Will probably get more afternoon shade once a large Natchez crape myrtle nearby finishes leafing out.

I've got a lot of these seedlings coming up in my landscape beds. At first I thought they might be some Tithonias that I planted last year, but which did not come up then. But I think there may be too many seedlings for that to be the case. Are they weeds? They don't look like weeds when they're small, but they look progressively weedier as the seedlings get bigger.

This is supposed to be my small veggie garden bed. It may not have enough sun to really grow good crops but I wanted to site it as far as possible from the grass, which is getting sprayed with herbicides this year (due to HOA rules). I've sowed spinach and beets, but clearly there are some other "crops" coming up. Definitely a few self-sowed cosmos, but not sure yet what a lot of the other seedlings are. Time will tell...

I'm fairly certain this is a spinach seedling. I planted Corvair this year from High Mowing Organic Seeds. 

I'm also fairly certain these are the Bull's Blood beets seedlings, also from  High Mowing.  One of the advantages of planting red-leafed plants is that I think it's easier to differentiate them from weeds. There don't seem to be as many red-leafed weeds, at least around here...

This is an ornamental sage - Salvia x sylvestris "Blue Hill".  I planted it right next to Salvia x sylvestris "May Night. Both of them are growing well, but only Blue Hill has started flowering already. Both seem to be very low maintenance so far too. The old foliage looked tattered over the winter, but as with the Sweet Woodruff, I didn't do anything to it and the new foliage quickly emerged and took over this spring.

This is new foliage emerging on the native Pachysandra procumbens. Hopefully it will get enough afternoon shade to do OK in this Eastern exposure spot.

One of our new Appalachian Eastern Redbuds. Not only are these beautiful trees, but they seem to do a great job of feeding the bees.

Another of the Appalachian Eastern Redbuds. We had four installed altogether. The leaves are just starting to emerge, which I'm guessing means that the bloom will probably be finished in about another week. The bloom season is not terribly long (maybe 2 weeks?) but the bright red buds add some color for 1-2 weeks before the flowers open.

"Blue Bird" Rose of Sharon - purchased last autumn from Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek - is just starting to leaf out. Looks strong and healthy! This plant is in full Western sun exposure.

I'm absolutely agog over the beautiful foliage on this "Snowflake" Oakleaf Hydrangea!
It is in Eastern exposure with morning sun and afternoon shade

Malva "Zebrina" hasn't grown much since I planted it a couple of weeks ago, but it is hanging tough in a sunny and very windy spot.

Here's one of the two native Coral Honeysuckles that I planted last year flanking the front porch steps. They have both really taken off this year. As you can see, this one is waving tendrils in all directions. I managed to curl a couple of them onto the railing, but I think I'll need to try to use some velcro ties to attach some more stems to the railing. Lots of buds and blooms on the plants this year, but I have not yet seen any hummingbirds or butterflies on the tubular flowers. Maybe the hummers only notice once the plant starts to climb more vertically?

I'm not 100% sure, but I think this is Liatris (Gayfeather). I thought that both the plants I planted last year had died, but it looks like they're back?! (Or am I misidentifying this plant?)

This is Helianthus "Lemon Queen" perennial sunflower. I just planted this maybe a week ago (or less) from Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek and it looks like it is really settling in nicely and sending up new growth. 

Hardy Blue Plumbago looked deader than a door nail as recently as 12 days ago. But now finally the new foliage is emerging. Guess I can cut back the old dead stems from last year. Or like with the Sweet Woodruff, I could leave them to see how long it will take them to decay and/or be obscured naturally.

Fothergilla gardenii is full of blooms. It's definitely a pretty plant when in bloom, although I'm a little disappointed that I have not seen it attract more bees. Also, even though many websites describe Fothergilla as being very fragrant, I've only noticed a very faint sweet scent. Maybe Fothergillas need to settle in more and grow bigger before they start pumping out more fragrance?

This is Arizona Apricot Gaillardia. Like the Malva (and the Vitex) it is in a very sunny spot. I think it is supposed to like full sun, so why does it seem so weak? I'm guessing it is not happy with the whipping it's getting from the wind. Hopefully it will recover, but this is one of the few plants I added this spring where I'd say the prospects do not look good.

Here's a dwarf gaura that I added last spring. Can't remember the name. Maybe "Passionate Blush"?  It barely bloomed or grew last year when it was completely overwhelmed and shadowed by a thick clump of 4-5 feet tall cosmos. I'm hoping to give it a little more space this year to do its own thing. I think it's already bigger and healthier looking this year than it ever was last year.

Dianthus "Firewitch" has gotten even bushier than last time I posted about it two weeks ago. And now it is just starting to flower. I think it will put on a real show this year!

This is Creeping Raspberry. It was tiny and looked mostly-dead when it arrived from Bluestone last year in one of those annoying coir pots. I really like the idea of the coir pots - less plastic is a good thing - but they just don't seem to decompose and thus I think they prevent the seedlings from growing as well as they otherwise would and/or contribute to root rot. Nonetheless, Creeping Raspberry is supposed to be a pretty strong plant, so I'm figuring that if any plant roots can bust through that coir, this one can. (I also tried making some cuts and tears in the coir to give the roots a better chance at finding a way out.) Anyway, it's still very small, but it does seem to be growing and creating a nice dense little clump of leaves around its base. 

Here's one more Creeping Raspberry plant. I love the crinkled, textured and fuzzy foliage! 

A large clump of Purple Coneflower. Do you think I need to divide these soon? If so, is it better to do that in autumn or very early spring? And is there any special technique? I'm pretty much a novice on plant division...

The Natchez crape myrtles are starting to leaf out. I can't wait for these to put on all their leaves and grow another 1-2 feet bigger this year. We have a number of them around our patio and they give a decent amount of privacy when they have their leaves. Not so much during their deciduous phase. 

New foliage on another Crape Myrtle. I added this one last November. It's a dwarf white Crape called "Petite Snow" that is only supposed to get 5-feet high and 4-feet wide. 

The Aquilegia "Winky Rose" is looking incredibly healthy and bushy. It's sent up dozens of buds and the first flowers have just started opening. Aquilegia is supposed to attract hummingbirds. Didn't see any last year on the plant, but with this many buds, maybe it will draw some hummers this year?

I think this is a form of Euonymous, a.k.a. Burning Bush. But I've never seen the 'wings' that are supposed to be on Winged Burning Bush, so maybe it's a different variety? Not sure, because it was here when we moved in. Either way, Burning Bush is supposed to be invasive, and I wouldn't plant it, but I've ripped out so many other plants (hollies, boxwoods, other euonymous, the usual suspects) that I'm loathe to removing something else until I know exactly what I would want to put in its place. Still, I'll keep a close eye out for berries (haven't seen any in the previous two years) and if I do see some, I may remove the plant mid-season.  FYI, looks like a sterile Burning Bush has been developed in a lab and may someday give gardeners and landscapers a chance to have the benefits of Burning Bush without the invasiveness.

This is the "Dream Catcher" version of Beauty Bush. Like the Malva, Gaillardia and Vitex, it's planted  in a full sun, windy spot. I think I may have goofed when I sited this one last autumn. From further research, it seems that the species Beauty Bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis) is happy in full sun, but that (like many variegated plants) this "Dream Catcher" version may need partial shade.  It doesn't look as though it's about to croak, but the leaves do look sort of twisted, as if they're trying to conserve moisture. With a long stretch of cool weather forecast, I'm tempted to transplant "Dream Catcher" to a shadier spot. But the problem is that I'm not sure where to put it. I think I'll let it stay where it is for now. If it survives the summer, I'll probably be doing some landscaping in late autumn and can try to move it then.
Finally, one of the happiest developments of 2013 so far has been the extent to which all three Aronia (Chokeberry) plants have leafed out, budded out and (in the case of the Aronia arbutifolia "Brilliantissima" shown here) already started flowering. For such a tiny tree, I'm astounded that it has decided to put out this many blooms. It's not exactly covered in pollinators, but I have seen it being worked by tiny bees. Or maybe they are tiny wasps or flies? Not sure. Either way, it's definitely drawing some pollinators in and will hopefully have a (tiny) crop of berries later in the year that I'm sure the birds will strip in about 2 seconds. In fact, I may strip the crop myself this year before it ripens, because I wouldn't want a big bird to damage the still-small plant trying to get the berries off. Interestingly, the other two Aronia, which are a different species (Aronia melanocarpa) have concentrated on putting out more foliage and fewer buds. They also have not yet started flowering. All three tree saplings are in Eastern exposure with morning sun and afternoon shade. I'm hoping that all three will put on some significant growth/height this year - they're all still quite petite - but regardless I'm thrilled with the way they made it through a tough first year last year after a spring planting and record summer heat. Very, very impressed so far with the toughness - and beauty - of the Aronias.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Transplanting Day

Sacrificial, I mean seedlings. You can't tell from the pic, but many of these were planted with totally exposed roots after their coir-based root balls fell apart in the transplanting process.

Does anyone remember that 2001 movie Training Day with Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington where Hawke is a rookie cop on his first day on patrol who doesn't have a clue what he's doing?

Yeah, so my Transplanting Day - moving seedlings from my Burpee tray to the Big Wide Outdoor World - was kind of like that in terms of my haplessness (but thankfully with fewer bullets and car chases).

I've been trying to harden off the seedlings by giving them some time outdoors in somewhat shady and/or protected spots. But yesterday, after temps soared to near 90 degrees with a strong dry South wind, they looked pretty weak. Yeah, not good.

Early this morning, I transplated some tiarellas from the North (really NW) side of the house, which was not as shady as I'd hoped and caused severe wilting in one tiarella that got full sun from about 2 p.m. onward.

Into that available space, I tried to pop the seedlings. Supposedly, you're just supposed to use a pencil or something (I used the handle of a small broken paintbrush) to push up from below the tray. The seedling pops out with root ball intact and you slip it into the ground.

Only it didn't work out that way. The coir growing medium in the seedling tray for the most part crumbled away when I tried to pop the seedlings out of the tray. In many cases, the seedling roots were left totally exposed. I'm thinking that survival rates will be very low.

As you can see, some of the coir still remains in the tray despite my best efforts to pop the seedlings out intact. The okra and a few of the amaranth seedlings have stayed in the tray to be murdered/transplanted another day.

In some cases, the seedlings did pop out a bit more intact, especially with the Cucumber-Leaf Sunflowers that had grown more extensive roots to tie the coir together. So hopefully those will have a better chance of survival.

I decided not to transplant the okra or some of the amaranth today because I want to put them in a garden bed that is much more exposed to the wind and didn't want them to get shredded on their first day out. We're supposed to have strong storms roll through tonight, after which I'll hopefully transplant okra and amaranth tomorrow. I doubt the amaranth will make it, but hopefully the okra has strong roots like the sunflowers to hold the coir together.

And then either tomorrow or this weekend, I'll try direct sowing my remaining seeds.

Based on this initial experience, here are my thoughts:

1) I have more respect for the growers of annuals and any perennials started from seed

2) I've read elsewhere online that coir does not make a great seed starting medium for precisely the reason I encountered here - that it tends to crumble and fall apart at transplant time

3) I think I prefer sowing seed and propagating plants directly in the garden. Independent of the crumbling coir problem, there's still the issue of the seedlings getting lanky (because I was just using natural sunlight instead of a grow light) and that they seem a lot less 'tough' than the seeds started right in the dirt.

The Cucumber-Leaf Sunflowers had more extensive root systems than the other seedlings and thus were able to hang onto the coir better and be transplanted with root ball intact. I hope their chances of survival will be correspondingly better.

So....any seed starting wizards out there want to tell me where I went wrong??

Should I have used a better/different seed-starting mix?

Do you have to use a grow-light to get non-lanky seedlings?

Or am I worrying over nothing and is totally normal for seedling root balls to fall apart in the transplant phase. (I can't believe that's actually the case, but I've been wrong - many times - before.)

I haven't totally given up on the concept. The germination rate on seeds started in a carefully-controlled indoor environment seems good. And it's fun watching the seedlings grow close-up. And it would be nice to be able to start my own tomatoes from seed and thus have access to a much broader selection than what's available at the farmer's market and nurseries. But at this point, the drawbacks sort of seem to far outweigh the possibilities...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nearly Hitting the Jackpot

Baptisia australis, Blue False Indigo

This past Saturday was the date of the Annual Plant Sale put on by the Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee (PPSMT).

The doors opened at 9 and by the time I showed up at 9:10, some of the plants I was hoping to get were already sold out. (The Astilbe chinensis in particular were nowhere to be found. And an avaricious couple cleaned out an entire table full of Munchkin Oakleaf Hydrangeas!)

Still, I didn't leave empty-handed. Far from it. In fact, I walked out with four boxes of perennials totaling some 30+ plants.

How much did this prodigious haul cost me? Round about $200.

In my mind, that's a bargain. As the PPSMT noted in their advance materials for the sale, their goal was to put on a sale with Big Box (Home Depot, Lowe's) prices, but with a broader selection and higher quality.

I think they hit the target on both counts. They had published a catalog of available plants online in advance of the sale, so I was able to make a list of the plants I most wanted to get and I ended up getting many of them including:

- Aquilegia canadensis - Aquilegia is supposed to attract hummingbirds, although I haven't seen any so far on my A. vulgaris. From my experience with A. vulgaris, Aquilegia (a.k.a. Columbine) has a decently long bloom season of approximately four weeks. The plant is reported to be short-lived (my mother actually insists it's an annual) but two of our plants have now survived the winter and actually look stronger and healthier this year, especially the one that gets lots of morning sun and afternoon shade. In Tennessee's hot summers, I've found that Aquilegia's foliage will deteriorate (fading and getting attacked by what I believe are leaf miners), but that cutting the foliage to the ground will cause fresh foliage to resprout without any obvious harm to the plant. This is my first experience with A. canadensis, which is native to North America (Canada, as the name implies, but also throughout Eastern North America, including Tennessee). Missouri Botanical Garden says that A. canadensis has good resistance to leaf miners. I only found a couple of seedlings this year from my A. vulgaris "Winky" hybrid, but I hope and magine that this species Aquilegia may self-sow more freely.

Baptisia australis, Blue False Indigo - The flowers of False Indigo are supposed to be attractive to bees and the plant itself is supposed to be very drought tolerant and able to grow well on clay soils. From what I understand, this is one tough cookie. Oh and it is native to Tennessee (and much of the rest of Eastern North America). Blue False Indigo has received some major awards, including 2010 Plant of the Year from the Perennial Plant Association and the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Soceity. As a legume, it can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. Although Blue False Indigo reportedly resents transplantation or division, it can supposedly be propagated from seed without too much trouble, although the new plants may take a few years to get established.

- Dryopteris x australis, Dixie Wood Fern - Native to the Southeast (including Tennessee), this fern can grow to more than 4-feet tall in shady spots and is listed as being hardy to zone 5 or 6. It doesn't look like much in its dormant state, and I was told by one of the volunteers at the plant sale that those dormant plants are typically passed over and are sometimes the only ones left as the plant sale drags on. That's why it pays to do some research in advance so you can visualize what a plant will look like when it breaks dormancy. (Either that or I've foolishly bought a dead plant. Only time will tell, but you've got to be willing to make that leap of faith sometimes.) Supposedly performs best in moist soil but is drought tolerant once established. This will be my first fern.

- Epimedium x perralchicum "Frohnleiten" - These are also shade plants, hardy to zone 4 or 5. There are lots of different varieties and the one that interests me most is Epimedium x versicolor Sulphureum, because supposedly it spreads quickly and can be used as a tall (1 or 1.5-feet high) groundcover. But the PPSMT plant sale didn't have that one, so I settled for one that looked nicest. A lot of epimediums supposedly perform more as clumpers than as spreaders, but we'll see how this does and if it thrives, perhaps I can divide it to help it spread someday.

Eupatorium dubium "Baby Joe"

- Eupatorium dubium "Baby Joe" - A dwarf version of Joe-Pye Weed, this plant likes full sun and is supposedly hardy to zone 3 or 4, native to the Eastern U.S. (maybe not Tennessee, but our easterly neighbors, the Carolinas). Its top reported attributes from my perspective include its long-bloom season (midsummer to autumn), its fragrant pink flowers, its propensity to attract a lot of butterflies and its ability to succeed in wet or dry soils (which is key since we have both droughts and heavy rains here in Tennessee).

Geranium x cantabrigiense, Biokovo (The color of the flower petals got washed out in this photo, but it is a lovely light pink-white in real life.)

- Cranesbill Geraniums - I've been pretty happy over the past couple of years with my perennial Geranium Rozanne, so I wanted to try adding a couple more Hardy Geraniums to my garden. I was actually planning to order from Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek, but forgot to add them to my order, so I thought I'd see what the PPSMT plant sale had in stock. It turned out that they had one of the ones at the top of my wish list - x. cantabrigiense Biokovo. I've also been wanting to try a Geranium sanguineum (Bloody Cranesbill) and sure enough I was able to pick up a variety of G. sanguineum called "New Hampshire".

- Gaillardia "Arizona Apricot" - I have to confess that I don't have particularly high hopes for Gaillardia (also known colloquially as Firewheel or Indian Blanket). Although Gaillardia is technically perennial to zone 3, from what I have read, the plant prefers sandy soil and dry winters, whereas Tennessee has heavy soils and wet winters. So odds are, Gaillardia will only perform as an annual here. Most species of Gaillardia are native to North America, although there are a few that are native to South America. Supposedly they can tolerate heat and drought without any problems, have no major problems with insects or diseases and can bloom for months. The main reason I wanted to plant Gaillardia - other than the fact that the flowers are pretty - is that I saw some Gaillardia flowers last year that were absolutely covered with bees and butterflies, and I like to support both of those types of pollinators. Oh and goldfinches (one of my favorite birds) are also supposed to relish Gaillardia seeds. Despite Gaillardia's famed sun/heat/drought tolerance, this was one of the few plants I bought that has looked a little stressed from the planting/transplanting process. But hopefully it will recover with time. Even if Gaillardia is short-lived in my garden, I hope that it may self-sow and thus act as a perennial through its progeny.

- Heliopsis helianthoides, Ox-Eye Sunflower, "Summer Sun" - Another plant that is native to much of North America, including Tennessee, the Ox-Eye Sunflower is supposed to be hardy to zone 3. Although it is not supposed to be long-lived, it is supposed to self-sow. The flowers themselves are supposed to bloom for more than 8 weeks starting in midsummer. Bees and butterflies are both reported to enjoy the flowers, and birds reportedly like the ripe seeds. Other attributes that attracted me to H. helianthoides are its reported ability to tolerate drought and thrive in heavy clay soil.

- Hemerocallis, Day Lilies - Yes, I went on a mini rant against daylilies last year (see Mistake #11). And yes, I am even thinking about tearing out one of the day lilies I already have. But I thought I'd try some of the old-fashioned ones that are rated most highly for repeat blooms, fragrance, toughness and ability to spread. To that end, I picked up two Hyperions, a Happy Returns and a Rosy Returns. (I'm not sure which ones I already have, but none of them seem to be repeat bloomers throughout the summer and none of them have any fragrance. Also, most of the ones I have go dormant, but one does not - and the non-dormant one is that one that seems to be hit hardest by daylily aphids, which I presume are better able to winter over in the non-dormant foliage. So I only purchased daylilies that go dormant in the wintertime.)

- Malva sylvestris "Zebrina" - From the photos I have seen online, "Zebrina" flowers look absolutely amazing. Thomas Jefferson is said to have grown this plant in his garden at Monticello. Other reported attributes that appeal to me include its ability to bloom from early summer to frost, its hardiness to zone 4, its tolerance of both heat and drought and its capacity to self sow profusely. Online sources report that Zebrina attracts loads of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and hummingbird moths. I hope so!

Monarda didyma, Bee Balm, "Jacob Cline" has beautiful foliage! I'm not sure I'd mind if this turns out to be as invasive as some reviewers claim. And I haven't even see the flowers (or the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds) yet!

- Monarda didyma, Bee Balm, "Jacob Cline" - Hardy to zone 3, M. didyma is another plant that is native to much of Eastern North America, including Tennessee. As the name suggests, Bee Balm is supposed to attract bees, as well as butterflies and hummingbirds. I'm a little worried about its heat tolerance (we seem to be toward the Southern edge of its native range), so I planted it where it will get afternoon shade. At least it is supposed to be able to tolerate drought once established. Monarda also has a reputation for spreading through underground stems, so we'll see if I regret not planting Bee Balm in a more confined space. (I plopped it right into the middle of one of my front garden beds.) The "Jacob Cline" variety is supposed to be one of the most mildew-resistant monardas, with a bloom season that lasts more than 8 weeks. American Beauties suggests leaving the dead stems standing over the winter to provide seeds for birds. Missouri Botanical Garden reports that the leaves of this plant (which is related to mint) can be used in teas or salads.

- Pachysandra procumbens, Alleghany Spurge - Native to the Southeast (include Tennessee), Alleghany Spurge is supposed to make a nice slow-growing groundcover that is hardy to zone 5. Native plant advocates suggest P. procumbens has an alternative to the far-more-commonly-used Pachysandra terminalis, an Asian plant that spreads far more rapidly and has been reported as being invasive in certain parts of the United States. I have to say that I once saw Alleghany Spurge at a local native plant nursery and thought it looked awful, but the specimen for sale at the Perennial Plant Society plant sale looked much healthier and larger, so I thought I'd take a chance on seeing how it performed in my garden.

- Phlox paniculata, Garden Phlox, Tall Phlox, "Blue Boy" and "Eva Cullum" - Since the "David" Garden Phlox I planted two years ago has thrived and multiplied so nicely, I decided to try adding a couple more cultivars to my garden. I was all set to put them near to the three established clumps of David phlox (in full sun, Western exposure), but then I did a little research just to make sure I was putting them in the right spot, and it seems that P. paniculata really dislikes hot and dry soils. If that's true, I find all the more amazing that the phlox survived in the West-facing clay beds where the soil essentially turns to brick in summertime. Anyway, I decided to try these in beds that get afternoon shade, where the plants will only get half-baked in the summer.

Platycodon grandiflorus, unknown blue variety (either "Fuji Blue" or "Sentimental Blue")

- Platycodon grandiflorus, Balloon Flower, "Astra White" and a blue one (either "Fuji Blue" or "Sentimental Blue" - lost the tag so not sure which one I bought) - I was gobsmacked by the beauty of the few balloon flowers I saw from a single plant that I added to the garden last autumn, so I decided to add a couple more balloon flowers to the mix this year. Platycodon is supposed to be hardy to zone 3, able to tolerate sun or partial shade (the one I planted last year is in partial shade, but I put one of these new ones in full sun, just to see if it can take the sun here and maybe produce more flowers). Supposedly Platycodon does not require division, tolerates heat and drought and can live for more than 15 years. It may even self sow a little bit! My only concern is that Kitazawa says that Platycodon prefers sandy loam and is susceptible to root rot in heavy soil, although the balloon flower I planted last year seems to have survived the winter without incident.

- Scabiosa columbaria, Pincushion Flower - This was an impulse buy (not on my 'shopping list'). I sprang for this plant based on the fact that it is supposed to be very attractive to butterflies. On the other hand, I'm worried about the fact that some of the information online says that it requires excellent winter drainage (in short supply here) and needs to be divided every few years.

Sedum ternatum, Whorled Stonecrop, looking good in the shade

- Sedum ternatum, Whorled Stonecrop - Native to the Eastern U.S., this sedum is supposed to make a nice 4-6 inch tall evergreen groundcover. The white flowers are reportedly a good early spring nectar source for bees and butterflies, although the ones I bought do have some flowers on them and so far I have not seen a bee or butterfly on either one. I put these in partial shade because they were listed on their tags as being woodland plants and are supposed to be able to tolerate moist and shady areas better than most sedums.

Sempervivum, Hens and Chicks, "Red Rubin"

- Sempervivum, Hens and Chicks, "Red Rubin" - Another impulse buy, I put this sempervivum next to some of the sedums (Autumn Joy, Autumn Fire and Vera Jameson) plus Dianthus Firewitch.

- Stachys byzantina, Big Ears, Helene von Stein - A lady who was working the plant sale told me people grew Lamb's Ears in their gardens hundreds of years ago because they could use the soft leaves both as bandages and as toilet paper. I will say that the leaves are very soft and fuzzy. I found Helene a bit difficult to transplant. The leaves seemed to tear and get tattered pretty easily. And it seemed fairly unhappy for the first couple of days after the transplant, sulking and looking awfully windblown. But after settling in for a few days, it is looking much happier and healthier now. From what I've read, these plants are supposed to be much tougher than they look - able to tolerate wet or dry clay, full sun or afternoon shade, humidity, drought and bulldozers. (I made up that last one.) Several reviewers at Dave's Garden strongly recommend it as a full sun groundcover and is supposedly easy to propagate by division.

Stachys officinalis, Betony, Hummelo

- Stachys officinalis, Betony, Hummelo - Another Lamb's Ear, but very different than Helene von Stein. According to Missouri Botanical Garden, Betony prefers afternoon shade in hot and humid summer climates, so I put in the front of the house where it will get morning sun and Eastern exposure. Reportedly does not have as much drought tolerance as Helene, but it does redeem itself with flowers that are supposed to bloom from July to September. And like Helene, it can reportedly spread to make a good groundcover.

- Tiarella cordifolia, Foamflower, "Pink Brushes", "Pink Skyrockets" and "Running Tapestry" - I've been looking for more evergreen groundcover-type plants and Tiarella seemed to fit the bill. Native to Eastern North America (including Tennessee), Foamflowers are supposed to grow best with partial to full shade. I put them where they will get Northwestern exposure. I'm hoping that the late afternoon sun won't be too strong for them, but I don't really have many heavy shade places on my property. Although Tiarella may need some supplemental water in drought conditions, I'm hoping it's tough enough to survive the inevitable summertime droughts when they arrive. Really, I think I probably should have tried to wait until autumn to plant Tiarella and give it a chance to settle in through a winter before having to face the summertime Tennessee heat, but given the prices and selection at the PPSMT plant sale, I thought I'd take a chance, cross my fingers and hope they pull through OK.

Veronica spicata, Spike Speedwell, "Giles van Hees"

- Veronica spicata, Spike Speedwell "Giles van Hees" - I've been so happy with the two Georgia Blue Veronicas that I planted last autumn that I decided to try this new Veronica. Same genus, different species ("Georgia Blue is a V. peduncularis). I think Spike Speedwell is more of a clumper than a spreader, but it is supposed to have much taller and showier flower spikes than V. peduncularis. Although Veronica can reportedly tolerate drought, heat and full sun, it is supposed to grow best in hot summer climates with afternoon shade, so I popped V. spicata into the East-facing front garden bed as well.