I am always on the lookout for perennials that are able to withstand summertime heat and humidity and still look great as the growing season wanes. This year one of the late-season standouts is hosta ‘Dick Ward’. Despite the drought this summer, coupled with neglectful watering, it remains attractive well into October.


Above. Hosta ‘Dick Ward’ in the third week of October. The clump is about 19 inches tall and 25 inches wide.

While the foliage color is certainly fading, and there are a couple of browned-out leaf edges, all-in-all ‘Dick Ward’ remains quite attractive. Earlier in the season, the leaves were bright green with darker green margins.

Continue Reading »

Primarily prized for their handsome foliage, heucheras or alumroots (Heuchera spp.) occupy a well-earned spot on my list of native perennials for shade. About 55 species belong to the genus, most from the western United states. Two are native to the Chesapeake Bay region: American alumroot (H. americana) and hairy alumroot (H. villosa). These two species, together with West Coast native crevice alumroot (H. micrantha), have been hybridized extensively to bring us a range of handsome plants suitable for shade gardens.

The Mount Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware, recently published the results of their three-year evaluation of heuchera hybrids.  Since I only have one of their top-ten hybrids in my garden, I have some planting to do!  Luckily, I visited the trial over the past few years and took photos of a couple of the top-ten plants. For a complete report on the trial, including a list of all ten top-scoring heucheras, see Mt. Cuba Center heuchera.


Above: Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’ was among the top-rated heucheras and one of my favorites among the trial plants. In addition to the foliage color, I especially loved the size: Plants are about 14 inches tall and spread to about 3 feet.

Continue Reading »

I wanted to send out a reminder that I am speaking to the Chestertown Garden Club on Tuesday, September 8 at 11:15 a.m. The talk is at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, right on Fountain Square, 101 North Cross Street, Chestertown. The talk is open to the public, and I hope to see some of you there!  I will have copies of Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping available for sale.

Also, I am happy to report that I have been “Garden Ranted” today. Susan Harris and Ruth Rodgers Claussen visited my garden in August, and Susan posted about it today on Garden Rant. Since Susan lead with a photo of my handsome Border Collie mix Casey, I’ll post another photo of him here.


Above: Casey is in the process of training his replacement as my scheduling secretary. I’ll post a picture of his replacement, Charlie, when the transition is complete.

Upcoming Talks, both open to the public:

Monday, October 12, 1:30 p.m.
Talk: Greener Gardens: One Step at a Time
Queen Anne’s County Garden Club
Queen Anne’s County Art’s Council
206 S. Commerce St.
Centreville, MD 216

Wednesday, November 4, 7:00 p.m.
Talk: Embracing Diversity with Native and Non-Native Plants
Annapolis Horticultural Society
St. Anne’s Parish Hall
199 Duke of Gloucester Street
Annapolis, MD
See Directions for information on getting to St. Anne’s Parish Hall

A couple of days ago I was returning from running errands, and spotted a family of turkeys in our yard. They were strolling through a group of trees along the driveway that I hope one day will resemble a woods. As they slipped into the tangle of vegetation, it reminded me how much progress I’ve made over the years replacing lwangrass with more wildlife-friendly plantings. This woodsy area is still far from beautiful, but it does now host a variety of native trees and shrubs that I have planted over the years. In the interest of full disclosure, it is also the site of one of my major wineberry battles earlier this summer.

I keep a list of birds I have spotted on the property, and this isn’t the first time I have seen turkeys here. (In addition to being a gardener, I am a birder, so I am usually always looking.) Still, it has been fun to follow this family all summer and plan what else I can add to the landscape that will make it friendlier to an even wider variety of creatures.


Above: Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, one of the many species spotted at Hackberry Point.

Come September, I will certainly add more natives for birds and other wildlife, and I hope many other Eastern Shore Gardeners will do the same. To help get you planning and planting, I wanted to share a link to 10 Tips for Attracting Birds to Your Landscape, a blog post I wrote for the University of North Carolina Press in support of Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping earlier this year. I hope you enjoy it!

Despite the fact that we have been living here since 2004, I am happy to report that there are still botanical surprises at Hackberry Point. Over the weekend David Arnold, who is helping me in the garden this year, left a cutting and a brief note on my doorstep. “Barbara, What is it? David.” I could tell right away that the plant was a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, but beyond that, it wasn’t familiar. Furthermore, I was astounded that I hadn’t seen it first, and I had to call him back to find out where the plant was growing.

It turns out it was along the edge of the creek, just next to where our dock extends out over the water. After taking some pictures, I delved into my native plant books. I finally found a cool on-line key to pea family plants that helped me identify it. I determined that my new native plant was Apios americana, commonly called groundnut or potato bean.



Above: Groundnut (Apios americana)

The pinkish maroon flowers resemble miniature wisteria blooms. They look like tiny reddish replicas of the native America wisteria (Wisteria frutescens), which has more rounded bloom clusters than the non-native oriental species.  Groundnut flower clusters are 1 to 2 inches long and wide. Sources say the flowers are fragrant, although I couldn’t detect any scent. (I’ll keep trying on this point.)

The plants prefer sites with wet soil, which explains their location along the creek. Since I walk by the site frequently to go out onto the dock, I can’t imagine how I missed them in previous years, especially since they produce flowers in August. I wonder if tubers or seeds floated in from somewhere else and this year for the first time the vines conquered the tangle of grapes, phragmites, and shrubs at the water’s edge.


Above: Groundnut climbing phragmites.

Groundnut grows from edible tubers, and were an important source of food for native Americans and early settlers. Since tubers form slowly, they haven’t become a popular cultivated crop. For more information on ground nuts, Orion Magazine posted an excellent article by Tamara Dean. For a more detailed botanical description, see the page on this species in Climbers.

Groundnuts also aren’t popular garden plants because they are too rampant for most garden situations. Mine seem to be happy competing side-by-side with thugs like phragmites. I’ll continue to look for more spots in the wild garden where I could plant them. While I doubt I’ll be able to find tubers because of the density of the plantings along the creek,  I do plan to save seed this fall. E-mail me privately if you are interested in getting seed to start your own patch.

Weeds in the garden have pulled me away from the computer this summer. After a wet April, a dry May, and a very wet June, I continue to do battle. Fortunately, I have help this summer in the form of David Arnold of The Esoteric Gardener, so by the close of this season the garden will look far better than it has in the past couple of years.

In addition to the regular culprits, I am making a special effort to eliminate wineberries (Rubus phoenicolasius), which are threatening to take over major portions of our property. I expect this to be a multi-year battle, and I don’t think I will ever be able to let my guard down completely.



Above: Wineberries with multiflora roses (Rosa multiflora), another common non-native invasive weed.

In the past, I’ve tried digging and discarding wineberry plants. I’ve also routinely cut off and placed the fruit in the trash to try to reduce the number of seed-grown plants. Despite previous efforts, this year they have taken over more space than ever, indicating my past efforts haven’t been effective. In response, I am resorting to using herbicide and a sprayer, something that I hate to do.

Wineberries are a serious non-native invasive that are worth fighting. Not only do they spread by suckers and come up from seed sown by birds, they also root wherever the stem tips touch the soil and produce canes that arch over and shade out nearby plants. The end result is an interconnected mass of thorny stems that form thickets that are really difficult and unpleasant to negotiate. The fruit is edible, but is not enough of a reason to let the plants live. Native black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) are thorny and can get out of control, but they are a far better choice and a great homegrown fruit.


Above: Wineberries have arching stems covered with bristly reddish hairs and plentiful thorns. On the left is another non-native invasive, oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)


Above: Black raspberry stems are whitish in color. While they have thorns, they  lack the red hairs that characterize wineberry stems.

Spraying wineberries is not a once-and-done operation. Established plants form dense tiers, and I have found that spraying twice or three times at about 10-day intervals works best to eliminate the plants. The first spraying generally takes care of the main canes, which reveals lower branches along with smaller plants closer to the ground. I am using Roundup mixed according to label directions. (I buy the concentrate, mix it myself, and add a squirt or two of dish-washing liquid as a spreader sticker.) When spraying, I try to isolate the canes to prevent drips from getting on any plants below. This isn’t always possible, and I have  damaged some plant growing underneath the wineberries. I hope they will rebound once the blanket of dense foliage dies away. I am also leaving the canes in place so I can see where they were located and spray again if necessary. I’ll probably cut them back late this fall, then start year two of my elimination program next spring.

Just a quick post to let Eastern Shore Gardeners (and ones from the Western Shore, too!) know that I’ll be signing copies of Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping at this year’s Kent Island Day.  That’s today from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. I’ve never been before, but it looks like a fun event! Hope to see some of you there.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 219 other followers