Dahlias-Divas of the Garden

From July to a killing frost in October, dahlias dominate my garden with their many petaled lushly colored flowers. Except for a true blue, you can find just about every flower color in a dahlia. Sizes can vary from an enormous 12 inch dinner plate to small button pom poms. Bee magnet blooms cover my plants that are excellent for cutting and using in arrangements. 
Bringing armloads of blooms in the summer will decorate your living space for weeks

Originating with the Aztecs, and arriving in European gardens in 1789, by 1927 F. F. Rockwell, author and founder of Home Garden Magazine,  reported that dahlias ranked in “the leading position of all bulbs grown in America.” For fascinating details on this beloved flower, go to Dahlia Archives of Old House Gardens.   Old House Gardens carries a wealth of heirloom varieties of all kinds of bulbs that you can’t find anywhere else.

Diva dahlia
Dahlia tubers dug up in October ready to be stored over the winter
Easy to grow if given adequate sunlight and rich well-drained soil and plenty of moisture, these shrubby plants grow from tuberous roots, or tubers. Depending on how severe your winters are, they may require digging and storing indoors until planting time next spring. For this reason, many buy new ones every year. 
Getting ready to plant newly arrived tubers from Longfield Gardens
Hundreds of flower forms and colors can confuse people about what varieties to plant but I see this as a great opportunity to try new ones every year and also to go back to my favorites. But remember, the larger the flower, like the dinner plate size (7 inches +), the less flowers it will produce. Juanita, a lovely ruby-red smaller flower (4-5 inches), will produce dozens of flowers compared to a dinner plates’ couple of flowers at a time.  
Pam Howden is a beautiful peach tinged with yellow, seen at Longwood Gardens
Gallery Art Deco, Cafe Au Lait, and Diva are my favorites from Longfield Gardens. There are so many favorites and new ones to pick from! Swan Island from Oregon carries hundreds of varieties and I like how they stamp the name on the tuber so you can even see it when you dig it up for saving. You always have the name even if your tags fade in the sun. Brandon Michael and Hulin’s Carnival were outstanding selections from  Swan Island this year.
Brandon Michael from Swan Island
Sunlight
Select a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day, preferably more. If you can grow a tomato in a spot, you can grow a dahlia. Tolerating partial shade, dahlias will still bloom but less blooms will be available for cutting. And to produce more blooms, dead head and bring the fresh cuts in to enjoy.
Clown-like bloom, not sure of this variety
Hulin’s Carnival
Juanita dahlia, a prize-winning ruby-red, available from Old House Gardens and Swan Island
Not sure of this one
Cafe au Lait dahlia flowers are in shades of cream, pink, and tan

Soil

Heavy feeders, dahlia tubers should be planted in loose fertile soil. Add compost to the soil before planting. Don’t plant in soggy soil; they need good drainage to be successful. Soil temperature must be over 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the spring and I check this with my instant read cooking thermometer. Tubers can rot if planted in wet cold soil in the spring.
Thermometer says the soil temperature is 61 degrees
Campos Gibby dahlia seen at Longwood Gardens

Planting

Plant tubers by digging a hole three to six inches deep and laying the tuber in it with the growing tip up. The growing tip or bud is obvious as a fresh emerging shoot coming out of the fleshy brown tuber. Cover with soil but don’t water until well after growth emerges. Plant the tubers about 18 to 24 inches apart because they produce bush-like plants.
Planting a Cafe au Lait dahlia tuber in the spring that has already sprouted
York and Lancaster, an heirloom dahlia from Old House Gardens

Care

Staking can be done with tomato cages or with stakes and twine. Most dahlias need to be staked or you will have a plant with branches that will flop on the ground and have misshapen flowers. Water if you don’t get at least an inch of rain per week and the plants benefit from feeding lightly with a granular or liquid fertilizer of a general use fertilizer, not high in nitrogen. High nitrogen will produce more foliage than flowers. Dahlias like cooler conditions so flourish especially well in the late summer when temperatures start to moderate.
Seen at Longwood Gardens, dahlias are lined out in rows and at the end of the row, stakes are hammered in and tied with twine
A newly planted dahlia tuber with a tomato cage and twisted sprouts that have already started to grow while being stored

Saving/Storing

Frost will hit your plants sometime in October or November and they will go from glorious specimen plants to blackened wilted skeletons overnight. Check your weather report and before a hard frost is forecast, cut off every flower and bring it in to enjoy for another week. Once the plants are frost killed, you can start digging around the root ball carefully to remove the shrunken star fish like tuber that is nestled a few inches under the soil. Wash off any soil with a hard stream from your hose and dry in the sun. If you leave you tubers in the ground, I have found that some even come back if the winter hasn’t been too cold. Some people don’t save them, preferring to buy new ones every year.

Wash off your tubers in a crate for easy cleanup

Cut the stems a few inches above the tubers and store them in a container full of peat moss and perlite. I only place two layers of the tubers in a container, as I find that the bottom layers tend to rot more often than the top. If the tubers are too wet, they might rot, so I check them after a couple of weeks of storage to see how they are doing. If they are moldy, I scrape off the mold and add some dry peat moss. You are going to lose some of the tubers, but I have a success rate of about 75% saved tubers.

Storing tubers in peat moss
Using a large rubbermaid container that has a layer of peat moss and perlite

Alternative Method of Planting/Saving

Another method is to plant your tubers in 1 gallon plastic pots early in the spring. When the weather warms up, plant the whole pot in the garden and cover with soil. Leave the tuber in the pot and roots will come out the bottom drainage holes. When frost hits, dig up the entire pot, cutting off roots that are outside of the pot and bring the pot inside and place in a cool dark place for the winter. When shoots come up in the spring, top dress with compost and plant outside for another season of bloom.  I read about this method on Old House Gardens and want to try it next season.

Another method which a friend swears by is to dig up the tubers and shake the loose soil off and place in a large trash bag, leaving all the clinging soil attached to the tubers.  Store the trash bag in an unheated garage that won’t go below freezing. Easy and effective!

Pom Pom Dahlia
Pom Pom form of dahlia
Bees love the single type of dahlias because they can easily get to the nectar and pollen

Arranged in a bowl

 

Longwood’s Summer of Spectacle

New fountain display at Longwood Gardens, photo courtesy Longwood Gardens

Two years in the making, the revamped and rebuilt 5 acre fountain display of Longwood Gardens is ready for prime time. Major new renovations that incorporate new technology have energized the old Longwood Gardens fountains into an unforgettable experience.

According to Longwood Gardens website; “The culmination of the legacy and vision of Pierre S. du Pont, the garden combines classic landscape design with art, innovation, technology, and extraordinary fountains. Spectacular events, glorious gardens, live music, special exhibits, and jaw-dropping fountain performances await”.

Fountain scenery in the past was beautiful but lacked the movements of the modern ones, photo by Longwood Gardens

If you have never been to Longwood, their vision is clear; “To become a world apart, a place accessible to all is the driving force behind all we do to ensure we preserve and enhance this extraordinary experience for future generations”. Home to more fountains than any other garden in America, this is an experience that you won’t see anywhere else. New fountain engineering and lighting technology that weren’t available in the thirties transformed the fountains to the digital age.

During daylight hours, the fountains provide a wonderful backdrop for the gardens

Return of the Fountains

I remember the fountain display from years ago and I wasn’t prepared for the new and improved version with shape shifting columns of water.

 

On a recent humid summer night I got my chance. Sitting in a reserved seat, I had a perfect view of the recent renovations complete with fireworks, fountains, and music. ‘Dancing Divas’ was the theme and the fountains literally danced! Waves of undulating water streams throbbed to the music punctuated by eye dropping fireworks.

LED lights produce colors that weren’t possible when the fountains were designed and there were bursts of water propelled by compressed air and flames of propane gas that flare atop columns of water- Fire & Water!

Dancing fountains
Even in daylight the fountains are extraordinary. Here is the basket weave effect, photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens

Facts

Designed by Pierre du Pont and first turned on in 1931, the $90 million revitalizing project began in October of 2014 and opened with great fanfare this spring.

You can reserve seats or bring your own; these lawn chairs were covered because of a threat of rain

 

Lots of new jets were added (1,340) and the tallest jet went from 130 feet to 175 feet. The basket weave effect (pictured above) was added, a “Hidden Layer Dancer” and “Dancer on the Stage” were added, which means a nozzle moves side to side and front to back to make beautiful gyrations that are put to full use. The fountains did dance.

 

Summer of 2016 the fountains were still being worked on

Daily fountain performances with additional special evening shows Thursdays through Saturday showcase the new fountain experience.

Reserved seating is available

The Historic Pump Room & Gallery highlights the original pump systems that powered the main fountain garden from 1931 to 2014 and gives you a behind the scenes look at the powerful equipment required of the old fountains.

The original pump room has been restored

Flower Garden Walk

I loved the fountains, but walking through the totally redone first garden of Mr du  Pont was my pleasure of the evening.

A stellar garden walk in front of the restored fountains
Lushly planted gardens are adjacent to the main fountain garden
Hundreds of seasonal dahlias were on display for everyone’s enjoyment

A celebration of annuals and perennials and a wonderful dahlia garden that was at its peak in August drew my attention and many photos later I joined my family at the Beer Garden for refreshment.

Beer Garden

Returning for Thursday to Saturday evenings, the Beer Garden was a perfect spot to sit with friends and family for wine/beer and wood fired pizza and bratwurst. I have been to a real Beer Garden in Germany and this was very similar in ambiance and flavor.

Kevin, an employee at Longwood, gave us some useful tips on navigating the Beer Garden
Magical at night, there was plenty of seating and food options in the Beer Garden

Grotto

The spiritual center of the new fountain display has to be The Grotto. Meant to be a place of reflection, it includes four fountains, including one that falls from the ceiling.

The grotto with a suspended fountain was my favorite-an area for reflection and meditation, photo by Longwood Gardens

Framed in limestone walls, all of the old crumbling statues and carved wall fountains at the main fountain garden’s base,  had to be removed and either replaced or rebuilt by craftsmen. New plantings of boxwood were added and the old invasive Norway Maples that have fallen out of favor were replaced with Lindens.

Sunset, photo by S. Markey

New plantings were added
New limestone walls are the backdrop for dramatic containers

Longwood Gardens is off Route 1 in Kennett Square, Pa., and contains more than 1,000 acres of gardens, woodland, idea garden, hillside garden, meadow and conservatories. In the Main Fountain Garden, 12-minute fountain shows are held daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Thursdays through Saturdays, when Longwood is open until 10 p.m., there is a 12-minute show at 7 p.m. and a 30-minute show at 9:15 p.m. The last show has illuminations.

Special tickets are required for the Fireworks & Fountains Show.

Garden Design Magazine-A Good Read

 

Garden Design magazine

Garden Design magazine known for its in-depth articles and awesome images has a clean and easy to read design, free of ads. Over the years, I have started and stopped my subscriptions to different gardening magazines, but I will never give up this one. I don’t review many print publications, but I felt that this one richly deserved to be recognized. Not available at the grocery check out line, it is primarily available by subscription. But if you are interested in nature, ecology, cooking, design, gardening, traveling or simply beautiful images, this would be the magazine for you. With 132 pages, there is plenty of space to cover diverse subjects that would appeal to amateur as well as professional gardeners. Most garden magazines have brief articles and I often crave more. In Garden Design, the articles can run 10 to 12 pages long to really get an in-depth look.

Hydrangea picture from Garden Design magazine by Ngoc Minh Ngo

Plant Portraits

What flower can reach 12″ across and up to 18″ long? That is Hydrangeas’ main claim to fame, according to Garden Design article ‘Old Reliable, New Tricks’. The commonly asked questions of how to prune and change hydrangea color is demystified in this informative article. These two questions are asked by many enthusiastic gardeners as there are so many different varieties and treatments for each particular kind.

 

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ is beloved for good reason. Its huge white flower heads—8 to 12 inches across—grace shrubs for 2 months in summer. Zones 3-9 Photo by GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss
A costly one hundred pound bouquet of hydrangeas at a flower shop in London- photo Claire Jones

Using Garden Design magazine as a great design resource, and also for stellar articles on plants, containers, and pollinators, it is always sitting on my desk. More like an add-free soft bound book, I welcome it to my house every season for eye catching photos of gardens, design ideas, and great plant selections. Printed every three months, I am not deluged with monthly issues but instead have a seasonal reference at my fingertips.

Design

The design posts will make your mouth water with all the delicious combinations of plants and good design components. My design of a healing labyrinth made the on-line Garden Design magazine when the magazine went on a brief print hiatus a few years ago. The magazine came back stronger than before chock full of garden inspiration.

My design of a labyrinth made the on-line Garden Design, photo Claire Jones
A beautifully designed water wise courtyard located in Spain is my favorite photo in the current issue of Garden Design, photo by Claire Takacs

And the article by Janet Loughrey, ‘Spanish Lessons’, highlighted three Mediterranean landscapes that show the best of waterwise design.  I drooled over these images!

Garden Travel

Visiting different gardens is also covered and Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens is featured in the latest issue because of the fantastic new fountain show. Perfect timing, as I am visiting it this weekend.

Longwood Gardens new fountain display-photo Longwood Gardens

Another mentioned event that I would love to go to is the Swan Island Annual Dahlia Festival. Located in Oregon, strolling and ogling 40 acres of dahlias in full bloom is my idea of a good day. I’ll make it there someday.

Dahlias come in a huge array of colors and types and are one of my favorite flowers for arranging-photo Claire Jones
A container with Cafe Au Lait dahlias-photo Claire Jones

Ecology

Box Turtles were featured in an article by Doug Tallamy-photo Amy Sparwasser

A find of a box turtle is always happy but all too rare, and the article by Doug Tallamy explained why. Habitat fragmentation  is the main culprit that has placed this species on the Threatened Species list as “vulnerable”. Fulfilling the important job of seed dispersal, Tallamy gave pointers on encouraging these great little natives. Exceeding 100 years old if conditions are right, I learned how to make my property better suited to the colorful turtles.

Tools

Rain wand by Dramm-photo Claire Jones

After doing my post on Watering Like a Pro, reviewing Dramm products like ColorStorm hoses and Rain Wands, the current article about watering tools in Garden Design “elevated this perennial garden task into a real pleasure”.  Quality of your tools makes a huge difference in your garden enjoyment and reaffirmed my watering tool selection.

This laissez-faire beekeeper makes sure his bees have plenty of blooms, photo by Meg Smith

Pollinators

As a beekeeper, I appreciated the article ‘Darwin’s Beekeeper’. Letting nature take its course reflects my policy on beekeeping perfectly. And the foldout on pollinators is pretty enough to be framed. The progression from early to late bloomers is essential information and includes both tree/shrubs, and perennials. Go to my post on Pollinators for more information on what plants to select to attract a wealth of winged beasts to your property- and keep them coming back!

A great reference chart for any gardener-photo Garden Design
Burr comb on one of my bee hives-this is laissez faire beekeeping! photo Claire Jones

 

Great Gardens Across America

A woodsy garden entryway located in Whidbey Island, WA, photo by ClaireTakacs

Probably one of my favorite sections is Great Gardens Across America. Showcasing gardens anywhere in the country, the stories and material and plant selections are always interesting to me as a garden designer.

Front cover of the current issue of Garden Design

No matter what zone or coast you live in and what type of nature lover you are, you will find inspiration from this magazine.

 

Full disclosure: Garden Design magazine is not paying me for this review!

Plant Lust- 8 Must Haves

Longwood's borders are chock full of annuals, perennials, and shrubs
Longwood’s borders are chock full of annuals, perennials, and shrubs

Plant Lust

According to Urban Dictionary, Plant Lust is defined as an uncontrolled desire or craving for any member of the kingdom Plantae. Yes, I just added that to the Urban dictionary as it is a well known term to plant addicts and I fit right into this category. Plant lust or envy is a condition with no cure or treatment. A craving or appetite for unusual plants is a common condition in garden circles and you learn to live with it. See what is on my current list.

Kingdom Plantae Wish List

I have a running list of plant acquisitions in the Kingdom Plantae pegged on my bulletin board that I “must” have. Understand, that I don’t “need” any of these. I need more plants like my dog needs more toys! I compare it to clothes shopping when you are not looking for anything in particular, and then spot something so perfect that from that moment on, you can’t do without.  When I visit different gardens and see something irresistible, I whip out my iphone, take a picture and look for the name tag. That happened recently when I visited Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, and my plant envy list just got longer. Here are a few things that I will be looking for next year, either seeds or plants, anyway that I can get them!

Pennisetum 'Feathertop'
Pennisetum ‘Feathertop’

1. Pennisetum villosum ‘Feathertop’– I am not a huge grass fan, but I definitely have some favorites that I use at many of my landscape jobs. Hakonechloa or Japanese Forest Grass, pictured below, is my absolute favorite grass for shade. But I am open to suggestions for new favorites.

Japanese Forest Grass 'All Gold'
Japanese Forest Grass ‘All Gold’

 

So when I saw this Pennisetum ‘Feathertop’, I fell in love. Yes, it is an annual for me because it is hardy in zone 8 to 10. And yes, it looks like it could seed in after reading the reviews- meaning coming up everywhere. But with its pretty, white, bottlebrush plumes, perfect for cut flowers, these dramatic plumes contrast with all kinds of perennials – kind of how a pretty scarf can ramp up your outfit. This valuable attribute helped give Feathertop the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 2002.

 

Feathertop Pennisetum

Pennisetum Feathertop with Verbena bonariensis
Pennisetum Feathertop with Verbena bonariensis

 

Feathertop Pennisetum
Feathertop Pennisetum

2. Ammi majus or Bishops Weed- An annual that looks like Queen Anne’s Lace on steroids. Instead of a flat umbel profile, the flower is dome-shaped, with beautiful frilly fern-like foliage. This plant also can seed in, but that’s quite all right. I can deal with it. I see this as a great filler and valuable addition in cut flower arrangements.

Ammi majus
Ammi majus
Dome shaped flower of Ammi majus
Dome shaped flower of Ammi majus

3. Celosia argentea ‘Sylphid’

Celosia 'Sylphid' with Zinnias
Celosia ‘Sylphid’ with Zinnias

What can I say about green flowers? I am a sucker for them every time. And when I spotted this Sylphid Plume Celosia, it was love at first sight. Graceful greenish-yellow feathery plumes sit on tall straight stems.  The perfect color to set off vibrant colors in your garden or bouquet.

4. Flashpoint Lily

Flashpoint lily in a garden
Flashpoint lily in a garden

Flashpoint is a Orienpet Lily (cross between an Oriental and Trumpet) which is an explosion of color, red and cream outfacing blooms. I didn’t see these at Longwood, but love this combination so much, I am going to duplicate it in my garden. Similar to a ‘Stargazer’ lily but with a lot more substance and staying power. Fragrant too!

5. Dahlia ‘Pam Howden’

dahlia

Dahlia 'Pam Howden'
Dahlia ‘Pam Howden’

Dahlias are definitely my weakness. Big, blowsy, colorful blooms that arrange beautifully and draw pollinators. What’s not to like? Pam Howden, a ‘waterlily’ type, is one I spotted and will be planting next year. Loaded with blooms, I admired another dahlia, pictured below, Starfire.

Starfire dahlia
Starfire dahlia

6. Hibiscus ‘Fifth Dimension’

Fifth Dimension Hibiscus has a beautiful silvery plum center
Fifth Dimension Hibiscus has a beautiful silvery plum center

Hibiscus was definitely not on my radar when I went to Longwood, but this one practically jumped up and hit me – Fifth Dimension. Looking the flower up on-line, I discovered that when the bloom first starts to open,  it is orange with a silvery contrasting center. As the day progresses, the orange changes to yellow. I caught this bloom in the yellow stage. Go to Longwood Gardens Blog  to see a time-lapse video of the transformation, like a psychedelic experience!

7. Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’

Gomphrena 'Fireworks'
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’
gomphrena
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’

I admit I have grown this one before and loved it. But after spotting it in the Longwood beds, I need to add this to my permanent list of annuals for yearly planting.  Flowering all season long with straw textured globes, the ends of the petals are topped with yellow stars. I grow these from seed as I have never seen the transplants available in the spring.

8. Lisianthus or Eustoma 

Lisianthus comes in pink, white, and purple, and bi-colors
Lisianthus comes in pink, white, and purple, violet, and bi-colors

Commonly known as Prairie Gentian, Lisianthus plants are herbaceous annuals which have bluish-green, slightly succulent leaves and a large rose-like flowers growing on the long straight stems. Frequently seen as cut flowers at the florist, you can grow these in your garden if you can find the transplants in the spring as the seeds are very difficult and slow to germinate. Preferring cooler temperatures would limit this flower for me, but I would like to give it a try. Great as a long-lasting cut flower and I know this will be hard to find.

Lisianthus resembles a rose
Lisianthus resembles a rose

Farmer Florist-My Luscious Backyard

Sarah Nixon and daughter explaining how her business works
Sarah Nixon and daughter

There is a movement afoot to buy your flowers from local sources, instead of getting that canned arrangement sent out from FTC with the same old chemical laden flowers. Sarah Nixon of ‘My Luscious Backyard‘ made a compelling demonstration that you can grow your own flowers and foliage to make your one of a kind floral arrangements with very little space and time. Plus, create a thriving business out of it.

A beautiful example with Cafe au Lait Dahlias of Sarah's artwork
A beautiful example with Cafe au Lait Dahlias of Sarah’s artwork-permission Sarah Nixon

As a flower gardener, I always have arrangements sitting on my kitchen counter with all my cuts from my garden stuck into a vase. Visiting with Sarah Nixon and learning about her ingenious scheme of using other small neighboring plots  to grow different varieties of plants that she couldn’t fit into her small plot, was inspiring.

Dahlias planted in a yard
Dahlias planted in a yard

 

More and more at farmer’s markets, I see not only locally cut flowers, but for the many who feel inadequate at making a composed arrangement, take-home arrangements.

Just like the slow food movement, the slow flower movement has picked up steam because consumers want to buy from local sustainable farms. At least 80% of the cut flower market comes into the U.S. according to Wikipedia, from distant parts of the globe, but the shift is moving more and more to cut flower growers in the U.S.

Arrangment by Sarah Nixon- with permission by Sarah
arrangement by Sarah Nixon- with permission by Sarah

With my recent visit to Toronto with the Garden Bloggers Fling, I checked out Sarah Nixon’s operation and her jam-packed small garden in the city of Toronto. She farms her small plot along with cultivating numerous neighboring plots (with the homeowner’s permission!), to provide her burgeoning florist business with a constant in-season supply of floral cuts and treasures.

Teacup arrangement, used with permission of Sarah Nixon
Teacup arrangement, used with permission of Sarah Nixon

Locally Sarah delivers  many floral designs arranged simply and beautifully in vases, both vintage and recycled. In addition to selling her cut flowers to area florists and creating arrangements for weddings and other events, Sarah has a thriving business that started with just a few jars of flowers at a farmers market.

Small portable greenhouses get her seedlings a head start
Small portable greenhouses get her seedlings a head start

 Growing all of her own transplants from seed, corms, bulbs, and cuttings, using small portable greenhouses, and cold frames, Sarah can grow things that aren’t readily available at the local nurseries.

Dahlia tubers set into trays of soil will be transplanted into the ground soon
Dahlia tubers set into trays of soil will be transplanted into the ground soon

Dahlia tubers are laid on top of soil to root in early in the season and then she will take these and her other transplants and plant them out in “divets” in the garden. The “divets” make sure that when it rains that the water pools around the plant and goes right to the roots. Planting out the transplants intensively and staking them as they grow, Sarah can pack a lot in a small space.

Divets or soil depressions are created to make sure water goes right to the roots
Divets or soil depressions are created to make sure water goes right to the roots

Sarah tends to the plants all summer, staking, weeding, and watering, and cuts the flowers as they bloom for her arrangements that she composes and delivers to her subscribers to their door or workplace. The bouquet subscriptions can start at $45 plus delivery for a beautifully composed arrangement with cuts that you just don’t see in a regular florist arrangement. For homeowners who donate space for growing, Sarah gives them a discount.

Dahlias play a big part of Sarah's arrangements-permission of Sarah
Dahlias play a big part of Sarah’s arrangements-permission of Sarah Nixon

Sarah’s Pointers for a freshly composed arrangement

As a former designer myself, I picked up some valuable advice during Sarah’s demo.

  1. Condition your cuts by gathering early in morning and placing them in a  squeaky clean bucket that has fresh water amended with floral preservatives (follow the directions for best results!)

  2. Let stems remain in that solution for at least several hours to properly hydrate

  3. For twiggy branches, slit the cut ends with pruners so that the water is more easily absorbed

  4. Avoid using floral foam which can clog up cut ends and is a non-sustainable petroleum product; instead add twiggy  branches first which will act like a nest to place premium blooms into

  5. Remove all foliage that will be under water; this can lead to bacterial contamination which shortens the life of the arrangement

  6. Enjoy your floral arrangement in a cool spot and add water to make sure all cut ends are under water

Start with the framework of branches first. Here Sarah is using Ninebark
Start with the framework of branches first
Add things gradually building up the compostion
Add things gradually building up the composition
All done!
All done!

Autumn’s Colors

autumn

 The autumn color palette is astounding here in the mid-Atlantic for weeks in October and November. Magenta, orange, scarlet, persimmon yellow,  and purple tones are well represented. Here are some of my favorite plants to enjoy and plant for their beautiful displays in the fall.

Smoke Tree and Amsonia
Smoke Tree and Amsonia

Amsonia, Fall Perennial

Amsonia and Smoke Tree
Amsonia and Smoke Tree

The frostier it gets, the colors display better and more intensified hues. For plantings, if you plant the perennial amsonia, you will have great fall color and a perfect backdrop for the fall show of colors.

Amsonia hubrichtii turns golden yellow in fall for weeks
Amsonia hubrichtii turns golden yellow in fall for weeks

Turing a flaming golden color when the nights turn chilly, amsonia is the perennial for fall. I ignore amsonia through the summer adorned with it’s feathery green foliage and starry blue flowers, suddenly noticing it in the fall, admiring the perfect backdrop effect to set off autumn colors.

Amsonia has a smallish blue flower that is pretty but not outstanding
Amsonia has a smallish blue flower that is pretty but not outstanding

Almost over night, the feathery green foliage turns a beautiful golden-yellow, which becomes a perfect foil for fall flowers, notably Dahlias and other large-leaved accent plants like Castor Oil Bean. The fine foliage of amsonia is a perfect companion for coarser leaved plants.

Amsonia and Castor Oil Bean
Amsonia and Castor Oil Bean

Dahlias, Fall Flower

Dahlias, another overlooked plant in the early summer comes into its own in the late summer and fall, lighting up the garden when the nights turn cool. Sporting large bold foliage, Elephant Ears becomes a perfect backdrop for this beautiful bloom. Dahlias bloom for weeks and weeks starting in the late summer, continuing into November with painterly splashes of bright color.

Dahlias and elephant ears
Dahlias and elephant ears
Dahlia
Dahlia
Dahlias pop up tall in the fall garden backed up by the fall color of dogwoods
Dahlias pop up tall in the fall garden backed up by the fall color of dogwoods

Dahlia

Maples, The Best Fall Tree

If you plant a maple, you will have fall color guaranteed! There are few maples that don’t put on a colorful fall display. It doesn’t matter if it is a red maple, Japanese maple, or a sugar maple, you are in for weeks of brilliant colors.

Norway Maple
Norway Maple
Acer aconitifolium
Acer aconitifolium

 

Japanese Maples
Japanese Maples

 

Under the canopy of Japanese maples
Under the canopy of Japanese maples
Japanese maples
Japanese maples