Garden Tips

Much like an artist uses oils, the gardener uses plants to paint strokes of color across the landscape. Part of the art and beauty of gardening lies in the ability to combine nature’s hues in a way that delights the eye and engages the viewer. Some instinctively know which colors work well together and the exact shade to use to perk up a drab border. For others, the process is more hit or miss, moving plants around to find the right combinations. Whether your tastes run to brilliant reds and yellows or restful blues and greens, the secret to creating the look and feel you want in the garden is often simply a matter of understanding the effects of different color combinations.

Analogous Colors

Analogous colors are those that are closely related on the color wheel. Yellows, oranges, and red-oranges (or blues and violets) used together create a feeling of harmony. Combining analogous colors is perhaps the most popular color scheme used in gardening.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are colors that are opposite on the color wheel, such as violet and yellow, blue and orange, and red and green. These colors offer the greatest contrast, so the effect can be bold and dramatic, even vibrating. Be careful not to mix small amounts of complementary colors together, however, as from a distance the colors will tend to blend, appearing gray. Larger areas of one color positioned against an area of its complement will work to create an exciting contrast.

Triadic Colors

Triadic colors are groups of three colors that are spaced equidistant from one another on the color wheel. Using areas of primary colors, such as red, blue, and yellow, together in your garden can create a dramatic effect. As with complementary colors, too many small patches of varying color can create a gray or neutral tone from a distance. Plant larger areas of color to benefit from this electric contrast.

Monochromatic Colors

A single color used throughout the garden can create a wonderful feeling of unity. To keep this area from becoming too monotonous, use plants of varying textures and varying degrees of value (lights and darks). An all-white garden, featuring silvery-greens along with a variety of white blossoms, will impart a feeling of purity and light. You can add hints of pale blue for a cool, quiet mood, or warm things up with a splash of yellow.

Cool colors, such as blues, violets, and pinks, can create a quiet, calming effect, while warm colors, such as bright yellows, oranges, and reds, tend to make a bold and dramatic statement. Placing plants with cool colors, which recede from the eye, behind those with warm colors, which advance, creates the illusion of depth in a small space.

Perhaps the best rule to follow in creating a color statement in your garden is to experiment. Try unusual combinations of color together to see for yourself what works for you in your space. Move plants around…as a color that isn’t quite working in one area may look great in another.

Although gardeners often dream of sun-splashed borders filled with stately perennials, many are discovering that their daisies, daylilies, and daffodils are working overtime, bringing the garden to light…at night! Welcome to the world of the garden after dark.

With busy families finding fewer daylight hours to enjoy their gardens, it makes perfect sense to create a moonlight retreat in which family and friends can gather after hours. Spending balmy evenings out-of-doors is a wonderful luxury after the chill of winter…and during the scorching days of summer, the relative cool of the nighttime garden will come as a welcome respite. For the romantic at heart, few things are more enchanting than a midnight stroll through flowers kissed by moonlight.

How do you begin to create such a paradise? The secret is to select white and pale-colored plants that shimmer in the night. You’ll find that many of your favorite flowers, which you thought only bloomed in blue or hot pink, have been hybridized for white color or a very pale interpretation of their darker counterparts. Annuals like petunias, impatiens, and snapdragons all have white cousins, along with perennials, such as echinacea (coneflower) and campanula. You may also be surprised to learn at what time of day many flowers open. While some, like daylilies, as the name suggests, actually close at nightfall, others, such as evening primrose and moonflower, with its lemony scent, come alive right along with the peepers and crickets.

Just like any other garden, the moonlit garden should be filled with plants of different heights and habits, shapes and textures. Plants with variegated or white-edged foliage like euonymus, ivy, and hosta, add contrast to the garden and will sparkle in the dim light just like the flowers. Shrubs like spirea provide a backdrop for lower-growing plants like cosmos and artemisia, while a well-placed trellis or fence can lend support to lacy curtains of clematis and passionflower. A bench beneath an arbor brimming with white wisteria and climbing roses or a garden swing flanked by fragrant lilac or mock orange is an intoxicating spot to while away an evening. You’ll find that the strong fragrance will not only attract hopeless romantics, but also the “butterflies of the night,” moths, which will flit and flutter throughout the moonlit garden feeding on sweet nectar. Special touches complete the scene: A serpentine path lined with phlox, baby’s breath, and lilies, will invite a leisurely stroll, and a rustic lantern will allow you to enjoy your garden even on those nights when the moon is hidden by clouds.

A warm summer’s night, a trickle of water from a nearby fountain, and some soothing music from a speaker hidden beneath a shrub–the stage is set for spending a relaxing evening with friends and family in the magical land of the midnight garden.

My hydrangea grows beautiful green leaves, but I haven’t seen any blooms yet. How do I get my hydrangea to bloom?

There are a few main reasons that you may not see blooms on your hydrangea bushes: sun exposure, over-watering and over-fertilizing. Endless Summer® hydrangeas prefer morning sun and afternoon dappled shade. If they are planted in full sun, it may be too hot and intense for the blooms to produce. Also, over-watering and over-fertilizing your plants can inhibit bloom production. Hydrangeas prefer moist, but not wet soil, and one application of fertilizer in spring or early summer. For additional planting and care tips, please click here.


I pruned my hydrangeas back after an early frost and now I am not seeing blooms. Why is that?
How to prune hydrangeas is a great question. If you pruned your hydrangeas back to the base, it will take some time for the new growth to develop and produce blooms. Be patient and look for the green growth coming up from the base of the plants. That is where your new blooms will grow from!


I had several small blooms on my hydrangeas last year, so this year I have fertilized every 10 days until I saw blooms starting to develop. What else should I be doing to get big blooms?
The first rule of thumb is to NOT over-fertilize your hydrangea plants. We suggest one application of granular fertilizer in spring or early summer, and then follow package instructions afterwards. If you over-fertilize, it can burn the root system of your hydrangea bushes and actually inhibit bloom production. For more tips on fertilizer and how to achieve big, beautiful blooms, please click here.


My hydrangeas have brown dry spots on the leaves and brown petals on the bloom. What do I need to do to make the hydrangeas healthier?
If the spot is round and brown with a red to purple ring, you likely have Anthracnose. Remove the affected leaves and dispose away from your plants. Treat with a fungicide and repeat as necessary. If the margins of the leaves fade from green to grey and then turn brown, the plants were dry for too long. If the petals of the flowers turn brown at the tip, not enough water was applied. Both the leaves and the flowers will show lack of water very quickly.


I planted my hydrangeas in a location with at least 6 hours of full sun and partial afternoon shade. I read online that hydrangeas prefer that I water them heavily once a week instead of a little water every day. Now my hydrangea bushes are turning brown with no blooms. What am I doing wrong?
Depending on where in the United States you live will determine how much sun your hydrangeas can handle. If you are in a northern state (Zones 4 – 5b), your hydrangeas can handle up to 6 hours of sun in the morning, but as you get further south you should allow for more shade on your plants. In the southern-most regions (Zones 8 – 9), we recommend a maximum of 2 hours of morning sun. Too much sun exposure can cause your hydrangea shrubs to burn on its leaves and blooms. Also, be sure to put your fingers in the soil to see if it needs watering. We do recommend a soak versus light watering each day, but you should be sure that the soil is always moist – not wet – by sticking your fingers in the dirt. If it is dry, give it a good soaking. If it is wet, do not add water. For more information on where to plant and how to water, please click here.


Do these hydrangea plants survive in containers? Our garden gets really hot, so I think a container would be a better option. Do I follow the same care instructions (watering, fertilizing, etc.) as I would in the garden?
Absolutely! Hydrangea shrubs are perfect as potted plants and give you the ability to move the hydrangeas to different locations and create a focal point in your living space. The care instructions are mainly the same, with a few notable differences. For a complete look at container care, click here.


What type of fertilizer do you recommend? I know that hydrangea bushes do best with certain kinds of fertilizer because of their big blooms, but am not sure what to buy!
We recommend a granular, slow-release fertilizer with a NPK ratio of 10-30-10. If you cannot find that specific ratio, ask your local nursery for a fertilizer with a high concentration of phosphorus, as that encourages the bloom growth. For more information, please click here


I bought these plants because I wanted big, beautiful blue hydrangea bush in my garden. I got big blooms, but they are PINK! What did I do wrong?
The pH level of your soil determines hydrangea colors. If you have a pink hydrangea and you want a blue hydrangea, no problem! Pink blooms develop in alkaline soil, so certain amendments need to be made to lower the pH and create an acidic soil situation. We suggest Color Me Blue soil sulfur to encourage blue bloom production. This is safe, organic and all-natural. There are also other natural remedies to changing hydrangea colors. To encourage blue blooms in alkaline soils, add aluminum sulfate, composted oak leaves, pine needles or coffee grounds. There are more tips, including how to change from blue blooms to pink hydrangea, click here.


I planted my Endless Summer hydrangea in an area that is far too sunny and hot, so I’d like to transplant them to a more shaded area. What is the best time of year to do this, and are there any other tips I should know?
If you are transplanting your hydrangea bushes, we recommend doing so while it is dormant.That means transplanting your hydrangea shrubs in late fall, after the first frost, or in early spring before it has woken up for the summer.


I live in an area that gets a lot of snow during the winter. Should I prune Endless Summer Hydrangeas back like I do with my other hydrangea bushes? What else should I do to protect them from the freezing winter months?
The great thing about Endless Summer® hydrangeas is that you don’t need to prune them back to the base like other hydrangeas. Since they bloom on previous years’ growth AND the new season’s growth, you can leave them all winter long to achieve double the blooms next spring. Do NOT prune the hydrangea back in fall. Leaving the fall blooms on your plants over the winter provides winter interest, and ensures you aren’t removing buds that will become flowers in the spring and summer. Leaves, wood mulch and/or straw are good options to insulate your plants. Mound the mulch or leaves around your plants at least 12” high to protect the flower buds that will bloom early next year. For more Overwintering tips, please click here. If your hydrangeas are planted in containers, please click here.

Information courtesy of Endless Summer Hydrangea. Visit website >

Shade plants offer much more color and variety than most of us imagine. Your best bet is to stick with plants that note full or part shade. We find good definitions to be 0-2 hours of sun for shade and 2-4 for part shade, and like some light and bright tones to punctuate shade.

Almost all spring bulbs work in areas around trees, since they will bloom before the tree leafs out. 

For lots of color in shade plants through the season, consider bright annual Impatiens. They’re especially great in two or three rows to create a vivid band of color on the front border. Begonias love shade, too.

Variegated Leaf Shade Plants

A great way to achieve long color in shade gardens is plants with variegated leaves. Mix in some Hostas with large areas of white in their leaves – there are some lovely limes, too. A large blue-green elegans is beloved as a great focal point. Other bright leaves include some ferns, especially the Japanese varieties. The delicacy of ferns’ leaves add beauty in shade plants, and Solomon Seal fills and spreads nicely (great with Dicentra, which dies back in heat). There are probably more varieties than you know – do some searching. One grass, Hakonechloa macra aureola, in gold, grows in shade, as does variegated Lamium and Brunnera with striking leaves and small blue flowers. Caladiums are always stunning – try them with dragon-wing begonia for drama –and most Coleus prefer part-shade.

Spring and Summer Shade Plants that Flower

In the spring, Dicentra, pink or white bleeding heart, tiny flowers on arching stems, are gorgeous and seed freely. Primroses may bloom all summer in cooler areas, and do a spring and fall show in others – they’re small, so plan them at the front. Lily of the Valley has graced gardens for hundreds of years, Pulmonaria has patterned leaves and lovely spring flowers and  Cordyalis brings in yellow accented by ferny leaves.

In early summer, Huechera (coral bells) steal hearts. Older varieties flower in pinks to reds, and newer ones offer purple, orange and lime foliage (but tend to have rather non-descript white flowers). Heucherella and Tiarella (foam flower) are smaller versions of Heuchera with vivid leaves.

Astilbes follow in many pinks plus white, red and lavender, love part shade and provide tall foamy flowers – fertilize them throughout the season and leave the dried flowers on for great winter accent. Aruncus (goat’s beard) is a tall display of foamy white flowers in June and July. Many varieties of Hemerocallis will grow in quite a bit of shade, and Tiger, Oriental, and Asian lilies do well as partial shade plants.

Fall and Winter Shade Plants

Hostas bloom in purple or white, and tall scarlet lobelias are a great accent at the back of the garden.  Sedum Autumn Joy is great in partial shade.

Helleborus, or Lenten Rose, blooms between February and April depending on your Zone.

Shrubs

Kerria Japonica is a true shade plant. Many Hydrangeas, some small decorative maples and Summersweet (needs lots of water) thrive in part-shade.

It’s fun to discover how much you can do in shade, and shade gardens look cool and inviting whatever the temperature.

Lured by the gorgeous new offerings each season in glossy garden catalogues and magazines, you might be tempted to choose plants not well suited to your area – an expensive and time-consuming error. High-maintenance plants, artificially kept going by herculean efforts and costly fertilizers, can also be discouraging as they often do not survive.

More and more, amateur and professional gardeners are turning to native plants to enhance their outdoor spaces.

But just what is a native plant? A native plant is defined as one that exists naturally in a given area and is indigenous to that specific region or ecosystem – one that has not been introduced by humans.These can include trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses, mosses and groundcovers. For example, in the Pacific Northwest, the Douglas-fir tree is a native plant. English holly, which can be found extensively there also, is not native to the region because it was introduced by humans. It is, however, native to England!

Incorporating native plants in a gardening scheme does not require ripping out existing plantings. Natives can be gently introduced to a thriving garden, with benefits all around:

  • As they are adapted to the region’s soil conditions and climate changes, natives are
    much lower maintenance
  • They require much less water
  • Natives generally do not become invasive
  • They encourage wildlife to visit and provide a safe habitat for birds and butterflies
  • Natives thrive without fertilizers and chemical pesticides.

CHOOSING NATIVE PLANTS

Here are a few tips to get you started with native plants:

  • Consult nature. What is growing in your local parks and wild areas? If you need to, get help with identification from books, a knowledgeable friend or your area’s Master Gardener program.
  • Connect up with local native plant societies. Nearly every region has one and they offer a wealth of information and tips. Most have extensive websites with plant lists, photographs and planting instructions.
  • Cultivate a relationship with a reputable nursery. Many specialty nurseries now are dedicated to native plants and will welcome your inquiries into what plants they recommend.

Once you have an understanding of what the native plants in your area are, you can begin to plan where they will best be utilized in your own environment.

Remember, trees and shrubs form the basic structure in any garden plan. Are there natives you can use to define a new garden space or create a needed privacy barrier? What about colorful wildflowers? Is there a section of your garden where the sight of gaily swaying columbines will brighten the view? Do you have children that would delight in avian and insect visitors?

Consider the locations and then choose plants based on which soil conditions, light and water availability you have which most duplicate their natural environment. Then sit back and let them take over.

Soon, you’ll hardly remember how your garden was before you decided to “go native”!

Butterfly gardens provide food and sanctuary for many vibrant species of Lepidoptera. This type of garden can be planted in even the busiest urban location. Offering even a small habitat can help support the butterfly population in your area. A container garden consisting of a few carefully selected bushes and flowering plants may be all it takes to attract these winged visitors to your home. If you have more space available, you can plan a butterfly garden complete with a walking path and outdoor seating for maximum enjoyment.

Selecting & Caring For Host Plants

Indigenous plants are often the best choice for butterfly gardens. These shrubs and flowers are simple to grow since they are already compatible with the soil type, texture, and pH in your area. This means you will only have to worry about ensuring adequate sunlight, water, and drainage for your plants. You may also consider adding compost once a year to replace any lost nutrients. Don’t use pesticides.

Visit your neighborhood garden center for advice on nectar producing plants that do well in your zone. Bear in mind that some are perennials in the Southern U.S. but must be replanted each year in colder parts of the continent. Here are some frequently suggested plant/flower species (both native and imported) that grow well in many different zones:

Aster

Bee Balm

Burning Bush

Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Weed

Chrysanthemum

Clover

Columbine

Dandelion

Goldenrod

Honeysuckle

Joe-Pye Weed

Marigold

Purple Coneflower

Shasta Daisy

Shrubby Cinquefoil

Verbena

Wild Violet

Yarrow

Zinnia

Some of these plants, such as clover, double as food plants for caterpillars. You can also deliberately grow hosts for specific butterfly larvae. Use milkweed to supply a breeding ground for monarchs. Dill, parsley, and other members of the carrot family will attract female swallowtails that are ready to lay their eggs. Watching caterpillars grow and change is one of the most interesting experiences provided by a home butterfly garden.

Common Butterfly Species

Expect to see both local and migrating species of butterflies pass through your garden depending on the time of year and your location. The larger and more varied your plant selection is, the greater number and variety of Lepidoptera you will see. However, some plants (like the aptly named butterfly bush) will attract many different types of butterflies at one time. Here are some of the species that frequent North American butterfly gardens:

Alfalfas

Buckeyes

Cabbage Whites

Fritillaries

Goatweeds

Hackberries

Hairstreaks

Monarchs

Morning Cloak

Nymphs

Painted Ladies

Pearl Crescents

Question Marks

Red Admirals

Skippers

Snout Noses

Sulphurs

Swallowtails

Tawny Emperors

Viceroys

Special Considerations

This type of garden will attract much more than just butterflies. Hummingbirds are welcome visitors as well. Bees and wasps will also come to drink from your ready supply of nectar. When this happens, move slowly and remain calm. These insects are foraging far away from their home nests and unlikely to sting humans. They help pollinate flowers and are a natural feature of all butterfly gardens.

Fragrant gardens are becoming very popular with home owners. Human beings are very sensitive to smells, both pleasant ones and unpleasant ones. We use all kinds of means to dispel the smells from our bathrooms from using spray scents to deodorants to ceiling exhaust fans. At the same time, the number of fragrances available in perfumes is enormous, not just for women anymore, but also for men.

You can also enjoy a fragrant garden all year long, and you can vary the fragrances to your own taste. If you want to bring flowers into your house, you may scent the house with roses one day, lilies the next, and lilacs the next, as you please. Besides, you can grow artemesia or lemon thyme whose pungency and tang provide a counterpoint for the fragrance of the flowers.

We plant vegetables in our gardens to help meet our needs for food; in the same manner, a fragrant garden can be food for the soul. When we smell the first viburnum in the spring, it fills our hearts not only with joy but with hope: summer is on the way. Consider planting a fragrant garden. It will make your life better.

Planning Your Fragrant Garden

You’ll want to place your fragrant garden as close to the house as possible so you can enjoy the fragrance inside the house as well as out. If you can plant near a wall or a patio, the reflected heat will intensify the fragrance of many plants, which will increase your enjoyment. If you put your garden in the open yard, the wind will be likely to blow the scent away from you. An enclosed place will permit the fragrance to collect and intensify.

Bugs, etc.

The more fragrant your fragrant garden, the more insects it will attract. If you have someone in your family who has serious allergies, you’ll need to put the garden in a place where this person can avoid the insects. You need to factor in that there will be more bees and bugs around scented plants.

Seasons

You need to take into account when the flowers will bloom in your fragrant garden. For example, a clematis will be likely to bloom in early spring as will daffodils and tulips. If you’re planting a fragrant garden at a summer house, you may completely miss these. On the other hand, if you plant only summer-blooming flowers around the house you live in year-round, you’ll be missing some fragrant seasons. If you plan carefully, your fragrance season can last from frost to frost.

Planting for Your Own Region

Before planning your fragrant garden, talk to a gardener in a local gardening store. He will be able to help you choose those plants that will grow best in your own area. You might consider flowering trees like magnolia as well as shrubs like mock-orange that bring their own fragrance. Then there are vines like wisteria and perennials like primroses. In addition, look at annuals and bulbs such as hyacinths, Irises, Freesias, and paper whites for spring fragrance. For summer, consider lavender, lilies, nicotiana, to name only a few. A visit to your gardening store will inspire you!