Powered by Squarespace

Visit my website 



American Gardener Magazine New Plants 2016

Excerpted from "The American Gardener" magazine - Jan/Feb 2016

New Plants for 2016

For Dendranthema fans (otherwise known as Korean mums or Hardy mums – these are the ones that come back every year but can be quite floppy and really should be pinched at least once) there’s a new, lower-maintenance cultivar.  Dendranthema ‘Pumpkin Igloo’ has a “non-fading vibrant orange flower color on a compact branching plant that doesn’t need to be pinched”.  Does well down to Zone 5.  If you’ve not used these, they bring amazing flower power to the late summer/early fall perennial border - plants are covered in orange daisy flowers for over a month.  They attract masses of late-season pollinators and are deer-resistant.

 'Pumpkin Igloo' flower color really pops with other early-fall flowers and foliage.

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage) is drought-tolerant and deer-resistant but can be a little too wild for some gardens.  ‘Denim ‘n Lace’ is a new cultivar with shorter upright stems that won’t flop over. 

Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Denim 'n Lace' is more compact and makes a bigger flower statement than the species - but it reads more purple catmint-colored than the bluer color of the species. 

Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra (False sunflower or Oxeye Daisy) also has a sturdier new cultivar called ‘Prima Ballerina’.  This is a native perennial for the back of the border with bright yellow daisy-like flowers that attract pollinators.  Heliopsis flowers from July to October and is surprisingly deer-resistant in most locations I’ve used it.  It’s a drought-tolerant native (once established) and can tolerate clay soil.  ‘Prima Ballerina’ tops out at only about 40 inches tall and does well to Zone 3.

 Heliopsis is perfect for the back of a border - it even works in front foundation plantings.

If you’re looking for something different to put in annual containers this year, look into Echeveria gibbiflora Wildfire™.  This is a 10-inch tall rosette-forming succulent with ruffled, red-edged foliage serves a dramatic visual punctuation and and would look great with ground-cover sedums in a dry, desert-y full-sun container.

 This Echeveria will make the blue-toned varieties pop!


Don’t be afraid to try some of the new roses – they really are much easier to grow and maintain nowadays if you choose the disease-resistant repeat-blooming varieties.  Knock-Out roses are in every median strip nowadays – we need a step up from them in our gardens!  There’s a new David Austin rose in 2016 called Rosa ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ which David Austin has called “possibly the best rose that we have introduced to date.  It is also one of the most disease-resistant roses we know.”  It’s a 3-ft tall shrub rose that blooms prolifically with double/full old-rose style flowers and a strong fruity fragrance.

Rosa 'Olivia Rose Austin'   

I hope everyone has discovered the wonderfulness of highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum).  For those without deer, blueberries are practically an ideal shrub.  They stay fairly compact (about the size of boxwood or spirea) with an interesting branching pattern.  They have delicate and beautiful flowers in spring, followed by berries that birds love (you can eat them too if you want) and then show-stopping red-orange-burgundy fall foliage color.  They don’t mind a bit of shade, and they tolerate wet feet.  And they’re native – what’s not to love?!  There’s a new series of compact shrubs called BrazelBerries® that includes blueberry varieties.  The new variety for 2016, ‘Perpetua’, is described as “a true double-cropping blueberry, setting fruit in midsummer and then again in fall.  ’Perpetua’s dark green leaves grow in a twisted form and are flushed deep red in fall, while the new canes turn bright yellow and red”.  Does well to Zone 4. 

 Brazelberry 'Perpetua' is a compact blueberry cultivar that is self-pollinating.



The wonderfulness of high bush blueberries! This is the 'Perpetual' Brazelberry cultivar. Here you can see the flowers for the fall berry crop together with the fall-colored foliage.


Good advice for everyone, including Landscape Designers

“Annotated” Words of Wisdom from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine Feb 2016 

The article was about enterpreneurs.  It's headline was:
"HINDSIGHT IS 20/20.  Here’s what successful start-ups wish they had known."
1. It gets lonely – not just working by yourself, but making decisions alone.
So make sure you cherish your network of friends and colleagues and meet up with them in person regularly.  It can be at the Mamaroneck Public Library for a coffee break during the work day, lunch, or a visit to a public garden on the weekend.  Don’t hesitate to share designs, problems and ideas – its not a competition.  Designs are better when they’re talked through – show someone else the design or meet them at the site and brainstorm over the latte that you bring them.  Also make sure you take the time to talk to the people at the nurseries.  Ask about new plants, their favorite plants, why they like a certain cultivar, what they know about a tree, how the growing season has been affected by the weather – just make a connection. 

2. You wear lots of hats – customer service, accounting, marketing, production, PR – it’s all up to you.
But of course you can’t really do it all, so you’ll probably outsource.  You may be able to barter if you’re a fairly small operation – trade planting seasonal containers for a tutorial in Quickbooks.  The only thing you can be is yourself – if you play to your strengths you’ll be the most effective and the least frustrated.

3. Don’t compare – every business grows differently.  Try not to compare yourself with others.
…When you look at other people’s beautiful pictures or visit award-winning landscapes, appreciate the talent and creativity and find out what plants they used and why, what their inspiration was.  Don’t be jealous, and don’t despair.

4. Hire slow, fire fast – the people you work with are an extension of your brand.  Make sure they’re good at it.
This is especially true about the contractors you use.  Its not worth hitching your wagon to someone who doesn’t share your standards or doesn’t know what they’re doing.  Cutting corners really doesn’t work in the long run.

5. Be patient – overnight sensations are the exceptions, not the rule.  Persistence, hard work and believing in what you do pay off in the long run.
And I would add to that, being good at what you do will pay off in the long run.  That means never stop learning.  Luckily for us landscapes are a long-lasting work product that can continue to evolve and be tweaked (and be learned from!) over time.  

6.  Pivot and problem-solve – when you hit an obstacle, don’t let it stop you.  Adjust and work it out.
…Mistakes will be made.  We’re human.  Its all about what you do next.  If you make a mistake, ‘fess up and make it right.




Don't Plant these in 2016!


Alternatives to Invasive Species by Bill Cullina (Original text copyright © New England Wild Flower Society 2003) 

Of the 2814 species of plants growing wild in Massachusetts, fully 45% (1276 species) have been introduced (either on purpose or by accident) from other parts of the globe.  Many of these are agricultural weeds that began arriving in grain or ship’s ballast soon after European colonists came here in the early 1600’s. Others were introduced by horticulturists or the federal government for use in gardens or soil stabilization, reforestation, and the like. It is impossible to know what effect this monumental immigration has had on native plants and animals. Certainly, of the thousands and thousands of plants introduced in the US and Canada from abroad, only a small number (estimates range from 3-7%) are thought to pose a serious threat to native ecosystems. These problem few are quite a problem, however. These invasive exotics have few if any natural predators to keep them in check, instead running rampant and displacing entire communities of native plants as well as the insects, fungi, birds, mammals, reptiles, bacteria, etc that have come to depend on them…. Invasive species have the potential to completely alter habitats, disrupt natural cycles of disturbance and succession, and most importantly, greatly decrease overall biodiversity, pushing rare species to the brink of extinction. Many ecologists now feel that invasive species represent the greatest current and future threat to native plant and animal species worldwide – greater even than human population growth, land development, and pollution.


It is high time that we horticulturists recognize our responsibility to both cease the importation and introduction of new and potentially invasive exotic plants and to stop growing and planting known or suspected invasives regardless of their ornamentality or consumer demand. I believe that we need to adopt the precautionary principle as far as plant introductions are concerned, and assume a species (including all of its cultivars) is invasive until proven otherwise (rather than the current approach of “innocent until proven guilty”). At least let’s not make this situation any worse.

Let's make a pact - let's try to avoid planting these plants this year. 

1. Akebia quinata (Akebia).  Anyone who has planted this vine heartily regrets it within a couple of years. Luckily, its not quite as tenacious as some of the invasive vines, so if you catch it early before it becomes too woody you can pull it out of trees and shrubs.        

Instead, plant a vine on the pergola that’s an annual.  Most vines grow fast enough to give some coverage by the summer.  And, after all, the pergola is meant to provide shade in and of itself.  If you want a perennial vine, its best to stick with Wisteria frutescens (American Wisteria). 

2. Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry) and Berberis vulgaris (European Barberry).  Yes, its on the NYS Invasives list now, and already was considered to be invasive in CT.  And yes, lots of people including old-school landscapers, nursery personnel and even at least one of my friends claim that the cultivars that have colored foliage (burgundy; gold; red) are not invasive.  I’m skeptical, and favor the Bill Cullina approach of assuming they’re invasive until proven otherwise.  There’s a fair amount of money and effort in NYS going into studies of some of the nicer barberry cultivars to show that they are not invasive so they can be grown and sold again. 

People use barberry for a few reasons, mainly because it’s deer-resistant and has colored foliage.  Plus some of the burgundy cultivars, like ‘Concorde’, remain small and compact – others, including ones with gold foliage, are pillar-shaped providing uprights in the design.   And barberry was inexpensive.

 I admit, it's hard to beat the impact of purple barberry in this landscape!

To substitute for burgundy-colored barberry we tend to use either smokebush or ninebark.  Neither of those is as reliably deer-resistant as barberry was, in my experience.  Both can be cut back hard if needed – so you can keep them small.  A more deer-resistant purple foliage plant is ornamental grass.  There are some cultivars of Panicum that read “purple” throughout most of the season – they’re upright and as an added bonus they add motion to the garden.  But if your intent was to have groups of small shrubs with purple foliage near the front of a fairly formal border or on the ends, none of these choices will really satisfy you.  You may have to turn to purple-leaved Heuchera cultivars – although of course those have their own brand of finicky as well.  Other perennial suggestions are burgundy-leaved Ajuga cultivars, Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ or ‘Dark Towers’, Actaea simplex atropurpurea cultivars like ‘Brunette’ or ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, Lobelia cardinalis ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ or Hypericum androsaemum ‘Albury Purple’.

Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red'

3. Buddleia davidii (Butterfly Bush) and B. alternifolia (Alternate-leaved Butterfly Bush).  It’s a beautiful shrub when it’s in flower, there’s usually a butterfly on every single flower and it grows fast and flowers on new wood so you can cut it back every single spring.  Chickadees eat the seeds in winter.  Its inexpensive and takes up a fair amount of space – excellent bang-for-buck in summer gardens.  But it’s also invasive.  And if you look at the “Bringing Nature Home” information, you’ll see that it serves as a host plant for only one species of butterfly.  Compare and contrast – clover serves as a host plant for 122 species of butterfly.  Better to leave a little clover in your lawn and plant some nectar-rich perennials.

If you want a summer-flowering shrub with excellent flower power try Lagerstromia or Hibiscus syriacus.  Most of the newer Rose-of-Sharon cultivars are triploid – meaning they can’t set seed so you won’t have a forest of R of S like in the olden days.  Other ideas include Hypericum (shrub form), Hibiscus moscheutos, Heliopsis helianthoides, Aster and Goat’s Beard.  Of course, ornamental grasses can also be used for late summer interest.

 Hibiscus moscheutos

4. Hedera helix (English Ivy).  No, no, no!  Don’t do it!  Once its spread all over the whole landscape its virtually impossible to remove.  It will rot your fence, engulf your trees and grow into your brick façade.  In general, using vines as ground covers is usually not the greatest idea because they will be hard to keep in check.  If you want a beautiful ornamental vine that does somewhat less damage but is much easier to manage, try Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris (Climbing hydrangea).  You can let it creep along the ground, and it makes a lovely ground-cover.  Its relatively easy to pull off the house if you want to.  It can make chain-link fence completely disappear – but don’t try to remove it from a chain-link fence because it is quite two-dimensional and will wind back and forth extensively.

5. Ligustrum species (Privet).  Yes, it’s invasive, so we need to stop planting privet hedges and use other types of plants instead.  Privet is “traditional” and “classic”, not eaten by deer and inexpensive.  It has an upright habit and is grown especially for use in making hedges, so its really easy to get a row of uniform plants of just about any height to create an “instant” hedge.  It can be readily renovated, so, again, you can keep it manageable. 

Almost any shrub can be made into a hedge, especially if you plan ahead – with the caveat that plants should be spaced so that they grow to be a hedge over time.  Page Dickey told us about using ‘Miss Kim’ lilac as a hedge.  We’ve seen lots of pictures where ornamental grasses are used as a hedge.  If you have no deer, you can use Taxus or Manhattan euonymus as a hedge.  Some shrub roses can be hedges.  Evergreen choices include Ilex glabra (Inkberry Holly, Prunus laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel), Leucothoe, Rhododendron and Leatherleaf Viburnum.

 Miss Kim Lilac Hedge along the top of the terrace



Happy Holidays 2015!

The year is drawing to a close.  They're predicting 70 degree weather on Christmas Day.  So I thought I would create a white Christmas here, at least.  Onward and upward to new plants, new landscapes and new topics in 2016.



The New Tappan Zee Bridge


Westchester County is posting "progress" photos on their website for the New Tappan Zee Bridge.  The new spans are almost halfway across.