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What's Up Magazine

Garden Plans For Our Area

May 25, 2011 05:00PM ● By Anonymous

1. Colorful Rain Garden

Expert advice from Zora Lathan, executive director, Chesapeake Ecology Center and coordinator, RainScaping Campaign; and Joyce Donlon, master gardener project chair, RainScaping Campaign.

The purpose of a rain garden is to control rainwater runoff by slowing it down, spreading it out, and soaking it in. These low-lying garden areas consist of absorbent soils that collect and allow rainwater to slowly seep in. They can be established in most areas, with a little work on your part if Mother Nature hasn’t already provided a natural dip or depression in the land.

Planting: Constructing a simple home rain garden isn’t complicated; however, you do need to follow some basic steps. After choosing the spot, you’ll need to: determine the permeability of the soil, estimate the garden’s drainage area, determine its dimensions and shape, and ensure runoff will flow to your garden site. If needed, create a berm (a low mound) from the soil you’ve excavated, that runs along the width and downhill side of your rain garden to funnel the runoff. Once the garden is planned out and the site prepared, you’re ready to plant. Dig a hole at least twice as wide as, and no deeper than, the potted plant. Then loosen the roots, place the plant in the hole, fill the hole with soil, tamp it down, and water the area immediately. For visual impact, group similar plants in clusters.

Care and Maintenance: Your rain garden plants need about an inch of water weekly to become established. After installation, evaluate your garden’s drainage by inspecting it for standing water 24 hours after a rainfall and again 24 hours later. If 48 hours have passed and water still remains, the drainage may need adjusting. Consider adding a rain barrel to your property to help regulate watering.

Note: For instructions on installing a rain garden and tips on avoiding pitfalls, visit and go to the “Rain Gardens” page. You’ll find a plethora of useful information, including a rain garden plant list, and you can also download the Rain Gardens Across Maryland Guide.

The majority of plants in this garden template were extracted from Rain Gardens Across Maryland by Sandy Coyman and Keota Silaphone, courtesy of the Worcester County Department of Development Review and Permitting.

A. Tall white beardtongue, or penstemon digitalis, does best in sun or partial shade, grows from two to four feet tall, and blooms from April through June.
B. Virginia Spiderwort, or tradescantia virginiana, does well in all types of light, blooms from April through July, and grows from one to three feet tall.
C. Cardinal flower, or lobelia cardinalis, blooms a vivid red from July through September and grows from two to four feet tall. It does well in sun to partial shade.
D. Blueflag iris, or iris versicolor, does well in sun to partial shade and blooms purple or blue in May and June. It reaches a height of three feet.
E. Joe-Pye weed, or eupatorium fistulosum, is versatile and a pollinator magnet, according to rainscaping expert Zora Lathan. It blooms pink from July through September, does well in sun or partial shade, and can range in height from two to 10 feet.
F. Highbush blueberry, or vaccinium corymbosum, does well in sun and partial shade, grows from six to 12 feet tall, and its berries ripen in May and June.

2. Simple Shade Green

Expert advice from Mimi Jones, member, St. Anne’s Flower Guild, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Annapolis.

What do you do when your property doesn’t get a lot of sun? Why not start a shade garden? Many plant varieties actually thrive in shade and have striking leaves, making them an attractive garden addition even when their flowers aren’t in bloom. Before doing any planting, observe the type or amount of shade your garden will get. Is it open or dappled shade, partial shade, or deep shade? Surprisingly, most plants will thrive in open or dappled shade, and some sun-loving plants will even find it a welcome respite. However, deep shade, such as what you’d expect to find in a forest, might present more of a challenge. When choosing plants for deep shade, remember: there’s a big difference between plants that can survive in the shade and those that thrive in it.

Planting: Shade gardens prefer organic, moist soils, so you’ll need to prepare the area by adding organic compost to the soil. Avoid disturbing any large tree roots when digging. Dig a hole at least twice as wide as, and no deeper than, the potted plant. Then loosen the plant’s roots, place it in the hole, fill the hole with soil, tamp it down, and water the area immediately.

Care and Maintenance: Shade gardens are simple to care for because they don’t require a lot of sunlight. However, the ground needs to be kept relatively moist because tree roots in such gardens tend to drink much of the water. Fertilize with plant food once a week as you water.

A. Harbor Dwarf nandina, or nandina domestica, is a great shade plant that can also tolerate partial sun. It grows from two to three feet tall, and its green foliage turns red in the fall and then burgundy in the winter.
B. Liriope, or liriope muscari (aka monkey grass), is a “clumping” kind of green, grass-like plant that reaches one to two feet in height and blooms taller, purple-spike flowers. A ground cover often used to prevent erosion on steep hillsides, it survives in both wet and dry soil conditions.
C. Hellebores is an early spring bloomer that comes in many species variations. Most popular is the Christmas rose (or Lenten rose), which blooms with a white-green flower in late winter or early spring and grows from 15 to 18 inches tall.
D. Japanese skimmia, or skimmia japonica, is an evergreen that reaches three to four feet in height. This lovely plant has green foliage with red buds that bloom with creme-colored flowers. Plant a male and a female together so that crosspollination allows the female plant to produce bright red berries.
E. Himalayan sweet box, or sarcococca hookerana humilis, is a slow-growing evergreen that reaches from one to two feet tall and produces white flowers in the spring.
F. Gumpo white azaleas, or rhododendron hybrida, are spreading evergreen shrubs that grow to about two feet high and three feet wide. A late-blooming azalea, this variety blooms in May and June with large, white, ruffled flowers.
G. Coral Bells, or heuchura micrantha, form a low mound of large, gently lobed leaves, almost black in color. Taller sprays of cream-color flowers appear from early to late summer.
H. Periwinkle, or vinca minor (a.k.a creeping myrtle), thrives in the shade and makes an excellent ground cover. It has evergreen leaves with small, purple-blue flowers that bloom in late spring and early summer. Once established, it’s basically maintenance free.
I. Ferns make beautiful additions to shade gardens, and the variety of native ferns to choose from include: Christmas fern, or polystichum acrostichoides; New York fern, or thelypteris noveboracensis; and marginal fern, or dryopteris marginalis.
J. Impatiens, or impatiens wallerana, need to be planted annually, so you can pick a different color each year. Choose among white and many shades of purples, pinks, reds, and corals.

3. Sunny Cutting Garden

Expert advice from Charlotte Pennington, secretary, Four Rivers Garden Club, Annapolis.

Cutting gardens offer two gifts— they reward you with both a colorful, blooming garden outdoors and the gorgeous colors of nature beautifying your home’s interior. Cutting gardens date back to the 16th century when early gardeners planted flowers so their homes could be decorated with
bountiful bouquets.

This particular cutting garden is a perennial garden, meaning once the plants are established they will bloom again year after year. Your perennial garden can be supplemented with drought-resistant flowering annuals like zinnias, which add instant impact to any garden or bouquet. And with zinnias, you get a bonus: the more you cut, the more they produce!

Planting: First, determine the size and shape of your cutting garden. One way to create the shape is by making an outline with a garden hose; you can move it around until you’re satisfied with the form. When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole at least twice as wide as, and no deeper than, the potted plant. Add composted leaves or organic compost to the soil. Loosen the plant’s roots before placing it in the hole. Fill the hole with soil, tamp it down, and water the area immediately. For more visual impact, group similar flowers together in clusters.

Care and Maintenance: Once your sunny cutting garden is installed, water it every two days at first, gradually cut back to watering once a week, and feed it once a month. It’s best to cut the flowers early in the morning or late in the afternoon, rather than in the heat of the day.

A. Sedum Autumn Joy, originally named Herbstfreude, is a hardy plant with succulent stems and leaves. It flowers from August into November, opens pink and matures to burgundy- copper in the autumn, grows from one to three feet tall, and adds texture to any bouquet.
B. Lamb’s ear, or stachys byzantina, is known for its soft, fuzzy, and silvery-green foliage. A pretty accent to any cutting garden, it also adds a gorgeous texture to floral arrangements. Spike-like stems grow six to eight inches tall and produce small, purple or white blooms from late spring into early summer.
C. Gooseneck loosestrife, or lysimachia clethroides, reach two to three feet in height and can be dramatic in groupings. Stout stems end in nodding whorls of small, white flowers that bloom in early summer. They require consistently moist soil. (Although some consider them invasive, gooseneck loosestrife are excellent cutting flowers.)
D. Gayfeathers, or liatris spicata, are purple, pink, and white spiky flowers that grow from one to six feet tall. They bloom in July and August and add height to any floral arrangement.
E. Obedient plant, or physostegia virginiana, does well in all soil types, grows from one and a half to five feet tall, and blooms pink to purple from July through September. An interesting plant, it grows toward the sun.
F. Speedwell, or veronica officinalis, grows to between three and 10 inches tall. It blooms with light blue flowers from May through September. Speedwell is known for its use in herbal tea as a cough remedy.
G. Orange coneflowers, or rudbeckia fulgida (aka early or eastern coneflowers), grow from one and a half to three and a half feet tall and produce pretty, yellowish-orange flowers with black centers. They bloom from July through October and add instant impact to a garden or bouquet.
H. Stargazer lilies, or lilium, one of the most fragrant lilies, can add drama to a bouquet with just a single stem. Typically mid-summer bloomers, these oriental hybrids grow from two to three feet tall and produce vibrant, reddish-pink flowers that can be six to 12 inches in diameter—a stunning addition to the garden.
I. Beebalm, or monarda didyma, blooms from July through August, reaching two to five feet in height. Beebalm can bloom red or purple. Moss phlox, or phlox subulata, is not a cutting flower, but it makes a great filler and ground cover in a cutting garden. Pink or white flowers grow to about six inches tall and do well in full sun.