When my budding interests in horticulture started developing in junior high school, I came across Hortus Third, an encyclopedic tome of horticulture compiled in the 1970s. Learning about plants from my dad while working on landscape installations, and then looking them up in Hortus Third after hours, I developed a sense of wonder about plant diversity both in the natural world and in cultivation in our gardens and landscapes. How could a genus described in Hortus Third such as Michelia (later reclassified as Magnolia) have “about 50 species of evergreen trees and shrubs” but only eight listed? What about the other 42 species? Were they unworthy of cultivation, or had we simply not tried the other ones yet? With many genera, the latter often proves to be the case. It turns out that the world of horticulture often overlooks many worthy plants.
A perfect example of this phenomenon is smallhead doll’s daisy (Boltonia diffusa, Zones 5–9). There are seven recognized species of Boltonia, six being native to the United States and the seventh one from eastern Asia. All are herbaceous perennials known for their profusion of mostly white daisylike flowers. For the longest time only white doll’s daisy, or false aster (Boltonia asteroides, Zones 3–10), was known and grown. In southern U.S. gardens, white doll’s daisy flops over and makes a less than pleasing garden subject, despite being native from southern Canada southward to the Gulf Coast. In 2015, landscape architect Tres Fromme from Sanford, Florida, brought another species to my attention, one that was not mentioned in Hortus Third. Smallhead doll’s daisy is native to the southeastern and south-central United States. Tres used this plant in designs at Atlanta Botanical Garden,
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REDUCING THE footprint of our lawns has been a key environmental message for gardeners in recent years, since lawns lack biodiversity and involve huge amounts of pollution between fertilizers, herbicides, and the gas used in mowing. But what to cultivate instead? That is the subject of a nearly 15-year native lawn research project at Cornell Botanic Gardens in Ithaca, New York, with some interesting insights.
The Rocky Mountain Region is stretched over 10,000 feet in elevation change and nearly over the full longitude of the Continental United States. Within this massive spread fit more than six biomes, ranging from the grasslands and prairie edges of northern New Mexico to the alpine of Montana. Despite the impressive diversity in soil and climate, many people in the area garden on our region’s namesake: rocks.
I love the natural shapes of plants in landscape design, but garden style is subjective, and it’s fair to say that gardens should be fun and expressive. We all have our own ideal “look” in mind when we envision a garden space, and who’s to say one is better than another? Some of us are collectors of anything new or unusual. Others seek a bit of nostalgia or want to seamlessly blend into their wild surroundings. Some like their plants well behaved and formal, expressing geometry and order not always found in nature. If the latter category describes you, you may find formality to be more of a challenge in the arid Southwest. There are some arid native plants that work well in formal garden design, however.
Glass gem corn is a stunning heirloom variety that can be grown for both ornamental and practical purposes. These tiny gemstone-like corns are not only edible, but you can also use them in crafts, and if you have kids, this is the perfect crop to involve them in gardening.
Every fall, I look forward to the flowers of Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) blooming next to the creek that runs through my neighborhood. The blue flowers resemble the annual flower, Ageratum, and one of its common names is Wild Ageratum. However, Blue Mistflower is a perennial wildflower.
If your summer containers and patio pots are looking tired and spent, you may want to consider giving them a refreshing fall makeover. Even if your porch is on the small side, you can still add a little something to make it feel more welcoming for autumn.
Looking for Lesser Known Flowers to grow? You’ve come to the right place! Explore extraordinary and enchanting flowers as we discover lesser-known types that grow gracefully in lovely pots, bringing a touch of magic to your garden.
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