Endearing name, deer resistant flower

My favorite iris is in bloom – and does not require deer repellent.

I believe it is totally fine to choose a plant because its name resonates with you. I planted Blue Jacket hyacinths on the grave of my father-in-law, who was on the first ship hit at Pearl Harbor. I sent an assortment of daylilies with names like “Crimson Pirate” to my nephew, a then budding gardener. (My gifts are usually spot-on, but a box of roots did not thrill the young boy. His mother (my sister) did love them for years until something the guy truly did want – dogs – dug them up. Such is life.)

Numerous, huge, yellow blooms cover this deer resistant plant.

So when I decided to add to my iris collection Goodnight Moon was too sweet of a name to pass up. Now this plant has been divided a couple times, with one rhizome going to friend who raves about it every spring. Last year I moved a few rhizomes into a new bed by our deck and this spring it is reminding me why Goodnight Moon is my favorite iris. As I write this, she stands about three feet tall with at least five blooms. Although each bloom does not last long, they are so huge and numerous that this iris has been a show-stopper for quite some time. And, being an iris, no deer repellent has been needed.

That deer resistant foliage is a great addition to the garden even when the blooms have gone. I think that once you cut back the stem, the linear, upright leaves add an architectural accent to the planting bed. And in a few years you can divide the iris and add that accent throughout your garden.

I would call Lenten rose deer proof

It is risky to call any plant deer proof, but there are a few I would give that tag. One is Lenten Rose (Helleborus xhybridus or ), which seems like the perfect plant to me. It is evergreen, tolerates part to deep shade, resistant to deer and other pests, and blooms when few other plants bloom. Not just any flower either – sculptural, perfect blooms that entices me to pull out a sketchbook and concentrate on their beauty.

Lenten Rose is hardy from Zones 4-9 and is one of the longest blooming perennials in cultivation, with blooms that last for six weeks or more. To make it even more desirable, it is one of the earliest blooming perennials, with blooms starting as early as January in Georgia and lasting into April. Who couldn’t love a plant that blooms even before the daffodils?

Glossy, bold, leathery foliage is a year-round asset to the shade garden. Leaves are divided into seven to nine segments, falling away from the central stem like an umbrella. These coarse leaves are a great contrast with ferns and bleeding hearts. Although they are evergreen, the leaves can look a little ragged before the new growth emerges. This is just a little winter burn and aging foliage. Trimming off some of the older foliage in January or February not only makes the plants look better; it shows off the blooms better too.

The perfect spot for a Lenten Rose would be in deciduous shade, protected from the wind, in rich soil with plenty of moisture but good drainage. They would like the bank of a creek, along a woodland path. Lenten roses do better planted among hardwoods than pines, because they appreciate winter sun and pine needles accumulating around them can hinder growth. One thing Hellebores cannot take is soggy soil.

These plants are disease and pest resistant and prefer to be left alone. Once established, Lenten roses reseed to form a colony, creating a dramatic woodland groundcover that blooms in various colors. Seedlings can be dug up and moved, but established plants resent being moved or divided and may not bloom the following year.

My first few plants have reseeded to create a colony in my shade garden, with each plant producing slightly different blooms. The blooms come in many colors, including white, pale yellow, pink, maroon, purple and speckled. These are subtle, beautiful, nodding blooms on evergreen plants that are eighteen to twenty-four inches tall.

I love my colony of reseeded Lenten Roses but, oh my, what are available in nurseries now are stunning. The breeders have been working on Lenten Roses and now offer double blooms in bright colors with their faces rising upward, or pale pink fluffy blooms comparable to an English Rose, or blooms that look like they were hand painted in a porcelain factory. Just do a search on Pinterest to be amazed at the variety and beauty. These new Lenten Roses can be pricey – and worth every penny. Once in your garden, they will become your favorite plant, asking little and giving so much.

I suggest you shop for these plants locally, when they are in bloom. Then you know exactly what the bloom will look like and buy a plant that is already at blooming age.

Winter is a good time to start your garden journal

There are books and books out now about organizing but, seriously, organizing my garden too? Yeah, that sounds like work, but do consider these organizing tips that can help you in your garden.

Right now calendars are on sale. Perfect. You don’t have to hang it on the wall – just put the calendar among the files on your desk. Then document things as they happen on the day they happen: planted a holly, first forsythia blooms, deer spray, divided grasses. As you read gardening magazines, you can write a few tips in the calendar to remember when to do things: order bulbs in early September, photograph garden in late summer before perennials die back, etc. As the years go by, the small calendar stack becomes your record. Clever and quick, huh?

I keep a lined journal for the garden classes and symposia I attend. That way I know where to look for ideas from a class, and I can review past notes as I wait for the next class to start. Looking for classes to attend? Check out the calendar on the home page of my website (conniecottingham.com) for classes and events in the Southeast.

You may want a garden journal too. Although a lined journal makes sense, I have switched to a sketchpad with a hard back, where I can draw plant bed layouts and ideas, and tape photos, plant tags and clippings from catalogs. It may look a bit eclectic, but I like the creative layout and who sees it besides me?

Speaking of photos, it is good to document your garden in pictures. You will notice things in photos that you have become blind to (if you paint that shed sage instead of dazzling white it may hide in the background), and you have a record of what is growing where (very handy when some of those plants are sleeping under mulch or it is time to plant more daffodil bulbs). I often photograph the plant tag with the photo; it is wise to include plant names in the file name. Pictures can be pasted into your journal or your online photo file can have subfolders: projects, areas of your garden, ideas, years – whatever works for you.

I have some organizing tips too. I like keeping my long-handled tools together in a cart that lets me roll all my tools out to where I am working, then put them all back in one easy trip. I cannot find one even similar to mine online, but this one would work. Short-handled tools go under this rolling garden seat. All seeds go into one metal tin. Hats hang at the back door on a rack made from a rake. Potting soil and bird seed goes into metal trash cans with a scoop inside and tight-fitting lids.

Yeah, documenting and organizing your garden sounds like work when you are busy living your life. I am a garden writer, so I need to be organized about my gardening. Hey – I have a file drawer by my desk where current plant catalogs are alphabetized. Try just one idea; it will prove its ROI. And I will admit – although I have all of these systems, my level of organizing ebbs and flows. That’s what New Year’s resolutions are for.

Georgia Asters are blooming!

GA Aster in GA Gardening mag 2014 001

Oakleaf Hydrangeas are Proving Themselves

Once again, the promise of rain (60%) was an empty one. I let the hydrangeas droop, sure that Mother Nature would give them much needed water, but she did not. The look sad, weeping and drooping, except for my oakleaf hydrangeas, native to the Southeast. They have been untouched by drought and deer. As good as they look now, they will look even better when donned with red foliage this fall, then showing off peeling bark this winter.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Years! I hope there will be more time for you in your garden in 2014. Not just on your knees weeding, but cutting flowers for your home, harvesting herbs and veggies, noticing a bright planter greeting you when you drive up, watching birds enjoying the feeders and berries, and inviting friends to enjoy the pool or a meal outside (maybe when it warms up!)
As the year begins, may I suggest a garden journal? It could be a pretty journal, a spiral notebook, or one of those planning calendars on sale now that has a section for notes in back. You can note when you planted and pruned, dreams for the future, plant wish lists, garden tips, seed orders, notes from garden talks, photos of your garden throughout the seasons, and more. If you are using a garden calendar, then note when garden chores should be done and the reminder will be there waiting for you.
A garden journal can be a very useful tool and record for you.

Come to England with me!

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is launching a new Garden Travels series – and Mike Sikes and I are the first speakers on Tuesday, March 26. We are inviting folks to gather together for a social hour first at 6:00 pm, enjoying dinner or coffee at Donderos’ Kitchen (Dutch treat,) then seeing a presentation on English gardens in the Gardenside Room at 7:00.

Last June Mike and I spent a week at Sissinghurst (which gave us after-hours access to the entire grounds,) then traveled north to Chatsworth, with private tours of the national rambling rose collection and the headquarters of David Austin Roses, plus many other garden visits. We’d love to tell you about it and have gone through 3,000 photos to find the very best to show.

This is going to be fun and we want our friends to be there, so please come and bring anyone you would like – this event is open to the public. The talk is free, but of course we encourage you to feed the donation box at the Garden.

Eze and Le Jardin D’Eze

Visited early November 2011

Far above the Mediterranean, between Nice and Monaco, is the historic hilltop village of Eze, once a fortress.  Towering above that is a botanical garden filled with cacti and succulents and sculptures of goddesses. Beside each statue is a small poem, in both French and English; many informative signs fill the garden. The stone steps are plentiful, uneven and steep, but the 360 degree view of a historic church and the valley and coastline below is amazing and worth the hike. If your idea of a botanical garden is lots and lots of bright annuals, well, this is not it. This is a celebration of plants that grow on an exposed, dry site balanced by a series of fluid, feminine sculptures by sculptor Jean-Philippe Richard with their own quiet beauty, gentle sentinels looking down on the Cote D’Azur and valley below. 

 

 

My best friend and I spent two nights at Chateau Eza. In the mornings Kris sat on one side of the breakfast table filled with cappuccinos, French pastries, fruit and cheese, sketching the coastline and I sat on the other side, sketching the statues looking down on us from Le Jardin D’Eze. It was the first time I had sketched in a decade and about the most inspiring spot to start sketching again.

In between the hotel and garden is the wonderful town of Eze, at its best in the early mornings before the tourist buses unload and the narrow stone streets fill with people. Browsing boutiques, gift shops, and art galleries, people-watching with a glass of wine at an outdoor table or a sketchbook at a bench outside the cathedral, photographing perfect vignettes, and enjoying le Jardin d’Eze easily fill a day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Middleton Place

Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina

After seeing Middleton Place in so many landscape design and history books, in 2011 I attended a 2 day retreat in the Inn at Middleton Place, the LEED certified hotel on the grounds. I highly recommend staying in this hotel if you are interested in visiting Middleton Place (as well as Magnolia Plantation and Drayton Hall, right down the road and worth visiting.). A quick stroll down a path through the woods, beside water, then beside the gardens brought us to the restaurant.

I woke up Sunday morning at 6 am, gathered my camera and notebook and excitedly ran to the garden as soon as it was light enough to see. Guests at the hotel have access to the gardens when it is closed to the public. I had the garden to myself for hours that early March morning, playing with my camera, listening to the birds, and strolling among the sculptures and blooms as if it were my own private garden. It was a magical morning. Spring was just breaking, but many of their famous camellias were in bloom, as well as spring bulbs.

Middleton Place is one of the most famous gardens in the world, featured in landscape history courses and advertised as ‘America’s oldest landscaped gardens.’ It has been under the same family stewardship for over 300 years. One resident was President of the First Continental Congress, another a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The live oaks and camellias are ancient by our standards and the gardens and statuary are wonderful. It is where the first Camellia japonicas were probably introduced by André Michaux in 1786 and was probably one of the places John and William Bartram visited (when they weren’t back in Philly chatting with their buddy Ben Franklin.) Middleton Place is also stunningly beautiful and peaceful.

 

Deer Resistant Plants in my Georgia Garden

This is adapted from a syndicated column I wrote in 2006 for  Morris News.

My garden in Georgia is suffering through a drought.  Every weekend I water the dozens of new trees and the vegetable garden in an effort to keep them alive. This brings the deer out of the dry underbrush into my garden at night, where everything seems greener and tastier, a frustrating situation for a gardener.

One line of defense for your landscape is planting deer resistant plants. Deer resistant is a popular term, partially because so many of us have to garden among deer, partially because nobody in their right mind would claim something is deer proof. Daffodils and rosemary are the closest to deer proof I can think of.  Even deer resistant plants may not be safe. Often a deer will taste-test, pulling a plant out of the ground and spitting it out if it is distasteful. A new plant, laying on top of the ground often dies before the gardener discovers and saves it. A friend sprays every new plant with deer repellent, because her deer often uproot new plantings in her garden.

Below is a small palette of deer resistant plants, starting with my three favorites in each category:

Annuals

Snapdragons are cool season annuals in Georgia, a deer-resistant alternative to the cool-season pansies they so love.

Marigolds are a recent rediscovery for me. Once too common, now I value their sunny disposition, various forms, pest resistance, drought tolerance and carefree nature. They are among the easiest flowers to grow from seed.

Fan flower (Scaevola) survives our humid summers with absolute grace, creating a mat of fresh green foliage and abundant purple blooms.

Deer have munched on my zinnias, angelonia and coleus, but left the lantana, verbena and shrimp plants.

Perennials

Salvias are not all as drought resistant as I had hoped, but are deer resistant. This fragrant branch of the mint family has many annual and perennial varieties to offer, with summer blooms in blues, purples, white, reds and oranges.

Lenten Roses are among the earliest and longest lasting blooms on evergreen, shade loving plants.

Dianthus include carnations and mat forming evergreen perennials. My new favorite is the deep red perennial Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus ‘Heart Attack’) I found at Plant Delights Nursery.

Also: yarrow (Achillea), Ajuga, Amsonia, Anenome, columbine (Aquilegia), Astilbe, Baptisia, Bergenia, Coreopsis, bleeding heart (Dicentra), foxglove (Digitalis), coneflower (Echinacea). Epimedium, spurge (Euphorbia), Lamium, Lantana, Liatris, bee balm (Monarda, lungwort (Pulmonaria), hens-n-chicks (Sempervivum), goldenrod (Solidago), lamb’s ears (Stachys), Verbena

Bulbs

Daffodils are among the most troubleproof, carefree and enduring flowers available.

Iris in my garden are completely ignored by the deer and multiply like crazy.

Alliums, ornamental onions, can produce dramatic blooms that are especially effective when massed.

Other bulbs in my yard have not been tested by the deer yet, but they have munched on the amaryllis.

Herbs

Most herbs have strong scents, so even if the deer won’t let you grow vegetables, you can have an herb garden.

Rosemary, including creeping rosemary, a great groundcover for a dry slope.

Oregano, which can spread by underground runners to form a mat. Ornamental oreganos have especially attractive blooms.

Basil, a summer annual that comes in so many varieties and flavors, including dark red or variegated leaves.

Also: just about any fragrant herb

Shrubs

Crape Myrtles, the classic summer blooming trees, are now available in a large variety of dwarf forms.

Abelia, including the classic evergreen/semievergreen that matures at about four to five feet tall and wide and my favorite new abelia, ‘Kaleidoscope’. ‘Kaleidoscope’ matures at two to three feet, with a long bloom season, a bright green/chartreuse variegation and pink new growth.

Viburnums provide blooms, plus often offer berries, fall color or evergreen foliage.  Among my favorites are ‘Shasta’, with generous amounts of white spring blooms in horizontal layers on a large shrub that looks beautiful in a woodland setting.

Also: butterfly bush (Buddlia), quince (Chaenomeles), Cotoneaster, pineapple guava (Feijoa), Juniper, Tea Olive (Osmanthus). Wax myrtle (myrica), Yucca (Yucca spp.)

What Makes a Plant Deer Resistant?


Certain characteristics give you a strong sign that a plant may be deer resistant:Strong smell – if a plant has a strong smell, deer seem to leave it aloneFunky texture – this stiff foliage of y
ucca, fuzzy leaves of lamb’s ears and gummy sap of Lenten rosesPainful traits – thorny barberries, prickly (and fragrant) junipers