Category: Ginny Rosenkranz

Ferns a simple pleasure of August

When the heat of August simmers high, one of the best places to be outside is in the cool shade of trees that have a carpet of green ferns. One of the loveliest ferns for the Eastern Shore is the Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) which also has the added interest of being evergreen, so it can brighten the winter woods when everything is cold and dark. In the springtime the young leaves emerge as sender silver fiddleheads that uncurl to dark green fronds. The plants spear up to 2 foot fountains that stay green all summer, fall and winter. The plants will continue to grow larger, but they don’t spread or naturalize. The fronds are leathery, dark green in color and the small pinnae (that look like leaves) are shaped like stockings, which, along with the evergreen foliage gave it the common name of Christmas fern. Christmas ferns love the soils on the Eastern Shore since they can live happily in dry or moist soils in shady gardens. One or three together or masses of ferns will cool the hottest day in august. Another fern that thrives on the shore is the Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora), which also grow about 2 feet tall and wide, but prefers constantly moist, slightly acidic soils in full shade. The autumn fern grows as an arching vase shaped plant that is usually evergreen during...

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Spider lily a constant burst of blooms

The spider lily, or tradescantia virginiana or Virginia spiderwort, is a native herbaceous perennial that thrives in almost any sunny or lightly shady garden. The tiny bright blue-purple flowers open up in the early morning and last only one day, but there are so many flowers that the plant seems to be in continuous blooms from May through the end of July. The flowers have three petals with bright yellow stamens and are arranged in clusters on the ends of the stems, keeping the flowers above the foliage. The plants form a dense clump of arching leaves and stems about 1 1/2 to 3 feet tall. The sap in the stems, when cut, becomes threadlike and silky, looking a bit like a spiders web. When in flower, the various pollinators including many butterflies and native bees. There are a few cultivars for this lovely native plant, including “Concord Grape” with deep purple flowers, “Bilberry Ice,” that has pure white petals with center steaks of purple, “Sylvana,” with raspberry colored flowers and “Innocence,” with pure white flowers. The plants seem to tire after all that blooming, so it is a good idea to trim back the plant in August so the new foliage can help regenerate the plants. The spiderwort will often bloom in the fall if trimmed back. Plants like to grow in moist, but well drained, soils and...

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Purple cone flowers love summer sun

Echinacea purpurea, or Purple Cone Flower, is a wonderful sun-loving native herbaceous perennial that grows from 1 1/2 feet tall to 5 feet tall, depending on the variety. They bloom the whole month of June and into August, brightening the garden with their large, fragrant daisy shaped flowers in many shades of purple, red, yellow and rose-pink with domed orange center. They love full sun and tolerate dry sandy soil, clay soil, high humidity and drought. They seem to be made to thrive on our Eastern Shore! They are also listed as being deer and bunny tolerant too. Coneflowers bloom more than once a season but that is improved if the dead flowers are trimmed of. Leave a few to mature to seed for the goldfinches in the fall and the new seedlings for next spring. “Pow Wow Wild Berry” is a compact coneflower growing 2-3 feet tall that has lots of branches which means lots and lots of bright rose purple flowers with orange centers. This variety starts to bloom in last spring and continues to bloom through late summer and even into autumn. The flowers grow 3-4 inches across with deep rose purple overlapping petals. “Hot Papaya” is a bright, hot orange-red double coneflower that doesn’t fade with the heat of summer. This variety can grow 2-3 feet tall and wide, attracting many butterflies into the garden....

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May is prime time for candytuft

May is when the evergreen Iberis sempervirens or Candytuft are in full flower on the Eastern Shore, some starting as early as March or April and continuing to bloom for up to 10 weeks. The evergreen foliage provides a dark rich shiny green to the edges of sunny gardens all year long, especially nice in the deep cold of winter. The plants are very drought tolerant, growing well in drained soils. They only grow about six to 12 inches tall and can spread slowly to form a mound about 18 inches wide. The small four-petaled pure white flowers are arranged in a dense cluster forming a domed umbrella shape. When in bloom, the flowers almost blanket the plant totally and are extremely fragrant, living up to their common name of Candytuft. When in bloom they attract many pollinators including many early butterflies, but neither deer nor rabbits will nibble on the foliage. “Alexander’s White” is an excellent cultivar, growing a bit taller with lots of long lasting flowers. Candytuft is perfect as an edging plant for a garden or along a path, but it also looks great cascading over a low wall or as a sunny groundcover and even in containers. (Editor’s Note: Ginny Rosenkranz is a commercial horticulture specialist with the University of Maryland...

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Early bloomers get the party started

April is when spring really starts to bloom! Spring, to me, is always a treasure hunt — walking around the gardens and seeing what is up and blooming as well. A few of the plants that bloom include Phlox subulata (Moss Phlox), Aurinia saxatilis (Basket of Gold), Bergenia cordifolia (Heart Leaf Bergengia), Iberis semperviens (Candytuft), Iris cristata (Crested Iris). Some plants like the Moss Phlox and Crested Iris are natives to North America while the Basket of Gold, Heart leaf Bergengia and Candytuft arrived from other continents. I always try to include the botanical names of the plants I talk about so if anyone falls in love with them, they will be easy to find. Common names are fun and picturesque, but often they reflect a region or a portion of a state, or just because someone thought it sounded good, but that doesn’t make it easy to find in a garden center. The native Phlox subulata or Moss Phlox comes in so many pastel spring colors — blues, pinks, blush and pure white. The plant is an evergreen groundcover that needs full sun and excellent drainage which is perfect for our sandy soils on the Eastern Shore. I love the fact that it starts to bloom sporadically in February and March, but comes into its full glory in April. Many perennials bloom only for two weeks, but the...

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