Pretty Perennials


by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

My perennial garden is all cleaned up and ready to grow -- and grow and grow and grow some more.

That’s the challenge of a perennial garden, especially when you plant Joe-pye weed, coneflowers, bee balm, daylilies and Shasta daisies. When they are happy, they happily spread until you have large lovely masses that need dividing.

April can be the best time to divide some of those happy-growing perennials and plant them in other places or share them with friends. Spring soil is soft and moist and easy to work with. Your perennials are starting to poke their heads through the ground and you can easily see where to dig and divide. Plus, early spring division means they have time to re-establish themselves in a new spot before hot, dry weather arrives again.

To divide perennials:

Use your hands or small rake to pull soil back from around the plant. Then, use a small shovel or some kind of digging tool to dig around and lift out the root ball, keeping it intact. Using your hands, gently rub the root ball to remove as much soil as you can (pictured above), exposing the roots so you can easily see how best to divide them.

Use a steak knife or sharp trowel and gently cut the root ball into halves, thirds or fourths, depending on its size. As you cut, you want to maintain bigger main and smaller feeder roots in each section.

Replant your sections into pre-dug holes that are moist from rain or your garden hose. If you have poor drainage in your perennial garden, plant perennials a little on the high side (half an inch) because winter’s wet weather can easily rot the crowns, the point where the top of the plant meets the root system. Adding mulch to the planting hole also aids in aeration so plant roots don’t suffocate when rain fills air pockets in the soil.

You can also give away some of those perennial divisions to neighbors and friends. Wrap the roots in wet newspaper and tie them in a plastic bag, along with the plant’s name and planting tips.

Now that your perennial garden has more space, think about adding newbies, including this year’s special perennial – 2015 is the Year of the Gaillardia, according to the National Garden Bureau at There are about 23 species of Gaillardia – nicknamed blanket flower -- across the Americas, and most are perennials native to North America.

Gaillardia (pictured above) with its small flat flowers attracts bees, butterflies and other pollinators and it blooms all summer if you just give it a few trims to promote new flowers – basically fuss-free and fun to have around!


March into Spring


We're all on pins and needles awaiting the big day... this Friday - the first day of SPRING! Yes, the season we've all been waiting for is almost upon us. While temperatures are getting warmer, days can sometimes slip into cooler temperatures. Early in the season, we recommend flowers that tolerate the cooler early days of spring. So, break out the gardening gloves and get things in full spring! These flowers will work great in the early unpredictable days of spring and last all the way until the heat sets in, in May.

Bush Daisy
Add a burst of sunny yellow flowers in spring with this bright bloomer. Not only will this plant give you flowers now, but it will reward you again with flowers this fall. It is very tolerant of cold and can go down to about 28 degrees, so on these cold nights that we are having now, they will handle these nights near freezing. They will not come back reliably outside over winter but they are great as container plants, on their own or in a combo. Just set them in a protected spot in winter (garage is fine) for more flowers in spring!

Scabiosa, Pincushion Flower
This charming perennial is easy to grow and produces loads of large blossoms. Almost frilly in their look, the blooms sit atop a long graceful stem. These are long and profuse bloomers that begin flowering in early spring and go long into summer. For repeat flowering you do need to dead head. With its compact, tidy habit, it is ideal grouped together as a border and the more you plant together the more impact they make! We love these as cut flowers and left it in the garden to attract butterflies. Scabiosa prefers full sun and well drained soil. Mariposa Violet is a double violet color but Butterfly Blue (one of the most popular) is a single bloom in a chambray color.

Pansies are one of the best ways to add color to those 6 months of cooler Hampton Roads weather that we experience from October to April. These tough, vibrant flowers come in all the colors of the rainbow ~ including red, purple, blue, bronze, pink, black, yellow, white, lavender, orange, apricot and mahogany. Pansies are easy to grow, are hardy and provide a burst of cool weather color.... a great way to kick off spring with color!

A small evergreen shrub with clusters of small flowers, Candytuft thrives in full sun areas with well-drained soil. Candytuft is great for a rock garden where they can tumble about and over rocks. They are also excellent as edging in a border and are well-suited to growing in pots.

This perennial offers a long blooming season. They will begin in early spring and continue all the way until frost, if deadheaded regularly. Blooms stand up above the grassy blue-green foliage with sturdy stems. These bold blossoms sparkle in borders, beds, window boxes and containers. Prefers full sun and well drained soil. Available in a range of colors from coral to red to pink to even white, some Dianthus also carry a scent.

This vertical annual, offers great hues in a variety of colors. The abundant spikes of lovely flowers come red, yellow, orange, pink, white and crimson. They are excellent in beds, edging and in containers and they are popular as cut flowers too. Plant in full sun, well drained soil.

Primrose - Flowers come in shades of amethyst, citrine, garnet, sapphire, and pink tourmaline. These early-bloomers shine in the garden or in containers from March until May- they also look great indoors as a houseplant. This shade loving perennial is easy to grow, low-maintenance and is a vigorous grower. Plant them in masses for real impact in borders in a garden bed. Pinch off spent blooms to extend blooming time.


Plant of the Week:


Primrose - one of the first signs that spring is on its way! The name primrose is derived from the Latin prima rosa meaning 'first rose' of the year. Flowers come in shades of amethyst, citrine, garnet, sapphire, and pink tourmaline. These early-bloomers shine in the garden or in containers from March until May. Normally thought of as outdoor plant, primrose also makes an excellent indoor plant. Once the plant has finished blooming inside, move it outside to a protected spot of your summer garden and enjoy a season of additional blooms. This shade loving perennial is easy to grow, low-maintenance and is a vigorous grower. Plant them in masses for real impact in borders in a garden bed. Pinch off spent blooms to extend blooming time.

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>


Plant of the Week:


Thank heaven for hellebores - a happy addition to every garden! These evergreen blooming perennials are without a doubt the star of the winter and early spring garden! Hellebores flower no matter how cold it gets; in fact, they actually prefer the cool weather. And when they first bloom, you know spring is not far behind! The flowers come in white, pink, rose, crimson, purple, black and chartreuse, and both double and single blooms. And did we mention they are easy to grow and care for? Drought-tolerant once established, Hellebores are at their best in evenly moist soil in partial shade. Be sure to water during extended dry periods. To tidy plants up, prune the areas that have become overgrown and new shoots will appear quickly. Cutting the older leaves off hellebores in autumn or early winter provides space for new leaves and flowers to grow. Here are a few of our hellebore faves:

Helleborus Berry Swirl - fully double blooms in enchanting shades of orchid Berry Swirl is easy to grow, producing compact mounds of dark evergreen leaves that are the perfect backdrop to the stunning flowers. Typically ignored by deer and rabbits, this Hellebore will bring fantastic color and texture to shady borders, containers, or rock gardens. Prefer shade and are deer resistant.

Helleborus Double Fantasy - new semi-double form has beautiful white, outward facing flowers on tall stems, with ruffled petals and a circle of gold stamens - truly magical! Handsome dark green leaves form compact clumps, accentuating the pure white buds in early spring. Foliage is clean and virtually spot-free. Deer and rabbit resistant. Perfect in shaded woodland, native or shade gardens.

Helleborus Pink Frost - burgundy stems support leathery leaves with a silver frosting. The flowers are a combination of white, pink, and deep rose tones and are upward facing - unusual for a hellebore. 'Pink Frost' is evergreen, long blooming, and deer resistant too! Makes a superb groundcover and choice perennial for shady borders.

source: Monrovia & Terra Nova Nurseries

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>



Tidy Up

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

I used to faithfully clean up my perennial garden in late fall, cutting stems down to the ground and cleaning up any fallen debris – that is, until I got into pollinators and beneficial insects and the whole healthy environment thing.

After reading how beneficial insects can spend winter hunkered down among the stems and foliage of dormant perennials, I changed my ways.

Now, I allow all those perennials – bee balm, coneflowers, verbena, fennel, salvia and others – to stay there until early March when I tidy up everything, making sure I don’t disturb any emerging new foliage. I also make sure I don’t step on crowns, or the place where the stem meets the roots. Planting perennials with the crowns barely above soil level helps keep the plants from rotting, especially in winter when the cold rains and snows can take their toll.

My huge perennial garden -- nicknamed my “B3 garden” for birds, bees and butterflies – doesn’t exactly look the best from the window of my sitting room, but it’s in the backyard where I enjoy it most and no one from the street can see its unruly behavior.

This winter, my newly planted mountain mint hosted bees as late as December, and the seed heads of Brazilian verbena were fine dining for finches.

Using bypass hand pruners, I snip each herbaceous perennial stem as close to the ground as I can, and put all the dead material in the trash. Don’t tug on the stems or you could risk dislodging the roots. You can cut the stems into small pieces and place them in the compost pile if you are sure they are disease free.

While pruning, I also take time to remove any weeds around the plants, knowing my next garden project is spring mulch!

PHOTO: Brazilian verbena in the winter waits for its spring haircut, so it can once again bloom beautifully in summer in Kathy Van Mullekom’s garden.


Plant of the Week:


Big beauty, low maintenance. This colorful little succulent plant is easy to grow and almost as easy to bloom. Kalanchoe grows 8 to 12 inches tall with clusters of small, upright flowers in a rainbow of colors, including red, orange, yellow, gold, purple and white. It has thick, rich green, succulent leaves that retain water to sustain the plant with little water.

Most often grown in pots as a brightly-colored houseplant, Kalanchoe can also be used as a landscape plant provided you live in the right climate. However, their needs vary slightly depending on weather they are planted indoors or outdoors.

Indoors, Kalanchoe requires bright light and should be potted in a well-draining soil, watering only when the soil feels dry to the touch. This succulent plant can withstand periods of dry soil, however, soggy soil can lead to root-rot. Maintain flower color by providing bright, indirect sunlight daily for at least four hours. A sunny windowsill or a bright sunroom are the perfect spots for this plant. Remove dead leaves and spent blossoms when needed. The blooming period usually lasts four to eight weeks.

Kalanchoe planted outside also needs well drained soil, so in wet areas you will not have much success. The same is true if you live in a cold climate, since they do not tolerate the cold. Ideal temperatures are a low of 65 degrees at night and a high of 85 degrees during the day. Kalanchoe grows best in a sunny spot that receives some shade from the harsh afternoon sun.

With just basic care, you can enjoy this low maintenance-big on beauty plant that will brighten your home both inside and out!

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>


Accent the Season


Add warmth and fresh fragrance to your holidays with Rosemary cones and topiaries.

Cooks know Rosemary as the perfect flavoring for chicken, turkey, pork, lamb or shellfish. Decorators are familiar with Rosemary as a holiday accent that can be used throughout the home for its pleasing and soothing aroma and style. For entertaining, arrange trees around the buffet, on side servers, or as table centerpieces. In the entry, their fresh, crisp fragrance welcomes guests and beckons them inside. With their festive wraps, these tabletop plants add splashes of color and shimmering accents throughout the holiday season.

To care for Rosemary, the most important requirement during the winter months is sunlight. Place in a bright sunny window, and turn the plant so that it gets sun on both sides. The soil in the pot is needs to be well drained. Water it from the top every other day. Water may remain in the saucer to provide humidity for the plant, but do not the let the water touch the bottom of the plant. Adjust the watering schedule if necessary to be sure the soil never dries out.

Keep your Rosemary from freezing at all times, away from drafts and extreme heat. We recommend fertilizing at a regular two-week interval during the winter months with a water-soluble fertilizer such as McDonald Green Leaf.



Mum's the Word


‘Tis the season for apple picking, hayrides, pumpkin-flavored everything and of course festive fall decorating. Autumn is an especially fun time of year to decorate your home both inside and out and nothing says fall like mums. Garden mums require a minimum amount of care and do well in most conditions. There are literally hundreds of varieties with flower colors that range from white to yellow, pink, purple, bronze, red and all the hues in between. Decorating with mums is easy and they mix beautifully with other fall decor like pumpkins, gourds, squash, grasses and much more.

Here are just few ways you can use them:

  • Plant in the landscape for a pop of fall color.
  • Refresh or replace tired-looking annuals in flower beds.
  • Pair with pumpkins on a foyer table or outdoors on a porch.
  • Mixed in window boxes with small gourds, pumpkins, trailing vines or small ornamental grasses for texture and dimension.
  • Plant-up in a hollowed out pumpkin for an eye-catching centerpiece.
  • Display in earns or large containers on the front porch.
  • Place in hanging baskets on a front or back porch.
  • Cut individual stems and use as cut flowers in large are small vases indoors.
  • Add pumpkins, gourds and leaves around the base of a mum for an instance fall look.
  • Tier in a terracotta birdbath with colorful peppers, pumpkins and ornamental grasses.

Join us as we kick off fall with our huge savings event all weekend long... MUM MANIA!


A sweet new selection for fall


Mums, or chrysanthemums, are the quintessential fall bloom. This perennial, with colorful domes of yellow, lavender, burgundy, white and pink are a fall superstar. With a tight mounded growth habit, mums are stunning in bloom and perfect for mass plantings or as a stand alone in a container. Beyond the traditional colors, our new Pineapple Flamingo is great addition to this season's landscape.

This pink and yellow cushion flower provides beautiful color for cooler weather. They're just right for popping into a clay pot, lining up in a window box, or placing in the center of a mixed container. This beauty looks especially great paired with pumpkins.

Check out these mum tips from our plant experts:

  • Make sure to buy mums just as they start to break bud. This way you can maximize the bloom time.
  • Keep the blooms coming by watering and pinching back. Soil should be moist, but never wet. Check daily while weather is warm, every other day when it’s cooler. Pluck off spent blooms to encourage even more buds to open and you’ll have color well through October.


Must-Have Mums

We are crazy for mums and this season we've found some of the best mums yet. Try adding bold color with these perennials to your fall containers. We can't keep mum about these!

Roadrunner Bronze
‘Roadrunner Bronze’ is a clump-forming, fall-blooming mum. Boasting a flat decorative form this reddish-yellow with a bit of orange bloom will add fall color from September to the last frost. This is a compact plant that typically grows to 10-14” tall and has dark green leaves.

Ghostbuster Mumbo
This NEW garden mum combo (aka MUMBO) will add a spooktacular surprise to your holiday décor. With a mix of Chelsea yellow, pink, and white mums, Ghostbuster will get all the ghouls and goblins out this fall.

Echo Bronze
A glowing red-orange daisy-like bloom is perfect for autumn. It prefers well drained soil and sun to part shade. Its low maintenance and is a great way to dress up your containers or front entryway. This mum will offer plenty of flower power with blooms appearing in autumn, spring, summer, late summer. With deep green leaves, this mum will grow to up to 24” in height and 36 inches wide.

Pineapple Flamingo
This pink and yellow cushion flower provides beautiful color for the cooler weather seasons. They're just right for popping into a clay pot, lining up in a window box, or placing in the center of a mixed container. This beauty looks great paired with pumpkins.

Pink Frenzy
This mum will explode with vibrant pink color in the fall. With the dense round foliage the blooms will pop against the deep green and look fully engulfed in flowers. This mounded mum continues the bright pinks of summer right into the fall.

Flamingo Cranberry
Magenta-red with a little orange, this fall bloomer boast semi-double blooms. The frilly, pincushion like flowers sit atop lush green foliage. Butterflies love this mum and it is the perfect border or container plant. A decorative flower, this plant will grow to 18- 24 inches tall and 24-30 inches wide. It prefers full sun.

Purple Majesty
Low maintenance, cold tolerant and heat tolerant, what’s not to love? Oh and did we mention it is a gorgeous shade of purple. With a mounded habit, this mum will grow to be 8-14" tall and 10-22" wide. Purple mums will pair well with ornamental peppers or purple fountain grass.