A Cast of Seedy Characters

Clusters of seed heads adorn this Cephalanthus occidentalis in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Clusters of seed heads adorn this Cephalanthus occidentalis (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

For those of us in seasonal climates where flowers only bloom about six months of the year, plants and shrubs with interest during the dormant months are crucial.  When limbs are bare and brown is the primary color of the landscape, evergreens can provide some form and color to an otherwise drab environment. But there’s another option for livening up your surroundings: shrubs and small trees with ornamental seed heads.  By sprinkling a few seedy characters around your property, the nearby plantings will be enhanced while often providing snacks for the local fauna through the difficult winter months as well.  Here are a few of my favorites to consider: [Read more…]

Miss Congeniality

Cotoneaster's Exposed Bones in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Cotoneaster’s exposed bones (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

For versatility, functionality and season long interest, the cotoneaster is a shrub that receives accolades in my book.  Coming in a range of shapes and sizes, from compact dwarf to sprawling and gnarly, cotoneaster can fit any space or design scheme you have in mind.  This sun worshipper is a pretty fast grower in most soil types, as well as deer resistant for those with four legged visitors. [Read more…]

Jewel of the Garden

Itea with Stachys officinalis in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Itea with violet Stachys officinalis (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I’m not much of a fashionista where jewelry is concerned, although I do own a few unique pieces that I absolutely treasure.  And that’s the case when it comes to gems of the garden, as there couldn’t be a more remarkable shrub than Virginia sweetspire, Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’.  An amiable border companion, native to woods and wetlands from Pennsylvania to Texas, this beauty embellishes the garden in spring (May-June) with fragrant, white racemes that dangle like tempting lures from each branch tip. Yet that’s not where the show concludes with good ol’ Henry, no sir.  Starting in October, and often lasting through December, itea virginica produces the most outrageous, stunning display of ruby red foliage you have ever seen.  I guarantee it. [Read more…]

Purple Passion

Dating back to the Roman emperors, the color purple has long been considered the shade most associated with royalty and nobility, as well as symbolizing magic, mystery, passion and romance.  The combination of fiery red and serene blue; a culmination of warmest and coolest shades blended together, is said to emote feelings of peace and is often used in meditation practices.  So why not incorporate more of it in the garden?  And not just in flower form, instead using long lasting deciduous shrubs to add charm and charisma throughout the landscape.  Here are a few of my favorites: [Read more…]

Seven, Eight, Ninebark

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Dart's Gold' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Dart’s Gold’ (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

I’m a sucker for a pretty face, and when it comes to ninebark, there’s plenty of beauty to go around.  Coming in an array of colors ranging from a lively chartreuse green (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Dart’s Gold’) and shimmery copper (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Coppertina’) to the deepest burgundy, commonly known as Diabolo (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’) or Summer Wine (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Seward’), you are limited only by space and opportunity. [Read more…]

Dragon Claw Willow

Dragon Claw Willow in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Dragon Claw Willow in Winter (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Sounding like something straight out of a medieval tale, and looking like something from a Tim Burton movie, the dragon claw willow was a curious, yet welcome, addition to my garden.  After a severe hurricane took down two established locusts in 2011, I was left with a very unstable stream bank to contend with.  Luckily, I stumbled upon these two intriguing shrubs at a private plant sale, where I was assured they would not only grow quickly, but be tolerant of the tangle of existing roots I planned to plant them with.  Indeed, the young willows are quite content in their new location . . . as they grew over six feet tall in their first year!    [Read more…]

Meet the Twigs

Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ with garden mates (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

If this little twiggy went to market, it would come home with lots of easygoing cornus brethren to make your acquaintance.  Because many are native, twig dogwoods (cornus cvs.) tolerate a variety of conditions, making them extremely versatile for garden plantings. They love moister soils and lots of sun, but will accept dry spells and partial shade without much ado in zones 3-8. During the spring and summer months these gems fill out with lush green or variegated leaves (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’), in a dense shrub form that melds nicely with any landscape style.  The majority produce white flowers in summer, followed in fall by blue or white berries that are quickly gobbled up by our feathered friends. Although I love my companion twigs for their many cheerful attributes, it’s the vibrant winter’s bark that make me go ‘gaga’.  Only revealed when the cold weather arrives, twigs offer hues we’re longing to see during the brown months of winter.  Bright stems range in a plethora of shades: red (non-native Cornus alba), yellow-actually chartreuse-and red (native Cornus sericea), and burgundy (native cornus racemosa and amomum), so they provide razzle-dazzle during the dormant months, and carefree style the rest of the year. [Read more…]

Winterberry Wishes

Winterberry in wetland in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Winterberry in local wetland (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Across the New England countryside, winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is taunting me with branches laden with jolly red berries.  Native shrubs sprinkled throughout nearby wetlands are loaded to capacity with plump, ruby pearls illuminating the otherwise dormant grasslands.  Abandoned properties and vacant lots are rampant with gorgeous specimens, their limbs bending from the weight of dazzling fruit.  Alas, they do this every year to mock me, for try as I may, I could not get a winterberry to produce a single fruit.  Not a one. That is until this year . . . [Read more…]

For the Birds

Cedar Waxwing enjoying winterberry and juniper berries in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Cedar Waxwing enjoying winterberry and juniper berries (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

No matter the animal, I love to feed them. Just look at my chubby horses, plump kitties and rubenesque dogs. And there’s no exception when it comes to my avian friends, either.  Although there are mixed messages about feeding during the summer months, I never miss a day year-round. But along with seeds, our native birds also need protein and fat to thrive. By planting berry producing trees and shrubs, we can provide additional sustenance for our feathered friends through the long winter months. I consulted the experts in my library, Stephen Kress (The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds) and Douglas Tallamy (Bringing Nature Home), to offer some of their recommended plantings as well as a few of my own favorites. [Read more…]

Shrubs for Fabulous Foliage

Viburnum Winterthur in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’ (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Fall foliage is nature’s firework expo, signaling the end of one season and the beginning of another. As the last colorful petals of summer trickle to the ground, trees and shrubs continue the vibrant display across our landscapes, often extending the show for several more weeks. You don’t have to have a huge yard or a degree in gardening to have fiery beauties thriving on your property, as most color producers are low maintenance and tolerant of modest soil conditions. Following are a few of my favorite prismatic exhibitionists for your consideration:
[Read more…]