Posts Tagged ‘native plants’

rosemary in january

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Let’s just take a moment to marvel at the fact that the rosemary plants I put on the front hill last June are not only still alive, they seem to be doing really well! But wait, it’s mid-January and this is New England… right?

Rosmarinus officianalis ‘Prostratus’ (Creeping Rosemary) |         Zone 7 and up:

rosemarinis officianalis ‘prostratus’ (creeping rosemary in january




















Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Alcalde’  (Cold Hardy Rosemary) | Zone 6 and up:

rosmarinis officianalis ‘alcalde’




















Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Arp’ (Cold Hardy Rosemary)  | Zone 6 and up:

rosmarinis officianalis ‘arp’




















I realize I’m tempting fate here. Temps are about to dip down to 4 degrees in the next couple of nights, so we’ll see what happens. But so far so good! Come to think of it, this is the second winter outdoors for my three prostrate rosemary plants. Wow. I just realized that.

Luckily the hillside mostly protects them from the wicked north winds and the slope ensures that moisture drains away, which definitely helps. With any luck at all, they will continue to survive. No guarantees. We’ll followup in a month and see how they’re doing then.

For those who care, here’s a reminder of what’s on my front hill.

the front hill, 9 wks later

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

It’s been a little more than two months since the front slope got planted. Here’s what it looked like at the end of June (click to biggify)…

front hill, immediately after planting












And here’s what it looks like at the beginning of September…

the front hill in september, 9 weeks after planting












Not bad, I suppose. I haven’t lost any plants yet, so that’s a plus. Off to a decent start — must constantly remind myself to be patient — but still needs a year or two to grow in completely and begin to resemble a meadow. Next year it will look fabulous. The third year, golden.

Want a closer inspection? Rollover the images for deets…

Nassella tenuissima blowing in the breeze

the grasses are finally filling in... Panicum virgantum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ with Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’ and Salvia pachyphylla 'Blue Flame', Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’ blooms behind



















Agastache ‘Ava’ and Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ with a bright Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ behind



















Verbascum ‘Album’ blooming but still small after just a few months in the ground

Salvia pachyphylla 'Blue Flame' beginning to bloom behind Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’



















The alien-looking Eryngium yuccafoliums (Rattlesnake Master) really stand out; Comptonia peregrina (Sweetfern) behind



















Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ in the foreground with pale green Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ and dark Sedum telephium ‘Sunset Cloud’ behind; Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ adds some green with Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ rising up behind it



















a closer look at origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ and Sedum telephium ‘Sunset Cloud’



















Helictotrichon sempervirens ‘Saphirsprudel’ and Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’



















Buddleia alternifolia ‘Argentea’ is now 4' tall and a little wider than that






















Remember this shot from back in June?

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ and Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise) back in june


That Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise) has come a long way. She’s now taller than I am!

Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise ) in all its crazy glory, late August


The crazy looking blooms, whose scent on a warm evening remind me of Indian food, are generally swarming with bumbles. But I shot this right after a big rain and the bees were nowhere to be seen…

Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise) bloom, closeup... very Dr. Seuss


For those who care to obsess, you can find my entire front hill plant menu here.



butt-thra babies!

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

You’ll never guess what Bix and I discovered this weekend! Butt-thra, our monarch butterfly, had babies!

butt-thra baby: one of the monarch caterpillars looking for lunch




















Here it is just 20 days later and the eggs that she laid on our butterfly weed have already hatched and grown. I had no idea it all happened so quickly!

After I spotted the one above, I came across a few more babies a little while later…

butt-thrababy: more monarch caterpillars!




















What you don’t see is a tiny caterpillar who hasn’t made its way into view yet. So four babies counted so far!

From what I’ve learned, there are three generations of monarchs during the warm season. The last generation — the one born in August-September — is the one that makes the 2,000 mile flight to Mexico. That makes these fellas future travelers.

Isn’t that exciting?

another creature sighting!

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

We discovered a new garden guest yesterday…

monarch butterfly caterpillar: day 1




















Can you believe it?! A monarch butterfly caterpillar just beginning its transformation into a butterfly! In fact, it must have just climbed into place because it only takes a matter of hours for the pupa to form.

This morning, she had already reached the chrysalis stage…

monarch butterfly chrysalis: day 2




















I’m so excited that the kiddo gets to watch this happen. We just don’t get this Wild Kingdom kind of experience often in the city. So happy we planted our Asclepias tuberose (native butterfly weed or milkweed), as it’s the host plant for monarch eggs and larva.

Will endeavor to post a photo every day for the 10-day metamorphosis. Great visuals here, by the way, if you’re eager to see what’s going to take place.

the front hill, revealed

Friday, June 15th, 2012

So. The front hill. Yes, it’s finally planted! Shall I whisk you back in time before I show you how it looks now?

When we moved in, the yard looked like this (biggify to see the full ugly)…

the hill when we moved in, complete with massive pile of crappy stone












Since then, the stone was hauled away — you can see the freshly built retaining wall now along the driveway…

stone taken away












The messy oak tree out front was removed and replaced with three Japanese cedars last fall…

oak tree remains in may 2011




















And the tenacious 3′ tall weeds…

weeds weeds weeds




















Yeah, I dug those up. Then last December, the front walkway was put in…

destruction in december












walkway done in december 11




















Once that was done, I added a truckload of soil…

added soil












…  and sculpted the hill to my liking, creating a series of flat strips to slow the runoff. Just me and a shovel.

And once that was done, I added Curlex erosion control blanket (like we did on the other hill) to hold the slope. You can probably spot the flattish areas if you biggify…

erosion control added in december 11












During the winter, I made plant choices plants for this dry, south-facing hillside. I went with mostly Mediterranean and hardy, xeric, native plants that wouldn’t mind the rocky, sandy soil, wind and summer heat —  grasses and perennials that will grow up into a bee/butterfly/hummingbird meadow. The closer to the house, the tighter, more regimented the layout. The farther away, the looser, more organic the layout.

In March, I started shoving the shrubs I’ve been saving into the ground. Then the boxes of plants for the front hill started arriving from various online sources…


live plants begin arriving!




















Shiva stopped by in April to help lay out the Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)…

shiva helps lay out the 85 nassella tenuissima in april












After that, I became the Mad Planter, popping plants in the ground at every opportunity. Then Shiva and Natasha came and helped with the final push…

shiva and natasha help out in may




















Thank goodness because if they hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have finished until July. I’m guesstimating but there are probably around 400 plants in. I should do a final count.

Although this is about as anti-climatic as a Mad Men end-of-season episode, here’s the not-so-big reveal (again, you might want to biggify):

front hill, view 1












front hill, view 2












Except for a few holdovers from pots, the plants are all tiny and won’t look like much the first year. If they grow in like my meadow out back, next summer you’ll see a huge difference.

In the meantime, have a closer look at a few bright spots…

festuca glauca ‘elijah blue’ and caesalpinia gilliesii (yellow bird of paradise) next to the front steps



















origanum ‘aureum’, helictotrichon sempervirens ‘sapphire’ (blue oat grass) and thymus pseudolanuginosus (wooly thyme)



















rhus typhina ‘bailtiger’ (tiger eyes sumac)



















Origanum rotundifolium ‘kent beauty’ (ornamental oregano) just beginning to bloom



















thymus x citriodorus (lemon thyme)



















the first callirhoe involucrata (purple poppy mallow) bloom




















For those who care, below is a list of what you’ll find on my front hillside. For  visuals, pop up my Pinterest plant menu page…


Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Blue Grama)

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ (Blue Fescue)

Helictotrichon sempervirens ‘Sapphire’ (Blue Oat Grass)

Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)

Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ (Switch Grass)

Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ (Little Bluestem)

Sporobolis heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed)


Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’ (Golden Oregano)

Origanum rotundifolium ‘Kent Beauty’ (Ornamental Oregano)

Rosmarinus officianalis ‘Prostratus’ (Creeping Rosemary)

Rubus pentalobus (Creeping Raspberry)

Thymus × citriodorus (Lemon Thyme)

Thymus lanuginosus (Wooly Thyme)


Agastache ‘Ava’ (Hummingbird Mint)

Amorpha canescens (Leadplant)

Amsonia hubrechtii (Threadleaf Bluestar)

Callirhoe involcrata (Purple Poppy Mallow)

Eryngium yuccafolium (Rattlesnake Master)

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’

Geum trillium (Prairie Smoke)

Lavendula x intermedia ‘Grosso’

Petalostemon Purpureum (Purple Prairie Clover)

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Alcalde’ (Cold Hardy Rosemary)

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Arp’ (Cold Hardy Rosemary)

Salvia pachyphylla ‘Blue Flame’ (Giant Purple Sage)

Verbascum nigrum ‘Album’ (Mullein)

Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena)



Baptisea lacteal (False White Indigo)

Buddleia alternifolia ‘Argentea’ (Silver Fountain Butterfly Bush)

Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise)

Comptonia peregrina (Sweetfern) — to echo the sweetfern we used on the other hillside

Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ (Fragrant Sumac)

Rhus typina ‘Bailtiger’ (Tiger Eye Sumac)



Cornus florida (American Dogwood) — the one and only thing original to the hillside!

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ (Japanese Cedar)

Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ (Japanese Black Pine)


Succulents, Yucca and such

Euphorbia niciana x nicaeensis ‘Blue Haze’ (Cushion Spurge)

Euphorbia myrsinites (Donkeytail Spurge)

Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii ‘Shorty’ (Cushion Spurge)

Hesperaloe parviflora (False Red Yucca)

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’

Orostachys iwarenge  (Chinese Dunce Cap)


plant me happy: native wisteria

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Do you love the smell of basil as much as I do? Then you might like this:

my wisteria amethyst falls




















Nope, not a basil.

This is Wisteria ‘Amethyst Falls,’ a native form that doesn’t smell anywhere as sweet as its overly aggressive Asian relatives. That doesn’t stop the bees, though. Oh no. They’ve been psyched about this vine since the first blooms appeared in its very first year. I planted it at the end of our veggie garden… that was 2 years ago.

Did I mention it blooms almost nonstop? Crazy, right?

wisteria amethyst falls bloom




















That was something I never expected. Instead of blooming just once in the spring like most wisterias, Amethyst Falls blooms for me off and on throughout the summer and even into the fall. Who knew?

Yes, it climbs, but I don’t have room for that so I just let it tumble over the wall. For a plant I had my doubts about in the beginning, I must say I am thrilled with it now.

hillside planting underway

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Sorry things got quiet again at modremod. We escaped to the west coast to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Just before we left, the plants I ordered back in January started arriving for the front hillside.

Then Shiva arrived yesterday with a carload of plants for the walkway section of the hill…

hillside planting: laying out the plants













Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass). 85 of them in all…

hillside planting: only 50 more to go











So guess what I did yesterday?

hillside planting: mexican feather grass in













More planting happening soon — the arrivals are beginning to stack up. Thanks for helping get it started, Shiva! goteamfight.

5 vines i must have

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

The plant stalking for spring continues. This time up: vines. The more crazy and exotic it looks, the more I long for it.


Mina lobata “Exotic Love Vine”   an old fave. must revisit.

mina lobata “exotic love vine or spanish flag” |















Clematis viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’   so unusual. love.

clematis viticella ‘alba luxurians’ |














Vitis coignetiae (Crimson Glory Vine)   brilliant 10-12″ leaves!

vitis coignetiae (crimson glory vine) |




















Apios americana (Groundnut)  native. looks like a wonky wisteria.

apios americana (groundnut) |













Passiflora caerulea (Passionflower)   somehow mine got dug up.

passiflora caerulea (passionflower) |















Where will I put them all? Um… hmmmm. (Btw, I added a few others to Pinterest.)

followup: how’s that hillside?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

This is for you, Shiva, my dear!

MARCH 30, 2010

hillside: march 30, 2010 a disaster after historically heavy rains












APRIL 3, 2010

hillside: april 3, 2010 reshaped with new soil













APRIL 5, 2010

hillside: april 3, 2010 biodegradable erosion control added











APRIL 6, 2010

hillside: april 6, 2010 brand new planties












OCTOBER 4, 2011

hillside: october 4, 2011 first view












hillside: october 4, 2011 second view












hillside: october 4, 2011 third view/closeup of sweetfern




















Not completely filled in but looking fabulous. No more erosion issues. Yippee!

If you’re interested in the plant choices, check this out. FYI, we ended up putting the Cornus canadensis (creeping dogwood/bunchberry) at the top of the slope in the shade instead of on the slope in the sun.

how’s that curlex holding up?

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

curlex rolls

So the Curlex has been in place for a few weeks now. Has it kept our slope from washing away? I am pleased to report that yes, so far, it has successfully b**ch-slapped our erosion issues.

Here’s where we were on March 30 after all that flooding…

washouts on march 30

More soil was added during the first week of April…

new soil added in the first week of april

Then the Curlex erosion control matting was added and erosion control plants put in the ground…

slope fully curlexed

And here’s what it looks a few weeks later after planting and some fairly heavy rains…

dirt from above

No dirt under the matting has washed out. However, dirt from above (not held by the matting) washed down over it. Just a little. And no wonder, with no grass, very few plants and absolutely no mulch, the water just rushed down the slope and took some of our new topsoil with it…

up above, it’s all dirt

Very happy with the Curlex. I see a few weeds beginning to poke their heads through here and there…

weeds coming up thru curlex

I’ll have to put a stop to that immediately.

Remember the slope between us and our neighbor? The area where we found the lead levels so high and had the soil dug up and carted away?…

removing lead soil from other slope

Our lovely neighbors and I thought it would be smart to put down Curlex on this slope, too, before the spring rains washed all the new soil downhill…

adding curlex to the other slope

So I took care of that a few weekends ago and then started plugging in some plants sure to hold that slope back…

curlex and some erosion control plants added

On the front slope, one of the native plants we chose was a Symphoricarpos var. albus (Common Snowberry), which produces big white berries in autumn. I figured that closer to the house it would be nice to have more color, so I chose Symphoricarpus x ‘Kordes’ Amythest (Coralberry)…

amythest coralberry

Not a native variety but it produces the most irresistible, insanely colored berries you’ve ever seen — good for the birds…

amethyst™ coralberry |

amethyst™ coralberry |

I also threw in a few native Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Massachussetts’ (bearberry) like we have on the front slope…

more bearberry

Not only good for erosion control, it also produces bright red berries for the birds in the fall…

common bearberry |

common bearberry |

And for good measure, I thought I’d see if some of my brilliant chartreuse Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ might work here…

sedum angelina

Like all sedums, it’s a tough little stonecrop that covers the ground quickly and doesn’t ask for much care or much water. Flowers for the butterflies in summer. And in the fall, it takes on the most gorgeous pinkish-orange overtones that will look fab with the colorful berries on the plants around it…

sedum angelina | the BEST gardening blog EVER

sedum angelina | the BEST gardening blog EVER

I’m not done adding plants to the slope…

back corner still to be planted

Something ferny with a bluish or silvery cast would make a nice foil to the other shades going on. I’ll report back when I find just the right thing. In that far back corner slope starting at about the oak, I want to plant Rhus aromatica ‘Gro Low’ (Fragrant Sumac). I just discovered it during last week’s trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden…

fragrant sumac at brooklyn botanic

A native great for holding slopes that fills in quickly, is undemanding and drought tolerant, and offers flowers and catkins (food for birds) in the spring. In the fall, it turns flamey red…

fragrant sumac gro-low |

fragrant sumac gro-low |

What a showstopper. I haven’t found a local nursery that carries it, although there’s bound to be one. High Country Gardens has it, for sure. I think I may be able to use it under our dogwood out front as well.

For those of you have slopes like I do, I came across another great article on not-your-typical groundcover alternatives. Worth exploring.

*     *     *     *     *     *

UPDATE: Okay, I’m having some luck in hunting for slope plants with blue foliage that can handle a mix of sun and shade. There’s Carex Glauca Blue Sedge

carex glauca (or flacca) blue sedge |

carex glauca (or flacca) blue sedge |

Or Carex Glauca (also Flacca) Blue Zinger

carex glauca (flacca) blue zinger |

carex glauca blue zinger |

Ferny, no. But they have a similar upright and then arching manner that make them strong contenders.