Sombrero ‘Lemon Yellow’

The Sombrero series of coneflowers come in a wide range of colors from red and pink to orange and white. I grow more than one variety but the showy ‘Lemon Yellow,’ a large flower that provides a vivid floral display in the cutting garden is a winner. Oh my, what a wonderful compact Echinacea hybrid for a compact garden like mine!

Sombrero 'Lemon Yellow'

The flowers stand about 2-feet high above sturdy stems with nice green foliage that extends to the base of the plant.  And like all coneflowers, the Sombrero series is adaptable to a wide range of garden conditions… drought, heat, humidity and poor soil.

The ‘Lemon Yellow’ is not only a showstopper in the garden, the bees, the butterflies and all our hummingbirds spend 3 months feasting on the nectar rich blooms. I deadhead some the flowers to encourage more blooms, but the dried seedheads provide food for our dwindling population of birds during the winter. I leave a good number of blooms on the plants for them.

And the best news of all…. the bunnies have not put these flowers on their dinner menu. How sweet is that??



Cleome. Some people hate it. I always loved the old-fashioned cleome in my Virginia garden. A prolific self-seeder, it was fun every spring to see where it chose to pop up in my large gardens. And to see the different colors of blooms was exciting, too, since the babies could vary from white to purple, quite different from the parent.

Complaints according to those who avoid cleome in the garden:
Nasty odor
Spines and thorns
Sticky excretion that could irritate
Tall and leggy later in the season
and a self-seeder

cleome 2018

All those criticisms have become passé with new varieties on the market. The hybrid cleome I grow is compact…. only a foot tall and an annual. No thorns; no odor; no seeds (sadly); smaller blooms than my Virginia plants but just as floriferous all growing season; bushier than my original; planted in my soil/compost border and seem to be happy there; still loved by insects; still visited by hummingbird moths and hummingbirds. No good reason I can think of not to consider it for your garden…. unless you just don’t like the color!

cleome 2018


Hot and Dry Weather: Survivors in the Garden

Hot, dry, windy summer weather can be extremely stressful for plants in the garden. Temperatures in Gloucester have hovered near 100º for the last several days, topping out at 102 yesterday. Life seems to be fading from much of the garden. I am usually found hiding inside during intolerably hot weather, however in the late afternoon, I’ll take a stroll to check out heat tolerant plants that shine through the high temps. Several shrubs and perennials are doing well. Here are two that stand out:

The ‘Becky‘ Shasta Daisies, Leucanthemum superbum, that I planted en masse in early spring for our June ‘wedding garden’ are still going strong. I have been rewarded a hundred times over with waves of showy pure white blooms… great for admiring and great for cutting. They’re the 2003 Perennial Plant of the Year and are proving to be heat and drought tolerant. All they ask for is sunshine and a little deadheading.

Becky Shasta Daisy

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9

Light: Full sun

Soil: Growth is optimum in moist, but well-drained soil

Bloom: June to September.

Another favorite that I’ve blogged about a couple of years ago is the Blackberry Lily or the Leopard Lily, a plant that is three plants in one.

1. In the spring, we are rewarded with blue green leaves than fan out in an attractive pattern much like an iris. Indeed it is a member of the iris family.  Familiarly known as Belamcanda chinensis, after a DNA analysis, the new classification is Iris domestica.

Iris-like leaves of the blackberry lily

2. In mid-July we are blessed with a multitude of small orange and red lily-like flowers, each blooming for a day then twisting like tiny wrung out rags before dropping from the plant. I’ve not read anything about the nectar of this flower but have observed a variety of insects actually competing over the sweet fluids.

Blackberry Lily and Sweat Bee

Blackberry Lily and red ants

3. In the late summer and fall and winter, the 3-lobed pods that are green and swelling now, split open to reveal the glossy fruit that resemble blackberries. These will fall from the plant and self seed or stems can be used for flower arrangements. I adore all three phases of this colorful summer perennial.

Belamcanda chinensis

Image via Wikipedia

It will reproduce by seed and by rhizomes which may be divided and shared. Plant rhizomes under 1″ of soil and allow to dry between waterings.

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 5-10

Light: Full sun, partial sun, partial shade (I moved my plants from full sun to partial sun and they seem less stressed)

Soil: Well-drained; grows taller in fertile soil.

Bloom: July and August

Zones: 5-10.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

There’s a Leopard in my Garden!

Leopard LilySometimes I look around my garden and think I must be running an animal preserve.  I see hens and chicks, elephant ears, turtleheads, oxeye daisies, chickweed, lamb’s ear, and the most fearsome animal but loveliest flower of all, the leopard lily, an aggressive animal in the jungle but gentle flower in the garden.  It’s not a lily at all but a member of the iris family.  I have read that it is invasive, that it has established itself in pastures and ditches, that self seeding causes it to sprout everywhere, but in my garden it is a leopard that purrs and behaves itself.  Though not a color I sought for the garden, each deep orange bloom with red spots is heavenly in the heat of the summer and the 6-petaled flowers in clusters of orchid-like blooms are irresistible.  No one can pass by without admiring them.

Flowers appear in mid-summer in sprays that grow on delicate stems that rise above the dried bloomiris-like foliage to a height of three feet.  Each bloom lasts barely one day but is soon followed by new blooms that shine during the heat of the summer months.  After a day, each bloom dries into a tight spiral that is as delectable as the full blooms themselves.  We are rewarded again several weeks later blackberry lily seedsduring fall when the seed pods split open to reveal a cluster of lustrous black seeds looking like giant blackberries, hence the other name for this plant, the blackberry lily.  I have found these can be cut and dried and used successfully in flower arranging.

Interestingly, in the book, Jefferson’s Garden, I read that Thomas Jefferson planted the seeds of this tropical-looking plant in his oval garden in 1807 and today it still self-sows on the property.  Somehow I feel a little bit of fulfillment sowing the same seeds and growing the same perennials enjoyed by fellow Virginia gardener, Thomas Jefferson. All three stages of flower development are simply fabulous and I recommend this plant for Virginia gardens and gardeners.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Historic Garden Week: Behind the scenes in Gloucester Gardens

Brent and Becky's hybridizing fields Brent and Becky’s Bulbs was named by The Wall Street Journal as the number one bulb company, but for the citizens of Gloucester, Brent and Becky have always been number one in many ways.  They are incredibly knowledgeable and their generosity is legend, both in Brent’s native Gloucester and far beyond Gloucester to cities and communities across the country.

The Garden Club of Gloucester relies on Brent and Becky for advice for Historic Garden Week bulb plantings.  With their recommendations, we turn our gardens into a sea of colorful daffodils. Gardeners and landscapers look to them for guidance and for the best bulbs available today.  It all makes sense when you know Brent and Becky consider themselves educators first, gardeners second and bulb-sellers third.

Ware Neck landscaper, Sue Perrin, has her own list of personal favorites from Brent and Becky’s Spring/Fall catalog.  For homeowners on the Historic Garden Tour or bulb lovers statewide, she has listed the bulb name, catalog page number and the reasons behind her choices.

Sue:  “The following are my favorites. They have multiplied and remained strong performers in my garden. I tend to like the miniature and mid-sized bulbs for flower beds. I like to see the large sized ones grouped in the landscape away from the house, at the edge of the woods where the maturing foliage gets at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day and some dappled light after that. In such an area you can let weeds/grass grow along with maturing foliage and not be bothered with the ‘mess.’ Too often I have seen daffodils planted in too much shade and they decline with time even though they are fertilized. Apply fertilizer in October after the first year. I use “Potato Fertilizer” from Southern States Cooperative. It is their own 3-9-18 and has quintupled in price in the past 2 years. It comes in 40 lb. bags, so you would not be able to use it until you had a large bed but it is still quite a bit cheaper than BulbTone. For just a few daffodils, use BulbTone or whatever Brent and Becky have in their shop. They are making their own brand and it will be excellent.”

* Will bloom for Garden Tour the last week in April.  Brent suggests planting them in late Nov. or early Dec. to make them bloom late.

Miniature and mid-sized Daffodils:

Baby Moon*   p. 29, qty: 20, late bloomer, adorable.

Hawera    p. 31, qty: 20, mid-late, multiplies like crazy.

Jonquilla var. henriquesii   p. 31  20, Golden gold, showy, likes to bake in the summer sun by a walk of rock.

Golden Bells  p.31, qty: 20, teeny tiny but showy.

Minnow p. 32, qty: 20, 5 or more tiny yellow and white flowers per stem, delightful.

Sun Disc* p. 33, qty: 50, reliable, late.

Sweetness p.25, qty: 20, So fragrant, a must.

Golden Echo (!!!) p. 24, qty: 20, Brent and Becky’s own hybrid, great substance, mid-sized, long-blooming, top of my list.

Jetfire p. 22, qty: 20, early (Feb.), reliable.

Ice Wings p. 21, qty: 10, nodding, white, 3 per stem.

Large favorites:

Bravoure  p. 10, Greatest substance, gorgeous.

Pink Silk  p. 11,  I won best-in-show, plus it multiplies like a rabbit.

Lorikeet  p. 11, Unusual color combination, stunning.

Audubon  p. 12, Great substance, reliable.

Ceylon p. 13, One of Brent’s favorites.

Pink Charm  p. 15, Reliable pink and white, lovely.

Stainless* p. 16, Pure white, late.

Other favorite bulbs for here and there:

Hyacinthoides hispanica ‘Excelsior’*  p. 71,  qty: 100, voles like these so protection, old-fashioned, can seed around in time, likes the woodland setting.

Ipheion uniflorum ‘Rolf Fiedler’  p. 74, qty: 50, Grows in the grass, sweet.

Leucojum aestivum ‘Gravetye Giant’* p. 76,  qttL 50, underrated, white, long blooming.

Muscari armeniacum p. 78, qty: 100 (a must !), electric blue complements all other bulbs, esp. daffodils.

Galanthus elwesii  p. 8,  qty: 20 (plant now!), snowdrops are earliest, can take some shade, like a moist but not boggy area. Almost all bulbs require good drainage.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Calder Loth

Calder LothIn our increasingly busy lives, our gardens should provide an oasis for us, a place of tranquility and joy. The city gardens of Calder Loth, Senior Architectural Historian with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and honorary member of the Richmond Fan DistrictGarden Club of Virginia, do just that.  Located in Richmond’s Fan District, Calder’s resplendent home gardens reflect his taste in gardening and reveal his ample knowledge of plants.

He has designed borders overflowing with vibrant color using high performing plants accustomed to the heat of summer.  Art objects, flower filled terra-cotta pots and mismatched pavings and stones provide a major impact.

Garden folly



A visual bonus is a wooden structure topped with terra-cotta pots.  What do you think you will see if you attempt to enter the gate and pass under the arch?  You will see yourself.  Calder designed the back of this structure with a mirror to provide folly in the garden and to visually increase the garden space.

Not only has he made use of the all perimeters of his property, his gardening passion has inspired him to extend his gardens from his yard to a public alley where he created a sun-filled flower border for passersby to enjoy.

IThe alley gardent is said that every garden is a reflection of the owner and has a unique story to tell.  From his gardens, we know that Calder Loth is a talented horticulturist with a love for beautiful gardens and a desire to share his passion.

The Garden Club of Virginia cherishes its association with Calder.  Whether advocating for historic garden restoration, researching, writing for Historic Garden Week in Virginia, or serving on the Fellowship Site Selection Committee, Calder Loth is a valued friend of the Garden Club of Virginia.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

My Garden Shed

Mister gardener built a garden shed for me, a wonderful sanctuary in a style straight from Mr. McGregor’s English garden. It’s a lovely 10×10 cottage garden shed that houses everything garden. I’ve had it for several years now and inside it is neatly organized into work areas.  I have containers of potting mixes, Holly Tone, Plant Tone, coconut bricks, on one wall.  Shelving holds clay pots organized by shape and size and well organized wall grids and hooks hold gardening gadgets and tools of the trade. Other shelving holds plant labels and seeds and Neem oils, watering cans and gloves.

CupolaI love my small home away from home just a short walk from the house. I can throw up the window sashes to catch breezes off the river and putter inside to my hearts content.  The shed is now nestled into the border with trellises on two walls for climbing plants… clematis, honeysuckle, and even tomatoes sometimes grow up the wall.  A Williamsburg bird bottle on the side attracts a fussy wren every year and crushed oyster paths around both sides of the shed lead to the compost.  On the shingled roof, a copper weather vane sings an eerie melody as it turns with the wind atop the cupola.

When it was first completed and mister gardener proudly led me inside, I looked around at the empty roomand loft that seemed vast, and thoughts of a day bed and a lamp on a small table jumped into my mind.  But it’s become a different spot of relaxation where I can daydream and plan for future garden projects.

Two of my granddaughters, ages 6 and 8 at that time, took a good, long look at the shed and began to whisper.  Later they drew up their own list of improvements that they left for me and mister gardener to find. Of course I saved the list.  It’s marvelous and who knows what the future holds?  Anything can happen.

Annie’s and Caroline’s list of improvements for Nana’s shed:

  1. Add a garage
  2. A pink and a green golf cart
  3. T.V. and Wii
  4. A pink refrigerator
  5. 2 pink spinning chairs
  6. Bathroom and toilet with fuzzy seat
  7. Small stove
  8. A pink rug
  9. A table for two
  10. Hot tub
  11. Monogrammed towels, one white, one lavender
  12. Pull out beds

I would love to read about YOUR garden shed.  Leave a comment.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester