What’s so great about sedges? They just look like clumps of grass, right? Well, here are three sedges both unusual and interesting for sun, shade and in-between.
The Cherry Blossom Sedge, (Carex scaposa), has surprising, vibrant, showy pink flowers, something you don’t expect to find in a sedge. The plant grows in clumps, stands about a foot high and has wide arching leaves. It blooms in summer and repeats in the fall. Plant this beauty in part shade to shade in average soil.
Next is Carex phyllocephala, “Sparkler.’ This plant was given to me last winter by a friend. What I love is that it looks like a small palm tree. The foliage is variegated and sits atop one- to two-foot tall cane-like stems. This is also a clump former and does best in part shade to deep shade.
And for the sun, try Rhynchospora colorate or Star Sedge (also known as Whitetop Sedge). The flowers themselves are tiny but have long flowing bracts, white near the flower, then changing to green near the tip. From a distance they look like bobbing white daisies. This plant spreads by rhizomes so it will need to be thinned occasionally. I have included a close-up photo to illustrate the lovely form.
So, don’t pass over sedges believing them to be boring. Check these three out and prepare to be amazed.
There’s a saying among gardeners: Sleep, creep, leap.
The first year that an ornamental plant is in the ground, it sleeps. Above ground it looks like nothing is happening. All the action is underground where it is creating strong roots. A quality root system is essential for absorbing water and nutrients to deliver to the rest of the plant.
The following year, the plant creeps. We may notice new leaf buds, an elongated stem, and we are content (or relieved) that the plant is still living.
Then, finally, in its third or fourth year, the plant really starts to get showy. It leaps! There are new leaves and bold flowers. The plant is noticeably taller and/or wider and we gardeners are filled with pride and joy and our enthusiasm for gardening probably leaps, too.
This is so true of herbaceous perennials! Before you know it, it is time to divide the perennial into smaller plants. Division can control a plant’s size and invigorate the original plant, assuring that it continues to flower abundantly. (If your perennial no longer flowers very well, that is a sure sign that it is crowded and needs to be divided.) Another benefit is that you will have new plants to place in another part of the garden or share with a friend or neighbor.
Time of year The best time to divide herbaceous perennials is early spring, however bearded iris and Asiatic lilies prefer later summer to early fall and some plants like black-eyed Susan are so resilient they’ll accept division in spring or fall. Choose a cool or cloudy spring day or an early fall day. Dividing or planting most perennials during a hot and/or humid day, such as we tend to have during a Durham summer, is generally not advised. Also, do not divide or dig around plants the same day they have been watered.
Step 1.Prepare by putting in place everything you may need to complete the task: a long-handled spade or digging pitchfork, a sharp knife (I use an old steak knife from the kitchen), a full watering can or hose, and newly dug holes in the ground. If you intend to gift your divisions to other gardeners, then also have containers, a small spade and potting soil by your side.
Step 2.Survey your plant(s). From afar, it looked like I had two giant clumps of Stokes Aster (Stokesia ‘Peachies Pink’). See photos below. They had been in the ground four years. But upon closer inspection, notice that there are actually multiple small clumps growing close together.
Step 3.Dig and separate the plant. Use the spade or fork to dig deep on all four sides of the plant. In the case of these asters, I need not dig up the whole planting, just the smaller clumps that I wish to relocate. If the plant’s divisions are growing closely together, as may be the case with a Daylily or a Bearded Iris, you may need to dig up more, or all, of the plant. When that is the case, gently pull the division away from the original plant. Tease it with your fingers. If this is difficult, as it may be with plants that are overdue for dividing, it’s okay to cut through the clump using the knife. Just be sure that each smaller clump gets three to five shoots and part of the root system.
Step 4. Replant the divisions, with proper spacing and depth (the crown at soil level), as soon as possible into your previously dug holes or at-the-ready containers. The goal is to minimize the amount of time that the roots are exposed to the drying effects of air. Water the new planting well.
As you can see in the photos above, the new divisions look a bit forlorn 10 days later. They will need nurturing equivalent to any new planting; that means vigilant watering through their first year. It is also helpful to snip new flower buds off the first year or two, if any even develop, so the plant’s energy can be concentrated on developing its root system. Remember: sleep, creep, leap!
Step 5. Pay attention to the original plant. Rebury its roots if any were exposed during the division. Enrich the soil with compost or soil conditioner. Even just loosening it will help; Plants dislike growing in compacted soil. Having some garden soil or compost on hand is helpful but not necessary. It’s okay to add the compost later in the growing year when social-distancing may not be as critical as it is this spring.
Follow similar five steps if you wish to relocate a plant: Prepare, survey, dig, replant, nurture. I divided the asters last spring and the new plants are doing very well. I will divide and move some hostas to shadier places this year. My landscape has changed (we took down some larger trees) and the hostas are no longer planted in the right place for their needs.
Early spring days are excellent for separating, dividing or relocating perennials. And, these are tasks you can accomplish with equipment and material already on hand. Perfect for gardeners sheltering-in-place.
How did it get to be December already? Wasn’t it 100 degrees and October yesterday? Unbelievable! So, I was looking at last year’s December calendar and I can’t think of how to improve it. Therefore, y’all get an encore! Heck, come next year it might be a new tradition.
The holidays Are upon us. It’s cold enough To prune the euonymus.
Most of the leaves Have fallen down And into the compost Raked and blown.
The door is closed On the potting shed. Most of the garden Has been put to bed.
But before the year Turns over anew There are a few more things Left to do.
Lawn Mow the fescue One more time. Remove the leaves To keep it fine.
Planting Landscape plants Can still be planted There in that space Where you’ve always wanted.
Prune Prune the nandina And red-berried holly. Arrange them on the table To make it look jolly.
Herbaceous perennials Can still be cut back. While weeds and “bad” trees Can be thoroughly wacked.
Spraying While some of us think Spraying is fun In the month of December There should be none.
Other Stuff That’s Mostly Fun The Christmas tree Really needs water And will appreciate Being away from the heater.
To keep your poinsettias Cheery and bright Put them in the room With the sunniest light.
As to your soil recommendations Apply the lime. Save the fert For the warmer springtime.
If it’s viticulture Or an orchard you seek Order plants now To plant by March’s second week.
For your strawberries A sweet straw bed Either wheat or pine A blanket for their heads.
May your holidays Be blessed and merry As bright and cheery As the holly’s berry.
And may next year’s garden Be like my Grandmother’s A bounty for you And a bounty for others.
September is synonymous with school. So, this week we are
getting back to basics with a post that defines foundational gardening terms.
The better you understand these terms and phrases, the easier it will be to
identify, select and care for plants in your landscape.
Growing season: The period between the beginning of growth in
the spring and the cessation of growth in the fall.
Hardiness zone: Expressed as a number and letter combination
from 1a to 13b, the US Department of Agriculture has assigned a zone to every geographic
area of the United States based on the average annual minimum winter
temperature. Tags on plants sold commercially often identify the zone(s) in
which the plant will grow.
affected by landscape, structures, or other unique factors in a particular
for the three major plant nutrients contained in manure, compost, and
fertilizers. N stands for nitrogen, P for phosphorus, and K for potassium.
started from seed that grow, mature, flower, produce seed, and die in the same
Biennial: Plants that take two years, or a part of two years, to complete their life cycle. By freely reseeding, a biennial plant may seem to come back year after year, but you are actually seeing new plants.
Perennial: A plant that lives more than two years and produces new foliage, flowers, and seeds each growing season. Tenderperennial: A perennial that is not tolerant of frost and cold temperatures. Applying a winter mulch can help it survive It may die off above ground and regrow from the roots.
Woody perennial: A plant that goes dormant in winter and begins growth in spring from above-ground stems. Herbaceousperennial: A plant that dies back in the winter and regrows from the crown in spring.
Exotic: A plant of foreign origin or character; not native; introduced from abroad, but not fully naturalized. Naturalize: The process whereby plants spread and fill in naturally.
Native plant: A plant indigenous to a specific habitat or area. Nativar: A plant that is a cultivar of a native plant. Cultivar: A cultivated variety of a species. Propagation of cultivars results in little or no genetic change in the offspring, which preserves desirable characteristics.
Integrated pest management.
A method of managing pests that combines cultural, biological, mechanical, and
chemical controls, while taking into account the impact of control methods on
Invasive. Growing vigorously and outcompeting other plants in the same area; difficult to control.
Noxious weed. Weeds that have been declared by law to be a species having the potential to cause injury to public health, crops, livestock, land, or other property. Noxious weeds are very invasive. There are 124 plants in NC that meet the legal criteria.
When a gardening term has you stumped, refer to the glossary chapter of the Master Gardeners Handbook for a definition – there are hundreds of entries — and a small dose of continuing education.
It’s August and my garden (and myself) are showing signs of weariness. So I turned to my fellow Extension master gardener volunteers to find out what is growing well in their gardens. There are plant picks and care tips in the vignettes that follow to inspire us all; and if too late for this year, then definitely for next year! All photos were taken by the master gardeners. — Andrea, Blog editor
I seeded these indoors in early 2018 and planted outdoors after April 15th in 2018. For the past six weeks I have awakened to new blooms every morning and they have exceeded five feet in height. As a bonus the solitary pollinators sleep in them at night to be ready for the morning harvest! Missouri Primrose will have a perpetual place in my garden. – Brandon W.
Caladium and Coleus
My front porch plants are doing well. I have been planting caladium and coleus every summer for 30 years. I love the combination and it also goes really well with the pink knockout roses in front of my porch. I think this year I will try to save my caladium bulbs for the first time ever. — Kerry H.
Coral bells and hostas
Coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea) loves the shady side of my house. It has thrived in this spot for about five years and never fails to surprise and delight. It’s an evergreen plant with maximum height of a foot-and-a-half and a spread of slightly less. The hostas are doing well, too! — Carol T.
Almost all of the plants in my garden are perennials. For the first time since I was a child living in hot and dry Texas, I decided to plant Zinnia seeds this year- as a nod to a childhood long past. Thank goodness I did; It is practically the only flower blooming along the edges of my mostly shade garden. It is definitely drought tolerant and deer resistant and planting them will make every child feel like a successful gardener! Also, it is a simple delight to see what color might unfold on top of their tall sturdy stalks during the course of this hot dry summer. — Cy G.
Both Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop) and Agastache rugosa ‘Golden Jubilee’ are in this photo. I wish you could see the multitude of bees and butterflies that are feeding on the spiky blooms. Throughout the blistering heat wave, these plants have been alive with pollinators. This is my second year with them. They get a bit “floppy” late in the season, so I’m going to try aggressive deadheading this year and see if I get more new growth and less flop. During the hot, dry weather I make sure they get one good soaking a week. — Tina F.
Cleome or spider flower (Cleome hassleriana) is a fragrant, sun-loving annual. Mine are still growing tall, producing blooms and lots of seeds. – Cathy L.
Solomon Seal (Polygonatum spp.) on left, is a native herbaceous perennial that grows well in shady areas. Quarter-inch blue-black (poisonous) berries dangle from the stem in the fall. Pictured here is one with variegated leaves. Weeping love grass (Eragrostis curvula), on right, is an ornamental grass whose leaves turn yellow to bronze in winter. It is used as erosion control on highway right-of-ways. – Beth A.
Year after year our bronze fennel is host to swallowtail caterpillars. Since rethinking our lawn care routine, the fennel has a bigger following than ever with a variety of bees, other insects and even a praying mantis who’s motives might be suspicious. The fennel is easy care with an occasional drink and it readily reseeds to keep the patch going strong. — Lynne N.
My gardening interests are primarily focused on creating an aesthetic and pollinator friendly landscape, along with a few herbs. This year I decided to try a tomato plant. I bought a golden tomato shrub plant at the farmer’s market. It is doing so well! I’ve lost two tomatoes to blossom end rot, but have harvested a dozen already and have 30 more on the plant. — Kerry H.
Tomato ‘German Johnson’
Here is one of my German Johnson tomatoes, a really sweet, pink variety. I planted some in the garden and put one plant in my homemade self-watering bucket. I really like the self-watering bucket. All month (July) I have had tomatoes. This is the first time ever I have had an indeterminate really continue bearing. It is eight feet tall and blooming. I think having uniform moisture is the best thing about the self-watering bucket. – Linda D.