September 2011

Recycle your plastic pots at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Spread the word! Gardeners can clean up their piles of empty nursery pots in sheds, garages and yard and help out the Indianapolis Museum of Art Greenhouse at the same time.

By reusing the sturdy plastic pots, the greenhouse saves hundreds of dollars by not having to buy new ones for the plants it grows and sells. It also helps the environment by reducing the manufacturing of new plastic pots and keeping used ones out of the waste stream.

Drop off heavy duty plastic and terra cotta pots 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Oct. 1 at the greenhouse parking lot, 4000 N. Michigan Road, Indianapolis. Please knock out the dirt from the pots and give them a quick rinse before bringing them in. Please do not drop of annual cell packs, flimsy flats and trays. Please recycle these on your own.

Late blooming perennials and cold tolerant annuals extend the season of color

Snapdragons and Red Giant mustard. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau

This time of year, mums tempt us with their colorful blossoms that promise to extend the season a few more weeks. But there are other flowering plants that color the landscape this time of year, including easy-to-grow annuals that can also be found in some garden centers. Here are a few.

Snapdragons love the cooler temperatures of fall and have been known to keep blooming into December. Snaps (Antirrhinum majus) come in all sizes and colors and do best in full sun, but tolerate part sun. Even this time of year, you can sow seeds directly in soil in window boxes, pots or a patch in the landscape, according to packet instructions. Garden centers also may have snapdragons in pots. Snapdragons are great cut flowers, too.

Royal Velvet petunia.

Petunias (Petunia) may already growing in your landscape or pots. Cut them back a bit, give them a dose of fertilizer, keep them watered and they will keep blooming for several more weeks. Petunias are quite tolerant of cooler temperatures.

Lemon Symphony osterspermum, heuchera and variegated sage. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

Cape daisy (Osteospermum) also should revive as temperatures cool. These plants are stunning in spring and fall, but seem to lose their zip in summer when the temeratures get hot, especially at night. Indiana’s hot weather prevents the plants from resting at night, which diminishes their blooms.

Aster mixes with Arkansas bluestar and oakleaf hydrangea for color well into fall. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Late-blooming perennials also carry the garden well into fall. Here’s a sampler:

Asters (Symphyotrichum) are sold this time of year along with mums. Most of them are hybrids of native asters and should be handled like mums: full sun to light shade and well-drained soil. Don’t cut back until spring, which is the best time to divide and transplants mums and asters.

Blue Lagoon monk's hood (Aconitum). Photo courtesy

Monk’s hood (Aconitum) is a glorious, tall, late blooming perennial whose poison is the subject of many mystery novels. It does well in full sun to part shade and can be used as a cut flower.


Leadwort or hardy blue plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is a star in the fall garden with a tri-color scheme. This low-growing ground cover, which does well in sun to shade, sports beautiful blue blooms about the size of a quarter in August and September. The flowers mingle with green foliage that is turning reddish purple as fall progresses.

This plant is slow to break dormancy in spring. It makes a good companion for tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs because as it leafs out, it camouflages their fading foliage.

Fashionable plants goal of Hort Couture brand

(C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

One of the joys of being a garden writer is trying new plants.

One brand, Hort Couture, markets color and plant combinations as ‘kits,’ providing the perfect solution for pots, window boxes and other containers.

For instance, Hort Couture sent ‘Black Jack’ coleus (Solenostemon) paired with Paper Doll Top Model fanflower (Scaevola). The deep blue fanflower popped against the dark purple leaves of ‘Black Jack.’

A second eye-catching combo is ‘Smallwood Driveway’ coleus, Diva Red Diascia and Flare Gold Elf Bidens.

The coleuses are the newer late-blooming varieties and they have done great…maybe a little too great because they quickly dwarfed the slower-growing fanflower and bidens. Unfortunately, the diascia did not survive because of all the plants in the mixes, it is the most sensitive to hot weather. I swapped it out with a reddish million bells (Callibrachoa), which has done well.

Certainly the labels are an attractive component of the marketing plan. They suit the word play on haute couture in that they are high fashion statements in themselves. Each one has a shapely female figure in a dress printed with the plant described on the label.

Locally, Hort Couture plants can be found at Allisonville Nursery in Fishers, Ind., and the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and at several other independent garden centers in the state. Check the Web site ( for a list of retailers.

Simply Beautiful (, a widely available brand from Ball Horticulture also sends combination samples.

Deep Orange Bonanza marigold and Serena Blue angelonia from Ball Horticulture. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

This year, my favorite is Angelonia Serena Blue paired with Bonanza Deep Orange marigold (Tagetes). It’s been several years since I’ve grown marigolds and these have held up extremely well during the hot dry summer. They were not attacked by spider mites, a common plague on marigolds and they’ve bloomed steadily despite very little dead heading.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day September 2011

'Solar Cascade' goldenrod. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

I think I’m about as worn out as the garden. Sure, there are a few things blooming, but mostly, the yard seems over run with weeds, especially a sedge. We all know how hard sedges are to get rid of.

Bush clover (Lespedeza). (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

I potted up everything I picked up at the trade show of Garden Writers Association’s annual symposium in Indianapolis last month. I only bought one plant throughout all of the tours, a Hosta ‘Guacamole,’ which is fragrant.

The bulb catalogs have been arriving and so far, I’ve refrained from ordering anything. But today came Old House Gardens to tempt me with something unusual. The last few years I’ve been entranced by Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) because they bloom unexpectedly late.

Lemon A Peel climbing black-eyed Susan. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

I gave a program this week in Indianapolis on perennial companions for spring bulbs to the Cultivating Garden Club. It’s one of my favorite talks because it helps solve what some gardeners think of as a problem — all that foliage that has to ripen.

But as the growing season winds down, gardeners need to affirm all that is good in nature with an act of faith and hope for another season. So, we plant spring bulbs, transplant perennials and other plants, fertilize the lawn, water trees and shrubs, especially conifers, and prepare for the long winter of our discontent.

But today, we’ll celebrate nature’s bounty:

The rare ‘Solar Cascade’ goldenrod (Solidago shortii) is in full bloom, but I can’t say it’s the most upright plant the in garden. It’s practically prostrate, nearly covering ‘Frosty Morn’ dendranthema, one of Blooms of Bressingham’s Igloo series.

'Sellwood Glory' dahlia with 'Alma Potschke' aster. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

‘Sellwood Glory dahlia has opened just in time to pair with ‘Alma Potschke’ aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). No rust on the aster this year, amazingly enough. I think I lost ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ though.

A plant that shows up on invasive lists in other regions is bush clover, (Lespedeza thunbergia), a late-blooming perennial that has a shrub like form covered with pink, pealike flowers. I think I have ‘Pink Fountain.’

In the ‘will wonders never cease department’ is the climbing black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata) Lemon a Peel, a Proven Winners offering. It has spent the summer in a gallon pot, climbing the plastic arch hoop that came with it. It totally dried out except for one leaf, I watered it and bam! It’s back to life.

These are Dazzler Mix impatiens. The larger ones got more sun. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Patchwork Lavender impatiens. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Patchwork Lavender impatiens has done well, sporting large blooms through the summer in considerable shade. One of my favorite impatiens, Dazzler Mix is planted in the long box that is attached to the front of the house. You can tell a huge difference in the amount of light the plants get by their size. I think there’s a lesson here.

Lastly, the promise of the next season, as the oakleaf hydrangea takes on its autumn hues.

The colors have begun to change on the oakleaf hydrangea. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

‘Lucifer’ tempts us with sinfully red flowers that last a long time

'Lucifer' crocosmia. Photo courtesy

This year I broke down and brought ‘Lucifer’ home.

‘Lucifer’ is a crocosmia, a long-blooming summer bulb-like plant that tempts hummingbirds (and humans) with large, arched branches of red tubular flowers.

In the family that includes gladiolus, crocosmia has been a staple of English gardens for decades. However, until recently, the varieties could not survive harsh Indiana winters.

Enter Blooms of Bressingham, a well known British plant breeder, who introduced the American public to ‘Lucifer,’ which by most accounts is rated USDA Zone 5, which makes it winter hardy throughout Indiana.

“You don’t have to do anything to ‘Lucifer’ to have it survive” Indiana’s winters, says Irvin Etienne, horticulture display coordinator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Crocosmia (pronounced crow-coz’-me-ah) comes from the grasslands of South Africa, and can be grown from corms or seeds. Corms are under ground stems and can usually be found in bulb catalogs. Crocus is another example of a corm. Many garden centers also carry the plant.

Plant crocosmia in full sun and keep it well watered. Spider mites are the biggest pest. They suck the green from the sword like leaves, giving them a rusty hue. ‘Lucifer’ is in the 2- to 3-foot range when blooming. Cut back to the ground in fall.

'George Davidson' crocosmia. Photo courtesy

Crocosmia blooms from July into September and makes an excellent cut flower. But be prepared. This plant elicits many ‘what’s that’ queries from passersby. And the hummingbirds, well, they know exactly what it is.

Garden centers usually only have the red ‘Lucifer’. Bulb catalogs offer crocosmia in yellow, gold and amber, but most of them are not hardy here. Etienne recommends ‘George Davidson’ with an amber gold flower as another crocosmia that has done well for several winter seasons in a raised bed at the IMA and in his Fountain Square landscape.

Reduce your labor in the landscape with these tips

In honor of Labor Day weekend, here’s are some tips for saving time and reducing work in the landscape.

  • Keep a watering can or bucket close to the hose. This way you can fill the can and give a drink to a plant or pot that may be showing signs of stress without dragging out the hose.
  • Wend soaker hoses around the root zones of plants in garden beds. Use lawn staples to anchor the hoses in place. Cover the hoses with a light layer of mulch to conserve even more water.
  • Use quick-release connectors so the garden hose can easily hook up to and release from the soaker hose when watering.
  • Mulch garden plants to reduce weeds, conserve moisture and moderate the temperate of the soil. Mulch should not be more than 3 inches deep. Keep mulch several inches away from the trunks of trees and shrubs and stems of perennials and annuals.
  • Pull weeds when they are young and small. Keep weeds from flowering and setting seed in the Indiana garden.
  • Apply an all-natural pre-emergent herbicide to keep weed seeds from germinating. One brand is Preen Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer, made of 100 percent corn gluten, an effective natural herbicide. It also works well in perennial and annuals beds and around trees and shrubs. Corn gluten is available in large bags for use on the lawn. Apply corn gluten about every four weeks. Don’t apply corn gluten in areas where seed has been sown until seedlings get 3 inches tall. Always read and follow the label directions.
  • Select plants that will do well in your particular site and plan for their mature height and width.
  • Paint your tools or their handles or wrap with tape in bright colors. This will help you find them if left in the landscape.


HortusScope for October 2011

Here’s a calendar of garden and nature related activities in Indiana for September, 2011. It is complied as a public service by Wendy For of Landscape Fancies, LLC. Click on the green link below to download your copy.

HortusScope October 2011



September garden checklist posted

The September checklist for the garden has been posted.

Doug Tallamy to speak about wildlife corridors and native plant in South Bend, Ind.

September 15, 2011
7:30 PMto11:00 PM

Who: Doug Tallamy, professor and author of Bringing Nature Home.

What: Networks for Life: Addressing the Biodiversity Crisis through Landscape Connectivity

When: 7:30 p.m., Sept. 15, 2011

Where: Northside Hall, Indiana University-South Bend

Admission: Doug Tallamy in South Bend.

Doug Tallamy to speak about wildlife corridors and native plants in Fort Wayne, Ind.

September 14, 2011
7:30 PMto11:00 PM

Who: Doug Tallamy, professor and author of Bringing Nature Home.

What: Networks for Life: Addressing the Biodiversity Crisis through Landscape Connectivity

When: 7:30 p.m., Sept. 14, 2011

Where: Walb Memorial Student Union Ballroom, Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne.

Admission: free. Doug Tallamy in Fort Wayne