October 2011

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day October 2011

Disanthus' red leaves compliment the large blue leaf hostas at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Temperatures have taken a downturn and the threat of some upcoming nights in the 30s means fall has arrived. Many leaves have fallen, seemingly a lot earlier than usual, probably because of the drought. Today’s 30 mph winds just moved things along.

The late-blooming, no-name hostas are still doing their thing and the hydrangeas are taking on their fall hues.

'Gartenmeister' fuchsia adds height and color to a pot of impatiens and coleus. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

There are still several annuals blooming in the garden, including all the impatiens. A favorite combo, made from leftovers, includes Dazzler Mix impatiens and coleus mixed with ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’ fuchsia (F. triphylla), one of my favorites.

Dragon wing Red begonia mixes nicely with 'Gryphon' begonia. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

I’m quite taken with ‘Gryphon’ begonias, trial plants sent from Ball Horticulture along with Dragon Wing Red begonias. I paired the two and it worked out really well. These are winners in my book.

Summer Wine ninebark can't seem to decide whether to be green or purple. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The Summer Wine ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious ‘Seward’) has just a few red leaves with most of the foliage still a rich bronzy purple. There are a couple of leaves though that can’t quite decide what color to be — green or purple? Knock on wood, but this plant has never been bothered by powdery mildew, a common pest on ninebarks.

Not so for the ‘Goldflame’ honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrottii), where the powdery mildew showed up just a few days ago. It went all summer without a spot. The honeysuckle still smells good, too. So does the volunteer flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris), which perfumes the night air.

On a recent trip to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, I was drawn to the sun streaming above a lovely planting of heartleaf disanthus (Disanthus cercidifolius) with its fall color complimented by the large blue leaf Hosta ‘Big Daddy’. I’ve never heard of Disanthus, but it sure is a nice looking plants. The leaves resemble a redbud (Cercis canadensis), but it has another common name, the redbud witch hazel, which reflects its family relationship.

In gallon pots, awaiting their ‘forever’ home in my garden, but blooming anyway, are various trial plants of small butterfly bushes (Buddleja) and some very cool St. John’s wort (Hypericum). Even those rose samples have survived with only benign neglect.

My new book is out. The Visitor’s Guide to American Gardens (2011, Cool Springs Press, $19.99) is the first national garden tourism book in more than a decade. It includes information on more than 400 gardens in the United States and Canada, including public gardens, arboreta, historic properties and more. In the book, icons are used to indicate each garden’s amenities such as handicap accessible or water feature. The Visitor’s Guide to American Gardens is also the first garden title with QR codes, which when used with a smart phone, link to a garden’s Web site for more information.

Please visit the book’s Facebook page to ‘like’ it and to post a garden that is not in the book or an annual event that tourists might like to know about. The book has a listing of some event at the gardens, but certainly not all of them. Also on the Facebook page, I’ll post information and photos from some of the gardens in the book.

I hope you’ll consider the Visitor’s Guide to American Gardens when you are holiday gift shopping for your traveling friends and family or for yourself. I’ve also developed a program around the book: Planes, Trains and Are There Any Gardens Around Here? Amazing Gardens to Visit When on the Road. I’d love to visit a garden near you to talk about the gardens in the book, so please keep me in mind when setting up programs or pass my contact info to those in your community who organize garden programs.


2012 is the Year of Herbs

Rose hips are the seed pods of roses. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The National Garden Bureau and the Herb Society of America have teamed up to name 2012 Year Of the Herbs.

This is the first time the not-for-profits have partnered in their missions to promote gardening and educate people about growing plants.

To guide gardeners in their selection, the herb society offers its top 10 list, which members voted on at their 2011 annual conference.

Among the winners, these three are easy to grow from seed: sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), chives(Allium schoenoprasum) and dill (Anethum graveolens). Buy these seven plants at the garden center: Greek oregano (Organum vulgare hirtum), bay (Laurus nobilis), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), common thyme (Thymus vulgaris), parsley (Petroselinum crispum), common sage (Salvia officinalis)and lavender (Lavandula).

For detailed info, download Year of the Herb by the National Garden Bureau and the Herb Society of America developed by the Herb Society of America and the National Garden Bureau.

Another group, the International Herb Association, has named 2012 the Year of the Rose, a plant not frequently thought of in the same category as basil or thyme.

But rose petals are edible and the seed heads, called hips, are a common ingredient in teas, herbal medicines and natural vitamins. Jim Long’s How to Eat a Rose is a helpful guide for any cook (

“Here in America, we tend to look upon the rose as just a flower in a vase,” Long wrote in the 2004 paperback. “Roses are used for lotions and rinses for the body, too, but it their use in foods that is fascinating to me. Rose ice cream, (the sweet beverage) sharbet, rose wine, rose vinegar, rose candies, jams and jellies are all an important part of life in many cultures.”

Florist roses are not a good choice because they have been treated with various pesticides. Long recommends organically grown roses, especially heavily fragrant, old fashion or antique varieties.

Denise Schreiber also has a new flowers-for-food spiral-bound book, Eat Your Roses: …Pansies, Lavender, and 49 Other Delicious Edible Flowers.