A bewitching new compact Ninebark

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Northern gardeners take note, there’s a new ninebark that has a lot to offer. Not only is First Editions® ‘Little Devil’ ninebark a low maintenance shrub, this little number adds color and texture to any garden space. If you love the look of ninebark, but don’t have room for the large varieties ‘Little Devil’ has it all in a  compact, easy to care for ninebark.

‘Little Devil’ features deep burgundy foliage throughout the season and small white-pink clusters of flowers in June. This shrub is an excellent choice for any home garden because of its smaller size. Growing only to four-feet, just imagine the many uses, such as a great background for your flowerbed or the perfect shrub border.

An exciting improvement in ninebark, ‘Little Devil’ is disease and pest resistant and requires very little maintenance. It keeps its great compact shape without pruning.

First Editions® ‘Little Devil’ Ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Donna May™ PPAF

Full sun, part shade

Color: Red-purple, creamy white flowers

Height: 3- to 4-feet Spread: 3- to 4-feet

Zone: 3-7

Look for ‘Little Devil’, from Bailey Nurseries, at better garden centers. ‘Little Devil’ Ninebark can now be purchased online. Visit the web site http://www.FirstEditionsPlants.com to shop for your favorites.

Native plant suggestions for some ‘hot’ selections

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It’s difficult to go wrong when you chose native plants, trees and shrubs for your landscapes.

“Native perennials and ornamental grasses are in demand like never before, and for good reasons, these species and selections have stood the test of millennia in real-world, new-world conditions,” from Emerald Coast Growers, a wholesale grower. Remember native plant selections are often drought tolerant, pest and disease resistant.

Here are just a few suggestions from Emerald Coast Growers’ “Native Wonders” perennials:

• Asclepias — Milkweed is a Grade-A perennial whether you choose pink-flowering A. incarnata, or bright orange, butterfly-beloved A. tuberosa.

• Baptisia — False indigo has deep roots in American history. Now an ornamental favorite, it was once prized and subsidized for the blue dye made from its sap.

• Echinacea — Everyone’s favorite native! A decade of innovative breeding brings bold forms and revolutionary colors to the long-lived, much-loved coneflower.

• Lewisia — Named for explorer Meriwether Lewis, bitterroot brightens border or windowsill with cheerful pastel flowers and semi-succulent foliage.

Penstemon — A brazen flourish and a colorful fanfare of trumpets on sturdy upright stems. Extremely tolerant of extreme weather.

Phlox — Everyone’s other favorite native. Choose from 11 varieties of tall, stately P. paniculata, 14 of low, mad-blooming P. subulata, or 2 midsized P. divaricata.

Native grasses are hot

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According to a recent release from Emerald Coast Growers, “native perennials and ornamental grasses are in demand like never before, and for good reasons.

“American gardeners and designers have embraced what European plant explorers discovered centuries ago: The New World is full of fantastic flora!”

Ornamental grasses add movement and texture to any landscape in a format that often changes with the seasons, some even presenting winter interest as well in a way no other plant can. Natives are also often resistant to diseases and drought.

Here are some suggestions from Emerald Coast Growers’ Native Wonders collection:

Andropogon — Big bluestem makes a big statement. It’s the go-to grass for reclaiming and beautifying damaged lands.

Deschampsia — Hairgrass: The straight species D. cespitosa, or ‘Pixie Fountains’ at half the height.

Muhlenbergia — Named for a Pennsylvania botanist, Muhly grass sprays a fine mist of plumes, pink or white, over slender green foliage.

Schizachyrium — Little bluestem, once part of Andropogon, is now a stand-alone genus. Choose from seven tough, colorful varieties.

Sorghastrum — Indian grass brings the spirit of the prairie home. Metallic blue foliage and reddish-brown plumes with yellow anthers.

Welcome nature into your landscape

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Today as I was walking down our long driveway to get the mail, I passed right by a beautiful barred owl. Luckily I had my camera with me, ready to snap a photo of anything that I might encounter. Actually I was expecting to see a snake, which I suspect that owl was also looking for. No snakes today, so I snapped a couple shots of the driveway which is lush with native trees and plants. Inadvertently I captured that owl in one of those shots, and if you look closely at the photo you’ll see it on a branch down low on the left side of the drive. I had not spotted it yet.

It wasn’t until I was on my way back up the drive that I saw the owl, down low on a branch. I’m not sure who was more surprised — me or the owl. I slowly approached it with the camera turned ON and the zoom extended. My subject submitted to a couple photographs before it silently flew away to a large live oak nearby. No snakes for it either today, at least not from my driveway.

It isn’t unusual to see a snake or a rabbit as I walk to the mailbox, but the presence of all the wildlife is no coincidence. We have provided habitat that attracts all manner of animals, trees, shrubs and plants that provide cover and a variety of food sources. It is a low area that also contains a stream-like drainage ditch that adds an element of water too. Yes, there are snakes. But that also means those snakes, lizards, song birds and rabbits too attract predators like hawks or that owl.

Not only have we allowed a small portion of the property to grow up into a natural little forest, we have also “installed” a brush pile. It serves more than one purpose. It is a handy spot to discard downed limbs and shrub trimmings, and it also provides habitat and hiding places for a variety of animals. 

And there’s one more thing the natural area has provided for us — as if the wild menagerie wasn’t enough! — we no longer have to mow that area. Our little “forest” has not only enriched our lives, but that of a variety of wildlife as well. Welcome nature into your landscape and you’re liable to be surprised at what you might see too.

Flowering gingers for fragrance and color


The shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) came into bloom in mid-April. This fairly cold-hardy tropical ginger takes a lot of room, but delivers stalk after stalk of striking shell-like blooms. Unlike, butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium) which is delightfully fragrant, shell ginger has no aroma.

 For most of the tropical gingers (of which there are many) plant in a moist location with dappled sun and an acid soil well-amended with compost. Give these gingers plenty of room to spread and enjoy the show. Though many will die back in North Florida during especially cold winters. they usually come back in the late spring.
Recently I’ve added a number of peacock gingers (Kaempferia laotica) to the shady riverside bed and lo and behold, spotted the first flower this morning. Peacock ginger is often considered a ground cover plant and is the Deep South gardener’s answer to hosta. While the blooms of these low-growing gingers are indeed sweet, it is the foliage that attracts most to this colorful choice, many varieties of which have variegated leaves. Peacock ginger usually dies down during the winter months, slowly reappearing in the spring, with the flowers sprouting up first. The two varieties I am working with are ‘Bronze’ small-leaved and a “Giant’ peacock ginger (common names).

Clematis planting and pruning guide

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Clematis Planting Guide:

Select a sunny location with well-drained soil. Clematis prefers full sun for at least five hours a day. Here’s what Hummingbird Farm in Turner (ME) (http://hummingbirdfarm.net/) suggests you do when planting a clematis:

1. Dig a hole the size of a bushel basket

2. Into the soil you’ve removed, mix in 10 pounds of compost and a couple handfuls of Bulbtone.

3. Return most of the amended soil to the planting hole, and make a hole in this to accommodate the root ball of the clematis. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Place plant in the hole so that the soil line will be about two to three inches above that of the soil line of the pot. Fill in with the amended soil.

4. Water plant in well, the clematis will need at least an inch of water per week, either from rainfall or irrigation.

From Roseville Farms (http://rosevillefarms.comClematis Pruning Guide:

Pruning Clematis The most commonly asked question regarding the culture of clematis in the garden or in a container is how to go about pruning them. Their vining nature and varied blooming periods add to the mystery. The pruning methods and timing are essentially the same whether they are in the garden or in a container. You should always use a sharp, clean tool when pruning any clematis. Pinching or breaking the vine will only serves to damage the tissue and possibly cause disease problems. A clean cut is always preferable. (To readily identify which plant is which, as it can get confusing when there are several varieties in one area, bury the identification tag along with the plant where it can be seen, or label the plant for easy recognition.)

It is not absolutely necessary to prune your clematis. It all depends on what you want out of your vine. Montana Rubens left unchecked will soon become a huge vine with leads 20 feet high or more producing massive amounts of small pink flowers very early in the spring. That same vine can be kept in check with pruning to keep it under control on a smaller trellis or mail box post. Jackmanii left unpruned will still thrive. The tips of the leads will find spots far removed from the base of the vine and flowers will be scattered along these leads. Pruning Jackmanii in the early spring will keep the vine under control and produce a more full plant with a dense mass of flowers in early to mid summer. The main reasons for pruning clematis are to establish a tidy presentation on some sort of support, encourage healthy vigorous growth and maximize the flowering potential.

New clematis should be pruned back to about 12 inches in the spring following their planting. This pruning will encourage new shoots to grow and will produce a fuller, bushier vine with more leads. New growth on an established plant will begin very close to where the previous year’s growth stopped. Over time this will cause the vine to become bare at the bottom. Old established vines that have bare bases can be rejuvenated by an early, hard pruning. Cut the plant back to 12 to 18 inches in the early spring, just as the plant begins to grow. This may reduce or delay the blooming that year depending on the variety, but will restore the lower growth and make for a fuller vine in the long run.

The individual varieties fall into three categories of pruning timing. These categories depend on the blooming period of the individual variety.


These varieties produce flowers from the mature growth of the pervious season. These plants should be allowed to finish blooming in the very early spring before they are pruned, therefore pruning should take place in late spring or early summer. The vine should then be fertilized and trained back on to its support in anticipation of the next years show. Some of the category one clematis varieties will produce a modest show of bloom in the fall as well. The Montana group and the evergreen clematis are examples of category 1 clematis.

Montana Grandiflora – Montana Rubens


Many of the category two varieties will produce flower bud from both old and new growth. Early blooming will come from last years mature growth while later in the summer and early fall more blooms will be produced from the current years growth. Clematis in category two should not require major pruning. Pruning can be used to keep the vines growth in check and to remove any dead or weak growth. This should be done after the early blooming period. The old seed heads from the early blooms should be removed. This will help to maximize blooming later on in the year. Niobe and Proteus are examples of category two clematis.

Asao – Barbra Jackman – Belle of Woking – Blue Light – Canaby – Climador –  Dr Ruppel – Duthcess of Edinburg – Elsa Spath – Eyers Gift – Fireworks – General Sikorski – Henryii – HF Young – John Paul – Kullus – Little Duckling – Maria Louise Jensen – Marmori – Minister – Miss Bateman – Mrs Cholmondeley – Nelly Moser – Niobe – Pink Climador – Proteus – Reiman – Ruutel – Silmakivi – Snow Queen – The President – Viola – Violet Charm – Warsaw Nike – Will Goodwin


The Category three varieties produce flowers from the current year’s growth. These clematis tend to flower mid to late summer. They should be pruned in early spring, just as the dormant vine begins to grow. This should be a hard pruning leaving only one or two nodes of growth above the ground. This type of pruning will encourage vigorous growth. The Viticella varieties are examples of category three clematis.

Arabella – Comtesse de Bouchard – Ernest Markham – Etoile Violet – Golden Tiara – Hagely Hybrid – Huvi – Jackmanii – Jackmanii Superba – Kermesina –  Lady Betty Balfour – Madame Julia Correvon – Polish Spirit – Purpurea Plenas Elegans – Rouge Cardinal – Venosa Violacea – Ville de Lyon

Pots, pots and more pots

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Visited a pottery importer near Apopka, FL recently. The variety and sheer size of the pots was impressive. How could anyone choose just one? Adding a colorful or sculptural pot, especially a substantial one, adds instant interest and contrast in the garden — even if there is nothing planted in it!

Here are some of the examples I saw:

Williams-Sonoma gets into the garden

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This just in from Ellen Wells in the “Green Profit’s Buzz” on-line newsletter, some exciting news for those of us who love to shop that high-end kitchen and cooking supplier, Williams-Sonoma:

“The high-end gourmand retailer this week unveiled their new line called Agrarian. They offer a range of items such as raised beds and planting mix from Farmer D (remember him from last summer’s IGC Show?), tools, herb and vegetable plants, fruit trees, cheese making kits, canning supplies, chicken coops and beekeeping supplies, and some garden décor, too. From my sense of things, Williams-Sonoma has completely hit the target should their cooking customer consider getting their hands in the dirt instead of inside a chicken.”

Eggshells out of the compost

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For years I automatically crumbled and added eggshells to the compost, but not lately. Those eggshells pack some powerful garden nutrients, in particular calcium. Don’t waste them in the compost, instead dry the shells and then crumble them right into the garden where they will have the greatest impact.

Roses and a lot of other shrubs, perennials and annuals thrive on eggshells. Those plants that prefer an alkaline environment benefit from frequent additions of crumbled eggshells. I also like to scatter the shells around many herbs, lavender, rosemary, basil and others. And for plants plagued by slugs, a layer of crumbled eggshells can help prevent visits of those slimy pests. And, of course, you can still add eggshells to the compost mix too.

For some great composting hints, visit the IFAS site: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep323