Orange Fruited Shrubs



It’s the season of orange. Orange leaves deck the trees. Orange pumpkins haunt porches. Containers of orange chrysanthemums throng walkways.


So why not plant a few orange-fruited shrubs to bring the Halloween theme into the garden?


Poncirus trifoliata takes “orange-fruited” quite literally – so much so that botanists have moved it to the genus Citrus. Going by the entirely apropos common name of hardy orange, this 6- to 8-foot shrub produces numerous 2-inch-wide, spherical mini-citrus that ripen orange-yellow in fall. Their hyper-tart taste will make you pucker, unless of course you make them into something sweeter such as jelly or candied orange rind (numerous recipes are online). Hardy orange is much more than a one-season-Charlie, however. In early spring it covers itself with fragrant white flowers, larger than those of most citrus. Its dark green three-fingered leaves emerge shortly thereafter, looking handsome through the growing season and turning burnt-orange hues in fall. As for “hardy”, it takes that literally too, wintering into warmer pockets of USDA Zone 5 (full sun to light shade preferred). The species (and its sinuous-stemmed ‘Flying Dragons’ form) would doubtless be much less rare in Eastern and Midwest landscapes if more gardeners had a clue that a hardy citrus does actually exist.



Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) sets eastern and central U.S. wetlands ablaze in autumn with its fiery fruit. Borne in dense clusters at the branch tips, the bead-like berries are usually bright red – but sometimes they opt for shades of orange. Full-sized (8- to 10 foot) cultivars that have gone to the orange side include red-orange-fruited ‘Afterglow’ and orange-yellow ‘Winter Gold’. The recently introduced ‘Little Goblin’ bears mid-orange fruits on compact, 4-foot plants. Winterberry’s Southern cousin, possumhaw (Ilex decidua), also has orange-fruited forms including ‘Byer’s Gold’. All fruiting Ilex are female selections that won’t produce berries without a male Ilex nearby. Bloom time varies among cultivars, so you’ll need a male/female pair that flowers at the same time in spring. Lists of suitable pairings can be found online. If your garden is sandy, plants will benefit from an application of a peat-rich compost such as Fafard® Premium Natural & Organic Compost, to give them moist acidic soil they prefer. Sunny sites in hardiness zones 3 to 8 work best (zones 5 to 8 for possumhaw).

Orange-fruited varieties of American holly (Ilex opaca) and English holly (Ilex aquifolium) also occasionally occur, but none are readily available in the horticultural trade at this time.


Linden viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum) flaunts large flat clusters of blood-red berries in fall – except in the case of the newly introduced cultivar ‘Tandoori Orange’. Like most viburnums, it won’t fully fruit unless a different variety of its species is nearby. All Viburnum dilatatum cultivars grow fairly rapidly to 8 feet tall and wide or more, so plan and plant accordingly! Their bold pleated foliage contrasts effectively with finer-textured plants such as mountain ashes (Sorbus spp.) and cutleaf lilac (Syringa protolaciniata).


Tea viburnum (Viburnum setigerum) is another typically red-fruited viburnum that occasionally goes orange, as in the case of cultivar ‘Aurantiacum’. Rather lanky and narrow in habit, this 8-foot-tall, 6-foot-wide shrub is spectacular in fruit, more than compensating for its ungainliness. It’s best planted amid more compact shrubs, to cover its bare legs. All the above viburnums favor sun and hardiness zones 5 to 8.


Strawberry shrub (Euonymus americanus) makes an excellent subject for naturalistic plantings. Occurring as a somewhat scrawny, thicketing, 4- to 6-foot shrub in its native woodland haunts in the central and eastern United States, it grows more densely in lightly shaded garden niches with good soil. Most of the year it’s a relatively anonymous euonymus, with presentable oval leaves and inconspicuous spring flowers on arching to upright green-barked stems. It becomes a real attention-grabber in fall, however, brandishing warty rose-red fruit capsules that open to reveal large fleshy bright orange seeds nested inside. For more “domesticated” garden areas there’s the East Asian native Euonymus planipes, a much larger plant than strawberry shrub (10 feet or more), with considerably larger capsules and seeds to match. Some exotic euonymus such as burning bush (Euonymus alatus) European spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus) have proven invasive in American landscapes; consult your local invasive species lists before taking one on board. Most euonymus are hard to zone 5.


American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) can be grown as a twining vine, or alternatively as a scrambling shrub (sunny or lightly shaded niches in zones 4 to 8 are preferred). A member of the same family as Euonymus, it bears similar fruit, although in a reverse color scheme, with orange capsules opening to red seed.  Plants are mostly male or female, with at least one of each required for a good fruit display. This meritorious U.S. native is not to be confused with the exotic invasive Asian bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), which is banned in most states. American bittersweet has toothed leaves and bears fruit at the branch tips; Asian bittersweet has wavy-edged, untoothed leaves and axillary fruit.

Happy planting, and Happy Halloween!


About Russell Stafford

Hortiholic and plant evangelist, Russell Stafford, transplanted his first perennial at age 7 and thereby began a lifelong plant addiction. He is the founder and custodian of Odyssey Bulbs (and Odyssey Perennials), an online nursery specializing in cool and uncommon plants. Russell also works as a horticultural consultant, freelance writer (Horticulture and The American Gardener magazines), and garden editor. He formerly served as Curator and Head of Horticulture at Fernwood Botanic Garden in Niles, Michigan and as the Horticultural Program Coordinator at the Center for Plant Conservation, then located at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. His academic degrees include a masters in forest science from Harvard University

Shade-Loving Daisies


The cheerful blooms of members of the daisy family (known botanically as the Asteraceae) assume starring roles in perennial and wildflower borders as fall approaches – and arrives. Sun-loving Asteraceae – including New England asters, hardy chrysanthemums, and showy coneflowers – are long-time fall garden favorites (with pollinators such as bumblebees and butterflies also expressing their approval). Less well-known to gardeners, however, are the many fall-blooming Asteraceae that favor shade rather than sun. If you’re looking to establish a wildflower planting or informal perennial border in shade, the following members of the daisy tribe should rank high on your list of possible candidates.


White snakeroot (Ageratina altissima)

Chances are that this durable and adaptable eastern/central U.S. native is already in your neighborhood as a “volunteer”. Fleecy clusters of white flowers top its 3-foot stems in late summer and fall, often resulting in spontaneous seedlings. If it does pop up in your garden, consider leaving it rather than editing it out. It fits well in naturalistic borders, attracting pollinators in the process. White snakeroot is best known in the form of the cultivar ‘Chocolate’, named for the dark hue of its leaves.



White wood aster (Eurybia divaricata)

A surprising number of ornamental species in what was formerly the genus Aster make their homes in shade. Arguably the most familiar of the lot, white wood aster carries swarms of diminutive white daisies, on branching stalks that typically reach 30 inches or so. The variety ‘Eastern Star’ features a more compact habit (18 to 24 inches) and black-purple stems. Native to woodlands of eastern North America, white wood aster does well in a wide range of habitats.


Bigleaf aster (Eurybia macrophylla)

Even before its sprays of pale blue flowers open in late summer, this eastern U.S. native provides ornamental value with its clump-forming rosettes of bold broad leaves, which contrast splendidly with finer-leaved shade plants such as sedges and ferns. The hybrid between bigleaf aster and the rhizomatous Eurybia spectabilis (known as Eurybia x herveyi) makes an effective ground cover for sun and shade, spreading into large 2-foot-tall colonies topped with lavender-blue flowers. It’s best known in the form of cultivar ‘Twilight’. Eurybia spectablis is also an effective ornamental plant on its own, especially where it has room to ramble. All of the above are not fussy as to soil.


Short’s aster (Symphyotrichum shortii)

Named for a botanist and not for its stature, Short’s aster deploys a profusion of relatively large pale blue flowers on 3-foot-tall clumps during the usual asterian late-summer-to-fall blooming season. Perhaps the showiest of the woodland asters, it’s excellent juxtaposed with pink-flowered Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’. It’s an excellent candidate for wildflower borders within its Midwest to Southeast range, where it naturally occurs in dry habitats.

Wreath goldenrod (Soldiago caesia)

Closely related to the asters, goldenrods form one of the largest groups of Asteraceae. Several – including Solidago caesia – are woodland plants, echoing the yellows of sun-loving daisy family members such as sunflowers and coreopsis. Native throughout much of eastern and central North America, wreath goldenrod features arching, blue-washed, sparsely leaved stems that branch into flaring clusters of sunny flowers which begin opening in August. A clumper rather than a “runner”, it tends to stay below 2 feet tall because of its arching habit.


Zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis)

The leafy, spreading habit of this native of eastern and central North America differs markedly from that of wreath goldenrod. It’s thus perhaps best used in ground-covering masses, rather than as individual plants. Tufts of bright yellow flowers occur along the stems, showing effectively against the broad dark-green leaves.  Like Solidago caesia, it blooms for many weeks beginning in late summer, and prospers in good, not overly dry soil – but it also accepts much less. Both would be more than happy with an application of Fafard Organic Compost.

Silverrod (Solidago bicolor)

Upright wands of small, white, yellow-dotted flowers continue from midsummer into fall on this earliest and whitest of Eastern U.S. goldenrods. It’s a charming novelty that will do well in just about any partly shaded to sunny garden niche.


About Russell Stafford

Hortiholic and plant evangelist, Russell Stafford, transplanted his first perennial at age 7 and thereby began a lifelong plant addiction. He is the founder and custodian of Odyssey Bulbs (and Odyssey Perennials), an online nursery specializing in cool and uncommon plants. Russell also works as a horticultural consultant, freelance writer (Horticulture and The American Gardener magazines), and garden editor. He formerly served as Curator and Head of Horticulture at Fernwood Botanic Garden in Niles, Michigan and as the Horticultural Program Coordinator at the Center for Plant Conservation, then located at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. His academic degrees include a masters in forest science from Harvard University

Summer Apples

Some apple varieties offer a foretaste of fall by ripening their fruits in summer. The following outstanding early apples are ready for eating in late July or August in most areas of the Northeast and Midwest. Several of them (including Ginger Gold, Jersey Mac, and Paula Red) are commonly available at orchards and farm stands. Others you will probably have to grow yourself. You’ll need at least two varieties for cross pollination and fruit set (most apples are not self-fruitful)


Dwarf (8- to 12-feet tall) and semi-dwarf (12 to 16 feet) apple trees make the best fit for most yards, as opposed to a 20-foot-plus full-sizer. Apple trees of whatever variety or size thrive in full sun and deep, well-drained, humus-rich soil (apply a half-inch mulch of Fafard Organic Compost in spring to make your trees extra-happy). Most varieties also need several hundred hours of sub-45-degree temperatures to produce a good crop.



Bright red, medium-sized apples with tart-sweet, firm, juicy flesh ripen in late August or so. This circa 1950 Japanese hybrid is as good for cooking as it is for eating out of hand. Trees grow vigorously and bear heavily and precociously.


Early McIntosh

Two classic heirloom apples – Yellow Transparent and McIntosh – teamed to produce this aptly named hybrid. The sweet, slightly tart, crispy, white-fleshed fruit is close to that of its namesake, but ripens several weeks earlier. Early McIntosh tends to be a biennial cropper, bearing abundant fruit every other year.

Ginger Gold

This chance seedling of Golden Delicious possesses a zestier, spicier flavor than its parent, as well as a much earlier ripening season. The medium to large, yellow-skinned, juicy, white-fleshed fruits hold for several weeks in storage, in contrast to most early apples. If you grow your own, expect to harvest your first apples within 3 years of planting.


Jersey Mac

Although McIntosh is not in the lineage of this Rutgers Agricultural Station introduction, its dark red skin and sweet-tart, juicy, greenish-white flesh give a good impression of its famous namesake. An excellent multi-purpose variety, it’s great for eating, cooking, or pressing into cider. It produces a reliable annual harvest, with fruits ripening over several weeks from August to September.


Paula Red

Sometimes referred to as Early Mac (not to be confused with Early McIntosh), this chance seedling from Michigan produces medium-sized, solid-red apples that ripen over several weeks. Sweet with a bit of tartness, it makes an excellent eating, cooking, or cider apple. Thin fruits in late spring and early summer to encourage annual cropping.


Researchers at Purdue University made several crosses between apples and crabapples in the 1970s, resulting in several outstanding new early-bearing varieties. Pristine is prized for its zesty, medium-sized, pale yellowish green fruits that are ready for eating as early as late July. Spicy and tart when freshly harvested, the crispy, juicy fruits sweeten with age. Thin fruits to prevent overly heavy bi-yearly cropping.


Red Astrachan

An eighteenth century heirloom variety from Russia, Red Astrachan is still one of the earliest and best summer apples. The medium-sized, soft-fleshed fruits begin to ripen bright red in July, continuing over several weeks. White and reddish-stained inside, with a piquant, tart flavor, they are good for cooking when slightly under ripe, and for eating or cider when mature. Bi-yearly crops are the norm.



A Canadian hybrid involving Golden Delicious and McIntosh, Sunrise inherited its oblong shape, yellow-green undertones, and hints of strawberry-like sweetness from the former, and its bright red marbling and refreshing tartness from the latter. The fruits do not keep well and are best kept in the fridge. An excellent variety for home-growers, it produces reliably from an early age.


William’s Pride

Like Pristine, ‘William’s Pride’ is a disease-resistant, flavorful early eating apple bred at Purdue University from an apple/crabapple cross. Heavily streaked with dark red against a green background, the medium to large apples are crisp and spicy-sweet, with a bit of tartness. They are prolifically borne on vigorous trees that tend to crop in alternate years. Not the best keeper, William’s Pride is best for home orchards.



The University of Minnesota bred and selected this recent introduction for its cold-hardiness, early ripening, and (of course) flavor. Sweet-tart with sugary undertones, the red- and green-skinned apples have crispy white sweet-tart flesh with sugary undertones. They store well for several weeks.

About Russell Stafford

Hortiholic and plant evangelist, Russell Stafford, transplanted his first perennial at age 7 and thereby began a lifelong plant addiction. He is the founder and custodian of Odyssey Bulbs (and Odyssey Perennials), an online nursery specializing in cool and uncommon plants. Russell also works as a horticultural consultant, freelance writer (Horticulture and The American Gardener magazines), and garden editor. He formerly served as Curator and Head of Horticulture at Fernwood Botanic Garden in Niles, Michigan and as the Horticultural Program Coordinator at the Center for Plant Conservation, then located at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. His academic degrees include a masters in forest science from Harvard University.








Boosting The Garden’s Second Season

In early September many people can enjoy the garden’s “second season”, with weeks or even a month or two of growing time left before bad weather sets in.  Cooler weather is conducive to plant growth and humans find it much more comfortable to do outside chores.  Whether your garden is an array of containers, a country estate, or anything in between, now is the time to boost the health and beauty of your plantings and landscape for a successful grand finale.

Replace and Rejuvenate

Those summer annuals, so vibrant and colorful through May, June and July, may be showing signs of fatigue by now, even if you have watered and fed them faithfully.  You can try rejuvenating them by cutting back by two-thirds and watering well.  Shade-loving coleus responds especially well to this treatment, but many other annuals will also produce an early fall flush of bloom.  If the plants in your beds, window boxes or containers really have given their all, pull them out and replace them with the colorful fall pansies, ornamental cabbage and mums now on display at garden centers and big box merchandisers.

With newly replanted containers, it is also wise to boost the performance of the new specimens with the addition of some fresh growing medium like Fafard Natural and Organic Potting Mix.

Renew and Refresh

It is important to keep up with weeding, even as weed growth slows down.  As fall weather sets in, summer weeds like crabgrass, will be replaced by some of the same cool weather weeds that you probably pulled out in the spring.  Preventing weeds from going to seed now will save you labor in the spring.

Drought has plagued many areas, so watering is important, but should also be done strategically.  Thirsty plants like hydrangeas, reblooming daylilies and roses should receive water more regularly than drought tolerant species like lavender and sedum.

And when you water those roses, deadhead the spent blooms to promote another round of flowers.  Skip this step if you want to encourage the formation of colorful rose hips, especially on reblooming Rosa rugosa hybrids, which brighten fall with their cherry tomato-like hips.

Veggies Galore and More

Vegetable gardeners should be relishing the harvest of end-of-summer tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplant and other goodies.  If the fall growing season is relatively long where you live, and you have the room and the inclination, you can sow seeds of lettuce, spinach and other greens that perform best under cooler temperatures.

Take Stock

Take a critical look at your landscape or container array.  Is it missing plants that would provide more autumn interest?  Garden centers and other plant retailers have stocked their pallets with seasonal perennials like asters, fall-blooming anemone, boltonia, rudbeckia and other late season stars.  You can see them in bloom and use them to plug holes in your planting scheme.  An investment now brings both immediate and longer term rewards.

The so-called “hardy” mums that appear in garden centers in the early fall, may or may not survive the winter in the garden.  Planting early in September, watering and mulching well will give them the best chance of instant beauty and long term survival.  If you are ordering fall plants online, look for “garden mums”, which have been bred to perform like other perennials.


If you have a little extra room, consider shrubs or small trees that provide fall interest, including American cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus var. americanum), beautyberry (Calycarpa) oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria), or Japanese maple.

Neat and Tidy

If you grow hydrangeas and the flowerheads have turned brown on the stems, you can snip them off to improve the appearance of the shrubs.  Be careful not to go further, as many hydrangeas have already formed the buds that will produce next year’s flowers.

Keep up with deadheading, clipping hedges and edging beds, if you have them.  Nothing improves a landscape more quickly than a little judicious tidying.

And finally, remember that the best boost you can give to your garden in the fall is to enjoy it as often as possible.  You will need that dose of inspiration to get through the foul weather months ahead.

August Lilies



When people think of hostas, they imagine mounds of lush green or variegated leaves that bring style and substance to shady areas.

They do not think of flowers.

That’s because hosta flowers are typically smallish, purplish trumpets that appear in early summer atop gawky, nearly-naked stems that generally seem too tall for the plants.  Fastidious gardeners often clip off the stems, choosing to glory in the leaves and forget about the flowers.

But those gardeners have never met Hosta plantaginea, commonly known as “August lily”.

Why is this hosta, sometimes also know as Corfu lily, white plantain lily, white daylily, or Japan lily, a star among the hundreds of varieties in the hosta universe?  An average plant is medium-sized, with a maximum height and spread of about 18 inches.  The flower stalks grow taller, soaring to 30 inches.  While the heart-shaped, medium green leaves are attractive, other species and hybrids boast more notable leaf color or texture.

The one feature that truly defines the August lily is the species’ large, trumpet-shaped flowers—The waxy, white trumpets, which are three to four inches long flare in all directions atop the stalks, projecting a divine, honeyed fragrance.  If the breeze is coming from the right direction, you can pick up the scent of an established clump from many feet away.

The blooms are so beautiful and substantive that they are worthy of cutting for indoor arrangements.  They also attract hummingbirds.

August lilies set themselves apart by producing this magnificent show during the dog days of summer, much later than other species.  They can also stand a bit more sunlight than other hostas.

Unlike most traditional hostas, which are descended from plants native to Japan, members of the plantaginea species descend from Chinese natives.  They arrived in England back in 1790 and sailed across the Atlantic to the newly formed United States after that.  The compelling scent of the flowers made them garden favorites and they are sometimes still billed as heirloom or old-fashioned plants.  Though the name “August lily” describes the time of bloom, plantagineas are not and never have been true lilies, which belong to a different plant family.

Modern gardeners have rediscovered plantagineas because they are as ridiculously easy to grow as any other hostas, but have a little something extra–the ability to produce new leaves during the growing season.  Most other hostas sprout only one crop of leaves annually.  If those leaves are damaged by slugs or deer, you are out of foliar luck for the season.  If you have August lilies, you can get out the repellant spray and apply it to the fresh young leaves in the hopes of a better outcome the second time around.

The plantaginea breeding picture has historically been complicated by the fact that the plants do not flower at the same time as other hosta species.  Still, breeders have persevered and plantaginea hybrids, complete with the intoxicating fragrance, are commercially available. ‘Royal Standard’, one of the best, is a giant among its peers, featuring glamorous white trumpets atop green foliage that may spread to over five feet.

If you are paging through catalog offerings in search of sweet-smelling hostas or trolling the nursery sniffing out bargain plantagineas, look for variety names that start with the word “fragrant”.  Like other hostas, plantaginea varieties and hybrids may bear variegated leaves, which add interest in months other than August.  The large-leafed variety, ‘Fragrant Bouquet’, is an award winner with medium green leaves edged in cream   Left to its own devices, it may grow up to forty-eight inches wide.  The tasty sounding ‘Fried Bananas’ features the same fragrant white flowers as its plantaginea relatives, but also boasts golden-green leaves.

If you are a small-space or container gardener, take heart.  ‘Sugar Babe’ a fragrant-flowered, variegated variety descended from plantagineas and other species, grows only 10 inches tall and 16 inches wide.

No matter which August lily you choose, position the plants where they can be appreciated for their beautiful flowers and divine scent.  They are perfect for path edges, areas under frequently- opened windows, or near sitting areas.  Give them rich soil amended with a quality product like Fafard Natural and Organic Compost, and light to medium shade.  The plants will do the rest.

August lilies and their hybrids are, like most other hostas, good investment plants.  After the first two or three years, you can divide them and increase your stock.  That means more fragrance, most gorgeous flowers and possibly more hummingbirds zipping around.  The dog days don’t get much better than that.



About Elisabeth Ginsburg

Born into a gardening family, Elisabeth Ginsburg grew her first plants as a young child. Her hands-on experiences range from container gardening on a Missouri balcony to mixed borders in the New Jersey suburbs and vacation gardening in Central New York State. She has studied horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden and elsewhere and has also written about gardens, landscape history and ecology for years in traditional and online publications including The New York Times Sunday “Cuttings” column, the Times Regional Weeklies, Horticulture, Garden Design, Flower & Garden, The Christian Science Monitor and many others. Her “Gardener’s Apprentice” weekly column appears in papers belonging to the Worrall chain of suburban northern and central New Jersey weekly newspapers and online at She and her feline “garden supervisors” live in northern New Jersey.


Border Carnations


Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus and hybrids), with their ragged, “pinked” edges, lovely colors and long vase life, are staples of the cut flower trade.  They also have a lengthy and celebrated history in gardens, going in and out of fashion many times over the centuries.  The plants are having a renaissance right now, as flower lovers have come to appreciate their tried and true virtues.

The dianthus family is large, with over 300 species, and contains carnations of all sizes, not to mention sweet Williams and the short-statured plants known in this country as “pinks”.  In Europe, especially in Great Britain, the term “pinks” is used more generally to include just about all dianthus.  Given the amount of interbreeding among species over the years, this may be the best informal way to categorize the whole group.

The flowers that you buy in bunches at the local florist or supermarket are generally referred to as “florists’ carnations”.  They are specific varieties grown under greenhouse or controlled field conditions and sold in bulk to the floral trade.  Cultivars that grow outdoors in home gardens are categorized as “border” or “garden” carnations.  Between the two categories, the world of beautiful carnations is wide.

Garden carnations are generally short-lived perennials, hardy in USDA Zones 6 through 10.  The stems can grow as tall as 3 feet, though many varieties, especially those developed in the last few decades, are considerably shorter.  The stems are erect, but tend to arch.  Depending on height, some garden types may need staking or other means of corralling.  The blue-green to gray-green leaves are long, narrow and attractive in their own right.

The singular look of the flowers is a combination of the distinctive ragged or ruffled edges, and the opulent, semi-double or double petal array of each flower.  Most bear a characteristic spicy scent reminiscent of cloves, sometimes with other sweet fragrance notes mixed in.  Available colors range from purest white to near-black, with bi-colored or even tri-colored varieties available from specialty merchants.  While there are no true blue carnations (unless you put a cut stem in a container of water mixed with blue dye), the color and pattern range is still impressive.

Modern large-flowered garden carnations are the result of hybridization of several different species.  English author and gardener Vita Sackville West wrote admiringly about the Chabaud carnations, developed by a French hybridizer in the eighteen seventies.  Some Chabaud types, like the pink-flowered ‘La France’ and ‘Benigna’, with white petals laced with red, are still in commerce today.  Another antique variety, ‘Mrs. Sinkins’, combines shorter stature—about 12 inches tall—with big white flowers.

Modern varieties tend to be more compact than some older ones and come in an array of arresting colors and color combinations.  As with many commercial hybrid plants, they are often marketed in named series protected by trademarks.  Each series shares common features, like short stature and unusual coloration.    Scent First™ ‘Tickled Pink’ bears bright cerise flowers on 10 inch stems. ‘Horatio’, a hybrid splashed with dark red and white, grows to 12 inches.  Little Sunflor™ ‘Amber’, at six to eight inches, is shorter still, with bright yellow petals.  Flow® ‘Grace Bay’ is creamy yellow with narrow red edges, and dimensions similar to those of ‘Amber’.  Super Trouper™ ‘Orange’ may be closer to peach than tangerine, but its unusual coloration stands out.

Like other members of the dianthus family, carnations are relatively easy to grow if you give them full sun and well-drained soil on the alkaline side of the pH spectrum.  If you have acid soil, it may be best to install your carnations in medium to large containers, or add lime to your garden soil according to package directions.  Gardeners with heavy clay can amend the soil with organic material like Fafard® Natural and Organic Compost.

Humans may love carnations, but garden varmints, like rabbits and deer, generally do not.  If you have cats who roam the garden and are prone to sampling plants, take care, as the flowers can be irritating to feline mouths and stomachs.

At different times and places, carnations have been known by evocative names like “sops-in-wine,” “gillyflowers” and clove pinks.  Whatever you call them, they add both beauty and drama to the summer landscape.


Vines for Hanging Baskets

Nothing flatters a hanging basket like a “spiller” – a plant that cascades from its container in waves of foliage and flowers. Vines might seem an odd choice to fill the bill; after all, they’re geared to grow up, not down. Yet, many make first-rate “spillers” in the absence of anything on which to climb. Rather than draping directly down in bead-curtain fashion, most hanging-basket vines form a knitted skirt of undulating stems that repeatedly dip and ascend as they try to find their direction, sans support. Add one of the following annual vines to your hanging basket planting, and you’ll have a spiller that doubles as a thriller.


Sow seed for your vine indoors in Fafard® Ultra Container Mix several weeks before the final spring frost date, or buy seedlings in spring. Transplant seedlings to hanging baskets and move them outdoors after danger of frost. Be sure to prune any growth that gets out of bounds.


Snapdragon vine

(Asarina scandens, now known as Maurandya scandens)

The blue to purple flowers do indeed resemble little snapdragons, on twining vines that prosper in sun or light shade. The cultivar ‘Joan Lorraine’ has velvety deep purple-blue flowers that are several degrees darker than those of the aptly named ‘Sky Blue’. Trumpet-shaped flowers in the pink to rosy-purple range deck the stems of another former Asarina, creeping gloxinia (Lophospermum erubescens). White forms such as ‘Bridal Bouquet’ are also occasionally available.


Malabar spinach (Basella alba)

A highly ornamental vine that doubles as a vegetable, Malabar spinach clothes its twining stems with heavy-textured, heart-shaped, rich-green leaves that make a tasty addition to salads, stir-fries, and other dishes. What’s more, the leaves maintain their toothsomeness in hot humid weather, unlike those of many other leaf vegetables. The foliage is beautifully complemented by summer clusters of pearly white flowers, and in the variety ‘Rubra’ by burgundy stems and veining.


Moonflower (Ipomaea alba)

Large, saucer-shaped white flowers unfurl in the afternoon and remain open at night, adding mystery (and an intoxicating fragrance) to the evening garden. Moonflower loves warm, humid weather, rapidly extending its twining stems during the dog days of summer.


Sweetpotato vine (Ipomaea batatus)

The purple- and chartreuse-leaved forms of this rambling annual vine are rightfully popular as container plants. Leaf shape varies from heart-like to hand-like, with some cultivars (such as ‘Midnight Lace’) possessing strikingly narrow-lobed leaves. Thriving in many garden habitats including hot sunny sites, sweetpotato vines are effective as solo subjects or in combination with fiery-flowered annuals such as zinnias, Mexican daisies (Tithonia spp.), and dahlias. Store the tuberous roots in a dry cool place over winter, for replanting in spring. The tubers of ornamental varieties lack the appealing flavor of culinary forms of the species.


Lablab vine (Lablab purpureus)

Purple summer pea-flowers give rise to large showy maroon seedpods that glow in the sun. The white-flowered variety ‘Silver Moon’ produces white flowers and ghostly chalky-green seedpods. Hummingbirds find both forms irresistible. This large twiner typically needs some pruning to keep it in scale with a container.


Mandevilla (Mandevilla spp.)

Compact, “mounding” forms of this typically large, showy-flowered twiner make splendid hanging basket subjects. Plants in the Rio™ Series, for example, develop into 2-foot-wide hummocks with lax cascading stems. They come in several shades of pink and red, as well as white. Tropic Escape® mandevillas offer a similar range of colors, in an even more compact size.

Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata)

Spectacular tumbling from a container, this vigorous vine covers itself with yellow, black-centered saucer-flowers as long as warm weather continues. As with mandevilla and lablab, it’s a favorite of hummingbirds. Varieties include ‘Suzie Orange’, white-flowered ‘Angel Wings’, and peachy-hued ‘African Sunset’.


Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Although best known in its compact, nonsprawling forms, Tropaeolum majus is typically a climber or scrambler. Such forms are natural candidates for hanging baskets. The variety ‘Jewel of Africa’ decks its 8-foot stems with cream-splashed variegated leaves and red, yellow, or orange flowers, in bright to pastel shades. Other trailing nasturtiums include orange-red ‘Indian Chief’ and pale yellow ‘Moonlight’. Canary vine (Tropaeolum peregrinum) – a close relative of nasturtium – is also a worthy hanging basket plant, bearing feathered bright yellow flowers on twining 10-foot vines with fingered foliage.


Greater periwinkle (Vinca major)

Last but certainly not least-known, this semi-hardy woody perennial (to USDA Zone 6b) is usually grown in its variegated form, with white-edged leaves. It’s best kept to the container, as it can become a rampant nuisance in the ground. It sends forth both trailing and upright stems, with the latter producing sky-blue flowers.