Irish Plants by Elisabeth Ginsburg

St. Patrick’s Day falls every year on March 17.  In some places spring has already sprung by mid-March, in others it is still weeks away.  But regardless of how green your garden is on March 17, the whole world will turn green—at least temporarily–in celebration of all things Irish.

It is a good time to think of plants with Irish associations that might make good additions to your beds, borders, containers and window boxes.  Some, like shamrocks come to mind immediately, but others like common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) have equal claim to Irish origins.  As you plan for spring planting, think about adding a little Irish magic.

Shamrocks: What’s in a Name?

Around St. Patrick’s Day, large and small merchandisers sell pots of “shamrocks” with either green or purple leaves.  They are lovely and decorative, but they are not Irish.  Usually the little plants are  species and varieties of oxalis, a plant that originated in Central and South America.

For real shamrocks, you need to lay hands on either white clover (Trifolium repens) or yellow clover (Trifolium dubium), both of which are native to Ireland.

White clover, as many gardeners will attest, grows readily in gardens, lawns and many other situations. Some consider it a weed, but it also makes an excellent ground cover.  If you fear that your clover will overwhelm better-mannered garden plants, grow it in a pot.  Clover loves full sun, good soil and consistent moisture, but will prevail even in less optimal conditions.  The plants pull their weight in the garden by fixing nitrogen in the soil and attracting pollinators.

Fairy Thimbles

Whether you call these beautiful plants “foxglove” or “fairy thimbles”, they are Irish natives.  Resistant to critters but attractive to humans and pollinators, foxglove can thrive in partial shade with consistent moisture, producing statuesque spires that rise between two and five feet.

The plants, which are also native to other parts of western, southern and central Europe, are biennial, meaning that when grown from seed they form a basal rosette of leaves the first year and flower the second year.  Happy foxgloves are also prolific self-seeders.  If you do not remove all the spent flower stalks when they finish their late spring bloom period, foxgloves will make themselves effectively perennial by producing numerous offspring.  Flower colors in the species are usually shades of purple, pink or white.  Pollinators adore them and it is fun to watch fuzzy bumblebees crawling into the tubular blooms.

Moss of the Irish

Great as a ground cover, rock garden subject, or moss garden component, Irish moss (Sagina subulata) is truly Irish, but not a true moss.  Instead it is a low-growing evergreen member of the carnation family.  Topping out at about two inches tall, it grows slowly, eventually spreading to about twelve inches.  The plants are relatively easy-going, but benefit from the addition of a good soil amendment like Fafard® Premium Natural & Organic Compost at planting time. Irish moss thrives in a variety of conditions, but sulks in hot, dry weather, which will cause it to turn brown.  Supplemental water is a must, especially in drought periods.  Browning may also happen in the winter, but plants will generally rebound with new growth when spring arrives.

Though not prized for its flowers, Irish moss does produce small white blooms in late spring or early summer.  This is especially nice for containerized plants, which should be grown in wide, shallow vessels.  Depending on climate and site, containers may need winter protection.

Some Like it Wet

Native to both northern North America and northern Europe, including Ireland, bog rosemary (Andromeda polifolia) is unrelated to culinary rosemary, but bears narrow, blue-green leaves that are reminiscent of the herb. That foliage is evergreen and borne on small, shrubby plants.  Like other members of the Ericaceae or heath family, including blueberries, bog rosemary is eminently ornamental.  In May lovely, small, bell-shaped flowers appear clad in white, edged in pink clustering in umbels of up to eight blooms. The plants grow as tall as two feet, with a spread of up to three feet.

True to its name and heritage, bog rosemary prefers acidic soil and wet, cool conditions, like those found in Irish peat bogs.  It can be grown equally well in-ground or in containers.  Dry summers and dry soil are the enemies, but under the right conditions, bog rosemary is highly decorative along paths or towards the front of borders.  Unlike its herbal namesake, all parts are poisonous.

‘Empress of Ireland’ and More

Only one species of narcissus or daffodil is native to the British Isles, but a good number of daffodils were bred there.  Ireland was home to some of the best, because of breeder Guy Wilson, who created, among many lovely varieties, including the eponymous, white-flowered ‘Empress of Ireland’.

Born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland,  Wilson, the son of a manufacturer,  produced his first crop of blooming seedlings in 1912, when he was twenty-seven.  Specializing in white flowers, he went on to introduce 78 white-flowered daffodils with names like ‘Broughshane’ (in honor of his hometown),  ‘Cantatrice” and ‘Rose of May’.  A number of Wilson’s plants are still available from specialty merchandisers, and might even bloom on or close to St. Patrick’s Day.


About Elisabeth Ginsburg

Born into a gardening family, Elisabeth Ginsburg grew her first plants, a healthy stand of Hollyhocks, 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 Saki. “garden supervisor” live in northern New Jersey.

Best Indoor Plant Gifts for Valentine’s Day by Elisabeth Ginsburg

The number of houseplant lovers has risen by leaps and bounds in recent years.  If someone you care for is among them, consider giving a houseplant for Valentine’s Day.  There are many that fit the holiday theme nicely.  All are guaranteed to last longer than cut flowers and, unlike chocolate, will not automatically adhere to the recipient’s hips.

The plants below are some of the best choices for Valentine’s giving:

Heart on Your Leaves

 Anthurium (Anthurium sp.), sometimes known as “flamingo plant” or “flamingo lily” is native to Central and South American and is only hardy in USDA plant hardiness Zones 11 and 12.  Fortunately, it will get along quite nicely in average living spaces.  What makes anthurium perfect for V Day are the long-lasting “flowers” which are really red (or sometimes pink or white) heart-shaped spathes, surrounding smaller true flowers and a central staminal column.  The large, glossy green leaves are also heart-shaped and are attractive even after the flowers have faded.

Anthuriums like drainage, so when potting or repotting, add a layer of gravel to the bottom of the container, and fill with a quality potting compound like Fafard Natural and Organic Potting Mix.  Position the container in a spot with bright light and make sure the plant receives consistent moisture.  The plants can vacation outside in a lightly shaded spot when night temperatures are reliably above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heart Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens, sometimes known as Philodendron hederaceum) is just what the name suggests—a houseplant with heart-shaped leaves.  With its long, vining stems, philodendron is a natural for hanging baskets or containers positioned on pedestals.  Like anthuriums, philodendrons are Central and South American natives that cannot survive outdoors in cold winter climates.  The plants grow in dappled shade in their native areas, so available light in most homes suits them just fine.  Watering is easy—just wait until the surface of the soil feels dry and then water thoroughly.  Feed with houseplant fertilizer according to manufacturer’s directions.

For a more adventurous Valentine’s Day gift, seek out a variegated variety, like ‘Silver Stripe’, with a lighter green stripe down the middle of each leaf, or ‘Lemon Lime’, with bright chartreuse foliage.

Philodendrons have only one downside—ingestion of any part of the plant is toxic to humans and animals, so position the plant so it is inaccessible to household inhabitants who might be likely to sample the leaves.

Take a fancy to these leaves

Rex Begonias: Whether you call them “rex begonias” or “painted leaf begonias”, these hybrid beauties, officially known as Begonia rex, are easy to grow and even easier on the eyes. They make excellent Valentine’s day gifts.  Unlike other begonia species, Rexes are grown primarily for their gorgeous foliage.  Some of the leaves are heart-shaped, while others are intricately lobed or swirled like snail shells.  “Painted leaf” is a perfect descriptor–the leaves are often bi- or tri-colored, streaked, swirled or edged in shades of green, silver, red, purple, or maroon, often with contrasting veins.

Growing only 12 to 14 inches tall, Rexes like a sunny windowsill. Water only when the soil surface is dry (watering around the edges of the pot helps prevent root rot).  Standing the container atop a layer of pebbles in a water-filled tray ensures that the plants get the humidity they enjoy.  Growth slows down a bit in the winter, but that should not cause discouragement.

Available varieties abound, with flashy specimens like ‘China Curl’, with a broad silver swirl accenting each leaf’s center and edging of darkest maroon; and ‘Paso Doble’, with spiraling leaves of rose and bright green.  Begonia leaves are also harmful to children and pets.

The wonder of Orchids

Orchids have long been considered among the most romantic plants.  Tissue culture, which allows growers to propagate large numbers of plants from small tissue samples, has made these exotic-looking bloomers—at least some of them–attainable for non-millionaires. Probably the easiest to grow and the most reasonably priced is the moth orchid (Phalaenopsis), with its pristine blossoms.  White is the most common color, but hybridizers have been busy producing “moths” in red, yellow, peach, cream and related shades.  Some sport attractive “freckles” as well.  Buy the orchids either in flower or budded.  Blooms will sometimes last up to three months.

Breeders work constantly to produce new hybrids, and the so-called “Rlc” orchids (Rhyncholaeliocattleya hybrids) are the happy and colorful result of crosses involving at least three species.  More costly than moth orchids, the Rlc’s boast ease of care, vibrant colors and even fragrance.  With large, frilly flowers, they are living corsages that will remain in flower for up to three weeks and may bloom more than once a year.

Orchids have sometimes been portrayed as fussy plants that need lots of coddling.  Some species might, but all the moth and Rlc orchids really want is the indirect light of an east or west-facing window, and the humid environment provided by a room humidifier or a tray filled with pebbles and water.  A porous growing medium is a good idea, as is an unglazed clay or terra cotta pot. If the plant arrives crammed into a plastic pot filled with ordinary potting soil, wait until the flowers fade and repot appropriately. Water only when the soil is quite dry.  When in doubt, check the exposed roots. Plump roots indicate the orchid’s water needs have been met.  When the plant is in active growth (forming new leaves and flower buds), feed with an orchid-specific fertilizer according to manufacturer’s directions.

About Elisabeth Ginsburg

Born into a gardening family, Elisabeth Ginsburg grew her first plants, a healthy stand of Hollyhocks, 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 Saki. “garden supervisor” live in northern New Jersey.

Indispensable Aucuba

We gardeners are always wondering what to do with shade, especially dry shade.  Plants that have to survive on partial sunlight and perpetual competition from thirsty tree roots will often just fold up their leaves and die.  Needless to say, that is not a good look.

But all is not hopeless in the shady corners of gardens, yards and patios everywhere.  Aucuba japonica or spotted laurel is a plant that can save the day, whether it is used as a hedge, the anchor of a mixed perennial and shrub layout, or even as a large container-grown subject.


Native to China, Taiwan and Japan, as the Latin name suggests, aucuba is a broadleaf evergreen with a naturally rounded shape, and glossy, green elliptical leaves that may be as much as eight inches long.  You can keep the shrubs trimmed to just about any size, but left to their own devices, they may grow between six and ten feet tall, and five to nine feet wide.  Hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 6b through 9, aucubas are not fussy about soil, except for distaste for wet sites.  If your soil tends towards moisture-retentive clay, add an equal measure of a good quality organic amendment, like Fafard® Premium Natural and Organic Compost, to the soil when you plant.

Many sources suggest protection from cold winds at the north ends of the aucuba hardiness range, but otherwise the shrubs are generally pretty tough.  Once established they shrug off moderate drought, as well as air pollution.

Shade is aucuba’s friend, and, in fact, too much sunshine is likely to burn the young leaves.

Like hollies and some other evergreens, aucuba is dioecious, meaning that fruit production requires both male and female plants.  The shrubs flower in spring, with clusters of small purple blooms that appear in the leaf axils of female plants, and in panicles or upright flowerheads on male specimens.  When pollinated, the female flowers develop gradually into bright red berries that shine in the fall and often persist on the plants into the winter months.

The red fruits certainly add to the ornamental value of aucuba, but if you are buying the plant strictly for foliage, either male or female shrubs will do the job equally well.


The first time I spotted an aucuba in a nursery, it bore the characteristic glossy green leaves, but those leaves were dashed, dotted and splotched with yellow.  The shrub was probably the ‘Variegata’ variety, which has long been popular and has earned aucuba another nickname—“gold dust shrub”.  Nurseries and online vendors may also carry others, including  ‘Marmorata’, which also features yellow variegation on a shrub that grows seven feet tall, but only three feet wide.  The berries on female specimens are reputedly larger than those of other varieties.

For smaller gardens or containers, try ‘Rozannie’, which grows only three feet tall and wide, in an appealing, rounded configuration.   In areas north of USDA plant hardiness zone 6b, where winters are too cold for aucubas, potted ‘Rozannie’ shrubs can also be overwintered indoors.  The foliage is solid green, with the same glossy sheen that is present on other aucubas.  ‘Rozannie’ has the added allure of being able to produce berries without the assistance of a male plant, another plus in locations where space is limited.

Aucubas work well when combined with other shade lovers.  Surround them with spring-flowering daffodils interplanted with interesting hosta varieties for a great display that will take you from spring through summer.  Groundcovers like ajuga (Ajuga reptans) or lamium (Lamium maculatum) are also highly complementary, as are any of the many colorful coral bells (Heuchera) varieties that are widely available.

Shade may sometimes seem like a challenge, but shrubs like aucuba mean that it will never be boring.

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.

Indoor Ferns

Many of us mix old and new elements in our home décor, which is part of the reason why indoor ferns are so popular.  The first fern fossils hearken back to the Devonian period, roughly 400 million years ago.  Some of their descendants are twenty-first century indoor fixtures, loved for their beauty, ease of care and the tranquility they impart to the home environment.

The five ferns below adapt well to indoor culture.  Some are epiphytes that grow naturally in the debris that accumulates in the crooks of trees.  These tree-dwellers get much of their moisture and nutrients from the air around them.  They, like other ferns also grow nicely in a potting medium, like Afford Natural and Organic Potting Mix.  Appearance and size vary widely, but members of the fern clan are united by the fact that the plants do not reproduce by seed.  Instead new ferns are generated from spores that are located on the undersides of the fronds, hiding—almost—in plain sight.

With a few exceptions, indoor ferns like bright, indirect light and a high humidity environment.  Position a humidifier nearby or mist regularly.  Placing the pots in trays or saucers of pebbles and water also helps. Bathrooms can be a perfect environment, especially in dry winter months.   For non-epiphytes, keep the soil moist but not wet, and feed regularly with half-strength liquid fertilizer.

Gardeners in cold winter climates can give their potted ferns summer vacations outside when night temperatures are above fifty-five degrees.  If you decide to do so, make sure to place the plants in a shaded location, lest the fronds burn from too much sunlight.  Make sure to return them to the house when night temperatures start to dip.


Boston Fern: Old-fashioned, but ever new, the joyous-sounding tropical  Nephrolepsis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’ or Boston fern, is lush, with broad fronds of alternating leaflets.  The connection to Boston happened when an attractive variant of the species Nephrolepsis exaltata showed up in a shipment of ferns headed from Philadelphia to Boston in 1874.  The variant caught on, leading eventually to the popular modern fern.  Since the six-inch wide fronds can grow long—up to three or four feet–with an arching habit, Boston ferns are especially well suited to hanging baskets or being positioned on tall plant stands or pillars.  The fronds cascade over the sides of the containers in a way that makes you understand the “exaltata” part of their Latin name.


Ribbon Fern: True to its name, Ribbon Fern (Pteris cretica) features a silvery stripe down the center of each narrow leaflet.  Growing up to two feet-tall, it works well in containers, with fronds arching out over the sides.  A relatively slow grower, Ribbon Fern, sometimes also known as “Cretan Break Fern”, can tolerate a bit more light than some other members of the fern clan, but don’t be fooled into positioning the pot in a south-facing window.


Bird’s Nest Fern: Another good candidate for bathrooms—especially large bathrooms—is Asplenium nidas or Bird’s Nest Fern.  An epiphytic plant that gets its “bird’s nest” nickname either from the fact that it grows in the trees in its tropical homeland, or because the fronds rise from a nest-like central rosette.  You can grow your bird’s nest indoors in loose, rich soil, but it really needs moisture laden air to look and feel its best.  The fronds are long and spatulate—much less delicate-looking than those of some other ferns–and container-grown plants can rise two or three feet with a two-foot spread and an erect growth habit.  For those living in warm winter climates and raising the plants outdoors and in-ground, the fronds can reach five feet.

Staghorn Fern: If you have been to a botanical garden’s conservatory, you may have noticed a staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) mounted on a wall like a hunting trophy.  Whether the staghorns are growing in trees in their native habitat, or secured to wall plaques with fishing line, they are held in place by roots protected by rounded, sterile, basal fronds that age from green to brown. The epiphytic plants also sprout fertile fronds, which are the antler-like structures that give rise to the common name.  If you don’t have a place for a wall plaque, or don’t like the “hunting trophy” look, staghorns can also be grown in containers in loose, loamy soil.  Long-lived (often surviving for decades), the “antlers” can grow up to three feet.  Wall-mounted specimens should be taken down regularly for watering.

Maidenhair Fern: For something a little more delicate and more traditionally ferny, try Maidenhair Fern (Addiantum raddiatum) The slow-growing fronds feature rounded leaflets that might remind you a little of flat-leaf parsley.  Maidenhair is a compact variety, growing one to two feet tall and wide, with a spreading, slightly drooping habit.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Simply Beautiful Stewartia

In spring, when everything bursts into flower, the world is full of trees in bloom.  But springtime is also the time to plan and plant ahead for the season, anticipating flowering trees and shrubs with a different time of bloom, like Stewartias. Their large, ivory, Camellia-like flowers would be worthy of a spring show, but they arrive in late summer when gardens are in need of their beauty.

The fact is, stewartias are welcome landscape additions at just about any time, and you can find one to fit just about any size garden. They are also plants that are showy in all seasons, whether in flower or not. Their mottled bark and beautiful statuesque habits are always lovely, and in the fall you can anticipate colorful leaves. Here are some of the best of these well-behaved Asian trees and shrubs.

Japanese Stewartia

Bees pollinate the blooms of Japanese Stewartia and other species.

If you have the room, Japanese stewartia (Stewartia japonica) is an all-around great tree that offers four seasons of interest. Growing between 20 and 40 feet tall, with a pyramidal canopy, its branches have slightly toothed, ovoid leaves that are a cooling dark green during the growing season. In the fall, they flame up in shades of yellow, red, and burgundy, putting on a great show.

Before all of that foliage drama, Japanese stewartia flaunts its family relationship with camellias by pumping out beautiful, white, Camellia-like flowers.  Each bloom is at least 2 inches wide and features five to eight petals surrounding a center of golden-orange stamens. While only minimally fragrant, the flowers are maximally elegant and borne abundantly on trees that are hardy to USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5-8. 

Japanese Stewartia develops fantastic mottled bark as it ages.

In the colder months, when both leaves and flowers are things of the past, Japanese stewartia continues to shine with multi-colored, exfoliating bark.  This bark, which peels gradually from the tree, looks a little like camouflage, but a lot more interesting, with patches of gray, sepia, tawny orange-brown, and taupe covering the trunk. It is a feast for the eyes at all times, but especially in seasons when visual interest may be at a premium.

Tall Stewartia

The large-leaved tall stewartia can reach 25 feet at maturity.

Tall stewartia (Stewartia monodelpha) is another native of Japan, hardy to USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6-8, with characteristics similar to those of Japanese stewartia.  Young plants have a somewhat shrubby habit, but assume a tree form with age, reaching up to 25 feet tall in height.  Tall stewartia features large, dark-green leaves that turn deep red in the fall.  The bark does not exfoliate as colorfully as that of Japanese stewartia, but as the tree ages, the bark smoothes out and turns a stunning shade of cinnamon brown. The camellia-like flowers are more cupped in shape than those of other stewartias and sport attractive anthers in their centers.

Chinese Stewartia

Chinese stewartia is relatively compact. (Image by Kathering Wagner-Reiss)

Chinese stewartia (Stewartia sinenesis), which is hardy to Zones 5-7, can be grown in tree or shrub form.  Left to its own devices, it will reach 15 to 25 feet tall, but like other stewartias, it can be kept smaller when pruned after flowering.  The white flowers are somewhat smaller than those of Japanese stewartia but are profuse and surrounded by leaves that are reddish when emerging in spring, dark green in summer, and red again in the fall.  The cinnamon-brown bark exfoliates in strips to reveal smooth, tan underbark, sometimes with pinkish overtones. 

Mountain Stewartia

The  Asian stewartias have American cousins, the best known is Stewartia ovata, sometimes known as mountain stewartia or mountain camellia.  Native to the southeastern United States, and hardy to Zones 5-9, it is a little smaller than Japanese stewartia with a height and spread of 10 to 15 feet.  It also excels in versatility because it can be grown as a tree or a multi-stemmed shrub.  Like its Japanese relative and true to its common name, it features Camellia-like flowers and leaves that glow red and orange in the fall.  Its gray-brown bark, while attractively ridged and furrowed, does not exfoliate like that of the Japanese species.  Still, for those hankering for stewartias, but confined to smaller spaces, mountain stewartia is an excellent choice.

Stewartia Relatives

Franklinia blooms are attractive to lots of different pollinators.

Stewartia and camellia are both members of the Theaceae or tea family.  Their equally beautiful relatives include the all-American Franklinia tree (Franklinia alatamaha), which was discovered in Colonial America and now extinct in the wild. Specimens of this beautiful small tree can be found at many botanical gardens and arboreta. They are also available at select garden centers.

All the stewartias make excellent stand-alone specimens, but can also anchor partly shaded garden beds, and situations that resemble their native habitats at the edges of wooded areas. They thrive best in rich, consistently moist soil and locations that are protected from harsh winds.  To get a young specimen off to a good start, mix the soil in the planting hole with a nutritious soil amendment like Fafard Premium Topsoil, which is ideal for boosting the soil of newly planted trees and shrubs.  Water regularly while the plants establish sturdy root systems and mulch generously around, but not touching the plants’ trunks or main stems.

Easy Vegetables to Grow from Seed

Home vegetable gardening is riding a wave of popularity that is probably unprecedented since the Victory Gardens of World War II.  Salad greens are sprouting on rooftops and potatoes in patio containers.  Home-grown tomatoes seem to be popping up in every other suburban yard.  Explosions of summer zucchini are detonating in community gardens and front roadside “hell strips”.

If you want to get in on that kind of action, but find the prospect a little intimidating, it’s best to start relatively small and simple.  Growing vegetables from seed is inexpensive and easy, provided you pick types that are easy to grow. 

The best advice for beginners is to start with something that you like to eat and don’t go too big.  Shepherding a few vegetables successfully from seed to harvest will give you the confidence to venture further into vegetable gardening in successive seasons.

A few other helpful hints…Make sure the seeds you buy are packaged for the current growing season, not saved over from the last one.  Fresh seed always has a higher germination rate.  Amend your garden soil before planting with a nutritious mixture like Fafard Premium Natural and Organic Compost.   If you are growing your veggies in containers, use a potting mix that will start your seeds off on the right foot. Fafard Ultra Container Mix with Extended Feed will do the job nicely.

Bountiful Squash from Seed

Most bush zucchini produce in as little as 45 days from seed!

Summer squashes, like zucchini and crookneck squash, are a boon to the novice grower, with big seeds, vigorous habits, showy flowers, and bountiful production.  While seeds can be started indoors, in many places summer squashes will do just fine if they are directly sown in a sunny spot with rich soil or, if they are bush-types, in a large container. Be sure to determine whether squash is vining or bushy before planting. Bush squash are compact while vining forms can reach enormous lengths. Trellising is an option.

Warm soil is a must, so check your area’s last frost date to find out when it is generally safe to plant. (Click here to identify your last frost date by zip code.)

Plant two to three seeds in small hills of soil. Plant them at a depth equal to about two times the width of the seed.  Squashes crave space, so keep those hills separated by at least several feet, depending on the final size of the squash variety.  When the seedlings appear, thin out the weakest one or seedlings by either pulling them out or snipping them off.  Leave the strongest. Water regularly, especially if rain is sparse, but do not drown the plants.  If the top of the soil is wet, and you’ve experienced good rains, skip the watering.

It is important to collar newly sprouted seedlings to keep birds and cutworms from cutting the seedlings from the base and killing them. Seedling collars are easy to make from paper cups, toilet paper rolls, and other materials. (Click here to learn more.)

Check leaves for evidence of pests and disease. Large pests can be picked off by hand.  Squash vine borers are a common problem that every squash grower must learn about (click here for management details). If powdery mildew, a fungal disease, appears, remove the affected leaves and spray the remaining foliage with either Neem oil or a solution of one tablespoon of baking soda per gallon of water mixed with a few drops of liquid dish soap.

Check seed packages for time from germination to harvest, but expect fruit in 45 to 60 days. Bushy varieties produce the earliest.

Tons of Tomatoes from Seed

Train your tomatoes for easy care and harvest. Compact bush varieties are recommended for beginners.

Growing tomatoes from seed offers you a chance to choose from the scores of available varieties—large, small, modern, heirloom, red, green, yellow, or orange.  None are really hard to grow, but many sources suggest determinate (bush) salad or cherry tomato varieties for beginners. Indeterminate (vining) tomatoes are the most productive but reach huge heights and require quite a bit of management, and large-fruited varieties are often more demanding. Cherry tomatoes feature bite-size fruit and bush types are great for container growing because they stop growing once they have reached a certain size and produce only a set number of flowers and fruit thereafter.  Much of the fruit develops at the same time, but harvests can be still quite large. Good disease resistance makes growing even easier. (Click here for a great list of determinate tomatoes from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and click here for our top 10 list of the best-tasting cherry tomatoes.)

Those harvests will come sooner if you start tomatoes indoors in cell packs or other small containers at least six to eight weeks before the last frost date for your area.  Make sure those containers have drainage holes.  Fill the small pots with moistened potting mix and plant two or three seeds per cell or container, following directions on the seed pack.  Place on trays that can hold water and position in a warm location a bright grow light or South-facing window.  To avoid seedling rot disease, water from the bottom, letting the plants absorb water through their drainage holes. (Click here for more tomato seed-starting tips.)

When outdoor conditions are right, with night temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, take the trays outside and place them in a sheltered spot to acclimate the seedlings.  After a few days of this, plant the seedlings in a location that receives at least six hours of sun per day–eight hours or more is better.  Keep the soil consistently moist, stake or your plants or support with tomato cages, and watch for pests. (Click here to learn more about tomato pest and disease management.)

Great Greens from Seed

Spinach is a true cool-season green that grows succulent leaves in a flash.

Greens, including the various varieties of lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard, are among the easiest veggies to grow from seed, and many varieties are as beautiful as they are nutritious.  Lettuce and spinach love the cooler temperatures of spring and fall, while chard thrives in summer. 

Sow lettuce seeds when outdoor temperatures reach about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and space about 2 inches apart in rows that are separated by about 12 inches. Cover with the thinnest possible amount of soil, because lettuce seeds need light to germinate.  Keep soil uniformly moist and harvest lettuce either as baby greens or mature leaves.  For a continuous harvest, sow smaller amounts of lettuce seed at weekly intervals in spring and very late summer. (Click here to discover ten great lettuce varieties for gardens.)

Larger and leafier, spinach and chard are delicious either raw or cooked.  Plant spinach first, as soon as possible after the last frost date.  Both types of greens should be planted shallowly—about one-quarter inch deep in rows at least 18 inches apart.  Both also need thinning.  Thin spinach seedlings to a maximum of 6 inches apart and the larger chard plants to a minimum of 6 inches apart.  Spinach can also be sown in late summer for a fall harvest.

Growing vegetables can be so satisfying that many gardeners catch the “veggie bug” after the first successful growing season and branch out into multiple varieties in successive years.  Be prepared!

Celebrate the Wintery Beauty of Florist’s Cyclamen

Even when not in bloom, cyclamen leaves continue to look lovely.

Florists’ cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum hybrids) is a great imposter.  Despite the Latin name persicum, they are not from Persia (modern-day Iran) but hailed from nearby countries, including Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Algeria, and Tunisia. Though the graceful flowers might make you think of orchids, cyclamens actually reside in the primrose family, Primulaceae.  The leaves are also cleverly disguised, with patterning that might be mistaken for marble or damask fabric.

Subterfuge aside, florists’ cyclamens beguile holiday plant buyers with their ravishing good looks, and every winter multitudes of them find their way into homes, offices, houses of worship, and other public and private spaces.

Cyclamen with Dancing Flowers and Swirling Leaves

Rising 6 to 10 inches tall and equally wide, cyclamen plants dazzle with basal mounds of heart-shaped leaves marbled in silvery shades.  They almost swirl before your eyes. Slender stems support nodding buds that resemble tightly furled umbrellas. Once open, each bloom features five backswept petals that may be pink, red, violet, lavender, white, or in combinations of two or more of these colors.  The petal edges are either smooth or exuberantly ruffled.  The combination of swaying stems and vibrant colors has led more than one observer to liken a pot of cyclamen in full bloom to a flock of butterflies. 

Cyclamen’s Wild Ancestors

Cyclamen persicum is the primary wildflower descendent to most cultivated Cyclamen.

In the beginning, Cyclamen persicum was a pretty wildflower that barely hinted at the charms of its modern domestic descendants.  The species made it to Europe around 1700, but breeders first took an interest in them in the early nineteenth century and have been working on them ever since. Most breeding occurs in England, continental Europe, and Japan.  All of that breeding and propagating work set the stage for cyclamens to burst onto the mass-merchandising scene nearly 50 years ago.

New Cyclamens Get Bigger and Better

Bigger flowers in more diverse color combinations are sought by plant breeders.

Consumers have always loved big flowers, so breeders have made that trait a priority.  Once they bulked the flowers up, plantsmen produced larger plants with a wider range of flower colors.  Double flowers and those with contrasting picotee petal edges also emerged from the selective breeding process. Each year it seems that the flowers get bigger, bolder, and more numerous.

Fragrant Cyclamen

One trait that was all but lost in the breeding process was fragrance. But that began to change around 2000, when hybridizers started crossing Cyclamen persicum with a fragrant Mediterranean species, Cyclamen purpurascens.  The resulting plants were somewhat smaller than standard florists’ cyclamen, but boasted pronounced fragrance, sometimes reminiscent of roses. Now scented varieties are available in many places—to find them just follow your nose in the greenhouse section of a well-stocked nursery or garden center.  One beautiful and fragrant variety to look for is the exceptional, hard-to-find, Cyclamen purpurascens ‘Green Ice’.

Holiday Cyclamen Care

With the right care, cyclamen make reliable, lovely house plants.

Fragrant or not, all florists’ cyclamens need care once they arrive home from the store. “Care” means removing the decorative foil around the pot and positioning it in a cool place with bright, indirect light. A surplus of direct sun will caused scorched leaves.

If you want to repot it after the holidays, use a quality medium like Fafard® Ultra Potting Mix with Extended Feed, and make sure the top of the root ball is level with the top of the soil in the new container. (Click here for an overview about how to repot house plants.) High humidity is a plus, so mist regularly or place the pot atop a saucer filled with pebbles. Add water to the saucer, but make sure the base of the pot is not submerged. Cyclamen appreciate moisture but detest wet feet. Water when the top of the soil is dry and aim the spout of your watering can around the edges of the pot. 

Post-Holiday Cyclamen Care

Even when not in bloom, cyclamen have decorative leaves.

With proper care, a cyclamen with some open flowers and a few buds should bloom for three or more weeks. Once the bloom period is over, gradually cut down on watering. It is not uncommon for plants to go into a natural dormancy in summer, which corresponds to a summer dry period to which they are acclimated. This is the point when most people throw a cyclamen out, thinking that it has died. Instead of doing that, you may want to try for a second cyclamen act. 

Move the pot to a cool, moderately dry location for a few weeks and then, attempt a resurrection by soaking the soil thoroughly and bringing the pot back to a spot with bright, indirect light. Wait until you see signs of sprouting before watering again, and resume a regular watering schedule. Feed with commercial houseplant fertilizer according to package directions. With a bit of luck, the cyclamen will begin its growth cycle anew.

If for some reason the cyclamen has actually died, skip the guilt and purchase another one.  The death was probably not your fault.  When thousands of plants are raised in a carefully controlled environment, and forced into bloom at a specific time, they may not have a second season’s worth of energy. Ironically, in the Victorian language of flowers, cyclamens, which seem so bright and cheerful during the winter, are symbolic of goodbyes. 

Cyclamen buds look like closed umbrellas.

Festive Garden Fruits and Berries of Fall

Beautyberries offer one of the most brilliant and memorable shows of fall and there are many species from which to choose.

Depending on where you live, October can be a time when the last of the late summer and early fall color is fading from the garden.  The asters are almost finished, the goldenrod is going, and most of the color comes from potted mums and Halloween pumpkins.

But your landscape does not have to succumb to drabness. There is an answer to the color dilemma—shrubs and trees with eye-catching fruits or berries.  Taking center stage with gem-like red, black, purple, or yellow fruit, these plants multi-task by beautifying the garden while providing food for birds and small animals.   The following species and varieties are among the best investments for the four-season landscape.

Passionate Purple Beautyberry

Beautyberries will remain on the shrubs after the leaves fall until they get snapped up by birds.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa ssp.) more than lives up to its name, with clusters of vivid purple berries hugging the stems, which also bear ovoid, slightly toothed green leaves.   A member of the Lamiaceae or mint family, deciduous beautyberry boasts bronze spring foliage, small pink summer flowers, and fall berries–all on graceful, arching stems.   There are several species of beautyberry available commercially.  Among the most popular is ‘Profusion’; a variety of Bodinier’s beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri), which is celebrated for its heavy crops of fall berries.  Hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 8,  ‘Profusions’ grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide, perfect for use as a specimen plant, an anchor in a large garden bed, or en masse to form a noteworthy hedge. Other available species include native American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana),  which is slightly more heat-tolerant than other species and hardy in zones 6 through 10; the slightly smaller purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma), hardy in zones 5 through 8; and  Japanese beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica), hardy in the same USDA Hardiness Zones.  All will thrive in full sun to light shade and can withstand clay soil.  They should be pruned back in late winter for health and appearance’s sake.

A Non-Traditional American Cranberry

American cranberries simply glow against their red and purple changing foliage.

The universe of beautiful viburnums is large, but highbush cranberry, also known as cranberry viburnum or American cranberry (Viburnum opulus var. americanum), is one of the loveliest in autumn.  It is not a true cranberry but bears edible fall fruit in a brilliant shade of red.  As the name suggests, highbush cranberry is native to North America and grows large—8 to 12 feet tall and wide—but delivers a lot in return for that significant investment of garden space.  In spring the shrubs sport flat-topped flower clusters reminiscent of Queen Anne’s lace, followed by dark green leaves, with three lobes apiece and an appearance akin to maple foliage.  The leaves sometimes color up in fall before disappearing, but the crimson berries tend to outshine them. 

Highbush cranberry is hardy in zones 2 through 7,  performs well in full sun to light shade, and can survive cold winters.  The flowers are beloved by butterflies and the fruits are attractive to birds.  Humans can use them in much the same way as true cranberries—in jams, jellies, and confections.

Golden Crabapples

Golden Harvest crabapples literally glow on the branches after the leaves fall and birds love them.

All flowering crabapple trees (Malus spp.) are beautiful, and, at anywhere from 6 to 20 feet tall, depending on variety, compact enough for many home landscapes.  They flower in spring in a frothy burst of pink buds that open to pink or white blossoms, with single or double rows of petals.  Some never fruit, but many crown the fall season with small round apples in shades of pink to rosy red.  The much-loved Sargeant crabapple (Malus sargentii),  is a dwarf variety that can be grown as a large shrub or standardized as a small tree, is one of the red-fruited varieties. It is hardy in zones 4 through 7. 

Red is heartening, but yellow or gold-fruited crabapples are especially dramatic.  Cultivars like the rosy gold fruits of ‘Golden Harvest’, clear golden yellow fruits of ‘Golden Raindrops‘, and the larger, edible, golden crabapples of ‘Golden Hornet’, which is also a Royal Horticultural Society award winner. All are hardy to zones 4 through 8  and produce abundant, showy fruits that are beloved of birds and humans.

Crabapple fruits are not as persistent as some fall berries but are beautiful while they last.  Many varieties also feature leaves that color up in the fall, prolonging the brilliant show.

Flowering crabs are tolerant trees, able to flourish in clay soil and withstand drought, once established in sunny locations.  Prune to shape in late winter.

Brilliant Chokeberry

Brillant chokeberry has colorful fruits and its leaves turn from green to red in fall. (Image by Jessie Keith)

Chokeberry is an unattractive name for a very attractive, deciduous flowering and fruiting shrub.  Aronia melanocarpa, known as black chokeberry, is the most common chokeberry in commerce.  A member of the rose or Rosaceae family, black chokeberry is native to the eastern half of North America and is hardy in zones 3 through 8. 

In the spring, the shrub starts with small clusters of five-petaled white flowers, which lure bees and other pollinators.  These give way to glossy black fruits in the fall.  If the birds do not get them all, the fruits may persist after frost.  Though edible, they are sour but can be cooked and sweetened to make jellies, relishes, and other dishes.  Chokeberry fruits share the spotlight with the leaves, which turn red-purple in fall before dropping from the plants.  Black chokeberry is the smallest of the Aronia species at three to six feet tall and wide. 

Black chokeberry has edible fruits and brilliant orange-red fall leaf color.

Chokeberry lovers who crave red fruits can invest in Aronia arbutifolia or red chokeberry, which grows 6 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 6 feet wide and is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through 9.  A slightly more cold-hardy black chokeberry/red chokeberry hybrid, Aronia x prunifolia produces dark purple fruits on shrubs that grow 8 to twelve feet tall and 6 to 9 feet wide. It is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 7.

Chokeberries are suckering shrubs that can form thickets if left untended.  They crave consistent moisture and are happy in moist or even swampy spots, including pond or stream edges.

Giving Fruiting Trees and Shrubs a Good Start

Beautyberry, highbush cranberry, crabapple, and chokeberry are relatively unfussy plants but benefit from a good start.  Site in sunny locations and amend the soil at planting time with nutritious Fafard Garden Manure Blend.  Water regularly to establish root systems, and keep chokeberries irrigated during dry spells. (Click here for a full guide to properly siting and planting shrubs and trees.)