Home Page Image

Botany is a sequel of murder and a chronicle of the dead

~Julian Hawthorne~

Perennials - Head-Hunting Anyone?

The warmer weather is almost here to stay and I have been sleuthing through the beds to see which plants made it through the winter. One of my friends call this 'head-hunting in the yard' and I like her descriptive name. If you are pulling back the mulch next to garden markers to see which of your plants are poking up with little green shoots, you too, have been head-hunting.

We had one of the coldest winters with temperatures right above 0 degrees Fahrenheit and some of our plants marked 'hardy to Zone 6' turned out to be not quite so hardy. I haven't completely given up on them, but let's just say i'll be REALLY surprised if anything green that isn't a weed will sprout by some of my markers.

I’m known for pushing plants a zone or two and killing my share of them along the way. I am also guilty of babying some and neglecting others to the point they show me their brown, slimy or crispy sides. How is it looking in your garden?


Many garden forums have reports of how hard it is to overwinter the new varieties. In the last two years, I killed more than my share of them. By attending workshops, reading horticultural news and general trial and error, I have learned what it seemingly takes to make them happy in my garden.

Most important of all: Drainage. Soggy feet equal certain death - guaranteed.
Do not fertilize your coneflowers before May. Coneflowers that have been fertilized require a minimum of 14 hours of light, if your days are still shorter, giving them a well meant dose of nutrition is more likely to harm than to help them.
If your new coneflower looks like it's struggling: stop watering and fertilizing - give it supplemental light instead. A 40Watt bulb, something bright enough to read by, is all that it takes according to recent research.

All of the coneflowers I grow are showing signs of life, the earliest and most vigorous growers are Pink Double Delight and Sunrise. After Midnight is slowly awakening, it's the tardiest of them all. Echinacea Tiki Torch planted last fall has tripled in size and looks fantastic.


I don’t think I have ever come across a gaillardia I didn’t like. From the shorter and sturdier varieties to the big and floppy red and orange ones. I have room for them all, somewhere in the garden. Gaillardias thrive on poor soil, drought and benign neglect.
My favorite in 2008, by far, was ‘Oranges & Lemons’. It bloomed and bloomed and wouldn’t stop until the hard frost in December. I finally cut back the foliage after the finches finished eating the seeds and what was left looked brown, dry and dead. No problem, it’s so beautiful, it would just be a replant in the spring.. Imagine my surprise - new green sprouts coming from the base of the brown and dead looking stumps - this one is a keeper for sure!

If you aren't growing gaillardias - you don't know what you're missing!


Oh my Coreopsis!
Now here's a family of plants that I am struggling with. The pictures in the catalogs and on the web enticed me last year and I planted out most every variety. It's supposed to grow like a weed, how could I go wrong?
Let's just say I have some survivors.

Probably the best performance came from 'Creme Brulee' and 'American Dream': both have short foliage, bloomed all summer and have filled in with nice, compact dense mats that smother out weeds.
The Limerocks were beautiful, thick lacy foliage and hundreds of flowers in bright red or hot pink. Even if none of them come back, they're going to have a presence again in our beds this season.
'Jethro Tull' didn't look like a coreopsis at all, more like a short and sturdy fluted gaillardia. Foliage remained evergreen and the clump tripled in size, that one is a winner also.

As for the rest of them - I'm still sleuthing and I am wishing you lots of successful head-hunting this season.

Saturday, April 18th, 2009 - Plant Driveway Sale - 8am to 3pm

If you are in Chattanooga, check the paper for directions or call us.


April in the Garden:

Label your Plants :
Plant Coneflowers:
Put out Hummingbird Feeders: