A favorite among dieters, stevia is super easy to grow as an annual in Zones 7 and cooler. Give it full sun in northern gardens; provide protection from hot afternoon sun in warmest zones. Pinch plants early in the season several times to encourage branching. Pick the super sweet leaves of this herb for drying or fresh use. For best results, dry in a dehydrator or a 150-degree oven. To use, crush dry leaves as needed. In Zones 8 and warmer, plants may overwinter with mulch.
Pump up the color in your late summer to fall garden with the stunning blooms of ‘Mars Madness’ hibiscus. Flowers open from midsummer through early fall, unfurling to a whopping 6 to 8 inches wide—as big as a dinner plate! Leaves serve copper highlights and a deer-resistant constitution. Perennial hibiscus are easy to grow, requiring little care in exchange for their flower power. Plants grow to shrub size, reaching 4 to 4.5 feet tall by 6 to 6.5 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
Composting is a fantastic thing to do, both to reduce waste and to improve your garden. It’s not always super-convenient, though, and it can be … unattractive in the kitchen. The Blanco Solon comes to the rescue for both issues, however. This stainless steel system can be inset into a countertop and has a cover to obscure the cuttings waiting to be relocated to your outdoor location. It saves space, makes composting easier and looks like something that belongs in a luxury kitchen.
Earwigs inspire terror with those giant pincer claws on their backside. Those claws are used to grasp prey, including slugs, aphids and insect larvae. They’re also used to fend off predators. Earwigs fill two roles in the garden. On the positive side, they scavenge and consume decaying organic matter and eat other plant pests. But when populations are high, they can damage desirable plants by feeding on the soft tissue of seedlings, new shoots and flower petals. One easy way to deter earwigs is placing rolled up newspapers around the garden as traps. The earwigs crawl inside, and you can shake them into a bucket of soapy water. Diatomaceous earth also works against earwigs. Sprinkle it at the base of plants, on earwig clusters or anywhere earwig populations are high.
Mints weave a striking tapestry in the vase, adding different leaf textures, colors and scents. Count on mint to hold its own as a centerpiece, or use it to add movement and refreshing green shades to other garden-fresh arrangements. A fresh mint bouquet inside offers an easy way to take a quick snip when prepping favorite dishes. In terms of flavor, mint is at its freshest when first picked. The longer mint sits in water, flavor notes shift and may become bitter, especially if you see roots forming along submerged stems.
An unspoken badge of honor always goes to the gardener with the earliest tomato. Technology makes getting that first tomato even easier, thanks to products like this pop-up tomato accelerator. It uses greenhouse covering material to create a growing environment that surrounds seedlings with warm air, which keeps plants cozy on cool spring nights. This means you can tuck tomatoes into soil as soon as it warms up, even though air temps might still be on the chilly side. Using individual mini greenhouses accelerates plant growth, allowing you to pick fresh tomatoes up to a few weeks sooner than from plants grown without the hothouse effect.
Be creative as you design a trellis for your pea plants. Traditionally gardeners use fruit tree and shrub trimmings to craft a twig trellis. You can do the same thing with twigs that winter has tossed onto your lawn. Simply stick pencil-thick twigs into soil beside peas as you plant them. Another option is to string netting between stakes. This easy trellis (above) supports pea plants with a double row of twine that runs alongside plants. Insert stakes at either end of your pea plant (or every 4 to 5 feet for long rows), and wrap the twine around stakes to create a tight support. The plants will grab one another and the twine for support.
Hydrangeas turn containers into flower fests where the show doesn’t end—even faded blooms look great. Tucking shrubs like hydrangeas into a pot lets you buy smaller, inexpensive plants that you grow to larger size through the growing season. It’s a great way to stretch your planting budget. The bonus with hydrangeas is that it’s much easier to shift flower color from pink to blue in a container, thanks to the small soil volume. The secret to gorgeous blue blooms is acid soil. Just add soil acidifier (find it with other fertilizers), garden sulfur or aluminum sulfate. Endless Summer hydrangea grows 3 to 5 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
For outstanding fall color, include easy-growing ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’) in your garden. Low-maintenance and deer-resistant, goldenrod unfurls tiny, bright yellow blooms on horizontal branches that add color from late summer well into fall. This is a super pollinator plant, attracting all kinds of bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. Flowers make a great addition to bouquets. If you’re an allergy sufferer, please note that goldenrod doesn’t cause hayfever. Plants grow 30 to 36 inches tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
Available in orange, pink, bicolors, salmon, purple or yellow, calla lilies are easy to grow houseplants. White callas are lovely in Christmas-red containers, and stay in bloom a long time. They're tropicals, so wait until all frost has passed if you want to transplant them into your garden. They'll thrive in a sunny spot in slightly moist, organic-rich soil, but will require repotting and bringing indoors before the first fall frost. If you prefer, you can let the bulbs go dormant and store them in a cool, dry, dark place until you're ready to replant next spring.
Magnolias bring drama to any garden, whether you’re growing a classic evergreen type or a spring beauty like star magnolia. The signature fragrant flowers can stop traffic and will make you want to tuck magnolias into every corner of your yard. Magnolias are as versatile as they are beautiful, making it easy to find one that suits your growing conditions. Discover the range of magnolia magnificence, starting with the timeless Southern magnolia, above, offered as a dwarf form. This variety is ‘Saint Mary’ Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), growing 20 to 25 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 7-9.
A rose slug is the larvae or immature stage of a rose sawfly. It’s easy to overlook on roses, until its feeding begins to damage leaves. Rose slugs feed on leaf undersides, out of sight, nibbling on leaf tissue—the part between the veins. When they’re done eating, leaves resemble skeletons. Usually when gardeners spot rose slug damage, they think their roses have a disease because leaves are speckled and have holes in them. Sawfly larvae are not slugs or caterpillars, but a different type of critter. Blast them off roses with a spray of water, or spray them with spinosad, a bioinsecticide made from soil bacteria.
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a classic native vine heralded for its vivid red fall color. ‘Yellow Wall’ takes the native to a new place with leaves that turn a striking gold in autumn. This is a fast, easy-growing vine that does well in part to full sun. In the wild, Virginia creeper often scales trees as vines reach for the sun. In the garden, give it the sturdy support of a pergola or well-anchored arch. Avoid planting ‘Yellow Wall’ against a building, because it attaches directly to surfaces with organic holdfasts that are tough to remove. Plants grow 20 to 30 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9.
Few plants symbolize fragrance like roses. This group of plants features shrubs, climbers, miniatures—and all sorts of other wonderful types. Flower color runs the gamut, including white, deep burgundy (almost black), lemon yellow and a host of other hues. New rose introductions like the Easy Elegance collection feature disease-resistant leaves with strong winter hardiness (Zones 5-9). Kiss Me (Rosa ‘BAIsme’) unfurls richly petaled blooms reminiscent of old English garden roses—and redolent with fragrance. Other roses packed with perfume? A few that have stood the test of time include ‘Autumn Damask’ (Zones 5-9), ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’ (Zones 6-9), ‘Double Delight’ (Zones 3-9), ‘Mister Lincoln (Zones 5-9) and ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’ (Zones 3-9).
Take your yard to the dark side by adding a drift of ‘Purple Knight’ alternanthera (Alternanthera dentata). This easy growing annual thrives in whatever weather summer throws at it—heat, humidity, thunderstorms or drought. Use ‘Purple Knight’ to deliver color to planting beds, or tuck it into a container design where it happily plays a thriller or filler role. If you like to gather garden bouquets, include this dark-leafed beauty in your plant palette. Stems make a pretty addition to a vase. Pinch plants when young to increase branching. Leaf color is darkest in full sun, but plants adapt well to part sun or part shade conditions. Plants grow 18 to 36 inches tall and 24 to 36 inches wide.
The owners of this tin roof chicken coop wanted to create a home for their chickens and guest houses for visiting bluebirds: "We read that bluebirds like to have 15 to 20 feet of open space in front of their nesting houses. When we built the coop, we left the posts tall on the back side. My parents brought me the 'See Rock City' house, which I was thrilled to have because it's a great nod to my happy Southern childhood spent hiking and camping with my family. The Rock City birdhouse lets guests know we want them to be relaxed and happy in our garden."
The owners said landscaping was a key factor in the positioning of the coop. "We thought about the placement for several weeks. It made sense to be on the far side of the garden because it's tall and creates a separation between our yard and the street that runs behind our next-door neighbors' yard. It works as a privacy screen and looks like a charming shed or rustic playhouse. The screens across the front of the structure came from my grandparents' house when it was torn down. The major drawback to our design is the lack of a human door, which makes spring cleaning the coop no easy task."
Pamper yourself by transforming an outdoor space into a custom retreat. Japanese forest bathing research shows that time spent in the Great Outdoors brings significant health benefits—lower blood pressure, less stress, greater empathy. Green spaces soothe both body and brain, and you can reap the results with a spot in your own yard. Start your project by choosing an area with easy access. A small deck, porch, patio or corner of a garden provides a terrific foundation for a home-sweet-home getaway. Approach your project with an eye to design by including touches that speak to your style (retro? chic? urban?). You don’t have to spend big bucks to make it work. This welcoming retreat features a crate coffee table that blends beautifully with wooden chairs. Pots of colorful annuals bring nature near. Annuals include purple Angelonia with Raven (dark) sweet potato vine, Yellow Chiffon superbells, Royal Velvet supertunia, and ‘Banana Cream’ Shasta daisy with Vertigo purple fountain grass.
Large pink trumpet shape blooms cover mandevilla vine during summer, conjuring scenes of tropical beauty. This vine is a stunner that’s often grown in containers or hanging baskets. It makes a striking pillar of color when grown on a pot obelisk trellis. In most zones mandevilla is an annual vine that grows 6 to 8 feet in a single season. Overwinter indoors in a cool spot (above 45 degrees F). Leaves may drop, so water just enough it keep it alive. Growth will resume in spring. Mandevilla is hardy in Zones 10-11, where it can reach 10 to 15 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. Why we love it: Mandevilla is easy to grow and infuses even the northernmost garden with a tropical ambience.