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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
For summer bloom, turn to native, easy-care shrub sweetspire. Scarlet Beauty sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Morton’) unfurls long white flower clusters mid-June to early July, flooding summer days and nights with luxurious fragrance. Blossoms buzz with pollinator activity, including bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. This is a must-have plant for wildlife gardens. The fall color season unfolds slowly with leaves in shades of vibrant scarlet-reds and deep oranges that hit their peak in early November. Plants thrive in sun to shade, tolerate moist soil and grow 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9. Good to know: If pruning is needed, do so immediately after flowering, before blossom buds form on mature stems. In early spring, remove any stems that fail to leaf out.
Hops offers a nice ornamental form that works well in the garden on a pergola or strong, well-anchored arch. The flower, known as a cone, forms in late summer. This is the part you harvest to make beer. ‘Cascade’ hops (Humulus lupulus ‘Cascade’) is a disease-resistant vine that ripens cones used to make American pale ales. Pick cones in late summer, dry them in a warm, dark place, and freeze in airtight bags until you’re ready to brew your own craft ale. Undemanding hops vines are easy to grow. After vines die to the ground with frost, prune to ground level and wait for new growth to appear in spring. Vines can grow to 25 feet high in one season and up to 6 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
A leaf rake comes in handy for moving leaves, pine cones, fallen fruit and other tree-related items. Look for an ergonomic design that makes the task an easy extension of natural body movements. Choose a wide head with springy tines to make quick work of cleaning large areas. For raking leaves from around shrubs, select a rake with a small head and shorter handle. Use a lawn rake with thin tines to gather grass clippings or clean up the lawn after winter. A bow rake is handy for soil prep in vegetable gardens and new beds, as well as raking gravel areas. A small hand rake earns its keep if you have planting beds beneath trees. Its widely spaced tines let you remove leaves without damaging plants.
Primroses (Primulas) bloom in early spring or late winter. Their sweet flowers last for a few weeks indoors, and after they fade, most gardeners toss them in the compost bin. The Victorians loved primroses, growing the plants in greenhouses and conservatories. They've never really gone out of favor, although it’s not easy to coax them back into bloom. For best results, keep their soil slightly moist, grow them in a cool room, and add humidity to the air by sitting them atop some gravel in a tray filled with a little water. To stimulate more blooms, move your primrose outside when the weather is reliably warm. Bring it back indoors before frost, let it go dormant for a month or two and cross your fingers--or just buy new plants to enjoy. ‘Sweet 16’ is a large-flowered variety that blooms in white and shades of pink.
Go native with false indigo, a prairie plant that’s low maintenance and gorgeous. Pretty blue-purple flower spikes appear in late spring and make a great addition to a garden-fresh bouquet. Leaves have a blue-green tone that looks stunning in a vase—harvest stems all season long. Dried seedpods make a nice addition to fall arrangements. This is a tap-rooted perennial, which means it’s not easy to move once established. Plant it where you know it can stay put. False indigo offers different flower colors, including blends of blue, yellow, brown and white. The variety shown is ‘Blueberry Sundae.’ False indigo are deer-resistant plants that grow 4 feet tall by 3 to 4 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9. Good vase companions for false indigo: bearded iris, peony, clustered bellflower, purple coneflower and echibeckia.