Site rain gardens wherever they fit best in your yard, as long as it’s at least 5 to 10 feet away from your home’s foundation. Ideally, try to locate it in a spot where it will collect rain water runoff from nearby hard surfaces, like the walkways surrounding this corner garden. Rain gardens work in sunny or shady spots, like this one. Shade-loving plants including Japanese blood grass, red-flowered crocosmia, the feathery blooms of red astilbe and green arrowhead plant adapt readily to the fluctuating moisture of a rain garden and ensure season-long interest.
Get that elusive deep blue hue gardeners crave with drifts of ‘Blue Heron’ corydalis (Corydalis curviflora var. rosthornii). Red stems contrast prettily with blooms and blue-green leaves. Plants grow 8 inches tall by 10 inches wide. For best results, give ‘Blue Heron’ a spot in part to full shade with consistently moist soil. Watch for blooms from late spring to midsummer. In cool regions, flowers can appear all summer, although plants may go dormant with hot, dry conditions. Other corydalis varieties offer yellow blooms or gold leaves. Hardy in Zones 6-8.
‘Kirigami’ ornamental oregano isn’t meant for the kitchen—it’s purely a garden delight with its colorful bracts and lightly fragrant flowers. In autumn’s cool nights, the rose-purple bracts on ‘Kirigami’ (Origanum x hybrid ‘Kirigami’) deepen in color. Look for this beauty in spring to grow all summer long and into fall. Or pick it up at garden centers in autumn to decorate outdoor spaces until hard frost arrives. This oregano is winter hardy in planting beds in Zones 5b-8b. Tuck it into the garden at least six weeks before hard frost to help ensure winter survival. Next spring, dig it and pot it, or enjoy its trailing stems in the garden.
Spice up your landscape with Oso Easy Hot Paprika, an update of an earlier groundcover rose, Oso Easy Paprika. This new variety bears continuously from summer to fall, with vivid orange blooms on plants that reach one to two feet tall. The low-growing shrubs are disease resistant and very cold tolerant, growing even in zone 3. Don’t worry about deadheading the faded flowers; just cut the plants back by half their height each year in early spring. Try them in containers, borders and beds or as edging.
Chokecherrry is a beloved native tree known for its black cherries that beckon birds—and make good jelly, too. Goldspur amur chokecherry (Prunus maackii ‘Jefspur’) is a dwarf form of the classic native, bringing the multi-season beauty of this tree to a size that fits any yard. White flowers appear in spring, followed by black cherry fruits in summer. Leaves shift to yellow tones in autumn, but the best show occurs in winter, when the gold peeling bark is visible. Size: 10 to 15 feet tall by 6 to 9 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 2-9.
Killing actual dandelion plants is one tactic in the war on this weed. Another is creating an environment where dandelion seeds can’t successfully germinate. To do this, use a pre-emergent herbicide like corn gluten meal or Preen. This type of weedkiller interferes with seed germination, which means seeds can’t produce a plant. Use corn gluten meal in fall and early spring (about the time forsythia flowers). Another technique to make your yard unfriendly to dandelion seeds is to mulch planting beds, and don’t cut your lawn shorter than 2 to 3 inches. Taller grass grows thicker, shading soil so dandelion seeds can’t sprout.
Oriental lilies are showstoppers in the summer garden, opening richly colored and intensely fragrant blooms. Flowers appear from mid- to late summer and can linger for a few weeks. Oriental lilies grow from bulbs, which are best planted in fall in colder zones. Lily stems grow 24 to 48 inches tall and usually benefit from staking. Plants often spread over time to form a clump from 12 to 36 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9. Good vase companions for Oriental lily: hosta or baptisia leaves, ribbon grass, garden phlox or bee balm.
One reason many gardeners grow clematis is because they crave blue and purple colors in planting beds. Brother Stefan clematis delivers beautiful blue blooms—all summer long. It flowers on old and new growth, creating a plant that’s blanketed in blue hues. This gorgeous vine is named for Stefan Franczak, a Jesuit monk and noted horticulturist in Poland who developed many excellent clematis varieties. In early spring when buds swell, cut stems back to 3 feet high. Vines grow 5 to 7 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide—a great choice for an entry arch or pergola over a patio. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
Some clematis flowers release a sweet perfume that can scent an entire yard. ‘Sweet Summer Love’ is that kind of plant. This clematis blossoms all summer long, and each bloom is filled with sweet floral fragrance. On hot humid days, the scent hangs in the air. Blossoms open a cranberry hue and shift to purple as they age. Best of all, ‘Sweet Summer Love’ won’t invade your garden with unwanted seedlings (like its cousin, sweet autumn clematis). Vines grow 10 to 15 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide—a great choice for an entry arch or pergola over a patio. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
All parts of a pea plant are edible, including blossoms, shoots, tendrils and pods. Young shoots taste the best, while older ones tend to be tough and stringy. Pea shoots and blooms make a beautiful addition to spring salads and stir-fries. Many chefs use young pea plants to make pea stock or even ice cream. If you’re growing peas for shoots, harvest micro-greens when plants are 2-4 inches tall (roughly 2 weeks) and snap greens when plants are 4-8 inches tall (roughly 2-4 weeks). This pink-flowered variety is a snow pea known as ‘Dwarf Grey Sugar.’ Vines aren’t dwarf, though, growing 4 to 5 feet tall.
Cheerful and bright, marigolds make an easy-to-grow addition to any garden plan—in pots or planting beds. These perky annuals bring terrific color all season long. What you might not know is that marigolds pack a punch to many insects, including mosquitoes, thanks to chemical insecticides they release. That’s why marigolds have such a strong odor when you touch them. Both flowers and leaves release the chemicals, but blossoms deliver the strongest punch. Other insects that marigolds deter include aphid, whitefly, thrips, tomato hornworm, Mexican bean beetle and squash bug. Tuck marigolds into pots on the patio to make summer evenings less buggy. Or use them in the vegetable garden to help repel pests.
A non-native, invasive plant, garlic mustard grows in sun or shade, dry soil or wet. Its roots produce a chemical that inhibits other plants from growing. Thanks to these adaptations, it quickly colonizes areas. In many regions it’s displacing native forest plants, and in backyard gardens, it can quickly take over planting beds. Garlic mustard is a biennial, producing a small rosette of toothed, kidney shape leaves in Year 1, followed by a tall stem topped with flowers in Year 2. Remove (pull up stems and roots) and destroy any garlic mustard that appears on your property, putting it out with the trash.
An expandable, powder-coated steel trellis drops into your pea patch in a matter of seconds and adds a splash of color to boot. It’s best to add pea supports just before planting, so you can place seeds precisely. Once peas break through soil, withhold water slightly (don’t let plants wilt) during the early growing time. This causes the peas to root deeper into soil. Peas tend to be shallow-rooted plants, which makes them more susceptible to drought and heat. Deeper roots help prolong the harvest season, as does a 2- to 4-inch mulch layer over soil around vines. Use a trellis like this to give peas a lift in spring, and when summer comes, draft it for supporting tomatoes, cucumbers or flowering vines.
Mint is a workhorse in the garden when it comes to giving insects the brush off. To release the strong mint oils in leaves, brush against plants or crush leaves and rub on skin or clothing. Try tucking lightly bruised leaves (still attached to stems) into pockets or bouquets on your porch or patio to confuse and repel mosquitoes. This minty beauty (foreground) is variegated pineapple mint, but you can also use any mint, including spearmint, lemon mint or peppermint. Mints spread aggressively in the garden. Always plant it in containers, even in beds, keeping the edge of pots elevated at least an inch above soil. When mint flowers, the blooms attract beneficial insects, including ones that sting, like wasps. If you don’t want these insects near seating areas, keep plants trimmed so blooms don’t form.