By Jan Cashman

Why not make your landscape good to eat?  If you are going to give your plants tender loving care, let them give you something in return besides beauty—fruits, vegetables, and herbs.  Whether you are designing a new landscape or remodeling or adding to an existing one, the same design principles apply with edible plants and non-edibles.  Of course, all the plants in your landscape don’t have to be edible.  Mix in fruiting trees and shrubs and vegetables and herbs wherever they will fit and look good.  Here are some ways to use edible plants in your landscape:

Trees

Although tiny crabapples attract birds, apple trees with full- sized apples can give your family fruit to eat.  All apple trees are beautiful when in flower, but there are a few which are more floriferous and also have better fruit.  The umbrella shape of the small hazen apple tree, is stunning in the spring, when it produces thousands of pinkish-white blossoms.   Hazen’s tasty apples mature around Labor Day.   Hardy chestnut crab apples, another favorite of mine, produce lots of pure white blossoms which mature into small apples with an interesting, delicious flavor.  Plant semi-dwarf apple trees in small yards—they are easier to pick, whatever the size of your yard.

Apricot trees have an abundance of beautiful white blossoms early in the spring, before most other trees and shrubs are in bloom.   If apricots blossom too early, the fruit may freeze, but if they don’t freeze, the apricots are delicious.  Plums trees blossom a little later than apricots.  Mount Royal is a small, self-fertile plum tree that produces prune-type fruit, ripening in late fall.  Mount Royal plums are delicious for eating fresh, pies, drying, and jams.

Meteor pie cherry is an attractive dwarf tree that is self-fertile and quite hardy for our area.  In the spring, it is filled with beautiful, pure white blossoms.  Our 30-year-old cherry tree has produced unbelievable crops of tart cherries that make delicious pies and cobblers.  Last year my husband and pie-baker, Jerry, made many cherry pies out of these bright red cherries.

Our large luscious pear tree has glossy deep green leaves and produces small, firm pears, good for desserts and canning.  It is a beautiful tree in its own right, so the fruit is a welcome bonus.

Shrubs

Instead of sterile alpine currant shrubs, plant consort black and red lake currants, or pixwell gooseberries, which all have fruit which is good for jams, jellies, and pies.  Nanking and Western sand cherries make attractive hedges and produce small cherries for preserves—Nanking cherries are sweet enough to eat fresh! 

Two selections of Juneberry, or serviceberry,  ‘Regent’ and ‘Smoky’, are attractive for their white flowers in the spring, dark purple fruit good for jelly, and reddish fall foliage.  These two juneberries would also make a good hedge.  Elderberries, big, fast-growing shrubs, produce a lot of blue-black fruit useful for pies, jam, and wine. 

Don’t forget the delicious and easy-to-grow raspberry, which can be planted against a fence or wall for ornamentation and fruit.

Vines

If you want a vine to decorate the side of your house or to climb a fence, plant a grape.  There are several hardy grape varieties, such as Valiant, that grow easily in our climate.  Grapes need to be planted in a hot, sunny spot in order to get fully ripe.

Ground Covers

Strawberry plants are a natural ground cover as their runners spread.  Or plant mounding cullinary thyme instead of the other ornamental thyme ground covers, which aren’t so tasty.

Perennials

The huge leaves of easy-to-grow rhubarb plants are a focal point planted amidst perennial flowers.   Perennial herbs, like oregano, chives, sage, and tarragon, flower and are ornamental, besides adding flavor to your family’s meals.

Annuals

Mix attractive vegetable plants such as red or green-leafed lettuce or kale in with your annual flowers.   I’ve even seen big vining squash and cucumbers planted to fill in empty spots in flower gardens.  Tuck annual herbs into your flower beds.  In some climates, rosemary is used as a short perennial hedge, but here, rosemary, parsely, and basil are attractive, useful, annual herbs.

Containers

You can grow almost any vegetable or herb in a container.   Tomatoes are commonly grown in containers.   Plastic Earth Boxes work well for tomato and pepper plants because they are watered from the bottom.  But, try pretty ceramic pots filled with vegetables.  A few years ago, we planted vining snap peas in large containers.  We used bamboo stakes tied together with jute twine for them to climb on—they grew well, ripened early, and produced lots of delicious peas.

With an edible landscape, you will be able to grow tasty food better than any you can purchase in the grocery store.  Remember, “An edible landscape is the only form of gardening that truly nurtures all the senses.”

by Jan Cashman

Our winter landscapes are naturally beautiful, with the snow laden branches of evergreens, long tree shadows on the snow on a sunny day, and hoarfrost glistening on branches on a frosty morning.  Certain trees and shrubs are exceptional for their winter beauty and interest.  Here are five of the best:

Upright Evergreens

Blue-toned upright junipers, dark green arborvitae, and tall spruce trees all give us color in our yards amid the whites and grays of winter.  Evergreens are resplendent with branches laden with white snow.  They also provide shelter for our feathered friends like chickadees that don’t go south for the winter.

Cherry Trees

The attractive, orange, exfoliating (peeling) bark of cherry trees and others in the Prunus genus, such as Amur chokecherry, has light-colored lenticels that are more noticeable in the winter when the leaves are off.   In fact, all mature trees have bark with interesting, rough texture, especially Toba hawthorn, whose bark seems to twist around its trunk.

Flowering Crabs

Flowering crabs are not only beautiful in the spring when they bloom.  Their small, red crabapples often hang onto the branches in the winter so they look like they are decorated for Christmas.  These crabapples are a favorite food of birds.  We’ve seen ruffed grouse and cedar waxwings eating the crabapples off our radiant crab in the winter months.  Mountain ash trees and high bush cranberry shrubs also have berries for winter interest and wildlife attraction.

Red Twig Dogwood

Few plants provide as much color in the winter and early spring as the native red twig dogwood.   Both the dwarf form, known as ‘Isanti’, and variegated-leafed ‘Ivory Halo’ dogwoods have these same red twigs.  The red twigs are even more vibrant red in the new, hardy selection called ‘Cardinal’.

Roses

Any shrub rose will have colorful rose hips but tall, hardy glauca rose, also known as ‘red leafed’ rose, provides lots of bright red hips.   We cut rose hips off our glauca rose in the winter for decorating evergreen wreaths, but left on, the hips are beautiful with its violet-colored stems against the snow.

Ornamental grasses, tall perennials like Autumn Joy sedum, oak trees and weeping birch with their unusual shapes, also provide landscape interest in the winter.  Winter gardens don’t have to be drab and lifeless.  With the selection of a few key trees and shrubs, your garden can be even more beautiful in all seasons!

By Jan Cashman

A friend and customer came in our nursery yesterday and announced, “I need some color!”  This last winter was long and snowy.  Spring has been cold and rainy, and slow in arriving.  We’re all sick of the white, brown, and gray tones of winter and ready for color—blue sky, green grass, and colorful flowers!

The colors we use, whether in our landscape design, our home’s interior, clothing, or a painting, create a mood.  Warm, bright colors—red, yellow, orange—advance and are cheerful.  Blues and lavenders recede and are restful.   In our summer landscapes, the green of grass and leaves becomes our background color.  We then add other colors with flowering bulbs, annual and perennial flowers, ornamental grasses, vines, trees and shrubs with flowers and colorful leaves and twigs, and evergreens.

Flowering bulbs like tulips and daffodils, available in many colors, provide first color in the spring, but must be planted in the fall.  Don’t forget, next September or October, to plant some colorful bulbs.

It’s easy to create your favorite color scheme with annual flowers that come in a rainbow of colors and bloom all summer.  But, many gardeners are planting perennials instead of annual flowers so they won’t have to replant every year.  This makes sense, but, since most perennial flowers bloom for only a few weeks, plan for perennials that bloom at different times throughout the summer.  Tuck a few colorful annuals like zinnias or petunias into your perennial bed for added color.

May and June are the glory months for colorful, flowering trees and shrubs.  Starting with the pale pink blossoms of the plum family, we move into the stunning flowering crabapples with blossoms from white to pink to almost red in late May.  Then, come the lilacs.  Lilac varieties can give you fragrant blooms for over a month, starting with the early and common lilacs and ending with white Japanese tree lilacs, which bloom here in late June or early July.  Some lilacs have pink (Montaigne) or blue (President Grevy) flowers.  Finally, colorful shrub roses start blooming in June and many continue to bloom all summer.  One favorite is hardy, cherry-pink Winnipeg Parks Rose.

Plants with gold, red, or variegated leaves can add spark to your landscape.  Heuchera (Coral Bells) is a favorite perennial for shade, with leaves ranging from golden yellow to variegated to chocolate brown.  There is a even new bleeding heart with golden leaves.  Succulent, sun-loving sedums, both short and tall varieties, have leaves in colors from gold to gray-green to red.  Some ornamental grasses have golden, variegated, deep red, or bluish leaves.

‘Darts Gold’ ninebark is a popular shrub with yellow leaves; taller ‘Diablo’ ninebark’s leaves are reddish-purple.  One of our best selling trees is Canada red cherry.  Gardeners like this small, hardy tree for its deep burgundy leaves that contrast with green grass; it also has fragrant white flowers in the spring and red chokecherries in the fall.  Many flowering crabs have colorful leaves; radiant crabapple has green leaves tinged with bronze; thunderchild has deep purple leaves.  The bright orange berries of mountain ash are showy in late summer.

Maples and burning bush are only two of the many plants whose leaves become a blaze of color in the fall.  Plants like Autumn brilliance serviceberry, which has white flowers in the spring, followed by showy, purplish-black fruit, and brilliant red-orange fall leaves, provide three seasons of color.   ‘Miss Kim’ is the only lilac whose leaves turn burgundy-red in the fall.  Winter landscapes would be pretty drab without evergreens, so don’t forget them in your landscape planning.  The steel blue of globe blue spruce makes a statement in a shrub bed, summer and winter.

The color of your pottery, or the color of your house, even the color of the mulch you are using, all are part of your landscape’s color scheme.  Terra cotta containers provide a neutral background for flowers.  But be daring and plant a cobalt blue container with contrasting orange flowers!  (Mix in a few blue flowers to echo the color of the container.)  Or paint a shed door or Adirondack chairs bright red, yellow, or blue.   Natural, neutral wood mulches, like shredded cedar and soil pep (ground up bark), blend into the landscape.   Pinkish scoria rock or dark red lava rock mulches can provide colorful accents.

For continuity, repeat colors throughout your landscape and flower beds.  Mix and layer plants with colorful flowers, leaves, and fruit for color in your yard year round!

by Jan Cashman

It’s fun to watch birds out your window, especially in the winter.   If you provide adequate food, shelter, and water for them, you can attract a wide variety of birds to your yard.  Many species of birds are found in Bozeman and the surrounding area.  Sparrows, finches, chickadees, cedar waxwings, grosbeaks, even Hungarian partridge, ruffed grouse and pheasants are some we have seen in our yard.  Here are a few ways to attract more birds to your yard in the winter—and summer, too:

Food

A bird feeder filled with oiled sunflower seeds will attract finches and chickadees.  We once added thistle seed to our feeder, but found that the birds dropped some seed which emerged into thistles next spring.  ‘Nyjer’ is an imported nutritious substitute for thistle seed, higher in calories and oil, and heat sterilized to prevent germination.   Suet, hung near your bird feeder, is also a good source of heat and energy for birds in the winter.

It is better to buy individual kinds of bird seed rather than a mix; the birds will just toss the seeds they don’t like in the mix on the ground.

Provide bird food at different levels to appeal to different kinds of birds.  Bird seed doesn’t have to be in a bird feeder.  We sprinkle seed on our deck rail; and on the ground for pheasants, grouse, and partridge.

Plants for the Birds

Besides buying food for your bird feeders, plant trees and shrubs that produce seeds and fruit.  Native plants provide food and shelter that the birds are accustomed to.   Serviceberry, dogwood, silver buffaloberry, skunkbrush sumac, wild rose, alder, Douglas hawthorn, chokecherry, snowberry, yellow currant, and junipers are all native plants that will make the birds feel at home.

Flowers with abundant seeds, both annual and perennial, like sunflowers and purple coneflower, will attract birds.  Don’t be too quick to dead-head flowers that are done blooming; let them go to seed.

Small, fruit-bearing trees, such as mountain ash, flowering crabs, Russian olive, alder, and hawthorn, provide good food and nesting habitat for your feathered friends.   A flock of cedar waxwings or grosbeaks will swoop into a mountain ash tree in the winter and eat every berry.  Many of the newer varieties of flowering crabs have fruit which is ‘persistant’, in other words, the fruit hangs on the tree until eaten by the birds; it does not drop on the ground and make a mess.

Large shrubs like serviceberry, high bush cranberry, arrowwood viburnum, buffaloberry, Nanking cherry, cotoneaster, and honeysuckle, provide food for birds.  Avoid severe pruning of these shrubs—the birds will like them better if you let them grow tall and natural.  Currants and gooseberries are smaller shrubs with good fruit for birds (if you don’t use their fruit yourself).    Shrub roses are great for birds, providing protection and edible rose hips.

Both Virginia creeper and dropmore scarlet honeysuckle are vines that produce fruit for the birds, plus their tangled vines can provide hiding and nesting places.

Shelter

While bluebirds need a nesting box, most birds just need shelter from the elements and a place to hide.  Evergreen trees provide good shelter both winter and summer.   The large, old Techny arborvitaes surrounding our deck provide wonderful shelter for shy chickadees.  Spruce and upright junipers also make good shelter.  Tall shade trees provide a necessary canopy for the birds in the summer.  Maples and birch trees have the added bonus of seeds.

An impeccably manicured yard with lots of mowed grass is not the ideal landscape for birds.  Birds prefer a wild, natural environment.  An unmowed field of wildflowers and native grasses can provide food and cover for many birds.  Dead trees left standing and brush piles may not be beautiful to our eyes, but they can provide nesting places, food, and cover.  If you live in the country, you may want to leave your yard a little rough around the edges for the birds.

Water

Birds need water—they especially like running water.  Heaters can be purchased for bird baths in the winter, providing necessary shallow water access.  Always keep your bird bath filled with water.  A pond, big or small, located near protective cover, gives the large birds someplace to go.  Ducks might stay all winter if your pond has open water.

Provide food for the birds, plants that give them shelter, and a water source, and you will have birds of all kinds in your yard—this winter, and next spring, summer and fall.

by Jan Cashman 12/04/08

The Home and Garden Channel has had a series on the 25 Biggest Mistakes made in areas like Decorating, Real Estate, and Renovating. The program that interested me most in this series was the one on the 25 Biggest Landscaping Mistakes. I asked our staff what mistakes they see people making when they landscape. We came up with 14. Here they are:

  1. Not figuring landscape costs when building or purchasing a new home, so there is no money left when it’s time to landscape. Although homeowners are becoming more aware of necessary landscaping costs, saving for landscaping is often neglected because it is the last thing to complete on a new home.
  2. Not having a landscape plan. Instead of a unified, cohesive landscape that looks well thought out, without a plan, your landscape design could be a series of unrelated plantings.
  3. Forgetting hardscape. Retaining walls, stone pathways, patios, trellises, fences, light posts, even mailboxes, all create an essential background to show off your plants.
  4. Making planting beds too small. Narrow foundation plantings and tiny berms, are dwarfed by the home and look out of scale. Minimum width for a foundation planting on a one story house is 6 to 8 feet. Berms should be in scale to your lot and the plants you are planting in them.
  5. Not starting with good soil. Some soils in our valley are black and fertile. Others are mostly clay or full of rocks. If you have poor soil, amend before you plant grass, shrubs, and trees, and flower and vegetable gardens. Your plants will be glad you did.
  6. Poor planting procedures. Many people don’t know how to plant a tree or shrub. Plants are forced into too small a hole. They are sometimes planted too deeply. These mistakes can hinder a plant’s growth, or even kill it.
  7. Waiting too long to plant trees. If you don’t have the time or the money to complete your whole landscape at once, at least plant trees. Trees grow slowly in our climate, so start establishing them as soon as you can. Because flowers and shrubs grow quicker, they can wait.
  8. Planting or edging in straight lines. In nature, trees don’t grow in straight lines so planting them that way looks artificial. When creating an edge between a shrub or flower bed and grass, it is more pleasing to the eye to use a curved edge. Even hedges look better planted with a slight curve. And flowers look more natural planted in groupings, not rows.
  9. Not considering maintenance in your design and choice of plants. Small spaces and tight turns for your lawn mower, too many flower beds to weed, and lack of mulch, can mean more work. You want to be able to enjoy your landscape, not spend every minute caring for it.
  10. Planting a plant in the wrong place. Plants’ hardiness, sun and water requirements differ. Plant those with like requirements together. Learn your plants’ needs and they will do better.
  11. Failure to understand fertilizing practices. Without fertilizer, lawns look pale, even yellow. Flowers and vegetables grow better with regular fertilizer applications. If you don’t want to use chemical fertilizers, many organic fertilizers are available.
  12. Overwatering. Those who have drip and sprinkler systems sometimes fail to monitor them and end up drowning their plants.
  13. Not pruning. Though plants grow slowly here, they still grow. Many plants require pruning to keep them in control and shapely. Hedges will grow denser with proper pruning. Fruit trees need to be thinned to let sunlight in. Too many branches on an apple tree will produce lots of tiny apples instead of fewer, bigger, fruits. Suckers look untidy and should be pruned from the bottom of tree trunks. Low branches on shade trees should be removed as they grow to enable one to mow and walk under them. Some shrubs get leggy without pruning.
  14. Not considering the mature size of a plant when placing it in your landscape. This was the one mistake that everyone on our staff mentioned first. That small tree or shrub you purchased will grow. The extreme example of this mistake is a spruce tree planted in a small front yard in the older part of town that now fills up the front yard, prevents the homeowner from seeing out his windows, blocks the sidewalk or grows together with another spruce planted next to it. Even though that mistake seems obvious, many don’t realize the mature size of trees and shrubs, and, therefore, plant them too close together or too close to the house.

We see many beautifully landscaped homes in and around Bozeman. Most homeowners in our area do a good job of landscaping. Hopefully, reading about these mistakes might help you to avoid them and improve your landscaping.

by Jan Cashman

The summer gardening season is short here. The first frost kills tender annuals and nipsthe tops of some perennials. Suddenly, our gardens don’t look so good. Here are some ideas to brighten up your gardens and extend the season:

Plant fall blooming perennials. Mums, asters, purple coneflower (Echinacea) and brown eyed susans (Rudbeckia) are commonly planted flowers that give late color to yourperennial garden. These are all good in our fall gardens, but there are a few others that are equally showy. White ‘David’ garden phlox is a favorite of mine. It blooms for a long period starting in mid-August and will take some frost. When cut, its old-fashioned fragrance fills the house; the flowers last a long time in water. Autumn Joy Sedum is easy to grow and provides four season interest in the garden, especially in the fall when the flower clusters turn a rosy-red. The perennial Joe Pye Weed, named after an American herbalist, blooms late with rose-red blooms that attract butterflies. Its height makes it a perfect background plant. Even though they are done blooming, some perennials such as hardy geraniums, make a fall impact in our gardens when their foliage turns bright red.

Showy and unusual, the lavender-colored flowers of the low-growing Autumn crocus (Colchicum) will have your friends and neighbors asking what it is. This long-lived bulb is planted in the fall and blooms in the fall.

Ornamental grasses are perfect for fall gardens with their golden seed heads and leaves. The tall grass called Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’ turns red-orange in the fall. Panicum ‘Shenandoah’ turns dark red and has delicate, beadlike seed heads.

The first frost takes many of our annuals like marigolds, zinnias and impatiens. But other annuals, such as dusty miller and snapdragons, tough out the frost and look fine. Leave these annuals as long as you can, and interplant with ornamental kale and mums where you have removed the frozen plants. I have had good luck with fall planting of pansies; they came back full and beautifully early in the spring, where my spring-planted pansies came back sporadically and small.

Your container gardens may be looking a bitleggy by late summer. Cut back the plants that need it and pull out those that are failing. Then tuck in ornamental kale, pansies, or mums to give your containers a freshfall look. Ornamental grasses are a perfect plant for fallcontainers. Small evergreens added to your containers take the look into early winter.

Fall is a good time to plant trees and shrubs because the weather is cooler and the plants are starting to go dormant. There is less transplant shock and the plantshave time to root in before winter. Quaking aspens’ golden fall color makes our valley beautiful. Birch, too. New maple trees with stunning fall leaves are being selected for hardiness each year. Some are surviving well here. Shorter tatarian and ginnala maples are hardier and have bright red-orange leaves in the fall.

Burning bush, cotoneaster, spireas, and dwarf cranberrybush shrubs give our yards brilliant fall color. Less often planted, but equally brilliant in the fall, are tall, hardy nannyberry viburnum and drought tolerant, native skunkbrush sumac. There is even a lilac whose leaves turn dark burgundy in the fall called Miss Kim.

Don’t be too quick to cut back your flowers this fall. I leave my perennials until the foliage turns brown. Leave ornamental grasses and tall sedums and they will add interest to your gardenall winter. Other flowers can be cut, dried and used for flower arrangements and Christmas decorating.

There are lots of plants-annuals, perennials, grasses, trees, and shrubs-that give your yard color in the fall. Plant some in your perennial garden, annual garden, containers, and landscape for a burst of color.

 

by Jan Cashman

During this time of the year, I am glad I have lots of perennial flowers emerging in my beds. Planting a lot of annuals every spring is time consuming. After reading articles in gardening magazines, consulting our wonderful staff, and visiting a botanical garden with a huge and beautiful perennial border while on vacation, I came up with twelve hints to help you create a spectacular perennial border:

  1. Make sure your border is wide enough. Six to eight feet is minimum for most borders. Any less and it will look skimpy. A clean edge between your border and the grass is nice, but grass will creep in. Landscape edging can help keep the grass out. Black vinyl edging is easy to install and relatively inexpensive. Aluminum and steel edgings are less visible. Or be creative with a rock or brick edge.
  2. A border needs a background. A fence, the rail of your deck, a stone wall, a row of evergreens, even your house or garage wall can provide a backdrop for your flowers.
  3. Start with good soil. The best way to do this is to mix organic matter into your existing soil-compost, composted manure, or peat moss.
  4. Consider the exposure of your garden. You’ll need to choose different plants for sun or shade.
  5. Don’t plant in straight lines. Curve the edge of your border to give it a natural look. Don’t plant your flowers in straight lines, but plant relaxed, gently curved masses of 3 or more of each flower.
  6. Plan for four seasons of color. Tulips, crocus, daffodils, and hyacinth bulbs are planted in the fall for early spring blooms. Find out when different perennial flowers bloom; then choose for blooms in spring, summer, and fall. Winter interest can be achieved by adding evergreens to the mix, leaving ornamental grasses standing all winter, and planting shrubs with colorful twigs such as red twig dogwoods. A large border can contain all the colors on the color wheel in various arrangements. For a smaller border, pick a color scheme from your favorite colors.
  7. Focus on foliage. Strap-leafed plants such as tall ornamental grasses and iris add a vertical dimension among plants with mounded shapes. Intersperse plants with large leaves like ornamental rhubarb. Variegated foliage adds interest. Don’t forget to use plants with colorful leaves like those I mentioned in last month’s article.
  8. Consider the shape of the plant. I like the looks of plants that grow in small, round clumps. But a garden with only round clumps of flowers is too much of the same thing. Intersperse them with upright plants, sprawling plants, and maybe some pyramidal shapes. Different flower shapes can add interest to your garden; the huge round flowers of giant allium stand up above its foliage. Spiky flowers such as delphinium and salvia have vertical lines.
  9. Tall plants don’t have to be planted in the back. They can be staggered in the middle areas of your border, especially if they are see-through plants whose flowers stand up above the foliage.
  10. Add some annuals. The first year or two after planting, before your perennials mature, plant annual flowers to fill in spaces. Most annuals bloom all summer, so they will add color to your perennial border during times when perennials are not blooming.
  11. Evergreens, roses, shrubs, and ornamental grasses make your border more interesting. Dwarf evergreens such as globe blue spruce add a different color and texture to your border. Bright green dwarf Alberta spruce can add a pyramidal shape. Many newer shrub roses are compact enough to fit in your border. They have striking flower colors, mostly pinks and reds, are fragrant, and many bloom all summer. Dwarf red leafed barberries, spireas, and ninebarks can add color with their leaves. Ornamental grasses add texture and winter interest. Some have variegated leaves.
  12. Once you plant it, don’t forget it. Adequate water has been especially important for plants these last few hot summers. I fertilize my perennial gardens once in May, when the perennials are emerging, with a small handful of slow-release, well-balanced fertilizer around each plant. Weed control can be a challenge. A 2 to 3 inch layer of soil pep (ground up bark) surrounding the plants holds moisture in the soil, retards weed growth, and makes the weeds that do come up easier to pull. Don’t be afraid to thin or cut back perennial flowers that are overgrowing their spaces or popping up where you don’t want them.

Use these hints to avoid common mistakes and help you create a beautiful and colorful perennial border with accents of grasses, shrubs, evergreens, and annuals.

 

by Jan Cashman 5/4/08

Trends come and go in gardening, just as they do in clothing and home furnishings. This year, we are seeing lots of plants with colorful leaves of burgundy, purple, yellow, gold, and variegated combinations of white or cream and green. These plants give color to our gardens even when no flowers are in bloom.

New varieties of popular Huechera-common name Coral Bells-are being released with an amazing range of foliage colors from dark purplish-brown to chartreuse to interesting variegated green and white patterns. I have colorful heucheras in my shade garden; they also work well in a container garden for a shady spot. ‘Palace Purple’ Heuchera planted next to ‘Crème Brule’, with its golden-bronze leaves, or ‘Citronella’ whose leaves are chartreuse makes a striking contrast.

Bergenia is a perennial flower that has always been a favorite of our staff because of its hardiness and large thick glossy leaves. A new variety called ‘Bressingham Ruby’ has deep green foliage with maroon undersides. Its leaves stay alive under the snow in the winter; plant them next to yellow daffodils for an early spring show.

For hot, dry spots, plant hardy sedums that have colorful, succulent-type leaves. Some sedums are ground covers; low-growing ‘Angelina’ has golden, needle-like foliage; ‘Tricolor’ has green leaves with a cream and red edge. Some of the upright sedums have burgundy-colored foliage; a new one called “Autumn Charm’ has green leaves edged in creamy white.

Many ground covers have colorful leaves. Easy-to-grow Lamium, with variegated leaves, is a favorite of mine in my shade garden. It has pretty pink flowers in early spring. Another popular lamium, ‘White Nancy’, has a pure white flower. There is a bright, yellow-leafed Lamium with pink flowers which spreads quickly. Pulmonaria is an interesting ground cover for shade; its leaves have cute white spots. It was named Pulmonaria because the leaves are supposed to look like the inside of diseased lungs.

The herb, Purple Sage, has ornamental grayish-purple foliage; another decorative sage is ‘Tricolor’; as the name implies, it has cream, purple, and pink and areas all on the same leaf. Most of the creeping thymes, with their wonderfully aromatic foliage, are used for ground covers, not cooking. Some varieties of creeping thyme have variegated or golden leaves. Thymes grow best in full sun, as do most herbs.

Coleus is probably the most outstanding colored-leafed annual found in a huge variety of multicolored leaves of red, orange, burgundy, chartreuse, yellow and white. Coleus grows quickly and adds splashes of bright color to your container gardens. Sweet potato vine, planted to trail over the edge of containers or hanging baskets, comes in chartreuse or deep purplish-black leaves.

A favorite plant of Bonnie Hickey, our bedding plant buyer, is an iris whose leaves have yellow and green stripes with a fragrant, lilac-blue flower. From early in the spring until well after this iris blooms, the striped bright yellow and green leaves provide interest in your garden.

Many ornamental grasses not only add a linear texture to your gardens, but also have variegated or colored leaves. Purple Majesty Millet is actually a corn plant with dark burgundy leaves, showy mixed in a large container with yellow and orange flowers. Overdam is a tall perennial reed grass with green and white striped foliage. The low-growing, hardy Elijah Blue Fescue grass has silvery blue leaves that pop out at the front of a border or in a container planting.

Try mixing a few colorful shrubs into your flower gardens or even in larger container gardens. Spireas such as tiny Magic Carpet, or tall Tiger Eyes Sumac and Golden Elder have golden leaf colors. A new ninebark called ‘Summer Wine’ has dark crimson-purple leaves. Junipers with blue foliage, such as Blue Chip or Wichita Blue, stand out against darker, green-leafed plants.

Colors opposite each other on the color wheel-blue and orange, purple and yellow-pop when planted together. Golden yellow leaves contrast with purple or burgundy leaves and flowers. Burgundy leaves give a warm Southwestern look when interplanted with red and orange flowers. Variegated and bluish-gray leaves don’t overpower pastel pinks. Whether you are planting these colorful-leafed plants in your perennial garden, your shade garden, or in a container garden, have fun with the color combinations. Mix, match, and remember that not only flowers, but interesting leaves, too, can add color to your garden.

by Jan Cashman

April is the time to start planting shrubs. This year, consider shrubs that are not just pretty, but have edible berries. Intersperse them in your landscape as ornamentals that will also put food on the table. Although most of the berries of these fruiting shrubs are for jams and jellies, some are good made into pies and a few of them are sweet enough to eat fresh. The deep colors of many of these berries suggest that they are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They also attract our feathered friends. In fact, you have to be quick to pick their fruit before the birds do.

Some of the best fruiting shrubs are found in the Prunus (plum) genus. Native to China and Japan, hardy Nanking cherry (Prunus tomentosa) has lovely pale pink flowers all along its stem. It is one of the first shrubs to flower in the spring and can be planted as a single plant but also makes an attractive hedge, growing to about 8 feet. The small red cherries are tart like pie cherries and make excellent jams, jellies and wine.

Western sand cherry (Prunus besseyi) is tolerant of dry soils and produces black acidy cherries that can be used for preserves. The shrub grows to approximately 5 feet high and wide with fragrant white flowers in early spring and silvery-green leaves. A new Western sand cherry introduction from Colorado called ‘Pawnee Butte’ hugs the ground like a spreading juniper but still produces lots of black cherries.

My mother used to make delicious syrup from common chokecherries, also in the Prunus genus. Most of the chokecherries we sell are Canada red cherry, a selection from the native that has red leaves. The fragrant white flowers and fruit of the Canada red cherry are no different from the common. Chokecherries can be grown as small single stem trees (20 feet) or as clumps. A row of them makes an effective tall screening hedge.

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), no relation to chokecherry, is a small, compact shrub with four seasons of interest that grows easily in all types of soil. The common name “chokeberry” comes from the astringency of the black fruits which are inedible when raw. However, the berries are extremely high in antioxidants and can be cooked with sugar added for juice or jam. The astringency of the fruit doesn’t bother the birds; they’ll eat the berries all winter. ‘Autumn Magic,’ a new cultivar from Canada, has more flowers, larger fruit and beautiful red-purple fall color.

Ribes (currant) is another genus of shrubs that produces edible fruit. Red lake currants and gooseberries, both ribes, bear their fruit on 2 to 3 year old wood, so won’t produce much the first couple of years. Bright red currants make great jams and jellies. My husband, Jerry, says gooseberry pie is the best pie he has ever eaten. Unfortunately, many of the currants are carriers of white pine blister rust. This disease affects white pines in eastern U.S. Around Ennis, white pine blister rust has started to infect and kill native limber pines, a relative of white pine. Black currant is immune to this disease, so it would be a better currant to plant.

Serviceberry, Saskatoons, Saskatoon serviceberry, Shadblow, Juneberry are all common names for the same fruiting shrub, Amelanchier alnifolia. This fruiting shrub is sometimes called Western blueberry because it is native and grows easily here, where true blueberries prefer more acid soils than we have. Huckleberry, a native with fruit similar to a blueberry, is growing in the surrounding mountains, but huckleberries also prefer more acid soils than are found in our valley. Juneberries are tasty and can be eaten fresh or used in the same ways you would use a blueberry. Indians dried Juneberries to make pemmican. Smoky and Theissen are two varieties grown commercially by Canadians that produce an abundance of sweet, mild fruit.

Regent is a form of Juneberry that makes a good landscape shrub because it stays smaller and more compact than the native, growing to 5 or 6 feet in height and width; the native will grow to over 12 feet. Regent has stunning yellow-red fall color. All varieties of Juneberry are suitable for a hedge.

Elderberry is a tall, hardy, native shrub which produces an edible berry. It is one of our fastest growing shrubs; a mature elderberry which you have pruned severely will grow back to 6 feet or more in one summer. Adams and York are two selections grown for their large fruit and productivity. Plant one of each for better pollination. Elderberries, especially high in antioxidants, are used for pies, jams, and wine.

Buffaloberry, called bullberry by the old-timers, is a large, extremely drought resistant native shrub that has silvery leaves and orange-red berries which make wonderful jelly. The challenge is harvesting the fruit. The shrubs have sharp thorns and do not let go of their fruit easily. Jerry has a friend in Eastern Montana that he supplies with the fruit; then she gives us some of her jelly. By mid to late October when the berries are ripe, he puts a tarp under the shrub and beats the branches with a stick. Of course, leaves and twigs end up with the berries and have to be separated. Buffaloberries form a significant part of game birds’ diets in Montana.

Highbush cranberry and other viburnums have edible berries good for jelly, although most of us let the birds have their berries. In early winter, cedar waxwings flock in and eat them all off the cranberrybush right outside our window in one day.

Fruiting shrubs are attractive in the landscape and give you nutritious food for your family or your feathered friends. Find room in your yard for them this spring!

by Jan Cashman

Every time I open a magazine lately I see articles about “green living” or “sustainability”. What do they mean by “green”? What is “sustainability”? And what is this thing called our “ecological footprint”? I wasn’t sure so I looked them up. Simply put, “green” means “environmentally friendly”. “Sustainability” means that we don’t take more out of the earth than we are able to put back. Our “ecological footprint” is a measurement of the human demand on nature compared to the earth’s ability to regenerate or “sustain” these natural resources.

Yes, these can be fads and buzz words. We, at Cashman Nursery, have been practicing “green, sustainable” practices for years, although we didn’t call them that. We like to think our business is the ultimate “green” business. But research and new ideas show us other ways that we have not been so “green” and can improve.

Planting trees is our favorite way to be “green”. Trees and plants are not only a huge benefit to our environment, we can’t live without them, because, during the photosynthesis process, plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and, along with water and light, produce oxygen for us to breathe. Plants also extract pollutants from the air. By their shade, trees moderate the temperature underneath them. Trees can help cool your home if they are planted in the right spot. Even mowed grass provides cooling. Walk across a blacktopped parking lot on a hot summer day; then, walk across your lawn. You can guess which place will be cooler. Another benefit of trees and plants: their roots prevent soil erosion and stabilize our soils.

The City of Bozeman’s landscaping requirements for commercial buildings, put into effect in the 1980’s, have greatly improved our city’s environment. Compare the tree-filled parking lots of Gallatin Center (Target and Bob Wards) and Bridger Peaks (Smiths grocery) with other parking areas that were built before the requirements were passed. Some of the trees in the landscaped parking lots are growing big enough to shade your car parked under them on a hot summer day.

Shelly, our landscape architect, sees water conservation as the most important “green” idea in this arid part of the country. Planting native plants that require less water and minimizing your lawn area, called xeriscaping, will conserve water. Many of these native plants are more tolerant of our clay soils, so require fewer soil amendments and fertilizers. Simple ideas can also help conserve water, like mulching, watering in early morning when there is less evaporation, and using drip irrigation for trees, shrubs, and gardens, instead of overhead sprinklers.

The nursery industry as a whole is helping the “green” movement in more ways than just encouraging people to plant trees. Monrovia Nursery, a large growing nursery in California, Oregon, and Georgia, recycles everything from irrigation water to planting soil. They reuse 8 out of every 10 gallons of irrigation water in their Georgia facility. Degradable and biodegradable containers for plants, instead of the commonly used plastic pots, are being manufactured and soon will be available to growers and consumers, hopefully at a reasonable price. Nancy Berg, our grower, called my attention to a farm in Connecticut that has been developing a “poop pot”, a small biodegradable bedding plant pot made from cow dung!

The overuse of landscape fabric (a petroleum product) installed between mulches and the ground, can be detrimental to the shrubs and trees planted in these beds. My husband Jerry, and Rebecca Hurst, an employee of ours with a Master’s degree in ecology, both agree that landscape fabric in planting beds can keep soils too wet underneath it and inhibit earthworm activity and decomposition of the mulch. Instead, Jerry and Rebecca recommend using organic mulches such as bark chips, cedar mulch, or soil pep, placed directly on top of the soil with no fabric underlayment, so the mulch decomposes naturally.

The natural biological process in which plant life dies, decomposes, and is returned to the earth, is what composting is all about. Many gardeners have been composting for years. Vegetable and fruit wastes, coffee grounds, and egg shells from the kitchen, along with weeds, grass clippings, and plants pulled up in the fall from our vegetable and flower gardens, all break down to make a needed addition of organic matter to our garden soils, a much better use of these wastes than adding them to the landfill.

Government entities, both state and national, have been looking out for our “green” interests. National pesticide bans, in the past, DDT, and, more recently, Diazinon and Dursban, to name just a few, have taken these potentially dangerous products off the market. The State of Montana is working on controlling noxious, invasive plants, including the obvious ones like Canadian thistle and spotted napweed, but also attractive plants like oxeye daisy and purple loosestrife. They choke out natives and invade grazing areas with poor, unpalatable substitutes. It’s up to all of us to cooperate by controlling these weeds on our property.

Kermit the Frog says, “It’s not easy being green”, but it really is. Here at the nursery we have been composting plant wastes for years. Last fall, one of our employees implemented a more comprehensive recycling plan for our waste paper, cans, catalogs, and glass. We reuse plastic pots and trays whenever we can. And, more and more, we are suggesting organic solutions for our customers’ pest problems. There are simple things that we all can do to be more “green”.