Ornamental and edible gardening adventures.

Floral Friday: Here come the daisies and daylilies

The garden is starting to bloom again after taking a brief break the last few weeks. The spring-blooming lovelies are finished and now the summer heat-loving flowers are starting their show! Here's a sampling of what's blooming this week!

The first daylily to bloom in the garden is the Early Bird Cardinal.
I love how it looks with this purple cleome in the background.
Following the first in show are these orange daylilies that were saved from my
grandfather's house in Queens. I love these.
Here's another daylily that is blooming now - but I lost its tag!

Shasta daisies out front.

My 'Becky' shasta daisies are taking over! I really love these flowers because they are long lasting.

Feverfew adding to the daisy look - even though it's not a daisy.

I am trialling some drought-tolerant Proven Winners this summer as part of a blog
project with my #gardenchat friends. Shown here is Ablazin' Purple Salvia,
Blue My Mind Evolvulus, Diamond Frost Euphorbia 'Inneuphidia', and Whirlwind
Blue Scaevola 'Scablhatis', along with a geranium and a Proven Winners Superbells
'Tequila Sunrise' I picked up at the store. Planted in the middle are gladiolus bulbs
that are still emerging. I can't wait for that "thriller" to show off this urn!

I am trialling some drought-tolerant Proven Winners this summer as part of a blog
project with my #gardenchat friends. Here is the other urn I have planted:
Ablazin' Tabasco Salvia, Mojave Portulaca 'Yellow' and Vermillionaire Cupea are
paired wth a geranium, a blush version of euphorbia and a geranium. This urn
also will have the gladiolus bulbs in the center.

Fairy garden underneath the fig tree.

This is another plant I am trialling for Proven Winners this summer, which
will be introduced for retail in 2017. Check out the hot pink with purple and
yellow center! This plant has been thriving in the heat in a hanging basket!
It is Superbells 'Hollywood Star' calibrachoa.

Who loves snap peas? I do, I do! Here is another photo of Pea Spring Blush Tendril.
It has been holding up so well in the heat!

The butterfly weed (asclepias tuberosa) has self-seeded throughout my garden and is now blooming. I love this one!

Here is Bush's Poppy Mallow, a plant that does well in dry conditions.
Looks like I will be getting my first crop of grapes this year! How exciting! 
What is growing in your garden now?

To see what was blooming and growing last week in my garden, click here

With minimal care, wildflowers provide pollinator oasis

Monarch butterflies are one of the many pollinators you can attract to your garden.

It's National Pollinator Week - a great time to join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. I added my garden to the tally - have you?

Fall-blooming asters.
It goes without saying that if you want a pollinator-friendly garden, you can't use pesticides and herbicides in your garden. Applying a generic chemical to the whole garden will wipe out all the good bugs that your garden needs to flourish.

But chances are, you already know all that. So I called Mike Lizotte (a.k.a "The Seed Man") from American Meadows, to learn about attracting pollinators to the garden using wildflowers. You may think of wildflowers as being part of a large meadow, but Lizotte explains that a wildflower garden could fit in a small 12" pot.

"You could have one asclepias plant that could feed plenty of insects. One or two host plants will make a huge difference," he said. "That's the beauty of it. You can still find solutions for you and still make a difference. Don't get discouraged."

Lizotte feels that the topic of pollinators is especially popular now due to the exposure monarch butterflies have received in the news. However, he said these stories often do not point people in the direction of how to help the monarchs regain their population.

"We've been a great source for people," he said, referring to the more than 30 years of experience in educating and learning that American Meadows supplies through their online tutorials.

This year, the most popular mixes for sale through American Meadows has been the Pollinator Wildflower Seed Mix, the Honey Bee Wildflower Seed Mix, and the Monarch Butterfly Annual Wildflower Seed Collection. "[Sales of] these have surged in the past 24 months," he said. The Northeast Mix and the Southeast Mix are great solutions, too," he said. Seeds range in price, depending on how ambitious you are with your property. "There's a nice array of solutions for helping people help pollinators," he said.

Sow it now, reap rewards later

When new gardeners purchase blooming coneflowers from the store, for example, they may be unaware that the plant is already older. "Most of the time, consumers don't know its a two- to three-year-old plant," he said. The American Meadows website explains what gardeners can expect when starting a wildflower garden.

Milkweed seeds are shown here in
this file photo.
Patience is key when sowing a wildflower garden - taking almost three years to get established - but once it has, Lizotte said the perennials could bloom for the next 20 to 30 years.

"The care of wildflowers is quite minimal," he said. The big advantage to planting wildflowers is allowing Mother Nature to do the watering and care, he said. "You sow the seed and there's no need for fertilizer." American Meadows offers native and non-native (but not aggressive) seeds which "allows the consumer to go in the direction they want," he said.

What's his favorite to grow?

"I've done really well with milkweed [asclepias]," he said. "We've been really fortunate. We have a lot of milkweed plants and we collect the seeds and spread them that way," he said. "I have a young daughter, and she loves zinnias. It's great for butterflies. It's a quick, easy annual. They're fantastic. They are filled with butterflies all summer."

Click here to find out which pollinator-friendly plants I grow in my garden.

My pollinator picks

Out of the many plants I grow, here are some pollinator-friendly plants (some wildflowers) that I grow in my Northeast garden. I selected these plants because they require minimal care to do well.


These are one of my favorite wildflowers that I grow in the garden, and I've found that the standard purple variety is the most reliable when it comes to returning every year. The butterflies and bees love this!


This plant, with its dainty daisy flowers, is in the herb family and attracts many good insects to my garden. It also starts blooming in that down period between May and June when the spring-blooming bulbs have wrapped up but the summer perennials haven't started yet. It self-sows - a lot - so if you don't want volunteers, cut it back after it blooms.


One of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, crocus provides early-emerging bees with a nectar source. Their beauty is fleeting and they don't last long, but they provide color when gardeners need it the most in late winter. Plus, they are inexpensive to buy.

Monarda ~ Bee Balm

This plant can spread, but I let it go because it's a guarantee magnet for the hummingbirds. It is easy to maintain.

Joe Pye Weed

This plant is covered in bees and butterflies in late summer. There are dwarf varieties as well if you don't want a towering plant in the garden.


This is one of the flowers I find monarch butterflies attracted to in the late summer, early fall during their migration time. They come in an array of pretty colors, and range from very short to very tall plants.


I grow three varieties of honeysuckle in my garden, but this one - Major Wheeler - is the most popular with the hummingbird. It does bloom for a shorter period of time then the other two, but I love the pop of color in May.


A bee magnet! This one will self-seed around the garden if you let it, and it's even edible.

Butterfly Weed

This plant self-sows where it wants in my garden, and I allow it to go where it wants. It provides a dramatic pop of color that I - and butterflies - love. It's also low maintenance, another win for me.


I'd be remiss if I didn't include my namesake flower in this collection (as well as the preferred choice of American Meadows' Mike Lizotte's 5-year-old daughter!). This plant is easy to grow from seed, comes in so many color choices, and attracts butterflies like crazy.  

Secret Gardens hint at whimsy, glamour

Mirrors were used to add depth to garden rooms, such as this example in
tour location number ten.
NEWPORT, R.I. - Starlets soaked up the limelight, camera glitz and fans this past weekend during the Secret Garden Show.

The floral variety of starlets, that is.

Roses, clematises and peonies graced gardens in The Point section of Newport during a self-guided tour that raised money for cultural programs at Aquidneck public schools. Since 1983, the tour (held both in spring and autumn) has raised more than $1 million for music, theater and art programming.

Rose blooms in petite vases.
By 1 p.m. Friday, most garden locations were already logging more than 100 visitors at each individual garden. Despite a difficult winter, the gardens of Newport flourished during a limited time unveiling to the public.

It was the little details that really made a difference. In one garden, a small bud vase with petite roses graced a side table, with a chalkboard sign placed strategically along the ivy-bordered walkway welcoming visitors to a secret garden. At another locale, a pair of rabbit candlesticks danced on a table located in the shade. 

Whimsical decorations were strategically placed in gardens, even those with a formal feel. At the Sanford-Covell Villa Marina, a bed and breakfast located on Washington Street, a collection of rubber ducks lined a side of the pool that overlooked the Newport Harbor and the Newport Bridge in the distance.

Another garden featured belonged to a member of the American Rose Society, which boasted being "one of the best collections of roses in Newport" for its 79 rose bushes. With two stone lions flanking a water fountain in the center of the backyard oasis, along the perimeter a Green Man winked at attendees and birdhouses dotted the trees and shrubbery. Iron fence panels painted in white complemented pastel pink and white campanulas and cotton candy colored mountain laurel. Out front self-seeded violas added color to the cracks along the steps.

There was a lot to take in. 

Potted plants were numerous.
One garden stop on this year's Secret Garden Tour technically featured two neighboring gardens. An arbor covered in wisteria welcomed visitors to the small gardens, packed with several varieties of plants and many architectural elements, such as roses in urns, frog and rabbit statuary and the usual favorites that grow well in the Newport area: hostas, hydrangeas and roses.

Visitors had access to 14 locations, most being private gardens. A tour map was the "ticket" that granted access to the gardens - $20 if purchased in advance, $25 if purchased the day of the tours. The gardens varied in size - from postage stamp to fairly large - ranging in formal to cottage styles. The self-guided tour consisted of bed and breakfast locales, a church garden and home gardens.

There were some consistent themes throughout the tour. The first was the use of space. Most gardens had a small footprint and it was interesting how each gardener chose to showcase various plants in confined spaces. One garden stuffed plants between the house and fence line with a narrow walkway, (obscured by the plants) that led to a small shed. Most gardens had a patio or dining area implemented into the design.
The use of decorative pottery, as well as statuary, was another consistent theme. Garden statues of birds, frogs and rabbits were often used to add quaint touches to the various gardens. One small garden used a mirror mounted to the fence to make the garden look larger in size.

An decorative pot filled with geraniums, 
petunias and dusty miller along the steps

of one Secret Garden location in Newport, 
R.I., Friday. Violas bloom from the cracks.

The volunteers manning the entry tables for each locale were jovial, and some gardeners opted to remain outside at the tables to greet visitors. At one such location, a gardener offered sketched maps of her property with the plant varieties labeled. (This was helpful, since I was able to make note of some plants that I would like to grow in my own garden.) Her garden, in development since 1982, lacked grass but was packed with perennials, annuals and a water garden, all interlinked with various paths that lead from full sun to shady areas.

In addition to the gardens available for entry, there were several other "peek-a-boo" gardens, where attendees were invited to look over the fences into the gardens but were not able to enter them. At one of the "peek-a-boo" locations, I was drawn to the use of space in the fenced-in, street corner garden, and was using my iPhone to take photos from the sidewalk. At no point did I lean on the fence or touch any plants. I was disappointed when someone from inside the house began to press a car key fob which belonged to the vehicle out front, which set off several tones, as if saying, "Move along now. Your time is up." Duly noted. I continued on the tour, but I hope in the future homeowners who mark their gardens on the map for "peek-a-boo" status are more welcoming to tour attendees.

Each year different gardens sign up to be a part of the tour. The next scheduled tour is in September. To learn more about The Secret Garden tours, click here.


Photo Gallery from the Secret Garden Tour ~ 1

NEWPORT, R.I., - Here are some highlights from the spring Secret Garden Tour. To return to the story, click here.

A formal rose garden, from tour stop number eight.

A stone frog graces an ivy-covered water feature at tour stop number seven.

A view of Newport Harbor and Newport Bridge from tour location number six (Villa Marina).

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