Penstemons

Melanie Ruckle Uncategorized

I’ve been considering penstemons lately. Penstemons have proven to be excellent garden plants because of their drought tolerance, long bloom time and nectar production that attracts favorable wildlife such as hummingbirds, honeybees, and bumblebees. There are many that are native to the western states thriving in rocky, barren soils, but the eastern states also have a few that boast the same desirable qualities. The following are some of my favorite penstemons.Penstemon smallii is a northeastern native typically found in light shade in well- drained woodlands from Georgia to North Carolina. Being hardy to zone 5, it adapts well to growing farther north. It boasts lavender flowers late spring to early summer and will often rebloom if deadheaded. The foliage is medium green often with a rosey hued rim. The color of the leaves deepen when given some shade. Out of all the penstemons listed here, Penstemon smallii will tolerate the ...

A Summer of Adventure Leads Back to the Garden

Melanie Ruckle Uncategorized

It was a very full summer with many things happening. Somehow it felt adventurous. It was adventurous. Not in an “I’m going to climb Kilamanjaro” kind of way but in a “wake up and look at what is in front of you kind of way.” Why not go, see, do, and discover along the way? So here are some of the things I saw, heard, and did that stand out for me that, quite naturally, lead back to the garden. On a week-long trip to the Outer Banks with my husband, Keith, and friends, every day I walked the designated path through the dunes to reach the beach and sit by the ocean. I walked this path several times a day. In the morning, I sat on the deck of the house and looked at the dunes. In the evening, I could feel their presence while stargazing, just as when …

Bronze Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpurea’

Melanie Ruckle Uncategorized

This little guy was found early in the morning while we were getting ready for the weekend sales. He made his way over from the bronze fennel. The bronze fennel has been fun. Putnam Hill started growing it in the 90s when the nursery was called “The Herb Garden.” At that time, we sought out unusual herbs to grow. The main attraction to bronze fennel was its culinary traits. The leaves and seeds have a delightful, sweet licorice flavor, and cooks and chefs add it to stuffing, fish, salad dressings, and herbal teas. Over time its ornamental qualities added to the fascination. Bronze fennel gets this adorable, fuzzy, bottle-brush growing tip that is basically irresistible to pet. It is a leaf ready to unfurl, all fresh, new, and soft. As it pushes forth, it opens to create a wonderful, lacy texture. The color is a dark bronzy purple. Older leaves …

Going Native

Melanie Ruckle Uncategorized

This past weekend I had the pleasure of vending the native plant sale at Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, MD. This was Putnam Hill’s first all natives plant sale. As most of you know, at Putnam Hill Nursery we grow all types of plants with our focus mainly on offering a large selection of perennials that, when planted in your garden, will offer beauty throughout all four seasons of the year. These plants are both native and non-native. We have been selling natives since we started the business in 1996. They were mixed in with the non-native plants in the nursery, and we were growing them just for the ornamental value. As the years progressed, the call for native plants became more frequent. People were talking about how they greatly benefited the environment; feed wildlife; are more suited to the climate of the region requiring less care, water, and …

Welcome Fall

Melanie Ruckle Uncategorized

Wow, what a summer. It has been a hot one. Thankfully, the forecast predicts a break in the weather. Next week, school starts for many students marking the end of summer. We now enter the slow acceptance that the garden is starting to prepare for winter. Hard to believe as hot as it is, but that is where we are going. Nonetheless, I always find this time of year a relief. The fast pace of spring and summer ending with the loud cicadas and katydids reaches such a crescendo that I feel I need a nap from it all. The bright colors and blousy flowers, the busy bumblebees, the momma birds busily gathering food, caterpillars chomping, the high-pitched mosquitoes, the weeds that grow overnight to a foot tall, the heat that won’t quit, the gallons of water for the plants and the garden. I just want to say, "Stop! Enough! ...

Donkey Tail Spurge Warning

Melanie Ruckle Uncategorized

This spring I reintroduced sale of Euphorbia myrsinites, commonly known as "donkey tail spurge," at Putnam Hill Nursery. I have had it growing in the gardens at Putnam Hill where it spread about in an appealing manner, adding structural interest in the fall and bright chartreuse flowers in early spring. Many visitors commented on how much they liked the plant, so I grew some to sell. It has recently come to my attention that the sap can cause burning and anaphylaxis in people and pets. I personally have not experienced it, but unfortunately now know of several people who have had allergic reactions. Please, when dealing with this plant wear long sleeves and gloves. Avoid getting any sap on your skin. You may or may not have a reaction to it, but no point in finding out the hard way. Please take precautions and let others know that the plant ...

The ‘June Prune’

Melanie Ruckle Uncategorized

By now your garden should be looking pretty full. The rains have kept the plants flourishing. It has been a good year for growth to say the least. You might be saying, “Gee, my garden looks so nice, lush and perky, I wish it would look this good in August and September.” There is a garden practice that can help you to achieve this, the “June Prune.” Pruning in June can be a difficult thing to muster up. The plants are looking really good, all lush and beautiful, and you are going to what? Cut them? In half? Really? Yes, cut them. Cut them back by one half, and they will branch out and look fantastic in about three weeks. Good candidates are helianthus, heliopsis, asters, chrysanthemums, amsonia, eupatorium, veronicastrum, tradescantia, vernonia, nepeta, and most any plant that gets over three feet tall by the end of the season. I ...

Lion’s Ear, Leonotis leonorus

Melanie Ruckle Uncategorized

Have you grown Lion’s Ear yet? Anyone who has is now nodding a big yes or saying “Oh, YEAH!” because that is exactly what you say when this plant blooms. Who wouldn’t try a plant that blooms pumpkin orange in the fall in fireworks fashion? Lion’s Ear, Leonotis leonorus, is a tropical perennial from South Africa. Plants reach 3-5’ and flourish in full sun. Grow as an annual or overwinter in a protected space that stays just above freezing. Plant it by your doorway or in a container to complete your fall decorating, or plant in the garden border. Anywhere you place it, it is sure to gain attention. Pick up your Lion’s Ear this weekend for a gorgeous display this fall.

Spotted Bee Balm, Monarda punctata

Melanie Ruckle Uncategorized

This week’s featured plant is Spotted Bee Balm, Monarda punctata. What a cool plant. Just look at those blooms! Yellow spotted flowers are displayed between pink, green and white bracts like horses in a carousel. It is native to eastern United States and thrives in average to sandy soils. Looking great planted in all types of gardens, it is especially at home mixed with other natives such as echinaceas, pycnanthemums, ruellia, and baptisias. Spotted Bee Balm is full of nectar and will attract butterflies and pollinators by the hordes. The fragrant foliage can be used in teas or as a substitute for oregano. Plant in full sun in soils with good drainage. An added bonus is its salt tolerance making it a candidate for difficult areas near the road or seaside. Plants reach 1-2’ high and wide and are hardy zones 5-10.