invasive plant horror stories, flowers, gardening, perennials, It looks harmless enough Photo via Bluestone Perennials

Invasive plant horror stories

Hometalk member and gardener extraordinaire Barb Rosen recently wrote of her nightmare experience with chameleon plant, Houttuynia cordata, and what may be her life-long project of getting rid of it. But Barb surely isn't alone in having planted something she regretted. For me, my biggest mistake was planting gooseneck loosestrife, Lysimachia clethroides. I'd heard how "rambunctious" the plant could be, but I had a dry, shady spot where I couldn't get anything else to take hold and bloom. Well, the lysimachia did, and soon started looking for territory to annex. I've since sold the house and it may have taken over the entire property by now for all I know. Here's your chance to sound off and put up the warning flag about plants that belong on a "do not plant" list. Please post a photo if you have one, and let us know what zone you're in.

artisinal concrete countertops, concrete masonry, concrete countertops, countertops, kitchen design, Concrete countertop by Bud Gilbert

Artisinal concrete countertops

I suspect that when most people think of concrete countertops they think of a rather cold, industrial look. But as these examples from New Smyrna Beach artist Bud Gilbert show, it can be a warm and engaging material that allows for a great amount of expressivity. I'm happy to report that he'll be making the countertops for my new kitchen and I can't wait to see what he comes up with.

five reasons you should plant a vitex, flowers, gardening

Five reasons you should plant a Vitex

If you garden in zone 6 or warmer and your garden doesn't include Vitex agnus-castus—commonly known as chaste tree, or Texas lilac, or just vitex—I'm here to make the case for adding one to your shopping list this season.

christmas plants happy pentas mas, christmas decorations, flowers, gardening, outdoor living, seasonal holiday decor

Happy Pentas-mas!

I can't think of a better way to wish all of my Hometalk friends happy holidays than to give a shout-out to Pentas (Pentas lanceolata), one of the few plants whose common name matches the botanical name of its genus. While it is hardy (unless we have a hard freeze) where I am in zone 9b and is still putting on a show, as you can see in these pictures, it is widely available as an annual in the rest of the country and makes a great bedding or container plant. In addition to taking summer heat in stride, it is one of the best butterfly plants around. Many cultivars have been developed so you can have pentas from less than a foot to around 3 feet (it grows substantially larger in its native environment).
Here's to a bloom-filled 2015.

a visit to the cascades of time garden banff canada, flowers, gardening, landscape, outdoor living

A visit to the Cascades of Time Garden, Banff, Canada

We had a family vacation to the Canadian Rockies last week and, while I went there anticipating awe-inspiring mountains and cerulean lakes, I did not expect to see dazzling flowers. From our first stroll through downtown Calgary, however, there were impressive displays indeed. The show reached its peak at the Cascades of Time Garden in Banff, which was designed by Harold Beckett, an Ontario architect, in the mid-1930s. This is one occasion when we should perhaps be thankful for a lack of funding, for what Beckett envisioned was a journey in time, in which pools—crafted from epoch-appropriate rocks— were to represent the main geological periods during which the Rocky Mountains were formed and would be connected by cascades of water, his “Cascades of Time.” There are no pools in the gardens today, and they may not be what Beckett hoped for, but, at their summer peak, there are thousands of flowers, and they are something to see.

why crossvine is a great pergola plant, flowers, gardening, Looking down on the pergola Hello hummingbirds this is what heaven looks like

Why crossvine is a great pergola plant

Two years ago I put a pergola over the patio on the back of my house and planted a one-gallon pot of a lovely cultivar of our native crossvine, Bignonia capreolata "Tangerine Beauty," next to one of the supports. Today that one plant almost covers the 10 x 15 foot pergola, and that's after climbing 8 feet up. Right now, it is putting on a spectacular display of deep apricot and golden yellow blooms.
Crossvine is a member of the the botanical family Bignoniaceae, which also includes the more widely known trumpet vine, Campsis radicans. Like trumpet vine, this is a vigorous grower (estimates of its size range up to 50 feet, although my cultivar shouldn't get past 30) and needs a large, sturdy support. Trying to keep it small would be an exercise in frustration, but if you have a large area to cover, it is perfect.
The shape of the flowers will tell you it is beloved of hummingbirds, and I can tell you that bees are pretty fond of it as well. Not surprisingly, the best show is in full sun, but it will take some shade. Mine gets no water other than what mother nature provides. In the northern limits of its range (it is said to be hardy to zones 5 or 6, depending on the source), it will probably lose all its leaves in the winter and may even die back to the ground. In my location on the Florida coast, it sheds some leaves, and the foliage that persists takes on an appealing burgundy cast.

companion plants for succulents, flowers, gardening, succulents, Ivy geraniums let loose from hanging baskets via Gardening Gone Wild

Companion plants for succulents

Many Hometalk members have recently posted about succulents, and Debra Lee Baldwin has a useful post on companion plants for them on her blog, Gardening Gone Wild. She's also giving a talk on the topic at next week's "Succulent Extravaganza" at the Succulent Gardens near San Francisco. Have you incorporated these water-thrifty plants into your gardens? What do you plant with them? See her full post here:

the other season for crocus, flowers, gardening, Autumn crocus will naturalize into thick stands when happy photo by Matt Mattus via Growing with Plants

The other season for crocus

Most people think of crocus as a harbinger of spring, but there are species of crocus (and related cousins) that bloom in the fall, including the crocus that saffron comes from. Their purple flowers look spectacular with the oranges and yellows of changing leaves. They are planted in late summer and bloom four to six weeks later, or sometimes while still in the bag if you don't get them in the ground in time. It's late for planting them this year, but you may well get good deals on ones that have already bloomed, and you can tuck them in the ground for next fall. Matt Mattus has a great guide to them on his Growing with Plants blog: .
And you can see some blooming in a Hometalk member's garden here:!/545715

great ideas for garden lighting, crafts, lighting, outdoor living, repurposing upcycling, Turn tin cans into hanging lanterns an idea from Fine Gardening magazine via Garden Therapy

Great ideas for garden lighting

The days are getting noticeably shorter, but nights can still be warm, making this an ideal time of year to focus on lighting for outdoor spaces. Some garden lighting can be quite pricey, but the Garden Therapy blog has a great collection of mostly do-it-yourself ideas. Check them out at

Douglas Hunt
Douglas Hunt