When warm weather rolls into Northern Virginia, I cannot resist the urge to get out in the garden. I find, too, that I am an anomaly in this area, as people tend not to add much color to their landscapes. A few flowering trees, shrubs, carpet and knockout roses, and the occasional patch of wax begonias is about as imaginative as people get. It could be that people are busy and hire a lot of their landscaping needs out, which is fine. However landscaping companies in this area seem not to be able to tell a weed from a flower, which is decidedly NOT fine! I have had thousands of dollars of plants killed due to negligence and frank ignorance – it’s very frustrating, to say the least. As a result, I’ve taken on a lot of this chore myself, and am finding it to be more of a labor of love. There is something very satisfying about watching a landscape flourish as a result of your own hard work.
Through trial and error, I’ve found that old-fashioned plants and flowers are often some of the best for the garden. There is a reason they have existed for centuries, and while some have been improved through hybridization, this process has not diminished their vintage beauty.
One of the most coveted garden plants is the rose, and with good reason. Color, fragrance, structure, all add to their beauty. While a lot of people tend toward tea roses, I find the antique roses some of the best for the garden, and one of the best places to purchase them is The Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas. They have hundreds of roses to order online and have great search engines so you can find the perfect fit for your garden. Save your labels and receipts too, as if you lose a rose, they will replace for you for just $5!
Peonies are also an old-fashioned favorite! Their foliage adds structure to the garden all summer, and their blooms are simply glorious! As an added bonus, deer don’t touch them! Try Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm as a mail-order source for great varieties you won’t find in your local garden center.
Have a damp spot? Try turtleheads, hardy orchids, astilbe, ladies mantle and primrose. Add some Canna for height and drama. All do well in moisture, do a great job absorbing all that extra water.
Clematis looks beautiful paired with roses, and also is a mannerly wanderer, intermingling with shrubs without killing them. In warmer areas (like mine) avoid sweet autumn clematis as it will become invasive. Wisteria and trumpet vine as well.
Don’t forget fruits! Add some fig trees in a hot, sunny area, and enhance with herbs such as lavender and thyme, which love drier soil. Grow raspberry vines on small trellises or obelisks in your flower gardens, and grapevines and hardy kiwis on arbors. You can also now purchase columnar apple and pear trees to tuck into a corner, or rely on old-fashioned favorites if you have room. For those that live in colder climates, you can add wintergreen shrubs, which never seem to thrive in Virginia’s tropical summer climate. It’s a great shrub for shady areas.
Put in some raised gardens – there are great kits out there now! Grow some heirloom vegetables. Mix them with edible flowers such as violets, nasturtium, and calendula. Add some tender herbs – basil, cilantro, even some scented geranium
So get on out there and dig, folks! You’ll feel better for it. I promise!
Signed VC (aka Vintage Chick)