This is where you will find our irregular, random garden ramblings, musings, or answers to common questions. Any advice or opinions here are our own, and entirely subjective and free, so you know what it is worth!
HeucherasJuly 4, 2021
Our garden seems to be filling up with Heucheras (Heucherae?) these days. We now have in our garden 12 different named cultivars of Heuchera, second only in variety to our Hosta collection. We also have quite a few mongrel crossbred hybrids as well. There is lots to like about these plants. They come in a wide variety of sizes and colors, and all produce dainty little bell-shaped flowers that are attractive to hummingbirds. But the real show is their foliage, which can vary from bright and garish colors to dark purple or nearly black. All will thrive in part shade, while some will tolerate more sun, and still others will perform well in shady spots. Deer and rabbits will occasionally go after them, but most varieties will bounce back after being denuded. Pest repellents are fairly effective in deterring browsing. In warm conditions Heucheras are semi-evergreen, sending up new shoots whenever it is warm. The main threat to their longevity is frost heaving during the winter. Until fully established, they can be heaved right out of the ground over winter. They are best suited to well-drained soil. But otherwise, these are easy-to-maintain plants that are fairly tolerant of short dry spells. Our latest addition is 'Mega Caramel,' an enormous and impressive cultivar with large rosy-green caramel colored leaves. This cultivar demands a spot in a prominent front corner of the perennial garden. It will definitely turn heads.
What's New in 2021?June 12, 2021
There have only been a few changes in our garden for 2021. Although they have performed well, we had to move our Lychnis 'Lipstick' and some of our Solidago 'Zigzag' to another location where the woodchucks and rabbits are less likely to encounter and demolish it in early spring. In their place, we installed two new pest-resistant sun-loving plants, Perovskia 'Denim and Lace' and Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard'. In another garden section, we dug out the species Tricyrtis hirta, which was too tall for the front of the border and was regularly trimmed by deer, and replaced it with Weigela 'Electric Love', a low growing deciduous shrub or woody perennial with maroon-green leaves and bright red tubular flowers in May-June. Two impulse buys were a couple of unusual Heucheras. Heuchera 'Lemon Love' is a garish yellow medium-small Heuchera that will brighten any front-of-the-border corner of the garden. Heuchera "Midnight Rose' is neither midnight nor rose, but rather a striking medium size purple-leaf Heuchera with bright pink splotches. It's audacity of color makes one want to put it somewhere in the garden. Our Heuchera collection is growing quite large, second only to our Hosta varieties.
Deer RepellentsJune 11, 2021
Our favorite brand of deer repellent, Deer-Off, has been re-branded and is now available from Safer Brand as Critter Ridder Deer and Rabbit Repellent. It contains the same active ingredients as Deer-Off: putrescent egg solids, capsaicin, and garlic extract. We use the concentrate and mix a gallon at a time to spray all plants susceptible to deer browsing. Mixing the concentrate in a plastic bucket with a paint stirrer attached to a cordless drill does a good job of homogenizing the egg solids in the repellent and preventing clogs in the sprayer nozzle. Repeated treatment early in the growing season appears to reduce browsing damage during the rest of the gardening season. (Or simply sends deer to your neighbor's garden instead. Whatever works.) We re-apply after every substantial rainfall.
New Garden SeasonApril 17, 2021
Spring has sprung early in Central New York. About two weeks early, it seems. The winter Aconites have come and gone, Scilla and Chionodoxa are waning, and daffodils are at their peak. Crabapples and maples are already leafing out in these parts, normally something that doesn't happen until May. With Aconitum and Pulmonaria starting to bolt, it may be time to finish up the fall cleaning of the garden from accumulated leaves, cutting down of ornamental grasses, and freshening up mulch while we can still see where it's needed. It's also time to see what, if any, winter damage has been done, and which new plants have thrived or dived over winter.
Dog DaysAugust 24, 2020
It has been a dry summer in Central New York, with near-record heat. Extra watering has been de rigueur during July and August. Plants that tend toward early dormancy are checking out early, including Astilboides, Bistorta, and Lynchnis. although our Lamprocapnos is still hanging on. Late August is usually a blooming lull in our perennial garden, but there are some August standouts: Angelica, Echinacea, Hibiscus, the daisy-like Ligularias (especially 'Britt Marie Crawford'), Lobelia, and Senna.
What's New?May 31, 2020
With the end of meteorological spring, most of the spring planting and moving has been completed. (However, it seems there are always a few loose ends.) There are several new additions this year, and a few newbies left over from last year. You can find out what we have added, are trying out, or are re-trying (the triumph of hope of experience, at times), by cruising the Plants pages and looking for the 🆕 icon. This year we have added two new perennials (so far). First is Hosta 'Dream Queen', a gorgeous blue and yellow medium Hosta. (We can't resist Hostas.) Second is Lychnis 'Lipstick', a tall, bronze-foliage plant with garish orange-red blossoms in mid-summer. It can supposedly go dormant after blooming in dry conditions, so we'll see how it does in Central New York. We are looking to re-plant an old favorite, Rodgersia aesculifolia, in a few weeks.
Holdover new plants from last year are Baptisia 'Cherries Jubilee', two Wiegela florida cultivars, the wildly colorful Heuchera 'Cherry Cola' and Heuchera 'Circus', Heliopsis helianthoides 'Summer Nights', Aralia cordata 'Sun King', and Polemonium reptans 'Stairway to Heaven.' The Wiegela and Heuchera have done fabulously, and look great already this year. The Baptisia was repeatedly lunched on by marauding woodchucks last season, so we will have to wait and see how it really performs this year with less munching. The Heliopsis was set back by late frosts, but has re-emerged. Finally, we found that both our Aralia and Polemonium would not tolerate much sun and were moved to shadier locations this season.
Spring Garden CensusMay 19, 2020
With (surely) the last frost behind us on May 14, it's time to survey the garden for casualties. The late frosts did a number on the Astilboides, Thalictrum, and some of the Aruncus , Astilbes, and Hostas, but they have already started to bounce back. Heucheras often get heaved out of the ground over the winter, but ours have done well this year. The main casualties this year were 2/3 of our Heliopsis planting (although they are re-emerging), and a few Echinacea. Not too bad for a winter with little snow cover for much of the winter.
Whither Spring?May 4, 2020
It's been a cool spring in Central New York, which has been great for lengthening the normally short stay for daffodils and Scilla, but has slowed down everything else. Nevertheless, perennials are starting to poke up and come to life, despite the threat of light frosts later in the week. Pulsatilla and Helleborus ('Red Racer' is especially handsome) are still in their prime , Hosta 'Stiletto' is fully flush with foliage already, and Pulmonaria and Brunnera are leafing out and setting their first blossoms, attracting honeybees and incongruously large bumblebees to work their flowers. The recent cool spell is predicted to last at least another 7-10 days as a very stubborn circulation pattern over Quebec continues to bring cool air our way.
What's in a Name?April 17, 2020
You may notice on this site some Latin names for common garden plants that look...strange. Rest assured, the name may have changed, but the plants are still the same. Scientists now have tools to examine in detail the DNA present in plant genomes and chloroplasts (the little photosynthetic engines of green plants). Based on similarities and differences in these DNA sequences, it is possible to determine how plants are related to one another, and whether or not different plants belong to the same genus or not. As a result of these studies, plants get reclassified from time to time. Sometimes, plants that were thought to be in unrelated are now recognized as close siblings, while at other times plants thought to closely related are spun of into their own classification. There are several examples of such reassignment on this site. Cimicifuga simplex, for example, has now been reassigned to broad genus Actaea, Polygonum bistorta, which has spent some time classified as Persicaria in the past, has now been given its own genus Bistorta. Dicentra spectabilis (but not other Dicentras) has been given its own genus and species (Lamprocapnos spectabile). Finally, good old Sedum spectabile is, alas no longer Sedum but the mouthful Hylotelephium spectabile.
Why should you care? The Latin name is the official, unique identifier for a particular plant species. If you obtain a plant with the correct Latin name, you will know exactly what you are getting. But you may find the old, deprecated names still used in the plant trade. The plant descriptions listed on this web site list the currently accepted Latin name, but we normally attempt to list any superseded names ("synonyms" in the taxonomy trade) where applicable. So if you see a plant here that looks familiar, but has a strange name, probably plant taxonomists have been at work!
Photography at CNY GardeningApril 14, 2020
In case you were wondering (or not), we do all the photography for images seen on this web site, including the page banners. We photograph exclusively in our own garden using Nikon equipment. The most recent photos here were captured with a Nikon D7100 DSLR and a 18-140 DX f/3.5-5.6, 16-80 f/2.8-4.0 DX lens, or an 85 f/3.5 DX closeup lens. Occasionally, if in a hurry, we have used a Nikon A900 pocket camera to capture timely images. We've recently added a new Nikon Z50 mirrorless camera system to the stable, and hope to post images from that camera and its excellent 16-50 f/3.5-6.3 Z DX lens here during the upcoming season.
Some of the images on this site are quite old, going back decades, dating to a venerable, first-generation 6-megapixel Nikon D100 DLSR system. We will be updating and improving some of these images during the upcoming garden season, so you can have a better idea what the featured plants and blooms look like.
CNY Gardening is launchedApril 10, 2020
This site is a labor of love by two long-term, part-time hobbyist gardeners who espouse an empirical "tough love" theory of ornamental perennial gardening. If it doesn't thrive, we move it somewhere else. If it persists in being an under-performer, we give it away. If it is high maintenance, we yank it out. You will find on this site mostly ornamental perennial plants and that are hardy in our changeable Central New York climate that will grace your garden without breaking your back. We hope you enjoy this site as much as we do sharing it!