Pretty as a Peony

If you’ve considered adding peonies to your garden, we have some tips for capitalizing  on them by incorporating varieties with different bloom times and using hosta as an aesthetically pleasing way to support them. The peony is edible, so it offers countless ways to dress up the table at your next party or gathering. Not only are they lovely to look at, but they’re good enough to eat!
peony

Paeonia officinalis

Many of us who love the boldness of peonies are deterred by their relatively short bloom time, but like daylillies and roses, each peony has a slightly different bloom time. Pick early, mid and late varieties to maximize bloom time. With the right combination of peonies you could have 7 full weeks of bloom. You can find peonies in shades of white, pink, red, and  yellow, in double and single form.

Peony (8)

A perennial with a maximum height of three feet, the peony comes in many varieties with different blooming times:
  • Early (Little Red Gem, Starlight & Roselette)
  • Mid (Moonrise & Miss America)
  • Late (Sarah Bernhardt & Marie Lemoine)

cake-peonies

The peony is named for the Greek god of healing, Paeon. Another legend states that the physician, Peon, used the roots to heel the wounds of Pluto. In addition to their healing properties, peony flowers are edible. The versatility of peonies is another draw. Their simple elegance adds the perfect accent to a wedding or other celebratory cake. Float a blossom in a punch bowl to dress up the beverage at your next party, or drop the petals in iced tea for an extra touch. You can even sprinkle them on salads as an eye-catching garnish!

peony2
Be sure to invest in a structure/cage, or for a more interesting support system, try interplanting hosta in front and among the peonies to hold them up. This also helps avoid bare spots in the gardens when the peony foliage dies back.
peony hosta 3

Honeysuckle Trouble

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii)

Do you have honeysuckle running rampant on your property? It’s hard not to be charmed by the lovely yellow and white sweet-smelling blossoms that are out in droves now. But its invasive nature has gotten it banned from nurseries in Massachusetts, and it is likely to take over your garden and naturalized areas if left to its own devices. There are some types of honeysuckle that are less invasive than others and still ok to plant on Cape Cod. But when in doubt, go native. What can you plant instead of honeysuckle for similar benefits of street level screening and lovely June blooms?

Viburnum plicatum

Viburnum plicatum – Doublefile Viburnum

Our native Viburnums bloom at the same time as honeysuckle, but in addition to a spectacular flower show, they produce yummy berries for the birds, and brilliant fall color. Our favorite is Doublefile Viburnum because the large flowers look like lace-cap hydrangeas or ballerinas in flight and their branches and leaves create a graceful horizontal pattern. But there are lots of other cultivars to choose from including Viburnum prunifolium which has edible raisin-like berries, and Cranberrybush Viburnum whose berries taste like cranberries. Just make sure to get the American Cranberrybush, not the European version whose berries are not so tasty. We wouldn’t recommend eating the berries from the Doublefile viburnum either, they are better left for the birds. Always confirm the cultivar of the plant first before consuming it! Viburnum does best in a little bit of shade. Use it as an understory shrub in a woodland area or along the edge of a street, underneath your street trees.

Viburnum plicatum

Viburnum plicatum – Doublefile Viburnum

A Cape Cod Rain Garden – Part I The Structure

We installed a rain garden and slope planting in November of 2011 on Cape Cod. Scroll down to see how the garden evolved over the course of 2 years.

Rain Garden Before 1

The problem area was at the bottom of a very steep slope and was in the middle of the property’s main view toward Cape Cod Bay. The client doesn’t use that area of lawn, and wanted to fill it with seasonal interest that would be visible from the deck and the upper stories of the house.

Rapoza Rain Garden SketchThe design concept was to add a a dry river bed topped with beach stones, and a few boulders for accent. The stone river bed catches water as it flows down the slope. The rest of the area was filled with native grasses, shrubs and wildflowers. We also under-planted the existing dogwoods on the slope with liriope muscari to give the trees more definition.

Installing the accent BouldersPaul, Daniel and Thomas installing the accent boulders.

Rain Garden Construction 1 This is what it looked like right after installation in November 2011.

Rain Garden first year's growth 2012By the following summer, the new plants were thriving.

Rapoza Cape Cod Garden 4After another full growing season, the area had filled in very well and had become a hotspot for birds, butterflies and bumblebees. This photo was taken in the summer of 2013.

Stay tuned for more about the rain garden plants we selected.

Signs of Life

After a long and snowy winter here on Cape Cod, we are finally seeing signs of life! We caught these bulbs and perennials popping up in Falmouth this week. If you want early spring color, consider planting some of these in your garden:

Crocus

Crocus

A universal sign of spring, nothing is more cheerful than the crocuses. Plant the bulbs in fall and these bursts of color will reward you repeatedly year after year.

Sedum

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

This succulent brings color to a garden for 3 full seasons, its slowly changing colors truly reflecting the ephemeral nature of a garden. In the spring, its bright green leaves brighten up flower beds. By late spring and early summer it has pretty white buds that change from light pink to dark pink flowers throughout the summer. By fall the blossoms are a vibrant burgundy. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is extremely drought tolerant, and hardy. Though it prefers full sun we’ve seen it thriving in some shady parts of the garden.

 

Hellebore_pink frost

Helleborus Gold Collection ‘Pink Frost’

Some of our Hellebores have already been blooming for months, even in the snow. This one is a called ‘Pink Frost’. Put them in your shade garden or near your front door where they will perk up even the dreariest winter landscape.

Snowdrops

Galanthus (Snowdrops)

The delicate ballerina-like flowers of Galanthus are perfect for a woodland garden. Plant them with lily of the valley for a carpet of green and white all spring.

A Woodland Nook in Progress

Woodland Nook 7

A New Woodland Sitting Nook

We recently created an informal sitting area in the margin of woods between a residence, a sloping meadow, and a path through the woods. The residents wanted a place to sit and enjoy the shade in the summer months. Here is a quick photo tour showing how the shady woodland nook fell into place.

Recently cleared wooded area

Recently Cleared Wooded Area

The existing wooded area was first cleared of invasive understory shrubs and vines, and a few dead trees were removed.

Woodland_nook_1

Creating a Level Area

Once the vegetation was cleared, we needed to create a level sitting area. We re-graded the bumpy spots and added some clean fill.

Woodland_nook_5

Building a Rustic Retaining Wall

We constructed a rustic boulder retaining wall on the lower edge of the sitting place.

Setting the Stones into Place

When the retaining wall was complete, we added good planting soil/compost mix, and raked it smooth. Then we set irregular bluestone in place, keeping the joints far enough apart for mosses and other ground cover to be installed later.

Woodland_nook_4

Laying out the Irregular Bluestone

Now the Woodland Nook is ready for some shade loving plants to fill in the blanks. Add a few Adirondack chairs, and it will be a great respite from the summer sun. We’ll add more photographs when the planting is complete!

woodland nook 8

Sitting Area Ready for Planting