Shade Plants

Time saving Hedge Trimmer use

I just found a new use for my small, rechargeable hedge trimmer – removing the old foliage from perennials!

I know it is a bit late in the season, but pruning chores just don’t always get done by the timeline suggested!!  When I was ready to prune back the dead foliage on my Southern Shield Ferns, which had spread into 3′ wide clumps, using my hand pruners looked like a big, time consuming job.  So a light bulb went off as I spotted my small Homelite hedge trimmer  with a 6″ long blade(available at Home Depot) sitting on my work bench.  It worked  so well and quickly that I was able to trim back many perennials in a short amount of time, including Coreopsis, Coneflowers, Daisies, Phlox, Asters, Salvia, Herbs, etc.  I do like to leave a couple of inches of the stem showing, mainly so I know where they are in the garden before the new spring growth appears.

So put this fun little hedge trimmer on your spring list of ’need to have’ tools for 2014!  I know you will fun many uses for it to save yourself time with your gardening chores.

Happy Gardening,



Hydrangeas are not listed in my book as a perennial, but they sure look wonderful in a perennial garden!  I have may different varieties mixed in my flower beds to add some stability as well as season long color, which changes as the flowerheads mature & begin to dry.

Mophead varieties(macrophylla or serrata) are the varieties I used in my vase of Hydrangeas – specifically Merritt’s Supreme & Preziosa, both change color as the season progresses.

It is best to cut Hydrangea flowerheads with at least 12″of stem on a dry day 4-6 weeks after they have bloomed.  At this point the flower heads are beginning to dry out & don’t need as much water.  I have found for  me the best way to dry them is put them in a vase with a couple inches of water & let it dry up naturally, enjoying the fresh bouquet(I use a large twist tie to hold the stems together at the base of the flowerhead for a full look).  Other suggestions for drying are to hang the stems upside down in a dry area, put them in a vase without water in a dark area for a couple weeks, or even put them in a brown paper bag & ride them around in your car trunk for a couple days!  Try the different methods to see what works best for you.  And remember that you may lose a couple of the blossoms to wilt, but hopefully you have plenty more in the garden – I start with the blooms at the bottom or backside of the plant so I can enjoy the sight of them in my garden for as long as possible!

Happy Gardening,




Early June here in Atlanta has been wonderful weather for gardens – low humidity & cool evenings!  Going through the garden with my clippers rewarded me with  plenty of blossoms and foliage to fill my milk glass vase.  Ferns, Solomon’s Seal, June Hostas and Threadleaf Cypress branches set up a perfect base of foliage to support the Perennials.  I then cut Yarrows, Aster (early blooming this year), Route 66 Coreopsis, Daisies, Coneflowers, Mullein Pinks, as well as Hydrangeas and a couple Lantana stems to fill it out.

I’m looking forward to the Phlox and Black-Eyed Susans to bloom in the next couple weeks to add to my vases!

Happy Gardening!

Althea Griffin

It is very hard to choose just one area of my garden to showcase – everything is  bursting with beauty!

The attached picture focuses on both perennials and shrubs.  Starting from the left there is Little Shorty Euphorbia, Little Honey Oakleaf Hydrangea, Marion Lee Azalea, Blackberry Lily(Iris looking leaves),  Oxalis(purple foliage), Solidago( no blooms until fall), various Heuchera, Toad Lily(blooms late summer), Mouse Ears coreopsis in bloom, Baths Pink Dianthus in foreground.   the background shrubs are Mahonia – the Cedar Waxwing birds are just loving the berries this time of year.

This is still a perfect time to divide your perennials to move to another area in your yard or share with friends!  Just remember to soak the plant in a bucket before planting to hydrate the roots – adding some root stimulator such as Upstart to the water is really a good idea!


Happy Gardening, Althea



This is such a busy, but wonderful time in the garden – everything is coming up so early this spring!  The attached photo features a few of early bloomers that send out blooms on and off throughout the season along with attractive foliage.

Starting at the left foreground  is the perennial Plumbago Ceratosigma, a late summer bloomer; Chrysogonum Green and Gold; Yellow Corydalis; middle area is the wonderful all season bloomer Fringed Bleeding Heart:  background is the vibrant Japanese Painted Fern under the Nikko blue Hydrangea.  all these plants work well in morning sun followed by afternoon shade.

Look for more information on most of these Perennials in my book,  ’Perennials…What you need to know!’

Happy Gardening!

This is the perfect time of year to cut a few of your Lenten Rose (Helleborous) blooms for a bouquet to brighten your kitchen table, bathroom or anywhere in your home.  Earlier in the season when I cut a few stems to bring in, they would shed for a couple days as well as droop a bit.  Now that the warm weather has started the drying process, they are just right to cut.  Of course you may have a few that won’t co-operate and stay upright, but overall a vase full of just Helleborous will add a soft and subtle color to any room, especially when placed in your favorite container.

Now begins the time in your garden to remove at the base the large darker leaves that are laying on the ground.  As the season progresses, the blossoms will turn brown, signaling the time to trim off the stem at the base of the plant.

There aren’t many plants that give us so much foliage and bloom for so little work!

Be Happy In Your Garden,


Spring is early this year and the garden is the proof – everything is starting to pop in my Atlanta gardens!

A plant that has looked good all winter is the Heuchera ‘Villosa’ and it is now starting to fill out with beautiful new foliage.  The Heucheras are best planted in well composted soil in a partly shaded area, either in a mass planting for a groundcover effect or as an accent plant among hostas, ferns and Lenten Rose.  The foliage will become brown if they receive too much afternoon sun in the summer.

There are a number of beautiful colors available from chartreuse to purple to a soft peach, each one having a complimentary color on the underside of the leaves.  Planted in containers is also a great way to show them off.  Heucheras foliage add a great look to any cut flower arrangement.

Happy Gardening,


I have 2 varieites of Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis) in full bloom in my garden – what a nice treat when most flowering perennials have started their long winter nap!

The clump forming variety is the Tricytris hirta, ‘Miyazaki’.  The arching stems are full of 2″ orchid-like blooms all along the stem at the intersection of the leaves.

The Formosana varitey, Stolonifera, spreads by ground runners, but not invasive.  The blossom is about 1″ mauve/purple, also resembles an orchid and is held on upright single stems.  Blooms last for a few weeks.

Both are great to cut and use in a vase – I like to add some foliage of various evergreens to really show off the blooms.

Perennials & shrubs are the mainstays of my garden, but annuals can be a good thing!  They are a great fill-in for areas where the perennials have finished blooming & leave a void.  Vincas, Impatiens, Begonias & Lantanas are all easy to find this time of year & will provide you with color throughout the fall.


‘Sum and Substance’ (large Hosta) and ‘June’ are 2 of my favorite Hostas.  They both are holding up very well in the summer heat and occasional dry conditions.  Hostas will also add a pretty fall foliage color to the garden.  Take stock of your garden now, even take some pictures, to find a spot thatcould use some beautiful foliage to complement the flowering part-shade loving flowers. 

Althea Griffin