Category Archives: shrubs

Witch Hazel: Create Beauty in a Barren Landscape

witch hazel
Witch hazel in bloom

I admit it: I wanted a Witch Hazel tree just because the name is so cool! Really, though, I couldn’t stand the thought of another bleak, barren winter landscape after last winter’s brutal harshness. I decided to do something about it.

I already have a Holly bush, and it does produce bright red berries in the winter. But I needed more.

I went with the Witch Hazel bush named Arnold Promise because it will produce bright yellow flowers in late winter. Yes, it blooms in the winter! While it is considered a shrub, it can grow quite tall if left unpruned, so I really think of this as more of a tree.

I am so happy to have this in my yard now! When the shrub is not flowering, it provides beauty to the landscape with the vase like structure of the shrub.

If a dead landscape is not a worry for you, the Witch Hazel blooming shrub comes in a variety of colors with different blooming times, so this is really a versatile shrub that can work with any landscape.

Witch Hazel is fairly easy to establish and grow. It does like a sunny to partially sunny spot with acidic soil, but other than that, no other issues.

In addition to a beautiful spray of color in the winter landscape, Witch Hazel has numerous medicinal uses, and of course, the branches of the Witch Hazel tree have long been used in dowsing.

Think back and remember last winter. Ok, now, think about what you can do to avoid that barren look and keep Witch Hazel in mind!

Happy Gardening!





The Butterfly Bush: Not Just a Weed

butterflyThe butterfly bush, buddleja davidii,  is a flowering shrub that will fill your garden with a wonderful scent throughout the summer. In my area, it dies back to the ground each winter but returns each summer–it is a vigorous, hardy plant.

It does and will attract butterflies, bees,  and birds to your garden. I have two of these shrubs, and I absolutely love them. The come in a variety of colors– mine are both purple. I would love to have a white and/or a red one as well.

In the language of flowers, the butterfly bush is correlated with transformation and rebirth, which is fitting since it does come back each year from the ground for me. I hear that in the south, these can grow into actual trees! I would love to have that!

How to Grow

  • In the spring or the fall, pick a sunny spot in your garden–the butterfly bush loves the sun.
  • Dig a hole a little wider and deeper than the root ball.
  • Mix a little fertilizer with the soil.
  • Place the plant into the hole, being sure to keep the top of the root ball close to the top of the soil.
  • Add mulch.
  • Water.
  • Once a bloom is finished, cut it off to encourage new blooming.

While some states, such as Washington, classify this shrub as a weed, I simply don’t agree. It is a gorgeous plant that will attract and feed bees, birds, and butterflies throughout the summer.

Happy Gardening!



Vinca: Excellent ground cover

vincaVinca, or myrtle, is a sub-shrub and makes excellent ground cover in shady spots. It spreads quickly and can be invasive, so you’ll need to keep it in check.

Vinca does have medicinal uses for several types of cancers.  It has also been used to treat diabetes, coughs and sore throats.

The plant is associated with sweet memories though this is clearly  not connected with its medicinal uses.

How to Grow

  • Pick a shady spot in your garden.
  • Dig a hole slightly larger than the roots.
  • Mix in a good fertilizer.
  • Place the plant in the hole and cover with soil.
  • Water.

Vinca is drought tolerant and makes an excellent border plant. We have purple vinca  in our garden, but it does come in a variety of colors, including pink and white.

Happy Gardening!




orangerodedendronRhododendrons are spring favorites because of their lavish blooms, and they do come in a variety of colors.

Despite their beautiful blooms, rhododendrons are associated with danger in the language of flowers. I know; you’re probably asking why such a gorgeous plant could be correlated with danger.

The answer is quite simple, really. Rhododendrons are poisonous if ingested, and even kill people who eat honey harvested from bees who fed on the Rhododendron. They are also poisonous to grazing animals, so these aren’t the type of shrubs you want in a field or near a bee hive.

Nevertheless, rhododendrons are quite popular!

How to Grow

  • Pick a partially shady spot in your garden that is somewhat sheltered from the west wind.
  • Dig a shallow hole–you want the roots to be right at soil level or just slightly below. You don’t want the roots to rot.
  • Mix in a fertilizer, such as bone meal.
  • Place the plan in the hole and cover with soil.
  • Water and mulch.

Most varieties of rhododendrons will retain their leaves throughout the winter, providing some color in your garden year round.

Happy Gardening!

A Dirty Tale From the Garden

russiansageLast summer when my parents were away (they are frequently gone–they tend to travel all over the world), I had agreed to take care of their house. I was suffering from a tremendous migraine, but I still had to go over to their house to make sure everything was running along well and bring in the mail.

They have an extensive garden, and I wandered through to make sure everything was as it should be. From the path, I spied this plant; it was new. The tall purple spikes attracted me, so I wandered over to really investigate it. After a few minutes, I realized the pounding in my head was growing dim. Ah, blessed relief! I did not know what this plant was, but I thought it might be some breed of lavender since that was the only plant I knew of that could help my poor head.

Off to Vite’s Greenhouse we went! Of course, there was no lavender like this, but Mrs. Vite was in her garden, and we began talking about it. She had this plant, too. I was able to point it out, and she was able to tell me: Russian Sage. I left with my own Russian Sage to plant.

It turns out that not only is this plant absolutely stunning, it does have medicinal uses:

  • brings down a fever
  • treats flu and colds
  • soothes an upset tummy

I have not made any compounds, but when I have a raging headache (brought on by sinus or allergies), I retreat to my garden and sit by the Russian Sage.

Russian Sage is not really a sage plant. While some people consider it a perennial, it is a type of sub-shrub. It does well in poor soil and requires little water.

If you are not fortunate enough to get some of the plant from a neighbor or friend, purchase it at a nursery. Keep in mind that the spikes will be tall–it can grow up to four feet.

How to Plant

  • Pick a sunny spot in your garden.
  • Dig a hole a bit wider and deeper than the plant’s roots.
  • Add in a fertilizer.
  • Gently place the plant into the hole.
  • Cover it with soil and water the plant.

Russian Sage is a hardy plant and easy to grow. It does attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, but the deer don’t much care for the plant–a true bonus! The tall blooms also make excellent cut flowers for a vase.

Happy Gardening!


Lilacs: A Spring favorite


“Still grows the vivacious lilac a generation after the door and lintel and the sill are gone, unfolding its sweet-scented flowers” ~ Henry David Thoreau
While lilac shrubs provide a good deal of privacy in the garden, they are mostly grown for their enchanting fragrance. Many grow as tall as 15 feet! Lilacs may be purchased at most nurseries, but before you buy one, ask your friends and neighbors if they have any saps from a lilac that they would be willing to give you. Yes, it will be small at first and will take a few years to establish itself, but it will be free.
How to Grow Lilacs
Plant Lilac bushes in the spring or the fall.
  • Pick a sunny spot in your garden.
  • Dig a hole and add fertilizer.
  • Place the plant in the hole, being sure to spread out the roots in the hole.
  • Cover with soil and water.
  • Lilacs bloom on old wood, so prune right after blooming.
Benefits of Lilacs
  • Attract butterflies
  • Easy to grow and care for
  • Heavenly scent
  • Excellent cut flowers
  • Used for treating wounds and fever

Lilacs generally bloom in late spring and early summer, but some varieties will bloom mid-summer and the fall. I have an ever-blooming lilac, and it blooms all summer. If you see one of these at a nursery, grab it! It will be gone the next time you visit the nursery. Ever-blooming lilacs have become immensely popular for their scent and color in the garden throughout the summer.

Happy Gardening!