Hannah Rogers grows in the city. She loves her garden, every stick and bloom of it. It is a constant work in progress and a source of continuous joy. She stirs up the seasons by adding annuals to the perennial mix. Her signature flower, blue larkspur, gleefully self-seeds throughout the packed flowerbeds, bringing elusive blues to the April garden. Another wanderer, variegated thistle (Silybummarianum), raises its prickly white leaves in unexpected places. Is it a pest? Not when so many gardener friends want to add it to their gardens; it is a plant to share.
The curved lines and over-abundant flowerbeds entice you in to see what is around the next bend. These artful placements of beds and borders make this city garden seem much more expansive than it is.
Hannah believes in an eco-friendly approach to gardening. She has counted ten different sizes of bees on her blossoms, which attests to the healthiness of her garden. They thrive because of her aversion to pesticides. If a shrub or flower is struggling to survive an invasion, rather than spray it constantly, “Pull up the shrub and replace it, it’s cheaper,” she advises. “Plus, you keep all of those chemicals out of your environment.”
As the sunny garden comes into view down a side path from the front shade garden (highlighted in a GardenSmart article¹), some shade plants continue under a banana shrub (Michelia figo) and lorapetalum, two limbed up ornamental shrubs. Cutting off the lower limbs redesigns them into graceful small ornamental trees. A little stand of voodoo lilies (Amorphophallus) are oddities planted to show off their round, smooth, snake-like spotted stems with their umbrella of whorled leaves at the top.
A short list of Hannah Rogers garden plants, by no means all-inclusive: Pink cone flowers, soapwort (Saponaria), verbena, pink cannas, tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis), petunias, salvia, deep pink dahlias, pink astilbe, gardenia, New Guinea impatiens, christophii and shubert alliums, baptisia, society garlic, phlox. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) shows off little blue flowers all summer long until frost cuts it down. So does the tropical hibiscus, which needs to be wintered indoors since it will not survive freezing weather.
Her small pond holds water lilies and other aquatic plants. Pink primrose (Oenothera speciosa) is an exuberant thug in the garden. You would never guess this is a native plant by the way it runs about the garden on underground stolons and above-ground seeds. It is even spreading from the edge of the pond into the pond. The more sedate Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), a member of the sedge family, edges the boggy area, making a cute little shelter for the frogs. You can also grow papyrus as a pot/house plant in colder areas, zone 6 and above.
There is so much movement and life in Hannah’s garden. Birds love the quiet grounds filled with flowers, food, water, and nesting spots. Orchard orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks stop by on their migration. Goldfinches, too. One year a little redstart visited. House finches are summer residents. A baby red breasted woodpecker took his first flights in the garden. Hannah supplements the wild food with feeders filled with sunflower hearts and safflower seeds. One winter she looked out her window to experience a perfect Christmas card moment, there were as many as eight male cardinals resting in her tree just outside the window.
She shoos a little wren out of the sunflower seed feeder, not because she doesn’t want it to eat but because it hops in and throws seed everywhere. Hannah has no idea what this little girl is looking for, or she would get it for her! Mrs. Wren built a nest on the enclosed back porch in one of the flower pots on the shelf. So, the porch door was left open accommodatingly until all the little ones fledged and were gone.
The white flowering Japanese anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ pops up here and there. Toad-lilies suffer here in the summer sun. Their counterparts in the front garden are in very dry areas. The foliage there stays lush and green while the backyard, well-watered Toad-lilies’ foliage gets browned edges. Hannah said, “Go figure!”
Every year, I challenge myself as a gardener to grow something I've never grown before and this year was no exception. As a professional garden writer, I was privileged to be given several exciting new varieties to trial. Additionally, in my travels this year, I had the chance to evaluate many more new plants in trial gardens across the country. The following new annuals, which will be new at retail in Spring 2017, received top ratings in my book.
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