Monday, October 24, 2016

Cover Cropped- Keep Your Soil Active this Winter

At Natureworks, we have a mission to provide cover crops for every Connecticut home gardener. Why? Many customers come in early Spring and find that their formerly lovely beds are filled with weeds, or they look like they’ve been eroded by the harsh winter winds. Maybe they grew tons of vegetables in their beds and never gave them a boost afterward.

Cover crops solve all these problems and more, they’re especially useful for someone who is looking to remediate their soil completely.

Compaction and clay? Break it up with cover crops.

Low fertility rates and a complete lack of nutrients? Nurture the soil with cover crops.

Can’t get ahead of the weeds before prepping a bed? Suppress them with cover crops

Want to try a living mulch?

For an extremely low investment that covers a ton of area, cover crops are the solution to many problems in the garden. Sow them in the Fall after clearing beds, let them fill your garden with green color (and often a delicate flower) and chop them back before they go to seed. This will become what is called “green manure” on your soil. Cover crops will be your first healthy dose of mulch, and your beds will be weed free, not as compacted and full of good nutrients to get your beds off to a healthy start.

See this in-depth view of different kinds of multi-use cover crops written by our longtime friend, Bill Duesing. Available for sale at Natureworks- your next best soil therapy

Thursday, October 20, 2016

October Isn’t Just for Mums Anymore

The New England garden is so full of opportunity in the Fall. There’s this expectation that it’s time for the Winter blues to set in, maybe everyone is out trying to soak in every last ounce of sun they can get before their skin is doomed to be covered for the next 4 months.

While it’s great for you to be out in the garden doing Fall chores, we have to ask- is there still color out to delight you during your hard work? And if there is- do you only see the likes of mums and daisies around? Hey! There’s nothing wrong with mums and daisies, but maybe you’re looking for something a little different... Something that you don’t see when you walk up to the grocery store or pumpkin patch.

Maybe that’s just what you need before the cold sets in, a bit of SURPRISE.

So we simply must ask- are these five plants part of your landscape? Do you have a great team of delightful, surprising garden dwellers who come to bloom or berry just when you thought your garden was growing brown?

Helianthus-‘First Light’ These lovely late perennial sunflowers form dense clumps and get covered in flowers. They’re best grown in full sun and have a very unique pointy foliage that covers their whole stem!
3-4’ tall x 3-4’ wide Full sun

Rabdosia longituba- Nancy came running in with this plant and said “Can you see why one variety is called ‘Tube Socks?!’” and when you look closely, you can see this gorgeous bell-like arrangement of tubular flowers that grow on tall, leafy stems in the shade garden. Wispy, playful and unexpected, this plant is an underused game changer that should be in every perennial shade garden.
36” tall x 36” wide Sun/ part-shade

Callicarpa – When this compact, arching shrub starts to fill out, we always seem to hear people shouting “What!? PURPLE BERRIES?!”  It matches the magical nature of this time of year, giving a showy display beyond compare.
2-4’ tall x 3-5’ wide Sun/ Part-shade

Liatris scariosa- with a species name that sounds like “scary-osa”, it’s a perfect October bloomer. It also loves those rocky, sandy soils and makes an excellent cut flower for your late-season bouquets. When you see the flower, you’ll understand why it’s commonly called ‘Blazing Star’.
2-4’ tall x 1-2’ wide Full sun

Colchicum and Fall Crocus- Fall blooming bulbs are the forgotten children of the garden. Usually when we think of bulbs we’re thinking of popping in things like bulbs like Tulips and Daffodils in Fall for Spring blooms. But what about bulbs you plant in late Summer/Early Fall for FALL blooms? Colchicum are completely pest proof. Although they're large bulbs, they can be nestled between perennials to fill your drab areas with color. Same with Fall-blooming crocus, consider growing saffron crocus with a delightful orange stamen that is harvested for the spice saffron.
Colchicum Double Waterlily planted in Black Mondo Grass

Winter Berry- A native plant that serves a purpose every time of year. The foliage gets brighter and better as the months grow colder until it eventually drops its leaves and shows off its brilliant red berries on slick dark stems. We use these berry-covered stems for stunning Christmas arrangements, and the birds use them for a much needed late season snack. One male plant is sufficient to pollinate 6-10 female plants, so get one of each to ensure cross pollination.
3-12’ tall x 3-12’ wide Sun/ Part-shade

 P.s.- Don’t forget some of the late season soldier, here are some of the late season classics : Sedums, Asters and Anemones provide pollen for our late pollinators and make for amazing photos when filled with sleeping bumble bees on the cold mornings. Keep on planting!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lathyrus vernus with Virginia bluebells

The Wide World of Wonderful Plants!

It's spring at last and you know what THAT means... Tons of really cool plants are arriving at Natureworks every day. As I wandered the benches early Saturday morning, I was thrilled to see the selection that has already appeared. Here are some highlights.

Comptomia peregrina is called sweet fern
Let's start with some NATIVES. Our American Beauties native benches are filling up quickly. I constantly find people browsing this section as most of us are trying to use a lot more native plants in our landscapes. In bloom now is one of my favorites- spicebush. As you drive around you will spot this in flower in wet woodlands. It looks like a mist of soft yellow. If you scratch the bark, you will smell the spicy aroma. This is the larval food plant of the
Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) is blooming in our wet woodlands
spicebush swallowtail. The red summer berries are beloved by birds. Another interesting native is sweet fern. It isn't a fern at all, but the foliage is delicate and it also smells wonderful when you crush it. This plant forms colonies in dry, poor soil. It is a workhorse for those difficult areas and grows 2-4' tall. It is also a butterfly larval food plant. Our native plant benches contain blueberries, elderberries, cranberries, and Aronia (chokeberries). We even have a new, dwarf Aronia melanocarpa 'Low Scape'. It has the same white flowers and edible black berries but only grows 2' tall. This is a fabulous landscape plant! 

A native hillside of trilliums and Dutchman's britches
Zizia is also a butterfly plant for the shade.

Naturally, we have lots and LOTS of native perennials as well. One entire area is devoted to woodland wildflowers such as trilliums, bloodroot, Zizia, Virginia bluebells, Uvularia, Tiarellas, and so much more. 

Got sun and want native perennials?  Why not plant "bluetts" (Houstonia). I am sure you remember these from your youngeryears, they used to grow in all the lawns before folks started killing the lawn flowers with poisons. I know of many fields in Durham and Middletown that are filled with bluetts in the spring. It is truly magical.  


We have Geum triflorum, also called prairie smoke. They are grown for their very cool seed pods. These are the biggest plants we have ever stocked. We are stocking some of our favorite late fall asters now so you can get them to grow big and lush by October. Baptisias are arriving, along with many Echinaceas.

Geum 'Mai Tai'
Have you heard about the Cocktail Series of Geums? I have loved the genus Geum for a long time. They bloom early and come in rich colors. Lately, the hybridization of Geums has brought us long blooming varieties that are great cut flowers. "Flavors" include 'Alabama Slammer' (shown above), 'Tequila Sunrise', and 'Mai Tai' to name a few. They look great combined with perennial bachelor's buttons and early dwarf Iris pumila. Speaking of which, we have a full selection 
Dwarf Iris pumila 'Baby Blessed'
of these early blooming gems in right now. My favorite is 'Baby Blessed', a soft yellow variety that blooms heavily in early May and repeats reliably in October and November. We also have purples, blues, and other colors in stock. If you love irises and want to enjoy them really early, these are for you. 

Digitalis thapsii, a very pretty perennial foxglove
Do you grow perennial foxgloves? This is Digitalis thapsii, a very lovely variety with soft pink flowers. These appeared on our benches last week.  We also have the rare oriental poppy 'Patty's Plum', the old fashioned, classic early white Phlox 'Miss Lingard', and an unusual YELLOW Weigela that Ken Druse spoke about at the CT Horticulture Symposium this winter called 'Canary'. It is a a pale, creamy color and will tolerate a bit of shade. It blooms a lot earlier than the others. 

Even our miniature plant collection is growing. Shown above is Phlox subulata 'Betty', a teeny tiny creeping phlox that has been happy in my courtyard for nearly 10 years. Those are my fingers shown in the picture. We also have Allium thunbergii 'Ozowa', a plant that won't bloom until November but a diminutive delight that is really hard to find. If you plant it now, when in blooms in late fall you will be very proud of yourself!

Late fall blooming Allium 'Ozowa' is a treat
I could go on and on. It's a wonderful time to be a gardener. Stretch your horizons and plant a few new things in your landscape this year. Whether you are doing so just for beauty or perhaps trying to enhance the habitat potential of your yard, it will do your soul good to get outside and start planting!

Monday, March 7, 2016

 Would you like to come to England with me???

This summer, from July 8-17th, I am going on a trip to England. This is something I have been dreaming about since I began gardening. I have studied books, plans, blog posts, websites, Pinterest pages, Facebook pages, and everything else I could get my hands on. It is finally going to happen! I am working with an excellent travel agency that is very experienced with running garden tours to England and Europe. They customized this tour just for me. The cost is $3800 for 10 days. That excludes airfare.

This trip is happening in July so that we can go to the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, the largest annual flower show in the world. This takes place on a 34 acre site.

We will visit classic gardens such as Great Dixter, the family home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher. Now under the stewardship of Fergus Garrett and the Great Dixter Charitable Trust, Great Dixter is an historic house, a garden, a centre of education, and a place of pilgrimage for horticulturists from across the world.


My trip wouldn't be complete without seeing Sissinghurst. The former home of Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, Sissinghurst is now owned by the National Trust.July is Meadow Month.

I didn't want to ONLY see the large, famous estates. This trip will also include many private gardens AND a garden designed by my favorite European designer, Piet Oudolf. RHS Garden Wisley is home to some of the largest plant collections anywhere in the globe.The Glasshouse will feature fuchsias when we are there. Leading up to the Glasshouse are borders designed by Piet Oudolf in 2001 that are at their peak in the summer months.

The gardens in England will all be at their peak at this time of year. Consider this the ultimate ten day garden walk with Nancy! I am still working out the details in terms of our exact itinerary and the registration form. The cost will be approximately $3800 for the trip, which includes 9 nights in country boutique hotels, admission to the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and all the gardens, tips and gratuities, coach transportation, and most meals. Airfare it not included in the price. The trip is limited to 25 participants and 3 spots are already taken!

 If you are interested, please email me DIRECTLY at 

Please put England in the subject line.

I will then send you all the details the minute they are ready, which will be this week.

I will continue to post pictures and information about all of the gardens we will be visiting over the next few weeks- TWENTY in all! Please share this with all of your friends who may be interested. This will be an exciting, education trip that all garden lovers will remember for the rest of their lives. Won't you come with me to England?

Nancy DuBrule-Clemente, Natureworks