Plants We Love: Heuchera

Heuchera americana growing in the wild. Photo by Irvine T. Wilson.

Heuchera americana growing in the wild. Photo by Irvine T. Wilson.


'Amethyst Mist' used in a landscape design by Michele Fletcher. Photo by Michele Fletcher Landscape Designs.

'Amethyst Mist' used in a landscape design by Michele Fletcher. Photo by Michele Fletcher Landscape Designs.

I admit it: I’ve got a hankering for heuchera. There’s something about this member of the Saxifrage family that gives me joy. Maybe it’s the dainty flowers, the earth-toned foliage or the adorable cultivar names like ‘Purple Petticoat,’ ‘Southern Comfort,’ ‘Tiramisu’ and ‘Cinnabar Silver,’ to name a few.

Heuchera americana, also known as alumroot, is a widespread native in North America. A close relative of tiarella, or foamflower, it grows wild in woodlands and rocky forests, often in crevices. The "Flora of Virginia" tells me eight species of heuchera are native to Virginia.

Alumroot has a history of medicinal use, and the genus is even named for a medical botanist, Austrian-born Johann von Heucher. According to the "Flora of North America," the Cherokee took alumroot to cure dysentery and a variety of other ailments; the Chickasaw used the root as an astringent.

Hybridization of our native heuchera skyrocketed in the last century. Today, we have hundreds of cultivars to choose from. Their foliage ranges from plum to chartreuse to variegated greens and silvers.

Certified landscape designer Michele Fletcher says she loves the splash of color that heuchera adds to a garden. But there are a few things to keep in mind before planting.

“Sadly, I’ve found a wide difference in reliability,” she said. “My favorite, ‘Amethyst Mist’ has great color and has been the most reliable in the landscape for clients and myself.”

Michele also points out that heuchera may not be as deer resistant as advertised. She says it’s important for the plants to be established before they become deer lunch. “I use them where the deer population is low or where the plants will be protected by boxwoods or nepeta, which deer definitely avoid.”

Most heucheras prefer shade or part shade, but some do well in full sun. Generally, the darker the foliage, the more sun it can tolerate. Well-drained soil is a must. The plants can tolerate poor soil, but if you have heavy soil, dig in some compost or leaf litter before planting.

Try heuchera as an alternative to hosta. No matter which variety you choose, this plant will add soothing color and a playful, airy element to your landscape.

Download a free landscape plan that uses Heuchera americana. For more about heuchera, read Kathy van Mullekom’s recent Daily Press article.

Michele Fletcher is based in Rockbridge County, Va. For photos of her work and plant tips, visit her Facebook page.

Julie Buchanan is a public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. She lives in Richmond, Va., where she is just beginning to delve into the world of gardening.

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So many plant sales, so little time

Sassafras albidum shows its fall colors. Credit: The Dow Gardens Archive, Dow Gardens, Bugwood.org

Sassafras albidum shows its fall colors. Credit: The Dow Gardens Archive, Dow Gardens, Bugwood.org


Ah, fall is almost upon us. Time to don light jackets and indulge in pumpkin-flavored goodies. Perhaps apple cider or an Oktoberfest beverage is calling your name. It won't be long before kids are deciding on Halloween costumes.

But wait! There's something missing from this fall festival of fun. Fall is for Planting. Yes, when you think of plaid, the return of football and changing leaves, think of your yard as well. And I don't just mean that container of mums on the front porch. Fall is the best time to plant more plants, especially shrubs and trees. The soil is still warm and roots can establish themselves before summer heat comes back. To get you started, I've gathered a list of fall plant sales around the Chesapeake Bay region. Remember: More Plants. Less Runoff. Healthier Bay.

And don't forget to visit local garden centers. They'll be open through October.

Northern Virginia & Maryland
Sept. 21
Arlington's Long Branch Nature Center, 625 S. Carlin Springs Road, will sell a selection of plants and shrubs. Sale is cash only. 


Sept. 22 and 28, Oct. 5 and 20
Herring Run Nursery at 6131 Hillen Road, Baltimore, is open for retail sales 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The nursery offers hundreds of species of native trees, shrubs and perennials.  

Sept. 28
The ParkFairfax Native Plant Sale is scheduled 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., at 3601 Valley Drive, Alexandria. The sale is open to the public, and admission is free. 


Sept. 28
Historic London Town and Gardens, a 23-acre park in Edgewater, Md., hosts its annual fall plant sale 10 a.m. until noon (members-only preview sale is 8 until 10 a.m.). Stay for a tour of the new trail system. 


Oct. 5
More than 25 plant and craft vendors will be at the fall plant sale, 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria. 


Oct. 12-13
Bring the whole family to Arborfest, 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., at Blandy Experimental Farm and State Arboretum of Virginia in bucolic Boyce. $10 per car. Shop plants propagated or divided from the grounds. Scarecrow-making and hayrides are on tap. Need I say more? 


Central Virginia
Sept. 20-21
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Henrico County hosts its annual fall plant sale. A wide selection of plants will be available from numerous small and local vendors. Admission to the sale is free. 

Sept. 21
All plants are 20 percent off during the open house at Colesville Nursery, 14011 Nursery Road, Ashland. The open house is 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., but arrive early for the best selection.

Sept. 27-28
Select native perennials, shrubs and trees will be 50 percent off at The Nursery at Garden Gate's open house, 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. The nursery is at 15101 Quaker Church Road, Montpelier.


Hampton Roads
Sept. 20-21, 28-29
The Virginia Living Museum, 542 Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News, hosts its fall native-plant sale. Knowledgeable horticulture staff will be there to assist you. Admission to the sale is free. 


Sept. 28
The Williamsburg Botanical Garden, located in Freedom Park, 5537 Centerville Road, Williamsburg, will offer fall perennials, butterfly-friendly plants and art for sale. 

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Please add events I left off in the comments section below. Happy
fall planting!

Julie Buchanan is a public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. She lives in Richmond, Va., where she is just beginning to delve into the world of gardening.

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Your inspiration to plant more plants

Photo by Alison Miksch

Photo by Alison Miksch


Spring is finally here, and our yards are beckoning us outside. Here?s a list of April events that are sure to get you in the planting mood.
 
April 12-13
8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Everything will be 20 percent off at Colesville Nursery, 14011 Nursery Road, Ashland, Va. Lines get long at this annual sale, so arrive early and bring a plant wish list. Enter to win one of two Japanese maples.
 
April 13
11 a.m.
Children between the ages of 4 and 10 can sign up for the Sneed?s Seeds Club at Sneed?s Nursery and Garden Center, 8756 Huguenot Road, Richmond, Va. Club members get to make a monthly garden craft, receive a birthday gift and, most importantly, foster an early love for plants.
 
April 14
11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Nearly 150 species of native plants will be for sale at Herring Run Nursery, 6131 Hillen Road, Baltimore, Md. Spend $30 or more and receive a free woodland poppy (redeem the poppy coupon at the nursery?s Facebook page). This nonprofit nursery is an affiliate of Blue Water Baltimore.
 
April 20
11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Water your plants for free. Make a rain barrel at the Christopher Newport University Garden Symposium in Newport News. Contact Newport News Cooperative Extension at 757-591-4838 to register for one of two workshops. Cost is $50 per barrel.
 
2 p.m.
Rich Poulin of The Perennial Farm will give a primer on new and underused perennials at Countryside Gardens, 220 E. Mercury Blvd., Hampton, Va.
 
April 21
11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Natural Art Garden Center, 27358 Old Valley Pike, Toms Brook, Va., celebrates five years in business with an open house in conjunction with the Shenandoah County Gardens, Galleries and Grapes Tour. Make a day of it finding plants for the yard and sampling local ciders.
 
1 p.m.
Merrifield Garden Center founder Bob Warhurst (a.k.a., The Plant Whisperer) discusses how to be a successful gardener in a program at the Gainesville location, 6895 Wellington Road, Gainesville, Va. Self-proclaimed ?brown thumbs? should attend.
 
April 21 and 26
The nursery of Garden Gate Landscape and Design, 15101 Quaker Church Road, Montpelier, Va., will be open for walk-in business. Owner Beth Farmer grows native plants from seed. The nursery is open two Fridays and two Sundays per month, but Beth?s plants also can be purchased Saturdays at the Lakeside Farmers Market and April 27 at Maymont?s Herbs Galore and More.
 
April 27
10:30 a.m.
Attend a free seminar about proper planting techniques for trees, shrubs and perennials at Boulevard Flower Gardens at Ruffin Mill, 2100 Ruffin Mill Road, South Chesterfield, Va.
 
This is by no means an all-inclusive list. Add events we left off in the comments section below.

Julie Buchanan is a public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. She lives in Richmond, Va., where she is just beginning to delve into the world of gardening.

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Mark Your Calendar for These Spring Plant Sales and Giveaways

Shoppers browse the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden's spring plant sale. Photo by Julie Buchanan/Va. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation.

Shoppers browse the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden's spring plant sale. Photo by Julie Buchanan/Va. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation.

Some of us soon might be gazing wistfully at snow out our windows, but the truth is spring is not far away. What better way is there to beat the winter doldrums than to gear up for spring planting? 

To help get you started, we?ve compiled the following list of upcoming plant sales and giveaways. All events are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and many are put on by nonprofits, Master Gardeners or local soil and water conservation districts. 

Can?t make it to one of these events? Browse the list of Plant More Plants retail partners. Most will be opening soon to fulfill all your spring planting needs.

Remember: More Plants. Less Runoff. Healthier Bay. 

Going on now
The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District is taking orders for its annual seedling sale through April 22 or until supplies run out. Shrub and small tree packages ($15.95) and tree packages ($10.95) are available. Visit the district?s website to see which species are offered. 

March 22-23
Riparian landowners in Chesterfield County, Va., can make appointments to pick up free native tree seedlings March 22, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., or March 23, 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The goal is to improve riparian buffers throughout the county and filter stormwater runoff with native trees. The county?s environmental engineering department and the James River Soil and Water Conservation District are sponsors of the giveaway. To schedule an appointment, contact Lorne Field at fieldl[at]chesterfield.gov or 804-748-1920.

March 23
The U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Ave., Washington, will host a native-plant sale 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., in conjunction with the 27th Annual Lahr Native Plant Symposium. 

March 28-29
Henrico County, Va., residents can snag bareroot tree seedlings March 28, 2:30 until 6:30 p.m., at Dorey Park, or March 29, 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., at Hermitage High School. This giveaway is sponsored by the Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District. Seedlings were provided by the Virginia Department of Forestry. 

April 6
Herring Run Nursery at 6131 Hillen Road, Baltimore, Md., resumes retail sales 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The nursery offers hundreds of species of native trees, shrubs and perennials. Check their website for detailed hours of operation.

April 19-20
Trees, shrubs, ferns and wildflowers will be available for purchase 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., at the Arbor Day Trees and Native Plant Sale, sponsored by the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum at James Madison University, 780 University Blvd., Harrisonburg, Va. 

April 20
Hanover Master Gardeners will hold their spring plant sale 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the parking lot of the Hanover County Social Services building, 12304 Washington Hwy., Ashland, Va. 

April 20-21
The Virginia Living Museum, 542 Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News, hosts its spring native-plant sale April 20, 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., and April 21, noon until 3 p.m. Admission to the sale is free. 

April 27
The ParkFairfax Native Plant Sale is scheduled 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., at 3601 Valley Drive, Alexandria, Va. The sale is open to the public, and admission is free. 

April 27-28
In case you missed the Virginia Living Museum's native-plant sale the previous weekend, swing by April 27, 
9 a.m. until 3 p.m., or April 28, noon until 3 p.m. Admission to the sale is free.

April 28
The Jefferson Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society hosts its plant sale 1 until 3 p.m., at the Ivy Creek Natural Area barn, 1780 Earleysville Road, Charlottesville, Va. 

May 2-4
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Henrico County, Va., hosts its three-day spring plant sale. A wide selection of plants will be available from numerous small and local vendors. See the website for sale hours. Admission to the sale is free. 

May 11
The Prince William Wildflower Society, a chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, hosts its native-plant sale 9 a.m. until noon at Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, 8712 Plantation Lane, Manassas, Va.

The Virginia Beach Master Gardeners? spring plant sale is scheduled 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Virginia Beach Farmers Market at the corner of Dam Neck and Princess Anne roads.

May 18
The Master Gardeners of Prince William will sell plants 9 a.m. until noon at The Teaching Garden, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, Va. While you?re there, find out about the unique learning opportunities available at the garden. 

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Please add any events we left off in the comments section below. Happy planting!

Julie Buchanan is a public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. She lives in Richmond, Va., where she is just beginning to delve into the world of gardening.

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Top 10 Bay-Friendly Gifts

Help the bay with a Be the Bay T-Shirt. Photo from bethebay.com.

Help the bay with a Be the Bay T-Shirt. Photo from bethebay.com.


Darling birdhouses at Merrifield Garden Center. Photo by Merrifield Garden Center.

Darling birdhouses at Merrifield Garden Center. Photo by Merrifield Garden Center.


A special coffee roast, in honor of the James River. Photo from jamesriverassociation.org.

A special coffee roast, in honor of the James River. Photo from jamesriverassociation.org.


Rain chains are prettier than downspouts. Photo from h2ocollect.com.

Rain chains are prettier than downspouts. Photo from h2ocollect.com.


Selecting gifts for your Chesapeake Bay-loving friends need not be difficult! Here are our top 10 bay-centric gifts: 

1) ?Lynnhaven River, Restoring a Legend? ? This new book by the folks at Lynnhaven River Now tells the story of the cherished river through photos and personal narratives. It?s a coffee table book that surely won?t collect dust on the coffee table. Click here for purchase information.

2) ?Peace, Love & Oysters? T-Shirt ? These sweet shirts by Be the Bay are perfect for river lovers. Plus, 10 percent of each purchase goes toward bay restoration projects.

3) Membership to a local botanical garden or nature center ? Give your loved one year-round planting inspiration with unlimited access to botanical gardens and nature centers. Hint, hint: The Irvine Nature Center is offering a family membership for $32 on Living Social. Buy it before the deal ends tonight! 

4) Gift cards to locally owned garden centers ? Many of Plant More Plants? business partners are small and locally owned. We heard Colesville Nursery is giving 10 percent off gift card purchases this week. More Plants. Less Runoff. Healthier Bay.

5) Swanky birdhouses ? Who says birds can?t live in luxury, too? These sustainably made birdhouses should please feathered friends this winter. And you?ll have the pleasure of watching them from afar. Merrifield Garden Centers are stocking the birdhouses.

6) ?The Flora of Virginia? ? The ultimate manual of Virginia plants is fresh from the publisher! It?s an update to the only other flora Virginia?s ever had, which was published a mere 250 years ago. Be sure to get a first-run copy while supplies last. 

7) Annual membership to a local organization ? The bay watershed is home to many organizations doing important work to keep our waters healthy. Consider the Potomac Riverkeeper, Blue Water Baltimore, Anacostia Watershed Society, Friends of the Rappahannock and Friends of the Lower Appomattox, to name just a few.

8) Composting supplies ? Even in winter, you can begin building better soil and lessening the burden on landfills. Local city or county governments often sell composting bins to residents for a discount. For example, Arlington County sells Presto bins to residents at only $20 a pop. Make sure you have enough wrapping paper for these babies!

9) James River Blend Coffee ? Great coffee starts with clean water. Blanchard?s, a small, family-owned roaster based in Richmond, has joined with the James River Association to create a special blend for America?s founding river. A portion of the proceeds from each bag sold supports the JRA.

10) Rain barrels and rain chains ? Our friend Kim Usry at H2O Collect reminds us these make wonderful gifts! Check out www.h2ocollect.com for cool rainwater-harvesting tools. 

Julie Buchanan is a public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. She lives in Richmond, Va., where she is just beginning to delve into the world of gardening.

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Everything You Need to Know about Rain Gardens

A rain garden recently was planted at the Virginia state capitol as part of the Greening Virginia's Capitol project.

A rain garden recently was planted at the Virginia state capitol as part of the Greening Virginia's Capitol project.


A rain garden is a terrific way to add beauty and eco-friendly benefits to a yard. The concept is simple: strategically placed plants help absorb excess rainwater before it flows off the lawn and dirties our rivers and streams as stormwater runoff. 

While the concept is easy, the implementation of a rain garden can be more of a head scratcher. That?s why Chesterfield County, Va., is hosting three free rain garden workshops this fall. Participants will learn the knowledge and skills needed to create attractive and functional rain gardens. Topics will include garden sizing, soil preparation, plant choices and pollution reduction.
 
Workshops will be at these Chesterfield County libraries: 

Enon Library
Saturday, Oct. 6
10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 

Midlothian Library 
Saturday, Oct. 27 
10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 

Clover Hill Library
Saturday, Nov. 27 
10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Here?s the fun part: Participants will put their newly learned skills into action by installing a rain garden at the libraries. 

To sign up, call 804-748-1920 or click here. Get started exploring rain garden designs by downloading the free Plant More Plants landscape plans.

The workshops are sponsored by the Chesterfield County Department of Environmental Engineering, the Chesterfield County Public Library and the Chesterfield County office of Cooperative Extension.

Funding is provided by the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, through the sales of Friends of the Chesapeake Bay license plates.

Julie Buchanan is a public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. She lives in Richmond, Va., where she is just beginning to delve into the world of gardening.

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Fall is the best time to Plant More Plants


You may have heard the slogan, ?Fall is for Planting.? It isn?t just a marketing gimmick invented by the landscape or nursery industries. Fall really is the best time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. One reason is that soils are still warm and will promote strong root growth even through winter. Fall also is cooler, so the need to water isn?t as great. 

Plus, working in the yard on crisp autumn days is downright pleasant versus toiling under the harsh summer sun.

We at Plant More Plants have been busy gearing up for fall. Our website has undergone a fall makeover that?s sure to inspire you past the autumnal equinox. Finding local landscape experts, retailers and helpful resources for fall planting is easier than ever.

The Plant More Plants message also will be hitting the airwaves this fall. Watch for our ads on broadcast and cable TV in the Richmond and Hampton Roads markets, and on cable in the Washington, D.C. area. Here's one of our ads:



If you live in these regions, look for our banner ads on websites for HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network and others. 

If you?ve never tried fall planting, dig into it this year. Make your yard beautiful for fall gatherings and enjoy it all season long. We hope planting more plants will become one of your favorite things about fall, right up there with pumpkin carving and college football Saturdays.

Julie Buchanan is a public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. She lives in Richmond, Va., where she is just beginning to delve into the world of gardening.

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Plants We Love: River Birch

Peeling bark of a river birch reveals an array of color. Photos by Julie Buchanan.

Peeling bark of a river birch reveals an array of color. Photos by Julie Buchanan.


River birches along Richmond's Canal Walk offer shade on a balmy afternoon.

River birches along Richmond's Canal Walk offer shade on a balmy afternoon.

A recent stroll along the James River reminded me of my love for the river birch. As I neared the end of my walk in downtown Richmond, I happened upon a few stately specimens, their bark in full peeling splendor. 

You?ll know the river birch, or Betula nigra, when you see it. The bark peels up from the trunk in layers, revealing a rainbow of tans, reds and browns (?cinnamon? is a good description). These colors are more vivid in older trees. Oval or triangular leaves have double-toothed edges, and the trunk is typically divided into two or three trunks. 

The river birch is native to the coastal southeast, where it?s happy to live along riverbanks, ponds and swamp edges. It?s a popular tree for riverbank restoration and erosion control. 

It loves deep, moist soils and can handle the heavy clay that is so prevalent here in central Virginia. In addition, river birches thrive in acidic soils. They?ve been the go-to tree for mine reclamation projects where mining waste has made soil very acidic.

A few river birches on a riparian landscape can provide many benefits. One is that the river birch is more disease-resistant than others in the birch family. Seeds provide food for a variety of birds, and waterfowl can nest in the branches. Reaching heights up to 70 feet, it?s also a perfect shade tree. And who couldn?t use more shade come summertime?

In an urban landscape, the unique river birch stands out among the all the crape myrtles and Bradford pears. The bark is like nature?s avant-garde piece of art. Keep your eyes peeled for it next time you?re walking near the water. 

Julie Buchanan is a public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. She lives in Richmond, Va., where she is just beginning to delve into the world of gardening.

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Plight of the Pollinator


I cannot live without coffee and chocolate. Therefore, I cannot live without pollinators.

This week is National Pollinator Week, and Facebook is full of beautiful, up-close photos of our pollinating friends at work. I look at them while enjoying my morning coffee (and contemplating chocolate for breakfast).

But one week a year isn?t enough to devote attention to pollinators. Their contributions to our lives ? and entire ecosystems ? are too important. 

Pollinators are those creatures who move pollen from one flower to another of the same species. Through this process, plants produce fertile seeds and grow more flowers. These flowers grow into food for animals and us.

More than 75 percent of flowering plants and crops are pollinated by animals, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are pollinators most familiar to us, but some species of moths, flies, beetles and bats also pollinate in their quest for food. Each is attracted to different types of flowers. Amazingly, even color can make a difference. For example, bees are drawn to bright white, yellow and blue flowers, while butterflies prefer bright reds and purples. 

We?ve heard a lot recently about the plight of pollinators ? they?re losing feeding and nesting habitat and being poisoned by chemicals used in yards. 

We can help them by planting more plants. Instead of turfgrass lawns, let?s put in pollinator gardens filled with the native plants they need. Let?s stop using chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that not only kill pollinators, but also pollute our waters.

I highly recommend these links for more information on pollinators and pollinator gardens.

The Pollinator Partnership
Nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the health of pollinating animals in North America. Check out the wonderful guide, ?Selecting Plants for Pollinators? for the southeast United States.

U.S. Forest Service
Loads of information and a terrific booklet, ?Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden Using Native Plants.?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Great marketing and educational materials about pollinators, including this poster.

Julie Buchanan is a public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. She lives in Richmond, Va., where she is just beginning to delve into the world of gardening.

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Plants We Love: Turtleheads -- Snap Them Up!

The

The "hot lips" variety of turtlehead, or chelone, is commonly available at garden centers. Photo by Betty Truax.


Chelone, (it rhymes with phony and baloney) is a native member of the figwort family. It is more commonly known as turtlehead. It's not hard to figure out how it got its common name; those blooms shaped like turtleheads are so adorable that even someone who is not a fan of turtles can?t resist them. They remind me of kids running around in the rain with their tongues sticking out to catch the droplets. Chelone was a nymph in Greek mythology that offended the gods by not attending the wedding of Zeus to Hera. To punish her, they turned her into a turtle.

I started out having a lot of trouble growing this plant. I wasn't giving it nearly enough water. It is happy down by the waterfront where its feet stay wet most of the time. In my yard it spends most of its time in the shade with 2-3 hours of sun in the afternoon. It will tolerate sun if grown in consistent wetness. I need to warn you ? native caterpillars love this plant so its leaves are very often munched on. This plant is a host plant of the endangered Baltimore Butterfly. Hummingbirds visit this plant as well but bumblebees are what I usually see. It is fun watching the bumblebees climb into the ?turtle's head? and then back out hiney first just to hit the next bloom and do it again.

Don't dig this up if you find it in the wild. (Go to www.vnps.org for a list of nurseries that sell only nursery-propagated plants.) It is easy to find the pink version ?Hot Lips? at local nurseries. I had a hard time finding the white variety but a nursery in my area (shameless commercial here ? English Country Gardens) was able to locate some for me.

Growing from 1-3 feet, deer generally don't bother this plant. The blooms come in pink, rose, white and purplish depending on the variety. One of this plant?s best features is the bloom time from late summer well into the fall. If turtlehead does not get enough water or if it is planted where air cannot circulate, mildew might become a problem. If planted in too much shade this plant will become leggy and require staking. If you absolutely want to plant it in an area that is too shady, minimize the legginess by cutting the plant back by one-third to half in late spring. Moving the plant to a place that better suits its needs (right plant, right place!) will rectify these problems. Divide this plant in the spring to share it with friends. If you have a damp area in your yard, give this wonderful native a shot. You won't be disappointed!

Playing with Plants: Pinch the flowers like you would with snapdragons to make them ?talk.? Plus, look inside turtlehead's mouth to find fangs!

Betty Truax is a member of the Virginia Native Plant Society. She's mother to four grown children, daughter to a great lady who inspired her love of flora and wife to a wonderful man who's always willing to help dig holes for plants. Betty lives in a lawn-free home near Charlottesville, Va., and is in the process of installing woodland gardens on the property.

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