Drinking The Farmer’s Market: Homemade Organic Liquor Infusions For Exceptional Summer Cocktails #herbchat 

Left to right: mint, lemon basil, peach, rosemary, ginger, thyme, lemongrass, strawberry, and grapefruit. Completely submerge the fruits in vodka (or liquor of your choice), wait a week or two, strain, and Voilà! 

Available while supplies last:  Caladium ‘Frog in a Blender.’ 

From Spalding Bulb Farms, Florida: "If you are looking to add a unique flare to your garden then be sure to include any of these beauties in your order." 

One might assume they were inspired by Dan Akroyd’s SNL skit: Super Bass-O-Matic ‘76

Postcards from the Hedge. 

A Foxglove with Lipstick? 

Imagine the perfect non-stop summer bloomer with enormous impact all by itself, which is also deer proof. Meet Digiplexis ‘Illumination Flame,’ a cross between Digitalis purpurea (foxglove) and Isoplexis canariensis (Canary Island foxglove). This new hybrid blends the qualities of both plants, thanks to the efforts of Charles Valin, plant breeder at Thompson & Morgan. It received the Best New Plant Award at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show (2012), as well as the Greenhouse Grower’s Award of Excellence in 2013. 

Multiple side branches emanating from this bushy basal-branched shrub produce flame-colored flower stalks all summer long, even into the fall. Because the plants are sterile, they don’t waste energy trying to go to seed, and this results in fast-growing, floriferous shrubs with vibrant, vertical flower stalks to 3’ in height in shades of watermelon, fuchsia and mango. And while that may sound delicious, Digiplexis has the same toxins as its relative, Digitalis, so all parts of the plant are poisonous. If you use the plant in cut flower arrangements, dispose of the water safely because the toxins will seep from the stalks into the water. The foliage may also cause skin irritation, so handle it with caution. 

Digiplexis can be used in seasonal color beds as a backdrop to other annuals, or grown in large containers. It will take part shade to full sun, and blooms from April until the first frost. 

Planter Ideas: Thriller, Filler, and Spiller.

"Editors note: It’s fun to hear our lead designer, Brooks, talk about décor he’s designed. About the above Bombay® Luxembourg Planter he says: ‘It was inspired by French planters, little planters with legs called cachepots. We wanted something elegant and used an animal, and a lion was regal and Bombay in a European way.’

"That’s great but how does it do in a garden? We asked horticulturist and garden artisan Nancy Wallace to try it out. What she did yielded amazing insights into creating a stunning container garden. Thriller, filler, spiller… Take it away, Nancy!” 

Read more at Bombay Outdoors

April is National Gardening Month, and here in Atlanta, it is arguably the prettiest month of the year. Everything is in bloom, and it can be positively head-spinning to pick out favorite landscape plants, so let’s discuss a couple of favorite deer proof plant materials.   

Viburnum macrocephalum (Chinese Snowball) is one of my favorite small landscape trees. It tolerates full sun and part shade, and once established, it’s fairly drought tolerant. Many people mistake this tree for a hydrangea, because the flowers are similar. However, unlike hydrangeas, viburnums are deer resistant. I’ve never seen one of these trees damaged by wildlife, and just look at the size of those flower heads. Use a specimen tree like this as a focal point in your landscape, so that when April arrives, all eyes are upon it. 

While we are on the subject of deer proof plant materials, and favorite April-bloomers, let’s talk about herbaceous peonies. These long-lived perennials are tough as nails, they thrive here in the Atlanta-metro area, and are drought tolerant once established. Choices include fully-double peonies, or single-petal varieties. The doubles are very fragrant, but they may topple over without support, especially in heavy spring rains. My personal favorites are the single-petal varieties, like ‘Red Emperor’ and ‘Krinkled White’ because they withstand heavy down pours. The two most important things to remember about growing peonies is (1) make sure they have good drainage, and (2) keep the “eyes” (or the “crown”) of the plant at ground level during the winter (and don’t bury them in mulch). Peonies will bloom better when nipped by cold weather, so they appreciate the extra winter exposure. Garden centers often carry peonies when they are in bloom, so it’s easy to choose your favorite color. For best results, plant in groups of three, and expect peonies to multiply over time, providing years of spectacular blooms. If you want to start peonies from bare roots (“tubers”), wait until fall to plant them. There are many fine mail order sources for bare root peonies, and it’s a much more cost-effective way to expand your perennial collection. 

Hügelkultur (German, meaning “hill culture” or “mound culture”) is the garden concept of building raised beds over decaying wood piles. Decayed timbers become porous and retain moisture while releasing nutrients into the soil that, in turn, promote root growth in plant materials. As the logs decay, they expand and contract, creating air pockets that assist in aerating the soil, allowing roots to easily penetrate the soil. This decaying environment creates a beneficial home to earthworms. As the worms burrow into the soil, they loosen the soil and deposit nutrient-rich worm castings, beneficial to plants. An earthworm can produce its weight in castings on a daily basis.  

The best decayed wood for a Hügelkultur, according to A Growing Culture, comes from alders, applewood, cottonwood, poplar, maple and birch. Use wood products that have been in the process of decay for about a year (using green, or fresh, wood products will rob the soil of necessary nitrogen). Some wood products, like cedar and black walnut, should be avoided because they produce organisms that negatively effect plant growth.   

Read more at A Growing Culture