Preparing for 2018 – preview/update

G A R D E N S, GARDEN DESIGN | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s that time for reflecting on accomplishments and misses along with planning for the year to come, and during Ohio winters those are the only two items we can really do for our gardens.  I have been placing seed orders, flipping through books, designing, reading articles, giving talks, designing some more and compiling long lists of things to do, with the majority only after the freeze of winter breaks.

Garden Tours from the APLD conference in Boston. Thinking Outside the BoxwoodA stop along the APLD Boston Conference garden tours. Next set of posts to include individual garden tour recaps.


One of my lists includes all the blog topics I want to explore and write, which continues to grow every year from the last since I never write as many posts as I plan. A redesign for the blog is in the works (about time), along with creating an official content calendar to keep us on top of posting.  The plan is not to post for the sake of posting, but making sure I am planning ahead, getting the photos I need, have deadlines for writing and creating graphics. I don’t think I will ever get to a weekly post (or I should say we because it’s a team effort with Allison), but I do plan on putting more effort in dedicating time to


Terrain in Westport, CT Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Terrain in Westport, CT from my visit on the way out to Boston. More photos from the visit back in this post HERE.


I started the blog to share garden design from my point of view and knowledge of plants and how to install and maintain. I don’t check my site analytics nor ever wish to include ads. I write for the comments (please comment) and meeting anyone that has said they read a post.  I pin my content to Pinterest and get excited for every repin, not because of the exposure, but because someone is learning from my content or are inspired by the image. I am still trying to figure out what the future of the blog will become, but for now it will stay a place to share work, inspiration and know-how from my point of view.

Holiday lights in German Village. Feature a collar of greens and curly willow lit from interior spot lights. McCullough's Landscape & Nursery. Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Holiday Containers from this past Christmas, this par looked like torches when you past them on the street at night.


First posts of the new year will be garden tours from the APLD conference. Will post these in a quick session this week. Please comment or email me if there is anything specific you think I should write about.






How to add Dahlias to Your Garden

Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As peony madness fades with the summer heat, it’s time to hail the beauty of dahlias. Dahlias are an easy addition to any existing garden and offer a large range of colors, petal shapes and sizes to fit your desires.  Also, planting a tuber around the frost free date will provide you with beautiful blooms in July and August, a quick, and bountiful payoff not often common in the garden.  There is a bit of maintenance of digging and storing tubers over the winter in very mild climates like zone 9, but you should have no fear in planting these in your garden and will have a great time selecting the varieties to add.

Dahlia 'Cafe au Lait', Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'- How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood





Since you can add tubers to an existing garden, you have lots of options to place dahlias. Look around your home to see if you have any of the locations below that meet the full sun and well-drained soil requirements, if you do then move on to selecting the varieties you want to order!


– In a perennial border, or in an existing bed at your home. Looking at the existing foundational plantings around your house, see if there are spaces you can place a few dahlias.  The taller varieties are great in the background or mixed near taller plants, while place some of lower varieties in the front.

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

This is a client’s front yard perennial bed. It is located behind a boxwood hedge and is filled with a mixture of blue/purple perennials. We have a few containers spaced through the bed to add seasonal color, along with these cafe au lait dahlias.  



– In a container. Anyone with a front porch, stoop, balcony or patio that gets full sun can do this option.  Use the taller varieties (30-40 inches) as the “thriller” in your container.  Or fill an entire container with the shorter varieties (20-24 inches).

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

This is a garden created by Deborah Silver from Detroit Garden Works I visited a few years ago with the Association of Professional Landscape Designer (APLD). Deborah added dahlias with other perennial and annual flowers in these large containers. You can also do in smaller container, with 1-2 of each plant variety. 



– With your Vegetables. Pollinators love dahlias and so will your vegetables. Since you are already in with the vegetables watering, feeding and harvesting, this is an easy location to add some dahlias. You can add these along the edges our outside the fence line. This is a great place for the taller varieties.

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Here is a client’s vegetable garden which features a pollinator and cutting garden  inside the vegetable garden. To the left of these dahlias there is a swing and the dining table in the center allows the homeowners to enjoy the blooms while they are still in the garden. 

   How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood  

Here is a harvest of both the dahlias and vegetables from a client’s garden. Fresh food and flowers for dinner is a great combo. 



The best place to plant is in a location that gets full sun and well-drained soil. Since you are planting these for the blooms, provide lots of organic matter when planting and weekly feeding once buds appear for the best blooms.


How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


I mentioned earlier there is a wide variety of distinctive features to dahlias, giving you lots of options in color, petal shape and size to select. Two great sites for selecting which colors, shapes or varieties you like are the following;

The National Dahlia Collection – This site provides you with a vast listing of dahlias that helps you see the options in shapes and colors. Broken down into; ball, cactus, collerette, decorative, dwarf, pompon, semi cactus, waterlily, miscellaneous.  –

Floret Flowers – A specialty cut flower grower extraordinaire in the pacific northwest, she is a big fan of dahlias, and shares all favorites with successes and failures in beautiful flowers.




Since dahlias are typically planted from tubers, online ordering is very easy and offers a large selection. You will want to time your ordering to get the best selection – think early January to place a preorder for spring shipping. But you can start pre-shopping suppliers now for your selected varieties and confirm when they expect to start taking dahlia orders.


If you are a bit more impatient to get blooms this year – you can check at your local garden center to see if they have some established plants growing for you can transplant into your garden. However, at this point it will be slim pickings for the varieties (if any), but worth a try.




Plant ID: Amsonia

My Work, Perennials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

While talking plant options for our garden at home, I looked at the three varieties of Amsonia growing around our offices. I use this plant in my designs predominately for the texture of the foliage, however the flower is a strong attraction in the garden in late spring. Amsonia is the perfect plant to showcase the subtle variation between the different varieties.  The three varieties we grow are are Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, tabernaemontana, and hubrichtti.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood,  (Left to right: Amsonia 'Blue Ice', A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)

All the varieties are great for use in a perennial garden since they grow in a good sized clumps, flower from mid-spring to early summer, have great dense foliage and with some varieites (like hubrichtti) that provide a beautiful golden fall color.  Amsonia are great pollinators that require very little maintenance once established and are very tolerant to less than ideal soil.   It should be noted that one amsonia variety is not always a substitute for another so its important to know the different between each.  Below are the details on my favorite three varieties.


Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’

This cultivar is growing in a cluster at the edge of our gardens near a salvaged foundation stone. This species grows low, 1-1.5 feet tall and in a 1-1.5 foot cluster with very dense foliage that does a great job filling a border. It is low maintenance, deer proof and grows in full sun to part shade.  We have been growing this cluster for about 5 years and has preformed well from day one.  This cultivar has one of the best flowers of all the Amsonia and you can see by its beautiful blue color where it gets the name ‘Blue Ice’

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood, Amsonia 'Blue Ice'



Amsonia tabernaemontana

This species of amsonia is one of the taller selections. This plant reaches 2-3 feet and with much longer stalks. We are growing tabernaemontana in two locations in our gardens, and due to the amount of sun each location gets the plants vary a bit in size from the sun to more of a shady area, but has adapted well to both locations.  The flower is a pale / sky blue.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood, Amsonia tabernaemontana


Amsonia hubrichtti

In our garden I designed a “river” A. hubrichtti in a 35ft long band snaking through our ever changing west perennial bed. Growing between 2-3 feet tall.  I really like using this species for the extra fine foliage which is not often seen in the garden.  It is great grown in mass and also as an individual specimen.  This flower is the lightest in color of the three species almost white with a hint of blue.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood, Amsonia hubrichtti


Here is a comparison of the three species we are growing for a comparison. I have provided more detailed images to showcase the flowers and foliage shapes in images further below.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood,  (Left to right: Amsonia 'Blue Ice', A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)


The color and petals varies from each variety. By viewing just the blooms you can see the subtle changes in each of the five petal shapes.  (Left to right: Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)  It is really interesting to see how A. tabernaemontana really is the combination of the deep blue of ‘Blue Ice’ and the white/greens of  A. hubrichtti.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood,  (Left to right: Amsonia 'Blue Ice', A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)


You can also see the variation in the foliage shapes between the varieties below.  (Left to right: Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood,  (Left to right: Amsonia 'Blue Ice', A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)


All the photos from above were taken during the spring season (this or last week), but it helps to see the plants throughout the seasons. Below are two images of Amsonia hubrichtti from a clients home in June (green foliage) and October (golden color) to provide the seasonal progression of the plant.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Amsonia hubrichtti has to be one of the perennials with the best fall color.  In October the foliage turns a bight gold / yellow.  It is truly a major highlight of this species.

 Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Let me know if you have any other questions on these varieties of amsonia.