Gardening is for the birds…Hummingbirds that is!

Ruby-throated hummingbird.  Photo credit: Alex Pawlukiewicz

We’re still in hummingbird season folks!!!  They’re zipping and zooming around my front and back yard as well as the garden center like crazy! Have you seen them?

In Virginia we have three species: Ruby-throated, Rufous, and Allen’s. The one I see the most here in Northern Virginia is the Ruby-throated.

How do you attract hummingbirds to your garden? Do you have a feeder? Grow various plants that are delicious for them? Me, I do a little of both. In my feeder, I’ve used a store bought mix or a pre-made solution before, but making your own is fun and easy. Just bring one part sugar to four parts water to a boil, let cool and fill ’em up! You can store any extra solution in the fridge for a week.

Above is a shot of one of my hummingbird feeders.

While I use my feeders, I also grow lots of flowers that hummingbirds love. Below are just a few of my favorites…

Hamelia patens ‘African’ – African Firebush
Hummingbirds swarm to this plant on the regular! It prefers full to part sun and is drought tolerant. Many varieties of Hamelia are native to Florida, however, I believe this particular one is native to Africa (hence the variety name). I’m growing this in a pot and bringing it inside this year since it is in no way hardy here in Northern Virginia.

Stachytarpheta mutabilis var. violacea – Porterweed

Stachytarpheta mutabilis – Porterweed
I love these guys!! Hummingbirds go nuts for both varieties. Prefers sun to part-sun conditions and blooms all summer long. I saw these growing wild along river banks in Hawaii…I won’t lie, I went a little crazy;-)

Cuphea llavea ‘Totally Tempted’
Hummingbirds totally dig Cuphea…all varieties!

Cuphea ‘David Verity’
Cupheas thrive in full sun to part shade. They can tolerate some drought but perform best with regular moisture. Some trail, some are upright and tall…they come in all shapes and sizes so the perfect one is out there for you!

Lantana camara ‘Samantha’
This variegated lantana might be my favorite variety. Thrives in full sun and is drought tolerant. Both hummingbirds and butterflies love this fragrant flower!

Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’
Ok, this tender perennial might be one of my absolute favorite plants ever! (I know I say this a lot, but seriously!!). This is the very first plant I ever grew that I saw hummingbirds swarm to…then I was hooked!

Ruella brittoniana ‘Purple Showers’ – Mexican Petunia
Another one of my loves! Blooms constantly, but each bloom lasts only for one day. I saw this growing all over Cape Hatteras, N.C. a few weeks ago. It loves the sun and can tolerate salt and some drought, but can be invasive in warmer climates.

Fuchsia ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’
More heat tolerant than most other fuchsia varieties! A great hummingbird attracter that grows well in partial shade. This upright grower is perfect for containers!!

Streptocarpella saxorum
I absolutely cannot get enough of this plant. I grow it every year in a hanging basket. Perfect for shade/part-shade. I bring it inside for the winter – it makes a great house plant too!

Nicotiana alata
This flowering tobacco plant, given to me by a great friend, really did a number for my hummingbirds this year…and for me! It’s nocturnally fragrant and prefers full sun to part-shade. What a super performer!

There are many other great plants that hummingbirds love – these are just some of my favorites that I grew this year. Now I wanna hear about your flowering experiences with our feathered friends!!!


Spring is here…or is it?

Wow!  What a spring…or late winter!?  Just when I thought I’d seen it all, this spring has surprised me again!  So unpredictable, this Northern Virginia weather.

I’m curious, with all of this late snow this year and consistently low temperatures, did you do an early spring garden this year?  Of course I couldn’t resist!  I absolutely LOVE cool season annuals.  Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re gonna say – cool season annuals don’t last very long…BUT they pack a huge punch for an early pop of spring color!  And what else are you gonna do to put out some spring color and get your hands dirty after a long winter?!

I didn’t go crazy this year but I did do up some pots for my new front stoop (thanks to a certain talented handy man I know, we now have a beautiful new front stoop and walkway!!).  While I potted my pots way back in mid-March, and at times had to scoot them into the garage because it was just too stinkin’ cold, my house has been the most colorful one on the block!  My veggie garden (below) on the other hand got planted a few weeks later.

Thanks to all the late weather we couldn’t finish the front walk as early as we wanted to.  And in case you missed my “Front Yard Veggie Gardening” post from last summer…I do my veggie gardening in the front yard right next to my front walk!  I have to – my back yard is too shady for that stuff.  So we were a little later than I wanted to get those veggies in but we’ll see how it goes!

Does anyone else have a favorite lettuce? Mine is this cool & tasty heirloom called Flashy Trout Back. They had me at flashy!

Here are just SOME of my favorite spring bloomers:

A beautiful bright orange Ranunculus.

I seriously can’t get enough of these gorgeous colors!

I absolutely ADORE Anemone!!! Especially the doubles!

Senetti, or Pericallis, has lovely daisy-like blooms.

Stock is a great one to add some height to a container or the garden…and it smells sooooo good! This one is called ‘Hot Cakes Mix’.

Here’s what I put together for the front porch this year:

Yellow Ranunculus (the most gorgeous I’ve seen – my grower did such a great job, he
truly knocked my socks off with these!), Stock ‘Hot Cakes Mix’ (fragrant), Nemesia ‘Angelart Raspberry’,
Alyssum ‘Clear Crystal White’ (fragrant)

This is what I call my “Antique Pot” this year. It includes Pansy ‘Imperial Antique Shades’,
Antique Ranunculus, Erysimum ‘Poem Lavender’, Nemesia ‘Angelart Almond’

A shot of the group. In the small square pot is Hellebore ‘Penny’s Pink’,
Erysimum canaries, Dianthus sunflor ‘Olivia’, Viola ‘Angel Tiger Eye’,
Alyssum ‘Clear Crystal White’ (fragrant)

Orange Ranunculus, Ranunculus ‘Bloomingdale Mix’,
Primrose ‘Hethor Giant Yellow’ (fragrant), Primrose ‘Hethor Giant Orange’ (fragrant),
Senetti, Pansy (variety unknown)

Anemone ‘Pandora’ Double Fuchsia, Anemone ‘Galilee Mix’,
Snapdragon ‘Snapshot Yellow’, Alyssum ‘Clear Crystal White’ (fragrant)

Tell me how you celebrated the arrival of spring. Please feel free to leave comment here or share a pic on my Facebook page or on Instagram and tag me @Petalpushin. Looking forward to checking out your spring color creations!!!


Some of you may have heard I recently went to Hawaii ~Kauai to be exact~ to visit my oldest and dearest friend (that’s us above!).  We have known each other since we were toddlers…and though we live thousands of miles apart, and have for many, many years, we still manage to stay in touch and pick right back up where we left off every time we see each other.  It was a great trip and perfect timing to get out of the polar vortex in Northern Virginia.

It was all fun times catching up, reminiscing, meeting her friends and co-workers on the island, hiking, beach hopping…and, oh, the PLANTS!!!!  Oh my goodness, the PLANTS!  I pretty much went crazy!!!  Well, yeah, crazy is probably the right word. I saw plants I know and love, plants I’d never heard of before, and plants I’ve only read about.  Coming home with over 2,000 pictures (I’d say at least half of them of plants) it’s hard for me to narrow down what to share with all of you.  But I did it (kind of – I still have a lot of pics here I just HAD to share)…

In this post I’m sharing plants I know–plants I grow every year, plants that I have currently in my “basement greenhouse”, and plants that I have grown in the past – all growing like crazy in Hawaii.  Some of these photos I took at the Botanical Gardens, some I took growing near the ocean, some in the mountains and other higher elevations and some I took in other inland locations.  It was truly amazing for me to see these guys growing big and beautiful outside year-round and how much bigger they can be when they have the chance to really mature year after year.  Check ’em out!

I loved seeing this Nasturtium growing wild! One of my favorite herbs to grow in the summer in Northern Virginia – not hardy here so a real treat for me to see growing everywhere, including up the side of a mountain! This plant, along with the next six you’ll see here I found all growing in the Waimea Canyon area.

I found this beautiful Agapanthus (Agapanthus africanus) growing on the side of the road. Here in the Mid-Atlantic region this plant is a tender perennial but it was still pretty fun to see it growing randomly:-)

Fuchsia boliviana grows like a shrub in the Waimea Canyon area. I don’t carry this exact variety at the garden center but do get a couple different varieties that are very similar looking to this one.

Ahh, Brugmansia, one of my favorite tropicals. I’ve seen this plant growing in California before, but mostly as an ornamental tree form in peoples front yard. It was great to see this growing wild in the woods of the Waimea Canyon region.

I was excited to see Lantana (an annual that I carry numerous varieties of at the garden center) growing as a large shrub. I typically only get to see this plant growing as an ornamental.

Tibouchina urvilleana – my all time favorite! When I saw this growing along side of a dirt road I yelled “Stop the truck!!”. I HAD to get out and touch it. It’s almost as big as me! I winter over Tibouchina Grandifolia (a similar variety) every year in my basement greenhouse, but mine never gets this big!

Off the beaten path in a little marshy area near Waimea Canyon I came across the biggest Zantedeschia aethiopica, or Calla Lily, I’ve ever seen! The one pictured is one of the smaller ones but there were a number of them blooming and many almost as tall as me!

Okay, another one of my absolute favorites: Acalypha wilkesiana, a.k.a. Copperleaf. I am currently wintering over a couple different varieties of this fantastic tropical in my basement greenhouse. I’m a huge fan of this plant, and in my opinion, totally underused in container gardens and in the landscape in the DC Metropolitan area. In Hawaii this plant is often used as a hedge as seen in this picture at the Botanical Gardens.

Stumbled upon this pretty pink Anthurium. In most areas this is a house plant, MAYBE seeing the outdoors in the summer months. This and the following nine photos were all taken at Allerton Botanical Gardens and McBryde Garden.

This Flowering Vinca was a small shrub in Hawaii! Another annual I carry all summer long at the garden center. Great for full sun and drier conditions.

One of many tropical Hibiscus plants I saw. I particularly liked this double bloom variety. They are like the Azalea of Hawaii – they’re everywhere!

I found this Phalaenopsis Orchid, among many other types of Orchids growing on trees.

Schlumbergera, or Zygocactus is your typical Christmas Cactus! Like Orchids, these guys are also epiphytes – meaning they grow on trees.

Another holiday favorite we carry at the garden center is Amaryllis but of course isn’t hardy during the winter months here in the Mid-Atlantic. Looks like this one just popped up out of nowhere!

Love this one! I have this Ginger growing in my basement greenhouse – for the third year! I scooped up this no name Ginger at the end of the season at the garden center. I believe it’s Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’, a.k.a. Shell Ginger. I’m so in love with the variegated leaves!

This particular ginger is Etlingera elatior, or Torch Ginger. This was one of MANY different gingers that were growing EVERYWHERE!

I just couldn’t get enough of all this Ginger! This is another Torch Ginger, Alpinia purpurata. So beautiful!

Yet another one of my favorites (okay, can they ALL be my favorites?!?!). Cordyline fruticosa, or Ti Plant (pronounced Tee) is another one I have growing in the “greenhouse”. Often used as a houseplant in this region, but I always put mine outside in the summertime when there is no danger of frost.

Stachytarpheta mutabilis, a.k.a. Porterweed, is a super annual here in the Mid-Atlantic area, so I was particularly excited to stumble upon this guy growing wild! I typically found them growing along river sides and in some higher elevations as well. I snapped this shot while hiking along Wailua River.

Bougainvillea is a great tropical that I occasionally carry in the Annuals Department at the Garden Center. This plant grows everywhere in Hawaii – hillsides, mountainsides, beach-sides, the list goes on. It’s so bright and colorful!

I even found it growing in the bed of an old truck!;-) This was in a super cute little artist town called Hanapepe.

And finally, here I am checking out some pretty cool moss while hiking the Hanakapiai Trail. This place is truly breathtaking.

Come and take a sneak peek

I realize it’s been a little while since my last post, but I recently got back from Columbus, Ohio for the largest horticulture trade show in North America!  My colleagues and I had a great time listening to knowledgeable speakers, networking with many of our growers, as well as others in the industry, and learning about new plants that will be available next spring.  We were even able to show some of our growers a few of our favorites while we were there so they can get a head start on growing for the spring!  You’re going to love the new varieties of annuals and perennials coming out for next spring.  Here is a sneak peek of just some of my favorites I saw at the show:

Gerbera Daisy Volcanoes – I’m not usually a HUGE fan of Gerber Daisies but I fell in love with this one as soon as I saw it.  The large (over 4″ diameter!), bright yellow/orange flower head looks just like a ball of fire…so I guess it was appropriately named!  It’ll knock your socks off!  Height: 18″  Spread: 12″  Care: Full sun to part shade, well drained soil – let dry out between watering

Digiplexis Illumination ‘Flame’ – This plant seemed to be the talk of the town, and rightfully so in my opinion.  It’s a Digitalis hybrid with brilliant flower color – pink/purple edges fading into a yellow/orange center.  Digitalis are typically perennial in the mid Atlantic region, however, this variety seems to be a little more tender, but blooms spring through fall.  Height: 2-3′  Spread: 1-2′  Care: Full sun to light shade

Salvia Amistad – This new variety of salvia looks similar to the black and blue (one of my all time favorites) but instead of a blue flower, it’s purple.  Let’s see if it attracts as many hummingbirds as the B&B.  Guess we’ll find out!  Height: 3-4′  Spread: 3′  Care: Full sun to part shade, drought tolerant, attracts birds and butterflies

Gomphrena Pink Zazzle – Dazzle your containers with the new Pink Zazzle!  We could not get enough of this funky, pink, ping pong ball sized flower.  Height: 2′ Spread: 1′  Care: Full sun to part shade, well drained soil

Petunia Glamouflage Grape – Because I know we need ANOTHER variety of petunia in the world, but this one is SUPER cool.  What’s unique about this Petunia is its VARIEGATED LEAF, bright purple flower and naturally compact growth habit.  Height: 6-8″  Spread: 10-16″  Care: Full sun to part shade, keep evenly moist

So, try something new next spring and sprinkle some of these cool new varieties throughout your landscape or in your container gardens.  I’m already looking forward to giving these guys, and others, a whirl!

Yes, I grow vegetables in my front yard.

Who says your vegetable garden HAS to be in the back yard?  I grow mine in the front!  Not because I thought my neighbors and HOA would appreciate that, but because my front yard is the only place I get full sun (except for a bit on my back deck).  So I decided to bite the bullet and go with it.  In previous years I’ve grown my veggies in the front of my house in containers – just in case any neighbors got up in arms about my seemingly unconventional growing practices, I could easily move them to…well, I don’t know where, but somewhere.

No one ever complained, so this year I took it a step further and planted them all in the ground.  We went crazy with tomatoes.  My boyfriend/labor force had the bright idea to line them in front of the Boxwoods that run across the front of the house (by the way, I live in a severely suburban neighborhood, it reminds us of that movie The Burbs at times which is a little strange).  I wasn’t crazy about this idea at first but I gave in and we did it.  I thought for sure that this time we would hear some neighborly complaints.  Not only did we not get any complaints, but we actually got complements!  I couldn’t believe it.  The couple across the cul-de-sac even came by one afternoon while we were playing in the dirt and took a brief tour of our front yard…I promised her some heirloom tomatoes as soon as they’re ready.  Lord knows we’ll have enough to share!  We also have a selection of peppers (some are heirloom as well), along with tomatillos, squash, cucumber and eggplant…all of which are also growing in the front yard but in a slightly less conspicuous spot.  I won’t go into too much detail about those at this time, they’re looking a little ratty at the moment (except for the peppers) due to some crazy spring weather.

Check out these photos of what the garden is doing right now.  Hopefully in the next couple days I’ll have some actual tomato cages (I know a really cool guy who said he’d make me some) for these puppies instead of using these flimsy bamboo stakes.  The tomatoes really took off while we were on vacation with all this rain we’ve been getting so some have taken over the stakes already.  I’ll post more later in the season when other varieties are producing.  Looking forward to some funky fruits with all these heirlooms!

Who cares about annuals anyway?

The question I hear most at the garden center is “Are annuals the ones that come back every year or do I have to plant them every year?”.  In my immediate defensive answer I explain to them yes, you plant them every year, BUT they provide beautiful summer color all season long!  Although perennials will come back year after year, many will only produce color for 4-6 weeks.  I mean who doesn’t want showy, bright colorful flowers in their gardens and containers ALL SUMMER LONG?!?!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater.  I love perennials too (especially ones that have interesting foliage or other fun attributes).  And a great mix of annuals and perennials can’t be beat.  But for me, annuals are where it’s at.  So check out these pics of some fun annuals and see why you should care about annuals anyway!