Sunday, September 19, 2021

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 65: Night Sky pitcher plant


The pitcher plants finally have a new home! The yellow pitcher plants and the scarlet belles have given it their best shot where I first put them, and I suppose given that they haven’t died and have bloomed each spring, I can consider my planting them a modest success. 

However, they really need a different kind of environment to truly thrive, and they needed more sun than they get once the sweet gum tree leafs out.

It has taken me months to find this container. I wanted a very specific color and shape and when I finally found it online and ordered it, it immediately went on back order. They asked if I would wait until October, and I said yes, but if it couldn’t ship and arrive by mid-month I would cancel the order. Behold, it came very quickly after that and was delivered on a pallet in the back of a huge 18-wheeler that came boldly down our gravel lane. My husband took our truck out and moved it from the back of the big truck into our truck bed. Now we have a new pallet to replace a broken one in the hay stall and the pitcher plants have this new home.

I followed different guidelines from below, mixing 1/2 peat and 1/2 perlite and soaking it down, which took forever. Nor will I be watering with distilled or reverse osmosis water. Now their soil is nicely boggy and all three varieties of pitcher plant are happily moved in. The new ones, Night Sky, are the very large ones you can see in this photo. The other two are small and on the other side. I have room to add a few more in this fall and I may also add something else for added visual interest. 

Here’s more info (also from Growing Wild Nursery) about the Night Sky hybrid:

Sarracenia 'Night Sky' is a stunningly beautiful North American pitcher plant that has gained in popularity after it was featured in Nick Romanowski's excellent book, Gardening with Carnivores.

  • Vibrant colored leaves  
  • Produces lots of pitchers, especially in the fall


  • 24 to 30 in. tall
  • Grows to 12 in. wide over 3 to 5 years 
  • Clump-forming habit 
  • Hardy in USDA hardiness zones 7, 8, and 9

Flowering period

In central North Carolina, flowers open in late April before the new pitchers emerge.

How to grow

  • Full sun
  • Plant in a peat-based growing medium (75% Canadian peat moss to 25% perlite)
  • Keep wet by growing plants with their containers sitting in a tray of water
  • Don't fertilize, they catch their own
  • Only water with rain, distilled, or reverse osmosis water

Care and maintenance

After a hard frost, the tips of the pitchers may turn brown. Trim off the dead parts of the leaf to keep plants looking attractive.

Where to plant

Large tubs and bogs.

When to plant

Scarlet Belle can be planted any time throughout the growing season.

When will my plant flower?

Plants are flowering size and will bloom their first year if purchased before April.

Native habitat and range

The parents of this hybrid grow in bogs and savannas in the southeastern United States.

Source and origin

A hybrid between Sarracenia rubra subspecies gulfensis and Sarracenia leucophylla

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 64: summer sunshine coreopsis

 I put several of these in the lighter shade area of my driveway shade garden this fall, and several more in the much sunnier bluebird box bed, which is on a slight slope that gets a lot of water when it rains.

This gives you an idea of the versatility of this native plant. It will also add some yellow to these predominantly blue/purple beds and also late-blooming forage for pollinators.

Here’s more info on this very cheerful plant, straight from my source, Growing Wild Nursery. :)

  • Summer Sunshine Coreopsis flowering in September
  • Summer Sunshine Coreopsis showing its attractive and sturdy habit
  • Summer Sunshine Coreopsis in a 4 x 5 in. (32 fl. oz.) nursery container in mid-May
  • Summer Sunshine Coreopsis in a 4 x 5 in. (32 fl. oz.) nursery container during the month of September
  • Summer Sunshine Coreopsis in a 4 x 5 in. (32 fl. oz.) nursery container from October through April

Summer Sunshine Coreopsis

Coreopsis palustris 'Summer Sunshine'

Regular price$12

Container size:
4.5 in. wide x 5 in. deep / 32 fl. oz.

Summer Sunshine Coreopsis was the top performer in the Mt. Cuba Center Coreopsis trial. With its disease-resistant foliage and show-stopping floral display, it’s the perfect plant to brighten up the fall garden.

  • Tough and long-lived perennial
  • Compact habit
  • Late-season flowers feed bees and butterflies


  • 30 inches tall and 36 to 48 inches wide
  • Spreads slowly to cover ground and suppress weeds
  • Hardy in USDA hardiness zones 6, 7, 8, and 9

Flowering period

In central North Carolina, flowering starts in mid-September and continues for about six weeks.

How to grow

Sun to partial shade. Very adaptable, preferring moist soil, though will tolerate all but the driest of soil.

Care and maintenance

Easy to look after and care for. Keep watered while it gets established and cut back old flowering stems in late winter.

Where to plant

Flower beds, rain gardens, pond edges, or any site where flooding can occur.

When to plant

Spring through early summer is the best time for northern gardens, while it can be planted in the South anytime the ground is not frozen.


Two to three feet apart when planting in a group.

When will my plant flower?

Plants purchased in spring and summer will flower in the fall.

Native habitat and range

Edges of swamp forests where they can be flooded for extended periods. Coreopsis palustris is native from southeast North Carolina to northeast Florida and is considered rare throughout its range.

Source and origin

Plants are grown from cuttings here at the nursery. The original plant was grown by the late North Carolina Botanical Garden curator Rob Gardner from seed collected in southeastern NC.

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 63: winterberry holly

 It’s fall and I’m putting in new species this year, as well as filling in some existing plant species to add more of a stand of a few things.

I never updated when we put in the winterberry hollies in the newish bird haven garden area, which was created when we fenced in the furthest front corner of the front pasture. The winterberry hollies are now a year old in their new space. 

The horses would often gather in that corner, hanging their heads over the fence, and because of the way the foliage grows there, I couldn’t see them from the porch and would stress that they may have gotten out. So by fencing the corner, we moved them back from that area and gained a new space where we could not only add native plantings, but put in landscaping rock to slow the stormwater stream that can get quite intense when we have a lot of rain. It’s been a space that is mostly barren of anything but the large deciduous trees there, and since it’s shady and also a periodic wet area, it gives me the chance to experiment with a shady site rain garden pollinator and wildlife friendly habitat.

The first thing we put in were the interior to the perimeter fence southern bayberries, in hopes that they will grow tall and offer some screening around that front corner. They’ll also offer food for birds and other wildlife and pollinator forage.

The second thing we put in were the winterberry hollies. These are also very good for pollinators and wildlife, and they offer the added benefit of bright red berries that persist in the middle of winter after the holly has lost its leaves. Who could resist having some built-in holiday decor in the front corner? 

We have red berries forming already this fall, which means we have both male and female plants and hopefully as they mature we’ll get a lot of color and food for the birds.

More about the winterberry holly from the Missouri Botanical Garden’s website:

Common Name: winterberry  
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 12.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: Greenish-white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge, Rain Garden
Flower: Insignificant
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Erosion, Clay Soil, Wet Soil, Air Pollution


Easily grown in average, acidic, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Adaptable to both light and heavy soils, but prefers moist, acidic, organic loams. Good tolerance for poorly drained soils including wet boggy or swampy conditions (this species is native to swampy areas of Eastern North America). Winterberries are dioecious (separate male and female plants). Only fertilized female flowers will produce the attractive red berries that are the signature of the species. Generally one male winterberry will be sufficient for pollinating 6-10 female plants. Flowers appear on new growth. Prune to shape in early spring just before new growth appears.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ilex verticillata, commonly called winterberry, is a deciduous holly that is native to eastern North America where it typically occurs in swamps, damp thickets, low woods and along ponds and streams. The form of this plant found in Missouri is Ilex verticillatavar. padifolia, which occurs in “shut-ins”, granite rocky stream beds and sandstone bluffs in only 4 counties in the southeastern part of the state (Steyermark). This is a slow-growing, deciduous shrub with an upright-rounded habit that typically grows 3-12’ tall. In the wild, it often suckers to form large thickets or colonies. Elliptic to obovate, toothed, dark green leaves (2-3” long). Fall color is usually negligible, but in some years leaves may turn attractive shades of maroon. Relatively inconspicuous greenish-white flowers appear in the leaf axils in late spring. Flowers, if properly pollinated, give way to a crop of bright red berries (1/4” diameter) in late summer to fall. Berries are quite showy and will persist throughout the winter (hence the common name) and often into early spring. Berries provide considerable impact and interest to the winter landscape.

Genus name comes from the Latin name Quercus ilex for holm oak in reference to the foliage similarities (holm oak and many of the shrubs in the genus Ilex have evergreen leaves).

Specific epithet from Latin means whorled in reference to the arrangement of sessile fruits in pseudo-whorls around the stems.

Common name comes form the quite showy berries that will persist throughout the winter and often into early spring.


No serious insect or disease problems. Occasional disease problems include leaf spots and powdery mildew. Plants do poorly in neutral to alkaline soils where they are susceptible to chlorosis (yellowing of leaves) and often die.


Year round interest, highlighted by the showy display of red berries in winter. Mass or group in shrub borders, foundations, native plant areas or bird gardens. Hedge. Excellent shrub for moist soils in low spots or along streams and ponds. Although an attractive shrub, the species is infrequently sold in commerce because of the many excellent cultivars which generally produce showier flowers and larger, more abundant fruit.

Monday, September 13, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 137

 I’m fully into fall planting this week. 

So far I’ve put in small stands of coreopsis into the bluebird bed and the driveway bed to add some yellow color in each. 

We’re putting in a new trellis in the potager to give my new coral honeysuckle a place to climb. The current plan is to install a “wall” of trellises across the back of the potager for screening, but with native climbing pollinator-friendly flowers. We started last year with the climbing aster, which is doing great, and the coral honeysuckle will go in this week. 

I have more pitcher plants ready to go into a new water garden container that has shipped and should arrive this week. I’ll be taking out the previously-planted pitchers and will move all of them into this water garden container, which will sit in full sun on the “other”side of the walkway going to our front steps. I’m creating an additional pathway that will fork off from the original walkway to go to the firepit area, and when we remove the butterfly bush that’s there, I can put in additional pollinator beds along that new path.

Thanks to some volunteers, my transplanting some, and a few new things to come this fall, the “other” side of the walkway is filling in nicely. 

Tomorrow I’ll pick up the second grouping of plants and will have to work hard to keep up with the planting as I have four more groupings to come. If I can keep up as they arrive I’ll be lucky!

In other news, we had a very nice weekend here. It was writing weekend and then yesterday an old friend came by for lunch on the deck. We’ve tried to schedule a visit for two years now, and finally pulled it off. 

The herd is good, dogs and cats good, and the bees are incredibly busy with our fall nectar flow. We’re back into the 90s for a few days this week, and hopefully cooling down again soon. These spells of very beautiful and cooler weather are like a tease - I would love it if the highs in the low 70s and nights in the low 50s were permanent. 

I’ll have to add some photos soon of all the new native plant species I’ve added this year.

Friday, September 03, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 136

 I just glanced out the window and noticed that my early indicator dogwood is showing its first blush of fall color. Such a nice thing to see after the very hot days we’ve had here lately!

Everyone on November Hill is, I think it’s safe to say, ready for autumn. The horses and donkeys are tired of the heat, the insects, and no one wanting to stay out for too long. I’m tired of all of the above. As I’ve said before, the beauty of four seasons is that they change! 

We’re still in jungle mode but now to the other side of it. As the leaves turn and then fall, we gradually become much more open to what’s around us. Summer is our most lush, most protected time. Which is one of the things I enjoy about it. 

I’ve done some walkabouts during the past week, checking in on various plantings and beds. The southern bayberries are looking good. Many have grown quite a lot this spring/summer and I’m hopeful we’ll experience their year-round screen in a couple of years. I spied a red berry on one of the still young winterberry hollies. The shade beds are looking better this year than last. The two original pollinator beds are in their late summer/early fall glory. All full of bees. We have had a huge bloom of wildflowers in the side strips this summer, and the bees are loving that as well.

Everything perennial in the potager is thriving, and the trees we’ve planted in Poplar Folly are all looking good as well. 

It’s nearly time to put in native perennials and I’ve got several things planned to put in this year. I’m working on the two shade beds + the bird haven area specifically, and thinking about finally putting in the mailbox bed. 

Two new for this fall projects: removing the three remaining butterfly bushes. It’s hard to take them out, but they attract butterflies who then lay eggs that hatch out and starve because they can’t feed on the foliage. So I have two spaces to fill with bushes that not only attract the butterflies, but offer food the caterpillars. We have milkweed, but I’ll add more of that and in proximity to the new plantings. I’m still researching what to plant. The other new project is purchasing a chipper/shredder that we can use to mulch some of the brush piles we’ve accumulated over the past few years. Primarily in Poplar Folly, where the brush piles are so plentiful we’ve invited habitat for copperheads. I’d like to tip the scales the other way for a few years, and will use the brush to make a wood chip pathway back there and make it a bit more obvious what areas are naturalized and what are for walking. 

Other than that, I have a few blueberry bushes to transplant, two heirloom (local to our county!) apple trees to find a place for, and that will be it for this fall’s gardening plans. 

The heat wave finally broke yesterday. We had a high of 80 and this morning it is 52. I am in heaven! The feeling of cool, even chilly air outside is like a tonic. The horses are standing in total bliss, the donkeys are playing, and I’m grateful for the opening night of the season to come.

A glimpse of early fall on Max Patch:

And on November Hill:

We’re having a bumper crop of figs this year! The colors in these two photos make my entire being happy.