September Charmer: Chelone lyonii’s Late-Blooming Beauty Spans the Seasons

September 2nd, 2013 § Comments Off on September Charmer: Chelone lyonii’s Late-Blooming Beauty Spans the Seasons § permalink

Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips' with Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' - michaela medina harlow - Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’ with Lovely ‘Limelight’ Hydrangea (H. paniculata)

September is a mostly summer month, and yet, there’s something about Labor Day weekend that signals the unofficial start of fall. Well, much as I love autumn, I’m just not ready yet and neither is my garden! Although the beds and borders look a bit blowzier —tidy mounds of springtime green now spilling voluptuous into the walkways— there are still plenty of blossoming beauties to be found in September. One of my favorite transitional blooms? She’s a lipstick-pink-clad, girly-girl known as Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’; one of my favorites for late-summer to early-fall color in the garden.

Turtlehead - Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips' Blossom - michaela medina harlow - Chelone lyonii’s Beauty Transcends the Seasons with Gorgeous, Deep Green, Leathery Foliage and Long-Lasting, Vibrant Blooms

Native to the wetlands and moist, shady woodland regions of eastern North America, Chelone lyonii is hardy in USDA zones 3-8. With shiny, deep-green foliage and mid-size stature —2′ high and wide at maturity— this is a great perennial for filling the center of a semi-shade border or for naturalizing in difficult, water-logged sites. A fast-maturing, reliable August-September bloomer, turtlehead is the perfect perennial for impatient gardeners.

Because of her lovely, leathery foliage and late-seaon bloom, Cheloni lyonii combines well with many other perennials, shrubs and ornamental grasses. Try placing her in mixed company as a mid-border plant with Little Lime or Limelight Hydrangea (H. paniculata cvs) in the background and Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra cvs), up front. She also pairs beautifully with silver-tinted foliage and black seedpods of Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis). If your garden has moist soil and gets a bit of morning light, but is partially protected from hot afternoon sun, try Turtlehead in combination with Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis cvs), as a backup and   place a bit of Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis), Foamy Bells (Tiarella species) Coral Bells (Heuchra species & hybrids), at her feet to add some mound shapes and edge the border. Spring-bloomers with season-spanning foliage and other textural plants make great companions for late-season flowers. In my garden, I’ve paired Turtlehead with Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex cvs), Yellow Wax Bells (Kirengeshoma palmata), Rodgersia, Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’, Bethlehem Sage (Pulmonaria species & hybrids), Barrenwort (Epimedium), Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ and other cvs) Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum)  Ghost Fern (Athyrium  x ‘Ghost’), Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamonea), Sedge (Carex species).

Turtlehead - Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips' - michaela medina harlow - At Maturity, Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’ forms a Compact 2′ x 2′ Clump – Perfect for Mid-Border Placement in Semi Shade Gardens or Naturalized in a Damp, Cool Spot Beneath a High Canopy of Trees

Turtlehead’s snap-dragon like blossoms make great cut-flowers, and as an added bonus, this bubble-gum pink beauty attracts and supports a wide-range of late-season pollinators; including butterflies, bumblebees and hummingbirds. Although it remains upright in my garden, Chelone lyonii may need a bit of staking in some situations. Although largely pest and disease resistant, I did notice a bit of grasshopper damage this year (what is it with those hungry critters this season?). For best performance, mature clumps should be lifted, divided and replanted in replenished soil once every three years. Once established, a seasonal dressing of mature compost and thick mulch are all this pretty, reliable, late-summer knock-out desires to remain content for many years.

Why not invite a pink-lipstick wearing gal to your end-of-summer garden party? She’s cheerful, pretty and mingles well with others. I think she’s great company!

Turtlehead - Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips' with Bumblebee - michaela medina harlow - Like Many Late-Blooming, North American Native Perennials, Chelone lyonii Provides Critical Support to Butterflies, Bees and Other Pollinators. On a Late Summer Day, Blossoms are Buzzing with Bumblebees and Hummingbirds

Garden Design & Photography Michaela Medina Harlow – Click Here for Information

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The Mysterious Moods of ‘Mrs. Moon’…

April 28th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

In the Beginning of the Garden Romance, ‘Mrs. Moon’ (Pulmonaria saccharata) Blushes, Shy and Tender in Spring Rain…

Meet ‘Mrs. Moon’, the garden coquette. Hot, cold. Hot, cold. Just when you think you have her figured out, she up and changes her mood. Surely you’ve encountered such a fickle flower; blushing and eager one moment —seducing you in with warmth and tenderness— then suddenly turning cool before fading away? Of course, when I put it like that, it sounds a bit like torture –but it’s not. No, the human heart is indeed curious. Many of us like a bit of mystery in romance; a few clouds to make us long for the sun…

Rosy ‘Mrs. Moon’ (Pulmonaria saccharata, commonly known as Bethlehem Sage or Lungwort) shares space with lovely, old-fashioned Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) in my garden

Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’ (Bethlehem Sage or Lungwort, as this plant is commonly known) is just such a classic flirt. Her pink buds swell and open in a soft, delicious shade of pink. And then —the moment you get used to her warmth— she suddenly cools off; blossoms shifting to violet blue. Clearly, this character has more than one side! But —in spite of her shape-shifting ways— Pulmonaria saccharata is one of those endlessly useful plants that every gardener should know about. Hardy in USDA zones 3-8, with an early bloom time and frost-resilient petals, Bethlehem sage makes a wonderful companion for spring flowering bulbs (gorgeous with deep violet or pale yellow). And with her lovely, semi-evergreen, silver-white-spotted foliage, P. saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’ continues to hold this gardener’s interest, long after her initial hot-cold act has faded. Tolerant of dry shade and clay soils, ‘Mrs. Moon’ has become one of my favorite ground covers for low-light garden designs. And as an added bonus, she’s even resistant to nibbling deer!

A native to Europe and Asia, Bethlehem sage is a lovely edger for a shady walkway or seating area (blossom stems and foliage reach approximately 12″ in height, with variable spread) and she combines well with so many plants; particularly perennials with maroon-tinted foliage or colorful ferns like Japanese painted (Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’) and Ghost (Athyrium x ‘Ghost’) ferns. ‘Mrs. Moon’ is an old-time garden favorite, but of course, not everyone is comfortable with her indecisive ways. Some gardeners prefer a fixed color scheme, and they dislike surprises. But, if you —like me— prefer your sunshine mixed with fog and sudden downpours, —and if you’re drawn to less-predictable characters— then a romance with ‘Mrs Moon’ may be right for you. Wink.

Just when you think you have her figured out, slowly, ‘Mrs. Moon’ cools off;  her color deepening to rosy-violet…

And then –a true coquette– Mrs. Moon’s blossoms shift further to a moody shade of violet-blue, just prior to fading away. But her tantalizing foliage continues to flirt with us all season long (Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’ is available online through Bluestone Perennials. Click photo for details).

Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) makes a lovely companion; young leaves catching glistening raindrops


Image four is courtesy of Bluestone Perennials as linked and noted. The Gardener’s Eden is not professionally affiliated with Bluestone Perennials, but is indeed a fan.

Article and all other photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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A Heart of Darkness…

February 12th, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’, available online at, (and image via):  White Flower Farm

Some gardeners adore bright colors, and other plant collectors crave pastels. There are those who prefer dramatic plants painted silver and gold and a few indecisive types who seek out green tonal shifts and mottled white variegation. These hues are all quite lovely, and they occasionally catch my eye, but I fully admit that I have more shadowy desires. The truth is that deep within me, hidden from the light of day, beats a heart of pure darkness – I confess that I have a passion for black plants. Rich, dark purple and velvety red; bitter chocolate and silky maroon; ruby wine and exotic ebony: these are the colors I covet. And wouldn’t you agree that on a hot summer day, it’s easy to be seduced by a mysterious garden filled with shadows?

Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea backs up Athyrium niponicum var. pictum in my Secret Garden…

I love the cool, quiet of my shady, Secret Garden – but even in full sun, I like to paint shadows with dark foliage and black plants. While stunning on their own, when used in artful combination, these raven-hued beauties of the plant world can make the other flowers and foliage in a garden truly sing. Beside maroon and deep purple, sky blue blossoms sparkle, and when paired with orange and yellow, wine toned foliage is a bold and dramatic choice. Variegated plants, as well as the dusty, marbled whites and soft silver tones, all appear more striking when positioned beside darker colors. Imagine ghostly white ferns floating in a sea of dark foliage, or icy silver-tipped ivy winding about the base of black snake root, (Cimicifugia/Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ or ‘Brunette’). Dark beauty shyly beckons in the shade…

Streptocarpus ‘Black Panther’, seduces from the shadows of my garden on a hot day..

As for the dark blossoms – oh my, but how I’ve fallen; hopelessly deep, and madly in love, with all of their seductive charms. Ruby red, tipping toward blackness, the deep colored dahlias delight me, and the ink-stained petals of iris can drive me truly wild. But pair the velvety allure of maroon roses with a subtle, spicy fragrance, and I will begin to truly swoon. Yes, I know it is an obsession – but you must know my passion for plants by now. I simply can not help it. In fact , as some of you may recall, I have revealed my personal weakness for dark flowers, when I wrote about the mysterious Black Panther Streptocarpus last summer, (pictured above). So, come along with me, won’t you ? Let’s wander away on a tour of the dark-blossoming underworld. Others may only be charmed by bold birds-of-paradise or delicate little, fluttering flowers. As for me, I will always prefer the slightly sinister beauties, like the dark temptress Odile, a shadow drifting silently across Swan Lake

Ipomoea ‘Sweet Heart Purple’,(image via): White Flower Farm

Aquilegia ‘Black Barlow’, available online at, (and image via):White Flower Farm

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black magic’, (image/avail. via): White Flower Farm

Heuchera ‘Obsidian’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Angelica gigas, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Sambucus ‘Black Lace’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Ricinus communis ‘Carmencita bright red’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Begonia Rex ‘Fireworks’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Ipomoea batatas ‘Blackie’, available online at (and photo via): White Flower Farm

Iris chrysographes, available online at (and image via): Wayside Gardens

Ophiopogon ‘Nigrescens’ (Black Mondo Grass), available online at: (and image via) Wayside Gardens


Odile, the black swan, as portrayed by Julie Kent. Photo by Roy Rounds via Thought Patterns.

For further exploring the shadowy side of your gardening personality, I recommend both of these dark, delicious titles…

Karen Platt’s Black Magic and Purple Passion

Paul Bonine’s Black Plants


Article and photographs (except where noted and linked to external websites and products) are copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved.

All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent.


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