All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A by Pernell Gerver

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"Tall and Spiky Plants Provide Vertical Interest in the Garden"

Plants that are tall or plants with tall spiky flowers provide a vertical accent in the garden. They carry the eye upward and are great for the middle to back of the flower bed or border. There are many different plants that provide a vertical accent in the garden. Click on the plant's name to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Ligularia 'The Rocket' is a perennial for the darkest corner of the garden. This photo is of it in the darkest, shadiest part of my garden along the north wall of my potting shed under the dense shade of tall oak trees. Its heart-shaped foliage is deeply cut along the edges giving an almost prehistoric look. The foliage forms a handsome mound two feet high and wide. Five-foot-tall spikes of yellow flowers rise through the foliage in midsummer. The yellow flowers are held on deep-purple stems for a stunning contrast. An amazing plant that grows where other plants won't, ligularia provides a bright splash of color in even the shadiest spot in the garden.

Delphinium is another perennial that provides a vertical accent in the garden. Its stately spikes of flowers in early to midsummer make delphinium a star of the summer flower bed. The flower spikes carry dozens of individual flowers that line its flower stem. Its tall spikes of flowers rise above other flowers in the garden. Plant it in the middle or back of the flower bed for a striking effect. It grows well in sun to part shade.

Tall garden phlox is another tall perennial that provides vertical interest. There are many different types of tall garden phlox, but one of my favorites is the variety 'Nora Leigh.' This variety has both attractive foliage and flowers. The leaves are edged with a thin band of creamy yellow and its foliage adds interest to the garden even when it's not in bloom. It bears large flower clusters that are pale pink with a deep-pink eye. Each flower cluster is quite large, nearly a foot tall. To prolong blooming, once the main flower cluster has gone by, pinch it off and side shoots will develop new flowers. 'Nora Leigh' grows about three feet tall and looks good in the middle to back of the flower bed or border.

Foxtail Lily 'Shelford Pink'Foxtail lily 'Shelford Pink' is a lesser-known perennial that bears dramatic flower spikes. Flowers are borne on tall spikes that can grow five feet tall or more. The spikes are leafless and slender, but sturdy, needing no staking to stand upright. The top two feet or so of each flower spike carries small, single flowers that are salmon pink. Each individual flower is less than an inch wide, but there are hundreds of them on each flower spike. The rounded flowers have prominent stamens that stand out from the flower. Foxtail lily has an interesting way of blooming. The flowers begin opening from the bottom of the spike and continue all the way to the top. It's a long-blooming perennial, taking many weeks for the spike to bloom from the bottom to the top. It thrives in a sunny spot in the garden.

Canna 'Tropicanna' is a tall plant that has huge, dramatic leaves that are striped with gold, orange, pink, and green all set against a dark purple background. Eye-catching golden-orange flowers rise through the foliage and bloom from midsummer to frost. It grows four feet tall or more and looks good in the middle or back of the flower bed or border. I also like to grow it in large containers as a focal point.


Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Neem Oil Eliminates Caterpillars"

Q. Please help me! My trees are overrun with caterpillars this year. The leaves have been almost completely eaten and what's left are full of holes, like Swiss cheese. I don't remember having this many caterpillars on my trees last year. What can I do to get rid of them? Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

A. I can sympathize with you about the abundance of caterpillars this year. I've noticed a huge increase in caterpillars this year on trees in my garden and all over western Massachusetts. The eastern tent caterpillar has been especially prevalent. That's the caterpillar that builds big, web-like nests in trees. On a tree with a heavy infestation most, if not all, of the leaves are stripped. Weeping cherry trees and oak trees have been especially hard hit this year by caterpillars. I've noticed that many weeping cherry trees I see throughout western Massachusetts appear thin. My own weeping cherry tree was also eaten.

The best way to eliminate caterpillars is to spray them with Neem Oil. Neem Oil is an organic, three-in-one spray that kills caterpillars (as well as dozens of other common and hard-to-control insect pests). I set the bottle on the stream setting and spray up into the tree. The stream reaches about 10 to 15 feet up into the tree and kills the caterpillars. I also spray the ground around the base of the tree because the caterpillars come and go up and down the tree during the day. Spray the trunk, too. Neem Oil acts as a growth regulator, antifeedant, repellent, and contact killer. Spray the tree to runoff and repeat every seven to 10 days until the caterpillars are gone.

Click here to order Neem Oil from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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