Bringing in Butterflies

The Long Border at Linden Hill

When you’re zipping past Linden Hill Gardens on Route 611 in Ottsville, PA, you’ve undoubtedly noticed our super-sized Long Border. At 300 feet long and over 20 feet wide, it’s hard to miss! We work hard to keep it filled with lots of color for passersby to enjoy, even at 55 miles an hour. It’s not just our version of a floral billboard, though. The Linden Hill Long Border serves another purpose: providing a welcoming habitat for a wide range of beautiful butterflies.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)

Large-scale plantings are excellent for attracting butterflies, but you don’t need a 6,000-square-foot border like ours to welcome these winged beauties. A small bed, or even a collection of containers filled with butterfly favorites, can make your property more enticing.

Silver Spotted Skipper on ‘Black Beauty’ Lily (Lilium)

A sunny spot that’s near a deck, patio, or garden bench, where you can sit and enjoy their comings and goings, is an ideal spot for a butterfly garden.

Black Swallowtail on Compass Plant (Silphium perfoliatum)

Adult butterflies have particular plant preferences, based on the flower structure and the composition of the nectar. Fortunately, many popular perennials are as appealing to butterflies as they are to us: coneflowers (Echinacea and Rudbeckia), coreopsis, salvias, scabiosas, phlox, and yarrows for summer, and asters, mums, eupatoriums, and ironweeds (Vernonia) for fall, to name just a few.

Monarchs on Tatarian aster (Aster tataricus)

There are many annual options, too, such as lantana, verbenas, zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds, and shrubs as well. You can find much more extensive lists of plants to consider at Recommended Plantings to Attract Hummingbirds, Butterflies, and Moths.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails on Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)

Providing an ample supply of food is just part of the picture, though. To create a complete habitat, you also need to provide butterflies with the plants they prefer for egg-laying, and for their larvae to feed on.

Anise Swallowtail Larva on Dill

This is the tricky part for some gardeners to deal with: that hosting butterfly larvae (caterpillars) means accepting a little — or a lot — of leaf damage as they feed.

Monarch Larvae on Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of caterpillars chowing down in your best beds and borders, consider planting a collection of host plants — such as dill and parsley for black swallowtails, spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and sassafras for zebra swallowtails, and milkweeds (Asclepias) for monarchs — in an out-of-the-way spot. Then, if you find the larvae in your main garden, you can gently relocate them to the less-visible planting, where they can feed freely without damaging your display.

Black Swallowtail Larva on Rue (Ruta graveolens)

We encourage you to come by this summer to stroll around our gardens and enjoy the beautiful butterflies that call them home. And if you would like to enhance your own plantings with butterfly favorites, we still have many excellent nectar and host plants available!

Spicebush Swallowtail on ‘Nicky’ phlox (Phlox paniculata)


Holding On


In an ideal world, we gardeners could always get plants we want at the perfect size, at the perfect planting time, and have the perfect spot picked out and ready for them. In reality, we often have to settle for a smaller plant than we’d like, or else buy multiple pots when we know that one plant will eventually do the job. Or, we end up with a collection of potted perennials and shrubs sitting around and needing to be watered every day until we figure out where we’re going to put them.

Nurseries can have the same problems. Here at Linden Hill Gardens, we know our customers enjoy having access to a wide variety of lush, garden-ready plants, and we do our best to keep you all supplied with old favorites and exciting new finds. To that end, Jerry has been busy on a new project: installing extensive holding beds back in the area we call “Block 3” (down at the far end of the pond). Most of you probably have never been back there, but you didn’t miss much. For the past few years, it has been a hodgepodge of plants and soil piles.


Block 3 at Linden Hill – before Jerry got started


Block 3 now…ready for its new life as our propagation and growing area

In the last few weeks, that area has been cleared, built up, and leveled, and soon, Jerry will be filling it with a series of extensive holding beds. That will give us lots of room to set out and grow on seedlings and small starter plants that we get from specialty suppliers, until they are just the right size to pot up for sale or grace the gardens of our landscape clients.

The inspiration for our new propagation area came from Jerry’s trip out to Minnesota this summer, for the Perennial Plant Association’s annual conference. One of the stops on the nursery tour was Kelley and Kelley Nursery, in Long Lake, MN.

You know Jerry likes to think big, but holding beds don’t have to be huge. In fact, you can make them pretty much any size and enjoy their many benefits in your home landscape. Want to buy a plant but don’t know if you have space for it in your garden? If you have a holding bed ready, you can easily pop it into the ground and let it grow there until you find just the right place. Want to see what exactly color a flower will be before you choose a permanent spot for it but can’t find one in bloom? Buy a plant in leaf or bud and grow it in a holding bed until it flowers and you can see it for yourself.


Holding beds are especially useful at this time of year, when you’re shopping nursery sales and need a place to overwinter your new finds. (Oh, did we mention our own end-of-season deal? Starting on October 13th, all of our nursery stock is 40% off!)

At its simplest, a holding bed could be an unused spot in your vegetable garden, where the soil is empty after you’ve harvested your summer crops. Or, you could choose a currently unused but convenient spot, fairly close to an outdoor faucet so you can easily water the young plants as needed.

Another view of the nursery beds at Kelley and Kelley Nursery. If you try something like this at home, keep the bed just 3 to 4 feet wide at most, so you can easily reach in for planting without stepping on the soil, but make it as long as you have space for, or build multiple beds.

Make a frame with wood or plastic lumber, or bricks or cement blocks, or whatever you have handy, and fill it with a loose, fertile growing medium, such as Jerry’s special compost mix.


You’ve seen how Jerry’s blend of aged cow manure, leaf mold, mushroom soil, and other special ingredients–what he calls “The Good Stuff!”–makes our gardens here thrive, and it can do the same for your plants. We sell it by the bucket and by the truckload.

So, have we sold you on trying this simple but invaluable addition to any gardener’s bag of tricks? Set aside a few hours to build a holding bed of your own, then come out to Linden Hill this month and stock up on great plants. We still have a great selection to choose from. There’s no need to feel guilty about those impulse purchases, because you’ll already have the ideal place for them to live until your garden is ready to receive them.

Join us this Saturday, October 8 at 11am for a lecture on


Hosted by Jerry Fritz. Discover how to choose the best bulbs to plant now in order to enjoy spectacular spring blooms next season. Special discount on bulb purchases for attendees. This is a free event and pre-registration is required.

Click here to register for Naturalizing Bulb Planting Lecture


Bring Your Patio to Life

The Living Patio at Linden Hill Gardens in Ottsville, PA

The Living Patio at Linden Hill Gardens

Many of you who have visited Linden Hill this year have noticed that Jerry recently expanded one of our most popular garden features: the living patio. The rest of you may be wondering “What’s a living patio?”. A combination of large stone slabs and gorgeous ground-hugging plants, the living patio is a concept that Jerry came up with over 25 years ago, and he has designed and installed many of them for clients since then.

From a design perspective, a living patio provides a natural-looking transition between the house and the gardens around it. From a plant geek’s point of view, it provides yet another place to experiment with interesting ground covers and rock-garden plants. And for everyone, it creates a beautiful setting for outdoor entertaining, dining, or simply relaxing.

Living Patio at Linden Hill Gardens in Ottsville, PA

Large stones interplanted with tiny plants make a striking contrast.

The stones are the heart of any living patio. This isn’t the place to use up small pieces, because they won’t stay level, and that can cause people to trip; plus, the whole effect looks “busy.” Jerry prefers to use large, flat slabs of Pennsylvania fieldstone, ranging in size from 3 to 10 feet wide and 4 to 8 inches thick. He also likes to include a few stones with pockets or shallow indentations in each patio, because they collect water that birds can drink from or bathe in. That makes living patios wildlife-friendly as well as people- and plant-friendly. They’re environmentally friendly too: instead of rainfall sheeting off the solid surface of a formally paved patio, it can soak into the ground through the spaces.

Living Patio at Linden Hill Gardens in Ottsville, PA

In the main part of the patio, very low plants are the best choice. As you get closer to the edge, adding slightly taller ones–like this combination of thymes and sedums–creates a transition between the patio and surrounding garden spaces.

For the “living” part of the patio, Jerry sticks with plants that reach a maximum of 2 to 3 inches tall in leaf and no more than 8 inches in bloom (ideally shorter). Some, such as golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’) and purple-leaved Labrador violet (Viola labradorica) are mostly for foliage color; others, including the veronicas ‘Georgia Blue’ and ‘Waterperry Blue’, are primarily there for pretty flowers. He also tucks in a wide variety of low-growing thymes (Thymus) and other herbs with scented foliage, because they release a nice fragrance when they get stepped on.

Isotoma fluviatilis in flower at Linden Hill Gardens in Ottsville, PA

Blue star creeper (Isotoma fluviatilis) is sprinkled with dainty blue blooms through most of the summer. It looks delicate, but this little charmer is so sturdy that it doesn’t mind being walked on.

While these plants do a great job filling the gaps between stones, the living patio at Linden Hill occasionally has a few bare spots because of the heavy foot traffic right outside our office. Sometimes, we simply transplant pieces of the good spreaders into those spaces; other times, we use those gaps to try out new creepers.

Wondering how to fit a 6- or 8-inch potted ground cover into a space that’s just 1 to 2 inches wide? Tip the plant out of the pot, cut off all but the top 2 inches of the root ball with a sharp knife, and then cut the remaining plant into pieces that are the perfect size to fit between the stones. They'll quickly root into the screenings under the slabs and can grow happily for years with minimal care.

Wondering how to fit a 6- or 8-inch potted ground cover into a space that’s just 1 to 2 inches wide? Tip the plant out of the pot, cut off all but the top 2 inches of the root ball with a sharp knife, and then cut the remaining plant into pieces that are the perfect size to fit between the stones. They’ll quickly root into the screenings under the slabs and can grow happily for years with minimal care.

If you have an existing patio with planting space between the stones and want to dress it up, we have lots of flowering and foliage ground-huggers that are perfect for the purpose, including creeping mazus (Mazus reptans), creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum), Scotch moss (Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’), and many intriguing sedums.

Plants for Living Patios at Linden Hill Gardens in Ottsville, PA

Look for our extensive collection of living-patio plants between the office and the greenhouse.

Would you like to add a living patio to your own landscape? You can find out more details about how Jerry constructs them in his book Lessons from Linden Hill: Design Tips and Planning Pointers. We have it available for sale in the Greeting Barn at Linden Hill, or you can buy it online from Amazon. Or, contact our office at 610-847-1300 to discuss the possibility of having Jerry design, install, and plant one for you! More information on our design process here.

Living Patio at Linden Hill Gardens in Ottsville, PA

Wouldn’t you love to have a space like this in your own landscape?


David Benner Moss & WIldflower Tour Schedule Just Released

Sign up early to ensure a space on one of David Benner’s popular home garden tours

Dave Close up

See our good friend, Dave on Saturday, April 9th at Linden Hill Gardens where he will be answering your gardening questions and also offering his own plants for sale (cash or check only please).

Moss & Wildflower Garden Tour 

Spring 2016 Tour – 42nd Year

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 This special two acre natural landscape in New Hope, PA will again be open for personal guided tours from April 20th through May 17th by appointment only.

Dave Benner’s Moss and Wildflower Garden has through the years become renowned for its explosion of colors, texture, and vivid green carpet of moss.

Below are the dates and times schedules for the garden tours:

April 20 – Wednesday – 9:30, 1:00 and 3:00

April 21 – Thursday 11:00 and 2:00

April 23 – Saturday 10:00

April 24 – Sunday 2:00 and 3:00

April 27 – Wednesday 10:30, 1:00 and 2:30

April 29 – Friday 10:00, 1:00 and 3:00

April 30 – Saturday 9:30, 1:00, 3:00

May 1 – Sunday 2:00, 3:00

May 4 – Wednesday 10:30, 1:00, 3:00

May 6 – Friday 10:00, 2:00, 4:00

May 7 – Saturday 10:00, 2:00, 4:00

May 9 – Monday 10:00, 2:00

May 12 – Thursday 10:00, 2:00, 4:00

May 14 – Saturday 9:00, 11:00, 1:00, 3:00

May 15 – Sunday 1:00, 3:00

May 17 – Tuesday 10:00, 2:00, 4:00

Tours last one hour and are limited to 12 people.  There is a $10 fee per person.  Please No Pets or Young Children.  Please wear flat shoes or sneakers (no high heels).  Please carpool as parking is limited.  To ensure availability please make your reservation as soon as possible.

To schedule a tour or for more information, please call 215.862.5388 or send an email to  Please include your mailing address & phone number.     Thank you –   Dave E. Benner

Time for a Fall Clean Up

leafFall Garden Chores and Hints

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Cutting back perennials is important for plant health, pest prevention and general garden maintenance at the end of the growing season.

Cutting back now while the weather is still warm will give your garden a head start come spring.

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Moles and mice love to nest under and in plant materials to stay protected from the frigid winter temperatures.

They also feed on the roots and foliage throughout the season.

Cutting back reduces the possible hiding places and food sources.

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Bait and traps will help reduce the population – especially around the areas that have been planted with spring flowering bulbs.

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Fall is a great time to add plants to the garden, but don’t  forget these new additions need water to encourage new roots to grow before the ground freezes solid.

New roots will prevent heaving in the spring and give your  plants a fresh start when the weather starts to change in the coming spring.

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Fall fertilizing  encourages root growth, we recommend Espoma Fertilizers for fall feedings, as they slowly release the nutrients throughout the winter.