Stone in the Garden

When you visit Linden Hill Gardens for the first time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of cool plants and beautiful gardens. But when you take the time to really appreciate the design aspects — particularly the hardscaping — you’ll understand why owner Jerry Fritz is widely known as a landscape craftsman as well as a plant addict. One of the signature features of Jerry’s design work is his use of stone: a material he incorporates into his own gardens as well as those he creates for clients.

From a practical standpoint, stone is much more durable and much less maintenance than wood. Wood, after all, eventually rots and needs to be replaced. Painting or staining may delay the process a few years, but that also increases the investment of time and money over the years. A properly constructed stone wall, path, or terrace, on the other hand, can last a lifetime.

Another reason why Jerry likes to use stone so much — and why he encourages others to use it as well — is its aesthetic appeal. This natural material complements all kinds of plantings, and its presence helps to link the garden to its setting in the larger landscape.

Walls, of course, are one of the most common uses for stone in the garden. In a sloping site, stone retaining walls set against the grade can terrace the area into flatter, more useful spaces. If a site is already flat, you can build stone walls and fill behind them with soil to create raised areas, or line excavated spaces with stone walls to develop a sunken garden. In any site, free-standing stone walls are a classic choice for creating boundaries and defining spaces within a garden.

Why is it that builders and homeowners continue to create walkways by pouring boring concrete slabs and then sticking brick or flagstone on top as a veneer? In our cold-winter climate, the freezing temperatures cause the bricks or stones to break loose, and regular repointing is necessary to put them back in place. There’s a much simpler approach: excavate approximately 2 feet down, backfill with gravel, pack it firmly, and set in one or more large slabs of fieldstone or granite. The finished effect is more elegant, essentially maintenance-free, and often more cost-effective over the long run.

For secondary paths, pea gravel or crushed stone is often a good choice. It makes a nice scrunching sound underfoot, and it looks good, too. Plus, it’s more environmentally friendly than a solid path, because it allows rainwater to drain through and soak into the soil instead of run off the site. Installing gravel paths can be a good way to spread out landscaping costs over time, as well: Walk on them as they are for a few years, then use them as the base for stone slabs to create the permanent walkway as money allows.

“Living patio” is a name Jerry came up with for natural fieldstone slabs in a dry-pack (unmortared) setting, with spaces left between the stones for plants to grow in. You can find out more about how Jerry designs and plants a feature like this in Bring Your Patio to Life.

A stone seat is very easy to construct, visually dramatic, and more cost-effective than a teak garden bench. Find a fairly flat stone and lay it across two chunky logs for a rustic seat, or set it on two blocky base stones to create a permanent feature. Or, find one large stone that serves as a bench all by itself. Jerry likes to create a special sitting area by placing a stone bench in a space cut into a slope. It’s especially nice when a site like this faces south, because the stone warms up quickly, making a cozy spot to sit from fall through spring. He has also designed stone chaise lounges with fragrant thyme plants around the edges to sit or lie on.

If you’re planning a water feature for your garden, don’t forget to incorporate stone. Use it to make the edging, to add height for a waterfall, or to form the base for a bubbling fountain element. Add a unique look to a pond by setting in large boulders with the tops as level as possible just above the water surface.

Long, narrow, large stones look amazing when set on end and partially buried for support. A single standing stone makes a dramatic garden accent; a pair emphatically marks an entrance or transition point. Where space allows, repeating the stones in lines, circles, or spirals creates a very powerful landscape feature.

Even short stone posts can be useful as well as beautiful, serving to mark edges, protect borders from errant garden hoses, or elevate special bits of small statuary.

Look for these and other stone features the next time you stroll through the gardens at Linden Hill. Interested in adding stone to your own landscape? Please see Our New Client Process information for details on how we work.

Blooms and Berries for Fall

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Golden lace (Patrinia scabiosifolia) with New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)

September is finally here and after the rough summer we’ve had, some fresh color in the garden is a welcome sight. Sure, there are autumn standards for beds and borders–asters, goldenrods, and the like–but if you want to set your garden apart, it’s worth hunting for some of the lesser known gems. Read on to discover two of our favorites for color, texture, and yes, even deer resistance!

Golden lace (Patrinia scabiosifolia) is a standout for late-season interest for beds and borders. Typically reaching 5 to 6 feet in bloom, it starts flowering around mid-August and is stunning through September, at least. Earlier in the growing season, you hardly notice its wide rosette of lobed green leaves, but once it begins flowering, it never fails to grab attention.

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Golden lace with cobalt-blue ‘Black and Bloom’ anise sage (Salvia guaranitica), soft purple Russian sage (Perovskia), and white woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) in the Formal Garden at Linden Hill

The slender but sturdy stems branch toward the top, carrying many tiny blooms in a bright lemon yellow color that makes a pleasing change from the usual brassy yellows of other fall bloomers.

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Golden lace up close

Golden lace combines easily with a wide range of other bloom colors and is a wonderful partner for shrub and tree partners that have showy fall foliage.

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Golden lace against ‘Grace’ smokebush (Cotinus)

Golden lace also produces colorful fall foliage of its own, usually in brilliant reds but shades of orange and deep red to maroon are also possible. That’s a lot of impact from one perennial! Golden lace is easy to grow but not easy to find, so make a note to check with us for plants next spring. (They settle in best if you move them fairly early in the growing season.) Golden lace thrives in rich, moist soil but can adapt to average garden conditions too, in full sun to light shade.

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Purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma)

Beautyberries (Callicarpa) are another excellent addition for an autumn spectacle. The clustered fruits of these deciduous shrubs are so intensely purple that they hardly look real! Purple beautyberry (C. dichotoma) flowers on new growth, with clusters of purplish pink flowers in early to midsummer. Cutting it back to about 6 inches in early spring each year will produce a densely branched, 3- to 4-foot-tall and -wide mound that fits easily into a bed, border, or foundation planting.

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Purple beautyberry in a border

The fruits start to color up along the gently arching stems in September, while the leaves are still green. As the weather gets cooler, the leaves take on a greenish yellow to light yellow hue that adds to the spectacle.

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Purple beautyberry in October

The leaves eventually drop, but the berries remain for an additional month or two, at least, extending the show through late fall into winter.

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Purple beautyberry in November

We currently have some beautiful containerized plants of the popular ‘Early Amethyst’, which tends to color up a bit earlier in the season than other selections. Plant them now in a site with full sun to light shade and average, well-drained soil, and you’ll enjoy their multi season interest for years to come. This is one of the best times of year to visit us and enjoy the seasonal gardens at Linden Hill. We will be open Labor Day weekend 11 am till 6 pm now through Sunday.

 

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?

 

Midsummer Magic at Linden Hill

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The Formal Garden at Linden Hill in mid-July

Don’t let the scorching weather we’ve been having stop you from enjoying your garden this summer. Early mornings and evenings are great times to do a bit of maintenance. If your catmints (Nepeta), hardy geraniums, and perennial salvias are sprawling, for instance, cut them back to within a few inches of the ground and give them a good soaking. They’ll quickly regrow into neat mounds of new leaves and maybe even more flowers for fall. That trick works well for freshening up post-bloom daylilies, too.

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These ‘Conca d’Or’ lilies are even taller than Jerry!

Want to add some wow factor to your July garden? Think big with some super-sized flowers and foliage. If you’ve been over to see the Formal Garden recently, you’ve probably noticed the towering lily stems rising above the other perennials. These big beauties are coming into bloom now, filling the whole area with fragrance. And look at the trunks on these ‘Conca d’Or’ plants—little wonder they’re sometimes known as “tree lilies.” If you’ve avoided growing lilies because you hate staking to keep them upright, you really need to give these glorious Orienpet Hybrids a try (and yes, we have them for sale)!

Jerry with Rheum australe

Rheum australe: no ordinary rhubarb!

Does your yard have a low spot that tends to stay damp even in summer? Instead of struggling to keep the weeds at bay, consider filling it with the bold foliage of Himalayan rhubarb (Rheum australe). This dramatic perennial grows in a broad clump of lush leaves, easily filling a space 4 to 6 feet across. This time of year, it also sends up towering spikes of starry, reddish purple flowers.

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We have large pots of Himalayan rhubarb ready to grace your garden.

Himalayan rhubarb is rarely available in nurseries—especially in large pots—but Jerry managed to find a few on one of his Vermont trips. We have one planted in the upper part of our new Rain Garden so you can see what it looks like in the landscape, and there are a couple available in the shade area next to the greeting barn. They’ll go quickly, so grab yours now!

Hydrangeas for Sale at LHG

Jerry’s a long-time hydrangea fan, so we always have plenty in stock.

For pure flower power, it’s hard to beat hydrangeas. Take a walk through the gardens at Linden Hill to admire them in a variety of settings—and don’t miss the crisp white blossoms of ‘Tardiva’ showing off now in the Island Bed next to the parking lot. We have a variety of top-notch selections available for sale, too, including the classic ‘Limelight peegee hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) and lacy blue ‘Blue Bird’ mountain hydrangea (H. serrata).

Hydrangea Little Lime at LHG

Have you been over to see the new bed that Jerry planted outside of the office? It’s packed with lots of his favorites.

Don’t think you have room for a full-sized shrub? Check out pink-tinged ‘Little Quick Fire’ or bright white ‘Little Lime’ peegee hydrangeas: Both reach just 3 to 5 feet tall—about a third of the size of the species. Jerry couldn’t resist adding a bunch of ‘Little Lime’ to the bed in front of the office this spring, but we still have some nice-sized containers available.

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Aren’t the soft sherbet colors of ‘Bicolor’ butterfly bush simply lovely?

Another colorful shrub that works well in summer borders is butterfly bush (Buddleia). We have a number of cultivars for sale, in a range of colors and sizes to suit any sunny site. If you enjoy making beautiful plant partnerships, you have to give ‘Bicolor’ butterfly bush (Buddleia x weyeriana) a try. This hybrid has purple buds that open to peachy pink to raspberry pink florets with orange centers, providing plenty of opportunities for creating outstanding color echoes, as in the combination shown above with ‘Bicolor’ butterfly bush, ‘Blue Paradise’ summer phlox (Phlox paniculata), and Mellow Yellow spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’).

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The Formal Garden at Linden Hill in mid-July

The gardens at Linden Hill are looking fantastic right now, and the nursery is filled with lots of beautiful plants for sale, so be sure to come over for a visit. And if you’ve ever wished you could get hands-on in our beds and borders, now’s your chance: We have opportunities available for garden helpers. Call the office at 610-847-1300 or stop in for details. While you’re here, don’t forget to take a walk down to the pond, because the lotuses are amazing right now. We look forward to seeing you!

Jerry with the lotuses

Look at the size of these lotuses!

Drought Tolerant Plants for the Garden

Drought Tolerant Plants for the Garden

The Northeast has been experiencing much dryer conditions than normal. This is extremely problematic for both new plantings as well as older, established gardens. Even with some rain in the  forecast this week, we are still at a deficit overall, and the coming summer is bound to be rough. Here are a few tips to help ride out these dry spells:

  • Amend the soil with rich, organic compost such as the kind we sell at Linden Hill. Our combination of fertilizer, manure and soil additives ensure a good head start for your newbies by retaining moisture content in the soil beds.
  • Water all new plantings  frequently, ensuring they do not dry out. Continue to water well once or twice during the heat of summer .Saturate the root balls to increase the chances of later survival during a drought.
  • Mulching with a fresh layer of approximately 2″ of high quality much will protect the roots and help seal in moisture as well as discouraging weeds.

Consider planting “drought resistant” perennials and shrubs. These we find especially resilient and able to bounce back after prolonged dry periods. This also helps during a dry and cold winter season. Linden Hill has these in stock and we invite you to stop and learn more about  thoughtful drought planting.


Open Wednesday through Sunday 10 am till 6pm.



  Ilex verticillata- Winterberry Holly

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A deciduous holly that is native to eastern North America. 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 garden.


 Hydrangea paniculata Limelight

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A vigorous, upright, rapid-growing, somewhat coarsely textured, deciduous shrub that is native to China and Japan. It features oval dark green leaves and upright, sharply-pointed, conical, terminal flower panicles  containing both fertile and sterile flowers (mostly non-showy fertile flowers) that bloom from mid-summer into fall. Mass or group in the mixed shrub border or open woodland garden. Also effective as a lawn specimen, accent or hedge. Provides late summer bloom when few other shrubs are in flower.


Nadina domestica- Heavenly Bamboo

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A broad leaf evergreen shrub that is grown for its interesting foliage and its often spectacular fruit display. It is native to Japan, China and India. Plant form, foliage, fall color, spring flowers and fruit make this an interesting ornamental for the landscape. Deer resistant in most areas as well. Group or mass for best effect.


 Spiraea japonica- Anthony Waterer

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A compact cultivar that grows to 2-3′ tall and to 3-4′ wide. crimson flowers in appear in a showy bloom from late spring to mid-summer. New foliage emerges with reddish purple tinting in spring, matures to blue-green by summer and finally turns reddish in fall.  Flowers are attractive to butterflies and deer resistant in most areas as well.


 Abelia – Rose Creek

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A compact 2-3′ tall and to 3-4′ wide.Lustrous leaves with a pinkish cast emerge on crimson stems, mature to dark green and turn purple-green in winter. Blooms with showy white flowers all season long. Its compact size makes an excellent foundation, container or low hedge plant. Deer resistant in most areas as well.