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  • crazyhillgardens

by Michael Kerkes, CPH, Co-Owner of Crazy Hill Garden & Botanical, published as the column “Ramblings of a Crazy Gardener” in the North Bay Review

Welcome to June, the month when the days grow the longest. The sun warms the soil and the garden goes into overdrive. The long days are a great time to plant beautiful and interesting succulents. This group of drought tolerant plants brings rewards with the hot summer days.

These amazing plants are fantastic both in containers and in the ground. Their low water requirements and small root systems make them very easy to work with. Succulents come in so many shapes, colors, and textures it boggles the mind. The geometric kaleidoscope of Sempervivums (Hens and Chicks) create a great display. The rounded, lush leaves of Sedums can provide an unreal contrast to the pointed leaves of Agaves. This opens up opportunity for a whole lot of fun.

Here are a few of my favorite succulents to play with:

Sempervivum marmoreum is a beautiful mahogany color; Sempervivum arachnoideum has a magical spider web-like texture; and don’t pass up Sempervivum heuffelii ‘Gold Bug’, which is a glowing yellow-gold color. I could go on and on with this group.

Sedums! An even larger group of succulents with an impressive range of colors and textures in their foliage and flowers. Whole books have been written on these plants and their seemingly endless wonders. I will try to narrow it down a bit.

Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’ has a delightful and curiously grey, chalky foliage that pairs well with lime greens and reds while Sedum spurium dazzles with its red foliage. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any more colorful Sedum spurium ‘Tricolor’ is a show-stopper with white and green foliage and tinges of pink on the margin.

If it’s blooms you want there is nothing quite like the Ice Plants (Delosperma). These mat-forming, evergreen succulents have whimsical, daisy-like blooms in a shocking array of colors. Delosperma x ‘Delmara Fuchsia’ has electric fuchsia colored flowers that ride above the small, fleshy, pebble-like leaflets.

Make sure your soil is sharply draining. These plants, while drought tolerant, can handle a fair amount of water but they do not like to sit in it. Give them every ounce of sunlight you can and they should do fine. You can get creative and tuck succulents into rock walls, hollow spaces in tree stumps, or turn broken pots on their side and have your sedums “spill out” of the containers.

Most importantly... Have fun!

  • crazyhillgardens

by Michael Kerkes, CPH, Co-Owner of Crazy Hill Garden & Botanical, published as the column “Ramblings of a Crazy Gardener” in the North Bay Review

Fragrant foliage can add so much to your garden. Visitors, young and old, love the delightful surprise awaiting them in your scent-sational oasis. The experience of walking down a path lined with aromatic plants brings joy to the senses.

Here are a few of my favorites to play with in your garden.

Eucalyptus nicholii or Peppermint Willow, is a showstopper that’s both drought tolerant and deer resistant. This tree has a an elegant graceful form, sporting a reddish trunk and branches adorned with fragrant grey-green, willow-shaped leaves. The foliage has a wonderful minty-eucalyptus fragrance. Add to all of this the fact that this tree is also evergreen and you have a winner for your sunny spot.

Prostanthera cuneata ‘Badja Peak’ or Australian Bush Mint is an outstanding shrub with lush, dense, dark-green foliage smelling like a heavenly mix of thyme and mint. It will grow to about 5 feet tall, is evergreen, and is quite drought tolerant once established. This intensely fragrant shrub also has beautiful, delicate, orchid-like flowers that draw in hummingbirds and bees! You cannot go wrong with this amazing plant.

Lavenders. These rugged shrubs sport both fragrant foliage and flowers. They are both drought tolerant and deer resistant. There are so many kinds to choose from but here are three of my favorites.

Lavendula x intermedia ‘Phenomenal’. This plant combines the cold hardiness of English lavenders with the heat tolerance of Portuguese varieties. Wonderful long stems support beautiful flowers that are perfect for making wands or scented sachets. Lavendula angustifolia ‘Munstead Strain’ is a terrific, compact English lavender with amazing fragrance and one which also makes a tasty culinary herb. Perfect for the kitchen garden. My 3rd favorite is Lavendula stoechas ‘Helmsdale’. This is a truly amazing plant with a robust growth habit. The long-blooming, rich reddish-purple flowers have burgundy-purple rabbit ears on top.

Another awesome perennial with fragrant foliage is Artemisia absinthium, which is of course one of the key ingredients in Absinthe. This plant is tough as nails, drought tolerant, deer resistant, and it smells of sweet licorice. It has striking grey foliage topped with intensely yellow flowers. Santonlina chamaecyparissus or lavender cotton, has playful, grey, fern-like, leaves topped with cheery little yellow pom-pom-like flowers and it is also evergreen.

Now for some herbaceous perennials with hypnotically fragrant foliage. Mints, mints, mints. They come in so many fragrances now, such as lavender, grapefruit, pineapple, and even chocolate. They like “wet feet” and love to spread, but don’t be afraid, they do very well in containers too!

Monarda, or Bee-Balm, has a unique and subtle fragrance. The awesome, globe-shaped flower is an absolute pollinator magnet. The blooms come in tones of purple to red.

Agastache or hyssop, is another great choice for scented foliage. It smells like extra-sweet licorice and comes in an array of bloom colors. This plant is also a hummingbird and butterfly magnet.

I’m going to tie this up with two of my favorite tender, scented plants. Fragrant geraniums. This group of pelargoniums is mind bending with their dainty blooms yet shocking fragrances. There are so many choices of scents; rose, ginger, black pepper, apple … the list goes on.

  • Michael

Opening a nursery has been a dream of mine for years. I have been so humbled by all the fantastic help from family and friends to make this dream come true.

On March 6th, 2021 we will open our doors to the public. Elton and I are excited to present Crazy Hill Garden and Botanicals, an eclectic nursery featuring unusual and hard to find plants, and works by local artists and craftsmen.

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