Tag Archives: betty truax

Plants We Love: Turtleheads -- Snap Them Up!

Chelone, (it rhymes with phony and baloney) is a native member of the figwort family. It is more commonly known as turtlehead. It's not hard to figure out how it got its common name; those blooms shaped like turtleheads are so adorable that even someone who is not a fan of turtles can?t resist them. They remind me of kids running around in the rain with their tongues sticking out to catch the droplets. Chelone was a nymph in Greek mythology that offended the gods by not attending the wedding of Zeus to Hera. To punish her, they turned her into a turtle.

I started out having a lot of trouble growing this plant. I wasn't giving it nearly enough water. It is happy down by the waterfront where its feet stay wet most of the time. In my yard it spends most of its time in the shade with 2-3 hours of sun in the afternoon. It will tolerate sun if grown in consistent wetness. I need to warn you ? native caterpillars love this plant so its leaves are very often munched on. This plant is a host plant of the endangered Baltimore Butterfly. Hummingbirds visit this plant as well but bumblebees are what I usually see. It is fun watching the bumblebees climb into the ?turtle's head? and then back out hiney first just to hit the next bloom and do it again.

Don't dig this up if you find it in the wild. (Go to www.vnps.org for a list of nurseries that sell only nursery-propagated plants.) It is easy to find the pink version ?Hot Lips? at local nurseries. I had a hard time finding the white variety but a nursery in my area (shameless commercial here ? English Country Gardens) was able to locate some for me.

Growing from 1-3 feet, deer generally don't bother this plant. The blooms come in pink, rose, white and purplish depending on the variety. One of this plant?s best features is the bloom time from late summer well into the fall. If turtlehead does not get enough water or if it is planted where air cannot circulate, mildew might become a problem. If planted in too much shade this plant will become leggy and require staking. If you absolutely want to plant it in an area that is too shady, minimize the legginess by cutting the plant back by one-third to half in late spring. Moving the plant to a place that better suits its needs (right plant, right place!) will rectify these problems. Divide this plant in the spring to share it with friends. If you have a damp area in your yard, give this wonderful native a shot. You won't be disappointed!

Playing with Plants: Pinch the flowers like you would with snapdragons to make them ?talk.? Plus, look inside turtlehead's mouth to find fangs!
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Virginia Teaching Garden Up For National Award

The Teaching Garden at the Benedictine Monastery in Bristow, Va., is maintained by Master Gardeners of Prince William County. In this garden, Master Gardeners grow fresh produce for the Plant a Row for the Hungry project. It is also where they teach others how to grow vegetables, practice low-maintenance gardening techniques and demonstrate plants that grow well locally. Continue reading

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Plants We Love: Bloodroot

Warning: Bloodroot can be extremely toxic, even fatal.

I'm not going to discuss the medical uses for bloodroot. There is plenty of information on the web (and from professional herbalists, which I certainly am not) explaining its benefits and dangers. Just let me say do your research very well. Also, consider pets and children before planting it in your landscape. As beautiful as this plant is, it is not worth risking loved ones? health or possibly even lives. Continue reading

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Plants We Love: Oakleaf Hydrangea, A Seasonal Delight

My favorite shrub is oakleaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia (querci- oak, and folia - leaf). This native plant ranges from Tennessee to Florida and west to the Mississippi River. In Virginia, we are a bit north of its native range but it grows very well here. It grows naturally in forests, along streams and on forested hillsides. Continue reading

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Plants We Love: Iris Cristata

Iris is one of my favorite perennial genera consisting of over 300 species. When growing iris it is important to determine the species. Some like sun others like shade and some want wet. Others can't tolerate wet feet at all. They can be 4 inches or they can grow to be over 3 feet tall. Continue reading

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Plants We Love: Buttonbush

A few years ago my husband and I moved to a lakefront property that had lawn growing down to the water's edge. I immediately started researching putting in a riparian buffer (I always think of Hyacinth from the britcom "Keeping Up Appearances" touting her "riparian buffet" when I hear that phrase). Continue reading

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