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Mt Cuba Center
Back to News Updates – July 3, 2024

Updates

South Garden Standouts

Senior horticulturist, Michael Strengari talks about his favorite native plants in Mt. Cuba Center’s newly renovated and now accessible South Garden. Read on to find out Michael’s top 10 and what makes each of these plants really stand out.

Man standing in a garden

Pink Profusion Bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata ‘Pink Profusion’)

Pink star shaped flowers

Mt. Cuba introduced this cultivar to the horticultural trade in 1997. It can grow in many soil types, it can be great for foliage or flowers in an arrangement, it has attractive seedheads, and won’t take over the garden. Truly, this plant has it all!

 

Grand Marshall scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma ‘AChall’)

bright pink flowers

This compact cultivar tops out at about two feet and spreads consistently, but not overwhelmingly. It is very resistant to powdery mildew and the hummingbirds love it. This well-behaved plant is a beautiful addition to the garden.

 

Apache Rose switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Apache Rose’)

Clumps of tall green grasses

I believe every garden needs a grass to soften the overall texture. This specific cultivar was chosen for several reasons. It emerges with grey-green foliage, while later in the season the tips of the grass become a rosy, red color before it is covered in similarly colored panicles. This cultivar also remains upright and columnar.

 

Wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium)

tiny white flowers

 

I like to use this plant to highlight its neighbors, but it is quite interesting on its own as well. It has a long eight-week bloom period and feeds many native bees. Even when it is finished blooming and seeds begin to form, it looks just as wonderful. The seed heads fade to a pewter color that gives great winter interest.

 

Midnight Masquerade foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis ‘Midnight Masquerade’)

Dark purple leaves with pink flowers

This plant is a stunner. Its dark foliage contrasts nicely with other plants and can be enjoyed all season. This cultivar is upright and uniform in flower with the outside of the flower a deep lavender and a white interior. The seedheads add ornamental interest and can be dried and added to floral arrangements. Midnight Masquerade foxglove beardtongue would be a great addition to a moon garden.

 

Glamour Girl garden phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘Glamour Girl’)

bright pink flowers

This plant is covered in coral pink blooms for weeks in mid-summer, attracting swallowtails and many other pollinators. Garden phlox is a wonderful addition to a mixed perennial border. This cultivar is one of the more mildew-resistant varieties, with a flower color that is rare in the floral world.

 

Climbing prairie rose (Rosa setigera)

pink flower

I’m excited to use this plant because in my opinion all formal gardens deserve a rose. I look forward to training the plant on the historic wall, where it will add beauty in every season. Fun fact: climbing prairie rose is a “mostly” a dioecious species and produces male and female flowers on separate plants.

 

Giant coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima)

yellow flowers with large cone in the center

I love the aesthetics of this plant! The giant leaves of the blue green basal rosette are great on their own, then it sends up flower spikes up to seven feet tall. This all happens without the plant feeling bulky in the garden. The seedheads attract goldfinches in swarms!

 

Bluebird smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve var. laeve ‘Bluebird’)

purple flowers

This is one of my favorite asters. Its upright yet loose habit (compared to others of this genus) makes it so fun to combine with other perennial companions. It is adaptable to many soil conditions and is a pollinator magnet. Asters are keystone plants, hosting over 90 species of native caterpillars.

 

Fascination Culver’s-root (Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’)

Spikes of lavender flowers

 

This plant has a stately presence in the garden, with the whorled leaf arrangement adding to its interest. It is visited by a myriad of bee species, as well as moths, butterflies, wasps, and syrphid flies. It’s also unpalatable to deer!

 

Check out Mt. Cuba’s newly updated South Garden brochure, featuring these plants and more! You can pick up a brochure on your next visit to Mt. Cuba or download it for free online here.