Tag Archives: baptisia

Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’

Today’s plant recommendation is Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’.

baptisia 'carolina moonlight'


Three years ago I purchased a very small plug of this perennial from Bluestone Perennials figuring if I love the purple varieties with such a passion, why not dabble in yellow blooming cultivars as well.

Color me happy to date.

Within only one year’s time, I had myself some blooms and it hasn’t stopped doubling in size ever since. To the shock of no one who has ever read a post on this blog, I like the way it looks best when in combination with ornamental grasses, as seen in the photo below.

baptisia 'carolina moonlight'


Some other notable facts about Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’:

  • Maxes out around 3′ to 4′ tall and wide, similar to its purple blooming brethren.
  • To date, it has been 100% deer resistant although I just jinxed it so buyer beware.
  • The blooms emerge in the middle of May and last a good 3-4 weeks in my zone 6B garden.
  • The blooms are a butter yellow so you fans of yellow blooms will dig these big time.
  • Survives in zones 4-9.
  • There is no specific soil preference as it is listed as preferring medium to dry soil but mine has been in wet soil for years now without issue.
  • As with other Baptisia, it is a tough as nails plant once established and it is recommended that it not be moved once established. Even a serial plant relocator like myself knows to leave these in one spot and walk away.

In early spring, the Baptisia stems emerge, not too unlike a peony.


The blooms start to emerge in mid April and are almost as impactful as when they are in full bloom.

baptisia 'carolina moonlight'



And then one day, boom, they’ve arrived.

baptisia 'carolina moonlight'

The dark stems are a nice touch aren’t they?

Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’ has bloomed at the same time as many of my peonies so there is an opportunity for a kick butt color combo.


After the bloom period, I prefer to keep all of the spent/dried seedheads on my Baptisia as they retain a level of interest and lend a different look in the garden as the summer wears on and eventually meets autumn.


So what do you think?

Do any of you have this in your garden?

Are there any other cultivars you recommend?








Grasses, transitions and a new destroyer of plants

A tour around my garden:

Ornamental grasses are the dominant feature right now as they round into their peak form. So why don’t we start there.

I’m sure you are well aware of my affinity for Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ by now but if not, here is some visible propaganda.



rots 2


More Panicum love here as well.

driveway bed


Not only do the grasses put a smile on my face but they also serve a very tangible purpose. Here they are protecting the tomatoes from the deer and doing a bang up job I must say.

tomatoes grasses


‘Karl Foerster’, kicking ass in John’s garden since ’07.



A recent addition to the grass collection, Pennisetum ‘Burgundy Bunny’ has phenomenal color right now. I am going to liberally add these wherever I can find the space for them. Love.

burgundy bunny 2


Soghastrum (Indian Grass) has announced its presence in a big way of late but I’ll hold off on photos until they are just right. By just right, I mean when all of the blooms have arrived. For now, here is a taste of one of those blooms. Love.

indian grass bloom


Speaking of blooms on the grasses. Here is one of the Andropogon (Big Bluestem) ‘Red October’ blooms. I now get why this grass is often referred to as Turkey Foot.

andropogon flower


Yes, there are plants other than ornamental grasses that tickle my fancy right now and some of these newly emerged this week. Like seen here with the first blooms of Chelone lyonii. This plant truly loves my often waterlogged soil and for that I am indebted for life.



This Boltonia bloom could be heard yelling “first” this morning.



Sedum ‘Matrona’ is playing nicely with Veronica ‘Royal Candles’ and my little hide-it-from-the-deer-game is still going strong.

sedum veronica


Transition of seasons. It is coming.

Look at what we have here. The seedheads of Baptisia are slowly opening and that makes me think winter is around the corner and that makes me cold which in turn makes me both mad and sad.

baptisia seedhead


Speaking of a transitional period, I just noticed this week that the stems on the Redtwig Dogwood are well, red and that also is freaking me out a bit. I love the red stems in winter and it is welcome winter interest, but for god’s sake, not yet.



This Rhamnus (Buckthorn) ‘Fine Line’ was inundated with Japanese beetles just a few weeks ago and looked nasty. Now I know how resilient and tough she is and that will be noted on the trusty plant spreadsheet.



This spring I ordered a massive quantity of small plugs of Packer Aurea (Golden Ragwort) from Izel Native Plants and while they all initially struggled with the heat and the humidity, they have all bounced back like a champ. I love the foliage. And I’m banking on mass blooms in early spring next year and post bloom, I plan on it being the plant to hide the ugly legs of others like Bee Balm and Sneezeweed.



I cannot for the life of me successfully grow Cimicifuga (Bugbane). It is official now. I’ve tried in full shade, mostly shade, partial shade and full sun. I’ve left alone for years and remained patient with no success. I’ve kept them consistently moist and no dice. It may be time to move on.

cimici 3


cimici 2




One last one before I go. I spotted this bloom of Hydrangea ‘Little Lime’ just laying in my front lawn this morning and thought it curious since it wasn’t actually eaten by the deer.


Upon closer inspection, there were Bee Balm plants knocked to the ground near it as well.

Upon closer inspection this was not the act of deer or any other animal.

Upon closer inspection, a certain 14 year old boy seemed awfully nervous around me this morning.

Upon closer inspection, said 14 y/o boy likes to hit a baseball across the front lawn and this area happens to be right in the way.

QOTD: How should I appropriately handle this situation?

Eye Candy

As we come out of the long Memorial Day weekend and into the work week, I’m going to keep the positive vibes rolling and share some of my favorite garden pics from the weekend. With all of the rain we’ve had this spring and now with the hot temps, everything seemed to explode and this guy ain’t complaining one bit. This is why we bust our asses in the fall/winter/spring planning and planting and prepping and moving things around until they are in that perfect location; for these types of displays of color and all around awesomeness.


Peony ‘Bowl of Beauty’ kicks ass year after year and the blooms rarely fall over like so many other peonies. I have more impending blooms this year than I’ve had in years. Go me.



peony 2


peony 3


Still not sure which white cultivar this is but who cares when they look this good.

white peony


My Baptisia are in full bloom and I have to forcibly stop myself from taking any more photos.



baptisia 2


baptisia 3




baptisia 4


Even after the Allium are spent and technically no longer in bloom, they still look phenomenal and lend so much to the garden view from so many angles.



front 3


front 2


Baptisia ‘Carolina Moon’ in full bloom and standing tall among the other soon to be blooming perennials and exceedingly fast growing ornamental grasses.

baptisia back


Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ adding so more color to this vignette of daylillies and Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’.

amsonia blue ice


I honestly have no idea how this Siberian iris showed up underneath this Nepeta (Catmint) but hot damn if it doesn’t work. I should have lied and told you I planned it, but my street garden cred is too important to me.

iris catmint


Carex grayi has become a fantastic edging plant for me, loving the constant moisture, and when the seed heads emerge, it takes them to the next level. And by the way, that next level is called “Ass kicking” if you weren’t already aware.

carex grayii


Ho hum, Amsonia still blooming. Quick note – If you haven’t been here before, that “ho hum” was sarcastic. Just enter “amsonia” in the search box and you’ll see why.


Question of the day – What newly blooming plant in your garden has you the most impressed this spring? Please leave your response as a comment and let’s chat things up!



Allium love, a new holiday and introducing “Question of the Day”

Here is the latest and greatest in my garden on this, dare I say, warm and beautiful May afternoon.

It’s all about the Allium right now, as the fruits of my fall labor are being realized this spring. I’ve got at least 25 Allium bulbs in bloom right now and they are kicking ass and taking names.

They look good up close.

allium 2

And as we pan back …


… and back even further.

full 2


Baptisia blooms have arrived this week and I’m thinking this day should be declared a holiday each year. That is how festive it makes me feel. At a minimum, I’m going to push for #NationalBaptisiaDay on Twitter leading up to this day in 2017.


baptisia yellow

Baptisia ‘Carolina Moon’


Siberian iris ‘Snow Queen’ is blooming but I’m only giving you a macros shot because they actually look kind of lousy because this lazy gardener has refused to divide them for four years running now.



Amsonia tabernaemontana is blooming and that’s all I will say here because I’ve raved about this plant enough already.



All of my peonies will be blooming within the next week or so and until then, I’ll enjoy the ridiculously delicious scent of the lilac in the background.

peony lilac


Another day, another sigh from me regarding the awesomeness of Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’.



And finally, it’s time to sit back and enjoy watching the garden fill in while all empty spaces disappear.


full 3

Thank you again for stopping by.

I am going to try something new today. A “Question of The Day”. Here it is:

What perennial do you find to be the most underrated?

Leave your answer in the comments so we can all discuss and get educated.


Plants I’m bullish on this year

Here are 9 plants I’m hoping show big improvement this spring/summer over how they performed in my garden last year. 8 are relative newcomers, 1-3 years in the ground, so time alone should aid their jump in prominence. And 1 has been around my parts forever but only last year managed to avoid the wrath of the deer herd. Here’s hoping this is a new trend.

Coneflower ‘Sunrise’: Full disclosure – I’ve moved this three times in three years. And to the shock of no one, it finally bloomed last summer after a full year in its current spot. The flowers arrived later than all of the other coneflowers (late July) but that is OK. I expect taller and fuller plants this year, assuming the itch to move them is fought off successfully.




Abelia ‘Bronze Anniversary’ – Another oft moved shrub but one where I’m happy with its current destination. I love the golden leaf color, especially in partial shade and especially in spring as the foliage emerges, but I can do without the clashing white blooms. In fact, the plan is to immediately remove the flowers for fear of ridicule from the neighbors.




Daylily ‘Little Grapette’ – This is the oldie I referenced above that always suffered at the hands of the deer in summer. For whatever reason (my intimidation factor?), they were ignored last year. While I’m not a big daylily guy, I do like how these combine with other dark leaved plants (As seen with Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’) below.





Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’ – No, not an exotic dancer or My Little Pony character, but the best foliage color of any plant I own. But as you can see in the second photo below, the deer get it each winter and in effect, prune it back hard for me which ultimately compromises the size of this shrub. If I can remember to defend her better this year, the sky is the limit. Remember though, “remembering” is not a strong suit of mine.

ninebark amber jubilee 2

ninebark amber jubilee


Allium azureum – I blew it with this one. I mistook these for wild onions and yanked them out without much thought last spring. This is the only one that actually bloomed. Luckily for me I was lazy when pulling them so the bulbs remained in tact. No such error will be made this spring.

allium blue


Peony ‘unknown other than it is white’ – This is as good of a lock as any. First flowers appeared last spring after two years in the ground and we all know that the peony is indestructible once established.

white peony

peony white


Baptisia ‘ Carolina Moon’ – Based on the success I’ve had with my other Baptisia plants, I’m counting on this one to fall right in line. Big, big things this year from this one. I cannot wait to photograph it and share it with you all.

baptisia carolina moon

baptisia lilac

baptisia carolina moon


Clematis – This appeared out of nowhere last year after I stuck it in the ground and completely forgot about it. There appears to be new growth this spring so I remain optimistic for a repeat showing. And this time, I’ll even use a real trellis to maximize the show.


clematis 2


And last but not least, the fickle …

Cimicifuga ‘Brunette’ – For three consecutive years, this perennial has looked great in spring only to fall apart when the weather really heats up and when it attempts to bloom. I’ve stayed on top of the watering and it, along with its 7 other siblings (I’m way invested at this point) get plenty of afternoon shade. The pessimist in me says, “wrong plant for you John” while the optimist says, “give it time to get established”.

Cheers to optimism.





Baptisia australis

Almost six years ago, I transformed the front bed of my parent’s house using Baptisia as the anchor because honestly, it blew me away when I saw it at their local nursery. The color of the blooms drew my eye in as soon as we set foot on the nursery grounds. Score one for the marketing department. No research for preferred conditions necessary, we liked it and we were going to plant it.

Fast forward three years and the Baptisia went bananas. My father did his best to control it but the end result was it was moved from its original spot because it was threatening to eat all of the other plants. Strike one against the son who claimed to be a gardening expert. Remember kiddies, always take into account a plant’s ultimate size when planning your garden. Don’t follow the lead of Uncle Johnnie.

Fast forward another year and it’s time for me to add Baptisia to my own garden. Space wouldn’t be an issue and I needed to prove to myself that I could grow it successfully. On top of that I could no longer take all of the stunning photos of this perennial in others’ gardens without giving it a shot myself. From all indications, Baptisia preferred a more dry soil and it was debatable whether or not it was deer resistant but I didn’t care. It was time to throw caution to the wind, wet soil and herds of deer be damned.

Fast forward to 2015 and John is a happy boy.


Two years in the ground and it was already kicking ass. Those blooms draw in the eye and put a smile on my face each and every morning as I walked out to my car on my way to work. The deer left it alone and as of current day, the poorly draining soil doesn’t appear to be an issue.


Some additional Baptisia australis (Blue False Indigo) info:

  • Native to the eastern U.S
  • Blooms from May to June
  • The pea-like blooms are a blue/purple
  • Speaking of peas, Baptisia is part of the pea family, Fabaceae
  • Survives in zones 3-9
  • Mature size is roughly 4 x 4
  • Prefers full sun as it tends to open up with more shade (my parent’s garden as scientific proof).
  • Deer resistance is questionable but I’ve had no issues the first two years.
  • Can be slow to establish but once it is, it is a bear to move due to its deep taproot.
  • Can handle all soil types and it drought tolerant once established.
  • Baptisia comes from the greek word “bapto” which means dye. It was used back in the day as a blue dye replacement for Blue Indigo.
  • Tough to divide due to the taproot and it can be slow to establish if grown by seed.
  • Baptisia australis opens up a bit after bloom and if the plant is cut back at that time, it will result in a more upright and appealing shape. The downside is the ornamental seedpods will be lost (more on that in a moment).

And now a little chronological tour of this shrub-like perennial:

First emerging in spring.

emerging baptisia

Then the first signs of bloom appear.

baptisia 2


Almost there.


baptisia australis

In full bloom.

baptisia australis


baptisia 2

And once in bloom, drawing in the critters.

moth on baptisia

bee on baptisia

moth baptisia

By the time fall/winter has arrived, the ripened seed heads have turned black, eventually opening up to reveal the seeds inside.

baptisia seeds

And finally the opened seed heads still adorning Baptisia australis in late winter.

baptisia seed capsules 2



Winter garden appreciation

I despise the cold weather and it is getting worse and worse as I get older.

I hate the snow and I do not find it to be the least bit “cozy”. It physically hurts my eyes to even glance at it.

I don’t ski and find sledding to be way overrated.

But even after having said all that, I have come to appreciate the winter garden. It is a reminder of what was, a chance to rest and recharge and at the same time, a promise of what is to come.

I recently put on my big boy pants and a warm jacket, and set out to capture just some of the plants in the winter garden. After reviewing all of the photos I had taken, I realized that I had similar shots of those same plants during the spring and summer. So as a means of contrast, I’ve included the most current pic and then one from earlier when it warm and delicious outdoors.


Tropical milkweed, which is an annual and one that reseeded for me this past year.

milkweed winter



Eupatorium ‘Wayside’ which looks like the annual Ageratum but is truly a perennial.

winter garden



A combo of Bee Balm, Joe Pye Weed and Clethra ‘Hummingbird’.

winter garden



Juniper ‘Wichita Blue’, Bee Balm and Panicum ‘Rots’.

winter garden



Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ (Dappled Willow) with its awesome stem colors.

salix winter stems



Amsonia tabernaemontana looking cool and curly. Still a personal favorite of mine during all seasons.

amsonia winter



I love the dried seed capsules of Baptisia and admittedly have yet to explore how to save the seeds. That is what winter is all about, research and reading.

baptisia seed capsules 2

moth baptisia


Sedum ‘Red Carpet’ peeking through what little snow we have right now.

red carpet winter



And old reliable, the Purple Coneflower. I always enjoy watching the finches pay a visit and feast on the seedheads.

coneflower winter



Random musings

Some thoughts as we head into the weekend:

I am now realizing the ornamental interest with Baptisia seed pods:

The grasses are starting to make their presence known:

Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’:

Panicum ‘Northwind’:

From left to right – Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’, Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’ and Calamagrostis ‘Eldorado’:


Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’:


I planted Veronica ‘Royal Candles’ in mass this spring and the color blast is most welcomed right now:

Daylily ‘Little Grapette’ is still chugging away and I am enjoying the blooms for the first time in three years as the deer have stayed away. Like I’ve always said, daylillies are the greatest:

And finally, Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ is kind of liking its space. Looking at a severe pruning next winter:



Have a great one.

Baptisia gone wild

This past weekend was my 17th wedding anniversary, and before I get into this post, I had to show you the gift we received from my daughter: 
Is that classic or what? That girl never ceases to amaze me.
A big part of this weekend was spent at my parents house in Northern New Jersey so my wife and I could go out on the town and celebrate our anniversary while we dumped left the kids in their capable hands. A phenomenal dinner with my bride at Savini and some post game drinks and we were a happy twosome. 
But let me stop there, this wasn’t the purpose of my post today.     
A little over three years ago, I helped my parents with a small landscape renovation along the front of their home. All of the shrubs had become overgrown and a little blah, in my humble opinion. I was totally game to help them out knowing that they would be looking to put their house on the market within two to three years from that point. We wanted immediate impact and focused on fast growing shrubs and perennials. 
No problem.
My dad completely cleared out the area to be made over so we could dive right into the plantings:

I won’t bore you with all of the details, but here is how it looked directly in front of the house by the end of the day:

Not too bad.

But what I want you to focus on are the three Baptisia (‘Prairie Blues’ to be specific) planted smack dab in the middle of the bed :

I figured within a two to three year period they would be mature and the awesome blooms would be a focal point at the time potential buyers visited their house: 

When all was said and done, we seemed to be on good terms:

Well, fast forward three + years and I’ve successfully created a nice dilemma for my poor parents.

The friggin Baptisia absolutely exploded the following spring and took over the area like nobody’s business. My father had to use a few sticks of TNT and a backhoe to dig out one of the plants so he could relocate it to the backyard. If I weren’t blood, he may have sued me for mental cruelty.

As of today, there are two remaining in their front bed:

As I type this, my OCD is kicking in big time knowing the Baptisia are not grouped in an odd number but I’ll have to fight through it knowing I’ve already put my parents through hell.

Actually, my mistake may have lead to a new design option my father invented as a means of survival. I like to call it “vase-like” or maybe “broccoli spear like” but whatever you want to call it, it is definitely creative:   

Impressive, eh? The aesthetic is wonderful and you can feel the emotions all tied up (pun intended) in the design. Just remember where you saw it first.

As I reviewed and analyzed my work this weekend, I realized how much I’ve learned in only three short years and none more than trusting what you research on plant spacing. My parents soil is PERFECT and that means plants will love it, especially a tough as nails plant like Baptisia.

The charming Cape Cod I grew up in now looks out of balance with those behemoths in front: 

Now I can only hope my inheritance isn’t affected in any way.


Plants I expect big things from this year

More than a few times this winter I have reviewed all of my garden photos in a “slide show” as a means to get myself all pumped up for the spring/summer. Each time, there are certain plants that have me dreaming big when they pop up on the screen. These are plants that are only a year or two old and have yet to put on their best show.

I’d like to share my optimism with you today and please, share any experiences you may have had with any of these. Just make sure you lie to me if there is anything negative; I’m on too much of a high right now to be brought back down to reality.

I purchased a bunch of Helenium autumnale at a native plant sale last spring and I was blessed with a never ending amount of blooms in late summer.

But, I did a poor job of pruning for height control and left these in an exposed location so they toppled over rather easily. With a new locale and a pruning plan, I expect monstrous results from these natives this summer.

Another native, Amsonia tabernaemontana (Eastern bluestar), was planted two years ago and has not only remain untouched by the deer (due to it’s sap on the leaves) but has also survived in a spot that remains wet at times. However, it has yet to bloom real well and it’s biggest selling point, the yellow, smoke-like fall foliage has not been there as expected. So, everyone say it with me, this is the year to take it to the next level.

I was happy to get a few blooms on a few different Siberian Iris ‘Snow Queen’ last spring and hope to double that output this spring. Isn’t she a beauty?

I loaded up on Chasmanthium Latifolium (or as you common folk call them, northern sea oats) in the Fall of 2009 and they have not disappointed. They worked from spring to late Fall and I would love more of the same this year, even some reseeding is OK (should I be careful what I wish for?).    

I am a sucker for foliage, especially anything in the red/maroon/scarlet family and I planted a few Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’ late last summer. I honestly could skip on the blooms as long as the foliage looks good all season. I liked how they stood out as somewhat of a focal point and contrasted real well with all of the other green foliage. Bigger and badder this year please.

Miscanthus ‘Super Stripe’ was slow to grow last year but damn, I love that variegation. Let’s agree to double in size this year OK?    

Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’ gets real big and can flop but I’m not scared. I have two planted where they can get as big as they want and I’ll deal with the floppiness if necessary.  

Echinacaea ‘Fragrant Angel’ – beautiful blooms and beautiful scent – just want MORE MORE AND MORE.  

I know that Sambucus ‘Black Lace’ will struggle in my poor draining soil and will be nibbled by the deer but I have to have it. So, I plan on growing it in a large container as a specimen on my deck. That foliage is sweet and hopefully this year it gets close to “specimen” size.  

And last but not least, we have Baptisia ‘Twilite Prairieblues’ which had some blooms last year that were stunning. From all indications, I should expect the plants to at least double in size and produce a lot more blooms this year and that my friends, would friggin rule! 

Good night and welcome back to the work week.