Every spring our gardeners tell us they want to expand their perennial gardens to offer new colors and plants to make them fresh. For those of us that work in the Perennial department, it’s no different. We are always on the lookout for something different or even ‘new to us’. Here are a few Perennials that we think are a must-have in the garden to give you season-long color and interest.

Silene – Early spring bloom of pink on low mounding thick green leaves. Cut back by half after the first flush of flowers wanes in June, to encourage repeat blooming. Attractive to butterflies

Panicum ‘Northwind’- Wow! An unequivocally upright steel blue panicum. ! Wide, thick leaf blades a golden yellow color in the fall, topped in September with attractive narrow plumes.

Veronica Venice Blue – Gorgeous blue spikes of color late spring to mid-summer. Features large, deep blue flowers in spring over bright green, toothy leaves. Benefits from a good hard trim after flowers are finished, in order to maintain a nice tight habit.

Standing Ovation Little Bluestem- A warm-season grass that does well in poor, dry soils. Spikey bluish-green stems and leaves transition to a sizzling display of oranges, reds, yellows, and purplish-browns in the autumn. Also provides winter interest before cutting back in early spring to make way for new growth.

Oenothera Fireworks- Deep bronze foliage and red stems are contrasted by red buds opening to canary yellow blooms in June. The individual flowers may not last for more than a day or two, but they open in succession leaving the plant in continuous bloom. Burgundy rosettes in winter.

Heliopsis Burning Heart – Dynamic yellow-orange flowers are offset by their deep purple foliage. As attractive to butterflies and bees as it is to people, we’ve found this plant really deserves a place in a beautiful border, a cutting garden, or in massed swathes. She stands 4’ tall with dark red-purple foliage and abundant contrasting yellow daisy-like flowers with orange centers. The plant begins blooming in its first year and blooms from June to mid-October.

Echinacea Adobe Orange – Carefree color from a profusion of bright orange blooms that will add excitement to the summer garden. A must-have for sunny beds and borders. Drought tolerant and bred for cold hardiness and compact form with prolific flowering over an exceptionally long season.

Monarda Jacob Cline – Whorls of scarlet red tubular flowers blend perfectly with prairie wildflowers and herbs. Single plants make a great show, but groups heighten the effect. Dark green leaves have an aroma of mint and basil. Hummingbirds love it!

stacey tips art 1I know it’s getting very hot and humid in Connecticut but there are still things to do in the garden. Don’t forget about the flowers that are performing beautifully for you in spite of the heat, your potted annuals that are putting on a show all summer, the roses that continue to climb even with the sun blazing down on them, your lawn that could use a little summer boost, and your veggie garden that is getting ready to burst with fresh food for the family table. They need you; so put on your coolest clothes, some sunblock, a wide-brimmed hat, and fill up your water bottle with ice-cold water. You can do this!!



Mulch will help keep your plants cool, hold in moisture, & keep weeds from stealing the plant’s water. A 3-inch thick layer is perfect. Mainely Mulch (chopped hay) is a perfect choice for your veggie garden.


An inch or 2 of compost spread on top of the soil around plants will help to hold in moisture and replenish plant nutrients. Try the Shrimp & Seaweed Compost by Fafard. Shrimp is great at retaining moisture.


What a great idea! Soaker hoses are perfect for trees, shrubs, perennials, and veggies. You can turn them on and forget about them for a few hours. A slow drip or trickle when watering this time of the year is perfect. Plants establish a deeper root system this way. Watering plants at the base, as opposed to overhead, will really reduce disease problems and summer scorch.


There are so many fertilizer choices that would be appropriate for this time of the year but I am going to focus on 2…Van Wilgen’s Organic Fish & Seaweed and Van Wilgen’s Organic Root Boost. WHAT IS ROOT BOOST YOU ASK?!

I am so excited about this new Van Wilgen’s fertilizer. It really is awesome. You have to try it. It is great for any time of the year but I really love it when the summer heat kicks into high gear. It will never burn a plant, even in the worst heat, but it will definitely enhance a plant’s vigor. It is filled with every type of beneficial bacteria, fungi, and element you can imagine. Use it dry to establish a new plant or transplant one. Use it mixed with water to fertilize the foliage and the soil on a regular basis. Watch your plants thrive with Root Boost during the summer months.

Van Wilgen’s Fish & Seaweed is great to use with Root Boost or alone. It is a rich fertilizer that feeds, helps plants retain moisture, and keeps them disease-resistant. A little smelly but I love it!

Your lawn will greatly benefit from a straight fertilizer application this time of the year. Use Greenview’s Lawn Food, Espoma’s Organic All Season Lawn Food, or Espoma’s Summer Revitalizer with iron. Throw in a bag of Fast Acting Iron by Encap. Iron is a little trick lawn companies use to help keep your lawn green through the summer months.

Don’t forget to do Grub control. Grubs will start eating the roots of your lawn in August. Apply Bayer’s Season Long Grub Control now. Water it in and you will be set for the rest of the year.

There are so many other little tricks for the garden in the summer heat but I do not want to thoroughly exhaust you. Wait for the sun to start going down, fertilizer in one hand, hose in the other, and go visit your plants. Don’t forget your drink!

There’s no doubt that hydrangeas can hold their own in the garden. With big colorful blooms and beautiful green foliage, summer’s favorite flower makes a bold statement in any garden.

But, why not pair them with delicate foliage, bold flowers, or subtle ornamental grasses for more variety? If you’re looking for ways to make your hydrangeas pop, even more, try these companion planting tips.

When planting hydrangeas, be sure to use Espoma’s Organic Soil Acidifier for best results.


It’s hard to go wrong when choosing a color for companion plants. Try pairing hydrangeas with foliage in different hues of the same color. This adds subtle dimension and almost creates a 3-D effect in the garden.

If your hydrangeas are pink, pair them with Rose Glow Barberry shrubs. The deep pink and purple foliage emphasizes the pastel pink flowers and contrasts perfectly with the green leaves. Try planting Blue Star Juniper alongside blue hydrangeas for a beautiful display. This low-maintenance shrub provides beautiful bluish-green foliage that complements any blue flowering plants.


When planting flowers with flowers, timing is everything. Be sure to choose a summer-blooming flower that will blossom around the same time as your hydrangea. You can choose to plant similar hues or bright contrasting colors. If you’re looking to create a dramatic contrast in the garden, choose a flower that comes in a variety of colors.

Begonias and geraniums are beautiful flowers that come in many different shades, making them a perfect companion for hydrangeas. Create a colorful rainbow garden by pairing blue hydrangeas with pink geraniums or white hydrangeas with scarlet begonias.


If you want the focus of your garden to be mainly on hydrangeas, opt for more subtle ornamental grasses that simply enhance their beauty. Most ornamental grasses are low-maintenance and easy to grow, giving you more time to spend perfecting your hydrangeas.

Fountain grass is one of our favorites because it provides pretty feathered plumes that dance in the wind. Green and yellow Japanese forest grass also complement hydrangeas very nicely.

June is right around the corner, there’s no time like the present to turn your home into a tropical oasis of your very own.

As the weather starts warming up there’s nothing like sitting in your own backyard surrounded by tropical plants making memories to last a lifetime with your family.

I always seem to talk so much about all our tropical flowers, let me spend some time talking about all the tropical palms that will really give you that lush tropical feeling like you get when you are on vacation.

Our favorite Palms for your porch or patio are:

So as you can see palms are very different and all do not like sunny conditions as one often associates with palms. So no matter what your lighting conditions are there is a palm for you to help you create your own backyard oasis.

(Why beneficial insects really are beneficial!)

Release the hounds! Not literally, but I do want you to release the Ladybugs, Lacewings, Praying Mantids, and Nematodes. They are fantastic hunters and a huge benefit to your lawn, flower garden, and veggie garden.

These beneficial hunters have many things in common. They are meat-eaters. They never eat your plants. They only eat bad bugs. Ladybugs and Lacewings will eat aphids, whitefly larvae, mealybugs, scale, mites, and many other soft-bodied insects. Ladybugs can easily eat over 50 aphids a day. Lacewings are voracious and eat as many as 1000 per day. Nematodes are power eaters of bad bugs in the soil. They will eat over 200 insects such as cutworms, armyworms, grubs, sod webworms, fleas, fungus gnats, etc. They are the best hunters ever because you do not have to care for them, feed them or train them. Their instinct is to go where the food source is.

There are a few things you can do to make these beneficials even more beneficial. Be sure to release them all at night. Ladybugs fly away in the day. Lacewing eggs and nematodes can dry up in the hot sun. Water the garden. The first thing Ladybugs do when you release them in your garden is drink. Lacewing eggs like the moisture for hatching. Nematodes spread more quickly when kept damp. Release these hunters at the source of their food. Place Ladybugs and Lacewings at the bottom of plants. Ladybugs naturally crawl up. Lacewing eggs will hatch and the larvae will immediately eat insects dwelling on the plant. Nematodes need to be in the soil, where they can attack their unsuspecting food source. Praying Mantids can hatch right in the container but you have to release them right away so they don’t gobble each other up. Otherwise, place the Praying Mantis egg case in the crutch of a plant outside and wrap it with dental floss or thread to hold them in place.

Ladybugs don’t always stick around for a long time but this is ok! Ladybugs will feed for a little bit but most importantly, they quickly begin laying eggs on your plants. Those eggs will hatch and give you voracious Ladybug larvae. The larvae are very cool. They look like mini black alligators with orange spots and they are hungry for bad bugs in your garden. When the Lacewing larvae hatch from the eggs you released, these Aphid Lions have serious munchies and eat over 1000 bad insects per day. Lacewings can have multiple generations in one season. How awesome is that!? Nematodes have been known to hang around in the soil, eating plant damaging insects for 2 years straight. Praying Mantids will mate and lay more egg cases on your plants for next season hatching.

These hunters are so easy to have around the yard. You will barely notice them but they will be very busy helping you eliminate plant damaging insects. Let them go and they will reduce your need to use pesticides in your gardens, they will keep your plants healthier, and they will become an integral part of your garden community.

Note: The Ladybugs that you buy from Van Wilgen’s are not the ones you see inside your homes. The beneficial Ladybugs are native to the USA and do not invade homes.





*Praying Mantis

All of us at Van Wilgen’s and Proven Winners know one thing for sure, a better garden starts with a better plant.
Healthy plants with strong root systems are the hallmark of a PW plant, and we know strong roots = strong plants. This week we will be showcasing Proven Winners plants in every part of the garden center. Our team members have compiled lists of their favorites that we know you should grow in your own yard. Listed below are our selections for a perfect pollinator kit, that you can enter to win!
This week May 14-20 All Van Wilgen’s locations you can enter to win one of 10 Proven Winners Butterfly Pollinator Kit ( with purchase) – all winners will be notified by phone

Buddleia ‘Pugster Blue’

Full-sized flowers on a dwarf plant!

Meet Pugster Blue – it’s a whole new look for butterfly bush. This compact plant reaches just 2’/.6 m tall and wide but has the large, full flowers normally seen on a much larger plant. It blooms non-stop from early summer through frost with true-blue flowers, each with a tiny yellow-orange eye in the center. Thanks to thick, sturdy stems, the Pugster series offers vastly improved hardiness and winter survival over other types of dwarf butterfly bush.

Top three reasons to grow Pugster Blue butterfly bush:

1. Appealing true-blue flowers add hard-to-find color to any type of garden or landscape.

2. It produces full-sized flowers on a compact, dwarf frame.

3. Thick, sturdy stems ensure better winter hardiness in zone 5 than other dwarf butterfly bush.

Monarda ‘Pardon my Cerise’

Tuck this sweet and petite perennial into the front of your flower border where it will create a colorful edge of dark cherry pink flowers in high summer. Butterflies and hummingbirds adore it!

Salvia ‘Pink Dawn’


This colorful perennial produces cotton candy pink flower spikes atop the mounded, aromatic foliage. Lovely when planted in drifts. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and resists deer and rabbits. Easy to grow in almost any climate in full sun. Drought tolerant but blooms better with average moisture. Cut back after flowering to promote rebloom.

Cupea ‘ Vermillionaire’


Abundant yellow-orange flowers all season long; loves the heat and loved by hummingbirds. Vermillionaire, like all Cuphea is a heat lover and will do best in warm gardens with bright light. Always keep this plant in full sun for best flowering and to avoid it stretching in the shade.

Petunia ‘Bubblegum’

Don’t JUST keep up with the Joneses. LEAPFROG them.

Supertunia Vista petunias are very vigorous, with mounding habits that can reach up to 2 feet in height in the landscape and will trail over the edges of baskets and containers up to 4 feet by the end of the season. They are fantastic landscape plants and are great in large containers, where they function as both fillers and spillers. In garden beds, they will work either in the front or middle of the bed. They have medium-sized flowers.

Lantana ‘Grape’

I can go ALL summer.

Extremely heat tolerant; a brighter purple than Trailing Lavender.

If you are looking for a tough plant it’s hard to beat lantana. Lantana is heat tolerant, uses little to no supplemental water in the landscape, will tolerate less than ideal soils, and usually doesn’t need to be deadheaded. If you are looking for a plant that will thrive on neglect, lantana is the champ.