Peggy Hill is a garden consultant, writer, speaker and plant ho. She blogs about her garden shenanigans at Peggy is also working to preserve 435 acres and 25,000 feet of magnificent shoreline on Smith Lake in North Alabama as part of the Forever Wild Land Trust. For more information and to register your support, visit


Reasons to Shop at the Botanical Gardens’ Plant Sales
by Peggy Hill - posted 10/07/15

I find this very amusing. Apparently, I’m the new poster child for plant sales at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. I say this because, for the second year in a row, my picture is on the postcard that they mail to all members advertising the sale. Here's a link to information about the Birmingham Botanical Gardens' fall plant sale.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens Plant Sale

I totally love that picture. It makes me happy to see myself so happy. You might remember that picture from my first back-page article in the March 2015 issue of Alabama Gardener magazine. The title of the article was ‘Gardening Makes Me a Better Person’, and I described the look on my face as sheer gardening delight. So a big “Thank You” to Andrew Krebbs at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens for capturing the moment and also for letting me use the picture in my article.

In celebration of my unofficial poster child status, I’m posting my top 6 reasons that you should shop at your nearest Botanical Gardens' plant sale, along with pictures of some of the treasures I’ve found at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens' plant sales. I'll start with two great native plants - 'Fireworks' goldenrod (Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks') and American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana).

Goldenrod and beautyberry bush

Reason #1: You need more plants. Did you know that landscaping is the only home improvement that increases you home’s value by more than it costs? For every $1.00 you spend, you get back $1.09. So, if you go to the sale, and your spouse starts complaining about how much money you’re spending, reply, “Actually darling, I’m making us money. Now, please hold this oakleaf hydrangea while I pick out a Japanese maple.”

Ashe's magnolia

I bought my Ashe's magnolia (Magnolia ashei) at Birmingham Botanical Gardens' fall plant sale in 2012.

Reason #2: The Botanical Gardens' plant sale has a great selection. Some plants don’t look good in a pot, and many nurseries don’t carry them because no one impulse buys an ugly plant. But at the Botanical Gardens’ plant sale, you can find ugly ducklings that become swans in your garden, along with plants that look amazing from the start.

Red Penta

I buy two red pentas every spring. The hummingbirds love them.

Reason #3: You can’t buy a bad plant at the Botanical Gardens' plant sale. I used to shop at a local nursery. One day I noticed a handsome plant that I recognized, but the name escaped me. When I asked the owner, she said, “Oh, you don’t want that. It’s privet, and it’s terribly invasive.” My first thought was, ‘Well then why are you selling it?’ My second thought was, 'I won't shop here again.' That kind of thing doesn't happen at the Botanical Gardens’ plant sales. They carefully select the plants they offer. Nothing is a known invasive, and they all perform well when properly placed in the garden.

Mona lavender

The purple Mona Lavender (Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender) was also purchased at their spring sale.

Reason #4: You can chat with friendly, knowledgeable people. Gardeners are nice.

Reason #5: You’ll support a great cause. When I was writing an article about Alabama’s public gardens, I was given a tour of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens that included their classrooms. It did my heart good to see inner-city kids planting what was probably their first seed. I want to help make those types of programs possible.

Turk's Cap

Turk's cap (Malvaviscus arboreus)

And my final reason that you should shop at your nearest Botanical Gardens' plant sale is the motto on my favorite T-shirt.

Reason #6: You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy plants, and that’s pretty much the same thing.

So here's a review:

Reasons to shop at Botanical Gardens

And here's links and information about Alabama's Botanical Gardens and their fall plant sales:

Birmingham Botanical Gardens - Saturday, Oct. 17, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 18, noon to 4 p.m.

Huntsville Botanical Gardens - Saturday, Oct. 10, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 11 noon to 4 p.m.

Mobile Botanical Gardens - Friday, Oct. 23, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 24, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.




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Proven Winners Plants at 2015 Spring Plant Trials
by Peggy Hill - posted 08/24/15

My series about the plants I saw at 2015 Spring Plant Trials is creeping along. I'll try and post more often. Summer is just so busy. 

Proven Winners was our first stop. We spent a little time poking around the entry garden before going in.

Proven Winners landscape

We registered and then went out on the patio where the plants were on display.

2015 Spring Plant Trials, Proven Winners

I liked that they showed you both what the plant would look like at the nursery and also what it looks like full grown.


The next picture has some information about that last plant, and here's a link to its page on the Proven Winners website.

Intensia Phlox

I love the look of Verbena bonariensis, but I pulled it out of my garden after the first year. I don't mind when plants politely re-seed a little, but Verbena bonariensis popped up everywhere, even 50 feet from the mother plant. So I was excited to find out that Proven Winners has a new Verbena 'Meteor Showers' that is 95% less seedy than Verbena bonariensis.

Verbena bonariensis Meteor Shower

Proven Winners sent me 3 Meteor Showers to trial this spring, and they have done great. Here's a link to more information.

They also sent me this pretty Supertunia® Picasso in Burgundy. Here's a link to more information on this one.

Supertunia Picasso in Burgundy

It has preformed beautifully in my garden. There's just one plant in this pot. Look at how nice and full it is. The sweet potato vine is a bit aggressive, and I have to keep pulling it off so it doesn't suffocate the Supertunia®, but it's a fabulous combination.

Proven Winners has some great new shrubs. In my article for the July issue of Alabama Gardener, I talked about the new Jazz Hands series of Loropetalum and the first ever variegated Loropetalum. Well, they sent me one of those too. The variegation probably isn't what you'd expect. It's more blotchy. Here's what mine looks like.

Variegated loropetalum

I grow lots of different Hydrangeas. I love them all: climbing hydrangea (H. petiolaris), smooth hydrangea (H. arborescens), bigleaf hydrangea (H. macrophylla), H. paniculata, and oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia). But I've never grown mountain hydrangea (H. serrata). Maybe I'll give this Tiny Tuff Stuff™ a try. I wish the foliage stayed as purple as it looks in this picture. Here's a link for this one.

Hydrangea serrata Tiny Tuff Stuff

The foliage on this Double Play Big Bang spirea is spectacular. The Proven Winners website says that it gets, "Massive pink flowers...the largest we've ever seen on a spiraea." Here's a link, if you want to see what they look like.

Double Play Big Bang spiraea

Proven Winners has a new bee balm (Monarda 'Leading Lady Lilac') that doesn't run. I just got the fall catalog from Plant Delights Nursery, and this plant was designated as "Tony's FAVORITE!" He calls it, "Truly superb". 

Monarda 'Leading Lady Lilac'

If you want to order one from Plant Delights Nursery, here's a link. And here's a link to its page on the Proven Winners website. This next picture has some additional information.

bee balm, Monarda 'Leading Lady Lilac'

I thought about ordering a 'Leading Lady Lilac', but for my garden, I like the color on 'Leading Lady Plum' better.

Bee balm, Monarda

Here's a link for that one, and the next picture has more information.

bee balm, Monarda 'Leading Lady Plum'

Proven Winners had many more plants on display, but I've shown you my favorites. I think I'll wrap up this post with a pretty hanging basket they filled with Graceful Grasses® Toffee Twist Carex, Dahlightful™ Georgia Peach Dahlia, and Supertunia® Latte Petunia.

Hanging basket


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New Plants from Terra Nova Nurseries
by Peggy Hill - posted 06/24/15

I wrote four articles for the July issue of Alabama Gardener. My favorite was the back-page article about my trip to California with Dan Heims, President of Terra Nova Nurseries. It was a fun vacation, that included three days of Spring Plant Trials. Ever since I got back, I've been running a series of posts on this blog about the plants we saw at Spring Plant Trials. In celebration of the magazine arriving in my mailbox, and Dan being the subject of what is probably the best article I've ever written, titled 'Peggy's Big Adventure', I thought I'd write this week's post about Dan's plants.

Terra Nova was the only place we stopped where I got to interview the President of the company, so I know a good bit about their new plants. When I asked Dan which plant he's most excited about he replied, "Ugh. Which is YOUR favorite child? However, I am real excited about our whole line of poker plants (Kniphofia). They just bloom for sooo long, nice foliage too!" I took pictures of three of their poker plants: 'Ember Glow', 'Mango Popsicle' and 'Fire Glow'.

Red hot poker, Kniphofia, Ember Glow

Popsicle Mango red hot poker

Glow Fire red hot poker, Kniphofia

Dan's a big guy, but he stood even taller when he talked about their shasta daisies (Leucanthemum). He explained that most plants are treated with plant growth regulators (PGRs) to keep them small. It has a lot to do with fitting plants on the racks they use for delivery. He said I could quote him that 18 inches is the "sacred" height. The problem is that it's a little unfair to the consumer who buys it thinking that it'll stay that size. The PGRs eventually wear off. Terra Nova is breeding plants that are naturally dwarf and don't need PGRs. Their line of Leucanthemum x superbum is an example. From left to right is 'Macaroon', 'Luna' and 'Belgian Lace'.

  Shasta daisy, Leucanthemum  

They're also adding new colors to their line of Agastache, and they have more cold tolerance.


Terra Nova has some pretty coleus.

Terra Nova plants

The one that I liked the best was this next one, 'Cuckoo'.

Coleus Terra Nova Cuckoo

They also have some amazing Begonias, and a little bird told me that they have even more in development. These are part of their T Rex™ series. From left to right is 'St. Nick', 'Ruby Slippers', 'First Blush' and 'Painter's Palette'.

Begonia, T Rex series

I can't decide which one I like best. The one on the right in the last picture or this next one, Begonia 'Fireworks'

T Rex Begonia

From left to right in this next picture is Begonia T Rex™ 'Painter's Pallete', Coleus Terra Nova 'Marrakesh' and Sedum 'Desert Red'.

Terra Nova plants at Spring Plant Trials

One of the articles I wrote for the July issue was about the new plants I saw at Spring Plant Trials. It was titled 'Spice it Up! New and improved plants for your garden'. It included two Terra Nova plants. I talked about their revolutionary cross between a Mukdenia and a Bergenia that they call x Mukgenia Nova™ 'Flame'.

    x Mukdenia from Terra Nova    

The article also featured, my favorite Terra Nova plant at Spring Trials, Red Lightning coral bells (Heuchera 'Red Lightning'). I can't wait to try it in my garden. Dan told me that it should perform well here in Alabama because it has strong H. villosa in the breeding, so it can take the heat and humidity. 

Red Lightning coral bells, heuchera

Isn't that picture gorgeous? I had to caption it for the article. Writing is difficult and after an hour I typed this drivel, "...If you stare at it long enough, you get lost in the pattern." The next morning I rewrote that because I decided it had more to do with the fact that I was a few glasses into wine-time than it did with the plant.

Legally I must tell you when I post about something that I was given for free. Well, Dan has been sending me plant samples since we met at a Garden Writers symposium in 2011. In fact, Dan's the one who nick-named me Plant Ho. - But that's another story. - I have one of his Kniphofia, Agastache 'Violet Vision', Leucanthemum 'Belgian Lace' and x Mukgenia Nova™ Flame. 

In addition to this blog series, over on I'm wrapping up a series about the other aspects of our trip to California. It starts with one titled, 'What's in Peggy's Suitcase'. Here's a link. I wrote it to go along with all the teasing I gave Dan in the back-page article. He talked me into buying dozens of plants, and I accused him of using me to stimulate the California nursery industry. But seriously, one of Dan's most endearing qualities is his passion for plants, and he really just wanted me to have some wonderful things to put in my garden. I think that's why he's so proud of the new plants from Terra Nova.

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