Ali Lawrence has been gardening since she was five. She was born and raised in Alaska but now resides in Pennsylvania where her family grows a large garden every year. Her passions include writing haikus and finding new ways to use her essential oils! Read more articles from Ali at and connect with her on Pinterest.


4 Shrubs to Plant in Your Pennsylvania Garden
by Ali Lawrence - posted 07/17/17

The rule most gardeners follow is to plant in spring and fall, and while this may be true for the most part, you can plant in summer. Just be careful what you plant.

You don’t want to divide established plants in summer, wait until the cooler months. However, it’s perfectly okay to plant shrubs but not move them.

Summer planting is frowned upon because it’s hot and dry, so most gardeners avoid planting because it’s difficult for plants to establish a good root system in their new home without moist soil. The plant may go into shock and die.

Transferring shrubs from a container to the ground is fine since the root system can easily be moved without damage. However, don’t transfer a shrub in summer if it’s already in the ground since it’s likely the roots will be torn up during the transfer and the heat makes it difficult for the plant to regain it’s strength.

So, the question becomes what shrubs are best to plant if you want to green your landscape during the summer?

Pennsylvania’s plant hardiness zone is 5a -7b, so you'll want to choose shrubs that grow well in that particular zone. There are many you can choose from, including deciduous and evergreen of various sizes.

oakleaf hydrangea best shrub for Pennsylvania gardeners

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea aka Hydrangea quercifolia is a broad, rounded shrub that can reach up to 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Leaves are large and deeply lobed with a similar appearance to oak leaves. 

You’ll see plenty of color from this shrub. Flowers turn from clusters of white to a pinkish or purple shade in late spring to early summer, and leaves turn from green to a bronze or crimson in fall. Hydrangea is easy to care for, too! And, if you read my garden trends this year you would see this plant was also the #1 recommended plant for PA gardeners.

Swamp Azalea

Swamp Azalea aka Rhododendron viscosum, is a fragrant shrub with alternative leaves. Its lovely, 5-parted tubular blooms can vary in color from white to deep pink to yellow. Swamp azalea blooms in early summer.

Leaves are dark green but turn colorful in fall, ranging in color from yellow, orange and purple. A good shrub to plant near a patio or porch so you can enjoy its fragrance and beauty while relaxing outdoors.

Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush aka Buddleia davidii, is a fast-growing shrub that produces masses of spiked blooms from summer through fall. The flower colors can vary, but most often you'll find shades of lavender, white or dark purple. You can also buy hybrids with orange or gold colored blooms.

Butterfly bushes require little care. You’ll need to remove spent flowers during the growing season to encourage new blooms and do some annual pruning in fall. Pruning helps the bush keeps a compact shape and encourages new blooms the next growing season.

Chinese Holly

Chinese Holly, Ilex cornuta, is a slow-growing evergreen shrub with unusually-shaped rectangular leaves. Creamy white fragrant flowers appear in spring and large red berries later in the year.

Chinese holly has several uses in the landscape. It makes a good specimen plant, hedges, and for beds and borders. It requires little care. Just place the bush in a full-sun to part shade where it'll grow in moist well-drained soil, and it'll thrive.

These shrubs are some of the many you can plant in Pennsylvania. You can choose from a long list of deciduous and evergreen shrubs in various sizes for your landscape. If planting in summer, just remember to buy container plants so that you can successfully grow these and other shrubs, even if planted during the dog days of summer. 

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Best Gardens to Visit in Pennsylvania
by Ali Lawrence - posted 07/07/17

Hershey Garden Roses

Summer is the perfect chance to get outside and enjoy going to places you may never have visited. Local gardens offer a great way to spend a spell out in the sun while seeing beautiful places. They often provide many different kinds of plants to make the area gorgeous, and they bloom at different seasons, so you won’t be limited to going to the garden for only a specific time frame.

Pennsylvania has a plethora of beautiful gardens known for the quality of their scenery and enjoyable visits. Before you get into the car and head out on the road, make sure you have researched when your favorite garden will be open and how much it will cost you to get in. Here are six places worthy of your attention.

1. Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve (Southeast Pennsylvania): New Hope, PA Cost: $6

The Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is a non-profit that contains just over two miles of trails to immerse visitors in the surrounding nature. Facilities are also available for rent and are frequently reserved for weddings. In case you want to see anything in particular, look in advance to find out what’s blooming and when.

2. Morris Arboretum (Southeast Pennsylvania):Philadelphia, PA Cost: $17

This arboretum is part of the University of Pennsylvania, so it focuses on education and research. While the admission cost is more expensive than most state gardens, the arboretum provides a special variety of activities. Tours, summer camps and family activities will keep everyone entertained for hours among the blooming plants and trees.

3. Hershey Gardens (Central Region): Hershey, PA Cost: $12.50

Hershey park gets many visitors each year, and some choose to journey to the Hershey Gardens. There’s a special emphasis on being family-oriented in this garden, since it’s next to the theme park, so there’s plenty to do. Grab a map and visit the themed gardens or the butterfly atrium. There are signs to help you learn about what you’re viewing and, of course, chocolate available in the gift shop. Be sure to check out some of these other cheap things to do in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Trees at Hershey Garden

4. Huntington Rose Garden (Central Region): Huntington, PA Cost: $23

The Huntington Rose Garden is the ultimate spot for a romantic date. Originally built by Henry Huntington for his wife Arabella, it’s now home to more than 1,200 varieties of roses that span three acres. Winding paths and statues are sure to spark romance for any couple or at least make for some great pictures.

5. Pittsburgh Botanic Garden (Southwest Region): Oakdale, PA Cost: $9

If you want to walk through a garden that’ll delight you for longer than a short walk, try visiting the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. In addition to having classic lotus ponds and gazebos, it also has three miles of trails to explore. And if you want to learn something while you’re at it, there are yoga sessions and gardening classes to try.


6. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (Southwest Region): Pittsburgh, PA Cost: $17.95

People looking for a place where they can enjoy the scenery while being educated are in the right place when they arrive at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The gardens offer monthly rotating exhibits along with certification courses on all things plants. Ever wanted to learn how to landscape? Be a better gardener? Now you can.

Pennsylvania gardens are spread all over the state and consistently provide entertainment and education for all ages. If you’re just looking for something to do over the weekend or want to get serious about learning how to tend to plants, there will be a garden out there for you. All it takes is a little research and some driving.

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5 Pretty Edibles for a Beautiful and Tasty Landscape
by Ali Lawrence - posted 06/01/17

Some plants are not only beautiful but edible. Edible flowers make a fun addition to the flower beds in the landscape. They add color to your flower gardens and zest to your favorite dishes.

Edible Flowers for Full Sun

Plants that thrive in full sun get 8 to 10 hours of sunlight per day. Some edible plants need full sun to bloom properly, so you can harvest and eat their blooms.

1. Sweet Cicely

Sweet cicely is a hardy perennial with lovely fern-like leaves and a flat dainty cluster of white flowers. Plants bloom in late spring through early summer and grow 2 to 3 feet tall.

Flowers aren’t difficult to grow. Sow sweet cicely seeds in a sunny area in autumn. Seeds germinate in spring after a period of cool weather. You can also divide plants in spring or autumn.

Sweet cicely is easy to care for— just water to keep the soil moist, about an inch per week. Plants readily self-seed, so it’s best to remove faded blooms before seeds fall if you don’t want plants to spread. Plants will spread and form dense patches if left to reseed.

You can eat the leaves and the seeds. Leaves taste like celery, while the seeds have an Anise flavor. All parts of the plant are safe to eat, even the roots. Toss unripe seeds in salads or sprinkle on ice cream. Seeds have a sweet nutty flavor. Use the leaves in soups and salads and to sweeten dishes made with tart fruits.

marigold edible plant

2. Pot Marigold

Pot marigold is a lovely annual that grows in all zones. The daisy-like double flowers are 2 to 4 inches across and provide bright orange and yellow mounds from spring through mid-summer. Plants grow 1 to 2 feet tall, and make a pretty addition to your vegetable garden.

Pot marigolds grow in full sun, but also tolerate partial shade. You can sow seeds directly outdoors in spring or summer. Plants will adapt to almost any soil type, just keep the soil moist. With regular watering, the marigolds continue to bloom through the first frost.

You can eat both the flowers and leaves. Fresh chopped flowers add a spicy flavor to salads and dried marigold blooms are great for adding flavor to soups and broths.


3. Lavender

Lavender is edible and strikingly beautiful, and it’s also very fragrant. Flowers are gathered in dense clusters atop stalks and bloom in early summer. Plants grow up to 3 feet tall and have narrow, lance-shaped leaves. Plants continue can to bloom and add color well into winter.

Plants grow best in full sun in an area with loose, well-drained soil and good air circulation. Seeds are slow to germinate, so buying plants instead of starting from seed is a good way to add lavender to your landscape. Place plants about 18 inches apart. Water plants regularly until matured. Once matured, plants are drought-tolerant.

Leaves and blooms are edible and should be stripped from the stalk to use. Dried blooms are often used to compliment a variety of foods including poultry, fish, baked goods, sauces, fruits and vegetables.

Edible Flowers for Partial Shade

Plants that thrive in partial shade need at least 5 hours of sunlight per day to bloom. You can grow these plants under trees or in areas with limited sun and still enjoy their color and flavor.

4. Borage

Borage is an attractive annual with blue star-shaped blooms that last through summer. It grows up to 3 feet tall and about 2 feet wide. The plant’s bristly 4-to-6 inch long gray-green leaves are edible.

Sow seeds directly in the garden in early spring. Borage tolerates poor soil and plants self-seed, so you can enjoy this plant each year with little to no effort.

Both leaves and flowers are edible. You can use young tender leaves in salad or cook them like greens. Leaves taste like cucumber, while flowers are good for garnish or tossed in a salad.


5. Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are annuals that grow in all zones. Plants produce striking, trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of red, orange, yellow or cream. Flowers bloom throughout summer. Nasturtiums grow up to 10 inches tall, while the climbing variety grows up to 6 feet. Depending on the variety, you can grow them in mounds or as climbing plants. Both varieties have bright green leaves.

Plants are easy to grow and care for. While they bloom best in full sun, you can grow them in light shade, but plants may not produce as many blooms. Sow seeds in moist soil during early spring. Germination takes 7 to 10 days, and plants bloom quickly and reseed. Make sure to water regularly throughout the growing season.

The entire plant is edible. Young leaves, flowers and unripe seed pods have a peppery taste and are often used in salads, vinegar as well as egg and seafood dishes.

Experimenting with a variety of edible flowers means you can get more use from your landscape plants. And keep in mind that any plants you grow for beauty and flavor should be pesticide free and only feed with organic fertilizers.

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