Click on an image to learn more about some of our plants!
Yucca filamentosa, Adam’s needle
Yucca is native to the mid-Atlantic states though it is hardy farther north. Its spiky evergreen foliage creates a strong architectural statement in the perennial garden and its bold flowering stalk emerging in June can reach up to 6 feet tall and will attract butterflies. At Bellefield where it is located in the cream, blush and gray border, we find that the budding stalk with shades of blush is as handsome the bloom. Yucca likes full sun, but can tolerate part shade and does best in well-drained even dry soil.
Valeriana officinalis, Valerian
Valeriana officinalis is a hardy perennial with heads of sweetly scented flowers blooming in early summer. Valerian flower extracts were used as a perfume in the sixteenth century and the roots are still used today as a sleep aid. This common herb is rarely seen in perennial borders, but it works well to create color and volume early in the season for the back of the border. It has pale pink buds which blossom into a blush white providing a relatively long bloom time. After it blooms, it is wise to cut the flower stalks down sooner than later to prevent heavy seeding –even though one may be tempted to leave them alone as the spent blooms are still quite interesting. It is a good idea to combine valerian with other tall plants that bloom later in the season since its size and volume diminish after the blooms are cut back. At Bellefield, we combine it with Boltonia asteroides adding fall interest in the same spot. This old fashioned plant is perfect for a loose cottage garden or potager.
Thalictrum pubescens, Tall Meadow Rue
This 4-8 foot tall native perennial does best in part shade and moist soil and has interesting blue-green foliage throughout the spring and summer. Its cream-colored long-blooming flowers have numerous, showy, thread-like stamens in mid-summer which are continually visited by bees and butterflies.
Here at Bellefiled, we cut the tall flower stalks all the way back to the ground when the blossoms are finished,and a beautiful low foliage returns for the rest of the season. This method will also keeps the plant from seeding itself readily in the garden, although we are usually happy when we find a few volunteer seedlings along the border.
Symphyotrichum ericoides, Heath aster
This late blooming plant, formerly aster ericoides, is a lovely aster growing as wide and high as 3 feet. It is covered in small daisy like blossoms on multi-branched, dense sprays. It is a native of the eastern United States and Canada and grows naturally in open fields and along the roadsides.
It is easy to grow in average garden soil, tolerates drought and even poor soil. It enjoys full sun in the border, rock garden or meadow and works well as a cut flower. Butterflies and other pollinators are attracted to its blossoms starting in late August continuing often into October.
Stachys byzantine, Lamb’s ear
The common lamb’s ear with soft silver foliage is found as an edging plant in many of both Gertrude Jekyll and Beatrix Farrand perennial borders.
This plant is easily grown in any average to poor garden soil that has good drainage. It has pink flower stalks which some gardeners prize, but because Farrand like Jekyll recommended cutting the flower stalks down before they have a chance to bloom, we don’t see the blooms at Bellefield. Cutting back the flower stalks encourages thicker and more plentiful base foliage.
The thick, absorbent leaves of this plant were said to be used as band-aids for past generations.
Stachys byzantina ‘Helen Von Stein’, Lamb’s ears
A mounding, large-leafed version of common Lamb’s Ear with large soft, silver leaves. Easily grown in any average to poor garden soil that has good drainage. It rarely flowers which is useful for us at Bellefield because we understand that Beatrix Farrand like Gertrude Jekyll would direct gardeners to cut the flower stalks down before they bloom.
These gardeners prized it for its gray foliage not its pink blossoms and cutting back common lamb’s ear keeps the foliage thicker and more plentiful at the base. This cultivar is also good as its leaves are less likely to melt in heat and humidity.
Physostegia virginiana, Obedient plant
This long-blooming, spreading herbaceous perennial grows 2' - 3' tall by 2' wide, with white racemes of tubular flowers in mid-summer. The flowers are on swivels that can be moved around to the right or left on the stem, giving rise to the common name of obedient plant. Plants spread readily by means of rhizomes forming large colonies leading some to say it is not terribly obedient. But it is a tough plant and a good performer if large drifts are wanted.
Macleaya cordata, Plume poppy
Plume Poppy is a giant background plant with handsome, deeply lobed powdery grey-green leaves, topped in summer by big blush to cream-colored plumes up to 7 feet tall.
Grow in full sun to shade in any type of soil. Plants will spread very quickly to form a large patch, so be sure to remove unwanted shoots every spring. It may also be grown in a large tub or pot, above the ground or sunk to the rim.
Best used in the right setting such as a specimen in a large border, against buildings or in a space that it can spread to easily to fill.
Lychnis flos-cuculi, Ragged robin
Lychnis flos-cuculi forms a rosette of low growing foliage with numerous flower stems 2 to 3 feet tall. The stems rise above the foliage and branch near the top of the stem and end with the small pink flowers. The flowers have five narrow petals deeply divided into four lobes giving the flower an untidy, ragged appearance, hence its common name.
This plant grows well in most garden soils and can take sun to part shade. It seeds itself in readily around the garden but almost always into happy locations since it mixes well with other perennials like iris and lupine as it does here in the garden at Bellefield.
Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’, White rose campion
Lychnis coronaria or rose campion is an upright, many-branched biennial (or short-lived perennial) with soft, wooly, silver-gray leaves and stems. The plant gets 2 to 3 feet tall and about 1 to 2 feet wide. In the second year of growth, white rose campion blooms with a profusion of long stemmed trumpet shaped flowers. The flowers open one at a time and last only a day, but do so over a long blooming period in the spring and summer. Rose campion also may bloom in its first season, but usually not as profusely. By its third season, rose campion already is declining, but new seedlings that volunteer easily in place will keep the lineage going.
Iris sibirica, Siberian iris
Iris sibirica is relatively maintenance free, growing from 2-3 feet happily in a wide variety of conditions preferring mildly acidic and moist soils. It will tolerate some shade, but blooms best in full sun with its handsome buds and beautiful blossoms appearing for only two or three weeks in May to early June. Clumps spread rapidly and can be propagated by dividing in autumn. If the roots are not divided, after four or five years it may cease to bloom, so it should be dug up about every fourth fall. It could be divided more often, but it takes a year to bounce back after being disturbed, so it's best to leave in place longer.
When this iris is done blooming its grassy sword-like leaves remain interesting as a fine texture in the garden. The red-brown seeds are also of interest and can be left for decorative value for the rest of the summer. In autumn, the foliage takes on an attractive rusty golden shade before it begins to die back and needs to be cut down for winter.
Iris pumila, Dwarf bearded iris, white
Iris pumila is a lovely early blooming dwarf iris that spreads and continues to thrive in the same spot for years.
It should be grown in an open, sunny site, in fertile, loamy soil with sharp drainage. Plant so that the rhizomes are at the surface of the soil. This little gem is perfect for the front of the border or in rock garden sites.
Iris Germanica ‘Queen of May’
This rare iris was listed on Beatrix Farrand’s planting plans for the “pink and crimson” border. It is an early and prolific bloomer and a vigorous grower. It was first introduced in 1859 and was a favorite of the Victorians who considered it the first “pink” iris. It is in fact a rosy lavender as opposed to the many blue lavender iris that predominate. At Bellefield, Lychnisflos-cuculi or ragged robin grows among it creating one of Farrand’s exquisite color combinations.
This iris grows well in average garden soil with full sun to part shade and likes to have its rhizomes close to the surface of the ground to prevent rot. With its great vigor, it likes to be divided every few years, so you and all of your friends will never be without it.
Iris germanica ‘Madame Chereau’
This iris was suggested to us at Bellefield by the Historic Iris Preservation Society to use as a substitution for one of the lost iris on Farrand’s planting plan.
It stands majestically tall with a fringed purple on its luxurious white petals – an effect known as plicata. Faintly grape-scented, it was bred by pioneering nurseryman, Jean-Nicolas Lemon and introduced into the trade as early as 1844.
It grows easily in average garden soil with full sun to part shade and spreads slowly, staying nicely in place in the garden bed.
Gladiolus callianthus, Abyssinian sword lily
This fragrant gladiola blooms on tall stalks late in the season but will continue flowering until frost. In order to keep it going for years to come, it needs to be dug and stored indoors for the winter. (The bulbs will wait happily in paper bags with no sign of rot until the following spring when they can be potted up or planted right in the garden after danger of frost.)
This delicate glad was collected in Ethiopia in 1844 and was introduced into garden culture in America as early as 1888.
It is easy to grow in average garden soil with full sun to part shade and its sweet smelling nodding blossoms and tall sword-like green foliage in summer make it well worth the work of overwintering. This beauty will also multiply since each year it will produce a number of small offsets that can be grown on to maturity over several seasons.
Filipendula rubra, Queen of the prairie
A tall (6’-8’), upright, clump forming native perennial ranging from Georgia to Pennsylvania along the east coast and west to Iowa and Missouri. It features branched, astilbe-like panicles of tiny, fragrant, pale pink flowers in early to mid-summer. At Bellefield we leave the flower heads up as they fade to a deeper reddish pink extending the garden interest.
Easily grown in average to wet soil in full sun to part shade, it is not very tolerant of drought. Queen of the prairie is happy in either a meadow planting or a garden setting where it can spread rapidly. The foliage of this plant is as handsome as its showy blossoms and it can be particularly effective when massed in the back of the border or as a tall accent in a cottage garden.
Eupatorium perfoliatum, Boneset or white Joe Pye Weed
This native of the northeast is happy in wet areas and grows up to 4 feet tall. Native Americans used this plant to break fevers and heal bones.
Its white blooms come in mid-summer and last for at least a month. Cut the blooms back when they begin to turn brown and set seed, if you don’t want this clumping perennial to spread.
Camassia leichtlinii, Quamash
Camassia leichtlinii grows 2-4 feet tall, occasionally even up to five feet including the flower spike. It blooms in May at Bellefield and has a pyramidal raceme of small bright star-like flowers atop a tall stem rising above a narrow grassy clump.The buds of the raceme open first at the bottom and work their way upward, so the flower lasts nearly a full month. The blooms are widely separated on the raceme so is not very showy, but spare and simple in its beauty.
When flowers are spent, the strappy, grassy clump of leaves will die back in early summer. Although you may be tempted, do not cut it back prematurely; wait until the leaves start to lose color, to insure the bulb is strengthened for the following year.It will grow well in part shade (as ours does at Bellefield) but prefers full sun, with rich acidic moderately moist spring followed by dry summer dormancy -- meadow conditions are ideal. It is adaptable to zones 5 through 9, and if it likes where it finds itself growing, it will easily naturalize and spread, requiring very little attention.
Anemone sylvestris, Snowdrop windflower
Delicate nodding white flowers appear in late spring and early summer, over a low mound of ferny foliage. Plants will form a dense patch, suitable for a ground cover. Makes a useful over-planting for small bulbs with its thick leaves helping to disguise the bulb foliage in summer.
Both the flowers as well as the fluffy seed-heads are attractive and useful for cutting. If happy this plant will spread so leave it plenty of room, or plan to edge each spring to keep the patch to a reasonable size. Easily divided in spring or fall.
Anemone canadensis, North American windflower
This native of the northeast is a low ground cover with sharply divided green foliage and a simple white flower with yellow stamens appearing in May to early June. It spreads readily through its underground rhizomes in sun or part shade.
In the wild, it is found growing in large colonies along rivers and streams and in floodplains. It can be too aggressive for the garden, but works beautifully naturalized in open, wet meadows or along a lakeside. Deer will most often leave it alone.
Anemone hupehensis ‘September Charm’, Japanese Windflower
Anemone hupehensis ‘September Charm’ is a very vigorous, fibrous-rooted, mounding, Japanese anemone cultivar, which typically grows 3 to even 5 feet tall and spreads by creeping rhizomes. Single pure pink flowers (2-3" in diameter) bloom on long and wiry, but graceful, branching stems over an attractive foliage mound of trifoliate dark green leaves.
It has a lengthy (usually August through October) bloom period. It is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun but is also happy in shade -- best in part shade with protection from wind. Its foliage tends to burn in hot, dry, sunny conditions. This plant prefers consistently moist soils with good drainage, but can withstand drought. Make sure to keep in bounds because it is a fast spreader even in deep shade.
Acanthus hungaricus, Bear's breeches
The broad lobed leaves of Acanthus have inspired important decorative features in Western art and architecture from ancient Greek columns on down through history. Its distinctive bold foliage is further enhanced in early summer when stiff flowering spikes bearing hooded mauve-purple flowers rise 2 to 3 feet above the leaves.
These spikes are quite striking and long-lasting standing straight up even as they become attractive seedpods.
This sturdy plant grows well in most garden soils and can take either full sun or part-shade. It can work well in the middle of the border or even right along the edge as a strong punctuation mark. Although it is slow to become established, a patient gardener will not be disappointed.
Anemone x 'Honorine Jobert' – Japanese windflower
'Honorine Jobert' is a vigorous, fibrous-rooted, mounding, compact Japanese anemone hybrid cultivar, which typically grows to from 3' to 5' tall and spreads by creeping rhizomes. Single white flowers (2"-3" diameter) bloom on long and wiry, but graceful, branching stems over an attractive foliage mound of trifoliate dark green leaves.
It has a lengthy bloom period (for us late August into November or until heavy frost). Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun but is also happy in shade --best in part shade with protection from wind. Foliage tends to burn in hot, dry, sunny conditions. Prefers consistently moist soils with good drainage, but can withstand some drought.
Narcissus 'Actaea', The Poet's Narcissus or Pheasant's Eye
This late-blooming narcissus is among the plants called for in Farrand's planting plan used to restore the Bellefield garden. Appreciated by the ancient Greeks, actaea may have reached the rest of Europe during the crusades; it subsequently enjoyed a long history of cultivation and hybridization particularly in England, and was introduced to American gardeners by the late eighteenth century. Also known as narcissus poeticus, “The Poet’s Narcissus,” and “Pheasant’s Eye,” Actaea’s large flowers have white overlapping petals and a small, red-rimmed yellow cup with a memorable spicy fragrance. Like other narcissus, actaea is both deer and rodent proof.
Photo courtesy of Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, a supplier for the Garden at Bellefiield and an excellent source of this and many other heirloom bulbs
Iris germanica var. florentina, Florentine Iris or Orris Root
This early-blooming iris is listed on the Farrand planting plans used at Bellefield both in the "white " and the " cream, blush and gray" borders. It has a very faint lavender coloring making it not quite white and it seems to change hue in different light sometimes appearing almost gray. Native to Italy, orris root was first cultivated in the city of Florence during the middle ages.
Its "roots" or rhizomes most commonly in the form of a powder have for centuries been used as a perfume and as a remedy for respiratory and liver ailments. This iris prized both for its usefulness and its beauty is not the easiest one to grow. It does not thrive in overly moist sites and especially does not like its rhizomes to be covered with too much soil or debris preferring good air circulation. Despite its temperamental nature, it is well worth growing this old and storied iris in the garden.
Aster Tataricus, Tatarian Aster
Tatarian aster is a stately perennial with a flowering height of up to 6 feet, flowering longer than any other garden aster, beginning in late September and early October and continuing into November. The one inch-wide, light lavender flowers are a magnet for local and migrating monarch butterflies. It generally does not require staking and tolerates many soil types. It can form large colonies in a few years, and is easily divided. Provide full sun to part shade. At Bellefield it grows in deep shade and still blooms fully. Hardy to Zone 3, this plant thrives in heat and humidity and adapts readily to soil extremes from wet clay to dry sand. This species needs plenty of room to grow and is quite vigorous requiring frequent division.