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Our gardeners' favorite plants


Centratherum intermedium, 'Pineapple Sangria' is my favorite border plant of 2020. Not a newcomer to the Thuya borders, but my appreciation for the Brazilian button flower grew even more this year. The steadfast dependability of this annual (for us here in hardiness zone 5b) is displayed in the uniform branching of the pineapple scented foliage.  The plant does not fall to pests, disease, or dry, hot conditions. It rises above those pressures and keeps blooming on. This Centratherum may not have a big wow factor, but on further inspection of the blossom, the dimension of color and intricate petal detail and texture is revealed. With the current challenges we face, this plant is a welcome reminder of basic stability – understated, but true, grit if you will.  (Butterflies and bees are also big fans.) This season I overheard an adult asking a sharp young child what her favorite flower was in the garden – she proudly pronounced “It is Centratherum!” and pointed to the plant. I smiled from across the border and then found myself saying in a whisper to myself, “Me, too.”

Wendy Dolliver, Head Gardener - Thuya Garden

There are so many flowers to choose from it is hard to pick just one favorite from the Abby border garden this summer. The delphiniums would have to be number one on my list because of how they just demand that you admire them with their height and beautiful colors, even though they are a challenge to get staked.  They are well worth it! Another favorite is one of the cone flowers, Echinacea.  All our cultivated varieties (‘Bravado,’ ‘Pink Star,’ ‘Green Jewel,’ ‘PowWow White,’ ‘Lakota Fire’) are fun and the pollinators love them.

Katie Hughes, Gardener, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden and McAlpin Farm

This fall we are excited to be adding more native plants to the areas that surround Thuya’s border garden. These new additions will be along the driveway to the main gates, in the brook garden, and behind the lower pavilion.  Some of the more notable plants include the beautiful, white flat-topped asters (Doellingeria umbellata) that you have likely been seeing around this time of year, and the renowned New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) that seem to beckon in autumn with their bright purple flowers. Another plant we are using that is coming into its own right now is little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium). It has a graceful form and a rainbow of vivid colors in the fall. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that all the plants we are using will benefit the native insects whose populations continue to struggle.

Margaret Handville, Gardener - Thuya Garden

We had many dahlias that were new to the garden this year. One of my personal favorites was Dahlia ‘Wyn’s New Pastel.’ This dahlia grew to be between four and five feet tall and had five- to six-inch creamy yellow blooms with hints of soft peach and orange.  With some simple stake support this dahlia stood tall with its medium-size blooms staying upright and reaching for the sun.  

Another favorite flower of mine was a yellow snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus ‘Chantilly Cream Yellow.’ The Chantilly series of snapdragons are a little shorter and grew to be approximately three feet tall.  They have single blooms going up the stem and lend themselves well to being brushed in the garden.  After putting off a strong first round of blooms, they also pushed a great second round of blooms towards the middle of August as the night temperatures started cooling again.

Erin Dilworth, Lead Gardener - Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden

Having grown our Japanese Iris from seed several years ago, we were able to make selections this July from the many beautiful variations now present. About 12 new forms have the characteristics we need, namely good color, good form, and free flowering, with vigor superior to the older strains. This season the iris was divided and transplanted to the cedar stockade by the pond, where our Japanese Iris have bloomed consistently since about 1992. We have discovered they are supremely fond of the mud from the lily pond, with its rich organic content and heavy texture. The whites, lavenders, blues, and deep violet join together for a nice effect, and become our Asticou collection, unique to the garden and well suited to coastal Maine.

Mary Roper, Asticou Azalea Garden Manager


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