• Cassie Banning

What we are looking forward to in the border gardens

I recently asked two of our lead gardeners what they were most excited about this season. Both gardeners are eagerly anticipating some brand new varieties that they are planting along with enduring favorites.


Wendy Dolliver, who is responsible for the border garden at Thuya, is enthusiastic about a new plant with an old story.

sweet mace

I always relish the opportunity to learn about a plant's history. The plant’s cultural significance which usually includes medicinal, culinary, and even ceremonial uses can create a different approach and appreciation for the plant. Tagetes lucida or sweet mace is a new gold-flowered annual this year that has "deep roots." A marigold perennial native to Mexico and Central America, it has been around a very long time. Also known as Spanish tarragon, this plant was used by Aztecs as an incense, as a medicine, and as a flavoring for chocolat'l, a cocoa-based drink that is still sold today in many South American countries. Sweet mace is still widely used in these regions and cultures. The flowers are used in teas, and the leaves are used to flavor soups, sauces, eggs, and meat dishes. 


I am expecting sweet mace with its small golden yellow blooms and sprawling habit to grow between 12 and 15 inches. We have planted it in a few places on the border garden edges.  It is deer and rabbit repellent, and it is used as an insect repellent.


Erin Dilworth oversees the border garden at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden. She is awaiting the blossoming of two new perennials.

Josephine lily

I am excited to see our new lily bulbs in bloom for the first time.  Last fall, we planted a few new varieties of lilies in the garden, one of which was Lilium 'Josephine'.  This variety of lily stands approximately four feet tall at maturity and I am excited to see the large delicate and fragrant, light pink blooms that the lily description boasts.  Look for this lily to the west of the moon gate (left side of the moon gate when facing out to the Buddha). 


New to the border garden this year is a milkweed, Asclepias incarnata 'Ice Ballet.'  This perennial milkweed will be flowering from mid-July through August and will give us small white clusters of vanilla-scented blooms.  Milkweed is the main source of food for the monarch butterfly larvae.  The adults will lay their eggs on the leaves, and as the caterpillars hatch, they will continue feeding on the milkweed throughout the season, until forming their chrysalis. 

Ice Ballet milkweed

Although we always have an abundance of monarch butterflies feeding on nectar in the garden each year, we have not had any milkweed in the past on which they can lay their eggs. You can see how this new addition fares on the upper west side of the border.


I know that I am excited to smell our sweet mace, the Josephine lily, and the white flowers of Ice Ballet milkweed. Enjoy the borders!









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