Star Gardener: A Lot to Learn From a Little Garden

Cone flowers and rudbeckias along the road
Cone flowers and rudbeckias along the road Abby Jane Brody

I suppose all of its legions of fans have their own favorites at Breadzilla in Wainscott. For me it’s the oatmeal sunflower-seed bread, just about the best loaf I’ve ever had. Whether it is lunch, dessert, or a loaf of bread, the high quality shines through.
    The same can be said for the garden, narrow strips alongside two of its walls and other beds in the front enclosing a circular lawn where customers relax and enjoy their treats. It may be small, but the garden packs a big punch, with wave following wave of gorgeous, saturated color all season long.
    There is a lot to learn here.
    Just last week it was a riot of red, blue, and purple salvias, saturated orange, red, pink, and yellow zinnias, orange tithonias, multicolored dahlias, and a lusty mina lobata vine with spikes of scarlet, orange, yellow, and cream flowers (it’s also known as the exotic love vine). And let’s not forget the scarlet pentas, interspersed among purple and black flowers and foliage.
    It’s hard to believe Breadzilla has been here 17 years. Nancy Hollister, a co-owner with Brad Thompson, began creating gardens there from the beginning, but before long Ron Jawin of Botanic Nursery, a customer, friend, and gardener, took the reins and a fruitful collaboration was born.
    Ms. Hollister likes lots of color, wildness, and unpredictability.  She thinks gardens should be fun, but she also insists on having flowers to decorate cakes, especially wedding cakes.
    Mr. Jawin, for his part, is a formidable plantsman with years of experience working with, observing, and propagating a broad range of plants. I first met him about 15 years ago when he grew hydrangeas — long before the current craze began — and we offered them at the East Hampton Garden Club’s plant sales. He likes clear, strong colors, especially red, purple, and black combinations.
    The secret to riotous color throughout the season, according to Ron, is planting perennials and the backbone of annuals in the spring, removing some of the annuals when they appear at their peak in late June or early July, depending on the weather, and replacing them with the seed of plants that thrive in heat and plants of late-crop dahlias and salvias. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
    I followed the Breadzilla garden fairly closely this summer and it seemed as though the zinnias must have been planted one week while my back was turned. Not at all: They came from a packet of seed. Other plants from seed, scratched in in situ, are annual Rudbeckia hirta hybrids, orange Cosmos sulphureus, sky-blue mealy cup sage Salvia Victoria, cleome, tithonia, and vines.
    Perhaps the signature plant is Crocosmia Lucifer with its extraordinary red flowers which bloom in late June and July. Mr. Jawin said it began as a single plant; today’s massive clumps result from transplanting new corms to other spots.  Crocosmia likes full sun, excellent drainage, and some moisture.
    In recent years a plethora of new hybrid cone flowers (echinacea) have hit the market. It’s hard to know which to buy and try. Among others, and along the road, two outstanding ones this summer were Harvest Moon, with golden flowers, and Sundown, with flowers that turned from pink to orange. All the echinacea varieties flowered for months, but Sundown was particularly spectacular.
    Two plants I’ve never tried to grow, but will after seeing them at Breadzilla, are the prairie gentians, also known as lisanthus or eustoma, and pentas. Surprising to me, the prairie gentians, often used as cut flowers, bloomed all summer and were still going strong last week. They were as tough and reliable as angelonias. Both types of plants in shades of blue and purple grew near one another. The bud-like blooms of the gentians and the spikes of small flowers of the angelonias add depth and texture to the planting.
    Mr. Jawin recommends using Pentas Mars, which he thinks is the best variety.  It is a strong, clear red that vibrates with purple and black. Plant it late for end-of-season impact.
    Two other plants we would do well to try are a new coleus, C. Black Patent Leather, and the elephant ear Colocacia Black Magic. Standing over the coleus, I commented that the foliage looks like patent leather and he laughed, saying that was its name. It’s slow to get started, he said. I will grow it by itself in a pot next summer. It will be stunning next to a container of Plectranthus Mona Lavender, which reaches a peak of flowering in September and October. There are quite a few black elephant ears, but Black Magic has a rich texture that seems to be missing in others.
    There are two kinds of garden visitors, those who take in the overall spectacle and those who are so busy scrutinizing the particular they often neglect the larger picture. I urge you to visit Breadzilla to be swept away by the spectacle of this very successful garden. When you begin putting together plans for next year’s garden, refer back here for the particulars. You will be very happy you did. 


Comments

Hi Abby, Sorry to hear about your tree, but I hope the rest of your garden came through the storm.