Murphy Topsoil

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Plant of the Month


 “Candy Tuft ” Alexander White


Zones 4-9

Full Sun

Height 6-8″  15-20 cm

Width 18-24″ 46-61 cm

Soil : average, well drained

Flowers : showy white – fragrant

Foliage : dark green, glossy,  evergreen

Bloom Time : Spring /Early summer

This Iberis is a fast growing , drought tolerant and self sowing variety.  Attracting bees and butterflies to your garden it looks great year round. The glossy green foliage looks great in rock gardens, as a ground cover, edging, and in mixed borders.  With its origins in the Mediterranean it does well in the summer sun in average soil conditions.  Iberis is self sowing so it will spread.  You can shear them after flowering by 1/3 of the plant size to stop them from setting seeds.  Should you wish to divide the plants, this is best done every 2-3 years in the fall. With it’s evergreen foliage and beautiful showy white blooms  in the spring it is a great value for a small investment!


Coleus ( Painted Nettle)


Size    15cm – 90cm  6″-36″

Soil     fertile, well draining

Zone  10-12 or grow as an annual – temp 10 degrees c ( 50 f )

Site    bright partial light – some sun

Color  every shade except blue


Coleus are grown for their striking foliage.  They can survive some sun exposure but colors will be most vivid when grown in partial shade.   Pinch off the center stems to encourage a bushier plant.  Keep the seed heads pinched off to prolong the growth.  Coleus make wonderful house plants.  Take cuttings in the fall to bring indoors.  They are susceptible to slug, snail and aphid damage.  Coleus brighten a shady corner and look amazing in baskets and containers.  Garden centers carry a large variety of color combinations.  Coleus colors intensify as the plant matures so if the smaller selections don’t look as bright as the larger plants given some growing time they will !

Abelia (Abelia Grandiflora Kaleidoscope)


This little shrub is a real showstopper with it’s multi season interest.

Light : Full sun – part shade

Zones 6-9

Size : 2 1/2  x  3

Soil : prefers rich well draining soil

Foliage : Lime, coral, gold leaves on red stems

Flowers : White, scented

In the Spring the leaves are bright green and gold.  By late spring the long lasting white blooms cover the entire shrub attracting bees and butterflies to your garden.  Throughout the summer the leaf color continues to deepen slowly, turning into  fiery orange and red by the fall.  The Abelia is  low maintenance and drought tolerant with an added bonus of being resistant to aphids, slugs and snails.  The Abelia is semi evergreen, highly ornamental and provides a beautiful color contrast to any low maintenance garden.


Himalayan Maidenhair Fern – Adiantum Venustum


Zones: 5-8

Light : prefers morning sun / afternoon shade

Soil : any well draining

Size : 6-8″ high x 3 ft wide

Color : Black stems, delicate light green foliage

There are many ferns available and the Maidenhair fern is a coveted variety.  Easy to grow and tolerant of a variety of soil types this fern does not do well in dry soils.  During dry periods it will need to be watered every 7-10 days.  Grows well along pathways, in pots and as a slow growing ground cover.  May be divided every 4-5 years but do so in larger divisions.  Cold hardy and both deer and rabbit resistant.  New growth begins in late winter with the delicate fronds unfurling a beautiful  warm bronze  color.  Old growth should be cut back at the end of January.  The beautiful black stems are striking against the delicate spring green leaves.  Makes a nice addition to flower arrangements.

BrandyWine Viburnum (viburnum nudum)


Common name : Possumhaw Viburnum

Zones :  5-9

Size : 5-8 ft high and wide

Soil : average, well draining ( not alkaline soils)

Full sun to part shade

Brandywine Viburnum is said to be an almost perfect, maintenance free, ornamental shrub with multi season interest.  Deer resistant it also attracts butterflies and birds.  The leaves are super glossy ( up to 4″) , that turn a beautiful wine red color in the fall.  Spring brings a showing of creamy white flowers that lead into pea sized fruit.  Clusters of berries turn from white to hot pink and brilliant blue in the same clusters.  The berries remain after the leaves have fallen providing winter interest and food for the birds.  Native to the south eastern United States it grows well in average soil, med to wet as long as it is well draining.  “Brandywine” was developed to pollinate the “Winterthur Viburnum” which needs a pollinator to set  fruit.  For best cross pollination and fruit,  plant in groups although “Brandywine” will fruit on it’s own.  Great as a specimen or accent shrub, border or a hedge.





Zones : 3-9

Morning sun – afternoon shade

Colors: Mophead / Lacecap = white, pink, purple, blue

Paniculatas / Peegee / Oakleaf = White

Size: 4′ X 4′ or more

Soil : well drained, with good air circulation

Hydrangeas are an old fashioned standard that continue to be a popular choice in today’s landscapes.  There are over 100 species of deciduous and evergreen  Hydrangeas.  Paniculatas and Peegee varieties  bloom on new wood.  It is not necessary to prune them,  but you can at anytime except summer.  Mophead and Lacecap varieties bloom on old wood from the previous summer.  The new buds are produced from August to October.  If necessary they need to be pruned June – July.  New varieties bloom on both new and old growth for a continuous show all summer long.  The color of the blooms can be manipulated to blue with an acidic soil ( ph -6 ) or changed to pink with an alkaline environment   ( ph + 7 ).   Hydrangeas can be grown as a specimen plant, grown as hedges or pruned into trees.  Garden centers carry a good supply, try and purchase them in full bloom so you know exactly what kind you are getting.  To harvest the flowers for drying, wait until the flowers have matured  and feel papery.  Remove leaves and hang upside down in a warm, dry, and airy room for a couple of weeks.  They make beautiful wedding bouquets and flower arrangements.



Peonies (Paeonia)

Zones 3-8

Full to part sun

Well draining fertile soil

Colors: white, pink,deep red flowers / glossy dark foliage

Peonies are an old fashioned perennial favorite with a wonderful old rose perfume.  They require very little attention and are quite drought tolerant once established.  Peonies do not like to be relocated so when planting try to provide a spot with some wind protection.  They do require some stalking and need to be cut back each fall.   Peonies put on their best show in the spring but they should be planted in the fall with your other spring blooming bulbs.  Look for early – mid season varieties and also mid – late season varieties so they can be enjoyed all season long.   Peonies are long lived and can last for 40 + years.


Serviceberry – Amelanchier

Zones : 3-9

Part shade to full sun

Moist – dry soil conditions

Flowers : showy white petal clusters

Fruit : Sweet , purple berries

Serviceberries are a native plant to Canada.  They are a very popular choice for planting in small yards, on streets and in parks.   Many varieties grow as shrubs.  Six of the varieties can obtain the size of small trees.  In the spring they provide a beautiful if somewhat brief display of lacy white blooms before the leaves appear.  These plants provide much needed nourishment to the beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies in the spring. The fruit is sweet and edible right from the plant.  A much loved and one of the sweetest varieties is the Saskatoonberry.  The fruit is often used for jams and jellies, baked goods and even ice-cream.  It is also a favorite with the wildlife !   In the fall you get a beautiful show of yellow to orange red leaves.  The Serviceberry is a low maintenance, environmentally friendly and valuable asset to any yard.


Heavenly Hellebores


Zones –  4-9

Full – Part Shade

Size – Low clump

Blooms – ranging from near black to white

Soil – prefers rich, well draining

Hellebores are beautiful semi- shade loving bloomers   In zone 7 Hellebore Niger blooms with beautiful white flowers in late December. Other varieties bloom throughout Spring with flowers lasting up to a month or so.  Hellebores don’t like to be moved so plan ahead! They will do just fine in pots with regular feeding and some protection from the summer sun.  Planting is best done in the fall in well mulched soil but they are most readily available at garden centers in the spring.  Hellebores will do very well under shrubs, and evergreen trees.  A light trimming of the leaves in early spring will keep them tidy.  Hellebores are self seeding, disease and pest resistant.



CHRISTMAS CACTUS – (Schlumbergera)


Flowers – white, pink, yellow, salmon, red, purple

Soil – commercial growing medium for succulents

Light – prefers well lit area away from direct sunlight

Blooms in Dec-Jan ( usually!)

Christmas Cactus is a tropical cacti that is only somewhat drought tolerant.  They prefer to be watered from the bottom when the soil is slightly dry to the touch.

Summer – your Cactus can be moved outdoors into a shady or semi shady spot.  Soil should be kept moist.

Fall – move plant indoors and water only enough to keep from withering.  October withhold water.  November resume watering.  If your room is quite dry place pot on a tray with damp pebbles for a little extra humidity.

January or when your plant has finished flowering let it rest by withholding water for approximately  6 weeks.  When the new growth begins re pot in fresh growing medium in a relatively small pot of about half the plants height and water moderately.

Christmas Cacti are easy to propagate.  During the summer, twist off a piece of stem 1-3 segments.  Allow cutting to dry until a callus has formed on the cut end (1-7 days).  Place in some damp growing medium preferably around 21 degrees C ( 70 degrees F).  They will root in no time!