Today, StyleBlueprint welcomes Katherine Michalak to our Atlanta publication. You first met this busy wife and mom of three young boys when she wrote a guest post about going vegan back in January. (Click here to read it.) We’re thrilled to add her voice to our conversations about all the wonderful goings-on here in Atlanta!


Each year I go through the same delusional cycle: Springtime arrives bringing fairy tale weather, inspiring me to create suburban pastoral perfection. Lured by glossy pictures, or deftly-edited HGTV programs, I head outside, often accompanied by joyful offspring anxious to dig in the dirt. In my mind, I envision my home with beautifully landscaped, lush gardens, full of blossoming azaleas and petunias and geraniums. And every spring, I venture toward the empty beds and pots with the greatest of dreams and intentions.

A wagon load of good intentions for the garden
Here’s this season’s worth of new plantings. Will these survive?

But then life gets in the way. School activities pile up. Summer travel starts, followed by day camps and sports camps and sleepaway camps. And heat. And humidity. And mosquitos the size of vampire bats with equal thirst. My happy helpers morph into sweaty, indentured servants, bribed into weeding only by promises of WaterPark passes. Come mid-July, none of us even sit outside, let alone work outside. And then, the downward spiral to a terrible looking yard. The best laid plans that, once more, have led me down a primrose path of frustration.

Not this year, though. This year I will get professional help … Well, uh, I’ll ask an expert what I can plant right now, while motivated, and then just forget about for the rest of the summer?

Kasey Cloues, aka Gardening Fairy Godmother, to the rescue

I surrender myself to Kacey Cloues, manager of Garden*Hood Atlanta, a creative community nursery tucked away off Woodward Avenue like the secret treasure of Grant Park. A veritable gardening fairy godmother, Kacey answers my question with a knowing smile and a motion to follow her as we begin some plant therapy.

SB Note: Some of the plants mentioned today were not in full bloom when we took photos for this post. Images for these plants are from Garden*Hood’s website.


Ornamental Grasses

Kacey points out that some people don’t have time to start planting until summer. Ornamental grasses are perfect in those cases, because that’s when they do their most active growing. She showed me some that are “almost bulletproof.” These could bring an interesting element to any garden and really enhance Prairie or Contemporary design.


(Little Zebra Miscanthus, Pink Muhly Grass, Northwind Switch Grass)
Little Zebra Miscanthus


(Little Zebra Miscanthus, Pink Muhly Grass, Northwind Switch Grass)
Pink Muhly Grass


(Little Zebra Miscanthus, Pink Muhly Grass, Northwind Switch Grass)
Northwind Switch Grass


Shade Perennials

Evergreen shade perennial White Woodland Aster (Divaricatus) bursts into flower in late summer, showing off when it seems everything else in the yard has packed up their party dresses and gone home.


Asters (photo credit: Garden*Hood)

Popular shade plant Coral Bells work well if it’s the variety Heuchera Americana or Nillosa. (Make sure you notice which variety you’re buying since other varieties are best for West Coast climates and could have reached your nursery from a grow house FAR away.)

Coral Bells (photo credit: Garden*Hood)


Hostas in all their different varieties win for perennial shade gardening. Their only real enemies are voles and slugs. If those are a problem in your yard, as they are in mine, ask your local nursery for help combating your garden villains.

Liberty Hosta


Sun Perennials

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum). As Kacey so aptly declares, “No wonder this herbal supplement is considered an anti-depressant–who wouldn’t be happy looking at that everyday!” Carefree, exploding with joyful yellow color … practically screaming “Have A Nice Day!”

Hypericum (photo credit: Garden*Hood)

Daylilies (Hemerocallis) thrive here. Drought tolerant, they aren’t even picky about their soil, but only want to be asked to the party. While you may be familiar with the bright yellow Stella D’Oro, get creative with other varieties and colors; there are dozens!

This daylilly is called Hint of Blue. Who knew? I thought they were only orange and yellow! (photo credit: Garden*Hood)

Ruellia (Mexican Petunia), with its little purple flowers and dark stems, can reseed and spread in certain conditions, giving you even more bang for your buck.

Mexican Petunias (photo credit: Garden*Hood)


Giant Coneflower (Rudebeckia Maxima) is another one that aims to please and won’t ask much in return, except maybe just to pair with some fun friends to enjoy the summer sun.

Coneflower (photo credit: Garden*Hood)


Hot Lips Salvia (Mexican Sage). The name says it all. This sassy sister demands to be noticed, staying covered in red and white flowers from spring through October. Getcha some, girlfriend!

Hot Lips Salvia



Since these are only a seasonal investment and priced well, be adventurous here. Kacey urges to “break out from petunias and begonias” and try things like shrimp plant, cosmos, coleus and zinnias. Mix  ‘em up in containers or throughout beds and around the mailbox.


Oh those glorious MopHeads (Hydrangea macrophylla) that remind us of our grandmothers’ gardens. Not for the beginner or the noncommittal gardener, Kacey warns. These old gals are high maintenance, requiring attentive watering, and soil monitoring, and they’re extremely prone to powdery mildew. If you happen to already have some successful shrubs in your yard, cheer your good fortune but learn to care for them correctly.

For new planting, try one of the many Oak Leafs (Hydrangea quercifolia) instead. These easy going cousins love kinda hanging out in partial shade and drier soil, gracefully billowing forth their appreciation with fantastic blooms and then sending a little “thank-you note” in the fall when their leaves turn vibrant colors as well. I grabbed a double-flowering “Snowflake” OakLeaf and cannot WAIT to go back for the one called “Ruby Slippers.”

Ruby Slippers Hydrangea (photo credit: Garden*Hood)

I leave with a high hopes, a full heart and a carload of booty. Kacey reminds me that there is no such thing as failure and that there are always new plants to be tried. She encouraged me to contact her anytime. (Bless her heart. She may regret that soon.)




347 Boulevard SE

Atlanta, GA 30312



About the Author
Katherine Michalak