Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

For information about listening to Vermont Public Radio, please go here.

Vermont Garden Journal: Monkshood, A Perennial For The Fall Garden

Monkshood gets its common name from the flower shape; it resembles a helmet or a hooded cloak of a monk. It grows best in moist, well-drained soil and once established doesn't like to be moved.

When I first saw monkshood, it was in September in coastal Maine and the garden was ablaze in purple color. This, I said to myself, is a plant I need for my fall garden. 

Monkshood gets its common name from the flower shape; it resembles a helmet or a hooded cloak of a monk. It’s a wild flower, but there’s some interesting varies available too, such as the purple colored bressingham spire and arendsii. Stainless steel has steel blue colored flowers while ivorine has ivory colored blooms. Monkshood grows well in full to part sun. It’s a good woodlands edge plant and a nice addition to a perennial flower border. It’s not invasive and deer and other animals seem to leave it alone. It grows two to four feet tall so it may need staking especially if grown in a part shade location where the stems might reach for the light.

It grows best in moist, well-drained soil and once established doesn’t like to be moved. We grow ours against our yellow clapboard house behind the balloon flowers, cat mint and other early bloomers. The dark green foliage is an attractive back drop and then by late summer the flower burst onto the scene. Of course the one drawback to this sturdy perennial is that all parts of the plant are poisonous. In fact, in medieval times, it was often used to poison enemies or unfaithful spouses. So be careful with animals and young children around and wear gloves when cutting it to keep the sap off any wounds and cuts.

And now for this week’s tip! It’s time to renovate your June bearing strawberry bed. Mow down the foliage to just above the crown and remove it. Till or dig both edges of that bed to reduce its bed to about one foot wide. Weed and thin out the plants so they’re spaced about six inches apart. Add compost and organic granular fertilizer and water well. If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to keep that bed going for a good four to five years.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I’ll be taking about Japanese anemone. Until then, I’ll be seeing you in the garden! 

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
Latest Stories