197. The Perennial Matchmaker | Nancy Ondra Garden Blogger | Southeast PA

Nancy j. Ondra The Perennial Matchmaker: Create Amazing Combinations with Your Favorite Perennials

Nancy J. Ondra Garden blogger

Meet Nancy J. Ondra, Plantswoman!

Hayefield Farm Nancy J. Ondra gardener

Nancy J. Ondra is a renowned garden writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience growing and experimenting with perennials and plant combinations. She is the author or coauthor of more than a dozen respected gardening books. In The Perennial Matchmaker: Create Amazing Combinations with Your Favorite Perennials, she has distilled her in-depth knowledge of color, texture, and seasonal effects into a simple approach for surefire planting success.

The Perennial Matchmaker: Create Amazing Combinations with Your Favorite Perennials

Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in SE Pennsylvania, zone 6B/7

I’ve been gardening my entire life, got my first job as a teacher!


About 10 miles from

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

Ive always lived here, we have a family farm

I can’t remember not gardening

there isn’t a specific one

I remember

over any book

I treasured that catalog

one cent jumbo packet

it was just a penny

beans, flowers

I just remember being so entranced by the variety of seeds

I can’t imagine any company

How did you learn how to garden organically?

I actually grew up in the suburbs but we always had the farm,

we didn’t think of it organically

four years of being inundated with pesticides


i don’t think I want to do

took an internship at Rodale Press

I need a job

this will be great

Sort of learned by being innundated

encyclopedia of Organic gardening

doing a lot of big books back then

visiting the Rodale Institute and taking classes up there


That’s my last one

It’s my favoritist one!

The Perennial Matchmaker: Create Amazing Combinations with Your Favorite Perennials

The Perennial Matchmaker: Create Amazing Combinations with Your Favorite Perennials

People really respond to ideas for combinations

it’s so easy

impulse buy perennials

plant them here or there based on what they need

somethings missing

take it to the next level as people say

when you’re doing perennial combinations

don’t go out and buy new plants

what is doing well

what can you move to put next to each other

purple coneflowers

purpleish pink phlox

inspire people to move them

It’s actually


an annual is a plant that grows from seed to seed


make leaves

make flower the next year

then die


could live from year to year

for a certain number of years

tender perennials

annuals in some places


You can theoretically move them any time of year

ideally if somethings gonna bloom in the spring

roots all settled in

where it wants to be it’s where it wants to go


early summer bloomers

move them in the fall

later summer

move them in the spring

about 6 months ahead

Fall is a good time for moving a lot of things.

Aster ornamental grass that’s gonna bloom in the fall

Summer time

is a good time to think about the combinations

looking at this pink phlox

break off flowers and carry them around

physical note

move those two together

why is phlox easier

just the way it works out for me

I don’t know

maybe it has something to do

phlox is easier to move

sometimes I’ll move both of them if something is in the wrong spot

you can really

as long as you keep them watered and


I usually harvest the wild brambles



that way I don’t have to give them garden space

4 acres


Tell us about something that grew well this year.

It’s almost an acre of flowers and vegetables

managed meadow of cedar plants

not all 4 acres

Pretty much everything has grown

Blessed with rain every 3-4 days

pastures are green still

mid july


plants are just so lush

nothings rotting

everything’s estactic

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

I always like to try new plants

something I’ve gotten into

harvesting for drying



winged everlasting

next year

annual flowers

I last year, it makes a difference if I’m working on a book

last year I was doing more pressed flowers

meant to get back into that this year

when I was cutting back

throwing this stuff in the compost pile when I could be drying it


fragrant things

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

Sort of balanced the wonderfulness of the rain

deer have found their way into the garden

thoguht we had an understanding

coming into the garden

net the entire vegetable garden

they said ok well go into the flower area

lillies and daylillies have suffered

get past

Japanese beetles

horrible this year

that’s also

so much for the roses

Let’s take a minute to thank our affiliates!

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Let’s Get to the Root of Things

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?

watering I hate watering!

Right it takes a long time.

And it’s never as good as the rain! I hate wasting water, it’s never good enough.

Mike’s always like did you water today? And I’m like I watered yesterday. Nothing like the rain.

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?

Anything to do with seeds

  • planting seeds
  • collecting seeds
  • saving seeds?

Got any tips for listeners?

just try

Idk what’s a seed

what to collect

if you’ve grown things from seed you know what you’re looking for. 

if you’ve grown a zinnia from seed you’ll recognize the seeds.

Just give it a try. It’s really not that hard. 

saving money

preserving a favorite you’ll have seeds to share too!

Right, there’s always so many seeds in each flower etc.

The Perennial Matchmaker: Create Amazing Combinations with Your Favorite Perennials

The Perennial Matchmaker: Create Amazing Combinations with Your Favorite Perennials

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

We had a wonderful gardener out this way named Joanna Reed

I saw her house on a tour

The best advice


back into your work

if you have a big area that you are that youa re digging or mulching or you’re weeding, orient yourself so that you are always looking at what I did and not what I have to do. 

That’s gotten me through a lot of big products.

looks at how much

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be?

My brother is also a professional gardener and he got me hooked on these things called 

Jakoti hand shears

Jakoti Sheep shearing Hand Shears

meant for shearing she3p

But they look basically like a garden scissors, they work like scissors but they are sort of a cross between scissors and pruning shears!

I always wanted longer then blades then pruning share

  • cutting them back
  • harvesting
  • weeding

I will use them to pry weeds out of the soil because they have pointy tips

work as a professional gardener, these are almost attached to my hips.

Jakoti hand shears

in the interest of full disclosure

useful llama items

places that sell animal tools.

self-sharpening. I’ve used them for years and not had to sharpen them.

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 11.38.18 AM.png


A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

I don’t really cook so


I eat anything that doesn’t need to be anything but chopped.


A favorite internet resource?

Mostly what I am looking for is being able to id plants

google images is almost always on my desktop searching for pictures to compare. 

I’m a Pinterest junkie

spend hours on Pinterest looking for plant combinations gardening ideas.

I probably should have said that first Pinterest.

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

I didn’t really spend much time reading about gardening I’m more like doing it. 


My friend subscribes to Garden’s Illustrated passes on

that’s my eye candy

I will actually read that too

published in Britain but they  have gardens from all over.

If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?

it’s getting more and more difficult to get a book published through a traditional publisher

On the other hand with the internet and the web anybody can be a garden writer

10th anniversary of blogging. I think it’s the most wonderful thing for any gardener.ople are going to be hesitant and think no one’s gonna read what I have to say

community of

bloggers bloom day!

what’s in bloom in their garden

may dreams garden

oh I’m participating this month!

what everybody has in bloom

positive happy group of people

everybody has something to share even if they are a beginner gardener. I also use blogging as a garden journal.

It’s the only form of garden journal I do because if i want to remember what this looks like later. It’s a great resource for anyone that has a record or projects of what worked and didn’t work. I would encourage anyone whether they want to be a garden blogger or keep just keep good gardening records. 

I had a blogging challenge once, and it was like write 10 posts a month which is like Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a month but don’t publish it. And just see what happens after a month and either you’re gonna love it an publish and keep going or your not. But just do it and practice because no one’s gonna read in the beginning anyway and you want  to make your mistakes before people are looking anyway.

Final question-

if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

I just makes me a bit sad, to think as plants as lifestyle accessories rather then living things. It’s so easy to go and people do it everywhere and just buy an already growing plant and stick it in a container and its there. 

It’s wonderful that they are attune to plants at all but so much has been lost by people not growing things from seed

not being cognizant of the natural cycle of plants. 

People want plants to do certain things and the plants don’t do that. 

They’ll come into the nursery and they want something that

  • blooms all summer
  • in the shade
  • that deer won’t eat

There aren’t always plants like that… People think they can order plants the way they order furniture… it’s kind of sad…

I would like to encourage people to grow from seed

  • if they have never grown something from seed

grow things from seed

  • collect and pass them to inspire people to get more in touch with how plants grow

natural cycle of them growing and blooming and dying!

Plants die

people get so upset. Well that’s just the nature of plants. 

Perennial comes back every year… things happen even perennials die

then you have space to plant something else.

That’s so true, my sage plant died and I was crushed… 

How do we connect with you?

The Perennial Matchmaker: Create Amazing Combinations with Your Favorite Perennials

The Perennial Matchmaker: Create Amazing Combinations with Your Favorite Perennials

Blog is hayefield.com

Hayefield Farm Nancy J. Ondra gardener

links to pinterest


etsy shop

I blog once a month!

That’s sounds awesome, not so intimidating.

I participate in bloom day

March and April though October

My November thing I like to give away seeds so I have a seed giveaway for readers!

Listeners if you do get one of Nan’s wonderful books make sure you review it on amazon because that’s so crucial for authors!

The Organic Gardener Podcast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.

About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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