Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dark Side of the Garden

They are an oddity in the garden, striking in some settings. Black plants are the basis for the occasional Goth garden, along with some poisonous plants. I use dark foliage and blossoms for impact in my garden.

Black Plants is the title of a new book by Paul Bonine. Grumpy Gardener gave him a bad review -- well, not Mr. Bonine, but the publisher for insisting Bonine include plants that are not black, showing agapanthus as an example. I agree. 

My 'Storm Cloud' is a lovely dark blue, but it isn't black.

Most plants classified as 'black' are actually maroon, or darkest blue, or deep purple. The stems of Purple Swirl Datura are a shiny lacquered black and the buds are very dark.

'Black' Tulips are generally maroon or purple, like 'Queen of Night,' shown here in my garden from a previous year when I still believed I could grow tulips. The light shining on them will vary the color. Late evenings, they do look black.

The closest to true black that I have grown was 'Bowles Black ' violas. The problem with the violas was that I didn't plan well for companions and they kind of faded into the background. Black flowers in a grouping will leave a black hole appearance in the garden from a distance.

Black Pearl peppers are a fun garden oddity. The immature fruit is black, as are the leaves. The blossoms are deepest lovely purple. When the fruit matures, it turns bright red. Red companions are needed with these ornamental peppers. I used Oxblood lilies and Salvia coccinea.

I would not go so far as to call purple foliage black, so despite its great beauty as a companion to other plants, Alternanthera dentata is purple, not black. I used it everywhere, for shadows in the garden. Castor Bean is another purple, I didn't plant it this year because of the puppy.

Colocasia 'Black Magic' makes a good show of blackish leaves; purple in sunlight.Black Magic by the Fountain

I'm off to thumb through the latest catalogs to find more black plants. What are yours?

The Oregonian video with Mr. Bonine, interviewed by Anne Jaegar.

Oregonian article by Kim Pokorny listing Black Plants

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dare You Enter the Haunted Woods?

Spanish Moss hangs like ghostly cobwebs on Live Oak trees where there is enough moisture to support it. The nearer a water source, the thicker the moss. Trees at the bottom of a slope have more Tillandsia usneoides than those farther up. An epiphytic plant, it requires another plant as support and gathers nutrients and water from the air.

A trail leads uphill from the Live Oaks to the entrance to the shadowy woods. A foxes' earth lies within these woods, and many other creatures make their home here. At the top of the hill is a plum thicket to the right where deer sometimes bed, and a grove of beautyberry.

A tree, struck by lightning, guards the entrance, holding out sinewy arms and twiggy fingers to grab unsuspecting ones who venture close.

Magical mushroom, or maybe just a Russula?
Rose hips and wicked thorns

Can you see the tiny point of light inside this hollow tree?

Have a Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What Kind of Gardener Are You?

Got It All Together:
•Has a plan on paper
•Sticks to the plan
•Buys new, improved hybrids from reputable dealers
•Beds have neat edges
•Pulls out plants that fail to perform as expected
•Knows the botanical name of all plants, plus genus and family
•Looks elegant sitting under garden pergola sipping iced tea.

Trying to Keep It Together:
•Has a plan
•Easily distracted at garden centers, deviates from plan
•Plants seeds from someone's beautiful new hybrid which doesn't come true
•Has neat edges most of the time
•Some plants just die without warning
•Buys by color; if it fits the palette the name is not important, nor are the plant's needs
•Hopes visiting children will not trample flower beds during cookout.

Having Fun in the Garden:
•Plan in the gardener's head; loses notes
•Plants where there's a space
•Grows mostly old, tried and true from seeds and divisions
•Bed edges expand to accomodate new plants, leaves newcomer weeds to make sure they aren't 'something.'
•Encourages plants that struggle but yanks out diseased
•Knows the common name, sometimes can remember the latin name
•Permanently stained right thumbnail, hopes white gloves for social occasions make a comeback.

Grandmother in the Garden:
•Have a plan, on paper; can't find it.
•Plan is flawed -- forgot actual bloom dates are not comparable to PNW and Zone 5 gardens where I lifted ideas.
•Forget to plant on time; hanging on to 3-year old seeds, just in case. Seeds do get mixed up, hence the pink poppies in the orange bed.
•Bed edges flex: more than 30 sq. ft. of grass to dig, well, you know.
•Frequent searches for articles showing latest color combos, hoping my more bizarre palettes will turn up as suddenly fashionable.
•Can usually identify every plant as familiar, forgot the name. I'll think of it tomorrow.
•Climbs on something tall or lies on stomach to get a better view with fewer weeds when making photos.
•Know in my heart that the finest gardens have 'off' seasons and that the humblest gardens sometimes harbor most beautiful blossoms.

SCGardener added a fifth Gardener:

Horticulturist with a garden:
•Remember what they say about cobbler's children and their shoes?
•Has a plan, can't read for all the erasures and revisions.
•Acquires plants in many licit and semi-licit means. Good nurseries, mail-order, flea markets, seed swaps, over the fence, plant sales, rustling. (I knew a guy who smuggled Mahonias from the UK in his dirty laundry socks.)
•The more unusual the better. Although common can be good too. Oh, heck, it's a plant. I'll find a home for it.
•Has a small (or not so small) nursery of plants in pots waiting to find homes.
•Knows the names, is mistakenly sure that they can remember all the cultivar names.
•Weeds? Pokeweed is kinda pretty don't you think? Did you know you can eat lambsquarters and purslane?
•Knows all the garden rules. Believes firmly that they can break them with sheer determination. Sometimes it works.
•Every single pair of jeans they own has permanent knee stains.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Variegation: Plants of Many Colors

In September, Lycoris radiata grew up through Persian Shield for a new look, shown here with Licorice plant.

Next year, I want many more white and green caladiums to plant with Hydrangea 'Mariesii Varigata.'

'Bengal Tiger' cannas mix well with tropicals as well as annuals, shown above with crinum and darker cannas, below with tithonia, bulbine and purple heart.

This post is in response to Gardening Gone Wild's Plant Pick of the Month, Variegated Foliage. While most of these plants are still untouched by frost, some of these photos are from September and earlier October.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Texas Native Plant Week: Ageratina species

On this last day of Texas Native Plant Week, I started a list of Texas Natives also found here at my place. I stopped at 30, including a number of trees, not breaking down Quercus into the many oaks, not the Hollies.

The first wildflower on the list I read at a Texas site was Ageratina havanensis. I found an Ageratina species, possibly Ageratina aromatica, on one of my plant searches the other day, blooming on the west side of a fence that backs up to a pine thicket.

The name has changed from Eupatorium to Ageratina. It is related to Joe Pye weed and boneset, recognized by the lack of petals around the ray flowers. Ageratina altissima causes poisoning of cattle. When passed to people in milk, it causes 'milk sickness,' reported to have caused the death of Abraham Lincoln's mother when he was only nine years old. This loss along with some other deaths of family members was believed to have contributed to Lincoln's tendency to melancholy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Secret Life of Stones

Large stones are my favorite garden elements. With a little time many interesting non-flowering plants begin to grow on a rock. Embryophytes like ferns and mosses follow lichens, which are a combination of compatible algae and fungi.

Lichens have a good hold on this rock.

Buffy, showing where bits of moss are starting to grow among the lichens. Buffy likes to gnaw crumbling limestone rocks.

One of the stones that have been in my garden longest, this one not only has several kinds of moss, it has common polypody fern and a little spleenwort. I did nothing to attract the ferns; moss was encouraged with leftover buttermilk poured on every stone.

Notice little fingers of the moss beginning to spread.

Bare rocks with fossils are interesting. Our limestone rocks underground hold many different sea creatures from the time when the coastal plain was under the sea. Imprints of mussel or clam shells are commonly seen.

Algae growing on this rock is a precursor to lichens and moss.

Water has dissolved limestone in places, leaving depressions, sometimes large enough for a birdbath. Used for a birdbath, this stone, roughly 2 feet square, has moss growing from the constant damp.

Stones are not common on the ground here. They are usually underground. You may see piles of huge limestone rocks along the side of a cleared field where they were dug out to make cultivation easier. The stones in my front beds were mostly dug in one field and hauled in.

Stones hold the history of the World. Thank you for looking at my Rocks, as precious to me as Diamonds.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ten Reasons I Like Your Blogs

All About You, You, You -- not Me Me: 10 Reasons I Like Your Blogs

Janie tagged me for a 'things you don't know about me' meme. Ten things about me, besides that I am beautiful, wealthy and clever; mother of the Prettiest Baby in the World, live at the Center of the Universe, read music and play the piano, have grown tulips in the South, got our first computer in 1989, was quoted in a garden book, and once worked in a library?

Okay, so I feel beautiful on the inside and the Prettiest Baby in the World is now middle-aged and little children call him PawPaw. I'm wealthy in things that matter, like seeds, and I've come this far without serious mishap.

Enough about me, let's talk about You. Ten reasons I like Your Blog:

1. It's interesting without being cluttered. A new post is the first thing seen below the header photo. Everything is easy for us shortsighted folk to take in.

2. There is a lovely blogger who put her music widget at the top, turned OFF. She invites visitors to turn it ON if they like music while they look at her tablesettings and such. It makes her blog load much faster.
No scrambling here to find the music shutoff button when it's after midnight and a sudden blare of noise wakes the whole household.

3. Your pictures are crisp enough and you make new photos instead of apologizing for poor quality, else you just don't mention the slightly out of focus. You don't show ugly nor dead in the garden, unless you're showing a horticultural oddity.

4. Weather is the last thing you mention in your post instead of the first if it is unpleasant. If it is snowing, you post a pic so I can be glad it never snows here even though it does get cold. I do like to see the photos.

5. Sometimes you include pets or wildlife with your garden as background. It makes the garden come alive. It's hard to capture butterflies; some of you do it so well. Meems has some beautiful butterflies this week.

6. Leaving a comment on your blog is a joy. If you've had trouble with spam, you let an easy word widget do the screening, OR require approval, but not both. I'm happy when neither is necessary and I'm not sitting here clicking, typing a silly word that the letters aren't clear, clicking, typing, clicking, clicking again and then left with a feeling of inadequacy because I still have to be approved.

7. Every now and then you change the appearance of your blog and freshen the little quotes and things. You show the broad view of your garden as well as a close-up or three.

8. An occasional simple recipe using the veggies you've grown is fun to read. Midge and Moss mentioned artichokes in a recent post.

9. Your advice is from personal experience or documented sources. The Queen of Seaford mentions great references in an unobtrusive way.

10. There is information near the top of your sidebar that tells me where you are. Not the longitude and latitude, nor your street address, but a general sense of the part of the world, the area of the country where you are found. I'm forgetful; no matter how many times I visit, I may confuse you with someone else. There are just so many ways to say 'The Garden...

I click first to read the blog before I click for a pick. You get points for the first, I get points with the second click. I couldn't do it without You, You, You.

The Meme stops here. We need to talk Gardening. Love your blogs, All of You.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Everybody Inside Out of the Wind!

As a cool wind blew from the north, efforts to bring in tender plants increased. Cuttings yet to be taken were hastily snipped and pots were lined up for the begonias and other tenderlings that needed to come inside. A clump of lemon grass was dug, not because cymbopogon can't return from its roots, but the cat likes to chew it.

Ike the Cat has already pushed pots off the north bench, so that area is left bare for now except for a heavy pot he can't push over. Ike has the idea that the greenhouse is a huge cattery, where we can hang out in winter, out of the wind, and soak up sun. Ike has a bed over behind the large pots at the end  where the dog, who believes the greenhouse is some kind of gymnasium, can't reach him.

Cuttings of Porterweed, Alternanthera, white Shrimp Plant and Persian Shield are in containers of water. Cuttings in water lasted through the winter last year, to be recut and rooted in soil in late winter/early spring. White shrimp plant needs to be potted in soil, to bloom during the winter as it requires short days for bloom. It reaches great heights in the garden, but never blooms. Persian Shield will also bloom in the greenhouse, but the blooms are of no consequence other than being an oddity.

I potted one pot of cardamon ginger just for the fragrance, and two pots of Alpinia for the appearance. The gingers will return in spring from the roots. Curcuma and butterfly ginger actually need a rest period, so potting them for appearance is futile. The potted specimens grew on no faster last spring than the ones outside. I potted Black Magic colocasia just for the appearance.

Are so many Begonias excessive? I like Begonias, Anthuriums, too. The green pots of begonia were double-potted in the ground and there is still sand on the pots.

Ground orchid, tibouchina and firecracker plant continue to bloom. Last year the epiphyllums bloomed after they came inside. They have tiny buds now. I look forward to the fragrant white blooms, which will bloom once, late at night in about three weeks.

Ground Orchid


Firecracker Fern

Can you find Ike of the Jungle in this picture?

The fountain, which was on the floor last year, is on a shelf where the dog can't drink from it. She gets trash in the fountain and clogs the pump.

The cat believes the fountain is his personal water hole. I am hopeful that the fountain adds the least bit of humidity. It has a pleasant sound, anyhow.

Before there was a little greenhouse here, plants went in the unheated utility room in front of east facing windows. Seedlings in spring were trundled in and out of the tool shed on a kitchen trolley. There is still work to be done, but the most tender plants are safely inside. Tiny cuttings are tucked here and there.