Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On the Whole I'd Rather Have a Philadelphus

Dogwood, Cornus florida  and English Dogwood Philadelphus inodorata,
also commonly called Mock Orange.

Now that Dogwoods are almost done with bloom and Philadelphus are coming into full bloom,
I'm thinking to plant more Mock Orange.
Maybe a double Phildelphus with that sweet fragrance that these do not have.

This dogwood planted itself smack up against the Mock Orange.
I like them blooming together so well I let it stay.
Phildelphus has a longer period of bloom so we have white blossoms well into spring.

Phildelphus has a graceful, arching habit.

Phildelphus has actual petals and yellow stamens.

Dogwood has more horizontal, stiff branches.

Dogwood has white bracts with tiny flowers in the center.

Leaves of the two have a similar shape and vein pattern.

Both are great plants. I'm happy to have both. I need more Mock Orange, or
English Dogwood as Mama called it. Hers was double and very fragrant.

Monday, March 28, 2011

After the Storm

Last evening it looked as if another storm was coming. The weather radio confirmed that we were under a severe thunderstorm watch. I left for Church just a few minutes early. By the time I turned on  Church Road, lightning was flashing all around and rain was pouring. I sat in the churchyard waiting when I head something strike the car. I wondered if some child was out in the rain throwing stones and then realized it was hail which lasted less than five minutes.

I waited in the car until one minute before the service was to begin -- everybody else was there early because there was a supper after the service. I looked around the car for something to protect me from pouring rain. There was a pair of short socks under the seat. I put them in my purse. I leapt into the flooding churchyard with my head protected by a thick cotton bathmat that I keep in the back seat for the dog to sit on. Inside, I removed my soaked shoes in the foyer, dried my feet with the dryer side of the bathmat and put on the socks. A few people noticed my footwear as I hurried to the piano.

I didn't stay for supper. On the way home, there were trees down in places and smoke over the road near the crossroad. I heard later that the storm blew the windows out of a mobile home near where I saw the commotion. Nearer home there were leaves and debris everywhere. Our driveway was littered with small limbs and leafy twigs. The electricity was off. Trees had fallen on a powerline in a yard about a mile away.

The only real damage we've found is to the greenhouse. Large hail made holes in roof panels on the north side, the doors and side panels. Panels on the south wall and south roof were blown out. and damaged. I'm still searching for two of the panels.

Here's the good news. Everything was outside except a few cuttings of no real consequence and a single flat with tiny seedlings of Purple Datura, Pride of Barbados and Candlesticks. They were not harmed.  Some little pots of Datura that I'd pricked out were overturned and lost some soil but they are fixed now. My plants are safe. Polycarb panels are replaceable.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dribblers, Sprinklers, Soakers

Dribblers -- drilled pipes with a tee on the end for stability and threaded ends for a hose.
Two can be connected for a longer span.
The idea for these came from Janie Varley.

If you pick them up with the drilled holes away from you, you can move a dribbler
a short distance without getting wet, unlike moving a sprinkler. With the holes up, it's a stationary sprinkler. Holes down, water goes straight down along a row.
All the soakers that ooze have been discarded here, past their usefulness and full of holes.
I like flexible 1/2" soaker hoses with holes.
They usually sell out fast in garden centers and hardware stores here.

A bulb catalog came in the mail this week. In the midst of dragging out a dozen hoses with accompanying dribblers, sprinklers and soakers and opening in-ground water supply outlets
I was making plans for fall planting. 


Baby Moon

Yellow Cheerfulness is also one of last to bloom.
Albus plenus odoratus was in a mowing accident; 
we may not see blooms of it for a year or so. Need more of all these.
I'm waiting for Salome who usually pretends she isn't going to bloom, surprise!

 When I watered part of the Upper Garden this birdbath caught water.
This is a decorative piece; the working birdbaths have constant dripping
water for the birds. 

Nearby I noticed that 'Pink Bells' are blooming. From a Hyacinthoides hispanica
mixture planted some years ago only the pink survive so we have no
'Blue Bells' in the garden. Another plant failed to live
up to its hype of 'luscious naturalized woodland meadows and rivers.'
Just a dribble of pink among emerging ginger foliage, but interesting to see.

Starting to water did the trick. We got 0.7" rainfall today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Butterflies on Azaleas -- and Picks Poll Results

I was delighted to see butterflies on Azaleas, Roses and Bath's Pinks today.

A dark Swallowtail was here just a moment ago!

They showed up in twos and threes, Tigers and Darks and an
occasional Yellow Sulphur. Only Tigers posed. 

This butterfly stopped to rest on a pollen dusted camellia bush.

Notice dark Sweetshrub blooms against the azaleas.

Hot dry weather is already drying up the first azaleas to open. Mr. Butterfly still found nectar. 

I bought these white as Delaware White Azaleas. Not.
They're pretty, though.

First open on George L. Tabor.
Yellow leaves from drought.

Judge Solomon, here for fifty years.
My fav of the Indicas.

Results of the informal poll on Picks on Blotanical.
Of 18 who took part:

One comments and does not pick.
Two were not members of Blotanical.
Seven said they picked from their list of Faves.

Eight said they're all over the place, from choices of
New, Most Faved, My Faves and Alphabetical List.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Cloud of White Dogwoods Moves Northward

Bird-planted dogwood  I moved from the pumphouse edge when it was tiny.

Farther North Dogwoods will usher in Easter. They opened here to usher in Spring, great clouds of white in gardens and woods. Cornus florida are a Georgia native and grow in much of the Eastern USA.

Neighbors told me mixed stories of success in moving native dogwoods from the woods. On the road to the church, a line of large dogwoods march along the creek bank in the McVey yard. That neighbor and her MIL moved them from the woods. She had a terrible case of poison ivy to show for it. Another neighbor told me of never being able to get dogwoods to survive a move.

Dogwood here started with two that survived when her nephew helped my MIL move some from the woods after several failures some 60 years ago. The one above grows high into live oaks that came up around it. At right you can see the dark twisted multiple trunks of the second one which is obscured by a big red cedar. Seeds from these trees account for smaller dogwoods dotted around the garden.

The dogwood above is one that I grew from seed and moved
it and its twin across the way while it was small.
They are about 5 years old and blooming for the first time.
The one in the distance is bird-planted. The camellia at right is from seed.

Closer view of the big dogwood in the picture above.
I encouraged the self-planted oak before the dogwood appeared.

Online, there are many sources of information on stratifying and scarifying dogwood seeds gathered in autumn. My methods are simple. When the red seeds begin to fall to the ground I gather them and push them into the ground about an inch deep where I want them to grow. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 years for them to self-stratify but they will come up eventually.  Bird-planted seeds stratify in the bird gut and readily sprout.

Another bird-planted dogwood in front of loropetalum.
This one is about ten years old. Their first years average about one foot a year.
The pale yellowish foliage behind is new growth of a live oak.

Seedling in the foreground from seeds in a bed. I moved its companions.
Dogwoods in the background are seeds I planted 15 or more years ago. 

 Bird-planted dogwood on the right. When I see the little heart-shaped veined leaves,
I can hardly bear to pull up a stray seedling and discard.

Waiting for azaleas to catch up.

Most of the literature states that dogwoods require an acid soil and that lime is sure death to them. I planted a Philadelphus and gave it a good dollop of lime its first year here. The next year a dogwood seed dropped by a bird came up in the middle of the planting spot and thrived.

Philadelphus inodorata growing in harmony with a bird-planted dogwood.
The dogwood blooms first. Blooms of Phildelphus follow and reach up into the
dogwood to keep white blossoms going for a longer time.

Information about more formal methods of growing dogwoods can be found in this Gardening Note from North Carolina State University.
 Legends and superstitions are connected with the dogwood. My friend asked the bulldozer operator preparing the site for their new house to leave as many dogwoods on the lot as he could. "Lady," he said, "I don't push up dogwoods. It's bad luck!"

In Jesus' time, the dogwood grew
To a stately size and a lovely hue.
'Twas strong and firm it's branches interwoven
For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen.
Seeing the distress at this use of their wood
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
"Never again shall the dogwood grow
Large enough to be used so.
Slender and twisted, it shall be
With blossoms like the cross for all to see.
As blood stains the petals marked in brown
The blossom's center wears a thorny crown.
All who see it will remember Me
Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree.
Cherished and protected, this tree shall be
A reminder to all of My agony." -- author unknown
This is just a legend: a nice poem without Biblical basis.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Almost Showtime -- Preview of Attractions

We are nearing the time of year when all of South Georgia turns into fairyland.
The most humble homesteads turn into virtual bowers overrun with
wisteria, spiraea, azaleas, camellias, loropetalum and dogwoods.

Pink Pearl azalea behind a Sweet Shrub's tiny
brown fruity blossoms.

Spiraea in the near view; wads of contained wisteria in the distance.

Dogwoods are opening just ahead of most of the azaleas. Loropetalum is on the way out.
If you were here, we'd stroll through the Oval Lawn to examine every little sprout and shoot in the Upper Garden holding promises of late spring and early summer delights including hydrangeas.

I'll save the story of our Dogwoods for another post.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ovenproof Annuals

California Poppies are bullet-proof in my garden. I scatter seed. They reseed themselves where they want to grow. The borders had to be extended into the lawn to accommodate many of them. It was hard not to show you the very first, single orange blossom. Today several plants had a bloom so it's time to show and tell. They last well into summer's heat, longer than somniferum and corn poppies which have a short life here.

I pulled out my pink notebook of sketches, clippings and articles concerning summer annuals that are virtually ovenproof to plan for annuals to fill out beds of perennials, bulbs and shrubs. It may be early to plant but not too early to plan. Here is the short list of some of the favs planted here every year.

Melampodium, 2008.

Yellow melampodium self sows but isn't a thug. Seedlings transplant easily and literally come up blooming. It isn't attractive to butterflies. It doesn't have to be deadheaded. It generally lasts to frost. Sometimes I pull the leggier ones to make more room for late fall blooming perennials to come to the front.

July 31, 2009. on far right: Chartreuse alternanthera and the larger red, still green, at edge of a bed.
Alternanthera, commonly called Joseph's Coat is not really an annual but a tender perennial. I keep cuttings over the winter in a cup of water. Leaf colors vary. The flowers are usually seen in winter in the greenhouse, rarely in the garden. Flowers are shaped like clover, much smaller than a clover blossom and fairly insignificant.
The biggest alternanthera cultivar is purple and showy. The red is intermediate and prone to get eaten back mid-summer by insects while it is green. Come fall, it puts out again and turns bright red. Chartreuse is my very favorite despite its small size.

Madagascar periwinkle on right from 2010.
Perennial Brazilian ruellia on left.
I've already planted out the ruellia for this year.
It has two blossoms.

Madagascar periwinkle, Catharanthus roseus. Another reseeder, it requires warm weather to sprout and thrive. Requiring light to germinate, it is encouraged by gently stirring the soil where periwinkles grew the previous year.

If you are planting trays of nursery-grown plants, wait for hot weather to plant them out. Periwinkles come in various shades of red, pink, purple and white, with or without an eye.

Wax begonia with bronze foliage on the right in 2009.
Small pieces of Chartreuse alternanthera.

Wax Begonia
In dry conditions, wax begonias are more forgiving where impatiens might faint and fall over when water is scant. Begonias will grow in sun or shade. They perform better for me with some shade.

Begonia semperflorens are frequently sold as annual plants. The seed, fine as dust is not something I've tried to grow. A  couple of pots kept inside through the winter will provide plenty of cuttings that are easy to grow.

Dwarf, intermediate or giant Marigolds? All have a role to plan in annual beds. I like to start some seed toward the end of summer to plant where I might otherwise plant mums.

Zinnias from a previous year, popular with butterflies.

Who doesn't know zinnias? Mixed colors or groups of all one color?

Laura Bush Petunias have already seeded themselves into cracks along the driveway planters. I hope to see them elsewhere. The only thing about petunias is that planted near the house, they smell like a wet dog when it rains.

I'll wait to see if Tithonia reseeds this year. Butterflies love it.

Nicotiana is self planted and transplanted from the lawn to suitable locations. It tends to play out early and I cut it back or pull the leggy plants.

What are your favorite annuals for summer's heat?

Back in the winter when it was time to plant pansies, I failed to buy any. Little violas have replanted themselves both in beds where they were last winter and in the lawn. What a wonderful Spring treat!
These are not ovenproof but will last well into May.

Self-seeded Violas, 2011. Blooming today. Too cute.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Oh, Compost!

One of the chores on today's list was to sift compost.

A square of 1/2 inch hardware cloth makes a good screen for sifting out sticks and undecayed matter. The compost we screened today is mostly chipped wood dumped over at woods' edge by the people who cut the right of way. We let it decay for some years and then brought what was left nearer the point of use. Next to that pile is composted gin trash, several years old. I mix the two.

Buffy loves sifting compost.

Getting those pieces broken down takes a large paw.

Hard work requires frequent breaks so as not to overheat.
Today's temps reached 80F.

When I sift compost, I pile the rough material over to the side to break down further. Next spring we'll pile it back the other way. During the summer I decorate the pile with daylily blooms picked at days end so I don't have to look at 'soggy socks' the next morning but go straight to admire fresh blossoms. I add pine cones to the pile when I'm raking. Pine cones break down in one year to make good compost.

Screened and mixed, it's ready. We lost a little when Buffy
exhuberantly dug in the mixing process, but we have plenty.

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Please join in.