Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bounty of the Land

I hope your Easter was glorious. I have a cold, but made it to Church.

I give thanks that Spring is here and signs of what will be a bounteous harvest are evident.

Pear trees are blooming.

Rabbit-eye blueberries have tiny berries and still have blooms as well.

Up close with the various stages of blooms and fruit and new leaves. 

 This bee puts himself totally into his work.

I was afraid the earliest blooms would be killed by frost.
We'll have a long blueberry season with the earliest to the latest.

The grapevine at the end is putting out new leaves.
I didn't give it a severe pruning in January, just neatened it up.
Tiny peaches the size of a pea are on the trees, which have leafed out.
Figs have tiny nubs where fruit will grow, and half-sized leaves.
Pecans, the last trees to put on leaves in the spring are doing so. We will soon be yellow with pollen.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Will the Easter Bunny bring Bright Colors?

I went out a day early to see what is in bloom for Easter. 
Butterflies are visiting the blooms left on Azaleas that bloomed early this year and were cold-nipped.
I didn't notice the Shrimp Plant at left before, It will attract hummingbirds who may come by.
This bunny holds a pot of Sedum acre and sits in a bed thick with  Chickweed and Florida Betony, both undesirable. Chickweed dies back quickly. I pull all the Florida Betony I can before it dies back in the heat because it leaves those awful white roots to come again next year. Hyacinth foliage is ripening and the roses in front of bunny have buds, no flowers yet.
This spricot color Amaryllis may not open in time for Easter.
Its first bud was killed by frost when I failed to cover it.
The Greenhouse Hippeastrums are gone. There are other buds about the garden but this one is nearest bloom. Brent and Becky call Amaryllis "Tulips for the South." Spectacularly beautiful but costlier than tulips, I guess if your Hippeastrums come back year after year and tulips act as annuals, the cost evens out after a while.
I planted a bag of 50 Daffodils in the fall. Daffodils already here were shy
to bloom except for those in microclimates that bloomed early.
These were good bulbs, double nosed, so I counted more than 50 blossoms
here and in another bed not seen here.
I like my daffodil groups to 'see' one another.
I plant my daffodils differently than recommended patterns. I plant a small
bed of maybe 25, usually on the end of an established border.
Then I put another 5 or 10 not far away to draw the eye. 
Spiderwort can be counted on for early bloom. When they get tattered, I
cut them to the ground.
The cold spared a few Camellias that were under foliage.
Warm weather will take out the late bloomers.
From a distance, California Poppies might pass for tulips to the
untrained eye. Here they are 'looking' at another Daffodil bed.
Gerbera seedling that was supposed to be white. Well, it was seed from a
white Gerbera. You know the story of Mendel and the peas. The Sweet
Williams behind it were seed from a white Dianthus. I take my chances.
Wisteria is even prettier when it starts to leaf out.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Eggs in the Nest of a Living Fossil

I wasn't eggspecting living Fossil Eggs when I searched in the nest of a cycad.

This is a female cycad. Male cycads form a pointed cone when they bloom.

The seeds were snug under a blanket of fluffy stuff with sharp spines attached. 
The fronds of a cycad have sharp ends, discouraging nest robbers.

There were seeds of all sizes.

With Ike's able help, I floated the seeds in a container of water. The bigger seeds sank to the bottom. Those should be viable seeds with an embryo.

Smaller seeds floated. I put them in a separate container to see
if they take up water and sink.

We will soak the big seeds 2-3 days until the thick orange seed coat which contains growth inhibitors softens. We will scrape off the orange stuff,  plant the seeds partly exposed and wait for sprouts.

Mother cycad is the one to the rear. The near, smaller one was a pup from my neighbor's cycad that rooted over the winter 2011. Cycads in the gardenare already forming this year's fronds.

Happy Easter.
Update: I found more information. One expert suggested cutting open seeds to see if they contained a viable embryo, if you didn't mind sacrificing a seed. Curiosity got the best of me, so I cut open two small seeds to see what was in there.
Hollow, just as I read. There is something in there -- I hope it is viable, at least in the larger seeds that I intend to plant. In the article I read, it said that the growing embryo will push a root out the star-shaped end of the seed, followed by a leaf. This is not a quick process. I will wait. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Random Tough Plants

While we wait for the very END of possible frost to set out tender annuals, some perennials in the Deep South just know when it is time to start Spring.

A pot of Lantana montevidensis wintered over in the greenhouse with
Salvia farinacea gave these a head start on their companions who
wintered in the open garden.
Lantana montevidensis under pine trees has bloomed
all winter here for the delight of random butterflies who ventured out
on warm days. More tender Yellow Lantana has new sprouts emerging.

 Purple Heart and California Poppies. Setcreasea pallida or  Setcrease purpurea, perennial here, used as an annual farther north. I intend to explore Purple heart as more than edging for beds this year. California poppies Eschscholzia californica,  native in the far west, seed about here, charming.

 Shrimp plant  Justicia brandegeeana enjoyed our mild winter and is blooming everywhere. White Shrimp plant is blooming in the greenhouse, just a tad more tender but root hardy outside. I never planted the yellow kind; Mama grew it as a container plant. The grassy green plant is Crocosmia.
I pull it out by handfuls around desirable plants but it makes spotx of green through the winter.

Sweet William Dianthus barbatus  bridges the gap between the end of
Azalea season and summer annuals as a butterfly nectar plant. I started
new plants from  seed that I hope are white. Technically a biennial, these
 old plants survived several winters under a Live Oak.

Gerbera Daisies are blooming in the garden and so are those newly
set out that I grew in the greenhouse from seed.

Gerberas are a South African native and enjoy cool weather.

Monday, March 25, 2013



Here, too. Yesterday was so warm; today the wind is like a knife on my cheek. Rock Rose and her commentaires said just what I was thinking. Blogger discouraged my comment, so I am trying a different path. We call it 'Blackberry Winter' and the 'Easter Cold Spell' in the South. Time to bring the tender plants back inside and cover those that have tender new growth.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spiraeas Make my Head Bizzy

When I try to remember which Spiraea is which, I get dizzy. I am going to give you a close-up look at my white spireas  Spiraea prunifolia and S. thunbergia.

 S. prunifolia 'Plena' distinguished by the little round button-like clusters of what looks like tiny roses.

Old house places frequently have Formosa azaleas and spirea
alternating, now grown into great wads of pink and white.

This is usually called called 'Bridal Wreath' spirea. I've know brides who planned their wedding around the bloom of Spiraea.


Spiraea thunbergii, commonly called 'Baby's Breath' spirea. This plant is
smaller, twiggy, with blue-green leaves as compared to Bridal Wreath spirea.
I no longer grow the clustered single flowers form S. Vanhouttei, also a Southern classic.

Why do I spell spirea as Spiraea sometimes? Spiraea is the latin name, spirea is the household name. Spiraea is of the Rosacea family, remember the flowers of S. prunifolia looked like little roses?

In the summer we'll take a look at S. bumalda, spirea with pink flowers.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A New View through Wisteria

Wisteria is a thug albeit a beautiful, fragrant thug.

Wisteria has a smoky fragrance. You don't have to be really close to notice.

Wisteria as you approach our house. I hacked at this thug all winter, cutting back to what I knew for sure were buds. I hacked at boxwoods. You can tell by the bare earth on the left how far back I cut. 

The other day I had a sudden thought: what if I made an opening through the boxwood? I pruned out some limbs, bobbed back the boxwood and now the pets have a new tunnel and I have a new axis.

I did not finish; it will take a summer of work. The long sprouts get bobbed back all summer or they reach out to trees. Runners come out on the ground. An uncontained wisteria vine can strangle a tree.

The view through the center of the wisteria is toward a curved metal bench in front of an ancient juniper (red cedar). Behind the fence is what MIL used to call 'the patch' dotted with pecan trees. In summer it is nothing more than rough lawn. The view from the bench through the wisteria has flowers all year in the front garden, winter camellias, summer gardenias, the last flowers of fall.

There was another tangle of wisteria and other thugs including catbrier just past this dogwood tree. We took it out despite there being a white wisteria in the mix because I couldn't keep all the vines out of the trees and off the fence. I planted a white crape myrtle (the bunch of sticks this side of the wisteria surrounded by non-flowering daffodils).

This is the view looking toward the highway. I'll be pruning boxwoods for a while until they fill in.  Occasional wisteria blossoms appear all summer once this big wave of bloom is done.

There is more wisteria in the mass of boxwoods at left. I just prune them away from the trees and the box is seven feet tall in the center. I read somewhere once that a famous Botanical Garden in New York had a crew of several men to keep their wisterias pruned. Here there's just one old woman, but I try to keep up. Do you think it is worthwhile?

Joining the meme at Tootsie Time to Flaunt my Flowers: Fertilizer Friday though Wisteria needs no fertilizer.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Load of Petalums

Some time ago when i wrote about Loropetalum, someone commented that her yard man called them 'Load of Petalums.' They do carry a load of those little fringes.

Let's start with white loropetalum. Fifteen years ago when I first knew about these shrubs, the famous Horticulture Professor wrote in his book that the new pink loropetalums that were all the landscape rave, showed great promise but the white were of little consequence. I think the white are beautiful. You can see many little buds yet to open. I didn't make a picture of the whole shrub, the size of a minibus, because it hasn't come into its full spring glory just yet.  

Loropetalums have a long bloom time. They start ahead of azaleas and keep going into summer. About August they put on a new show.

The lighter pinks have green foliage. In this particular location I have
a pink and a darker fuchsia color. The pink is slower growing.

The fuchsia color has darker leaves. New leaves are a dark reddish purple.
I plan to move a third Loropetalum between these two, to the rear.
The tree in the background is a fruiting pear.

When I planted these more than 10 years ago, we thought Loropetalums were manageable shrubs.
Turned out they grow into trees except for a few dwarf types. Landscapers in town keep them clipped into rounds and pillboxes. I prefer mine to grow as they will and just prune the lower branches. I first say this same arrangement of three on a Park Seed web site. I immediately started pruning.

These shrubs are not quite tree size, but I'm already pruning from the bottom. Sometimes they need redirecting to grow upright. The one on the right will need encouragement.

These are sometimes called by the common name, Chinese Fringe Flower, which gets confused with the Chinese Fringe Tree, Chionanthus. Better to call them by the botanical name, Loropetalum.
Evergreen in zones 7-10, root hardy farther north. Do they grow in your area?