Monday, June 30, 2014

Melampodium, Sweet Butter Daisy

Sweet little nickel sized blooms and coarse bright green flowers make Melampodium a good mixer. It reseeds freely. Volunteers in unwanted locations transplant easily. You can see by the little Checkerspot that it may attract some beneficial insects. This photo is from last July.

Melampodium reseeded in the crack between a little brick ruins wall and the driveway. It literally comes up blooming. The spent flowers shed off so it doesn't have to be deadheaded. That's important in hot weather.

The plants eventually reach about two feet tall in rich soil. Last year I pulled them all on November 14 so that the inevitable frost on the 15th didn't leave so many dead plants in sight. That's four and a half months of non-stop bloom and no care. They don't mind a little drought.

I think there is a white version if you are not a fan of yellow, but those sunny little  blooms are hard to resist.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Another Big Orange

Orange flowers signal the beginning of true Summer.

Bengal Tiger Canna also goes by the name Tropicana.
The chartreuse striped leaves make an attractive plant even
before the orange flowers show up.

Well, he whopped me on the back and he says, “Buddy, have a drink!” “Well,” I says, “I believe I will have another big orange.” And I got it and set back down.-- Andy Griffith, What It Was, Was Football, 1953.

Finally I was able to see a Black Swallowtail on Pride of Barbados getting a taste of Big Orange. I saw a Black Swallowtail yesterday on lavender Lantana. I hope it's the beginning of a happy Butterfly Summer. I wanted to point her toward Parsley.

Tithonia plants are late this year. There are a few in the Front Garden big enough to set buds. This year I planted some seedling Zinnias, too.

One zinnia has a big bud. I hope it's orange. Perhaps of ten, there will be at least one orange. Butterflies will enjoy any color. There's some muhly grass in this bed for fall delight and Lantana is looking good. I think the daylilies would benefit from cutting back before another round of bloom. They were a great show last month.

Kniphofia has been at its best this year. I did not realize how much water it needed. The daylily is an orange beauty with 'Persian' in its name that I forgot.

Crocosmia, my favorite Thug. 

Another look at Pride of Barbados with Tecoma stans. These tropicals last until frost late in October. It seems like forver before they bloom but we enjoy four months of continuous bloom once they start. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Boxwood for Year Around Interest

Japanese boxwood, Buxus microphylla is hardy to USDA Zone 5. It has been grown in the United States since about 1890 and is the most adaptable of all Boxwood. Leaves are glossy, 1/2 inch wide by 1 inch long, have medium green color when grown in shade. It is an open, quick-growing shrub which can reach 8 ft tall. Plant width is often difficult to determine because of naturally occurring layering. Japanese boxwood is heat tolerant. Pruning can be done to shape plants and increase density any time of the year except six weeks before the average date of the first frost in the fall.

I wrote the above on this blog about 3 years ago. I love Boxwood. I do not love the pruning they require to look nice. There are more than 75 Boxwood here and they all crave pruning.

 One of three I transplanted last year for a more cohesive effect. Many of these are rooted cuttings that were just tucked here and there. Some lived, some died.

Last year I noticed that Boxwood used at the Chelsea show were pruned into squares and rectangles and fewer meatballs. The year before they were huge cloud shapes. This year we're back to carefully clipped rounds. My prediction is that columns are in the future.  Just in case, I am encouraging young Boxwood in the Upper garden to grow into columnar shapes.

This little box is largely unpruned. Boxwood in the Upper Garden lends structure where except for the Azalea hedge and an occasional Camellia many of the plants are deciduous like the Variegated Hydrangea.

These two  are more rounded like the bigger, older specimens nearby. See the glimpse of pink?

Phlox. Every year I mean to divide these and have more of the gaudy pink, midsummer when there are fewer blooms in the Upper Garden.

I am just about over the grassy looking foliage in every picture. I used to think it looked great because it was green during the winter. That was before it started taking over the beds. Crocosmia species, with a lovely orange bloom that attracts butterflies is about to be corraled and given a spot of its own where it doesn't try to choke out young plants and grow through shrubs.  I've pulled out handfuls. I'm about to start pulling baskets full of it, leaving just the ones with the best bloom spikes. 

Late winter.

Early Spring.

This little hedge has been every shape, including
'chickens' on the top.

This morning's chores including pruning the bottom limbs of the Camellia sasanqua on the left where they take off the hat of He-Who-Mows when he drives under. The boxwood hedge at right is on my list of things to prune, soon.

The plant in the center held a surprise this morning.

Crinum Jagus
They smell of Vanilla.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer. Tropicals. Thunderstorms. Blossoms.

It seems like forever when we're waiting for tropical flowers. It seems like forever when we have a dry spell, too. Rains have come again.

Only one Brugmansia bloomed early. The rest are starting to put on buds after coming back from roots. This one is on its second round of blooms, a dozen this time.

All mothers at our Church got a Periwinkle plant in a tiny pot. I put mine in the ground and it is blooming well. Wish I had more of this white with a fuchsia eye.

There are tiny plants reseeding from where they dropped seed last year. None are blooming size yet. Where I wanted Periwinkles and none came up, I pulled back the mulch and gently stirred the soil. New seedlings are everywhere.  

Finally a bloom on Caesalpinia. There are second year Pride of Barbados plants in several spots that I hope will bloom this year. Only one failed to return from the root.

 Tecoma stans is blooming Esperanza's yellow bells in several places. 

Kniphofia plants above are of the same cultivar, one growing in shade and the one on the right in full sun.

Red Pentas are starting to bloom, all back from roots. I usually take cuttings. Prior to a really harsh winter, I got the notion to just see what came back. It was a mistake re pink colors, but now I know which are the hardiest. The red are the Pentas I've grown the longest, from a single plant of Ruby Red years ago. 

I am still waiting for Porterweed Blooms. Only half my Porterweeds returned from roots. I have 3 that wintered in the greenhouse. One of them was blooming when I set them out. That stalk bloomed to the top and now we wait for more.

Duranta has not bloomed yet either, another tropical plant that dies back to roots here. The shrubs look great, just not ready to bloom. 

Tithonia was slow to reseed, too. I was slow to plant Zinnia and Marigold seeds, so no bloom there either.

We anticipate new broods of butterflies any time now. Susie, who works maintains a Butterfly Garden on a plantation north of here, says they're scarce again there, too. We're ready.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Secrets in the Secret Garden

It isn't very visible from the outside. Inside was neglected when I was busy elsewhere. The Secret Garden is surrounded by an overgrown white Loropetalum, Gardenias, Philadelphus, white Crape Myrtle, Hibiscus syriacus and Fig Trees.

Towering over it all is a Juniperus Carolinia shedding constant needles over everything. Pots of Amaryllis face the western sun on the outside.

Inside the shrub cover is a bench where Epiphyllums spend the summer. Epis have increased in number because I root every branch that breaks. People tend not to want to be gifted with a small plant that takes 3 years to bloom nor a giant  blooming plant that is frost tender so there are half a dozen plants. I see signs of tiny buds.

Under the Juniper is a tiny patio of thirty 16" pavers I put down years ago to the west of the pumphouse. A thick blanket of needles and debris built up. I raked them away.

No project here is simple. If the patio table and chairs I was moving are to be scrubbed and returned to the screened porch, then another table and chairs must go there. The old patio table was on the newly cobbled patio on the other side of the tree. Green chairs were waiting in the tool shed.

To get the table to the new location, I had to make staging for 35 pots of Schlumbergera and Rhipsalodopsis, another collection that grows weekly as little pieces get broken and I am compelled to salvage and root every bit.

Cracks between pavers and broken corners filled with glass lozenges and fine gravel.

Glass sparkles in filtered sunlight. This was not a necessary project but it was something I could do in shade.

Last evening I was trying to prepare the area behind the new patio to the right of the secret entrance from the greenhouse side to put an additional bench for summering potted plants. I heard a clink as I struck something hard. I've found more ancient metal. So far I dug a plow point and two pieces of chromed metal joined by a large bolt.

I went back today and tried to dig out something bigger that is jammed by roots. I dug away a Virginia Creeper root 3/4" in diameter. Tree roots are harder to get under and the interesting piece of metal with a bit of green paint and a large bolt hole remains fast.

I don't know why I am out in such hot weather digging up junk metal that will probably have to go with the Scrap Man later. A blog that I was reading today admonished not to think that every rusty pitchfork is a piece of garden art.

Eventually I'll get the table and chairs I'm moving scrubbed up, perhaps a little paint and moved to the front porch.

Then I can sit on the veranda under a ceiling fan, sip lemonade and gaze out on a different view where there are no ancient treasures needing digging.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Rudiments of Rudbeckia hirta

Black eyed Susans are native plants in many states; naturalized in most all the rest and parts of Canada. Biennial, sometimes short lived perennial. In my garden they have a glorious show in June and July and die out in August. I pull them, leaving the seeds for birds and to reseed which they freely do. I start seeing plants during late winter, usually in the grassy paths but enough make the flower beds to make a show by June.

Rudbeckia hirta attracts pollinators and butterflies.

Most of the time the blooms are solid yellow with a single row of ray flowers. Did I mention they are a member of the Aster family?

I noticed these in the Upper Garden that have an extra little row of ray flowers.

Last year we had some with strappy ray flowers:

and some with a mahogany brushstroke:

I look forward to the ones that are different but I don't save seeds to try to 'improve' the lot.

Madagascar Periwinkles are coming up now where I pulled back the mulch and gently stirred the soil to encourage reseeders. Rudbeckia will be a big show of yellow for two months and then everything changes when I pull the Susans and Periwinkles take over in pink and purple in time for the purple haze of fall.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Foliage Followup: Some Favorite Purples

I made an effort to get every rooted thing out of the greenhouse this week. 

Two Persian Shield Strobilanthes dyeranus plants had not found homes.

Neither had all these Purple Hearts found a spot in the garden. Do you call Purple Heart Tradescantia pallida or the familiar name Setcreasea pallida? Mama grew it as a house plant.

I loaded up everything and we set out for empty spots to fill.

Setcreasea found places along the rock wall bed where it could tumble down among other purples and blues: Salvia farinacea and Lantana Montevidensis.

Strobilanthes has a peculiar bloom that shows up in the winter in the greenhouse, rarely in late fall in the garden. Where the blue cone-shaped blooms shedded small leaves grow. Most gardeners snip off those bloom stems. I left these.

Strobilanthes found a spot underneath a white crape myrtle -- notice the white petals that fell -- where there was already Purple Heart and Pandora's Box, a cream daylily with a purple eye.

I really like these purples together.

There's another purple growing in the greenhouse floor that does so happily year 'round even in the hottest days of summer and doesn't blink when it's pressed against the panes when outside temps are freezing. Alternanthera dentata 'Rubiginosa' which goes by names like Bloodleaf and Christmas Clover.

Last year 'Rubiginosa' was growing both inside and outside. Looking back over previous years' use of this plant, I see I should be rooting pieces of it like crazy. It is cold tender and generally does not return from roots. The white Lantana in the picture above did not return either, except for a single piece. I have cuttings rooting from the sturdier plant in the front garden.

 Strobilanthes, Setcreasea and Alternanthera 'Rubiginosa' are my favorite purple foliage plants for seasonal displays.

Do you use plants with purple foliage? Which are your favorites?