Search This Blog

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In the garden today...

A short stroll around the garden today revealed these sights to me...

The Buddliea I had dead headed just two weeks ago is full of blooms again!

The garden is alive with luna moths (or cabbage moths) and they are in love with the Verbena bonariensis that has self sown all over.

The Miscanthus sinensis strictus (porcupine grass) is in it's glory even though it's not blooming yet.

Not everything is pretty as can be. The Sempervivum need weeding badly and it's not as easy as you would think to get those grass roots out without disturbing those hens and chicks. Also, I was amazed to see that they've lost their glorious spring colors.

The full shade bed out front is doing ok even without sunlight. The impatiens could be a bit more lush but the Hosta and newly tranplanted ferns are perfectly happy there.

Oohh! Check out the patterns emerging on my bird house gourd!

The Liriope which is oh so boring in the spring (and almost impossible to sell then) is the neatest edging and sending up lots and lots of bloom stalks.

One last peek on the way back to my computer. What do you do when you have too much of some flowers like Purple Perilla and coneflowers? Why you cut them and stick them in nice clear bottles!

Happy Labor day weekend all,


Friday, August 29, 2008

Ligularia - August Bloomers

In late August there are two kinds of Ligularia blooming in my garden. Ligularia dentata 'Britt Marie Crawford' has a deep purple foliage that looks fantastic even without blooms.

While the yellow flowers aren't the prettiest flowers in my garden, during these dog days of summer they are very welcome.

This is the same spot just zooming out a bit. It's taken at least five years for this clump of Ligularia to grow this big. I think they could grow faster if given better soil but there's quite a bit of root competition in this spot from my neighbor's trees.

Ligularia's need a fair amount of shade and lots of water to perform well or even survive. If you have a choice, choose the shade of a tree that has deep roots instead of shallow roots like the Norway Maple my neighbor has let seed all over.

Three years ago I noticed something interesting when weeding near 'Britt Marie Crawford'. There were a few seedlings growing with that distinctive leaf. Some were more purple than others, I weeded out the less purple ones and left the deep purple ones to grow. (By the way, the lighter green seedling will grow up to be a beautiful foxglove.)

This week I've noticed a half dozen or so seedlings popping up. You can bet I'm going to be careful when weeding around here.

The seedlings are not the same as the mother plant. They have different degree's of purple coloration but I'm not such a snob that I'd turn my nose up and ask them to leave.

Over on the other end of the same border is Ligularia dentata 'Othello'. In this first shot you can see a leaf that's been burned by too much sun and not enough water.

This particular plant has been a trooper, hanging on in a spot that the sprinkler doesn't really reach well. For that reason I forgive the few leaves that look like this.

You can see here, it's easy to just snip off the offending leaf if you feel the need.

As always, when you want a plant to reseed in your garden, you need to put up with those dead or dying blooms. Leave them be, let them dry out and they will scatter the seeds for you. You can also take the dried blooms and scatter the seeds yourself but I prefer mother nature to do the job for me. Once the seedlings are growing it's easy to pluck out a few and move them to different parts of the garden.

This weekend is a holiday one for us here in the United States (Labor Day weekend) so I don't know yet how/when/where/ and what I'll be posting about.

Have a fantastic day!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Can you grow these?

Can you grow Caladiums? I can't.

About five years ago I shot this opening photo (actually a slide). I was in awe of these beautiful Caladiums (top plant) and wanted to grow them here. Although I've tried for several years, it was no use, I'd kill them off quickly, not even a month or two of enjoyment before they died.

Of course being such an excellent gardener (tongue in cheek here) I assumed that Caladiums are impossible to grow. It certainly couldn't because I couldn't grow them. It must be that they don't like the growing conditions where I live. Yes, that's it, they just won't grow here in south Huntington and it's nothing that I've been doing wrong.

Earlier this week I saw the most luscious clump of Caladiums ever. This clump was bigger and better than anything I'd seen at the local arboretums. This clump was growing in a container, right up my very street, at my friends Gianna and Richard's house. Harumph...I guess some people know how to grow Caladiums.

Here you can see the whole container, isn't it a beauty? Luckily for me Rich was there and told me the one big secret. "Caladiums" said Rich, "are almost aquatic plants". Meaning that they need to be wet at all times.

Ah ha! That's the problem then, I had them in regular containers that dried out. Now I'm going to try them again but in a container without holes in the bottom and see if they will look this beautiful for me.

Just to prove it's not a fluke, here's another fantastic container at Gianna and Rich's. It too looks perfect which goes to show, Caladiums do grow here in south Huntington, New York.

Can you grow Caladiums?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Germany - The Flower Market

On our recent trip to Germany, we spent a delightful morning at the outdoor market in the city Mainz (along the Rhine river). Mom and I could have stayed there twice as long and still not have seen ( & tasted) enough.

Before we had visited this town I had been photographing the various flower stands we saw in different places. All of those photos paled in comparison with what we saw in Mainz. The wealth of bloom stalks and pre-made arrangements were just astounding.

I've never seen this thistle-like plant growing here but I know I would like to have it in my garden!

I have grown Nigella (love in a mist) and Dill but never thought of gathering them like this to be used in an arrangement.

Here's a sample of some arrangements. The women at these stands all were smiling and laughing and the whole time their hands were busy fashioning new bunches of blooms.

How about these beauties! I kept wondering if they were home grown or bought wholesale and then sold here.

Hot colors seemed to be the most popular. Each stand had a different flavor/style of arrangements.

Sunflowers were everywhere. This is one plant we see for sale everywhere here in New York too. You can't drive very far east on Long Island before seeing farm stand after farm stand chock full of sunflowers.

I've never been at an outside market in America although I know many places have them. A few weeks ago somebody told me that there's an outside market in our own town of Huntington. I've never, ever heard of it before so I would be very interested in finding out if that is true.

Do they have outdoor markets where you live?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Day's of Summer - Daylilies

This morning I began my new term as Board of Education trustee up at our high school. Our students don't return until after Labor day (next Monday) so technically (besides what the calendar says) it's still summer here.

Growing daylilies has been a passion of mine for 14 years now. At one point, just two years ago, my collection peaked at 450 different cultivars. Slowly but surely I've been reducing that number, eventually I'd like to get it down to 200 of the best performing plants.

What is amazing about this opening photo is that it was taken just yesterday. There are thousands and thousands of different daylilies. Tall ones, short ones, ruffled ones and plain ones. There are red, purple, yellow, orange, cream, pink, peach and a multitude of combinations of color. There are round daylilies and narrow daylilies too but most importantly there are early, mid and late blooming daylilies.

If you want to have daylilies blooming for more than three weeks in your garden you need to look for varieties that bloom at different times. This photo shows a late blooming daylily named 'Royal Jester'. It looks incredible combined with this hardy begonia (if somebody knows the botanical name of this begonia please leave a comment for me).

Just two weeks ago, in mid August I took this photo. The dominant daylilies here are 'Point of View' which is one of the best performing reds (in my opinion) and 'Big Bird' which is the tall yellow that does such a wonderful job of echoing the yellow throat of 'Point of View'. If you are wondering why the Queen Ann's Lace is allowed to grow in my garden, it's because it invites beneficial insects that eat thrips (a not at all beneficial insect).

Just before I left for Germany (the first week of July) I took a few photos of the daylilies that were beginning to bloom. This cool yellow narrow form on 'Flight of Angel's' just stopped me in my tracks. I love the unusual form of narrow daylilies that cascade and curl. They look incredibly graceful combined with many summer perennials.

At one time I grouped my daylilies all together but now I find much more pleasure working them into a total landscape vignette. Here you can see the little daylily 'Pimento Pepper' combined with Salvia and Lychnis.

Always perfect, year after year is this luscious purple 'Star of India' with the amazing appliqued pattern in the yellow throat. Combined with the purplish blues of the Salvia and the pale yellow Achillea, I think this is one of the best grouping I've ever designed.

Out in front of my house I have a clump of daylilies that is not registered with the American Hemerocallis Society. This daylily is a seedling that my youngest daughter Emily hybridized and best of all, I have a photo taken of her on the day she made this cross!

The daylily may not be worthy of registration but in the garden we call it 'Little Em' and it's a blooming fool. With little blooms on tall scapes, it's the perfect addition as a landscape daylily.

As a closing shot, this daylily is right next to the one in my opening photo. The difference is that this one blooms in early July while the other one blooms in late August. By planting them side by side I've extending the show in this spot (see how much smaller the Begonia foliage is?).

This cultivar is 'Lounge Lizard' and I'm just blown away by it's beauty.

Well that's it for today, this year I missed most of the daylily season but just wait until next year!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The secret of Lunaria

One of the few plants that was growing on this property when we moved here was Lunaria. I had never grown it before and really didn't pay it much attention.

Lunaria is a biennial, meaning that it lives two years. The first year it only grows foliage and the second year it blooms and scatters seeds. If you want your biennials like Lunaria to return year after year you have to let them go to seed.

The good news about Lunaria is that it has an interesting seed pod so people tend to leave it alone until it finishes scattering it's seed.

I have seen beautiful bunches of Lunaria seed pods in other homes or for sale at garden shops but the Lunaria in my garden always looked dingy to me. I just figured I had a different type and never really looked too closely.

This week I began to clean out a bed which had the above shown clump of Lunaria in it. As I was working near it I discovered something I had never known before.

Here's a close up shot of the Lunaria. See how dirty some of the seed pods are? They are transparent enough so you can easily see the seeds inside them.

I was under the impression that there were two outter pieces and the seeds were on the inside. Now I know I was wrong. There are three thin pieces of pod. Two outside pieces and one inside one that is protected from the rain and dirt of the garden.

Cutting off the dried branches as close to the soil as possible I started to clean each individual pod. It just takes a light rub with two damp fingers. Don't rub to hard or you'll rub off all three layers. Since I suddenly realized what a treasure I had here I wanted to save every seed possible so I did this over a piece of paper so I could gather the seed and scatter them in beds that didn't have Lunaria in the past.

See how nice and shiny the inner layer is?

Finally, here's the real treasure. A beautiful bunch of Lunaria in a simple old pitcher. This arrangement will last all winter long if not longer. I made sure I placed it in a spot where the sunlight would come through the pods. How I wish I hadn't weeded out so many Lunaria seedlings over the last years.

When I first made this discovery I came running in to show my two teenage daughters. It was a true "duh" moment as they looked at me and said "mom, how could you not know this?". Then they reminded me of all the years they played with the seed pods as they were young children. Emily told me that she always got three dollars from one pod. No wonder she acts like money grows on trees :-)

Lunaria has lots of nicknames. Around here we called it the "money plant" or "silver dollars". My girls used those seed pods as money for many an imaginary game. I guess I have to thank them for the fact that Lunaria is still growing in my garden.

Hopefully now I've scattered enough seeds in various beds that next year or the year after I will have lots and lots of bouquets to share with friends.