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Friday, February 27, 2009

How long do perennials bloom?

When I was doing quite a few gardening lectures, I was often asked why perennials don't bloom as long as annuals. I had to explain that my understanding is that they bloom for a shorter time span because they need to conserve energy to return again the next year.

Most likely there is a much more scientific answer for this question but in my own garden I have had some perennials that bloom for a very long time and it seems like many of them don't reliably return. Hellebores though are quite hardy here.

This photo was taken last year on June 9th. You can see that the Hellebore was in full bloom. I couldn't find a photo of when the Hellebore began blooming but I'd guess by late March if not early April it was blooming. Since it certainly didn't stop blooming a day or two after June 9th, I can pretty much bet that it bloomed for over 3 months. That's an incredibly long bloom season for a perennial!

There are other perennials that bloom for a long time here on Long Island, I'll have to look through my photos and see what pops up. Right now though, I'm looking forward to seeing some Hellebores, Crocus and Galianthus (snow drops) appear any day now. Last year I shot a photo of a crocus bloom on February 20th.

What perennials do you find have a long bloom season?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hidden gems

Today's plant combination is one that didn't catch my eye during the growing season. Maybe my eyes are so starved at this barren time of year that they see things differently.

This photo shows a corner of the garden where I have quite a few plants of Alchemilla mollis (Ladies mantle) alternating with Nepeta mussinii (Cat mint). In this last spot though I also stuck in a little piece of Sedem 'Purple Emperor'. I really like the combination of the fleshy Sedum leaf against the soft fuzziness of the Alchemilla leaf. I think this combination would pop even more with a darker purple Sedum such as 'Postman's Pride'.

Right now I'm so incredibly thankful that I shot so many photos of my gardens and plant material last year.

Off to look outside to see if anything is thinking of coming up soon :-)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Unexpected Combinations

Today's feature combination is one that moves around from year to year.

In the bottom left corner is the lovely perennial Oenothera speciosa. This variety of Oenthera took me a few years to learn to appreciate. The blooms are lovely, more pink than this image shows. One possible problem with this plant is that it travels underground and spreads quickly. At first I was worried about it but it really pulls out quite easily and once it starts blooming it's love at first sight. In my garden while it spreads quickly it doesn't seem to choke out other plant material but instead winds its way around them.

The plant in the top right corner is one that can be seen in many combination photos from my garden. It's the annual (or possibly biennial) Silene armeria. The nick name of this plant is Catch fly because of the sticky bands across the stems that actually trap insects. If left to seed it will reward you with lots of lovely babies across the garden. This year for the first time I will make an effort to pot up the seedlings early in the season and offer them for sale since I've rarely seen this plant in any other gardens around here.

Here's another photo of the Oenothera that shows the coloration better. Just a foot or two further in the garden now combined with Stachys byzantina (Lamb's ear), another great combination.

Behind the scenes, this morning I've tried a new feature on my Picasa 3 photo program. Finally I can add text to an image and I'm looking forward to being able to incorporate the plant names in the photos.

I've also been reading quite a few gardening books and magazines lately. Have you been reading too?