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Friday, May 28, 2010

Succulents Don't Suck...(revisted)

This weekend (and much of the future season) I'll be playing with my succulents. I can't help it, they just call to me.

Earlier this morning I posted on my Melanie's Perennials blog, it too was about succulents and some of the plans I have with them.

There are so many different varieties of Sempervivum and Sedums. I don't claim to be an expert on them, I'm not even super careful about keeping their names. If I have a name, I put it in the pot. If I don't, I still grow them and love them. Many varieties were sold to me without names. They are as beautiful as the named varieties so I really just don't care.

This one I've had for 4 or 5 years now. It's been divided each and every year and makes these soft little tufts. The name on the pot was TBA, probably just stood for "to be advised".

One of the reasons I love these plants so much is because they are so forgiving of harsh conditions and so darn easy to grow! This Sedum acre is in a small, cracked plastic pot. It's grown out of the pot and along the ground, rooting in tiny cracks in the concrete.

Here's the same plant, it just crept it's way along the concrete and wound around a nearby planter. You would never know that there's no soil under here.

Every now and then an escapee finds a foothold. This is a tiny Sedum, I'm pretty sure it's name is Sedum dasyphyllum. I have no problem with it having caught hold in the cracks here, in fact I'm going to encourage it to grow!

Pots of these babies are for sale, there's not than many potted up yet and each and every one is different. The watering can is not for sale, I just adore it and can't part with it!

This afternoon friends are coming over with their children. If you do any gardening with kids you have to try these Hens & Chicks. Kids love them! I've done programs at schools and brought in pots of Sempervivum (Hens & chicks). They are so touchable, not thorny or prickly but soft and fuzzy.

The kids especially love the cobwebbed ones and love the fact that they can take them in their fingers and tease the plants apart. The whole idea of the mother plant (the hen) and her little babies (the chicks) appeals to them.

Here's a close up shot, these are just about to send out little babies and we'll be making three different pots from this one piece.

Here's one that was divided out a week ago. You can see how I left room for it to fatten up and for any babies that pop out to find a place to root.

I always add in a few non-succulent plants. This is a Saxifraga 'Cloth of Gold' that I bought yesterday. I haven't had luck with them in the past but this is a new variety for me. It's going to be paired with a beautiful blue foliaged Allium (you can see it in the top photo in the right side of the hypertufa trough).

Off to play,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Symphytum - Comfrey

I try to do a perennial spotlight every few weeks. Yesterday I wrote one for my Melanie's Perennials blog, it featured some of the hardy Geraniums in bloom right now.

Another perennial that is deserving of the spotlight is Symphytum which is commonly known as Comfrey or Borage. Any book on herbs contains a page on this hardy perennial. Throughout history it has been used for many different ailments, unfortunately it has come to light that internal use of this plant causes liver cancer.

While I grow quite a few herbs in my garden, I rarely use them in any way other than ones specifically grown for flavoring foods (fennel, basil, mint, rosemary and so on). I have no problem keeping this lovely plant in my garden.

The tallest of the three comfrey's growing in my garden is this purplish/blue one.

I would love to have the full botanical name for this plant but I never purchased it with a tag. My friend Kim and I each rescued a small piece that had been planted at a local historical house. I am just crazy about it and look forward to seeing how it grows in future years.

Another Symphytum in my garden is this pale white/pink variety. I actually purchased this one at a local nursery but none of the pots had labels in them. I have it planted in full sun and part shade, it appears happy in either condition and has been blooming for almost a month now.

In one of my front gardens we had a telephone pole that had broken. The phone company simply cut it off at ground level and put in a new pole. I was worried that nothing would grow near the rotting base of the old pole so planted Symphytum in that spot.

I had read that Symphtum is an invasive plant but so far I have yet to experience any type of invasiveness from any of these varieties. Maybe that one reference was wrong?

This pink blooming one is the only one I have the full name for, it's Symphytum 'Langham's Pink'.

The leaves on Symphytum are rough to the touch and have been used (and still are used) to make a poultice to help knit broken bones. Another use I've read about is to add them to your compost pile to speed up decomposition or to make compost tea with them. I have tried the tea, it stinks to high heaven so I haven't tried it again. If any of you make compost tea with this plant I'd love to know about it.

Over the years I've seen another Symphytum for sale, it's name is 'Goldsmith' and it has foliage that is marbled with yellow & green. Although I did buy this and plant it in my garden in semi-shade it is not here now. I would try it again if I saw it for sale but put it in a sunnier location.

Searching on-line I found some great information at Wikipedia The article states that comfrey grows back quickly after being cut back. This is something I have had first hand experience with, I've cut mine back hard after flowering, put the foliage on the compost heap and had a new flush of growth and bloom.

One thing I haven't tried yet is to divide any of my comfrey. Let me know if you have!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Size Counts!

What an incendiary title but oh so true. When planning your garden, size most certainly does count. There's a wealth of dwarf perennial plants and giant perennial plants too but most often it's the trees and shrubs that gardeners miscalculate when it comes to size and space.

This is Lilac 'Miss Kim', saddled with the horrendous botanical name of Syringa pubescens subsp. patula 'Miss Kim'. You can see how I broke my own rule and just stuck with the nickname this time :-)

My 'Miss Kim' Lilac and my Physocarpus 'Diablo' (Ninebark) are both in bloom today. 'Miss Kim is just finishing up while 'Diablo' has just begun to burst into bloom. Both are specatular shrubs and wonderful additions to the home landscape.

There's just one problem with these two shrubs. I totally miscalculated the size they would reach upon maturity. 'Diablo' is lucky, it's in a spot where although larger than I expected, I can forgive it's vigorous growth and just hack it back when needed (as soon as it's done blooming it's in for a serious haircut).

Unfortunately for 'Miss Kim', she has to go. Here you can see the bed where they are, Physocarpus 'Diablo' to the far left, Lilac 'Miss Kim' front and center, totally obliviating the entrance to the garden!

Last year I took a similar photo, maybe you can see that on one side of the lilac is a charming mailbox. That mailbox is totally hidden from view now. I also have to add that I've cut this Lilac back quite a bit in the past two years.

Way back in 2005 I took a photo of the garden as it had just been replanted. My design was a square garden with a circular path in the center. It's my favorite plan, one I hope to recreate in future locations.

When looking for photos this morning to see the progression of size, I finally made my mind up. This week the Lilac will go, I'll cut it back hard and if somebody comes here in the next week and is willing to dig it up and transport it, they will be welcome to it. First come first serve!