A gardening blog about plants. Mostly.

23 April 2015

And the winner is...

Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum' (foreground), and Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten’ (background)
Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum' seems to be the most commonly available of the Epimedium spp., but, for a showier dry shade/part sun groundcover, I would sooner recommend Epimedium x perralchicum 'Fröhnleiten’. Both are seen above in my garden where they get full late afternoon sun.

Epimedium x perralchicum 'Fröhnleiten’, with the foliage of Galanthus elwesii in the background. Yellow flowers are those of Stylophorum diphyllum (celandine poppy). 

05 April 2015

Glory of the (s)now

Iris histrioides 'Frank Elder' has been in full bloom for a week now, the last bit of color faded from the Eranthis cilicica a couple days ago and the Eranthis hyemalis and Galanthus elwesii are well along into setting seeds by the time the first Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) flowers open in my garden. Glory of the snow?! Here, the snow is good and gone by the time this blooms, but Chionodoxa spp. are known to flower while the snow is still on the ground in their native habitats of the eastern Mediterranean.

Small beginnings - most of the 300 Chionodoxa I planted around 2002. I think I need to mow a little later than I have.

Chionodoxa sp.

Although the Royal Horticulture Society's publication "Hyacinthaceae - little blue bulbs" (2005) recognizes 8 species, it seems as though only four species are currently widely accepted. One might even find it lumped into the genus Scilla. Nomenclatural squabbles aside, the differences between the widely accepted species are subtle enough that they are confused in the trade. Some years ago, I ordered and planted 300 Chionodoxa forbesii. I didn't pay close attention to differences among them until I recently read the aforementioned RHS publication, and now I think I might have representatives of Chionodoxa forebesii, C. luciliae, and C. seihei. I'm not even sure.

What I do know is that I like 'em. A lot.

A little closeup action. Can I get a hubba hubba?

Scans of slides I shot in the '90's, this and the next image show the naturalizing potential for Chionodoxa spp.

Maybe, someday, my yard will be covered in lavender blue like this.

Chionodoxa with little competition under a redbud (Cercis canadensis). 

C. 'Pink Giant'

20 September 2014

Pretty, not pink.

Conoclinium coelestinum, formerly known as Eupatorium coelestinum, may also be known by any of several common names: wild ageratum, hardy ageratum, blue boneset, blue mist flower, pink eupatorium. The last (the pink part, anyway) is a misnomer that likely arose from film-recorded images of the flowers.

While the flowers are actually a lavender-blue, print and slide films images show them as pink; something to do with film's limited spectral sensitivity? If anyone can tell me the definitive answer why this is, I'd love to know.

Anyway, the advent of digital imaging appears to have overcome this problem, and I can tell you that hardy ageratum (which is the name I first learned for it) really looks like this:

A shaded colony of Conoclinium coelestinum just coming into bloom.

I haven't paid enough attention in previous years to know if this is anomalous, but hardy ageratum here in my garden has been in flower since the first week in August. And it's still going:

Evening light, earlier this week, on a smaller colony of blue mist flower.

The first colony above is now a bit on the sprawly-falling-in-on-itself side of things, but still has flowers. All the same, it's due for a cutting-down before the seeds start forming in earnest. Like those of many other members of the aster family, hardy ageratum seeds disperse on the wind via fluffy pappi (plural of pappus) reminiscent of hairy parachutes. Shearing the plants now, rather than letting the few blooms sputter on, will reduce the number of unwanted seedlings popping up elsewhere.

While we're on the topic of unwanted spreading; the astute reader has noted my use of the word colony. Hardy, or wild, ageratum does move about via rhizomes and can eat up a fair chunk of space in the garden where one is not mindful of marauding sprouts.

In spite of its tendencies to wander, I appreciate hardy ageratum for the color it gives shady/partly-sunny spots at a time of year when many other blooms are spent. Consider pairing it with some large-leaved hostas for a textural contrast, as well as a vigorous partner which can keep up with it.

09 August 2014

Well, last weekend I had a lot I should have planted (attendees to PPA symposia, especially their tours, tend to pick up a couple of things here and there). I DID plant Lindera glauca var. salicifolia (Lindera salicifolia? Lindera glauca var. somethingelsia? taxonomists appear to be fence sitting on that one), Lobelia 'Fried Green Tomatoes' (seen here, in front of the 'Sutherland Gold' elderberry),

a couple Andropogon gerardii, Teucrium hircanicum (planted, I kid you not, somewhat sideways as it is  normally kinda lax),

Phlomis russelliana, Kniphofia uvaria 'Echo Mango',

Geum 'Totally Tangerine' and I put bits of a Carex siderosticha 'Banana Boat' (detecting a fruit theme?) in several locations.

That leaves me needing to plant Caryopteris divaricata 'Snow Fairy', Heuchera 'Pistache', Deinanthe caerulea 'Blue Wonder', Arisaema 'Starburst' and Salix repens var. argentea ('Argentea', some would say). Well, maybe not that last one. It seems to have greatly resented being left in the driveway for a couple of days.  I would give the willow (sun plant!) crap about how the Deinanthe (shade plant!) looks remarkably better, but the latter may have benefitted from even the light shade offered by the seemingly sacrificial Salix. And, to be fair, maybe the willow needed more water than the false hydrangea.

I also should repot a couple of tiny (but, they were only $1!) succulents (Stapelia or Huernia [did you know Asclepiadaceae have been lumped into Apocynaceae- ]? and Echeveria or Aeonium?)

More sometime soon on how well the willow recovers. If at all.

24 April 2013

A Cercis sampler.

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud)
Profuse cauliflory on redbud.
Closeup of one cluster of flowers.
In some years the fruit set (flat pea-like pods) can be very heavy. I find them attractive. The subsequent seedlings can, in a garden setting, be annoyingly numerous.
Seed pods on Cercis 'Oklahoma'
This one looks pretty much like your average C. canadensis. But when the leaves emerge:
C. 'Forest Pansy' has purple foliage at emergence and for a little while after that. Mileage varies... Some newer cultivars are better at retaining their color through summer.
C. 'Silver Cloud', an early variegated selection
Also 'Silver Cloud'; again, mileage varies.
Brr! But here's a good look at the form of C. 'Covey' (commonly marketed as Lavender Twist). Aside from the weeping habit, the leaves and flowers are much like plain old redbud. One can now get this form with either variegated or purple foliage ('Whitewater' and 'Ruby Falls', respectively).
A redder redbud: C. canadensis 'Appalachian Red', fenced against deer rub.
C. canadensis 'Alba', the white redbud (whitebud???).
C. chinensis 'Don Egolf' is compact and floriferous.

06 April 2013

Late, but here.

Warm April day. Gotta be outside. Things still to cut back (little bluestem, your days are numbered), Weeds already need pulling (fewer dandelions will be blooming around here this year). I love getting out in the garden. But, I really look forward to working in the garden on the early warm days.

I love fragrant plants (have I mentioned this yet?). Sometimes a thing does not need to be visually enticing to be appreciated (consider bacon).

Hyacinth gives us olfactory and visual stimulation, though. I could weed and cut back stuff and, and,... maybe lounge in the hammock all day by the hyacinths. Mmm, hammock. Doze off a couple yards downwind (some find the fragrance overwhelming when close by). Take a little nap. Awaken to the gentle hum of honeybees making their way from one bloom to the next.


Hyacinthus orientalis 'Woodstock' with honeybee. H. o. 'Peter Stuyvesant' in background

26 March 2013

Lindera, bacon, or both?

What's better than being married to someone who risks losing a hand to save you the last two slices of bacon from the mouths of ravenous teenagers, you ask?  (Editor's (wife) note:  NOTHING)

Growing Lindera benzoin (spicebush), one of the earliest shrubs (beaten out, here, by witchhazels) to bloom every year, that's what! 

Lindera benzoin (spicebush).
Okay, perhaps that is a little over the top. I get that not everyone is into bacon; it's not for everyone (my apologies/condolences to those who aren't permitted). I suppose it's equally possible that one might not be interested in growing a shade-tolerant shrub with fragrant flowers under a window that catches breezes.

Over 8' tall in 2008. Local deer seem to be slackers, so I cut it back myself in 2011

Heck, some of you might not even look forward to opening your windows to bring in that first breath of warm, fresh spring air (personally, the wait is killing me). Perish the thought of experiencing the frisson that might accompany inhaling the delicate perfume of those numerous little yellow flowers found in clusters up and down the slender, yet sometimes lengthy (see above), stems of the spicebush.

Individually insignificant, the tiny flowers are borne in overwhelming numbers. Certainly whelming numbers, at least.
I know, too, that a shrub which merely grows medium green, unvariegated, yet-tasty-to-the-larvae-of-the-beautiful-spicebush-swallowtail foliage which turns yellow in fall may be equally unappealing.

Even though mid-October (2009) this is pretty representative of average summer foliage, hints of fall color notwithstanding.
One year and six days later, full bore fall color.

An anomalous curled leaf conceals...
a spicebush swallowtail larva. Don't be fooled by the eyes; this is the posterior end.
Empty pupal case

And those little red berries it produces, reportedly eaten by songbirds, are certainly responsible for a scattering of seedlings around any but the cultivar 'Rubra' (I've never laid eyes on one yet) and probably represent a threat to any nearby Amur honeysuckle colony!

A pretty threat to Amur honeysuckle? You be the judge.
Never mind, either, how well it's adapted for use in one of those trendy rain gardens (in the wild it's commonly found growing in bottomlands [which have nothing to do with your derriere- grow up!]). Although it hasn't happened to the spicebush in my garden (northeast corner of the house, the bed surrounded by perforated drain pipe connected to the downspout), have reported that deer may make a meal of the slender branches. So, deer like it. I bet they don't like bacon, though.

However, I still understand that, like the many witchhazels (locally, they win the first-shrub-to-bloom contest), spicebush isn't for everyone.

Perhaps not even for some of you who DO like bacon.