Glory's Garden

All the world's a garden, you know, and we are mere flowers within it. Come, I'll show you!

Don't get any funny ideas!

©2016 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved

My Peeps!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Watch out for the fashion police!

So, what are your favorite garden clothes? What do you like to wear while working in the yard? I know what I used to wear to do the gardening: Shorts and a tank top and not much else. Not too bright, I was back then. I had the insect bites, rashes and sunburn to prove it too. Experience is a great teacher, though. That and the stinging nettles.

Man, were those nettles nasty things! They left huge welts all over my arms and legs, my bare and very tanned and scratched up arms and legs. No, now things are quite different. No matter how warm it is outside, I don pants, long sleeved shirts, two layers of gloves and a hat yes, I look a fright but I don’t go out in the garden to make a fashion statement. Do you?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Composting like Mother Nature


I started the weekend picking blackberries just a tiny way down the road from my house. Got me nearly a pint and nary a thorn. Then I did some intense weeding of a highly neglected shrub border. Man, was it hot out there!  But it finally looks human again, the garden I mean, if a garden can look human??? Anyway, it was a daunting task just pulling them out but what about the hauling away to the compost pile?

I knew my back couldn’t take that. Then I recalled a garden show I saw many moons ago. An elderly woman, well into her 70's and active as they come, went about deadheading her flowers. Nothing weird there, right? Well, one thing this woman did stuck me as rather odd. She said she didn’t compost as other gardeners did. She didn’t have a compost pile in which she places all garden waste. Instead she simply let the trimmings from deadheading her flower, drop to the ground to decompose where they lay. Layer composting, she called it. She said it was how Mother Nature did it so why would she think she could improve on the master gardener herself?

Intriguing concept, I thought at the time, but I never put it to practice. Who would want bits of dead plant material in their formal gardens, in perennial beds and around nice shrub borders?  It just didn’t seem the right thing to practice. Never, that is, until I thought about the prospect of all that work awaiting me and my hurting back. Right then I decided to try it her way–or rather, Mother Nature’s way. And don’t you know, it worked out well. That particular flower bed had always been too low and therefore always too wet. It needed to be built up anyway and what easier and better way than to compost right there?

Lesson learned: Sometimes we just gotta forget all we’ve learned and simply mimic nature.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Garden Lessons Learned

I started the weekend picking blackberries just a tiny way down the road from my house. Got me nearly a pint and nary a thorn. Then I did some intense weeding of a highly neglected shrub border. Man, was it hot out there!  But it finally looks human again. It was a daunting task just pulling them out but what about the hauling away to the compost pile.

I knew my back couldn’t take that. Then I recalled a garden show I saw many moons ago. An elderly woman, well into her 70's and active as they come, went about deadheading her flowers. Nothing odd there, right? Well, the one thing this woman did stuck me as rather odd. She said she didn’t compost as other gardeners did. She didn’t have a compost pile in which she places all garden waste. Instead she simply let the trimmings from deadheading her flower, drop to the ground to decompose where they lay. Layer composting, she called it. She said it was how Mother Nature did it so why would she think she could improve on the master gardener herself?

Intriguing concept, I thought at the time, but I never put it to practice. Never, that is, until I thought about the prospect of all that work awaiting me and my hurting back. Right then I decided to try it her way–or rather, Mother Nature’s way. And don’t you know, it worked out well. That particular flower bed had always been too low and therefore always too wet. It needed to be built up anyway and what easier and better way than to compost right there?

Lesson learned: Sometimes we just gotta forget all we’ve learned and simply mimic nature.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I’ve been nominated for a blog award.

Super cool! This is how it works, I give out seven facts about myself, link back to the blog which nominated me, (A Homemaker Speaks, in my case) and I get to  nominate my favorite bloggers for the award. Cool, huh?

Here we go!

1. I was born in the Dominican Republic.
2. I love to groove to tunes while I’m cooking.
3. On a good night, I sleep 5 hours straight.
4. I came to the USA (Quite legally!) at the age of two with my parents.
5. I have at last count, 20 novels in progress, some closer to the finish line than others.
6. I have one brother.
7. I don’t have just one favorite color; I need the rainbow!

My favorite blogs and worthy of a blogger award are:

Just Camping Out
The Frugal Girl
The Greenhouse and Garden in Summer
Kitchens and Baths by D’Zyne
Living on $500 or less a Month
Lots of Crochet Stitches

Longevity and Gardening


Many years ago, I saw on a TV garden show, possibly Victory Garden, a woman being interviewed while she strolled through her garden. She was well into her 70's  (possibly 80's). She was spry, fit, very active and sharp as a tack. I know some 40-somethings who look far less able than this person. What do you suppose she said was her secret for feeling and looking this good? Gardening of course!

She’s up when the sun shows its face, weeds, plants, trims and deadheads her plants and otherwise gardens in those early morning hours. When it gets too hot she goes inside and  does her indoor chores. Once those are done she reads. After the sun grows weak again, she goes back outside to do a few more garden chores.

Well, doesn’t that sound like the life? Work when conditions are optimal and rest when the sun is too hot. Easy enough to follow, I’d say. Perhaps we can all learn from this woman. Then we too can be spry, fit, very active and sharp as a tack well into our 80's. I know I’d like to be!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Best Plants to Grow in a Zone 5 Garden


When you would love to have a beautiful garden but nothing seems to grow for you that can be quite disappointing. On the other hand, when your thumb isn’t exactly green there is nothing that can make you feel better than finding  plants which you can’t kill even if you tried.  With this in mind let us go over some nearly indestructible, virtually brown-thumb proof, head-strong, tough and the best plants to grow in a garden.

Daylily

This perennial once planted can live for years without you doing so much as look at it. The varieties to choose from run the gambit in size, shape and color but all are easy to keep going with only the occasional dividing (every 3-5 years). They self mulch, are resistant to insects and look beautiful in virtually any soil, any climate and can take both too much and too little water. What can be easier than that?

Daisy.

This wildflower-tuned-garden-staple is super wonderful in any flower bed. The amazing thing about it is the more flowers you pick to bring indoors, for daisy chains or to find your true love (He love me, he loves me not, sound familiar?)  The more it will keep blooming. It spreads by itself making more plants for you to give away to friends.

Colorado Blue Spruce.

If you want an outdoor Christmas tree this is the one to get. Sprung up with lights or left on its own this one need little from you to look amazing except the occasion trimming and even that it doesn’t strictly need. It merely would benefit from it to keep it looking its best. Makes wonderful nesting areas for robins too.

Black-Eyed- Susan (Rudbeckia).

A kin of the Daisy this flower requires nothing much but your praise of it. It self-sows, is hardy almost everywhere and can take drought as only a wildflowers can. Brilliant sunshine yellow blossoms will attract butterflies like mad and brighten up any garden

Rhododendron.

The king shrub of spring time, Rhodos, as they are affectionately called, do great in semi-shade but can be fine in full sun too. They like soil on the acidic side, so, if planted near evergreens which acidify the soil on their own by dropping needles, you needn’t do anything for them. The occasional pruning will encourage more flowers but even without that they do beautifully.

Peppermint.

Once this fragrant and very useful herb is planted there is no getting rid of it even if you tried so you may want to try it in a pot instead of right into the garden. It is as voracious and dependable as a dandelion and makes a great tasting addition to sun-brewed tea. Butterflies and bees love it too.

Hardy Hibiscus.

Growing to a six-foot tall shrub within a season with huge dinner-plate sized blossoms Hibiscus can live quite happily in standing water. Self sows to the point you may eventually be sick of them but there are worse “illnesses”, aren’t there?

Sedum.

The ground cover to plant where nothing else will grow. From the poorest, dry, clay, wet soil to sunny or shady places this plant will prosper with no help nor hindrance from you. Spreads like a carpet and bursts into bloom every spring with white, pink or red star-shaped flowers.

Creeping Jenny.

Another ground cover which roots along the stems and spreads rather quickly, Jenny can actually sit in and around a pond or stream with no trouble. It has bright yellow flowers which look exceptionally nice cascading out of hanging baskets.

Daffodil

The bulb that deer won’t eat and we have to love if only for that reason. But there are other reasons to love daffodils. They come out in spring all by themselves  to cheer us up and brighten our winter-weary souls. They only need dividing every few years but can also be left on their own if you initially plant them far enough apart in compost  rich soil.

These are just a few of the easiest to grow and therefore the best plants to have in a garden. So what are you waiting for? Grab a shovel and these plants and go to town creating a lovely almost fool-proof landscape and the envy of the neighborhood.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Best plants for rock gardens


Rock Gardens first became popular back in the Victorian era when avid plant collectors of the time searched high and low for something new and different. Indeed they found them in the very high Alpine mountains where the plants themselves grew rather low to the ground. Planting these new discoveries in their cottage gardens back home wouldn’t show off these alpine plants to their advantage, however. These delicate, small plants would be easily swallowed up by more showy perennials and annuals common to the cottage garden or the more formal perennial border. Thus came the need for a way to place them for the best show. That is how the  rock garden came to be.

The best rock gardens are on sandy, dry, rocky  hillsides or slightly sloping areas to mimic the natural environment for these plants. This allows the plants to be viewed at eye level and also provides excellent drainage, something Alpine plants require above all else. As for the plants themselves, the ones best suited to a rock garden set up in your own yard, miniature, dwarf and low and slow growing varieties are what you need to look for.

The rock garden is an excellent place to start practicing bonsai horticulture. This is taking slow growing plants and slowing them down further through careful pruning. Of course, using dwarf varieties accomplishes the same thing as long as you continually prune to maintain the small size. Just because plants are labeled dwarf doesn’t mean they stay small. Let’s take a look at an assortment of  readily available plants for the typical rock garden.

TREES- Dwarf Balsam Fir (Abies Balsamea “Nana”) is a wonderful little tree for the rock garden. Unlike its taller, more impressive cousins, this one looks a bit squat but has the typical Balsam scent and  stiff branching.

Dwarf Japanese Red Maple (Acer Palmatum Atropurpureum)- There are too many cultivars perfect for the rock garden to mention all of them but the smallest, most adaptable and most easily available would be the “Burgundy Lace” and the “Crimson Queen”. Both can easily be pruned to form small weeping mounds.

Hinoki False Cypress ( Chamaecyparis Obtusa)- This is a golden evergreen growing upright with branch tips that weep slightly. Make certain you get “Nana Gracilis” not just “Gracilis”. Both are considered dwarf but the second one can get to 20 feet high while the other, a miniature, only grows  to 4 feet, a much better choice for the small scale garden.

SHRUBS- Red Leaf Japanese Barberry ( Berberis Thunbergii  “Atropurpureum Nana”) are considered a bit of a invasive species in some areas of the United States where they have escaped into the wild but this particular miniature “Crimson Pygmy” growing 1 1/ 2- 2 1/ 2 feet high  is quite safe in the home garden. It makes a nice backdrop to smaller plants with its gracefully arching, brightly red colored leaves on spiny branches and  tiny yellow flowers in spring followed by little berries which attract birds.

Scotch Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) is an evergreen shrub with a craving for acidic soil. It  has  tiny leaves and sprays of small, bell shaped flowers in rosy pink, pale to deep pink, white, lavender and  purple. Different cultivars have foliage in russet, gray, pale to dark green and Chartreuse which often change in winter. Truly a wonderful plant for the rock garden. Varieties range from 2 in high to 3 feet. Too many to name but the best for rockery “Nana Compacta” growing 4 inches high with purple flowers.

Heath (Erica)- Another acid loving, evergreen shrub with small needle-like leaves, Heath is often mistaken for Heather. So low growing they act more like a ground cover than a shrub.

PERENNIALS-  Pinks (Dianthus) make a great addition to the Rock garden as they mostly all spread low to the ground. Cheddar pinks (Dianthus Gratianopolitanus) is a pretty greyish-green leaved cultivar with spicy clove scented single flowers in palest pink. It grows 9-12 inches high with the flowers sticking above the foliage.

Sedum- These succulent plants often called Stonecrop thrive in the rock garden. “Goldmoss” has bright yellow, star shaped flowers in spring and light green teardrop shaped leaves. This is widely available but can become invasive as it roots readily along its long, slender stems. Sedum “Dragon’s Blood” is more easily kept in check and has brilliant red flowers in early spring. “Hens and Chicks” (Echeveria Elegans, Imbricata or Secunda) though not Sedums is another succulent common to rock gardens. It grows in ever-expanding clusters of grey-green rosettes sometimes tinged with purple or red.

Geranium (Cranesbill)- These are not Pelargonium, the showy flowers commonly though mistakenly called Geraniums. The true Geranium is a hardy perennial perfect for woodland and rocky alpine gardens. These make pretty, tightly packed mounds of finely divided deep green leaves with small yet abundant flowers in pink, white, blue and purple. “Johnson’s Blue” is a readily available cultivar with blue-violet 2 inch blossoms.

BULBS- Scilla “Siberian Squill”(3-6 inches tall),  Narcissus Asturiensis ( 3 inches), Crocus, Grape Hyacinth (Muscari), Allium Ostrowskianum “ Zwanenburg”(6 inches) and Miniature Dwarf Bearded Iris can be scattered amongst the other plants for early spring color.

Now that you know any of these plants will look great in a rock garden, all you need is a bit of the mountain climber spirit in you to get going and start one in your own landscape. Learning to yodel is purely optional.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bleeding Hearts, Dicentra

Dicentra, or Bleeding Heart as it is commonly known, is a perennial plant originating from Asia and North America. This wonderful plant ranging from 8 inches to 3 feet tall, depending on cultivar, has  uniquely shaped, typically pink flowers gracefully hanging as if by invisible wires off  gracefully arching, leafless branches. These blossoms as the name implies are  in the shape of a heart with a tiny teardrop at the base making it appear to be in fact  bleeding. This has been a favorite for over a hundred years for the shade garden and looks especially nice inter-planted with Hosta, Hellebores, Ferns, Primrose and Trillium.

This plant can tolerate weak morning sun but prefers part shade with little or no direct sun. It is extremely cold hardy doing quite well up in zones  2-8. In warm winter regions it tends to be short lived and does particularly poorly in desert heat. The soil must be moist though not soggy and humus rich. Providing it with a mulch of leaf mold will make it a happy camper.

There are approximately 15 species of Dicentra with only a handful being readily available to the home gardener. The common or old-fashioned Bleeding Heart ( Dicentra Specabilis) is arguably the most popular, easiest to find and the most enchanting of the bunch. It comes in a bright pink heart with the teardrop of pure white. The deep green leaves, the largest of the Dicentra clan, are divided and lightly veined.

Dicentra Specabilis can get up to three feet high but tends to fizzle out by mid-summer sometimes completely going dormant. They last longer in cool summer areas. They should, therefore, be planted among other perennials that can take up the slack during its absence. Cinnamon ferns, Begonias and Hosta do this quite nicely. “Alba” is the pure white form of the Dicentra Specabilis and is quite striking in the shadiest garden setting. Well worth having even though it is not as vigorous a grower as the pink form.

Fringed or Fernleaf  Bleeding Heart ( Dicentra Eximia) is a 15 inch tall native of the woodlands of the northeastern part of the U.S.   The cultivar “Luxuriant” grows in neat little clumps with pretty, fern-like divided leaves in a blue-green color. The flowers are slightly more oblong than the Dicentra Specabilis and a bright magenta pink with just a touch of white at the base. Blooms almost nonstop from late spring to the first autumn frost.

“Snowdrift” is a sparkling white form of the Fernleaf  Bleeding Heart  with leaves a gray-green color. Almost continuous blooming from this one with the tiniest pause in mid-summer, probably to catch its breath before going forth until frost kicks it back. Wonderful planted under a small tree within a cottage garden, as a ground cover in the woodland garden or in the semi-shady part of a perennial border .

Western Bleeding Heart ( Dicentra Formosa) originates from the Pacific coastal woodlands and stands 8-18 inched high. The deep rose colored flowers of “Tuolumne Rose” grow in clusters on tall stems with a reddish hue of their own. “Sweetheart” is a white form with light green leaves. Bloom time is spring to fall.

Bleeding Heart is one of those plants which make a gardener glad to have some shade. If you don’t have any shade then by all means get some if only to grow this spectacular little gem of a perennial.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

“Blue Jacket” Hyacinth

In the world of flowers it is the color blue that is most rare and therefore most sought after. So, when spring time comes around and we’re inundated with cheery yellow Daffodils, bold red Tulips  and purple and gold Crocus it is with a sense of relief and wonder when we spot something blue in the landscape. True blue that is. Not the kind of purple, lavender or violet that passes for in-the-blue-range but really isn’t as any child with a 64 count Crayola crayon box can attest. This is where the Giant Fragrant Hyacinth “Blue Jacket”    comes to save the day, so to speak.

In the floral department you could do far worse than to have this lovely scented miracle of  spring in your own garden. Botanically known as Hyacinthus orientalis “Blue Jacket”   comes in a deep blue color so enticing that the pretty medium green foliage accompanying it is almost an after thought. The flower stalk can get as tall as 10 plus  inches. Extremely impressive for a spring bloomer what seems like hundreds of tiny flowers making up the long flower stalk.

The size of  Hyacinth “Blue Jacket” isn’t nearly as impressive as the fragrance which is likely to knock you out. These planted by a window will encourage the opening of windows perhaps earlier than some may find prudent but do it anyway. The smell is fantastic! Plant some in window boxes so their enticing fragrance can come into the home perfuming the indoors as well as outside. No need for artificial smelling and costly air fresheners and dangerous scented candles when you have the real thing about. Some would advise the novice gardener to use these sparingly because of the intense scent emanating from these blooming torches but since when do gardeners worry about such a trifling thing as too much of a good thing?

Hyacinth “Blue Jacket” is hardy in USDA zones 3-8 and likes it in the sun although it does fine in part shade. The gardener, however, should recall that in early to mid spring there are many trees that are not yet leafed out when some spring blooming bulbs make their appearance. Thus it is perfectly safe to plant spring bloomers under some trees and shrubs.

Hyacinth  “Blue Jacket” blooms in early to mid spring. It likes a rich, well drained soil and does particularly well in pots for indoor forcing during the dreary winter months.

To plant this lovely  “Blue Jacket” is quite easy.  They look best when grouped together in threes or fives. (For whatever reason odd numbers seem to work great in the landscape and not just with Hyacinths. It’s a gardener’s trick applicable for all plants and good to remember.) Plant them deep 8 inch to be exact and 2 -3 inches apart. Make certain the planting bed has plenty of organic matter and/or compost incorporated into it before planting. A nice mulch of any sort you choose will finish things off nicely. If you want a continuos show consider planting more shallow bulbs over the Hyacinths. That way you have more blooms for a longer show.

Hyacinth “Blue Jacket” is widely available starting in late summer and all through the autumn months. These are the months perfect for designing and planting  an outstanding spring flower show. Inter-planted with other show- stopping spring blooming bulbs such as Siberian Squill, Alliums,  Tulips, Crocus   and even another Hyacinth in a contrasting color  ,  the Hyacinth “Blue Jacket” will bring the neighbors in from all around to see the show.

Having a true blue flower is what every gardener wants and with “Blue Jacket” Hyacinths you won’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to find this elusive color. Don’t be surprised, therefore, when traffic seems to increase on your street with many a nose pointed towards your garden.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Advantages of membership to Botanical Gardens

You are under the impression that Botanical Gardens are only for professional horticulturists and you, being an absolute novice, couldn’t possibly see yourself going to one. What the heck for? You don’t know a Tulip from a Rose, a Maple from an Oak, a hoe from a spade. Botanical gardens are hoidy-toidy, stiff, formal, imposing and down right boring for the likes of you. Well, why should anyone try to change your mind? Just for your own good, is all.

Let us thoroughly explain the true value of the Botanical garden.

The Botanical garden is not, unlike what you may have been told, just for the serious study of Botany. Yes, some folks use it as their classrooms but as they are so serious they have no other choice. They don’t know how to have fun. We, on the other hand, do. Many Botanical Gardens, as it happens,  have wonderful programs that have very little to do with plants if you can believe it. Therefore, those who have little interest in plants can also have fun at the Botanical Garden. How? Let us count the ways.

#1- Many Botanical gardens  have concerts and dance shows mostly in summer but sometimes throughout the year. They bring in eclectic groups from all over the world. Funky Tex-Mex Fusion, traditional Japanese dance,  Native American interactive dance demonstrations, Celtic groups singing ballads accompanied by harp and bagpipes, famous classical pianists, local folk musicians and world renown string quartets have been known to appear in select gardens and you can see them for the price of admission to the garden.

#2- When the winter blues are at their height some gardens put on great Christmas, or for the politically correct among us, Holiday light displays. Gardens with large conservatories have displays of decorated trees, wreaths, nativity scenes plus a zillion Poinsettias, Amaryllis and Christmas Cactus all abloom.  That’s a way to get you in the holiday mood and out of the winter blahs.

#3- Scavenger hunts, creepy crawly demonstrations, guided walks through butterfly houses and funky insect sculptures  are common activities at many botanical gardens. The kids love it and end up begging -or should we say bugging?-  to come back to the “fun flower place”. Of course, adults have been known to get Peter Pan syndrome at these places. If you don’t want to revert back to childhood you may want to avoid these.

#4- Lessons in gardening are often free or at low cost at some botanical gardens. Such things as how to prune shrubs, how to make a container garden, propagation methods and transplanting are often covered by knowledgeable volunteers and bonafide horticulturists.  Just bring your thirst for knowledge and they’ll provide the knowledge for your thirst. You may even get to take home a little plant.

#5- Some Botanical gardens share flora space with fauna, meaning animals. Many have  mini-zoos as part of the park. Some take in injured animals for rehabilitation and give demonstrations on the care and fascinating behaviors of some rather rare and not so rare creatures. Not just lions, tigers and bears can be found here but also bald eagles, falcons, the elusive Florida panther, turtles, otters, Egrets, llamas, deer, flamingos and alligators just to mention a few.

#6- Tai Chi instruction, yoga, fitness walks,  nature talks, bike tours and birdwatching are also some of the many activities available at Botanical gardens.

#7- Botanical gardens are often available for special events throughout the year, weddings being the most popular but also for family reunions, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries and plain old family picnics.

#8- Paintings, photographs and sculptures by world famous artists and innovative crafts by local artisans are often displayed at Botanical gardens. Many are for sale for home and garden alike.

#9- While this may be a no-brainer, we should  mention it anyway. Botanical gardens are a nice place for a long walk with a loved one. Holding hands is allowed and at times encouraged. There are plenty of little hiding places, private alcoves, sweet get-away spots and secluded nooks just made for canoodling couples. Perfect place to pop the question too.

#10- The Botanical Garden by design is a photograph’s dream whether they are professional or amateur. With all those lovely plants, trees, ponds, flowers, sculptures, birds, butterflies and buzzing insects all over you can find hundreds of opportunities for enchanting landscape pictures and great close-ups too. Grab that camera, snap a few hundred photos, enter a few contests and possibly win something. Never can tell if you have an award winning photo in you.

Are you convinced yet? Do you see that plants aren’t the only things to see at Botanical gardens? But of course, the main reason to go to a botanical garden is indeed to see all the beautiful flowering trees, shrubs abloom, flowers by the ton and all the different garden displays but then, we didn’t really have to mention those, did we? Do yourself a favor and visit your local Botanical garden and ask for a calender of special events. You’ll find the botanical garden becoming your favorite place in the world. Do enjoy it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Best plants for dry areas.

The best way to find plants to suit your yard is to go to a local Botanical garden. They will have plants best suited to where you live. This takes into account temperature extremes, water requirements,  resistence to local garden pests and exposure to the elements particular to your region.

Traveling all over the United States visiting several gardens and stopping at many rest areas along the way I noticed which plants seemed best suited for different areas. The western states being dry was a new experience for me but I learned a great deal. The following is a list of plants  I observed growing quite well in this arid and seemingly tough area in which to garden.

Daylily (Hemerocallis Fulva)

The native Daylily is the common orange daylily found at the side of highways growing wild. These endure any hardship. Their fleshy roots give them all they need to survive a dry spell and intense heat. Hybrids like “Stella de Oro” can be seen all over the arid southwestern US.

Perovskia

This 3-4 feet high and wide shrubby perennial, also called Russian Sage, has greyish-green foliage and a mass of tiny lavender-blue flowers giving it a hazy appearance from a distance. Great for the back of a perennial border or as a see-through hedge.

Yucca

“Baccata” and “Rostrata” both have sword shaped leaves in a dull green color, between 2-4 feet long. “Rostrata” grows 2 feet tall spires with white flowers and “Baccata” has reddish-brown blooms and produce edible fruits.  “Elata” also called the Soaptree Yucca grows slowly to 6-20 feet tall with leaves 4 feet long and with white flowers.

Red-Hot Poker

This is a beautiful and unusual flower. Also called Torch-lily, it has long, narrow leaves (3-6 feet depending on variety) and the flower is a long stalk with many tiny tubular florets in  yellow, orange and red. They look great in flower arrangements and are adored by butterflies.

Coreopsis

“Lanceolata”, or Lance-leaf Coreopsis, is a perennial which grows 1-2 feet high with bright yellow, double blossoms 1 ½-2  inches across. Wonderful as a cut flower. Coreopsis “Moonbeam” is a nice perennial growing 2 ½ to 3 feet high and half as wide with pale lemony-yellow flowers and feathery leaves. “Zegreb” or “Tickseed” has golden yellow blooms.

Silverlace Vine

Fast growing with long, heart-shaped, glossy, green leaves and a huge mass of tiny cream-colored flowers forming a cloud  make this plant a must-have to quickly cover (up to 100 square feet in a season) a fence, arbor or even to use as a ground cover on a sloping bank.

Achillea

Yarrow is the common name for this plant which comes in many pastel colors with white and yellow being the most widely available.

Russian Olive

This multi-stemmed small tree or large shrub grows pale greyish-green oblong leaves and tiny insignificant pale yellow flowers in the spring. The fragrance is immense and intoxicating. Tiny bright red inedible berries follow in summer through autumn if the birds don’t get at them first.

Evening Primrose

Pretty 1-2 ft high perennial growing four petaled flowers in pink, yellow and white. Spreads swiftly and looks great in rock gardens or as a tall ground cover for rocky slopes.

Gaillardia

Also called Blanket flower because its colors call to mind those colorful woven serapes of Mexican fame. Daisy-like flowers are mostly multi-colored in bight yellow, bronze and red. “Grandiflora” is a 2-4 ft tall perennial with 3-4 inch wide flowers. Very long bloom time,  self-sows readily, great cut flower and is excessively pretty.

Liatris

Also known as the Gayfeather this perennial has tall (depending on variety 3-5 feet) narrow plumes of fluffy white or purple flowers sticking out of  grass-like leaf-clusters. Blooms from top to bottom, is a great cut flower and tolerates heat, dry conditions and poor soil.

Flax

Botanically known as Linum and from which linseed oil is derived, this 1-2 ft tall self-sowing annual or short-lived perennial blooms continuously from late spring to summer and even into fall depending on cultivar. Flowers come in ruby red, light blue, golden yellow or bright white and all have wiry stems and slender greyish-green leaves.

Fountain grass- known botanically as Pennisetum is an ornamental clumping grass with  arching leaves and feathery flowers. The flowers are subtly-colored, frothy plumes which swayed delightfully in the breeze. It grows between 1 and 2 feet tall and when in bloom its flowers, depending on variety can be pink, white or black and double the height of the plant.

Tithonia

The Mexican Sunflower as it is known, this 6 ft. tall and multi-branching beauty will self-sow and bring tons of hummingbirds, bumble bees and butterflies  to your garden. Flowers are 3-4 inched across in bright orange-yellow with tufted centers. Makes a wonderful temporary hedge or backdrop. Tolerates high heat, poor soil and dry conditions.

There are many other plants I saw growing happily in arid gardens  with amazing  tolerance to  intense heat, poor soil and dry conditions.  I didn’t even mention the many cacti and succulent plants which are the most tolerant of arid places. These I picked out in tree, shrub and flower forms show a variety of  shapes, sizes, colors and types of plants. Surely one of them will do well in your particularly dry section in the yard.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Best plants for acid soil

There may be those who think a neutral soil is the perfect soil. Not too sweet, not too acid, just right, so, of course it should be perfect. Silly of them to think this. There are plants that like it neutral, yes, and even those that like it alkaline, but there are a great many others, a majority in fact, that like it a bit on the acidic side.  These like it only slightly acidic however. With this in mind let us discuss the best plants for very acidic soil.

Evergreen trees 

 Here is a huge collection of trees including Pines, Firs, Spruces and Yews all of which love acidic soil and thrive in it. They vary greatly in size and shape. Some, like the Juniperus Horizontalis (commonly called Blue Rug Juniper) barely gets higher than a half foot off the ground and the Colorado Blue Spruce practically scrapes the sky at 70-80 feet tall. These include  ground covers, shrubs and trees in varying shapes and growth habits. In this group  the choices are endless.

Azalea 

This is a lovely evergreen shrub with somewhat stiff leaves in a light to medium green color, depending, of course, on cultivar and there are plenty to choose from.  These are famous for the beautiful show they give us in spring when they burst into bloom with trumpet shaped flowers in an endless array of colors. These colors are vibrant pinks, reds, violets, white with some, the neon bright Klondike strain in particular, being highly fragrant as well.  They like the shade and do great under-planted amongst pines, firs and hemlocks all of which drop their needles to keep the soil acidic just like they prefer.

Rhododendron 

Another shade loving, evergreen shrub with extraordinary trumpet shaped flowers grown in huge clusters and in similar shades as the Azalea only a tad larger. Rhodos, as they are affectionately called, can get big so, give it plenty of room. It is not unusual to see a stand of these getting 15-25 feet tall and wider still in the wild. The leaves are large, glossy and leathery in a deep green with a lighter underside or at times tan colored. These lovely shrubs have the added benefit of being a temperature sensor. When the weather dips down to nasty levels, say in the 20's F, they tend to fold down their leaves in an effort to conserve energy, protect themselves and to warn us to stay indoors if at all possible. Heed their warning!

Mountain Laurel 

Also an evergreen shrub with a spring show, these have small, light green leaves and flowers shaped like stars. Extremely pretty, they bloom in pale- medium pink fading to white if allowed in part sun.

Camellia

A lovely southern treat, this evergreen shrub originating from China is known for the beautiful double and semi-double Austin rose-shaped flowers  that start blooming, depending on cultivar, and there are hundreds if not thousands of them, in December and run through to their zenith in February and March.

Gardenia 

Though grown for the houseplant trade, these don’t make particularly good indoor plants. In the shade garden, however, they thrive wonderfully in southern climes with acidic soil.

As for perennials which like acid soil, go with that which you’ve seen naturally growing in humus rich soil full of organic material and with ample rainfall preferably growing under evergreens. These include but are not exclusive to Hosta, Helleborus, Dog-Tooth Violets, Columbine, Foxglove, Virginia Bluebells, Lily-of the-Valley, Pachysandra, Trillium, Periwinkle and Japanese Anemone.

These are just a few of the many beautiful plants capable of living quite happily in acid soil. As with many things, however,  the truly vigilant gardener is in control and even the most acidic soil can be amended to be less so and therefore more appealing to a wider range of plants. If a soil test tells you no good news about the soil in your yard pulverized lime can be added and mixed in to the soil to sweeten it. Problem, if in fact you consider it a problem to be able to grow all these lovely plants, solved.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Best Ground Covers For Dry Climates.

The lament of the grass always being greener on the other side is never more applicable than to the gardener who has to prove they possess a green thumb in the arid climate. In dry regions of the globe where water not only doesn’t fall in sufficient quantities from the heavens but is also strictly rationed, gardeners have it pretty tough. These parched folks with their equally parched landscapes need to find plants which can make it without much water.

There are, thankfully, loads of trees, shrubs, annuals  and perennials to serve this purpose. But isn’t there something else that can be done, something that can improve this arid condition? Where the soil is baked by the hot sun, dry from no rain and possibly of a sandy, gritty consistency  it would be prudent for the gardener to shade the soil to preserve as much moisture as possible with it.

The obvious answer for doing this is the ground cover. Ground covers shade the soil disallowing moisture to evaporate as rapidly. But what are there best ground covers for dry climates? Let us look into that.

Ice Plant ( Delosperma)

This perennial succulent comes in two cultivars. The taller of the two is the 5 inch tall Delosperma Cooperi which is hardy to USDA Zone 7. One plant covers 2 feet square and boasts bright purple flowers throughout summer. Delosperma Nubigenum is considerably hardier to Zone 5 with brilliant yellow, 1 inch blossoms. This one only reaches one inch off the ground but spreading to 3 feet. Both like full sun and good drainage and look wonderful in rockeries or cascading out of hanging baskets and over garden walls.

Queen’s Wreath (Antigonon Leptopus)

Hardy to zone 9, this fast growing deciduous vine works just as well as a ground cover and in warm areas is evergreen. It can grow to 40 feet long with 3-5 inch long, deep green, arrowhead shaped leaves with small sprays of rosy pink flowers about an inch and a half long. Very pretty and airy. Perfect for providing shade under a trellis or to cover a vast amount of ground.

Dwarf Plumbago (Plumbago Larpentae)

Growing 6-12 inches tall this perennial with bronzy-green foliage and tons of tiny half-inch wide,
deep blue flowers spreads quickly in sun or part shade.

Blue Festuca (Festuca Ovina Gluaca)

Tough, quick to spread,  tufty powder blue grasslike plants standing 6-10 inches high look like spiky balls in the garden. Loves hot sun, sandy soil and takes sea breezes like a champ. Deer hate them and drought doesn’t bother them a bit. Very unique.

Mediterranean Pinks (Saponaria Ocymoides)

This creeping 6 inches high beauty looks lovely cascading over a rock wall with its hundreds of tiny pink blossoms and semi-evergreen foliage.  Vigorous grower, hardy to Zone 4 and drought tolerant. What more do you want? Oh, yes, deer resistant too.

Dwarf Rosemary ( Rosmarinus Prostratus)

Though Rosemary is usually seen growing upright this cultivar creeps along the ground covering an extraordinary 4-8 feet and getting up to 2 feet tall. Dark green foliage makes a great backdrop to the tiny lavender blue flowers that cover it in midsummer. Likes full sun, warm temps and well draining soil.

Yellow Stonecrop “Ellacomeanum” (Sedum Kamtschaticum)

2-4 inches high perennial ground cover forms dense mat of bright green fleshy leaves. Come summer yellow star shaped flowers cover the whole thing. Spreads quickly even in poor soil and defies drought.

Dead Nettle (Lamium Maculatum)

One of the only ground covers to do well in dry shade. Grows 4-8 inches tall and forms dense mats with silvery green leaves and purple flowers come midsummer.

These ground covers will liven up the landscape of the driest regions. Now you have a few good choices for that dry garden of yours. Whichever you choose there will be no need for envy since you’ll soon realize you are the one on the other side of the fence with the greener grass. Or is that a greener garden?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Attracting wildlife to your garden

So, you say you want to attract wildlife to your yard. Let me start by stating, be careful what you wish for because it might just happen. Having said that, let me inform you of the easy steps you need to take to ensure a plethora of wildlife for every season of the year, for every yard, for every garden.


When we bought our four acre plot of land we were told by Bill, the person who owned it, that we would be displacing tons of rabbits once we built our house which in turn would drive the foxes out and we would disturb the deer migration. We didn’t like the sound of that but we needed a home for our growing family and the spot on top of that ridge was breath-taking. I pledged that I would do all I could to prevent any of this from happening. As it turned out, I needn’t have lifted a finger.

The first thing we did once established in our home was plant twenty or so eight-foot tall Colorado Blue Spruce trees on the perimeter of the property. Fences may make for good neighbors but pine trees make for a great barrier so we don’t see them and they don’t see us. But what they also did was provide plenty of nesting sights for Robins, Wrens, Starlings and a slight little bird which meowed like a cat. I called him the cat-bird. I’m not much of a bird enthusiast but I did like to see our avian friends flittering about collecting twig and grass for their homes.   And every time I saw a sky-blue piece of egg shell on the ground I knew there was a new baby Robin flying around the yard.

To make room for the house the builders plowed down a thoroughly hideous clump of briar roses, most of which was dead and this was where the rabbits had their homes. The rabbits weren’t much bothered it seemed because they moved over to the large clump of native Viburnum. We were going to knock that down too but we noticed that the birds really liked the blue-black berries the Viburnum produced in the Autumn. This made me think of other shrubs to plant for the birds. I planted a long row of Tartarian Honeysuckle which produce wonderful smelling pink blooms which turned into juicy red berries the birds can’t get enough of. I planted another long hedge of Rosa Rugosa, a shrub rose which produce huge, cherry-tomato sized Rosehips. You wouldn’t believe how many people, silly people, think it’s a huge tomato plant. The birds love to eat these too and some folks actually make Rosehip jelly with them. Go figure!

After those few concessions to wildlife I planted flowers, trees and shrubs that I wanted. Well, as it turned out me and wildlife have similar taste. The flowers I planted attracted what must have been every bee from the bee keeper a half mile up the road. They were everywhere and they didn’t seem to even notice me when I  picked flowers. There I was with a bouquet of lavender in one hand and a pair of clippers in the other and a bee landed on my freshly picked lavender blooms.

“Hey, those are mine now!” I yelled at the little bee. He paid me no mind and continued with his pollinating, collecting and buzzing. Perhaps I kind of look like a flower, I thought. Wasn’t I afraid of it? Heck no! If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you, is my motto.

Butterflies and caterpillars appeared out of nowhere, frogs and toads showed up even before I was finished putting in the pond. How they knew I was going to but water in that big, plastic, oddly shaped thing heaven only knows! One winter a flock of fat grayish-black birds swooped down on my burning bushes and stripped them of their berries. It was quite a sight to see! Dragonflies, moths, wasps and even the elusive Praying Mantis showed up without formal invitation. But weren’t all those flowers the invitation? Yeah, I guess so.

What did I plant? An easier question to answer would be what didn’t I plant. Iris, Daylily, Rose, Coreopsis, Black-eyed Susans, Daisy, Clematis, Honeysuckle vines, Trumpet Vines, Asiatic Lily, Scabiosa, Lady’s Mantle, Hosta, Columbine, Balloon Flower, Sedums, Ajuga, Hibiscus, Daffodils, Grape Hyacynth, Viginia Bluebell... I could keep going but I think you get the message. Plant what you like and it makes everyone happy.

Even that which I didn’t plant, aka weeds, made creatures appear as if by magic. The common Thistle, though the bane of my existence, is loved by the Golden finch for its yummy seeds. Butterflies use Queen Anne’s Lace and Milkweed Vulgaris for laying eggs. Even my dead apple tree was useful for the giant Woodpecker who liked to bore wholes in the trunk to get at the bugs. I still recall awakening to Rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-tat. They can surely be loud.

Too bad he didn’t like the Japanese Beetles I had in abundance, though. Yes, my garden attracted bad things too. The fox liked it here just fine despite what Bill told us and would often leave bits of rabbit in the yard. These bits of rabbit in turn attracted hawks and crows, noisy crows. If you want to sleep in crows are not your friends. The skunk, the opossum, the porcupine and even a tenacious woodchuck made their presence known. We had an on-going battle of wills with Mr. Groundhog, as my youngest son called him. And don’t get me started on the deer! Yes, they are a pretty sight but only in someone else’s yard. They completely devoured my long line of Hosta one night. Good thing Hosta are tenacious growers.

So, do you have all that? Plant diversely, making certain you have trees, shrubs and flowers which in some way are useful to wildlife. Provide them food, water, shelter, a place to raise their young and they may never leave. In the winter time bird feeders are always welcome because even here in the Pocono mountains birds from further north pass through on their way south. They need energy and Black oil sunflower seeds attract a multitude of birds. Cardinals, Finches, Bluebirds, Robins, Starlings, Chickadees will all appreciate your tender offering. Of course, so will chipmunks and squirrels. Gotta take the good with the bad, don’t we?

I can’t complain though. I love the hopping, flying, buzzing and croaking creatures around me. I’ll never be lonely now, will I?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jim's mystery flower

My friend, Jim, asked me to identify a plant he found growing in his garden. He didn’t know if it was friend or foe, but he gave it the benefit of a doubt and allowed it to stay, all the while keeping a watchful eye for any sign of it being an invasive and throughly unwanted weed.

I asked if it was at least pretty. “Yeah, it’s gorgeous!”he said.

So, then it’s not a weed, I told him. In my opinion, any plant which makes you happy to have it in your garden can’t be a weed. But he wanted to know it for certain. He needed to give this thing a name. Then I asked what difference does it make what it is if he liked it so much?

“Ignorance is not good for me. If I don’t absolutely know it’s a real plant with a real name, I’ll forget about it and yank it out next year.”

Couldn’t argue with that. How often had I thrown down seeds and not labeled them, only to yank them out later when I forgot I had planted them there to begin with? Silly, thy name is the careless gardener!

So, I had Jim send me a picture of this gorgeous mystery plant. It took me a couple of tries before finding out for certain it was a Phlox paniculata, a very pretty pinkish red one. He was happy to know it was a ‘real’ plant. I told him I wouldn’t be happy until he sent me seeds from it. I don’t have any Phlox paniculata and I want some!

He assured me he would. That, I take as a solemn promise, from one gardener to another, and that cannot be breached. You are my witness!

Friday, July 16, 2010

A guide to vines and climbing plants

What is a vine? What sets a vine apart from shrubs, trees and your average perennial is their relatively flexible stems and their killer instinct. Actually, I should call it a survival instinct which often goes awry and becomes a killer. But it’s really not the vine’s fault so let’s not take up a vendetta against them or stick them all in Plant Prison. Let’s hear their case first.

Vines, like those folks climbing the corporate ladder, started out life at the bottom and have to spend their life reaching up for the light. This reaching up started in dark, damp jungles where they were over-shadowed by huge trees all competing for space. The vine had to adapt to survive. Thus they started growing long, flexible stems clinging and twining up trees, shrubs and whatever else they could use to get to that life-giving sun. If it took over a tree and killed it in the process, well, we all gotta live, don’t we? Even the tiger has to eat an occasional deer. It’s the same in the floral world. Survival of the fittest.

Be that as it may, I have learned quite a few things about vines by growing them in my garden, by observation and by trial and error. Here is a useful guide to vines and climbing plants.

These free flowing stems can be trained to go where you want either sprawling on the soil to form a nice ground cover, flowing gracefully over the rim of a hanging basket or up on a trellis giving height to the garden. Vines come in the usual varieties as other plants, annual and perennial but they also fall into different groups according to their climbing style.

There are four types of vines and each takes a different gardening approach for maximum use in the garden. They are the twining, clinging, those with tendrils and the ones with no means whatsoever for attachment.

The twining vine includes Morning Glory, Hops, Wisteria, Honeysuckle, Jasmine and Scarlet Runner Bean among others. These vines encircle their stems around anything that gets in its way from shrubs and trees to the pole and trellis. They require no help to climb though they need quite a bit of guidance to keep them in check otherwise they’ll ramble all over the place. These are great to cover a fence. They add charm to any home climbing on a lamppost or trellis.

Clinging vines are the pernicious of the bunch or at least they can be. These include the Boston Ivy which cover all those New England buildings, hence the term Ivy League College. Boston Ivy also makes up the infamous Wrigley Field outfield wall where baseballs go to die for a ground rule double. Planted several decades ago the Ivy is reportedly 6 feet deep now. If an outfielder runs into that he might never come back out. Vines can be scary.

Clinging vines grow little claw-like protrusions or tendrils with suction cup-like disks which indeed cling desperately to brick, stone, tree trunks, poles, aluminum siding, heck, you name it! Some of the more popular varieties in this group include Trumpet vine, Climbing Hydrangea and Virginia Creeper.

Vines which climb using tendrils are Passion flower, Clematis, Sweet Pea, Grape and Cup-and-Saucer among many others. These require thin poles or string to help them climb as the tendrils are rather small and curl only around things less than an inch in diameter in most cases.

The last group includes Rambling Roses, Euonymus Fortunei and others with no means of climbing or clinging. These need to be tied to a trellis or fence in order for them to grow vertically otherwise they tend to sprawl on the ground or ramble onto bushes. Some, like the rambling rose use their hook-like thorns to help them along mostly by chance. The wind might blow a branch onto a bunch of leaves on a growing tree and just takes it along for the ride. Down by my mailbox there’s a rambler that did just that. It’s currently thirty feet tall and tangled between a birch tree and a phone pole. It’s a beauty in bloom.

And that’s the most important thing to know about vines. Most are very attractive for any garden. They are very versatile and easy to grow but it’s their endless flowering and tenacity which should be admired and admired is what they will be ad infinitum.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Annuals

With a name like “Annual” you get the impression the plant lasts for only a year. This is totally erroneous. The annual, in fact, will die after it accomplishes its mission in life which is to produce offspring. This can take as little as a few weeks from the germination of the seed to the flower being pollinated and gone to seed. This is where learning about annuals comes in handy.

Every gardener should learn the psychology of the annual. Knowing this will help you to understand how best to manipulate them to your advantage. Oh, really it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Gardeners are the ultimate manipulators. We take that which Mother Nature has created and make them better, bigger, grow faster and bloom more. That’s gardening in a nutshell.

The annual lives to produce seed for future generations. Continuing the species is its only priority, its only motivation. Deny them this and they will bloom in perpetuity. Believe me this one, folks. I’ve seen it with mine own eyes. My mother, a master gardener if ever I saw one, kept Pelargonium ( A.K.A. Scented Geranium), Impatiens, Periwinkle and assorted other annuals blooming continually for 3, 4 and 5 years in her home. Now that doesn’t sound right for something called an annual but that is the name they have and we’ll just have to live with it.

The annual in general is easy to grow, easy to keep blooming with proper and diligent deadheading and a marvel to the gardener. From the tiny, low growing Alyssum to the tall and wiry Cosmos, the widely available Marigold to the versatile Zinnia, there’s an annual to please every person, every garden type and every climate.

Because they have a tendency to self sow annuals at times appear to be more like the beloved perennial, always making a comeback when you least expect it. Of course to get them to self-sow you have to stop deadheading towards the end of the growing season or at least allow the prettiest, nicest and best producer to go to seed. You can then allow the seeds to scatter to the winds to grow willy-nilly or you can pick them and store them for the next growing season.

Many plants are called annuals when they are in fact either biennials or perennials that aren’t cold hardy in your area. It really matters not what they truly are, annual, biennial or perennial. They all can be a bonus to the garden bed. Try an annual or two or seventeen. You won’t regret it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Arbor Day Foundation

The National Arbor Day Foundation was created to promote a love of trees and the environment. I find it ridiculous that they need to do this but then I was a miserable little country girl living in Manhattan without even a blade of grass to look at through my living room window. It wasn’t until I moved to what I thought was the country, namely Long Island, that I breathed a sigh of relief. I finally got to see green! Trees, flowers, shrubs were all around my new home. I couldn’t have been happier. I didn’t need anybody telling me that green things were good for me. I just knew it. But I realize that others aren’t so lucky to just know this and that’s why the National Arbor Day folks need to come in and spread the word that green is good.

When we first acquired our four acre plot of earth, my husband Tommy set aside two acres for his arboretum. Oh, yes, you got that right. We planted an arboretum in our front yard. It is a wonderfully diverse collection of trees most of which we acquired from the National Arbor Day Foundation. Some are common, some are not so common but all are healthy, well-established trees which beautify our yard immensely.

I remember back those seventeen years when we first planted what our friends called dead sticks. Yes, they did indeed look like dead sticks barely three feet tall at the time and our friends laughed themselves silly but they no longer laugh. Our trees tower well over our heads now.

The National Arbor Day Foundation helped us in our quest for the perfect trees to include in our Arboretum. Their Book Of Trees was my Tommy’s bible during the planting season. He carried it around with him and paced out exactly where he was to plant every single tree we bought. Spacing them just right was very important for us. After building our farmhouse we didn’t have much money to spend on anything so to the rescue came the National Arbor Day Foundation with its low-priced, well-grown and varied collection.

The book was very informative. It told us the tree’s structure, size at maturity, whether it grows quickly or slowly and what it requires by way of planting zones, soil, watering needs and sun exposure plus what color to expect the leaves to turn into in the Autumn. You simply couldn’t make a mistake with this book in hand. We dutifully searched the book for trees that weren’t readily seen in our Pocono Mountain forests. We wanted a collection rivaling such arboretums as the famous Planters fields on Long Island and Morris Arboretum in Pennsylvania. For amateurs we did pretty good.

Even if you are not as ambitious as we were and you don’t need dozens of trees give the National Arbor Day Foundation a try. If nothing else you might learn something new and that’s always a good thing. Who knows? They might just encourage you to plant a tree or shrub for your landscape. They do have shrubs as well. Your home will thank you. The birds and other creatures will thank you. Mother Nature will thank you. Heck, even I’ll thank you. Planting a tree is the best thing you could do for your Mother Earth. Didn’t you know that? Well, now you do.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Best Annuals For Rock Gardens

The Rock Garden is the perfect solution for those people who have a steep slope of land, possibly rocky and invariably fast draining thanks to the force of gravity and no doubt containing soil of poor quality. While the Rockery, as the rock garden is at times called, is often planted with a variety of small trees, shrubs and perennials all of which can tolerate all these conditions there are ways to incorporate annuals as well or even plant a rockery entirely using only annuals.

Of course, these annuals must have a certain tenacity. They have to be tough to survive in poor, dry, rocky, slightly alkaline soil, in an exposed and likely windy place and if these plants tend to self-sow, all the better. Being on a steep slope, they need to take care of themselves. No one is going to be climbing up that hillside very often to hold their hands, now are they?

With all this in mind here is a list of the annuals likely to make even the most barren of terrains look a pretty, colorful sight.

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)- Sow seeds where you want them as these pretty little 2 inch wide single or semi-double flowers have delicate roots which hate to be disturbed. They self-sow readily but you’ll have to share them with the birds who love to nibble on the seeds.

Pot Marigold (Calendula)- These 2-4 inch wide flowers come in vibrantly sunshiny colors ranging from palest yellow to deepest orange. Blossoms can be single and double and the smaller cultivars “Fiesta” “Bob Bon” and “Dwarf Gem” all coming in under 15 inches tall are perfect in the rockery.

Bachelor’s Buttons (Centaurea Cyanus) - Cornflower blue is the preferred color for this pretty wildflower-turned- garden-favorite but they also come in shades of burgundy, pink, white and rose. Plants grow from 1 to 2 feet tall, have narrow 2-3 inch long, green-gray tinged leaves and flowers are 1 -2 inches across. Self-sowing is their claim to fame but they are also known for their acceptance of near drought conditions and the usually alkaline soil often found in Rockeries.

Johnny-Jump-Up (Viola Tricolor) - This tiny version of the Pansy with vivid purple and yellow grinning faces seem to add a joyous feeling to any garden but can do particularly well as a ground cover amongst rocks and other taller plants on a steep slope. Johnny-Jump-up grows 6-12 inches tall and self-sows at will.

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)- This trailing plant looks like a low-hanging cloud when in bloom. It has the tiniest four petaled flowers in clusters all emitting a sweet, honey type fragrance. Bees and butterflies love it as do gardeners for erosion control. Colors range from pure white, pinks, lavenders to violets. Sizes range by cultivar from 2 inches tall to a foot high.

Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis sylvatica)- Coming in between 6-12 inches tall, Forget-Me-Nots spread well to fill in crevices and brighten any lonely spot with their profuse blooming, small, cheery, true blue flowers. They do require a bit more water but are well worth the trouble of adding a bit of compost in their planting sight to keep them happily coming back every year.

Creeping Zinnia (Sanvitalia Procumbens)- Not a true Zinnia but resembling them, this plant looks great cascading down a hill covering it with 1 inch wide flowers in brilliant yellows and oranges all with dark brown or purple centers. Blooms from mid-summer to frost and the seeds need to be planted where you want them as they hate transplanting. Great for hanging baskets and tumbling over retaining walls, too.

Moss Rose (Portulaca Grandiflora)- Coming in the widest array of bright and pastel colors imaginable, this plant grows 6 inches high and a bit over a foot across. The leaves are fleshy, the trailing stems have a reddish tinge and the 1 inch flowers resemble tiny lustrous roses, single and double forms. Loves the heat and drought is no problem. Self-sows readily.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolium Majus)- These come in two type both of which are perfect for the Rock Garden. The climbing or trailing variety grows to 6 feet long and the dwarf variety grows in a 15 inch high round mound. Both have the distinctive round and heavily veined, bright green leaves and the deep-throated flowers slightly over 2 inches wide come in delicate pastels as well as vibrant reds, pinks, yellows and pure white. Bees and Hummingbirds love these and people often like the leaves and flowers for their watercress taste in salads.

With these tough little annuals an unsightly bunch of rocks on a sloping area can be magically and beautiful transformed in a lovely Rock Garden. So, what are you waiting for?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Astilbe

Astilbe also goes by the name False Spiraea and Meadow sweet. The most commonly distributed being A. Arendsii. They are a carefree, pest resistant, shade tolerant perennial plant with lovely, lacy leaves (say that three times fast) and feather-like flower clusters. I say shade tolerant but in cool summer places they do fine in part to full sun if provided with enough water. They range in height from two feet to four.

They come in pinks, reds, whites and I recently acquired a lavender colored one, “Amethyst”. A late summer bloomer three to four feet high Amethyst has a pretty lavender plume mixing well in my shade garden with Hosta, Helleborus and Columbine.

“Deutschland” is an early white bloomer standing one and a half feet tall. “Peach blossom” is two feet tall with darling light salmon pink flower clusters. For a bright red flower and bronze colored leaves choose “Fanal”. “Ostrich Plume”, standing three and a half feet tall, has drooping pink blooms in mid to late season.

Astilbe prefers moist, humus-rich soil like that found in the forest. Leaf mold does wonders for this plant. They will flourish under dappled shade trees and look great inter-planted with Bleeding Hearts, Meadow Rue and Bergenia. They like to be divided every four to five years. Astilbe make wonderful dried flower arrangements. Do I recommend them? Heck, yeah! But then there’s rarely a plant I don’t recommend. All these mentioned will charm the garden gloves off you.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Baby’s Breath

If you’ve ever been to a prom, a wedding, a funeral or been the recipient or sender of a floral arrangement you’ve probably seen the small, pretty, insignificant flower commonly called Baby’s Breath. Florists use copious amounts of Baby’s Breath year round in fancy bridal bouquets, elegant corsages, huge flower arrangements, both fresh and dried, and even in casual bunches of flowers. It is what is called “filler” for more important flower displays. This is being rather disrespectful. Baby’s Breath may not be as bold as your average Stargazer Lily, Florist Mum or long-stemmed Rose but without this plant showy blossoms seem quite naked and not nearly as attractive to the eye. With this in mind let us take a closer look at the wonderful little plant that is Baby’s Breath and perhaps we can learn to appreciate it on its own merits.

Gypsophila is the botanical name for the overlooked Baby’s Breath. This is a relatively large collection of about one hundred annual and perennial plants ranging from 6 inches tall to 4 feet high, some sprawling on the ground and others upright growing. As the name implies, if you know your botanical terms, (Gypsophila means “lover of chalk”) it prefers to grow in a soil neutral to slightly alkaline and rich in calcium or gypsum. This native to North Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia since being introduced to the Americas has become slightly invasive in regions with poor, sandy, dry soil, particularly in the Chicago area.

Though rarely thought of as a garden plant Baby’s Breath would be a welcome addition to any sunny landscape design. One thing all Gypsophila have in common is the airy feel they give a perennial border, a rock garden, trailing over a retaining wall or when planted between paving slabs. This plant is quite versatile. It works especially well in the cutting garden where it can be used in home-grown fresh flower arrangements to give them a professional touch. Gypsophila is also a dream as a dried flower and keeps for years..

Gypsophila Elegans is the Baby’s Breath most often found in seed form in catalogs and garden centers. It is a very easily grown annual but short living. After 5-6 weeks the plant dies. For continuous blooming through the season sowing seeds every 3-4 weeks is recommended. Gypsophila Elegans has an upright growth getting 1-1 1/ 2 feet tall. Its leaves are 3 inches long, lance shaped and fleshy. The flowers are single form, one half inch across and abundant. Most often the blossoms are white but it also comes in rosy and pink varieties.

Gypsophila Paniculata, the classic Baby’s Breath, is a 3 foot tall perennial and quite hardy, to zone 3. The pointy leaves are 2-4 inches long and the single flowers though profuse are positively minuscule, only one sixteenth of an inch across. “Bristol Fairy” is a popular cultivar which gets to 4 feet high with double blossoms one quarter of an inch wide. The “Perfecta” cultivar, the favorite of florists, has slightly bigger flowers. This one is easily propagated by rooting cuttings or root divisions. Excellent for a perennial border.

Gypsophila Repens, also very hardy, is a 6-9 inch high creeping Alpine native which makes it perfect for the rock garden or spilling over a retaining wall. Its stems trail 1 and a half feet long. The 1 inch long leaves have a bluish-grey-green hue. “Alba” is predictably a snowy white flowering variety. For a different look to the rock garden try the cultivar “Dubia”. Its purple stems show nicely against the clusters of tiny pink flowers.

Gypsophila Cerastioides grows in mats 3 inches high and equally wide, perfect for a ground cover and between paving stones. Though a perennial this one is not as cold hardy, only to zone 5. It has gray leaves and flower clusters in pale pink or white with pink veining.

As you can see Baby’s Breath is not just fill and fluff. Baby’s Breath in all its varieties, is a plant that deserves a prominent place in the garden. Perhaps now you won’t ignore its importance.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bachelor buttons

Bachelor Buttons or Centaurea Cyanus as they are known botanically is an annual. It grows in all zones self-sowing to its heart’s content. Some call it the cornflower because of its tendency of frequently popping up in and around the borders of corn fields. In some areas they have become a wild flower and make a nice addition to any meadow with its traditional blue flowers.

The more common seed mixes on the market contain flowers in pink, burgundy, white and rose colored flowers as well as the blue. If allowed to hybridize on their own the blue will not produce a true seed . That is to say the blue color might be supplanted by the other colors if the bees pollinate all of them together. If you wish to collect your own seed and to have a ready supply of seeds that produce the distinct and coveted blue cornflower try to keep them away from Bachelor Buttons of other colors. Plant them in opposite ends of the yard might help. Perhaps the bees will cooperate. If you end up with all colors but blue you’ll have to try again and buy the only blue varieties.

Bachelor Buttons got their name when they were frequently used as boutonnieres. These pretty plants grow from 1 to 2 ½ foot tall. It branches nicely if given enough room. It has narrow 2-3 inch long, green, gray-tinged leaves. Flowers are 1 -1 ½ inches across . They generally have no fragrance but the butterflies like to settle themselves down on them and the bees are always buzzing happily around for the nectar.

The Bachelor Button likes any average garden soil and is quite drought tolerant. They like a less acidic soil so add a bit of lime where you want to plant these unless you know your soil’s pH level. They make a great addition to a cut flower arrangement lasting relatively long. As with all annuals, snipping off flowers at intervals will prevent the plant from going to seed too quickly and will promote more flowering. Caring for the Bachelor Button couldn’t be easier. Feed with a mild fertilizer or your own homemade compost tea as you would your other annuals and perennials.

One of the more popular and widely available Bachelor Button in garden centers and nurseries is “Jubilee Gem” with deep blue flowers. It comes in a bushy plant about a foot high. The very popular “Polka Dot” strain comes in all the usual cornflower colors. These are sold mostly in seed form.

One plant which technically isn’t a Bachelor Button though it is often mistakenly called such is Centaurea Montana. This one I highly recommend for the superior flower size and color and that you don’t have to replant it every year makes it that much more welcome. This one is actually a perennial which needs to be divided ever two years to keep it happy. You can easily find this on sale in most good quality garden centers, Home Depot or Lowes. The bushy plant grows 1 ½- 2 feet tall and wide. It has seven inch long grayish-green leaves and the flowers are a whooping 3 inches across. They even look as pretty when they are all gone to seed as they do freshly opened.

The seeds of the Bachelor Buttons should be sown in early spring but those seeds that were left behind in the garden over winter will readily sprout all on their own. In mild winter areas a late summer or fall sowing is fine. I’m certain you can find a nice place to put this curious, unassuming little plant. It has long been a childhood favorite for meadow bouquets picked especially for Moms all over the country. Here’s hoping you can pick your own by the next growing season.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A look at varieties of bamboo

Though Bamboo grows in huge groves, have hard woody stems and grow as tall as trees, the tallest reaching 60 feet high, they are technically only giant grasses. You’d need a heck of a lawn mower for these babies if you were thinking of exchanging it for your Kentucky Blue. But, no, Bamboo is more like your average Miscanthus Ornamental Grass only on steroids.

There are two basic types of Bamboo the running type and the clump forming. It is the running type which has the nasty reputation of being an invasive plant because of their tenacious rhizomes which creep just below the surface and pop up to extend the colony far and wide in all directions from the main plant. In most parts of the world where Bamboo grows naturally, this is considered a good thing as the hard woody stems called Culms have a zillion uses. Bamboo is used in making decorative water features for Japanese gardens, for staking plants, making furniture, fencing, tools, musical instruments, wind chimes and even building homes.

And let us not forget the Giant Pandas rely solely on Bamboo for food therefore it is a good thing it grows so quickly. Being a nutrient poor plant, however, it’s indeed a miracle Pandas are not already extinct just eating Bamboo. Unlike what some would say about humans being the bane of all life on Earth, Pandas being brought to zoos and given a better diet has saved them from that fate and allowed us to admire the Bamboo as something other than just food for Pandas.

As for the clump forming Bamboo, they are much more tamed and tamable for the home garden but they are mostly tropical and subtropical and extremely hard to come by at your average garden center.

Some form of Bamboo grows wild in every temperate and tropical region of the world but the ambitious gardeners to the north have been known to grow it within heated greenhouses or in the home and bringing it outside during summer. Bamboo in general doesn’t particularly like this treatment but who’s going to tell that to the rabid Bamboo lover? The hardiest Bamboo, Rargesia Murielae (6-15 feet tall, clump and very rare), is hardy to zone 5 as is “Yellow Grove Bamboo” (12-25 feet tall, running). The roots if mulched well may survive a zone colder or could be moved indoors for wintering over.

Bamboo is divided into four groups for determining its use in the landscape. In Group I, we have the dwarf cultivars and ground covers used in small clumps, for erosion control, for borders and in rock gardens. These include the cultivars Pleioblastus Argenteostrata, P. Chino Vaginata Variegata, both of which grow 2-4 feet tall, are hardy to zone 8 and have white stripes on their leaves. P. Distichus, commonly called Dwarf Fernleaf Bamboo (zone 8), and P. Variegata, the Dwarf Whitestripe Bamboo (zone 6), both grow 1-3 feet high. All of these are running types and should be cut back regularly to keep them looking their best.

Group II Bamboos are mostly clump forming and have a fountain or V shape to them. They are most useful in the landscape as sound barriers, windbreaks, hedges, single specimens and to screen unsightly views. They take about as much room as any large shrub and when clipped can be kept neat and in check. Some of the more notable varieties are Narihira Bamboo (Semiarundinaria Fastuosa) growing 8-25 feet high if not curbed. This is technically a running type but this cultivar is slow to spread and easily contained. Another in this group Bambusa Multiplex “Alphonse Karr” (8-35 feet), is a very pretty, dense growing Bamboo with green and yellow striped culms. Bambusa Multiplex “Golden Goddess” (6-10 feet high) with golden stems a half inch in diameter is good for containers. B.M. Riviereorum “Chinese Goddess” (4-8 feet) has small lacy leaves with arching culms. All of these are hardy to zone 8.

Group III is the taller, running Bamboos used primarily as tall screens and hedges or as a single specimen if confined. New growth on Chimonobambusa Marmorea “Marbled Bamboo”(2-6 feet, zone 9, running) is cream and purple but older culm look nearly black. Excellent of hedges if curbed. Arundinaria Amabilis “Teastick Bamboo” (20-50 feet, zone 8, running) has thick walled culms 2 and a half inches in diameter quite useful for wood. Phyllostachys Nigra “Black Bamboo” (4-15 feet, zone 7, running) has new growth coming in green but the second year they turn black. They prefer semi-shade in hot summer areas.

Group IV as you may guess are the truly giant Bamboos. A walk though a grove of these Bamboo sounds like nothing else in the world. Bambusa Beecheyana (12-40 feet, zone 8, clumping, 4-5 inch diameter culms) has an attractive tropical look but is very hard to find. Bambusa Oldhammii “Giant Timber Bamboo” grows 15-55 feet high with 4 inch diameter culms up to zone 8. Bambusa Ventricosa “Buddha’s Belly Bamboo” (3-30 feet high, zone 9, clump) grows swollen culms if confined in tubs or where soil is of poor quality and dry.

The good thing about Bamboo is how easy it is to keep them in check if you know the tricks. No, you don’t need a Giant Panda to help with that. Bamboo grows to its highest limits if given ample moisture, provided with fertilizer and allowed to ramble. They also are a bit of a contradiction as they like moisture but won’t grow in water and while they can be rather drought tolerant their rhizomes won’t spread into dry soil. As any good gardener knows we are the ones in control and we can deprive Bamboos of all the things they so like. Knowing this we can keep them to the lower heights of their range. Growing in tubs, in sandy, poor soil and deprived of a bit of water and fertilizer and you can have Bamboo growing somewhere near you even if you have to bring it in for the winter. Worth a try. Bamboo is exquisite.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bellflower

The Bellflower is botanically known as Campanula which merely means bell-like in Latin. The flowers are predictably bell shaped, hence the name, but others can be cup shaped, star shaped, round or even flat depending on variety. This is a wide ranging group of plants including annuals, biennials and perennials. Some creep along the ground barely 3 inches high while others may reach 6 feet tall. Colors range only at one end of the rainbow, mostly the blues, purples, violets, lavenders but there have been some white and pink cultivars developed.

The Campanula requires rich but well-draining soil. It prefers cooler climates but can do quite well in warmer places if placed in some shade. It will tolerate full sun only in the coolest areas. Regular feeding and watering will encourage blooming. The tall, upright growers make lovely cut flower arrangements.

The most common garden Campanula is Canterbury Bell, also called Cup and Saucer for the deep cup shape of the flower. This is a very showy plant either biennial or annual which grows 2 ½- 4 feet high. Stems are erect, sturdy, hairy and leafy. Leaves are medium green, lance shaped, 6-10 inches long at the base with those formed along the stems only 3-5 inches with wavy margins. Flowers are 1-2 inches across and can be either single or double form. These plants bloom in the late spring to early summer in all the blue hues mentioned before plus pretty pinks and some clear whites.

Star of Bethlehem or the Italian bellflower is a tender perennial which means it will withstand only moderately cool temperatures. In other, cooler regions it can be grown as an annual if started early indoors during the late winter months. This is a pretty trailing profuse blooming variety with stems 2 feet long and 1 inch, star shaped flowers in pale blue; excellent for hanging baskets but also good in rock gardens, as a ground cover, trailing over garden walls or window boxes. The most popular cultivar is “Alba” with larger white flowers. The “Mayi” cultivar has large lavender blue flowers. These plants are good candidates for bringing indoors and wintering over. It’s easily grown by cuttings and will bloom quicker from them than they would from seeds.

There are many other Campanulas though not so easily found unless you look through a good mail order catalogue specializing in different, unusual and hard to come by seeds. Try Seymore Select Seeds. It’s a great source for the garden connoisseur as I am and hopefully you are too. So, if you have a semi-shady spot in a flower bed full of good, rich soil, you may want to look up the Campanula. It may just ring your bell.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Benefits of Crop Rotation

A friend once asked me if it is true you shouldn't plant tomato and pepper plants in the same spot every year. Of course, I told her, they’re in the same family. She merely stared at me with a look that clearly said “And that means what exactly?” Let’s put it this way, would you want to be planted next to your obnoxious cousin Larry every single summer? Bad enough you have to see him during Thanksgiving but sitting next to him every day? That’s how the tomato feels about the pepper...sort of. That needs to be explained further.

The reason for not planting vegetables of the same family in the same place year after year is to prevent the repeated depletion of vital nutrients in the soil and to prevent the increased possibility of diseases and pests likely to be attracted to that family. Plants of the same family have very similar requirements, you see. So if you constantly plant a tomato, or one of its relations, in the same place year after year you’re just asking for trouble. You’re more likely to deplete the soil of vital nutrients and more likely to get a nasty bug or dreaded disease to your garden. Nobody wants that.

This is where we come across Crop Rotation, a nifty little activity which helps keep the soil productive, not depleted of nutrients, and hopefully, disease and pest free keeping everybody healthy and happy.

Crop rotation obviously is not solely for maintaining fertile soil but the lack of this activity was the reason for the dust bowl. Too many farmers were trying to get all they could out of the soil without giving it a rest in between crops nor replenishing the soil. Thankfully, we know better now. Legumes in particular have a nifty ability in which they can take the nitrogen in the air and fix it into the soil. This is called nitrogen-fixing and many farmers now use nitrogen-fixers after a planting of nitrogen-feeders, the greatest of which is corn. Corn is notoriously known as a heavy feeder as is cotton. Hence why it makes sense for cotton growers to rotate with peanuts, a nitrogen fixer. One year nitrogen fixer and the next nitrogen feeder. Do you see the genius behind this? I hope so. It’s rather important for proper soil management.

After a planting of heavy feeders organic matter is a must to replenish the soil or you'll have worthless soil. To prevent this you can till in shredded leaves, well-rotted manure, grass clippings, compost or plant a cover crop or “green manure” as it is sometimes called. Planting a cover crop of winter rye, red clover, another nitrogen fixer, or even some hairy vetch then tilling this into the soil provides enough nutrients for another bountiful crop of vegetables, flowers or trees and shrubs. All these cover crops when tilled back into the soil and left to decompose will attract tons of microorganisms and worms who come and do their stuff aerating the soil, munching on the green stuff and leaving behind wonderful castings, in themselves full of nutrients. Cover crops are a Godsend to the farmer and to the home gardener providing nutrients to enrich soil, keeping it productive, humus rich, healthy and able to keep going.

But back to the tomato-pepper relation thing. In the typical home garden crop rotation might not be so obvious nor a practical thing to accomplish. If you have a tiny little spot in which to garden and you have a nasty insect or plant disease lurking anywhere near your place does it really matter if you plant the peppers two feet to the left of where it was the previous year? I'm thinking your plant will be found eventually. Knowing this all you can do is try to keep your plants un-stressed.

No, plants don't take well to yoga nor meditation but keeping them healthy goes a long way. Keep your plants in appropriate sun light, well watered, with ample air circulation between them, fed properly with plenty of compost and they should do well. Also, making certain you are diligent about picking leaves up which might carry fungal diseases and NOT placing them into the compost pile. Anything diseased should get thrown into the garbage where it won’t infect anything else. This is essential. The less stressed your garden plants are the more able they will be to survive any attack. If you're not certain about your soil just get the compost out. It can fix tons of garden problems except for your obnoxious cousin Larry stepping on your tomatoes. I can’t help you there. Sorry.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cardinal climber

Ipomoea quamoclit is the formal name for the vine known as Cardinal Climber or the Cypress vine. It is also known as the Hummingbird vine because it is a particular favorite for those swift flying little birds. The long tubular flowers lend themselves for sticking their long, thin beaks in to sip the nectar.

As the botanical name implies it is a relation of the Morning Glory, Ipomoea nil and is just as vigorous a climber. It has a far less substantial quality than its cousin and other vines. By that I mean it should not be used as the Moonflower or other large-leafed vines to block an unsightly view or to provide shading under an arbor. The fine, lacy leaves of the Cardinal Climber won’t do the job. But it is a very nice plant to grow singly on a lamppost or in a hanging basket where its delicate twining habit can be seen to its advantage.

The seedlings require constant moisture and like the Morning Glory need coaxing to germinate readily. Placing the seeds to soak overnight before planting will insure more rapid and even germination. Plant them in place because they don’t like transplanting. If you insist on growing them in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill use peat pots or make your own bio-degrade-able planting pot using newspaper . That way you can plant the entire thing without disturbing the roots of the fussy little seedlings.

A summer annual in colder regions, some varieties of the Cardinal Climber have become naturalized in warmer places like the tropics making them seem almost like perennials. Cardinal Climber can grow just about anywhere though it requires full sun to bloom well and to grow it its full potential. It can easily reach to a height of 20 feet if provided with adequate support. It will grow horizontally along a fence quite easily.

The flowers of the Cardinal Vine are small, no bigger than one and a half inches long. The tubes flare out into a trumpet shape to form a very pretty five point star. They are mostly red in color but have been known to come in white and pink though rarely. The leaves are very different from the large, heart-shaped leaves of the Morning Glory. These leaves are finely divided, almost fern-like and feathery looking. They give the vine an airy, delicate feel. Leaves are two and a half to four inches long and look similar to those of the Cypress plant hence its other common name.

Seeds for the Cardinal vine are at times available at good quality garden centers though your best bet would be through mail order catalogues such as Seymore Select Seeds, a great place for many exotic, hard-to-find annual and perennial seeds. I suggest you try the pretty little Cardinal Vine especially if you have a liking for Hummingbirds.

Monday, July 5, 2010

7 Best shrubs for fragrance

Shrubs are an essential part of any good garden design. They can be an organic alternative to fencing, break up space in a large yard creating garden rooms and if chosen wisely can encourage wildlife, providing nectar for bees and butterflies, hiding places for cute little bunnies, nesting areas for birds and good berries for all to nibble. Let’s face it, the shrub can make the garden. Without them you’ve got a broken landscape.

There are many shrubs to choose from but you may as well do your nose a favor and pick one, two or seven of the loveliest and most fragrant shrubs around. Let’s go over a few.

Lilac (Syringa Vulgaris) - Top of the line in the shrub department is Lilac. This is a deciduous shrub with bright green, heart-shaped leaves and highly fragrant cone-shaped flower clusters. Two or three of these in a vase will perfume an entire house and one bush can perfume not only your yard but the whole neighborhood. They do best in cold winter regions and in slightly alkaline soil on the sandy, dry side. These shrubs can grow to be 15-20 feet tall and as wide if allowed but there are smaller cultivars available readily. It makes a wonderful, impenetrable hedge.

Star Magnolia (Magnolia. Stellata) is a deciduous shrub growing in zones 4-8. It can get 10 feet tall with a 20 foot wide spread but is very slow growing. It gets its name from the somewhat star-shaped flowers. Petals are long, lazily floppy in a stark white. They are the earliest to bloom in late winter or early spring with wonderfully fragrant, profuse blossoms.

Klondyke Azaleas- This cultivar of the common Azalea has neon bright flowers in bright yellow and orange. You can smell these in bloom about a mile away. Absolutely a must in the semi-shady, woodland garden.

Tatarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera Tatarica) - Most people think Honeysuckles are only vines but these are great shrubs for a tall backdrop to a garden or for hedging. They explode in sweet-smelling pink or yellow blooms in early spring. They grow about 10-12 feet tall, but it can be tamed to a sedate yet solid barrier 6-8 feet tall. An extremely vigorous grower it produces loads of bright red berries the birds go nuts for.

Gardenia (Gardenia Jasminoides)- The dark green, thick and shiny leaves of the Gardenia show off the creamy double blossoms perfectly. Their perfume is incredible. They are hardy only to zone 8 and need summer heat to bloom well. Height varies from 3-8 feet tall depending on cultivar and they require acidic soil which retains moisture but is also fast draining.

Russian Olive (Elaeagnus Angustifolia)- This plant, at 20 feet tall at maturity with a slightly wider spread, can be termed a small multi-stemmed tree or kept trimmed as a smaller shrub. It have tiny greyish green leaves and rather insignificant, tiny, pale yellow flowers. One whiff of their intoxicating perfume, however, will knock you for a loop. It also has inch long thorns and produces little berries that the birds seem to like. Russian Olive tolerates extreme cool, drought, poor soil and blistering summers.

Winter Daphne (Daphne Odora) - An evergreen growing between 4-8 feet high with narrow glossy, thick leaves has wonderfully fragrant, pink to red flowers with paler pink centers. They grow in clusters at the end of branches and bloom late winter or very early spring. A bit fussy but well worth the trouble.

Now you know what to do. Go out and get yourself at least one of these lovely, fragrant shrubs. One is sure to tickle your fancy and possibly...read more