Showing posts from June, 2012

Crocosmia is Montbretia from South African grasslands - hardy in zones 6 to 9

Most of the plants that thrive in our zone 7 gardens are not from South African grasslands. An exception to this rule is Crocosmia, a member of the iris plant family and cousins of gladiolas. Their common names include coppertips, falling stars, montbretia, antholyza and curonus.
The Crosocmia name is from the Greek word kronos (saffron) and osme (odor). Their Montbretia name is from Antoine Frans Ernest Conquebert de Monbret, Napoleon’s botanist who went to Egypt in 1798.
When they are grown in pots filled with good soil and compost, Montbretia flowers grow much larger than they can in the perennial beds where they are usually planted.
Planted from bulb/corms, Crocosmias send up lance-shaped leaves in the spring that are topped with several inches of funnel-shaped,brightly colored flowers in mid-summer. They make long-lasting cut flowers for bouquets. Do not cut the leaves off because they need to soak up sun to create energy for next year’s flowering.
Usually, the entire plant is a…

"Natural Food Dyes" Do we need them at all?

We tend to prefer foods that are labeled "natural coloring" and "natural flavoring", leaning away from products that list artificial colors and flavors in their ingredients.

But the recent Starbucks flap has me wondering if we actually need to wean ourselves and consume slightly more bland and less colorful prepared foods.

In case you missed it: Starbucks customers found out that their strawberry drinks were colored with carmine, a red dye made of crushed parasistic beetles. Around 70,000 beetles are crushed for each pound of carmine, which is widely used in food and cosmetics, including your lipstick.

6,500 customers signed an anti-carmine petition and Starbucks responded.

Now the strawberry drinks are colored with a tomato based product called Tomat-O-Red which can claim antioxidants.

People with deadly nightshade (potato, tomato, eggplant) or tomato-specific allergies will not realize that there is a tomato derivitive in their beverage because it will be listed …

Hibiscus is Hibiscus moscheutos or Dinner Plate Hibiscus or Rose Mallow

These huge flowers bloom on woody stems in the summer but die back to the ground when the weather turns cold and freezing. In zones 4 to 9 - Florida to Canada, they return reliably year after year.
One of their common names is Swamp Mallow, providing a hint as to their water needs. Give them plenty of sun and water and they will reward you with many beautiful flowers during the summer.
A cousin of okra and cotton, Hardy Hibiscus is also related to tropical hibiscus, confederate rose, and Rose-of-Sharon. Also related, is the Confederate Rose, Hibiscus mutabilis, that grows up to 15-feet tall in the south.
Scarlet Rosemallow, Malvaceae coccineus, is another one in our garden that comes back from the root each year. A blog reader sent me the seeds and she called it Texas Five Star Hibiscus. It is a reliable and gorgeous bloomer IF and WHEN it gets enough water. 
Crimson Eye Hibiscus  or Crimsoneyed rosemallow, Hibiscus is this white one with a red center.

Hardy hibiscus is resistant to p…

Tiger Lily or Turk's Cap - Lilium lancifolium or Lilium tigrinum or Lilium superbum - not an American native

Lilium lancifolium is one of the lilies with the common name "ditch lily" because it grows so well in damp places around the country.

But guess what? They are actually native to eastern Guam, China, Korea and Japan. It was first shipped to Europe in 1870, according to Phagat's Garden.

The unscented flowers bloom on top of 5-foot tall stems and the seeds form along the stem where each leaf emerges. The pollinated seeds become plants in 2 years.

The bulbs grow their roots during the winter so the bulbs are planted no later in the season than the fall.

According to the Pacific Bulb Society, "The Tiger Lily has a reputation as the "Typhoid Mary" of the lily world, being very resistant to disease and virus tolerant which equals a risk to other lilies."

Tiger Lily bulbs are said to taste like potatoes or turnips when boiled though I've never tried them as a food.

There is quite a bit of confusion about the genetics, names and identification of Turk…

New stuff to make gardening easier

Gardeners enjoy buying new implements and improvements for their favorite hobby. We shop constantly for new tools, soil improvements, planters, and paraphernalia that would make our gardens better, easier to maintain, prettier and more fun.

Fortunately, inventors, stores and catalogs provide lots of new stuff for us to consider. Here are a few you may need -

Homeowners battling unwanted animals on their property can add a new weapon to their armament. Havahart ( has a new Spray Away repellent that works to keep critters out of up to 1,900 square feet of garden or lawn. 

A hose is connected to the bottom of the unit and the water is turned on. When the infrared sensor detects motion up to 35-feet away, a moving, sudden burst of water and sprinkler noise chase away the intruders. The sensor can be tilted up to chase birds or down to chase cats.

It is battery operated so no electricity is needed and an LED indicator light blinks when the batteries need to be replaced.


Gardening in zone 5b - writings by Dan Clost

Dan Clost is a well-known and respected garden writer for the Canadian publication, Quinte West EMC. Clost addresses his readers as "Gentle Reader" which sets the tone for his what-a-pleasure-to-read gardening advice.

Online, Clost describes his plant-experience, "Day job-nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre. Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years).

Here's an excerpt from his column on pigweed or as he called it hogweed -

"Let me head off on a side jaunt. Many of us recognise wild carrot as the road side plant with the white flat flowers. Other plants, such as poison hemlock, have a similar appearance to wild carrot and they can, indeed, be deadly. When the two are compared, side by each, the differences are apparent, however, when you see one in isolation it can be quite difficult to discern which it is. T…

Tricia and Chip Dudley - Memphis garden tour

This 1.3 acre garden is one I could live in. Wide expanses of lawn behind a privacy fence of well-cared for trees and shrubs, a gorgeous entrance to the property, and plantings that create a restful experience.
This is the side yard and in the distance is the gateway into the back gardens.

Here's the back - what you see after coming through the gateway above.

Can't you imagine yourself in the hammock with a good book?

The back garden's building holds gardening needs. It is nicely decorated with hanging planters, a bench and the adorable frog pushing a wheelbarrow.

Anne & Jerry Riordan - Mid-South Hydrangea Society garden tour -

Anne Riordan retired after 37-years as a mail carrier and designed her dream garden in the front, side and back yards of her home. She said she started on the garden in 1996 when she became a master gardener.
In the Riordan's garden rooms there are espaliered fruit trees, lollipop pruned Lorapetalum, fountains, a compost bin, a putting green, benches, an entertaining spot, garden shed, arbors, herbs, flowers, perennials and annuals.
<><><><> <> The sculpture was given to Jerry Riordan for his birthday - from his brother, Joe Anderson.

 So much thought and creativity has gone into each garden room! Flowers, fruit, herbs and native plants surround each space.
Placed throughout the gardens, there are benches, places to stop and smell the flowers.
This garden is filled with joyful views everywhere you look.

Amy and Drew Taylor - Memphis garden tour

Here's a garden and landscape with lots of breathtaking features.

 A wide pea-gravel walkway leads from the driveway to the front entertaining area.
 The water-fountain/pond is surrounded with cold-hardy banana trees, lamb's ears, carpet juniper, Japanese maples, and heavenly bamboo. The pond is in bloom with water lilies.
The pool and cabana make the area in the back of the home into a place to relax and entertain.
The garden plantings in the back of the house include pots of oleander, mandevilla and other tropicals.
Five sculptures dot the landscape, ranging in size from 8 to 15 feet tall. The previous owner made and installed them and left them at the house.
The driveway beds are filled with rhododendrons skirted with liatris, redbud trees and Japanese maples skirted with boxwoods, hostas, and mahonia.

The entrance to the property is accented with canna lilies.

All in all a spectacular place to be!

Peggy and LaVerne Lovell - garden on the Memphis tour

The home of Peggy and LaVerne Lovell started out life as a highly respected girls school.
The gardens are filled with azaleas, dogwoods, box shrubs, hellebores and impatiens. Surrounding the beds are various sizes of mondo grass.

Behind the conservatory, there is a brick walkway, beds of shrubs and flowers and pots of herbs.  

This is a lovely, peaceful sanctuary with several seating areas.

Mid-South Hydrangea Society garden tour

The residential neighborhoods of Memphis, TN, are lined with hydrangeas in bloom at this time of year. The 430 members of the Mid-South Hydrangea Society hold their annual Garden Tour each June to celebrate the season.

Their annual plant sale starts the day with hundreds of hydrangeas of every variety available to take home.

This year, the first garden on the tour was at the residence of Anne and Jerry Riordan – a garden that was recently in Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The slim lot features a front garden with a circular lawn, vine covered arbors, a fountain and a dozen shade loving plants such as begonias, yew, lilies and ferns.  When Anne retired and became a master gardener she created a back yard that is a series of garden rooms separated by planting beds, espaliered fruit trees, outdoor seating, fountains, metal sculpture, a fireplace and a putting green. One bed featured two Loropetalum standards, pruned to lollipop shapes. Basil and parsley companionably grow in a dwar…

More daylily snapshots from our gardens

Daylily blooms come in waves. Most of the earliest ones have faded away. You'll see in the last photo that while these mid-season varieties are doing their thing, the latest varieties are just getting going. 

42 zinnia plants for under $2.00 - potting up seedlings

Tall zinnias with large blooms attract hundreds of butterflies to our garden every year and planting them from seed guarantees that a lot of nectar will be available for butterfly-viewing season.

They are members of the aster plant family - most are natives of the Americas.

The seeds frankly, look like plant trash - thin, brown scraps, half the size of a dime. Taking them out of the packet can make a gardener wonder if someone sold them a joke pack - these things can't grow into big fat nectar plants!

I planted them into a flat with many planting holes so I could keep track of their progress.  Unfortunately I didn't notice at planting time how many planting holes were seeded so I can't report on the germination rate of this buck-thirty-nine packet of seeds.

  They rooted really well.
To protect the seedlings during the process, use a plastic knife or something similar to loosen all four edges.

The roots are three times as long as the little seedling is tall. To separate…

June is for Daylilies

Daylilies are blooming in practically every color right now. (The photos here are from our garden.) The original daylilies were Hemerocallis flava and Hemerocallis fulva, the Chinese orange daylily commonly seen growing alongside the road. Known to have been in cultivation since 479 B.C., historically they were used for food and medicine.
The early hybrids were yellows and oranges, and then later, the lavender, pink, cream and red hybrids came from the pink-orange color in ditch lilies.
  Although those tall orange ones gave daylilies a bad rap because they are invasive, the hybrids are an easy-care garden choice. They can tolerate any soil other than wet clay, they are rarely bothered by insects or diseases, and they bloom in full or part-sun. Not only are daylilies non-toxic to children and pets, their pollen is non-allergenic, making them ideal for family gardens.
A single plant is called a fan and the fans multiply steadily, requiring dividing only every 3 years or so. When the pl…