28 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 about 2-feet tall and thrives in full sun to part shade with 6 hours of sun a day working best. They bloom best if watered periodically, especially during flowering.

The corms multiply fairly quickly, creating a clump. As a result, some Crocosmia hybrids are considered invasive in the Pacific Northwest, England and New Zealand.

Others have won a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit. The award winners include: Seven Sunrise, Lucifer, Crocosmia masoniorum, C. mansoniorum Rowallane yellow, C. crocosmiiflora Carmin brilliant, C. crocosmiiflora Solfatare and C. crocosmiiflora Star of the East.

Crocosmia flowers are hermaphroditic or self-fertile and are pollinated by insects, hummingbirds and the wind.

 Crocosmias (abbreviated to the letter C in the list below) come in a variety of colors so you can choose the ones that will work in your garden scheme.

Here are a few of the 400 varieties available -

C. aurea – pale green leaves 2 feet tall, orange flowers, zones 6 to 9

C. Bressingham Blaze – mid-green leaves, red-orange flowers with yellow throats, 2.5 feet tall

C. Citronella is the same as C. Golden Fleece and C. George Davison, mid-green leaves, lemon yellow flowers, zones 6 to 9

C. x crocosmiiflora is the same as Montbretia has 2 foot tall leaves, orange-yellow flowers

C. Emberglow has dark red flowers on 2 foot tall spikes

C. Emily McKenzie or Lady McKenzie has downward-facing wide-petaled bright orange flowers with mahogany throats

C. Fire King is the same as Jackanapes, many branches of orange-red and yellow flowers, zones 8 to 10.

C. Lady Hamilton has golden yellow flowers with apricot centers, 2 to 3 feet tall

C. Lucifer grows 3 or 4 feet tall, has upward-facing, red flowers that are 2-inches long, popular as hummingbird magnet

C. masoniorum has upward facing orange-red flowers on 4 foot tall stems.

C paniculata has pleated, olive-green leaves, downward-curved orange flowers, 5-feet tall

C. pottsii blooms for 2 months, with orange flowers on top of 2-foot tall stems,

C. Solfatare or C. Solfatarre has bronze leaves and apricot-yellow flowers, 2-feet tall

C. Sptifire is mid-green with orange-red flowers on almost 3-foot tall stems

C. Star of the East blooms late summer to early fall. The flowers are upward facing and clear orange, 2-feet tall

To plant the corms, put them 3 to 4 inches deep in average soil, pointed side up, in a location that drains well. Water well after planting. Every few years they will become crowded so plan to divide them.

The only insect or disease problems Crocosmia have is spider mites if they are too dry.

Sources: Easy to Grow Bulbs www.easytogrowbulbs.com, American Meadows www.americanmeadows.com, Plant Delights www.plantdelights.com and Crocosmia Gardens website is at http://www.thecrocosmiagardens.net.

27 June 2012

"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 as "natural coloring".

Have you ever cooked with strawberries? They become sort of grey-red and food producers add the crushed bugs to make the product red again. Did consumers demand these colorings or did producers make it up that we wanted the colors?

It's all icky and makes me want to eat only home made.

Inhabitat's post has more details and you can read it here.

26 June 2012

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 pests other than the hibiscus sawfly caterpillars. These little green guys can strip an entire plant as they grow.
Each plant bears many buds so as each flower fades another bud opens, leading to weeks of flowering.

The University of Florida website has information and a chart of many of the varieties with their characteristics. You can see it at the link here. Our plants, pictured here, were passalong plants so they came without identifying tags.

The U FL site says - Hardy Hibiscus are native to  the southeastern United States, including comfortroot (Hibiscus aculeatus), scarlet rosemallow (H. coccineus), swamp rosemallow (H. grandiflorus), halberdleaf rosemallow (H. laevis) and crimsoneyed rosemallow (H. moscheutos).

Hardy Hibiscus are grown for food and fiber.

 African Rosemallow (Hibiscus acetosella) has become popular as a foliage color annual in plantings around the U.S.

Kenaf (H. cannabinus) is grown for stem fibers used for making textiles or paper.

A variety of kenaf formerly known as H. sabdariffa is a food plant with the common names of “Roselle,” “Jamaica Sorrel” and “Florida Cranberry.” The main edible part is the fleshy sepal, called a calyx, that surrounds the fading flower and developing seed capsule. The ornamental calyx is bright red and acid and is used to make tea, juice, jelly or a cranberry-like sauce.

24 June 2012

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's Cap lilies. But if you love a really tall plant with outrageous flowers, having a few of these will make you very happy for the month they are in bloom.

21 June 2012

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 -

Havahart SprayAway
Homeowners battling unwanted animals on their property can add a new weapon to their armament. Havahart (www.havahart.com) 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.

Two or 3 cups of water is used for each action. Spray Away comes with an 8-inch plastic step-in stake that is pushed into the soil. The kit costs around $70.

Cobra Head Weeder
  CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator (www.cobraheadllc.com) is a lightweight hand tool that can be used to remove a single weed, edge an entire bed, or to clean out a planting area. The comfortable-to-hold recycled composite handle makes up more than half of the 13-inch long tool. The blade is made of tempered steel.

The CobraHead is curved and tipped with a flattened, slightly pointed end. To weed an area or make a seed-planting trench, the tool is scraped along the surface of the soil. The curved end makes it easy to pull weeds out by the root. Cost is around $20.

Soil Reef Biochar (www.soilbiochar.com) is a soil amendment that is available already combined with compost and worm castings so it can be applied directly into the garden.

Soil Reef Biochar
Biochar is a hot, new, gardening product based on ancient technology that adds charcoal to the soil to improve water retention, increase microbial life and grow healthier plants. It is thought that similar biochar products were used in Pre-Columbian gardens. 

Rice University’s research paper on the effectiveness of biochar is online at http://bit.ly/H1ajMw. Boichar Compost blend sells for $40 a gallon, including shipping.

Organics Rx
A new fertilizer introduced by Organics Rx (http://organicsrx.com/) is a new way to give your house and patio plants a plant-based diet made of minerals, soy and sea kelp – 100% organic, GMO-free, vegetarian and vegan food for plants. No fish, chemical, or manure smells in the house. 

The Organics Rx product line includes pet, people and environment safe fertilizers for lawns, roses, indoor plants, vegetable, tomato, and orchids, as well as an all-purpose one. $10

In order to prune shrubs you need loppers, hand pruners and a folding saw.

For stems up to one-half inch thick use a hand pruner, for stems up to 2-inches thick use loppers and for larger branches use a pruning saw. Felco (Felcostore.com) is the pruner most often recommended. $40.

Fiskars 17 inch Power Gear
Fiskars (www.fiskars.com) Power Gear tools use a unique technology to reduce the strain on hands and wrists while pruning. Their 17-inch long bypass pruner is made of a lightweight fiberglass composition material. The corrosion-resistant, non-stick blades are fully hardened to help the blades stay sharp. Lifetime warranty. $30. 

Pocket Boy folding tree saw
  To cut 2-inch-thick branches, we bought a PocketBoy (silkysaws.com) folding saw at a tree conference. It has a large-tooth 6.75 inch saw with a lightweight handle (total weight 8 oz.) and comes with a hard plastic carrying case. $36

18 June 2012

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. The primary factor, in this case, is that every part of the wild carrot smells like carrots. People eat the roots, put the flowers in salads and make a tea with the leaves. Here is my advice: don't graze on the vegetation while strolling through ditches and such-like. If you do have a hankering for noshing some Queen Ann, go to an accredited herbalist. The penalty for error is severe.

So here's the deal folks, there are lots of plants, insects and larger animals that can cause us harm when we stray from our garden paths. Giant hogweed is just one of them. If you're going on nature walks, traipsing through meadows, hedgerows and forested areas you will encounter them. So get out your books and learn what these chappies look like. When you see one, tell your companions, they'll think you're frightfully clever. Then leave it be and move on. I am not in favour in eradicating something just because it might harm the unwary or unlearned.

On the topic of soil
"Dirt is under the refrigerator, soil is in the garden. Sort of doesn't matter what you call it, Gentle Reader, you're bringing it home by the bagful, lots of bagsful, and yes, more than three bags full."

Clost also writes for the Canadian online garden advice blog, I Can Garden. Click here to see his columns.

Here's a 2010 sample -

"Sustainability is a big picture affair where everything is connected- not only you and your customer but your community and society at large. We’re in the business of living in today and caring for tomorrow.

The use of native plants in a sustainable landscape is important because they use less water, provide habitat and replenishment for birds, butterflies. They’re also essential to creating a soil environment with the proper mix of microbes, humic components and all sorts of good stuff. This is true, but it’s not a be-all end-all statement. You gotta put the right native plant into the right native environment. You can’t just pull any plant off the “Canadian Native Plant List” 'cause Point Pelee is not Madoc and Vancouver is not Napanee.
You can’t take a Carolinian tree like a sweetgum (Liquidamber styraciflua) just because it grew in our area some 800 years ago. It will grow nicely until January, then it stops."

and one from 2009

"Last week I bemoaned the demise of our gardens due to inattention during a heat spell. I thought all was lost but I underestimated the tenacity of plants. A bit of rain, a bit of cooling down and almost everything has come back to its earlier vibrancy. Mind you, there was a bit of dead heading to do. In our city lot estate, I removed seven-plus wheelbarrows of clipped materials.

It took a while but since we had our annual July bbq scheduled, sprucing up the yard was mandatory. I sort of like that type of work because it affords time for part of the mind to wander off on an unfocussed journey of disassociated thought. I made a few interesting discoveries:

Discovery 1: Coneflowers are the both the rabbits and lemmings of the flower world. Two years ago I planted 7 or 8 wee clumps to become backdrops of 3 front lawn gardens. Now, we have more than 2 dozen groups that have produced more of a thicket than a verdant screen. Just like rabbits. When those original Echinacea were introduced to an unsuspecting greenscape, they were all different cultivars. Magnus, Doppelganger, Razzmatazz, Albus, and Kim’s Knee-High are the one’s I remember off hand. At the moment, they all look the same, I think even the white one is changing to purple. For some reason, everyone of them decided to “fade” at the same time even though they didn’t bloom so. The result was that all of them needed deadheading at the same time. Lemmings. So, this fall, if you want generic coneflower divisions or seeds you know where to come.

Discovery 2: Also, there is no doubt in my mind that de Mestral might have invented Velcro after noticing burdock in his dog’s fur but the genesis of that thought occurred whilst deadheading coneflowers in his garden.
Discovery 3: Mulberry is an ubiquitous beast of a plant but, fortunately, is gifted solely with the brains God granted a rock. We have a Carolina All Spice shrub that thrives happily giving us a “sweet” textured leaf and wonderfully curious fruit. As I was working away last week, I thought it was looking a bit strange but didn’t really investigate. Yesterday, whilst experiencing the tedium of dead-heading drudgery, I glanced over to “Carol” and saw that she had gained a foot in height during the week. Further examination exposed a mulberry seedling that had shot up above the canopy during an ill-advised growth spurt. Once identified, it was Morus mortus and consigned to wheelbarrow load number four of future compost.

Discovery 4: I am not a poet. Bear with me Gentle Reader and I’ll explain. As I was standing there with secateurs in my hand and an empty wheelbarrow before me the gardener’s lament crossed my mind; that being, “You should have seen it last week!“. The disassociated portion of my brain said, “You (meaning me) are standing in a disgraceful estate. Now, one of my favourite sonnets is Shakespeare’s No 29. which has the opening line, “When in disgrace with...” The connection was made and what follows is the result of my musings.

When, in disgrace with St. Fiacre and all gardeners' eyes,
I all alone beweep my barren estate,
And trouble deaf heaven with my flowerless cries,
And look upon my perennial beds and curse their fate,
Wishing them like to those more scenic than hope,
Featured like Sissinghurt, like Quatre Vents with creativity possessed,
Desiring Monet’s art, and Capability’s scope,
With swards I most enjoy contented least,
Yet on these grounds my greenery almost despising,
Haply I plant in thee, and then my estate,
Like the morning glory at break of day arising
From fertile earth, sings hymns at Eden's gate

From those sweet seeds remembered such fruits bring,
That then I scorn to change my estate with kings.
You’ll be pleased to know that I shan’t quit my day job just yet.

At the bottom of his first column in 2000, Clost summarized his experience thus
"Diploma in Agriculture, University of Guelph, 1979 and Diploma in Horticulture, University of Guelph, Kemptville Campus, 1999. In between, and a little bit on the other, been a soldier, an orchardist [10 yrs manager of a large commercial orchard] and a social worker [ten years as interpreter, advocate and linguistic analyst focussing on deafness]. Currently employed at a large garden centre/ nursery as the wholesaler."

There is one plant, Creeping bellflower, Campanula rapunculoides that does merit eradication from our gardens. It is insidious. It can be beautiful if you are willing to accept solid drifts off this evil beastie in all of your flowerbeds. It has been quite a battle and I'm afraid I'm losing groundlots of it. So I've devised a new strategy. I shall attempt to shade out the first year rosettes with the leaves of a series of large vines. When you stroll past the front yard gardens of our bit of this good earth later this fall you might see pumpkins, gourds, squash, cucumbers but neither zucchini nor eggplant. Over the years I've slipped carrots, onions, basil and other delicate appearing veggies in among the flowers. This year I'm going to convince myself that those leaves are indeed beautiful. In reality, the effect might be a titch "off" but then that suits my approach to gardening perfectly."

If you garden in zone 5 or have an interest in browsing well-written columns, click over to the links above and enjoy!

7.3.12 Via email, Dan added
"We have two weeds up here that share a similar name  pigweed and hogweed.
Pigweed is the wee thing that pops up in soil piles, manure piles, just about anywhere fresh bare soil is laying about- seeds are viable for up to 80 years. As a member of the amaranth family it is a fairly benign plant and; in fact, it’s a good indicator of fertile, albeit dry, soil
Hogweed is a Heracleum (sp?- it’s late) is often sold as an ornamental. It’s not invasive unless ignored. The downside of this spectacular ginormous specimen is that the latex-like sap has some phytotoxic properties that will seriously harm a susceptible person."

16 June 2012

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 winter, the outdoor fireplace creates a warm environment for relaxing.
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 outdoor entertaining area was created from a boat storage space by the Riordans.
The sculpture was given to Jerry Riordan for his birthday - from his brother, Joe Anderson.
The metal sculpture is by Joesph Anderson, Walnut Cove, NC

 So much thought and creativity has gone into each garden room! Flowers, fruit, herbs and native plants surround each space.
Each garden room is separated by a planted bed.
Placed throughout the gardens, there are benches, places to stop and smell the flowers.
Several teak benches are placed in the garden.
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.

  1. 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!

15 June 2012

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 side entrance to the Lovell's home gives a flavor of what is to come.
The gardens are filled with azaleas, dogwoods, box shrubs, hellebores and impatiens. Surrounding the beds are various sizes of mondo grass.
The Lovells added the conservatory to the back garden.

A gorgeous nature and angel fountain graces the back lawn.

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.

14 June 2012

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.

A typical Memphis street scene - not even on the tour!

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 dwarf- boxwood lined bed of roses and clematis.
The outdoor seating area was a boat storage building when the Riordan’s bought the house23 years ago and the garden improvements have continued ever since.

Tricia and Chip Dudley created the feeling of a country retreat at their 1.3-acre, in-town garden. In addition to huge trees, their lot is surrounded with dozens of hydrangea bushes, azaleas, daylilies, ferns, zinnias and roses.

“We chose this house because of the mature trees,” said Tricia. “I like plants that take care of themselves. I enjoy being outdoors but don’t want to be out here every day working.”

The expanse of lawn, accented with a hammock and whimsical art, is divided by a white fence, behind which there is a garden shed and more flower beds.

The home of Petty and LaVerne Lovell was formerly Lausanne School for Girls. The 1926 building with front-porch pillars has been restored and two buildings have been added. The gardens reflect the home’s history and the homeowners’ modernizations. Flower beds, lined and filled with Mondo grass, hold azaleas, dogwoods, dwarf boxwood and hellebore.

Their herbs are in pots behind the conservatory, along with beds of rhododendron. In the back, there is a 4-level, nature-themed fountain surrounded by shrubs.  One of the seating areas is a modern deck; another is under an arbor of Cleyera Japonica vines.

The Mediterranean architecture of Amy and Drew Taylor’s home is unique in Memphis. Their property is set up for entertaining with pathways, patio, a front garden fish pond surrounded with cold hardy banana trees, large sculptures and a back yard swimming pool.

Amy said that they purchased the home three years ago and other than adding the pool, they have not changed anything that was installed by the previous owners. Even the sculptures came with the house.

The dramatic entrance to the Taylor home is accented with canna lilies. The driveway beds are filled with hostas, mahonia, Japanese maples, and redbud trees.

A raked pea gravel path leads from the driveway through garden beds to the front entertaining center. The lawn is surrounded with fountains and assorted plants such as roses, daylilies, ornamental grasses, tickseed, vitex and Purple Heart.

Memphis homeowners said that they water every other day at this time of year but will water daily when the summer heats up.

Membership in the Mid-South Hydrangea Society is $10 and includes newsletters and 2- free admissions to the garden tour.  A membership form is available on the society's Web site at www.midsouthhydrangea.com.
Dr. Michael Dirr's commentary on hydrangeas is available online at http://tinyurl.com/dyo68ag.

10 June 2012

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 seedlings' roots, wet the soil and carefully tease them apart.

Zinnias give a lot of color for the investment. The only problem I've had with them is that if there is a wet period or if they are watered from overhead, the leaves will get powdery mildew - splotchy grey spots. Planting them far enough apart will allow air circulation and reduce the likelihood of mildew.

These are the zinnias from that pack of seeds - 7.22.12
Also, the varieties of Zinnia augustifolia and the pinwheel zinnias are resistant to powdery mildew.

Planted in masses of a dozen plants, they will bloom, drop seed, make new plants and bloom until a killing frost.

Zinnia Seed dot com has lots of cool looking varieties -

Have fun with this easy garden project. It's not too late to start seeds.

07 June 2012

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 plants don’t flower as much as they did at first, it is time to divide the roots. Best done in the fall, the entire plant is dug up, cut into clumps and replanted into prepared beds.
The varieties to choose from include tall, medium and miniature (6 to 12-inches), early, mid-season and late flowering, night blooming, scented, single, double, spider and eyed. An entire flower bed could be in bloom for several months just with daylilies.
The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis grows 1700 varieties.

Some of the old fashioned plants from the 1920s are still around, including: Ophir (18-inches, yellow), Gracilis (early, 1-foot tall), Flava Major (fragrant, early, 2-feet tall), and Middendorf (shade and moisture tolerant, compact, fragrant, yellow, re-blooms).
Late blooming varieties help prolong the season. Look for Autumn King (6-feet tall), Autumn Prince (4-feet tall), Fall Fancy, Peach Mandelynne, Late Beacon, Silver Snowflake, August Flame, Back to School, Boutonniere, Autumn Minaret (5-feet tall) and Late Cream.
  Re-blooming daylilies include Challenger (4-feet tall, red) and Rosy Returns (pink, 1-foot tall). Eenie Weenie. Stella de Oro and Happy Returns are yellow. A cream-pink re-blooming variety, Earl Roberts, is an award winning fragrant one that grows 2.5 feet tall. Flames of Fortune is 2.5 feet tall, with apricot, night-blooming, ruffled and creped flowers.

For drama, Cerulean Star is a good choice. It grows 3-feet tall, with 7-inch lavender flowers. Citrina is 3-feet tall, with fragrant, delicate, trumpet-shaped, yellow, nocturnal flowers – dozens on every stem. How Beautiful Heaven Must Be is described as 2-foot tall plants with wide-petaled, fragrant, peach, ruffled flowers.
Some daylilies are advertised as winning the Stout Silver Medal. It is the highest award a cultivar can receive, given in memory of botanist Dr. Arlow Burdette Stout (1876-1957), the father of daylily breeding.
Dr. Stout was a director at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. 
Hemerocallis is from the Greek hemera (a day) and kallos (beauty) or beauty for a day, referring to the fact that each blossom lasts only one day.

The L. Ernest Plouf Award is given to the most consistently fragrant daylilies. Their  names include: Vanilla Fluff, Lemon Lolly, Frozen Jade, Raspberry Candy and Lavender Blue Baby.

Catalogs mention the terms Diploid and Tetraploid which describes the varieties’ chromosome count. Tetraploids are stronger.
Daylilies are described as dormant, evergreen and semi-evergreen. In our area the leaves and foliage die back to the root no matter what dormancy type the daylily is.
Daylily information: American Hemerocallis Society, http://www.daylilies.org/
Reference: “The New Encyclopedia of Daylilies: More than 1700 outstanding selections” by Ted Petit and John Peat, Timber Press, 2008.

Because they are so easy to grow and hybridize, there are many sources for daylilies, including Stout Gardens, Oklahoma City, http://www.stoutgardens.com/, hugh@stoutgardens.com, 405-642.4190.