30 July 2013

A Few Fun Snaps from our back yard this week

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar - 4th instar

Bumblebee on native Monarda - don't know which bee, do you?

Paw Paw tree in our little herb bed

Calendula - started from seed late winter, blooming and making seed now for next year

Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on Rue

Moon Carrot flowers - seeds were started Dec 2010
Check out the seedlings at

28 July 2013

Hummingbird Feeders from Perky-Pet

Perky-Pet sent us another hummingbird feeder to try so we put it above the pineapple sage where the humingbirds hang out.

We saw them at Sam's Club in Tulsa today for the same $19.95 they cost on the PerkyPet website.
This one is a pretty, square, antique-looking glass bottle with  little copper flowers for the feeding holes.

It's a nice addition to the flower bed!
PerkyPet

27 July 2013

Giant Iron Weed is Vernonia altissima gigantea

The Giant Ironweed is blooming for the first time since it was planted a few years ago. The two year drought and record heat interfered with it becoming successful before this.
Ironweed is Vernonia altissima

I confess that I bought the starts at a plant sale someplace because I love its name. Iron Weed! Indeed, who could resist?

Ironweed loves sun and grows in zones 5 to 9 according to one source, Plant Delights Nursery.

There are 1,000 Vernonia species. Vernonia was named for English botanist William Vernon.

Giant Ironweed

Since it can become invasive in farm fields there has been an effort to kill it out with herbicides. The result is that Ironweed has become endangered in some states such as New York. If you decide to plant it as part of your wildscape, keep an eye on the ground for seedlings in the spring and pull them out.

The leaves taste bitter so deer leave them alone but long tongued bees, butterflies, bumblebees, miner bees, leaf cutting bees love the flowers. Tiger Moth caterpillars eat the leaves.
Wildlife Insight
According to Plant Lust, Ironweed is cold hardy to zone 3, generally found in zones 5-10.

I'm thrilled to see it blooming and will watch for pollinator activity to see what in our garden enjoys sipping or eating Ironweed.





25 July 2013

New Viburnums Glitter and Glow


Viburnums are work-horses in residential landscapes. They come in all sizes; many have white, cream or pink flowers in the spring followed by fall berries, and autumn leaf color that ranges from gold to red and purple. Viburnums are insect and disease resistant, making them low-maintenance.

Out of the 150 species most are USDA cold hardy in zones 4 to 9. There are selections for wet or dry, shade or sun.

Dwarf Viburnum opulus nanum matures at 2-feet tall without flowers or fruit – ideal for foundation plantings. Its full size parent, European cranberry bush, grows to 8 or 10 feet.

Viburnum opulus variety Roseum, European Snowball Viburnum, grows to 10-feet tall and has red leaves in the fall.

Evergreen and semi-evergreen varieties include: Leatherleaf Viburnum rhytidophyllum (cream flowers) and Viburnum Pragense (pink flowers). V. rhytidophyllum thrives in heavy shade. Semi-evergreen means that they will hold their leaves until temperatures dip below 10-degrees F.

For the shrub row or a summertime privacy shrub, choose 20-foot tall Japanese Viburnum Seiboldii.

Michael Dirr calls Viburnum plicatun tomentosum, Doublefile Viburnum, “an aristocrat among flowering shrubs”. It grows in a tree-form and has cascades of flowers in the spring. Fall leaf and berry color is red. Molly Schroeder and Pink Beauty are known for their pink flowers.

Dirr's favorite Viburnums are listed at http://www.dirrplants.com/viburnum-for-american-gardens.html

Two new Viburnums for 2014 were announced by Proven Winners this summer and will arrive in garden centers next spring: 1) All That Glitters Bracted Arrowood Viburnum, Viburnum bracteatum, and 2) All That Glows Bracted Arrowood Viburnum bracteatum. Plan to buy one of each since they promote flowering and fruiting in each other through cross-pollination.

Bracted Viburnums are known for their heat tolerance and a pleasing natural shape that requires no pruning. Dirr calls them “tough as nails”.

All That Glitters has white flowers in late spring and blue berries in the fall. Deciduous Viburnum bracteatum is deer resistant, native to North America, and attractive to birds and wildlife. It matures at 5 feet tall and wide.

To plant a row of them, space the shrubs 5-feet apart. Shade part of the day will keep All That Glitters more attractive. They are native to states east and south of OK so plan to water new shrubs for the first 2 or 3 years until their roots become established.

The flowers bloom on old wood so it is best to do any pruning or shaping after the flowers fade in the spring. Fertilizing is not necessary but can be also be done in the spring. Cold hardy in zones 5 through 8; fall color is gold to bronze.

All That Glows has glossy leaves, but otherwise resembles All That Glitters in that it is deer resistant, prefers some shade, has white flowers in the spring, and blue berries in the fall. Matures at 5-feet tall and about 4-feet wide.

Mowhawk Viburnum, Viburnum x Mohawk, has dark red flower buds that become fragrant white flowers. The shrub itself has a naturally compact and round shape. The leaves become orange-red in the fall.

Viburnum prunifolium, Blackhaw Viburnum is an American native plant that grows easily here and can be pruned into a tree shape. The flowers are white and the edible fruits are pink to black. Mildew resistant. Grows 12-feet tall and wide in part shade.

It is illegal to propagate patented plants such as All That Glitters and All That Glows Viburnums but feel free to propagate unpatented Viburnum varieties. Take 6-inch softwood cuttings during the summer remove the leaves, dip the cuttings in rooting hormone and plant them in potting soil.

Viburnums prefer a slightly acidic soil that is rich in organic material so mulch them with pine straw or tree bark.

23 July 2013

A Compost Mandate

Compost could be an answer to the coming food shortage. This incredibly insightful and informative Gary Paul Nabhan piece in yesterday's New York Times explains how -
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/opinion/our-coming-food-crisis.html?src=me&_r=0#h[]

Can compost save farmland
"One strategy would be to promote the use of locally produced compost to increase the moisture-holding capacity of fields, orchards and vineyards. In addition to locking carbon in the soil, composting buffers crop roots from heat and drought while increasing forage and food-crop yields.

 By simply increasing organic matter in their fields from 1 percent to 5 percent, farmers can increase water storage in the root zones from 33 pounds per cubic meter to 195 pounds.
      
And we have a great source of compostable waste: cities. Since much of the green waste in this country is now simply generating methane emissions from landfills, cities should be mandated to transition to green-waste sorting and composting, which could then be distributed to nearby farms."
 
Click over to the link and read the entire article.

22 July 2013

Manfreda virginica is False Aloe or Rattlesnake Master and Agave virginica

To be able to grow an Aloe outside in zone 7, it has to be unique and this one certainly is. The flowers are green and bloom atop a 4 to 6 foot tall stem that rockets up, up, up.

Full sun to part shade and dry to moist, well-drained average soil will keep this unique Aloe happy all the way down to zone 5. They are most often found on rocky glades and in open woods in their native surroundings, especially Arkansas.

The stem emerges from a rosette of fleshy leaves that are 8 or more inches long and 2-inches wide. On ours the leaves have red flecks.

Flower Rattlesnake Master

Several yellow-green flowers bloom on the top of the stalk and they are followed by fruit/seed capsules.

False Aloe flower stalk height


Manfreda native range
Their native range is FL to TX, NC, WVa, OH, IN, IL, and MO. 

No insect or disease problems.
EasyLiving Wildflowers has the seeds but I bought ours as plants. Bustani Plant Farm in central OK has them available.
Illinois Wildflowers say they are mostly pollinated by Sphinx moths and Noctuid moths that suck nectar from the flowers.

Very cool, unique plant for dry places in the garden~

20 July 2013

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Sikes Dwarf' Native Hydrangea

The Morton Arboretum recommends native Sikes Dwarf Hydrangea for smaller gardens. I would add also for cozy corners or shady nooks of a large garden.
The Sikes Dwarf grows about 2 feet tall and wide at maturity and will survive zone 5 winters.
In addition to the other reasons we love native plants, this baby is disease and insect free.

They will thrive in moist, slightly acidic, well-drained soil. As with all these shade lovers, mulch really helps them survive our summers.

You may have to protect it a bit since it flowers on old wood and the flower buds can be damaged in extreme cold.

Prune after bloom like most hydrangeas.
PineRidge Gardens
As you can see, the flowers are more open than many. Digging Dog Nursery says, "We have Sarah Sikes to thank for this new low growing Oak Leaf Hydrangea. Hailing from Alabama, it’s half the size of most quercifolias, rendering it a mainstay in the smaller garden. Lobed and closely spaced, the handsome broad foliage shows off abundant ivory-colored conical blooms. Surround with leaves of like shapes such as Anemone and Kirengeshoma to complement ‘Sikes Dwarf’s unparalleled foliar texture."

18 July 2013

Anthemis for every garden


There are over 100 varieties of Anthemis, and, although gardeners may be unaware of them, they probably have them growing someplace.  The tiny, wild variety hugs the ground in the summer and the tall, perennial varieties grow into shrubs. Commonly, they are called Chamomile.

Though some are perennials (return from roots) and others are annuals (planted from seed) they are easily started from seed or cuttings. They are rarely bothered by disease but are often covered with pollinating insects.

Their name Chamomile comes from Greek words chamos and milos, meaning a low-growing shrub that smells like apples.  The varieties used as medicine are English (Anthemis nobilis) and German (Matricaria chamomilla, also called M. recutita ). Dried Anthemis flowers are used for tea, potpourri, flower arrangements, shampoo, cosmetics, etc.

Plant World Seeds
Anthemis tinctoria, Golden Chamomile, is often packaged in seed collections for wildflower gardens, pollinator beds and bee-friendly gardening projects. It is native in AR, MO, CO, VA and north to Canada.

Golden Chamomile varies in height in our garden. Tucked under a Red-Tip Photinia shrub it grows 2-feet tall but on the edge of the vegetable garden in full-sun it is over 3-feet tall. Golden Chamomile can be cut back hard after summertime flowering to encourage fresh growth and more flowers.

The Anthemis that have a yellow center and white ray-petals include A. punctate cupaniana. They are commonly called Golden Marguerite or Ox-eye Chamomile.

Perennial Anthemis kelwayi, Marguerite Daisy, with clear, mid-yellow flowers, is grown by crafters for dried flower arranging.

Most Chamomiles have grey-green stems and leaves but Sauce Hollandaise or Dyer’s Chamomile, has pale creamy-white flowers and dark green foliage.

1913 Britton & Brown
Annual European Anthemis cotula is called the Stinking Chamomile. Its other, somewhat amusing names include dog - or- hog's-fennel, dog-finkle, dog-daisy, pig-sty-daisy, Mayweed, and stinkende Hundskamille.

Plant-Biology
German or Blue Chamomile tea is often used medicinally as a sleep aid and Chamomile flowers are used in products used to treat anxiety, sleeplessness, headaches, teething, swelling and other common conditions.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine in the National Institutes of Health (www.nlm.nih.gov) does not support the medicinal uses of Roman and German Chamomile.

 

Gardeners call Roman Chamomile the Plant’s Physician though because when it is planted next to an ailing plant, the plant rebounds. Roman Chamomile is said to have been carried by Roman soldiers to give them courage and a clear mind.

 

Until 1830 when lawnmowers were invented, the landed classes grew Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile or Anthemis nobilis) lawns that were weeded by hand or by sheep.  The most famous Chamomile lawn is at Buckingham Palace where it has been in place since 1910.

 

Roman Chamomile is a perennial, creeping variety that grows to 3-inches tall, spreading by runners to form a soft mat that can take some foot traffic.

 

Victorians also grew it on stone benches where it would release its fragrant oils when they sat down. There is a photo of one of those Chamomile-covered stone benches at www.camomilelawns.co.uk.

 

The not-so-sweet scent of Anthemis plants makes them deer and rabbit resistant.

These happy plants are members of the daisy and sunflower family and are easy to start as well as easy to grow. The roots of perennials can be divided and stem cuttings root in soil. Seeds can be planted in the fall or spring, indoors or out. The seeds are small and are not covered with soil but rather placed on a damp surface and pressed into place.

Remove the spent flowers if you want to minimize their spread in your garden. When the volunteer plants come up in the spring they are easily transplanted to other beds or shared with gardening friends who would enjoy a steady summer blooming flower.

14 July 2013

Crocosmia are coppertips, falling stars or montbretia

Crocosmias are native to South Africa but do wonderfully well here in Northeast Oklahoma anyway. They bloom their little heads off and make babies by the dozens each year, making it possible to move them around the garden to almost every bed except the deepest shade.


Crososmia with a yellow pot marigold
The corms are planted in the fall and often bloom the following spring. They can be started from seeds. (Plant in seed trays, about 1/4" deep, in seed starting soil and plant out in the spring.

They do have to be divided every few years since they become so thick - they are related to that every multiplying-iris after all. Also related to gladiolus.
 
Give them lots of sun and some water for best blooming on stems that are about 2-feet tall or less. They do not make good cut flowers as they fade and fall apart quickly after cutting.
 
Cold hardy in zones 6 to 10, they couldn't be any easier to grow.
 
Plant Delights catalog says, "Crocosmia species were first hybridized in the 1870's at the Lemoine nursery in France, and over 400 cultivars have been introduced. However many of the fine old cultivars have sadly been lost to history." They offer 4 varieties.

Our bulbs came from a Muskogee Garden Club plant swap several years ago.
 
Easy to Grow Bulbs says, "But these glad cousins certainly approach life differently. Glads are belle of the ball types, with kaleidoscope blooms and flowers festooned with wild patterns and ruffles. Crocosmia stick to the yellow-orange-red side of the color wheel and deliver a concentrated, straight-forward presentation with glacefully arched spray of blossoms. Crocosmia are also tougher when it come to winter temperatures, weathering zone 5 or zone 6 chills, depending on the variety.
 
The native Crocosmia ×crocosmiiflora (V. Lemoine) N.E. Br. [aurea × pottsii] montbretia has naturalized in parts of the U.S. It is considered invasive on the west coast.

 
Hort.nethttp://www.hort.net/lists/medit-plants/apr99/msg00041.html has a thorough history if you are interested in more info. It's quite interesting to me.

Get a few bulbs and give them plenty of sun. They will reward you!
 
 
 

11 July 2013

Egyptian Walking Onions

http://www.asparagusgardener.com
Egyptian Walking Onions, Allium cepa, are an easy to grow, delicious, kitchen ingredient as well as an eye-catching garden specimen. Onions are bi-annuals, meaning that they grow leaves the first year and flowers, sets, or fruit the second year.

Bulb onions have been used as food and medicine since 5000 BC. Like garlic, leeks, chives and scallions, they are members of the lily family.

No one knows why this particular onion is named Egyptian. Ancient Egyptians thought that the shape and concentric rings of onions meant they were holy and they were used as currency to pay the workers who built the pyramids. Many pharaohs were buried with onions and small onions were found in the eye sockets of King Ramses IV’s mummy.

our onion tops
 All onions we think of as bulb onions are called Allium cepa. This particular onion does not have a typical flower head but makes small onions on the top instead.

The stalks are 2 to 3 feet tall at maturity and the plants are hardy in zones 5 to 11. Wherever they are originally planted they establish a small colony and it is fairly easy to keep them going for years. They are harvested in late-summer or fall.  They need sun but are not particular about soil.

The bulblets can be ordered from seed companies such as Territorial Seed (www.territorlseed.com) and come in a one-ounce package of 25 to 30 bulblets ($17 for an ounce that will last a lifetime). They prefer to ship them in September for fall planting.

The resulting onion bulbs in the ground are harvested late summer. The bulblets are planted 1-inch deep and 5 to 6 inches apart, leaving room for them to develop into a cluster of onions.

When the tops of Egyptian Walking Onions are young, they can be used like green onions.

When they mature, the onions in the ground can be harvested for kitchen use.

In addition, the plants set a cluster of smaller onions on the top. When that top becomes too heavy, the entire stalk falls over and the small, top bulbs set roots where they fall. The plants walk, making new plants wherever the tops land.

To prevent them from walking all over the garden, remove the bulblets from the top and use them in the kitchen, share them with friends, or replant them like seed.

The other names given to these marvels include Tree Onion, Top Onion, Topset Onion, Top Setting Onion and Winter Onions.

The top set names refer to the second set of onions that form on the top of each stalk. Tree Onion is because they grow a twisting stalk from the cluster of sets at the top. Then, another cluster of sets grows at the end of the second stalk making it look like a branching tree.

Their Winter Onion name comes from the fact that they survive temperatures as low as 40 below zero.

http://www.seedbiology.de/structure.asp
 Besides all those common names, they uniquely have a few formal names. Allium cepa var. proliferum is because they are proliferous – a plant that produces new individuals by producing offshoots in unusual places. Proliferous plants make a shoot from an organ that is normally the last.  Egyptian Walking Onions produce a cluster of topsets from a cluster of topsets, forming a multi-tiered plant.

Another of its names is Allium cepa var. bulbiferous refers to the fact that they produce bulbs. And, they are called Allium cepa var. viviparum because they are viviparous meaning they produce bulbils or new plants rather than seeds. Egyptian Walking Onions sets germinate while they are still attached to the parent plants. They grow leaves and roots before they even touch the ground.

Perky-Pet Lighthouse Finch Feeder

No/No Solar Lighthouse Finch Feeder has solar cell in the top area of the feeder that powers an LED light to create a night time glow.  We hung it where we can see it clearly at dusk and dawn. How cool is that?
 
Most important is that the birds like it and since it's as cute as it can be you can have it hanging out in the yard where it's visible.
 
This one has an all-over metal mesh construction that stands up to squirrels - a big issue where we live. Have not seen a single squirrel on it in the week it has been up.
 No/No Solar Lighthouse Finch Feeder is 14 inches tall and
 holds 1.5-pound nyger seed.

No cleaning required, hanging handle attached. Check it out - around $30.

Here's the Perky-Pet website where you can get more information.

09 July 2013

Wingstem is Verbesina alternifolia flowering native for the landscape

Sometimes called Yellow Iron Weed, Wingstem is an American native perennial plant for butterflies and wildlife. They grow 5 feet tall with a central, winged stem. Crownbeard is another common name.
Wingstem - Illinois Wildflowers page

I'd show you a photo of ours but I just put two of them in the ground today and they aren't much to look at yet. They were purchased from MaryAnn King at Pine Ridge Gardens Nursery in Arkansas. According to one provider, Nodding Onion Gardens in Ohio, each plant will grow 6 to 8 feet tall in zones 5 through 9.

They want full sun to part shade so they were a perfect addition to the end of one of the perennial beds that needed a few more substantial plants in it.

Ill Wildflowers also says "The flowers are visited primarily by long-tongued bees, especially bumblebees. Some short-tongued bees, butterflies, and skippers also visit the flowers; the long tubes of the disk florets make the nectar inaccessible to many insects with shorter tongues, such as flies and wasps.

The caterpillars of the butterfly Chlosyne nycteis (Silvery Checkerspot) feed on the foliage, while the caterpillars of Basilodes pepita (Gold Moth) feed on the flowers and developing seeds The caterpillars of another moth, Cremastobombycia ignota, are leaf-miners. 
Wingstem native range

Other insects that feed on Wingstem include the leaf beetle Brachypnoea clypealis, the aphids Uroleucon ambrosiae and Uroleucon rurale, Acrosternum hilaris (Green Stink Bug), and other polyphagous stink bugs.

Because of the bitterness of its leaves, Wingstem isn't consumed by deer, rabbits, and other herbivores to the same extent as many other plants. Animals may distribute the awned seeds to some extent."

Plants for Bees website says it is also called Golden Honey Plant. They also call it raucous.
 "The species is a rather raucous perennial that grows to 9 ft.
One of its more obvious characteristics is that it has longitudinal (running up and down) thin projections (usually 4) issuing from the stem. Such projections are generally called wings, and hence the name wingstem.
 The leaves get to be 10 inches in length. While they are usually alternately placed on the upper portions of the plant, the leaves can also be oppositely placed, especially on the lower portions, or the leaves may occur in groups of three.
The flower heads are 1-2 inches across and spread in all directions to form a kind of globular head."

Louis the Plant Geek makes Wingstem sound equally intriguing - " ...  the flowers. They seem thrust skyward at such speed that the petals are aerodynamically cocked backward. And in the center, jumping out to greet the sky, the little florets. They seem either like a jaunty pincushion or a colony of Dr. Seussish micro-bobbles, dedicated to their discussions of the day."

Can't wait till ours take root and go for it!


07 July 2013

Spicebush for spicebush swallowtail babies to grow on

Spicebush swallowtail butterfly caterpillar/chrysalis
Lindera Benzoin, Spicebush, has many uses in the garden, not the least of which is providing a place for spicebush swallowtail butterflies to raise babies.
 
The shrubs in our garden are about 10 feet tall and wide. They are native laurels that spread by roots to make colonies. The spicebush name comes from the spicy fragrance of the twigs when crushed.

The leaves are bright green as you can see. The early spring flowers are tiny and the red winter berries persist throughout most of the winter after the leaves fall. The berries are also spicy flavored and are used in cooking (http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Spicebush.html)

Swallowtail caterpillar eating leaves
Pioneers and Native Americans used parts the plant for a variety of ailments.

From PA State "Human use of spicebush includes the brewing of teas from the crushed, dried leaves and the grinding of the dried berries into a meat seasoning spice. The teas are said to have a range of medicinal properties that include relief of fatigue, pain, arthritis, fever, cold symptoms, intestinal disorders and even breathing difficulties. Oils from the berries can be applied topically to treat bruises and rheumatic pain and as a general fist-aid ointment for cuts. Chemical analysis of spicebush has revealed thirty-nine different oils in its leaves, twigs and berries. Some of these oils undoubtedly have potential medicinal uses and efficacies."

In the wild, spicebushes grow in woodland shade though not deep in the center of the woods. It is not deer-proof.


Spicebush shrubs are a great choice for a diversity-rich wildlife garden http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/spicebush.htm

Spicebush native range
If you are clever you can dig one out of the woods but I bought our plants from Wild Things Nursery - easier for me since I'd have a hard time recognizing it in the wild.

 
 Fine Gardening says it is cold hardy zones 4 to 9.  They also describe the fall leaf color as "hypnotic yellow" though I always thought it was the joy of fall weather that caused that effect in me.


04 July 2013

Botanica - Wichita's Botanical Gardens in the heart of the city


Botanica: Wichita Botanical Gardens 701 Amidon St Wichita KS
Open year round 9 to 5, Mon to Sat and Sunday 1 to 5
Information 316-264-0448

Free parking. $5 to $7 fee to enter.


The botanical garden in the heart of Wichita KS, called Botanica, is over 17-acres of gardens traced with walking paths, sculptures, ponds, fountains and flowers.

Though they are open all year, the flower season begins in the spring with 54,000 tulips and 110,000 daffodils and ends with the fall colors in Oct. 

With 26-themed gardens, there is something to please everyone. The Cissy Wise Wildflower Meadow is filled with flowers, grasses and shrubs typical of a prairie including Coneflowers, Asters, Gayfeather and Penstemons.

The Frank Smith Woodland Garden in the Woodland Walk has places to sit and enjoy the waterfall and pool. The Butterfly Garden has been planted with flowers to attract native and migratory butterflies and a shallow puddle fountain is in place for them, too.
Botanica’s landscape supervisor Pat McKernan said that his planting selections in the Butterfly Garden are chosen to support the entire butterfly lifecycle.

  “We put in lots of flat blooms to make it easy for butterflies to land and find nectar,” said McKernan. “The nectar plants include lantana, zinnias and pentas. Then we put in plenty of plants from the carrot family such as parsley, for the caterpillars of the swallowtail butterflies to eat, plus milkweed for the monarch butterflies.”

McKernan started with Botanica 27-years ago when there was only one building and land.
“Now we have 6-full-time year round gardeners, 5 more gardeners from March to November, and lots of volunteers,” McKernan said. “People want to be here, working with the plants and socializing.”

On Tuesdays a group of 12 to 15 retired gentlemen work from 8 to noon and a group of 9 to 12 ladies work on separate projects. In addition to those weekly groups, the first Tuesday of every month they are joined by more volunteers who come to pull out plants that are past their prime and install new ones. McKernan provides mid-morning snacks and lunch for all the groups.

The 1-acre Downing Children’s Garden is the most recent addition. It is filled with learning activity features including a farm with raised beds, a tree house to climb, a story telling glen with a place for puppet shows, a Musical Maze, and a pond. Botanica also has a butterfly house that is popular with children.

The Jayne Milburn Aquatic Collection has water lilies, lotus flowers, water iris, cattails, water hyacinth, water lettuce, etc.

McKernan said, “We grow a unique collection of water plants. This year we added Victoria Water-Platters that are so large that a person could stand on the flower.”

 The Water Platter’s hollow stems underwater are covered with thorns and the platter-like flower has a 3-inch lip around the outer edge. The Longwood Hybrid was not available this year so McKernan is growing a Victoria cruziana instead.


“Botanica has an unusual emphasis on color in the gardens,” McKernan said. “I plan the tulip planting in Nov. to make a splash in the spring. I do the same with the pansies, mums and summer annuals that we use to make each garden into a unique room.”

Tall plants are used to create a feeling of being inside a garden room. McKernan likes to surround areas with red or green leaf castor bean plants and Cassia alata (Candlebush or Emperor/Empress Candle Plant) that has a tropical look all summer and blooms in September. Candlebush grows quickly into a 10-foot tall shrub with spikes of bright yellow flowers.

“I like a big wow at every turn,” McKernan said.

There are lots of classes and events at the garden, including live music, lectures at lunchtime, junior gardeners, craft days, birding, etc. Check the schedule at www.botanica.org or on their Facebook page.