Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Botanical Latin

This picture doesn't really have anything to do with botanical Latin, except, of course, that all of the plants in it have Latin names. The pink one is a weeping peach whose Latin name I don't know. It was so pretty yesterday I just had to take its picture.
Now for the Latin. All plants have Latin names - 2 words, like Acer palmatum and sometimes a cultivar name like 'Peaches and Cream' (a gorgeous maple, by the way). There are 2 kinds of Latin in plant names. What I'll call real Latin for lack of a better name and Latinized English. In this example Acer is Latin and comes from a work meaning sharp, which may refer to the pointed leaves, not sure about that. Palmatum (an accusative form of palmatus - meaning it is used as a direct object) has a meaning of 'embroidered with palm leaves' though I expect that it just means in the form of a palm leaf. These are easy and you can find them in any good English/Latin dictionary. The harder ones are those which are Latinized English. A lot of these will be in the form ending in i or ii, like sieboldii which is a genitive form indicating possession. These are almost alway plants that are named after someone and will usually have the i or ii just added onto the name. The other Latinization is the one that is irritating to me and totally unpredictable. One of the worst offenders is for variegated plants. The Latin for variegated is versicolor. You will see this, though not as frequently as variegata, variegatus, variegatum. Since all 3 have Latin endings and since this isn't really a Latin word, there is not way to say which is proper. I often see a plant listed in different catalogs or books with all three spellings, depending on where it is written. The whole point of Latin names is to have some sort of uniformity which is totally defeated by not using words which conform to Latin grammar rules. For plants which are registered with plant societies, this is not usually a problem since there are pages and pages of rules for naming which must be followed. It is more of a problem with plants that are named without registration and put into commerce. Enough for today - there are weeds to be pulled. Actually, I first have to uncover all of the plants which had to be covered last night because of a threatened frost. I don't think our temperatures got that low, but we'll see. When your garden covers 7 acres, there are many different climate zones and so frost in one place might not happen in another. Part of today's activities will be a walk in the woods to see the trilliums and maidenhair ferns on a northfacing hillside across the creek.
Tomorrow I'll give you a list of a lot of Latin words and their English meanings which will help greatly in knowing what an unfamiliar plant might look like.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cercis canadensis 'Covey'

The last of my Redbuds is this relatively new one called Covey. It is a weeper. Ours has about a 3 foot trunk before it starts to weep, but you can have a taller one by staking in until it gets bigger before you let the branches start to cascade. Ours overhangs a lotus pond and is perfectly in scale with this smaller pond at the size it is. This is the first year that it has been really covered in bloom, but everything that is blooming is really covered in bloom this year. I'll probably take a hillside view to use tomorrow since photos of Latin noun endings aren't nearly as photogenic.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cercis canadensis 'Silver Cloud'

The leaf shape is the same, but you might not recognize this as another Redbud. The leaves are a bit smaller and more delicate (thinner), and certainly more noticeable. The tree is about the same size, but with smaller everything - leaves, branches, trunk - and it seems to be more susceptable to frost in the spring. Ours also blooms less and the leaves may edge scorch if it is planted in too much sun or during drought. Despite this, it is well worth having for what it adds to the garden. We have 2 I can remember, but there might be another tucked away somewhere. The one near the rose garden where it gets more shade keeps its color better, but the one next to Lake Amanda where it gets a little more sun is larger and better shaped (no competition from other close trees). I think you can find this, though I don't see it offered frequently. One more Redbud to go...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Redbuds on the hillside

No time to write this morning, so here's a picture I took of the eastern hillside above our first pasture showing a crabapple in the front and some redbuds going up the hill.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'

Isn't this color just gorgeous? The best thing about it is that, unless the tree is in full sun, which it really wouldn't like anyway, the color hold pretty well and all new growth is the lovely deep purple. Flowers are the same as the species. Tree size is about the same too, so having 'ungreen' leaves doesn't seem to be a problem nutrition-wise. We have several of these scattered around the gardens and people always seem to notice them. Easy to grow and they provide a nice quick shade for perennials like hostas and pulmonaria if your garden has too much sun. The shape is good for underplanting too as it will quickly resemble a sort of shade umbrella. Two more Redbuds to go, then I think I'll write a bit on Latin names in the garden and why they are the way they are; not so much how they are named, but how you can tell just what the endings should be. It will be a quick primer for those who never studied Latin, which would have been me 10 years ago. Now, having those years of Latin study under my belt, the lack of uniformity and just plain incorrectness in the use of Latin sometimes gets downright annoying. But as I said, 2 more Redbuds before the Latin rant. Hopefully it will be informative.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cercis canadensis 'Alba'

A quick note this morning since this is our opening day for the season and there's still lots to do. This is the white flowered form of our native Redbud. We have one in the yard right now, only a few years old, but covered with bloom today. Most Redbuds seem to be short lived trees, at least compared to something like and oak or maple (the maples in our front yard are almost as old as our house which was build in the 1860s). They get wonderful gnarly trunks if they do manage to get old, though. More on Redbuds tomorrow.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cercis canadensis

As we were driving into town yesterday, the star of the show were the Redbuds, Cercis canadensis. All along the edges of the woods was this lovely pink cloud. We didn't have these when I was growing up in Southeast Pennsylvania, but I have truly grown to love them and hate it in springs when we get a frost and their bloom is cut short. The flowers in the picture are not quite out and will be a lighter pink when they are. These make lovely additions to the edge of the woods and intermingled with dogwoods (Cornus florida will usually bloom at about the same time) are just about perfect. We planted 2 in the front yard some years ago which are now quite large. Another 'appeared' a few years ago, seeded in by birds or squirrels or something and it has finally gotten to blooming size this year. There have been a number of selections made and I'll post a few pictures of them tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Erythronium tuolumnense

Dogtooth Violet. A lovely thing to find blooming on a sunny spring afternoon. For some reason the rabbit didn't eat it this year. This one doesn't have the spotted leaves that some have, but rather a shiny lighter green, though also very wide, leaf. We have them a various parts of the garden, but this one was especially pretty yesterday. The bloom scape is probably about 10 inches tall, so it need to be in a place where it won't be overshadowed. A slightly shaded woodsy place would be perfect for planting one. It will go dormant when the hot weather sets in, but by then the miniature sized maple under which it is planted will have leafed out and taken over the area along with hostas and some other delights.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ranunculus - unknown

Now here I need some help. This one was sold to me as Ranunculus 'Brazen Hussy', but it clearly is not that plant since the leaves are not almost black and they are patterned. Anyone have any clues? The flower is the same as Brazen Hussy, but the leaves are certainly not the same color and they are more pointed than round. I've done a bit of online searching, but this time of year there really isn't much time for that. Thanks for any suggestions. Since this was in a wholesale order, I have a number of these planted about (couldn't sell them without a proper name) which makes me even more interested in who this is.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ranunculus double flowered

If any of you know the proper name for this one, please let me know. It is another Ranunculus, but with lovely double flowers. It was a gift from an old friend who didn't know the name. Our clump is growing where it gets morning sun but afternoon shade and has increased quite a bit in a few years. It looked just like this last week, but yesterday when I was walking around, I noticed that a bunny had eaten the whole center out of the clump; not down to the ground, so it will be fine, but all of the flowers are gone. BAD rabbit.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ranunculus 'Buttered Popcorn'

This was the first ranunculus we grew. The flowers are pretty much exactly like the wild buttercup and just as fleeting, but the variegated leaves are pretty all season, and in a mild winter in a sheltered place, they may just stick around. If not, they are up just as soon as there is a hint of spring. This plant will grow in sun or shade, thought in hot baking sun it may wilt in the afternoon. It seems to grow in most soil types and though it prefers a slightly damp place, will also grow dry. It does tend to spread a bit, but I haven't had it seed into other places, only spread by stolons. It is low growing and could be used as a ground cover in some situations, but won't take much foot traffic. It seems to have colonized an area around my greenhouse. I never planted it there, but I think it 'escaped' from a flat I had potted up and didn't move for a long time. I also have some growing under a metasequoia and under benches in my sales area. Very adaptable and quite pretty.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ranunculus ficaria 'Brazen Hussy'

This is one of our earliest perennials to bloom. The leaves come up, very dark, sometimes almost black, long before the last frost and once if warms up a little it will be covered with shiny yellow flowers, buttercup color, which is appropriate since this is a buttercup. If you plant it be sure to remember where, since it will go dormant once the heat sets in. It seems to like rock gardens and mostly full sun, though I do have some in other places. At some point it seems to self seed and I find babies in other places. With this plant, I never find that to be a problem since it is so pretty and not very big even as a full sized plant, probably 8 inches across on this one and 5 inches tall. More of the buttercups tomorrow.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Forsythia 'Variegata'

This one seems to be pretty common, just a variegated leaf forsythia with no special fancy name. One of the best things about it is the fall color which is a deep burgundy, pink and cream. Ours are in full bloom right now and will be pruned just after blooming. With this one I need to prune at least 4 times a year if I don't want it to just take over everything. It does make a lovely arching plant, but tends to tip root wherever the stems touch the ground so I have to keep up with it. Tip rooting is easy and great if you want lots of new plants - and I use it on many things - but along a path as where this forsythia is, it just gets in the way. Unlike some variegated plants, this one is super vigorous. One forsythia which I don't yet have a picture of is Karl Saxx. A picture really wouldn't tell you anything anyway. It is a tetraploid rather than diploid like the rest of the forsythias. Because of that it seems to have thicker stems and larger flowers. The flowers are also a much deeper gold color. So this ends the forsythia pictures. Not sure where we'll go tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Forsythia 'Tremonia'

Not a variegation this time, but a wonderfully serrated edge. This one was a little tempermental to get started, but has grown vigorously ever since. Not as showy, maybe, but a nice texture comparison and just as pretty in the spring. This has certainly been a good year for forsythia as all of ours are covered with bloom and as I drove around yesterday doing errands, I noticed that this is generally the case. Our freeze didn't seem to do much damage except to magnolia blossoms that had been out for awhile, so that's a relief. We're not out of the woods yet, though, because our predicted last frost date is not until May 15th and over the last dozen or so years we have had frost several times as late as May 23rd. At that point things are up and leafed out and there's not much you can do in a garden this size to protect things. Most plants have several sets of buds and will leaf out again, though last year we had so many freezes and thaws that we lost a number of Japanese Maples and even a Lilac (Syringa reticulata 'Chantilly Lace') that were well over 10 years old and one would have thought could tolerate vagueries in the weather.
One more forsythia to go and then on to something else.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Forsythia 'Fiesta'

This is truly one of the smaller forsythias. We have it in several places and the largest, which has never been pruned in about 10 years is only about 6 feet tall. It has a lovely green and gold variegation and new stems (sometimes older ones too) are red. We have it growing in both part shade and sun. The plant will be taller in shade and stockier in sun. The variegation, not surprisingly, is more pronounced in the sun. It was sold originally as a dwarf, but small would be a better term, I think, at least as opposed to the regular forsythia.
A short word about the weather. We had a freeze last night. I haven't been out yet to see if everything got frozen - some things tolerate this quite well. In preparation we put the winter wrap back on tender things and I covered the vegetable garden where the peas, onions, lettuce, spinace and swiss chard are already up. They can take some cold, but why take chances? I also picked a large plastic bag full of daffodils that were just in bud to keep in the refrigerator and bring out a vase-ful at a time over the next few weeks, just in case we lose most of our daffodil bloom like we did last year. I also picked 2 five gallon buckets full of daffodil blooms which have filled vases in every room in the house, which is something I do anyway this time of year. I also picked some of our white lilac which was starting to open and which regularly gets frosted. Much as I hate this sort of thing in the spring, I wouldn't want to move to a year round gardening climate. Some of us, despite our love of gardening, need a little hibernation in the winter.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Forsythia 'Lime Time'

And they go on and on... This is Forsythia 'Lime Time', another of the 'small' forsythias that wasn't. Did I mention before the number of plants we have been sold as 'small' that turn out to be rather vigorous. I really don't think our soil is that much better (though it is quite good in most places) or my gardening techniques superior (though I do have a lot of experince - another way of saying I'm older than dirt), but rather the problem with growers who rush plants to market before they really know what they'll do. A BIG complaint of mine. Rant done, more on the forsythia.
This one has a lovely green and gold variegation, mostly an irregular gold edge. It certainly stands out since the color is quite a bit brighter than this picture would indicate. We put it at the edge of a path near the hardy cactus scree thinking it would be nice there. In 2 years it was over 6 feet tall and at least that wide. We ended up moving it in a warm spell in January to a space across the peony field near a crabapple. We weren't sure it was the best time for the move, but forsythia's are tough. We are in the process of putting an edge of forsythia all along the road and the earliest ones, just little sticks when planted, are blooming nicely this year. Given the 1000 or so feet of road frontage we have to cover, this is an ongoing project, but one which is turning out nicely. I'll root some more this year to plant in the fall as it is so easy to do. Just cut them and stick them in a pot of dirt - lots of cuttings close together since they seem to like company - and keep them watered until they root. At least half of them will root and you will have lots more bushes to use or share.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Forsythia 'Kumson'

I think I need to take a new picture of this one when the leaves come out, but you can see the wonder gold veining on the green leaves. Stems are red, at least on the new growth in the spring. It was originally sold to me as a smaller plant, but as is the case with a lot of things sold as smaller plants, it was truly a full sized forsythia and is not longer in its place right along a walk, but set back farther into the landscape. Pruning forsythias is no problem and they can be kept in check, but it does take time because they seem to grow continuously. I have several that are pruned monthly during the summer and fall. It doesn't seem to affect their blooming since any stem that is left will bloom all along its length. Those things that bloom only at the tips shouldn't be pruned in fall if they're spring bloomers or you will lose the bloom. Forsythia is just so adaptable, but many people are afraid of adding it because of its potential size. I don't like it when it is pruned as a right ball - that's just not natural, but keeping it in bounds and pruning off shoots which touch the ground and will root and eventually form a thicket is probably a good idea (unless a thicket is what you're after!)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Forsythia 'Suwan Gold'

A change from the other forsythias, this one has gold leaves and gold flowers. It is a japonica rather than an intermedia and its final size is smaller so it is more friendly for a smaller yard. The gold color stays pretty much the same over the season as long as it gets enough sun. I don't think it flowers as much as some of the others, but it is quite a lovely bush anyway. We have several scattered over the gardens and people are always amazed that it is a forsythia since it doesn't look like what they are expecting, but then a lot of our forsythias don't. That's the fun of gardening/collecting - to find the unusual and enjoy it in your own garden.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Forsythia 'Ford's Freeway'

I'm taking these in alphabetical order, so today there is a picture of Forsythia 'Ford's Freeway', discovered, as you might guess, as a random plant growing along a freeway. It is one of the nicer variegated forsythias and not all that common. Flowers are the same yellow, but the fall color is great in shades of burgundy, pink and cream. It is an intermedia, or at least acts like one and is a large bush if not pruned. It's blooming now and looks great. More forsythias tomorrow. Weeding today.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Forsythia 'Citrus Swizzle'

I think, since most of them are blooming right now, that I'll write about Forsythias for the next few posts. I know lots of people don't like them because they can become large obnoxious bushes, but maybe you don't know about some of the newer ones on the market that are great garden additions even when they're not flowering. This one is Citrus Swizzle and is our newest addition. I don't think this is an intermedia since the leaves are quite tiny, but the variegation is great. I think it will probably be a smaller plant, though all can be kept in bounds with some occasional pruning. This one has but one flower this spring, but I expect more next year. The forsythias around here can be somewhat weird in their blooming patterns. We almost always have a bit of bloom (sometimes quite a lot, actually) in the fall which seems to cut down on our bloom in the spring. This winter, when it stayed cold and we had lots of rain, seems to have been good for forsythia because we're having the best bloom in years on most all of our varieties. We've added some across the creek in the back to allow them to do what forsythias do best - make huge bushes with lots of tangle. This is yet another effort to discourage the deer from using our garden for a salad bar. Will it work? Probably not totally, but maybe it will help some. Even if it doesn't work it will sure be pretty in the spring.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


This is the worst weed in the garden this time of year. Often it sprouts in a warm spell in the winter, but doesn't flower until spring. We call it cressy and I don't know what it's proper botanical name is; I would check that out sometime. I'm told that it is quite edible, but I have such a running battle with it that eating it doesn't appeal to me. Last year I started my assault on it by trying to pull every single plant before they set seed. We have less this year, but since the seed can live in the ground for many years, I still have a lot of work to do. On a positive note, the battle with onion grass that I started about 5 years ago seems to be going in my favor. There is very little now compared to then and most of it pulls right out, partly because it is young or weak and partly because the soil in the beds is becoming so much nicer. Most of our spring weeds are annuals and not hard to get rid of, though the process is time consuming. The summer and fall weeds tend to be more perennial and much harder to deal with. More on them as they appear.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hellebores Again

I know I talked about hellebores a few days ago, but this one just came out and it is so unusual I just had to put its pictures up. We have lots with spots/speckles on the inside, but this is the first one we've had with markings on the outside (it has them inside also). It is one we got from Pink Knot 2 years ago and this is the first time it has bloomed. Quite unusual. A note on hellebores which show that no matter how long you have gardened there is always something to learn. I bring flowers to church every Sunday and yesterday decided to make a bouquet of hellebores. I'd never used them as cut flowers before. I fix my flowers late on Saturday and put them in a cool place overnight so they'll be fresh in the morning. Hellebores are not a good cut flower except to enjoy right away. By morning all of the stems were bent over so the flowers had their faces on the table. Luckily I mixed in some of the white forsythia and a little florist wire got the hellebores standing up again. Always something to learn in the garden.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Abeliophyllum distichum 'Rosea'

Not much to write today. Just wanted to put up a picture of the pink version of the white forsythia that I featured yesterday. Not much will happen in the garden today since it has been pouring rain since I woke up. So different from last spring when we started out dry and got worse as the weather heated up. We're looking forward to a much better season this year.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Abeliophyllum distichum

As I look out of my window this morning there is a lovely cloud of white blossoms on the 'White Forsythia', otherwise known as Abeliophyllum. It's not a true forsythia, but the habit and flower shape are so close it has gotten that name. Here it blooms before the forsythias get started and unlike true forsythias, has a light scent. The pink form seems to have a bit less bloom per stem and be less vigorous, but the color is lovely. Unfortunately, if you have the pink one in too much sun, it fades to white in a few days. Both like dappled shade, though will grow in the sun. Like forsythia, they will tip root, so if you don't want babies, keep them pruned so that the ends of the branched don't touch the ground. If you'd like an additional plant or want a larger clump, just let the branches root naturally or put a rock near the end of a branch to encourage rooting. A year later you can cut it loose from its parent and dig it up and plant it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


This is hellebore season - that time when the witchhazels are about done and before the daffodils really get started. We started out with just a few and have a bed of various colors as you come in the driveway. A few years ago we put in 100 seedlings on a hillside in the back. They have now grown to clump size and right now, with the sunlight just right, they are just beautiful. The colors range from pure white to the darkest purple/black with pinks, greens and everything in between. Lots have speckles. They are pretty easy to grow in average garden soil and part shade. They are nice under deciduous trees where they get lots of shade in the summer, but dappled sunlight in the spring. The old leaves persist over the winter on most (but not all) types and now are laying down as the new leaves and flowers emerge. The actual flowers are not what you would think. The flower is the part in the center (which you cant really see in this picture) with very tiny petals. The showy colored parts are actually a calyx and it persists sometimes into the summer which makes them seem like very long blooming plants - which they're not since the actual blooms don't last more than a week, but the appearance is what's important and we certainly enjoy them.