Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hibiscus - the herbaceous kind.

As promised, here are some of the Hibiscus that we grow here. There are probably 3 times this many, most in 2 spots, a damp spot on the back side of the daylily beds, and in the bog. These die back each winter and you cut down the old stems some time before the new ones come up in the spring or early summer. They're a bit slow, usually not appearing until the weather really warms up. They are heavy feeders, so a good application of compost will be most appreciated by them. Each plant, once mature, will produce many stems and each stem will have many buds so the bloom season will go on for several weeks. I mentioned we grow some in a bog. They don't mind at all having wet feet, and will be quite happy that way which makes then the perfect solution for the wet spot in the yard where nothing else seems to grow. If you grow them in a regular garden situation, be sure they get enough water. Did I mention the flowers??? Some plants can have blooms a foot across. They do make a statement in the garden. Most will certainly be at least 8 inches wide.
This first one is Hibiscus coccineus, a species. You'll notice that the picture isn't taken straight on. That's because I'm not 7 feet tall like this plant. Talk about something you can see from across the garden. There is a white version called 'Swamp Angel' but it hasn't proven to be especially hardy in this zone.

I hope this color comes out right on your computers. I have probably taken more pictures of 'Plum Crazy' than any other hibiscus, just trying to get the color right, purple with a hint of red. I don't know of another hibiscus like it.
This is 'Sweet Caroline', an older one and a nice pink. This one is about normal for height, usually about 5 feet tall. Clumps just get wider every year so that eventually you have a clump with dozens of huge flowers on it.

'Robert Fleming' is a new addition this year. It is by far our deepest red. To give you an idea of how fast these grow, it was 6 inches tall when it arrived in early May. it is now nearing 4 feet tall and has 3 stems with 4 blooms open today. It is very rich and velvety looking. The plant is named for one of the Fleming brothers who spent their lives hybridizing hibiscus, many of which are included in this series of pictures.

'Old Yella' has just the faintest hint of yellow, though it is much more yellow when it first opens. By the end of the day, it is usually bleached white. No longer yellow, but still a very lovely flower.

This one is 'Lady Baltimore'. Nice pink with a red eye. To give you an idea of how large these blossoms are, on the left of the picture, you can see Hank's wrist as he held the blossom up for me. There is also one named 'Lord Baltimore' that is a bright scarlet.

'Lord Baltimore' is nice, but 'Fireball' is my favorite red. It is a bit shorter, usually only 3 to 4 feet tall. It does have the unfortunate habit of kind of growing sideways, so it looks even shorter. I just let it go where it wants to, but you could grow it through a perennial support if you need your flowers to look better behaved.

Now this one is a bit of a different look. 'Davis Creek' has more of a trumpet of funnel shaped bloom. This is a look closer to some of the species hibiscus and is a bit smaller bloom.

Last but not least, is one of my most favorite ones, 'Blue River 2'. It is pure white and one of the largest we grow. It also has more texture than a lot of the others, looking very much like crepe paper and sort of reminiscent of tree peony flowers.

I hope this gets you all excited to try these if you don't already grow them. They are care free, and except for trimming the old stems down, don't require any help from the gardener.
Upcoming posts will include mushrooms, dividing daylilies, wildflowers and dragonflies.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Callicarpa - The Variegated Ones

We've been growing this first one, Callicarpa japonica 'Variegata' (I worry about people who can't come up with a better or more creative name for a plant they create than 'variegata') for a couple of years. I was told it was more tender, but we've had not problems with it so far. I have two of them, one in pretty deep shade and the other that gets a lot of morning sun. They grow about the same in both conditions. At least so far, I haven't known them to be the wonderful bloomers that the green leafed forms are, but then, I guess that leaves make up for that.
This next one is a new addition this year, so I can't tell you much about how it grows or behaves or survives over the winter. Its name is Callicarpa dichotoma 'Shiji Murasake'. Since it is a dichotoma like the green form, I would guess that it will be every bit as hardy. I like the splashed variegation which seems to be showing up on more and more plants lately. No sign of bloom on this one, but it is still a baby.
Tomorrow, hibiscus.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Global Warming and Neked Ladies

I'm sure most of you have been suffering with the hot weather. It's been at least 10 years since we had a summer with close to this many really hot days. I know that because it was the year we finally broke down and bought a window air conditioner. We've used it very little since both of us hate air conditioning, but it's nice to know it's there if we need it. Thankfully, most of the days haven't been as humid as they could be. I won't get into a discussion of whether this signifies global warming or not - this is a gardening blog, and I try to keep it unpolitical since politics don't have much place amongst the flowers, but I've heard plenty of talk from garden visitors about how much ahead of usual this season has been. Just as an example, here is a photo of Lycoris sprengeri 'Tie Dye'. I'm actually not totally sure when this one usually blooms, but I seem to remember the nights being cooler when it bloomed in the past. The next photos will be a better example, but I just love the 'gas flame blue' color of this one and wanted to share it. It is not fussy and like the other Lycoris, puts up long strap-like foliage in the spring. The foliage disappears awhile later, maybe when the daffodil foliage goes away, and than in late summer, up pop these tall scapes full of gorgeous flowers, totally leafless and appearing almost overnight. This is a totally un-retouched photo and, at least on my computer, the colors are true.

This next photo is Hosta plantaginea. It's not one of those fancy variegated ones, but has large, shiny, green leaves. It has been know as the Assumption Lily (hostas are/were - they keep changing the families - in the lily family) and always bloomed on about August 15th which is the Feast of the Assumption. This photo was taken a couple of days ago, so almost 3 weeks ahead of schedule. If you don't know this variety, the best thing you should know about it is how wonderful the flowers smell. Your whole yard will be scented at certain times of the day. This is an old plant and all of its children seem to pick up the lovely scent in their flowers. A couple of them are Hosta 'Guacamole' and 'Fried Green Tomatoes'.
The sure sign, though, that things are out of whack, is that the Neked Ladies, Lycoris squamigera bloomed yesterday. These always, like clockwork, at least as long as I can remember, appear on or about August 15th. One day the scape appears, the next day the flowers start to open. Again, like the one above, no leaves this time of year, just these 2 foot tall (maybe a little taller) scapes with pink flowers. Bloom time seems to not be dependent on sun or shade, because we have them in both places and they always bloom on the same day. I didn't plant them, but they came with the farm and were probably planted by Mrs. Rhoric back in the 1940s. Her daffodils live on here too. Do you have 'antique' flowers in your gardens. I think it's wonderful to have parts of her garden still here after all these years.

Tomorrow I'll get a photo up of the variegated Callicarpa I talked about and probably a few other goodies too. There is also a post coming on the huge flowered hibiscus. I just need a few more photos for that one.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Sometimes it's nice to tell you all about a plant you might not be familiar with. This is Callicarpa. It is a small shrub, maybe 5 feet tall and as wide. The first few years, at least in this climate, it usually dies back to the ground, but this past winter, with out horrible weather, it leafed out to the tips of the branches this spring. It's not a fancy thing, but is pretty in spring, summer and fall. In the spring it has lovely light green foliage.
When summer comes, it has light purple flowers in tiny bunches all down each stem. It really gets covered in bloom and it a favorite of our tiny bumblebees and other pollinators.
The best show, though, is in the fall when the bright purple berries replace all of those flowers. The berries last until frost and don't seem to be eaten by much. Not good for bringing inside, because the berries seem to end up everywhere after a day or so.
This is a hard one to sell, for some reason. First, most people don't seem to know it, and second, most of our shrub buyers are here in the early spring before Callicarpa looks like anything except a plain green shrub.
Another plus is that it grows well in shade. I'm not sure it even likes sun since all of mine are growing in light shade. It doesn't seem to have any pests and is easy to prune if it gets a little too big. Because it blooms all down the stem, you will cut off some bloom if you trim the stems back (like I have to do along a walk, several times each year) but since the bloom isn't just at the tips of the branches, you still will have blooms and berries all along the stems that remain.
I can't say enough nice about this one and hope you might consider trying it. There is also a variegated form with is sort of related to this one. That is a bit more tender and needs a very sheltered spot here in zone 6.
Hope you all are having the nice weather we're having today. It's the first day I've been able to work outside from breakfast until supper time for quite a few weeks. So nice to feel like I was getting something done.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Caladiums of the Thai Variety

This morning's post is thanks to Seigfried, who thought that I needed my face washed at 5 this morning. I really didn't need to be up that early and tried to get some more sleep, but he was just so cuddly that I gave up, and being up early with a little free time before I actually had to get up, I thought I'd finally get around to posting about the caladiums whose pictures I took over a week ago with the intention of posting them then.
We're actually getting a lot done, considering the heat and humidity. We're outside no later than 7:30 in the morning and can usually keep at it until noon, though there were a few days that we were done in by 9. We've been rather ruthlessly culling daylily seedlings to make space for some named ones that have gotten a little crowded in the beds. If you're in the neighborhood, I have some lovely clumps - some up to about 30 fans - for $5 each. (End of commercial message)
Anyway, a few weeks ago I bought 6 new caladiums from Asiatica Nursery during their going of of business sale. (Still time to order until the end of July) I just love caladiums and have perfected the keeping them alive over the winter thing, so I felt comfortable adding a few to the collection. The names are in the pots and I'm still in bed, so I'll just have to show you the pictures for this morning. They are all in Thai (?) I suppose and so not names that I remember or that just flow off the tongue.

This first one is a miniature. The leaves are less than 2 inches long and though I really like it and it is toooooo cute, I'm afraid this may be the most difficult one because the leaves are thin and delicate. All of them are living in pots on the table under the Hibiscus 'Tosca' and are starting to add new leaves. I don't ever put my caladiums in the ground for several reasons. Slugs are death to caladiums and with our wet year, they would have been gone by now. I also get busy/lazy in the fall and having to dig them up just might not happen. And last, keeping them in the pots seems to work.

This second one is far from delicate (or small). The leaves are about 10 inches long and shiny with the look of patent leather, though that doesn't show in the photo. Actually, this patterning doesn't show well unless the sun is shining through from the back. Usually they are very thick looking and dark shiny red.

These come out almost gold and pink and then change to more chartreuse.

This one is very pink and the veins are almost black and when the light hits it the right way it looks like stained glass.

I like this one with its part green and part pink leaves. There are a few where the colors are more mixed, but most are just like this.

Last is this one. More pink and green.
My tips for keeping them over the winter - neglect. I knew they had to rest, so I let them die back and then I left them in the pots. I pushed them to the back of the middle bench in the greenhouse on the east side where they would stay warm, but not have too much sun. In the spring, once it starts getting warm, I begin to water them. In a few weeks, I see sprouts and not long after the pots are full of beautiful plants again. I have two with almost white leaves - just a thin green margin, that have done so well that I'm going to have to divide them next spring.
Hopefully, I'll post again soon. I have been working on the website photos, though and will let you know when it's all done.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Daylilies in Bloom

I thought I'd just post a couple of photos of the daylilies in bloom rather than specific blossoms. This first one is taken of the bed of older daylilies behind the front barn. Most of these are introductions from the 1970s and 1980s, with a few newer ones where we've lengthened the rows. They are just gorgeous right now.
This second photo is looking from the top of the hill and actually shows 5 different sections of daylilies, but the way it looks here, it all kind of blends together.
This is the peak of bloom, a few weeks ahead of usual, but there's no putting it off, so we're just enjoying it. I hope those of you who are in the area can come over and enjoy the flowers with us. Hopefully soon I'll have some more time for writing. In addition to weeding, today I re-did (or almost finished re-doing) the garden on either side of the brick walkway leading up to the house. It had been planted about 30 some odd years ago with wild daylilies. Over the years the lilacs which are also along the walk grew and grew so that now there was so much shade that the daylilies no longer bloomed, just spread foliage all over the walk and looked kind of ratty. I decided that hostas would be much better, so I started digging out the old ditch weeds and ripping out vinca (and having Hank pull out the poison ivy) and by suppertime I had cleaned up most of it and planted 18 hostas. I probably have space for another 6 or 8 by the time I finish. I can't believe the difference this makes. Instead of looking kind of busy and frantic, it now looks cool and calm. Just amazing what 5 hours of work can make. I'll take some photos as soon as it is all done and mulched.
Enjoy the weekend and picnics and fireworks, and make time to come by and see the daylilies. We'll have the gardens open on Saturday July 3rd from 10 to 5 and on Sunday July 4th from noon to 5. Remember, all potted daylilies are still just $5 each.