Saturday, April 30, 2011

Campanula punctata 'Wedding Bells'

I had good intentions of using this plant in my post yesterday, in honor or William and Kate's wedding, but I guess in my excitement of having my DSL back working I totally forgot.
I'm kind of new to Campanulas and it is a love hate sort of relationship. This one especially. It is gorgeous. The flowers are large, but still delicate and the purest white. They are borne in profusion and last for a long time. But . . . they seed voraciously. If you're not careful, you will have a forest of the things in no time at all. So, plant them by all means, but deadhead most of them, leaving maybe one or two blossoms to make you some new plants for next year. They don't seem to spread far - just drop their seeds at the base of the plant, so it is easy to just pluck them out if you get too many.
The flowers are double, two perfect flowers, one inside the other. They are hardy to zone 5. Expect them to get about 18" tall. They like sun, average soil that is neither too dry nor to wet. And so far, deer don't seem to eat them which is a plus for any plant in my garden. For those of you who like to pick flowers to bring into the house to enjoy, these make excellent cut flowers.
They seem to be readily available at a number of mail order nurseries and you may find them in garden centers also.
We had the first totally wonderful sunny day that we've had in a long time today and we totally enjoyed it - though I'm really tired now. Lots of new things dug and potted for the nursery and lots of just walking and enjoying the plants.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Uvularia sessilifolia variegata

This plant is nothing if not really cute. Unlike the more common Uvularia which is about 18 inches to 2 feet tall and has fairly large yellow, bell-shaped flowers, this guy is not much more than 6 inches tall and is perfectly in scale from the thin stem to the thin green and white leaves to the tiny, no more than 1/2inch long, creamy white bell shaped flower, one to a stem. I got this some years ago and it has spread slightly - when something this small and dainty spreads, it will never be called invasive. It has simply gone, over about 10 years, from a single stem to a patch maybe a foot across. Did I say I really like this one????
The Uvularias are woodland plants and are native to the eastern U.S. They like a shaded site and evenly moist soil. I don't think they want wet feet. Mine grows in a shady rock garden with tiny woodland anemones, miniature hostas, some tiny ferns and assorted other small plants. At the top of the slope is a small pond for iris that enjoy a shaded site. Above the pond is a sweep of Epimediums. The whole thing is quite flowery and pretty right now.
I'm not sure just how easy this one is to find, and because of its diminutive size, it needs a special spot, but I really like it. And did I say it's really cute???

Sorry about not posting yesterday. I posted an update to Facebook about today being our opening day, and then when I went over to Blogger, the DSL connection had disappeared and didn't return until almost lunchtime today. No idea what happened to it, but it's back and so am I. We're expecting a sunny day tomorrow and warmer than today - which was just a bit too chilly for my taste this time of year. We had a number of out of town guests to visit and tour the gardens despite the less than perfect weather. Hope to see you tomorrow or Sunday.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Podophyllum - Mayapples

We grow plenty of good old American native Mayapples in the garden and they are in many places in our woods, but we also grow a couple of different non-native ones. This first one is Podophyllum 'Kaleidoscope'. This is a big bigger than our native Mayapple, being about 2 feet tall with leaves up to 18" wide. Ours isn't quite that large yet, but it seems to increase in size every year. It seemed downright wimpy for the first couple of years, but now in addition to the plants being larger, the clump is increasing in size. Maybe in a couple more years I'll even have some to share. All Mayapples are shade plants and like woodsy soil. This one has a red or burgundy flower in the spring and may set seed and spread that way too. We have them growing with hostas and some other shade perennials. They are still expensive and are patented, so I don't expect to see them readily available any time soon.

Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty' is similar to the one above, but has a much more patterned leaf, with dark spots. It is about the same size, likes the same conditions, and also has reddish flowers. Both of these are pretty much restricted to zones 6-8, though there have been reports of it surviving a zone 4 winter. Both of these may come up early (too early) and will need to be protected from late frosts. As long as it hasn't come up too much, we put a styrofoam box over them with a brick on top to keep it from blowing away. Makes a wonderful temporary greenhouse.

I'm writing while I'm sitting here waiting for yet more rain to arrive. Depending on which forecast you read, it could be up to an additional 2 inches. We really don't need 2 more inches of rain. I spent the day slipping a sliding in the mud trying to finish getting all of the sale plants in place for opening day. I had mud caked on up to my knees. I guess I'm going to have to find some gravel to spread if we do get this extra rain so everyone who visits the gardens this weekend isn't also caked with mud. Yuck!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Muscari macrocarpum 'Golden Fragrance'

We tried for a number of years to get this lovely yellow muscari to grow in our garden. We finally have succeeded, under a small pine tree, next to a clump of tulips. Not even sure why Hank planted it there, but it lived...and bloomed, so who am I to question. It's a very un-muscari looking muscari (Grape Hyacinth) and stands about 8 inches tall. The flowers on this species are more like little tubes than my others, which are more rounded. It is extremely fragrant, but unfortunately, unless you're crawling around weeding, you probably won't smell it. With only one bloom scape this first season, I certainly wasn't going to pick it. Maybe next year it will increase and I can bring some into the house to enjoy.
Bloom time is mid to late spring. Plant in full sun to light shade, but like most of the other spring bulbs, it will probably do better in a sunny location, at least in terms of coming back bigger and stronger next year. It will grow just about anywhere in the U.S. since it can live anywhere from zone 4 to 9. A nice thing is that they are rather deer and rodent resistent, at least so far. My other grape hyacinths aren't bothered, though, so I don't expect this one will be either. The only exception has been in winters where the deer have no food in the woods, and if the foliage is up over the winter, it might get nibbled, but in a normal year, the deer seem to avoid it.
This one is a little more expensive that the other muscari types - about $1 a bulb as opposed to more like 50 cents each for the more common ones. As with most spring blooming bulbs, I can't recommend Brent and Becky's Bulbs enough. Wonderful selection, good prices, and always the biggest and best quality bulbs. They are the reason our garden is so lovely in the early spring.
It was certainly a pleasant surprise to finally see one of these bloom this spring.

Looks like we are going to have nice weather for our opening weekend at the nursery. Hard to believe they're predicting 2 days in a row without rain. We'll see if the forecast stays that way until Friday. If you're in the area, stop by.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hippeastrum - Amaryllis

Isn't this just the most gorgeous flower? I picked up this Amaryllis hybrid when I was out at Glasshouse Works in Stewart OH last week. Ken has for years dabbled with hybridizing Amaryllis and this is just one of his creations. I doesn't have a name, as far as I know, but the color is just glowing, especially when the sun shines through it. And I love the bright, grass green throat.
I once tried to plant some Amaryllis seed that I had created by pollinating some of my many Amaryllis plants that live outside in the summer and in the greenhouse in the winter. I bring them into the house just as they are about to bloom so I can enjoy the flowers. It's a sure antidote to the winter blahs. Anyway, the seeds just sat there and did nothing, so I asked Ken how one starts Amaryllis seeds.
Anyway, after you dab the pollen and have gotten some seed, the trick, I am told, is that you need to take a pot or flat, depending on how much seed you have. By the way, these are large, flat seeds. Moisten the soil and then spread the seed on top. They need light to germinate, so you shouldn't cover them with soil. You can put a piece of plastic wrap over the pot so things don't dry out too fast. I'm going to try again next time I get some seeds, because I am truly in love with these big flowers that brighten my house and my life in the darkest days of winter.

Now, a little bit about how I grow my Amaryllis. Like I said, I keep them in the greenhouse in the winter and outside the rest of the year, as long as nighttime temperatures will be above 50 degrees. In the winter they get lots of sun (assuming it actually comes out - this past winter wasn't very good for sunny days). They spend their summers in the dappled shade of some old lilac bushes. I repot and fertilize them when I bring them out. They like to be somewhat potbound, so I don't size them up unless they have broken the pot, which they will do to plastic pots, especially when they create new offsets. They seem to like plenty of moisture, but I don't think they want to be soggy or sit in water. I don't mess so much with the stuff about giving them a rest at certain seasons. When they want a rest, they take one, dropping their leaves and just sitting there for awhile. During that time I water sparingly and only when they either send up a bloom scape or new leaves do I start with the regular watering again. There are some species ones with smaller flowers (mine have red ones) that don't go dormant at all and bloom occasionally throughout the year. Always in the winter, but sometimes again in summer and occasionally at other times too.
Amaryllis bloom scapes are pretty fragile things as they are hollow, quite tall and have up to 4 heavy blooms perched at the top. I set the smaller pot in which the plant is growing into a heavy ceramic pot to keep the whole thing from toppling over, and then I have a cup hook in the window frame to which I tie the scape. You don't really see the thin white string, but it keeps the whole thing safer. If the worst happens and the scape breaks off, I just put the stem in a tall vase (recut the bottom first) and the blooms will last almost as long that way.

So if you don't already have at least on Amaryllis (and why don't you???), you should certainly find one. They can be had for not too much money just after Christmas when they are considered 'left-overs'. As long as the bulbs are sound, they should do just fine. I would avoid the fancy catalog ones that come with a fancy pot. The same plant, without expensive pot can be had for much less and will be just as beautiful. Just think how many other plants you could buy with that extra money!
Four days in a row. Not a record, but good for me. See you tomorrow.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trillium grandiflorum

Trillium grandiflorum grows wild around here and usually blooms in early April. The plants are around a foot tall and each bulb produced a stalk with 3 leaves and 1 white, unscented flower. As the flowers age, they change from white to pink. Other varieties have red or yellow flowers or patterned leaves, but this one is our local trillium. Besides enjoying it in the woods, there are quite a few of them spread around the garden.
The common name is Wake Robin, but I've never heard anyone call them anything but Trilliums. They are monocots and members of the Lily Family. It is native to the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada, as far south as Georgia and to the northernmost parts of Canada. These are woodland flowers and will be happiest in those conditions. A few of ours get some sun, but spend most of their days in the shade.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Erythronium 'Pagoda'

Erythronium 'Pagoda' is a new Dogtooth Violet that we're growing this year. It is a cross between the native American species Erythronium tuolumense and Erythronium revolutum. It will have 3-5 of these lovely yellow flowers per stem and sometimes multiple stems per bulb. I'm happy with just this one flower for its first season. The flower scapes will be 6-12" tall and the leaves are shiny green, kind of fleshy and pretty large. Unlike some of our other Dogtooth Violets, this one doesn't have patterned leaves, but plain green. It blooms in mid to late spring, likes woodland conditions and will tolerate some sun. It grows in zones 3-8.
Although the bulb can be eaten fresh or dried and can be ground into flour and the leaves can be used in salads, I think I'll stick to just enjoying the flowers in the garden.
2 days in a row. Let's see how long I can keep going without missing a day - it's not like there isn't enough to write about in the garden this time of year.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ranunculus ficaria 'Limelight'

Laziness is about to end. I think. I hope. I took a bunch of pictures yesterday so I have no excuses for not sharing some interesting plants with all of you.
Today's picture is Ranunculus ficaria 'Limelight'. A buttercup. I've seen it called Fig Buttercup and Creeping Buttercup (proper common name is Lesser Celandine), but although the clumps increase in size gradually over time, I'd be more inclined to think of it more of a jumping buttercup as I find new tiny plants some distance from the mother plant. The species is listed as invasive in some states, but these cultivated types don't seem to fit that description. This one has green leaves with silvery markings and the usual shiny yellow flowers, more single than double, but with a nice puff of stamens in the center. It likes light shade or morning sun and afternoon shade. Mine original clump grows in a sort of rock garden spot - not a real rock garden, but a bit of a terraced spot behind the greenhouse. The leaves come up first thing in the spring, even before the daffodils are in bloom and the flowers follow a few weeks later. The flowers don't open on rainy or very cloudy days - just when you need their cheery yellow. The clump is rather ground hugging, not more than 2 inches tall. The leaves themselves are about the size of a quarter, so this is a rather diminutive plant. As with most of our other ranunculus, at least the ficarias, it will go dormant when the heat of summer arrives. Grows in zones 4-9 which seems about right since the species is native from Europe to northern Africa.
This is one of four that we grow, though we also grow several other Ranunculuses (my proper Latin says that's not the plural, but - whatever) that are not ficarias, though all have those lovely shiny yellow flowers. This particular one doesn't seem that easy to find, but if you're interested in collecting these buttercups, Arrowhead Alpines is an excellent source.
See you all tomorrow.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Corydalis solida

Corydalis solida (G.P. Baker, above) is one of my favorite spring flowers. It grows from a bulb, unlike most of the other corydalis that we grow. It comes up at the first hint of spring and in a very short time it is in full bloom. Height is probably about 8-10 inches. The named one above is a lovely rosy red/pink, but over the years we have ended up with lots of variety in the colors like the purple one below.
This grape juice color may be my favorite, but over the years they have self seeded and filled in lots of spaces, much better than I could have done planting them myself, and in every shade of pink, red, purple, lavender and anything in between.
I'm told that they also come in white, but I don't have any of those and the closest we've come is some very pale pinks or lavenders. Above is just a sampling of one part of the gardens at Lake Amanda.

These are considered a spring ephemeral since by the beginning of summer they will have totally disappeared. We plant them in gardens with things like hostas that will hide the bare spots. They are best in shade, at least they will last longer there, but we have them in sunny spots that they have chosen themselves and they seem to do all right there, but go dormant a lot faster. In the wild it is a woodland plant, and so those conditions are preferable. Grows in zones 4-8.

And an update on my last post. The first bloom on the orchid cactus has come out with 3 more to go. Last summer it has 20 something blooms at once. To say it was noticeable would be an understatement.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Epiphyllums and Their Friends

This is certainly not an area in which I am an expert, but I was inspired by the lovely blooms on some of these this morning when I was watering the house plants. This first one is a plant with which most will be familiar, if nor from having grown it, from seeing it in the stores at Christmas time. The Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera, is native to Brazil. In the southern hemisphere they are simply called winter-flowering cactus. There are six species and a ton of hybrids. All are similar in form with flat jointed stems that make a small arching stemmed bush. They need less than 12 hours of light per day if they are to flower which is why you will usually see them bloom during the dark, short days of winter. Too much light, even artificial light, will hinder their bloom. Mine all live in rooms that don't get as much use in the evening and so are pretty much dark from sundown to sunup. The flowers grow from the tips of the stems. The fruits are green or reddish and grape-like, but since we don't have insects inside to pollinate them in the winter here, I've never seen any fruit on ours. These are shade loving plants. They live in west windows when in the house and their hanging baskets hang under the trees outside in the summer. It's amazing how well they grow outside. Just be sure to bring them back in before the nights get much below 50 degrees (F.) They can go down to about 41 degrees, but I hate to take chances. They like regular feeding in summer and autumn when they are putting on a lot of new growth. This lovely pink one lives in my sewing room this time of year.
Everyone loves the RicRack orchid cactus, Epiphyllum anguliger. This one, as you can see, has deeply serrated trailing stems. It has sweetly scented white or cream colored flowers in summer or fall, though mine has yet to bloom. A warm and shady place makes these happy, no cooler than 43 degrees. Mine is in a south facing window in the winter, but only gets morning sun.
Another non-bloomer (at least so far) is the Selenicereus pteranthus. This will have white flowers also when it finally gets around to it. This one is not quite as showy as the previous 2 (or the one to follow) sort of reminding me of a dinosaur or some sort of prehistoric plant, rambling at odd angles. This one is a bit spiny, unlike the previous ones. This one has 3 sided, fleshy stems. It likes shade and can be grown as a hanging basket plant or as a sort of upright rambler.
Now one of my favorites and one that was just covered with blooms last summer; I think I counted 23 or them at one time. This is Ephyllum ackermannii. These get rather huge for a potted plant. I keep mine trimmed to no more than 6 feet long since they have to live in the house in the winter and I have to carry them in and out. Even 6 feet has me tripping over the ends of the stems sometimes. The red/orange flowers on these are really big and showy - probably 6 inches across easily. In the wild, they grow in the tree canopy of tropical jungles from Mexico to northern South America. The flowers last a couple of days, longer in cooler weather. Regular feeding and warm shade will keep them happy. Minimum temperature is 41 degrees.
Here is a bud just starting that I noticed this morning. This plant is in a north window which is also shaded by a hemlock tree.
And here is the bloom that should be open in the next couple of days. Can't wait. I expect it will bloom again this summer as usual.
That's it for today.