Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pleioblastus variegatus

I think I'll stick with Pleioblastus and show you this one. It is variously more green or more white, depending on what I don't know. Simply called variegatus or sometimes listed as Dwarf White Striped Bamboo. It is a bit taller than the last one, up to 3 feet, and a bit more of a spreader. It is still quite well behaved compared to the large bamboos. It prefers shade and seems to like a damp spot. I don't think I mentioned it with the last one, but they are both deciduous. Some of the larger ones are evergreen here, especially on a mild winter.
Pleioblastus variegatus is widely cultivated in Japan, but unknown in the wild, so the supposition is that it is a selection of an all green form. I have been told it is hardy only to zone 7, but it grows just fine here in zone 6.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pleioblastus viridistriatus

Pleioblastus viridistriatus is probably my favorite bamboo. The leaves are pretty nicely striped in the spring, but by this time of year they are more of a gold/chartreuse color.
This is a small bamboo, about 2 feet tall, which prefers shade. The leaves will actually curl up in hot afternoon sun. It also likes ample moisture. There are very few bamboos which I would recommend for the garden and this is one of them. That's not to say that it won't try and take over eventually, but it is small and the underground runners are just below the surface, so it is easy to control. It is also slow getting around to spreading beyond its original clump. One of the easy tricks to controling any of the bamboos is to have them in a place where you can mow around them. Mowing keeps them from spreading beyond the area where they are supposed to be growing. Forget underground barriers unless they are thick steel and go down a foot or so into the ground. Bamboo runners have an extremely sharp pointed end that can go through most materials. Of course you can always grow one that is tasty and use the bamboo shoots for Chinese cooking, which will also effectively stop the growth of that stem, at least temporarily.
You might also see this one listed as Pheioblastus auricomus.
Gentle rain right now and much less heat than yesterday. Yeah!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bamboo flowers

This is the flower at the end of a bamboo stem. You rarely see it bloom, and that's a good thing because the clump will usually die after blooming. The whole planting will usually flower (and die) at the same time. On this clump we had a few blooms last year and now some this year, so I'm not sure that is always true. This one is barely hardy here and has always struggled. If it does die, I'll probably find something else to take it's place rather than replanting this Fargesii.

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with our bamboos. I love how they look and they serve many useful purposes in the landscape, but most are just so unruly that they are difficult to love sometimes. Over the next few days, I think I'll write about some of the easier ones to grow in a garden and keep under control.

Off now to pick some green beans and take some photos before it gets too hot.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cyrilla racemiflora

Cyrilla racemiflora, otherwise known as Titi (rhymes with bye-bye) Shrub. This is a small tree or large shrub. It is native to damp places on the east coast of the US from Maryland south. The usual height is 10-15 feet though in optimal conditions they can be twice that tall. In nature, they prefer to form a thicket, but a single specimen is quite a handsome tree/bush. It is deciduous in the north, evergreen in the south. Leaves, which are a shiny green, turn orange/red in the fall. It prefers acidic soil and a damp place, but once established it can tolerate a more dry location, so if that is all you have, just keep it well watered for the first season or two. It can be propagated from seed or root cuttings. The flowers are quite fragrant and contain a large quantity of nectar which the bees just love. The trunk eventually becomes quite gnarly and interesting and so pruning the lower branches back after a few years will expose the trunk and add yet more interest to the garden. These are not seen all that often in garden centers or even catalogs and are probably best found from someone who sells native plants.

Friday, August 14, 2009


A photo of the bog where a lot of the perennial hibiscus grow. These are the ones with the huge flowers; the ones that you cut back after frost. They are gorgeous right now in shades of pink, white, red and purple. These are tall plants, most taller than me and some up to 10 feet tall. The bog is pretty much always damp except in the dryest summers and wet in winter. It's where lots of frogs lay eggs in the spring. There are also iris and ferns growing there along with a few other things along the edges. It's so nice to have all of this color just when the daylilies have about finished up. They are easy to grow and the only pest I've seen on them would be the occasional Japanese Beetle, though we have very few of those little bugs here since spreading Milky Spore many years ago.
Just a quick break from weeding - back to work

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lobelia cardinalis

First, I'll admit that this photo isn't up to my usual standards, but the blooms were getting a bit past (quite a bit past, actually) their prime when I decided to use them for the blog. I kind of have a love/hate affair with these. For years I tried planting them in various places, both the red flowered one and the white, but they never proved 'perennial' for me and never seemed to come back the next year. Finally, a few years ago, one appeared in a place where I didn't plant it. Seemes these can self seed. This year I have them in at least 3 places, none of which is where I would have thought of planting them. One is seeded within a clump of Sensitive Fern, one is in the middle of an iris bog/pond and the other is in a rather dry place. I'm thrilled to have them finally being happy here since they add a nice splash of color this time of year.
Despite my problems with getting this to be happy here, according to descriptions of what it likes, there shouldn't have been any problems. It grows from zone 3-9, in full sun or part shade and in medium to wet places. It is native to many places in North America. It is 2-4 feet tall, mine being on the taller side. They have taken over providing red color now that the Crocosmias are done.
I would encourage people to try this one if you haven't since it is pretty pest free - bugs, diseases and mammals. They do attract hummingbirds and butterflies, which also makes me like them. Our hummingbirds have increased in population with lots of babies now drinking at the feeder.
And speaking of birds, we had a major population explosion of woodpeckers this year. Lots of baby Red Bellies and Downies. So cute sitting there on the suet feeder, still waiting for mama to peck some out and feed them. Most have now figured it out, so I expect they'll be moving on to their own territories soon and our population will be back to normal.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Crinum amabile

Crinum amabile, known around here as 'the monster', is really a huge thing. We got this one about 4 or 5 years ago, maybe longer, and have been watching it get bigger and bigger. The bulb was about the size of a softball when we got it, but they said to put it in a large pot because it grows so quickly, so it was potted in one that was about 5 gallon size. It didn't take long before it had filled the pot. The bulb now pretty much goes to the sides of the pot. I don't think I'll repot it, though, because it seems happy. Including the pot, it is about 5 feet tall and almost that wide.
This Crinum is not hardy here, only in zone 8 and warmer, and so it needs to be brought into the house every winter before frost. My sunny warm window where there is room for it is upstairs in the front of the house. This things now weights at least 50 pounds and is a real pain to take up the steps (one step at a time, resting every few steps). This spring I told the plant that if it didn't bloom, finally, this year, it was going to have to live somewhere else. The guys at Glasshouse Works promised to give it a good home if we didn't want it any more. That sounded good to me. Wouldn't you know that as soon as I threatened the plant, it would decide to bloom.
Here is the beginning ot the bud. The ferny foliage around the plant is Rhus typhina 'Tiger's Eye', a sumac.

Here's a closeup of the bud as it was just emerging. Not all that pretty at that stage.

Here it is again as it started to grow. Shortly after this we had to stake it up so it didn't break off. The pot won't fall over since it is sitting in a larger pot filled with water. Crinums seem to like a lot of moisture, at least in the summer. I've always kept it drier in the winter.

Here is a closeup of the bud as it started to open with all of the separate buds inside.

And here as the separate buds grew bigger.

And the final bloom which I waited so long to see. It has really been wonderful since it wasn't just one bloom, but a series of blooms which have continued to open for 2 weeks now and seems like it will continue a bit longer still. The scent is heavenly and spreads for quite a distance around the plant, especially in the morning and evening, though when you walk past it during the day you also get a hint of scent.
As much as I've enjoyed it, the last time I lift this one up again will be to put it in the car and take it over the Glasshouse Works once it is done blooming. They have a lot more greenhouse space for it than I do so it will have a nice home. Until then, I'll continue to enjoy it. I'm glad I finally got to see it bloom.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Impatiens omeiana

This pretty thing is the hardy impatiens, Impatiens omeiana, that I promised for today. The leaf is more like the New Guinnea Impatiens you see in the garden centers, but this one is hardy to zone 6 and probably even zone 5 with a good mulch. It comes up sort of late, so remember where you planted it so you don't try and fill in that 'empty' space with something else. It spreads into a nice clump over the years, but is rather slow about finally doing it. It requires shade and nice, woodsy soil.
The blooms are probably the best part of the whole thing. They appear in late August or September and continue until frost. Color is orange and yellow, about like the Jewelweed I pictures yesterday, and look like goldfist hanging under the leaves. Quite unusual and quite pretty. I don't seem to have a picture of the blooms, so I'll have to add one later on this month when they get around to blooming here. I don't see them offered very often and people who tour the gardens usually don't know what they are, so it you do find some, you will have something rather unusual in your garden. They are pretty care free and don't seem to be bothered by insects or animals with the exception of an occasional slug, but a mulch of pine needles or chicken grit (get this at the feed store) will solve that problem.
Tomorrow - our giant crinum.

Monday, August 10, 2009


It seems almost a shame to label this one a weed - nothing this pretty should have weed as a part of its name. Jewelweed is fond of damp places and shady places, though you will find it growing in a bit of sun. Flowers can range from the usual dark orange to reds and yellows and any shade in between. There are yellow leaf forms and variegated leaf forms. This was one of my childhood delights for the seed pods that come after the flowers. When they're ripe, any touch causes them to pop open, turn inside out, and spray seeds all over the place. A great survival strategy since any animal passing will 'plant' the seeds for it.
Here's a close-up of the flower. These are related to impatiens, though the flowers are more orchid-like.
Tomorrow, our hardy impatiens which should be flowering soon.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Taxodium ascendens

We grow several different, and quite a few of each, Taxodiums. Taxodium ascendens is more commonly known as Pondcypress or Pond Baldcypress and if you've traveled to Florida, these are where Cypress Knees come from. This one is called ascendens because the needles really do grow straight up, giving it a very different look from Taxodium distichum, sometimes called Common Baldcypress.
They can grow on dry (not dry really, just not in a pond) or in a damp, boggy place. They live happily in zones 5 to 9, maybe even in zone 4. They are tall trees, eventually, probably 75 feet, but are rather slow growers. The one I took the photo of is about 10 years old and is maybe 15 feet tall. More moisture equals faster growth, though, even up to 2 feet a year in optimal conditions.
The leaves/needles are bright green, turning to a coppery color in the fall before they fall. They have a 'soft' look about them, not the usual stiff look of trees with needles. The deciduous conifers are interesting, but I will still like those that hold their needles better since they provide a color other than brown during the winter months. These are native from Virginia to Florida and Alabama, on more upland areas - around ponds rather than in them. Our largest one grows at the edge of our bog, so it gets plenty of water without sitting in it and seems quite happy with the arrangement.
There are 2 named cultivars, in addition to the species, that I know of, 'Nutans' and 'Prairie Sentinel'. I see neither the species or cultivars in nursery centers so they probably are best acquired by mail order. They are probably better known in the south than up here in Yankee Land, so they might be more readily available there. Highly recommended.
Nice day coming up with lots of weeding and pruning on the schedule after I pick beans.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Woodsy paths

This is a path near the back part of the gardens, near the back barn. It used to have move hostas growing on the hill, but it is a little dry and a little too shady, so most have been moved and instead there is a vinca with white flowers and a variegated green and gold leaf. It's a good choice for a bank and for shade. It only blooms in the spring, but is very pretty then. The variegation also fades as the summer arrives, but I love shady with lots of shades of green, so it really doesn't matter. Packed into the picture above, besides the vinca and hostas you can see a barberry, forsythia, maple, holly, orixa and lilacs. Lots more just out of view.
When I was growing up I spent a lot of time in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. This sort of reminds me of the woods there, even though this path/garden was totally created by us and is in no way natural. We do have lots of places on this 108 acres that do look like this - some even better - and when I have time, it is nice to just walk through the woods. We have creeks and waterfalls, springs and bogs, ferny glades and open woods and thorny thickets that are loved by wildlife.
I hope by tomorrow to have all of the photos back in the computer. In any case, I'll be writing about Taxodiums since our Taxodium ascendens is just perfect in form this year and I finally got a good photo of it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Clothesline in my Garden

It's a bit of a long story - about 14 years long to be exact. When I moved to this farm in 1995, I left my clothesline behind in West Virginia and started using an electric dryer. Time saving, maybe, but not fun and not nearly as satisfying as a clothesline full of clean clothes flapping in the breeze on a nice sunny day. This spring I finally decided that I was done with the dryer and was going to have my clothesline back. All it took was threatening to go to Lowe's for a bag of cement and 2 posts to get Hank to finally get around to it. the line runs from the huge Salix irrorata near the back barn, through the barberries (this part I can't use) and to a post on which a clematis is growing. It than attaches to a Pseudoacacia frisia and finally a Salix 'Rubykins'. See, this makes it a legal gardening post. The bed through which it runs is filled with daylilies, only a few of which are still blooming in the picture. Actually what precipitated the abrupt decision was when the water pump on my washing maching broke a few months ago. Too busy to go and get a new part right then, I brought my old washer that I used in West Virginia back down from the back barn. A little dusting and it was good as new. Clothes put through a ringer aren't so good dried in an electric dryer because they just aren't as dry as those spun dry in an electric washer, so the clothesline became more or less necessary.
Now this is about as basic as you can get. No electricity, no plumbing connections, just the hose and my own energy. (Inside the house I just fill buckets to fill it and the drain empties into a bucket to empty it) It actually takes the same amount of time or less than my electric machine and I get so much good exercise moving the agitator back and forth for 5 minutes. Better than lifting weights, especially if you manage to do a few loads a week. Then more exercise wringing out the clothes and hanging them. I'm in no hurry to go back to the electric washer and dryer (though I may feel a little differently in January), and plan on keeping up with this one for now, at least. The washer is now 26 or 27 years old and since there's not much to go wrong and it's made of stainless steel, it is pretty much as good as the day I got it.
Rain this morning and more on the way. 6 quarts of green beans in the freezer so it must have been a good day even if I didn't get any weeding done.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Achillea - the Yarrows - are one of the stars of the late summer garden. This one is 'Coronation Gold' if my memory serves me correctly (still haven't gotten all of the pictures straightened out in my latest re-do of my computer). This one is quite tall and has stiff, rather than soft blooms which are excellent for drying. The color fades over time, and by spring they will be brown, but still useful in fall arrangements. This is a tall plant. There is a rosette of ferny, soft green leaves at the base, but the bloom scapes put the flowers right at eye level. The flowers are unscented, but the foliage is quite fragrant. I found, when weeding a bed where this one grows yesterday, that if you lay a stem of this down and if stays there a good long time (maybe not all that long actually) it will root. I dug a nice clump out and potted it up until I find a nice place for it. I know I use that method for propagating trees and shrubs, I just never knew I could do it with a perennial. I suppose since this one has such woody stems, it works the same way.
Full sun for this one and it doesn't seem to mind a bit of dry weather. Also not bothered by bunnies, insects or deer. My guess is the highly aromatic foliage is its deterrent.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Caryopteris divaricata 'Snow Fairy'

Thanks for Sharon who was here yesterday for inspiring me to write about this Caryopteris. I had grown a number of them for years, but they were all short lived and seemed unhappy any place I tried to grow them, but I love the blue flowers, so I kept on trying. This one is a different species and seems to be quite content anywhere I grow it. It is a small bush, maybe up to 4 feet tall and about as wide. It dies to the ground each winter and is a bit slow getting started in the spring, but comes up fast once it decides that the time has come. The green and white leaves are small and so you get a sort of all over confetti look from a distance. The blue flowers are a late summer/early fall thing. Although they hold up well in a vase, the foliage on this plant has a realy unpleasant scent, and so I usually don't use them in the house. I suppose that's why nothing seems to bother it either animals or insects. Full sun is best, though it will grow in part shade.
We've had 3 inches of rain in the last 2 days and there were actually puddles in the driveway and the creek was running. Quite unusual for this time of year, but the gardens look better than I expect for the beginning of August and the weeds (which have grown unbelievably) are coming out like they aren't even attached to the soil. Yeah!