Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas, Lathyrus odoratus, have always been one of my favorites. We grew the cultivated types a few times when I was little, but they were never very reliable in our climate with such hot and humid summers. I've not had much luck with then since then either. If you look at English gardening books or nursery catalogs, you will find tons of sweet peas so I can only assume that the climate there is more to their liking. The exception is our native wild Sweet Pea which is pictured. The colors can vary slightly, but this is pretty typical, though you will occasionally see the odd white one. They grow across the road in full sun, happily coexisting with weeds and other wildflowers. The kind of ramble over other plants and can spread for quite a distance. They are impossible to transplant - at least I don't know of anyone who has had success - but this fall, assuming I can collect some seeds before the critters get them, I'm going to try to start some from seed so I can have some on this side of the road where I can enjoy them without walking down the road. They bloom from mid-summer until frost here and don't seem to be bothered by either insects or critters that eat plants. As a plus, they are nitrogen fixers, so a few in the garden would be a plus for more than their beauty.
Please note that although garden peas (Pisum) are quite edible and delicious, Sweet Peas (Lathyrus) are poisonous, both the flowers and the peas.
For a quite detailed history of the Sweet Peas, see http://www.ngb.org/gardening/fact_sheets/fact_details.cfm?factID=17
I've been working on wild flower photos, so there will be some more in the days to come.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Doesn't look like a radish? But it is. A few years ago we had some radishes, planted too many, as usual, since I'm not crazy about eating them and Hank forgets to pick them for supper. Anyway, as happens to radishes that you don't pick, they go to seed. Now I'd never seen a radish bloom before and if you'd asked me to guess what it would look like, I would have said that that it would be something white/pink/red on a short stem. Wrong! Those little tiny radish plants turn into 3 foot tall, 3 foot wide plants that are covered with this little white, maybe a little pink flowers. We have just left them and they self seed nicely. We can always get a few radishes out of this patch in the spring, and then enjoy the flowers later in the summer. Now you know.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Anemonopsis macrophylla

The canning is done, at least for awhile and I was back in the garden all day today. This lovely little flower, or its plant, more properly, has been in the garden for at least 10 years. It didn't look especially happy where I had it, so this spring I moved it about 6 feet away where it wouldn't be so crowded. It must have appreciated the move because it bloomed for the first time. The flower is only about an inch and a half wide and down facing, so it took a bit of crawling and twisting to get this photo. I had totally forgotten what this was supposed to look like, it not having bloomed all this time. I even had to check the tag to see what it was called. I'm really pleased and hope it has lots more blooms next year since this seems to be all I'm going to get for this season. Now a little about the plant.
I did a google search and could only find nurseries in England and Germany who sell this, so I'm not sure you'll be able to find one. There is also a really expensive pure white flowered form, also not availabe except at Asiatica and they're closing any day now.
I didn't take a picture of the leaves, but they sort of remind me of an astilbe, and the plant is about the same size as one. The flowers are on wiry stems that can be up to 3 feet tall. (if mine had been that tall, I wouldn't have had to crawl on the ground to get the picture!) They need well-drained, humus rich soil in light to medium shade. It needs a sheltered spot as it doesn't like being in the wind. They will grow in zones 4-7 and are native to only a small area in Honshu Island, Japan.
I'll see if I can find something else unusual for tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Baby Ferns

A neat and curious thing happens when you've been gardening in the same place for a number of years. You not only have the plants that you intentionally planted in your garden, but over time you begin to have their children and grandchildren too. We often find baby hostas hiding under larger ones, and there always seem to be daylily babies. The give-away with the daylilies is when you have a clump of say, purple flowers, and all of a sudden there is a tall white one in the center. Who knows where the seed came from??? If it's something I especially like, I'll transplant it to another place. If it's nice, but not all that special, I'll dig it and give it away. I've given away a whole bunch through freecycle this year. I think I kind of overwhelmed some of the people with the quantity I was willing to give (an overflowing wheelbarrow) when they were expecting a couple of small plants. I just think that if they're going to drive all the way out to the country to pick them up, they should get enough to make the trip worthwhile.
Anyway, the thing I find the cutest are the baby ferns. I'm not talking about those stoloniferous kinds that spread all around, but those that spread by spores. I've thought about trying to start some myself from spores, but haven't gotten around to that yet. Not that it's hard, but you have to be able to focus and keep an eye on them, and right now, there's too much happening around here to add another chore to my list.

This first picture is of some baby Japanese Painted Ferns, Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum'. These appeared this spring under one of the shelves where our plants that we have for sale are kept. No ferns have been in that spot for a couple of years, but here are the babies. The biggest of these is probably about 3 inches long/tall now. Next year when they come back they will be full sized plants and I'll either transplant them or pot them up.

This picture was taken over at Lake Amanda, across the bridge from the main gardens. The one on the left is another Japanese Painted Fern, and I think the one on the right is probably a Christmas Fern, but they're still too tiny to be sure. These just appeared next to a rock at the edge of the path. What I find most amazing with the baby ferns is the wonderful places they appear - places you might like them but could never successfully transplant them, like between 2 rocks with practically no soil. Serendipity might be a good word for this. No matter what you call it, surprise plants are always fun to find growing in your garden. We also get babies on Goldie's Fern sometimes.
I'll be back in a few days, once I finish canning the 100 pounds of tomatoes and 20 pounds of cucumbers (bread and butter pickles) that are sitting in my kitchen.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Odds and Ends and Peonies to Dig

Pictures I took today, odds and ends, as the title says. This is a small row of annuals I planted to have some color after the daylilies finished blooming. There are zinnias, marigolds, bachelor's buttons and cosmos. All favorites from childhood. It's a small row, not nearly enough to really replace the sea of color that was the daylilies only a couple of weeds ago, but it cheers me in the morning when I go out for an early walk. They've only just started blooming, so I expect them to get even more colorful soon.

My other annuals planted this year are these balsam plants. It was a package of assorted colors and though they seemed to take forever to start blooming, they are wonderful now. The hummingbirds seem to like them.

Now for the butterfly that had landed on a cosmos. These orange cosmos, planted at the edge of our parking lot last year, that came back from self-seeding.

And this butterfly what was sitting on a butterfly bush - how perfect.

And this is the foliage on those seedling cannas I wrote about a few days ago and which someone asked about. I'm not totally pleased with the picture, but I hope you can see that it is thinner and more of a blue/green than most of the others which have broad leaves in green or variegated patterns. It is also very upright. As I said before, these only seem to grow about 3 feet tall.

A note on peonies. We rarely dig them because the bulk of the peony beds, all 800 or so plants in the collection, have been in place for over 20 years and come close to needing a backhoe (or someone much younger and stronger than we are) to dig. This fall we have decided to dig a dozen or so double pink ones that are in a place that has gotten a bit shadier. They are still blooming, but won't be happy if it gets any shadier than it is now, and I'm replacing them with hostas. So, it you'd be interested in a full sized clump of double pink peonies (check our Facebook page for a photo) let me know. We'll be doing the digging in mid to late October, depending on the weather. Most will be for pickup, though I guess I could ship them. They'll be dormant at that point and so won't mind being in a box for a few days. Anyway, let me know if you'd like one or two.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I know this wasn't one of the topics I said I was working on, but then those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know that I can be easily distracted (especially by a pretty flower).
These are some of the seedling Cannas that I've been working on. These are about 4 years old now and although they usually bloom the first year from seed, the blooms don't really come into their own until they they are a few years old. One of the parents was a species Canna that had small flowers and the pollen parents were various sizes and colors. All of the foliage is a blue green with long narrow leaves. If you're used to the Cannas you see most of the time, this would look very different. Unfortunately, I didn't get much of it in the pictures. They also tend to be shorter, most only about 3 feet tall.
Anyway, this first one is a nice baby pink.

And here's a salmon colored one.
This is a darker pink

And a pale yellow with some peach colored spots on some of the petals. One of the parents had some speckling on the petals, but not all of these have picked up the trait.

This last is a red that is pretty much identical to the species that was one of the parents. The plants with these red flowers are much more robust than the ones with the pastel colored blooms.

Hybridizing with Cannas is pretty much like with any other blossoms - move pollen from the anthers of one bloom to the pistil of another. Maybe a post on the whole process later. I sometimes plant the seeds right away, but you can also put them in a zip loc bag and store them in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator until you're ready. I plant them in small pots and size them up when they're a couple of inches tall. They like warmth and so I start them in the greenhouse, but a warm room under grow lights would work just as well. Just keep them damp and they're as easy to grow as marigolds. If you're growing Cannas this summer, just check the bloom scapes after flowering and you may find some seeds to start since the bees do a good job of fertilizing the blooms.