Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Slide Show

I couldn't decide which plants to write about today, so here's a sample of what was blooming/growing in the garden today. I'm not sure of the proper Latin names for all of them off the top of my head so I'll do the best I can and fill them in tomorrow when I'm at my desk.

Dog Stinkhorn

Cactus 'Claret Cup'

Iris virginica 'Pink Form'

Liriope muscari 'Okina'

Chives in Bloom

Pine with 'candles'

Hosta 'Peanut'

Polygonatum 'No Go Kai'

Trillium luteum

Primula sieboldii

Tree Peony 'Black Douglas'

That's it for today. These are just a small number of all of the photos I took today. Tomorrow I'll try and post a bunch of peony pictures.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Orchids - the hardy type

For all of those who think they can't grow orchids, I would recommend you try some of these hardy types to grow outside in your garden.
This first one is Spiranthes cernua 'Chadds Ford'. The species is native to bogs and damp meadows, grows 6 to 20 inches tall (ours tend to be tall), and bloom late summer through fall with spikes of sweetly scented, white orchid-like flowers. Makes sense, orchids with orchid-like flowers. The common name is Nodding Lady's Tresses. The leaves are a basal rosette. This U.S. native has a preference for acidic soil. Zones 4-8. Spiranthes cernua prefers to not be disturbed or moved once established.
Next is a more unusual one - a vining orchid that thrives in shade. Codonopsis lanceolata grows up a support to a height of about 10-15 feet - our still young plant makes it to about 8 right now. It circles the support (ours grows up a Japanese maple) without strangling it. I've found it to be a good idea to put a small fence, maybe a foot tall around the base because rabbits have found it tasty in the past. It didn't kill it, but it stopped growing for the year and waited for the next year to grow again and bloom, and the blooms are too special to miss.

The blooms remind me a bit of a PawPaw or some species Clematis rather than an orchid. They are maybe an inch across or a little large and are borne singly up and down the stem. I haven't noticed any fragrance. This really does thrive in shade. I don't think ours gets any direct sun at all. Actually I'm not sure this is properly speaking an orchid, but is commonly referred to as a climbing orchid. Zone for this is 6-8. Bloom is later in the summer.

Calanthe tricarinata is a very orchid looking orchid. These leaves seem typical of the Calanthes with their shiny green finish and pleats. The leaves may be evergreen in very mild winters, but I sometimes think it is better when they leave for the winter as they often look pretty ratty in the spring and will be replaced with new ones anyway. Flowers on both of the ones I have pictured start blooming in late spring.

I do love the color on these flowers - the yellows and oranges - and the fringed lower petal. The bloom stalk can have quite a few individual flowers. It is native to Pakistan, through the Himalayas and on east to Japan. The leaves are probably almost a foor tall with the bloom stalk rising above that. Zone 6-9. It likes shade and a woodsy soil.

Last, but not least, is Calanthe discolor. This one is often listed as zones 6b-9, but we have no problem growing it here in 6a. The flowers have burgundy back petals and a white or pale pink center petal. It is native to woods in Japan. This one is smaller, only about 10 inches tall. Like the tricarinata, it may loose its leaves when the winter temperatures go below 10 degrees. This is quite easy to grow and makes a nice clump over time. While the tricarinata I planted about 8 years ago is still only one stem.

I do grow some tropical orchids in the house, but none will ever be as easy to grow and get to bloom as these lovelies from my outside garden.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Itsy Bitsy Hostas

My first job this morning was to (finally) get the names straight on one of our beds of miniature hostas. I knew the names, but just needed to match the names with the faces, so to speak. In the process, the bed got weeded and neatened and everyone got their pictures taken. Here are some of my favorites. All are as easy to grow as their larger brothers and sisters and most increase quickly. I recommend putting them in their own bed, or, if you want to mix them with larger hostas, plant them in a group together and put them next to a rock or something else to keep them from being stepped on or lost. I don't think anything pictured here is over 4 inches tall. The flowers are usually perfectly in proportion. Just toooooo cute.

Venusta Ogon

Pandora's Box


With the exception of a little sprinkle this afternoon, we actually had 2 days in a row where the sun shone. Quite an accomplishment for this spring. More predicted for the first part of tomorrow before we get back to more serious rain. Oh well.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Until a couple of years ago, I had never heard of this plant. I'm not sure if it is a very large, woody stemmed perennial that dies to the ground or a small shrub that just isn't quite hardy enough to keep all it's branches during the winter. The common name of Shrub Mint doesn't help with the confusion. My established plants are at least 3 feet tall and as wide. This is the first one we got, simply Leucosceptrum stellipilum. We had ordered the variegated version and got this one by mistake. We kept it and just reordered the variegated one. There aren't that many things that grow in shade and also bloom in September - and that don't look like asters. The spikey blooms are pinkish purple on the plain leafed one and yellowish on the variegated one.

And here is the variegated one, simply called Variegata. The pattern on the leaves is a combination of shades of green and a greenish/goldish/chartreusish color. They are just now leafing out and so usually avoid the worst of the late frosts. Its preferred location would be in light shade to part sun. Zones for it would be from 5 to 8. I've never seen them bothered by critters, with 4 legged or of the flying and biting varieties.

When Asiatica Nursery was closing down last summer and fall, Barry had a lot of good bargains (and I'm a sucker for a good bargain on plants or yarn). The Leucosceptrum japonicum 'Golden Angel' was one of the things I bought. It took right off and is now about 2 feet tall and wide and wasn't bothered at all by last night's frost.

The other one that I got was this Leucosceptrum stellipilum 'October Moon'. This photo doesn't do the colors justice. The centers of the leaves are a medium green and the edges a creamy chartreuse, but there are lots of small flashes of other colors in the edge and at the margin between the edge and the center. I think this is going to be spectacular when it gets big. It hasn't grown as much as the Golden Angel just yet, but I'm looking forward to a whole bush full of these lovely leaves.

The species is native to Japan and from what I've read, they are the ones doing the hybridizing of these new varieties. If you haven't tried these, you should. I think I say that about everything. I'm so glad I have pretty unlimited gardening space; I don't have to make choices - I can have them all. Now if only I had a bottomless checkbook...


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'

One of my spring favorites, Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum' or Variegated Solomon Seal. It is blooming in many places throughout the gardens and we will be giving quite a bit away this weeked in honor of Mothers' Day to moms and moms-to-be who visit the nursery on Sunday, May 8th. So if you're nearby, please stop to tour the gardens - and smell the lilacs.
Polygonatums are shade creatures, or at least dappled light types. They like woodsy situations with ample moisture, though I've not seen them happy in really damp places. There are many different types and maybe I'll do a post on some of the others some time soon. They range from tiny, 8 inch tall plants, to some that top 4 feet tall.
This particular one is about 2 feet tall, though in the right spot, it might reach 3 feet. It grows happily in gardens from zone (3)4 to 8. Blooming starts in late April here and last for a couple of weeks. The bell shaped flowers seem to attract lots of bumble bees, thought they don't seem designed to pollinate them and they are considerably larger than the flowers. If the flowers do get pollinated, you will see dark blue berries in the fall. Not that you need berries or seeds to get more plants. They spread by underground runners and will, over time, make a nice patch. They are easy to transplant, which is why we have small patches in many places now.
The stems are burgundy colored, though the color is more pronounced some years than others. This year it is especially good. Maybe it is all the rain we've been having. I've noticed that colors everywhere in the garden are really nice - and plants are getting huge. The leaves are edged in creamy white, a narrow margin but quite noticeable.
These are native to Europe and Asia, but have some relative in the U.S. They are commonly available from mail order nurseries and you might even find them in a small local nursery, though I've never seem them at any of the big box stores. They are easy to grow, so if you have space and shade, you really should try some. As I said, we're giving some away this weekend, so if you're in the Athens Ohio area, please stop by to get some.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Carolina Blue(pink)bells

Quick post today since I'm supposed to be working on paperwork (ugh!). This is an oddity that I discovered in the garden this spring. Our Virginia Bluebells had seeded around a bit too much and so I decided to dig a few and transplant to a sort of too shady empty spot. When they bloomed this one was definitely pink. I know some seem to change color, but this one came out pink and stayed pink. I'll keep watching to see if it does the same thing next year or if it was only caused by the stress of being transplanted. Has anyone else ever had one bloom pink like this?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Common Water Snake - Nerodia Sipedon Sipedon

A non plant post today - unless you consider the fact the this Common Water Snake (also sometimes known as Northern Water Snake) is living in the old bathtub where I keep my potted waterlilies. Common Watersnakes are one of the most common snakes in Ohio. It will live in just about any permanent body of water. I can attest to this as I have had them living in the smallest of our ponds. Actually, you don't get much smaller pond than a bathtub.
Compared to a lot of the other snakes that we have on the farm, these are kind of short and fat. They are very fond of basking in the sun and can often be seen on rocks at the edge of a pond, or on a floating log or even on an overhanging branch. They seem a bit nervous to me, disappearing under the water just about as soon as they notice you. I'm surprised that this one allowed me to take its picture. I'm a big snake fan, have been since I was little, but these guys are not on my favorites list. I have 2 major problems with them. First, they are the reason that there are no longer any fish in any of our ponds. This is not just idle chatter. I have seen them eating my poor goldfish. The frog that lived in the bathtub with the waterlilies seems to be missing as well. He used to sing to me. In addition to fish and frogs, they will eat worms, crayfish, leeches, and small mammals and birds. The other thing I dislike about this particular snake is that they are just downright nasty. They seem to delight in attacking people. Hank was weeding around the edge of one of the larger ponds when one attacked and bit him. He didn't even know it was in the pond. Although I don't know about it from personal experience, I have read that they secrete an obnoxious, smelly substance from their musk glands if they are handled.
The color can vary from brown to red to grey to blackish. Its belly can be white, yellow or grey. In general the snake seems to darken as it ages.
Common Water Snakes mate in April and June and their young are born live in late summer and fall. These are not egg layers. As seems to befit these less than lovely creatures, their babies are on their own as soon as they are born, and no parental care is provided. They female can give birth to up to 30 young at a time.
We seem to have quite a few of these snakes around and I see them often, sunning at the edges of the ponds.