Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sayonara, Sweet Pea

The Wisteria had to get zapped by frost this year, since it bloomed so beautifully last year. Typically we only get blooms from it every other year.

Hope to see you next year!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Madness

March madness is here!

March is a time of mad cutting down and tidying up in the garden. I leave
everything up during the winter for the birds. The Ruby-Crowned Kinglets
love the Buddleias and the other birds love everything else for food and cover.

March madness has not just infected the gardener and the basketball community. It seems every creature has been affected. We have 3 full-time resident deer, a mother and two youngsters that are nearly a year old, that I see all of the time. The other night the deer were playing, the mother and one of the fawns running around the round pen in one of the pastures. The horses looked entertained. The horses almost always spot wildlife before I do. Being prey animals horses have excellent long distance and motion vision.

We are being graced by the presence of a pair of Cooper's hawks that are passing through. I've seen one of them after songbirds in earnest on a couple of occasions. Earlier this winter we were host to a pair of marsh hawks. I saw them performing a courtship dance in December or January. It was extraordinary, and easy to see why they are in the kite family. It's too bad I didn't have a video camera on me. The grace and beauty of their flight was awe-inspiring. The way they dipped up and down looked lighter than air.

The red-shouldered hawks are nesting in the woods beside the old house site and the pileated woodpeckers are drumming. The butterflies are out too. The other day I saw a zebra swallowtail, unusual for here, puddling beside one of the water troughs.

Yesterday I cut back the Panicum by the neighbors fence, while the bees buzzed around madly. The garden was full of hectic bees, as the big bed and the bed beside the neighbor's fence are currently rolling pastures of Lamium and Henbit and the redbud is open. Bees really, really love Lamium and redbud flowers.

Everything from big bumblebees and carpenter bees to honeybees and tiny native bees. Here's a little bumblebee. You have to admit she's cute. Look at those legs!

You can see how tiny this bee is, in comparison to the size of the Lamium flowers and leaves.

In addition to Lamium, there's a lot of purple violets in the big bed, and daffodils.

That's just a third of the big bed though, and I need daffodils all over it. So I'm in the process of dividing some crowded clumps and spreading them around. I have blue violets that are seeding everywhere, just as I want, but I also want something that's midway in height to the violets and daffs. I need blue, pink and purple-flowering bulbs and plants that voles won't eat. Hyacinths, tulips, and crocus unfortunately are out, as are reticulated iris. Only 1 of 25 of the iris came back and bloomed this year. Jacob's Ladder, spring starflower, Scilla, grape hyacinth, blue toadflax, Drummond's onion and Spanish bluebells are all possibilities. Jacob's Ladder and Spanish bluebells I already have, just need to divide.

In a post a year or 2 ago I said that I would like Jacob's Ladder even better if the color was just.. more. After seeing it today next to the bright yellow daffodils, with the light shining through the sheer light blue petals making the color dance, I would say don't change a thing. It's perfect.

Spanish Bluebells are a bit late for this purpose but look enough like English Bluebells they make me feel like I'm in England. I saw 'Rolf Fiedler', a beautiful blue cultivar of Starflower, at the Arboretum the other day. Muscari azureum and Muscari latifolium really caught my eye at the Arb too. I may try to add more Georgia Speedwell, although the best time to move that would have been last month. Currently Ga. Speedwell is blooming in lovely blue-violet pools in the bed next to the house.

I want bigger plants to provide interest during the month of March as well. I have one big Winter Honeysuckle and several young ones from cuttings but I need something with color ~ a pink-flowering shrub or tree to bloom when the daffs are blooming. The Prunus mume was still blooming when the earliest daffs were blooming (and a lovely combination it was, bright butter yellow and dark purplish fuchsia pink), but I need something for the bulk of March. No Quince bushes, unless I can find one that's close to a clear rose pink. The bright coral pink doesn't really fit into my garden. I like 'Apple Blossom'. I might try the lilacs I described in the previous post and Daphne genkwa . Lilac daphne is fragrant and looks just like a beautiful large-flowered Lilac and blooms at the same time as the early Lilacs. I plan to add more Eastern Redbuds around the garden so that they won't obscure the views to the pasture but can be seen with the daffodils.

This morning I put some of the daffs in beside the sidewalk since the bearded iris didn't work out. Our indoor cat Penny decided to come outside and keep me company. She alternately watched from the porch and the sidewalk, looking like the queen of all she surveyed. At 17 years she is as beautiful as ever, but quite creaky in her back and hips. Who knows, she may be older than 17; the vet thought she was about a year old when I found her ~ or perhaps I should say when she found me ~ literally starving in a park in Pennsylvania. Outside, she looks very improbable: a black-and-white cotton candy puff of a cat, who looks like she ought to be wearing a pink ribbon and a big EAT ME sign around her neck. Usually she just goes out onto the back porch and I don't let her out unless I'm home. She does love the warm spring sunshine.

Here are more plants for the wish list that I saw at the JC Raulston Arboretum:

Camellia 'White Perfection' ~ actually, this Camellia goes beyond perfection. A lot of people were standing before it as at a shrine.

Veitch's WinterHazel (Corylopsis sinensis) was covered in melted butter yellow flowers. Beautiful and unusual-looking.

Normally I'm not a fan of yellow or charteuse foliage, but the foliage of Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon' and Golden Mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius 'Aureus') were the most vivid eye-catching spring green. Dirr however says that the foliage of Golden Mockorange turns yellow-green to green in summer and is a real "lemon'. The one in the Arb is in part shade and just goes to default green during the summer.

Zhejiang Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia limii) has the vivid chestnut-and-cream colored bark as Japanese Crape Myrtle (the species used in creating the mildew-resistant National Arboretum hybrids), but without the large size. In his 5th edition Manual Dirr criticizes it harshly for its form, but it's a graceful little tree at the Arb.

Bitchiu Viburnum has beautiful and fragrant flowers similar to Koreanspice Viburnum.

Magnolia 'Lois' is a gorgeous butter yellow Magnolia.

A cherry I have coveted for a while, Green-Flowering Cherry (Prunus 'Yukon') does not have the dainty swirls of pink or white blossoms of 'Okame' or the Yoshino Cherry, but relatively large pale green clusters of bell-shaped flowers and wonderful silvery bark. It's a large cherry like the Weeping Cherry.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Still more NCBG Good Stuff (with a little plant envy thrown in)

*Photos from April 2010*

Looks almost like an impressionistic painting, doesn't it? This is
Piedmont azalea or pinxterflower and fernleaf scorpionweed in the mountain
section of the Botanical Garden.The big azaleas in the Garden are amazing.

The very fragrant Sweet Betsy next to the Paul Green Cabin. You can see the size of the Sweet Betsy, not only in comparison to the cabin but to the lady in the lower right of the picture! I love, love, love my young Piedmont azaleas and Sweet Betsy, but it will be years before they look like the ones at the Garden. This way I can enjoy them in their youth and as mature plants at the same time. :)

A combination of ferns, columbine, spiderwort, a young blueberry, and a sweet white flower I don't know the name of. (Update: I was looking through my Audubon Guide and saw that it's Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza claytonii)! It's a North American native.)

Golden Alexanders and Eastern Columbine

Dwarf Crested Iris

I think this is Southern Wood Fern, which imo may be the most beautiful of our native ferns. Southern Shield fern is a large and gorgeous fern too.

I've wanted Goldenclub after reading this description of it in Gardening with Native Plants of the South by Sally Wasowski:

"Goldenclub has beautiful leaves ~ fresh, smooth and sometimes bluish ~ with a slightly pleated look. The flowers are unusual, not unlike colorful rat's tails. But, don't let that put you off; they're really very entertaining, and amazingly, they hold their own with iris and spiderlily, both of which bloom at the same time. Goldenclub is not for the bog garden. It needs gently flowing, oxygen-rich water. If a pond is too sluggish, this plant will pull itself up on the bank. Keep it happy in a pool with a recirculating pump, in the flow of a seep (where it will seed itself downhill), or in the protected eddy of a back-yard stream that isn't too shady. It looks its best in a little sun."
Who could pass up the plant after reading that description? It lives up to the hype too; just look at those leaves.

I don't think I've seen it for sale at the Garden though, and but if I ever do I might have a good spot for it, in the ditch below the bed where the native azaleas are. There is gently flowing water always except during drought, and sun for half a day.

Royal and cinnamon fern in the Coastal Plain section of the Garden.

Cinnamon and royal ferns grow in the woods near our house because of all of the natural springs there. I love cinnamon fern but haven't used it in the garden, although I should. It's a very beautiful and dramatic fern.

I was in Raleigh on Friday and decided to visit the JC Raulston Arboretum since I was already so close. It was a beautiful day and a lot of people were there visiting the garden. I saw many plants I'd like to get my hands on.

The lilacs were GORGEOUS ~ huge, beautiful, and fragrant. None of these are Syringa vulgaris as those don't tend to be happy west of Greensboro. None had quite the fragrance of S. vulgaris but were pleasing nonetheless. The Cutleaf Lilac looked magnificent; 4' square at least of dainty lavender blooms. It stood out from across the Arboretum. Syringa oblata subsp. dilatata is a good 8 feet high and covered in purple flower clusters that are about twice the size as that of S. vulgaris. The white cultivar 'Frank Meyer' has slighter smaller flowers but the effect was that of a shrub blanketed in snow. There is a white S. oblata hybrid named'Betsy Ross' planted in the White Garden that has flowers has large as the purple S. oblata.

On the farm over the past few weeks I have been doing a lot of spring clean-up, taking down the old Bidens stalks, weeding, and cutting back the beautyberries and Buddleia. I have been doing some "clean-up" all winter, cutting back the bamboo, blackberry wines and greenbriar in places where they were getting out of control. We are having beautiful weather for outside work.

Friday, March 18, 2011

More NCBG Good Stuff

*All photos in this post were taken at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill in April 2010*

This picture makes me miss the 'May Breeze' Woodland Phlox that I got in a trade and lost in one of those droughts we've been having every summer. Time to try it again. ;) The pale blue/ white makes a fabulous combination with the other blues and lavenders. The Garden sometimes offers P. divaricata seeds on its annual seed list and sells plants on-site too.

I've tried and failed with Pitcher Plant and plan to try again. They were easy to start from seed and I put them where the water drains from the house roof, but the dirt was probably too heavy, or they dried out at some point. Pitcher Plants like peat bogs, which are wet, acidic, and nutrient-poor.

The chartreuse blooms belong to the Yellow Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia flava)
and among the species with the wine-colored blooms are Purple Pitcher
Plant (Sarracenia purpurea) and Sweet Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia rubra).

Rob Gardner, who brought us Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' and Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight', also developed several Sarracenia hybrids.

If you're going to have a carnivorous plant display you've got to have a bug sculpture! I have had random thoughts of designing a garden sculpture, buying the materials and asking my FIL, who was a welder by trade, to build it, but it's probably not in the cards. He's 65, had a knee replacement that didn't go well and forced him to retire early, and asking him to do something like that would probably be too much.

Meadow beauty, orchids, Sabatia, and few-flowered milkweed also grow in these beds and bloom in summer. Few-flowered milkweed has been offered on the seed list before and if it's offered again I'm definitely going to choose it! The color of the flowers is out of this world. Normally I don't like red-orange, except for Turk's Cap and Carolina Lilies, but these flowers positively glow. It's a tall and graceful milkweed.

Wild Sabatia grows on our farm. I am not sure of the species, although the flowers are smaller than the one on display in the Garden. Here Sabatia forms sweetly fragrant miniature pink bouquets in sunny wet places in June, in the ditches along the grass road that runs between the pastures and down to the creek. If you have a pond or bog garden and live in zone 7 or south, I definitely recommend this genus.

I have not seen any wild Pawpaws on the farm, as we are probably too far east, but I have grown a couple from seed from the Garden. One is about 5' tall now. It needs more buddies. It hasn't bloomed yet, but there is a good-sized Pawpaw at the Garden that blooms and fruits every year.

It has a beautiful Dutchman's Pipe climbing up through it, which I've seen in bloom before and the flowers are absolutely charming.

The Garden offered the seeds of Cumberland azalea this year but I took a pass on it, although it's a beautiful azalea, with vivid red-orange flowers in the middle of summer. I probably should have tried them but growing azaleas from seed takes patience, patience, and more patience. I wish they would someday offer the seeds of the Florida azalea that grows by the Totten Center.

There are some big beautiful Fla azalea specimens in the mountain section, with bright orange flowers, much like the ones I have only a little brighter, and they are gorgeous.

The one by the Totten Center is unusual though. The buds are reminiscent of a
Flame Azalea, a swirl of pink, cream and gold, but very very sweetly fragrant.

Eventually the flowers fade to cream while hanging on to their fragrance. The
effect may look a little anemic in the photo but in person it's definitely not.

This isn't the end of my wants from the Garden, not by a long shot. ;) We're lucky to have a resource like this within an hour's drive.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NCBG Seed List !

Last week I got the 2011 Member's Seed List from the NC Botanical Garden. Always a cause for celebration. :)

Notice the first item circled on the list: Amsonia ciliata, or Sandhills Bluestar. Sweet !! I fell in love
with this Bluestar after seeing it in the Coastal Plain section of the Botanical Garden last spring.

I have started their Amsonia tabernamontana from seed to see if it was any different from mine. It comes up a lot later than mine does and the foliage doesn't have the dark blue-green cast when it's new. Like mine it is extremely drought tolerant ~ it has big thick roots that voles won't eat and just it ducks underground in summer drought. I'm going to try Foamflower from seed this year. This lovely planting is next to Totten House at the NCBG and photographed in April 2010.

I'm going to try to grow more of their Geranium maculatum too. I love the one that grows wild here but I think this one is showier. It's as though it has magic dust sprinkled on it. The color really shines in part shade.

Members get 8 seed choices. My others for this year are:

Marsh Eryngo ~ descriptions from the NCBG Seed List; usually short but compelling :) "Interesting architectural plant; attracts many pollinators"

Piedmont Staggerbush ~ "Petite, well-behaved shrub; numerous, urn-shaped flowers in spring; brilliant color in fall"

White Meadow Beauty ~ I have two species of Meadow Beauty in various shades of pink but not white.

Large-flower American Aster ~ to replace the one I lost during a wet winter

Virginia Goat's Rue ~ "Low-growing legume provides color in dry places; charming and under-used." Should be happy up at the mailbox.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Blooming Friday ~ Feeling Blue

It seems odd to me that the color blue is associated with sadness, when a sunny day with blue skies is generally considered "gorgeous" and lifts people's spirits. Blue and its cousin purple are great mediators in the garden, making almost any color combination go together.

All of the following pictures were taken in April and May of '08, '09, and '10. Spring is not that far advanced here yet ~ but just give it 2-4 weeks! ;)

"Eva's blue-violet" iris
(Eva was my husband's grandmother's name.)

Iris virginica

Iris from my garden

An iris with forget-me-nots in the background, from the Twin Sisters' garden in Chapel Hill.

Seedlings of the spiderwort 'Zwanenburg Blue' that I transplanted next to our front sidewalk.
None has the vivid gentian violet of the parent but I like the soft shades of blue to lavender.
The sky blue flowers in the background are that of woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata).

'Zwanenburg Blue', a pink passalong, and children.

Catmint does well in the dry beds around the house.

A skullcap that grows wild on our farm and definitely deserves a place in the garden. It forms pools of lavender-blue in ditches and next to the woods in spring.

Amsonia tabernaemontana grows wild here as well. It's one of the truest blues I have in the garden.

This flower is very near and dear to my heart ~ Virginia Bluebells. Could anything be lovelier?
We used to see huge clumps of these growing wild in the parks we hived when we lived in western
PA (Enlow Fork being one of them). The color in the photo is not enhanced at all.

This Virginia Bluebell, photographed at Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill, is a softer color, but equally lovely!

Woodland Phlox

and Jacob's Ladder next to the sidewalk of our house.

Woodland phlox along the east side of the house. The Virginia Bluebells are in the background.

The pale blue phox is 'Clouds of Perfume', the medium blue-violet is 'London Grove Blue', and the darker purple violet is 'Louisiana'.

To finish, apple tree blossoms and blue sky

Happy Friday and thank you to Katarina at roses and stuff for hosting Blooming Friday.

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