Sunday, November 19, 2017

A look back at past June

The oakleaf hydrangeas in front of the house seem to have been affected by the 12 inches of rain we got last October when tropical storm Matthew came through. They don't like wet roots. I know this because I lost all of my 'Snow Queen' hydrangea after Hurricane Floyd in 1999, when my yard and crawlspace was under at least 18" of water. They didn't die immediately, but by the next spring it was apparent that they were all gone. This time the hydrangea were not in a flood zone and in a raised bed to boot, yet one hydrangea is gone and another two may go as well, as they have shown some signs of wilting. The one that died is one the eastern end and I replaced it with an Alabama azalea.

Picture from 2016, when I still had four.

A few years ago I planted an Alabama azalea after seeing one at the UNC Arboretum, and then it started to decline for unknown reasons. I've been wanting to try one again. They are not only very showy, the flowers have a delicious lemon scent.

My Alabama azalea before its decline

The big beautiful Alabama azalea next to the pergola at the UNC Arboretum

If another hydrangea goes I'm not sure what to replace it with. After the first set of hydrangea died I planted Florida azaleas in front of the house and I loved them, but Florida azaleas can get really big, taller than the 8 feet to the top of the porch railing. I'd put a coast azalea there but I'm not sure they would bloom. When I had coast azaleas in front of the house they leaned forward toward the light, and the house faces more directly north than it did originally. I may replace it with Hydrangea paniculata 'Vanilla Stawberry' after seeing it in Rose's garden. In addition, a neighbor has a paniculata that blooms in the deep shade of a mimosa.

The prairie roses (Rosa setigera) beside the driveway keep growing, and growing, and growing. The 2 original plants that I grew from seed obtained in a Gardenweb trade take up about 50 feet along the drive. Then I took hips from those roses and grew some more. This species is fragrance free but gorgeous and the bees love it. I'm taking pictures of the flowers and I blink and there's a bee. The flowers open up bright bright pink and fade to a soft mauvey pink.

Pickerelweed is a native that I planted in the ditch by the old house site. I love the purple
flowers, I love how much it colonizes, and I love that the flowers are a bee magnet.

Sorrel tree blooms from a row of volunteers next to the drive between the current and old house sites. They don't have the classic Christmas tree shape and flawless crimson color for which they are known, but they still have good red fall color and are lovely trees.

Turk's cap lily, which grows wild here

or at least it did before I transplanted them into sunken
pots to protect them from voles. Haven't seen them since. :/

A purple geranium that I picked up at Powell Nursery in Selma (now closed) several years ago. Unfortunately I do not know its name. Its very vigorous and I've divided it many times and spread it all over the gardens near the house.

A volunteer seedling of 'Zwanenberg Blue'spiderwort

Stoke's aster and geranium

Zigzag iris (Iris brevicaulis) is usually the last iris to bloom in my garden. It's an easy to grow woodland native and its profusion of ageratum blue flowers in the heat of early summer are always pleasing to me, and a little surprising too. Its only drawbacks are that the foliage tends to pale to a yellow green when it blooms, and every few years it needs to thinned so it will keep blooming. Thinning is very easy though; all I need to do is pull up crowded fans. There's no need to dig and replant.

Summer phlox 'Robert Poore' by the front sidewalk.
I moved some there since it was struggling next to the house.

With Rudbeckia triloba

'Robert Poore' and 'David'. Showy, but I have mixed feelings. It's tall and shaggy and likes to creep
up to the edge of the sidewalk and flop over onto it. I would like to add more diversity in color,

like the phlox at the NC Botanical Garden, pictured below.

The summer phlox at the Botanical Garden has a beautiful range of colors, ranging from dark shocking pink to rose pink to soft baby pink to white, some with dark eyes.

Last fall I moved 'David's Lavender' out from under the swamp rose next to the vegetable garden but it wasn't ready to bloom this summer. Hopefully it survived the move. I also ordered four new cultivars last fall. They were tiny; I probably should have kept them potted up for the winter and then let them size up the following spring but I went ahead and planted them. I'd be surprised if they made it.

I want to put something shorter than phlox right next to the sidewalk, but it's something that needs to be able to compete with the phlox. I wish that when voles started eating all of my iris that I had planted next to the sidewalk I had thought of putting wire mesh under the rhizomes, but I didn't. That ship may have sailed, now, as the phlox would literally overshadow the iris and iris don't fare well in those conditions. I still miss having iris by he sidewalk.

Quaker Lady with "Eva's White" and probable 'Indian Chief' in
foreground and 'Helen Collingwood' in background,

(I want to bring back blue toadflax too. I haven't seen any around for a while. It's a host plant for the lovely orangetip falcate butterfly. Prairie Moon Nursery hasn't carried any seed for a couple of years so I ordered some off of Amazon.)

I could try to move some of the phlox out, but I'd have to get every bit. I have moved phlox from areas beside the house where it looked hot, dry and miserable, only to have it reappear, multiple times. It's like zombie phlox. Also, as I mentioned earlier, it likes to travel.

On the other hand, I am pleased with the phlox in the big perennial bed without any reservations. It wasn't even phased by the flooding we got below the house after a foot of rain last October, which surprised me. I'd have expected flooding to end it, and viewed phlox as a perennial there until it wasn't. It provides a bright burst of color during the summer months that is visible from the house. I have to put up a couple of motion detection sprinklers to keep the deer from eating it.

More phlox may end up down there if I can't keep my baptisia going, but that's a subject for another post!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Purple and gold

I first saw American beautyberry 30 years ago when we visited the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo. I was floored when I first saw them. I had no idea we had a native shrub with such gorgeous royal purple berries. I don't know how common they are generally, but they appear to be common in the Neuse River basin. They not only grow in my garden, they grow wild down by the creek on our farm and they are plentiful at Howell Woods, an 800 acre tract of land owned by Johnston Community College. I've even seen them beside the road on my way to the grocery store.

Every other year I whack them back to about 2 feet in height and they rebound effortlessly, growing many feet in a single year.

Some years the encore azaleas turn a rich burgundy plummy color. Last year I moved these out of the bed with the Piedmont azaleas because the deer were snacking on them in late winter and put them under the edge of the vitex tree in the front yard. This is 'Amethyst'.

These are swamp sunflowers from the NC Botanical Garden. While the flowers are stunning, in a small garden space they can be a bit of a disaster. A house nearby has them staked up tall and straight by their house and in a row in the back yard and they were beautiful, but I don't stake anything unless I absolutely have to. These pictures were taken last year and I have since moved most of them so that they form an allee beside where the lead the horses up and down to pasture.

with 'Caldwell Pink'. I love this rose despite its lack of fragrance. The pink is almost a bluish pink, the flowers are packed with petals, and the plant itself is a real workhorse, blooming repeatedly.

I kept some swamp sunflower by the front sidewalk and in the beds at the edge of the front lawn. I was afraid they wouldn't come back since the soil by the sidewalk is very loose and sandy, making it easy for the voles who love the roots, but it managed to come back anyway.

'Miss Bessie' beside the driveway

Next spring or summer I need to remember to get more Mexican bush sage because it's hardly ever winter hardy here. Years ago I grew a combination of the rose 'Duchesse de Brabant' and this sage and I still haven't managed to re-create that combination. I have 'Duchesse' but currently she's the size of a banana. What the heck? I thought tea roses were supposed to be easy to grow in the South but they hate me.

I first saw Salvia 'Phyllis Bide' at Niche Gardens in the fall standing next to one of the hoop greenhouses. I asked the owner what it was and when I saw it on the website the next spring I ordered it immediately. The effect of the flowers with the calyces is a smoky lavender that is uniquely beautiful. It's more hardy than Mexican bush sage.

When it's happy it grows quite big, about 5 feet high and 4 feet wide.

with 'Amistad', which also pleasantly surprised me by returning this spring. The original plant was 5 fleet hide and wide this year and hasn't stopped blooming since June. Both 'Phyliss Bide' and 'Amistad' are very easy to grow from cuttings.

I believe this is a willowleaf aster, but it's not 'Miss Bessie'. The plant is more airy and delicate, and the flowers are paler and start about a month earlier. I don't know where it came from. Perhaps it tagged along with a trade? It just showed up in my big perennial bed one year.

A bit of white to contrast with the purple and gold. This is Anemone 'Honorine Jobert'. It didn't bloom for several years due to black blister beetles, but when the beetles disappeared the anemones came back. They are very tough.

Crinum 'Royal White'

'Clotilde Soupert'

ETA: These pictures are from October. Swamp sunflower blooms from 2-4 weeks in October while 'Miss Bessie' starts blooming in mid to late October and blooms through most of November. It's in full bloom right now.

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